Birth Story: A Letter to TJ

Here is another birth story from our website. This week’s story is a birth center birth.

A Letter to TJ
by Janelle Rice

You decided to join us on a peaceful Sunday afternoon in May.  The day before had been your Daddy’s birthday and he had spent it at a taekwondo training camp, doing what he loved most.  I was large and uncomfortably pregnant.  My belly strained against my shrinking clothing, marked by the bright red stretch marks permanently tattooing my body with proof of your gestation.  I was ready for you to come.Saturday was spent catching up on laundry, a task I delegated to your older brother and sister.  A total of thirteen loads were completed, the apartment was cleaned and I painted my toenails bright red.  I gave myself a facial and then took a short nap, waking to a call from your aunt to wish Daddy a “happy birthday”.  Daddy came home that evening and I made a run to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner.  The cashier commented on my large belly, asking when you were due to arrive.  “June 4th“, I replied, secretly hoping you would arrive much sooner.  Another ten days or more of pregnancy seemed like a million years and I longed to hold and see you.

After dinner we lounged around watching movies until almost 1am.  I was exhausted and ready for bed, but stayed up to finish watching the DVD’s that Daddy had gotten as birthday presents from our friends.  Finally climbing into bed, I snuggled up next to your sister, Kayla, then three and a half years old, only to discover her hot with fever and unwilling to sleep. Three hours later, after a cool bath, fluids and a combination of Tylenol and Motrin, Kayla was finally peacefully asleep, and I sank back into the warmth of my bed to snooze at 4am.  As I drifted off, a familiar tightening sensation pulled across my belly.  Wide awake I wondered what it was.  Seven minutes later, I felt it again.  Now there was no way I was going to be able to fall asleep.  Excitement rushed through me as I realized that today may be the day that I get to hold my sweet baby in my arms!

Trying hard not to wake anyone, I sat at the computer to play solitaire.  Unable to keep my attention, I wandered into the living room, flipping through the countless channels that tend to show nothing but infomercials so early on a Sunday morning.  Daddy’s alarm was set for 6am, as it was the last day for his training camp.  At 5:45 I decided to wake him, letting him know that it looked like today was “the day”.  We decided since it was still early in labor and he would only be five minutes away from home that he would still go to the camp and I would call him if things picked up or I needed him.  He woke your sister Brittney, then thirteen- years-old, and she brought me a bowl of cereal to eat.

We planned to have your birth out of hospital with a midwife.  It was incredibly important for me to have you as peacefully as possible with little interference.  I had faith in my body’s ability to birth you, but still had some residual fears.  Earlier in my pregnancy I had decided to create self mantras to get over some of my fears.  One thing I would often say to myself was “My body WILL open up and I WILL birth this baby!”  As I rocked in the early morning shower, the hot beat of water pounding on my contracting belly, I repeated this to myself over and over again.  I would not be afraid.  I would not allow fear to tense my body which I knew in turn would cause pain, followed by more fear and so on.  It was a cycle I had no intention of allowing to take hold of me, like it had in my prior birth.

I decided to lie down, hoping I might be able to get a small amount of sleep, but instead decided I wanted my husband home with me.  Your daddy had been gone less than hour when I asked Brittney to call him home.  The birthing waves were still easy and manageable, and as soon as Daddy got home I was able to drift off to sleep for a short nap.  We had already called the midwife and decided to meet her at the birth center around 9:30 am.  At 9, I was woken by Brittney to help me get up and dressed when I was hit with a wave of nausea.  Brittney, seeing the look on my face came running with a pot just in time for me to throw up my breakfast.  She was amazing for being only thirteen and quietly took away the pot and cleaned the mess.  My Mom, your Gammie, stopped by and picked up Kayla to take her for the day.

We arrived at the birth center shortly afterwards.  Our midwife, Kathie Sue, was a naturopathic physician and licensed midwife.  She ran a small family practice and birth center a short five minutes away from home.  She was attended by two student midwives, Melissa and Karen, who would assist with our birth.  Arriving, just short of 10 am, Kathie Sue asked me if it would be Ok for her to check my cervix.  I replied that would be fine, except that I would not lie on my back.  The waves were not tolerable lying that way. While I lay on my side, she checked me and announced I was about 5-6 centimeters open.  She encouraged me to walk around, however advised us that the tub was available for my use whenever I needed it.

Daddy and I walked around the birth center.  Everything was quiet and peaceful and we were left alone to do as we wished. When a wave would come, we would stop and I would hold onto Daddy as if we were slow dancing.  I would drop my weight into him, my arms around his neck.  It felt wonderful and safe.  The sensations were strong, but it was not anything I would call pain.

As time passed, my sleepless night began to wear on me and I grew tired.  I decided to climb into the bathtub and sink down into the bliss of the warm water.  The room I was to birth in looked straight out of a bed and breakfast.  It was the next best thing to being at home, and was absolutely more peaceful than any noisy hospital could have ever been.  Occasionally your heart tones would be checked and I would hear the calming swish-swish of your heartbeat.  Natural light from outside filled the room and I did not wish to have the blinds closed to darken it. Despite having brought music to listen to, I kept it off, keeping the room quiet.  It felt as if the entire world had stopped in anticipation of your arrival.

