It has been a while, but I felt like I couldn't post until I could post the thing that any interested readers would really like to hear. So finally, here is Evelyn Rose Ragsdale's birth story. If you would like to read my doula's account click here. If you cringe while reading words such as "contraction" or "vagina" beware!
It was over Christmas break at the Rivendell cabin in Wyoming when I missed my period. Daddy and I had to work to hide our excitement! Within a month, I had to work to keep my belly hidden! I avoided visiting family too much because every time I did, someone would ask. Aunt Kayla, Uncle Bo, and Aunt Emma were especially perceptive. Our goal was to announce our happy news once Uncle Austin got home from his mission on February 9th. During the month of January I started getting really sick. One time and threw up so hard I actually threw out my back! It worked out being a great excuse to give friends and family for the look on my face or for not visiting. Grandma Ragsdale insisted I needed some nice new walking shoes and bought me some. Then Aunt Erin set up a massage appointment for me to pretend I was her. That actually didn’t work out because when I went in, they had me fill out a general health form where I felt I should check the pregnancy box. Once I was all undressed and snuggled under the sheets, my masseuse came in and informed me that they had a corporate policy about not massaging during the first trimester of pregnancy. I had told him about my back and he knew I needed some help, so he said, “Look, I can’t give you a full massage but If I work on you for 20 minutes you just need to leave and act like you are really miffed about it. We will freeze your account so your monthly massages don’t expire and this won’t count for anything.” So he did! Unfortunately, I had to call Aunt Erin and tell her why her massage account had been frozen, so she had to keep a secret for a couple weeks!
Finally, Granna and Grandpa Graham flew up to Canada to get Austin and I actually stayed at the Graham house to babysit everyone while they were gone. I wore big sweaters and baggy pants the whole time. When they got home and Uncle Austin met your big brother Graham for the first time. (Daddy and I were excited to announce you especially because Uncle Austin had left at about the same time during Graham’s pregnancy and had never seen me pregnant.) I had made Graham a little shirt that said “Big Brother” and he was wearing that under his jacket. After dinner, Daddy announced that we had a present for Austin. We stripped off Graham’s jacket and with Grandpa smirking over his shoulder, Austin read it aloud. Granna’s face went from confused to surprise to ecstatic! I unzipped my jacket to reveal a tidy but well developed bump and everyone exploded! There was a lot of “I knew it! I knew it!” from Kayla and Bo and Grandpa just kept smirking like he had known all along.
Then day we found out you were a little girl was a lot of fun. Daddy came to the appointment with me and as soon as the nurse but the ultrasound on my belly he said, “Oh, that’s a girl!” The nurse said, “Well, I don’t know, we’ll see…” and she took her time doing all the other measurements before she finally got down to get a look. And sure enough! We both started crying we were so happy! Then we spent the drive home calling everyone to let them know.
I had a lot of hopes for your delivery Evelyn. For one, I didn’t want another C-section. I knew that would limit the size of family we could have and I knew it was better for both of us if I could go vaginally. I think my biggest oversight with Graham is that I wasn’t educated or prepared in anyway. I was determined to learn everything I could this time to give myself the best chance of succeeding. So I checked out every book the library had on the topic; natural birthing methods, VBAC helps and informations, and then I also researched the policies and procedures of the hospital so I could know what to expect and what to demand. When I was eight months pregnant I changed care providers. I had previously gone to an OB-GYN. She was nice enough, but I never bonded in anyway and she was only ever passive and even dismissive about my desires and chances for a VBAC. So I found a group of midwives that worked in a closer hospital. I know I was led by Heavenly Father. I have noticed through my life that when I need to go a certain direction, He opens it up to be the path of least resistance and things get settled very quickly. That is what happened here. I had called several midwife groups and there was always something wrong: they didn’t accept my particular insurance, they didn’t take on patients already 8 months along, or they didn’t work with VBACs. When I called this group, everything was a go and the gal that helped me was so nice and enthusiastic. She got me set up quickly with appointments to see all of the different midwives in the few weeks I had left. At my first appointment, I came with a long list of questions. But first, she just sat and listened to the story of Graham’s birth and what I wanted for your birth. Then as I went down my list, she answered questions I hadn’t even asked yet and everything was what I wanted! She was positive and enthusiastic about my chances and when she checked me I was already dilated to a 1 and 80% effaced. “Oh honey,” she said, “if you are like this at 39 weeks you’ll go into labor!” I came out of there singing! For one, it felt so nice to have someone listen, understand, and want to help me have the birth I wanted. And for another, my body was already doing the things it should have been doing to prepare! They also felt my belly and said that you wouldn’t be as big as Graham’s 8lbs 8oz. We were so excited.
As I researched and read, I learned about doula’s. They are hard to find and rather expensive but I liked the idea a lot. Then just a few days before my due date, a friend gave a recommendation for her doula and even called the doula that night to let her know I would be calling. The next day I called and she answered and called me by name! Her name was Hannah Reasoner and she agreed to meet with Dad and I the following night. We both loved her and she gave us a discount since we were three days away from the due date. Again, we felt that Heavenly Father was very involved in our situation. Hannah was also a masseuse and agreed to try labor inducing acupressure techniques if I went to 41 weeks.
