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Baby, mother, father, birth, VBAC, pitocin, hospital birth

The Birth of Asa James Cantrell

As co-owner of Nashville Doula Services, Whitney, recently celebrated the first birthday of her third child, Asa James, she reflected on the day he was born. Whitney had already experienced two births of her own and supported so many mothers through labor as a doula, but she was thrown a curve ball during this labor! You won’t believe this amazing story full of strength, power, and beauty! This is a story that every VBAC mama or any expectant woman should read! Enjoy!

This is the story of my precious Asa James Cantrell, born February 6th 2016, and my second VBAC.

It was the evening of February 4th and I was 38 weeks, 6 days pregnant with Asa. I was even more exhausted than normal and decided to go upstairs and lay down while everyone else was eating dinner. I had just laid down and closed my eyes when I felt my water break. I jumped out of bed and as I stood to my feet, Niagra Falls was happening in my pants. I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up as my adrenaline was pumping like crazy. We are going to meet Asa soon! Or so I thought…

My labors with my first two babies were fairly short, with my second labor only being around 4-5 hours. So naturally, I expected contractions to quickly follow and to be pushing out my baby in the next 3-4 hours. I called Michael to come upstairs and help pack for the hospital, and I continued to wait for contractions. We were excited but all of a sudden I was NERVOUS. I am a doula and have been to tons of births and helped many, many women through natural labor, and I had even done it before myself…but I really had not prepared for this labor, and I had a big, huge moment of self doubt! I sent a text to my midwife and friend, Lisa, to let her know what was happening, and also to my doula Sandee. They both expected my contractions to pick up soon. A couple hours passed and still no significant contractions, so we decided to try and get some rest while we could. I drank a half glass of wine to calm my nerves so I could rest, but as soon as I laid down, oddly enough, that’s when my contractions started coming regularly. I contracted all night, with contractions coming every 3-10 minutes. At about 2am they were so intense that I had to get on all fours and moan through each one. Then I would lay back down and pass out in between. About 3:30 they were around 2-3 min apart, so I told Michael it was time to go.

I got up to go to the restroom for probably the 15th time that night (and I had to change my enormous pad each time because I was losing so much water!) and wouldn’t you know it..my labor came to a screeching H – A – U – L – T. I was still feeling Asa move quite frequently and my water was still clear, so we decided to try and sleep some more. I got to sleep a couple more hours before the big kids were up and raring to go, asking for breakfast. 🙂 Still, zero contractions. Where did they GOOOOO?!?! I was totally baffled, wondering what this lil guy had planned.

We were so blessed to have Michael’s parents living with us so they agreed to take the kids for the day while Michael and I got serious about getting labor started. I checked in with my midwife that morning after we ate breakfast, and we agreed that I would give it a few hours and then go to the clinic for a non stress test and then make a decision on whether or not to go on in for an induction/augmentation. Hearing those words really stung. I couldn’t believe I was potentially facing an induction. Why was my body playing this mean trick on me?? I was in a pretty sour mood about this for the next few hours. We tried absolutely everything to get my labor going…chiropractic, acupuncture, lots of stairs at Cenntennial Park, Spinning Babies, lots of prayer, you name it! But nothing helped. Asa had his own plans despite my efforts to try and control the process.

After Asa and I got a clean bill of health at the midwife clinic, we decided that we would check into the hospital the next morning if labor hadn’t started by then. Michael really had to shake some sense into me, and remind me that we were going to meet our third child soon and that sometimes we just can’t control the process and have to trust that God has a good plan. I really needed to hear this. He was so encouraging and reassured me that getting things started with Pitocin didn’t mean I couldn’t have the epidural-free, active birth that I wanted. I had had a traumatic experience associated with an epidural with my first baby, so my desire to avoid that at all costs ran much deeper than a desire to check another natural birth off my goals. I made the decision from that point forward to be happy and to except with open arms the journey that God had for us. It was a freeing moment, and I literally felt the weight lift up off my shoulders. I started to feel JOY for the first time since my water had broken the night before.

We got a pretty good night of sleep that night, with just a handful of contractions, and I checked into the hospital at 7:30am, with Michael, Sandee (doula), and Kingsley (my sister) surrounding me and we joyfully proclaimed we were “Team Asa!”. It was VERY weird to check into the hospital not even being in labor! You have to have a supportive birth team in moments like these..Michael, Sandee and Kingsley brought the perfect mix of humor, compassion, love, and strength. I felt very safe, very cared for, and that everyone in that room believed in and loved me and my baby.

