well, hello Elijah Hunter Riley!
We welcomed our precious Elijah Hunter Riley on Tuesday, August 8th at 11:18 p.m.! We couldn't feel more blessed to have this precious angel join our family. Truly, he could not be more angelic! I am so grateful to be his mama.
He came a little earlier than we thought. His due date was August 25th. But with each pregnancy I have gotten cholestasis of pregnancy and because there are increased risk factors for stillbirth associated with full-term delivery, I deliver at around 37 or 38 weeks. During my pregnancy with Elijah, I didn't get cholestasis until around 36 weeks (I consider myself very fortunate), and I thought my doctor may have me go into labor naturally, but I'm happy to avoid anything that puts my baby at risk.
We woke up on the 8th with an early morning phone call from the doctor on duty who spoke with my doctor who happened to be on vacation. They wanted us to come in that morning to deliver Jed! It was kind of the inverse of regular labor that comes as a surprise in that the surprise element came from the hospital calling me instead of me calling the hospital. And truth-be-told with this move and a lot going on this summer, we didn't feel quite prepared! But never-the-less incredibly excited to meet this new special member of our family.
I am not a fan of inductions because I birth unmedicated/naturally, and the pitocin and other interventions sure make labor a lot harder. I was induced with Matthew and Abraham, although after a 24 hour induction with Abe, my body didn't go into labor so I went home and went into labor on my own and raced to the hospital in just enough time (which was an amazing experience). But I understand that sometimes inductions are necessary. So I went into the hospital that day with a little bit of anxiety on what lay ahead.
I want to share a bit about what unmedicated induced birth is like since I rarely find women who choose natural childbirth in the hospital setting. I have always felt drawn towards natural childbirth: my mom delivered me unmedicated and my mother-in-law delivered my husband unmedicated. I feel like our bodies are amazing and so capable! I feel like they were made for childbirth! I also believe that epidurals and other drugs that are often given during childbirth can have some negative impact on mother and baby. Years ago when I was pregnant with my first son, my husband and I took natural childbirth classes. They were really helpful. I think they were the Brio-birth method. In these classes the husbands were trained to be birth coaches, and they were very helpful in preparing us for childbirth:
I delivered my first son (an induction since he had a life-threatening birth defect) unmedicated until I hit transition. At that point I was getting double and triple peaking contractions, and the nurse kept saying the intensity I was experiencing could last for hours! My husband kept telling me "no, you're almost finished! You're in transition" (the stage of labor that is the most intense, and also the shortest phase right before pushing). Well, I listened to the nurse and they called in the anesthesiologist to give me an epidural. He got the needle out and punctured my dura and immediately after he pulled the needle out of my spine, I announced I needed to push, and my son was born within 15 minutes. I didn't know until an hour or two later that the epidural had punctured my dura. But it didn't take long before the spinal headache set in. I was leaking spinal fluid. The spinal headache was the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced. While my son was in critical care at the NICU, I was flat on my back and unable to be there when he needed me. Four days later I was given a blood patch (where they drew my blood and injected it into my spine). Fortunately that solution worked and within a week or so the spinal headache went away. If only I had listened to my husband and trusted my body! Indeed I was in transition when the nurse told me I wasn't. If I had listened to my husband and trusted my body I would have avoided the whole punctured dura thing.
So I guess I'm here to say that not every epidural goes well, and I don't plan on ever having one again!
When I was pregnant with my second son, I spent a fair amount of time preparing. I figured out that I wanted soothing music to play, I went over with my husband things that would help me in the process (counter pressure on my lower back--I labor heavy in my lower back, massage, and encouraging words). Also, I read a book that really resonated with me. It is called Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read. It was so helpful in assisting me to trust my body and to not fear pain. I don't talk a lot about "pain" and childbirth, but I do use the word "intensity" because I think of pain happening when something is wrong whereas in childbirth, the intensity that birthing mothers feel is helping their bodies birth their sweet babies! It is natural and necessary. And it doesn't last forever. Each contraction brings that sweet baby closer to my arms.
As I was saying before, I went in for an induction with Lija. I'd rather go into labor naturally, but I'm grateful for wonderful medical care that looks after the well-being of my baby. I was given a ripener to get me started at around noon, and within 45 minutes I was having regular contractions. I felt like watching some funny movies from the collection of DVDs I brought to help me through early labor, so we watched Dan in Real Life and Napolean Dynamite. I laughed my head off during both (just what I needed to help ease things)!
