Ryken Rainier Moyer’s Birth, by Hollie Moyer
Born at home, 13 October 2013, at 7:46 in the morning.
Weighing 8lbs 4oz., 20 inches long
My labor with Ryken started mid-morning on Saturday, October 12, 2013. I was noticing more contractions and decided to time them at the breakfast table. They were sporatic but some were pretty close together, 3-15 minutes apart. All day I wondered if they were going to progress to active labor.
We walked to ACE hardware to try out our new jogging stroller and I noticed that they persisted with activity, but when we got home and I sat down they backed off again. I gave the midwives a head’s up just in case and went about my day.
By the afternoon I was feeling frustrated that they had died down. We went to El Porton to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday and I opted for tortilla soup, just in case labor would start that night. I didn’t want a heavy enchilada sitting in my stomach if I would be in active labor soon.
After we got home, Eli helped get Jesh to bed after I had nursed him (though he kept getting up until about 11pm). I did some homework and after a while decided some yoga might ease my frustration about not being in labor. But most of the poses didn’t feel all that great, so I went to bed. I expected to sleep through the night and had even told the midwives that things seemed to slow down and we would probably all sleep through the night.
At about 1:00 in the morning I began to realize that I was breathing through contractions in my sleep as I lay in bed. I got up to go to the bathroom and decided to watch the clock again and time them. They were 5-7 minutes apart and I really and to breath through them. I told Eli, “Ok, I think I may really be in labor now.” So we decided to time a few more. They were consistent and we called the midwife. I stayed in bed for a few more contractions with Eli helping me manage them, but soon said that I couldn’t stand them laying down anymore, so we got up and started to get things prepared.
Eli lit candles all over the house, put the plastic and old sheets on the bed, and brought in the birth tub. I got the birth kit out, and old towels and receiving blankets set up under a heating pad to keep them warm. We listened to a playlist of hymns and worship songs I had prepared for the birthing and had been listening to throughout my pregnancy. It was very peaceful, calm, and refreshingly normal.
I was feeling the contractions mostly in my back and had to brace myself leaning forward on something for most of them. Eli was so sweet and helpful, and my heart was full of thanks and peace. I sipped tea and ate cheese and crackers between contractions. Eli was ever present when he saw a contraction starting, to come and rub my back, sway with me, and speak sweet Truth to me.
Soon Lindsay arrived and my mom came a few minutes after. Every arrival was perfectly timed, a joyous moment. They quietly got the tub ready – though I was still not sure if I wanted to use it and still relatively confident that I didn’t want to birth in it. They slowly filled it with water warmed on the stove and I kept focusing on contractions. I had to bend over or be on hands and knees to manage them as I was having a lot of back labor. I did several contractions kneeling in the living room on hands and knees singing along with the hymns playing in the background. I did several others leaning forward braced in the doorway to the kitchen, and soon singing was not very possible. Almost simultaneously the tub was ready and I decided to give its pain relieving claims a try.
As I stepped in it felt so good, the warmth, the salts… and I remembered all the women I’d seen who said that didn’t want a water birth who ended up not wanting to get out of the tub. But still, I wasn’t keen on a water birth for myself, especially since Eli was planning to catch the baby.
For a while I thought the water might be slowing down my progress, but Lindsay assured me that I was doing fine. I felt the endorphins flowing for a while and was in the zone during contractions, but still able to joke with everyone. At some point the other midwives and the birth photographer arrived and I greeted them in my mid-labor high.
The contractions were soon getting very intense and I found my work harder, focus more intent to manage them. Throughout my labor I found myself speaking out reminders of all the reasons this birthing was better than my experience in Romania with Jesh – I didn’t have to ride in a taxi, I didn’t have an IV, there weren’t strangers surrounding me and yelling in Romanian, I wasn’t being rushed or threatened. As the contractions persisted I delighted in the freedom of this birth.
It was fun to have this baby as a student midwife myself because I understood so fully everything that was happening within and around me. While on my hands and knees in the tub, Lindsay said she could see my “turkey timer” and that my pink line was at the top of my bottom – meaning that I was fully dilated. That information was great, but I wanted to just relax and let the baby come with as little pushing and strain as possible. So I rocked with the contractions, moaned, spoke truths or “Baby, baby, baby,” or reminders to relax and stay soft.
I was staying soft and relaxed but didn’t notice much of any progress and could feel the baby turning inside. My oldest sister had arrived sometime in here too. My back labor was overwhelming at times and the contractions felt like mountains moving apart. I was beginning to lose my ability to manage the contractions as I was getting tired. Lindsay had me sipping coconut water with molasses and I told her it tasted terrible; but I knew I needed the energy. She suggested position changes and I agreed (though often not willingly).
At one point I realized this baby wasn’t just coming on his own like I had imagined and I told Lindsay that something was wrong. The contractions were close and very intense and she suggested I go to the toilet to pee. I think I told her “No” or “I can’t.” And then another contraction hit me unprepared. After it was over I was helped by Eli to get out of the tub and into the bathroom. My mom draped my bathrobe around me – I was so supported.
On the toilet I was only able to pee a small amount and I did not like being in that position. I started to cry. Eli was kneeling in front of me, holding me, and I said, ‘I don’t want to be in here.” He said, “Okay, let’s go!” But another hard contraction was coming and I said, “But I can’t get up!” We made it through the contraction and headed back to the tub. For a moment I wondered if I should stay out of the tub because for a few moments I had felt like I didn’t want to be in the tub anymore. But the contractions were so powerful that I thought the tub must be helping in some way (in hindsight I wonder if I should have followed that intuition, if it would have helped me cope better).