They checked me before starting pit, and I was about 3cm dilated and Asa was -2 station. No wonder labor was stalling… he was up in my rib cage!

 

I started out sitting on the birth ball when the pitocin drip started. We were joking around, telling stories, and laughing. Active labor kicked in at just 5mil of pit, and from that point on, it was game on. Michael applied counter pressure to my lower back and Sandee talked me through each contraction, reminding me to relax every muscle in my body. After about 1 hour of steady contractions, the midwife Stephanie checked me and I was 5-6 cm. We all agreed that we wouldn’t raise the pit anymore because just that little bit was doing it’s job! I was thankful. I was still handling the contractions super well, and I felt very much in control. I labored mostly standing/sitting on the side of the bed, but had gotten on my knees in the bed after I was starting to get tired, and switched back and fourth from knees to “throne” position. About an hour later I started to feel more pressure, so my midwife Stephanie checked me and I was at a 7. It’s weird laboring after you’ve become a doula… I was well aware of my body and the labor process, and even though things were getting really intense I could still think logically about what was happening and what was coming next. I knew that with my second birth, I moved from 7cm to birth in about 20 minutes so I knew we were getting close!

 

Just like that, transition set in, and boy did I know it. I looked at Sandee and said something like, “this is hard! Help!” She continued to encourage me and I felt her strength pour right into me for the home stretch.

Just a few minutes later, I finally felt the urge to push. I was so relieved! I pushed for about 10 minutes and my sweet baby boy was born and I pulled him up on my belly, although he was a little blue and the cord was around his neck. I very instinctively grabbed the cord and pulled it over his head.

He was beautiful! He looked JUST like my first son, Cole to me. I couldn’t believe it. At that moment I felt I had known him my whole life.

I am so thankful for the BEST birth team ever. Sandee was that calming, peaceful presence and reassurance when I had many moments of self-doubt. Michael was such an amazing support to me. He has become quite the doula himself after going through three of his wife’s labors. 🙂 And my sister…I was so excited for her to be at Asa’s birth after I had helped her through labor just a few months before. Birth is such a majestic, life-changing moment that you’ll absolutely never forget once you experience it

The Birth of Leah Katrine

Our very own doula, Lillie, asked her mother to share with us her birth stories. Read as she recalls the birth of her first child. From the feelings of being pregnant for the first time to a long induction and labor, Trina takes us through the emotions she felt 26 years ago.

The Birth of Leah Flynn
By Trina Flynn

Reflections on my first child’s birth, 26 years postpartum

I think that I remember everything like it was yesterday, but realistically there are probably details that I have forgotten.

Finding out I was pregnant was a shock. I meant to get pregnant, but I thought it would take months to conceive, so the immediate feeling that I had when the nurse told me that I was pregnant, was shock. That was the first of many unexpected feelings that I would have associated with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I can remember wondering why I wasn’t excited when the overwhelming majority of people upon hearing of my pregnancy would either say, “Oh, that’s so exciting!” or “Aren’t you so excited?” I couldn’t think of one person in my life, who, when discussing the blessing of a new life, ever expressed anything but the excitement that they felt. Surely it was taboo to not feel anything but grateful and excited. My resource for all things pregnancy was the gold standard book at the time…”What to Expect When you are Expecting.”  I’m not sure that there was much exploration of a normal range of emotion associated with pregnancy in this book. My mother, who had 5 children and to date is the wisest woman I have ever known, would remind me when I had pregnancy questions, that when she had babies they would give mothers “speed” (diet pills) and would basically knock the mothers out during the delivery.

My pregnancy was fairly uncomplicated. I was healthy, although I did develop a borderline case of gestational diabetes and went on a special diet. I had some nausea, aversions to certain foods, serious aversions to certain smells, I would religiously check my heart rate when exercising, I followed all of the rules, and I finally got excited about being pregnant. I remember anticipating feeling movement for the first time and then actually feeling it. I remember being aware of how people were drawn to my pregnant belly. It was odd that suddenly people felt permission to touch my belly, to put their entire hand on my belly. It was interesting to me that people I didn’t know would, unsolicited, tell me some of their pregnancy/birth experience and give me some advice. Women would speculate on the sex of the baby because of how I was carrying it. I loved all of that. I was never annoyed, bored or offended at any of that. Even though I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to know, what I was “supposed” to be feeling, it was obvious to me that this experience is powerfully unifying for women of all ages and all walks of life. Surely if all of those women could do it, I could.

