Kersti and Violet's Birth Story
Violet’s St. Patrick’s Day Homebirth - 3/17/16
After nearly three years of infertility and heartache, I was overjoyed to finally be pregnant after countless rounds of meds and 4 IUIs. I was horribly sick until my third trimester and then pretty uncomfortable, but despite that, I LOVED being pregnant. I had life growing inside of me - my dream come true - and I planned to enjoy every day of it… in between all of the throwing up and trying to roll over in bed ;)
When my due date came and went, I wasn't surprised. I was exhausted and achy, but I really never got to that point where I felt like I NEEDED to get her out. Mostly I was just really, really excited to meet our little girl! As a doula, I was very aware of how meaningless the official due date is and how likely it is for a first time mom to go "over due." I wanted to trust my body to go into labor when my baby was ready, but I also really wanted to avoid a hospital induction. Legally, my midwife had until 42 weeks and then she would have to transfer my care to my OB. I started getting acupuncture after I hit 40 weeks and went a few times that week. I noticed a bit of Braxton Hicks during and after the treatments, but they were very mild and I really had no signs of impending labor at all. At 40 weeks and 6 days my mom, Wendy, a doula and massage therapist, did a 2-hour labor induction massage on me. She really worked on all of those good acupressure points! We stayed up until 12am doing the massage and I finally went to bed a little before 1am.
I woke up at 2am (41 weeks exactly now and St. Patrick's Day!) with contractions about 5-6 mins apart lasting 45-60 seconds. I was kind of in shock that labor had just started right up! It was so surprising to go from NOTHING to just BAM - now I'm in labor! I remember laying there in our bed and smiling as I felt those early pains, knowing that they meant our baby would join us soon. The contractions felt like strong menstrual cramps in my lower belly radiating into my back. I timed them for about 10 contractions and tried to sleep, but couldn't. I was excited, but was able to really just rest and relax in bed, even though I couldn't sleep. I was trying to savor those last moments with my girl, feeling her kick and dance, where I could really just keep her all to myself.
Steve woke up briefly around 3-4am, and I told him I was having regular contractions, but to go back to sleep. When his alarm for work went off around 5, we talked about what to do. I felt pretty confident this was going to be real labor, but also didn't feel like things were imminent and, of course, I had no idea how long things might take. He decided to go in to work and pick up his paycheck. He left around 5:30 and I tried to stay in bed resting. At that point contractions were already getting significantly more intense and 3-5 mins apart lasting for a minute.
I rested for awhile longer, but still couldn't sleep. I remember flipping over to hands and knees and swaying back and forth during contractions to help with the discomfort. Steve got back home around 6:30am and we started our morning. I took a shower (my hair was dirty and I couldn't possibly have a baby with dirty hair!) and then we started getting the house ready. Dishes, cleaning the bathroom, inflating the tub, etc. I knew I would be more relaxed with a clean house, so that was the plan all along. It was such a fun and relaxed early labor experience. We were so excited to meet our baby and were feeling so much peace! I would just stop to breathe and sway through contractions - which had stayed very regular all morning. It felt good to lean over the counters or bed during contractions. I texted my doula, Nicole, a little before 8am and let her know I was in labor. Amazingly, she said she had a feeling and had been up praying for me during the night! She said to stay in touch and let her know when I was ready for her. I decided to time contractions for a while again around 8-9am and they were 2:30 minutes apart and a minute long. In between contractions we baked the baby a birthday cake and made a stew for our birth team to eat later in the day. Steve and I just felt so peaceful and filled with joy. I think the fact that we didn't have to worry about when to go to the hospital allowed us to fully relax and be present where we were.
Around 10am things were definitely picking up in intensity and my mom came over to help. I started needing more support from Steve during contractions around this time. He was an amazing support and was always right there when I needed him - speaking encouragement into my ear and telling me that I was doing great. I would either lean into him or lean over the bed while he rubbed my back. My contractions were holding 2-3 mins apart and 60-90 seconds long. I was still feeling great in between contractions, but I started wondering if maybe I was being a wimp during them. I didn't think I was as far along as I was, because it turns out things were moving along at a pretty good pace! As a doula, I was really prepared for labor to be such a long and drawn out process...as it turned out, my body was moving through the stages pretty well! Since I didn't know this, I worried that I was just being a wimp through early labor! :) I called my midwife, Hope, around 11am to update her and see what she thought. She listened to me through a couple of contractions on the phone. I was moaning and vocalizing through them and obviously working hard at that point. She was very encouraging and assured me that it sounded like I was really in a good active labor pattern and told me that it probably wouldn't be long until she would be coming over to join us.
