As an excited and, let’s be honest, somewhat terrified first-time pregnant woman, I loved reading positive birth stories. Picturing other mothers’ experiences was so valuable in my preparation for childbirth because they helped me overcome my fears of the unknown associated with labor and delivery. These stories also served to combat all the negative comments people feel compelled to tell pregnant women! I knew that my experience would be unique, but I learned from the accounts of others and was inspired to believe that I, too, could have a beautiful and transformative birth story. I hope that reading my story will do the same for you.
I did not start my pregnancy with the expectation of a natural birth outside of a hospital setting. I didn’t have any friends at the time that had chosen alternative birthing arrangements so when I found out I was pregnant I did what I thought everyone did: made an appointment with my OBGYN. After my first couple of appointments, I began feeling uncomfortable with my doctor. Around that same time, I stumbled upon the documentary The Business of Being Born and began to research my options. My husband and I made an appointment to tour a birthing center in our area and immediately fell in love with the midwives as well as the location. I realize that a birthing center is not right for everyone, but it was a wonderful fit for our family. The midwives really took their time during my prenatal checkups to talk through any questions and educate me for what was to come. I am so thankful for their care and guidance through the entire process!
I had a smooth and healthy pregnancy. My due date was October 1, but I was anticipating a “late” and lengthy labor as this was my first baby. My in-laws were visiting for the weekend before I was due. Since we had absolutely no expectation of an imminent delivery we took them to the state fair and walked...and walked...and walked. I must have been extra tired when I went to sleep that night because I’m pretty sure I slept through early labor. This is really not that surprising since I’ve been known to sleep through fire alarms and all kinds of crazy things normal people don’t sleep through. But in this scenario, I’m thankful for being a heavy sleeper!
So my first experience of a real contraction was when I woke up at about 3:30am on September 29. I had been having Braxton Hicks for several weeks, but without any discomfort. This time the contraction was a little painful. I checked the time, rolled over, and tried to go back to sleep. Then 10 minutes later I had another. And 10 minutes later - another! I jumped out of bed (which I know must have been a product of pure excitement and adrenaline because I NEVER jump out of bed at any time of the morning) and was determined to get this labor moving.
I used an app to time contractions while I made myself oatmeal and ate a banana. Odds were that this was going to be a long process and I wanted to have plenty of energy! I was determined to not sit for fear of slowing anything down so I paced the kitchen, and swayed my hips while I tracked my progress. Unfortunately, I soon threw all of my breakfast back up and felt like my body was cleaning itself out in preparation for labor. I felt the need to stay in the bathroom for a while as I continued to work through labor on my own.
To my surprise, my contractions were very consistent from the start and were soon only 7 minutes apart and lasted about a minute each. I decided to wake up my husband, realizing that I would soon need help working through contractions, and that we would be leaving for the birth center in the near future. I was feeling very confident at this point. I could stay calm and relaxed during contractions and the pain was very manageable. I was telling my body what to do, visualizing the process, and staying as relaxed as possible. An unplanned labor technique that we used while at home was for my husband to hum a hymn when I had a contraction. As we swayed together I would try to think of the words to whatever song he had chosen and it would help keep my mind occupied on something other than the pain. We called the midwife to tell her my contraction stats, and she said she would meet us at the birth center. It was time to go!
The drive there was terrible. It was a rainy day, traffic was slow, and I was unable to shift positions to get comfortable during contractions. When we got there at about 8:00am, I was so nervous and overwhelmed by the reality of what was happening that I was visibly shaking. My midwife checked me (for the first time ever) and told me that I was 6 cm dilated, fully effaced, and that my son’s head was very low. What!? I threw up again while the poor midwife held up a trash can. She later told me that I was probably closer to 7 cm but she didn’t want to freak me out so told me 6.
We made our way upstairs to the birthing suite where the midwife filled up the tub and monitored my progress from a distance. She was tracking my contractions visually and would periodically use a doppler to record the heartbeat. I slowly calmed back down into a good rhythm by sitting on a birthing ball and trying to roll my hips in a perfect circle. I didn’t have my heart set on any particular birthing position, but I wanted to have options available so that I could see what was helpful in the moment. I’m so glad that I did because once I got in the water I did not want to get out!
Contractions became very intense, and it helped for me to vocalize through them. I felt the popping sensation of my water breaking. The midwife checked me one more time and let me know that I was fully dilated so it was safe to push whenever my body told me to do so. I thought that I was starting to feel the urge to push, but I was honestly scared to, so I kept just trying to relax through the next several contractions. Once I was convinced that I needed to work with the pain and push my baby out it only took a couple of pushes (and a little bit of screaming) to bring him into the world. Elijah Judson was born at 12:12, 2 days before my due date and right on time. He weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces, and was 21 inches long. I was overwhelmed with emotion and relief to have him in my arms. After months of expectation and attempting to picture what that day would be like he felt incredibly real.
My husband cut the cord once it stopped pulsing, and they moved me to the bed to deliver the placenta. That’s when my better-than-textbook birth hit a snag. My placenta did not come out intact. The next 10 or so agonizing minutes were spent with my very tender postpartum belly being prodded and kneaded and my insides being scraped to ensure that every bit of placenta was detached. When that was over, I needed stitches to repair some tearing but I didn’t mind because I was able to hold Elijah during the process and start to nurse him. We stayed at the birth center for a few hours to make sure that I was stable enough to walk around after losing quite a bit of blood. Then we were home in time for dinner!
Becoming a mother has been such a joyous transition for me. The biggest lesson that I learned through pregnancy and childbirth was my complete lack of control. I could eat well, prepare for labor, etc. but in the end, I was entrusting myself and my son to God. I am incredibly thankful for His gift of a quick, smooth labor and a healthy son. Elijah is now 18 months old and I continue to mother him with open expectations - striving to parent him in the best way I can but relying on our heavenly Father with the outcome.