Reflections on Motherhood and Life as a Doula

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Enjoying Birth Guest Blogger: Jackie

I love this birth story.  Not just because Jackie is my dearest friend, but because it is so real.  She is so real and honest.  I remember talking to her shortly after the birth of her daughter (she had K approx. 10 days after I had Delaney), and when asking her what she thought about it, she said, "It was INTENSE and AWESOME!!!"  I felt the same way. 
Jackie is due with her second child, a son, in a few weeks.  She has a different midwife this time (and I'm her doula!) and I can't wait for her to go through this experience surrounded by family and friends again and a positive, trusting birth support team!  I love you, Jackie!  Thank you for letting me share your story.  Her story can also be found here.
So this journey began a few weeks before our sixth wedding anniversary. I was in the kitchen cooking while Thorsten watched laughing. I became irritated and asked him what was so damn funny.

“You’re pregnant.”

Yeah that helped my mood. Of course I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. Sure as hell didn’t want to be. But the curiosity stayed with me for the next few weeks. I was never on time with my cycle-endometriosis tends to do that. Besides, the doctors told us we couldn’t have kids. His remark kept nagging at me. I went to the drugstore and bought a test to prove him wrong. It was December 9, 2009, the day before our anniversary.

I couldn’t wait to go home and take the test, so that afternoon I went into the bathroom at the bus garage and peed on that little white stick. I stood there in that run-down, dump hole of a bathroom watching the purple move up the stick…leaving two solid purple lines in its wake. But where were the directions? What did these two lines mean? I was shaking as I ran to my truck and grabbed the directions. I was so shaken up I did not even realize I was reading the Spanish side. But I knew.

I was pregnant.

This could not be happening. I went to the bar with my friends from work with the test tucked into my coat. I ordered a tall LeBatt before I pulled the test out and threw it on the table.

“What the fuck does this mean?”

It meant I would have to go home and tell my husband. I drank my last beer for a while and left the bar with a heavy heart. I went home and put the test on the back of the toilet as I could not tell Thorsten to his face. I was scared and embarrassed. I sat on the couch and waited for him to come home.

When he came home he knew something was not ok. I told him to go look in the bathroom. When he walked down the hall I started to cry. I could not believe I had done this to us. I was so heartbroken. I loved this man so much and I had no idea how we were going to get through this. I wondered if a year from now (our seven year anniversary) if we would still be together.

We went back and forth over the next few days about what to do. We had lost our health insurance a few months prior. The economy was in the dumper and we were trying not to lose our home. We finally decided we could not go the rest of our marriage looking at each other every morning if we made “the appointment”. We would have a baby.

After two appointments at a local OB/GYN office I knew there would be no way we could afford this. I felt even more sickened than when I had first found out we were pregnant. I couldn’t understand how this country could have gotten things so turned around. How in the world did it make more sense to support and encourage low-life, immature, uneducated single mothers have lots of children in their teens? On the low end we were looking at $15,000. On the high end the sky was the limit. I thought again about making “the appointment”.

I cannot even remember how it was I even began searching the internet for other birth options. I found a group called The Home Birth Option of Cleveland; a group of mothers and midwives that met at a local library once a month. The next meeting was January 25th…my birthday. Thorsten and I went. We left knowing for the first time what we would do.

The next few months were filled with Birthworks classes, prenatal appointments with our midwife and getting the house ready. We had to put our beloved dog, Abby down in April. Thorsten went back to school. Our house was gutted down to the studs and he worked every night and weekend putting it back together.

  I read every piece of literature I could find on anything related to birth. We watched just about every documentary and YouTube video on homebirth. I asked questions. Lots and lots of questions. My three co-workers and best friends threw me the most amazing baby shower. We gathered all the supplies needed for our birth; towels, extra sheets, tarps, gauze, diapers and pads and two very large bottles of hydrogen peroxide. We picked up the birthing pool from the midwife the third week of July.

Thorsten kept telling everyone the baby would come earlier than our August 18th due date. No one believed him, the midwife included. Seeing that this was my first baby she suggested we would not see a baby until early September. I had started having Braxton Hicks contractions sometime in late June or July. They were almost unnoticeable.

I was getting more and more anxious not about the birth but how a baby would change our relationship. I was so worried it would break us. We never wanted this. Our relationship was so great for 6 beautiful years before I got pregnant. Thorsten was my best friend and I was so scared to lose him. I worried day and night that I had brought this on us. I also worried how could I love someone else as much as him? How would my heart ever have enough room for two people. Would I love him any less? Would I resent this baby?

