*** Yes, it has been a VERY long time since I have posted.***
The Beautiful Birth of Liliana Savannah aka Baby Hedgehog
(For those that do not know… Sindea likes to write, and can be wordy. Grab your favorite beverage, kick back, and stay awhile. And maybe get yourself a snack. Or two. Thanks for taking the time to ready our story.)
Liliana’s birth story, as told by her mom, Sindea.
I feel like labor began at about 19 weeks along, as that is when the Braxton Hicks contractions started, and they were not exactly light. But, yes, I know that is not when labor began. By the time I was at about 33 weeks along, I was having very regular and pretty strong contractions, and since I have had a baby born at 34 weeks, I was a bit nervous. But… We made it to 37 weeks, which is considered term for a baby, and was able to relax. At this point, I began having contractions around the clock, that were getting stronger and stronger. And I was getting more and more tired!
Finally, at 38 weeks along, I was feeling like I was going to have the baby soon, but my gut told me that she would come at 39 weeks. The contractions continued, the lack of sleep continued, but I (we) plugged along. At this point, I agreed to let the midwife ‘sweep my membranes’, which just means I had a very, very uncomfortable exam to try and stimulate active labor. Well, I definitely started into harder contractions and other lovely signs of labor. But, not active labor. (As I was in this, Hairy, our very sweet, giant love of a dog, was by my side. He placed his head on my belly, after lumbering his 120 pound self up onto the couch next to me…)
Finally, 6 days later, it appeared it was time! It was a Sunday just before 4:30pm. Contractions were getting much more intense, and coming every 5 to 7 minutes, and I was doing the cleansing breathing, rocking, swaying, the whole bit. After a few hours, I took a bath, and this seemed to help a wee bit, but they kept on coming. While it looked like the real deal, I was not at all convinced. The next day was the 21st birthday of that previously mentioned 34 week preemie. I was kind of hoping they would share a birthday, and it was looking possible.
Late that night, one of my midwives came over, and said I was close to 3 cm dilated, and the baby was lower, but not super low (she sure felt low to me!). By now, we had my birth tub set up in the living room, and filled with nice, warm water. I was working through the contractions even more, and not really wanting to talk during them (usually a sign that things are picking up!) The midwife decided she should stay for awhile and went to sleep in the extra bedroom, and Randy took a nap on the couch, while I labored the night away in the tub, contractions down to 3 to 5 minutes apart till about 5am. At that time, I was beyond exhausted and had not made more progress, and we finally agreed that I needed some real rest, so a bit of Benadryl (safe in labor) and lots of heat and pillows, and I was able to relax and nap and the contractions were still strong, but down to 8 to 10 minutes apart. This went on all day long.
The next morning, after another full day and night of these contractions, I saw the midwife, who did another round of sweeping my membranes, even more painful this time, and we agreed that I would drink a lovely castor oil smoothie later that day if things were not picking up (because I was getting so exhausted and the contractions were not stopping, so it was best to get them closer together.). I did this, and the contractions really picked up, and I just plugged along with this lovely prodromal (false, if you will) labor.
Now, it is Wednesday and we all agree that things truly need to pick up and we need a baby! I agree to have the midwife and team come that afternoon to break my water, since baby was low and I was continuing to contract. By the time the midwife arrives, I am getting into harder contractions, and am really working on my breathing, and rocking my hips and lunging, and decide to distract myself by making soup for my support team. Not the easiest task in labor! The midwife breaks my water, and all looked good, not concerns there. At this time, my wonderful doula, Debra, has now joined us, along with my best friend, Lorna. Randy is busy tidying up last minute details, and so Debra, Lorna, and I go for a walk. The midwife and her student leave to get something to eat.
On this walk, my contractions are getting closer and closer together, and a whole new level of painful.
(Before I go on, a bit about pain: I KNOW pain, and I know hard labors, as I had 2 back labors before. Carry on.)
I began feeling this really awful pain in my low belly, right in the very center. It was not like what I have felt before, in this labor or with my boys. But, I am feeling strong, and like I can do ANYTHING! I have got this! And yet, with each contraction, it gets more and more painful, and it does not feel like labor pain I have felt before. It felt off. But, I am determined. We move on to me lunging and taking stairs 2 at a time. The pain intensifies. I sway my hips, I lean on Randy (who did a great job!), I lean on Debra (so thankful for her!), Lorna holds my hand, and even offers me support in the bathroom (now THAT is true friendship!). I try my beloved birth tub, where, despite the pain, we get in some great laughs.
Note about laughter, it takes me far in life. As does music. And music was the reason for most of the laughter during this experience. At one point, the playlist that I had worked so hard to make for labor, well, it did not work out, and we ended up hearing Christmas songs, and not even good ones! But, the song that brought me the most giggles in between contractions, was Kanye West’s Love Lockdown. It was absurd! Then, when I feel nauseous, Randy grabs the disposable vomit bag, that someone says looks like a condom for a whale, or maybe elephant? And next thing you know, Randy is telling a very, ahem, visual joke about elephants, and in walks my lovely birth photographer, Sarah. And THAT was her introduction to my husband. Giggle. ( I also needed a clip for my hair, and so Randy brought one out. It was stupidly huge for bangs, in my laboring opinion, and after it was put in my hair, all I could think of was that darn big clip, then a contraction would rip through me, and I was trying to focus, and my head was torn! In the end, I popped it out, and that was a wee bit of relief, oddly enough.)
