Stellan James Soderlund
The Birth Story of Birth Stories
The tale of Stellan James Soderlund born June 21st at 12:07am to Sarah & Brandon after 20 hours of natural child birth. They call him 'moose', 'Viking' and 'Little Big Man' and this is how he came into the world...
Nine months goes by much faster than you would think but there are definitely moments when time stands still and you swear you'll be a huge, handicapped woman bursting at the seams for what feels like forever. Though Brandon and I knew we wanted to wait patiently for the birth of our son and take the entire process naturally, the last few weeks became far more difficult than I could have imagined. My feet were four times their original size, I couldn't see my knees over my belly, and every bone in my body felt like the new addition of a 60lb bulge was just pushing every inch of me to the limit. Our 'guess week' had come and gone and the anticipation, disappointment, frustration and shear madness of physical exhaustion was kicking in. Though I stayed true to 'natural form' I will admit, I tried everything from spicy food, jumping jacks, walking stairs to moon light spells to try and instigate the arrival of our first every baby boy but he seemed far too stubborn to budge. On Monday June 18th we went for our last check up, beyond the 40 weeks, and our midwife even bulged in the eyes when we can huffing and waddling into the birthing center. "I'm ready to have him today people!" I announced to the staff. Secretly I had hoped that when the midwives would press on my belly and check my cervix that they would tell me to just go ahead and settle in... but that is not what happened.
We waddled out of the birthing center with progress, false labor but healthy stats and the lingering hope that something would happen soon and the prediction of a Solstice baby on the horizon. Tuesday came and I woke up as stagnate and perched in bed as ever, only being able to sleep a few hours at a time and feeling miserable. The day went on and I continued to have contractions but the excitement had all but leaked out of me and Brandon and I walked to and from the grocery store to plan a normal day. Upon leaving the market I saw that Caribou was still open and though I have avoided caffeine this entire pregnancy, I really wanted a mocha frozen thingy and decided to take the plunge. Walking home with our groceries we walked into the apartment to find that our A/C had broken and of course the entire apartment was sweaty, humid, sticky and gross. Pregnant and hot – frustrated and tired I must have been a wench. Unable to relax in the heat and with Brandon not feeling so well, we stayed up late into the night watching movies and baseball as sweat pooled over our faces. I did my pregnant maneuver to get off the bed and use the restroom (which is a magical 10 minute procedure of backing out and about over furniture like a scared cat) and felt a 'snap'. Almost as if I had pulled a hamstring without the pain and I looked over at Brandon as he looked back at me. "Something just happened..."
I stood up and beyond the normal embarrassing leaking that people never tell pregnant women, water pooled at my feet. Trying not to get too excited I stripped off my clothes and at the sudden movement of just bending a leg, water came gushing out onto the carpet as I quickly darted through the apartment and to the restroom. We immediately called the midwife and explained our water had broken and to my dismay heard her telling Brandon, "You still have some time so try and relax and call me in a few hours to give me an update." Here I was on the toilet in a moment of pure adrenaline, experiencing the very momentous adventure I had been begging for and I found myself scared, nervous, worried, and seeing flashes of desperate scenes in movies where women rush to the hospital as their water is breaking with a baby falling out between their legs. I jerked the phone over to me and said, "Mariah, I'm scared. I feel different, I feel like I want to come in and start having him now..." She could tell I was in a bit of a panic and at 4:30am came to our house to check me in person. Magically while I had blubbered on the phone and had a mild panic attack in the bathroom, Brandon had cleaned the entire house and was excitedly waiting at the door to help Mariah in and be there when needed. Again, to my dismay, Mariah checked my vitals, checked my cervix and said, "Sweetie, I am going to go home and I want you to stay here and try and relax. Call me in three to four hours when things become more intense."
I cried. I couldn't imagine being all by myself in the hot apartment for hours without truly knowing from moment to moment what might happen but in a flash, it was already 9:00am and things were indeed becoming more intense. My in laws arrived to take Brandon and I to the birthing center and my panic turned to an adrenaline filled haze of breathing, clenching, visualizing and waddling from place to place. Hitting every red light, every traffic jam and wondering if every on looker was terrified at my 'crazy pregnant glance' from the window of the Jeep as we rushed to the birthing center; the adventure was already underway. At 10:00 we arrived at the center on a hazy Wednesday the 20th, the magical leap year Solstice, and the staff at Morning Star already had a warm bath running and the room dim for our arrival. I immediately stripped down to my bathing suit top and hopped into the bath with Brandon to start getting into the phases of getting this little guy out of me! Quite honestly I had imagined a smooth water birth with all my hypnosis technique and being past due and that things would move quickly and naturally; the reality was quite different. Labor pains became more intense, breathing and vocalizing evolved into something almost beyond my control and in the arms of Brandon I found myself riding a crazy wave of biological experiences that I truly had no control over. My body was doing it all on its own.
