Friday, July 18, 2014

meeting Raina Grace: our birth story

Pregnancy is such a crazy experience; it feels so very long and short all at the same time. When you think about it, pregnancy is actually long. A typical-'nine month' pregnancy spans three seasons and countless changes in your body. When I see Raina and think about the fact that her whole body was inside my body, I actually have a hard time wrapping my mind around how much change actually does happen in our bodies during pregnancy.

I'm so thankful that my pregnancy was relatively easy and symptom free. Yet I was so so so very relieved to be done with pregnancy and have my baby outside of my body and in my arms. That was my mantra during labor: I just wanted to be done.

Because Riggs had been born twelve days late, I assumed the same thing would happen with my second pregnancy. My due date was in June, but I just knew from the beginning that baby would be born in July. So when my due date came and went this time, there was no storm of emotions to face. I wasn't depressed and had no feelings of 'will baby every come', like I did last time. To be honest I didn't even feel like it could possibly be my due date already. I felt great and was really enjoying my last couple of days alone with Riggs.

But family and friends were starting to get antsy. I was getting people's guesses for when she'd be born, and both my mom and Steve told me that it would be 'really nice' if she could be born before the Fourth of July. Steve was especially hoping she would be, since he already had the weekend off and probably wouldn't be able to take the next weekend off if she was born then.

In the privacy of my own thoughts, I imagined that Wednesday, July 2nd would be the perfect birth day. Besides Steve already having a four day weekend scheduled, it was my parents 37th wedding anniversary. And wouldn't it be nice to not go nearly two more weeks without meeting my little girl?

Monday we had 'moved' into Anchorage to stay at my parents since I was past my due date. The midwives wanted me close since my labor with Riggs had been so fast, and second labors tend to be even faster. Tuesday night I kept thinking of how nice it would be if she was born the next day. I thought, "Maybe I'll go into labor tonight and have her by morning." It was a nice daydream to go to sleep to, and I drifted off that night with a happy feeling in my heart.

I woke up around one and three am, needing to go to the bathroom. After everything being slowed down and feeling so full all the time, it felt good to be 'cleaned out', if you know what I mean. It also made me excited, since loose bowel movements can be a sign of impending labor. Around five am I woke up again feeling some cramps that I couldn't quite figure out. At first I thought they were gas pains, and then after about a half an hour of trying to go back to sleep, I realized they were coming rhythmically. Maybe they were contractions?

This is when I started to have a bit of a hard time. I was doubting myself and thinking I couldn't possibly be in labor since with Riggs I knew right away it was labor. With Riggs, my contractions were nearly a minute long and five minutes apart from the very beginning, and were down to about two minutes about after only an hour. This time, my cramps were about 50 seconds long and 4-6 minutes apart. They began to be strong enough that I was out of bed pacing our room by 6am. Yet still not closer together or strong enough that I felt like I needed to rush to the birth center.

Steve was up and getting ready to leave for work. We both thought it was a good idea for him to just go, since these contractions were so different from last time. I honestly thought they'd slow down and just go away, and Steve told me later that he did too. He left around 6:30 and I was upstairs pacing around the living room and kitchen. My dad was up and getting ready for work, and he woke up my mom. She was so excited - because she thought it was the real thing right away.

We decided to go walk around the neighborhood - it was a beautiful morning, bluebird skies and already warm even so early. My little sister was home, so we were able to let Riggs sleep while we did laps around the block. While we were walking my contractions got a little closer together, around four minutes apart consistently. We decided to head back to the house to take Riggs to my older sisters for the day so that we could head to the birth center to check in with the midwives.

cuddling Riggs right after he woke up in between contractions
By this point it was horribly uncomfortable to talk or walk during contractions, but I could if I absolutely had to. And what threw me off the most was that in between contractions I completely forgot I was even having them and felt totally normal. I still didn't think it was active labor, and had this fear that the contractions would stop and it would be another week and a half before she was born. This fear was in the back of my mind nearly the entire morning, until about two hours before she was born.