I lost track of time around this point so the rest of my time guesses are estimates. My mom called my photographer and doula sometime after that and asked them to come over. I was working hard during contractions, but was in a good space mentally and emotionally. I was still cheerful in between contractions and was really hoping they were good productive contractions that were making nice progress! I got in the shower for a little bit while Steve started getting the birth tub filled. It felt really good and I remember wishing I could stay in longer - but we didn't want to run out of hot water before we got the tub filled!
Things totally blurred around that time. Looking back, I think this was probably the transition phase - since I wasn't checked, I don't know dilation for sure. I spent time sitting on the birth ball and leaning over our bed, and frequently leaning forward on to Steve. I loved the birth ball during my pregnancy and spent a lot of time there. At some point I got on the ground next to the bed into a hands and knees position leaned over the birth ball. My doula was rubbing my back and doing counter pressure and Steve was by my face, encouraging me and holding me close. He was my rock through it all. My doulas and support system were so vital to our whole experience...but it was always Steve that I wanted close during contractions. It was his support I felt like I needed so much! That was interesting for me. I can sometimes feel like I need my space and I wasn't sure if I would feel "over touched" during labor, but I absolutely didn't! I really needed him and he was always there. He was the best support in the world. Because he completely trusted our birth team, he could leave the worries and details entirely to them and focus on being there for me emotionally. He praised me and encouraged me and spoke truth to me, and I truly feel like I couldn't have done it without him. He deserves a gold medal for sure! The women standing with me surrounded us in love and support and the environment they all created together was amazing.
I got in the tub sometime around 2:00pm, maybe? I was trying to save it until I really needed it so I could draw out the relief it gave me through the last part of labor. Being submerged in the water felt so good and comforting! I continued to move and change positions in the tub - laying still wasn't working for me at all. I was being pretty loud through contractions - moaning and breathing. The "horse lips" breathing worked well for me and helped me try to keep my muscles relaxed during contractions. My birth team was all sitting around the tub encouraging me.
I labored in the tub for around an hour with very intense contractions before I noticed that I was starting to feel a little pushy during the peaks of contractions. My midwife encouraged me to listen to my body and do what felt good. I wasn't actively pushing hard during this time, but I spent about an hour in this "in between" phase where I felt pushy but not enough to be really actively pushing. I hated that feeling, honestly, and felt like I didn't know what was coming or how to respond to it. On top of contractions, as the baby got lower I started experiencing excruciating back labor. The intense back and hip pain never went away and then contractions would come on top of that. That lasted until she was born, unfortunately, and was absolutely the hardest part of my whole labor experience. My water broke in the tub during this "in between" pushing and it was a funny feeling since I was submerged in water! It just felt like a pop. Thankfully my midwife was able to tell that the fluid was all clear and there was no meconium. While I was in the tub, my body started really pushing for me. What a crazy experience. I had heard it described as throwing up backwards and now I totally get that! I also started dry heaving during contractions - so I felt like my body really was throwing up both ways. I was crying at this point and my breathing was pretty out of control... I was trying to doula myself and telling myself all the stuff I knew, but I just couldn't get myself calmed down. I remember hanging over the tub dry heaving and pushing simultaneously and uncontrollably and saying, "this is so annoying." I was feeling really out of control and like I just couldn't get on top of it. I think I could have handled the contractions better, but with the constant back pain I was never getting any kind of a break. My midwife gave me some homeopathic medicine to help with my anxiety and my doula was having me smell different essential oils. I spent time pushing in the tub, on the toilet, the birth stool, the bed on hands knees/side lying, squatting/etc, and back to the birth stool. It was so incredibly intense and my constant back pain kept me from being comfortable in any position. The baby was coming down, but she started off pretty high so we had a long ways to go. After an hour or so of strong active pushing (2 hours of total pushing at this point, if we include the first hour), the baby started crowning. Everyone kept telling me I was so close and it wouldn't be much longer. I could feel SO much of her head and even see it in the mirror. She ended up crowning like this for almost another hour!! My birth team kept telling me how close she was, but I totally stopped believing that she really was ever going to come out -- even though I could see that she was right there! It had just been so long. I was yelling and was way louder than I ever anticipated I would be. I kept telling myself, out loud, that I needed to "simmer down!" :) My breathing was all over the place and the pressure was out of this world - along with the continuous back labor. I remember thinking and saying that I couldn't do it anymore, but I never thought about an epidural or meds or any interventions - which I think was probably primarily because we were home and there was no pain relief option. Since it wasn't an option at home, it just never even crossed my mind. My midwife said my perineum was SO tight that it was holding the baby in - it wasn't the pelvic bones, just my own extremely tight tissue! I've never seen anything like that as a doula - really, half of her head was out for a solid 45 minutes! It was so nuts and there are no words to describe that intensity.
