All photos by Cate Johnson.
Riah Dianne Parr was born on Saturday May 14, 2016. She weighed 9 pounds and 5 ounces and was 22 inches long. She was born at home surrounded by loving support. We are so in love with her! Her name is derived from my middle name, Moriah. Her middle name is after my mother, Karen Dianne. Just days before her birth I was DONE and telling everyone that birth was a fairytale and that I would be pregnant forever. Now she is sleeping on my chest as I type this. I'm excited to share her birth story...
I usually gloss over this section when reading birth stories so I'll try to keep it short. Since learning more about birth over the last few years and having had healthy pregnancies, we decided together that a homebirth would be a great option for us. Nate and I went to a Meet the Midwives event to interview homebirth midwives. I researched a handful before going and looked up reviews. At the meeting, I was instantly drawn to Karla Bennett, CNM. She seemed like a sweet motherly figure with great credentials and experience. She is unique in that she is a certified nurse midwife but only attends homebirths. Most CNMs attend hospital births. I was excited to start care with her!
Since I was making a lot of demands for this birth (homebirth, doula, photographer), I conceded on one thing that Nate really wanted: to have the gender be a surprise. We found out Riah was a girl ourselves when she was on my chest!
Quick note about prenatal care with a homebirth midwife: I can't say enough just how awesome it is to have direct access to my care provider. I call and get her, not a receptionist or a nurse or hold music. I text her anytime and get a quick response. She came over on a holiday weekend to check on the baby simply because I was worried. Of course homebirth or birth centers aren't for everyone, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this particular aspect. My prenatal check ups were in my home. She engaged with the boys each time and made them feel important and helpful. It was so nice to avoid dragging them to an office for my checkups.
One of the most frequent questions I got was if I was going to give birth in the water. I think water birth is awesome and I wish more women had that option. But it did not appeal to me really! Probably because my labors are pretty short and my pushing stages are pretty short. And I hesitate to say this because I don't want to offend anyone who has had a waterbirth (really, I think you're awesome!) but it just kind of grosses me out. I've seen too many birth photos of moms sitting in bloody water. And I really like physical contact during birth and that can be harder to do when you're separated by a tub. But now I'm thinking waterbirth might be a good idea for me next time since pushing was so hard this time!
An obstetrician might describe my pregnancy as "uneventful." I am blessed to have normal, healthy pregnancies. First trimester was marked by morning sickness and fatigue. Second trimester was glorious! Lots of energy. Third trimester I was big, tired and grumpy. The end is just so hard. I'd give birth 10 more times but I think I can only mentally handle one more pregnancy. The only real complication was another kidney stone. This time I was 36 weeks. Super lame. I spent a night at labor & delivery for fluids and meds. (Loved getting that bill.) Once it passed, I was super grateful to be past it and tried to enjoy the last few weeks of pregnancy. I took the boys to the park and the Tulip Festival. Holly and Amy took me out for a pedicure. I snuggled the boys close and tried to hang on to Colden's babyhood for a few more days.
On Friday May 6th I alerted our birth team and friends and family because I was having regular, sustained contractions. They ended up fizzling out by the afternoon but kept coming back everyday. They weren't hard, but hard enough to recognize them! Gosh, waiting is so hard! Everyday the contractions were there and every night they got a little bit stronger.
So the next Friday night (my birthday, the 13th) I wasn't surprised to have contractions throughout the night. But by the early morning I knew these were different. I was getting out of bed every few minutes and working/breathing through them. Nate woke up around 4am and suggested I start timing them. So I timed them for an hour and around 5am I alerted the birth team! (Birth team: Karla, CNM; Brittany, assistant; Angie, doula; Cate, friend & photographer; Mom)
I put on some cute pajama bottoms (thanks Mitzi!) and nursing bra. While we waited for everyone to arrive, the boys slept and we tidied up the house. I stopped every few minutes for a contraction. Nate helped me through a couple of them. I was so relieved today was the big day! (I got my birthday wish!)
My midwife Karla and her assistant Brittany arrived quickly and started setting up their gear (oxygen, Doppler, etc etc). My doula Angie arrived soon after and immediately started helping me through contractions with words of affirmation and counter pressure. Karla and Brittany helped me throughout as well. The boys woke up and Nate helped them get dressed.
Karla checked me at 5:45am and I was 6cm dilated, 100% effaced with a bulgy bag of water! Woo!
My beautiful and wonderful friend Cate arrived and started taking photos at 6:40am. Mom soon arrived and took the boys to Chik-fil-a for breakfast before dropping them off at Aunt Lora's at 8am. My mom wasn't scheduled to fly out until May 24th but felt she needed to come earlier. She came a few days before my birthday and what a blessing! She jumped in and helped us so much that week when I was DONE with everything. She cleaned, cooked and played with the boys. I'm so grateful she was here! So it was just an added bonus that she also got to attend Riah's birth! She was wonderful!
One of Nate's hesitancies towards this birth was the amount of people that were going to be there. (Which is funny when you think of the amount of people you've never met that are in a hospital delivery room.) I think he was worried about someone taking his place or feeling unnecessary. Of course everyone in our home that day was important to me and I wanted each of them there to support me. But the person I was reaching for during each wave was Nate. I needed him the most out of everyone. All the extra hands in the room supported me physically with counter pressure and massage so that Nate could be at my face, giving me the strength and love I needed to endure.
Every so often, Karla would check baby's heartbeat with the Doppler. My contractions were super manageable but getting more intense. As I got more serious during contractions, Karla suggested I stay near my birthing space (our bedroom). They set up the plastic and chux pads all over the floor and bed. After checking me again, she confirmed what she was thinking earlier: baby was posterior. To be honest, I did not believe her (probably why I stayed so calm about it throughout labor) because I've heard posterior babies make labor so HARD. But I didn't feel like this was a super difficult labor. And I didn't feel like I had a lot of back labor, which is common with posterior babies. But maybe that's because I had so much hands-on help!
I was laboring a lot on hands and knees. So many hands were on me! I loved it. I was using a heat pad in the beginning and Angie also had a cool rag on my face. After one contraction, I said I liked how they had used both the heat pad and the cool rag. Everyone looked confused and said they hadn't used the heat pad that time. During my next contraction I realized it was my mom's warm hands that felt so good!
We really were just hanging out, having a good time and contracting in between jokes about eating the placenta. ;) (Note, I did not save my placenta, although I wanted to! If we were living in our forever house, I would have buried it and planted a tree over it.)
Baby was in my ribs throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy and persisted during labor! Ouch!
Nate trying to push baby down.
I was getting closer so I got out of my cute pajama bottoms and at Karla's suggestion, put on some Depends to catch my water. I remember telling Cate to try to not get photos of my diaper (kind of an impossible request). But yall. I bought a jersey knit skirt to wear specifically for labor. Why did I not put it on? I have no idea.
Nate gave me a sweet, comforting priesthood blessing.
Around this time, the second midwife, Sherri Price, arrived. She was fun and helped to lighten up the room. She and Karla make such a great team. While pushing, Karla would give me an instruction and Sherri would tell me how to do it.
Nate again trying to push baby out :)
Since baby was persistently posterior, they had my lay in the bed for a few contractions every so often with my leg hiked up to encourage baby to turn. She rotated a little, but not much. Waves were stronger and more intense. I was getting pushy so they got set up for delivery. Nate was helping catch, so he gloved up and practically covered himself in chux pads and towels because he didn't want any "splashing." "I like these socks! Should I change socks?" Insert eye roll.
Ended up not needing the barf bowl, but I kept it close. :/
It's taken me some time to process Riah's birth story. I was expecting something so different. I pushed for less than 2 minutes with Colden! I pushed with Riah for 45 minutes or more. I thought I would be more peaceful and serene. That idea has been hanging me up lately. Viewing my story as a third party has helped. What would I say to a friend who had this birth story? I would tell her she was amazing! I would tell her roaring and yelling during birth is normal! I would tell her she had an amazing team who helped her through. I would tell her every part of her story is valid. So that's what I've been telling myself. It's okay to feel primal during birth :) To give birth is a primal instinct!
After a few minutes, Riah wasn't coloring up as well as she needed to so she was given oxygen right on my chest. She perked up just fine and was breastfeeding within 20-30 minutes! One of the best things about home birth is keeping your baby on your chest for as long as you want. She didn't move from me for over an hour. Only then did Karla and Nate take her to do measurements and that was done at the foot of our bed.
Realizing I still have to birth the placenta! Sherri reminded me, "that one doesn't have bones!" Thank goodness.
I lost a lot of blood but no hemorrhaging thankfully! Karla can administer Pitocin in the event of hemorrhage but gives herbs first. I'm not one to know anything about herbs but I trusted her and knew it couldn't hurt. She gave me 3? droppers of Shephard's Purse and that seemed to do the trick. After I delivered the placenta and she did Riah's weight and measurements etc, she and her assistant cleaned up everything. They started laundry, tidied up the house and you couldn't tell anything unusual had happened there once they were through. :) Karla and Angie helped me to the bathroom and got me cleaned up and everyone was gone by 5pm. I am soooo grateful mom was there. She brought the boys home and they just loved her! Mom got dinner for us and the boys and took care of them most of the evening. We wouldn't have survived without her! This is one drawback to homebirth: once your midwife is gone, there is no nurse there to help you go to the bathroom or bring you food. I should have anticipated this and gotten a postpartum doula but with mom there, we survived! Despite that, I would definitely have another home birth again. I didn't have to fight or make special requests for the kind of evidence-based care we wanted. With a homebirth midwife, loving, kind, evidence-based care is routine.
See how white the cord is? That's because it wasn't cut for over an hour. Pretty cool!
After the first 24 hours, my recovery has been awesome. I feel great! Riah is a great little nurser! She is a sweet, sweet baby and we are in love with her! The boys always want to hold her and give her love. She has brought more joy and love into our family! I feel like she has always been a part of us.
So tired. So happy.
Riah Dianne with her Meme, Karen Dianne.