Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Birth of Avila Grace

I figured it would be best to write this birth story now while everything is still pretty fresh, as I know details get hazy VERY quickly :)

It's hard to think about this birth story without comparing it to Gemma's birth. If you've read her story, then be prepared for basically the exact opposite this time around! Although there are a few funny similarities. Labor with both girl began around 2am, and both girls were born a little after 7am... the difference being, with Gemma, there was a FULL day between, whereas this little one barreled into the world in just five hours!

So here it goes. (As with most birth stories, it's long... with some tmi details, so fair warning!)

I had been having prodromal labor for about two weeks already. (I lost my mucus plug, and would have contractions on and off.) There were three particular episodes of contractions that I thought were going to lead to true labor for sure, but each time, the action stopped completely and left me very disappointed. I think I could have handled waiting a little better if my body weren't playing so many tricks on my mind! But I guess all that "practice" labor really prepared my body well, because once true labor kicked in, it was show time.

I had gone to bed around 10pm on April 1st, and was actually grateful I hadn't gone into labor that day because I wasn't in love with the idea of an April Fools baby! haha So I slept for four hours, and woke up to a contraction. "No big deal" I thought, as this had happened to me SEVERAL times in past two weeks. So I went to the bathroom, and dozed back off. At this point, I was in the bed alone, because Rocky had gone in to get Gemma back to sleep at some point, and fell asleep with her there. So for the next few hours, I laid in bed and felt contractions every so often, but I was mostly able to sleep through them. I figured this was just more Braxton Hicks and that they'd go away eventually. By 4am, they were picking up in frequency, but I still felt that the intensity of them was not that bad. So I still laid in bed, trying to rest. I had the thought that if my body was going into actual labor, then I'd want as much rest as possible to be able to get through what I imagined being many, many hours of labor!

5am hit, and I could no longer lay comfortably through the contractions, so I got up. I went downstairs, had some water, walked around a bit. I started to keep an eye on the clock to see how often the contractions were coming, and when I observed they were steadily hitting every four minutes, I realized I was definitely in labor at this point. Yet, the intensity still was nothing to put me over the edge. I had to breathe through them and really concentrate a few times, but generally, my management of the pain was not a challenge at all.

I decided to let Rocky know he could go move back to our bed if he wanted a few more hours of comfortable sleep. Again. I imagined we would be dealing with a long day of labor, so I wanted him well rested as well. I went into Gemma's room, and told him I was in labor but that he could move to our bed to sleep a bit more if he wanted. So I went into our TV room and heard Rocky walk to our bedroom. About two minutes later, he joined me. "Yea right am I gonna be able to sleep now" he said, knowing that I was in labor.

(tmi warning!)
I went to the bathroom, and saw a LOT of bright red blood. I knew to keep an eye out for "bloody show" but this seemed pretty excessive to me. So it was at this point that I first called to check in with my midwife, Bettie, just a little before 6am. I told her about the blood, and that I was having steady contractions. She listened to me through one contraction, which I mostly just breathed through, but I definitely could not talk to her through it. She said to put a pad on so we could measure how much blood I was losing, and to call her back if I filled a pad.

Within ten minutes, my contractions went from perfectly manageable to very, very intense. I went to the bathroom to check and had almost filled that pad, but noticed that the blood had slowed almost to nothing, so I wasn't too worried. I called Bettie back, updated her, and told her my contractions were getting really intense and that they should probably come soon. So she said she'd let Laura, my other midwife, know and they'd be on their way. Laura lives about 20 minutes away, and Bettie live closer to an hour away.

The second we hung up with her, I got hit with the most intense contraction of my life. It was SO strong and so long!! I was kneeling on the floor, with my face pressed into the couch. I was definitely vocalizing very loudly at this point, though it was muffled by the couch cushion. (Yes, Gemma was still upstairs, asleep!) Once that contraction ended, I looked up and said to Rocky "I don't think I can do this!" because I literally thought this was just my labor getting more serious, but that were were still a long way from delivery. I could not fathom how I was going to handle much more labor at that intensity level. And before I knew it, I was hit HARD with another contraction. I had hardly any rest after that last one! This one was just as intense but not as long as the previous one. (Looking back, I can now identify that as a double peak contraction, and my body's official signal that I was now in Transition). Once that contraction was over and yelled to Rocky "Call Laura and make sure she is on her way NOW!"

As he got her on the phone, my next transition contraction hit and again, I did not think I was going to make it through. It was just SO intense. I was vocalizing really loudly and remember kind of crawling down the length of the couch, still with my face smashed into the cushions. It felt like I was trying to crawl away from the pain! It subsided down for a moment, then the double peak hit once again. Laura was in the car, on her way but said there was an accident so with traffic it would still be another 20 minutes probably. Rocky put her on speaker so she could hear me and he said to her "Laura, I think we're gonna have this baby!"

After one more really intense contraction, all of a sudden I felt it. The urge to push. "Oh my gosh" I thought, "I can't believe we're about to be one of those stories!" Thinking of how amazed and amused I've always been of birth stories where the midwife didn't make it and the husband had to catch the baby!

So with my next contraction, almost without my consent, I moved onto my hands and knees, and my body just started pushing! Laura was on the phone with us still and she could hear the difference. She knew I was pushing. Right then, Gemma woke up. Awesome timing. Rocky texted our friend (who thank the Lord, lives right next door!), ran up to grab Gemma, and handed her off to our friend through the back door. She tried to ask Rocky a question and he pretty much was like "I gotta GO!" and slammed the door. (Sorry, Katelynn!) He was gone from my side for a total of like 90 seconds, during which time, I had another pushing contraction, and could hear Laura on the phone asking Rocky what he was seeing. He laid down the absorbent pads from our birth kit all over the floor and under me.

