Thursday, May 1, 2008

Our Birth Story:

For those of you interested, I finally finished writing it!

Our Birth Story:

Our estimated due date was Sunday, March 23rd, 2008. We were looking forward to being surprised as to the gender when our child was born. We wanted to have a home birth and spent time in prayer as I began to search for a midwife. We currently lived in Minnesota and would be moving to Michigan when I was about 6 months pregnant. I found Yolanda Visser with Birth Song through a Michigan Midwifery directory. After contacting her via phone, I knew God had answered our prayers and we had found the midwife we were looking for.

Fast forward to March 2008…
My mom arrived in town Monday, March 17th, planning on staying with us through the birth and a few weeks following. It was great to see her again and have her company and much appreciated help.

Steve’s parents were planning on coming out for a visit, arriving on Sunday, March 23rd, our due date, as this was the week that worked with their schedule. Many people were praying for us that there’d be a baby for them to see when they arrived. Due to unforeseen circumstances, their arrival was postponed until Tuesday, March 25th. Our midwife kept encouraging us to expect to deliver in April, as most first-time mothers deliver about a week later than their estimated due date. Also, the baby hadn’t dropped yet and I wasn’t effaced, signs that I probably had a couple weeks left before the arrival of our little bundle of joy. Our experienced midwife however, was sure to say that anything can change in 24 hours and of course these things can’t be predicted.

Friday, March 21st at 9:45am I noted what’s called ‘Bloody Show’. According to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, after the appearance of bloody show labor normally starts within 24 hours, although it could be as much as a few days. A friend of ours who recently delivered her fourth child had shared with me that for each of her labors she had the bloody show in the morning and that night she went into labor. Needless to say, I was a bit excited at the possibility.

We went about our day, attending a Good Friday Service from 12-3pm. That evening at 5:00pm I had my first contraction. At first I wasn’t sure it was a contraction; it felt like a strong menstrual cramp. I had some cramping in the previous weeks as my body was preparing for birth, but not like this one. When we timed a few of those first contractions they were about every 10 minutes apart. I decided I had better get a nap in and slept for a little while.

At 10:00pm the cramping became more intense and was going into my lower back, which was very uncomfortable. I had been lying in bed trying to sleep, but was unable to, due to the pain and excitement.

By 2:30am, now Saturday, March 22nd, I got out of bed, since I wasn’t sleeping, and sat on the couch. I noted more bloody show (a sign that the cervix was thinning).

By 3:30am the contractions were more in my abdomen instead of the lower back when I would sit on the couch and lean back. The baby had been active all night as well.

Around 5:00am I was pretty tired and was able to drift into sleep between the contractions while sitting up on the couch. I slept until 7:30am. I knew the contractions were just getting started and we’d have a little while before things picked up pace, so I had let my husband and mom sleep, since there wasn’t anything for them to do at that point.

From around 9:00am until 11:15am I was able to sleep in our bed lying down. The contractions were still there, but were less intense and had slowed to every 15 – 20 minutes.

Contractions continued at this pace or a little slower at times throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning. I was able to sleep Saturday night.

Sunday morning my husband went to worship. I sat on the couch and dozed between contractions. At noon on Sunday the contractions picked up their pace and were consistently around 5 minutes apart and were lasting around 1 minute long. Official labor is considered to start when contractions are consistently between 5-7 minutes apart and last 1 minute long – official labor was here!

One of my two favorite positions to labor in was on the couch. I was pretty comfortable and able to relax through the contractions while sitting there, leaning back and resting my head. My other favorite position was while sitting on the toilet, as you’ll read below.

I had heard that when the contractions get strong it helps to have something, a verse or song to focus on. Also, I had read in one of my books that saying the words “I love you” helps to open up your cervix. So, I started thinking “I love you, baby” as I had contractions, in order to keep my focus on the outcome and not be consumed with the pain and discomfort of the now. I also prayed for strength and focus throughout my labor, knowing I could only do this through the Lord’s strength.

Around 3pm, my mom left for a while, leaving me and my husband together at home. Around 4pm, Steve called our friend Heidi who was to attend our birth, and let her know I was in active labor and that she could come over anytime. She said she’d be over about 5pm.

