I want to document my birth story for a couple reasons. First, I don’t want to forget the experience of my birth. Second, I want others to learn from it, because I feel that it is pretty unique for an American birth in the 21st century.
I knew I wanted to have a natural birth. I wanted to fully experience the birth and did not want any medication taking away from the full experience as God created it. Also, I did not want to give birth in a hospital. In general, I don’t agree with how hospital births are handled, and hospital births scare me a little … possibly because I like to be in control. I feel that hospitals are too quick to use interventions, and the more interventions you have the more you need. I definitely understand that some interventions are necessary in some cases, but I truly believe that healthy women can deliver healthy babies naturally and safely.
After a little searching (around the end of my first trimester), my husband Taylor and I found a birth center in the Denver area. It is the only freestanding birth center in Colorado and is very close to a hospital just in case of any emergencies. We chose for my birth to take place at the birth center—Mountain Midwifery Center (MMC).
The birth center was great for the entire pregnancy. Our prenatal visits were with the four different midwives so that we could meet them and know them all prior to the birth. The midwives were great with us. They answered all of our crazy questions and had great, natural recommendations to help me have the best pregnancy possible. One recommendation was for me to drink raspberry leaf tea everyday, which I did. I believe this tea helped my uterine muscles to be as strong as possible making my labor more efficient. Also, near the end of pregnancy the midwives recommended taking evening primrose oil to help get my cervix ready for birth. I started using the oil at about 37 weeks and feel that it really made my cervix less “stubborn” for labor.
Another great thing about MMC was the education. They believe in educating women and do a great job. We took a birth class (3 hours a week for 3 weeks), a breastfeeding class (2 hours), a newborn class (2 hours), and a 36 week prep class (at our 36 week appointment). The classes were so helpful in preparing us for birth and taking care of the baby. I never mistakenly thought I was in labor, and we were surprised by how few questions and uncertainties we had about caring for a baby.
Now for the actual birth story …
As I said before, I felt different about everyday during the last few weeks of pregnancy, but I was really feeling different as the weekend (10/25 – 10/26) approached. I had a feeling the baby would come during that weekend. Saturday morning my contractions, which I had been having for a while, felt stronger. I guess at that point I knew they were no longer Braxton Hicks contractions but rather were contractions that were “making progress.” We had very, very hot wings for lunch and the contractions felt a little stronger throughout lunch. Then, I tried to nap after lunch (about 3 p.m.) but the nap did not happen because the contractions were strong enough to keep me from getting comfy or relaxed. That afternoon as I relaxed around the house and visited with neighbors I kept noticing that the contractions were more frequent and possibly stronger but not painful.
Around 7 p.m., we really felt confident that I was in early labor. I had a protein shake for dinner because I didn’t really feel like eating. Taylor had me walking laps in the house and was timing my contractions. As I walked laps, I began to need to stop and brace myself for contractions. Taylor soon called the birth center and talked to the midwife on call to let her know that I may be coming in later that night. We wanted to give her a heads up, so we wouldn’t just call in the middle of the night saying that we were on our way. It was great knowing that we could call the midwives anytime, and that someone would always be there to answer questions and just be there for us. Taylor let the midwife know that we thought I was in labor and told her the timing of my contractions. She reminded him that most first time moms have three bad nights before their labor really kicks in. I could not imagine the contractions I was having just going away and coming back the next day. The midwife suggested that I have a big dinner and relax. If the contractions didn’t go away in a couple hours, she said I should take a bath and have a glass of wine. I didn’t feel like eating anymore. I kind of had an upset tummy, which is normal.
After a couple hours (the hours were really flying by!), I took a bath and had a glass of wine (my first sip of alcohol since finding out I was pregnant). Tay was great! He turned off all the lights, lit candles, and wrote down the times of every contraction while sitting on the bathroom floor in the dark. The bath felt great, but the contractions only intensified as I was relaxing … a sure sign of labor. I felt like each sip of wine caused the contractions to get stronger. By the time I was in the tub, I was having to breathe through the contractions. I remember breathing very deeply (getting good oxygen for the baby and for me too), and I felt like I was blowing the contractions away. All throughout laboring at home I was drinking a lot of water, so I had to get out of the tub to go to the bathroom some. At one point, I noticed some blood—another good sign that labor was really happening.
After the bath, we called the midwife (around 11:30) again to let her know that the contractions were closer together. We thought they were about to the point when I was supposed to go the birth center—three minutes apart, one minute long, lasting for over one hour. She asked Tay to put me on the phone. She asked me to describe the contractions, and she sat on the phone to listen to how I handled them. She sat through two contractions and was able to hear my breathing and time them. She didn’t think they were quite as long as we had thought. She told me that the contractions would get more intense and that we should rest until then. She suggested that Tay get in bed and that I sit on the birth ball beside the bed so that I could rest my head between contractions. Tay laid down for about a minute before I realized things were really getting intense and that he should finish packing our bag and get the car packed. While he did this, I held the bed and rocked on the ball. At this point, I was saying “HO, HO” to get through the contractions. I had started by saying “OW,” but decided to change it to “HO,” because “OW” seemed to be admitting to pain. I was afraid that I couldn’t ride to the birth center if I waited much longer, so Tay called again, and the midwife said to come on in.
We left the house at 12:45 a.m. The ride to the birth center is typically 40 minutes, but we arrived at 1:15 a.m. I don’t know quite how I handled the car ride because it was tough. I remember closing my eyes and really working through the contractions. I think it may have been during the car ride that I started humming. I hummed the same four tones over and over again. This really helped me to stay “in control” of the contractions. I was very grateful to get the birth center. We walked up the stairs, and I went straight to a counter and closed my eyes and started humming through another contraction. As I did this, the midwife came over to me, rubbed my back, and told me how good I was doing. She was so calming and comforting.
The midwife showed me to my birth room, showed me my bathroom, and let us know we were the only ones there. She checked the baby’s heart rate, checked my blood pressure, and checked my dilation. I was 4 centimeters. I asked what that meant for timing, and she said 3 to 12 hours. I thought to myself that I could do 3 hours, but I couldn’t really think of going past that.
I had really looked forward to laboring in the birth tub, so I got in soon after arriving at the birth center. The water was warm and felt good, but I couldn’t get in a good position for dealing with contractions and felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I also tried sitting on a birth ball. The best way for me to labor at the birth center, though, was on the toilet! This worked best at first because the contractions made me feel like I had a very full bladder even though it was just the pressure. Then, I ended up staying on the toilet because I felt most comfortable. Tay stood with me and the midwife would check on me and check the baby’s heart rate every so often. Tay was very prepared to be my birth coach, but I really just needed to be left alone or sometimes just squeeze his hand. With every contraction, I would close my eyes and hum the same four tones.
The next time the midwife checked me I was thinking I was 7 cm and I was right! I was making great progress. The next check I was 9 and starting to feel urges to push, and then I was 10. Time was flying by! I walked back to the birth room, and it was time to push. I sat on a birth stool for this part of labor. I believe that sitting on the toilet then the birth stool helped the baby to come down faster thanks to gravity. Also, I think that the humming kept me relaxed so that my body could really work to get my cervix open. I am still shocked that I hummed so much and loudly at times. I felt that if the contractions got tough or intense, I could just hum louder and remain “in control.” The contractions never seemed to overwhelm me. Another thing that helped me to dilate was that my water wasn’t breaking. According to the midwife, there was a bulge of water ahead of the baby that put more pressure on my cervix and helped me dilate.
Now for the pushing … this part scared me. The nurse arrived right as I was about to push so that we would have two people—one for me and one for baby just in case extra care was necessary. The nice part about the pushing stage was that the contractions didn’t seem to be so painful (I hate using that word!). The contractions at this point were more like urges to push. I really tried to fight the urges at times. It just really scared me to push out a baby, so I was trying to put it off … not an easy task! I remember the nurse checking the baby’s heart rate a lot, but I don’t remember the midwife or nurse telling me to do too much. I just went with what my body was telling me. The one thing I remember the midwife telling me was that I would get to a point that I didn’t want to go past but that I needed to push past that point. I remember a good bit of pressure while pushing but nothing really painful. Then, my water exploded! The midwife was prepared with towels and such, but it went everywhere, even on Tay’s sock! A couple pushes later our baby crowned and came out in one push—after about 45 minutes total of pushing and after being at the birth center about 3.5 hours! I didn’t realize it at the time, but Taylor caught the baby as we had planned. The midwife helped Tay get the baby to my chest. I’ll never forget how warm and soft the baby felt. The midwife had to remind us to look to see the sex. We looked together and Tay said, “It’s a boy!” I was a little scared because the baby didn’t seem to be breathing very well. The nurse and midwife said it was ok—the nurse reminded me later that he was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord, so he was fine. The midwife and nurse wiped him off pretty well but didn’t suction his mouth or nose. They were careful to let us totally soak up the moment. We were ecstatic! We were also overcome with emotion.
Surprisingly, I never could fully comprehend having a baby throughout pregnancy. At the moment of the birth, however, it felt more real than anything I have ever felt. It all felt perfect … exactly how things should be. We had a healthy little boy! The only “problem” was that we couldn’t decide on a boy name!
Very shortly after the baby was born the midwife told me to give a little push and the placenta came out. She was shocked by how big it was and said that it was big because I ate so well. She put the placenta in a large Ziploc bag and left it connected to the baby. They helped me get to the bed while still holding the baby. I was shaking as if I were cold, so the nurse gave me a natural rescue remedy that helped. Then, they really left us alone to bond and so that the baby could nurse—it only took two tries before he was eating great! I’m sure they were checking on us more, but I don’t remember them really doing much to us for at least a couple hours. Then, they clamped the umbilical cord and Taylor cut it. They left the umbilical cord attached for so long because they believe that the baby should get all of the blood. Then after it stops pulsing, it clots and is fine to still be attached to the baby.
After Tay cut the cord, the nurse began checking the baby, and the midwife took care of me. We found out that the baby was 20.5 inches and 8 lb 1 oz. I was surprised that he was so big … over 8 lbs!
The birth center usually keeps moms and babies 4 to 6 hours after birth. I stayed close to 7 hours because I passed out the first time I got up and went to the bathroom. The nurse was great through this. She held me while I felt like I was going to pass out. Then, she had Taylor hold me, and I passed out in his arms. Waking up to smelling salts was a weird experience! Low blood pressure is good, but it played a role in my passing out after birth. After I was able to get back to bed, my vision was off for a bit, but I was soon feeling OK. They made sure I drank sweet juices and ate. They also gave me ibuprofen and arnica for pain and to reduce swelling. Then, we were ready to go home with the midwife only a call away—she even called later in the day to check on us.
We thought going home so soon would be scary, but it felt right. We were a family, and it was time to go home, rest, and take care of one another. We were truly blessed with an uncomplicated (and relatively fast) birth and a beautiful, healthy baby boy.