As many of you already know, Blake Madison Long made her grand entrance into the world on Tuesday, May 21st at 6:58am. 6 weeks ago and exactly 1 week past her expected due date.
She was born weighing 7 lbs, 6 oz and was 19 1/2 inches long. We are so in love with our sweet little girl :)
Let me start this post by saying that every birth is a beautiful miracle, regardless of how your baby entered the world. Birth plan, no birth plan, epidural, c-section, adoption, surrogate...every birth is beautiful and natural in the way it was meant to be. Blake's story happened the way it was meant to happen and it just so happened to coincide with my birth plan and hope. So I write this with pride and joy...and not to say my way is better than your way. It was just our way. All births are beautiful, all births are miracles.
After doing a ton of research we decided to take classes in Hypnobirthing to attempt an unmedicated birth for our first baby. I had heard good things from people I trusted and the whole approach seemed perfect for me and my husband - me, a Pilates instructor, my husband a sport psychologist. We are big on the mind/body connection and so it made the most sense to us to take that into the labor and delivery.
Hypbobirthing classes teach you how to achieve deep relaxation in a short amount of time and use a lot of imagery and mental focus to get through the experience. More importantly, the main goal of the classes is to take the fear out of the birthing process through understanding what the body goes through and appreciating the beautiful, natural process that takes place between mom and baby during birth.
The best part for me was taking the fear out of the process. I was honestly excited and ready to go when I went into labor. No anxiety, no fear. I cannot recommend Hypnobirthing enough. If you're in the Denver area be sure to check out Angie Eagan from Hypnobirthing Moms. She is a gem and we are so grateful for all her support and coaching.
(sidenote: I just read that Jessica Alba and Kate Middleton are Hypnobirthing moms as well...)
Back to Blake's birth story...
Although that extra week of waiting was incredibly hard, we were thrilled she stayed put until she was good and ready.
We had left the doctor 6 days past her due date feeling discouraged that we may end up having to be induced if things didn't happen within the next few days. We were praying and hoping that we could have the un-medicated birth we had planned for. I trusted my body and knew things would happen in due time. I'm grateful that my doctor was supportive and allowed me to listen to my body and wait it out.
Sure enough, that night things started to change.
I woke up in the middle of the night with cramping...the kind of contractions I had been told to watch for (different from the braxton hicks I'd been having daily for the past few weeks). After about 3 strong surges I got up to use the restroom and realized my water had broken. I woke my husband up and to our surprise we were both oddly calm - I think we were a bit shocked that it was actually (finally) happening!
We called the doctor and she told us to grab our bags and head to the hospital right away. Our birth coach had suggested that I eat a meal before going into the hospital but we didn't think we had time so I ate a Luna Bar in the car (later I would wish I had eaten more, I was starving).
We left for the hospital around 11:40 pm and checked in at 12:01 am. Contractions were coming regularly but they were certainly manageable with my rehearsed deep breathing.
Once we got checked into the room my contractions started to pick up. They had me put on my gown right away. I had visions of laboring in my own clothes but once I was in labor I could have cared less. After 3 unsuccessful attempts they finally got my IV set up. My contractions continued to pick up. They were coming at about 3-4 minute intervals and I was definitely having to drop off into my "hypnobirthing state" to get through them. I even dozed off between them due to being so relaxed and calm.
In my birth plan I had requested to just have an IV cap rather than being hooked up the whole time. I had also requested intermittent monitoring. They agreed to monitor the baby's heartbeat at the top of every hour. This allowed me the freedom to move around without being strapped to the bed. It was also much more comfortable.
From that point on my contractions picked up and labor intensified at a steady pace for the next 6 hours. It's amazing how fast those 6 hours went all things considered. I was unable to think about the time because things just kept intensifying and all my energy had to go to making it through the next contraction. Those who practice hypnobirthing talk about "time distortion" and now I know what they mean. I was SO focused on my relaxation and breathing through each surge that time stood still (or flew by depending on how you look at it).