Violet Rae was finally born 5:59pm while I was sitting on the birth stool -- and she just shot out all at once! As soon as the rest of her head started coming, her whole body followed! Steve caught her (with Hope's hands right there) and I reached down to grab her under her armpits and pulled her up to my chest! That has got to be the best feeling ever! The instant relief and all-consuming joy and love...there’s just nothing else like that. I was immediately so overwhelmed and in awe of this new little life! SHE is the one that we had been waiting for all of this time. Now she was here, and she was perfect! It turns out she had one of her hands up across her face and was a little ascynclitic because of that, which is what caused the back labor as she descended. The moment she was born was just so incredible and I was so happy and relieved to have her on my chest! "Never Once" by Matt Redmond was the song that was playing when she was born and the lyrics are totally perfect for her and our journey through infertility to getting her! Her birth was the hardest thing I've ever done, but it was also the very best experience of my life! Because postpartum hormones are amazing, I even said, "I could do that again!" pretty quickly after she was born, which got a good laugh from my support team! :)
I was bleeding a little more than my midwife was comfortable with and so we moved over to our bed to get more comfortable and give her a better view. She started giving me some herbs and homeopathic medicine to help. My placenta came right out only a few mins after Violet was born - that was a crazy feeling! After a little while of my midwife trying to control my bleeding she offered me a choice - either a couple of cytotec capsules inserted, or a piece of placenta in my cheek! I begrudgingly chose the placenta and she cut a little piece off. I was so surprised that it didn't taste worse! I kept it in my cheek for 20 mins or so. It did help to get my bleeding more controlled and we didn't have any issues after that! I had a shallow second degree tear that my midwife repaired for me. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy that was - and it was so nice to just be laying in my bed while she did it.
Violet was having some weird breathing concerns that my midwives were watching very closely. She was breathing too fast and you could see that she was having to work harder than she should. The midwives were so diligent in their care and never left her side. They tried giving her some puffs of air to help expand her lungs and even did mouth to mouth at one point, to see if that would be more effective. It wasn't an emergency situation, but something they were paying close attention to. During this time, Steve and I laid in bed with Violet on my chest and just took her in! We examined each of her perfect little features, and smelled her head over and over. I got to breastfeed her for the first time snuggling in our bed. We did her newborn exam right on my chest and everything was perfect, except the breathing. She was 7lbs 9oz and 20.5". We all sung her "Happy Birthday" and ate birthday cake and celebrated with our whole birth team. It was such a beautiful time and I'll never forget those special hours together at home with our new girl!
After 6 hours of observing her closely, her breathing still just wasn't regulating. We went back and forth, but ultimately decided to take her in the hospital to be observed. I was disappointed, but really thought they'd just check her out for a bit, say she was fine, and we'd get to come right back home. It turns out that was the beginning of a 6-day hospital stay. I'm glad we trusted our instincts and took her in, but I had some processing to do to work through that. It was so different from the postpartum babymoon that I had envisioned for us and I had to work at separating a wonderful birth experience from our really disappointing postpartum time.
Thankfully, Violet’s health issues have totally resolved and she is growing and thriving 1-year old. She has always been such a happy and content baby and has seriously been smiling since the very beginning! We are so in love and just having so much fun being parents to our little blessing. She is our greatest gift and we couldn’t possibly love her more!
Birth Photography by: