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31 August 2010

Nicola's Birth Story

warning: this is reallllly long. And is so long in coming because I rewrote it and revised it about 20 times....

Before I begin with Nicola's birth story, let me preface with a couple of things. One, I have always wanted to do natural birth. I figure if women have been giving birth without drugs since the beginning of time, I can too. And second, Max's birth was not fun. I developed preeclempsia at 36 weeks so they induced me, and while I didn't get an epidural, I did get stadol since I was not allowed out of the bed so I couldn't really deal with the pain. And I was in labor for like 18 hours, but hadn't really slept and hadn't eaten in over 24. So by the time they wanted me to start pushing I was exhausted and would fall asleep between pushes. And when he was finally out they put him in my belly and I was just like "Oh, it's a baby." I didn't really feel any connection, all I wanted to do was sleep (in my defense though, stadol makes you loopy). And then the recovery was NOT FUN. Granted, I did have a vaginal birth so it's not like I had to recover from major surgery, but they had pumped full of so much stuff, and the preeclempsia is not fun to deal with so it was not a quick recovery. I seriously looked like crap. And felt like I'd been hit by a train. And I told Rob that if I had a birth experience like that with the next one we'd be done. They kept me in the hospital an extra day so it wasn't until we were finally home that I was able to finally bond with my baby. So all in all, it wasn't a fun experience at all.

Now on to Nick's birth...
My due date was June 2nd, but I was pretty sure I'd deliver early. And when I found out at my April 26th appointment that I was already dilated to 2cm I was even more sure of it. However, because I was induced with Max I honestly didn't have any idea what it was like to go into labor on your own. So once I found out that I was starting to dilate, I made sure I was ready to go into labor at any time. I had my hospital bag packed by the time May came around (and put it in my car every appointment I had just in case they would send me to the hospital...), and had everything ready for this baby too. (With Max I hadn't packed a bag or gotten much of anything for him yet, and he was born on the day of my shower so we really didn't have anything. I wasn't going to make that mistake this time around) . And every week when I'd go to the doctor I'd be another centimeter dilated, and even more effaced. Oh, and on top of that Nick was in position and would drop lower and lower into my pelvis every week. So I was ready. And every week after seeing my doctor I'd think I was going to have the baby that week, only to make it another week. Then I reached 37 weeks (May 13th, a Thursday) and started having irregular contractions on and off. On Sunday I was having some contractions, and they were kinda regular so I opted to stay home from church. Well, next thing I knew my entire family stayed home from church too (I was staying with my parents). And the contractions were gone by lunchtime. It was depressing. Then on Wednesday I started having contractions in the morning, and they were regular, and getting more painful as time went on. So I did a bunch of different things, like walking, then sitting, then laying down to make sure they were real contractions. And they stayed, but then around lunchtime started tapering off until they were completely gone by late afternoon. Now, by this point I was 4cm and Nick was in position. And I was frustrated. I'm sure everyone thought I was overdue from the way I talked, but I was still 3 weeks away from my due date. So I knew I really couldn't complain, especially since there were others I knew who were way overdue, but I honestly didn't feel bad about it at all. I'm terrible. But they had their husbands with them, and I couldn't see mine until the child came out. So you can imagine I was very eager to birth this baby. Everyday Rob would ask if I was going to give birth, if I was having contractions or not and I'd always have to say "No." And then I got the ultimatum: he was now starting class June 1st instead of in September. So I had to give birth by May 21st so he could make the class, otherwise he'd have to wait for the next one (which he was not keen on doing). Well, the Wednesday that I'd had contractions most of the day was the 19th. Rob insisted I get induced that week, but pitocin was the absolute last thing on earth I wanted. I had a doctor's appointment the next day, the 20th, and I went determined to talk about options to get this baby out, but hoping that no pitocin would be involved. But I was nervous because my midwife, Tanya, was on call that week so I was going to see the other midwife, Donna, and I wasn't sure how she'd respond.

