Thank you so much to Kristie for sharing her beautiful and inspiring birth with us! Kristie, I am in awe of your strength and perseverance.
Kira is a year old now, so I may have forgotten a few of the details, but the story of her birth goes something like this…
(Ryan and I opted not to know the gender of our baby in advance and the story is written from that perspective.)
During the final weeks leading up to the birth, my pregnancy started to get weird and I had to have an extra ultrasound. Normally towards the end of pregnancy, amniotic fluid starts to decrease, but my amniotic fluid just kept on growing. This situation is called polyhydroaminos. I also had horrible edema. When my midwife told me what was going on I was extremely concerned that I might risk out of the birth center’s care. Things were touch and go for a while and I spent a few grueling weeks on bed rest.
Fortunately, I was able to come off bed rest about a week before the baby’s adjusted due date September 21st, (the original due date was September 28th).
September 21st came and went quite uneventfully. I had to have a fetal non-stress test, which ironically is a very stressful experience. As the days came and went I started to experience many small Braxton-hicks contractions. The contractions typically stopped when I changed my activity.
Finally sometime around September 26th I started to get some bloody show. Early the next day I had an acupuncture appointment. I was getting weak but regular contractions prior to the appointment. After the appointment the contractions increased slightly in frequency. I had an appointment with the midwives later that day. Apparently I was 4cm dilated and didn’t even know it. The big question of the day was why was the baby still sitting so high? Later that night we found the answer.
After a full morning of regular contractions we called my sister-in-law (aka free help) to tell her to come back from work and join us. Shortly after she arrived things started to get more intense and my memory gets a bit hazy.
I remember sitting on the sofa watching my husband and his sister play cards while I picked at some watermelon slices. I wasn’t talking too much by this point because I was too focused on not getting overly excited about the situation. When the contractions reached the right frequency and duration we contacted the midwifery. The midwife asked if I would be able to sleep through the night, I said that wouldn’t be a problem. Ryan went to cook some food and I stayed on the sofa a few minutes longer before deciding that I couldn’t stand the smell of the cooking and that I wanted to be alone. I told the others I was going upstairs for a nap and attempted to do just that.
After a few minutes upstairs it became clear that I wasn’t going to be sleeping. The contractions changed completely in their intensity and every position was uncomfortable, Finally I called Ryan upstairs and we decided to call the midwifery again. We also sent our doula in training, Sera, a text to come over. I begged the midwife to let me come into the birth center. She spoke to me for a while and then finally said ok, she would check me again, but odds were that she would be sending me back home because she didn’t expect much of a change from the morning. When we got off the phone I distinctly remember telling Ryan, “They better not send me home. If this isn’t hard labor then I don’t think I can handle anything more intense” so we packed up the car and headed to the midwifery. (My SIL drove separately) . I swear that car ride was the longest 40 minutes of my life.
When we arrived at the birthing center around 9:00pm Ryan and I were escorted into the birthing suite and Rachael waited in the family waiting area. The midwife checked me (I think it was Brooke or Andy at that point) and said, “it looks like you’re going to have a baby tonight! You’re already at 9cm. I was so incredibly relieved to be able to stay. We shared the news with Rachael and I think she gave the doula a call because Sera eventually showed up.
Next I had an IV line inserted and was given a round of antibiotics. Once I had the all clear I was able to get into the birthing tub. The warm water was amazing. I relaxed for a while with just Ryan in the room. But around 11pm I told Ryan that he should get the midwife because I wanted to push.
Brooke said I could go ahead and push, so I did. I pushed and pushed and pushed with all my might but there was just no change. Apparently the bag of waters was in the way and the baby couldn’t drop down. The midwife could not safely break the bag because I had so much fluid that the baby’s umbilical cord might get sucked down with the sudden rush of fluid. The bag had to break on its own or I had to birth the bag.
So I kept right on pushing. I tried every position in the book and I pushed and pushed. Midnight rolled by, then I am, then 2am and still I pushed. I was refusing all food and water so I was given IV fluids twice and another round of antibiotics. Three am came and went, as did 4am. I was so exhausted that I was literally falling asleep between contractions but still I pushed. Then finally the bag of waters burst. The mess was epic. I had a moment of great relief, and then the discomfort intensified as the baby finally dropped down. I had a renewed energy. I remember thinking, now I can push this baby out! So I pushed again and again with all my might. But still, no baby. Finally I asked the midwife if I was making any progress. I remember being told that the baby moved down with every push and then went right back up again. By now it was nearly about 5am. I was exhausted and we all decided that a hospital transfer might be the best solution.
I was crushed. Going to the hospital at this point would lead to only one thing, a cesarean. Everyone left the room to make arrangements except Ryan. Sera and Rachael started to load the car and the midwife went to call the hospital. I was standing at the foot of the bed with my forearms resting on the bed. I pushed with every contraction because it was easier than not pushing. I squatted with every contraction too, because it seemed to help with the discomfort. After a couple of minutes Ryan said something I’ll never forget. “I think I see hair! I’m going to get the midwife!” And so he did.
Everyone came rushing back into the room and I kept right on pushing and squatting but the baby was still really stuck. Then I thought, well if one push isn’t enough to move the baby I’ll just have to push two times or three times every contraction. My legs were too tired to stay in a squat, so I squatted with each push. I don’t now how I found the strength to keep pushing like that, but I did.
Soon after I birthed a squishy little baby head and we found out why the baby was stuck. The baby had a hand clenched against its head. The midwife and staff immediately had me climb up onto the bed on all fours and I slowly pushed the rest of the body out. I was filled with relief and exhaustion. I remember feeling something warm and wet on my back. I asked Ryan for the gender. A girl. Kira Aisling Shapiro was finally born, after 7 hours of pushing, on September 28, 2012 at 6:12am. She weighted 9lbs 8oz and measured 20.5 in long.
Rachael drove home the happy, but exhausted family around 11:00am that same day.
Kira also had two true cord knots, one of which was a double knot. Miraculously, neither of the knots pulled tight enough to harm her oxygen supply over her long birth.
The only truly painful part of my labor was the ring of fire. The rest was just varying degrees of discomfort. There was plenty of pain afterwards though. I had a very bad tear that needed stitches.
After Kira was born I needed an injection to encourage the placenta to detach. Once I got that out of me I felt so much better.
I could not believe how difficult it was to get cleaned up after the birth. I was so shaky and unstable that it was unreal.
Kira didn’t nurse right away, she was just as worn out as we were and we all slept really well that day.
I was so physically exhausted that it took nearly 3 days before I could walk again. I literally had to hold onto the walls just to get myself to the bathroom and back. I pretty much stayed in bed for a week.
My experience was intense, challenging, and amazing. For weeks afterwards I felt like I could take on the world. I’m really looking forward to doing it again someday.