I enjoy looking back over my birth stories because pregnancy, labor, and birth are some of the hardest things I have gone through and have brought me some of the most amazing results in the end. I enjoy the details and don’t want to pain and beauty to be dulled by the passing of time. I assume that my kids will cringe at the thought of their mom telling the details of their birth for a time (teenager years?) and then I think they’ll have babies of their own and realize just what a miracle the whole things is. They might even be grateful to know just a little of what their mom went through for them. This is the beginning of their story after all and we all need to know our story. Time has a beautiful way of marching on and I’m a firm believer that we need to remember our stories even as things move forward. Thank you for letting me share this miracle with you. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Graham’s pregnancy was my most difficult yet. I found out he was coming the night before we drove the 30 hours to my parents house for Thanksgiving and I started throwing up the first week of December. I was so depressed and sick for so much of the pregnancy. When throwing up lessened to only a few times a week, around 16 weeks, I was grateful but emotionally I was still a mess. By the time I hit 24 weeks I started having severe hip and pelvic pain that lasted up until the day I had him (though it was lessened a bit by water aerobic that I went to nightly in June and July). Depression is such a hard thing and it plagued me terribly during this pregnancy. I’m just so grateful that it goes away once the baby gets here, but that doesn’t lessen the struggle while I’m in the thick of it. I had little motivation to do more than the everyday musts. I was great at acting ok, but depression sucked the joy out of the things I was doing. I went through the motions but I didn’t enjoy life in the same way. The last few weeks were particularly hard. I was in a lot of pain (gaining over 55 pounds in 9 months does that to a body!) and I cried every night to Thomas. I was miserable in so many different ways. I kept myself together most days and had a good time with my kids and could function pretty well; on the inside and at night I was struggling big time.
I started having pretty regular contractions 2 days before baby came. They would stay 15-20 minutes apart but were always hanging around. The night before they got 8-10 minutes apart and I was up in the middle of the night timing them, but much to my dismay, they calmed back down once morning hit. The day he was born I woke up with my usual not close together but present contraction. I was crampy, tired from being up the night before, past my due date, and grumpy.
Because I live in a tiny town, I know most of the people I run into when I leave the house. When you are hugely pregnant and past your due date, people generally have a comment or two for you. Everyone was well-meaning but I could not emotionally handle talking to anyone so I stopped leaving my house on my due date and this continued through the week. I hid in my house and hid in my bed that day, feeling sad and yucky. The kids watched too many shows, played in the sandbox, and ate toast and jam for breakfast and then jam sandwiches for lunch (and every time I fed them I kept thinking of that funny book Bread and Jam for Francis). Thomas came home to check on me sometime that day and told me he wanted some cake. He just mentioned it in passing but it sounded like a good idea to me, baking makes be happy. So about 4pm I got out of bed and went to the kitchen to make him a chocolate cake.
As I was up and moving I noticed right away that my contractions had picked up. I decided to time them while I was cooking and they were 8 minutes apart the whole hour. I felt like this was a good sign so I called my midwife and told her I might pay her a visit that night. After about an hour of contractions getting slowly closer together I called Thomas and told him to plan on going to St. George tonight. He finished making his orders and I worked on some easy dinner for the kids. The plan was to put them to bed and then head down around 8pm but the longer I was on my feet the closer they got together. Thomas came home and started eating with the kids and I hollard at him from my room that I was done waiting and wanted to leave then. My 18-year-old sister lived with us this summer and she was home and able to stay with the kids. It was so nice to have her there and to know they would be well taken care of in their own home.
Thomas and I started on the nearly 2 hour drive to meet my midwife at her house around 6:30 and showed up to her home around 8:30 that night. Contractions were now about 3 minutes apart but I was so nervous they would stop still. I had my first vaginal exam of the entire pregnancy then and I was dilated to a 5! I finally let me self believe that I was in labor and that this baby was really going to come. After wishing and waiting for this time to come for months it was finally time and I was so glad. Being a 5 was great but also a little reminiscent of my last birth. I showed up at her house and was 5cm but it still took another 10 hours for me to dilate to a 10. I could not handle another 10 hours so I asked her if she could be aggressive and do a few things to help that baby on his way. She said if that’s what I wanted then she could. So she then stripped my membranes.
