Steyr Thomas Ritchie was born on May 21, 2018. But, for me the story of his birth began just over two weeks prior…
May 6, 2018:
It was a Sunday and Garrison, Emmeline, and I were having a relaxing day at home. I was sitting in the living room watching tv when I started having some cramping. I had an irritable uterus and had been on Procardia since 29 weeks, so I grabbed a large glass of water and laid down on my side feeling confident they would go away. Several hours passed and the cramping was not stopping so I shot a quick text to my midwife, Jeannine, explaining what was going on. After a few exchanges, we decided to have me come in to be checked given my history of preterm delivery with Emmeline. I was 36+3 at this point. We got to the birth center and Jeannine checked me; I was 2-3 cm dilated and my cervix was very soft. We all thought we would have a baby by Mother's Day which was the following Sunday. We headed home on strict bed rest until Thursday. This would put me at 37 weeks exactly, which we had to be in order to deliver at the birth center.
May 10, 2018:
We made it to 37 weeks! The day came and went without any signs of impending labor, and we celebrated our little victory that we were going to have a term baby!
I was still having frequent contractions at this point but they were not forming any sort or pattern or increasing in intensity.
May 15, 2018:
I was on my way to work since I no longer had to worry about trying to not go into labor when my contractions really picked up in frequency and intensity. I was sure that this was it! This was the day we were going to meet our baby boy! I turned around and headed back home. I got home and started timing them; they were coming three to five minutes apart! I called Garrison to tell him I was in labor and needed him to come home, but he wasn't answering his phone. I must have called him a dozen times on both his cell and work phone. Now, I'm slightly freaking out that my labor is going to pick up fast and he was an hour away not answering his phone. Finally, I called the main line at his office and got in touch with some random girl in customer service. I told her I needed her to find Garrison and tell him I was in labor and he needed to come home ASAP.
Just about then I got a text from Jeannine saying she needed to move my appointment I had later that day because she had 2 moms at the birth center in labor. I messaged Jeannine to let her know that I thought I might be in early labor, and spoke with Adrienne, Jeannine’s back-up midwife, who felt like it would be a good idea for us to come in to check things out. I text my doula, Christina, and photographer, Kourtnie, to let them know what was going on so they could get ready in case this was the real deal.
Garrison got home around 9:30; we loaded up the car and headed to the birth center. After we arrived, I was checked by Teri, another midwife, and I was still at a soft 2. I felt too nervous to go all the way home so Garrison and I went to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. During lunch I was so uncomfortable that I couldn't even sit still. I had a chiropractor appointment at 2 o’clock in Frisco so we headed over there after we finished eating hoping an adjustment would provide some relief.
After my appointment I was still contracting so we headed back to the birth center to see if I was progressing at all. Teri met us in the lobby and checked me again and I was still at 2cm so not in active labor. We spoke briefly with Jeannine about a plan of action and decided to go to the mall with Christina to walk around a bit. Walking actually seemed to calm everything down and finally around 6 o’clock we decided that nothing was happening and I felt ok to head home and go to bed after a long day.
May 18, 2018:
We had an appointment with Jeannine that morning and still were not making any progress as far as dilation despite near constant contracting. I had a membrane sweep and we hoped that would get things going in the right direction. We also made a plan to maybe break my water the following Wednesday; I really wanted to go into labor on my own but I was becoming exhausted from not being able to sleep. Jeannine suggested I call Dr. Brianne Katz at Uprise Chiropractic to see if she could help; she called her the labor whisperer.
I called Dr. Bree as soon as I got home, explained my situation and she was so incredibly sweet to squeeze me into her schedule early the next morning.
May 19, 2018:
I got up early and left the house at 7:30 so I could get into Dallas to be at my appointment by 8:30. Dr. Bree explained what she would be doing, and she told me it was going to hurt, but she would be able to stop my prodromal labor so that my body could go into labor for real. Let me tell you, I had been seeing a chiropractor since 24 weeks, but I've never had a more painful adjustment in my life! But, that being said, I instantly felt a million times better after she was done.
May 20, 2018:
I actually got 10 hours of sleep and woke up not contracting! It had been a full 2 weeks of misery and it was finally over. I felt great all day, and that evening I started losing large chunks of my mucous plug. Gross, I know, but I was excited, hoping this was a sign labor would be soon!
May 21, 2018
Garrison got up and went to work because I told him nothing would happen today. I'd been feeling really good and wasn't having any contractions. Emmeline woke up and I went to get her up and get myself ready for work.
7:30 AM: When I went to go to the bathroom I had a little wet spot in my underwear, but I hadn't gone before getting Emmeline and I figured I'd just dribbled some pee, you know being 9 months pregnant and all. But, I put a panty liner on, just in case, and went about my business. Ten minutes later I had soaked through that so now I was feeling pretty sure that it was my water leaking. I loaded Emmeline in the car to take her to daycare and shot Garrison a text that I thought my water was broken. Do you know what reply I got? “Ok, do I need to come home?” Well duh!!
Once I got back home and was 99% sure I had ruptured I text my birth team to let them know it was baby day!
9:30 AM: Garrison got home and we made sure we had everything packed up and loaded the car. I wasn't having contractions, but I needed antibiotics so we made a plan with Jeannine to meet her at the birth center at noon. We ate breakfast and relaxed at the house until it was time to leave.
12:30 PM: We arrived at the birth center and got our first round of antibiotics at 1 o’clock.
We had no idea how fast my labor was going to be so we decided to stay close to Plano just in case; Garrison and I went to BJ’s for lunch because it was only a few miles down the road. After lunch we went to the mall to walk around a bit to try to get contractions going, and I got a pedicure in the hopes it would trigger something.
3 PM: I was still not having any contractions at this point. I gave Jeannine a call and we decided that we were going to head home so that I could do Emmeline's nighttime routine and we would meet back at the birth center at 9 o’clock because that's when I would need my second dose of antibiotics. Jeannine sent me her instructions for natural induction and we headed home.
6 PM: I made dinner for everyone and Jeannine's nasty, labor inducing, egg concoction for myself. It was seriously the most disgusting thing I've ever eaten in my life and I was just trying to swallow it whole so I didn't have to chew it too much and keep it in my mouth longer than absolutely necessary.
7:30 PM (now we are getting to the good part)
I put Emmeline down in her crib after rocking her for a few minutes, and as I stood up from leaning over the rail I felt a huge gush of fluid quickly followed by a strong contraction. I walked out to the living room to watch some tv with my mom before we left for the birth center. We were planning on leaving the house at 8:20. As I'm sitting in the recliner my contractions really started coming on strong and Garrison had to apply some pressure to my back to ease the pain. His hand didn't apply even pressure and was uncomfortable, so my mom suggested we use one of my wool dryer balls. It worked perfectly!
We are heading to the birth center! As we were driving down Hwy 380 I noticed that the contractions were coming really close together so I decide to casually time a few. They were coming every 3-4 minutes! We live 23 miles from the birth center; it was the longest ride of my life and I felt every single bump in the road the entire way down the DNT. And of course, my husband was over there in the driver's seat cracking jokes, being a smart ass, making me laugh during contractions which did not feel good!
We arrived at Plano Birthplace! I had to sit in the car for a couple minutes because I was in a good deal of pain with contractions that felt like they were coming one right on top of the other. Jeannine and Kourtnie were there waiting for us and Christina got there just minutes before we did. Once we got inside Jeannine checked me and determined we were at 5cm! I got on the birthing ball and we started the second dose of antibiotics. Getting the IV in really hurt! It kind if surprised me since I'm no stranger to needle pokes because I was on Makena injections for 20 weeks. Maybe it was because it gave me something to focus on besides the contraction pain. Garrison joked that I handled the contractions better than I did getting an IV. Once the antibiotics were done, which only took about 10 minutes, Jeannine took it out. My contractions were coming on really strong at this point, but I was getting relief from a hot sock on my lower back. I remember talking about when we thought he would I arrive and I said his birthday would be May 22 because there was no way I would go from 5cm to 10cm before midnight. I guessed between 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning. I stayed on the ball for about 30 minutes before Christina suggested we try a different position to help the baby move down. I stood up and we did some slow dancing but the pain in my back was too much without the heat being applied.
I decided to try the shower hoping the hot water would alleviate some of the pain I was having in my back. I could feel the baby moving down with each contraction at this point. I remember standing in the shower with my arms wrapped around Garrison telling myself to relax and not tense up, to allow my body to open so my baby could come down. This worked for quite a while, I just kept telling myself “open” and would try to relax my pelvic floor through each contraction. The water was very soothing and I was able to switch from sitting to standing without losing the relief provided by the constant stream of hot water. After a while it got harder to sit on the ball because it felt like his head was right there and the pressure from sitting was too much.
I was starting to feel a lot more pressure and slightly “pushy” with my contractions, but I thought there was no way I was fully dilated already so I didn't say anything about it. Since we had been in the shower for a while, I asked Christina if she could start filling the tub.
