the story of elinor's birth

E Birth3

yes, i know that this is a waaaaay overdue {pun} post.  but i finally decided to collect my thoughts into a cohesive post.  a way for me to remember this remarkable day.  the day that out elinor grace came into the world.

males.  this is a birth story.  there are words like dialated and contractions and uterus and crowning and umbilical cord.  if you are my father or father-in-law or brother-in-law or some random guy reading this blog, feel free to skip it.

and for the rest, may the story of elinor's birth bring you joy and fill your hearts with awe at the miracle of life.

here she is.

in the wee small hours of the morning on november 4th, our little peanut started her arrival.  hubby and i went to bed saturday night.  it was like any other night with the exception of it being the eve of my due date.  i had butterflies.  i was hoping that we would get to meet our elinor girl.  but i never expected that she would be so prompt.  silly me.  i should have known that she would be one of the rare ones who arrive precisely on their due date.  looking back, this is quintessential elinor.  so in her nature to be exact.

i woke up around 1:00am feeling quite uncomfortable.  but i was fairly out of it and didn't exactly process that labor had started.  i was blessed with an easy-breezy pregnancy.  not a lot of discomfort.  no sickness.  no tightness.  no false labor pains.  nada.  and this was my first time honestly, i didn't know fully what to expect of the labor experience.  i didn't know the exact differences between early labor and "practice" labor.  and i assumed that i would probably experience a few practice sessions before the real thing began so when things started, i dismissed it.


and then, discomfort again.  like a thick rubberband that was knotted and rooted deep at the base of my spine and then pulled in opposite directions and wrapped around the sides of my body, stretching across my lower back, tighening over my pelvic bones, and meeting under my belly button.  gripping, radiating throughout, and then releasing.  i was awakened by this sensation throughout the early morning.  irratic waves.  they would bring me out of sleep and take my breath away.  as the hours passed, i moved in and out of sleep.  and with each surge, i would slip out of bed and onto my feet.  bending over the side of the bed and breathing through the tightening.  and release.  i would slip back into bed and slip back to sleep.

from about 5:30am until 6:00am, i experienced a series of more intense and regular surges.  i was alert.  and i started to realize that something might be happening.  as i climbed out of bed and once again assumed a folded position at the edge of the bed, i whispered to ben.  "um, honey.  good morning.  i think that we should probably get up and start our day.  something is happening."  ben jumped out of bed and into action.  "WHAAT?! really?"  i attempted to calm him/calm myself/convince myself that it wasn't really labor and to just chill out.  "not a big deal, i have been up off and on throughout night with some surges but i don't think we are really there.  i just think we should get up and get ready and eat and start the day.  it hasn't been that intense and it has been fairly irregular so i don't know if we should take it seriously yet.  we'll see how things go.  but maybe we should call our families?  just to let them know that something different is going on?  i don't know.  it is sunday morning.  i think that we should at least tell them in case today is the day and they need to plan their days.  you know, church and everything..."  ramblings of a woman in labor.  delirious.  in denial.

we made phone calls and sent texts to let everyone know that it might be the day.  from there, we showered and made sure that things were packed and ready.  and then we went downstairs to start the day.  the surges were there, but they were not consistent.  10 minutes apart.  5 minutes apart.  18 minutes apart.  20 seconds long.  1 minute long.  120 seconds long.  i ate breakfast and laid down on the couch.  just trying to relax and breathe.  ben manned the contraction timer on the phone.  i just kept telling myself that things were too irregular to be real.  it is probably just false labor.  the next few hours were a blur.  lots of breathing and resting.  trying to sleep.  staying hydrated.  eating some nibbles along the way.  at around noon, everything intensified.  i could no longer stay on the couch.  i had to move.  i had to sway.  i wanted to pull my hips off.  i wanted space.  around me.  in my mind.  in my pelvis.  space.  i walked.  i squatted.  i leaned over the back of chair in our living room.  i breathed deeply.  i moved into myself.  closing my eyes.  focusing.

