The Story of Claira Ruth Milner’s Birth
A little about my pregnancy:
I will never forget August 19th 2010. Exactly 8 months after Andrew and I were married I took a pregnancy test. I remember running out of the bathroom into my husband’s arms after seeing the plus sign appear immediately to wait for those two minutes to be up- just in case there was some kind of a mistake. I made Andrew check it as he had said his gut told him we were not pregnant while at Target buying the test. We found out quickly that his gut was wrong.
I had a beautiful pregnancy with little problems. Yes, I had morning sickness for a few weeks in the beginning. I had days of headaches and exhaustion. Later on my body did ache as my stomach stretched out. I did my best to stay in shape. I did prenatal yoga and did my best to eat well. Also, I worked with twin infant boys who kept me on my toes and prepared me. Overall it was a very pleasant experience that I look back on fondly.
I knew that I wanted a natural birth. I was always fascinated with home births and midwifery care. Even before my pregnancy I had the privilege of meeting a Bradley Method instructor and hearing more about it. I was torn at the beginning of my pregnancy about where to deliver. My husband is in the military and I got corralled into going to a military hospital. It didn’t seem like a bad hospital but the more I got into my pregnancy the more I realized that it was not what I wanted. I was healthy with a low risk pregnancy. OB’s are wonderful surgeons but don’t always handle natural, non-problematic births well. I was more terrified of the risks of interventions that would turn a normal, healthy birth into a c-section due to unnecessary interventions than I was of even of having a home birth with a transfer plan if something went wrong.
Andrew and I started taking Brio birth classes when I was 21 weeks pregnant and that gave me the gumption to look into other options. I found a birth center that took our insurance and finally after a long referral process I transferred at 27 weeks (one week shy of not being able to deliver at the birth center).
The Day I Met Labor
Thursday, April 7th 2011 was the day labor began. Andrew decided to work from home that day and I felt compelled to stay in bed until 8. Around the time I got up I noticed something I had’nt felt in months- menstrual cramps- along with my contractions. I had been having contractions since 36 weeks, usually mild Braxton hicks and sometimes the more powerful pre-labor ones. For the first time they were painful. I spoke to a midwife at the birth center. She said that I could very well be in early labor or if not they would go away. She said to clean house and rest when I felt like it. I got busy cleaning and doing laundry. After that Andrew and I sat down and listened to a sermon on the internet. It was from a series on the book of Ruth. I had started listening to it earlier in the week and thought it providence that our daughter’s middle name would be Ruth after my grandma and this woman in the Bible with incredible faith.
We had a pleasant afternoon. We enjoyed each other and I took a nap. When I woke up from the nap my contractions had intensified. I could still talk through them but they were noticeably more intense. I asked Andrew if he would go for a walk with me and informed him that I wanted Lucky Charms. There is a grocery store near by that we had walked to days before to get exercise and buy some ice cream for another craving. I remember laughing at myself as I walked down the sidewalk pregnant and cradling a box of Lucky Charms like an excited child. I was able to walk through some of the contractions but had to stop for a few of them. Oh it was a beautiful day! The dogwoods and cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The reality that my spring baby was going to be born soon was sweet.
After enjoying two bowls of “comfort cereal” Andrew had some more work to do and I decided to lie down again. I drifted off to sleep and then woke up during contractions. I noticed that while lying down they weren’t as frequent and while moving around they were almost on top of each other. After getting all the sleep I could I just lay there and started timing them. They were more painful and I could feel the build up as if my body was giving me a heads up it was coming. I started to moan as I took deep breaths and tried my best to stay relaxed.
I went downstairs and they were again very close together. I could no longer talk through them and had to lean against the wall if I was standing. By this time it was almost 8. I decided not too long after that to page the midwife on call and let her know what was going on. I really didn’t want to go in too early and hoped that she would just tell me I wasn’t ready yet. She said I could come in when I felt like it. She said I would just know. I told her we would think about it and call her back.
Andrew was trying to persuade me to stay home longer but I was getting restless. I was definitely in the serious business emotional signpost of labor but had no idea how to gage. I had never had a baby before and it was getting so intense. I also dreaded the 40-minute car ride and wanted to get it over with. I tried to page the midwife again and had to give Andrew the phone as the contractions kept coming. We took our time getting ready making sure we had everything. Andrew ate dinner. I had snacks packed but at that point had no appetite.
