Friday, June 13, 2014

Welcoming Rhenner: A Birth Story

At my 40 week appointment, the midwife offered to strip my membranes. I asked her about the pros and cons, and if it hurt. She told me some women hardly notice it being done, and others scream through the whole thing. The idea made me a bit nervous; more than that, though, I really didn't think I needed it. I thought for sure there was no way I could go past 41 weeks since I hadn't with Axton and 2nd babies, I was promised, “Usually come around the same time as the first, if not sooner!” So when  the next week went by, and nothing was happening - no contractions, no inklings of impending labor, nothing - I was pretty disappointed. I also had to have an ultrasound done at 41 weeks to make sure my fluid levels were still okay. I was told they were happy with anything over a 5, and that my fluid levels were measuring at a 15. So, no need to worry there. They also told me he was measuring at over 9 pounds, but still had plenty of room to move and flip around. He had been flipping back and forth from face down (ideal birthing position) to face up (not as ideal, but still deliverable and tends to cause longer labors and pushing time).

The next day was my appointment with my midwife again. At this point I was 8 days overdue, one day past what I for sure thought would be the end. I was feeling quite discouraged, and I was also really starting to worry about going to 42 weeks and ending up with an induction. My midwife and I discussed things, and I told her I wanted her to sweep my membranes, and we made plans for me to receive a gel insert the following Monday if I still had not gone into labor on my own. I was dilated to a 4 and 90% effaced….how was I not in labor? By the time I got home that evening, I had already made up my mind: if sweeping membranes and the insert didn’t work, I was going to request an induction on the 42-week mark.

The night came and went with no contractions, just annoying cramps. I had  heard stories of women going into labor hours after getting their membranes stripped, and was once again disappointed not much had happened.

The next day was Friday. My mom and I went to the mall with Axton to walk - something we had been doing a lot of lately. When we came home and Axton was down for his nap, I told my mom I was going for another walk by myself. It was hot and  sunny and I was tired and sore, but I needed to clear my head. This day was the first day I actually cried about the fact that I was still pregnant at 9 days past the due date. I cried mostly because I feared having to go to the hospital and things getting out of my control and me ending up with a c-section. It was probably a bit dramatic, but the scene was a very real and scary thought to me.

So, I went walking. I walked without a destination or time of stopping in mind, and while I walked I prayed. My first instinct was, of course, to plead with God to make this baby come soon. But something stopped me and I instead found myself thanking God. I thanked Him for a body able to create and house healthy babies, for another spirit to raise on this earth, an uncomplicated pregnancy, a husband who loved being a father. I thanked Him for my mom and all her help, the support and love of other family and friends, for being sealed to my husband in the temple because this meant my children would be with me for eternity. I thanked Him for the opportunity He was giving me to practice patience and endurance during the last few weeks of pregnancy. I said all of this and more….and then I threw in a quick something or other about helping baby come so I didn’t have to be induced.

After my walk I came home and lay down on the couch. My best friend Heather called from England and while on the phone with her, I noticed that the cramping I had been feeling all morning and the day before had changed slightly - it was lasting a bit longer and coming consistently. During our 40 minute phone call, I had about 6 contractions. Every time one would come, I would check my phone - they were about 7 minutes apart. They obviously weren’t very intense as I could still talk through them fine, but I decided I wasn’t going to move from my position on the couch - I was just going to sit there and see what happened (two nights previously I had had contractions for an hour and I had gotten up to see if that would make them come closer together, but all it had done was make them stop altogether; I wasn’t doing that this time). So I lay on the couch for the next 2 ½ hours. I downloaded an App that tracked my contractions and they were consistently coming at 7 minutes apart and lasting for a minute each.

When Adam came home, I finally decided to get up from the couch, and we did our usual routines for the evening - dinner, playing with Axton, and putting Axton to bed. At one point, Adam saw me stop what I was doing and lean my weight on the counter. I was closing my eyes and taking big deep breaths, my head hanging loosely and slowly swinging from side to side.

