The Birth of Sasha Elizabeth

As told by Rhonda (Mom)

Comments in brackets by Greg (Dad)

  Thursday, June 20th started out like any other day.  I was working ½ days so I went to the chiropractor in the morning and logged into work at 12 noon. After a rather productive day working, Greg and I decided to finish up some last minute projects around the house. He vacuumed while I dusted, cleaned mirrors, and mopped the floors.  [At this time I told Rhonda that we should not do too much, just in case.  I had been working on several projects around the house and for some reason I just felt that we should not tire ourselves out today.]  My mother-in-law came over that evening and made a comment about the ‘burst of energy’ before labor but I just blew it off.  I had been looking for contractions all day and had only had Braxton Hicks. That evening I told the baby that he or she could be born whenever they were ready. . . [Several times in the days prior to this she had asked me if I thought that we were ready.  When she said it this time, it was the first time she had proclaimed herself ready instead of asking me.  That struck me as rather odd and that was my first clue that this would be the day.]   

At 9:30 p.m., as I was getting ready for bed, I had my first real contraction.  I immediately went into the living room to let Greg know.  He got a huge smile on his face.  [I was so excited because I felt as though this was really it and the long wait was over.] 

Now, our plan all along had been to ignore ‘it’ until I could not ignore ‘it’ any longer. However, this baby had other ideas. At 9:35 I had another contraction and then again at about 9:40. These were not light contractions either.  I tried to lie down and rest but it was virtually impossible – I needed to breathe through them. [I did not expect Rhonda to start labor with real contractions.  I was quite surprised that she was not able to talk through the early ones as we had talked about in our birth class.]  Greg and I set up our bedroom for the coming event (the fishy pool, birth ball, RRL ice chips etc.) and tried to get comfortable.  To pass the time we watched the movie ‘Tomb Raider’.  [All of our great pre-labor ideas of baking a birthday cake, watching movies, and listening to music were quickly forgotten…] 

At about 10:30 p.m. Greg called our midwife to give her a heads up.  He then called his parents and asked them to pick up Julia (DD).  I felt silly since I was not certain that this was the real thing.  I was so afraid that we would have to pick her up the next morning without a baby. [By this time I was pretty sure we were on our way so I decided to send the cake mix with my parents so Julia could make the birthday cake for the baby instead of Rhonda.  I knew that we were in store for an exciting night, although I had no idea just how long the night would be…] 

After a while, I was really glad that Julia was at her Grandparents house because I had to moan at the end of contractions.  I also vomited a few times.  [Having a home birth allows for a lot more freedom for such things as eating.  Rhonda looked forward to something more than just ice chips but every time she ate anything (like frozen fruit bars) she vomited.  I was a little bit worried that her strength would be lacking for the rest of her labor because of this.  Later I would find out this was not the case.]  I started to get excited because I was certain that vomiting was a sign of transition – logically, however, I knew that I was not there yet. I did not have any of the emotional signposts yet.  [One good thing our childbirth class taught us was that 1 vomit was worth 10 contractions.  So I just did my best to be positive and reminded Rhonda of this fact each time she got sick.] 

Greg and I worked all night doing visualizations.  He would periodically time the contractions and they stayed at about 2 –3 minutes apart.  At about 6:15 a.m. we were totally exhausted.  I was sitting in the fishy pool and I would fall asleep between contractions.  [By this time I was sleeping between contractions as well and that was terrible even for someone not in labor!]  This was too similar to my previous experience in the hospital (with Demerol) and I hated waking up in pain.  At this time I asked Greg to call Cathy (our midwife).  [I called Cathy because I wanted a change of pace, I felt that she might have some good advice and also might check her progress.  I had expected her to be quite far along considering how long Rhonda had labored to this point, not to mention the frequency of her vomiting (about every 2 hours).] 

Cathy got to our house at about 7:30 a.m.  Her presence gave us the motivation we needed to continue.  She checked me and said that I was doing great (at a previous appointment I has asked her not to tell me my dilation since I got stuck at 4 cm with my first labor – which ended in a C-section).  The baby was at 0 station and ROA.  Curiosity was killing me and I really wanted to know exactly how dilated I was but Cathy held firm.    A little later, Cathy called her apprentice so she could come by and ‘labor-sit’ while Cathy saw a few clients that morning.  When she was on the phone, I heard her say ‘four’ and I was soo-oo disappointed!  Almost 11 hours and I was only at 4 centimeters!  [I heard her whisper the dreaded number also.  I prayed that Rhonda had not heard.  She did not mention it so I didn’t either.] 

