Thursday, March 18, 2010

Flannery's Birth

Flannery is almost 5 weeks old now, but her birth seems like it happened yesterday. Here's her birth story, one that I love telling...

On Saturday, Feb. 6th, I (realize now) that I had gotten into nesting mode, flitting around the house, cleaning and organizing. Around lunch time, I leaked a bit of fluid and then started cramping. The cramping wasn't consistent in frequency or length, but it was there for sure. After a little bit of this, I called my mom, sister, Nathan and my friend Jen (who was our backup doula) to let them know what was happening. Nathan was able to come home around dinner time, from work, which was a huge help, since the cramping had turned into contractions that were about 10 minutes apart and I was having a hard time caring for Amos, getting ready to be ready to go to the hospital and get through contractions at the same time. Around 10 that night, my parents and sister decided to get in their cars and drive to our house from their respective cities. Thankfully, it was not snowing, as it had the day before, and the roads were quite clear. They all arrived in the middle of the night--Bethany, with Eli in tow and both my mom and dad. My contractions had pretty much slowed down, or stopped, so we all just went to bed hoping for a baby the next day.

We woke up Sunday morning with no real change. Nathan stayed home from church anyway, and my mom got out her bag of tricks to see what we could do. I won't go into detail, but there were many things we tried before we all finally headed out for lunch and then Beth, Mom and I walked around (and danced in) Old Navy and then Borders, hoping to get labor going. It did help to walk around--it seemed that walking around was one of the only things that helped keep the contractions coming consistently. But I couldn't walk around all day---my feet eventually started to hurt!

Monday morning, I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep from feeling stronger contractions that were coming about every ten minutes. So we did more tricks and more walking, in hopes of having a baby that day. When my mom checked me that afternoon, I was only at 1 cm and the baby hadn't yet dropped. So things were going slow! By dinner time, my contractions were getting harder, but still not super consistent.

And by bed time, we tried to sleep but they were getting still harder and it was now necessary for Nathan to put pressure on my lower back for me to get through the contractions. So that's what we did all night, got through harder contractions that were about 15 minutes apart. At some point that night, my mom checked me and I was at 3cms, which was very encouraging, but she still had not come down any further.

Around 6 on Tuesday morning, my mom felt that it was nearing time for us to go to the hospital, as the contractions were harder and she wanted me to get on the monitors. Because we were attempting a natural birth after a c-section (VBAC), it was going to be necessary for me to be at the hospital soon and to be constantly monitored in case anything happened with my uterus or placenta. Thankfully, during those few days of camping out, my mom was using her doplar radar to hear Flannery's heart beat and was also taking my blood pressure, so we knew that she was ok through it all.

So we got in the car and drove through the snow storm that was arriving (a prediction I had made all along, that our baby would come in the middle of a snow storm!) and made it safely to the hospital which was just a few miles away!

After we got to the hospital, our nurse, Courtney, checked me and I was at 4 cm. Yay!! Progress.
**I should stop and say at this point, that I felt tremendously anxious that my labor would stop all together and that everyone would have to go home and come back at some other point. The whole time, since my labor was so inconsistent, I never knew if I was going to have our baby that week and was hesitant to even say that I was in labor.

So I was happy when, around 1 pm, Tuesday, our Doctor came to check on me and broke my water, in hopes of speeding things up a bit. At that point, I was going to have a baby in the next 24 hours by hook or by crook, and that was an encouraging thought to me. That was the upside. The downside was that my contractions became much harder and stronger and because I was so tired from not sleeping well and hungry, I would have mini-meltdowns after every contraction. It became difficult for me to focus and relax, so much so, that I started really considering getting an epidural, just so I could rest for a bit. The thought of getting through 6 more centimeters and then pushing a baby out was so overwhelming and I really thought I couldn't do it. So the plan became for me to try to make it to 5 cm so I could get into the tub and then see how things went from there.