I got back in the tub with a renewed sense that I had to help this baby out and I was ready to push. My sense that something was wrong was because the baby was taking a long time to get under my pubic bone. In some deep part of me I thought there must be some sort of cord issue or he would be coming faster because I was still staying very relaxed. I began to give some pushes with my contractions and after a few sets I could feel my bag of waters bulging (at one point Lindsay thought my water had broken, but I assured her it hadn’t). Eli later said that he was glad someone told him it was the bag of waters he was seeing and not the head, because with a few more deep pushes it burst.
With that burst I heaved a sigh of relief. It was brilliant to watch and I can still replay it in my mind’s eye – this bursting forth, the first expulsion that would lead to my baby coming. At this point I don’t think my other sister had yet arrived, because her phone had been on silent and so she hadn’t seen the text messages Mom had been sending.
When my water broke, the baby went back up a bit and I had to work hard to bring him down again. Lindsay was suggesting position changes and so I would squat for a few contractions and that really hurt, and I would be crippled to my knees. Eudine was helping a lot by massaging my lower back in long downward strokes. There were times when it felt as if she was really moving the baby down; she was gently, showing him the way (she later told me how she could feel the baby’s head pushing back against her hands).
I was a lot more vocal at this point, my pushing very primal. In between contractions I was lost to the world around me. Fully relaxed. My eyelids felt so heavy and I could only hear the sound of my own breathing and the thoughts in my head. I never heard them coaxing me to take a drink until they would touch me or put the straw in my mouth.
I would be roused almost solely by the contraction and they woke me to my fullest. At the beginning of each contraction I would begin to feel overwhelmed but would then curl around my baby, sink down in the water and give a low guttural grunt as I pushed. I could tell which pushes were effective and which were not, and the low, sinking, curling, grunting ones felt best.
All throughout this stage of labor, I could feel the baby rotating in my pelvis. This was another reason I thought something was holding the baby up. I especially felt these rotations between contractions and would often respond with surprised comments such as, “Whoa, Baby!” or “Whoa, what are you doing in there” or “what was that?!” This stage was also filled with me saying the very same things that have bothered me when I’ve attended other women in labor. Including: “It hurts,” “I can’t do it,” “Why is it taking so long,” and one of the worst, “Get it out!”
Jesh woke up about 45 minutes before the baby finally emerged and was watching during this final stage. He sat with my mom and my sister gave him a granola bar. He was a perfect relief to me during this hard stage as I had another focus between some contractions. Every now and then he would come and hold my hand or peek in the birth tub to see what was going on. He even brought out some of his stuffed animals to witness the blessed event.
Lindsay had been encouraging me for a long time now that I was “almost there.” And I finally told her to stop saying that, but I also was able to reach down and feel my baby’s head about to crown. My other sister arrived at this point and I greeted her as she apologized for not getting there sooner. Lindsay coached Eli to apply a little protective pressure to my perineum while I squatted and pushed and felt the baby coming fast, I said, “I feel the baby coming. It’s coming!” in a frantic voice because the sensation of such a fast descent was overwhelming. In an instant I felt him crowning and bellowed.
Since I was squatting and Eli wouldn’t be able to see to delivery (and the baby was coming fast), Lindsay took over and urged me to go slow and easy. I told her that I couldn’t and immediately my sister was kneeling in front of me (she must have jumped over about five people to get there) encouraging me that I could do it, with the earnestness on her face that only a sister can show. I had mostly been closing my eyes or looking at the table but immediately all I could see was Krystal and I had the image of her own births flash into my mind as I saw myself encouraging her as she birthed her babies. I held back a sentimental tear and was able to pant before my body could no longer slow down and I bellowed again with a great big push and felt the sweet relief of the baby’s head stretching me fully and coming into the water. I took a deep breath (and a sigh of relief) but the shoulders were coming fast and I had to push. I pushed hard and felt the angle at which the baby came and can still remember that glorious feeling of my baby slipping from my body – the feeling of squishy arms and long legs emerging into the world. Praise Jesus!
Since I was squatting, I knew I would have to swing my leg over the cord before I could hold him and I did so instinctively. As I sat back and watched Lindsay lift him from the water, Heather (my oldest sister) called out, “It’s a Boy!” (she later told me she was SO surprised it was a boy that she couldn’t help but call it out). It was 7:46 am.
As he came up from the water (my little Moses baby) I could see he was very tangled in a short cord and instinctively began supporting him while Lindsay tried to free him. Lorri saw that he was getting turned the wrong way and stepped into help. The cord had gone under an armpit around the neck and under the other armpit --- no wonder he was slow and then fast to come! He cried quickly and I spoke to him and soothed him, and kissed him all over.
He was smothered in vernix and I loved it. Eli and Jesh came beside me and Eli spoke a blessing over the baby. Then I started us all singing the Doxology and the baby quieted down instantly. He cried again when we stopped and so I asked Jesh if he wanted to sing “This is the day” to his new brother. We did and again he quieted down. He was so alert and I could barely believe I was holding him in my arms at last. I kissed Eli and told him I loved him. After he was born, I kept waiting for Lindsay to tell me to get up from the tub, but she gave us an extra bit of time. She finally did though and so I handed the baby to Eli while they supported me to get out. I squatted to help release the placenta, and a few moments later, it was born. Lindsay was concerned about how much blood I was losing and so gave me a shot of Pitocin. I said, “Love the Pitocin!” because I wasn’t really excited about getting it, but knew that Lindsay was keeping me safe. A few minutes, after the placenta had been born, and we were sitting on the kitchen floor leaning against the tub, nursing the baby for the first time, Lorri asked if this baby had a name … Eli and I looked at each other and at once said, “Ryken Rainier Moyer.”