While it is still fresh in my mind, I want to share with you my birth story. This probably isn’t going to be what you’re thinking… It certainly didn’t go how I thought it would. It wasn’t the dreamy, magical thing I thought it was going to be. Before I jump into it let me say this… I am sorry. I am sorry for silently judging the women who get epidurals. Women who lay on their backs to push their babies out. Women who break down and scream like there’s no tomorrow when their baby is getting closer. I am so sorry. Because after experiencing 20 hours of labor with no pain medication and high standards for a magical water birth, I know what it is to throw everything to the wind and give in to the crazy. Now let’s jump in shall we? If you are a friend of mine who doesn’t want to see pictures of me in the throws of labor (all things bared) please leave now. Thankyou. Now let’s jump in while my guy is sleeping so peacefully on my chest.
2:30 AM and a pain wakes me up. A contraction? This certainly felt nothing like the “contractions” I’ve been feeling for the past few months. This is different. And my body tells me it’s different. In my sleepy state I decide to try and ignore the pain to sleep. 4:00 AM and there is definitely a pattern to these cramps. I wake up enough to grab my phone and turn on the contraction timer. After about an hour and a half, I realized I was predicting these pains down to the second. They were exactly 10 minutes apart, and lasting a minute each. Is this seriously it? Can I get excited now? I lost my mucus plug the day before and had bloody show, but didn’t think much of it because of the membrane sweep I’d had two days prior. But these cramps were encouraging to say the least… I got up to go to the restroom, and had one while in there. They were slowly getting a little more uncomfortable. Heading back into our dark room, I laid back down on our bed and tapped Judah gently on the shoulder. He immediately came to and looked at me expectantly. Before I knew what I was saying, the words “Today is his birthday” slipped out. I think it surprised me just as much as it did him. I realized then that my body was saying, “it’s time”. I told Judah to go back to sleep and that I was going to rest in between timing the contractions.
7:00 rolls around and I can’t lay down through another one. I nudge Judah and tell him it’s time to wake up and get busy cleaning and putting the house in order for all the people who would be coming later that day for the birth. Funny what your mind tells you is important during early labor, huh? So in between contractions (still 10 minutes apart) we cleaned and prepared little things here and there. I decided it would be a good idea to try and eat, so while I bounced on the birth ball and timed some more contractions, Judah made me toast with jam and a tall glass of cold milk. After we got everything in order, we sat on the bed while I started to have to breathe through contractions. I think it was probably 10:00 or close to that when I started to feel a shift in things. I wasn’t able to do much but rock back and forth and breathe during a contraction, and in my mind I started to remember all the birth stories I read about people who had their babies way faster than they planned. So around 10:45 I let our midwife know that I was feeling the need for her to come and be with me just in case. Judah in the mean time was setting up the birth tub in the nursery because the thought of warm water was so very appealing. The contractions by this time were every 5 minutes, so I was feeling the need for some relief. I could still talk in between them just fine at this point, and was even snacking on almonds and crackers when there was a break! The water felt incredible and shortly after I got in, my body started to relax a bit. Just enough to make the contractions more intense. I started to feel needy, so I let mama know to come and my sister started to make her way here as well at that point. I couldn’t talk through them at this point, but was still totally fine in between. I think it took Judah and I up till this point to realize that this was actually happening today.
Hannah (my sister) arrived first. It was lunch time by now, so she brought a big bag of french fries and burgers for Judah to eat, and they sat taking with me between contractions (feeding me the occasional french fry) and waiting for the midwife and mama to get there. I was so anxious to know if I was actually dilating or if I was wimping out this soon. I remember thinking I was going to have a meltdown if she told me not much was going on in there. I’m not quite sure if mama or the midwife got the first, but it was within minutes of each other. It was like my body was waiting for my mom, because the contractions got even more intense as she walked into the room.
The moment of truth came along, and it turns out I was 100% effaced, he was all the way down, and I was 4cm dilated. The 4cm threw me off a bit because I knew I wasn’t even halfway there. But it was still something, and I clung to that information like it was my lifeline. The day progressed, and things continued to get more and more intense. I was dialing very slowly (or it felt that way) and I had lost all track of what time it was or who was there. I was starting to zone in and out of contractions and began to wonder what transition must feel like if it already hurts this badly. By late afternoon I was dilated to a 6, walking the stairs, pacing the living room, and sucking on frozen grapes.
Judah was my rock through the whole thing, and by this time I needed him within a few inches of me at all times. Whatever I was doing when a contraction hit I needed to hold onto him, almost like he anchored me down to keep from floating too far into my head too soon.
Early evening hit, and I was exhausted. Stairs, in and out of pool, trying different positions on the bed, and I was still progressing slowly. Everybody was coaching me through contractions at this point, making sure I wasn’t holding my breath. This got a bit overwhelming at one point, and I felt the need for a small space with just Judah for awhile.