I do not remember having any specific expectations of my experience of pregnancy; I did not have a picture of what I wanted it to be like. I was mainly focused on doing everything that I could do to ensure that I would have a healthy baby. I knew however, that I wanted to have the baby “naturally”. That is what people would say about having a baby without an epidural and I do not remember being encouraged nor, discouraged about my wish. I’m not sure why I wanted to have the baby “naturally” because there was really no cultural trend at that time, and I was not aware of any discussion about it being better for the baby or the mother. It is just something that I wanted to do. The only option that was available at that time for exploring natural child birth was Lamaze, so my husband and I signed up for a course. I don’t remember how many classes we went to or how long they were. My Lamaze take away: find a focal point and RELAX. We learned a certain breathing pattern that I was skeptical of and didn’t practice. It seemed like from what they said, if I could relax during labor and the delivery, then everything would be ok.

My doctor wanted to induce labor a week before my due date. He said that I was small and he was a little worried that the baby would be too big. I didn’t question him. My point of reference was that of the 5 children that my mother had, I was the smallest at 9lbs. 7 oz. My mother was my size, around 5’2”. She didn’t mince words when she would tell me things about forceps, things ripping…so, I figured that my babies might be huge like hers and that the doctor was right and I should be induced. I was scheduled to go in on a Monday morning. On Sunday, the day before, I thought that my water was leaking. I went to the hospital; it was leaking so they went on and checked me in and started the induction process. I still wanted to go “natural”. I don’t remember the exact time line of things, but I think that they wanted to first “ripen my cervix”. How did they do that? I pictured them wiping something pasty on it, but who knows? On Monday at some point, they started the pitocin drip. I was pretty tired since I had been there overnight, but things started picking up with that pitocin. The contractions seemed to start hard, and they seemed to be coming fast. They broke my water at some point. They had taught me in Lamaze to find a focal point, I did, but honestly, did I ever even know why that was important? I think that my focal point was a framed picture of a pineapple on the wall in front of me. Is that what they meant? Or was it supposed to be a mental focal point? I was also supposed to be relaxed…I remember thinking that my body felt as tense as a steel girder. I recalled that the idea of relaxation was real, I know that I used to know how that felt, if I picture the spelling of the word maybe I can remember what the concept is. I could not relax. Did someone offer an epidural or did I ask? I don’t remember, but I got one and it certainly helped. I was aware of my extreme tiredness and that I was literally falling asleep between contractions. That doesn’t seem possible, but I did.

At some point I began pushing. I pushed for what seemed like a really long time, long enough to start to despair. I had always considered myself a strong person. I was not able to push the baby out. I felt like I was giving it everything that I had, I remember my husband seemed to be gritting and pushing with me. I pictured myself as an elephant trying to push a tree over with its head (I probably conjured an image from an old Tarzan movie). I couldn’t do it and I didn’t say it out loud, but I wondered what was going to happen. I was shocked when the doctor asked if I wanted a “little help”. I had literally forgotten about any options. So, they used a vacuum, I pushed, and out came Leah. She was 8 lbs. 5 oz. Big, but not huge, she had quite a bit of vernix on her, coned head, and sounded like a little weak lamb. Pat cried and cried, I cried and cried, my mother, saw her first birth. I did not have that baby “naturally” and I had just had the greatest, most moving, and miraculous moments of my life and I can remember knowing that I would fight a lion for her if I had to.

