Ivy's story really started two days before her birth, on a Tuesday, when I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I was having some strong contractions that were about 2-5 minutes apart...all day. I finally contacted one of my midwives, Kaitlyn, around 3 in the afternoon, and she told me to go ahead and come in to see if things would progress. I have a history of my labors piddling around until about the last hour or so, and then things go from easy to serious quickly. I let everyone on my birth team know I was going in and I'd update them on whether she was going to keep me, or send me home.
We had a great time that night. My friend Allyson brought food and rice crispy treats, and I got to enjoy being with them and laughing. My mom, sister in law, mother in law, and photographer/friend were all there. While there, I prayed my water would break, but it didn’t. I had a tiny ounce of doubt that it was the real thing, but I so desperately wanted it to be “the day”. And so I called everyone up, and we tried. Boy did I try.it.all. I'll spare the details of the 12 hours, but it was a painful, tiring, and strangely enough at times, a blur to me. Contractions were consistent but not getting stronger, longer, or closer together. Around 1:30am, my midwife checked me again and I had progressed a little, but not much, and my contractions were fizzling out. She encouraged me that I had really done some important work that night, and that the baby was lower and in better position, and my dilation had changed some, but that most likely this was meant to rotate and descend Ivy Kate, but not necessarily the day she was to be born. At this point, I was so exhausted; all I wanted was to sleep. My wonderful midwife sent me home with some sleep aides and assured me that prodromal labor (more info here: http://birthbootcamp.com/prodromal-labor-what-is-it-and-what-can-you-do-about-it/) was common and nothing to feel badly about. We loaded everything back in the car, unsure of when we’d be back. At the time I was at peace with it, too tired to care at that point.
Wednesday I woke up in a haze. I wasn't tired, but I wasn't with it. And then there was nothing. No indication that my body was working on labor. I was thankful my two boys were in school because I cried a lot that day. I felt like I had somehow let people down, even though deep down I know they didn’t feel that way. But sometimes you just need a good pity party. By the end of the day I was more at peace with the possibility that labor was weeks away, I tried to just focus on the present.
Thursday morning came and with it came more signs of labor! Who knew that bloody show would be so exciting?! I still prayed for my water to break, knowing it wouldn't be too long after when I'd finally meet my daughter. I didn’t mention anything to anyone and went about having a fun day with my mom. We went to lunch and I started having very uncomfortable contractions. I didn't dare mention them for fear of the prodromal labor monster rearing its ugly head. We got some Bahama Bucks (snow cones!) and headed back home. I was feeling pretty miserable, and noticed every bump in the road annoyed me. Around 5PM I text my friend Allyson saying I was feeling crummy and I'd probably head to bed early. I laid on the couch for a bit. At 5:45 I asked Cratin to push on one spot on my back. Suddenly, my water broke! I didn't mention it right away, just wanted to make sure. After a few minutes I told him and went to the restroom to check. I was praising God for answering my prayers! I waited a very frustrating 10 minutes before contractions started. Ha!
I walked in front of my house, timing contractions for almost an hour. Two of my neighbors told me earlier that day that it was “the day”. How’d they know?! My contractions were never 5 minutes apart, they were 2 1/2 minutes apart for 45-60 seconds right from the beginning. At the hour mark, I called my midwives back. It was time to go in- for real! I sent a frantic text to my parents and asked them to get there right away! I don't even remember the drive to the birth center, but I do remember asking my mom to pick up some Sonic ice (which she told me later she had to fight them to give her – don’t mess with a woman whose daughter is in labor!).
We arrived at the birth center a little after 7PM, I think. I noticed they were finishing cleaning up from my high school friend’s birth of her daughter earlier that day. After another round of meds for GBS, I started walking the parking lot. It was glorious outside and I remember thanking God for the weather since it was forecasted to rain.
Meanwhile, all my friends made their way to the birth center, and I was so happy! For a time, it was just Cratin and I outside walking through contractions. What a sweet time being supported by my favorite person in the world. Then my awesome mom joined us. Just like with my previous births, as soon as I felt like I couldn't walk the "path" we'd chosen, we headed inside. Soon, other fabulous people in my birth support team started arriving, including the wonderful and sweet Hannah Bellah, my friend and birth photographer.