He got back to my side, and told Laura he could see the head starting to come. She was talking me through the pushing, trying to get me to blow horse lips and keep my pushing as gentle as possible. I tried. Oh, I really tried. But mother nature is strong. And there were a few not so gentle pushes on my part. So, sometimes primal screaming, sometimes calmly blowing horse lips, I was officially in push mode. My body was working VERY efficiently because before I knew it, Rocky was telling Laura "Okay I see the hair... now the forehead... there's her face! The head is out!" My body rested for a moment, and Laura said the next contraction should push the shoulders out. And she was right. Through the next contraction, I very gently pushed and could feel the rest of her body slowly moving out of me, and then with a huge gush, she was out. It was 7:18am. She was there!!

"Ho. Lee. Crap. She's here!"

^^^That's all I could think!

I think I only pushed for maybe five or six minutes total. Our baby girl came out, Rocky caught her, and laid her down gently between us. She was so pink, and so slippery! She didn't even cry at first, just kind of wiggled and we heard her make a little gurgle, so I rolled her to her side a little and she coughed up some stuff and then let out a few cries. I laid down next to her and brought her close. She latched on pretty quickly and started nursing right away. So we just laid there peacefully for a few minutes. Just us. Mommy, Daddy, and our little baby girl. Laura walked through the door about 7 minutes after she had been born!

Once she was there, she checked on the baby, who was happily nursing and doing great! I delivered the placenta shortly thereafter, and we got all cleaned up (I'm gonna let that phrase cover a myriad of activities that went on). They did the newborn exam; we all guessed her weight and my midwife Laura got it spot on - 7lbs, 6oz. 20.5 inches long.

Reflecting back on the whole experience, I think the reason the midwives "missed" the birth was because we were all so confused. Mostly me. I didn't realize when I was in active labor, which was while I was still laying in bed. I was so used to having contractions through the night, that I didn't take it seriously, and to top it off, I was just handling the pain so well that I also thought, "Surely this can't be active labor, I remember it was so much more painful last time." Well... last time, my water broke before labor started, so I had no fluid to "cushion" my contractions, and I was having crazy back labor due to posterior positioning, AND I was on pitocin for most of my labor. Any of those circumstances would cause labor to be more painful, and I had all three compounded on each other. So I guess now I know what labor feels like when everything is normal - and comparatively speaking, it is really not that bad! Had I known I was truly in labor at 3 or 4am, I would have called the midwife then! And even when I did finally get on the phone with her, I was handling the contractions so well that even she didn't suspect how far along I was. And then before anyone could get a grip on reality, I was already in transition and it was pretty much go time. Even then, I didn't know I was in transition because LAST time, I had an epidural through the transition and pushing so I had no clue what it felt like! So here I was thinking "Well, I'm definitely in active labor now, and if this is what labor's gonna be like for however many hours, I do NOT think I'm gonna be able to handle this!" Little did I know, I was already so close to the end!

Through it all though, there was just no fear. No anxiety. I felt God with me the entire time and especially once we realized our midwives weren't going to make it for the delivery, I felt Him covering us with grace to handle the situation. Which brings me to the final point I wanted to discuss in this post... our baby's name.

Avila Grace

We chose her name, or I'd rather say, her name was chosen for us, many months ago. From the moment we knew I was pregnant, St. Teresa of Avila started hounding us. In a good way! :) Everywhere we turned, she was showing up to both Rocky and I in our spiritual lives. People would give us books by her, send us quotes by her, novenas to her, etc. Before we even knew the gender of our baby, we knew that St. Teresa of Avila was clearly going to be this little one's patron! Once we knew we were having a girl, we chose to name her Avila in honor of her patron :)
---for those wondering how to pronounce it - it starts with emphasis on the first A, which is short, as in "apple"and ends with "villa" as in a cute house in the country :) So... "AV-illa" Hope that makes sense!  --

For her middle name, we wanted to primarily pick a name that honored Our Lady. So Grace became a top choice, being that Our Blessed Mother was hailed by the angel Gabriel as "full of grace". God was also so faithful to us in providing the means to provide a home birth experience for me, which was something I desperately wanted since my hospital birth was so unpleasant. The name of our midwives' business is actually called "Full of Grace Birth Services" which is just another reason we knew God had his hand guiding this whole pregnancy. There were so many moments throughout my pregnancy, too many to recount, that were just covered with God's abundant grace, and I am so thankful! Right to the very end, through my labor and very special delivery, we were just covered in his grace!

We are so, so blessed and filled with gratitude to God, and all our friends and family who have shared our joy in this and carried us with their prayer and generosity! Today, we've spent a lot of time snuggling our newest bundle and playing with our sweet Gemma! I kind of feel like I was hit by a truck (was I this sore last time?? I don't remember!). It feels like I did a hardcore, full body workout yesterday... every muscle in my body aches! Rocky is a champ, waiting on me hand and foot, and man, did I already mention how grateful we are for our friends out here? We have some AMAZING friends!!

Time to go get some more rest! Thank you all for your love :)

.... if you'd like to Rocky's version of this experience, check out his post


  1. What a wonderful birth story!! I enjoyed it completely, and congratulations on your new little sweetheart!

  2. Me ha encantado leer tu historia! Qué bonitoooo!

  3. This was SUCH a great story!!! What a blessing it is to have a new bundle of joy in the Rhoades family! Ps, I thought I could hear crying in the background when I came to get Gemma, so I asked if Avila was already here... I wasn't expecting such a quick delivery! lol but I'm so glad (for you) that labor didn't last as long as it did with Gemma. ;) I'm praying for a quick healing and recovery for you!!

  4. Oh my gosh, that's amazing! You are so brave. I definitely would not have been as calm as you were. I love her name too!


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