Luci Belle's birth story - part 1.

 She loves fluffy blankets, her Little Lamb bouncer seat, and the music of Rosie Thomas.  While she is sleeping, I gaze at her little lips shaped like a bow and her subtle Asian eyes and cannot believe our sweet daughter has only been here for a little over two weeks.

Today, I sit here thankful for the people who told me, "Create your birth plan, but then be prepared to hold it loosely" because Luci Belle's birth didn't quite go as expected.  Even before I became pregnant, I had always hoped to have a natural birth at a birthing center.  So I was glad to find the Allen Birthing Center and their amazing team of nurse-midwives who deliver babies in a cozy yellow Victorian house just north of Dallas.  I looked forward to every one of my prenatal appointments, soaking up the peaceful vibe in that house where natural birth is regarded as totally normal and something to be respected, enjoyed, and embraced.  But then on Thursday, July 8th...

Early Labor
My labor began around 8am when I awoke, went to the bathroom, and immediately afterwards, felt like I had wet my pants.  That is when my water broke, not as a gush but as a slow leak that went all throughout the day.  I called the birthing center, and they told me to come in that afternoon to be checked.  I was having some contractions, just kind of crampy ones in my lower abdomen.  When I was checked that afternoon, I was 2 cm dilated and almost 100% effaced.  The plan was to go back to the birthing center that night at 10pm unless I went into full-blown labor before that.  Amy, the midwife on duty, explained that I would need to take an antibiotic that evening since my water had already broken and they wanted to prevent any chance of infection until the baby was born.  Most hospitals and birthing centers won't let you go longer than 24 hours with your water broken before delivering a baby, but my midwives were willing to let me go longer if I had the antibiotic.

That night at 10pm, we went to the birthing center for the IV antibiotic, and I was having much stronger contractions but could still easily have a conversation through them.  The plan from there was for us to come back to the birthing center at 7am the next morning - Friday, July 9th - for another dose of antibiotics unless things started to progress in the middle of the night.

Soon after we returned home late that night, Steven and I went to bed to try to get some rest, but rest I did not get...for the next few hours, the contractions picked up to the point that I was having to concentrate and breathe through them.  They were 40 seconds to a minute long, but the timing was erratic - some were 4 minutes apart, then 6 minutes apart, then 3 minutes apart, totally unpredictable.  But by 2:30am, I was feeling very uncomfortable.  We excitedly and anxiously made sure all our bags were packed and piled in the car, deciding to head to the birth center in the middle of the night rather than wait to drive in the morning commuter traffic. {Contractions in the car in Dallas rush hour?  Uh, no thanks.}

When we arrived at the birth center around 3am on the 9th, midwife Amy let us get settled into the peaceful birthing bedroom with the 4-poster bed.  Steven and I got under the covers, and he held me while I continued breathing through the contractions.

This is where things start to get a little blurry in my mind...

Fighting For It
I know at some point, daylight came, and the new midwife on duty, Kathleen, gave me another round of antibiotics.  She reminded me we were past 24 hours now since my water had broken but encouraged me that it was totally possible to have this baby by the afternoon.  She promised to use every natural method she could to move things along and help my body open up. However, she was honest with us and let us know that if I wasn't ready to push by the afternoon, we would have to do a hospital transfer.  It would then be about 30 hours since my water had broken.

I vaguely remember drinking castor oil mixed in raspberry leaf tea, taking all kinds of herbal pills, walking 'round and 'round the block with my eyes closed as I gripped Steven's shoulders through each contraction.  I heard his voice in the background as he called close friends asking them to pray that my body would open up so we wouldn't have to go to the hospital.  I remember walking up and down the grand staircase inside the birth center, working through contractions on the birthing ball and then on the bed on my hands and knees, and running to the bathroom to throw up.  I remember being checked and still being only at 2/3cm and asking Kathleen, "If I make it to 5 cm, can I get in the birthing tub?"  She said yes, and the thought of floating in that warm water inspired me to keep going.  At some point, I finally made it to 5 cm and got in the tub. 

But what I remember most is the worship, the love, the kindness in the room.  All throughout the day, my husband fought alongside me, whispered in my ear, "You can do are a strong woman...," held me tightly as we listened to worship music and marveled at the strength with which my body was trying to birth this baby. I remember the song "Lead of Love" by Caedmon's Call being played and beginning to weep as scenes from my life over the last 10+ years passed before me, culminating in this wonderful day. "I just feel so happy," I said to Steven, as he hugged me tighter through the pain. Pain cleanses you, strips you.  It forces out any unsurfaced fears and also makes the joy that much richer.

There were so many beautiful moments, and we experienced them together, quietly and reverently in that dark bedroom as midwife Kathleen sat in the wings respectfully with her head bowed, letting us work through it together.

In the end though, my body just would not open up.  Just days before my labor began, apparently our baby had somehow turned sunny-side-up which was giving me very painful "back labor."  It brought new meaning to one of my favorite scenes in the movie Baby Mama when Amy Poehler's character is being wheeled into the hospital yelling, "It feels like I'm sh*tting a knife!"  The back labor, along with the baby's head being slightly tilted rather than straight down, is probably what was making me not progress.  After being in the birthing tub for at least an hour, Kathleen checked me again and...I was still only 5cm.  I later learned that when she went downstairs to call the doctor and tell him we were coming to the hospital, she cried.  She so wanted us to be able to have our natural birth.

I'll admit, Steven and I were pretty deflated when we got in the car to transfer to the hospital, Allen Presbyterian, which was just a few minutes away.  How would they treat us?  Would they respect our desires to have as natural of an experience as possible? 

See Part 2.