Sunday August 1st my mother came over early and helped me prepare and blanch a couple batches of green and wax beans. She left around noon to go visit her friend who was sick with cancer. Thorsten was working in the barn so I went into the office to sit in front of the computer and try and stay cool. I was laughing at a story about all the reasons why I am glad that George Bush was no longer president when I felt a tremendous gush of fluid. I ran to the bathroom and took off everything from the waist down and cleaned up the floor. I went to the back door and yelled to Thorsten with a tremble in my voice “My water just broke!”

He quickly finished what he was doing outside and came in the house. I put a call in to the midwife but she was not home. I left a message at my parent’s house. Everyone had me convinced that first time labors are long-sometimes as long as 24-36 hours. We were in no rush. I even went on Facebook to distract myself. I sent Thorsten to town to get some juice as that was one of the things my midwife required us to have on hand for my labor. As he left I got into the shower. There were no contractions. It was 2 pm.

I stood in the shower and cried. What was I going to do with a baby? I didn’t even like babies and I liked children even less. I had a good long cry, then I washed my hair and let soap bubbles fall onto my toes. I had not been able to reach my feet for what seemed like eternity. I resolved to deal with those emotions later. I put on my game face and got out of the shower.

When I got out I did my usual ritual of putting a bathrobe and crawling into bed. I had been unable to dry my humongous body all summer and the damp felt good on my skin. I gathered up my makeup as I was going to get camera ready for my big day. I got mascara on one eye when the first contraction hit me like a truck. It had been almost an hour since my water broke.

Where was Thorsten? I looked at my phone to check the time and just then it rang. He was calling to see how I was doing. I told him to hurry. I needed someone here as I didn’t want to be alone. I could hear the worry in his voice when I told him we still had not heard from my parents or the midwife.

I never did finish putting on my make-up. The next contraction came just as I hung up the phone. I started timing them. They were about 6 minutes apart. It was 3 pm on Sunday.

The birthing pool had been set up in the baby’s room. When Thorsten got home he got prepared to fill it with water. From my bedroom I heard the sound of a screw gun just as a contraction hit. I remember vividly thinking I might just kill him. I yelled “What the fuck are you doing in there?” and “Nothing.” Came the response. Apparently he was nesting and felt the need to install a ceiling light in the baby’s room while he was filling the pool.

He went outside to call his parents and tell them labor had started. They tried to convince him to take me to the hospital as they thought this whole homebirth idea was crazy from the start. He politely told them we were fine and were going to wait for the midwife and we would call after the baby was born. I knew Thorsten was getting worried. I resolved I WOULD NOT let my fear show. Where was my mother? Where was the damn midwife?

At this point I was having contractions every 4 minutes. I got into the pool with some great expectations that it would relieve the pain. It did no such thing. In fact I think it made things worse as the realization it brought to me…this was going to royally suck! These contractions were so much worse than I had anticipated-they went from my front and into my lower back. I let out a yell or a scream with each one. I wanted to choke the broad who said “Breathe” through each one…yeah right!

Thorsten was so quiet I almost didn’t know he was there. At some point he asked me in a very anxious voice if he should call someone. I yelled “Call Vickie!” It was 4 pm.

By 4:20 pm people had started to gather at my house. My younger sister Jennifer had been called because she was an EMT. My friend Vickie called Leah, our other girlfriend who owns a medical supply company. Vickie’s friend Mary, a nurse, showed up. We had met only one time before and talked for 2 hours about sheep and Food Inc. in Vic’s barn. Now she was kneeling next to me as I threw up in a bucket. I was in this ridiculous pool inside my house, wearing nothing but a bright pink bikini top, surrounded by a bunch of people who didn’t really know me or my intimate parts…and still no midwife or my mother.

I could hear the chatter in the background. I knew people were getting very concerned. At some point someone asked me what Plan B was. I yelled “There is no Plan B! There is only Plan A!”

At this point I was starting to get overwhelmed. I was trying to concentrate on my labor and I was fearful. The pain was almost more than I could bear. I kept telling myself “Don’t let Thorsten down. You said you could do this. You are going to do this!” but I was scared…where the Hell was the midwife?

My mother and father showed up just then. My mom knelt next to me and tried to call me down. She really took charge as she and I were the only two who had attended my Birthworks classes. She suggested I get out of the pool and try to labor on the toilet. Getting out of the pool was a good thing as I was now shivering, my teeth chattering. I hated that bikini top. I only made it a foot away from the pool and curled up on the ground. I tried to make the whole thing go away. Those contractions were so bad. It felt as if my whole body was being ripped apart. I hated my mom for trying to make me get up. I wanted to go to the hospital. I had enough of this homebirth bullshit! I yelled “I want drugs NOW!” My mother God bless her said in a calm sweet voice “No honey, we decided we weren’t going to do that. Now how about you get up and go sit on the toilet.” I hated her. My contractions were 2 minutes apart and I had been in labor for 2 to 3 hours. It was around 5:30 pm Sunday.

