The Birth Story of Dagny Christine

At exactly 36 weeks, your father and I started packing our bags for your arrival. First, we packed a duffel bag with all of the essentials for bringing you into this world — comfortable clothes for mommy and daddy, snacks, games and books to pass the time in labor, and toiletries. Then, we packed your diaper bag (a beautiful gift from the Muellers and the Eichmanns!) with all of the essentials for bringing you home, including a pink hat, mittens, and onesie. Finally, we packed a cooler with lots of coconut water and a list of items from the fridge.

Then, those bags promptly sat in the front room for 4 long weeks. Although we had hoped you would make an early appearance (on account of your father’s pending deployment), that wasn’t what you had in mind.

Your estimated due date was Monday, October 17th. I worked until Friday, October 14th and then your father took me to get acupuncture that night. We drove down to San Diego in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and arrived at North Park Acupuncture in San Diego around 6 p.m. While I was having the needles put in, your father did a foot detox bath and then he joined me.

To try to stimulate labor, needles are placed in the back and sacrum, and in two special places on the hands and ankles. The needles are then hooked up to stimulation for about 15 minutes. Your father read to me while the needles did their work. It didn’t hurt at all, and we were both so excited that this might kick off the series of events that would lead us to meeting you.

When we checked out, we made an appointment for Monday to perform the procedure again, in case you hadn’t decided to come yet. After that, we went to dinner with Brian Sarg at Il Postino. I had a glass of wine to relax, and was quietly experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout. Everything we ate tasted especially delicious knowing that the meal might be my last big one before your arrival.

Saturday, we went for a two-hour walk in the morning, but I was only having sporadic contractions.

Sunday morning, we went for an hour walk in the morning and then I went to a baby shower, but still contractions were only sporadic. That night, I went for another two-hour walk with your father, and the contractions started coming steadily every 10 minutes. By nine o’clock that night, the contractions were persistent regardless whether I was sitting, laying down, standing, or walking. So, on the advice of Our Birthing from Within coach, I had a snack and drank a large glass of water and went to bed.

I woke in the middle of the night, with the contractions coming about every ten minutes, but becoming increasingly intense. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I had bloody show, but I was excited not scared. I told your father, and let him know that I was fine and he should go back to sleep.

I wrote some overdue thank you notes and other correspondence, drank a glass of herbal tea, and timed my contractions. Since they were now between 9 and 10 minutes, for a few hours, I called the midwife on call. She let me know that everything sounded good, and I should try to get some sleep. Her advice was to call back when the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and/or to just come in at my appointment scheduled for Monday afternoon.

So, I went back to bed and slept in as long as I could the next morning. Your father went into work for a few hours, to tie up loose ends. I went for a very long walk around the neighborhood. When he got home, around noon, we packed up the dogs and our bags in the car, and headed to Canine Castle to drop them off. We expected that we would not be coming back home from the birthing center without a baby!

When we arrived for our appointment, the birthing center was very busy. I weighed in (20lbs heavier than when we started!) and they took my vitals. The pelvic exam showed that I was between 3 and 4 centimeters dilated. Since that was a little too early for me to check into the birthing center, they sent us out for a two-hour walk around Balboa Park. We walked from the Birthing Center to Pinkberry, and then around the park. We talked a little about the labor and contractions, and about how excited we were to finally meet you. But, we were both mostly absorbed in our thoughts and in the moment. Every few minutes, we would pause while a contraction happened. Your father would apply counter pressure to my back on the really tough ones.

When we got back to the birthing center, we still hadn’t dilated much more, although my cervix was effacing. We walked to dinner at a Thai restaurant about a mile away; your Aunt Michelle met us there. About this time, I started to get very nauseated. I had the sense that I was going to throw up, and spent most of dinner in the bathroom. I was barely able to choke down a few bites of white rice.

After dinner, we walked back. I was now a little over 4 centimeters dilated, and getting tired. I napped in a reclining chair, while a non-stress-test was performed on my belly by our first midwife, Britta. Everything looked good, but it still seemed too early to be admitted to the birthing center.