Once the tub was about halfway full, Garrison and Christina helped me climb in. The way I got in put me on all fours and I was planning on turning around to a sitting position, but as soon as I got in my body started pushing on its own. I never got the urge to push with my first birth, I had an epidural, and even though it didn't work on half my body it did take away the urge to push. The feeling was so strong it was a bit overwhelming, but I knew my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do. I didn't need someone to check me to know I was at 10cm. Jeannine heard me and came in and asked if I was pushing, I'm pretty sure I said “yes, I can't help it!” I was a little worried that I wasn't supposed to be pushing just yet. I could hear everyone moving around getting things ready but I was so focused on what I was doing I had a hard time figuring out what was going on around me. Garrison was holding my hand down in the water and I was leaning my head against his arm for support. Christina and Garrison kept speaking positive affirmations about how I could do this and my body was made to birth my baby. It was so helpful when I felt like things were taking forever and I wanted to give up. I thought he was never going to come out! My body just kept pushing and I felt like I was never getting a break! I couldn't breathe, weren't contractions supposed to space out during the pushing phase? I remember learning that, but it wasn't happening here. I really felt like I couldn't catch my breath and honestly was a little worried my face was going to end up in the water. Christina put her hand on my shoulder, I feel like that touch grounded me and stopped my wild thoughts that were beginning to run away with me. She told me to take deep breaths so my baby could get the oxygen he needed, “breathe into your baby” she told me. I stopped mentally panicking and was able to focus again. Then I felt it, crowning, the ring of fire being a very accurate phrase to describe it. It was burning, stinging, more so towards the front and honestly I thought I was going to tear. I know it's better to tear back rather than forward but my pain was definitely towards the front. Panic again, I told Garrison I don't want to do this anymore, I CAN'T do this anymore. He just kind of chuckled and told me it was too late, there was no going back. He said I COULD do it, that I HAD to and that it would soon be over and we would finally get to meet our son! I remember saying “ow ow ow” and everyone started saying slow down! slow down! They told me I needed to get lower in the water, my back was arching up and the baby has to be born fully submerged, not half in half out of the water. I got my breathing under control, relaxed, slowed down the pushing, and pushed my bottom lower into the water.
Finally, his head was born and one of his hands with it! Jeannine quickly unwrapped the cord that was around his neck, a few more pushes and he was out! I felt such relief once he was out but I guess didn't fully process that he was born. Jeannine passed him through my legs, and everyone was telling me to grab my baby! I lifted him out of the water and onto my chest. I had done it! I honestly couldn't believe it. I kept saying “oh my God, oh my God” over and over again.We had been preparing for a natural, med-free birth my entire pregnancy but I still was in shock that I had actually accomplished it. I felt like I had been in that tub pushing forever but in reality it was just over 20 minutes!
I looked down at him and remember thinking that he was smaller than I thought he would be. They put a towel over my shoulders and over him to keep us warm. He was so quiet laying there in my arms. He wasn't crying, I remember asking why he wasn't crying, was he ok? But Jeannine assured me his cord was still pulsing and he was ok.
We stayed in the tub until his cord stopped pulsing. I got out, delivered his placenta, and went to lay down on the bed. Garrison cut the cord and they took Steyr to be weighed. Everyone took a guess on his weight; I think Jeannine was the closest! I thought he was a low 7 pounder, 7lbs 4oz to be exact, but she thought he was hiding his weight. He was! 7 pounds 13 ounces and 20 inches long. Jeannine put him back on my chest and he latched on right away. We let him nurse for a long time and an herbal bath was prepared for us.
It felt great to get back in the tub, and the herbs really helped soothe the stinging I was feeling since someone didn't want to put down his hand and be born in a normal presentation! We stayed in the tub for a while, he was so relaxed being back in the water. I'm sure it reminded him of his home for the past 9 months. It was funny to see him move his arms around in the water, it looked like what I had felt while he was in my womb and I could almost imagine the feeling again.
After our bath, we finished up all of his newborn checks, I got cleaned up and dressed, and we started getting ready to go home. We left the birth center at 2:30 AM, just five and a half hours after walking in the door.
I couldn't have imagined a more perfect birth and now our family is complete with the addition of our little Steyr Thomas.
Midwife: Jeannine Tate, Plano Birthplace
Doula: Christina Pytleski, Beautifully Birthed
Photographer: Kourtnie Scholz, KE Documentary