A birth story

On Saturday, March 23rd, I was feeling SO ready to have the baby, so we walked the dog around the neighborhood to try and jump start labor. I knew that I could/should let my pregnancy ride out a bit longer, but after nearly 6 weeks of prodromal labor, I was tired. By the end of the dog walk around our neighborhood  I was beginning to feel very crampy— so apparently that really did help encourage labor. I told Steve that I thought true labor would come soon, and he laughed and said he thought it was just more of the same— which is to say, NOT labor. I remember getting so upset about that, even crying and telling him that I didn’t want to be in labor for ~3 more weeks. I was 38 weeks and 6 days, I think, and even though I’d hoped and hoped the baby would have a long gestation after our scare at 33 weeks, I was done. I wasn’t sleeping much because of the persistent contractions, and my hips were hurting so badly that sometimes walking even the few blocks to the bus for work made me cry.

I had a nap in the afternoon (keeping in mind that I’d want to be rested if I was heading into the long hours of childbirth) and by the time I woke up, everything had stopped. Tabby told me she thought I was going to have the baby on Saturday night.

I started having contractions some time after dinner, but they were the same type/pace as I’d been having for 6 weeks so I thought it was probably nothing. They started to feel sort of intense, but then kind of petered our around 2am and I got a few hours of sleep. After breakfast they picked up again to their typical 4/5 minutes apart and started to feel stronger then they had the in the past. I took a shower to relax, then called my midwives at 11 saying that I thought *maybe* it was really going to be the day. Margy and I both laughed, because I’d said and wondered that so many times before. We made a plan to meet at the birth center at 1, so our midwife Kelsey (who was on-call) could check my progress and then decide whether I’d stay or go home. The contractions felt really intense on the 20 min car ride... and they seemed closer together, so I was feeling like things were really progressing! We arrived at the birth center and I walked around a bit while they got some supplies out, and.... when they checked around 2pm I had made ZERO progress since my visit the week prior. Still ~4cm dilated, still ~70% effaced. No change.

I remember fighting back tears at that point, thinking that it felt so real, like it wasn’t another fake out, and worrying how much longer I’d have false labor. They told me to plan to stay for a few hours and they’d check again, after which we’d make a decision about staying or heading home.

Steve, Tabby and I walked in the orchard in the sunshine of a beautiful spring day, Tabby made a daisy chain crown for me, and I felt happy to be with my family. We made plans for my friends Kittee and Kim to drive 45 minutes from Portland and pick up Tabby, but they were delayed. I was beginning to feel anxious that Tabby might end up being at the birth center longer than she wanted, and her mom wasn’t answering her phone. I would have been glad to have her at the birth if that’s what she wanted, but she had clearly told us that she didn’t want to be present for it.  My friends said they wouldn’t be there until around 4 because of the delays. Meanwhile, my contractions were feeling harder— and I found that if I did a deep squat with my knees pointing outward, it felt really good! It was such a deep, opening stretch that relieved pressure in my pelvis. I was in the middle of doing this while talking with Tabby in the birth room and in a big gush my water broke! I was so surprised and was like “this can’t be urine— there is so much that it won’t stop!” I’m still amused that tabby saw me standing there with a massive amount of amniotic fluid literally soaking through my pants, running down my legs, making a giant puddle.

My water broke around 3:30 pm, and I had a big mental shift from disappointment and worry about going home to endure more prodromal labor, to becoming truly ecstatic knowing that our baby was on its way. I’ve had a life filled with happiness and laughter, but looking back, I don’t think I’d ever felt more joyful anticipation than I did in that very moment. I was laughing, and felt flushed with excitement and hormones and adrenaline. I shouted to Steve that my water broke because he had stepped out to call our friends to coordinate pick-up, and he went and told the midwives. Margy came in and helped me get out of my wet clothes and onto the toilet while Kelsey started working on other things around the room. Because I was GBS+ and elected for IV antibiotics, Kelsey began prepping my IV and filled the tub for me. I wasn’t sure if wanted to give birth in the water, but knew that water is a place that calms and grounds me and I’d looked forward to getting into that tub for months. I got into the tub around 4:00 and my midwife quickly set up the IV so I could get that done (and hopefully out of the way, if labor wasn’t too long).  My friends arrived just a bit later and brought a wonderful bag of snacks for us— nuts, dried fruit, crackers, etc. Being a first time mom, I was expecting my labor to be long and I looked forward to the healthy sustenance. One of the many things I love about the birth center is the flexibility we had to do what felt right— move, eat, drink, etc.