Induction Baby Hospital

The Birth of Arthur Avery

This mom was so calm and happy even at the end of a very long pregnancy. She trusted her body and was willing to wait as long as they could to let Art arrive on his own time. She remained calm even after an induction was needed. The entire process was not what they imagined but the peace in the room was so tangible. Not to mention Katie was so powerful and determined to have an epidural-free induction!
The Birth of Arthur Avery
By: Katie Randall
The birth story of my son Arthur starts with long days of waiting on his arrival. I never had strong feelings about how I wanted my birth experience to be until I found out I was pregnant. Early on I thought I might want to try a natural birth, and the more Jarrod and I learned about our options, the more we were convinced this was the right path for us.To prepare, I did prenatal yoga twice, sometimes three times a week, and we completed a Bradley method class, a partner coached childbirth method. We hired Merrill Durham as our doula. This was an easy choice. I’ve known Merrill for a few years, and I’ve always said she brings peace wherever she goes. She’s knowledgeable, passionate, and has done this before herself. She inspired me and she believed in me. I knew these were all qualities I needed in a doula. I had a textbook pregnancy and felt great most of the time. Even at the end of 42 weeks, I kept saying I felt too good to be about to go into labor. I expected to be miserable, and I just wasn’t. I attribute much of this to my yoga practice.
When I reached 40 weeks, I reminded myself that this is normal. First time pregnancies often go longer than 40 weeks. I wasn’t worried, but baby was still posterior and Merrill, the midwife, and I all agreed that could be why I wasn’t going into labor already. I did everything I knew to encourage him to rotate, but he didn’t, and when I hit 41 weeks, though I still wasn’t worried, I tried all of the usual natural methods for induction. I think the only thing I didn’t try was castor oil. I just knew he’d come on his own in his own time, and I wasn’t interested in forcing anything before my body and baby were totally ready. At 41.5 weeks, I had a routine biophysical profile done, and though the baby was doing well, the midwife thought my amniotic fluid levels were a little low and placenta was looking a little “tired.” At 42 weeks I talked to her about pushing induction back a few days, but she felt it was best to go ahead that night.
So on the evening of Thursday, February 5, we checked into the hospital. Checking in for your birth when you are not in labor is a bit odd, not that I’ve ever done it differently, but it was not how I imagined. We were nervous that day but excited too, and according to Merrill, who has done this part several times with moms in active labor, it was very peaceful to check in this way. Maybe that’s what set the tone for the rest of our stay. In spite of the hard work ahead, peaceful is how I would describe the whole experience.I was only dilated about 1.5 centimeters with a posterior cervix upon check in, so they started me on Cytotec, a drug to help ripen the cervix. They thought I may need a couple of doses, which would take 8 hours, so after making sure we were settled, Merrill went home to get a few hours of sleep. Jarrod and I tried to do the same, though it was difficult for me to sleep as I had monitors strapped across my belly and a blood pressure cuff that the nurse wanted on me at all times. Four hours later, the midwife checked me and decided I had progressed enough to skip the second dose of Cytotec and try a Foley bulb. The Foley bulb is essentially a balloon-like device that dilates your cervix to 4 centimeters. Needless to say, it was not comfortable. I was actually having mild contractions with it in, and I think that’s why I responded so well to it. The nurse said it can take three hours for it to work, but thankfully I made it to 4 centimeters within the hour. At this point, we started Pitocin, a drug I really hoped to avoid altogether because it can interfere with your body’s natural hormone production during labor and make contractions longer, more frequent, and/or more intense. I knew this could make my hope to avoid an epidural harder to achieve, but my body still wasn’t taking over and contracting like it needed to. It took a couple of hours for the Pitocin to kick in, but by 6:00 AM, I was in active labor.Laboring on Pitocin, I skipped early labor and jumped straight into active labor with little warm up. My body was in shock at first, causing chills, nausea, and vomiting. In fact, because of these symptoms, I thought I was farther along than I was. I was disappointed to find at my next check three and half hours later that I was only dilated 6-7 centimeters. I had hoped I was already in transition, but still, I was making progress. I can’t say enough good things about Merrill’s presence at our birth, but specifically I’m thankful she was there to work with the nurses into keeping the Pitocin as low as possible. Typically they would have upped the dosage every thirty minutes, but we asked them more than once if they could leave it where it was. I am confident had we not done this I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the pain to come.

Throughout my labor, my contractions were irregular. They would get closer together and more intense and then space out, then they would come one on top of another and last for several minutes. They did not rise and peak like natural contractions. This was hard to work through. I remember saying over and over again that I just needed a break. I thought I would get breaks between contractions. Jarrod and Merrill kept coaching me through, providing counter pressure and heating pad as needed and reminding me to breathe, Jarrod telling me how proud he was and how beautiful I am and Merrill telling me that I was doing it when I said I couldn’t. Without their unwavering support and encouragement, I don’t think I could have held it together.

With each contraction I took long, deep breaths and vocalized in a low tone. I felt like I had to do this. If my pitch rose even slightly, I felt more pain. I never thought I would vocalize so much in labor, but it helped so much!

At one point, I thought my water had broken, but it had not, at least not completely. I was already feeling the urge to bear down with contractions, but 2.5 hours since my last check, I hadn’t progressed much more than half a centimeter. I was stuck at 7.5 centimeters. This was discouraging. I was doubting myself and getting so tired. Merrill asked if I wanted to try nitrous oxide. I was so glad she asked! I had been thinking about it but couldn’t verbalize my request. I know nitrous doesn’t work well for everyone, but it helped me so much. Just like I’d heard, it didn’t take the pain away, but it helped me not care as much. I was already in another place mentally, and the nitrous helped me stay in “labor land.”

