Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rynna's Birth Story

Rynna is 4 months old today. It took me 4 months to write her birth story. I didn't want to leave anything out, so I gave myself plenty of time to remember every tiny detail. As a result, this is a long story. I considered breaking it up into separate posts, but I decided that despite its length, I wanted it all in one post. It's a beautiful story, and I'm excited to have it chronicled here. If you find yourself exhausted early on, you can read "Tuesday, February 11th, 3:45 am, Rynna's birthday" here at the beginning and then skip to "Tuesday, February 11th, Rynna's birthday. 5:00 am" toward the bottom of the post for the active birth portion of the story.

  | Rynna's first outfit |

Tuesday, February 11th, 3:45 am, Rynna's birthday. 
I woke up with an intense feeling of euphoria. I opened my eyes and stared around the room making out each shape in the darkness. I talked to Rynna and hugged my belly, like I often did during my pregnancy, but with being 8 days past her due date, this time I asked her to please come. “We are ready for you precious girl. We are ready to be your mama and daddy. Please come meet us today.” I closed my eyes again, soaking in the moment and thinking it was the best feeling I’d had during my whole pregnancy. Suddenly, that feeling was followed by another intense, heavy feeling in my gut. It’s like Rynna was answering me. “Ok, I’m ready mama!” I waited a few minutes and felt it again, so I got up, grabbed my phone and started timing them. They were real. This was it. Contractions! I sat down on the floor beside the bed and began to stretch my body. I closed my eyes, took in a few deep breaths and visualized the air relaxing me. First my shoulders, then my chest, then belly, back, and all the way down to my feet. I got up and made my way to our closet, where I bent forward to lean on the shelf to stretch my back and hips. I swayed back and forth with each breath and talked to Rynna some more about how emotional I felt about meeting her. I continued this little dance for quite some time, sitting occasionally and rubbing my belly over the spot where Rynna kept poking her little baby booty out. Around 4:30 am I was starting to feel tired and achy from the contractions, so I took a warm bath to help ease my body. About half an hour into it, still aching, I decided that I felt better swaying, stretching, and talking to Rynna. So I dried off and walked back to our closet to get dressed. As soon as I stepped into the closet, my water broke…again. Again? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “This wasn’t the first time?” No, it was actually the second. Let’s back up. 

Friday night, February 7th, the first time my water broke. 
The snow outside was starting to melt from a heavy (for TX) fall the day before, and I wondered to myself if Rynna would be making her debut and if we’d be having a little snow bunny on our hands. I remember being so glad to finally have Josh home. Between work and school, his weeks just felt so long, and during my third trimester especially, I found myself counting down the hours each day until he’d be home. As our week was finally coming to a close, we stood at the foot of our bed recapping it all. It was around 11pm and mid conversation my water broke suddenly. It was quite a rush, both literally and figuratively. My cheeks blushed with heat and I stumbled over my words, as if Josh really needed an explanation as to what had just happened. We had a good laugh over the fact that even after 3 years of marriage and a grand total of 15 years of knowing each other, I still managed to get embarrassed in front of him. He assured me that (obviously) it was natural and that I should probably stop talking and call my midwife. It all happened within seconds. I ran (who am I kidding, I waddled) into our bathroom and had Michele on the phone instantly. I tried to explain that I didn’t think I’d peed myself, but I wasn’t sure if my waters had actually ruptured. I’m laughing at myself now because I KNEW they had, but I was slightly in denial. I had waited so long for that moment, and like most pregnant women do by the end of their third trimester I’m sure, I felt like it’d never come. Rynna had dropped at 34 weeks, and I’d been feeling the weight of her little head for longer than I’d anticipated. Each week after that had me feeling that she’d come at any moment; so needless to say, I was in shock that it was finally actually happening.