We arrived at the birth center at 9:25am, and it was Onica who greeted us. She checked me and found that I was still about 3-4 cm (which I had been at my appointment on Monday) but I was now 90% effaced and her head was a bit lower, about -1 station. The midwives usually don't 'admit' laboring moms to the birth center until they're about 5 cm, but because of my fast labor with Riggs Onica wanted me to stay so she could monitor me. We brought our bags into the room ('the hummingbird' room if you want to check it out on Facebook) and then went out to walk through the neighborhood for another hour before coming back to check in (so that Onica could listen to baby).

new birth center, still having some work done
ours was the 5th birth there!

I wouldn't have wanted to labor anywhere else in the world I don't think. It was just a perfect morning, and the little neighborhood in the UMed district of Anchorage was so quaint and quiet. We walked through a shady park until I was attacked by mosquitoes mid-contraction, after that we stuck to the road and the bike paths that were out in the open. After one loop we went back so Onica could listen to baby, who was doing great, then after grabbing my little jar of grapes, we headed back out to keep walking.

My contractions still hadn't gotten any closer together, but they were definitely getting much more intense, and I decided I wanted to go back to the birth center to be checked. I was actually a little disappointed when Onica said I was 'only' 5cm when she checked me at 11:20am. She said I was 100% effaced and that the head was lower, but I thought I should have been more dilated. I got right back up and told them I wanted to keep walking, so out we went. Onica thought I should call Steve and have him leave work, since it would take about half an hour for him to get from his work to the birth center.

When I called Steve I could tell he was excited, but I broke down into tears. I still couldn't quite believe that it was real labor, I was so worried that this was all for nothing. He was so patient and reassuring, and told me he'd be on his way and see me soon. We made it about half way down the street before my contractions really started to get intense. Walking suddenly wasn't very appealing anymore, and I was mortified to be out in public during my contractions, since I was now bent over, moaning loudly during each one. They still were about 4-5 minutes apart which was really frustrating me.

After we shuffled back to the birth center I got right into the shower. It felt so nice to have the warm water spraying on my back, and I alternated between standing, supporting myself with the handicap bar and the wall during contractions, and kneeling, hugging the birth ball during contractions. From this point on my contractions felt nearly unbearable. Even though they were still about four minutes apart, I was so tired between them that I just stood/knelt there, saying nothing, just in that labor zone. That's when I knew I really was in labor, and that I'd be having a baby sometime soon.

Steve got there around noon and I was so happy to see him. I was crying after some of the contractions at this point, and when I could feel one coming on I'd say, "Oh no..." over and over until they really got strong, at which point I had started saying "It hurts, it hurts" or "I don't want to do this". It seems so funny now to think back on it, and Steve was having to hide his little grin even then, but when it was happening it was the furthest thing from funny  e v e r. I don't know if they were stronger this time around or what but I really felt like I was going to die at the peak of each contraction. I remember while I was still in the shower I told Onica that I just wanted them to stop so I could 'rest' and 'take a nap' - haha.

After about forty minutes in the shower I was getting kind of cold and sick of being wet (the water was still warm but I was just chilled since I wasn't totally under the spray). I got out and put my nightgown and robe on asked if I could lay on the bed. I was so tired. I laid down on my left side on the bed and it felt so good, until the next contraction started. Then I realized laying down wasn't the most comfortable position. For the next couple of contractions I kneeled next to the side of the bed, resting my arms on the edge of the bed for support during contractions.

our faces for most of labor: me glaring, Steve laughing.
I asked Onica what position she suggested for making things move along quickly and she told me that sitting backwards on the toilet would really help, but contractions would be even more intense. I didn't care at that point, since they were already very strong. I just wanted her out as soon as possible and for labor to be over. So off to the toilet we went. She was right - they were very very very intense in that position, but it helped a bit to have Steve sit behind and press on my lower back during the contractions. After about three contractions (which were still about four minutes apart) I started having a lot of bloody, mucousy show and I told everyone (Onica, Steve and my mom) that it was the last contraction I could handle in that position.