My birth support team was a big one. We all settled into the beautiful birth room and I got into the tub to labor. It was probably close to 8:00pm. Laboring in the warm water was amazing! I thought my contractions were fizzling out again at one point, but Gina, my other fantastic midwife, assured me that laboring in the water just makes the contractions feel less strong. Awesome! Gina prayed over me and Cratin had worship music playing quietly in the background. I’m pretty sure Bethel’s "You Make Me Brave" album was made for labor. There were a few songs that brought me to tears, and Becky leaned over and whispered that she felt my grandmother (who passed away in 2007) was there with us. It was peaceful and worshipful.
I'm fuzzy with the times after this point because my eyes were closed 99% of the time. Each time I went to use the restroom, the urge to push was very strong. I labored on the bed for a bit and when Gina checked me, I still had "quite a bit of cervix left." Again, I was pretty mad! The urge to push with cervix in the way is enough to make me want to scream. And I did, through some of the next contractions. The midwives encouraged me to use different breathing techniques to help with that urge to push. I made some strange sounds, but they seemed to help. I really had to focus on the hard work I was doing. Gina, being so very wise, wouldn’t tell me how much I had dilated, which meant I probably still had a long way to go. I’m assuming it was nearing 10PM at this point.
The contractions while on the bed were miserable, and I was having some major pains in my lower back. Becky was so wonderful with her magic hands, giving me some great relief on my back throughout my labor. I'm not certain, but I think there were a number of others who pushed and rubbed my back for relief. Three metal rods, 12 screws, and labor don't play nicely together. But God is merciful and allows me to birth my babies despite my body not moving and bending like it “should.”
I got into the birth tub, and I was pretty determined to try to NOT push. My body was fighting me for the next several minutes. I had 2-3 contractions slumped over the edge of the tub, biting a towel, trying to not tear up my throat- I was coughing from the guttural noises escaping me, but those did seem to help me get through a bit. Completely unaware that my husband was in the tub behind me, I focused on my breathing and Gina's directions. I heard God tell me to reach up get my baby out.
I could feel a lip of cervix, and it seemed pretty thick, like a rubber band, on one side. I pulled it away, remembering what my midwife had to do during Asher's birth, and then… I felt her head! The pain was intense. My main job at this point was to not tear! My midwives were so wonderful at explaining what would happen at this point prentally, so I knew why this was happening during pushing this time. Not tearing would mean an easier recovery and better experience overall. I had an episiotomy with Zane and a 2nd degree tear with Asher, and I did not want to go through that again.
"I feel her head! Can I push now?" Gina gave me the go-ahead and it seemed like I only pushed a couple more times before her head was out! With Gina's sure hands, and guidance of when to slow down, I didn’t tear for the first time! I pushed a bit more and she was here! I opened my eyes and yelled, "Where is she?" Ha! Gina brought her up to me and I just laugh-cried and kissed her sweet, sweet face. No one was speaking but Cratin and I, talking to our daughter. What a special time.
I remember asking what day it was and what time, and I kept marveling over how quickly she got here. I just couldn't get enough of her- I had a daughter!
After I got out I delivered the placenta. My placenta was anterior and I had had no idea how huge it was. Thankfully it was completely intact and the cord was super long. They left it beside Ivy Kate and I for about an hour. Then, Cratin cut the cord and helped weigh her. She took to nursing right away, though we could tell she was lip and tongue tied. We had that fixed the next week, thank goodness. Ivy and I had an herbal bath and she was so alert and calm. She was just perfect! I was feeling great and ready to go home to sleep in my own bed.
I am still thanking God for the many ways He answered our prayers, for her health and mine, and for the joy of bringing our daughter here into this world safely surrounded by so many strong and wonderful women and her amazing father. What a wonderful beginning, Ivy Kate!
Ivy Kate Alison Sheffield
Born in Water at Origins Birth and Wellness Collective