I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to give birth for a long time and there was never any question in my mind that I wanted to give birth naturally since my mom had done so with myself and my sister.
I have a lot of anxiety being in hospitals and did not like the idea of doing something so natural in a place that you usually only go to when you are sick or injured. I was also hesitant to birth in the hospital because I know that most of the nurses and doctors are used to medicated births and have heard stories of them actually encouraging pain medication. I wanted to be fully supported in my decision to birth naturally. So looking into homebirths is what we did.
When we interviewed our midwife, Paula, we knew immediately she was the one to guide us through this journey. She exuded confidence in my body’s ability to birth naturally and I felt so comfortable with her immediately. One of the things that was important to me was to really know and trust the people who were going to be around me when I gave birth, and the homebirth/midwife model was the perfect fit.
We took an amazing birth class that forced us to dig deep into our beliefs, fears and worries surrounding birth.
We left the 9 week class feeling like a strong birth team and I felt emotionally and mentally prepared. Many of my friends would talk about the baby as the expected event, but I was more focused on the upcoming challenge ahead. I couldn’t think past the birth because I knew I was in for the biggest mental, physical and spiritual challenge of my life and I love a good challenge! I viewed birthing my baby as a ceremonious event that I had been looking forward to for a long time. I wanted to experience everything that my body was capable of and have an active role in bringing my baby into the world. I couldn’t imagine being numb to the most amazing thing my body was designed to do.
There was a week discrepancy between my due dates:
May 22 was the due date per the date of my last period and May 29 was the due date from the ultrasound measurements. In my gut I trusted the May 22 date, but knew the due date was just a broad estimate on when the baby would arrive anyways.
On May 20 I had an appointment with Paula.
I had a little bleeding the day before so she checked me and I was 2cm dilated, 60% effaced and my cervix was bloody. All good signs that things were starting to change, but knew I could be 2cm dilated for weeks without any other action. Paula thought the baby’s head was still pretty high and recommended I see a chiropractor for a pelvic adjustment to make sure there wasn’t any pelvic asymmetries present that could prevent the baby from dropping and being in the best position. I was a little hesitant, but knew I had a history of my pelvic being “off”, so decided I would do it and I had an adjustment the following day. Who knows if that helped, but just like I had been drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea since week 36, anything that might help the birth go as smooth as possible, I was in favor of.
On May 23, Jonathan and I had a picnic at the park where we got married to spend some time honoring our relationship. We talked about moments in the past few years that we’ve never talked about before and about our readiness to welcome this baby into our relationship and into our world. It was really special.
May 24 was the first day that I felt “icky”. Jonathan went to work, and I didn’t want to leave the house alone. I had been having some anxiety he past couple nights as I felt the air was thick with anticipation of labor starting. This morning the anticipation was overwhelming and I ended up having a very therapeutic cry in the shower, which released a lot of the emotions.
I started to notice that the “braxon hicks” that I had been having almost constantly for the past week were beginning to get uncomfortable.
My back was starting to ache and I felt like I had constant menstrual cramps. I had a great pregnancy, with barely any physical discomforts, so this was new to feel uncomfortable. I updated Paula about my status and went about my day. By night time, the back pain was more bothersome and I was keeping a heat back on it almost constantly. Before bed I had a small glass of wine to try to help with the nighttime anxiety I had been experiencing.
This was the first night that I was woken up with discomfort other than needing to go to the bathroom.
I spent most of the night warming up my heat pack in the microwave and putting it on my back. By the time I woke up on May 25, I was aware that this was early labor because the back pain was coming and going along with contractions. Each contraction felt like a rubber band was tightening around my lower half of my torso. Jonathan didn’t go to work and I did not want to be alone, yet I didn’t want anyone else around besides him because I didn’t feel like I could engage with anyone. I spent the morning doing some projects (painting my belly cast that we had made), but had to get up and walk with the contractions, that were irregular and 15-20 min apart.
I called Paula and let her know what was going on and she told me that this could mean the baby is coming tonight, or this could go on for days. I have some friends who had early labor like this for days, so I wasn’t yet convinced that this was real labor.
I tried to take a nap, but lying down was making the contractions come closer together and were really uncomfortable so I scratched that idea.
I spent the next couple hours watching tv, while leaning over the birth ball on my knees with the heat pack on my back.
I started to zone out while having a contraction and couldn’t focus on the tv. At one point around this time Jonathan told me that I was beginning to look like those women in labor in all the birth videos we had watched. He decided it was time to set up the birth tub, which I was hesitant about since I was still not convinced that this was “it”, and worried I was going to be like this for days. But he started to set it up, I think he needed a project.