I went back to the bed after the contraction was over and Onica examined me. She said my bag of waters was bulging out and was very tough and that was probably slowing down labor a bit. So I asked her to break it and she thought that would be fine. After two tries she broke it and I hopped up quick to get back into the kneeling position next to the bed to prepare for the next contraction, which I knew would be extremely intense since there wasn't the buffer my bag of waters had provided anymore. It was strong, and I could feel her head moving down. I waited in a daze during the next four minutes while Onica and Amanda (the birth assistant) were rushing around to get things ready.

I started pushing involuntarily when the next contraction started, and then pushed in earnest when I realized she was so close to being out. I yelled from the depths of my lungs as I pushed, and her head was out at 1:43pm. Onica had only had a chance to get one glove on. Then my contraction was over, and since they were spaced so far apart and Raina was slightly blue and wasn't crying, Onica told me firmly that I would have to push her body out without a contraction. Which felt impossible, and I told her so. But then she told me I "would be pushing her body out, now" and so I did. That was probably the worst part, because it took so very much more effort without a contraction to help. But her body was born at 1:44pm and she started crying and relief filled the room.

I think I felt it the strongest, because finally, I was done. It really had been labor and I really was holding my beautiful baby girl. And the first thing I did was to check and make sure she was actually a girl. And then I declared how 'tiny' she was, which seems funny since she was 8lbs 1oz, but to me she seemed so small compared to Riggs, who was over a pound heavier and two inches longer.

Onica and Amanda helped me onto the bed, and that's when things started to get a little crazy. I was holding Raina and started to feel warm liquid gushing out of me, and I realized it was blood. But I honestly couldn't have cared less, I was so happy to have my baby and be done with labor. Steve was sitting behind me on the bed with his arm around me and my mom was standing right at the foot of the bed next to me, and they both started to seem really worried. I still didn't worry at all, I was on such a high from the birth.

Onica and Amanda were rushing around and Onica yelled for someone to get Trina (another midwife) who rushed in and started grabbing medical supplies to get an IV started in my arm. Amanda gave me two huge shots of pitocin in my leg, which I absolutely hated. I birthed the placenta and was still bleeding heavily, so they gave me another shot of something else (I don't remember what it was called). Onica was really kneading my uterus to try and get it to clamp down while Amanda was giving me the shots. The bleeding was slowing down but Trina had an IV in my arm with a full bag of pitocin just to be safe.

I don't really have a concept of how long this flurry of strained activity lasted, it felt very long and very short all at the same time. Eventually each midwife slowed down enough to take a deep breath, and Trina went back to what she had been doing before. I handed Raina to Steve and Onica helped me scoot up the bed to get more comfortable leaning against the luxurious padded headboard. My feet were covered in now sticky drying blood, and it was streaked up and down my legs. I just wanted to shower, but I had to wait for the whole bag of Pitocin to be done, and Onica wanted me to drink some of my coconut water and to eat something, which was the last thing I felt like doing.

Steve handed Raina to me, and as I brought her warm little body up to my chest I felt so completely content with life at that moment. She latched right on, just like Riggs had and nursed for about thirty minutes on and off. My mom brought me some peach greek yogurt and I forced myself to eat most of it. I was feeling amazing but everyone was watching me so close to make sure I was ok. I missed Riggs a lot (during labor too, I think I cried about missing him a few contractions before she was born) and texted my sister to get ready to bring him over after I'd had my shower. I didn't want him seeing me covered in blood.

I handed baby over to Onica, who had changed into some clean, blood-free clothes, and watched her perform the newborn exam. She was 8lbs 1oz, 19.5 inches long, and her head was 35cm. Healthy just like she was supposed to be. We declined the eye drops and so her beautiful dark blue eyes were clear and she was able to see us a little easier without her vision being blurry. Her eyes were a little swollen from birth but they were still oh so beautiful.

