It's been a year and a few weeks since my second-born entered the world, but I felt like it was time I share the story of his birth and why I decided to pursue birth work.
I never really thought of myself as the "natural birth" type. I don't have a super high pain tolerance and, at the time, lacked a certain knowledge of the birth process that would enable one to endure hours of labor. The birth of my firstborn, Joel, was a positive experience for me overall. Despite back labor for the first few hours, I was happy and even rested. Of course, I had the epidural to thank for that! The recovery was a different story. I had pain for much longer than I probably should have and ended up with postpartum reconstructive surgery, as well as moderate pelvic floor dysfunction. A lot of this is probably due to the use of forceps during delivery, which, in hindsight, was part of the infamous "cascade of interventions"
All of these events led me to the thought, "There has to be a better way." I started reading books, talking to friends, listening to podcasts, you name it. I educated myself. When we found out we were pregnant with Rainan, we toured Baby+Co, and ultimately decided to come into care there for this pregnancy and try for an unmedicated birth. Little did I know what a significant decision that was. I learned so much about pregnancy and the labor and birth process, about the importance of having a solid support team around you, and about the essential need to be informed about your own birth choices... better yet, knowing you even have choices!
We hired a dear friend of ours, Beth, to be our doula. She was fantastic! She helped us understand our options, but never told us how to choose. She only handed us information and empowered us to make our own choices. This is SUCH an important factor in what makes a good doula.
The pregnancy itself was fairly smooth. There were no issues at all until about 36 weeks when we found out I was GBS (Group Beta Strep) positive. This did not risk me out of birth center care, but it did change how we responded to suspected labor. In this case, if my water broke, I would need to come in to the birth center to begin antibiotics. Everything else stayed the same.
A few weeks later, I was faced with heading back to work. Rainan was due August 18th, but our first teacher workday for that school year was August 17th. All my hopes of having him before returning to school were now going away. August 17th came, and a-waddling to work I went! I don't know for sure if it was my return that caused it, but my blood pressure began to rise some. Occasionally, it got a little too high for my own comfort. At one of my appointments, I was even sent to the hospital for monitoring because it wouldn't come down like they wanted it to. Everything ultimately ended up being fine, but the post due date anxiety started to settle in.
Every day I went in to work was another day past the day I was "supposed" to have had Rainan. Due dates can be so debilitating. I almost wish they wouldn't give you a specific date. Every time I heard someone say "You're still here??" or "You haven't had that baby yet??" I wanted to punch something (or someone... blaming that on the pregnancy hormones). I confess, I stayed home from church the last Sunday before I gave birth because I was just so tired of hearing it. The first full week of teacher workdays, including Open House (another serving of "When are you going to have that baby?"), came and went. Still no baby.
Saturday, August 26th, I was 41 weeks 1 day. Sunday the 27th was Homecoming at our church, so naturally Jared began to get a bit anxious as well. Monday, August 28th was the day students were to return to school and approaching the 42 week mark. I decided to do a round of the Miles Circuit to help him descend a little more, get him into a good position, and hopefully kickstart labor. Earlier that morning I had taken a tablespoon of Castor Oil mixed with several ounces of juice (at this point, I was desperate!). It worked well as a laxative, and didn't give me all the nasty side effects that most people talk about. I felt fortunate, but it didn't seem to me like it had worked. Part of the Miles Circuit is curb walking to get the hips asymmetrical, again to help baby descend and into a good position. I walked, in the August summer heat, about 0.8 miles (one way) down to Editions Bookstore and Coffee in downtown Kannapolis. I'll do almost anything for coffee! At this point, I would do almost anything to get this baby out, too!
Other than a few cramps and some pretty noticeable discomfort, I didn't feel much. There were a few bananas that were about to go bad, so that evening I decided to make a loaf of banana bread... you know, to take to Homecoming. Little did I know that I wouldn't actually be making it to Homecoming.
I put the banana bread in the oven about 7:15pm. It's a "low and slow" type of recipe, so it was set to be in the oven for about 2 hours. About 9:10, I went to the bathroom... POP! My water had broken as I was sitting on the toilet! REALLY?!?!? How lucky was I? I was so terrified of it happening in public. I prayed that it would not happen somewhere I would be embarrassed or it would make a mess, and the Lord heard and answered my prayer! There was, however, an issue with the fluid, and I suspected there was meconium. At Baby+Co, if meconium is present when waters break, you are required to transfer to the hospital to be near pediatric emergency staff in case of aspiration. Contractions almost immediately began to pick up. I called the midwife on call, Stephanie (I still chuckle a little when I say that... Call the Midwife...) because I knew I'd have to come in right away to receive the antibiotics due to the GBS. She and I decided I would come to the birth center for assessment to check the fluid, and we agreed to meet around 10:30pm. I called Beth to keep her in the loop as well. We called my parents to come to the house so my dad could stay with Joel and my mom could come with us. Jared was making phone calls to staff to arrange for his absence at church the next day. Mom, Jared and I hopped in the car, made a quick run to Wendy's for a baked potato (nourishment!), started my labor playlist, and headed to Baby+Co. On the way, I looked at Jared and said, "Unless this baby is born in the next 90 minutes, he's going to share a birthday with Andy (my brother)." Birthday buddies!
We got to the birth center where Stephanie confirmed there was meconium. She advised me to walk around the parking lot of the birth center for an hour or so because once we got the hospital I would need to be in bed for a while for them to get the IV and antibiotic going. Well, that lasted for all of about 5 minutes. I knew things were moving much faster than we had ever anticipated they would. Jared and mom switched off supporting me during contractions since Beth was still on her way. We notified Stephanie, Jared called Beth, and we headed to the hospital around midnight.
I was having pretty significant contractions at this point. I could not talk through them. We got registered and into a labor and delivery room. I had decided to wear my own clothing, so I went to the bathroom to get changed. By this point, it was all I could do to keep it together and remain upright. I went out of the bathroom and headed straight for the bed and laid on my left side. I thought to myself "If this is how it's going to be for another several hours, I'm NEVER going to make it!"
Beth arrived and set up the diffuser and Jared started playing music. In the middle of what seemed like chaos, I heard these words being sung... "I need You more, more than yesterday. I need You more, more than words can say. I need You more than ever before. I need you Lord, I need you more." The pain kept coming, but my heart and mind were settled. Shortly thereafter, in the middle of one contraction, I felt the urge to push. I said, out loud, "I'm pushing!" Beth looked around and said, "Did she just say she's pushing?" Stephanie, who had joined us at the hospital to deliver Rainan, looked at the nursing staff and said, "I think we better get that delivery cart in here."
I ended up rolling onto my back, the last position I wanted to be in for pushing, but it was all I could do in the moment. Rainan was crowning! He was almost here! It took longer for him to crown than Stephanie was comfortable with, so she ended up performing a small episiotomy (the THIRD performed in the two years the center had been open). Two pushes later at 2:22am, a mere five hours after my water had broken, Rainan made his grand debut!
Rainan James Stowers
Stephanie placed that 8 pound 13 ounce baby on my chest, and I was so overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the goodness of God... Overwhelmed at the amazing support of Jared, my mom Janice, mother-in-law Gwen, doula Beth, midwife Stephanie, and the nursing team... Overwhelmed that Jared and I had just been gifted with another most precious son, Rainan James.
In the days and weeks that followed, I often reflected on the care I received by my amazing midwifery team and my stellar doula. "This is how it should be for all women" was a thought that frequented my mind. A passion for birth and for educating women was growing inside me. In February 2018, I decided to begin the journey of becoming a doula and eventually a childbirth educator.
Where exactly this journey will lead is still beyond me, but I'm so thankful for the experience I had. I pray that the story of both of my birth experiences can be used in some way to help women navigate through one of the most important seasons of their life. I pray that women can see the goodness of God through the miracle of childbirth. I'm thrilled to be making a difference in the lives of women and families in my community. Stay tuned :)