Savanah's Birth Story - Part One

I had just hit 38 weeks, and I swore I would make it to at least 40. I was praying. So many people told me he would come early, but I was in blissful denial. I was thoroughly enjoying my pregnancy. I wasn't ready for my little boy to be out of my belly, but he had different plans. I had just met with my doula, Jennifer West, on Monday for our final appointment, and we went over our game plan. And then on Tuesday morning I met with midwife, Tracey Moore, to check on baby and make sure all else was well. While we were there we picked up the birth pool and a liner. We came home, ate lunch, took a quick nap together. When I got up, I went to teach a yoga class. After the class, I took a moment for myself. I went to Spencer's and bought a cupcake, which I ate on a bench while I watched the sunset on a pink sky. I was totally unaware my little one was preparing to make his way topside. 

I had noticed some light cramping throughout the day, but by the time I got home, I noticed it becoming more regular. I felt hungry for a steak, so we went out and picked up O’Charleys. My whole pregnancy I thought, am I going to know when I'm feeling contractions, when I go into labor? Because this feeling is pretty new, and I'm sort of thinking it could be the start. But surely not, right?? I messaged my birth-team around 10 pm, letting them know of the situation. They told me they thought it could be the real deal, and that I should rest. But their confirmation of my fears made me anxious. I'm feeling so unprepared. There is so much that still needed to be done. As I begin to grow more uncomfortable, I decide to take a bath to see if it might stop, still hoping that this was false labor. Spens sat with me, rubbing my leg and trying to calm me. Our cat Ziggy rested his head on the side of the tub, watching me, sensing something was changing. 

We eventually went back to the couch where we stayed for a couple hours before deciding to go to bed. I tried to sleep, but my discomfort and anxiety kept me from relaxing. Hours passed. I was up and down every twenty minutes, but Spenser had fallen asleep. The signs of labor continued to show, and my nerves continued to grow. I took a walk down the street in the dark, talking to baby, trying to find acceptance for whatever was to come. When morning came, I asked Jennifer if she would come check on me. This didn't seem to be stopping. Spenser's mom happened to stop by on her way out of town and decided to stay. We chatted as I sat on my birthball, and I noticed the contractions becoming stronger. Tracey came next, with her new assistant. And time sort of started to fade. I don't remember looking at the clock for a while. I had told my mom I thought I was going into labor early in the morning, and she decided she wanted to come too. She arrived with snacks and well intentions, but I was starting to feel very crowded with 6 people in the house watching me labor, practically naked. I was in and out of the pool, going to the bathroom, walking to the bedroom. I felt stalled, nervous that things weren't going at all how I wanted.

I was becoming very tired around the 15 hour mark, going on no sleep. I actually started falling asleep during the 3-5 minutes between contractions. I tried to lie in bed for a while, but the contractions were so hard in my back, I had to get up and move. We tried a tens unit, sending small electrical pulses into my lower back to help with the pain. I thought it helped at first, but after a bit I found it more irritating than anything. Around that time I heard someone new come in the house, my father and his wife, Stephanie, both excited and ready to support me in this beautiful time.

But I snapped...

That was the cherry on top of my building anxiety, and I just couldn't handle all these people around me. I felt like an animal in a zoo, and I knew it was keeping me from progressing. I told Jennifer, “I know they are trying to be supportive, but I can't handle it, I need all of them gone now.” I love my family and I was so grateful they wanted to support me, but I needed to focus and I just couldn't do it. But I also didn't have it in me to tell them. Jennifer saved me and offered, “Do you want me to ask them to leave?” I told her yes, and that I didn't want to come back out of the room until they were gone. A few minutes later, I got the affirmative, and came back out to the pool. Finally, I could breathe again, just me and my team. Focus time.

Looking back it was probably almost 3:00, hour 18. I labored for another 3 hours feeling like I was doing more than before. Boy, it was really starting to hurt. I became anxious, am I progressing? Or is this just getting harder because I'm so exhausted? The self doubt really started to kick in. I wanted to avoid cervical checks, but at this point, I needed to know. Where am I, where do I still have to go? When she checked me, she found I was only at about 2cm dilated, and that because my water wouldn't break, baby wasn't able to move down like he needed to. We talked about breaking my water, what it meant as an intervention, what it could mean for the hours to come, and how it might be good considering my exhaustion. We sat for a couple minutes and considered. I couldn't imagine going another 5 hours and making no progress. But I also felt too vulnerable to make the decision by myself. I looked to Spens for reassurance. He encouraged me, told me he knew I could do it and that he thought we should go for it.

It was about 6:30 when my midwife broke my water, commenting on how strong my bag was. And she help stretch my cervix from a 2 to a 5. The pain was getting intense, but I knew we were moving in the right direction. All day she had been monitoring baby's heart, but at this point it started to happen more frequently. He was fluctuating some, but she assured me all was normal for where we were in the birth. My self doubt was fully planted at this point. I was in so much pain, I threw up. I looked around nervously, feeling somewhat ashamed that I was seen in this condition. But I received nothing but loving support in return. Still, between contractions I was crying.

I can't do this.
I need a break.
I know I can't quit, but I really want to.
I'm just so ready for this to be over, but I'm not sure I can finish.

Spens stayed faithfully by my side, holding my hand, rubbing my back, encouraging me nonstop. “You can do this, mama. We're so close to meeting our baby boy.” “But are we?” Tears streamed down my face. My doula put her hand on my shoulder and looked at me with genuine honesty, “You are the only one here that thinks you can't do this. I know you are feeling that way, but I think you are doing amazing. You can do this.” I was so grateful for their encouragement, but the pain had me somewhat lingering in my doubt. 

