I had agreed to mentor a student doula for a client who had won free doula services in a raffle. It was close to my due date, so I was clear that I might not be able to make the birth. We had other doulas lined up for back-up, just in case. Over the weekend, the other doula and I had spent the evening at the client's house while she labored. Labor was spotty, though, and we ended up going home. An induction was scheduled for Monday morning.
I woke early on August 15, 2005, to meet the couple at the hospital that morning. I went to the bathroom, and promptly upon standing up, my water broke. I sat back down really fast and didn't even muss my pants. "Well," I said, "that figures." I had expected it not only because my client was being induced, but also because this was the one day in the two weeks surrounding my EDD that Jan was the midwife on call. She had delivered Eden and we had seen her the most, so I was bound and determined to have Jan for our birth.
After brushing my teeth, I called the clients and the other doula to let them know what had happened. The couple hadn't met any of the back-up doulas and decided to decline doula care. I was disappointed, but that was their call. I had to turn my attention to my own birth.
I woke up Josh so that he could call out of work, then I called Jan. We had been staying at my mom's house for about a week; our car had broken down, and I was taking mom to work and keeping her car while I was on call for my clients. She had left me her phone that day, just in case. She'd had a feeling. So I called Jan, and knowing the rules about time-constraints after the water broke (and the fact that I was GBS positive), when they asked what time my water broke, 'just after 8' became 'almost 9'. I'll be honest: again, I wasn't in labor. I knew I would be, and I expected it to start about 12 hours after my water broke. With GBS present in the mother, however, they want to give antibiotics (abx) every four hours and have the baby born within 12 hours, so I fudged my time a bit.
We made plans to come in for the test strip again, this time faster since they were open on a weekday and I was GBS+. I arrived pretty quickly - we had Eden with us, since I wasn't in labor and I'd decided not to call mom out of work if we didn't need to. Jan must have done three or four ph strips, and all came back negative. She was flummoxed, as she said, "There's just too much of this to be anything but amniotic fluid!" I was equally sure it was, and finally on the forth or fifth strip, it turned blue. I remember Jan saying, "That's so weird, but good to know. I've had false positives before, but never a false negative."
I had already discussed my extremely strong preference of not having a heplock or IV this time. I was much more educated going in, and I knew all the risks, my rights, and the fact that you can refuse any treatment. Jan understood, though, and wrote me a prescription for the abx with the understanding that she would administer it to me via butterfly needles. I didn't even really want the abx, but it was a concession I made so we could still have a waterbirth. Josh and I went to get the antibiotics, returned for the first dose, and headed back to mom's to get ready.
During all this running around, I gave Josh his Reiki I 'class'. I had planned to do his class that upcoming week, but I had to rush it a bit because I really wanted to use Reiki during labor. I had gotten my Reiki Master attunement while I was pregnant, and K'Sitew told me that he felt both I and the baby were attuned to level 3. So I was a Reiki master, my unborn child was a Reiki Master, and my doula Adrianne was a Reiki I. (I felt it was important to have a doula, and Adrianne agreed to do my birth for free for us. Not only that, another doula in our local group, Elizabeth, wanted some experience and asked to come along as Adrianne's student doula. So I got two :D). Anyway, I gave Josh the teachings portion of Reiki I as we drove around through out the day, and when we got home, I gave him his Reiki I attunement.
I had my smudge and smudged both us and the room. I wasn't technically in labor yet, still having no contractions, but as I stood behind Josh and did the Microcosmic Orbit to gather energy for the attunement, I definitely felt and amazing and powerful shift in the energy. Undoubtedly, this is the single most powerful attunement I've had the honor of passing. I barely set the intent to cycle and build my energy when WHOOSH!, I was flooded with it. This was my first attunement since we practiced attuning each other in my Reiki III class, and I'm pretty sure I forgot to hold my breath. I can't really remember, but I seem to recall feeling much heat and having to breathe and get air down into my belly for me and the baby. I was worried that it wouldn't work if I didn't do it just so, but the energy was so powerful that the breathwork was really unnecessary. The attunement passed easily and powerfully, and Josh even saw the Medicine Hoop (and, he told me much later, a couple of symbols). And I felt...how can I say it in words? A woman knows she's powerful when she's carrying life, and more so when birth is imminent. But the way I felt after passing that attunement...it was more than just a personal power, because there was an almost visible strengthening in my connection to Josh and our baby. It was wild.
