Monday, May 4, 2015

Stella Jo's Birth Story

This is the story of my daughter Stella's birth. It is very special to me. After a lot of research, consideration, and prayer we decided to plan a home birth. We are incredibly glad that we did. It was a wonderful and empowering experience and I smile every time I remember the somewhat hectic details. I realize that a home birth is not an ideal option for all women, but for me it was perfect. Note that this is a detailed description of childbirth. If you would prefer just the stats you may stop reading there. 

Stella Jo Montour
Born on February 3, 2015 
 11:48 PM
7 lbs 9 oz
20.5 inches 

          On Monday January 26th I went in for my 38 week appointment. I asked my midwife to check my cervix and she found that I was 3.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced. We decided to do a stretch and sweep to see if that would get things moving. I tried not to get my hopes up but then over the next several days I had a lot of strong yet sporadic contractions. I also lost my mucus plug. I didn't experience either of those leading up to my first birth (at 37 weeks 6 days) so I thought "Alright, any day now!" The waiting became excruciating. Before I had been feeling great with very few of the aches and pains that normally come with pregnancy. Now I felt like I had a bowling ball wedged low in my pelvis. One night I even took us all to Lowe's to do about 6 laps around the store hoping that would help get things going. I'd like to think I would have been a lot more patient had it not been for all the random contractions. One would hit and I would think "Oh man, this could be it!" I was constantly on edge. By Thursday I even got woken up in the middle of the night to contractions that I timed at 7 minutes apart for an hour. Finally I made myself go back to sleep because they weren't getting any stronger. It was a terrible week. By the weekend I was pretty resigned to the fact that she was never coming. Haha. Things were better once Phil was home during the day and we had things to do to keep my mind off the fact that I was a ticking time bomb.
          I had my 39 week appointment on Monday February 2nd. This time I was dilated to 4.5 cm and was 75% effaced. My midwife did another stretch and sweep. I left hoping we would be seeing her again very soon! Phil had the day off work because it was the day after the super bowl (LOL) so we decided to go for a hike. We went several miles with a stroller in tow. I tried to stay cheerful but have you ever seen a woman 9 months pregnant hiking cheerfully? I was on the verge of miserable. There was a lot of waddling and cramping going on. Here's a picture of me that night. I'm sure I got myself to smile by thinking that this HAD to be the last pregnancy photo. Hint: I was right.

