As I begin to write the story of Gwenevere's birth I realize that it has been two and a half years since she miraculously arrived into this world. Some of the details are fuzzy, and as I was hardly watching the clock I'm sure the times are off. But the story of how I became a mother is one worth telling.
One month before our first wedding anniversary Micah and I decided that we were ready to start trying to conceive. After two failed months I was due for my annual OB appointment. They first ran a pregnancy test to make sure I was in fact not pregnant. I joked with the nurse not to believe the results because it was April Fools Day. She came back and told me the test was negative, a fact I already knew as I had taken a test that morning. The appointment went as expected and I left with the anticipation that the next time I was back in that office I may be expecting a baby. A week went by and I started to feel kind of crappy. I was bloated, cramping and having light spotting. Because my cramps were very severe on one side I started to freak out that I could be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. I went back to the Doctor who began our appointment with another pregnancy test which I again knew would be negative because I had again taken one that morning. She popped back in the room several minutes later with a smile on her face saying that is was positive. Holy Shit. We did an ultrasound to rule out ectopic pregnancy and I got some blood drawn for who knows what. I left the office that day a pregnant woman.
I found out the news at 3pm and I knew Micah would be home from work by 5. So I ran over to Petsmart to have collars made for all three of our pets announcing the pregnancy. This is a family tradition as Micah proposed to me using Winston, my cat with a collar asking "Will you marry me". So cute right? Anyway, I got the collars made and brought them home. I put each collar on the appropriate animal and waited for Micah's arrival home. He came home and of course I had to suggest a pet tag treasure hunt of sorts, buy the time he got to Olive and her collar said "A Fuerst Baby Is On The Way", he got the picture. We were elated!
By the time our next OB appointment rolled around we realized that we weren't happy with that practice. It was suggested to us by my Mom that we check out a Midwife that actually delivers at a hospital. It sounded perfect. We started asking around and we heard nothing but rave reviews about Sameerah. We called her office and crossed our fingers that she would be taking new patients. What luck, we were in! Our first appointment with her was amazing. She was so incredibly calm and easygoing that we couldn't help but relax. We asked her a million questions which she answered knowledgeably and with short but adequate answers. We felt comfortable with her. I particularly loved that I would see her for every appointment and it didn't matter who was on call when I went into labor, she would be there. We were sold and we became a Midwife family.
My pregnancy with Gwenevere was fairly uneventful. My belly slowly grew bigger each month as my heartburn grew in intensity. I loved resting my hands on my belly and feeling this growing baby moving around inside of me. I had the typical 1st trimester nausea as well as extreme fatigue all throughout the nine months. Every appointment we went to we got to hear her little heart beat and at 20 weeks we got find out we were having a girl. Which was information we received by cutting open a bright pink gender reveal cake. As I grew bigger so did my discomfort, but mostly I felt joy. I felt like a walking miracle.
Micah and I took birth classes as many couple do. Because we had the goal of an intervention free birthing experience we took a natural childbirth class from an amazing teacher. Throughout those six weeks I learned more about labor and delivery than I thought was possible. Birthing positions, breathing techniques, how to cope with pain, how many medical interventions are routinely offered at a hospital and how to say no. Plus so many other things that are just too graphic to go into. Not only did we feel prepared after completing the classes, we also had made several friends that we are still friends with today. We had also decided that we wanted to hire a Doula to help us through the unknown terrain of childbirth. We met with only one woman, but she seemed perfect. She agreed to be on call for our big day. I didn't know what my labor and delivery would play out to be, but I knew I was armed with information and ready for anything they could through at us, well, anything except for what they did throw at us.