I went into the bathroom and the light felt like spotlights on my naked body. I felt a million eyeballs on me. This was a terrible. I screamed and stomped my feet as the next contraction hit. Thorsten came into the bathroom with me and we stood there-my arms around his neck, his hands on my lower back. I felt embarrassed for him having to stand there and hold my mostly naked, humongous body with what seemed like the whole neighborhood watching. He was silent and strong. He never flinched.

I tried sitting on the toilet and laboring. That felt good. I don’t know why, but it felt better than any other position. After a while though my mother wanted me to try laboring in my room on all fours. Thorsten went in there and put towels on the bed. He brought the box fan in there. I got mentally prepared to move into the bedroom. Once I got there I immediately wanted to go back to the bathroom. My big ass was in the air and everyone was standing there looking at me. I tried to concentrate but things were not working. When the nurse Mary suggested I lay on my back like they do in the hospital, I did. Against my better judgment I did. I am embarrassed to admit I only did it so my ass was not in everyone’s face. I knew it would only prolong labor and it did.

I went back and forth to the bathroom. It felt so good to be in there. My girlfriend Erin showed up. She held my juice cup for me and placed the straw in my mouth after each contraction. I loved her. I loved that juice. Erin never made me move, she never tried to calm me down. She only knelt silently next to me and gave me juice. I love you Erin, and I loved that juice.

After hundreds of phone calls the midwife finally called around 11 pm. I heard the conversation and I was steaming. Thorsten snapped at her that the baby was almost here and he didn’t know if she would make it in time. He asked me if she should still come. I felt for the nurse Mary. This woman who barely knew me was going to try and deliver my baby. I did not want to put her in that position. I told him to tell the midwife yes-please come. I hated her. She was the last person I wanted to see. But I needed her, and I knew it.

The midwife arrived around 11:45 pm. She came onto my bed where I was laying on my back. She listened to the baby’s heartbeat and told me we needed to move to the edge of the bed and squat. Thorsten moved the towels to the floor and he sat on the edge of the bed. I squatted in between his legs and he held me up. Everyone was crammed into my little room and they were spilling into the hallway. Kim the midwife used a flashlight and told me I needed to push. I was screaming at this point. I was certain I was going to rip in two. The fire I felt in my vagina was indescribable. I yelled at her I couldn’t push. It hurt too badly. She said “You must.” I needed her to say that. I pushed so hard. The pain felt white hot. The baby’s head was out. I heard everyone gasp. I could not see and neither could Thorsten. The midwife wanted me to reach down and touch the baby’s head. I couldn’t. I was so scared. This all felt so surreal I was worried if I reached down and felt its head I wouldn’t be able to push the rest of her out. With the next contraction I pushed again and the baby slid out. The midwife caught her. Instantly the white hot pain left. There was a tremendous gush of blood and fluid from my uterus. In an instant the baby was placed on my chest. I could feel the cord pulsating in my vagina. It was 12:10 am Monday August 2nd 2010.

I sank to the floor I remember looking up at Thorsten. I apologized for throwing him into that fire years before. I know I was in shock. Someone asked me if I was ok. I felt my eyes rolling back into my head and I said yes because I did not want to alarm anybody. I don’t remember much about the baby. I do know it felt alien to be holding her. She was all covered in vernix and some blood. I looked up and standing in the doorway was Dan Peck. He was holding a bottle of Bud Light. He was just standing there with a weird half smile on his face. I will have that picture in my head forever.

I think we were wrapped in a towel and we sat at the base of the bed for maybe 20 minutes. The midwife called for Thorsten and he cut the cord. I was told I had to push the placenta out. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe I had to push again. The placenta was placed in a bucket for the midwife to examine later. I think my mom held the baby while I was put into a diaper with giant medical grade maxi-pads and helped onto my bed. The lights were dimmed and the midwife measured and weighed the baby. She asked us what we were going to name her. Thorsten and I agreed on Kailey Rosemarie Greulich.

Kailey was brought to me and I nursed her. Everyone came and quietly said good bye. Thorsten brought the dogs into the room to see the baby and to make sure I was ok. Thorsten climbed into bed and we went to sleep with Kailey in between us. It was sometime after 2 am.

Kailey weighed 8 lbs. 12 oz. There were 12 people present for her birth. She was born at 12:10 am Monday August 2, 2010 after 10 hours of labor. There was not a single picture taken, but I am certain that those people who witnessed her birth will remember it forever. I know Thorsten and I will. I cannot measure the amount of pride I feel for birthing our daughter at home. Others doubted me. At times I doubted myself. But I did it and I am so grateful I did. I hope to be able to do it again sometime in the near future. For now though we are busy enjoying our miracle baby who almost wasn’t. This past December we celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. When I asked Thorsten who he loved more…me or Kailey? He answered Kailey and I smiled. Right answer-me too : )

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