Late morning on December 26th, Hannah called me to let me know something felt "a little off", she was starting to have a little bowel distress and some mild cramping. We discussed resting through out the day and reserving her energy, in case this was really labor, and the intesne part would be happening over night.
I checked in around 4pm and she told me she was having intermitent contractions, but with a mix in of mild cramping and a few that were extremely intense.
At 6:30pm she messaged me back saying that they had gotten themselves into a pattern of every 7 to 10 minutes. She said she was still doing fine, but I live quite a distance from Hannah, so I decided to eat dinner and then head her way.
Hannah is a friend, and a fellow doula, turned RN. I have known her for two years and was honored when she invited me on this journey with her right from the beginning, of offering up tips for prepping for conception. I was so excited when she told me she was pregnant.
There was some work to do doing her pregnancy and we started on it pretty early. Hannah was honest and open with me, we discussed her anxieties and reservations, how her past would impact birth, and how her spouse was coping too.
We discussed every test that would be offered to her and what would be the benefits to having the answers and the benefits to not having them. Hannah had worked in the postpartum side of a labor and delivery floor, and had seen some peoples fears come true, first hand. That created some extra stress as well.
She had really found a pretty good place of peace by the end of her pregnancy, even though she really disliked the state of being pregnant overall. I totally understood that and had the same feelings during one of my pregnancies.
I couldn't believe how fast it all went, and that it looked like we were at the end, and going to meet her baby soon.
I arrived to Hannah's home around 8pm. During the drive she had communicated that her contractions had gotten closer to 5 minutes apart, but upon my arrival spaced out to 8 minutes apart or so. She had asked about leaving to the birth center, but I didn't think we were quite there yet. She said during the first few contractions, "It feels like there's something poking or scratching at my cervix."
Hannah was having pretty uncomfortable back labor. After a bit of touch and questions, it was obvious that baby was OP, or facing upward instead of downward. In my experience, this was the most common reason for back labor. My guess was that she was in early labor still.
Hannah's contractions once again got down to 3-5 minutes apart and then a friend of hers, who would be joining us for the birth, arrived and we watched them space back out a bit, even having one gap of 12 minutes apart.
While Hannah wanted both myself and her friend there, we were a change both times in environment, and her body took time to adjust back and feel safe with the change. This is why lots of birth workers caution on having too many people present. We are animals after all and feeling safe in your environment is a huge part of this.
We did some rebozo work and some things to get Hannah's baby in a better position. Within 20 minutes or so of feeling that the baby had shifted, Hannah's contractions were coming every 2 to 3 minutes and active labor had started and appeared to be moving quite quickly.
I told Hannah at 10:25pm to call the birth center where she would be delivering, located in Danbury, CT, and let them know we were on our way. It was about 45 minute drive or so, from Hannah's home.
At 10:45 we all headed out of the door. When we arrived to the birth center, Hannah's contractions had certainly intensified. During prenatal appointments with my clients, we always discuss trying to arrive to the place of birthing between 6 and 7 centimeters. Hannah had mentioned that she was hopeful she was at least that upon arrival.
At 11:42pm the midwife checked her cervix and said, "Oh great! You're 7 centimeters!" I pointed out the "win" to Hannah, and she said, "thank god!".
Hannah went to use the bathroom and I explained to the midwife that I thought this was moving quite fast since we got baby to shift in position. I told her that I thought just a hour prior Hannah was probably around 3 to 4 centimeters.
She got in the tub at 11:50pm and at 11:52pm I yelled to the midwife, "She ruptured!". Hannah said, "I did? How do you know?". She was now surrounded by pink tinged water, and I removed what I jokingly refer to as the "birth jelly fish" from floating on top of the water, part of the amniotic sac. The midwife then called the nurse to head in.
With every contraction, Hannah needed counter pressure on her back, and at the start of every contraction, she would say "Melissa!" to put me on notice.
At 12:10am, I heard Hannah involuntarily push. I discussed her breathing through it, to which she replied, "There is no way. I'm not ready." We had a quick conversation about how well she was doing, how intense this was, but that it would soon be over. She asked me to promise her, which I did, and the midwife also nodded her head. We were close.
Hannah had asked her husband, Gyasi, and her friend, to wait until after the cervical check in the other room and once she got comfortable in the water, she asked them to join us; "They can come in, but they cannot look scared!"
At 12:18am the midwife verified that Hannah was fully dilated and at 12:20am, Hannah stopped breathing through contractions, and engaged with every one.
5 pushes in, Hannah said, "baby is very low". I got up from the floor and went and got the midwife. I heard, "Melissaaaaaaa!!" and I went running back. She looked me in the eyes, and it made my own well up. "You are ok." and she said back, "I am ok." She went from scared to confident, in just a few seconds.
2 pushes later, with me applying counter pressure to her sacrum, a little hand waved at me and within 2 seconds or so a chubby little face popped out, right next to it.
The midwife was kneeling next to the tub, getting ready to take a fetal heartrate with the doppler, and I said, "Head at 12:46am" the midwife and I switched spots and when the midwife asked, "time?", and was excited to say, "Hannah your little girl is here at 12:47am". Their daughter came out of the water covered in vernix and screaming, making everyone's job just a bit easier.
Hannah wailed in relief. She paused. She caught her breath, I told her that I was proud of her, with her face in my hands, and she smiled for the first time in a couple of hours. She then flipped over and locked eyes, with her very alert, little one, and began to cry once again.
Hannah had done so exceptionally well. Back labor is no joke, and we now know that the scratching she was feeling, was one heck of a mit on her babe. That hand coming first, did cause the need for a repair. I helped Gyasi, hold the baby, and he supported Hannah at the same time. (That's the only thing I don't love about not having a hospital bed at births!)
The midwife patted me on the back and said, "When you called and said you were on your way, I wasn't so sure. Perfect timing!" We were at the birth center for one hour and a half before the arrival of their baby. The nurse did not make it in time.
We helped to then get Hannah comfortable, I made her a yogurt and fruit bowl, and then tucked them in so Hannah and Gyasi could then take the time to enjoy their little girls sweetness.
Hannah and Gyasi, thank you so much for letting me in. Really letting me in, so that I could fully care for you during pregnancy, labor, and birth. It was an absolute honor to be by your side. I am still beaming with pride. Hannah, you are a warrior.
Welcome to the world, Johari. You have chosen exceptional parents.