It took me all afternoon to get to 5 and by 4 that afternoon, we moved to the tub room and I got in. Unfortunately for me, the tub was too awkward of a shape for me to get into a good position to get through contractions. By that point, the best thing I could do was to put my arms around Nathan's neck and do squats or just hang, to get through a contraction. Laying in bed, though relaxing in between, was the worst and most painful way to get through a contraction and the pool proved to be the same.

I was very discouraged and angry that the tub didn't work like I had thought it would and finally got out. Bethany arrived at that point, too. She had been at home all day with the boys, and then was able to come to the hospital when friends were able to get to our house to take over care of Amos and Eli.

My mom thinks that the tub did work to help relax me in between contractions, as I progressed to 7 cm in just an hour. Because I was so angry about the tub not working like I thought (I thought it would help ease the pain of the contractions, which were so so hard and intense and the most painful thing I had ever physically felt), I really wanted an epidural and was practically begging Nathan to let me do it. I was still so tired and overwhelmed with the thought of getting through the contractions and then pushing that I just wanted relief. After all, it had been four days!

So we went ahead with getting an epidural, but first, I needed to get a bunch of fluids into me. I think that they helped so much in giving me a boost in blood sugar and sustinance. By the time the fluids were done, I was in transition, at 9 cm, which basically made getting an epidural pointless.

**This whole time, I was having the conversation with myself about the epidural...I knew deep down that I would be disappointed that I had gotten one and not gone the whole way naturally, which was our original birth plan and deep desire, but I was so tired of being in pain and so overwhelmed, that I just wanted relief.

Soon, I was feeling the urge to push and when she checked me, I was 9 1/2 cm and almost totally thinned out. I was having to fight that urge, as well as get through a contraction and it was even more painful and difficult! By the time Dr. Soper made it in, I was ready and she gave me instructions to push. It took me a few contractions to get the hang of it, as all through labor, I was having to take constant deep breaths and now suddenly, I was having to hold that breath! It was also so anti-intuitive to push and as I pushed, feel more pain and essentially, push into the pain. It was funny because all around the bed, there was our nurse, Nathan, Mom, Dr Soper and Bethany (who was taking pictures) and each time they would all say something different. Looking back now, it was comical but I appreciated all of their support!

At some point, my mom traded places with Dr. Soper and she got ready to "catch" Flannery as I pushed her out. After a half an hour, I finally pushed her head out and then her body slithered out. I will never forget seeing my mom hold her up with such a look of joy. She got to deliver her namesake and that is such an amazing gift and blessing and moment that I will always remember.

As Flannery was placed on my chest, all I could say was "It's over! I can't believe it's over!" There was no better feeling in that moment, but to feel her little chubby body and hear her loud cry. It was an amazing moment--so satisfying, making all of the pain worth it. Things went well after that and soon, I was ordering dinner and watching Nathan and my mom give Flannery's first bath. Bethany was still taking pictures and we were all on our phones, calling family and friends with the good news !!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elijah's Birth

Bethany is my sister and one of Susie's daughters. Elijah's birth was the first to take place in the home where we grew up and was the first time that Susie got to deliver one of her grandchildren...

My husband and I moved to Malawi in August of 2007. We had committed to 2 years of teaching at an international school and having a baby was no where in that plan. As you can imagine, we were very surprised and nervous to find out that we were pregnant by October. There was a short discussion about having the baby in South Africa. We could very well have made that happen, but it didn't make sense to me. I figured if we were willing to travel to SA and be gone from our work for months, we might as well go home and have the best midwife deliver our little one. When all was said and done, I knew I needed my mom.