Well, my appointment went smoothly, everything was fine. But at the end when Donna asked me if I had any questions I told her about Rob and his class and the fact I'd been dilating for awhile and asked her if there was anything we could do. So first she checked me, and I was still a four. And she explained that without a medical reason (and she said they were hard pressed to find anything medically wrong with me, yay!) they can't induce you (either breaking my water or using pitocin) until 39 weeks, and I was only 38 weeks. BUT, she was very sympathetic to our situation and wanted to help. So as "our little secret" (as she put it) she decided to go ahead and strip my membranes to see if that would finally get labor going. I'd been having braxton-hicks contractions throughout the entire visit, so when she went to strip the membranes she discovered that I was actually a five. So she went ahead and did the procedure (it is very uncomfortable, in any normal circumstances I don't recommend it) and told me to set up an appointment for the morning to see if it did anything, and if not she'd do it again. Well, when I told the receptionist person that I needed an appointment for the morning because I was at 5cm, she couldn't believe it. I guess being five centimeters dilated without ever being in labor is unusual. So she was sure to wish me luck that they wouldn't see me in the morning, that I'd be in the hospital instead. And the whole drive home I was having contractions and getting excited 'cause I thought "this is finally it!"

When I got back "home" (my parent's house) I started walking, hoping to keep the contractions I'd had in the car going. BUT, they started tapering off and getting irregular instead. And I had a little moment there in my parent's neighborhood, all by myself on the side of the road, but then decided whatever. It was out of my hands. That night was my sister's senior show at her school and my dad was in charge of it, so the whole family headed over to Weaver to support them. And I was still having weak, kind of irregular contractions, but none of us knew whether or not to take them seriously, especially after the past few weeks. So the rest of the evening was normal, I was timing the contractions but they weren't getting any more painful so we all went to bed, me praying that something would happen in the night. Early the next morning, Friday the 21st, after a night of timing, I decided to get up and let my mom know that were regular enough that she probably shouldn't go to work that day. She was surprised (again, after the previous weeks I don't think any of us believed I was ever going to have this baby), but said ok. I kept timing for the next hour or so and around 7 decided to call Tanya since the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. I was a little ambivalent about whether or not to go to the hospital yet since I wasn't in any real pain, they were just a little uncomfortable. Since I didn't really have an idea what to do and she wasn't on call, she had Donna call me since she was now on call and had been the one to see me the day before. So I hopped in the shower, and while in there the contractions got a little more painful, but still not what I was envisioning for what they say is the point to go to the hospital. But when Donna called and I told her that, especially because I wanted to labor at home as much as possible, she pointed out that I was already a five and that it might be a good idea to just go ahead and go. So I said ok, and called Rob and bought him a plane ticket (unfortunately, the fastest he could get to NC was midnight so we figured he'd probably miss the birth) and got everything together, and me and my mom headed out.

