The Birth of Avelyn Grace

Callin shared the story of her third, and most recent, birth last week, and I thought it would be nice to read all three of hers as a series. This is the story of her first birth. Please note, that in my seven years as a midwife, I have only had to cut one episiotomy. The only indication for this is fetal distress, and it was warranted in this case. 

October 13, my due date, passed as a regular day highlighted by walking the puppies in the park. I continued on in my pregnant state, mentally anxious and belly stretching. On October 16, Scott and I visited midwife Anita in her office for what was to be my final prenatal appointment. Usually we saw midwife Gina for prenatal appointments, and we expected Gina to be the primary midwife at the birth. Gina was unavailable for the prenatal appointment (and she planned to be not working for the whole week) because her son had injured his skull and was awaiting surgery. Anita was encouraging and predictive. She told us that our baby would be about 7 ½ pounds and that she was “locked and loaded”… that I wouldn’t be pregnant much longer.

She was right. Labor may have started on October 17. My back ached and my abdomen cramped most of the day. At lunch with my mom, I had to stand to try to easy some of the discomfort. Shopping for diapers was more of the same. I didn’t recognize the aches as labor, but I did think that my body was preparing for labor. That evening I was able to relieve some aches by curling up in a recliner at my Grandad’s room and then enjoy a nice dinner with extended family. Spending time with family was important that day. I saw Grandad for the last time before he passed away on the 20th. I told everyone that I thought labor would start that night or the next day.

I was right. I woke at 5:00am on Thursday October 18 with a contraction. I stayed in bed, periodically checking the time and counting contractions. By 7:30 there had been about 6 contractions, and I was convinced I was in labor. I woke Scott and asked him to make me some breakfast-in-bed since I didn’t want to get up. He also got the midwife on the phone. She wanted to hear from me about how my contractions were feeling and timing. Assuming that I was in early labor, she advised me to get out the house and be distracted since it could be another 24 hours before the baby came. With that, Scott and I decided we would run to PetsMart to buy a second dog bed (Miki wouldn’t be able to sleep on our bed when the baby was there) and drop the dogs with a friend to be watched for the day. It was very hard to get out of bed. It seemed my contractions might have sped to 10 minutes apart. I was struggling; the contractions were intense and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle another 24 hours’ worth.

It took a while to get me out of the house, but I went along. During the 15 minute drive to the store, I had three miserable contractions. It was so frustrating and uncomfortable that I was hitting the car door with my hand during them. Part of the reason I looked forward to a home birth was that I wouldn’t have to be in the car during active labor, but we didn’t know how far along I was. I had another contraction in the store. On the drive home I decided to time my contractions because I was starting to believe that my labor was further along than we had thought. Contractions were about 4 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute each. When we got home, I struggled through a contraction on the front porch (turns out I couldn’t walk during one and trying to ended in throwing up), then went straight to the shower. I stayed in the shower until the tub filled then laid in the water. The water helped me cope.

Scott was in the other room making calls and setting up for the birth. He’d been working on inflating the birth tub throughout the morning and it was getting more urgent. He told the midwife that we thought labor was progressing quickly and told my mom that it was time to hurry over. I could hear him say “Now is the time to rush.” Once in a while Scott came in the bathroom to talk to me. We learned that of the four midwives, Gina was home with her son, Anita was attending the birth of her grandchild, Lynette was expecting a call to a birth in Wyoming and Janelle was available (but planned to be the second midwife to come). I wondered if anyone was going to make it since I was now having contractions 2 ½ minutes apart. When my parents arrived (I planned to have my mom with me but not Dad. Dad was in town to say goodbye to Grandad and October 18 was his only full day in Denver), they helped Scott finish setting up the birth pool, and Mom visited with me in the bathroom a little.

At 11:05 am, midwife Gina arrived. I later found out that she thought she would check my progress and tell Janelle and Anita what time to arrive later in the day. When she saw me calmly move from the bathroom to the bed and relax there, she thought I wasn’t very far along. Then she checked me – she said she could feel the bag of waters bulging and could only feel my cervix on one side. I was relieved that I was open enough for the bag to bulge then more relieved to hear I was 8 ½ or 9 centimeters dilated. I was very far along and there wouldn’t be much more laboring. This news also confirmed to me that it was ok that labor was so difficult. By this time I was in transition – it was supposed to be hard. Laying on my right side in the bed continued to feel relaxing. Gina set up her supplies for the birth and talked me through relaxing my face, shoulders and body (everything but my uterus) during these very painful contractions. My hips felt like they were spreading in addition to the back ache and abdominal cramp I had felt with each contraction. A couple times I wanted to tell Gina that something must be wrong because it hurt so badly, but I reminded myself that labor pains are normal and expected (P = purposeful, A = anticipated, I = intermittent, N = normal was the acronym Gina taught).

When the birth tub was ready, I moved to the living room and got in the water. Only a few minutes later, at 11:53am I felt the urge to push. Gina checked that my cervix was gone. In doing so she felt that my water had broken, the baby’s head was lower, and that she had hair. I pushed for the next 20 or so minutes with Gina periodically checking on the baby’s heartbeat. Then Gina asked me to get out of the birth tub to try another position. I sat on the birth stool for several contractions, hoping the pressure would help my tissues stretch out of the way. Baby’s head was pushing against my perineum and causing potential distress. I felt her head but was surprised that it felt soft and lumpy, not at all like a skull. I said to Gina, “I don’t know what that is. That’s not right.” Because Gina was getting concerned about getting the baby out, she asked me to lie on the floor so she could perform an episiotomy. She cut about ¼ inch during my contractions. Then, at 12:25 pm, Avelyn Grace was born and laid on my belly.

The umbilical cord was short so I wasn’t able to have Avelyn closer to my face (and to see her face) until the placenta was delivered (which was also about the time the midwife Janelle arrived). Avelyn was very healthy and beautiful. She cried loudly, had good color and motion, and was even a little chunky. We stayed on the living room floor for Scott to cut the cord and for Avelyn and I to bond. My dad and brother came in from outside to see the newest family member. Then when I was ready, Scott held her for the first time, and I moved to my bed. Avelyn was returned to me, we lay together while my repair was done, and she nursed for the first time. At the newborn exam, a couple hours later, Avelyn weighed in at 7 pounds 7 ounces and measured 19 ½ inches long.