Cathy left at 8:30 a.m. and her apprentice, Tami got to our house at 9:30. Tami offered to do counter pressure on my back.  We tried it for one contraction but it didn’t help (I wasn’t having back labor).  She then watched Greg and I as we worked through another contraction.  She understood that we were trying to get my mind off the pain instead of working with it. She suggested that I moan low and deep at the peak of the contractions.  This was a major turning point in our labor.  Instead of fighting the pain, I worked with it.  I eventually got so good at working with them that Greg got to take a brief nap.  [I was thankful for the rest but I really felt bad for taking it, so I decided that I would not take any  more breaks and just stay with Rhonda.  After all, Rhonda was in labor and she did not get any breaks!]  I just sat on the birth ball, moaned through contractions, and then I would rest in between.  I also prayed a lot. 

At about 12 noon I felt like pushing.  I asked Tami to check me and she did not think it was time.  Therefore, she called Cathy and asked her to come back over.  Logically, I knew that I was not in transition yet (I was still emotionally optimistic) but I really wanted to meet our baby. 

When Cathy got there she asked me how the contractions felt.  I explained that they hurt more when I rolled forward on the birth ball.  She suggested that I do that intentionally since it probably meant that I needed to dilate there.  I did this until it no longer hurt in front. 

At about 6:00 p.m. Sue, another one of Cathy’s apprentices, arrived.  She graciously offered to be responsible for photographing and filming the birth.   

As time passed I started to get discouraged. Even though Greg had turned all of our clocks (so I could not tell what time it was) I knew that it was starting to get late.  I asked Cathy and Tami for some suggestions on how to get the show on the road.

 First, Cathy suggested standing and hanging onto Greg’s shoulders.  We did this for a few contractions but it was pretty uncomfortable.  I didn’t really like for anything to touch my belly during a contractions so I had to push my butt out to get far enough away from Greg’s body. 

Then they suggested that I get in the shower.  I think I had about 4 contractions there and I was ready to get out. [ Actually it was only 2.]  In hindsight it was pretty funny because Greg had to hold my hand for each contraction – even though he was not in the shower.   

Finally, they suggested that I lie down on the bed for 15 minutes on each side. This was extremely challenging since I was very uncomfortable lying down.  Greg and I both fell asleep between contractions so that was good. After about 10 minutes on my second side I asked Greg to get Cathy because I wanted to get checked immediately. I later found out that I was only at about 8 – 9 cm but that the baby was OA.  At that time I had had enough!  I consented to Cathy’s suggestion to break my water.  [I was very unsure of this at the time but I felt that I was getting advice from someone who was concerned about her client instead of her schedule.]  I subconsciously thought that I was willing to take the risk of a 24-hour clock (even though my MW does not impose such ‘rules’) at that point.  In hindsight, this was another way that my previous birth affected me.  My waters were clear and the contractions immediately became more intense.  [That is an understatement!  Boy when you read that transition is obvious – they are not kidding.

I labored on the toilet in an effort to get comfortable.  At one point I told Greg to get me some combs so I could hold them in my hands (pressure points).  I would clench the combs during each contraction.  Greg became concerned that I was doing damage but it was what I needed at that time.  I began to realize that I was pushing a little at the peak of each contraction. Cathy recognized my pushing moans from the other room and asked me what I was doing.  I told her that I didn’t know.  She warned me against pushing too soon and tearing my cervix.  Instead, she suggested that I pant during the peaks. [It was at this point that Rhonda started to get the “out of control” feeling that had been described to us in class and in pre-natal visits.  She did not know what position to sit in and she said several times that she could not do this.  I did my best to reassure her.  This is when Cathy changed the pace again by suggesting we move back to the pool instead of going to the ER (which Rhonda later confessed that she had considered).  Just another example of the outstanding care we received from our midwife.] 

