William’s birth story really began three years ago when I started reading Grantly Dick-Read’s Childbirth Without Fear. The main idea of the book is that birth does not have to be painful if a mother is not afraid of childbirth. Shortly thereafter, I read Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. (I started reading this again shortly before birth.) The pages are filled with beautiful birth stories—birth stories that every expecting mother should read—and now I feel that I have a birth story that could easily fit into one of Ina May Gaskin’s books.
To be totally honest, I am in awe of my own birth into a mother. I look at the pictures and am shocked to see how calm I looked between contractions. Even though I was there; I lived it. I experienced what I set out to discover: that birth works.
I began experiencing some menstrual-type cramping on Wednesday, March 25, after I saw our midwife in the morning. I headed to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on a whole bunch of freezer foods because I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t going to be back for a while. However, my plan was always to ignore any labor signs as long as possible.
That night, I roasted a chicken, which my husband and I jokingly called “The Labor Chicken.” We just didn’t know at the time that I was indeed heading into early labor. I experienced these cramps consistently through the night and into the next day, but I was determined to go through my normal day. I visited my chiropractor for an adjustment, tried to take a bit of a nap and then headed out to get my nails done. However, at about 3:30 p.m., I felt the need to begin vocalizing a bit through the cramps. I made a game of it and vocalized through the alphabet until the cramp was gone, “Aeeeeeeeh … Beeeeee … Ceeeeeee … Deeeeeee …”
My midwife and her assistant were on this side of town, and they decided to swing by. After a bit of discussion, we decided to do my very first cervical check. Much to everyone’s surprise, my midwife could feel a bulging bag of waters. My cervix was 95 percent effaced and entirely tilted to the front, and I was 3 centimeters dilated (easily stretched to 4). I was in labor.
I got a manicure while in early labor. I can’t help but laugh while thinking about it now.
I can’t tell you how many times I went through the alphabet that evening, but by the time our doula arrived, I was sick of hearing myself sing the ABCs, so I switched to the birth song I learned in yoga: “Ooooooh … Aaaaahh … Eeeeewww …” The beautiful thing about contractions is that they hit a peak and dissipate. I focused on sending those vibrations straight down to our unborn son and out towards the earth.
Our doula arrived at around 4 a.m. I unlocked the door before her arrival, and Bo, our loyal watch dog, made not a single sound when she let herself in. I wanted to let my husband sleep as long as possible, but he aroused when our doula and I were chatting. He made himself some freshly ground coffee while our doula fixed me some toast—the smell of that toast was divine. At this point, time began to melt away.
Labor and birth are very much like rafting down a river. You will get to the end when you get to the end. You will likely face rapids and calm points in the journey, but it’s the river that is dictating your pace. You prepare by filling your raft with the most amazing people that you can find. Your midwife and her assistant are the river guides that will guide you safely on your adventure. Your doula and partner are there to paddle with you and support you when you may need to paddle on your own for a bit. My birth would not and could not have been as amazing as it was without our incredible birth team.
I felt entirely supported throughout labor. Never once did I feel out of control or in pain. For the majority of labor, both my husband and our doula had their hands on me. It felt like they were keeping me anchored.
There are so many incredible moments from William’s birth that I treasure: the smell of Nag Champa incense hanging in the air, Sounds of Nature Tibetan healing music, peanut butter and jelly paired perfectly on a spoon, watching German beeswax candles slowly count down the hours, the incredible soothing sensation of hot water being added to the tub, feeling William’s head with my own fingers, the sweet sounds of William’s first cry and watching our midwife wipe away her tears.
My husband even decided that he wanted to feel William as I pushed him into the world. It’s amazing that there are such times of peace during such an epic event. There were times in between contractions, especially as I headed into transition, where I could feel myself dozing off and would catch my arms floating to the top of the tub. Our doula read me wonderful meditation and relaxation scripts. She also massaged my shoulders and applied counter pressure to my lower back—I nuzzled myself into her hands through contractions.
During her childbirth preparation class, I joked that it was too bad that contractions were going to ruin my spa day, but to some extent, I did get a very spa-like labor. We used essential oils and many touch techniques.
Shortly after our midwife arrived, we decided to do one last cervical check. I was afraid that I might be disappointed in my progress, but if I wasn’t making progress, I would have wanted to get out of the tub and try some different positions. However, low and behold, I was already 9 centimeters dilated at 10:30 a.m.
I did eventually have the desire to involuntarily push, which was very exciting. Pushing is intense work. I felt grounded and powerful. I’m not going to tell you that birth wasn’t uncomfortable at times, but it wasn’t painful. At one point in early pregnancy, I wanted to explore the idea of having this totally peaceful hypnobirthing experience, but then I realized that I wanted to experience birth in all its glory. I wanted my birth raw, natural and pure. I wanted the birth that the universe intended me to have—fully and completely. I felt encouraged and celebrated, and when I felt William slip into the world, I felt euphoric and accomplished.
At 1:32 p.m. on March 27, 2015, my dream was realized, and it was a beautiful dream come true. Our son was born in our loving home: 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 21.5 inches long. Birth was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!