Friends, recently marked one whole year since my baby boy was born! Something I did a few days after delivering him was write down every little detail from his birth so I could always go back and relive the day and I’m here to share the cliff notes* version of that story with you!
*it’s still long but I didn’t want to cut it too short! :)
Before we jump in, it’s worth noting I love all things pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Walking through it twice myself had its challenges, but I enjoy learning all about this special season many women have the chance to experience. I watched, read and listened to so many birth stories prior to my second birth and they gave me so much confidence and anticipation for my own. I believe it can be one of the most spiritual events of your life if you allow it to and I pray this story reaches even just one person who can find encouragement from it for their own journey.
With that being said I’ll jump right in…
I woke up to a text message I had been waiting for from my Grandma. I read that my Papou (grandpa) passed in his sleep early that morning. We already knew it would, “be any day”, so I wasn’t shocked, but the tears flowed.
That morning I remember feeling random cramps that felt more intense than tightening from Braxton Hicks. My parents would be in town later that day so I felt good about having the baby that day if things progressed, even if it was the same day of my grandfather’s passing - to me that would be special. Mason was at work when I texted him that I was timing contractions about 10 mins apart. He decided to come home and help me prep everything for our daughter. By this time it must have been around 9 AM. I was feeling tired so I told Mason I needed to sit down - when I relaxed, everything stalled. I was ok with this since I didn’t want to force labor if it wasn’t meant to be.
The remainder of that day I felt fine with occasional contractions. Saturday and Sunday came and went and the only difference in how I felt was just having a “sick to stomach” feeling. It was a mix of wanting to throw up, eat food, not eat anything, and discomfort.
Overall I was feeling content with being pregnant. Sure, I was in discomfort with third trimester symptoms, but I was in no rush to meet the baby. I wanted him to come when he was ready.
~3 AM MONDAY…
I woke up at what must have been 3 or 4 AM with a sore back. I had trouble getting comfortable and for most of my pregnancy I slept really well, so I just thought I must have been getting bigger and it was putting more strain on my back. The back pain was very low and I had a hard time falling back asleep. I ended up sleeping a little upright on my side.
Around 6 AM I woke up to strong back pain and got on the ground on my knees resting my arms and head against the bed. I said something like, “my back really hurts, I’m going to take a bath to try and relax the muscles”. My bath is small and I only got the water up a little above my low back but it felt nice. I tried to lay down in the tub which felt nice but I could feel my stomach tightening like Braxton Hicks. I flipped over to try and get out and felt my first noticeable contraction in my stomach. I got dressed and started breakfast. I noticed the same tightening around my back first then my stomach and started timing the contractions. They were 6 minutes apart for 5 contractions when I told Mason I think this could be the start of labor.
They were lasting about 1 minute in length and I liked being on hands and knees for them. When I called my midwife to update her, she said they would start getting a room ready (birthing suites) but she suggested I have my doula come over to assess the situation and go from there since my water hadn’t broken and I seemed to not be in distress.
Before Mason took my daughter to our friends’, I got really emotional thinking the next time I would see my daughter her whole world would change. I gave her a million kisses and hugs and even snapped a quick video. When my doula, Shelly, arrived, I remember feeling like I still wasn’t sure if this was it because I was in a good mood, and in between my contractions I felt normal. She reassured me she was glad to be there to help me through them and to monitor consistency.
Shelly and I were in my living room where I had a few contractions that I just breathed in and out for while listening to the Christian Hypnobirthing app. The contractions felt really short when I listened to the tracks and I used the 4 seconds in, 7 seconds out breathing technique. During this time, Shelly would put her hand on my back and it felt like she had a heating pad on her hand; it was the perfect comfort and warmth I needed to help alleviate that initial pressure.
Shelly recommended I go sit backwards on the toilet (a position to help progress labor). This position was challenging but she reminded me it was only for a few contractions to sit through to help keep things moving along if I wanted. I liked having her direct my positions because I don’t think I would have had the discipline to work through the intensity on my own. While sitting, I kept wanting to stand up during a surge but I kept being reminded to relax my face and shoulders as I moaned into the pillow. This is the first time I started getting vocal, a sign that labor was progressing.
After a little bit, we decided to move to the bed and my doula suggested we try side lying. I had heard of this technique but didn’t know much about it. I’m glad I didn’t know too much because it was pretty tough. I must have done about five contractions on my right side before I had an overwhelming sense to cry. A thought of Papou came rushing into my head and how I had just lost him and also the discomfort I was in started to feel really intense. It was a short cry but it was a good release that I needed to keep going.