On Britta’s recommendation, we checked into a nearby hotel for the night and your Aunt Michelle went home to sleep. Your father got as much rest as he could, while I alternated between laboring in the tub and in bed. The contractions were only about 3 minutes apart most of the night. It was hard to sleep and I had no appetite, but I was getting through them with relaxation, movement, and breathing exercises.

In the morning, the contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes and I talked to your father about the possibility of transitioning to a hospital. After laboring all night, I was afraid that I might not be able to endure the pain (if it got significantly worse) and that I would get too exhausted. He reassured me, and helped me to eat a little. I drank several glasses of warm water, and walked around the hotel room. My contractions were now coming every minute and it was time to head back to the birthing center.

When we got there, it was a strange sensation. Everyone else was in the waiting room (like I had been for 9 months!) but we knew there was no more “preparation”, you were finally coming. There were two other women laboring, so we had to wait a long time for a midwife to come and check on us in the exam room. When Ruth finally came, she announced that we would be having you that day (October 18) – we were about 5 centimeters.

Ever since we had toured the birth center, we had hoped to be in the large upstairs room. It had a great tub, where we had planned to labor and possibly deliver. As fate would have it, that was where they put us.

At this point, I was having some back labor, so our second midwife, Susan, put me on the birthing ball. You got into the right position quickly, and the back labor was over within about 90 minutes.

I rubbed my belly with honey-scented lotion, and walked around the room. I alternated positions a lot. Often just resting on my hands or elbows, and swaying my hips back and forth. The contractions were coming at least every minute, varying a little in intensity. I would get about three strong ones and then a break. Your father offered me snacks and coconut water, but I was still fairly uninterested in eating anything.

Your Aunt Michelle came to meet as at the birthing center, and she brought smoothies. Your father had asked her to get the smoothie fortified with lots of boosts and no citrus (which can upset the tummy during labor). I was able to drink a fair amount of that, which helped me keep my strength up.

Shortly after that, we transitioned to the tub, to keep laboring. Josh and Michelle sat on the sides and offered me hard candies, smoothie, coconut water, and later straight honey. Your father would pour water over my back or refresh the water in the tub as it cooled. Michelle would put my hair up or rub my neck. Both offered encouraging smiles, and touches. We were also joined by nurse Kristin, who used the Doppler every 15 minutes or so to monitor your heartbeat. If that time came in the middle of a contraction, she would wait until it passed.

I was so happy laboring during this time; I could tell by how the contractions felt that I was opening and that you were ok. I had been apprehensive before the birth to practice making noise to cope with the pain. But, the apprehension faded during the actual labor, and I would make deep, loud moans to get through the contractions. Sometimes it almost felt like singing. If I would get too high-pitched, indicating that the pain was getting the better of me, your father would harmonize with me and bring me back down to the low, effective tones.

Between contractions I was smiling, laughing, and felt ecstatic. The labor continued to be intense, but it didn’t hurt. I felt like I was laboring in another world. We stayed in this small group, with Susan coming in and out, all day and through the evening. Other babies were born during that time, and it got dark, Michelle and Josh ate, and I just labored without awareness of time.

Around 9:30, the feeling of the contractions started to become more like an urge to bear down. Susan checked me, and I was a little over 9 centimeters. They said it wouldn’t be long until it would be time to push.

Josh joined me in the tub and Susan broke my water, to try to see if that would speed things along. About this time, Susan let us know that our third midwife, Brook, would be joining us. Brook checked me out, and encouraged me to stand and walk around to try to clear the remainder of the cervix. The last part was the most intense. There were several moments where I thought I would cry, but my husband stayed close and kept me strong. While Susan had been very relaxed in the early part of my labor, I found Brook to be very practical in helping me get through this last part so that we could finally meet you.