at this point, ben knew that things were different.  he delicately suggested that we call the nurse-midwife and call my parents to see if they could pick up the dogs.  "that's probably a good idea.  one less thing here.  that way we don't have to worry if this is it.  well, we could just let them stay... and then, if we do end up going... we could drop them off on our way...?  that might work.  no, no, you're right.  see if my parents could get them.  okay." 

at about 12:30pm, my parents arrived.  i looked up from my folded over the chair position and let out a breathy, "hhhhi.  thaaaanks.  i'm good.  good."  my mom shot a look to my dad and then to ben.  and then back at me.  "have you called the doctor?  just let us know when you are on your way..."  "uh-huh. okay.  yeaaah, we'll let you know. i'm not supposed to caaaall until fiiiive minutes."  and release.  i reassured them that we would probably be a while...that it may not even be today.  we are only, what like 8 minutes apart?  5 minutes?

after the house had settled, i spent time focusing.  breathing.  squatting and swaying, deeply.  at one point, ben left the room for a couple of minutes.  i timed my surges.  5 minutes apart.  35 seconds long.  4.5 minutes apart.  62 seconds long.  4.5 minutes apart.  70 seconds long.  they were intensifying.  less time for rest.  each one more productive.  heavier.  deeper.  when ben returned he asked how i was doing.  "um, five minutes apart."  "seriously?  it is time.  we need to make the call.  it's time.  five minutes." 

i made the call.  left a message.  two seconds later, my phone rang. "hello, yes...okay.  has your water broken?  okay and you are happy laboring at home?  no issues?  okay.  and how far apart are you?  five minutes.  hmmmm...first baby.  that is good. but first-time births do usually take longer than you think.  i would say to stay put and keep progressing.  call again when you are close to 3 minutes.  labor at home as long as you can."

"what did she say?  are we going?  let's go.  right?  didn't they say 5-8 minutes.  we don't want to cut it too close." 

"no.  she said 3 minutes.  not yet."

surge.  surge.  surge.

at about 3:00pm, it was time.  3.5 minutes apart.  57 seconds long.  3 minutes apart.  63 seconds long.  "ben, the last few have been three minutes apart.  they are strong.  really strong."  "the last few?  we need to go!"  "well...i wanted to have a few in a row to make sure."  "to make sure?  honey, three minutes.  we are going." 

oh my gosh.  we are leaving.  leaving to have a baby.  we might meet her today.  i hope it is today.  the next time we are here...we could have a baby.  a baby.  this is it.

we grabbed our bags and headed to the car.  i grabbed for anything i could find and lowered myself in.  holding my body up off the seat.  sitting was brutal.  the surges kept coming.  at stoplights.  on the freeway.  everywhere.  i shifted my weight.  hoping for some relief.  oh my gosh.  get me there.  i have to get out of this car.  surge.  i closed my eyes.  it was overwhelming.  but i would not let myself be overcome.  i breathed into it.  i gave into it.  i prayed.  Lord, you made my body for this.  let me do it.  give me your peace.  keep her safe. 

ben made the official phone calls to the family.

we arrived at the birth center on a perfect sunday afternoon.  "park.  just park.  i will walk.  i have to get out of this car.  i want to walk."  "really, are you sure that's okay?  can you walk?"  "yes.  walk.  yes.  park."  we parked.  and we walked.  slowly.  swaying.  yogi style breath, deep and low.  ben guided me as we walked to the door.  we passed a lady sitting on a bench, talking on the phone.  she gave me a what's wrong with this lady look.  i wanted to say, "hey there!  in labor.  that's what's happening here.  walking up to THE BIRTHING CENTER.  going to have a baby."  but i closed my eyes and breathed.  do not be a hideous pregnant lady, rachel.

we walked in the doors and were greeted by the sweet old ladies at the front desk.  "and how can we help you?"  "having a baby.  i can just go upstairs right?"  "yes...don't you want a wheelchair?"  "no.  no sitting.  no, i will walk."  we were the only ones in the birthing center lobby.  we looked around and figured we should probably check in.  we approached the desk.  "name?"  surge.  i folded over the desk and held on.  i looked up. "uh, uh, raaachel wwwhhhhitehouse."  "okay, mrs. whitehouse, and what are you here for?"  "um, to have a baby.  labor."  the nurse picked up the phone and declared, "yes, we have rachel whitehouse here.  for a rule out labor".  RULE. OUT. LABOR.  seriously?  does it look like i am joking around?  all bent over the desk?  and so, we awkwardly sat in the waiting area for what seemed like forever until they called my name.  "congratulations. welcome.  let's check you out."