Shortly after calling Heidi, my contractions picked up a little bit and I decided to labor sitting backwards on the toilet. I had some back labor, as our baby was posterior (head down, but face up) and found this position nice, having Steve sit behind me and push his fists on my lower back during contractions. During this time, as my contractions picked up pace a little, I found I could only whisper. Heidi had mentioned this happened to her every pregnancy (she had five children) and I thought she had said when this happened she was dilated around 4-5. I started to get nervous because our midwife wasn’t there and whispered to Steve that he should call our midwife. He gently told me that he thought we should wait a little longer. Within a short time, I had asked him a couple more times and said I thought I had arrived at the 2nd emotional signpost mentioned in the Bradley Book, which is a state of seriousness. According to this book, this is the time you should head to the hospital, if you were having a hospital birth. And so, Steve called Yolanda and she said she’d arrive shortly. Steve also called my mom and let her know Yolanda was on the way.

I found myself a little anxious for Yolanda to arrive, probably since my contractions were more intense, and I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t doing very well staying loose and relaxed.

Around 5pm, my mom arrived and shortly thereafter Heidi arrived. I was still in the bathroom with Steve, hoping Yolanda would come and soon she arrived too. I was standing then in the bathroom, pretty tense and uncomfortable. With the arrival of everyone I found I was no longer confined to a whisper. Yolanda came in the bathroom and asked how I was doing and I think I sat back on the toilet for a couple contractions. She was going to move me to the bedroom to check how far I was dilated. In the process I stood for a contraction. She noticed how tense I was and grabbed my butt and kind of shook and massaged it and told me to “loosen those buns!” Now, granted, if it were any other time except during labor this would not have been welcomed, but I hadn’t realized how tense I was and appreciated being told so, since it’s so imperative to relax during labor in order to work with your body and not against it. This action from Yolanda turned my contractions from being something scary to being something I could work with. From that point on, every contraction I had I just focused on relaxing my bottom (and my jaw, as somehow they work together), and I was able to work pretty well with my contractions. Yolanda’s presence was very comforting to me and I felt much more at ease, probably based on the fact that she’s delivered over 1600 babies while I had delivered none.

We moved to the bedroom and discovered I was dilated to 4 cm. I was encouraged by this. Around 6:30pm or so Yolanda left and said she’d had some things to do and would be back in a few hours, but we could call her if we wanted her sooner. I was perfectly at peace about this and soon moved to the couch to labor some more.

My mom and Heidi sat at the table and visited quietly, Steve played some music on the guitar while he sang and I sat silent on the couch relaxing through the contractions and enjoying their presence. I enjoyed listening to Heidi and my mom chat while I labored. Heidi’s comments were most encouraging, as she’d speak softly to my mom, making comments about how well I was doing with the contractions and that I was very focused and relaxed, etc. This was so pleasant to hear and such an encouragement.

Around 9pm or so my contractions were getting more uncomfortable and I needed a change of position. I asked the others if I should maybe call Yolanda in and they said sure. Steve called Yolanda and I asked him to ask her if I could labor in the bathtub for awhile. She said she’d be right over and that I could labor in the tub. I was so excited!

In a way, it felt good to change position and relax in the tub. My contractions picked up in intensity and frequency once I hit the water. I told my husband to “just shoot me” in as best humor as I could, as the labor was painful. The thought that “I can’t do this anymore!” never crossed my mind, but the thought that “I don’t want to do this anymore!” did, but, as that wasn’t an option, I prayed for strength and renewed my thinking and onward we went. (At one point, while sitting on the cough, either Heidi or my mom asked if they could get me anything. I responded “A bullet”. Heidi said, “Oh, she’s telling jokes!” Steve said, “I don’t think she’s joking…”) I stayed in the water a short while, maybe 20 minutes. I got out and came into the living room but soon decided I wanted to go back on the toilet to labor. My water broke and just a trickle hit the ground as I made my way to the toilet. I sat on the toilet facing forward, with Steve sitting in front of me. He would reach around me and hold my back with the contractions, as I was having more back labor.

Yolanda arrived around 9:30pm and setup our bedroom for the birth.