By mid March, I was 30 weeks along. We moved in with my parents in the house I grew up in. We spent time with friends and family, Dan did a lot of reading and I nested in my mother's home (sorry mom!!! but you DID need it!). My due date was May 27th. Almost two weeks prior, I had been having false labor on and off. I kept myself distracted with trips to Old Navy, dance parties and redecorating my mom's home office. On May 26th, I began having more real contractions. Dan and I stayed up most of the night timing the contractions which were 4 minutes apart. When morning came, there was no progress and we were wiped out.
On May 27th, I went to see a chiropractor (one of my mom's former clients) to have an adjustment. By the time we got to the Franklin Chop House for dinner, labor had kicked in. Despite the contractions, I still ordered my favorite dish to go- the crispy chicken salad with extra honey mustard. By the time the waitress came out with the food, I was having contractions hard enough to be embarrassed about. We jumped in the car and got through many harder contractions during our long ride home through the country side. Soon, everyone met us at the house and people got busy. Everyone had a job to do-lay out sheets, getting towels, heating up water on the stove. My brother in law Nathan and my nephew Amos helped get the tub ready. It was truly a family affair.

My dear sister Sarah kept our blog updated throughout my labor. We had friends from Malawi and other places reading it all through the night keeping up with my progress. It was so encouraging to know that people were praying for us all around the world.

Here is an update Sarah posted on my blog:

At 7:15, she was at 2 cm and 90% effaced. My mom was so excited because she got to feel his head!!At 10:15, Beth was at 4 cm and 100% effaced. It's official, he's coming!!At 11:26, Beth is at 5 cm and is ready to get into the pool!

Once I was able to get in the pool, I felt much more relaxed. With the help of my team (My mom, her assistant Cindy, Dan, and sisters Abigail and Sarah) we got in a groove and time seemed to speed along. With each contraction came a heat wave hotter than I could handle. My requests were short and clear: "COLD RAG!", "FACE", "BACK", "FAN". Any member of the team would be right there with exactly what I needed. It was wonderful.

Labor continued and my team held up. Dan was my rock throughout. Sometimes, I fell asleep between contractions and would wake up with sharp pains scanning the room for Dan's eyes. Once focussed on his eyes, I felt like I could get through anything. My water finally broke somewhere in the late hours of the night. God had carried me through so much pain, but I didn't know what pain was until I hit transition. I spent most of transition in the pool and had trouble breathing at times. When I was finally ready to push, I couldn't get a good grip and so I moved to the bed.
I faintly remember my mom saying how beautiful it will be for Elijah to be born in the early morning. The sound of the crickets were fading away and the birds began to sing. Light was coming in through the windows and the fields were heavy with mist. Within 30 minutes of pushing on the bed, Elijah came into the world healthy and beautiful at 6:16am. He weighed 7 lbs 4 oz. The room erupted with cheers and cries of joy. I couldn't believe I had done it. It was all too unreal.
For a long time afterward, my mom, Cindy and I worked on delivering the placenta. For reasons only God can understand, it just wouldn't come out. After a beautiful successful home birth, I left Elijah with my sisters and went to the hospital. Honestly, I was too tired and hungry to be disappointed about it. I just wanted to get back to Elijah, and I didn't care what it took. We spent nearly 6 hours at the hospital, but by the end, my sweet and gentle doctor was able to deliver the placenta with much pain but thankfully without any medical intervention. I was finally able to be home with my little guy.

I will never forget giving birth in my parents' bedroom. It was the room I would run to during scary thunderstorms and the room we all gathered in on Christmas morning to pray. My mom was very professional throughout the entire thing. She never lectured me or made me feel like I was in trouble-these were slight fears I had, being her daughter and all. Instead, she kept me focussed and coached me through the harder times. I hope and pray she can make it to my second birth in August.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Hi friends,
I'm Sarah, Susie's daughter. Susie Meeks is a Certified Professional Midwife and doula in the Middle TN area.
Recently I had the amazing experience of giving birth to our daughter. I was so blessed to be able to have a VBAC and to have my mom there.
In sharing my birth story, it seemed that so many people were encouraged and inspired, something I honestly did not expect. I know that others have birth stories that could be shared to also encourage and inspire. Hopefully this blog will be a place for us to share our experiences.
I'll be the one posting the stories. They might be from former clients who want to share their story or a current client who has recently had their baby. The stories might be annonymous, but hopefully the emotion and experience will still come through.
Feel free to email your story if you'd like to be part of the blog.