My Birth Story
***There are several photos of my son's birth included at the bottom of this post. These are intimate photos, but not graphic. Feel free to not scroll any further than the story text if you feel you may be uncomfortable with the content of the images.
Our 41 week check-in with the midwives was on a Monday morning. This one was longer than our typical weekly appointments because we needed to do what is called a “non-stress” test. Since we were now a week past our estimated due date, the non-stress test is done to check the baby’s heart rate and movements to make sure there are no signs of distress. Although the baby appeared to be doing really well and I was still feeling great, we had to talk game plan for the upcoming week if baby continued to stay put. The worry with an “over-due” pregnancy is that the placenta may start to deteriorate and not provide the baby with all that he needs. We were scheduled for an ultrasound later in the week, just in case, to verify that the placenta and fluids were all still in good-shape. If baby didn’t arrive by the following Monday, the 42 week point, then I would no longer be able to give birth at the wonderful birth center. I asked the midwives to please go ahead and do a membrane sweep in hopes that that would help encourage things along.
I was feeling emotional and out-of-sorts after we left this appointment. I had assumed that baby would have arrived before we even needed to go to a 41 week appointment. Now, it was hard not to worry that we would get to a point where I would be told that I needed to give birth at the hospital. I really didn’t want to have to go to the hospital. I had attempted a unmedicated, out-of-hospital birth with my first son. After an unusually long labor that had stalled due to exhaustion, I had made the decision to go to the hospital as a precaution. I received an epidural so that I could try to get some rest in hopes that I would have enough energy when it was finally time to push. Labor was a two and half day ordeal, but he finally make his appearance without any complications. Though it was not quite what I had hoped for, my first birth was not a bad one. Nothing traumatic happened and baby and I were both in good health. It was the unpleasant experience we had at the hospital in the day and half after his birth that has been extremely frustrating.
After lunch, I starting to finally actually feel some real contractions, but they were easy to ignore. For the rest of Monday I tried to relax and keep myself distracted. I did some adult coloring and went for a walk around the neighborhood. The contractions continued throughout Monday night and all of Tuesday. They ranged in intensity and spacing. When the menstrual-like cramps were about five minutes apart, they were barely noticeable. When they spaced out to being about ten minutes apart, then they would become stronger. I spent much of Tuesday just bouncing on an exercise ball while watching Netflix. Around 5 PM I decided to get up and make dinner.
As I started gathering the ingredients I needed for dinner, I noticed that the contractions seemed to be getting closer together. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and started jotting down the time when a contraction started. For the next hour while I was cooking, contractions were consistently every three minutes and were now requiring more of my attention. By the time dinner was ready to be served, I realized that I was also starting to pace around. I had paced around the house like this while in labor with my first baby as well. I told my husband that we better give the midwives a call and update them. They were just finishing up office appointments for the day at the birth center and said they would stick around and start getting a room ready for me. My husband also called his parents so they could come over to our house to be with our son.
The intensity of the contractions increased quickly and as I was trying to get food on the table and clean up, I was having to stop during the contractions to concentrate. I would lean forward with my hands on the back of a chair or on our bed and sway my hips as I focused on taking slow breaths. My two-year-old son started to mimic me because he thought I was doing some sort of funny dance move. Labor with my first baby had progressed very similarly. Contractions had even revved up the same way at dinner time. For this reason, I was questioning if it was really time to go to the birth center. I was nervous I would get sent home again like I had last time. My husband quickly ate his dinner while I gathered up our bags. I was starting to feel queasy and knew I wouldn’t be able to get any food down. Luckily I had been snacking all day. As soon as my father-in-law arrived, we headed for the birth center which is less than 15 minutes away.
Birth Center - Active Labor
When we arrived, the midwives had the birth suite dimmed with candle light and water ready in the tub. I wanted to have my dilation checked before we got too comfortable. They asked if I wanted to know how dilated I was and I told them that I just want to know if I am going to get sent back home or not. They responded that they were definitely not going to be sending me home. The midwives also suggested that David let the birth photographer know that she should probably hurry. It was a huge relief to hear that I would not be having another marathon labor.