We both drank a lot of water, and I led Josh through a self-healing. He mostly felt a deep warmth, although he didn't experience Reiki quite as fully as I was. Even when he was doing his self-healing, just sitting near me, I could feel it myself. He gave me reiki, not a full body healing I don't think (we were in a bit of a rush), but he held my shoulders and did some time on my belly. We packed our bags into the car (just in case things started, since my first birth had went so fast) and headed out again, as we had to pick up my mom from work and then get back to New Dawn for another round of antibiotics before they closed. We made plans to meet our doulas at Park Ridge at 9 and Jan would join us by 9:30 for the next dose of antibiotics. She reminded me that we really needed to see some signs of labor by then, and I just smiled and said, "It will. It'll be the same as last time. This is apparently just how I give birth." There was more concern since I was GBS positive this time, as after too long she would have to start pitocin or transfer my care to their OB they work with. I agreed to do castor oil again, but I wasn't at all concerned.
We went back to mom's house, where everybody was kind of just hanging out waiting for things to happen. I sat with Eden and re-explained that we were going to go to the hospital and the baby would come out of my tummy, and she'd have to stay with Boogah (my mom) for a couple days until we came home. Mom and Lyz would bring her to the hospital in the morning to meet the new baby.
It was almost time to head to the hospital when labor started. I had just a few contractions, but nothing regular or particularly strong. Then, all of the sudden, something very big hit me. As Josh puts it, I grabbed the edge of the couch and just dropped. I grabbed it much like I had the edge of the tub when Eden was crowning; I just did something of a kneeling squat and tried to breathe. Eden came up, gave me a hug, and rubbed my back until it was over. It was her instinctive response, and it was just what I needed. I think it made me cry a little. When I got back up, they were all kind of like, "So let's head to the hospital, right?" It was probably a quarter to nine or so, we'd been just fixing to leave anyway, but I laughed and was like, "Yeah, that was a doozy all the sudden." Mom drove us this time, since our car was broken anyway, and Eden didn't pitch a fit when we got out at the hospital though it was late and definitely past bedtime. We saw our doulas heading that way as we drove up, and we waved and smiled and headed for the office. We had to check in through the emergency room since it was late, and I'd had one contraction on the ride. They seemed to be coming roughly, but not exactly, 15 minutes apart since the sudden big one at the house.
We got to our room a little after 9:30, since we'd been running just a little late. I remember that I had such dry mouth, my main concern was getting in there and brushing my teeth. As I got in, though, that castor oil kicked in and I had to use the bathroom. I remembered that happening upon my arrival the first time, so I was pretty secure that labor would be well on its way. They put me on the EFM (electronic fetal monitoring) again, since all the hospitals around here seem to have a 20 minute EFM rule they're very stubborn with. It's not a battle worth fighting for me, although it might have been if my labor was more regular. Knowing my first birth had been three and a half hours, we expected a shorter labor the second time around. Well, everyone else did. Me - since the minute I found out I was pregnant this time, I was much more specific in my manifestation. I was telling the baby, "Five hours. Five hours is a good labor. Not too long, but not so 18-wheeler-plowing-you-over fast that I don't have time to ease into it." I kept smiling and saying, "Come on, five hours!" like I was rooting for big money on Wheel of Fortune.
So anyway, I didn't fight the EFM, but what I did fight was the nurse bringing one of those damned heplocks at me. I asked, "What are you doing?" to which she informed me that I was GBS+ and the instructions were to administer antibiotics immediately upon admission. Josh and I explained our arrangement with Jan, and the nurse tried insisting that I had to. These were the orders and she just followed them. I said, "Jan wouldn't give any such orders. She was supposed to meet us at 9:30 anyway; I'll just wait for her." The nurse started giving me quite a problem then, and said she had to call Dr. Grant (the OB New Dawn works with). She came back shortly saying that the Doctor said I had to have abx. Again, I insisted that was fine as long as I got them through butterfly needles, as I refuse a heplock and will not be laboring with anything sticking in my body. She tried to tell me they had no butterfly needles, to which I said, "No butterfly needles in the entire hospital? I guess we will be waiting for Jan then. I'd rather take the minute risk ( less than 0.5%) that my baby would get Group B Strep, which is unlikely given that I've already had two rounds of the abx and that's what they want anyway." At this point she mumbled some snide comment about being able to tell this was going to be a difficult birth.
