This is the birth story of Savannah Ryan
I was quickly approaching 40 weeks and starting to get nervous that this baby was not going to come on her own. I knew I had time, my midwives would let me go past 40 weeks, but I was still nervous. I always imagined Savannah being born early, but as 38 weeks and 39 weeks came to pass I started to think I was wrong. Even more than imaging Savannah being born early, I imagined her birth being completely drug and intervention free. I wanted this more than anything. I was doing everything I could to have the healthiest pregnancy possible—I kept working out my entire pregnancy and ate healthy. I was also taking Evening Primrose Oil and drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea after 38 weeks. My body was ready for labor, now I just had to wait!
In addition to my personal work preparing for birth, I had great care providers—our doula, Vonda, and the midwife team at OBGYN Associates of St. Augustine. Vonda and the midwives completely supported my goal of natural, unmedicated birth. Having this support was one of the best things, I never had to defend or fight for what I wanted. Vonda led us through Hypnobirthing education and I knew this was the route I wanted to go for labor. If you haven’t considered Hypnobirthing, you should!
Back to the waiting part, after my 38 week appointment I started texting Vonda every day to let her know how I was feeling. At this point, I had started having practice surges just about every day. They would last for an hour or so sporadically throughout the day. It felt more like a generalized pressure in my abdomen, I couldn’t really say when one was starting or stopping. Then, my 39 week appointment came. I was not dilated, but my cervix was soft, so progress was being made. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was disappointed that I wasn’t dilated yet.
Friday, May 6th was a normal day. I went to work, missed my workout (we had a company cookout) and went out to dinner and to buy groceries with my husband Chris. On our way home from the grocery store, around 9 p.m., I texted Vonda and told her “Still feeling practice surges periodically throughout the day. Just waiting.” And then I got home and went to bed.
I woke up at about 1 a.m. because I thought I needed to go to the bathroom. When I stood up, I noticed I felt a little wet, but couldn’t decide if I had just peed myself or if my water broke. I woke up my husband and told him, he was very confused and responded “what? Now?” After some debate, I decided to text Vonda and tell her that I think my water broke. She asked if it had any color, smell or if I had a fever. So, I went to my bathroom and squatted down to get the thermometer from under my sink and, well, my water definitely broke at that point! But I wasn’t experiencing any surges at this point, so Vonda told me to go back to sleep and get some rest. I called the midwife and let them know as well, Amy (the on-call midwife for the weekend) told me to get some rest and meet her at triage at Flagler at 8 a.m. Naturally, I was too excited so I couldn’t sleep, but I tried. Chris woke up and started working on his paper that was due Sunday (he is in an MHA program). Then, we both couldn’t sleep so we turned on the TV and watched “White Men Can’t Jump”; HBO shows some great movies at 2 a.m.
Around 2:30 a.m I started experiencing surges. For the first time I could feel definitively when they would begin and end. I was so excited at that my body was doing what it was supposed to, not that I doubted it would, but it hit me that this is real now! I started tracking the surges and decided it was time to get the last things packed and ready for the hospital. I also took a shower, dried and styled my hair and put on make-up. If you know me, you know I cannot not shower otherwise I can’t function.
Around 5 a.m. the surges were getting more intense and lasting about a minute, three-four minutes apart. Chris really wanted us to go to Flagler and get assessed. I obliged, we did live 40 minutes away from the hospital and this was our first child, neither one of us really knew what to expect. We arrived at Flagler at 6 a.m. and got assessed—I was only 1.5 cm dilated. The nurse mentioned Pitocin and that freaked me out, I was not about to let Pitocin be a part of my birth story. We had two options—I could get admitted to the hospital because my water broke or I could go home and come back at noon. Hearing the word Pitocin, I knew I did not want to get admitted so we chose to go home and labor there. If I did not have Vonda, I honestly do not know if Chris and I would have chosen to go home. I knew with Vonda there for our home labor, I could relax and really focus on my breathing and know that I was in a safe environment and that she would know how to help advance the labor and make sure I got to Flagler at the right time.
Chris and I got home and I took a long, warm bath and waited for Vonda to arrive. I turned on the Hypnobirthing station and Spotify and got in my zone. She directed me to labor in different positions and she tracked my surges—I would tell her when they began and ended. My sole focus was breathing through each surge and not fighting it. I labored most of the time on the toilet, basically until my legs started going numb. Then I walked to bed, laid on my left side and labored through a few surges there and then back to the toilet. My labor was advancing very quickly and I really had no concept of time (another great benefit to having Vonda was not having to pay attention to the time). Around 9:45 a.m. Vonda made the call, it was time to go back to Flagler. My surges were 5 minutes apart and pretty intense, occasionally making me feel nauseous. After laboring through some surges walking to the car, we were on our way again. I listened to my Hypnobirthing music, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. Chris did a great job keeping calm while he was driving.
At 10:40 a.m. we arrived back at Flagler, I went to triage to get assessed and the nurse tried chatting me up while she was hooking me up to the monitors. I blurted out “my body is telling me I need to push. Can I have the baby here or do I have to get in a birthing room?” So she checked me and much to her surprise I was 9.5 cm dilated. I was later told she looked at Chris and Vonda in shock and mouthed “Wow” when she realized I was 9.5 cm dilated. No one expected my labor to progress that quickly. I was admitted at 11:10 a.m. and we walked to the birthing room down the hall.
The actual birth part of Savannah’s story was like an out of body experience for me, but also so instinctive. I walked into the birthing room and immediately assumed a squatting position with my forearms rested on the edge of the bed. I hadn’t planned to birth like that, it was just what my body told me to do in that moment. There was a lot of commotion as all the nurses were getting the room ready for Savannah’s birth which was happening any minute now. Amy arrived in the room just in time to kick off her flip flops, grab a stool to sit on and help birth Savannah. I grunted and I squatted and within three or four surges, Savannah was earthside at 11:34 a.m.! Amy and Vonda were so encouraging during this phase; you could tell we all felt we were part of something so special. Amy handed Savannah to Chris and then he handed her to me, I was in awe. I was literally shaking, the adrenaline was still pumping through my body. It was the most surreal feeling in the world. And I couldn’t have done it without Chris, Amy, Vonda and the nurses and all their support and encouragement of my natural, unmedicated birth. It is the most empowering feeling to birth this way and I love sharing my story with everyone, especially those who called me crazy when I told them I didn’t want drugs or interventions to be a part of my story. I may have even convinced some of my friends to consider unmedicated births for themselves.