This is the birth of baby Charlie as told by his powerful mommy…..
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As I moved through my pregnancy, I reflected on my previous birth experience and decided it was time to make some decisions. When I gave birth to Jack is was an amazing experience, but I didn’t feel completely fulfilled. As soon as I arrived at the hospital with my water broken, the docs panicked about infection and set about inducing my labor, giving Stadol for pain until the epidural could be administered and making everything seem like an emergency. The nurse, April, was in a foul mood because she was on her 3rd straight shift and irritated that she had to help deliver another baby. Jack was born in a short 4 hours and 18 minutes with 4 pushes and a nasty 3rd degree tear (for those of you that don’t know how awful that is…google it. It will make you cringe and cross your legs instantly.) into the cold, bright, hurried world on the hospital maternity ward and I felt nothing. I never felt the contractions that brought him into the world, I never felt him crowning…I only felt empty after he was born. They put this beautiful little person into my arms and we locked eyes…I knew instinctively that he was mine, but felt disconnected from the experience. I knew if I was ever blessed with another child, I wanted my birthing experience to be different as much for me as for my child.
While I was pregnant with Charlie, I began my search for a midwife that would assist me in a home delivery. Yes, I said “home delivery.” Why? you ask when there is a perfectly good hospital 35 minutes away with all of the medical equipment and doctors and nurses you could ever need when something goes wrong. Well, the simple answer is that I had a healthy low risk pregnancy that was NOT a medical event, but a life event. An event where my life would change again as I welcomed another beloved child into our family. I wanted this experience to be calm and as natural as possible. I wanted this baby to be born into warm water and dim lighting surrounded by the love of his mommy and daddy, not ob staff and unnecessary tests and procedures.
Through trial and error, I finally found Stephanie Soderblom of Nurturing Hearts Birth Services. She and her assistant midwife, Jen Bass, made me feel comfortable and hopeful and excited about giving birth at home. Instead spending the majority of my time in my caregiver’s waiting room, I spent this time sitting on the comfy couch in Stephanie’s office talking about hopes and fears and excitement about the coming birth of my baby. I loved how lit from within Steph and Jen were each time I saw them. They honestly made me feel that Charlie’s impending arrival was as much a gift to them as it was to me. They lovingly listened to his heartbeat, gushed over how cute I looked pregnant and teased me about never giving up my high heels. When I felt down or bloated or my sciatic pain was on my last nerve (literally), they always had something to offer, even if it was just genuine compassion. Amazing, right? Compassion, joy, excitement by a health care professional over little ol’ me and my pregnancy? Just awesome.
Well, the time passed(slowly at some points) and we readied ourselves for Charlie’s arrival. Nursery done…check. Baby shower…check. Maternity photos…check. Pediatrician selected…check. And then we waited. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Charlie, I knew somehow intuitively that he would be a Labor Day weekend baby. I even joked that he would be getting his eviction papers on September 6th, Labor Day. So, I don’t know why waiting was so hard. I guess that is just the way it is when you are super pregnant and uncomfortable, not to mention summer in Arizona is cruel and unusual punishment for a pregnant woman in her 3rd trimester.
On Sunday, September 5th at 7:45am my water broke in the kitchen. No, I don’t mean a trickle, it was a flood! Bryan had stepped out to grab some donuts(the breakfast of champions)and Jack and I were home alone. Here I was standing in a warm puddle of fluid and suddenly I was filled with panic and excitement. Jack brought me towels to clean up and I just knew baby was on his way. Yay! The moment is near. Soon I will be holding Charlie in my arms and beginning a new chapter of life as the mother of 2 little boys….and then there was NOTHING. Not a contraction, not a thing for 24 whole hours. My confidence started to flag and old thoughts started to creep in…this is exactly what happened with Jack. I started to worry about inductions and epidurals and bright lights and bitchy nurses….I stopped answering texts, facebooks messages and phone calls. I didn’t want to hear everyone’s opinions about waiting it out…this was MY birth and unless there was a medical reason to transport, I was bound and determined to give birth to Charlie at home. After a call to Stephanie, I made the decision to drink castor oil as a natural way to speed things along for my own mental health. This is on my Top 10 things to never ever do again. All I will say is this…it did the trick, but also caused some unspeakable discomfort that I refuse to write down for posterity. If you really want to know…give me a call. At about 3pm, I started having contractions about 10 minutes apart. By 4pm, they were 5-7 minutes apart and Stephanie and Jen were on their way.
At this point, the contractions were not pleasant, but still very doable. Bryan and I spent the day taking one last desert drive, getting take out and watching movies to keep my mind off of the waiting. Due to our schedules, this was the first time since I went back to work that Bryan and I had a day to ourselves without Jackson and probably the last of its kind for a while. When Stephanie and Jen arrived, my contractions had moved closer together and were now 2 minutes apart and starting to become very uncomfortable. I tried laying down, walking around the house, getting into a warm tub, swaying my hips, but nothing really helped. Soon, they were 1 minute apart and it was nearly 7pm. Stephanie checked me and I was 100%effaced and 3 cm…ONLY 3 CMS! Oh my God…I am not going to make it! I cried out of pain and frustration and cursed myself for making this silly decision to have this baby at home. What was I thinking? I could be in the hospital with an epidural playing cards right now. Instead, I am gutting it out through contractions that are coming every single minute. As time wore on, I continued to work through each contraction as they came. Each time I felt I could no longer go on, my ever faithful husband was there to hold me. He was there to look into my eyes and reassure me that this is what I wanted, this is what was good for me and our baby and that I could and will do this. He told me every contraction was bringing us closer to holding Charlie…he was right. I will never forget how calm he was during my labor. I don’t know how he did it, but he was my rock. He helped me make it through the impossible.
As time wore on (and time during labor is like time in another dimension) and my contractions intensified, Stephanie and Jen moved closer and began to give me support and encouragement. We talked between contractions and I told them stories to keep my mind off of the pain…they giggled at me being in transition(the time in labor between 7-10 cm dilated and one of the most painful parts of labor) but still laughing and remembering where I left off in my storytelling. Soon it was time to move back into my bathtub. They scooped warm water over my belly to help dull the pain. I hurt so much that I began to pray out loud that God would take away the pain or kill me…I honestly thought at one point that I would die. I felt like I was literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Bryan would later tell me that he felt so helpless watching me at my absolute threshold of tolerable pain and felt like my praying weren’t merely words coming out of my mouth, but a direct line to God. He never seemed shaken, but I can imagine how difficult it must be to see someone you love in pain and not be able to do anything to alleviate it. Men are fixers by nature and the only “fix” for this was to push Charlie out of my womb and into the world.
As I lay contorted by birthing pains in my tub, I kept asking how I would know I needed to push. Stephanie replied that I would just “know.” This answer infuriated me because having only a medicated hospital birth to compare it to, I never felt the “urge” to push. Sure enough when the time came, I knew. Your body knows instinctively that it is time to bring your beautiful new baby to the light and begins to bear down. You have 2 choices: you can push with the contractions and shorten the time it will take to hold your child in your arms or you can fight it, but your body WILL push that baby out. Before Charlie was born, I promised myself that I could do it. I never imagined it would be this hard or that I would want to give up. I finally had to surrender to the process and trust my body that it knew what to do. I pushed with all my might and felt like I would explode. My baby’s head was beginning to come out and Stephanie encouraged me to touch his head. What an amazing experience to be able to touch your child on the cusp of giving them life! A few more pushes and out came his head and shoulders. My beautiful supportive husband reached into the water and caught our baby boy. As he handed him to me all the pain was gone. All that was left was love and joy and wonder at our new little boy. He didn’t cry, he just looked into my eyes and was calm and peaceful cooing at me with his little voice. At 10:05pm on September 6th, 2010, our son Charles Conrad came into the world in a peaceful dimly lit room surrounded by love.
Expecting Charlie was such a journey for me as a woman and a mother. I feel like a warrior who made it through the most difficult physical and emotional challenge a woman can go through and I emerged stronger for it. All my life I have found fault with myself and my body…this experience made me realize that for all my imperfections, I am perfect just the way I am. I am strong and complete. Welcome to the world, Charlie. May your life be filled with the love and peace I felt the moment you were born.