Parenting through PMS is hard. Yoga helps me make the best of it.
‘My baby’s birth will be easy because I am so relaxed and confident.’
Leading up to Coen’s birth, I just knew that affirmation would hold true…spoiler alert: it did.
My due date, May 9th, came and went and I was growing impatient. The following day I had an appointment and got to see Blair; I was hoping she would be the one to help me deliver Coen. She checked me and said I was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced. I always feel heard and supported after seeing her; she has a way of making everything feel positive.
That evening I was feeling some practice contractions that were coming regularly but far apart. I started timing them on my phone and settled in to watch some Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix. They stopped coming but I was feeling like I should go to bed early and rest up because labor would be starting soon.
At 3:15am a contraction woke me up. That’s the same time of day things got started with my first labor. I got up to go to the bathroom and saw the light of the full moon through the window. I got back in bed and had a few more contractions but then they stopped again.
When I got up at 6:30am, contractions had returned. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was more practice or the real deal. Then I noticed a contraction would come any time I changed position - something that happened the last time I was in labor. So I told Travis he should stay home from work. I went to the kitchen and started making breakfast. Initially I could talk and work through each contraction but quickly it became clear that I needed to devote more attention to each surge. I started timing them on my phone again; they were still varying a lot, coming every 5-8 minutes.
I helped get Audrey ready to go to her grandma’s for the day. Sometimes I would blow raspberries and sway during the contractions and she would buzz her lips with me. That felt so sweet. I felt most comfortable leaning forward, placing my hands on my knees and resting my forehead on something.
After Travis and Audrey left I got to work tidying the house and changing the sheets on the bed. I knew I wouldn’t have time or energy for housework upon returning home from the hospital so I wanted to leave the house feeling really good. I also set out some new activities for Audrey.
During this time contractions got closer together, 4 minutes apart and about a minute to a minute and a half in length. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and in the middle of a contraction heard water gushing from somewhere. Either I didn’t notice the contraction finishing or it stopped because I snapped into action! The cloth diaper sprayer attached to our toilet started leaking water from its handle. I quickly turned off the water to that hose, threw down some towels, and continued getting ready. I got dressed then laid down in bed to rest up and continued timing contractions. Shortly after that Travis got home and I told him it was time to finish packing the hospital bags. I called the midwife and let them know we would be coming soon.
We got in the car and made it down the street when Travis realized he forgot his camera. So we went around the block and came back home. The first contraction in the car was a doozy; I held on to the ‘oh shit’ handle and braced against the dashboard. After that, they were all pretty manageable. We got the camera, stopped for gas, and went on our way. Travis put his hand on my leg and said, ‘Aw, it’s like we’re on a date because it’s just the two of us.’ I put on my birth affirmations and rested. My contractions got closer together, about every three minutes.
As I got out of the car at the hospital around noon, I felt a really strong contraction and had to stand on the sidewalk with my hands on my knees while a grandma and a toddler walked by. I hoped that I didn’t scare the boy! Two nurses met me inside with a wheel chair and took me up to triage. Coincidentally, a friend of my sister-in-law, Avery, was working that day as well and she brought Travis up to triage to meet me. Once I got changed and situated in the bed, my nurse, Beth, checked me. I was 8cm! I had fully expected to only be at 5 or 6 so I was really excited. Things were going smoothly.
I couldn’t figure out how to get that dang gown to tie in back (there was a knot and they eventually had to cut it off me). So I walked down the hall holding it and had to stop for a contraction. It was really hard to hold the gown closed and do hands on my knees. Shortly after I got to my room, Blair came in. I was so happy to have her there. I got a cherry popsicle and we all just chatted in between contractions. Blair and Beth stayed with me for the majority of my labor. It felt really good just knowing they were there hanging with me. We would all laugh because nearly every contraction was followed by a yawn. I don't know if it was an oxygen thing or if my body was helping me keep my jaw relaxed (I didn't feel tired).
At some point, I felt a shift and turned more inward. I could feel Coen moving down and I focused on using my breath to help. Blair suggested a few position changes during this time, which were helpful. I spent time on the birth ball, sitting on my heels in bed while leaning forward on the peanut, and lying on my left side.
After a while, Blair asked to check me. I was complete with a slight anterior lip and my bag of waters was still intact. Blair pushed on the lip and I pushed against her on the next contraction and my water bag popped. Then I felt the urge to push more strongly.
I had a lot of trouble pushing with Audrey. It took me 1.5-2 hours. I couldn’t quite figure out how to push and I also didn’t really know how to relax my pelvic floor muscles, allowing them to bulge. In addition, she was born with her hands up at her face so there was some extra real estate involved.
Throughout this pregnancy, I worked with a pelvic floor therapist to create more stability in my pelvis and I also developed a greater awareness of those muscles. That was a life saver. I pushed for 30 minutes with Coen. As he moved to crowning, I could feel my bottom stretching so I would relax and allow the bulge to happen. There were times the sensation was really intense and the sounds I was making crept higher. When this happened I felt that I was pushing more with my abs and had to drop down to a lower register to keep things going in my bottom. I was grateful when Blair told me to reach down and feel Coen’s full head of hair! Audrey was bald so that was really cool. It also encouraged me that I was close to being done.
With his head born, I pushed once more for his shoulders and there he was at 3:30pm! Blair laid him on my chest. He let out a kind of half-assed cry of protest then just settled on me and started to calmly look around. He was incredibly calm and aware. Travis cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. I gave another push for the placenta. I never got to see it with Audrey so Blair brought it around and we got to check it out.
Blair checked me and found a first degree tear towards the back and a tiny tear towards the front. Coen weighed in at 8lbs 9oz, 22.5 inches long, with a 14 inch head; Blair said I had amazing pelvic floor control and that the damage could have been much worse. I felt proud of all the hard work and attention I put in.
We stayed skin to skin for about an hour and toward the end of that time Coen started his crawl to the breast. He latched easily, nursed, and fell asleep. Everyone remarked at how calm and chill he was. As far as births go, it really was easy. I’m thankful for my care team and all the warm and caring nurses we worked with at the hospital. I’m also thankful for my husband who did whatever I asked him to do during labor from hugs and kisses, to pressing on my legs, to handing me my popsicle.
I choose to share my birth story because there are enough birth ‘war stories’ out there. I birthed without fear and want other women to know they can too.
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!