The car ride was not as bad as I thought it would be. I laid the seat back and the contractions were very consistent. Andrew sweetly encouraged me through them saying, “Your body always gives you a break.” He recounted his experience in boot camp when the weeks were so rough but he would look forward to Sundays. It was his rest and sanctuary from the brutality of his vigorous training. My body was faithful, and when the contractions subsided there was peace like I was in eye of a hurricane.
We arrived at the birth center at 9:30 and had to stop for contractions 3 times between our car and the birth center office. At this point I had to hold on to Andrew. The building was quiet and peaceful as we made our way to the birth center office. Jennifer, the overseeing mid-wife, was waiting. As I got my first cervical check during the pregnancy I held my breath. “What if I am just a 1?”I thought.
“It looks like you are a 3.”, Jennifer said. ” The baby is really low though. It will happen but it will probably be several hours. You can stay or go home. It’s up to you.”
I was so torn. Should we go home? Should we stay? Would I labor better in the comfort of home? I didn’t want to get back in the car. I didn’t want to leave that place without my baby. It was a peaceful, safe place. I wasn’t on a time clock. There was no rush for baby to come. I decided to stay.
Andrew and I hit the stairs of the medical building with tenacity. We climbed four flights two steps at a time pausing at the top of each flight for a contraction. Sometimes I leaned forward and clutched the railing. Other times I leaned back into Andrew. We rode the elevator down and repeated the 4-flight climb once again.
By the time we got back to the birthing room I was tired enough to lie down. My poor husband, who had worked all day not resting in preparation for labor, was falling asleep next to me while I was going through contractions. Brooke, the student midwife, arrived around this time. She came in and touched my arm gently as she introduced herself. She was sympathetic and encouraging. She offered to massage my hands. I felt like a princess as I lay propped up on my back on the bed while Andrew and Brooke massaged each hand. I was able to relax and felt my uterus as it pulled upwards.
“Janell, when we check your cervix is totally up to you.” Brooke said to me. She only periodically put the Doppler up to my stomach to listen to Clair’s perfect heartbeat. I decided to take a risk and have her check me. It was almost midnight at this point. I had determined beforehand not to get checked too often for fear of getting discouraged but really felt like it would help me to know at this point. My risk was a good one. I was 100% effaced and dilated to 5 cm.! Jennifer and Brooke were impressed that I progressed so quickly. I told them it was the stairs. My Brio teacher swore by climbing stairs two at a time. It usually got her clients a couple centimeters.
With renewed energy from the good progress we climbed the stairs again. It was much harder the second time. I only made it up 4 flights instead of repeating as I had before. I was having strong back labor and needed to sit on Andrew’s lap and lean into him as the contractions came. When we got back to the room I sat on a birthing ball and leaned over the bed. Andrew put a hot pad on my back and Brooke leaned over from the other side of the bed and met me in the middle massaging my hands and applying pressure when the pain came. I was moaning loudly now. At one point I faintly felt the urge to push. I asked Brook to check me and I was between 6 and 7. I decided to get into the tub.
Transition and Push-Out:
Every good thing I heard about the tub was right. I relaxed as it filled. We had the lights off in the bathroom and only the light from the bedroom peered through. Andrew played soft piano music with his iPhone on the little speakers we brought. It was peaceful. Then the pain came. I clung to my husband who was at the side of the tub with me. Brooke sat on the end looking at me softly and encouraging me that I could do it. “You were made to do this, Janell.” she said quietly. My laboring moans were loud in the bathroom. I remember thinking I was so glad I wasn’t in a hospital room with neighbors. It was just the 4 of us even in the whole building. My contractions were peaking at this point. I don’t remember when it happened. I had no concept of time at this point. Andrew told me later it was fast. I started breathing through a contraction trying to stay out of the way but my body commissioned me. Suddenly I pushed down on my arms and legs propping my body up and bore down. My moans turned into yells. Andrew told me to relax.
“I NEED TO PUSH!” I yelled as I continued to bear down.
Brooke waited until the contraction was over and I calmed down. She asked if she could check me. “You are a 9. You can push as you feel like it.” To clarify, I was a 9 with just a little lip of cervix shy of ten. At that point they deemed me ready to push.
There was peace in the room as I rested. Every break Andrew gave me drinks of water or vitamin water. The urge was a gradual build up. I took a couple deep breaths and bore down as hard as I felt my body would let me. It didn’t hurt at this point but the pressure was so intense. How could something this big pass through me? Then peace and it would start again a couple minutes later.
Then I reached the wall I had to scale. Clair’s head had come down and began to stretch me out. When I pushed it burned so bad. This was my almost breaking point. As painful as the rest of labor was this was the hardest. I remember thinking this was the point of labor I would be screaming for drugs. But I didn’t since it was not an option. Even if I were in a hospital it would be too late for an epidural. I had to overcome in my mind. The pain made me not want to push. It wasn’t as natural of an urge. “I am going to split in two!” I thought. The midwives just encouraged me through. I looked at them in desperation and they just calmly said, “You can do it.” There was never the caregiver yelling for me to PUSH like on TV.
I could feel Clair’s head get lower and lower but after every push she slid back. I felt like I was losing ground. I later understood that she slid back a little to stretch me out and came further ahead with each push. I was so tired. I just wanted to go to sleep. I hit that place. I once heard that every woman in labor reaches that point between a rock and a hard place. I had to resolve to push this baby out no matter how much it hurt. It was time to scale the wall. They told me that if I reached down while pushing I could feel the head in the sac. I couldn’t do it at that point. It was just too overwhelming. During bearing down I was up on my arms and feet. That was just the position that felt the most natural to me (even though my arms ached the next day from my weight on them). There was a small pop sound. My water broke. Another couple pushes I reached down and felt her head. I had seen the birth videos. Once the head was out it would be fast. I felt my body naturally guide me when to go and stop. I really didn’t want to tear and pushed until an instinct just stopped me. I yelled really loud at this point but that was what I had to do. (My throat hurt the next day from it.)
I could feel the head out. Brooke reached down and helped maneuver the shoulders. Then there was a release. I felt her body slide out and a second later she was on my chest. Her eyes were open. She was crying. “Hi baby!” was all I could say. I felt the tugging of the umbilical cord. They delayed cord clamping until it stopped pulsing to clamp it giving Clair an opportunity to receive the blood that was cut off while pushing her out and a strong iron supply for the next six months.
Andrew cut the cord and baby was passed from mommy’s arms to daddy’s. I loved the water birth and don’t regret it. But, as with anything there are pros and cons. The thing with the nice deep bathtub is that you have to get out eventually. My body was shaking from hormones going crazy and feeling cold as they helped me step out of the tub. They had chux pads under me and the umbilical cord was still hanging out. I stepped up onto the bed and they covered me with a warm blanket. Some women say that the delivery of the placenta is painless and you don’t even notice it because of the new baby endorphins. I had 50% baby euphoria but delivering the placenta hurt! Maybe getting out of the tub interrupted the euphoria rush a little. But, like labor, it was over soon enough.
Clair continued to be wide -awake and she nursed the first hour. Andrew fell asleep on the bed next to me from exhaustion. Later Clair was weighed and checked. She was 6lbs 4 oz. and 18.5 inches long. Those moments were so precious. Brooke and Jennifer continued to work with me to make sure that the major clotting stopped. I had a few very small surface tears that didn’t require stitches. I thanked them over and over again. I found out that Clair was Brooke’s 16thbaby to deliver in her training. She did an excellent job!
The whole time I felt like it was my labor, my task to do. Jennifer, Brooke and Andrew were my pillars of support. They never interfered. How I labored, where I labored and how often I was checked was completely up to me. They only checked my blood pressure after asking me if it was a good time periodically. They met me where I was at with the Doppler between contractions to check the heartbeat. I remember one point before going to the stairs again Brooke needed to check the baby’s heart beat. I was already standing. She kneeled down in front of me to check it. The whole time during labor they met me where I was at.
Although at the time natural birth was very painful, I came out of it empowered. It was hard but I did it. Clair and I have both reaped the benefits of smooth breastfeeding and a quick recovery for me. I thank God for how He made my body and as I hold my little girl I marvel at His awesome creativity. This little one grew inside of me. From the moment I found out I was pregnant she was my baby. I loved being pregnant with her and sometimes am saddened that it’s over. But, oh the joys of meeting her and seeing what this little person who kicked me looks like! She had the hiccups in the womb and continues to have them several times a day.
Andrew and I took our baby home 4 hours after I gave birth to her. It was good to be home and recovery for me has been going well. Clair is adjusting to life outside the womb and getting used to all this space she has.
God is so good! Andrew is deploying for Afghanistan for six months in May. God’s providence was in the timing of everything. I prayed that we would have a month together as a new family. Our little “Cherry Blossom” was born a month to the day before Andrew deploys.