“That’s what we like to see!” Adam told me when I was finished. And that’s when it hit me: I was actually in labor. And I was handling it. I was doing well and coping with contractions absolutely fine. Of course, I told myself, if I was still doing fine then that meant I still had a long way to go. I was trying to prepare myself for almost an infinite amount of pain, and what I was currently experiencing was far from that.

Well, I sent Adam to bed and told him to get some sleep because he was going to need it. Then I hopped in the shower and did exactly what I had imagined myself doing during labor for the previous 9 months: Leaning against the shower wall with my hands, the hot water running on my lower back. I stayed in the shower for a long time. Then I went to bed. I turned on a Hypnobirthing relaxation recording, but found myself falling asleep quicker than I had anticipated. The recording ended up just waking me up at random intervals, so I quickly shut it off.

I slept for about an hour through my contractions. I remember dreaming through them, telling myself to Take one slow deep breath and then it will be over. Well, one deep breath wasn’t cutting it anymore, and in my dream I was complaining, “But it’s still hurting after my one deep breath!” So take two deep breaths, then, Meghan! And that’s when I woke up. When I realized I wasn’t getting through them with just one deep breath anymore. It was about 12:30am at this point, and I decided to start tracking my contractions once again to see if they had started getting any closer together. I lay there for 30 more minutes, and they were coming about 4 ½ minutes apart. The midwife had told me we needed to come in when the contractions were 4 to 5 minutes apart, especially because I needed to get antibiotics as I had tested positive for Group B Strep. I didn’t believe that I had actually made it to that point, and thought to myself, “I will keep counting for another half hour to make sure they don’t slow down before I call the midwife.”

With Axton, active labor lasted so long - and there had been so many long intervals where contractions had stalled and I felt like I was reverting in my progress. I didn’t want to show up to the birth center again this time only to have labor slow back down as soon as I got there. (To read Axton's birth story, go here.)

However, it wasn’t long before, during the middle of a contraction, I felt a large amount of warm fluid on me. It hadn’t gushed, merely...leaked. So I thought that maybe my water was starting to leak. That was enough to make me move to action: If my water had broken, I definitely needed to get the antibiotics as soon as I could. I called the Birth Center Paging system and told them what had been going on. The midwife on call asked me a few questions, and then said, “I am already at the hospital with someone, so I will call Linda and she will meet you at the Center at 2am.”

I knew it was going to be Linda. I had seen her every appointment for the previous 3 weeks - which is rare and accidental, because typically they rotate who you see every appointment.

It was now 1am. Adam had woken up with me when I told him I thought my water might be leaking, and we already had packed everything we needed before going to bed. We decided to leave right then, and just be there a little early. I texted my doula and told her we were meeting the midwife at 2am. I also texted the birth photographer and told her I would let her know what I was dilated to when we got there. I had warned her earlier in the evening that my first labor was very slow so to be prepared for that and to make sure she wasn’t afraid to get some sleep.

Well this car ride is quite a bit more uncomfortable than the last time I had ridden in the car during labor, I thought.

Some folksy-type song was on the radio and Adam asked me if I wanted him to shut it off. “No, actually, it’s totally fine,” I told him. “I kinda like this song.”
“So,” Adam said, “What do you want me to say to you during contractions?”

I had warned Adam that I was going to need a lot more touching and talking than I had last time, that I wanted him present for every contraction.

“ know,” I said, trying to think of the phrases I had been telling myself for the past few hours. “Tell me take in slow deep breaths, and then to let it all out. Tell me that I’m doing good, and tell me that the contraction is almost over, that I am almost done with this one. Tell me to give in to the contraction, that it is helping baby come. Tell me to relax my face and my muscles.”

We talked and held hands and laughed….and then a contraction would come and Adam would turn the radio down and I would lean my head against the headrest, rubbing my hands slowly up and down my thighs, rocking my head from side to side, and taking those deep breaths. And then it would be over and I would be able to say, “That one was a douzy!” and we’d continue on.

