When I moved back to Missouri this past spring I was dying from lack of creative outlet so I called up Breanne and invited her out for a fun and different boho sunset session! Bre used to be in my husband's youth group years ago but she's grown into a stunning young woman with style and confidence! I had so much fun shooting with her! Its a little different than my usual but it was such creative fun!
Its been almost a year since Miss Quinn joined us earthside and I supposed its about time to write her birth story. There are things I'm not totally proud of choosing in her story - but I am proud to say that each and every facet of her birth was MY choice. No one dictated Quinn's birth to me - it was me and her working together - a truly healing step forward from Ian and Zoe's birth stories.
I started having a lot of braxton Hicks early on so by the time April rolled around I was pretty over them. I'd go to bed early every night just hoping I'd wake up in labor. I walked soooo much the last few weeks, hoping to kick things into a pattern. Ian and Zoe were both induced around 38 weeks so thats the longest I'd ever been pregnant - I was kinda hoping my body would have decided that was the norm for my babues and Quinn would make an appearance around 38 weeks, but alas she had her own plans. Just shy of 38 weeks I found myself breathing through some pretty painful and regular contractions.
Called the doula, called the photographer, packed the bags, labored on the ball through the evening and night, Nathan got home from working night shift all ready to shower and head back to the hospital and suddenly it all stopped. Quinn was playing her April fools joke a few days late.
But I kept up a consistent but lengthy pattern of contractions every afternoon and evening from then on. They steadily got stronger and closer but never quite became "the real thing." But it was doing something. Despite avoiding vaginal checks earlier I was now pretty ready to know something was happening down there so I requested to be checked. Two centimeters after the false labor episode, three by the next week, four by the middle of the next. I asked for my membranes to be stripped. I bled a little, contracted a little harder, and remained pregnant. I tried acupuncture. My poor husband got off night shift and then had to come contain Zoe while I got needles in my ankles. Still pregnant.
I walked more. Danced. Bounced on the ball. Walked again.
39 weeks came and went and then 40. Chance met me at the river on my due date and we took some pictures in the water to commemorate the most pregnant I'd ever been.
Nathan's time off from work was rapidly disappearing and he had a speaking engagement out of town the coming weekend. I decided I needed my husband there for the birth and for at least a few days to help us settle into being a family of five. So I headed into the hospital on the morning of the 29th.
Monitors showed those regular contractions but they weren't strong enough or close enough to keep me - though I was nearly dilated to a six by this point. I wasn't going home. So I asked for pitocin. I really wanted no induction for this birth but I also knew I needed her to come now. So I asked for the lowest dose possible and my sweet midwife asked If I was sure. Yes.
So we settled in to have a baby.
I had avoided calling my doula Jen up I this point because I had been wanton to avoid the pitocin and she knew that was my plan. But l knew it was time to let her in on things. So I texted her and my birth photographer Chance. Jen was finishing a test and said she would text me when she was done to see if I was ready for her - I told her I needed a little time to process my choice. Chance said she would get her kids settled and head my way.
My midwife headed back to the office and said she'd be back after hours and we'd see how things were going and could address breaking my water if I wanted. The nurse tried placing my IV. She tried three times. Then the head nurse tried a few times. Finally they called up a lab tech with a handheld ultrasound and he got it first stick. I'm not surprised it took them so long - I was stressed and dehydrated. I made myself drink a few of those huge glasses of water and settled on the birth ball.
Chance arrived soon after and my contractions finally hit a pattern the nurses thought was productive. Stephanie came back and we discussed breaking my water. She said it would probably speed things up but would most certainly intensify everything as well. She offered the birth tub as an option. I have no idea why I questioned it but I sat there indecisive for a few minutes then Nathan said "you LOVE baths - they always make you feel better. Do the tub" so we made our way to "the spa" a tiny room with a giant tub. Jen arrived as I settled into the water and we laughed and chatted for about thirty minutes before I suddenly found myself needing all my focus. I labored for several hours in the tub, my forehead resting on my hands, squatting in the water leaning on the side. Jen read the Luci Tapahanso poem that I said had inspired my focus technique a few times, Nathan held my hand and the nurses were minor annoyances on the periphery.
The monitors kept sliding off my belly and the nurses didn't like not having constant heart rate readings so they kept coming in and adjusting. I could tell they really wanted me to get out because they kept asking but I wasn't about to leave the water. I had hoped to give birth before ten so the kids could come in and see their sister but as ten approached my mom called to say they were in bed and ask if I minded her coming up.
I waved my hand at Nathan in consent and concentrated on keeping a low noise going because it helped me stay on top of the constant contractions. I heard my mom ask Nathan if he were outside. He said no and she asked what is that noise then? "That's your daughter!" He said. My mom later said she knew then she needed to hurry! Indeed a couple minutes later inatarted yelling at everyone - I need to get out! I'm cold! I need out now!