I have two very distinct, but separate, memories of this moment. In the first, which I am 99% sure didn't actually happen, I leapt from the bed with fingers quite literally clawed and grabbed for the old bag's throat. In the other, which I am 99% sure is the accurate version, that sentiment was conveyed with a look and Adrianne moved from one side and Josh moved from the other to stand between us and block my view of the creature. Honestly, my two vivid memories are the feel of her neck-waddle and sounds of her muddled gasps, and the vision of Adrianne and Josh stepping to block my view with identical "Oh shit" looks on their faces; let us leave it as one of those 'Chose Your Own Adventure' tales and we'll all just believe the version that is most personally fulfilling.
Suffice it to say that Nurse Ratched (whom Josh insists I called 'Nurse Bitch' to everyone except her face) made herself very scarce after that. There were no more heplock wars, but Jan arrived within minutes and - sure enough - gave me the abx through a butterfly needle. Contractions were a little more regular, although I don't think they got more than 7 minutes apart by the time I got of the monitor (I could be remembering it wrong; it's fuzzy). I remember Adrianne saying she was confident labor was established, because I had "The Brow". Doulas recognize the brow - it's the moment when the contractions become just strong enough to furrow the mother's brow, the moment at which we're not all just sitting around smiling through them cause they ain't no thang.
Jan, however, was very concerned about "starting a regular contraction pattern". She reminded me that it was now over twelve hours and we needed to start thinking about pitocin. I basically said, "No way, we just got here. And besides, the contractions have started up. It'll go quick, just like last time." She said yeah, but they weren't all that regular and needed to be (what they were looking for was active labor, which is signified by the contractions coming consistently at 5 minutes apart and getting stronger and longer). Josh and I insisted that that was fine, but we'd just arrived and there was no way we were jumping straight to pitocin. We hadn't even opened the 'moving labor along' arsenal, excepting the castor oil which I had already felt kick in, and pitocin was a last resort only.
During our discussion, you could definitely tell I was having 'regular' contractions. As previously mentioned, I had The Brow. Also, Adrianne attempted to ease my back pain (not nearly as bad as with Eden) with a tennis ball massage, and it was exceptionally uncomfortable. No offense to her, but I just wanted Josh. That, my friends, is another positive sign. Not just that, but his massage with the added reiki was soooo good. It was the only thing I wanted. I could feel his reiki so well I could actually see it - it was visualized and felt exactly like a huge, cool, blue-green wave that would wash soothing relief over me. We have one picture where you can see he's giving me reiki, and I can still feel that every time I look at it. Besides Nurse Evil, my most vivid (and far more pleasing) memory of my second birth is that cool blue-green wave that Josh's reiki gave me.
So Jan agreed to our insistence of trying some natural things (or as Josh puts it, Adrianne was chanting "Nipple Stimulation!" in the corner, which is a slight exaggeration). I remember she kept saying, "We really need to see a strong contraction pattern". I suddenly had to go to the bathroom REAL urgently, the kind of castor-oil urgency that insisted Josh and all personnel leave earshot of the vicinity. Jan said, "Ok, I'll just go make some tea and when you're ready, we'll leave you guys for some alone time" (read: nipple stimulation). I was like, yeah, whatever, get out and far away out...and ran to the bathroom.
As Josh tells it, he left the room and grinned and told them, "You watch, it's going to be any minute now." Josh claims 'all the women in the know' told him that labor takes a while and we were only just beginning. Josh said, "Nuh-uh. She did this last time - chased everyone out thinking she had to use the bathroom and we had a baby in no time." He says Jan was still concerned about our 'lack of progress' and hoped he was right so we could avoid pitocin.
Meanwhile, back in the bathroom...
I did my business and stood up to wash my hands, only as soon as I put forth the effort to lift my (admittedly large, even for 9 months) body up, a whole conga-line of contractions gripped me. I literally fell right back down onto the toilet. All I could do was sit there and breathe and "whoa" until it finally left, which was several minutes later. I attempted to stand up again, and the same thing happened. I forget how many times I did that dance, but it took several tries before I could stand up. Even when I did, the contractions still gripped me, though I stood as soon as the last bout was over. I just clung to the sink and tried to hold myself up with my arms until it passed. I washed my hands, splashed cold water on my face, and slowly moved out to the room.