I had envisioned walking the halls, using the birthing ball and all kinds of other things but I spent most of my time breathing through the contractions in bed, laying on my side (that and sitting on the toilet, trust me it helps!). I have never felt such intense pain. Oh my gosh, people weren't kidding. But I wasn't scared, I knew what to expect and I was determined to stay focused...it was truly a mental challenge to stay confident, calm and strong.
It took everything in me to breathe through the contractions and to not tense up or allow fear to set in. Hypnobirthing teaches a method of breathing where you inhale and exhale to a count of 20 during each contraction. I had practiced this for months but once I was in the thick of it 14 was my magic number. It's all I could do. And I found that if I could get through 3 rounds of breath to the count of 14 then I was over the hump of the contraction on on the downhill. I counted each round of breath on my fingers and clung to those numbers as if they would save my life.
Eventually I decided to get in the tub to see if the water would help ease some of the contractions. It did not. And within minutes I was beginning to feel pressure so they made me get out (the hospital doesn't allow water births).
At about 6:00 am I was at about 8 cm. I asked the nurse if there was a specific point that "transition" starts because I had been saving all my energy to make it through. She responded with a laugh and said "oh honey, you're definitely in it." Music to my ears.
By 6:30am I was fully dilated and ready to go. It was just me, my husband and our nurse in the room when I started pushing and I was really confused, wondering why the doctor wasn't in there yet. I knew this baby was coming and I knew I wasn't going to go slow (Pilates power baby!).
Hypnobirthing teaches the skill of "breathing the baby down" rather than pushing. I tried it, but it didn't feel right. I felt like I needed to push even though it was the scariest feeling. This was the first time I felt fear, but I knew I had to overcome it and just get this baby out. There was clearly no turning back.
So I began to push while my husband and the nurse stood by my side. They let me lead the pushing on my own timing based on the contractions. I was so thankful that I could feel everything so that I could work WITH my body.
I was still worried as to why the doctor wasn't there yet.
Soon I saw the nurse urgently pressing the call button out of the corner of my eye to get the doctor in the room. Turns out she was down on the exercise bike because she didn't think I'd progress as fast as I did! She made it just in time.
After about 20 minutes of pushing, and using my Pilates & hypnobirthing imagery, our beautiful baby girl was born.
It was the most overwhelming, challenging and empowering feeling to go through the labor & delivery feeling every bit of it and being in tune with my body. I am so thankful that it went as smooth as it did. It was thrilling to know she made a quick, smooth, peaceful arrival into the world.
They immediately placed her on my stomach. We kept her cord attached until it stopped pulsing so she couldn't quite get up to my arms. We also requested that she not be cleaned off right away, we wanted immediate skin to skin contact.
She was silent but so alert, looking up at us the whole time (hypnobirthing babies usually don't cry at first). We couldn't believe how beautiful she was! After they cut the cord they moved her higher up on my chest and we sat with her awhile. Eventually she started to cry and open up her lungs. The cutest, tiniest little cry I've ever heard.
I was on cloud 9 after the delivery. I couldn't believe I actually did it, I couldn't believe she was actually here and I was just surprised how GOOD I felt! Adrenaline was clearly pumping through my body. It was like the ultimate runner's high.
In fact, I was totally euphoric. I even Facetimed my brother right away. In hindsight this makes me laugh because I was just so elated and he couldn't really believe I was Facetiming him already from the labor & delivery bed.
After a short while they moved us up to the Mom & Baby floor where we stayed for an additional 48 hours. We spent the next few days bonding with our new little baby and soaking it all in.
It has been a crazy 6 weeks in the best kind of way. Blake is changing and growing by the day and I'm soaking in this special time (hence, the guest posts and why you've heard from me less lately). I took a full maternity leave from teaching and will be getting back into the swing of things in a month or so.
Thanks for your patience and support - I love having such wonderful and supportive readers. More updates to come soon :)
PS - if you're interested in using Pilates to help you stay strong, healthy and calm throughout your pregnancy don't forget to check out my online prenatal Pilates program: Balanced Beginnings.