The due date, September 5th, came and went, but I was at peace. Somehow, I found a comfortable quiet place with this pregnancy and was content to wait for you. The Wednesday before you were born, I took castor oil and had my first real labor contractions till late into the night. It was so exciting! I had never felt real natural contractions and found I could deal with them wonderfully. Thursday I had a midwives appointment and they scheduled me for the fetal stress-testing the following morning to check up on you. Hannah came over that night and I had some great contractions with her working the pressure point. Friday morning I went in and they monitored your heartbeat for 20 minutes. I was having regular contractions but the closest they got were 7 minutes apart. They were also concerned that I might have a slow leak in my sac because I had so much discharge. If that were the case then they would have kept me in the hospital and tried to get my labor going. I didn’t want that, I wanted to labor at home. The nurse let me go home and get packed and pick up Daddy in case we had to stay. Then we came back for the midwife to check me. I was dilated to a 4 but didn’t have a leak so she said to go home and do whatever we wanted because you were coming regardless. Hannah came again that night and again I reacted well to her massage. Saturday morning, daddy checked me and we guessed that I was dilated to a 5 or 6. But, for some reason, I didn’t have as many or as hard of contractions that day as I had been having. Hannah came over again at about 4. Granna Graham and Kayla were freaking out that I was walking around at a 5 or 6 and they were an hour away so they showed up around 8pm. I also took some more castor oil after much gagging and griping…but still nothing was happening. Daddy was giving me a hard time because I was complaining about the castor oil so much. “It’s probably not that bad, it’s all in your head, stop making such a big deal out of it…etc.” So in empathy, he took a sip too. Hannah finally left at about 9 and Daddy and I went for a walk. We turned on a movie at about 11pm but about ¾ of the way through I had to pay attention to the contractions because they were picking up. I rolled around on the exercise ball, Daddy used counter pressure and Granna used some other relaxation techniques I had learned about. Then I started to feel nauseous during the contractions and it occurred to me that this was probably the result of the castor oil. So I went to the bathroom and the castor oil did its job. I am pretty sure this is when I went into transition. We called Hannah, (it was almost 2:30 in the morning,) and asked if she thought we should head to the hospital. She said she wouldn’t decide that for us but that she was on her way. My contractions didn’t stop of slow afterwards so that clued us in – this was it!
Granna suggested we try hydrotherapy with a hot bath. I was hesitant because honestly sitting on a hard surface getting soggy didn’t sound all that nice. But I was wrong! It was wonderful. The contractions really kicked it up a notch and yet I was able to deal with them and keep breathing…even though I started making a fair amount of noise. Granna said I was a lioness! I hadn’t let Dad check my since that morning because I didn’t want to be disappointed. But he checked me after about 10 minutes in the tub because I was starting to get a hitch in my breathing because I was feeling the need to push. Dad said, “uh, guys? I think we need to go. I can’t feel how big you are…I can’t feel anything…uh…you’re this big,” and he held his first two fingers about 5 inches apart. We agreed it was time so they helped me out of the bath and got me dressed. Every time a contraction came I had to grab Dad and just hang on him because my legs couldn’t support my weight. We made it to the front door and another contraction came and then my water broke – it sounded like a water balloon hitting a brick wall! I said, “There goes my water!” Then I think Daddy’s urgency doubled. He called Hannah and told her to meet us at the hospital.
It was pouring rain but we made it to the car and Dad drove very vast and broke all sorts of traffic laws. I, however, was very lucid. I kept saying, “Lee, slow down. Be safe. I’m fine. We are going to make it.” Also interestingly, I only had 2 contractions on the way to the hospital, and that was about 10 minutes drive. My body knew I was not in a safe place to deliver and it totally slowed down. Granna noticed and tried to get me to focus and keep labor going. I knew it would keep going though. I just wanted to get there safely and I was trying to not push because I could feel you in between my legs and said so. We finally got there but they wheeled me up to Maternal Observation instead of Labor and Delivery. I still don’t know why I didn’t protest here, but anyway. All the way in passersby would call, “don’t push!” like it was a hospital greeting. Then once we go up there, the Observation Nurse said, “Hi, what’s your name? And your birthday? Are you contracting?” Wasn’t that obvious? So they started changing me into a gown and Daddy felt the Call of Nature…or rather the castor oil! He dashed out just as the nurse looked under the gown and said, “Oh my goodness!” She held my knees together while she and another lady grabbed my bed and started shouting at people to move things and get out of the way as they ran to labor and delivery! “She’s crowning! She’s crowning!” I kept asking for someone to go and find my husband because he didn’t know where we were! Then everyone seemed to get there at once. Hannah got there, Dad found me, and Granna got in from parking the car. A midwife walked in and said, “Okay, grab your knees and push!” She tried to massage my perineum but your head was already there. Another nurse tried to put monitors on me but was pushed off (much to my triumph!) Dad pushed his way up to hold my hand and Granna and Hannah came up to my left side. Granna kept talking to me, “Estee, you’re doing it and you’re beautiful! This is what you wanted! And now you get to push – this is the good stuff. This is the fun part. You’re awesome!” She said I was smiling the whole time. And I truly was happy! Happy to have labored at home, happy to have it finally happening, happy to be doing it the way I wanted!! In about 4 contractions you were out. It was 3:24, Sunday morning. You were 9 lbs and 6 oz and 21 inches long.
The first thing I saw was your feet and I said, “Lee! Look at her feet! She’s got your feet!” You were bigger then we were planning on – your going home outfit came to your knees! They put you right up on my chest and you latched on and nursed for an hour. I knew they only needed to take measurements and things within the first hour so I said no thank you and held you and nursed you till the hour was up. (You nursed so well you actually brought my milk in the next day.) By that time the O.R. was ready for me too. So I handed you to Daddy and they took me out. Because you were much bigger then we were anticipating, because you came SO fast, and because you were my first in many ways, I tore badly. You Evelyn, however, were perfect. You had less of a cone-head then Graham! My perineum actually didn’t tear very much, but you tore the left side wall of my vagina as you came down. Whew! So, it ended up that I had to have a spinal block, an IV, and a catheter to get that fixed…some of the things I was trying to avoid! But it actually didn’t matter much; I got the birth I wanted. You came vaginally and completely drug free! Many of the nurses were totally amazed. An all natural Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. I did it.