Around this time I started to make some noise with my contractions. It felt good to moan and groan a little, not very loudly. As Steve and I were alone in the bathroom, with my mom and Heidi sitting at the kitchen table and Yolanda working about, I could hear them chat, comment and giggle at the noises I made. I found this extremely enjoyable and humorous. I was feeling very on top of the contractions at this point and was even feeling a little playful. I made faces and some funny noises at Steve during my contractions and it was nice to make him laugh and smile – we were enjoying ourselves immensely. I even mooed with one of my contractions, only loud enough for him to hear of course, because I was sure he’d get a kick out of it, which he did. He challenged me to moo louder, but I would’ve been too embarrassed to moo loud enough for Heidi, Yolanda and my mom to hear.

I thought I was experiencing the sensation to push and told Yolanda. She was going to check me shortly, but for now I was to keep laboring. She thought I was maybe dilated to 9-10. I was enjoying myself greatly and was so excited at the potential of pushing soon.

Around 10:15pm we moved to the bed and Yolanda checked me to see how far dilated I was. Steve was lying on the bed behind me for support. While Yolanda checked me, my water bag completely broke and gushed all over the bed. Thankfully she had bed pads under me and a supply close by to catch the gush. I must’ve been mistaken when I thought I felt like pushing as I was only dilated to 7. I was slightly discouraged and really uncomfortable, as I wasn’t on top of the contractions in this new position: a contraction hit and being in a new position it went right over me – I wasn’t on top of it like I had been in the bathroom. I think a couple contractions went this way. I asked to go back to the bathroom. Yolanda explained that when in labor and you move to a new position it can take a few moments to regain yourself and get focused again – this is normal. Knowing that this was normal helped me to focus and work with the contractions again, instead of getting discouraged and worried about the change.

Yolanda had me walk around and squat with each contraction for awhile. She or Steve would stand behind me and support me under my arms while I squatted. It was important to move around and change positions as this helped labor along. I also had an exercise ball that I would sit on or lean on with contractions. Earlier in the labor I also had used these positions sporadically throughout, but I did favor the couch or toilet. By this time, these other positions weren’t pleasant at all and I missed the enjoyable time in the bathroom and asked to go back on the toilet. Our experienced midwife made me walk around a bit longer before allowing me to return to the bathroom. This also gave everyone an opportunity to quick use the bathroom before I would take it over again! :)

I requested some oatmeal with honey and sliced frozen bananas. I took one bite, though, and found it made me nauseous. Early on in the labor I had oatmeal, toast with honey and cinnamon, soup, frozen bananas, fruit popsicles, frozen juice and water. Now I stuck with juice diluted with water, water and fruit popsicles.

The contractions were getting more intense and I found that making noise with them was no longer helpful – I had to just be silent and retreat into myself, staying focusing on relaxing my bottom and jaw. Neither Steve, who was by me the whole time, nor our midwife could tell when I was having a contraction at this point in time, as I sat silently with my eyes closed and stayed relaxed.

As the contractions intensified, some were so strong it was like I was trying to get away from them – I would reach up behind me and grab onto the shelves above our toilet, then I would relax my whole body and let myself hang from my arms. Steve again held onto my back with contractions, as there was some back labor with them. As painful and uncomfortable as the contractions were, I felt in control of myself and was able to relax well with them, for which I can only thank the Lord.

Around 1:30am Monday, March 24th, I was dilated to 9 with a little lip left of the cervix and was feeling pressure to push. Yolanda was going to hold the lip open so I could start pushing. We moved to the bedroom for the delivery. Yolanda explained that we needed to make the pushing as effective as possible and get the baby out as quickly as possible if we were going to do it here at home, as we had been laboring for some time now and the baby was getting tired. This meant two things. First, that I needed to focus all my attention and energy into making each push as effective and efficient as possible. And second, we would try different positions until we found one that worked well with the baby. Yolanda would continue to check the baby’s heart rate with the doplar after contractions. I silently prayed for strength to deliver the baby quickly so that we would be able to finish at home.

Steve sat at the head of the bed and I sat with my back against his chest, pulling my legs up toward me with the contraction (arms hooked under my knees). Heidi and my mom each helped hold a leg up. The baby didn’t like this position, as his heart rate slowed a little with the pushing (it never fell below acceptable rates, but took a little too long sometimes to reach back to normal). Before the next contraction, I turned over and was on my hands and knees on the bed. The baby didn’t like this position either, which is just as well, since I didn’t feel I had much power or control behind the pushing in this position. Yolanda suggested that I could move to the floor and squat, or try out her birthing stool which would put me in a squatting position. I opted for the birthing stool, as I had previous to going into labor thought that it would be neat to deliver using it. If I recall correctly, before we had the stool in place, Steve held me from behind with the contraction and I squatted for pushing. We did this maybe once or twice. The baby liked this position, praise the Lord!

The stool was brought in and placed at the foot of the bed. Yolanda quickly spread out a plastic sheet on the floor under and in front of the stool. Steve sat on the edge of the bed, while I sat on the stool in front of him (my back to him). He was able to keep contact with me without having to hold me up, which I was thankful for, as holding me up required physical effort and Steve was pretty tired by this time as well. Yolanda sat in front of me, Heidi was on my left side and my mom on my right. With each contraction I would take a deep breath and exhale it two times, with the third breath I would inhale, then Heidi and my mom would push my bent legs toward me (think knees to ears) while I would hold my legs with them and push.

I enjoyed the pushing, it wasn’t painful, and it was nice to be doing something with the contractions. Also knowing the end was near was thrilling. The geese were honking outside, everyone was cheering me on. Steve was wonderful and involved. Heidi’s voice was so positive, upbeat and encouraging. My mom was so proud. Yolanda was focused and encouraged me with clear instruction as we went. I cannot describe how wonderful everyone’s cheering me on was.

Yolanda applied hot washcloths to me and olive oil, although I was really unaware of it. Heidi gave me drinks of water between pushes. Steve had his hands on my shoulders. Heidi periodically held up a mirror so Steve could see the top of the baby’s head. The angle of the mirror was just right so I was able to see it, too. I enjoyed hearing Steve’s reaction, “Oh wow!” I could hear his smile.

I felt what they call the “ring of fire” when the baby’s head crowned. That was slightly uncomfortable, enough so that I verbalized it, “It burns”, but the excitement of almost having the baby out was enough to dull the burning.

In the middle of a push Yolanda shouted out, “Hold on!” I guess the baby was coming out quickly and the cord was once around his neck. She quickly unlooped it and let me finish pushing. Steve said he shot out about a foot and flew into Yolanda’s arms. The placenta was done pulsating by the time he was born, so Yolanda cut the cord right away. The whole pushing stage felt as if it was about 20 minutes, even though it had been 1 hour and 45 minutes. The time was 3:35am. I was exhausted.

Immediately, Yolanda put our baby into my arms. My first thought was “I could do this again!”

At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t cry, was barely breathing and was a bluish color. Yolanda started alternating between stimulating him to breath, doing mouth to mouth and using oxygen. Steve reached down to put his hands on him and help and said loudly and proudly, “It’s a boy!”, which meant his name would be Steven. Little Steven was breathing on his own from the start, just not enough. It’s what they call a “slow starter”. Things could go either way; I could see Heidi praying. I asked my mom to go call some people to pray, completely oblivious to what time it was. Steve and I were each praying silently. Steven made a few little peeps and Steve and I were speaking to him, encouraging him to stay with us. Steven actually turned gray in my arms.

In my mind I expected the worst. It was the oddest feeling to think of losing him now. Thanks to the Lord, I was at perfect peace and knew that whatever happened God was in control.

Yolanda moved Steven from my arms to the bed to work on him. I’m not sure, but I think I was a little slow at listening and keeping up with her instructions, as I was so tired. Steve kept with the baby and Yolanda. I started having contractions as the placenta was getting ready to come out and I was feeling pretty uncomfortable.

Our baby hadn’t gotten better (it had been about 5 or less minutes), so Yolanda had Heidi call 911 as she continued to work on him. By the time the paramedics arrived, which was within another 5 minutes, Steven was gaining color and doing much better – praise the Lord!

Feeling pretty uncomfortable, I asked Yolanda if I could push out the placenta. She asked Heidi to get some bed pads to catch it with. I think because Yolanda wasn’t there in front of me, I was a little nervous to push out the placenta, worried that it could still be attached or something. I also had an audience as there were 5 paramedics (all men) now in our room (but really at this point I didn’t care all that much). I pushed a little with a contraction a couple times – nothing. I asked Heidi how many pushes it takes to come out. She said one for her. So I said with the next contraction I’d push like I had with Steven. And I did – out shot the placenta. Poor Heidi, she barely caught it! Ah, that felt better! The time was about 3:50am.

Two of the paramedics stayed a little longer than the other three to make sure we were alright and to have us sign a form saying they came but we didn’t need to be transferred to a hospital. They explained that there’s no charge as long as they don’t have to drive us to the hospital, for which we were grateful. The paramedics didn’t end up doing anything with Steven, as Yolanda had that under control when they arrived and continued to stimulate him until he was doing well. What a joy to hear his first cry!

Everyone left Steve and I with our new little Steven in our bed for awhile. We didn’t try to nurse him right away, as he was still working out his breathing. (Within 3 hours his lungs were perfect.) Yolanda weighed and measured him and checked out his little body, telling us all about his development. He weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces. He was 20 inches long. We named him Steven James Carr, Jr. He arrived the day after his due date (3 hours and 35 minutes to be exact). Contraction time before official labor: 43 hours. Official labor (when contractions are 5-7 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute long, until delivery of the placenta): 15 hours, 50 minutes (pushing stage: 1 hour 45 minutes).

We were exhausted and overwhelmed by God’s goodness – it was difficult to finally drift to sleep, but we did – with Steven in between us.

We’re so very grateful to our great God in heaven for making our homebirth not only possible, but a great experience as well. God is so good to us!

We’re thankful to God for linking us up with Yolanda. We loved getting to know her. Her expertise and knowledge were invaluable. If we’re still living in this area when we have our next child, Lord willing, we will have Yolanda as our midwife again.

We’re so grateful to the Lord Jesus for his provision of the presence of my mom for our birth. She was so blessed and proud, which was a huge blessing to me. She was a huge help. I also gave her a workout with the pushing!

We’re grateful to the Lord for sending Heidi to our birth – she was so encouraging and needed. She also got a workout with the pushing!

I praise God for my wonderful husband. He was amazing. He was right there by my side through the whole thing. I couldn’t have done this without him. He’s what made the experience wonderful. I love him so much more.

The next night after Steven was born, I was up feeding him and found myself pleasantly daydreaming about the next time I get to give birth. I told Yolanda about this and asked with a chuckle if I was crazy. She stated matter-of-factly that that was a sign that I had a positive, pleasant experience and that’s a good thing! I thoroughly enjoyed our homebirth experience, although it wasn’t without work and pain, it was filled with good memories and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.


Wife, Mom, Teacher said...

What fun this was to read! Thanks for posting it!

I think your mother would have gone through that labor for you. She was going through it all with you in spirit! She would tear up every time she even thought about what you were doing. She prayed and sang pettitions to God frequently.

And you are right about your wonderful husband....he was so attentive and a great help. It was fun to watch how pleased he was with that little baby being born!

I LOVED being there. Thank you so much for allowing me to help out. I was so worried on my way to your home that night that I wouldn't be helpful and you'd be sorry for asking me to come, but I think I did manage to be useful! Thanks!!! I also feel so connected to little Steven after helping with his birth and breathing troubles....and to you after catching the placenta! :)

I'm ready for the next one, too!

tam said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Crystal! It's really encouraging to read about your faith through this trial of life, and your godly attitude through out. Children are a blessing from the Lord!

mattswife1990 said...


I'm Heidi's cousin, and she sent me the link to your birth story... and I really enjoyed reading it! Sounds like you did a great job with staying relaxed, asking God for help, and being patient through a very long labor.

I'm so glad you had a homebirth and a helpful, supportive team with you, as it could have been so very different in a hospital setting and without the good support.

Those Bradley signposts are so helpful, aren't they? I was a Bradley teacher for a few years before taking a break to focus on our family. During our whole last labor, I went entirely on the emotional signposts... nobody even checked me once to see how far dilated I was. I had spent so much of the labor at home that our Naomi was born only 17 minutes after arriving at the hospital! :)

Congratulations on your little blessing! I enjoyed your birth story very much. :)

Amy :)

Crystal Carr said...

Heidi - we wouldn't hesitate to have you there for our next birth!

Thanks, Tammy!

Nice to have you read our story and share, Amy!

Laura said...

What a lovely birth story, and you write so well! Thanks for posting it. I laughed, (mooo) I cried, how scary that he wasn't breathing!!! Thank God that he started up without waiting too long!

My dream is a home birth, but with insurance it is cheaper in a hospital. If I have another baby though, I might just do it at home... especially since I had a successful VBAC with Gwendolyn.