I was headed for the door, but I never made it. About half way there, the contractions started up again. I called for Josh. They came rushing in, and someone said, "We were starting to get worried about you." They grabbed my arms, because I was having trouble supporting myself. I told them what had happened in the bathroom, and I think it was Jan who was all, "Why didn't you pull the cord?" I wasn't going to pull a cord to get help getting off the toilet, I explained. It was a rash bit of pride from someone who was maybe not thinking so coherently. "Anyways," I said, "I did it myself. I want the tub, and I need to get in the shower until it gets full."
I was so hot. I know I was flushed, as I was just surging with heat. Adrianne took off my hospital robe and said she was going to go get the birthball for me to sit on in the shower. Josh helped me to the bathroom, and Jan went to get gloves on so she could give me a VE before I got in the water. I remember saying, "I better pee before I get in. Doesn't matter if I just went, I always have to when I hear the water." I heard Jan saying, "I don't know that we'll have time, but go ahead and start filling the tub."
As soon as I started to sit on the toilet, though, I felt it coming. I stood back up. "JAN!" I yelled. The baby was coming, just like that. I was too shocked to reach down and catch it myself, although I like to think I would have if Jan hadn't been close enough to make it. As it was, she'd just had enough time to put her gloves on. I heard her yell, "Doulas, towels!" and towels were passed down a line of people like buckets of water for the fire. Jan threw one down below me and knelt just in time to catch the baby as it came falling out (Josh swears up and down that she did a baseball slide, and I don't entirely disbelieve this).
Jan handed me my baby and another towel, and I just held her and was all wide-eyed saying, "It's a baby. It's a baby." I hadn't had any recognizable transition to me, just a couple real big contractions. I totally didn't realize the baby was being born until I felt it coming out. Jan took me by the shoulders, I believe, and started heading me towards the bed, and I looked up and saw Josh backing out of the doorway with a huge smile on his face. I panicked. "Did you miss it? I'm so sorry I sent you out! Did you miss it?" Everyone assured me that he was there for the whole thing. I went to the bed, and this time I remembered enough to peek between it's little legs and say, "It's another girl!"
They settled us up on the bed and now my trusty doulas had time to grab the camera and we started getting pictures. Jan called Josh to cut the cord again, and this time I was saying, "Please get his face! I need his face!" Afterwards they took the baby to the warmer for that routine, and I birthed the placenta even less quickly than I'd birthed the baby. They had me all squatting over this bucket on the bed, to catch it in, and I had to do several pushes to get it out. I thought it was funny that I pushed more with the placenta than I had with the baby.
Jan asked, "Oh no, did anyone catch the time?"
Elizabeth (student doula, not sister) said, "I did!" She was grinning and very pleased that she'd thought of it, and in truth we were all very grateful. She was born at 10:57 pm. I'd been having 'regular' contractions (started during EFM) for just over an hour. Jan said, "Oh, my tea!" She went to the hall and retrieved it, then came in laughing and said, "Look, it's perfectly steeped and still warm" and started drinking her tea. She joked about me having the baby standing in front of the toilet and said, "Well, you almost had a waterbirth."
We hadn't settled on a name at this point, but we'd narrowed it down to Eva or Ivy. We'd squabbled and hmm-hawed over it. I asked Josh, "Well, does she look like an Eva or Ivy?" Personally, I thought she looked more like an Eva, but I'd decided that since I'd picked Eden, I'd let Josh have the say and wouldn't open my mouth. He said, "Ivy." I thought, "Well, that figures" and it all came around full-circle. He was right, though, she's definitely an Ivy.
It was another day or two before we settled on a middle name. We'd narrowed it down to Grace or Rose, and I was hesitant about Rose because I thought two plant names would be too much. Staff was on us to pick one out for the birth certificate, and our preacher stopped by to visit. On his way out, Chad said something that is actually a pretty common phrase for him: "Enjoy the grace." So Grace it was.
(The nurse in the pic is the nice one - the other one stayed far away from me)
Happy Birthday, Ivy!