There was none of that in-between gloriousness during labor with Axton. I had really wanted to remind myself this time that we are given breaks between each contraction, and that I had to take advantage of them. I hadn’t been in constant pain with Axton, even though I had remembered it that way. I could not do labor that way this time.

We got to the center a little bit before the midwife - it was 1:30am - so we walked down the driveway. When a contraction would come, we’d stop and I would sway on Adam and he would rub my lower back. Soon Linda was there, and she rolled down her window to say, “I thought I wasn’t supposed to meet you here until two! I’m sorry to keep you waiting.”

I finished the contraction I was on, looked up and gave her a big smile and a wave of my hand, “You’re fine! No rush. We just wanted to get here early.” We slowly followed behind her, and I made my first stop the bathroom. With Axton, I had forgotten to go to the bathroom early and eventually I couldn’t even do it on my own. I had completely lost the sense of how to work those muscles and ended up needing a catheter. I did not want to worry about that this time and had (again) warned Adam that that was another job of his: to keep me going to the bathroom often.

I got stuck on the toilet with a contraction and Adam peeked his head in on me, and then helped me up. I asked Linda for a birthing ball, but I didn’t last long on there. Linda moved me to the bed to check on things - she told me that my water had, in fact, not broken and that I was dilated to a 6 ½ or a 7. Now that I was on the bed, I didn’t want to get up. All I wanted to do was lay down and deal with contractions as I had been doing at home. I was on my left side, my head resting on my left arm.

Linda needed to start my IV because I needed two doses of antibiotics, and we needed 4 hours in between each dose. I have never been one that does well with needles, and I always request getting my blood drawn in the crook of my left arm because that’s the only place that’s ever had success. Well, I didn’t quite have the energy/state of mind to tell Linda this, so she started trying on a vein on the top of my wrist. I was closing my eyes, trying to continue to breathe through the contractions, and as soon as she first stuck me, I knew it wasn’t going to work. She started poking and prodding around, digging for a better place. I tried ignoring her and eventually she gave up and said, “Well I was just sending medicine into your arm, not your vein, so is it okay if I stick you in the crook of your arm? Will it bother you?” No, no it won’t bother me please put it there, it’s where I wanted it in the first place. She then stuck me in my upper arm and immediately I felt a warmth spread all down and over my arm - I knew I was bleeding but kept my eyes close.

“Sorry,” said Linda. “I should have warned you that I’m a messy IV starter.”

Yuck...not the words I wanted to hear. She tried to make a joke about “at least it was distracting from the contractions.” I muttered an unenthusiastic, “Yeah, I guess…” She told me that now we just needed four more hours for the second dose of antibiotics. In my head, I thought she was crazy. “Four more hours of this kind of labor? Whew. I guess I better buckle down for the long haul. Maybe that whole time warp thing that some laboring women talk about will happen and four hours will go by really quick.”

But now the contractions were coming closer together. It’s interesting to me the snippets of conversation that I caught in between them - Erin, my doula, who had shown up just before Linda had started the IV, telling Adam that he was going to have to train her husband on how to to be a good labor coach. Erin seeing my belly henna when Linda was checking on the baby’s heartbeat and saying, “Wow, I want that and I didn’t even know I wanted it. That is so cool.”

