Dec 2, 2012

Finn's Birth Story

I decided to write a birth story, mainly because I want to remember how amazing it was and have it for us to read years later, but also because I love to read birth stories! Especially while pregnant. Another reason was because I get one text message a day from friends that want to know every detail, or atleast some of them. So I thought it'd be good to route them to this blog so they can get it all. Now if you have questions about the midwifery or why I chose to do a home birth/birth center rather than a typical OB/GYN/Hospital birth, then ask me separately. I wasn't "trying to prove" anything like some people think. My pain tolerance is actually quite low. I have never been comfortable taking medicine (even advil for a headache) and haven't had the best experiences with hospitals. I am not against anyone that goes to hospitals to birth. 98% of my friends decide to birth at hospitals and the majority of them have great experiences. Okay that said, read on. Or not, it's long. (By the way, it took me about 2 weeks to start and finish this story because I haven't figured out how to breastfeed AND type at the same time. It's rough.)

When I think about going into labor, for some reason, Saturday October 27 comes into mind as when it all started. One of my due dates that I had officially been given by the midwives was Oct 15th so by this Saturday, I was feelin the blues and was trying everything I could comfortably do to induce labor- walking was a main one since I knew I wouldn't be spending much time with our pup Lady. I walked everywhere. Even to the post office with big boxes stuffed in a tote bag. We woke up that morning and Drew thought it'd be fun to get my mind off of it and walk to the Farmers Market. It's really close, not much of a walk but I said let's do it. We grabbed $20 in cash and off we went. Right when we get there, I see a stand with a crazy sheet head count, and told Drew that we were in desperate need of new sheets. Like badly. And I didn't want to have the babe sleepin and nappin in our bed with sheets that have the little dots all over them from over-washing em.He said, well we can't because we will get a king soon enough. So, I get over the idea of new sheets and realize that we probably won't get a king for a LONG time because the baby will be such a distraction. Then we walk over to a fruit stand where I buy 3 pears and 5 peaches that cost $13! I of course didn't know I'd be spending that much before I asked to buy some, and of course didn't tell Drew how expensive it was. Then went and bought a $7 loaf of GF banana nut bread. As we are leaving the FM, he tells me he loves me, kisses me on the cheek, and says- let's go buy a king bed today. WHAT! That was ALL I wanted. I was so sick of our queen and couldn't believe we still had one 4+ years after our wedding. We both loved our space. So the second we got home, we looked online for the perfect place to look for mattresses. Little did we know it would become an all day Saturday adventure because you can't just buy a new mattress and not have the rest of the stuff to go WITH the mattress, like uh, the bed (in our case just the frame), the sheets, the duvet, the shams, the headboard. So there were a lot of back and forth debates about how badly we really wanted this thing. Long story short, by 4pm we were on our way to IKEA to get everything. Our mattress was on it's way to being delivered and we just needed the rest. As we were pulling up to the freeway entrance, I told Drew that I just felt like Sunday was the day I would go into labor. He laughed and told me I had been saying that about every day. But he didn't know that I literally had that feeling one morning as I was walking Lady. Like I just knew. For so long (before and during my pregnancy), I had felt like I would be a really patient full term pregnant woman. I wouldn't try to induce or push it sooner than baby wanted. But towards the end, all I wanted to know was the day because I felt like my life had been put on hold. I had to say no to a last minute wedding that would have paid well.. and the list goes on. It was frustrating me that I couldn't just go in and get induced. My midwives knew this so they gave me a homeopathy mix to put under my tougne for 3 days off and on. they swore that it helped induce- the natural way. So, I did start taking them- started Friday Oct 26 and stopped on Saturday, then again on Sunday.

Stuff started happening at IKEA- stuff that you only know about when you start labor and no need to mention it online. So I was in contact with my doula, telling her what was happening and asking questions. I even texted our photographer and letting her know that we are def. closer than we were earlier today! Karrie my doula said- get a good night sleep and it was a good thing I was distracting myself at Ikea. We get homepretty late and Drew starts setting up our bedroom while I cleaned the kitchen and downstairs. The first night in the king sized bed was amazing! But not so amazing because I was still getting up every hour and slept with a U shaped pillow. Ha.