My husband turned on some quiet music as the midwives checked my blood pressure and the babies heart rate. I continued to lean over with my hands on the bed during contractions. My husband would put pressure on my lower back with his hands, pressing my hips together. I did have to vomit a few times so they held a bowl up for me. Someone reminded me that I could get in the tub and I decided that would be good. Time went by quickly once I was in the tub. I remember really wanting to just lay my head down to take a nap. Several times I nodded off in between contractions. I continued to focus on taking long breathes in and out. My husband sat on the side of the tub with his feet in the water so he could keep putting pressure on my back and hips through contractions. At times I would become uncontrollably shaky as if I was shivering. I don't remember being vocal at all during contractions but my husband later told me that I was making kind of a quiet humming noise. I was aware that the three midwives and our photographer were there, but not really. I don’t remember actually “seeing” what was going on beyond my own little bubble.
When the contractions got more challenging, I began to use all my strength to push myself against my husband’s hands to achieve relief from the pressure. I told everyone that I felt like maybe there was pressure and I was starting to feel "pushy", but I wasn’t for sure. I had read so many birth stories that described the “feeling to bear down” but this wasn’t what I had expected. I just felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. One of the midwives suggested that I check if I could feel the baby’s head. All I could feel was squishy. They said that was probably the bag of water. My water had not broken yet and it seemed like that was all that needed to happen before baby was ready to come out. Someone got close to let me know that they could break my water, if I wanted. All of my attention and energy was consumed at this point and I could barely bring myself to respond when spoken to.
When my water did finally break, it was the craziest feeling. There was a popping sound and what felt like an explosion in between my legs. It made a big splash that my husband said he could feel in the water. It made me laugh. I assumed we were getting close when I realized that everyone had gathered around close to the tub and they were all wearing latex gloves. Now during contractions, I realized that I was definitely pushing. One of the midwives suggested I turn around so they could hand me my baby right away when he came out. It took a lot of energy but I got myself positioned so my back was leaning against my husbands legs. When a contraction came, I pushed with all my might. Not because anyone told me to. It just felt like what I needed to do. I kept my eyes closed tightly the whole time. I couldn’t seem to bring myself to open them. My husband was by my ear though describing as our son’s head was born. I felt what I’ve heard described as the “ring of fire” but I was too distracted by my efforts to pay it much attention. I remember grunting and saying “come on, baby” under my breath. After his head was out, someone was telling me to take a moment to rest. I could see the finish line now and was in a hurry to get there so after just a moments rest, I continued to push the rest of his body out. Our son was born around 11:15 PM Tuesday night and labor had been approximately 6 hours.
Meeting Our Son
I finally opened my eyes once he was fully born and one of the midwives lifted my baby from the water and laid him on my chest. He started complaining immediately which was music to my ears. He was covered in a thick layer of white vermix. I laid there in the water, talking to him as we waited for the umbilical cord to drain, then my husband cut it. I handed my husband our baby while the ladies helped me out of the tub and sat me on a birthing stool just outside of the tub. A moment later the placenta dropped without any effort on my part. They then helped me to the bed and handed me my baby so we could cuddle skin to skin and start nursing. We rested in bed as a family while the midwives cleaned up the room. They gave the baby his vitamin K shot while he nursed so he barely even noticed. Everyone talked in whispers. It was all so gentle and calm. I felt energized and was so thrilled that we had achieved the birth we had been hoping for. I was physically exhausted yet full of energy, just like a runner’s high. My legs were sore and shaky, but in the “I just finished a great workout” sort of way. I was pumped about what I had accomplished. I felt redemption from my first birth experience. I had proven to myself that I was strong enough.
After resting in bed for a bit, then we were ready to pack up and go home. As I got dressed, the midwives completed all the necessary newborn wellness checks. They commented that they suspected that my due date, which was based on the ultrasound, may not have been accurate. My baby’s petite size, the large amount of vermix and the good condition of the placenta all suggested that my pregnancy was not “past due”.
We got home a bit after 2:00 AM Wednesday morning. It was so nice to be home. Such a relief to be able to eat my own healthy food and crawl into my own bed with both my babies. I was overjoyed about this birth experience and I felt so very grateful. When our two-year-old son woke in the morning and found his new brother next to him in bed, he said, “Mommy, you got that baby out?!” It was super cute.
Both my physical and my emotional recovery from this birth has been significantly easier than my previous postpartum experience. Our biggest hurdle so far has been some challenges with painful breastfeeding. We had his lip and tongue ties snipped and we have been working with specialists to encourage a better hatch.
If you have any questions about unmediated childbirth, home birth, the midwife approach, doulas, breastfeeding, etc., feel free to reach out. I love talking about all things pregnancy, birth and babies!