Monday morning, November 29th I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I went to work as usual. I went to the bathroom and noticed I was bleeding. I mildly freaked out and decided it was best if I went to the hospital. Micah met me there and we checked in. They checked baby's heart rate and it looked good. They checked me and I was slightly dialated, 1-2 centimeters. Then they sent me home and told me to come back if labor started. The next day I started to have contractions. Not very intense or frequent, but painful. By 3pm I called Micah and told him to come home, I was going to need some help. By early evening the pain was getting intense and I wasn't sure how much longer we should wait before going to the hospital so we decided to just go and get everything checked out. They hooked me up to an IV, a heart monitor for baby and a contraction monitor for me. Within an hour I was unable to lay in bed. I was pacing the floor in almost constant pain. It didn't really seem to feel like the contractions that I had heard about, I though you got breaks. I was crying when the nurse finally came back in to check on us. She looked over my contraction monitor and over the past hour and said I hadn't had a single contraction. She instructed me to give a urine sample, maybe it was just a bladder infection. I did as I was told. We waited another 2 hours before the lab results came back inconclusive. The nurse was confident that because I wasn't registering any contractions and I was barely dilated that I was clearly not in labor. After over three hours in the hospital and never even being seen by a Doctor or Midwife I was sent home and told to take a Tylenol PM for pain.
We got home and I did as I was told. I actually fell asleep on the couch at 11pm with Micah. About fifteen minutes later I suggested we try to go to bed. I laid in bed for about 2 minutes before I realized the pain was too much. I quietly got into the shower and let Micah sleep. I stayed in the shower for over an hour and the pain was so much better. As soon as I got out the intensity cranked right back up to a 10. I woke Micah up and he paced around the house with me for a while. When I collapsed to the kitchen floor on my hand and knees howling like a "wild animal" in Micah's words, he made the executive decision that we were going back to the hospital and not leaving until we had a baby in our arms.
By the time we left is was almost 2 a.m. so the the roads were pretty empty. Still in the panic of getting his howling wife to the hospital on time Micah missed the turn and had to pull a u-turn. Once there we quickly got checked in again. This time I could barely walk or sit or lay down. As I changed into my hospital gown I felt a gush as my amniotic sac broke all over the floor. I honestly didn't care at all. The nurse practically had to threaten me to lay down on the table to get the monitors back on me. There on the screen was my baby's heartbeat and one contraction after another after another after another. They were right on top of each other. She went to check how far dialated I was and she quickly popped up and called for the Midwife. Gwenevere was already crowning. They moved me to a delivery room where I asked for pain meds over and over. I didn't want an epidural, just a little something to take the edge off. When Sameerah, our Midwife arrived the nurse told her I had been asking for pain relief. She just looked at me and said "It's time, you can do this".
Right around this time which was about 3:30 in the morning my Mom showed up as well as our Doula. At this point it was just me getting through the contractions. Micah fed me ice chips and my Mom held a cool towel on my forehead. I suddenly began to feel a strong urge to push. I had heard about this urge to push but it was much more than I had anticipated. I remember it being like vomiting. When you have a strong urge to vomit, you can't really stop it, it already happening. That's what pushing was like. My Doula set up a mirror so that I could actually see Gwenevere being born. We each push I saw her dark head of hair coming closer into this world. After about 40 minutes of pushing she was out.
Our midwife handed me our messy, slippery little miracle and I immediately began to cry tears of joy. I had never felt such a joyful moment in my life. I was holding in my hands a child that my husband and I had created. I tried to reach down and kiss her, but she was still attached to the umbilical cord. Sameerah offered for Micah to cut it and he proudly did. I laid her on my chest and I just wanted to stay in that moment forever. I looked into Micah's tearful eyes and said "Thank you". To which he responded, "You did all of the hard work, thank you".
In the end my birth plan didn't quite pan out as I had hoped it would. I never got to practice my breathing techniques, or relaxation methods, or different positions. I never even really knew I was in labor until it was almost over. But what really matters is that I had a healthy baby. She is my first child and I am thankful for her every minute of every day. If Gwenevere learns nothing else from me, I hope she knows that she is loved, every fiber of her being is loved, every moment of every day.