Woke up the next morning- contemplating whether I should go to church. For a number of reasons I could see why I should go- #2 being that it might be my last until Finn gets his shots. But #1 reason I shouldn't go is because I'm so dang uncomfortable sitting upright in the pews..then sitting for 2+ hours after. So we opted to stay in and Drew made amazing waffles with my homemade syrup on top. We just took naps and snacked. Then around 2pm, we decided to get out because it was a BEAUTIFUL 80 degree weather day. We got in the car with Lady and headed to Laguna. Just a stroll on a beach and to unleash Lady was our plan. We parked at my sisters old salon for free parking but once I got out of the car, I became VERY hot. Like I felt like I was standing on the sun. I was also wearing this "belly binder" because Finn was laying in a position that wasn't putting pressure on my cervix, so basically prolonging labor. This belly binder made me extra hot. I freaked the second we walked out of the parking garage and said no way can I sit on a hot beach, in my clothes, no bathing suit, and just melt. Just no way! So there we went, back into the car to drive the 11 miles home. Poor Drew. He was so sick of his pregnant needy wife. 

It's normal for us to head to my parents for Sunday dinner. So when they started texted asking where we were, I said- if we come, no talk of the baby. That was reason #3 of why we shouldn't go to church. I couldn't face all the "Where is the baby?" or "you haven't popped yet? sure look like you should have!" So the family agreed. This night is slightly blurry. I don't' remember what we ate or if we went on a walk or played Phase 10 like we do sometimes. I do remember skyping with my little sister Bree that's in Hawaii for school.

We left around 8:40pm and got home - started watching a movie on Netflix that is about these homeless soccer teams trying to make it to this "world cup". I ended up falling asleep around 9:30 and Drew kept watching the movie until he too fell asleep around 10pm.10:15pm is when I felt my first contraction. I recorded the time because it had become habit to do so. I knew that they were contractions this time around because I felt another at 10:54.. and then another one came at 11:20. It was the next contraction that I woke up Drew told him that it is for real and that this is really happening. We had been told to not wake up our spouses if we do in fact go into labor in the middle of the night because we don't want to risk true exhaustion, at which point we would need to go to the hospital because our bodies just can't get that babe out. Drew didn't really believe me in the beginning but after i told him how bad they hurt- he got up. He stumbled around the bedroom trying to find something to wear and walking around as if it wasn't really happening. Then when he saw me go through a contraction, he ran downstairs and started cleaning. I remember brushing my teeth or trying to get int he shower or something in the bathroom and giggling to Drew, like THIS IS IT! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! And like "I actually know I am going into labor!" (because one of my biggest concerns was I wouldn't be able to tell..ya right. You can totally tell.) Lady was in her box downstairs asleep, but we knew we'd be laboring downstairs, so he brought her box up in the nursery. We had a plan for a neighbor to watch Lady for the week, but didn't want to text him that early in the night, so we thought we'd let her sleep/whine in the nursery while everything was happening upstairs. 

It didn't take long at all for the contractions to go from 40 minutes apart to 20 to 10 to 5 (see my contraction log below). And it started to really freak me out because I had been told by my midwife that my labor could go quickly because of how low Finn had been for so long. And with all the birth stories I had read in the past, it took quite a long time for people to go from 40 minutes apart to 5. Like an entire night/day. My doula later told me that this happened this way most likely because I was in denial, and thought they were just the fake ones. They say denial is the best thing for labor! 

We ended up calling the midwife on call (Andy) even though I wasn't three minutes apart yet. This was around 3am. She wasn't going to come until the morning- after she woke up and took a shower and stuff but when I told her I felt like I needed to push, she got in the car and headed down. I felt really bad because she was 25 weeks pregnant and it was so early in the morning.

I was never really panicked about doing homebirth until this moment because no one was there yet. Meanwhile, Drew is setting up the tub in the kitchen while I'm sitting by the couch going through each contraction. He started freaking out because the faucet in the kitchen sink was not the kind that would fit into the hose that would fill up the tub. Haha. So he jimmy-rigged something to make it work for the bathroom faucet,

When Karrie got here I became so relieved. She immediately calmed me down and started rubbing my back in the perfect spots! Then she took control about where the tub would go, where I would deliver the placenta and helping me know how the night would go. She was really a pain reliever.

It's funny. We went to all different classes. 5 Hypnobirthing classes, a birth details class (to help us know what would go down at home) and a breastfeeding one. That doesn't even count all our wonderful appointments where we'd spend 20+ minutes asking the midwives questions about everything under the sun (that is one reason I wanted to go to a midwife rather than a doctor). We even met with Karrie a few times to talk about how it's going to happen. So with all of this preparation, it kinda went out the door once my contractions went from ouch to OUCH! It wasn't the pain, but more like 'it's painful and i can't see it ever stopping'. I just couldn't see the end! 