Drifting off to sleep, Melissa asked me to get out of the tub.  My labor was slowing and she wanted me to get back up moving.  Tired, I decided to lie down on the bed, requesting Kathie Sue to check my cervix again.  8 centimeters, she said, you are almost there! At that moment, my labor changed.  I went from peaceful and under control to feeling like a torrential storm was overtaking my body.  The waves pounded one after another, with no reprieve.  I cried for them to stop, pleading with whoever heard me that I was done and ready to go home.

Karen sat next to me and I grasped onto her.  “Get back under your contractions”, she whispered, “just like you were doing before”, reminding me that I had once been under control and could do it again.  I breathed, panted and moaned.  My back was aching terribly and time seemed like it no longer existed.  After what may have been only a few minutes, but what felt like a few lifetimes, the sensations changed.  My body involuntarily started to push down and my pants turned into grunts.

Kathie Sue suggested I try to use the bathroom before pushing.  Sitting there on the toilet, I wanted to cry.  I couldn’t pee, and I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go.  The idea of lying back down was not appealing to me, but I knew I couldn’t stay on the toilet.  I clenched Melissa’s dainty hands, fearing in the back of my head that I would break them.  “The birth stool is ready for you”, I heard called from the other room.  Yes! That sounded amazing and I was happy to get out of the bathroom so I could finally meet you.

Sitting down on the stool, Daddy sat behind me, his hands on my belly.  The three women sat before me and I started to push.  Kathie Sue directed me to try and push my hands down on my knees to direct my energy downwards, and this helped immensely.  Having had an epidural birth previously, I had never known what pushing was supposed to feel like or how to do it.  Within seconds I could feel it! You were moving downwards.  I could feel your head slip past my cervix and into the birth canal.  Wow! It was such an amazing, powerful sensation.  As I continued to push I could feel exactly what I was doing, how pushing would move your head further down into the birth canal and how when I would stop to breathe it would slide back up a little bit.  Not liking that in the least, I decided to myself that I would just keep pushing!

I wish that words were enough to describe to you what this felt like.  There was this amazing power that surged through my body, nothing like I have ever felt before or since.  I felt as if I was standing at the edge of a cliff, somewhere where the veils between life and death were lifted.  Even though I felt as if I was on this edge somewhere, I knew I had to keep pushing past it in order to bring you into this world.  Soon your head began to emerge from my body.  Reaching down, I could felt the warm wrinkly top of your head full of hair, reminding me that I was just inches away from meeting my baby.  With another push your head was born and I exhaled a loud sigh of relief.

“Janelle,” I hear, “I need for you to get up on the bed on your hands and knees”.  My thoughts are that they are absurdly crazy.  Does no one see that I have a head of a person sticking out of me? How am I supposed to move and why the heck would I want to?

“I can’t!” I replied, to which is responded by four sets of hands lifting me up onto the bed in front of me.  Oh God, I think, shoulder dystocia! I know what necessitates being in a hands and knees position.  Shoulder dystocia is when the baby’s shoulders are stuck behind the pubic bone, a scary situation. With Daddy by my head, seconds later I felt a pop as the rest of you is born at 3:41pm on May 26, 2002.

Looking down, all I can see is a set of chubby little feet kicking between my legs.  Daddy and the midwives help me turn over and you are then handed to me.  All I can think, when I first see you, is how you look like *my* baby.  I know that sounds completely silly, but instantaneously I knew in every cell of my body that you were mine.  You had had your first bowel movement as you were born, so you had sticky meconium on your legs.  You were an absolute chub with fat, chunky thighs and a chubby little face, a complete contrast to your sister who had been much smaller.

As soon as I placed you on my chest you latched onto my breast like a hungry little piranha. When I had Kayla it took us a week of struggling for her to learn how to latch and breastfeed, so I am taken by surprise how you don’t need any help! I have to assume that this is due to there being absolutely no drugs in your system to make you sleepy or hinder your natural abilities.  You nurse on both sides as Kathie Sue cleans us both up and I eat a blueberry yogurt.

After some time, they weight you—8 lbs, 15 oz! You are well over a pound larger than Kayla had been! We make calls to our family to announce your arrival.  I call your Mormor and let her know you are here and that we have named you Thomas, after my Morfar.  She is crying with happiness and honored that you are being named for your great-grandfathered who passed away when I was a little girl.

After a few hours to make sure we are both doing well, Daddy and I packed you up to head home and introduce you to your family.  We get home a little before 7pm, just 3 hours after you are born.  Daddy carries you upstairs into our apartment and then comes back down to help me up.  Walking into the living room I see Kayla, Brittney and Jeremiah gathered around your car seat.

“Mommy!” Kayla says, “This is baby is soooo cute!” and a big smile spread across her face.

Everyone took turns holding and loving on you.  Daddy goes to the deli and grabs me a turkey sandwich for dinner.  Finally around 11pm, I get to snuggle down with my Thomas Jacob and get the rest we both deserve after a long day full of hard work.

Thank you, baby boy, for being born.  Thank you for showing me how strong I can be. Thank you for helping me learn that babies can be born in peace and love and that birth does not have to be treated like an illness or injury.  I love you so very much.



Baby Steps offers natural and prepared childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes and support, and doula services in the metro Atlanta area. We also offer private, in-home classes on your schedule. Contact us for more information.