My midwife is an incredible woman. I had been confident through my whole pregnancy, knowing that I was very in tune with my body and my baby, and she never once questioned or second-guessed me on anything. There are so many things about midwifery that I could sing praises about, but if I had to choose just one, that would be it. I never once felt like a patient. She always affirmed me in my ability to grow this sweet babe of mine by asking me what I thought about each stage, instead of just telling me her opinion straight off. And again, there she was on the phone with me late at night reminding me that I was wise to the situation and capable of all that was to come in labor. I was excited, pumped, and ready to rock it! 

Saturday, February 8th came and I found myself joking through text with Michele about how deceptive the movies are about the process of labor. You know the scene. The woman’s water breaks, she’s instantly on a hospital bed screaming and pushing, and then a baby pops out. My experience was nothing like this. There I was, waters ruptured, and still hanging out at home with no further progression.

Sunday, February 9th, Michele text to check on me and I remember replying with something along the lines of, “Am I going to be pregnant forever?” My heart was aching at this point, more than my body or mind, to meet Rynna, and Josh was just as anxious to meet her! Waiting 9 months to see her face was extremely challenging. We’d spent the whole pregnancy imagining what she’d look like and we were READY to find out. By around 1pm Rynna had become very still, so we agreed to meet Michele at the birth center to check her heartbeat, my fluid levels, dilation, etc. I’ll admit to feeling a little worried that I hadn’t felt any baby kicks. However, once we got in the car and Josh turned up the music, Rynna started bouncing all around, which was a pretty typical response for her. It instantly put me at ease. Once at the Birth Center we listened to her strong, steady heartbeat, learned that my fluid levels were perfect and that my fore bag was actually still completely in tact. I didn’t know this before it actually happened, but it is possible for your hind waters to rupture, leaving the amniotic sac and the fluids within in tact. No film ever portrayed that! I had dilated to 2 cm by this point, was 80% effaced, and was +2 station. All encouraging news! We headed back home and our hopes were high that we’d be returning later that evening to have ourselves a baby! 

Monday, February 10th, no such luck. There I was, still at home in prodromal labor and praying for progression. We agreed to meet with my midwife the next day to check Rynna’s heartbeat and my fluid levels again. I went to bed that evening and really challenged myself mentally to get a restful night’s sleep. 

  | Mama and Rynna |

Tuesday, February 11th, Rynna's birthday. 

5:00 am My water broke a second time, and I mean it really broke! I thought it was a rush the first time, but I had no idea. Josh was still asleep, so he missed out on the action this time around. I was still just as shocked as I was the first time though, but instead of being embarrassed, I was elated. Like the giddy, jump up and down kind, except there was no jumping haha, don't worry. I text Michele and didn’t receive a response. She was always so prompt, so I waited a while and when I didn’t hear back from her, I gave her a call. She was actually at another birth! I told her she was super woman, and I asked if she ever slept. We joked and laughed about her amazing, yet wild job, and then discussed the details of my situation. I had an appointment with my chiropractor scheduled for later that morning and Michele encouraged me to keep it, informing me that an adjustment would help assist with the contractions. I was excited to hear this news! I love getting adjusted, and it was especially helpful during my pregnancy. I decided I’d wait to wake Josh until half an hour or so before my appointment. Needless to say, I never made it to the chiropractor.

7:00 am rolled around and I went into active labor. Finally! I gently woke Josh. I was so excited to wake him that it took everything within me not to just pounce on top of him, big ol’ baby belly and all. The mental picture of that is pretty humorous to think back on now! I'm so glad I took the gentle approach! He popped out of bed like it was Christmas morning and offered to make me breakfast. I remember closing my eyes and taking a deep breath and talking to Rynna in my mind, and she gave me a very clear answer. No, there was no time for breakfast. I knew it was time to head to the birth center. My birth bag was already packed and set by the back door along with our camera and my shoes. Josh grabbed my water bottle and a few oranges out of the fridge to add to the snack bag I already had packed. I called Michele to let her know Rynna was on her way, and we headed out.

