We celebrated our sweet, joyful, little Miranda Grace’s first birthday on Saturday – what an amazing adventure this past year has been! I hope to have more reflections on this past year and thoughts about the upcoming one posted soon, as well, but Matt and I have been reminiscing about the wonder of Miranda’s birth, so I thought I’d share that story with all of you 🙂
At my doctor appointment the week before Miranda arrived, my cervix wasn’t dilated at all, but we had hit a few signs during the following week that labor might be approaching soon – I had started having some Braxton Hicks contractions and started losing my mucus plug. Thursday night during our community group meeting at our apartment, I started feeling a little bit uncomfortable – sort of like a menstrual cramps feeling – but didn’t really think I was experiencing contractions. After people left that evening, I got out the heating pad to put on my back, and Matt and I decided to just hang out on the couch and watch a DVD and relax. By 11:00, I felt like we were really probably heading toward labor, so we went ahead and gathered the last few things we had wanted to have packed for the hospital – our ipods, hair brushes, etc. – and then were going to get ready for bed and rest until everything really got going. Given that my mom had had very long labors and this was our first baby, we were anticipating a long, slow labor. However, we actually never quite made it to bed that night!
I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, but we weren’t really sure what was happening. What I was feeling was different than the Braxton Hicks contractions from earlier in the week but wasn’t what we had read about contractions being, something like a wave building up to a peak, then subsiding for a few minutes of rest, followed by the whole series over again, with the waves gradually getting longer and more intense. I’d have some really intense and painful moments, but they weren’t at regular intervals and were often far too close together (maybe 30 seconds apart?) to be separate contractions, and I never really had a rest from the crampy feeling. There didn’t seem to be any rhythm to the spacing of any of it.
Then, as Matt and I were still trying to figure out what was going on and whether this was labor, and if so, where we were at in the whole labor process, I started shaking uncontrollably – which we knew could be a sign of the transition stage at the end of labor, but we weren’t sure what it meant that I was experiencing it then, without having developed a really clear pattern of contractions. I was pretty unnerved that I couldn’t figure out whether what I was experiencing were contractions and if so, how exactly they were coming, and why I was shaking so much, and I obviously couldn’t sleep, so we went ahead and called our doula and good friend, Ann, and she was at our apartment by 2:00 a.m. She and Matt were able to jump right into working together. We were pretty certain by then that we were in fact in labor, but we needed to figure out where we were in the whole process. Ann started asking more directed questions, and we tried a few different laboring positions to see what would help me to feel better and to be able to tell them more about what specifically I was feeling. My sense of time for all of the labor experience from here on out is pretty vague – I read in one of the books about birth than Ann loaned to me that labor and birth are completely right-brain processes, and that was absolutely true for me – but it was probably during the next hour or so that we figured out that (1) contractions, for me, were not textbook – for me, the equivalent of rest was to experience “just” a painful, crampy feeling, followed by an intense build-up to a peak, and that would subside a bit, but then it would all build to a second peak about 30 seconds after the first, after which those sensations would subside and I’d return to the crampy feeling; (2) these contractions were lasting about 60-70 seconds; and (3) they were about 3 minutes apart.
Given that what I was experiencing was in many ways not typical and what we expected from labor, we weren’t sure exactly where that put us but thought we should probably get to the hospital. I remember Ann asking me how I felt about still laboring at home and me saying that we hadn’t been in labor that long, and really I felt fine being at home, but if my contractions were that long and that close together, I guessed we should probably get ready to go. Matt started loading the car in between contractions, and we were all out there and had made it to the hospital by about 4:30 a.m. The check-in process was pretty difficult – they wanted Ann to wait in the waiting room until we were done in the triage area and had gotten to our room, and even though we’d done the online pre-check-in forms, they had a huge long checklist of questions they wanted me to answer about medical history and all sorts of things. We tried to get through them as quickly as we could, but I could only really answer them in between contractions, and it seemed to take a really long time. Since I had tested positive for group b strep, they started antibiotics for me, and I’m pretty fuzzy on all the communication, but it seemed like they were saying that they thought I was only 3 cm dilated but that my cervix was really thin. I was pretty discouraged then – if labor was this intense and I was only 3 cm dilated, what were the next 8 or 10 or 12 hours going to be, and maybe we’d misjudged something, and maybe I wouldn’t really be able to make it through and have the natural labor and birth I wanted to do. But there was nothing really to do but keep taking it one contraction at a time.
They finally took us to our room and said they had just a few more questions and then Ann could come in. I really felt like I had to go to the bathroom, but the nurse said it was normal, and I probably just felt like that because the baby was in a pretty low position in my cervix. She brought in a birth ball that I could sit on if I wanted, so we switched to that and finished the questions, and then finally Ann got to come in with us.