I think Christin, our photographer showed up right before Andy. But Andy does come soon after. I remember cleaning the kitchen as Andy walks in and embarrassed that the counters had crumbs on it so I decided to just spruce it up a bit. I was also bummed because I thought that while I would be laboring, I'd be making vegetarian sandwiches for all of them, with drinks and snacks on the counter because that was one thing they talked about in the birth class was letting the crew eat your food. Well I didn't want them to feel awkward in any way if I didn't have food. Anyways. I was bummed. But I couldn't think about that. Just had to get past each contraction and cleaning helped.

Andy checked me and I was only at a 5. She said- You want to hear the good or bad news? I said both! She said- your 100% but only a 5. The "only a 5" really put a damper on my laboring. I could feel my body tense up rather than relax like it was supposed to be doing. In my mind, a 5 is great! It wasn't a 1 or 2 where I had been for a couple weeks. And this was only at 4am. But because in her eyes it wasn't that awesome, I knew I was in for the long haul. 

I started saying things like "I want a C-Section!" or "Call an ambulance I need him out!" Haha. Even I laughed through some of these things because I knew that was the last thing I wanted. But man were some of those contractions painful. Especially when they started piling up one after another after another after another... 
We went up to my room to find something to wear in the tub
I think around 5:30 is when I got into the warm tub and man was that pain relieving! I even fell asleep soon after getting in. I remember I woke up to looking at the crew watching me labor, in the dark. And it was at that point that I felt like it was truly never going to end because there was so much happening a few minutes prior, like Karrie rubbing my back, Andy writing on papers and the nurse checking my blood pressure to nothing- just watching me. Later, Drew told me this was when he got discouraged too. While I was sitting in the tub, my mind was filled with panic because I kept thinking, what if I need to push and they're all just sitting there and out he comes?? I finally asked this question because it was starting to bother me how freaked I was, and Andy said- that's ok! Then out he comes! Haha. All my friends and their birth stories had always been that if you push too early, your cervix swells and then baby can't come out. Or you tear really bad. But I had to put into my head that each birth is very different and this was my birth. And my body knows what to do. That really was the #1 reason I chose to do this kind of birth- because my body WILL know what to do, as long as I let me mind relax, it will do it's thing.

I think around 6am is when the sun started coming up, which bummed me out even more because even though I've always dreamt of giving birth on a sunny day, I knew it meant it was taking a loooong time. I went outside to get some cool air because the house was so warm (to get ready for baby's entrance). Karrie followed me out there and was trying to calm me down. I remember this time being my lowest point. I felt like everyone was pretending I was progressing- and sorta lying to me and so I wanted to go outside and just hide. This is when our neighbors came to get Lady- so I snuck back inside so they didn't see me.
Andy was giving me some homeopathy tablets to relieve the pain. I couldn't tell if it was working, but later she said it worked wonders. I kept saying things like "I CAN'T do this" Or "No" in response to them telling me that I can do it. They kept telling me, you CAN do this- and stop saying that! Haha. Poor crew. I also kept apologizing for yelling at them or telling them I can't when I knew in fact I could. It was really discouraging for me to hear "You're doing so good" which is so weird and the opposite of what you think would help. The only things that would help me progress and relax is "You're so close to seeing your baby" type stuff, or complete silence. I needed to hear my own thoughts and strength.

Andy checked at 7am and I was at an 8. Progress! But she told me a new crew was coming, a shift change. (later I would find out Andy would have stayed if she thought I would give birth soon, but she didn't think I would!) Brooke the midwife & Brooke the nurse. When they got there, it was like a fresh start for me. I was determined baby would be here soon. And Brooke & I were buds because she had been at many of our appointments and felt like she knew me really well. So I was stoked. Brooke had one time told me that she could tell my labor was going to go well just from talking to me. So when I remembered she said that, I wanted to prove her right. Kinda like a student that tries to make the teacher proud.