we proceeded to a tiny room.  "okay, mrs. whitehouse.  if you will just get undressed and hop up on the bed so we can check you out and do a quick monitoring..."  surge  "oh, are you having a contraction?  okay, well just wait until it subsides and then you can do all that." thaaaanks.  i crawled onto the bed.  surge.  "oh, another one.  well, it would seem to me like labor.  i will just check to see how far along you are.  and how is your pain level?  how do you plan on managing it?  pause.  i thought about responding, "weeeell, that might depend on how far along i am...." but no.  "i do not want any medication or intervention unless necessary.  i am going to do it naturally.  i have my birth plan...that's what i want."  no going back now.  "oh. oh.  well...okay then."  and then, the music to my ears... "great, you are at 6 centimeters".  six.  only four more!  thank you God.  such encouraging words to hear.  i can do this.

and with that, it was determined that i was, indeed, in labor.  no ruling out for me.  it was on.  off to the birthing suite.  3:30pm.

they did their preliminary monitoring and then released me from my fetters to wander and sway.  i folded over the bed.  i rocked.  i breathed.  we lowered the lights.  turned on our LED candles.  got some aromatherapy and essential oils going.  put on my music.  david crowder band.  all the songs.  each one giving me encouragement and peace.  God created my body for this.  i can do it.  we settled in.  soon after, my parents arrived.  they offered their encouragement and said sweet words.  and oh, my mom.  i didn't hire a doula.  didn't need to.  i had my mom.  she was the definition of "a woman who serves".  she was quiet and supportive.  she anticipated my needs.  she arrived with a crock-pot filled with warm washcloths for applying much-needed pressure to my back.  perfect.

shortly after, other family members arrived.  they came in the room to visit during the early stages. but after everyone had offered prayers and support and well-wishes, they left the room.  just me and ben and my mom and ben's mom.

and ben. he was so kind and sweet.  he encouraged me.  he was watchful.  not too pushy.  not coachy.  just a calming influence.  strong.  just right.  he knew just when to come alongside me and say something sweet and when i wanted ALL THE SPACE in the room to just sink into it.  he was my ideal support partner.

nurses came in and out to check on me.  but there wasn't much for them to do.  asked how i was doing and occasionally did some monitoring and then would leave me to it.  surges and surges.  at around 6:00pm, i asked for a progress check.  i felt like i was progressing but i wanted to know.  good or bad.  i needed numbers.  8.5 centimeters.  closer.  progress.  they offered me a hideous birthing peanut thingy that i could place between my knees to help open my pelvis.  that lasted for about two seconds.  it was excruciating.  i couldn't stand it.  i was opening and things were moving along so i just wanted and needed to stay in positions that felt good at that point.  "would you like to get into the tub?"  "TUUUUB.  yes, please."  my mom guided me to the tub.  the room was dark and the water was warm.  with lavender essential oil in the air and candlelight.  i sat in the water.

i was overcome.  i couldn't get comfortable.  i kept moving around.  squatting.  on my back.  on my knees.  hanging over the side.  my mom placed hot washcloths on my lower back.  it was aching from the pressure.  my pelvis felt like it was going to explode.  it was so close to unbearable.  i couldn't concentrate.  at one point, i heard myself mumble, "i don't think i can do it..."