Around 8:00 am, I felt so at ease. Laboring, obviously, but calm and prepared. It was at this point I started having thoughts like, “I wonder what Rynna and I will be like during delivery? Will she come out, lungs blaring in song? Will I be meditative and deliver her quietly?” I made a joke to Josh in the car on the way there that I planned on singing out Ray Dalton’s “ooooh ooooh” part in Ceiling Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as I pushed Rynna out (skip to minute 1:13 of the song and you’ll hear what I mean, haha). It would have been hilarious! In all seriousness though, I was ok with anything. I trusted my body to respond exactly the way it needed to, and I was prepared for Rynna to make her entrance however she saw fit. We were about 20 minutes from the birth center when I found myself no longer able to talk and joke around. I remember telling Josh, “I’m sorry if I don’t laugh anymore. If I do, I won’t be able to breathe properly.” Breathing deeply and slowly was everything at this point. Now, I know unbuckling your seat belt isn’t safe to do in a moving vehicle, but I unbuckled mine each time a contraction hit. I had to turn around, knees in the seat with my arms up around the headrest to breathe. I’m not sure why, but it helped ease the pain. Between contractions, at some point, I did make one more joke. It was something along the lines of, “whoever passes us on the right side is going to get my big ol' booty in their face.” It was literally up against the window. 

Around 9:00 am, we arrived at the birth center. I had decided before I was even pregnant that I wanted to have a water birth, so Michele had the water prepped and ready. The room was painted a calming shade of blue and there was a bed next to the birthing tub that was dressed with fluffy, crisp, white linens and pillows, similar to those you’d find in a cozy bed and breakfast. I snacked on one of my oranges and continued to walk and breathe through each contraction. I eventually went from walking and talking to having to kneel on one knee beside the bed. Josh suggested I lie down, but strangely enough, kneeling was the only position that felt comfortable for me at the time. It was at this point I had them dim the lights, which helped me focus and feel peaceful. I crossed my arms over my head, leaned forward on the bed, and laid my head against the sheets. They felt so soft against my face and seemed to soften the blow of pain that was surging through my back. I always imagined that the pain would be focused at the perineum - nope, not at all. It was so strong, and it was all in my lower back and the back of my hips. Josh knelt behind me and began rubbing and putting counter pressure on my lower back. I don’t know what I would have done without him! The pressure he put cut the pain in half, literally. He moved at one point to offer me water, and I instantly felt a difference, and asked him to reapply the pressure. My request came out in a bit of a whisper because that’s all I could muster. Each contraction took every single bit of my energy and focus. Everything around me became distant and mute, besides Josh. I was very aware of where he was at the entire time because he stayed attached to me, never leaving, and was constantly encouraging me. I was also very in tune with Rynna. It’s the most difficult thing to try and explain, but I felt like we were communicating the entire time. I imagined each contraction squeezing in and pushing on her little body, and I’d quietly tell her that she was doing such an amazing job and that we were a strong team and she’d be out before she knew it. 

At around 11 am I got into the water. It was the perfect temperature, soothing, and offered instant relief to my laboring body. I crossed my arms and rested them over the edge of the tub, belly down, while letting my back and legs stretch out straight to float in the water. The birthing tub was large and round, similar to a hot tub but, without seating. I had plenty of room to move around and position myself however I needed to. It was luxurious in my opinion - warm, soft, and complete with jets! My contractions became more and more intense, and with each one I was so happy I'd chosen to birth in the water. I kept thinking, "Now I know why so many women get an epidural. I can't imagine laboring on my back, in bed, with my legs spread in the air." How unnatural and uncomfortable! Laboring was hard, intense, and it hurt like mad, but i didn't need to numb it away. While uncomfortable, it was still amazing. I knew what was happening at every moment and was able to communicate (though it may have been in sentence fragments) to those around me. I wanted that and couldn't have imagined doing it any other way. At one point, Michele expressed slight concern about Rynna's heartbeat and suggested I float on my side. I gently rotated and she placed the doppler on my belly. Rynna's heartbeat was strong and steady. She checked Rynna’s heartbeat after each contraction. Hearing that sweet, steady sound throughout the labor gave me a crazy amount of endurance. I can't explain it adequately, but with each beat I felt stronger and stronger, like it was Rynna’s way of saying, "you're doing an excellent job mama. Stay strong!" 