The majority of the labor from then on was in the tub which I loved but you start to get anxious in there because everyone is out of the tub and not in it. Poor Drew spent the majority of the night on his knees, on top of a gardening pad, rubbing my back and poring water from a tuperware bowl. I remember eating the pears I got at the Farmers Market the day before and drinking grapefruit juice. Also, a lot of water. Then the grapes. I have a hard time eating grapes now because I quickly threw them up. The worst was when Karrie would remind me to go to the bathroom because I was drinking so much, but I didn't want to risk having a contraction on the toilet! Anyone with back labor can attest to this. PAIN. So the second I would finish one, I would fast-walk to the bathroom and be super quick because I knew one was not far behind. 
Before Brooke got there, I was in the tub, and was having the crew tell me about their Sundays. Andy told me she actually woke up in her own bed, which she didn't expect would happen because she was at a long birth on Saturday. I can't remember anyone else's. Then when Brooke showed up, she too told me how her day went. She was in Joshua Tree with her boyfriend and was telling us how funny it is to be with her boyfriend when she gets a call from a client because he has to hear her talk. That made me laugh. Hearing their days distracted me because I wasn't about to start screaming during a contraction while they were talking and interrupt them! I'll have to remember to do this the next labor. 
Around 8:30am is when it started getting intense, and I thought earlier it couldn't get any worse! I was probably in transition. My water broke around this time too, while I was in the water. I felt pop, and they didn't know if that really was my water, until they saw how murky it had become. Then they said- yup that was your water! For days and days prior to labor, I wanted my water to break and have it turn out just like everyone else did. At this point, my body was pretty numb from constant pain so I could handle it. At 9:35 I felt like it was time to start pushing. But I was nervous. So I was talking it out with the crew…about swelling, or pushing too soon and all of that. A few minutes later, Karrie told us a woman was at the door. The tub I was laboring in was 3 feet from the door so whoever it was, if they weren't part of the crew, wasn't going to open that door. They'd be mortified! I was squealing and screeching through each contraction and it just wasn't pretty. She described what she looked like. Then, I remembered I had made plans with my mom to go up to Santa Ana and go shopping for christmas decorations! It was my mom to get my mind off the fact that Finn wasn't here yet. Drew & I started laughing and I felt so bad that she was just standing there! And then we quickly wondered why she didn't know I was in labor! Karrie had sent out a mass text to my siblings and family but accidentally forgot to include her. Whoops! So she went out the back door and told her what was happening. My mom was kinda worried, hoping the baby & I were doing okay. Karrie told her I was about to start pushing. So she left. We joked that she would just sit on our driveway until the babe was here. Haha. She didn't. She kept in contact with my sister-in-law, both speculating when the babe would be here. 

Well 9:45am came and I got brave enough to start pushing. It was time. Drew decided to get in the tub to help me out. I was at a 9 but Brooke helped me along to get to a 10. Everyone was VERY relaxed, just as they had been all morning. During labor I felt like I was running on so much adrenaline but for all of them, this was their normal day everyday job. So it was nice not having anyone else there because they too would have been running around like a crazy person. Drew was calm too. He knew he needed to be. 
You're supposed to be pushing during each contraction which was hard because they started becoming farther apart, or at least in my mind they were 10 minutes apart! (they were probably 30 seconds to a minute?) That was hard. Especially when his head is just sitting there. Yup, the ring of fire they talk about, it's fire for sure! And while I was pushing, I started to like the encouraging words, especially from Drew. I was using his knees to exert my energy towards pushing and when he started laughing because he could see his head, I have never put more energy to something ever in my entire life. It took a few contractions to get his head out but once his head did make it's appearance completely, his body quickly followed. She told me prior that the head could be out for a few minutes before his body, but not for Finn! So when they threw his body on mine, I was surprised! And I didn't cry like I thought I would. I thought I'd be a mess. But my body was too exhausted for me to even think about shedding a tear. We just stared and laughed and commented on his big hands. I'll never forget the way he felt on top of me for the first time. His velvety, wet skin was so kissable. I wanted to chew on him. Right when he came out he made a little bird chirping sound. Then let out a little whimper. Sweetest thing. No big cry like I had expected. 
^ look at Drew's face, my favorite! So happy I have this photograph.The first glance of his beautiful self.
Then we got out of the tub and straight to the couch where I delivered the placenta and started breastfeeding. I breastfed for a while with him still attached to the placenta, talked with my photographer Christin and the nurse Brooke. It was almost therapeutic to talk to them after such exhaustion. I'm sure I was in pain but my baby was safe and healthy in my arms that I couldn't feel a thing. I remember thinking, my poor photographer, she saw probably way more than she bargained for, since I was her first home birth, but she was amazing in not making me feel awkward for being naked in front of her and so vulnerable. I was able to labor just the way I should have and not have to hide because a stranger was there. She's amazing. 
Then I handed him over to Drew while I went to the bathroom. He cut the cord and weighed/measured him. 9 lbs on the dot and 21 inches long. Big boy! He stayed cross-legged (and he still is) all day long, that's how he was in the womb! And we could tell! I loved hearing his little coos while they were doing this. When I got out from the bathroom, I almost passed out. I was seeing 5 of everyone! It was nuts. Lost a lot of blood. Then we went upstairs so I could shower off and get stitched up. 
They put me in cozy PJs and brought up a gift from my good friend Amanda. She gave it to my doula while she saw her outside. I started crying when she brought the flowers in and that's when it set in that I just had the baby I had been dreaming of for so long. We all started laughing that was crying. Then exhaustion set in again in another wave. Christin was taking pictures of us in bed and I remember going cross-eyed and seeing 5 of her still.. but let her take photos anyway!
Someone picked up Z Pizza which was perfect because it's all I wanted. And Finn loooved pizza in utero so it carried over. It was cold and hard by the time I was eating it but it was delicious. They all left us and as they were leaving, I just felt sooo much gratitude for the crew.They literally put all their attention and energy on making myself feel beautiful (like when my hair was sticking to my face and neck from sweat, Karrie braided it back for me) and making me feel strong (like every time I would say I couldn't do it, they told me I could and I will) and making me feel comfortable in my own home. They took such good care of me that I can't see myself laboring any other way. These women have truly made their jobs their calling in life. They help women in their most vulnerable moments and are just there for them. It feels very primal and liberating to be around them while laboring. 