So, Tabby left with my friends at about 4:15, and I started to *really* feel my contractions. I’d been listening to tracks on the Gentle Birth app for a few weeks to cope with the prodromal labor, and for the first time in my life I found affirmations actually supported my frame of mind. I’d shared that with the midwives during my visits, that I particularly liked the phrases that affirmed that birth is natural, that generations of women before me were successful in birth, that my baby is the right size for my body, and that my body would know what to do. Kelsey brought in these beautiful cards with affirmations on them and propped them up around the tub, and I remember reading one or two and immediately thinking “I’m too overwhelmed to read.” I tried switching positions in the tub to get comfortable, but felt limited by the IV. I started my bathtub labor by reclining against the wall of the tub, just trying to breathe through the contractions— but very quickly, I began to feel like that position wasn’t working for me. I switched to my knees, leaning over the edge of the tub, and then switched back to sitting/reclining— and it was during these transitions that I began to feel crazed. Are you familiar with the look an animal gets when it is trapped and just wants to get away? Its eyes dart back and forth, wide with fear, and I remember feeling like that for a bit.  I couldn’t find any place or position that felt comfortable, and I started feeling sick, and then I was asking Steve told hold the metal bowl for me because I was going vomit.

Shortly before 5:00 I was in transition, vomiting, and feeling totally overwhelmed by the massive contractions. Someone suggested that try a different position to help me cope, so I tried leaning back against Steve— but immediately did not like it. The only position that I felt supported me, physically and mentally, was on my knees while leaning over the edge of the bath. I was having very intense hot/cold flashes so the midwives were helping me stay cool while having contractions, and warm between them. Steve was saying really loving things— telling me how strong I am, how proud is is, etc. I remember Kelsey asking if she could check my cervix, and I’m pretty sure I refused. I was so overwhelmed during transition! I began to wonder if I could do this, and when I questioned that out loud (“can I do this? I don’t think I can do this.”) my midwife Margy said “you are doing this.” I repeated that— I am doing this, and then talking to the baby and telling him “we can do this, we are doing this.” To cope with the pain, I focused on the love and excitement I felt for the baby. I kept saying “I love you, I love you. I can’t wait to meet you.” Saying those words over and over and over helped calm me.

The midwives were amazing!
I started pushing around 5:30, and William as born at 6:22 pm. It seemed SO fast! Once I was really pushing, they had Steve get in the tub with me so he could catch the baby and pass it through my legs to me. Margy, one of my midwives, held my hands while I basically roared the baby out (and as Steve reminded me, shouted about my butt 😂). They all remarked on how fast it was for a first birth— but that’s likely because my body had been laboring slowly for many weeks. I only had a few contractions where I felt really panicked and like I might not be able to do it, thankfully. It was amazing, and hard, and I felt myself tear. That part scared me, but it was not too bad.
Meeting our tiny love
Reflecting back on the birth, it really was everything I had dreamt of. My friend asked if I had an orgasmic birth (ha! That’s a thing— google it if you’re curious), and I told her absolutely not. No orgasms were had, not even close. But I will say that I had an ecstatic birth. I felt strong and empowered, very grateful that our son was delivered into my husband’s loving hands, and the rush of beautiful hormones afterward was completely amazing. I actually fell asleep while the midwife was stitching my perineum! The pregnancy and birth experience I had with Bella Vie was really beautiful. They fed us nourishing homemade meals for 24 hours afterward, brought us coffee first thing in the morning, helped me use the bathroom when I was feeling woozy, etc. 100% would do it again, if could convince my husband. Ha!

Note: Steve took the picture of me alone in the bathtub, and the rest were snapped by the apprentice/student midwife Teresa (with my cell phone!). I’m really grateful to have a few pictures of our first moments together.


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