Then suddenly, I felt it. Around 8:30 the next contraction came, but my body tensed differently. My moan was silenced as my jaw shut, grunting for my first push. I looked up at Jennifer, and she gave me a knowing smile. Tracey did another check, told me I was ready to push baby out, and began to coach me. I pushed for a couple rounds, and she listened to baby's heartbeat. I listened too and could tell it started to sound way too slow. I hoped that perhaps it was my heart that we were hearing.

Real fear set in at this point. 

She continued to listen. My eyes begged for an answer. She looked up at me and calmly said something like, “Everything is going to be okay, but at this time we need to go ahead and change plans. We need to head to the hospital right now.” I wanted to cry, but I didn't have time. I just nodded my head. “We need to get you out, dried off, and out the door as soon as we can.” Everyone was moving quickly around me, and I was just caught in a sort of stupor. Not only was my dream birth coming to an end, but my baby's life was in question. My body moved, but my brain was frozen. 

My robe was on and I was in the truck in no time. We were all on the way, including our family which had been camping on my lawn since I kicked them out earlier. I was terrified of birthing baby alone in the truck, but Spens told me to look at the moon. It was a huge, low hanging crescent in the sky, shining a beautiful golden. It was a perfect distraction. 

Next thing I knew we were at the hospital, rushing in the door just before 9:00 p.m. Tracey had me sit in a wheelchair and took me straight up to the delivery room. I felt the eyes of every person we passed on me. I was stuck between fear and pain, unable to calm my mind. Before I knew it I was on my back, with straps on my stomach and an IV pumping fluids in my arm. My lamaze education with Mary Duke had me informed of and concerned about cascading interventions so I nervously asked, “Am I going to have a C-section?” A nurse replied, “No, we don't think so, as long as this moves along well, you should be able to push your baby out. Has she had any pain medication?” Tracey told them no, and I heard the nurse mutter something to another nurse to the side. “Are you going to give me pain medicine? Please don't don't give me pain medicine!” I begged desperately. “We won't. We won’t, just calm down and breathe. No, don't push, just breathe through it, you have to wait for the doctor.” My mind screamed, “HOW DO I NOT PUSH?” I focused so hard, but it seemed futile. 

The doctor came in about 10 minutes later. Tracey asked if I wanted her or Jennifer in the room. Why did I have to pick? There were like 5 nurses in the room, but no room for my support team. Why were there so many nurses just standing there? I chose Jennifer, because we had more specifically talked through a transfer plan with her, and they switched. The doctor checked me, and baby's heart was doing fine, giving me some relief. She started to guide my pushing, and baby's heart dropped again. They were worried his cord was wrapped around his neck. I heard her say something about vacuum assistance, and I was so scared they would hurt my baby. “Please don't hurt him.” I cried. “We won't, we just have to get him out right now.” It hurt so badly when she attached it to his head, like I was being stabbed and ripped at the same time. But I knew it was business time when I saw the top of baby's head emerging in my reflection from the light above me.

The end is coming, the end is coming. PUSH.
I grunted hard through my push, and the nurses scolded me. “You are using too much energy when you do that. Hold your breath and push.” They were very forceful with their instruction, and I didn't feel like I had a choice. My baby had to come right now. No turning back, I had to get this done. Breathe. Hold. Push. Breathe. Hold. Push. Breathe. Hold. Push.

After a couple rounds, I felt dizzy. “I think I'm going to pass out.” They strapped oxygen on my face. It helped me regain focus and I began pushing again. The vacuum popped off his head, and now it was all up to me. Two more rounds of pushes. Breathe. Curl. Hold and Push.

I gave everything my body had and I saw his head fully emerge, little eyes, perfect nose, and precious pouty lips. Another push and shoulders came, followed by legs and feet. Emerson Leo Gerlach was born at 9:44 P.M. Wednesday, September 12th. 6 lbs and 10 oz, 19 ¾ inches long. My whole body relaxed in a sigh, relief for the first time in 24 hours. 

I did it. I had done it. I was bursting with absolute pride. 

And the cord wasn't wrapped around his neck, more relief. But the doctor interrupted my bliss, "Dad you need to cut the cord.” He looked back at her sort of stunned, “Well actually we wanted to wait, let the cord blood drain as much as possible.” “No, you need to cut it now, either you do it or I will.” He reluctantly grabbed the scissors and looked at me. He knew how important it was to me. I nodded my head sadly, “Go ahead, Daddy.” And it was done. They took my baby to the corner of the room. They gave him oxygen and did a check on him. Spens went to stand with him while I delivered my placenta, feeling alone and defeated. I sat there thinking about what I wanted most in my birth, immediate skin to skin. And my heart broke, as I could barely see his feet from across the room.

The doctor told me I had a very small tear, and immediately stitched me. After she finished, I started to cry, “Please give me my baby.” They told me I had to wait a little longer. I asked a couple more times before they finally laid him on my chest.

And suddenly everything was okay. I felt no pain or discomfort or sadness, just pure love and joy and pride. I looked at his sweet eyes, and I felt such peace. 

We did it together, him and me. I held him close, and we spent that night together in absolute bliss.

Looking back I'm so grateful for that first night. 

Little did I know, in the morning, I would receive news that would change my life forever.