I’m a planner. My husband James is more of a learn-as-you-go guy. This makes us a great pair, but I had to remind him that he picked me for a partner because I’m not like him. We had this conversation often as we prepared for the arrival of our first child. Not only did we attend 12 hours of classes at the birth center, I signed us up for 12 weeks of Bradley Method classes, for a total of 44 hours of coursework. More than is required by the state of Colorado for James to maintain his chiropractic license, he will be quick to inform you. The Bradley Method is husband-coached natural childbirth. His buy-in was essential and now he says it was totally worth it, having supported me through the birth of our baby girl, Lillian.
Our due date was 12/22 and I was fully prepared to go 8 days late which is the average for first-time moms. My friends and family didn’t have this lovely statistic to refer to and they were all over my text messages and facebook wall asking where this baby was! I was doing all the “right” things: prenatal yoga, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture treatments and repeating over and over the birth affirmations that I’d written. We too, were ready for this kid to make an appearance! Around midnight on week 41, only 10 hours before we were scheduled to go in and see the midwife on call to discuss induction options, my water broke! We texted our team - Laura the birth photographer and Carolyn the doula - to keep them in the loop and tried to rest while snow fell outside. By 1:00am, contractions started and James kicked into gear all his training.
Thanks to those classes, I knew we were just getting started and a long way from going to Mountain Midwifery to have our baby. But the weather was making me nervous so I insisted James call and let the midwives know what was going on. Of course they told us to keep working. So James timed contractions while I tried my best to breathe in different spots around our bedroom and bathroom. By 4:30am, things were intense but contractions were only 5 minutes apart and not the requisite 3 minutes. At 5:00am, we called our doula to come to the house and woke up my parents who had come from Pennsylvania days earlier. My mom came to be with me while James got himself ready. Dad put himself to work shoveling the sidewalk for Carolyn.
Once Carolyn arrived, we got down to business, walking between and through contractions and working on breathing deeply. For as many months as I read and learned about natural birth, it means nothing until you have the physical experience. Carolyn proved her worth with her peppermint essential oils which immediately stopped the nausea and vomiting that had defined the first part of my labor. Everything else we got from Carolyn was gravy on top!
I told Carolyn I was scared of the car ride. With contractions 2-2.5 minutes apart, that meant about 10-12 contractions I'd have to handle on my own with James driving. She offered to ride with us and this was the saving grace of our story. Somehow moving through the house, saying goodbye to my parents and then putting on shoes in the mudroom, I had hit transition and felt ready to push. The whole ride I didn't have a contraction...my body was ready to move to the next stage. Carolyn helped me literally pant to keep from pushing while James zipped through town (as much zipping as you can do with snow on the ground).
One moment that I can only find amusing now that it’s behind us and we had a beautiful outcome: As we were leaving our neighborhood, a driver in a car going the other direction motioned to us to stop and roll down the window. When James did, he said "Hey, how long have you had that Volvo and do you like it?" Carolyn and I erupted from the back seat all kinds of insults and obscenities. James said, "Sorry man," and sped off. My rage at the random guy asking a harmless question at 7 a.m. kept me distracted for a few minutes. If Carolyn had not been in the car to reassure me that no, my baby will not be born in the car, I’m not sure how I would have managed. James had his GPS on (had we not done this drive DOZENS of times by now?!) and was also coordinating arrivals with the midwife on call and the birth photographer. Of everyone who was supposed to be there with us, we were the first to arrive! Once we realized the birth center was locked and the midwife was 5 minutes away, James let the F bombs fly. I had one contraction in the stairwell, wearing my bathrobe still, and then Gina arrived, ran with us to the birthing suite and washed her hands to check our status.
"I feel no cervix. You can push." I think we were all shocked to learn that we had basically done ALL the laboring at home and were ready for this last but super hard part.
I jumped in the tub, thinking a water birth was what we were going for and then I realized that being weightless in water, while very soothing, also means you have no leverage. There’s nothing to push against! After giving this a go, we got to try lots of different tricks of the trade from the doula and midwife, from a birthing stool to a waterski contraption where I held one end and someone else held the other and I could lay on the bed and push. This was where we made a lot of progress. I think this is because I could recruit the muscles in my arms and legs too. I even watched a few pushes in the mirror which I did not think I would want to use. The visual really helped motivate me and we hopped on to the birthing stool for 15 or so more minutes and then Lillian Frances entered the world!
The most amazing part of the birth center is being able to immediately lie down on a queen size bed, not a hospital bed, as a family and gaze at your little creation. James and I both were so awestruck. We got to spend the next 4 hours getting to know baby Lillian, counting her fingers and toes, while she laid right on my chest and bobbed her way right up to my breast where she knew exactly what to do and within 2.5 hours of being earthside, she had latched on and nursed.
I am so blessed that we had an amazing team of people supporting us and who were totally onboard with our goals for a drug-free birth. They knew what to say to me to keep me focused on bringing her into the world. I am grateful to James who worked hard right alongside me and has already proved to be an amazing dad. Lastly, it’s an honor to join the community of women and mothers featured here!
How did the difficulty level meet your expectations?
When labor first began I thought to myself “if this is how the contractions feel early on, I’m in trouble!” It was every bit as hard as I imagined.
What was the best thing you did to prepare?
Prepare your body and prepare your mind.
1. Exercise! I cannot imagine attempting labor without being in good shape. I continued to CrossFit until Week 36 of my pregnancy and I know lifting weights made all the difference.
2. Write an affirmation and hang it up where you will see it often and be reminded. Mine was “The baby inside of me is born without any complications. Labor is short and drug-free. It is intense but not painful. Our baby comes when he is ready and is positioned in the easiest possible way for birth. I am strong. My body was made for bringing this baby in to the world. Our child thrives emotionally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually, at birth and all his life.”
I recited this to James when I was in the bathtub in a quiet moment between contractions. These words almost exactly describe the labor we had.
What was your most effective form of pain control?
Breathing! It took my doula coaching me and breathing with me at times to slow the breath and get it down deeply. I had practiced ‘breathing all the way down to the baby’ but when you are contracting, practice flies out the window.
Would you do anything differently?
Call my doula sooner :)
Do you have any advice for pregnant moms?
I cannot recommend chiropractic enough! You never know what inside your body (hips, pelvis, back) may be out of alignment that may contribute to your baby not being in an ideal position. Why not position yourself and your baby to move down and out as smoothly as possible?