I still didn’t want to move off the bed. Adam and Erin sat on the bed right behind me. Adam rubbed my upper back and Erin placed one warm hand on my lower back, applying some counterpressure. By this point, my long slow breaths had turned into quicker inhalations and a bit louder vocalizations. Mostly just long, drawn out “ooooohs” on my exhalations. They told me I was doing great but I had long since stopped responding. My inner thighs had been a little shaky for a long time, but now the shaking had dramatically increased and I felt like my legs were clashing together and my teeth were chattering like I was freezing. Intellectually, I knew this meant I was in transition. I was coherent enough to know that in my mind, and I guess I wanted to make sure Adam and Erin knew it too, so I told them, “I can’t stop my legs from shaking!” and that’s all I could get out. Then I started to feel a little bit of pressure and I said, “I feel like I need to poop.” Again, my brain knew that that kind of pressure meant I was getting ready and close to pushing time, but I also was wary of that because I remembered feeling that same pressure when I was only dilated to an 8 with Axton and they had told me I shouldn’t be pushing yet. So I tried to have a conversation with them and kind of started babbling about “Well, maybe I really do need to poop. I haven’t pooped in awhile. It could just be that.”

Linda told me it was probably my bag of waters and that once my water broke it wouldn’t be long after that baby came. Erin said, “I bet if you went to the bathroom and pushed during a contraction, your water might break.”

So after a couple attempts of trying to get up and having to wait for another contraction to pass, I finally made it to the bathroom. I was so happy I could pee this time!! Yay! I spent a few contractions there, and pushed like Erin had suggested but nothing happened. When I walked out of the bathroom, I asked if I could get in the pool now. Linda told me that it wasn’t done filling up, but that I was welcome to get in and have it fill up around me.

I can hardly describe the relief the hot water brought to my body. It was hotter than I was expecting it to be. Everyone was asking if it was okay and I just wanted to shout, “Okay??! This is heavenly.” I got in there and I just knew it wasn’t going to be long.

I had asked Adam to text the birth photographer a few minutes (who really knows?) previously and now that I was in the pool I knew she needed to be there soon. I asked Adam if she had texted back yet and then I said, “Actually, you just need to call her. Tell her she should come.”

When he hung up with her, I already knew she wasn’t going to make it.

My body was already starting to push. “I can’t stop it, I want to push! Can I push?” I asked, almost frantic. Again, I had remembered feeling the need to push too early last time with Axton, and I wanted to make sure I had the “go-ahead” this time. I was also half-expecting the whole “push for 10 seconds, three pushes at a time” business they had had to instruct me on last time. But nope, they said, “Do what you feel you need to do” and receiving that “permission” was beautiful. I pushed and screamed when my water burst like a water balloon.

And then.

The pain. Oh, the blessed pain. I think Linda said that the baby was just behind the bag of waters and told Adam to feel for his head. I felt Adam fumbling around down there and then his fingers finding something. 

A contraction.

....And screaming. 

High-pitch, uncontrolled screaming. My brain knew I shouldn’t be screaming, so I tried to stop but instead of stopping, the screaming came out louder and harsher. I was manically scream at the very tip top of my lungs.

A contraction. Pushing.

So much more screaming, this time screaming “OW OW OW OW OW OW!!!” over and over again.

Whenever the midwife or Erin talked to me, however, I listened.
“Meghan, try using a low grunting sound instead of screaming.”
I tried.

A contraction. More screaming.

“Meghan, he is almost here. You’re doing so good.”
“He’s almost here? Really?”
“He’s almost here. I’m almost done.  God…” I started to say, leaning my head back against the pool; then I got self-conscious about praying out loud, so I finished the prayer in my head. Help me do this.


A voice.


It was Linda.

“I need you to stop screaming, and I need you to slow down. This is the part where I don’t want you to tear.”

I felt my eyes grow as big as my face. Never before have I stared at someone the way I was staring at her. “Deer in headlights” is an extreme understatement. I don’t think there was any room left on my face but for my wide eyes. I was thinking You want me to do what? But somehow my brain listened. I slowed down for a second. I stopped screaming for a second. I locked on her eyes and I listened. For just a second, just long enough.

A contraction.
Screaming, and his head.

Months and months of pregnancy, and the last 10 days past my due date lasting for an eternity built up into one last raging scream:


And with that, he was out. At 3:17am. Not even two hours after arriving at the birth center. Adam and the midwife caught him together.

He was out and his face was rising up out of the water towards me, and he was blinking back water and staring at me so calm and I was crying more and saying, “He’s so beautiful! I love him!” and “I did it. I’m done. He’s finally here.”

And his little arm was tucked under his chin and he was peaceful and quiet and Adam was coming around, holding me and I was telling Erin to put the camera on Auto, the green icon, not the “A” icon, and then there was vernix and then I was out of the pool and back on the bed. 

The rest of the story includes my Russian nurse Katia, grinding my uterus against my spine and me looking at Adam with eyes that say What the hell is she doing to me? Please kick her in the back of the head and we’ll run out of the door. And Adam looking at Katia with eyes that made me worry he really was going to kick her in the back of the head.

The rest is the placenta delivery, the part where Linda tells me I have two paper cut tears, but she isn’t going to stitch me and I’m rejoicing for NO STITCHES.

The rest is my birth photographer arriving at the birth center, and being grateful I don’t have to worry about taking pictures while Rhenner is weighed and measured, and her capturing precious time with our just-minutes-old son.

The rest is him latching on and nursing so easily, and me saying, “I don’t remember Axton crying this much.” And Adam saying, “Oh he did. You were just too out of it.” I was up and moving around and showering and eating and taking pictures. I was a little slow, sure, and my lower half was quite tender, but I was far from immobile. In comparison to how I felt after having Axton, I could have ran a marathon (okay, maybe only a 5k). 

4 hours later and we were on our way home. We left Rhenner in the car and walked into the house at 8am, just minutes after Axton had woken up. We had him come out to the car to “find his baby brother” and to open the gift that baby had brought him. 

Rhenner’s birth was everything I could have hoped for in a birth story. On the drive home, Adam kept saying, “I am just so impressed with you right now. I can’t believe how fast that was.” Truth be told, I was pretty dang impressed, too, though I feel like I can’t take the credit: It was all my body. I trusted my body this time. I gave in to everything it was doing and I didn’t fight against it and everything happened on its own.

Rhenner is the sweetest thing and I had no idea (NO IDEA) how much I missed little baby snuggles until he came around. I am seriously obsessed with him and he makes me want to have a million babies (almost) just so I never have to be without these snuggles again.

The hardest part so far has been feeling like Axton feels betrayed. I have had to remind myself that Axton will love having a brother and won’t remember the hard time he is having right now. He is doing pretty well with the baby and gives him kisses and asks to hold him (though it usually only lasts for about a half a second), but when I ask him to help me with things for the baby (diaper changes, clothes, etc) like others have suggested I do, he is definitely not interested. I can tell I am not quite his favorite person right now and it’s been hard to not take it personally. I am probably being more sensitive to it than I need to be, but he is definitely taking a lot of his confusion out on me.

Otherwise, we are all doing wonderful and I’m so grateful for my mom’s hard work and help with everything. I am getting around well now but will still be so lost when she leaves!

How do you wrap up the story of someone’s beginning? I guess you really can’t, except to give thanks where it is due: I am beyond blessed and know all I have comes from God.


  1. I don't know if it's my hormones or your story, but you had me crying. Rhenner is beautiful. :) and you are one tough mamma.

  2. I LOVE this so much!! I was definitely tearing up here at work and trying to hold it together! Such a beautiful story and pictures. He is precious. So happy for you and your little family!!! I can't wait to meet Rhenner :)

  3. TEARS!!! Oh you are a sweet girl, and how I just love you all the more for sharing about your sincere prayer. The gratitude is just who you are, in spite of the difficult time you were having.
    He is just divine and such a happy little newborn. Don't worry about Axton; soon enough he will realize that it is he and Rhenner against the parents, and they will be best buds. Love you!!

  4. I was anxiously waiting for this! What a beautiful birth story. I'm so happy that it was even better than you imagined it would be. Rhenner is absolutely perfect. This whole post makes me uterus(es) ache! :)

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  6. I love you all........MOM