My immediate family + Mitch & Melissa's kids came to visit a few hours later. It was exciting to show him off to everyone. My mom brought a box of See's and a few onesies and Melissa brought a little kit to help me get through the days following. My Dad and Drew went and picked up mexican which was delicious. Then my Mom & Melissa came back that night to help us sleep.

Days later we were thinking about the labor and it hit me, everything went so smoothly. His heart rate never dropped (if it did they didn't tell me), he didn't get "stuck", my blood pressure stayed normal..all the things you hear go badly, nothing did for me! Wow we were blessed because we weren't that close to a hospital but we always felt at peace when we thought of our home birth and wouldn't have gone through with it if we didn't. Even though I've had surgery and an ectopic pregnancy, the midwives still took me in with open arms and considered my pregnancy a low-risk one. Looking forward to future births, we feel confident we could do it all on our own, without anyone there, but it was comforting (especially with our first) having women there that their soul purpose in life was to help me feel everything I should be feeling when it comes to doing it natural. All my dreams came true on October 29.

And if you ever wondered if you wanted a photographer at your birth, I bet you do now! I feel like I won the lottery because I have these beautiful photos + so much more ! I am going to start doing birth photography as well and will be doing a free give-away as my first one soon. But Christin is great and LA located so hit her up!

Photographer: Christin Olive
Midwifery: (tell them I referred you!)
Doula: Karrie Nesbit


m.estelle said...

elise you are such a beauty. and so strong! i'm in awe, really. these photos are priceless. so happy for you and drew. and finn! he has incredible parents!


Ash and Christian said...

Loved every word. Thank you for sharing.

Amanda Jane Jones said...

wow, how amazing. Thank you for sharing your story! What a sweet family you have. :)

Aubry T Jensen said...

Beautiful story and pictures. I loved reading your story, it nearly brought me to tears, especially those pictures. So beautiful. I loved ever detail. Congratulations on your adorable baby and birth! You have an adorable family:)

Castleberry Photography said...

Just sitting here crying all over again!! BREATHTAKING! Really and truly the most beautiful photos I have ever laid eyes on. SO SO so happy he is here. What a perfect story. Love you guys so much. xoxo's for days.

Whitney Hardie said...

Congrats Elise! I'm so happy you had a wonderful and empowering birth experience. And Amen to birth photography - it is absolutely my very very favorite work to do.

La Esposa said...

Dear Elise,

it was such a joy to read this; thank you for documenting it. And the pictures, oh my goodness, how beautiful.

I hope I find the motivation to document the kids' birth stories. I'll have to talk to you about the whole natural process. Eleanor ended up coming naturally, but my experience was so different! I'd love to hear your perspective on it in person.

Anyway, he's beautiful. And you're crazy strong girl.

Megan Hollenback said...

you are amazing! loved reading this and beautiful photos.

Lisa Fly Rondo said...

wow. this is amazing. i can't believe it! seems crazy but looks like it was perfect for your little family. not gonna lie, im surprised the pool isn't as murky as i thought it would be after delivering haha! (TMI)? anyway, ya this is amazing. cute little finners!

Lorna said...

A friend referred me to this blog post-we live in Madras, OR. I'm a photographer and about to give birth to my 4 baby via waterbirth at home with a midwife. I believe we are probably of the same faith also:). This will be my first homebirth and waterbirth and your post and pictures were beautiful and inspiring. I'm so looking forward to my own experience in a few weeks:). The best to you ad your little Finn. Enjoy the wild ride of parenthood now!