At around 2:45 pm My body began bearing down and I knew I needed to push. Josh was on my front left, leaning over me and putting counter pressure on my back the entire time I was in the water. Malloree, a student midwife, was on my front right and held both my hands through each contraction. Michele was on my back right, with her light, mirror, and doppler monitoring me and Rynna every step of the way. It's funny looking back on it, but I feel like I gave them all a play by play of what I was doing and when. I was keenly aware of everything my body was doing. "I'm going to push now." I said softly, though strained, because it happened almost as quickly as I opened my mouth. I began pushing and tried to breathe out while I pushed. Though this approach got me through the first push, it didn't feel at all effective and my body felt like it was asking me for more strength. I rested silently after the first push, eyes closed, only glancing up to look at Josh for a brief moment. I couldn't imagine being him, on the other side of the birthing tub, and I wanted to see for myself that he was ok. He'd been hands-on with me the entire time, and I was worried he was exhausted. (When I shared this with him later, he laughed at me.) I kept my eyes closed almost the entire time. I was so inward, focusing on the task at hand and constantly communicating with Rynna. Cheering her on and reassuring her that we were rocking it! "Here comes another one (contraction and push)," I said. This time I pulled my feet under me and used them as leverage, squatting, hoping gravity would be of assistance. I also allowed myself to naturally make noise. I wasn't sure what was going to come out of my vocal chords, but I felt it would help. I was right! The combination of vocalization and positioning was effective and I felt Rynna moving down the birth canal. It didn't hurt at all. It felt incredibly empowering! Once that contraction was over Michele softly said, "good job mama, now let her go back in." I had no idea it was a back and forth process, but when she said this I felt it! I had moved Rynna a little further down with each push and after each contraction I would relax and allow her to gently settle back in. I can't even begin to describe how amazing this was, but I learned that the balance of powerful pushing followed by immediate relaxation (as well as visualizing that relaxation for Rynna) was crucial. I was being cheered on through the whole process. "You're doing great mama." "Good job, she's almost here." And many more words of affirmation came from Josh, Michele, and Malloree. I never once felt like I couldn't do it. I never wanted to quit. Again, my back and hips hurt like crazy, but I felt so strong! Her arrival was nearing, and for a split second I felt like I was about to cry and I felt nauseous. A rush of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. This was it - the end of my pregnancy and the beginning of a new life with our little baby. I told them I thought I was going to throw up and they grabbed me a bowl. I quickly realized that I just felt overwhelmed in the best way. "I won't throw up. I just want her to be here. I just want to meet her." Josh assured me that I soon would. My nausea instantly subsided and the urge to cry was gone. I wanted to kiss him, but I felt my body bearing down again. With the third push I said quietly, though with as much enthusiasm as I could, "She's crowning!" And Michele told me to reach down and feel Rynna's head. I did but it took me a while to really connect my brain with what I was feeling. When I finally realized I could feel her, my heart leapt so high! I wanted to scream in excitement, but I felt my final contraction coming on strong. 

2:58 pm I quickly grabbed the edge of the birthing tub as I heard Michele say something along the lines of, "take your time..." but I knew this was it. I said, "She's coming. I'm going to push now. Here she commmmmes!" And with that, one tiny arm emerged. Josh later described it as Rynna punching her way out of the womb superman style. Her little hand was balled up in a fist and her head, shoulders, and body followed. She came out with such power that she slipped right through Josh's hands! Keep in mind that I was in the water, so although it happened quickly, she was met with a natural, warm and wet environment, just like she'd been used to in the womb. "Reach down and pick up your baby, mama." Were Michele's words that clued me into all the excitement. It all happened so fast! I looked down and saw Rynna gently floating beneath me. I reached down and scooped her up, just before she would have reached the bottom of the tub. I brought her little head and arms to the surface of the water and the second I saw her, she took my breath away. She was so calm and peaceful. I felt like I couldn't move. I couldn't cry or speak and I had to remind myself to breathe. My thoughts were racing, but my voice came back within an instant. I remember thinking all sorts of things like, "Look at her! Oh, look at her little face! Hi, Rynna! You're here! I have you, don't worry. Mama has you. We rocked that! We did such a good job!" However, I have no idea which parts I actually said and which ones were only thoughts. I remember hearing Josh laugh in excitement and he responded to something I said to him about her, but it's not completely clear to me now. I just remember how amazing it felt to pull her tiny body to my chest and to feel her in my arms. I stood up out of the water and carried her to the bed. It was important to me that she received as much of her chord blood as she could. So she remained attached until the chord stopped pulsing. Josh cut her chord and I kept her close between me and a few warm towels, and josh snuggled up next to us on the bed. After a few minutes we made our way to another room down the hall where they had prepared an herbal bath (in an actual bathtub this time) for us.

  | Enjoying our herbal bath. |

  | Rynna wrapped in a warm towel after her herbal bath. |

  | Daddy soothing Rynna. |

Rynna and I soaked for what felt like forever, and josh gently sponged her head. It was wonderfully relaxing, and I felt so happy to know that we were receiving natural herbs that would sooth her tiny body and would help to heal mine. After our bath we made our way back to the birthing room and I breastfed Rynna for the first time. She latched on quickly and ate until she was content. She was then weighed and measured right there on the bed. Josh was able to assist in every step of the process. I loved watching his face as he held her up in the sling and then tried to determine how much she weighed. He dressed her in her gown and the sweetest crocheted turban our friend had made for her, and when he offered her the tip of his pinky to suck on (clean hands, of course) when she began to cry, my heart just about melted. Although it was late in the afternoon at this point, Michele ordered breakfast in bed for Josh and I, and we took turns holding Rynna. We were so hungry we both cleaned our entire plates! We snuggled back in bed as a family of three. They monitored me for an hour or so, as I'd had a bit of a dizzy spell on the way back from our herbal bath earlier, but after a bit of juice and a good reading on my blood pressure, they cleared us to go. I love the birth center we chose and all of the midwives there! We were cleared to go, but they didn’t rush us or require us to leave. We were welcomed to stay as long as we liked, so we turned the lights back down and laid there together on the bed, taking in as much of the last few moments as we could. At around 11pm we decided to head home. It was chilly outside and it took us a few minutes to get Rynna in her car seat just right, but soon we were on the road. I road in the back seat and held my hand against her chest the entire way. Praying for her heart, her lungs, her tiny body, all the things I'd prayed for before, only this time I could actually place my hand on her chest instead of my belly.

That's the birth story of our babe, Rynna Gwen Steward. She weighed 7 lbs 10 oz and was 21 inches long. Born on February 11th at 2:58pm. I had no idea that the weeks to follow would be full of slow healing, marathon breastfeeding sessions and 100% sleepless nights, but knowing that ahead of time wouldn’t have changed a thing. I'd do it all over again for her, a million times. Every. Single. Detail.


  1. Such a sweet story. I'm so happy for you and your little family, she's beautiful! :)

  2. Replies
    1. Agreed :)! I hope Rynna loves reading it some day.

  3. Loved this! Such a beautiful story, makes me so excited!

    1. I'm so glad! Everything about pregnancy and birth is super exciting. You'll love it (challenging parts and all)!

  4. This is such a beautiful story. I love reading birth stories! I'm so glad you had such an empowering experience. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I loved reading this!!! Good job mama :)

    1. Thanks! Having the title of "mama" feels good :)!!

  6. What a beautiful, amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing!


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