"rachel, i think your water just broke."  the nurse rushed in and confirmed it.  "yes, let's get you out of the water so i can check and see where we are."  7:15pm.  i felt a rush of energy.  transition. i am in transition.  of course!  i read about that feeling.  okay, i can do this.  i can do this.  i am doing this.

they checked me and announced that i was there.  i was ready.  time to push.  they asked me how i wanted to proceed.  i told them that i want to breathe the baby down.  they offered me a birthing bar and i gladly accepted.  i know that the nurse must have freaked out my family members, waiting in the hall as she rushed in with that contraption.  but it was amazing.  i breathed.  i moaned.  i growled.  i didn't have to push.  i just had to let my body do it.  my body wanted to push.  and it was so much more than a push.  my entire being was bearing down.

pushing is so very unlike the movie version.  and it is such a remarkable sensation when you experience it fully.  God did such a sensational work.  that uterus, it is no joke.  if you read up on what that muscle is capable of.  wowee.  ladies.  you should feel fierce to have such a force inside of you.  it has various layers of muscles.  each designed to function in a certain way during designated phases of labor.  and let me tell you, the "pushing" phase is intense.  you know those cool toothpaste tube squeezing devices?  you clamp it at the top and then squeeze down, rolling as you go.  extracting every last bit.  that is a mild and cutesy illustration of what goes on in uterusville during this phase of labor.  there is a clamping feeling, tightening at the top of your belly and then squeeeeze.  like a weight bearing down, in every direction as the muscles contract and ripple downward in overwhelming waves.  each one, moving the baby.  truly, when you experience it naturally, there is no "do you feel the urge to push?" or "okay, whenever you are ready to push..." your body just takes over.  it isn't an urge. no question marks here. it is a compulsion.

i just had to work with it and not fight it.  with each surge, my entire midsection squeezed.  i just had to be mindful and resist the urge to tighten up.  and i didn't want to allow my body to relax.  i welcomed each rest but i wanted to stay in it.  to hold fast to my progress.  i didn't want to lose ground.  i wanted to make the most of every tightening.  of each push.  moving her down.  moving her closer.  moving her out.  to meet us.

i looked up at the clock and saw that it was around 8:00pm.  i wanted - i needed - to know where she was.  she felt so close but how close, i couldn't tell.  my mom grabbed the nurse and asked her to give me some information.  some encouragement.  i remember her checking and holding up her pinky finger. "see this little part, she is that close.  you are almost there.  almost there."  i could hear soft and constant words of encouragement from my family.  wafting in air.  dancing in the shadows of the room.  speaking to my heart.  the song "the great amen" was playing.  a repetitive, building chant.  over and over.  louder and louder.  my soul agreed.  amen.  yes.  almost there.  the pressure was intense.  but i could feel this little person moving, making her way out.  almost there.  and then, fire.  my birthing groans were now punctuated with ooo's and oww's.  i knew her little head was right there.  fire.

"she is crowing.  rachel, we need you to move from your knees to you back.  she is coming."  she is coming.  i remember somewhat scoffing at the request.  really, just flip to my back.  baby crowning and everything.  sure.  no problem.  i don't know if i verbalized it, but my mind was racing with such thoughts.  but i did it anyway.

the doctor appeared, as if out of nowhere.  she assumed the position.  i felt two more intense, rolling, heavy, downward surges and then...release.  a rush.  "open your eyes, look.  grab her.  bring her up to you.  she is here!"

elinor grace.  there she was.  i grabbed her slippery little body.  she was here.  we did it.  i looked at her.  oh, she was all things amazing.  our little peanut.  petite but strong.  she came out ready to take on the world.  a bold little beauty.  her eyes were wide and bright.  and loud!  the air hit her lungs and she let out a glorious wail.  it pierced my ears.  and i loved the sound.  though she be but little, she is fierce. 

i soaked up those moments.  i enjoyed some precious time with her, now feeling her on my skin and in my arms, drinking in this new life. once some precious time had passed and her cord had stopped pulsing, they released her.

for so long, it was just me and the little peanut.  but now, she was here.  outside.  ours.  one of the sweetest experiences was to watch as ben was finally able to discover his daughter.  he carefully observed as they weighed and bundled her up. and then, he stole a few moments with our little love before returning to my side with our warm, sweet, beloved, swaddled bundle of baby.  our daughter.  our gift.  and now, our family of three.  and our hearts burst.  so in love.  so peaceful.  so vivid.  so joyous.  so full.

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E Birth2

november 4, 2012

8:34 pm

5 pounds 14.7 ounces

18.5 inches

"every good and perfect gift comes down from above"

our elinor grace.  a shining light.  a gift from above.

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