While I was on the toilet the birth team warmed up the water in the fishy pool again. At about 8:15 p.m. I got in and asked Cathy to check me again.  I was at almost at 10 and I did a few light pushes.  She then checked again after I told her of my stronger urges to push and she said I had reached the magic number – 10, and I did not have a cervical lip. Eureka!  [I felt so happy for Rhonda that I wanted to cry.  She had made it through the part that she had thought she was not capable of doing.   In her previous labor the doctor told her that she failed to progress pass 4 cm.] 

At first, I tried to push in a semi-reclining position in the pool. This was uncomfortable and I really did not have the pushing idea figured out yet.  After a few contractions it hit me!  I leaned forward on my knees with a hand on each side of the pool (comb in one hand and Greg’s 2 fingers in the other) and ROARED while I pushed.  According to Greg, it was amazing. [I was sooo surprised that she had that much energy at that point.  In fact I was in awe of the power of a woman – period.  I truly felt that this was one of the greatest things I had ever witnessed in my life.]  I had my second wind and I was willing to do whatever it took to birth our baby. At one point, Cathy told me to put my fingers in to feel the baby during my next contraction.  I didn’t even make it to the second knuckle and I felt the baby’s head.  Greg did the same thing and according to Cathy, his expression was pricelessI wish I had seen it.   [I only know how I felt, and I was so excited that the baby was this close.  We were actually going to have this baby any minute…] 

After a while, I heard Cathy mention that the pool was not warm enough for the baby to be born in it.  I decided to try out Cathy’s birth stool while they reheated it.  The stool was awesome since I was able to use gravity to bring the baby down.  I kept expecting to feel the baby crowning but she was having some trouble getting past my pubic bone.  Cathy said that I could continue to push on the stool or I could lie down and push on my back for a few contractions.  Since she said it may make things progress faster I was willing to do it. 

In all, I had 3 contractions on the bed.  The baby was crowning after two.  There was an air of excitement in the room.  My entire birth team was cheering me on.  Greg kept telling me that I was doing an awesome job and that he could see the top of the baby’s head.  This was all of the encouragement that I needed.  Before the next contraction, I said that I wanted to get back on the birth stool. 

The birth stool just felt right.  I was in control, I had something to hold onto and the baby was really low already.  At this point, I was so excited that I was thanking God for each contraction.  I would yell ‘give me strength!’ during the peaks (in the birth video you can only hear me say ‘strength!’) and then mumble ‘thank you God’ after the contraction was over.  I knew that the end was near. 

While sitting on the stool I gave a mighty roar and the baby’s head came out.  I subconsciously noticed that there was more blood than expected but I was not concerned with my own health at that time.  I just wanted to hold our baby.  [Seeing the head come out was kind of surreal.  I felt as though I was witnessing a miracle right in front of my eyes. Then I put my hands down to catch, which felt just awesome.]  With the next contraction I pushed with all of my might and out came the shoulders. Greg caught our baby and put her on my chest without checking the gender.   I held her close and said, ‘this looks like a girl.  We’ve got our Sasha.’ before we even checked.  Cathy then suggested that we look and see so Greg and I checked together.  We were both overjoyed to see that we had a little girl (my favorite photo is of this moment).   

I was still bleeding a lot so Cathy wanted to get the placenta out ASAP.  The placenta was attached a little but it came out with just a few pushes.  After things settled down Cathy figured out why I had bled so much.  My perineum was intact but I had 3 labia tears.  Fortunately, she was able to Dermabond them instead of using stitches. 

[At this point I was able to hold Sasha for the first time. I took off my shirt for some skin-to-skin contact.  She was very calm except when given suction in her nose.  Finally she opened up her little blue eyes for the first time, and I was the first person she ever saw- not some doctor!!  I was able to hold her and talk to her while the birth team worked with Rhonda and I will never forget the feeling of holding her in those first moments of life.]  I kept looking over at our beautiful little girl.  She looked so precious in her Daddy’s arms and I was already in love with her. 

Greg and I were in awe for days after this birth.  It really reaffirmed our belief that birth is a natural process ordained by God.  It brought us closer together in ways I had never imagined.  This homebirth was the healing experience that we needed. 

Sasha Elizabeth

Born at 9:18 p.m. on June 21, 2002
Gestation:  40 weeks, 3 days
Weight:  8 lbs. 15 ozs.
Length:  21 ½ inches
Head:  13 ¾ inches
Chest:  14 ½ inches