Here's the tale of how my daughter landed earthside. It's a magical story full of heart, humor, and humility. I share it because so much of what our culture presents regarding birth is negative and full of pain. My yoga, meditation, and breathing practices, as well as Hypnobirthing, helped me have a positive birth experience.
At 3:15 the morning of December 23rd, I woke up to some contractions. They kept happening so I timed them and saw they were all over the place in terms of duration and time apart. I wasn’t sure if this was the real deal or just more practice. They were a bit uncomfortable so I tried to center by visualizing myself sitting comfortably at the bottom of the ocean, where the water is calm but flowy. There was some seaweed around me that swayed a little, as did my hair. For some of the surges I got on all fours. Worried that all my moving around would wake up Travis, I went out to the couch around 6am and the contractions spaced out to twenty minutes apart. I assumed this was practice labor and was getting pretty grumpy about my interrupted sleep. When Travis woke up I told him what was going on. I was glad that we both had the day off. We planned to just stay home and chill out except for an appointment I had with my midwife in the afternoon.
The contractions kept coming all morning. I texted Kimberly, my doula, and let her know what was going on. We still weren’t sure if this was just practice or early labor. Travis and I went for a walk and they got closer together, about 6 minutes apart, but still lasted for only 30 seconds. I managed the contractions by swaying my hips and breathing. I was surprised by how much sensation I experienced around my sacrum with each contraction.
My appointment with the midwife was at 2:40. The car ride there was not very fun. I think I was still tense because I wasn’t really sure what was happening - practice or not? I was hoping I could be taken back to a room soon after arriving so I wouldn’t have to work with the contractions in a waiting room full of people. Forty minutes later, we finally got taken back to a room. Manola was the midwife on call and when she checked me I was 3-4cm and 70% effaced. She seemed confident that this was it - just knowing that made me feel better and really excited. She gave us the choice of going over to the hospital or going home to see if things would really get going. We chose to go home and agreed we would get back in touch when contractions were 3 minutes apart. Again, the car ride was not very fun but I was in better spirits about it and was excited to think that I could meet my baby that day. We stopped at the store to pick up some dinner on the way home because we were both starving.
We decided to eat some pizza and watch a Christmas movie. By the time the pizza was ready, though, I really wasn’t hungry anymore. The contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I was using a heating pad on my sacrum and all fours to cope with the discomfort. Travis was really great at applying counter pressure…it felt so good. About 10 minutes into the movie (A Muppet Christmas Carol), I started to feel that both the movie and the pizza were annoying distractions. Travis helped me get set up in the bath tub so I could focus. I turned off the lights and listened to the Hypnobirthing Rainbow Relaxation CD. I really got in the zone and the water felt so good.
Travis came back to check on me part way through the movie and I was ready to get out because the water was cold. I was tired from not sleeping much the night before so I decided to sit upright in bed and relax. I found I was able to doze a little between each surge. Here I just continued to use my breath. I visualized myself at the bottom of an ocean cave whose wide mouth was above me, widening more and more.
After the movie was over Travis came back in and I let him know he should start getting our stuff packed and tying up any loose ends around the house. I really lost all track of time because I was so in the zone. I know that at 8:15 I saw my contractions were between 3-4 minutes apart. I told Travis that we would need to leave whenever he was done. I called Kimberly, pausing to breathe for the contractions now lasting about a minute to 90 seconds, and told her we would be going to the hospital as soon as everything was ready and asked her to meet us there. I also called Manola and let her know we would be coming in. Then there was another car ride. It was much easier to manage because I was so relaxed.
We got to the hospital at 9:45pm. Thanks to my hands on knees squatting, we got to skip triage at the hospital and got taken straight to a room. One of the nurses asked about the pain scale and I told her to pick a number for me - it really wasn’t pain. I laughed to myself when she rolled her eyes at me. Shortly after the eye roll, I got checked and was 5-6cm and 90% effaced. Then my water broke…it really just felt like peeing my pants, which, in that moment, was an oddly satisfying sensation.
Once they got me all hooked up and whatnot, they noticed the baby was having some extreme heart rate fluctuations with each contraction. They gave me IV fluids and had me labor on my left side for a while, which was more intense, but helped her stabilize. I was expecting to labor in the tub but wasn’t really given the option because the way her heart rate changed with each position I was in. I did get in the shower for a while but my legs were shaking so much I felt really unstable. I also labored on the birth ball but found just sitting up in bed to be the most sustainable position for me and my energy level. I kept falling asleep between contractions and even burped after many of them, which we all thought was hilarious. I told myself that an hour would last only ten minutes and I really lost all track of time. At various points I felt my water release again and again, still oddly satisfying. One time the nurses noticed a bit of meconium. Nobody freaked out but they were on watch.
Eventually, I started to feel a little pushy and I was at 9cm with just a little lip of my cervix holding me back. I got on all fours and Manola applied pressure to the lip while I pushed some. That was really intense and made the contractions stronger. Still, I didn’t have the “overwhelming urge to push” I’d read about, probably because of that lip. I pushed sitting on my heels, on my left side, and on my back with my knees at my chest. All totaled, I pushed for an hour and a half, roaring with each push. There was so much pressure!
I started to feel afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get her out. I was giving it all I had but it didn’t feel like enough. Manola told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head - that was so surreal! Her heart rate was doing more crazy things so Manola said I needed to get her out with the next round of pushing. I was so tired and I roared and squeezed Travis’ hand like mad. It wasn’t enough. Manola did an episiotomy, which I felt thankful for - I needed some help! - and Kimberly said it was the smallest one she’d ever seen.
With the next round of pushing my baby’s head was born and Manola said, “Whoa! Whoa! Don’t push!” I was out of it and didn’t really know what was going on. Travis told me later that she had both hands up at her face and the cord was wrapped around all that. He said Manola worked so fast to free things up and with the next push, my daughter was born at 5:42am on Christmas Eve. She was immediately placed on my stomach where she pooped all over me! Everyone commented that if her hands would have been down she probably would have come out a lot faster. She was 7lbs 10oz and 20 1/2 inches long.
Because of all her crazy heart rate acrobatics, the NICU team was in the room just in case but she started screaming before her feet were out so they weren’t needed (her Apgar score was a 9). She was so alert and her eyes were really wide. As I looked at her in shock and awe, I noticed some hair on her lip and said, “Is that one of my pubes on her mouth?!” Manola responded by saying, “Well I’ve never heard anyone say that before but yes, it probably is.” Then I apologized to my baby for not trimming things up in anticipation of her arrival.
A little while later the placenta was born. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see it before they took it to the freezer. Travis didn’t want to cut the cord so Kimberly did it. I remember thinking the cord was so thin and long. I was at risk for a hemorrhage due to my bleeding disorder and I felt a gush of blood as the placenta was born. Manola said it wasn’t a hemorrhage but we still went through the protocol we had talked about in the past to be on the safe side.
I felt so proud and strong (and tired!). Travis told me all the nurses were impressed with how calm I was throughout the whole thing. Kimberly told me later that I seemed annoyed that each contraction woke me up. What an empowering birth experience - I pretty much felt like a badass!