We got to the hospital about 9am, and were finally in a room and checked in by 9:30. Since my group b strep was negative I didn't have an IV, but they did hook me up to the monitor for a few minutes to check the baby and my contractions. Then Donna came in and she checked me and I was 6 cm, and she went ahead and broke my water. Then Donna left because the other girl she had there was pushing, and my nurse Safrina sent me out walking to get things going. So I sent Rob a text saying I was going walking and I'd talk to him when I got back, then my mom and I walked the halls of the labor and delivery, with my contractions increasing in pain and frequency pretty steadily. I walked as long as I could, then was ready to go back to the room. I got there about 10:30 and they hooked me up to the monitor again to make sure everything was ok. While I was there in the bed, the representative form the cord blood bank or whatever came in and talked to me about donating the cord blood, which I was all for so she gave me the paperwork to sign. And if you aren't familiar with that, it's A LOT of paperwork. My contractions had been getting pretty painful while she was there, and just kept on getting worse, so I only got through maybe the first few pages before I was ready for the tub. (I was checked again before I got in and was an 8) And I just have to say, ladies, USE A TUB! Oh my, the instant relief I felt when I got in that warm water is indescribable. And so I labored in there for awhile, the contractions getting harder and closer together, with Donna popping in and out to check on me, leaving instructions to my mom and Safrina to notify her when I started feeling the urge to push. At the time I though it was interesting because she basically said they'd know when I started feeling that because I would start reacting differently to the contractions, but I had no idea what that was like. But she was right. I started feeling like pushing and my body snapped into that mode. So Safrina had me get out of the tub and I moved to the bed and she called Donna, but she was delivering that other girl's baby. Meanwhile I'm starting to push. And this is when things got scary for me. With Max pushing was completely coached, I pretty much didn't feel much so I just pushed 'cause they told me to. So I had read a lot about pushing, and heard stories from people that they had to not push until their doctor arrived, etc., and that delaying pushing is actually good because it allows the muscles time to stretch so you avoid tearing. And I though "Hey, not tearing sounds good to me, I should try that." WELL, once that baby entered the birth canal I was in AGONY. And not in control of pushing AT ALL. My body was in complete control, not me. At the time I was pretty embarrassed at how I was acting, I was not composed at all, I think I said/screamed about 20 time "Just GET HIM OUT!" and there was NO WAY I could stop pushing. And oh, the ring of fire. I have no words for that. At some point Donna came rushing in, she whipped on some new gloves and came over to help and I was saying I couldn't do it anymore, knowing I had to keep this up until the baby was out (after my experience with Max I'm thinking it'll take an hour or two) and it'd only been maybe a half hour since I first felt the urge to push. But she's like, "You CAN! You're crowning, feel the baby's head!" And I totally didn't believe her, with Max it took so long to get him out, but sure enough, I could feel his head there. And after a few more pushes he was out! Nicola Anatoli Harmon was born at 12:12pm May 21st. He was immediately placed on me and I held him for a little while, still not totally believing he was really here. And while I was holding him Rob texted me asking, "Are you back yet?" So I sent him a picture (taken with my phone) and let him know he was a daddy again. He totally couldn't believe I had already given birth, I don't think any of us thought it would go so fast. Then they took Nick away to get weighed, and I got checked out and found I hadn't teared at all, which was GREAT! Then I got to eat while my mom held Nick, then I fed him without any issues. He was actually a pig from the get-go, as soon as he was cleaned off and wrapped up he immediately started rooting, but I made him wait until I'd eaten and my body had rested for a few minutes. Then I got up and into a clean gown and off Nick went to the nursery with my mom, and me to a room.

After I was settled into my new room Safrina left me, but first told me that I had been amazing and she was so honored to have been part of a natural birth, something that doesn't happen often. I said thanks but was still a little embarrassed I hadn't been more composed. But now I'm not so embarrassed anymore. I think there's a certain beauty in just letting go and letting your body do what it was designed to do. And I now know that that was what Safrina was referring to. I wasn't in control, my body was, and it gave me this beautiful little boy I am so in love with it hurts. Plus it was kind of nice to have so much of the leg work done before actually going into labor, so that once my water broke it happened fast (despite how annoying it was those weeks leading up to his birth...). And I can honestly say that natural birth is pretty awesome. When I had Max I think one of the hardest things for me was dealing with the feeling that my body had let me down. So to have this wonderful experience this time around, especially after such a rough pregnancy (between being sick and my body just hurting in general PLUS Rob being gone the entire duration) I finally got the birthing experience I'd dreamed about. (And I think it's kind of funny that the other patient, who had gotten an epidural, started pushing when I first got to the hospital, and we ended up delivering within minutes of each other...) And the recovery was a complete 180 from Max's. I was up and walking within an hour of giving birth, and felt like myself that quickly too. Even my family commented on how much better I looked this time around when they came to visit.

I had originally planned on checking out 12 hours after giving birth, but since that was the middle of the night I stayed for 24. And that night was magical. Everyone left, and it was just me and my Nicola. Rob originally was supposed to get in about midnight, but his flight out of Oklahoma ended up being delayed, which meant he missed his connecting flight in Chicago, and the next flight wasn't until the morning. So he spent the night in the airport there in Chicago and got to NC the next day. I was disappointed he wasn't going to get there that night, of course, but it ended up being ok. I got to spend the entire night with my new baby, and it was wonderful. I hardly slept that night because I just couldn't put him down. I had waited a year and a half for him to join our family and for him to finally be here was the best feeling in the world. Being alone with him his first night on this earth was such an awesome experience I'm hoping to do it for all of our future children too.