They had to drain the tub to a certain level to open the door in the side and the whole time I was yelling I was cold and I wanted out. When I stood up I felt a pop! And my water broke in the tub. Immediately I had a hard contraction. They threw a hot towel around me and we headed for my room which was just across the hall. I had three more intense contractions before I reached my bed. Nathan tried to cover me with a towel at one point but I screamed "don't touch me!" I fell onto the bed and Stephanie checked me. "You are almost complete, just a small cervical lip but you can push if you feel like it" she said.
At that moment I felt Quinn move down and I yelled "she's coming out NOW"
I literally had nothing to do with it - Quinn had decided now was the time. Stephanie barely got gloves and a gown on before Quinn's head was out. "Slow down!" the nurse said to me "I can't!" I yelled. "Look at your babies head!" the nurse said. "I'm busy" I snarled. I couldn't have looked if I wanted - I was frozen on my side, eyes closed concentrated on my daughter emerging.
"Reach down and get your baby!" Stephanie said and I was unfrozen. I reached down and grasped Quinn under her arms and pulled her the rest of the way from my body and onto my chest. It was the most awesome thing I've ever done.
I was in shock laying there holding her at long last. From my water breaking to Quinn in my arms had been all of 12 minutes - a fast and furious ending to the longest two weeks of my life.
I held Quinn awkwardly low on my chest while we waited on the placenta as her cord was a little short. My mom had arrived in the room just as Quinn came out and I think she was a little in shock too. The placenta arrived and the cord stopped pulsing so Nathan cut it and at last Quinn and I could move to a more upright and comfy position. Someone got me a bra since I was no longer thrilled about being naked, Nathan went in search of food and Quinn latched on and started nursing like a champ.
Nathan returned with jack in the box burgers and curly fries - they were the only place open at 11pm. The after labor meal is always amazing and the burger was no different! Later Id look through my birth pictures to see that the fry box said "the best things in life" - how perfect for Quinn's birth story.
It was night and day from my first birth - I was respected, honored, I made the choices, I birthed my baby, I caught her with my own hands, there was joy and peace in the room and she was welcomed with confidence not fear.
She has since proven to be the most amazing, calm, happy beautiful little soul - everyone who meets her remarks on what a sweet calm baby she is. As she lays here sleeping beside me - a few hours shy of being one year old I feel nothing but blessed for her story - all of it. She taught me that birth is beautiful and that I am strong. She helped me find a tribe of women who supported me and made me realize even more that birth matters - it's not just a throwaway event in life - it's the way a soul enters the world and it matters. For better or worse it matters.
I've had worse and I've had better - all women deserve a chance for better. I'm so glad I got mine. \
Happy first birthday Miss Quinn Marie!
I was so excited to see my sweet little nieces Kayla and Braelyn when we visited Missouri earlier this month. The last time we saw one another we took pictures to announce that Becca was expecting Braelyn well over a year ago. Miss Braelyn is just about to turn 9 months old and as cute as can be. She and my own Quinn are exactly 3 months apart to the day so we had lots of fun with our sweet babies (who we discovered nurse on exactly the same schedule!)
My two older kiddos, Ian and Zoe had a ton of fun playing with Kayla and were oh so sad to leave when it was time to come home. We captured lots of candid images over the week but we made special time for some studio shots as well.
How do we heal from birth trauma? Its hard when you can't even acknowledge that it exists. I came home from my sons birth with a brand new baby, scars no one could see and lots of people congratulating me. How do you say "I'm sad." when everyone else is so happy for you? How do you move on when its not ok to grieve your experience?
Its taken me a long time to be able to recognize and accept the trauma of my sons birth - to understand that it is OK to be sad, to grieve the experience.
This birth experience was long, hard, painful in more than one way and I am lucky to have come out of it with only emotional scars. My memories are blurry, colored by confusion, time and who knows what medications, but as they are I share them with you today.
I was 20 years old when I discovered I was expecting my first child. It wasn't planned, but neither was it terribly surprising. I believed that it would go well, because I simply assumed it would. I knew how birth occurred more or less - though I had never witnessed a birth. I spent exactly zero moments dwelling on the what-ifs. I was convinced that birth was a naturally occurring event and that it would happen naturally.
There weren't a lot of choices for OB's in my small midwest town, so I picked the only female OB. At the time that was pretty much the only thing that mattered to me in picking an OB. (as we go forward in this story I want to say right now that I don't blame my OB for the experiences I had. I do think her decisions led to the traumatic birth I experienced, but she was acting on the training she had received and I believe she made her decisions based on what she thought was my best interest. She remained present with me in labor and waited far longer than most OB's would have before making the decision to do surgery, and gave me the "one last push" I needed. I believe my OB (and most OBs) was as much a victim of societies views on birth as the women she serves. We ultimately have to take responsibility for our own births.)