Anyway, despite music, tub, great support, candles, and my visual aid of a giant heart collage of photos of people I love, I am quite frankly miserable. But, still determined. But then… Then, not only is this odd and excruciating pain in my belly getting worse with every contraction, it begins feeling like back labor, except it was not just my low back, but my hips. It felt like someone had a vice grip on my hips and was trying to crush them. And that belly pain? It felt like someone was wringing and twisting the muscle and trying to tear it. Really, not something I could have planned for.
In my head, I am thinking that it is not right, not normal, and because with the exams telling me that I was still only 3cm or so, after days of labor, my water broken, and lots of movement, I am thinking I need to go to the hospital. I did NOT want to go. I am healthy. My baby is healthy. I have had 2 natural births before, one of which was at home. But, something was not right. Yet, I was terrified of going to the hospital, sure I would have a c-section and have to recover from surgery. I began having this conversation with Debra, that we may need to consider going. I am crying and scared, and just wanted to hold my baby girl. Debra is wonderful and beautiful and did a great job listening and guiding.
I decide to try awhile longer, and am lunging and taking the back steps 2 at a time, and almost hugging the side rail. Now, Tiberius, our 14 yr old dog, decides it is a good time to go up the steps as well. Mind you, 75% of the width of the steps are open, as I am all the way to one side. And during a contraction, he decides he needs to come up the stairs right where I am. Right there. So, he pushes his way between me and the railing. It was funny, but at the time, I was hurting and worrying too much to enjoy the humor of it.
We make it back inside, and I agree to try more positions in bed. At this point we have walked, lunched, tubbed, danced, rocked, swayed, side lying, exaggerated sims, TENS unit, birth ball, rebozo, lean forward, lean back, etc… I continue in this manner of horrid pain that I will probably never be able to accurately describe. (Side note: from very early in the pregnancy, I would have pain in the exact same spot, every single time I tried to lean forward, or if underwear or pants would rest in that spot.)
Randy and I have some beautiful (albeit painful for me) moments throughout labor, but lying on the bed with him telling me that he supported going to the hospital, that was something I cannot describe, and yet it was so beautiful and lovely. And to have Debra and Lorna there to offer their love and support, and I could see the kind face and eyes of Sarah, as she stood in the background, documenting it all for us.
Side note… Hairy is a love and a worrier. We did not realize that the entire time I was in the bed, working on labor and trying to get Liliana to get into a better position, he was there the entire time. (he is now convinced that she is HIS baby.)My midwife really wanted me to go to Northwest Hospital, which is a great place to have a baby. But, not only did the longer ride sound awful, but my gut said go to Providence in Everett. And they were willing to take me! So, we all packed up, and headed there.
It felt like an eternity and a half, to get there. In reality, it was maybe 10 minutes. 10 LONG minutes. I felt like Randy was worried and driving SUPER slow. As it turns out, according to Lorna, he was flying like a bat out of hell and no one could keep up! Haha! It actually felt lovely to know he was trying to get me there quickly, but I had no idea at the time.
We get there and a wheelchair is ready, but I can honestly say, that was also torture, as we hit some bumps. They were all wonderful at the hospital and got us right into a room. The midwife was warm and welcoming, and the nurses were kind. I did hate to wear the hospital gown, and normally would have argued and fought it, but at the point, I was not where I could do that. Oh well. And… while the nurse was so kind, she sucked (haha) at placing an IV. She tried twice, and it hurt so much, and so a second nurse had to place it. Now, for those who know me, they know I have mega veins. My veins are porn for nurses and phlebotomists. But, even this second nurse struggled to get my IV in. I knew it could take some time to get an epidural, so I opted for IV pain meds. (keeping in mind, this is my first time having meds and an epidural in labor, and I am darn stubborn, so you know it was rough…) During this time, I felt so loved and supported by Randy, Lorna, and Debra. I may not have been able to show it, but I felt it!
The homebirth midwives, Lorna, and Sarah all headed out for the night. I knew Lorna needed to sleep so she could go to work the next day, and Sarah needed rest, and the photos of everyone trying to sleep would have been less than exciting anyway.
The pain meds did take a slight edge off for me, and helped calm me a bit, but mostly I felt stoned and just wanted better relief. After enough fluids were pumped into me, the anesthesiologist arrived and I knew, from having seen and support many mamas over the years get an epidural, that they needed to be able to work to place it, despite the contractions. I was determined to be able to hold still for it, and I THINK I did a pretty good job. But it felt awful sitting in a position (leaning forward) that made every contraction so much worse. But, I started feeling a wee bit of relief about 45 minutes after the epidural was place. I was happy to have some relief, however, not only was it just a bit of relief, I also began itching like mad from the epidural (common side effect). So, I was given Benadryl. Which, combined with the pain meds, gave me a bit more relief, but still not very much. We finally had the anesthesiologist come back (a new one this time) and she said she needed to place a whole knew epidural, so we did. I had felt like the first one was placed super low to begin with, and she agreed that it was quite low.
