It was the end of January when I found out I was pregnant. I actually took a pregnancy test the same day one of my closest friends texted me to say she was pregnant. We have so much in common- our birthdays are 3 days apart, we grew up together and we both married Kazakhstan citizens. Of course we got to go through pregnancy together as well! Our due dates were 2 days apart but our daughters were actually born 1 week apart. You can read Natalie’s birth story here.
The biggest concern we had when we found out we were expecting was insurance. A friend recommended the Pregnancy Resource Center , so I went there to get an official pee-in-the-cup test done. They helped me apply for medicaid, answered all of my questions, and prayed with me before I left. We also got to come back when I was about 8 weeks along to get a free ultrasound done since I still didn’t have insurance. Seeing the tiny heartbeat was such an unexplainable experience. I was overjoyed, but also couldn’t understand what it all meant. There was a tiny human “bean” inside of me!
I finally got insurance around 11 weeks so I went in for my first check up and ultrasound. I had to go alone and I was terrified. I had a snickers with almonds and fanta in the car on the way because I had read that it would get the baby moving around. This baby didn’t seem to care, though and through the entire ultrasound she slept peacefully. I got a little nervous because the tech wasn’t very talkative and, if you know me, neither am I. After what felt like an hour of silence as she poked and prodded to get the baby to wake up, she said everything was fine and left. Thankfully, the doctor I had my appointment with was very friendly and told me everything really was fine.
The rest of my pregnancy was pretty uneventful. I started getting braxton hicks contractions at 22 weeks and they only got more intense the closer we got to the due date. I was hooked on babycenter.com, I went there for answers to all of the questions going through my pregnant brain. (If you haven’t been pregnant you wouldn’t understand, but pregnancy brain is very frustrating!) I also researched natural childbirth. My mom, cousin, and some friends had all had unmedicated deliveries and all recommended it over getting an epidural. I didn’t want to be foolish and say I was going to have a natural birth from the start when I had no idea what labor felt like, but the more I read the more I knew I would try my best. I figured I could just wing it, but a friend suggested I get a doula and take the bradley course. I couldn’t afford a doula and didn’t want to sit through such a long course so my husband and I watched a DVD class over the next few months, and I spent a lot of time on google.
At 36 weeks I found out that all of my Braxton hicks were actually helping me to progress and each week I was another cm dilated. My doctor told me 3 times she would see me by the weekend, but I kept making it to my scheduled appointments. Days couldn’t possibly have gone by any slower, but I am so thankful for those last few weeks I had. I started to really think about labor and research more and more about my options. I wrote to the same friend who had suggested a doula because I had so many questions about all of the procedures at hospitals and realized I was responsible to know what they were for and if they were necessary. Again, she told me to get a doula and even found one who offered her services for free. Hallelujah! I was so nervous to meet Allison, and even more nervous about having her at the birth (I didn’t even want my mom in the room and told Viktor he had to stay up near my head), but I just had this feeling that I needed to meet her.
Allison answered all of the questions I had and helped me write up a birth plan. I started to get so excited now that I was prepared. There were so many things I thought were mandatory if I was going to give birth in a hospital but she informed me that I actually had a lot more control than the nurses like to give. For the next three weeks Allison texted me every day and helped me through the prodromal labor. I had hours of contractions 10 minutes apart every day but they never got more intense. It was tiring and annoying, but she continued to encourage me and remind me that these contractions were helping me progress and when I did finally go into labor it would be halfway over. My husband and I went out for our “last” breakfast about 4 times and I walked more than I did my entire pregnancy in those last weeks. I sort of regret not resting more because I was exhausted when I finally did go into labor, but I have great memories spending those last days as a couple.
On Wednesday, October 3rd I had my 40 week appointment. I was 40 weeks and 5 days. My dad flew in the night before, so it was a nice surprise for him to see me still pregnant. I went to my check up and everything was fine, so my ob was going to let me wait a few more days and come in for a non-stress test. She didn’t even want to talk about inducing me until after 41 weeks, which made me feel so much better. She offered to strip my membranes which I finally agreed to since I was already 5 cm dilated and I had read it might help move things along if my body was ready. I spent the day with my parents driving all across town as they went to appointments. I had cramps that seemed to come and go (hmm…) and didn’t feel good at all. I came home in the afternoon, took a bath and decided to go to bed early “just in case.”
10:00 PM Boom. Wide awake. A contraction completely different from what I was used to. I ran around the room, I kneeled over, and I started laughing. My friend Kathryn decided to ask how I was doing right then on Facebook, so I let her know. We chatted for an hour while I went through more contractions from 10 to 8 to 5 minutes apart. Because I was already 5 cm that morning, and since my mom had a history of short labors, Allison and I decided to call the hospital and head in. I woke up Viktor who could already see these contractions were a lot more intense than what I had been experiencing before, and we got everything together, laughing between rocking back and forth. We headed downstairs and my mom, dad and sister started jumping up and down with excitement. We prayed together and Viktor and I got in the car and drove to the hospital. The drive was not as bad as I had expected it to be and I wondered if I was going in too early. We met Allison at the hospital at midnight, and Viktor gave my birth plan to the nurse. Everyone working that night was amazing. They took me seriously when I said I wanted no interventions and encouraged me every time they came in. I got a saline lock which meant that I could move around freely but it would be easier to attach an iv if there was some sort of emergency. It didn’t bother me at all and I was able to do whatever I wanted with it. I had intermittent monitoring so we walked the halls to the nursery a few times in the beginning even though I was only in a hospital gown. Viktor had a pandora station playing worship the entire time we were there, and I remember during contractions Allison would sing along with the worship songs which I really appreciated, it reminded me who was in control. I got to eat peanut butter crackers and later even a sandwich while we chatted between contractions. The atmosphere in my delivery room was so peaceful, every nurse or doctor who came in said they wanted to stay and hang out with us.
Hours passed and I had terrible back labor. Allison and Viktor pushed on each hip while I rocked back and forth through contractions. I spent a lot of time in the shower on a chair since the tub rooms were full (I will beg for one next time). At 8 am my ob came in. I was actually pretty happy that labor had taken that long because it meant she would be delivering my baby, and not the old man who was on call, haha. I was between a 7 and 8 so I hadn’t made any progress since I was checked a few hours before, and everyone noticed the contractions had started to spread apart. Allison helped me decide to let them break my water to get things going again. As soon as they did that contractions became 10 times stronger and everyone could tell it was getting close. Viktor and Allison were exhausted from pushing on my hips and the back labor wasn’t going away. They never complained though! I switched positions trying to get the baby to flip, but noting helped and other positions were too uncomfortable when contractions hit.
At 12:30 I was fully dilated and started pushing. This was the hardest part for me. I absolutely hated the feeling of pushing. Without Viktor and Allison I am not sure I would have made it because they had to remind me to breathe if I started panicking during a contraction. It took 2 hours before my doctor came in to deliver, but seeing her gave me a second wind of energy as I continued to push. The worship music was still playing in the background and I felt a peace even though I was in so much pain. They asked If I wanted to use the mirror and after 3 times politely saying no that’s ok I yelled “no thats gross!” Or something like that. All I could think about was getting her out. I couldn’t stop between pushes because the contractions just kept coming. The nurse would count to 10 and tell me to pause and breathe but I had to take a quick breathe and push again because I couldn’t stand the feeling of a contraction without pushing.
2:33pm. The ring of fire. That had been my biggest fear but from what I had read it only lasts a short time because after the head is out the rest of the body comes quickly. Suddenly I had no idea what was going on. The room was full of people I hadn’t seen before, and I was flipped onto my back. Everyone yelled at me to push, one nurse was practically standing on my stomach, and I thought I was dying. I’ve never felt that kind of pain before. I remember in the chaos all I was thinking was “kill me now, why do I have to feel this pain if I’m going to die anyway?” I had no understanding that i was delivering a baby. And in a second the pain was completely gone. Jolie was in my arms and Viktor cut the cord. October 4th, 2012 at 2:35pm after 15 hours of labor,while “Divine Romance” by Phil Wickham played in the background. Then she is wisked away and I hear a nurse say “get NICU in here!” I thought I was talking to myself but Viktor told me later that I was yelling “why NICU? She can’t be tiny she is a week late! Why isn’t she crying? why did you take her away?” and many other questions. After another minute she was back in my arms, but wrapped up in a blanket. I had planned to do skin to skin immediately but having her in my arms was enough in that moment. The doctor came to my side after stitching up my partial third degree tear (ouch) to explain what had happened.
Jolie was 9lbs 10 oz. She had shoulder dystocia. This meant that her shoulder got stuck under my pubic bone on the way out, so her head came out but nothing else. When that happens there is a 2 minute limit that the baby can stay halfway out. That is why the room was flooded with nurses and doctors, and my doctor ended up reaching in to pull her out by the arm. She was wrapped up in the blanket before given to me because they were worried her clavicle was broken or a nerve was damaged, which is also why they called NICU. She had her first X-ray within 30 minutes of life which made me sad because they had to take her away, but i still had complete peace that she was fine. They brought her back and there was absolutely nothing wrong. They couldn’t even tell which arm they were concerned about.
I still remember the pain, but not how intense it was. It took a few weeks of thinking I will never have another child, but that feeling disappeared pretty quickly as I watched Jolie grow out of 0-3 month clothes (she was never in newborn) and realized the baby stage goes by way too fast. When I think back on the day Jolie was born I see God’s hand in every moment. If Jolie had waited 2 more days I would have had an ultrasound and would have found out she was huge. I may have been urged to have a c-section or an epidural that would have ended up in a c-section- how could I have pushed such a big baby halfway out without feeling my lower body?
Thanks to my natural delivery I healed quickly. I was up walking around at the Richmond Folk Festival a week after Jolie was born, and never needed any Percocet. Nursing was not as difficult as I had imagined. I had the opposite of what most women seem to experience because I had oversupply, but I’ll share more about that later. When I look at my sweet daughter I remind myself what I went through, and realize I would do it over and over again to know the joy she brings us each day. If I could give any advice to moms wanting a natural birth it would be to do your research, be prepared, and if you can-get a doula! Viktor and I would have gone to that hospital and done whatever the nurses suggested. I am 99% sure my story would have had very different ending if we had done it alone. I thank God for his guidance and protection through my pregnancy, Jolie’s birth, and each day since.