My pregnancy was normal and un-eventful until 35 weeks when I went to a checkup and was found to have high blood pressure and low fluid. I was told to come back in two days and if there was no change they would be inducing. Reading back over my journal entry for that day I wasn't afraid or worried. I was excited that I may meet my baby soon, but I did say "I want everything to go right, I want Ian healthy!"
Reading over my next journal entry I see the fear society ingrains into our collective psyche. I was afraid Ian would be a "huge baby," I thought labor sounded "miserable" and I was afraid of working hard and still ending up with a c-section.
My BP remained high but steady and I stayed pregnant until 38 weeks when I went in for my regular appointment. My OB checked me and said I was still high and closed, that there was a very good chance I'd have a c-section and that I was "close enough" to 39 weeks. And she sent me to the hospital "to get things started."
To be honest I didn't even know what she meant. I walked across the parking lot to the hospital, checked in and was handed a hospital gown. "do I have to put this on?" I asked. "Yes." the nurse said. "When can I go home?" I asked. "After the baby comes of course!" she replied!
That was the first moment I realized I was actually there to have a baby.
They began with Cervadil, followed by a Foley catheter (a balloon blown up in your cervix if you were wondering....!). This process took all afternoon. I was dilated to about a 5 and totally miserable by nightfall.
Five AM saw me headed down the hall to the delivery room where they hooked me up to Pitocin and the ever present monitors. I labored on Pitocin all morning, stuck in a bed, with my pit being doubled every 15 minutes. Around noon the OB visited and broke my water. (I never remember being ASKED about any of these things...they simply were done to me.)
I labored all afternoon, remaining at a 6 most of this time.
Around 5PM my OB checked me and said I wasn't progressing. She recommended an epidural so my body could relax and progress. I hadn't wanted an epi, but after all day laboring on Pit, stuck in a bed and with the memory of the word C-section in my brain I agreed.
In less than an hour I was fully dilated.
I know now that he hadn't dropped, that my next three and half hours of pushing were probably mostly pointless. But when they first said I could push I was so excited. Everyone had told me this was the quick part, the good part, I knew I would see my baby soon!
But I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Even with the epi it was painful, and I was so tired and so confused. "Your doing it WRONG." the nurse said with exasperation at one point. I wanted to cry - because I didn't now how to "do it right."
"We can see the head!" And I thought for sure this was it! But that little head just went back and forth again and again, stuck on my pelvis.
Eventually I lost track of time and space. The world became a blurry place of pain, people talking at me and the alarms on the monitors going off over and over again. "Shut those off!" my OB finally snapped. Suddenly I was on oxygen, the OB was yelling for different meds, my mother (a OB nurse herself) was blocking the monitors from me with her body. What seemed like a hundred people filled my room and my OB grabbed my foot and shook me. "This is your LAST PUSH, Crystal. You MUST get him out now!" she said urgently.
I have no idea how I did it.
But I did.
Immediately I began to shake uncontrollably. "I see six of you." I told Nathan.
They placed Ian on my chest for only a second before whisking him away out of my sight. He didn't cry, he whimpered. I didn't see him again for a while, as they worked on me and worked on him. And I didn't care. I wish I cared. But I was so disconnected from the whole experience.
When they finally gave him back to me we were both so exhausted, so confused. My eyes were nearly swollen shut from pushing and from my blood pressure, which had soared to crazy highs during that last hour. Ian's eyes were full of antibacterial goop he didn't need and his poor swollen, bruise, misshapen head was hidden under the silly little hat.
Everyone crowded into see him, to congratulate us. Everyone was overjoyed.
I don't know how I felt. Relieved, yes. Joyful, no. I wish I had felt amazing, empowered, overjoyed. But I felt lost, confused, and disconnected from the whole experience.
I later learned that my mom was literally scared for my life - that Ian's heart rate plummeted at the last moment, that their was a surgery team standing by. My blood pressure was dangerously high and the fuzziness of that last hour for me was because I was on the verge of stroking out. I've been told how lucky I am that I was in the hospital so they could "save me." I am grateful to be alive, grateful Ian is alive and grateful I avoided a C-section. But I believe that the interventions I received led to the life-threatening situation. I didn't know about the cascade of interventions, I fully trusted my OB to make the right choices.
It has taken me many years and two more births to come to terms with this experience and write the truth of it. I will forever feel a sense of sadness mixed with joy when I look at these pictures. They are some of my least favorite pictures of myself, and the saddest pictures of my poor little traumatized Ian. They represent a lost birth experience we didn't even know we were missing at the time, but also the first moments of life for my amazing, sensitive, sweet, imaginative, book loving, science driven little boy; my firstborn who will always hold my heart.
Ian Douglas Billington was 8lbs, 8oz, 21 inches long, with a "huge" 14cm head (the same size as his two easily birthed sisters...). He was born March 18th, 2009 at 9:30PM at 38 weeks - not ready to be earthside yet.
He's now 5 - happy, healthy and starting Kindergarten next week. <3