By around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., the doctor and nurse began to talk to me about the next step. I was progressing with my labor earlier, but it appeared to be tapering off. I felt it was tapering off too. They suggested some next steps to me, and I have it some thought (I've learned it is absolutely important for me to make informed decisions about my body and about my birth experience). I decided to have them break my water. I knew from experience that at that point within 20 minutes or so my labor would become very intense. I was right. That's when we turned off the movies, kept the lights dim, turned on my relaxation music, and my husband was following my every order (a supportive husband is absolutely necessary, and I happen to be blessed with an incredible one)! I would give short orders "water" (that meant I needed him to hold my water up so I could take a drink). Or "counterpressure, okay go!" Or "change positions" meant I needed help to move to a different spot before the next contraction. They broke my water (which felt like it needed to be broken) at around 8:30 p.m. I'd say intense contractions started at around 9:00 p.m.
During active labor and certainly going into transition, the mood in the room changes. I am in my own world breathing in and out deeply through the contractions. The intense contractions feel like a wave to me, steadily increasing, peaking, and then drawing back. I work to keep my mind on my baby, picturing him coming closer to birth with each contraction. I work to breathe deeply and give oxygen to my baby. Rather than resist and tighten my muscles through the most intense moments, I work to relax my muscles and embrace labor because my body was made to do this and knows exactly what to do! I spend a TON of time on the birth ball. I also have some things I repeat in my mind to help empower me and remind me of important truths. One I used in delivering both Abe and Jed is 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I also repeat in my mind the thirteenth article of faith: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." I also do simple affirmations such as "my body is strong and capable. I can do this. My body was designed for this." Focusing on those things helps me a ton!
Lastly, like I said before, having a really supportive husband is imperative. I know sometimes other birth coaches such as midwifes can be super helpful too, but for me that person is my husband. Towards the end of my labor when things were super intense and the resident told me that an but before I was only at a 5 (which can often be a subjective assessment), my husband is the person I rely upon for support. Because being told you're only a 5 after so much laboring is discouraging--especially when I felt like I was much further along than that! (Sidenote: I am constantly re-learning how to trust how I feel over a doctor or nurse's subjective assessment of my condition). Even after experiencing natural childbirth before I began to doubt my ability to do it. My husband would look me in the eye and remind me that I was almost there and that I was doing amazing. That gave me what I needed to get through the next 20 minutes.
I like to change positions when I'm in active labor and in transition. As I said before, I spend a fair amount of time on the birthing ball. I stand and put my arms around my husband and move back and forth (the movement helps me manage the intensity and I also feel like it helps to move my baby down). I moved up on the bed on my knees with the bed upright and my head in my elbows. Right before pushing I moved on my side on the bed in sort of an upright position, and I feel like that position helped my baby to move down that last little bit. Long story short I have learned to keep on moving, and instinctively I know which position will help me at a given time.
With each of my babies, my pushing time has been relatively short. I think, in part, the fast pushing time might be related to being unmedicated--I feel full force that my body is saying "time for this baby to be out!" With Matthew it was around 15 minutes. And so my body does its thing. With Abe just over 10 minutes, and with Jed, from the moment I announced that I needed to push (miraculously the doctor had just walked in the room the moment I shouted that I was going to push--that was a blessing, because he was going to be born at that moment whether or not the doctor was present), Jed was born 2 pushes and 6 minutes later. They placed him immediately on my chest, and it was incredible. We opted for a 45 second delay in cord clamping (which my husband did). Of course the moment a baby is placed on me I cannot help but offer up repeated prayers of thanks and begin crying at the miracle of it all. My precious baby--this new little person is here! And I am so blessed to be his mama. Lijah's presence is so soft and sweet. And those first moments with a newborn are just sacred.
The nurses noticed him retracting a little because he was born so quickly so they took him to the NICU to help him. He was in the NICU for a little less than a day. I do not like being separated from my baby! But of course, I'm grateful beyond measure for all of the medical resources we have available here.
Almost immediately after delivering naturally I get up and walk around a little. Mostly I have a heart full of gratitude that Heavenly Father designed our bodies in such an amazing way to be able to carry and deliver precious babies. Delivering a baby (especially unmedicated) makes me feel like I completed a marathon of sorts! It helps me to trust my body. I feel so tired and yet so strong. It helps me realize that I have the capacity to do hard things, and that through Christ I can do very hard things! And I love how my body recovers with unmedicated birth.
Exhausted and yet so grateful, I was able to spend lots of time with Elijah in the NICU and the other nursery they sent him to. The next day the boys were able to peek through the window and see Elijah for the first time. It was so special!
I feel like I am constantly saying prayers of thanks to have this special little boy in our home. He is such a gift! I love to just hold him and stare at him all throughout the day as I shower him with kisses. What a blessing it is to be a mother. I marvel at each tiny perfect toe, and his beautiful, bright eyes, and over each little sound he makes. xo