Speaking of epidurals… At Providence, it is policy that only ice chips or a melted, gross, sugary, popsicle are allowed. What? No… I was also told, no Tums, and I had such horrid heartburn the entire pregnancy. Most hospitals these days are allowing juice, ice, popsicles, gummy bears, broth… So, they gave me an awful liquid antacid called Bicitra. AWFUL stuff. And it did no good. So, Debra and Randy snuck me my Tums. Ahhh… And then, thankfully, by morning, we got this new nurse, Peggy, who was amazing (the first was great too, btw.). And Peggy thought it was ridiculous that they had these extreme rules. So, she poured me a bit of cranberry juice over ice. I was in heaven.
Thankfully, this one worked much better, and we were all able to get a bit of sleep, thankfully. While I dozed off, Debra and the nurse had me in various positions that would allow room for Liliana to rotate into a better position and head on down. Unfortunately, whatever was causing my crazy, insane level of pain, made it so I had to push the button to get a bit of a boost of pain meds now and then, and a few times the doctor had to come back and ‘top off’ the epidural itself. It was such a surreal experience, having an epidural after attending a few hundred births of clients who had had one, to feel somewhat of what they felt. Feeling detached from my legs was the most odd part. I tried to will them to do things, to no avail.
Sometime around 5am, I think, my cervix was checked and I think we had made it to 7cm, which gave me huge relief. Later, sometime after 8am, we decided that it was a good idea for Randy to go home and gather a few things and feed our pets (3 fish, 3 cats, and 3 dogs), since we left the night before in a hurry. Debra stayed with me, and we enjoyed harassing each other. One of the best parts of having Debra as my doula, is our connection from the past 15 or so years, and that I could truly be myself, in all of my crazy glory, with her. She was loving and compassionate and kind, she was tough and bold, and she had a sense of humor. And I was able to be stubborn and give her dirty looks, and she met me. It was wonderful.
And apparently, I was her first client to ever say ‘dagnabit‘ in labor!
Speaking of swearing… Lorna said she knew it was bad when I started dropping the F word. I do not swear a lot, as I mostly quit in college. But, I was out of ways to express myself, and new varieties kicked in!
Around 9am, I had made it to 8cm and 100% effaced (thinned out cervix) and Liliana had moved down to a zero station… Finally, by late morning, we were all done attempting to nap, I had been in several positions, and baby girl was coming down and things were opening up. I remember texting Sarah a few times with updates and she was at the ready to return. Finally, I believe about noon, we were all happy to discover that I was at 10cm… I asked if we could wait a bit to push until Sarah arrived, and was told that was no problem. Sarah was called, and on her way!
It was so exciting, and again, so surreal. Having had 2 babies without an epidural, I had no idea how it would go. Plus, with both, I did not push long at all. I was able to feel my legs by now, but not control them. Sarah arrived and I immediately began pushing. I kept picturing in my mind, all of the tricks and visuals that I gave to my clients over the years. I was determined!
I felt so much pressure, and was surprised at how much pain that I felt. I wanted to barrel ahead and meet my little girl. In between pushing, I recall lots of goofy conversations and laughing, which I just LOVE. I also know I gave a thumbs up, but do not recall why.
Finally, I could feel her head, and knew we were pretty close to meeting. I was able to reach down and feel her head, all squishy, and full of hair. I was so excited! Randy was next to the midwife at the ready.
And… at 1:55pm, Liliana Savannah Horste Kirk made her glorious entrance into this world. Randy caught her, which was so wonderful and beautiful. But, I could not wait, and basically said ‘give me!’ and reached for her. She was perfect. Full lips, lots of red, curly hair, and not very small. She was just wonderful. I cried. Randy cried. I felt like all was right in the world.
I was excited when my boys were born, but I did not cry. I am not sure why. But, it felt good to let the happy tears flow, and tears of relief. It was a hard pregnancy, not really harder than with the boys (other than 2 months of pain in my chest, that was weird and awful.), but it felt so long and hard.
And… Duran Duran was playing when she was born, A Matter of Feeling. How wonderful is that?
Liliana was very white when born, but responsive, active, and curious. The second nurse who joined us was concerned. I finally, slowly, agreed to let her be taken to the warming table to be checked out. Yep, she was just pale. Her oxygen was at 98%, so I was able to have her right back!
She latched on to nurse immediately, and grabbed onto my IV tubing with vigor and did not let go.
Nurse Peggy said that it was the best birth she had attended in a long time. She loved that we laughed and were a good team all together. I agreed.
I was sad to not have a homebirth. But, life is unpredictable and I know we chose the right place to transfer. The midwives and nurses were amazing, the atmosphere was welcoming. We were both safe. And Randy still got to catch her, and cut the cord. They honored all of our wishes, including taking her placenta home and avoiding extra meds. I am glad that we went there.
Here are a few of my favorite images captured by the wonderful Sarah Sweetman…
And a link to the story through her own experience: