Today, I thought I’d get a little personal and share the birth story of my third child. I like to call this birth my “magical birth,” because that’s exactly what it was. Intimate, quiet, peaceful, beautiful–magical. During this pregnancy and birth, I received care from the amazing Rebecca Williams, CNM. Baby boy was born in the water at her birth center in Murray. Reading positive birth stories can be such a help during pregnancy, so I add my voice to the many stories out there. I gave birth to my first in a hospital with an epidural, my second in a hospital without an epidural, and my fourth at a different birth center. Each birth was empowering and life-changing (and hard!), but this one is the story I love to tell.
My Birth Story
My entire pregnancy with this little one was pretty uncomplicated. I had the usual morning sickness for the first couple of months and the expected discomfort of carrying a full-term baby toward the end, but absolutely nothing to complain about. The care I received from my midwife, Rebecca, was exceptional and I felt informed, safe, and excited about welcoming our newest child to our family. My parents flew out from North Carolina on March 26th, the day before my due date, and planned to stay a week. We were all certain that this would allow them to be here to meet baby boy and help with his homecoming. So, you can imagine our surprise, and disappointment, when they boarded the airplane home with no baby in sight.
I’m grateful that I was in the care of Rebecca during this time. Had I been with the midwives and hospital that I went to with my first two children, I would have been induced one week after my due date. However, even though I was getting very impatient to meet this little guy (just ask my husband!), Rebecca and I both felt that this baby would come when it was right and that we should wait for things to start on their own. Just when it started to feel like I might actually be pregnant forever, I went into labor the morning of April 5th. Contractions started around 4:30 a.m. and, while noticeable enough to wake me up, weren’t that uncomfortable. I continued to have contractions all morning, coming every 5-10 minutes. I went on a walk to try to encourage things to keep moving around 10:30 and the contractions kept coming. I had to stop walking when one hit, but they still weren’t very “serious”. Having gone through an entire labor and delivery unmedicated, I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what “serious” meant and felt that these contractions were still those of early labor.
So, I continued to labor at home, pausing whatever I was doing whenever a contraction came on, and by afternoon, I was having to concentrate and breathe through each one. The kids provided some welcome distraction. Sometimes my toddler would breathe through them with me and other times he would pop up under me when I was leaning over the counter and just laugh. A little before 6:30, with contractions coming every 5-8 minutes, but growing in intensity (still not vocalizing during them, but definitely uncomfortable), I called Rebecca and she said that it sounded like we should come in to the birth center, especially since we had to drive about 25 minutes to drop our children off with their grandparents and then another 20 minutes or so to the birth center in Murray.
The drive wasn’t nearly as bad as I worried it might be. I just closed my eyes and breathed my way through each contraction. Phrases from my HypnoBirthing training ran through my head–“Each surge brings my baby closer to me,” and “I look forward to birthing with joy and ecstasy.” We dropped the kids off around 7:15, I waved to my in-laws from the car, and we headed to the birth center. When we walked through the doors, I breathed a sigh of relief and excitement. The lights were low, I could hear the tub being filled, and Rebecca was there to greet us and tell me how great I was doing. This was it! I was going to meet my baby!
I knew that in the hospital they want you to be 5 cms dilated before you get in a tub because if you get in before that point, the water can actually slow labor down. Since I didn’t consider my contractions too “serious” at this point (still), I was worried that I might not be far enough dilated to get into the inviting tub. When I asked Rebecca, she didn’t hesitate and told me that I was welcome to get in. She said that she would be able to tell where I was in labor by watching my contractions. So, without getting checked, I got right in the tub. Every 20 minutes, Rebecca would check the baby’s heart beat and tell me that his position was perfect.
At this point, everything happened really fast. Although I had been laboring all day, when I got in that tub, it was like baby decided that he had waited long enough. Before long, the contractions were coming closer and closer together and were markedly more “serious”. The only position I wanted to take during contractions was on my knees holding my husband’s hands over the side of the tub with my face in a towel draped over the edge of the tub. I would breathe and moan through the contraction while Rebecca poured warm water over my back (heaven, I tell you!) and she and my husband told me how wonderful I was doing and how baby would be here soon. The water was amazing. Not only did it provide a wonderful environment for the space between contractions, but it helped me feel safe and in control during the contractions.
And then, after only less than an hour and a half in the tub, I thought it might feel good to push during the contractions. So I did. Rebecca, without checking me, said, “Sounds like you’re pushing! You’re going to have a baby soon!” Not once did she say, “Wait–don’t start pushing yet. I need to make sure you’re fully dilated.” She just recognized that my body knew what it was doing and totally trusted that process. I asked about this later and she said that while she would have checked a first-time mom, she knew that I would know when my body was ready. Wow! In other words, I went through my entire labor and delivery without having my cervix checked once. What a difference from a hospital birth!
Rebecca had other tricks up her sleeve that proved to be very encouraging. At one point, she told me she was going to go get the baby’s hat warm and she kept saying, “You’re going to have a baby any minute.” All of this kind of positive talk filled me with excitement and helped convince me that he was going to come soon.
So, then the very “serious” business of pushing started. I pushed in the same position that I had labored in and, like with my unmedicated hospital birth, it felt like I truly had to give everything I had to get this baby out. I even verbalized “Out” during my contractions. A big difference though, between this birth and the other, was that with my hospital birth, I feel like I freaked out during the pushing stage. I was panicky and felt extremely vulnerable. With this baby, the calm environment, the two loving and attentive people on either side of me, and the water helped me stay focused and more in control. I said things like, “I can’t do this”, but I knew I was doing it (and Rebecca and my husband kept affirming that) and I could feel the baby’s progress with each push. I was loud, but it was just from the effort of pushing–not because I was scared or afraid of what was happening.
And then, about 4 big pushes later, baby boy was born. In the relief of having gotten him out, I was surprised and amazed to see my sweet little miracle coming to me under the water. “Go get your baby,” Rebecca said, and I scooped him up out of the water and into my arms. Truly the most amazing thing ever. He cried right away and we sat in the tub (with a warmed towel covering him) while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing so we could cut it. All the while, I just couldn’t stop saying, “Isn’t he perfect?” and smiling with pure joy. Then, I passed him off to his adoring daddy, delivered the placenta, and got into the cozy bed waiting for me where I was fed bites of warm cinnamon roll while baby and I got cleaned up. Pure bliss. In fact, just minutes after the birth, I turned to my husband and said, “I could do that again.” The whole atmosphere of this birth, the intimacy of the environment, the complete trust I had in the only other two people in the room, and the love that filled the room–it was simply amazing.
An interesting side note–with everything that she checked during his first exam, Rebecca didn’t think Easton was “overbaked.” She said he seemed to be a 40 week baby, just full term. We think my dates must have gotten mixed up a bit somehow. I’m so glad we let him come when he was ready instead of when we thought he should be ready.
After a while, Rebecca left us to go spend the night in the room next to the birth suite and we got to spend our first night together as a family in the comfort of the large bed. No uncomfortable hospital room couch for my husband, and no uncomfortable hospital bed for me. In the morning, Rebecca made us a yummy breakfast of huckleberry pancakes, hash browns, eggs, bacon, and juice (served to us while we lounged in bed, no less!) and I took a nice long shower. Then we headed home. It probably sounds soon to be going home to most people, but it was perfect. We got home and spent a couple days just enjoying our newborn in the comfort of our home before big brother and big sister came home.
I am again amazed by just how wonderful it all was. I only wish more women could have that kind of birthing experience. I am overwhelmed with love for my new baby (and that’s something that has been constant with each birth–that tremendous love for baby).
I think it was having this kind of birth story to share that started me on my path to becoming a doula. Not necessarily the fact that it was unmedicated or in the water or out of hospital, but the fact that I felt supported and that the birth process was honored and respected. That made such a difference for me and it’s that support that I work to give women, no matter where or how they birth.