Here is my birth story. I am an analytical kind of person, so I broke it up by days and times, because that's how I remember it. My midwife gave me a copy of her charts, so I used that also to remember some of the specifics. I know it's long, but I wanted to write every detail that I could, as a personal record, because I know that Adelaide will appreciate a good account of her birth someday!
This was my due date. It came and went with no signs of labor. I knew that as a first-time mom that my pregnancy would likely go past the 40-week mark, but it was still a little disappointing when evening came and I knew I'd have to wait longer to meet our little girl.
We had our 40-week appointment with the midwife, and she checked my dilation to see if anythig was happening. I was only a fingertip dilated and 50% effaced, but at least it was something.
As I got up for the 3rd time to pee that night, I began to see bloody show and lose bits of my mucus plug. I still knew that it could be days before labor began, but it was exciting to see evidence that my body was truly working towards getting our baby out so that we could meet her.
I had quite a few contractions during the night as I slept, but when I got out of bed Saturday morning they fizzled.
I felt crampy all day Saturday, which was a new feeling. I kept thinking, "Maybe tonight?" But Saturday night came and went with hardly a contraction at all. Sunday was equally uneventful.
Kevin and I started to think that maybe we'd have a moon baby, since the lunar eclipse was to be Monday night. We thought of how neat it'd be to have a moon baby and thought that if she were born during the eclipse that we might even change her middle name to honor the moment, since it was the first lunar eclipse that fell on the winter soltice in hundreds of years. And to be born on the winter solstice at all! What a great story she'd have... Little did we know I'd be laboring during the entire winter solstice!
I was having some contractions, so I ran some errands in the morning to stay busy and to help keep the contractions coming. I decided to take a 3-hour nap in the afternoon. The contractions kept coming, and were far apart but getting closer together.
Kevin and I began timing my contractions just to see where we were. Three minutes apart, but only 30 seconds long. We called our midwife to let her know what was happening, so she'd be ready just in case, and she said to call if anything picked up. We took a short trip to Target to pick up some plain onesies to do some printmaking on, and I had to slow down during contractions while walking around the store. Stepping outside, we saw the beautiful full moon and tried to convince our little one that it was the perfect night to come out into the world.
We ended up going to bed a little late and I got 45 minutes of sleep that was interrupted by 3 stronger contractions.
I felt a pop and with curiosity, pushed a little and water came leaking out. I woke Kevin up with the excitement of it and said "My water broke!" Turns out it was just my outer bag, but with it breaking my contractions sped up and intensified a little. We labored for a few hours at home, and called our midwife at 3 a.m. to let her know that this was happening! She said we could wait longer at home or go ahead to the birth center. We chose the birth center because I had no clue how hard they were going to get, and I wasn't looking forward to the 30-minute drive there. In retrospect, I wish I'd stayed at home longer. (Next time, I'll know!)
We arrived at the birth center. We were tingly with excitement. The world felt so quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see the lunar eclipse, but the sky was beautifully orange. Our midwife and our doula were already there, and they watched us for a few minutes to see where we were. Midwife took my blood pressure and then checked me for dilation at around 6 a.m. She said I was 5 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. She could feel the bag of waters. After the birth, she confessed that I was initially only 2cm at first, but she was able to stretch me to 5cm during the check.
8:30 a.m. - Noon
Now 6 centimeters dilated at around 10:30 a.m. Spent some time in the shower during the contractions. Kevin came in with me and held me up and supported me. The warm water felt really good and helped distract me from contractions. We also got the birthing tub filled up and that's where I ended up spending most of my time. The warm water and the counter-pressure of the water felt really relaxing and helped me through the contractions. It also felt like the water helped me hold my legs wider and get some good stretching.
My bag of waters broke and there was some light meconium. My midwife wasn't worried though, because baby's heart rate was consistently strong throughout the entire labor, staying between the 130s and 160s. At this time I started feeling a lot more pressure during the contractions. I did a lot of vocalization, but I was also feeling a lot of self-doubt. I was scared about the pain and how much more painful it was going to get. I had the feeling of "I can't do this... I hate this... it hurts so badly" and that's what I'd say. I had moments of crying and anxiety during the whole labor, and really looked to Kevin for support. He did an amazing job of trying to reaffirm what I was doing and being completely there for me.
I am now 8 centimeters dilated and at 0 station. I tried many more positions: laying on my side, on the birth ball, back in the shower, back in the pool, etc. I ate and drank throughout the whole labor: soup, apple slices, even mac 'n' cheese! It wasn't a lot, but it helped keep my energy up. Contractions were tough, but I worked through them, hoping I was dilating quickly.
Still 8 centimeters, though the baby's head was slightly lower. I was feeling extremely discouraged as the last couple of hours were really painful and difficult to labor through mentally. My midwife said that I could labor as long as I wished at the birth center, and that she believed in me, but she also told me my options for going to the hospital and what that would entail should I want an epidural for the pain. I think her laying all that out for me really woke me up. I did NOT want to go to the hospital! I wanted a clear, unmedicated birth for myself and my baby. My doula told me that I was doing everything right, except for my mental state. I had to turn around my negative thinking.
So that's what I did. Kevin and I walked all around the birth center, and I began stating out loud positive affirmations (such as: I can do this; I deserve this; This is for our baby; I'm almost there, etc...). At first I didn't believe myself, but I was determined to birth this baby naturally. Kevin got choked up and cried with how proud he was of me. I think I saw my doula and midwife tearing up too. We were all a mess! It was definitely a trying moment in my labor, and a turning point.
