Birth Story: Wyatt Oliver by Sarah Olsen
In anticipation of my next birth I thought I would write about my first.
I am currently re-reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I brought it with me on our trip to the Teton Mountains but had not started reading it. I kept seeing it every day and was starting to feel anxious about the fact that I am 5 weeks from my due date and feel a bit underprepared. I was actually writing with Teresa about this as we were discussing YZM and randomly she said, “Just start reading Ina May’s book again and you will feel better.”
Sure enough, standing knee deep in the cold Jenny Lake water I got lost in those beautiful birth stories and all my anxiety disappeared. It was a comforting reminder that there are women all over the world doing the exact same thing in incredibly different ways.
My birth with Wyatt.
It was wednesday August 14th, I was only three days away from my due date and I was feeling excited and peaceful about my upcoming home birth. Eric came home from work with his schedule for the next episode and said he was off on friday so he would have a three day weekend and hoped Wyatt would come soon so he could be there.
I suggested that we talk to Wyatt about it. We lay in bed on Wednesday evening and we asked Wyatt if he felt ready to come in the next couple of days, that we would love for him to do so. We read “Goodnight Moon” to him as we did every night in hopes that when he arrived it would be a comfort for his transition, and then we went to sleep.
The next Morning when I woke Eric had already left for work. I started my day as usual by making breakfast. I had a friend coming over with her new baby for a visit before my 40 week appointment with my midwife in town. As I was making breakfast I felt period-like cramps low in my pelvis and a little in my back. It made me smile and gave me butterflies because I felt it might be the beginning of labor.
My friend came over and we chatted about how she had the same cramps the day her baby came. It was like I was holding onto this exciting present and I just couldn’t wait to open it, yet I had no way of doing so on my own so I just had to wait.
On my way to the appointment I wanted to start timing the rushes I was feeling, but they seemed to be about 10 mins apart so I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.
My midwife told me I was in the stage of “pre labor” which could be the beginning or I could have this baby in a week. I just knew I was going to have him soon, and this was not going to last a week so I ignored that comment and took this as an awesome sign that Wyatt was on the way.
I texted Eric to let him know all the details and to tell him I was only 1 centimeter dilated, and was going to meet a friend for a 3 mile walk.
At this point I was doing between 3 and 5 miles of walking a day. As I was walking and chatting with my friend the contractions came more frequently and I had to stop and get on all fours to relieve the intensity.
This sensation was exhilarating. I had the beginning of labor that came on in a slow gradual way, my body was slowly preparing for the work ahead and I could hardly contain my excitement.
That evening everything was the same, the rushes were somewhere around six minutes apart and they were pretty mild. I did my best to ignore them, I drank a glass of wine at the request of my midwife and then we went to bed to try and get some sleep. As I lay in bed I felt like a kid on christmas eve, mixed with the fact that at the beginning of every contraction I had acid reflux first and then the rise and fall of the rush would set in. After a few hours staring at the ceiling, the rushes began getting more intense and I felt like they were closer together. I woke Eric and we called my midwife. She told me to get in a warm bath for an hour and time the contractions and then call her back.
An hour later I was having contractions 2 to 3 mins apart, they were consistent and felt strong.
My midwife was coming from another birth and would arrive in a half hour and suggested I call my doula.
When my midwife arrived she checked me and I was 2 centimeters dilated. I actually felt like at this point I would be further along but I just went with it and started to ride the waves on the yoga ball. Eric called Teresa (my dear friend, zen mama, and appointed birth photographer).
She arrived within the hour and the evening of labor began. From Midnight until around 6 in the morning I rode the waves of labor all over my bedroom and bathroom. I squatted, rolled my hips, listened to music, and held onto Eric’s shoulders for support. Around six in the morning my midwife checked me again. I was 4 centimeters. My midwife suggested I go walk for 2 hours and she would go home and shower and come back to check on me.
This is the point in the story where I should tell you anything and I mean ANYTHING my midwife told me to do, I did it. She said walk 2 hours and I was going to walk for 2 hours. Is it comfortable to walk when you are in labor? Well it wasn’t for me, but it didn’t matter I wanted Wyatt out so I would do anything to make that happen.
For the first hour Eric walked with me while my doula rested, and the second hour my doula walked with me while he rested. During these two hours I kept telling myself, “Millions of women all over the world are going through this right now.”
Whether or not my statistics were true doesn’t matter, it made me feel better to be a part of a tribe. I pictured women in fields having babies, women in small villages, water births, hospital births, I lovingly daydreamed about the women of “THE FARM” from Ina May’s book. I started to visualize my cervix dilating and opening like a flower. I tried visualizing pretty much anything I could remember from all the books I had read. I did all of this thinking for two hours straight and when it was time to head back to the house my midwife met me there.
She checked me, and I had not progressed at all. Still four centimeters.
I guess at this point I would have felt discouraged, except I had already started to slip into “the other world” you hear women talk about. The out of body experience.
My midwife then asked me if there was anything holding me back, and I thought about it and said no I don’t think so. She asked me what I was thinking about as I was walking, and I told her. I said I kept trying hard to focus on a flower opening. She looked at me smiled and said, “Stop doing that. Its not working.”
In retrospect thats pretty hilarious to me. I was focusing pretty hard on everything I had ever read trying to remember any “tricks” I could. What had worked for other women would it work for me? You never know so I don’t think there is any harm in trying, but I needed to let go, and just be in the moment.
She asked me if it sounded good to get in the birthing tub. I hadn’t even thought about it but it sounded wonderful.
For the next four hours Eric held my head gliding my body from side to side as I slipped deeper and deeper into the other world of labor. I dilated from 4 to 9 centimeters in those four hours. My body and my mind were able to relax and let go. My contractions were about 2 mins a part still and in between contractions I would fall into the deepest sleep. It would feel as tho I had slept for hours. It was such an awesome surge of energy for me. Eric held a 4 hour squat position and took a very heavy load of keeping my head above water, and became the most incredible partner I could ever ask for. I wouldn’t let him go from my side. The moment I felt him shift I grabbed onto him so hard and said don’t go. I needed his strength. I had my doula, two of my dear friends and Eric and my midwife. The energy in the room was in sync and I needed it to stay that way, I loved it.
Finally at 9 centimeters, my midwife decided to break my water, and help Wyatt start making his way down. When she did he came down a little off and since he was so big it caused my cervix to swell.
For the next few hours, I walked the stairs sideways to try and reposition him, I danced to African drum music, shook my hips in a not so graceful way, and did what could only feel like 1000 squats with the peak of my contractions to get that baby down.
My midwife had to massage my cervix with every contraction, and after 4 hours of pushing he finally started to crown and then his head was out.
At this point tension started to build in the room, his head was out but his body was broad and his shoulders were stuck.
Eric having read all the same books I had read said, “she needs to do the Gaskin Maneuver.”
He was right, at that moment my midwife told me we needed to turn over on all fours to get the baby out.
We had read all kinds of articles about Ina May Gaskin. We had read her books, and watched her documentary. She was fascinating to me. I learned about something that was later coined “The Gaskin Maneuver” as Eric mentioned, that she taught to midwives and OBGYN’s all over the world.
In an article on Shoulder Dystocia written by ELIZABETH G. BAXLEY, M.D. and ROBERT W. GOBBO, M.D. it states, “Rolling the patient onto her hands and knees, known as the all-fours or Gaskin maneuver, is a safe, rapid, and effective technique for the reduction of shoulder dystocia. Once the patient is repositioned, the physician provides gentle downward traction to deliver the posterior shoulder with the aid of gravity.”
In the heat of that moment, even though it had been 17 hours and a lot of pushing, turning over I knew what was happening and that we had to work hard to make this happen.
My doula kicked into some incredible powerful lioness mode and in my ear chanted words to encourage me to push harder and use all the strength I had left. Her words, Eric’s voice, Teresa’s voice, everyone’s presence, the energy in the room was all so strong, and though my contractions had slowed I heard, “Its time mama, bare down and push your baby out.”
I took one powerful breath and pushed with everything I had left inside and finally felt the biggest release. He was out. Eric had caught him and before I knew it they had turned me over and Wyatt was laying on my chest.
He was way bigger than I imagined him to be, 9.8 pounds 21 inches long.
Having Wyatt was the most empowering, magical, emotional experience of my life. I am grateful for his safe passage into this world, and that his father and I had the opportunity to experience this type of birth and come out of it safely with a healthy mama and a healthy baby.
It was amazing in many ways to be home for this journey, but based on the size of babies I have, and how close we came to a scary situation at home, we have decided to have our next baby in the hospital. And though this will be a totally different experience (as are all births), I am embracing it as a new adventure I am thrilled to embark on.
- To my doula, my husband, my friends, my midwife, and my dogs. I could not have done it without you. It was a journey we were all on together and I am forever grateful for those hours we spent riding the waves.