Birth Blog

Canaan’s Birth

by Julia West on May 17, 2013

I thought it would be fitting to make my first post about the birth that inspired me to become a childbirth educator- the birth of my son, Canaan.

In the summer of 2009, I was newly married to my husband, Trevor and lived in Fort Worth, TX. My sister, who lived out of state, gave birth to her first baby girl and her birth experience was traumatic for all involved. Though I was not planning to be pregnant in the near future, I started to question the modern medical childbirth practices. My mom used midwives in the 80s, so I was familiar with the profession, but not really the midwifery model of care. I happened to come across a website for a midwife named Cathy and read every birth story posted. I was so touched by the words of her clients about her character and demeanor. I wished to work with someone like her someday, who recognized the important role faith plays in pregnancy and labor, but never thought I would live in Katy. Two years later, my husband accepted a job in Katy. We moved, not even knowing yet that we were pregnant. I had been using the Fertility Awareness Method for family planning and had a few long cycles that seemed to be anovulatory. When I took a pregnancy test and the result was “positive,” I was hesitant, but hopeful, to believe it. I had bookmarked Cathy’s website two years before, so I emailed her, asking to meet with her. She responded the same day and set up a time to meet with my husband, Trevor, and me one evening after work. I remember walking into the Katy Birth Center and instantly feeling comfortable. We sat on the couch with her and explained our thoughts about natural birth and listened as she shared her experiences and answered the few concerns we had. She put our minds at ease, assuring us with her confidence. When I explained I was not positive I was pregnant, she offered to try to find a heartbeat with the ultrasound. We went back to her exam room, and within minutes, we saw our baby’s image on the screen. Our lives changed in that instant. We decided then that we wanted to give birth at the birth center and that we wanted Cathy to be our midwife. I am sure God sent us to Katy if only to find Cathy to assist us on the journey to become parents.

Throughout my pregnancy, I looked forward to my visits to the Birth Center to meet with Cathy. She was always friendly and positive and referred to my baby affectionately as a “sweet little one” rather than using a medical term like “fetus.” She emphasized the importance of my diet and exercise, and encouraged me to keep a food journal. I realized how seriously she was taking my pregnancy and was inspired to do the same. I ate better than I ever had before and made a point to exercise at least three times a week doing yoga, squats, arm weights and walking, and ended up gaining just 25 pounds from my first appointment to my last. I also made time to rest and nap when I needed to. I read several books about natural birth and dozens of birth stories and blogs I found online. I immersed my mind and heart in information about labor and birth. When we had our second sonogram at 20 weeks, we found out our baby was a boy and were thrilled. We decided to name him “Canaan,” like the biblical Promised Land.

IMG_2212

Trevor and I took a birth class, practiced relaxation and talked often about our “vision” for our baby’s birth day. We prayed daily for our unborn baby, for guidance in pregnancy and labor, and for Cathy’s health and wisdom, as well. We also took a breastfeeding class the week before our baby’s due date. Cathy made sure that all of my questions and concerns were addressed before the birth. The closer my due date came, the closer I felt to Cathy. She was my partner every step of the way and I felt like we were really a “team.”

When my due date (December 11th) came and passed, Trevor and I were both disappointed. I had really hoped Canaan would come in early December, farther from Christmas day. We were so anxious to meet him and to experience this labor and birth we’d been planning for and thinking about for so many months- I was afraid of losing my momentum! And honestly I was nervous about growing a giant baby since Trevor and I were both born big. Needless to say, I did not have a very good attitude in the days past my EDD!

The weekend of the 11th, I had strong Braxton Hicks contractions, which I had previously felt only rarely in my pregnancy. The nights of the 11th, 12th and 13th we sat at home as if I was a time bomb waiting to go off. Trevor encouraged me to focus on each Braxton Hicks contraction and welcome it, praying for labor to start. I had an appointment with Cathy on the morning of Wed, 12/14. She checked me and said I was about 2 cm dilated but my cervix was very soft. She stripped my membranes and told me that starts labor about 50% of the time. I didn’t get my hopes up, wanting to be practical. I knew of several people who were unaffected by their membranes being stripped. Within an hour or two, I started feeling some low back pain and the Braxton Hicks seemed stronger and more regular. I went home and continued my at-home-workday, then took a nap after work, hoping to wake up to stronger contractions. When I woke up, I was still feeling the back pain and strong Braxton Hicks, but had no other obvious “progress.” Trevor cheered me up by taking me out to eat and walking around Target looking at baby clothes. I even played a video game with him (the one and only time that’s happened.) Before we went to sleep, Trevor told me to envision what I would hope to happen that night. I told him I hoped to wake up in the night with actual contractions, but to be able to go back to sleep, then I would want to wake him up when they got stronger and before he left for work so he would not have to leave that morning, then we would go to the birth center later in the day. And that is almost exactly what happened.