I spent the next few hours laboring in different positions, constantly talking to myself. Instead of "Oww, this hurts," I began saying "Ow...this hurts because it's working." Amazing how your mindset can change things!
I am now 9 centimeters dilated! Progress! My midwife can still feel a lip of cervix in the way, and I started getting the urge to bear down in the next hour and a half during a few of my contractions. My midwife gave me the okay to do what my body was wanting to do, so I pushed a little without any real goal... just to do something during the contractions.
I have now labored the entire winter solstice! And I am finally at 10 centimeters! We began seriously pushing. My midwife told me I was a good pusher and that built my confidence. I consistently push 3-4 times with each contraction. I use the birth stool first, then move to the toilet (which, although very uncomfortable, helped me progress a lot), tried many positions on the bed (side-lying, hands and knees, on my back holding my knees, etc.), and went back to the pool for a bit. The other midwife arrived to help and she was awesome at getting me to push harder and stronger to meet my baby.
It had been five hours of hard pushing, and I was extremely tired. My contractions started spacing out. My body was exhausted from working so hard, and our baby's head just wouldn't progress past my pelvic bone no matter what position we tried. I was so out of it I fell asleep and everyone decided to rest for an hour and a half.
I feel so much more rested, but my contractions are far apart. We used a breast pump to get them going again, and the midwives started giving me drinks of blue and black cohosh to help with the contractions as well (which tasted gross! Like ash and dirt - blech!). Finally they pick up and we decided to try pushing again for 45 minutes-1 hour to try and get baby out.
If pushing didn't work, we would have to go to the hospital. I was feeling a little scared, but mostly determined to push harder than I did before. I was going to give it my all. After the long labor I'd had, having to talk myself into staying atthe birth center and giving it everything I could, I did NOT want to end up at the hospital without giving this last hour my absolute best.
8:00 a.m. (ish)
The two midwives, my doula, and Kevin all rallied around me, helping me push harder and longer and stronger. We started in the side-lying and back positions since they were the best positions before. We soon moved to me squatting on the floor, with Kevin sitting on the bed behind me holding me up. I pushed SO hard! My midwife was down on the floor on her hands and knees with a flashlight to see what was happening as I pushed. She started getting really excited - very vocal and even clapping her hands, so I knew we were progressing. The baby had moved past my pelvic bone and was lowering! Now I felt confident that I'd have the birth I wanted - natural with no drugs going to my baby.
I started to feel the "ring of fire". I was scared of the pain but so excited that our baby was almost here! I gave a strong, long push and her head came out - there was hardly any time between crowning and her head emerging. Her eyes opened almost immediately. Kevin and I couldn't see due to my belly in the way and our position, but my midwife caught her and told me to give another good push for her shoulders. I gave a weak push and stopped when I felt the pain, but my second push got her shoulders out and she came out in a big gush. Adelaide Jane was handed to me, and it was the most beautiful moment of my life! She cried instantly (so did I), and was born at 10:02 a.m., 32 long hours after real labor began.
Five minutes old, Adelaide grasped Kevin's finger (who was still holding me up) and stared up at him. During those first minutes, we were so engrossed in our baby that everything else was a blur. I know I lost a lot of blood right afterwards, and since my contractions had been so weak the midwives were worried that my uterus wouldn't clamp down to stop the bleeding. They gave me a shot of Pitocin in my leg and got me up to the bed.
We spent time just staring at our baby. She was screaming and crying - she had such a story to tell! We marveled at her little nose, her tiny hands, her soft skin. We couldn't believe that such a perfect little person was our daughter! Instant, complete, heart-wrenching love.
I delivered my placenta, which felt so good... a warm gush. We waited until the cord stopped pulsing and Kevin got to cut it. Our midwife showed us the placenta later and we took it home, where Kevin encapsulated it for me. (Placenta pills help with hormone balance after birth.)
I was able to keep Adelaide on my chest for the first hour, with no interruptions. She rooted and nuzzled against my breast, and it felt like the most natural thing ever. I'd worried during the pregnancy if it would feel weird to breastfeed, but that thought disappeared the moment she was there. We kept rubbing her body and time stopped, yet passed so quickly.
Kevin held Adelaide for the first time. She was calm and stared at him. She looked so small in his hands, and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. He is so naturally a father to her, and you could see the love flowing between them. My heart melted.
We took our first family nap together while the midwives and our doula cleaned up. By the time I woke up at 12:30, Kevin was already packing up our bags to go. Our midwife gave Adelaide a little bath to clean most of the blood off of her, I got something to eat, and we were headed home by 2 p.m.
I am so happy to have had this birth experience. In the moment there was a lot of self-doubt and worry, but we all worked through it to end up with the natural birth that we wanted. I know there were a lot of instances during the labor where a hospital would have pushed interventions. My water broke 22 hours before she was born, and there was meconium. I wasn't progressing even after 5 hours of pushing. If drugs had been available, I probably would have taken them, due to my moments of weakness. The birth center was a safe and comforting place for me. I knew I was taken care of, and surrounded by support and love.
I am very proud of myself, but also of the people that helped me labor. I honestly feel that Kevin, my doula, and my midwife gave me the strength and confidence to continue when I felt that I couldn't. Though labor didn't go exactly as planned, and I had envisioned a much shorter, less trying labor, it is still my story, and it still ended as I had wanted: with a perfect family that was able to connect on a deep level because we were alert and healthy and happy.