Shortly after, Robin, my midwife, suggested letting her break my water. I was hesitant at first, afraid it would increase my pain, but eventually I let her and was so glad I did! I went from 7.5 to 9.75 centimeters in no time! When she told me I was 9.75 and could bear down with the contractions if I wanted, hoping a little pressure would help get me to 10, I cried tears of relief. I remember looking at Merrill, and she teared up with me. It was such happy news. We were nearing the end!

Within half an hour, I was at 10 and pushing with each contraction. At this point my body had taken over and the nurse was able to turn the Pitocin off. I know this was a totally different part of labor, but my contractions without Pitocin felt so different. They were spaced more evenly and peaked naturally. This was a huge relief! And pushing made them easier to work through as well. I would say the pushing part was the least painful yet hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Mamas have to work so hard to push their babies into this world!

Unfortunately, as soon as I started pushing, Arthur’s heart rate started to drop. They gave me oxygen and fluids, which seemed to help, and kept me on my left side, which seemed best for baby. Robin checked me again to confirm he was in a good position for birth, and he was! At some point during labor he had turned into a direct OA position. This was an answer to prayer! He was still behind the pubic bone however, which seemed to slow things down some. At this point, my contractions spaced again, and after an hour and a half of pushing, the room was suddenly very crowded. I felt a little out of it and wasn’t totally sure what all happening. All I remember is meeting the OBs on call, talking about options like forceps and C-section, saying they were concerned about the baby’s heart rate. They had been monitoring my progress over the last two hours and felt it was taking too long. They wanted to check on the baby’s positioning themselves. I assumed this would be similar to the cervical checks I had had thus far. I was very wrong. This was by far the most painful part of my entire experience and the most difficult for Jarrod and I both to process since. If I’m being totally honest and vulnerable here, I felt violated. I know the OBs were only doing their job and what they felt was best for my baby. I in no way believe they are bad doctors or people, but this check was very deep and extremely painful, they did not wait to check me between contractions as my midwife had, and they did not stop when I asked them to. It took me awhile to reconcile this part of my birth experience and not allow it to overshadow how wonderful the rest of it was.

After this excruciating check, they confirmed baby’s positioning was good after all, he was not too big for me to deliver naturally and safely, and I could continue pushing. Thank goodness! I think maybe it was the fear of another check like that or a forceps delivery that motivated me to push even harder than I had before, because just a few pushes later with Jarrod right by my side and the entire room cheering us on, Arthur Avery was born at 3:46 pm. He weighed 8 lbs 1 oz and was 21 inches long. That moment when they placed him on my belly was pure joy. He was so squishy and warm and so perfect. I kept saying, “You worked so hard, baby. I’m so proud of you.” One of the nurses heard me and said, “YOU worked so hard, mama! Good job!” I know these doctors, nurses, and midwives do this everyday, but they sure did a great job making me feel special that day.

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Newborn baby

I delivered the placenta shortly thereafter, Jarrod got to cut the cord and had skin to skin time with Art while the OBs worked on me. I had a 3rd degree tear, so it took a little while. I opted not to go to the OR for the repair because I didn’t want to be separated from my new little family and thought if I’d avoided an epidural so far, why get one now. Merrill and Robin stayed with me throughout the surgery, holding my hands and keeping me distracted.

I didn’t pay attention to what song on my playlist was playing when Art was actually born, but at one point during my surgery, I looked over to Jarrod holding our son, and John Mark McMillan’s How He Loves was on. I started to laugh and cry all at once, and Merrill asked what was so funny. I just said, “This song. He really does love us!” One of the OBs commented that he loves this song too, and the mood in the room was so light, so full of joy and light and love. I know there was a lot of oxytocin floating around in the room that day, but I truly believe the Holy Spirit was with us, anointing us with peace during the labor and joy at Art’s birth. I’ve never felt the veil between Heaven and Earth so thin before. I’ve never felt more brave, more strong, more alive, more confident and beautiful than I did that day. It was an amazing experience that has forever changed me. Every laboring woman deserves this type of birth experience.

I’m so thankful my body responded so well to the induction methods used. Although we wanted to avoid as many interventions and medications as possible, I’m thankful for modern medicine and made my peace with the decision to induce when we did. When I look back on it all, I only really remember the good stuff. I remember certain songs on my playlist, the aromatherapy Merrill had going in her diffuser, the encouraging words spoken over me, and the love. I am so incredibly thankful for my birth team and all of our friends and family praying over us that day. We felt their prayers with us, and I know I would not have had the same experience without them.

Woman baby and husband