Finally I was allowed to shower, and it felt amazing. I secured my hair up in a high pony and just washed my body, using the handheld shower head to focus on the more bloody areas. Getting out and getting dressed energized me and I started feeling like I wanted to leave and head home. I slowly began packing up my stuff, and soon my sister texted me that she was there, and I was so excited to finally (it had felt like forever!) hold my Riggy again.

He came in and looked around and the first thing he said (after yelling "mommy" with a big smile) was "Baby sister came out?". I was so happy that he understood so quickly and that all of our talking before her birth had made the transition a little easier for him. Steve held Raina and I squeezed him until he began to squirm. He quickly lost interest in his sister after he saw the birth ball and that was okay.

For the next half hour Raina was passed around and marveled over by Steve, Kelsey and my mom. I feel so blessed to have had my mom there for support during and after the birth, for a second time. She was so amazing and helpful, even the staff at the birth center said she should be a doula. Thank you mama!

Riggs read with grandma while I dressed Raina and we finished packing up and getting ready to go. We had to sign some papers and I had to pee once before we left - which was so much better with the bidet they had in the bathroom.

Amanda, the birth assistant, came in to do one last vitals check on me and Raina, and then we loaded her into her carseat and left the birth center around 5:15, about 3 and a half hours after she was born. I felt like I was on such a high from the moment she was in my arms for the rest of the day, it was just incredible. Despite losing so much blood I never felt faint or drained. I just felt happy, and relieved, and content, and blessed. Just like Riggs' birth yet so different, it was a beautiful experience and I am so thankful to have shared it with the staff at Geneva Woods.

Onica, me and Amanda
We stopped at my parents house to grab our stuff (since we had been staying there) before heading out to the Valley and home sweet home. I was glad my dad and little sister got to see her. I told my parents that she's the best anniversary present they'll ever get from me, haha. Steve nearly fell asleep snuggling his baby girl while I chatted with my family and then we went over to my older sisters to pick up our Riggy. 

Finally we were home, and it was so nice to be able to relax and begin to recuperate in the comfort of our own home. Riggs was much more curious about his new baby sister, and even shared his lovey with her. It was truly a beautiful day, and I feel so blessed to have two healthy babies who were able to enter this world so peacefully.


  1. What an amazing day! I started getting teary eyed just reading this! I am so happy for you guys, and she is a little beauty...just like her mama!

  2. Honey you made me cry so much! So beautifully written and it feels like I had been there with you! Isn´t a second birth truly amazing! You made me remember Lina´s birth... I love your story... you have such a big heart and the love for your babies is in every single word! Hug you my friend... and kiss your kids from me!

  3. I've been waiting for this! What a beautiful, lovely story. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Those pictures of you with Raina right after her birth are AMAZING. There is so much joy in your face. Just beautiful!

  5. Beautiful story! Thanks so much for sharing this. She is beautiful!

  6. I love reading whatever you write, and especially love reading your birth story. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Congratulations, mama! What a beautiful story - thanks for sharing it! :-)

  8. Oh my word, thanks so much for sharing! I ate up every word of it! It made me even more excited for my turn in a few weeks! We'll see if that positive attitude stays once I am actually in labor- with Gabriel I was screaming, "I QUIT! I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS! I CAN'T DO THIS! I'M DONE!" haha Also, the thought of have someone break your water just blows my mind! My experience was straight out of the movies how they say it doesn't happen; no signs of labor, no contractions or anything, just stood up and my water burst out of me! My mom was the same way with us kids so I'm assuming that will be how it goes with this one too. So happy for you!!!!

  9. Thank you for sharing this with us! Also, thank you for the baby fever. ;)

    You have such beautiful pictures of her birthday. The photos of you breast feeding Raina are stunning AND I think it is extra cool to have the loving look on your husband's face the moments after Raina was born documented. Just precious.

    Congratulations again, mama.

  10. Thanks Kelsey, I'm so glad she's here with us now!

  11. Rebekka thank you for your sweet words. I can't believe your two and my Riggs are so big now, they all seem so big since I've had Raina! It was truly an amazing experience and yet I'm so glad it was fast and I am now holding my sweet baby in my arms! xoxo