Around 2:00 am I woke up with some strong back pain and had to go to the restroom. I was so groggy that I thought I may be dreaming about the pain and went back to sleep. At 3:30, I woke up, unable to ignore the pains anymore. I timed a couple of the contractions and they were about 4 minutes apart. I woke up Trevor and he was so happy to hear this may actually be the day we would meet our son! We timed a few more together and I called Cathy at 3:45 am. I told her the contractions were 4 minutes apart and she said, “That’s great!” I told her I wanted to take a shower and labor a while at home and she said to call her if there was any change. The water in the shower felt good on my back, where I was feeling most of the pain. Trevor stayed nearby and I leaned on him during each contraction, then I was able to finish packing our bag for the day and insisted on unloading the dishwasher. Trevor also showered, double checked the car seat, and packed an ice chest of snacks and drinks for the labor. Cathy called around 7:00am to check on me. By this time I was lounging on the couch and the contractions were taking almost all of my attention, but were still irregular, timed at about 3-5 minutes apart. She said to come to the birth center whenever I was ready. I told her I wanted to continue laboring at home for a while. She asked where I was feeling most of the pain. When I told her, “My back,” she sounded concerned. She suggested I get on my hands and knees through a few of the contractions to make sure baby was not posterior, and encouraged me to try to snooze between contractions. Within 45 minutes, the contractions were much stronger and my body was shaky. We timed a few contractions at about a minute long, but they were difficult to time because the pain in my back did not subside between them. We decided to head to the birth center and I texted several friends on our way to let them know I was in labor and asked for their prayers.

We arrived close to 9:00 and Cathy was filling up the birth pool. She checked the baby’s heart rate and said he was handling things very well and was definitely very low. She assured me his position was not posterior and she decided I needed to get into the pool as soon as possible, so she used ice to cool the hot water rather than waiting on the cold water to fill it. I got into the pool around 10:00 and Trevor sat on a chair near the side, pouring water out of a pitcher over my back during contractions. I leaned over the side and squatted in a “frog like” position. Through each contraction, I would concentrate on staying relaxed and saying over and over to myself, “Open.” Trevor lit a vanilla candle and put on music from a relaxing playlist on our ipod that we created just for labor. Cathy and Connie, the other midwife who was present to assist in our labor, sat on a couch near the pool, making notes about my progress and encouraging me through contractions. It was a very peaceful environment. They intermittently checked Canaan’s heart rate and assured me he was handling the contractions well. Cathy was so proactive and confident, reassuring me each step of the way, and Connie was soft-spoken and had a sweet, supportive presence. They were a wonderful team and I knew I was in the presence of great wisdom about birth. They both thanked God out loud for being with us throughout the labor and prayed for my strength. They gave me water and Gatorade through a straw and I ate some string cheese, Clementine orange slices and wheat thins. At some point I was told my parents arrived and were in the waiting room.

IMG_2416

As labor progressed, I was still having constant pain in my back between contractions. My water broke while I was in the pool and the contractions started coming on stronger. I tried leaning back on one side of the pool with Trevor holding me up under my arms but that seemed to emphasize the pains in my lower back. I then tried “floating” on my back through a contraction with Trevor bracing me and that also seemed to hurt. I moved back to my forward-leaning position on the side of the pool and told Cathy I had felt the urge to push on a couple of contractions. Cathy checked me while I was in the water around 10:50 and said I was dilated to about 7 or 8 cm. The contractions were coming faster and growing in intensity. They seemed to be most intense right at the beginning of the contraction, almost taking my breath away at times, then ease up, lingering at a steady intensity for the duration. When I would wince or take a shallow breath, Trevor would try to immediately remind me to take a HUGE breath, fill my belly with air and make loud, low moans. This helped immensely with the pain and with keeping me calm and focused. (My mom said later they heard these noises and were scared by them! But they were praying for us while they waited and I know that God heard them!) Trevor was the perfect coach. Each time I would say, “That one was intense,” he would say, “That’s good. That means you’re making great progress. We’re getting closer.” Or, “You can do this. You’re so strong. Your body knows exactly what to do. Just relax and let it do it’s work.” If he had faltered or doubted my ability, or even seemed nervous at all, I know that would have affected my confidence and my emotions.

The contractions started coming closer and closer together and I was still feeling the urge to push. Cathy checked me again at 11:45 and said there was still a lip of a cervix in the way. She said that if I got out of the pool and moved to the bed, she could help move the cervix aside while I gave a slight push during a contraction. She and Trevor braced me as I got out of the pool and moved to the bed. I remember looking back in the water and seeing lots of bloody show that I did not notice when I was in it- I must have been zoned out! When I got to the bed, I laid on my side and Trevor was able to rub my lower back and Connie brought in a heating pad for my back. This was the first time since the early morning that I had felt relief in my back. After a couple of contractions, Cathy checked me during a contraction and was able to move the last lip of cervix out of the way. As I laid on the bed, fully dilated, around 12:00, the urge to push overwhelmed me. Trevor was on his side behind me and I pushed against his hand with my left hand, then put my foot on Cathy’s shoulder and pushed against her. During each push, my head came off the bed to my chest and I gritted my teeth and grunted loudly, on instinct. It felt like I was pushing a car off of me! I let the push last as long as it would, trying to make the most of each push. Within just a few pushes, the strangest thing happened. My water bag came out by itself, still filled with fluid. Apparently when my water broke in the pool, it broke at the top of the bag, but then Canaan’s head acted like a cork over the bottom of it and the bottom of the bag, still filled with water, came out ahead of him. Cathy said she had never seen anything like that before!

With each push, Cathy, Connie and Trevor all assured me I was making progress. I didn’t say it out loud, but I wanted someone to promise me a number of pushes I would need to get him out, but no one could or did. They would just tell me to keep going, and told me I was doing it exactly right. My body was still shaky, especially my legs, and the pushing was exhausting, but with the back pain finally relieved, I was getting a real break between pushes. I remember Cathy telling me he was two knuckles in, then one knuckle, then she told me reach down and feel his head. Finally, around 12:50, they said he was crowning, and I gave two more pushes with all my might. I felt the “ring of fire” as his head came out, but Cathy told me to push toward it rather than shrink away from it. On the last push, I was still on my side but Cathy and Trevor rolled me onto my back while I was pushing as long and hard as I possibly could, even to the point of tears, and out Canaan came, crying and already pink at 12:54. He weighed 9lbs 4.2 oz, he was 21 inches long with a 14.5 inch head and a 14 inch chest.

IMG_2438

It was so wonderful to get to hold his wet, warm body and hear that beautiful cry. It turns out, he was holding his right hand up to his left ear. The midwives said that may have been the cause of my back pain, and if he had not been in that position I probably would have only pushed for 20 minutes. Within just minutes after he was born, Cathy held the umbilical cord and told me to give 2 small pushes and out came the placenta. I barely noticed it because I was happy to be holding my new baby and the pushes were so easy. I also had a small labial first degree tear, which they said was probably caused by that nuchal hand, but my perineum was intact!! Cathy stitched me up quickly, using just a local anesthetic spray for numbing, and then Canaan and I took an herbal bath together and he nursed for the first time.

IMG_2452

After we were clean and dry, my parents came in to see us all. I could see the pride in their faces and I knew then that I would be proud of Canaan’s birth for the rest of my life. I was sore from my shoulders to my calves, but so happy and fulfilled to have had such a successful labor and birth. We were home and in our own bed by 5:30. Trevor and I cried in relief and thanksgiving at the end of such an amazing experience and such able midwives, and prayed God would continue to bless Canaan’s life as He blessed his birth.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Next post: