Birth Services

Joyce Kimball, CPM

Birth Stories

Ronin's Birth Story

Our son Ronin was definitely a planned pregnancy. My husband and I had been trying for more than a year with no luck, and I was beginning to feel anxious about it. We went for a fertility workup, which showed no overt issues. A month later, I was pregnant. I guess I just needed us to spend a bunch of money to put my mind at ease! In September of 2013, I found out I was pregnant, and I was ecstatic, while also feeling overwhelmed now that it was an actual reality.

My pregnancy was a dream. I was vaguely nauseous for a week or two, but nothing overly horrible. I had some bad low back pain in the second trimester, which was helped greatly with chiropractic and massage. I was lucky to be in a position to obtain these things when I needed them. Other than the aches and pains in my back, I felt great. Pregnancy agreed with me.

We planned for a home birth, and hired our midwife, Joyce, and doula, Teresa. I also went to see the midwives at my OBGYN group, who work out of the hospital in the city here, just in case of the need for transfer. They were on board with my desire for a home birth, and that made things easier.

Joyce was wonderful, spending lots of time each visit listening to my concerns, helping me make wise nutrition choices, and getting me ready for the next step in the process. I did loads of reading, and loved Susan McCutcheon's Bradley Method book. It's very straightforward, and gives great visuals of the labor process. My husband read it as well, and we joked that he would have to get some short 70s shorts and grow a mustache, so he could look like the husbands in the book during labor. I would have to spend the entire labor naked, squatting with a small smile on my face. Tev laughingly reminded me to "tailor sit" every night as I lounged on the couch watching TV.

By mid-May, we had most things prepared - our birth kit and supplies were all set, we rented a birth tub which was being dropped off soon, and I planned to work until the last day of May, as our "due date" was June 8.

Throughout the pregnancy, I had balanced my desire for a natural birth experience with my medical professional self's desire to investigate to make sure things were ok with the pregnancy. I only had 2 ultrasounds during the pregnancy, 1 vaginal exam, and a few blood tests. I decided to do the Group B strep test, although I was conflicted about what I would decide to do should it come back positive. For most women, a positive test means they would be given antibiotics during labor. This is not possible at home, so Joyce spoke with me about options for at-home treatments or forgoing treatment. The risk for the infant becoming infected with GBS is very small, and only rises when the water is broken for a long, long time (more than 24 hours for instance). 

I got my test results back - positive for group B strep. I was devastated, because I was hoping to not have to deal with the decisions based around it. I spoke with Joyce, and we agreed that we'd continue with the home birth plan - no antibiotics, and I would try some at-home treatments to rid my body of the GBS. Things like garlic and probiotics. I went to bed that night still feeling sad about the test result. I was a few days shy of 37 weeks.

I woke up the next morning around 4am to pee - after peeing, I noticed more fluid. My water was breaking, in what I came to see as a cruel joke from the universe. I went back to bed, then woke up again to more fluid. At 4:30, I called Joyce and we decided to have her come over in the morning to check me. All was well with the baby, He sounded great, and I had no fever. I had no contractions at all that morning or afternoon. I went to work for a few hours, then decided to come home and rest, thinking it'd be good to reserve my energy should labor start up soon. 

Joyce and I stayed in contact, and together we decided that we probably needed to check into the hospital, due to the fact that no labor was starting up, I had GBS, and this baby was earlier than 37 weeks along. I waited through the next night to see if labor would happen on its own, and the next morning Joyce came over to come with me and Tev to the hospital.

I cried sitting on the couch before we left, feeling like this was everything I hadn't wanted to happen. I had planned for a gentle, natural, home birth, and now I was headed to the hospital, where I would have antibiotics, most likely induction, and who knows what else. I was worried about how the hospital people would treat me, given that I waited over 24 hours to come in after my water broke with GBS. Joyce and Tev both gave me wonderful support, helping me know that we were doing what was best for the baby, and that they would be there to help me through it.

We checked into the hospital, and the nurses put me on the monitor. The midwife from my group came in, saw Joyce, and gave her a huge hug. I felt better already. She knew Joyce well, and she greeted me with a smile and lots of warmth. We talked about my birth plan I'd brought in, and together agreed that I'd get vancomycin for the GBS infection, since I'm allergic to penicillin. My nursey self was not happy, since vancomycin is a crazy strong antibiotic. "Oh well" I told myself, "it'll be ok."

The vanco made me itch like crazy until they slowed down the rate of the IV infusion. It was dosed for every 12 hours, so I had a big break before the next one. The midwife checked me, and I was not dilated at all! Ugh. So, options were discussed, and she said we should start with a small dose of misoprostol, repeated every 4 hours, then some cervadil, and maybe pitocin through the IV in the morning, once I was more effaced and dilated. She said to expect the labor process to take a day or day and a half, and that because I was being induced, they would need me on the monitor for much of that.

I was so unhappy. I asked her to let me off the monitor to walk around as much as possible, and she agreed. The first dose of misoprostol was given to me around 1:30pm, a small dose. Onto the monitor I went for 2 hours, sitting in one position so that the monitor wouldn't stop working. At the end of the 2 hours, I was let off, and Tev and I went for a big walk around the hospital.

The hospital we were at has a beautiful atrium with restaurants, trees, a waterfall, and multiple levels. We took the stairs and walked briskly, stopping off for a frozen yogurt on the 3rd floor. At this point, I started feeling light contractions every 3 minutes or so. I likened them to mild period cramps.

We stretched our free hour to an hour plus, then headed back to the unit. The nurse hooked me up to the monitor again, and I was stuck in bed for another hour or two. At this point, Tev left to feed our cats at home, and Joyce stayed and chatted with me.

I was feeling the cramps more at this point, and being stuck in the bed didn't help! It's impossible to move around with the monitor on, because any movement knocks them off. They were nice enough to switch out the birthing bed for a more comfortable postpartum bed, since it was going to take me so long to get into true labor.

The nurses got concerned because my temp went up to 100F, and the baby's heartbeat was in the 180s. The midwife came in with a slightly concerned face, asked me how I was feeling. I told her about all the walking I'd done, and she said the heartrate could be reflecting that. They would watch it and see if it came down. Joyce and I conferred after they left, and we were worried. Could the heartrate be due to infection? I tried to remain calm, and used some deep breathing and relaxation. R's heartrate went to the 160s then 150s. My temp went back down the next time they checked me.

Round about 5pm, Joyce went to get dinner, once Tev was back. We started listening to music. I'd made an awesome playlist of soothing, laidback tunes, and Tev had brought our wireless speaker that played stuff from my phone. I listened to music, Tev read, and I continued feeling those contractions. The midwife had let me off the monitor once the heartrate went down, so I was free to move around, which helped greatly. The contractions were there, but manageable.

Joyce came back around 7 or so, and I remember the intensity of the contractions picking up after that. I couldn't get comfortable or speak through them. Joyce helped me onto the yoga ball, and I rocked on that, draping myself over the end of the bed. I remember the pain of these contractions being really intense. They came over me like a wave, starting slow and low and rising to an intense pitch, before slowly diminishing.

I pictured the graphic from the Susan McCutcheon book of the uterus with the baby inside, and the cervix opening up to let him out. I remember saying under my breath "it's like a turtleneck sliding over the baby's head!" That was one of the things the book told me to picture, and it did help! I concentrated on letting my belly relax and my limbs hang limp. I breathed deep and slow, and I let out some really good low sounds from my mouth, trying to keep my lips loose and my jaw slack. Joyce was great at encouraging me in these sounds. She stayed behind me for awhile, lightly massaging my back. Tev sat on the nearby chair, and maintained eye contact, telling me I was doing great.

Then things got really intense, with the contractions coming on every 2 minutes or so. To me it felt like I wasn't getting any breaks. I remember having one double contraction, where the pain receded, only to have it start right back up again. I started to doubt myself, and feel overwhelmed. I thought "Oh my god, I can't take this pain for a whole day or more! I'm going to need an epidural." I felt like a wimp for being unable to handle what were supposedly early contractions. Joyce tells me this lasted for about an hour. I had no sense of time then. I was just very focused, and also feeling scared about it getting worse. I had never had a repeat dose of medicine, so this was still all with just the initial small dose of misoprostol.

It was about the time I was feeling so overwhelmed, that I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. Joyce helped me up, and standing, I felt a very intense pressure. I remember trying to bend over the bed to make the pressure less intense, but that didn't help. I needed to sit down! Joyce got me into the bathroom, and I suddenly felt very nauseous. I don't think I puked, but I remember feeling I was about to. Joyce got me a cool washcloth, which we put on the back of my neck. I remember talking about how I did that for my patients, because it really works on nausea, due to it stimulating the nerve center related to nausea in the brain. I find it hilarious that even when I was in what I now know was transition, I was still able to geekily elaborate on nursing facts.

While in the bathroom, I told Joyce I really felt like I needed to poop, but didn't feel like I could be alone. She told me to just go ahead if I needed to. It was at that point that I had a crazy, intense, pushing sensation that grabbed hold of my entire body. I looked at her, and said "I think I feel the need to push! But - is that ok? Couldn't I hurt myself if I'm not dilated?" I couldn't imagine that I was fully dilated. It was only like 8 hours since I'd had a tiny dose of miso, and I'd only had "real" contractions for about an hour. Joyce pondered for a moment my question, and I had another very intense pushing sensation. At that point, she took a look below, and very quickly saw that I was fully dilated and that the baby was ready to be pushed out! I remember breaking into a smile and pumping my fist while saying "Yyyyesss!!"

My mood shifted immediately, and I felt so good. I'm not sure who went to get the midwife and nurses, I think Joyce did. Tev must have come to the bathroom to keep watch. People began setting up trays and I got myself on the bed. The midwife came in and smiled at me. The midwife on call at the time was one I had met and liked at the office during my prenatal appointments. It was nice that she was someone I knew.

One of the nurses realized that the bed was the postpartum bed, and couldn't be broken down for delivery, so they decided that they needed to switch it out. I stood to the side while they wheeled it out, being careful to not run over my feet. The rooms are not that big, and with all the stuff in there for the delivery, it was tight.

I was having pushing sensations every few minutes or so, and they kept telling me to not push. Not possible! It was a completely involuntary feeling that took over my body, and it was very hard to fight. Joyce held pads between my legs while they switched out the bed. I remember looking at her and saying "Joyce, are you holding my baby in right now?" in a joking way. She laughed at the silliness of the situation, while we waited for a bed to be brought in. Once in, I climbed back on it, and they broke it down so I had places to put my feet to push. I ended up sitting up with my feet on Tev and Joyce's thighs, so I could push against them. That worked much better to give me a good squatting effect while being in the bed.

Pushing felt good! I laughed and talked between pushes, and felt so excited and happy that the hardest part of labor was done. Then I started feeling the crowning sensation - I'd heard about the "ring of fire" sensation, and it definitely does feel like that! I started to back off from my pushes due to the pain, and the midwife and Joyce helped me realize I had to work harder to push the baby out. I had to sort of gather up my strength, and just push through the discomfort of that head. I guess his heartrate was going down a bit at that point, so they wanted me to get him out quickly. They had me reach down and feel his head, which felt soft and wrinkled.

With a few more pushes, his head was out, and then I felt his slippery body ease out and he was here - on my chest, wrinkled and making little sounds; moving and breathing and real. What an amazing, crazy feeling - Tev and I gazed at him, just awestruck at how weird and beautiful his little face was. He had a crazy conehead, and was covered in vernix, but he was so cute, all the same. His eyes were open and alert, and he looked at us for a long time.

We just sat and stared, while the placenta was born (1 small push, nothing like that head!), and then she stitched me up where I tore a little. My thighs were shaking like crazy from all the adrenaline, and they warmed me up with some blankets. The baby stayed on my chest for about an hour and a half before anyone took him to be weighed or measured or any of that. It was awesome.

Joyce took some pictures while Tev cut the cord. Ronin had started a little breast crawl, but we helped him get there and latch on for a first meal. Unfortunately in my post birth haze I let him latch onto what was not my nipple, and didn't notice til he had given me a nice big hickey. We got him latched right, and he went to town for a little bit on the actual nipple. He has quite a strong suck, and has been a great breastfeeder from the beginning.

All in all, the whole thing took about 8 hours. I feel so blessed that everything went as well as it could have gone. I was able to have very close to the kind of birth I wanted at home, with very limited medications, and support from my husband and Joyce throughout. Our stay at the hospital could be another story entirely, as we navigated through the hospital's procedures for "preterm" infants (R was born 2 days shy of full term status) I'll save that for another time :)