Over the next week, we welcome some posts from a guest contributor. Amy contacted me a few weeks ago to share her birth stories. She has Type I diabetes and three sons, all born vaginally and with minimal intervention. Her stories have been a real encouragement to us, and we hope you enjoy reading about her journey!
This being my first pregnancy, I spent a long time choosing the right doctor. You can read about that adventure here.
By now it is late September and everything seems to be in place. We attended our weekly Bradley classes, and had a few home visits with Amanda, our doula. We continued to have appointments with our doctor, and by this time we were driving to the hospital twice each week for non-stress tests. The tests always showed that our baby was healthy and wonderful.
When I was 37 weeks pregnant an ultrasound showed that our little baby was posterior (facing my belly instead of facing my back), and we knew that was not the ideal position for a baby to be in for birth. We didn’t think much of it, but I did try doing some exercises to encourage the baby to turn around. As it got closer to my due date of October 22nd, our doctor started to give us the option of inducing me early, which is standard procedure for diabetic women. He never pressured us to do this and we always politely declined. We believe that it is best for babies to come when they are ready, not to mention the many risks that come with induction. We thought that being induced could really lower the chance of having the natural childbirth that we knew was best for me and our baby under normal circumstances. Besides, there was no medical indication for an induction (I do not believe that simply having diabetes qualifies as a medical indication for induction). The baby and I were both doing well. Now we were all just in a waiting game!
On the evening of Sunday, October 5th, I began to have contractions that were 3 minutes apart and painful. Almost everyone had told us that with first time mothers, the first contractions usually mean the real thing so I was excited, yet nervous, and kind of confused. I kept thinking, “is this really a contraction?” I thought I would feel a tightening around my entire belly, but the sensation I was feeling was only in my lower abdomen, similar to the monthly cramping I was used to. All I could think about was that I did not want the baby to be born the next day (October 6th) because that was our wedding anniversary! My husband was sleeping and would have to be up for work very early, so I tried not to bother him. I wondered if I should call our doula, but I decided instead to try some of the things we learned in our Bradley classes to determine if I was experiencing was real labor. I drank a glass of water and I walked around our house. They had gone on for four hours, but they eventually stopped. I told our doctor about it the next day and at the end of my appointment he implied that I should schedule an appointment for the next week like usual, but he didn’t think I would make it that long. Nothing exciting happened during the following week and I went to my next appointment as planned.
Then, on the evening of Wednesday, October 15th, contractions began again, very similar to before. They stopped after 2 hours. A few days later on the morning of Friday October 17th contractions picked back up again (several minutes apart) and continued for four hours. Conveniently, they stopped immediately after I talked to our doula on the phone informing her that this may be “the real thing”!
By this time I was getting a little frustrated and I wondered how I would ever know when I was really in labor. Now I laugh thinking about how I ever wondered such a thing! Amanda encouraged me that these contractions could be helping the baby turn from being posterior into a better birthing position, so I just tried to go about my day without spending too much time wondering when the baby would come. The next morning, Saturday the 18th, my contractions began again and ran the same course as the day before: painful contractions several minutes apart. I could not go about my day normally, and during each contraction I tried to put into practice all of the techniques we had learned in our classes: relaxation, breathing, trying different positions and moving around, and so on. Again these contractions lasted for about 4 hours.
Right after my last contraction I felt a sharp pain in my back, and it was pretty much continuous if I was moving around. I was starting to get worried about what it could be from. We called our doctor and he told us not to worry about it, but to come in if I began having a lot of bleeding or could not control the pain with Tylenol. I did take some Tylenol and used a heating pad on my back, but I still felt terrible! Up until this point in my pregnancy I had felt pretty good and even had quite a bit of energy, so this was a new experience for me.
The next morning, Sunday the 19th, I continued my bit of sitting around with the heating pad and my husband helped me with anything I needed. I still wasn’t feeling so well. I sent an email to Rachel, explaining about the pain and asking her to pray for me, and she called later that afternoon and we chatted for a little while. I remember telling her, “wouldn’t it be nice if the baby was born by the end of the day...ha-ha, it’s already 4pm, so I guess that won’t be happening." Rachel told me that Amy, who had helped connect us with our doula, was now a midwife-in-training, and had offered to have me come over the next morning before my appointment and check me. I also spoke to my sister on the phone that afternoon and told her how I hoped the baby would be born soon. That evening at 7:08pm I felt a contraction, and thought about just brushing it off (I mean, how many times has THIS happened already!), but decided instead to write the time down on the dry-erase board in our kitchen.
In the meantime, my husband had just put a caramel apple pie in the oven (which we now refer to as our son's "birthday pie”) and I made myself a sandwich to eat for dinner. My next contraction came 20 minutes later and I thought how odd this was compared to the other times. The contractions were intense and I had to focus and relax through them, but in between I was checking my email and chatting with my husband. Then a few more contractions came, now 12 minutes apart. They were still intense enough that I did not want to talk during them. I called Amanda to let her know what was going on and promised to call back with updates. I also talked to my friend on the phone and told her that I was having contractions again and it might be the real thing. She said to keep her updated and feel free to call her at any time of the day. While talking with Rachel my contractions began coming every 8 minutes and I really felt like I needed to get off the phone and concentrate. They were becoming very intense.
For about an hour my contractions were about 6-8 minutes apart and very strong. I also went to the bathroom at some point and saw bloody show. At that point I really began to believe that this was going to be the real thing! I decided to try and lie down, relax, and try my favorite relaxing position that we had practiced. Our doctor was in agreement with us that we should labor at home for a while before coming in to the hospital. Labor usually takes a long time and I would be more comfortable at home. I wouldn't have to worry about fending off unnecessary interventions at the hospital, so I figured that we would be hanging out at home for some time and I had better get comfortable. But I just couldn’t! I tried a few positions before finally deciding to take a warm bath. The bath was nice in between contractions, but during them I found it very hard to relax. By this time I had told my husband that he needed to stay with me at all times!
I got out of the bathtub and felt like I was doing a terrible job handling the contractions. They were still about 5-7 minutes apart, but they were extremely intense and I just could not relax. I began to wonder how I would do this for so many more hours. I felt like such a wimp. Why did I think that I could have a natural birth? I thought that my husband and my doula would think I was the wimpiest person ever since I couldn't even handle what I assumed then to be early labor. I started to cry and I couldn’t think straight. I kept telling Adam “I can’t do this...this is too hard...this is too painful...it’s just too much...I think I really need some medication or better yet just take me to the hospital, put me under, and get the baby out!”
This was around 9:30pm, and looking back, based on my emotional signs, we believe that I was already in transition. At the time, because I had only been in labor for a little over 2 hours we didn’t think I could be in transition so quickly. We had been told that my labor would most likely take many hours, so I thought I was in early labor. I couldn’t imagine going on for hours or the intensity increasing (which it didn't after that point!). In fact, I was in hard labor. I was also feeling very nauseated so I decided that it would be a good idea to stay in the bathroom. I got down on my hands and knees, which seemed to be the best position for me, so I stayed that way and leaned over the toilet.
My husband called Amanda to give her an update and she asked what we wanted her to do. I couldn’t think and so I just kept telling him, “I don’t know what I want her to do!" My husband asked her to come over. In between contractions he ran downstairs to unlock the door for her, and then came back upstairs to be with me.
Around 9:50pm contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes and I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was still on my hands and knees over the toilet and with each contraction I focused on breathing normally, deeply and it felt natural and somewhat more comfortable to sway my hips. My husband rubbed my back, encouraged me, and tried to do what he could to comfort and support me, though I was quite out of sorts by that time! I thought that maybe we should go to the hospital, but then I also thought about how I did not want to ride in a car for 30 minutes feeling like THIS. I also still thought that my labor would last many more hours and I did not want to get to the hospital too soon.
Amanda arrived around 10:15 and just observed us in the bathroom for a few minutes. My contractions were close together and very intense. I still doubted myself, told them that I was scared and that I thought I could not do this. Amanda suggested that I try some different positions. We moved out of the bathroom and I tried standing with my arms around my husband, being on my hands and knees on the floor, and also having Amanda apply counter pressure to my back. I was still very uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do. Soon after that, I threw up.
We decided to call our doctor and let him know that we were coming to the hospital. It was about 11:00pm. As soon as my husband got off the phone with Dr. Hammett I felt tremendous pressure and said that I needed to push. I stayed down on the floor on my hands and knees and Amanda showed me how to breathe through my contractions and not push myself, although my body was. I began to get nervous at this point because the drive to the hospital was quite the drive. My husband took all of our things out to the car and covered the back seat with towels as my water had not yet broken. Amanda helped me get dressed and get down the stairs, then left to get into her car and follow us. Before my husband and I could get out the door I had another contraction and once again needed to get down on my hands and knees and focus on breathing through it. We grabbed a blanket before we walked out because I told him that I was cold. I got onto my hands and knees in the back seat of the car, with half of my body up on the seat and one knee placed on the floor. I found that I was no longer cold so I balled up the blanket, placed it up against the inside of the door and laid my head into it. We left our house around 11:20pm.
During the car ride my contractions began to space out a little bit, but with each one I called out to my husband, “I need to push, the baby is coming right now!” My husband, being ever calm as he is, just kept telling me, “no, you don’t have to push...just breathe, you’re doing great." With every contraction I swayed back and forth, tried to breathe, and continued to pray, “Lord please help me." I was not buckled in as there was absolutely no way I would be even close to comfortable that way. With every turn I had to brace myself. It didn't help that I had driven to the hospital multiple times for my non stress tests and I knew exactly where we were on the route without even seeing out the window. I felt like we would never get there. I kept asking my husband what time it was to see if it was still Sunday or if it was Monday.
My husband called the doctor when we were very close to the hospital to let him know that I was fighting the urge to push. When we parked, Amanda told him to go in and get a wheelchair. She helped me out of the car. As Amanda and I were walking in I felt another contraction coming on and dropped down onto my hands and knees in the parking lot. My husband and a man from the ER came out with a wheelchair during my contraction and the man said, “I don’t think you should be doing this out here." Of course, I had no intention of standing up and walking into the hospital at that moment! When the contraction was over I sat down in the wheelchair and was wheeled up to labor and delivery.
A room was ready for me, and our nurse was waiting. I felt another contraction coming on so I climbed up into the bed and got onto my hands and knees. My husband and Amanda helped to take off my clothes and soon after that my water broke all over the bed. The nurse wanted to check me and asked me to roll over and lay on my back, but I said that I couldn’t, so she just waited for our doctor to come and found the baby’s heartbeat with the monitor. Baby was doing great! Our doctor came into the room, checked me, and found that I was completely dilated. He left the room to change his clothes and when he came back it was about 12am. I was finally able to push. Our nurse moved the head of the bed up. That put me in a kneeling position and I was holding onto the top of the bed. My husband was right next to me and Amanda and the doctor were behind me.
I began to push whenever I had a contraction, though not very effectively at first! I was relieved to be able to push, but still a little scared. I wasn’t concentrating very well. Someone reminded me of what to do while pushing and then I think I was much more effective. I was making a lot of noise during contractions and pushing, but I actually felt so much better than when I was going through hard labor at home. Between contractions I asked how the baby was doing, and the doctor kept telling me that the baby was doing great. Amanda kept on encouraging me, though now I can’t remember exactly what she said. After I had pushed for a few contractions, our doctor said that if I turned around into a squatting position he thought that the baby would come very soon. I slowly turned around and grabbed onto my husband’s arms and the side of the bed to steady myself. I held myself up this way while I pushed, and my arms hurt SO bad for the next few days!
At some point when the baby was close to crowning, our doctor took my hand and let me touch my baby’s head for the first time. I could hardly believe it - my baby was almost here! After a few more pushes the baby’s head was out, and then the rest of his body! The official time was 12:33am. He had been presenting with both of his hands up by his head and the doctor was able to move one out of the way. I did suffer a tear, probably from a combination of things, including how fast the baby came out. I felt such a sense of relief that the baby was finally born and I couldn’t believe that I had just done that! I heard the nurse say, “we have a boy!” and I saw him laying on the bed below me. I had almost forgotten that we didn’t know the sex until that moment. I hadn’t even asked!
He was a bit blue and his face was a little bruised, but he pinked up quickly and he was handed to me immediately. Our nurse wrapped a blanket around the two of us and I just held him and looked at him, with my husband standing right next to us. He had a scratch on his face already from his long fingernails, he had a lot of hair and it was much lighter than I thought it would be. He had little blonde sideburns and I could barely make out his eyebrows. His eyes were tightly closed and he wasn’t crying at all. He was so tiny, and he was ours!
After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing my husband went over to cut it and my placenta came out soon after that. Then our doctor checked to make sure everything was okay with me and put in my stitches. He thought it would be best for me to have a shot of pitocin because I was bleeding more than normal, so I agreed. I was able to hold our son, who was yet to be named, the whole time.
After my stitches were in and our doctor left, our nurse took the baby to the other side of our room to weigh him (7lbs. 12oz.), measure him (19 inches) check his blood sugar (95!), bathe him (he loved getting his hair washed), diaper him, and put his wristband on. She explained everything as she was doing it and was very gentle with the baby. My husband stayed by his side the whole time.
When she was finished he was handed to my husband and he held his son for the first time. Amanda was able to get several great pictures of us during this time. We are so grateful to her for supporting us throughout everything. Around 1:30am I began to nurse our son, though he didn’t seem too interested, he was very sleepy. Amanda made sure that everything was going well and that we were okay with her leaving, we thanked her for everything and she left a little after 1:30am.
After Amanda left I sat in bed holding our son, with my husband right next to me, and our nurse went through all the registration questions that they usually ask right when you come in. After they were all answered, she helped me get ready to move to our room and explained to me how to take care of myself postpartum. When I was ready I got into the wheelchair and she wheeled me to our room while my husband pushed the baby in his bassinet. We got settled into our new room and the nurse took care of a few more things. When we were finally alone (sometime around 4am), we texted our family’s a picture of the baby and said “call for details." No one had even known that I was in labor the night before! I also called Rachel to tell her our good news and that we had a little boy. Hey, she told me to call her anytime day or night!
We give all the glory to God for the things we saw that only He could do and the way that He answered our specific prayers that we had been bringing before Him for months regarding myself and the baby during pregnancy and the birth. Doctors say that diabetic women must be induced, but I wasn’t. One doctor told me that I FOR SURE would develop problems with this pregnancy, but I didn’t. People say that babies of diabetic mothers don’t handle labor well, but my son did. Most babies of diabetic mothers have low blood sugar after birth, but my son never did in all the three times they checked. My husband and I did everything in our power to ensure that I continued to be healthy and that my blood sugar was well-controlled throughout the pregnancy. We did all that we could to give our son a healthy beginning to his life, and we prepared ourselves in every way we could for a natural birth. But we know that beyond all our good efforts, God was continually extending His grace to our family and we will forever be grateful for all He has given to us.