Thomas and I headed over to the birthing center a few minutes away and Liz, the midwife, got ready to meet us. I could tell right away that things were progressing because contractions were already 1.5 to 2 minutes apart. I labored this way for another hour, was at a 7 and she stripped my membranes again. After another hour I asked her to break my water to speed things up and she did. Contractions were so intense after this. I was already having to work through them and now they were really painful. I had a ton of back labor because the baby was posterior (sunny-side up, which is that opposite of what you want). I started using hot towels on my back, Thomas did a lot of counter pressure on my knees and hips. Liz did something at one point to help bring the baby further down the birth canal so that he’d engage my cervix more. His position wasn’t ideal for that. Whatever she did hurt like a beast, but it’s what I wanted… a baby and to be quick about it.
I was feeling impatient and desperate to be done around midnight and I had her check me again. I was at a 9 but feeling defeated that I wasn’t yet a 10. She laughed at me and said, “It’s your 5th baby, you don’t have to be a 10 to push!”. Wait, what?! I’d never heard this before but I decided I’d try to bear down a bit with the contractions. I didn’t feel pushy though, but I haven’t ever really felt pushy and I’m not even sure I know what the “ring of fire” is besides a pretty great Johnny Cash song. So Liz is in the bathroom, I’m laboring with my knees up by my head (being held there by her assistant and Thomas) on my back to help turn him and all of a sudden my body is pushing. It was one of those weird labor things that even thinking about now I don’t really get what was happening. I didn’t really want to push but I did and all the sudden his head is born. My midwife wasn’t there, she was using the restroom. I was totally frantic and scared and started screaming for help and that I didn’t know what to do. Then on the next contraction he was born and Liz barely had time to put on gloves. Just like that he was here. 11:52 pm. I had him the day I got to St. George. I didn’t even think that was an option when we left the house.
Looking back on this part of labor I still don’t like it. I was totally out of control and I hate that feeling. I think next labor I’m finding a doula. I just need someone there to tell me to calm down, look into my eyes, and have faith in me. I need to be verbally told what is happening and what I need to do, and I need support. Thomas is fabulous but he didn’t really know what was going on any more than I did. My births have been so baby focused that I forget that I NEED the help and support too.
So baby is here! He came out very purple and not really wanting to cry so they rubbed him and rubbed him, gave him some oxygen, and suctioned his nose and throat. He was always breathing, but it took him a minute to pink up and cry. They focused on him for a good half an hour while I’m laying on my back with him on my chest. This is the best part of the birth center, they don’t whisk your brand new baby away to weigh and wash, there’s time for all of that. All of the care he was given was given right in my arms.
After he was looking better I tried to deliver the placenta a bit but it didn’t come. So I sat up a little, took off my yucky clothes, they put fresh pads under my bum, and I tried to nurse a bit. I wasn’t contracting much and my placenta wasn’t coming. My midwife gave me some kind of herbal thing to help more contractions and eventually she gave me two different shots of Pitocin to encourage my placenta to come. Come it did not. I sat up, I tried to push it out on the toilet, I tried everything. An hour and a half after the baby was born I still had no placenta. I wasn’t bleeding too much which is good, but it just wouldn’t come and I had no idea how to make it. Thomas and I started to get nervous, we did everything we could medically so we started praying and pleading.
At 2 am Liz said we needed to go to the hospital to have the placenta removed.
I had a baby already.
I just kind of shut down at this point. I was exhausted. I was mad. This was not what I expected. BUT. At the same time, this is exactly why we drive almost 2 hours to have a baby. The hospital is only 4 blocks from the birth center. This is what we had planned for in a small way even if it’s not what I would have chosen. And, of all the reasons to be heading to the hospital, I’d have to say, this is probably one of the less scary reason.
So got dressed a bit and waddled out to Liz’s car and she packed me to the hospital. Thomas and her assistant and my brand new tiny nameless babe followed us in our Suburban. The hospital knew I was coming and met us in the parking lot with a wheel chair (yes please! I just had a baby and still had a cord hanging out!). They took me into a room with crazy bright lights and a hospital bed. I put on a gown and then they put in an IV. I have had horrible luck getting IV’s in the past, with my 3rd baby it took them almost 2 hours and 4 nurses to get on in (no joke, while I was in labor…). But the ninja nurse got it in one try and I almost kissed her. I was still really shut down and by this point, I was just mad. I wouldn’t really talk or look at anyone. The doctor came in all dressed for what looked like surgery and went over some of my options. At the time I thought it was the option, but he was really telling me worse case scenarios, thank you for that. Worst case I was going to need a D&C. He’s telling me about pain options like being put under, epidurals, nothing… it all sounds bad to me at this point.
Up with the legs, he touches the paper by me and I jump. He tells the nurse I can’t handle this and to give me some pain relief or he’s never getting anything done. They give me something, fentanyl it’s called, and I instantly feel cold. I’m still pretty despondent but I’m glad I got some pain relief. On with the show, he essentially sticks his hand in there and takes my placenta out. Ouch is an understatement. 2.5 hours early a 9 pound 6 ounce baby just came that way and I had a little tearing too. The wonderful nurse who put in my IV held my hand the whole time and told me I could do it. That’s what I needed. She was my angel right then and I’m still so grateful for her. She was gentle and kind and believed in me. The placenta tore because it had adhered to my uterus. We held hands and I vocalized a bit through the pain (a low uuummming sound if you will) while he went in a second time to get the pieces that had torn. I’m sure that this was pretty fast, maybe a minute or two in real life, but in pain time this was long and I was so grateful when it was over. There was nothing further that I needed. No epidural, no D&C, it was a true best case ending to this odd twist to my labor story.
I wasn’t admitted to the hospital which was great. I just stayed a bit in that same room for observation and 2 hours after we got there, at 4:30 am we drove the 4 blocks back to the birth center. Exhausted doesn’t sum up how we felt but I was finally, finally done. I held the baby and nursed him and then we slept. At 8:30 am we woke up to start the craziest day ever.
Here’s another story for you!
Thomas and I thought we had an ABO blood incompatibility but the more that we learn the more that we think our babies are missing something they need in their liver (an enzyme or something) because of our genetics that makes them have severe jaundice. Two of our boys have been hospitalized for it and all of them have had phototherapy at home. We know it’s coming and so we have to take care of it. Because we aren’t in the hospital with our babies, we have to do all of the legwork ourselves. So a few weeks before he came we had a pediatrician all lined up, who knew our story, and who was ready to help. If you are in St. George I highly recommend Dr. Wendell Nielsen at Canyon Lands Pediatrics. He is amazing!
So at 9am, just a few hours after the baby is born we have to take him to the lab at the hospital to have his blood drawn and to check his bilirubin levels. Taking a few hour old baby in public is not fun and I didn’t want to be out either, but this is what we have to do to make sure they are healthy. So we wait, get signed in, get his blood drawn, Skype with the kids at home, try to find a hotel, get lunch, pick up the light bed from the home medical company, check into the hotel, start the baby on his lights (super sad, I already haven’t gotten to hold him much), take a super short 1 hour nap, go to the pediatricians for his first appointment and to figure out a plan, find dinner, eat in the hotel, cry as I’m putting him back in “the box” as we like to call him, go back to the hospital lab around 9 pm to get his blood drawn a second time that day, back to the hotel, and then off to bed after he’s fed and back in the box. Writing this out doesn’t even do this justice. This was one of the longest and most draining days I’ve had in my life. I. Just. Had. A. Baby. But the need to take care of him overrides all your personal pain and exhaustion. The next morning I woke up and showered, finally, a full day after having him. I never felt so human before. Warm showers are a gift. We went back to the lab, back to the pediatrician, and then were finally headed home that afternoon to do phototherapy there and to let the still nameless baby meet his eager siblings.
That my friends is our Graham’s birth story. We finally named him almost 2 days after he was born. Graham Joel Griffiths. Graham is my grandmother’s maiden name (she’s someone I just adore and whom I’m close to) and Joel is my papa’s name. I didn’t tell him we were going to name the baby after him until I announced it and I think it took him a by surprise. I like that kind of surprise.
This little lamb has filled my days (and nights) with so much love. He’s an old soul. I can see it in his eyes. He fills a place in our home that I didn’t know existed until he got here. I’m so very grateful he’s here.