At ten centimeters dilated, and with my cervix out of the way, Brook and Josh took me to the bed to start pushing in a side-lying position. She instructed me on how to push, and we got started. By this time, I was so exhausted, I was falling asleep between contractions. But, it never occurred to me to stop or give up. And, after the pep talk from Josh in the morning, I had never given an epidural, or transitioning to the hospital, another thought.

I crowned in the side-lying position for over an hour. The lights were dim, and the midwife, the nurse, or Michelle would shine a flashlight to check my progress when I pushed. It was slow-going. Although before the birth both Josh and Michelle had planned to stay up by my head, they were both riveted to what was going on down below. I didn’t mind at all, I was in another place and they were acting as my eyes letting me know that we were making progress.

I had a hard time stopping the pushing feeling at the end of each contraction, and my limbs were getting stiff, and I felt cold despite the fact that I was sweating from the effort. I moved to a birthing stool to continue and try to have gravity help. While we were on the stool, Brook asked if I had reached down and touched your head yet, which I hadn’t. It was covered in dark hair! I joked to your father that you must have his ears, since it was taking so long for your head to come out.

Around this time, I became aware that the midwife had been gone for quite a while. Another woman had showed up to give her birth, and their child was arriving imminently. At this point, we had been crowning for about two hours and I was experiencing the “ring of fire”. I would become scared and back off of the pushing when the pain became too intense.

Several EMTs showed up to catch the baby, in case the midwife did not make it back. They wanted to come in and take my vitals but my husband and the nurse advocated for them hanging back and taking the vitals that Kristin had already gathered. They were all staring at the baby; I guess it’s not every day they get to see a baby born naturally!

When Brook returned, we transitioned back to the bed. She rubbed olive oil on my perineum and all around your head. She told me that we were ready, and to listen carefully to her to try to avoid any tearing. I pushed hard three more times. It was so quiet, all that I can remember hearing was Josh counting out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 with each contraction, and then finally your head came out. I stopped pushing, you turned, and then your shoulder and the rest of your body came out. It was October 19, at 12:53 a.m. and such a relief.

You were perfect, and squirming, but you did not cry.

The midwife handed you immediately to me and your father, with the umbilical cord intact. I held you to my chest. I thought your father was going to cry, we were both so consumed with the moment. Every time you started to look upset, we would talk to you and you would immediately calm down. It seemed as though you recognized our voices.

A few moments later, I handed the baby over to Josh, so that he and our fourth midwife, Ashley, could cut the umbilical cord. The placenta came out easily. At the same time, Brook was going to put in two stitches where I had had a minor surface tear. When she knelt down to begin, I felt an unexpected warm gush. It was blood.

Brook immediately requested Ashley’s assistance. The gush was blood, caused by a uterine hemorrhage. We later speculated that my uterus was just tired after such a long labor. By the time all was said and done, I lost over a liter of blood. I remember seeing Brook with her arm inside of me, it seemed like it was up to her elbow. She worked together with Ashley and the nurse to administer medicine to stabilize me. They never found where the issue was coming from, but the bleeding stopped and I did not have to be transferred to the hospital.

Ashley offered tremendous moral support, and administered an IV bag of fluid. Your father looked very scared, holding the baby, while we all waited to find out if those EMTs would be coming back to take us to the hospital. I remember your father holding you so confidently. I trusted that everything would be ok, that the hard work was over, and I focused on my breathing.

Immediately after everything was cleaned up, and we were alone, my appetite returned. The baby latched immediately, and Josh fed me my leftover Thai food and coconut water while I nursed for the first time.

We stayed overnight, so that the midwives and nurse could keep an eye on all three of us. In the morning, with no problems, we packed up and headed home. We didn’t use half of the “essentials” from the bags we had packed. What got us through was each other, the very unique support each of the different midwives offered, and determination to birth naturally.

Dagny Christine was born after 34 hours of active labor at 12:53 a.m. October 19, 2011. She weighed 7lbs, 6oz and was 21 inches long. She was born naturally, perfect.

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