Back to the previous day, the day Nick was born; that afternoon we had visitors, including Mr. Max. Unfortunately, he had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the hospital so he didn't really care at all what was going on and just wanted to sleep. But my parents and siblings and Rob's mom all got to hold Nick and visit with me and I got to take a shower and relax. And that night I had a wonderful surprise, Toni Stanin from church was my nurse! She was awesome and made sure I had my drugs:) (those were to deal with the cramping that happens as your uterus shrinks... apparently they get worse with each pregnancy. yay. not.) And then another surprise in the morning, my nurse was one of my midwives from Max's pregnancy! (the birthing center closed not long after Max was born because not enough women were using it) And that day was busy since they were letting me check out, so Nick got checked out by the pediatrician, then got sent off to be circumcised. And not 5 minutes after Nick left to be circumcised, Rob arrived! He got there earlier than I thought and totally surprised me! We headed to the nursery and Rob got to see the top of his head from a distance, then finally got to see him and hold him about 24 hours after he was born. And not long after we checked out of the hospital and were outta there!

Now for the pictures:
The picture I sent Rob, just minutes after Nick was born.

Nicola and I,
both of us cleaned up:)

Max upon his arrival to meet his new brother.

Wearing the little hat I made him (it fit! whew!)

Max meeting Nick for the first time.

He was a little out of it.

I took the following pictures our first night together, when we were alone:

My mom stopped by briefly right before we went to bed.

I just love his little wrinkly face!

Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of Rob holding Nicola for the first time (it's kind of hard to be the photographer and the delivering mother), but these two are from the day we left the hospital, back at my parent's house. I think it's safe to say Rob is a proud papa.

My cute little man.

And our brand-new family, two days after Nicola was born.


  1. Thank you so much for your story. I had the same experience with Caroline the night she was born. It was so special for me. You look amazing Mama!

  2. Wow, I love reading other peoples' natural birth stories. I had Lynny naturally too, but I didn't have any time to gear up for it. I started having contractions 1-2 minutes long and only 2 minutes apart and had a baby three hours later. I can barely remember what happened, other than the fact that I felt completely out of control, just like you said! Way to go.

  3. I was totally in tears when you talked about how beautiful of an experience it was to deliver Nicola, and how much you loved being with him the first night he was alive and how you had waited SO long for him to join your family. That's EXACTLY how I felt when Max was born! It's amazing how much more you love someone when you've waited so long for them to arrive and be a part of your family!
    Congrats! I'm impressed at the natural birthing experience, don't know if I could ever do that!

  4. You are amazing! Loved reading his birth story.

  5. Jennifer Wassink31 August, 2010 22:13

    thanks for sharing! I love reading birth stories. Emilia's delivery was very similar. It all happened so fast. It's amazing how your body starts pushing and you have no control! The nurses told me to stop so the doctor could get ready,but i kept telling them "i'm not doing it on purpose!" i didn't tear either and i couldn't believe how great i felt afterwards! All this said i'm not sure my next one will be birthed without an epidural...it hurt! lol! And just like you i was so embarrased at all my screaming! Anyway beautiful story! hope you guys are doing well!

  6. Such beautiful pictures, and a beautiful story, too. I loved having the hindsight in there, too. Maybe waiting so long and revising it so often was actually better because you got to draw new conclusions and put them side by side with the original ones. I'm proud of you for making the birth experience you wanted!

  7. Good Job Jackie! If you have that "I'm done with this pregnancy" feeling weeks early or a week late, it still sucks. What a great payoff though.

  8. I stumbled across your birth story while cruising the web. Loved it!
    I too had my second natural and so loved the difference from the first. I actually walked out of the delivery room (mostly because I didn't want to sit on my tushie just yet) and it felt great.
    What a cutie patootie.