At this point in time I had no idea how far along I could have been…but looking back, I was probably right about to enter transition. I went through a few contractions on my left before I was really vocalizing how tough and intense they were. Both Shelly and Mason had their hands on me by this point and I was squeezing Masons arm and hand with the strongest grip I didn’t even know I was capable of.
Then all of a sudden I had two contractions in my bedroom where I had to grunt (very intensely!) into a pillow for. At that point Shelly said, “actually, let’s just go (to the birthing suites) now”.
We got in our cars and I was in the back seat of our SUV with my knees on the floor and hunched over the bench seat holding my pillow. During the drive I had some very intense contractions that caused me to scream. I felt the pressure to being pushing and remember saying out loud “it’s ok if you come now but it would be much better if you waited”. I was never scared of having the baby at home or in the car, but now that I was faced with the reality, I really didn't want to have the baby in the car (ha!).
When we arrived, Mason helped me out of the car and my midwife was running up to the entrance to help. At this point I was in a different world - everything was blurry as if I didn’t have my glasses on (maybe I didn’t?) and I was just focused on getting through each contraction.
I arrived 'complete' and began laboring in different positions trying to push baby out. I was on the bed, hands and knees, when my water broke - it was a big gush and alleviated some of the pressure but I remember feeling like he was stuck or the pressure was too hard to push into.
I labored there and could not seem to make any progress (or so I thought) so we went to the shower where I probably pushed for another 30 minutes before my midwife said the baby was likely in an odd position. After being in the shower for a little, my midwife asked me if I wanted to sit on the toilet because sometimes it helps. I remember feeling a little defeated like why hasn’t this baby come out yet? At this point my midwife said she could check me if I wanted to and I said yes because I was desperately wondering why this baby wasn’t coming out.
On the bed she checked me and said the baby was in the OP position. This meant that instead of his face facing down, it was facing up, so the back of his skull was pushing against the back of my pelvis which was causing the majority of my discomfort. This is NOT an ideal position to push a baby out but it can still be done. The level of discomfort and pain was hard - I had never experienced such an intense feeling before. It literally felt like my back was breaking in half and I would verbalize those exact words. Looking back I wish I could have had a little more control of the pain response and dialogue, but when you’re in the moment it is hard to change your narrative once you’re that far into it. That’s not to say I didn’t have positive moments where I would vocalize things like, “we can do this”, “come on baby boy we got this”. I would go back and forth between accepting the surge of the contraction and fighting it because of the intensity.
Going into this delivery I wanted to experience the fetal ejection reflex, not be on my back, and have as little “help” from others in pushing baby out - but I ended up asking for hands on help, delivering in my back, and that “reflex” was not as seamless as I envisioned. Funny how God sometimes gives you the outcome you need and not the one you want. My midwife asked me if I wanted her to help turn his head while I pushed and I said, "YES!". It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, I actually barely felt it in comparison to the back pain I was experiencing.
Although I could feel progression, there came a point where I finally was like, “I’ve had enough of this”, and just gave into all the pressure and pain. I was basically accepting that it was going to be super painful until I got the baby out. In hindsight I can now see why they say it’s ‘through’ the pain that you get the outcome.
Once I did this, I could feel things shifting and my midwife said his head was right there. I reached down and could feel it and it gave me a lot of motivation. I pushed and could feel his body in my birth canal. It was not a painful feeling, it was actually really neat. I knew he was right there but then seconds later I felt what they call the ring of fire - the crowning. I screamed at the top of my lungs and everyone calmly told me to breathe and take a few breaths. I was able to regain my breath and pushed again to then have my son placed on me! (side note: afterwards they told me in addition to being OP, he had a nuchal hand which meant he came out with his hand on his face instead of arms down - so challenging!)
The feeling was surreal. They pulled him up to my belly and he was calm, not immediately crying. All the pain INSTANTLY dissipated and I was overwhelmed with happiness. That oxytocin rush is REAL. It was amazing and so worth all of it. He laid there for a little while his cord continued to pulse.
There is something so peaceful about holding your baby after they’re born, it’s as if nothing else matters in the world. I remember him looking so white and so plump in his cheeks. He looked nothing like I expected which was so fun to be surprised with.
Let's wrap this story up….(if you’re still here!)
Overall my labor and delivery with my son had aspects of it that I had predicted and aspects of it that were uncontrollable and not desirable. I’m really happy that I was able to birth him with no medication and completely naturally, something I had as a goal all along. It was extremely rewarding being able to experience this life event that in a way was so spiritual. How often are we able to experience life events that will change and transform us for the better? I loved feeling completely physically connected to my baby during the entire experience, something that I feel I missed with my first birth having an epidural. I experienced a different realm of consciousness, the most challenging physical pain I've ever voluntarily put my body through, and it was all WORTH IT. It sounds crazy but I’d do it again and again and again.