Around 4:00pm I couldn’t be bothered with the tv anymore and retreated to our bedroom…never to come out again.
Still on my knees on the birth ball, I began to enter “laborland” and what I now can say was active labor. Not really sure when, but I started making the low moaning sounds that I could never rehearse in birth class, but now couldn’t hold back. With each contraction I said to myself, “Open” or “Let Go” or “Surrender” and imagined my bottom being loose and heavy.
Jonathan would occasionally read me an affirmation that we learned in our class and I tried to hold onto those words through the next few contractions. He didn’t want to fill up the birth tub yet, wanting Paula to be there to let him know it was put together right. I didn’t feel the urge to get into the tub, I was doing fine in the position I was in.
Once my contractions were less than 10 minutes apart, Jonathan left Paula a message letting her know that things seemed to be really happening.
At 6:10pm, my water broke, which took me completely by surprise.
I felt a “pop” inside of me and water gushed down both of my legs. I quickly crawled into the bathroom, hoping to spare our bedroom carpet. The next set of contractions were intense, making me dry heave since I didn’t have anything in my stomach for lack of appetite all day. The few minutes after my water broke made me feel a little frantic because of the rapid increase of intensity.
Jonathan called Paula and she said she’d be there in an hour. We decided it was finally time to tell our closest family and friends that we were in labor and have them light the labor candles that I had given them to send their energy to me.
The contractions were stronger and closer together after my water broke.
I started shaking in between contractions as the adrenaline rushed through my body. The next hour I spent kneeling over the birth ball, making louder and deeper groans, and holding Jonathan’s hands. Jonathan was amazing, there with me for every contraction, letting me squeeze his hands. By squeezing his hands, I could let the rest of my body go and be limp. He had lit candles and put on some soothing music, so the room felt warm and safe.
Paula showed up around 7:30pm, I heard her come in and set things up, but this was the first time I didn’t greet Paula with one of her big hugs, I was in my own world.
They started to fill the tub at this point and Paula had me get up on the bed so she could check me. I was already 7cm and 100% effaced! I don’t remember feeling “excited” about the 7cm because I was feeling so much intensity that I couldn’t feel any other emotion, but I know I felt encouraged that I was doing all the right things and comforted that things were moving along smoothly.
Since I was having so much back pain, she needed to confirm the position of the baby, which meant feeling the baby’s head position.
This part was extremely uncomfortable with her hand reaching past my cervix. Paula confirmed that the baby was posterior. This had been a fear of mine during the pregnancy since I knew a posterior baby can be very difficult to birth. I was posterior and my mom had a very tough time pushing me out, but I knew that she still did it, and she did it naturally.
But for some reason when Paula told us that the baby was posterior, I didn’t get upset or worried. I don’t know if I was so far into the process that I couldn’t cognitively comprehend what that meant, or if I was confident in my body enough to not worry about it until I was experiencing difficulty.
Paula then positioned me on the bed, lying on my left side, to get the baby to turn.
This was the most intense and uncomfortable part because being in this position made the contractions really strong. Paula told me that it’s the strong/uncomfortable contractions that do the work. I settled into it, with Jonathan there holding my hands by my head. I heard Laura, the other midwife and Heather, an apprentice, come into the room. Laura has great energy, and I immediately felt her presence but wasn’t able to greet either one of them. I remember at some point, hearing all of them out in the living room eating.
It was nice to be with just Jonathan, in our bedroom, doing our thing, birthing our baby together.
It also made me feel like the midwives trusted us and had confidence in us as a strong birth team to leave us alone. At some point my back pain went away, but I don’t remember being aware of it at the time.
Paula noticed and told me not to push because I could swell my cervix if I wasn’t fully dilated yet. This stressed me because I knew a swollen cervix would make things harder and longer. I tried so hard to not bear down, but it was almost uncontrollable. They were trying to get me to breathe differently, with more panting exhales to stop the bearing down, which I was successful only about a quarter of the time.
The back pain was replaced by intense burning at what I figured was my cervix and I worried that my cervix was swelling.
I cried out, “I’m trying not to but I can’t help it” as my body heaved again into my bearing down. My groans got higher in octave as the intensity built at my cervix and everyone encouraged me to keep the moans low. I remember Paula saying, “It’s normal to want to run away from the pain, but you have to go into it”.
I thought of the intensity as a door, that I needed to walk through to get to the other side.
Discussions were also happening about running out of hot water for the tub. I think at this point they started warming water on the stove. I was a little worried about even trying to get in the tub because I couldn’t imagine moving my body or supporting my body in the water since everything felt so intense.
