Evelynn Rebecca Sobelewski
7 lbs 8 1/2 oz, 21 1/4 inches
I believe that stories have the power to change lives, inspire others and build a sense of common humanity amongst all human kind. One of the most universal experiences across cultures is the experience of childbirth. It is also one of the most amazing, trans-formative and powerful experiences I believe I will ever go through. Therefore, I think that the story of a birth, as honest as it may be, needs to be shared...at least with those who choose to read it.
My birth story technically started about a year and a half ago, when I discovered a documentary called "The Business of Being Born" on Netflix. My husband Steve was in the living room playing one of his shooting games on the Xbox and I was helplessly bored, so I sat down with our laptop and decided to watch the movie. I have always been fascinated with babies and childbirth my entire life and have even been teased by my friends for watching every episode of TLC's 'A Baby Story' ... some more than once. There was just something so miraculous about a new life, and people's birth stories fascinated me to no end. This night was different, however. After watching the documentary, I was so thrown off by the idea that birth could be different than the classic panic-filled, starch white, hooked up to a million things at once hospital room that I couldn't sleep that night. And Steve, who is not nearly as interested in childbirth as I was, grew disinterested in hearing facts about childbirth in the United States.
My passion for natural childbirth started to grow as I read more and more information. Facts were coming in from everywhere I could get them, and my friends were probably learning more about birth than they cared to. The United States has terrible statistics for mother and child health..and we are one of the only countries that uses hospitals for birth. The health industry makes a majority of their money from hospital births... and wouldn't make a profit if epidurals and C-sections were not used. Our C-section rate is over three times what the World Health Organization says is safe (A result of needless interventions)... and the list goes on and on. But the most important was the idea that natural birth is healthier and easier on the mom and baby... and that the countries that choose natural home births for LOW RISK pregnancies were at the top of the list for health and success. For the first time I was faced with the idea that my body was made to birth and that if other women could do it every day all over the world, I could do it too. I was sold. I even considered switching my education mid-master's program to become a midwife... but lets face it, I didn't want to have to take biochemistry.
There was only one problem... I had never given birth. In April of 2009, however, that would change. Steve and I, after 8 months of marriage, discovered we were pregnant and due in January (ready or not!). January 25th, to be exact. (Even when my due date was switched to January 27th, I always told everyone it was the 25th. My planner was already filled out, week-by-week, for the 25th, after all. And I am not one to often change my plans.) The first step I took when I found out I was pregnant was contacting Morning Star Birth Center in St. Louis Park, MN. I had come across their website in all of my natural birth research, which ended up coming in handy! At 4 weeks gestation, we went in for a site visit and Steve and I decided this was the place our little one would enter the world.
Fast forward nine months of cravings, tears and heartburn to January 24th, 2011. I was feeling pretty good and confident in the impending labor on the morning of January 24th. I started to get some annoying cramps around 7:30 am and I tried to calm my excitement by assuring myself it was Braxton-Hicks. I spent the entire day telling myself, "I'm not going to call until its real." The entire day I kept cramping up, but nothing too uncomfortable so I just kept going on with my everyday life... I even went to work that night with the idea that I didn't want to be embarrassed if it was false labor. However, as I spent more time at work, I realized that it probably was not false labor I was experiencing and called Steve to come get me. We drove to the grocery store to pick up food for the labor and after the birth, and I grew increasingly anxious with the idea that this was 'it'... so much for my complete confidence, I was getting nervous!
I called my two friends that would attend the birth with me to come over, because I was "ready" to go. My contractions were 2 minutes apart for over an hour, and I was sure that if it hurt this bad, I must be having this baby tonight. However, when I called Catherine, she told me that it sounded like this was my day, but not quite my time. I was freaking out. How could it not be time? I was in so much pain and my contractions were two minutes apart, what else needed to happen first? ... I was about to find out.
We left about an hour after the phone call because I was sure there had to be some sort of mistake. After an hour in the car (I won't even get into that) we reached the birth center. My blood pressure was quite high (anyone who knows me well would not be surprised about that) and I was almost in a panic (... again, the confidence?). Then Catherine checked me. She said I was a "tight 3"... which was the nice way of saying I was not even dilated to three yet... I had a long way to go.
Catherine suggested I get into the jacuzzi tub and try to relax a bit. Within a minute of being in the water, the pain subsided a bit and my blood pressure came down. I was able to relax my breathing and re-focus on what needed to be done - my little girl needed to greet the world. The labor was intense throughout the entire night. I found myself getting upset when new ideas were suggested to me... didn't anyone understand that I was in PAIN?! Why would I want to move around or try uncomfortable positions? I could tell my attitude was becoming pretty irrational... I remember saying out loud, "I wish I was anyone else in this room but me right now!" I was losing it... who knew that birth hurt that bad?? Now that I have a clear mind six weeks later, I realize that these positions were what made the labor progress... there is so much wisdom in methods like walking the stairs and swinging your hips and doing lunges... methods that are now thrown out the window by modern medicine.
By around noon on the 25th, I was becoming pretty exhausted. Catherine checked me (at my insistence) and said I was about an 8. An 8?!? How could it be? It was then that she said that part of my cervix was swollen, which might have been why I wasn't dilating. Later, Evelynn was born with her hand on her head, which could have caused the delay... what a little stinker! (to this day she has to sleep with that little hand by her face!) She said that an option was for me to get out of the water (I had planned to do a water birth) so that she could stretch my cervix, by hand, over the baby. I jumped at the opportunity... I was so ready to be done. Almost instantly (at least it felt like it to me) my water broke and I was ready to push. After pushing on my back for awhile, I knew it was not working for me. So I decided to stand up, something I had never considered beforehand while I was planning my quiet, calm, water birth. I was screaming and moaning. I was loud, and complaining. This was not how I had pictured myself! Holding on to Steve, I pushed as hard as I could. I remember Paula coming in, just in time, and telling me that I was beautiful. That is one of the few memories I have. I felt like giving up when she was almost out, until Catherine said, "Rachel, a few more pushes and you will be holding your baby!" This gave me the strength to get her out. At 2:30 pm, after an hour and a half of pushing, Evelynn Rebecca was born!
I laid back on the bed and the 7 pound, 8.5 ounce little girl was laid across my chest. She was having trouble breathing but everyone was so calm I didn't have time to panic. Her little eyes were open and looking around at everything, and I was in a complete state of shock. Evelynn was still getting oxygen through the cord, which the midwives left attached until it was done pulsing, a procedure which allows all of the baby's blood supply to pump back into the baby. The midwives were sucking the junk from Evelynn's mouth and nose and giving her oxygen to help her breathe. All the while she was on my chest with me, right where I could see her and know that she was all right. Soon enough, she was breathing fine and she tested out her lungs with a cute little cry. I was so out of it from being up and in labor for 2 days it took me awhile to cry... but I did. She was so beautiful and perfect!
We were able to take an herbal bath as a family, which was relaxing and wonderful after the labor! All the while Evvie was alert and awake, not bogged down by any drugs! She was too cute to handle! Steve and I talked about the birth and how happy we were with our new little girl and, for the first time in 30 hours, relaxed. When we were ready, about 5 hours later, we were able to go home and crawl into our own bed with our new baby girl. She even slept most of the night, turns out she was exhausted too!
Six weeks later, I still cannot believe I was able to do it. I am not a likely candidate for a natural birth... I am young and really not that mature... I am all about taking medicine when I am sick and utilizing modern medicine as much as possible... but somehow, I knew birth was different. I am so thankful for the experience I had at Morning Star. It took me awhile to be ok with the fact that I was not calm and collected, like I had prepared myself to be. I had to come to terms with the fact that when Evvie was born, it took me awhile to really connect with her because I was so exhausted and in shock. Every other natural birth story I had read seemed like the women were so put together the entire time... and that wasn't me. That is why I found it important to share my story. Even though I had researched and asked a million questions, there was no way to fully prepare for labor and birth. However, it worked. My body knew what to do and had the wisdom to bring Evelynn into this world safely. If I could do it, anyone can... and I will be doing it that way again!
My birth was an amazing experience and the most difficult thing I have ever done... and I wouldn't change a thing. Steve was the most supportive birth partner I could have ever asked for and everyone attending the birth made it an encouraging and positive experience. I never knew that I could form such amazing relationships with the midwives and the assistants... but we were actually sad leaving our six-week appointment the other day, knowing that it was the end of a life-changing journey.
... I hope Evelynn knows forever how much her mommy loves her and that I would do it again a million times over just to have her in my life!