Things were a bit worrisome at this point as well, because certain positions were causing his heart rate to drop during or after a contraction. He seemed to be doing well with me on all fours, so the shower sounded like the perfect place to labor for a bit. It also provided a small space for me to escape to with only Judah, and the hot water on my back felt absolutely magical. So we made our way to the shower, and I got into position to labor there for awhile. Judah sat right outside on the floor, and had his head poking in to hold my hand and be close to me. I started to seriously relax in the quiet of the bathroom with just Judah there to hold that space with me and gently remind me to breathe ever so often. After about 10 minutes in the shower something changed. I started to feel pushy, but thought there was no way since I had only been an almost 7cm at the last check not long ago. We called Sheryl into the bathroom and I told her I had felt a shift in things. She said that was a really good thing, and that we might want to check soon to see what was going on. This made my exhausted mind giddy, so we slowly (I mean seriously slow) made our way back to the bedroom to see what was going on.
I laid down (which was frankly hell at that point) and we decided that it would be a good idea to go ahead and break my water. That was sweet relief for the few minutes before it kicked things into super high gear. Transition hit a few minutes later, and my mind (and birth plan) went to pot.
This is where I start to get fuzzy on things because at this point I was seriously in my head. I don’t remember the people coming in, I don’t remember who said what, I don’t remember deciding not to move to the birth pool, and I don’t remember Iver’s heart rate starting to go into decels again. It was at that point that the oxygen mask went on, which was seriously annoying at first. Then it started to become seriously welcome. It gave me something to focus on. Breathe in, breathe out… I was also on all fours at the end of the bed, leaning against the yoga ball at this point. And that position felt awful. Something just didn’t feel right. People kept coming to me to hold my hand, whisper words of encouragement to me, or dab my face and neck with that heavenly wet rag.
All fours wasn’t working out and I knew it in the back of my head. And then I heard the dreaded words “you need to get on your back”. I’d had such beef with this notion since reading the hundreds of articles talking about how that’s actually the worst position to give birth in. And here I was on my back. Oh karma. I was eating my words, and not for the first or last time. So onto my back I got. And of course followed the classic of people holding my legs up and trying to coach me through breathing. But I was so withdrawn, and the pain was so intense that I thought at that point I was going to die. I really truly did. I thought that my baby was no closer to being here than when I woke up this morning, and there was no way I could keep this up. Then something happened that I did not expect. My body started to push without my bidding… And that was awful. My mind faught like crazy to stop it. Intense just doesn’t begin to cover what that felt like… It’s like your body is being ripped in two. This was so not the magical thing I thought it was, and there was no way I planned on doing it again. Who the heck has a second kid. Anyhow, back to my body pushing on its own and all that. Between “pushing” people kept saying “oh wow” and “oh oh oh my goodness…” In awed voices. This seemed silly to me at the time, as I thought there was no way he was close to crowning. Apparently they were all seeing the top of his head at this point.
Judah’s sister Rushie kept me just on the edge on awareness with her encouragement and pushing me to keep pushing. His mom was in my other ear whispering “He will never give you more than you can handle. You are so close.” It was at that point I realized Judah wasn’t beside me anymore, and I looked down to see him at the ready. And then his eyes met mine, and I saw tears streaming down his face. That was when I knew it was about to happen. I reached down and felt the top of his head as a massive contraction hit, and then I worked with my body to push as hard as I could. It started to burn like somebody has stuck a hot poker to me, and my mind began to retract from the pain again. But my body knew not to stop, and then I heard exclamations of joy and apparently at that point Sheryl calmly told Judah to take our baby’s head gently in his hands.
I remember begging to take a break, and hearing everybody say “no no keep going!” Which I had no choice in. His little shoulders and arms came next, and even though I looked down and saw him half way out, I don’t think it had hit me yet that it was happening (as I was telling them again to please let me rest for a second).
I don’t recal this, but apparently there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. My mom, Hannah, Miss Donna (my dear friend), Hada, and Danica had never seen a birth before, so I’m sure it was quite the experience. The moments that followed were pure bliss. The pain was gone, and Judah was handing me our wet, squirmy, perfect baby. He let out a cry and was immediately pink and breathing. I couldn’t stop saying “my baby” as I could not believe I had actually just had him.
Our darling boy was born at 10:21 that night after 20 hours of labor. He was 20in, 7lbs 12oz of pure perfection.
Oh that exhausted face… He was so worth it. So perfect. And if you can’t tell, everybody in the room was immediately smitten. I keep getting the question “would you do it again?” This is tough, and probably not a great time to ask me that. Birth was brutal. It was raw, powerful, exposing, and on the verge of traumatizing. Seeing him and having him in my arms, I know I’d do it again. But I don’t even want to think about that. Right now I have a 2 week old who is the light of our lives, and that my friends is just enough for us right now. Praising God for the experience of a home birth and the strength to get through it. Also for my incredible birth team, and every person present in the room that night. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but in that… it was also the most empowering.