          On Tuesday the 3rd I decided I would keep myself busy and not let myself agonize over when labor would start. I ran a few errands and bought a gift for my midwife as well as a yoga ball to bounce on at home. It felt great to bounce on the ball, I should have gotten it sooner! That night I took a nice long bath and listened to birth affirmations. I just felt happy and relaxed instead of anxious and frustrated like I had so often in the past week. We went to bed early and were asleep by 9 PM. As I drifted off to sleep I thought to myself how it had been the perfect day. 
          I woke up to a contraction and looked at my phone- 10:35 PM. I was trying to go back to bed when another contraction came. This one got me out of bed kneeling on the floor and taking deep breathes to get through it. Hmm I started to get my hopes up (again!) that this could be it. I went into the bathroom and decided to start timing contractions. Just then I got a text from my friend Jenny who was planning to watch Lola during the birth. She texted me her husband's phone number just in case. I told her that I had just had a couple of strong contractions but that if this was really it maybe Lola would sleep through it. 
          I went down to the kitchen and drank some apple juice. I was trying to decide what kind of snack to eat so I could keep my energy up for labor in case it was the real deal. I got distracted by a few more contractions. I knelt at the couch and tried to steady my breathing. It was then that I decided it probably wasn't false labor. I went upstairs to our bedroom and woke up Phil and asked for a priesthood blessing. I'm so glad I asked for one right away. It was a very reassuring blessing but I don't remember what was said besides "you will give birth soon." When he finished the blessing I had another strong contraction. We talked about calling the midwife and I decided that I would as soon as the next contraction was over because the last few had been surprisingly difficult for me. 
          I called my midwife at 11:24 PM and said "Hi Linda, I think this is it. I've been having contractions for about an hour but i'm not coping well." She asked if I wanted her to come now and I said yes. The next contraction hit and took me to my knees immediately. This was the most intense contraction I have ever experienced. I was gasping for air and had a moment of total panic. That feeling where you just want to crawl out of your skin. (Transition in one contraction?!) It was incredibly overwhelming. I felt my cervix open and a sort of stinging sensation as if the baby was moving down. I felt inside and there was a bulging bag of water. I'm in shock as I yell "Call the midwife back the baby is coming NOW!" 
          I'm not sure if Phil believed me (remember, he had just woken up) but he called her anyway. She was on her way. I laid down on the floor of our bedroom. I was in total disbelief at how quickly I had progressed. I took my clothes off. The next contraction came and I felt my body wanting to push. I started yelling and this apparently convinced Phil and Linda that the baby was on her way out. I could hear the midwife on the phone instructing Phil to get pads underneath me. Also something about getting me with my bum in the air. She was trying to prevent us from giving birth without her there but neither of us understood at the time because of the immense stress we were feeling! I managed to kneel up to the foot of the bed and I didn't move from that position. Phil was running around grabbing supplies. I asked him to put a sports bra on me. It's funny that I even cared. I told him that we needed the bed made up with the plastic cover and sheets. I was upset that we hadn't even done that! ARGH... and obviously there wasn't time to even think about setting up the birth pool. 
          Linda arrived and ran up the stairs to our room with her bags. I was so glad she was there so I could stop freaking out. Phil asked if we should call our friend to come pick up Lola but the midwife and I agreed that it was baby time and Lola will probably sleep through it. My water broke in one big gush with the next contraction and relieved some pressure. I still wasn't mentally ready to push yet so I yelled pretty loudly during the next contraction too. My midwife calmly told me to put my energy into pushing and not yelling. I collected myself and made a lot of progress with the next push. Then came the burning feeling, she was getting really close. Phil said "She has hair!" I reached down and felt the top of her head. Again I was afraid and I lost it thinking about how much more painful it would be to push her all the way out. I hollered, I even asked the midwife to cut me... she gently told me no and reassured me I could do it. I gathered up all my courage. I pushed hard and the pain increased but not as much as I feared, but it was burning hot. Even my feet felt hot. The pressure was very intense. She was crowning. I held it for about 10 seconds but couldn't wait for the next contraction to continue. I had to get her out. I pushed again and her head was born. Another push and Stella Jo Montour was born at 11:48 PM!
          I turned around and reached for my baby. I did it!! I was elated! She had a strong cry and seemed startled to be earth-side. I rocked her and held her close to calm her down. Phil was so excited. He loved being right there helping with everything. It was the most surreal feeling. I mean, we had just gone to bed a few hours ago, and then we had a baby all before midnight!?! I had prepared myself as best I could, but you always wonder- can I really do it? This moment is one I will never tire of replaying in my head. Soon Stella was nursing for the first time while I was still just kneeling on our bedroom floor. The placenta was born easily with one push. Thankfully I only had a small tear that didn't require stitches. We climbed into our bed that was finally made.  

Here's a timeline to show just how quickly everything went

10:35 PM I woke up to a contraction
10:50 Sent a text, drank some apple juice
11:10 I woke up Phillip
11:24 Called Midwife
11:28 Realized baby was on her way out
11:34 Midwife arrives
11:48 Stella is born! 

          My midwife later told me that she had a feeling I was close when I called so she quickly got out of bed and got ready. I tried to be very calm on the phone so this is a blessing. She was in her driveway when Phil called the second time, four minutes later! She ran several red lights
to get to our house as fast as possible. I'm very grateful for her amazing support and encouragement at the birth and through my pregnancy. Had we not planned a home birth this would have been a scary situation for us. I'm not sure I could have walked down the stairs to the car. Even if I had who knows where Stella would have been born. I think we might have just called an ambulance. Instead we had a lovely, quick birth at home. A few hours after she was born we were all snuggled in for the night. It felt so right...yet I couldn't sleep because I was on such a high! In the morning Lola woke up like usual and started playing in her room. I got to go in and tell her that her baby sister had come out of mommy's tummy to meet her. :) It was the best feeling in the world to all be together at home to enjoy our first day as a family of four.