At about 9:15pm Paula turned me over to check me again.
Moving my body was so difficult because the contractions were so close together. After checking me, Paula said, “Well, you can get in the tub to say that you did, or you can try to push the baby out right here because the baby is right there”. What?!! I put my finger inside and about 1.5 inches up I felt this soft thing and asked, “That’s the baby’s head!!??”.
I couldn’t imagine moving anywhere so we got in position to push.
Heather text messaged my mom, since I wanted her there for the actual birth of her first grandchild. I never thought I would push my baby out lying on my back. In our birth class we talked so much about using gravity that I was worried that I shouldn’t be in this position. I almost said something about not being in this position but decided that I trusted Paula and she would tell me if we needed to change positions.
So with Paula on one side of me and Laura on the other, my feet up on their shoulders, I started to push.
Jonathan wanted to be very involved with birthing our baby, so he was in-between the midwives and Paula was instructing him to do things such as apply warm compresses, support my perineum and pour oil on me and the baby’s head.
Pushing came as a relief because for the past 5 hours my complete focus was on relaxing my body through the intensities and now I felt like I could finally DO something. I am a person who loves the feeling of pushing myself through physical intensities, which so far has only been expressed in my long distance running passion, so this felt refreshing as I could finally use the power of my body.
I started pushing and pretty quickly the head started to show during contractions.
I felt like I had done this before, I just knew how to push my baby out. I could feel everything, which felt like intense stretching/burning, but no acute pain. I could feel the difference between what a productive push felt like, where the head would emerge further than before, and a push that didn’t do as much. Because I could feel that difference, I was able to focus on getting to that productive push sensation with most of the pushes.
At some point they turned the heat up in the bedroom for the baby and it felt like a sauna in there!
At the end of each set of pushes I felt like I was on the brink of passing out. But then the contraction would end and I would get water, catch my breath and be fanned off.
That’s the amazing thing, my body was giving me breaks to refuel between contractions and I was so grateful for those moments.
Laura kept taking my hand down to feel the baby’s head emerging and at some point the head didn’t retract back in after the contraction ended. “It didn’t go back in”, I said as this wave of euphoria rushed over me and I smiled. I put one hand on my stomach and felt how the upper part of my belly was flat as the baby was so low into my pelvis. I remember Paula saying, “The head will be out soon and I will check for the cord”.
I’m not sure if I said it out loud, but in my head I said, “let’s do this” and Jonathan said he saw something come over me as I got extremely focused.
The “ring of fire” that I’ve heard so much about happened as the head crowned, but it was like a blink of an eye. BAM, then it was over. “Get ready to receive your baby”, Paula said to Jonathan and I gave it one more push even though I think the contraction was over.
Next thing I know this wet, slimy baby was on my stomach.
I did it, I just gave birth, naturally, at home!!!!
I felt so amazing! After a couple minutes I asked Jonathan if he had seen the sex and he said no. Paula rolled the baby over and moved the cord from between the legs and we saw, A GIRL!!! I was shocked, we both thought we were having a boy, so I couldn’t believe that we had a girl and I couldn’t have been more excited!!!
“Happy Birthday”, I said to my daughter.
Holding my baby on my stomach, kissing my husband, while being surrounded by
a great support system is a memory I will cherish forever. Charlotte Grace was born at 10:15 pm on May 25, weighing exactly 8 lbs and measuring 21 inches.
In a couple hours we were tucked into our own bed, our sacred space where we became a family.
The next morning Jonathan made me the best blueberry pancakes and eggs that I have ever tasted.
Giving birth made me feel so strong, so powerful and yet calm and peaceful.
There is something so primitive about birth; my cognitive/conscious self was not there that night, I was along for the ride as my body did exactly what it was supposed to do. I know the reason why my labor went quickly and so smoothly was because I was at home, the place where I felt safe and comfortable. And I was surrounded by people who I knew and trusted to guide me along the journey.
I never reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore, every moment was exactly the way that it was supposed to be. The benefits of a homebirth were so obvious on paper, but now I can feel those benefits in my soul. Birthing our baby made me feel love I have never felt before, both for this new life and for my husband. It was my dream birth come true.
Women are warriors, we can all do it, but what we have to do first is believe in our ability.
Unfortunately our society and the medical system have produced women who do not have confidence in themselves. What an amazing world it would be if more women could have the trust to experience the power and strength of their bodies giving birth naturally and if more babies could be brought into this world surrounded by candles, music and calmness. ahhhhh…
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