I remember how calm the staff was, how welcoming their advice was, and how at every option they let me have control over what was to happen next. One midwife was fanning my body as the other was delivering a cold rag to my head. The third midwife was monitoring baby and me and relaying how strong our hearts were and how well we were working together all while Brandon was holding me and my awesome Mother in Law was holding my hand. From the toilet, to the bathtub, to the floor, to the bed, from the bed to the sink and from the hallway to the bathtub I covered every inch of the room trying to work with each contraction and keep my momentum going. Soon I looked at the clock and the rain outside through the window and realized it was past dinner time... I had been laboring for almost 15 hours! Time had mercy on me and seemed to be moving along faster than I could have hoped but then just as I remember mentally patting myself on the back for coming this far, this entire 9 months and 15 hours into labor without even a Tylenol, 'transition' hit. My contractions went from uncomfortable waves to a physical force I could not fight. Soon I was hunched over like someone heaving from the flu and found my whole body clenching with every muscle; I knew it was soon. 9:30pm was on the clock over my shoulder and I remember being in the bed on my side and at every contraction having Brandon hold my hand and hips while three midwives contorted my body to make the most of the pushing. With my knees at my ears I began to hear them say to my Mother in Law, "Pegge, come here and look at your grandson!" You could begin to see his curly hair peak at the height of each contraction but then he would subside back into the womb as I relaxed. I wanted to see him too and remember asking, "How soon!? I cannot keep doing this!" It was then that the strength of my midwives really shined.
"Sarah, your baby is helping you do this and together you're going to get through this just as nature intended. You're not tearing, you're not doing anything you shouldn't and we're not going to force him. He is rocking himself past your pelvic bone at his own pace and he is doing lots of work too so just hang in there, you'll have a baby very soon." With that thought in my head I keep giving it all I could through each wave of pain. With spoonfuls of honey and raspberries as my only snack of energy and cool sips of water I tried to relax through each contraction but soon, around 11:00pm they became back to back to back. My midwives again suggested I move around and find a new position and it was then they suggested I work with gravity and squat down on the floor. All throughout this adventure, Brandon was my personal sling and contorted his body to hold me in the exact position I wanted and still managed to whisper encouragement into my ears and at this point we were both exhausted. He lunged over in a half squat holding all 180 lbs of me with baby on his tippy toes and helped to hold my arms over my head and all the woman conjured on the floor to help guide my pushing. Brandon had only taken a humorous 30 minute nap during our labor, wherein he snored as I pushed against his chest, and I could tell we were both just ready to have our son in our arms.
Pain was the last thing on my mind and I had passed my moment of desperation wherein I exclaimed at the top of my lungs, "that is it, take me to the hospital and get this thing out!" My midwives smiled, told me that was an option but to give it five more minutes... here I was hours later doing it all on my own. At 11:59pm I could feel the anticipation in everyone's voice as my pushing became intense and everyone roared like a football stadium that 'he was coming' and 'almost here' and 'one more push' wherein I kept mentally thinking of Johnny Cash and the song, "Burning Ring of Fire". Egotistically or perhaps in a mental delusion after all this work , I kept thinking, "I can feel him crowning and it doesn't hurt all that bad...wow, I can do this!" Then all the sudden I could feel the contraction take over, Brandon clench down with me, the roars of the sound in the room go quiet as I felt my baby's head push through. This is the part wherein all the births you see, the baby's slippery body pops out and ecstasy takes over... but for me, time halted.
12:03 and he was still head out but the roars of excitement had changed to rushing and a focused effort. The midwives for the first time in 20 hours had no focus on me but instead on our son. Numbers, stats, measurements were flying through the air between staff and my Mother in law Pegge walked from the room. I didn't feel pain but a sudden heavy and warm feeling of worry move over me. Whereas this whole time I had options to move at will, this time my birthing team told me we were flipping over and before I could resist I went from a squat to being on my hands and knees on the hard wood floor. I was pushing, Brandon was helping me push and the staff were messaging my lower back and doing something with baby. I looked up, 12:06 and still I didn't have him in my arms. Again, I was being heaved by three small beautiful women from my hands and knees onto my back and everyone heaving over me saying, "Sarah you have to push with everything you have, here we go, right now!" It was not a warm loving suggestion but a demand from a woman taking control over the safety of my son. With one woman pushing on my pelvic bone, the other heaving my legs, and Brandon and I pushing down I saw my main midwife Mariah plunge both her hands between my legs and pain shot up my body. By the time I registered the pain I felt our son being pulled out of my body and being laid onto my chest. The women all sighed as he coughed on me and Brandon and I both teared up as we looked down at this healthy baby boy. Wiggling, turning colors and already frowning his forehead in dismay he was being cleaned off and checked out by the midwives as Mariah clenched my vaginal area and guided the placenta.
Brandon, being a little weary of blood, still helped to cut the umbilical cord after we let it shrivel to the small rubbery white string and Stellan began to coo and cry. He was huge and even nursling at my neck I could feel his toes on my lower belly. Next the midwives took Stellan after nearly 15 minutes of him laying on my chest and bonding with Brandon and I and began to wrap him up and hand him to 'daddy'. Meanwhile I was still on the floor and having my belly messaged for the remaining contractions and to push out the placenta. As I felt the placenta pass out of me in one final push, I then also felt a rush of water that far superseded the feeling of my water breaking. Blood gushed out onto the midwives and again the energy picked up as Mariah reached in to clamp off my bleeding and I felt the warm liquid moving up past my hair. I began to hemorrhage what I later learned was over 2 and half quarts of blood onto the floor. Quickly the staff gave me a dose of pitocin to contract my uterus while another midwife messaged my belly and monitored the bleeding. The third midwife helped Brandon to the bed (who was now light headed from the blood) and quickly made a placenta smoothie with raspberries and yogurt for me to start drinking.
The placenta smoothie tasted like a normal mediocre smoothie from a summer stand and the blood eventually stopped as the staff gave me an IV of fluids and a sponge bath. I was moved from the floor to the bed and for the first time in 20 hours was not pregnant, in bed on my back and looking over at my son and Brandon bonding with one another. In the next 12 hours I was sutured up for severe second degree tears from the emergency last moments of delivery and was given fluids to flush the nutrients back into my body. In a dim room surrounded by giggling women who had just shared the most intimate moment of my life with me, I was taken care of in bed and able to laugh and reflect on the experience. I had a few close calls for going to a hospital but overcame it all and did it with the pure energy and love of my bond with Brandon and the hopes that I could have a natural child with no medication. The staff at Morning Star made that possible and through the entire experience respected me as a woman and showed me and my family nothing but love. The sun came through the windows and my Mother in Law made me steak and eggs while Brandon coddled Stellan in his arms and packed up the car. In the last hour at the center the staff made a huge Jacuzzi bath with healing herbs for us to crawl into and as a family we sat in the tub and just blinked at each other. Brandon and I washed Stellan and kissed each other and realized that life was going to be different and all the advice, all the clichés, all the sappy movies... nothing really even began to touch the experience we had shared. We reflected on the night together and shared our roller coaster of memories and realized that in the mix of it all, something truly amazing had happened.
We all worked together as a family to have the birth we wanted and Brandon and I fell madly in love with one another. He calls it a 'soul fusion' and I sappily agree. We agreed that in a million other situations that could have happened, the experience could have been dramatically different and that we may not have been bathing happily together with a healthy baby boy. He was 10 lbs 11 ounces and birthed with his arms over his head and I labored for over 20 hours with no aid of medication. Brandon got to be next to me at every moment, my Mother in law got to help however she wanted and my staff and I told dirty jokes and giggled in between contractions. I was able to move around, laugh, cry and take control of my situation and was empowered to awe in the harmony of my body, mother nature and my baby all working together. Most people cannot believe that just 36 hours ago I was pushing a large baby boy through my small frame but here I am, at home at my computer listening to the subtle breathing of Brandon and Stellan sleeping at my side. I remember the entire experience in detail but 'pain' or 'regret' are two words that will never be associated with my birth experience. I have gained a new respect for my body, for my son, for the love I have with my soul mate and for the importance of researching your options to make the most of what can be a life changing experience. Though the recovery is painful, a beautiful woman I am proud to call my sister in law once told me, "The pain of the aftermath is not suffering because you look down at your child and it is all worth it." Indeed.