Once we were done with all the questions and Ann was with us, I felt a lot better. I was sitting on the birth ball, and pretty soon we realized that my water had broken, and there was meconium in it. I was also asking Ann what it felt like when she had to push – they had said I was only 3 cm dilated, but what I was feeling was different, and maybe I was really feeling like I needed to push, and was it possible to be there this quickly? Ann went and found a nurse who could come in and do an exam again, and I”m kind of fuzzy on this part, too, but Matt says that at that point the entire demeanor changed. When that nurse left, I asked Matt and Ann what she had said, and they said she told them I was fully dilated and ready to push. My nurse came in right away then, and they said they were going to have a pediatrician there just to make sure Miranda was okay when she was born, since there had been meconium when my water broke.
They got the bed all set up for pushing and had me push with the next contraction – but then said I needed to stop and wait for the doctor, because they could already see the baby. I remember someone asking about a squatting bar, and they sent someone to get it, but my nurse said I really wasn’t even going to have time for it. The doctor came in pretty quickly, and the pediatrician and a pediatric nurse came in and got all set up, too. I was worried about how I’d feel if my doctor wasn’t able to be there – Matt and I loved and felt very comfortable with her through the entire prenatal care process, and she had assured us that all of her partners were good and had pretty much the same philosophy she did, but she really planned to be there for us. She did end up arriving at some point while I was pushing and seemed pretty upset with my nurse that she hadn’t been paged earlier to give her enough time to get there and actually deliver our baby, but her partner was very nice and calming, and I felt comfortable with him, as well. He got all his gear on, and then they let me start pushing again.
That all went very quickly, too – I could reach down and touch Miranda’s head almost right away, and it only took a couple contractions with pushing before I could feel her crowning. They told me to give one more push, and her head and body actually came out all at once. Miranda Grace Ballou was born on Friday, April 30 at 6:39 a.m. She was 20.5 inches long and weighed 7 lbs. 13.6 oz and seemed – to us as her completely unbiased parents – absolutely perfect!
It felt incredible, really indescribable, to know we’d just given birth. Matt got to cut the cord, but then the pediatrician took her right away to make sure she was okay and didn’t have any meconium in her airway and to suction her out. Everyone was telling me I did great, but I couldn’t see Miranda and mostly just wanted to know if she was okay. They assured me that she was, and we heard her cry, and Matt got to go over and see her, and he and I were both crying. It only took a minute or two before I was able to hold her, and in the meantime, we delivered the placenta, and the doctor started stitching me up (I had a second degree tear).
And Miranda was absolutely perfect 🙂
Amazing, beautiful, wonderful, awe-inspiring. I remember being struck by how tiny her ears were. It felt entirely unbelievable – but also totally natural – that just hours ago we had come into the hospital with our little baby inside me, and now here she was, out in the world with us. We got to hold her and look into her eyes and admire her and take our first family photo!
I also got to try to nurse her right away. She latched on and nursed almost immediately, which was a huge encouragement to me, yet another great blessing.
I got to feed her and hold her and snuggle with her while Matt called our families and told them she had arrived. And then while she and Matt went down to the nursery for our pediatrician to check her out, Ann stayed with me, and we marveled together at the awesomeness of Miranda and her birth.
The nurse also explained all the details of post-partum care to me, and soon enough Matt and Miranda were back with us, and we got to walk down the hallway to our recovery room. Ann’s husband Luke brought us a celebratory breakfast, and once we were all settled in, Ann left, as well, and Matt and Miranda and I got to start exploring more and more what our life as a family would be.
I am in awe of the tremendous blessings woven throughout the entire process. It was amazing, full of so many gifts from God. Matt was home when labor started and was able to support me through the entire process, and Ann was able to join us early on and was an incredible, huge support. Labor was intense but not unmanageable – and not anywhere near as long as we’d expected. We didn’t have to spend a long time laboring in the hospital and didn’t experience any pressure to use pitocin or get an epidural or any of that and were able to have an entirely natural labor and birth. Since Miranda was born on a Friday, Matt never had to go teach – or even worry about coordinating others to cover his classes – and he was able to stay with us in the hospital the entire time we were there. My doctor was the one on call that weekend and was very encouraging every time she came to see us. The post-partum nurses were also super encouraging, bringing us whatever we needed and reassuring us that Miranda’s breathing was just fine and helping and encouraging me with the beginnings of breastfeeding. We were discharged Sunday afternoon, and my mom was here by Sunday evening to spend the week with us helping us out, and it was wonderful to have her here. And my friend Brooke and the rest of our church family had already lined up multiple weeks’ worth of meals for us to help us in our transition to parenthood. Ann and other women from our church were there to encourage and help me right from the beginning. And of course, the biggest blessing is that Miranda arrived safe and healthy, and we were all able to spend those first days of her life enjoying settling in and getting to know one another. She was an incredibly sweet newborn right from the beginning, crying pretty rarely, loving to snuggle, having a vast array of adorable facial expressions, doing great with nursing, increasingly giving us longer stretches of sleep at night…overall just a source of pure joy, more than we really know how to express. The whole birth experience was a amazing in and of itself and ultimately just the beginning of this awesome adventure of parenthood and life as a little family!