Continued from Part I. I don’t normally like to share such personal things on my blog, but I hope my story might be helpful to someone. You can read more about my thoughts about my birth experience in Part I.
We ordered takeout from my favorite Mexican place around 4pm, and as we ate, my contractions started to distract me from the conversation. Perhaps it was the spicy sauce on my tacos! By 6 or 7pm, I was having longer and more regular contractions, and pressure in my lower back. I stayed in the bedroom and started pacing between contractions and getting down on all fours on the bed or the floor. Things got intense pretty quickly, and I started to feel desperate to have Aaron pressing on my back during each wave and I wasn’t able to focus on anything else during them. Aaron would probably say this is about the time I started to get really irritated. ; ) Aaron turned on my favorite music for relaxation, Enya, and it helped me stay calm and in a good state of mind. By 9pm, contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart, some more, some less and almost a minute apart. Aaron called the midwife, Nicole, and she told us to wait for another hour or so before coming in. They continued to get longer and closer together, so Aaron called around 10pm and Nicole said she would meet us at the birth center.
We left the house around 10:30pm and got to the birth center a little after 11pm. I had dreaded the car ride since I had heard that was the worst part for many women in labor, but I was happy to find that my contractions spaced out during the ride. I would tilt my head back and close my eyes to get through them, and I probably only had around 5 during the whole 40 minute trip. By this point, they felt like they were period cramps on steroids that started low in the front and wrapped around to the back. The strength took my breath away. I could feel everything tighten up and they seemed to be over as soon as they had started even though they were at least a minute each. I felt like clenching my teeth and holding my breath but fought to stay relaxed and to keep my muscles as loose as possible through them. I had a contraction as soon as I got out of the car and rushed inside to get situated before another came.
Nicole opened the door for us and checked my dilation right away. I was 5cm dilated- hooray! I was hoping to be at least at 4 or 5cm, which would signify that my labor was progressing well. Nicole said that my water broke while she checked me or had already been broken. I think that it had actually been broken for about a day even though I didn’t have a definite, “my water broke!” moment. Sometimes the pressure from the baby’s head can keep the fluid from coming out in a gush like you see in the movies. She also said that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, which meant the baby had pooped in the womb (yeah, kinda gross). It’s not terribly unusual for babies who are past their due date, but sometimes it can lead to a lung infection if they breath it in during birth. Luckily Heidi did not have any issues because of it. Nicole also checked Heidi’s heart rate and it was in the 130s like it had been during most of my pregnancy checkups.
My good friend, Emma, arrived and I talked with her briefly and she gave me some yummy chicken broth. She and Courtney waited out in the hall. I had invited them both to be a part of the birth but I found myself wanting to be alone with only Aaron in the room during most of my labor. I felt an extreme need to have absolutely no distractions. Aaron started munching on some crackers and the noise was so disturbing to me that I angrily told him he would need to leave the room if he wanted to eat them. I turned the lights off in the room and the ceiling fan on. I was burning up in a tank top and yoga pants. Aaron was freezing in sweatpants and a hoodie. I paced back and forth in the room and would find the position that was most bearable during contractions. I alternated between getting on all fours, squatting, leaning over the bed and holding onto Aaron. The pressure in my back was getting more intense and having Aaron press on it helped.
The next couple of hours flew by. I was more in the moment than I have ever been in my life. Looking back, I was in an altered state of mind. Some of the things I said, I didn’t even remember until someone reminded me. It was like I was in a time warp. I had absolutely no idea how much time was passing and I didn’t even think about time until I was in transition. I didn’t think about pain either, and I’m not even sure if I would call what I was experiencing pain in the traditional sense. The definition of labor is work, esp. hard physical work. Synonyms include work, hard work, toil, exertion, industry, drudgery, effort. The definition of pain is physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury. Synonyms are suffering, agony, torture, torment, discomfort. I would call what I was experiencing labor not pain. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong, and I never felt like anything was wrong. The discomfort was bringing my baby into the world. It was very physical and reminded me more of running a long distance race or the intensity of a very serious workout when you push your body to the limit. Running 300s comes to mind from my track days back in high school! It was that totally out of breath, pushed to the max, exhausted all over your body feeling that makes you double over. I was really glad that I had continued working out during my pregnancy because I was surprised at how much physical energy labor took.
There was another laboring mother at the hospital, so Nicole went to attend her and the other midwife, Marcia, took over for a while. They had 6 babies born within 48 hours, so they had a pretty busy couple of days! The midwives checked Heidi’s heart rate every 30 minutes or so and she was doing well each time, which I was very thankful for. You hear so many stories about baby’s heart rates becoming irregular, signaling distress. My mom had a c section with me because my heart rate slowed way down and the cord was wrapped tightly around my neck. I was nervous this might happen to my baby, so I was always curious what the heart rate was when the midwives checked. Apparently around a third of all babies are born with a cord around their neck, and it’s usually not a problem at all.
Marcia told me to try the shower when I felt like I needed something else to get through the contractions, and to save the tub for when I needed something beyond that. She would need 15 minutes notice to get the tub filled. I started to feel like my legs were tired and I didn’t want to support my own weight through the contractions, so I laid on the bed for one and it was by far the worst one I experienced. I couldn’t handle being still and I can’t imagine going through labor lying on my back in a bed like many women somehow manage to do in a hospital. You are amazing, ladies! I guess everyone deals with it differently, but for me, being able to physically move and pace was essential. I’ve had a few people tell me I am brave for doing it without meds but I really think the ladies who have complications and have c sections are the ones who have to be brave.
Contractions were getting very, very intense and I wasn’t sure what to do next to deal with them. Thinking about submersing myself in warm water seemed like the only thing that might help. Being confined in the shower sounded impossible. I asked Aaron to get Marcia and I told her it was probably way too early to get in the tub and I asked her to check my dilation to see where I was at. I was at 8cm!!! Thank goodness! I had guessed what my dilation was before each check and I was right both times. Marcia and an assistant started to fill the tub, and I couldn’t get in fast enough. It didn’t even cross my mind that I was half naked in front of other people. Usually I would feel a little embarrassed but the thought literally didn’t even enter my mind. It was almost 2am. My contractions spread out a bit for a while when I first got in but they started back up just as strong as before. I grabbed onto Aaron’s hands and barely let go for the next 3 hours.
A huge thank you to Courtney Potter Cook of The Birth Collective for documenting Heidi’s birth!
I had my eyes closed most of the time in the tub and remember being very aware of the music playing. Love me some Enya. It really helped me relax and stay in the right frame of mind. I remember swaying to the music at one point and feeling so inspired by it. Aaron helped remind me to slow my breathing and to relax my shoulders. All I could think about was breathing in and out and getting into a position that felt right at the time. I alternated between sitting forward on my knees and reclining. I could tell when I hit transition because I started shivering and felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore. At some point I started vocalizing, and I have no idea when. I just remember opening my eyes at one point and everyone looking at me sort of surprised and I realized I was moaning really loudly. It didn’t seem like a choice, I was just making noises and it felt right. I asked how much longer until it was over, and Aaron said that it would be over when the baby came. ha Not very funny. I wanted to know how long I had been in the tub because I had no idea. I would have periods of awareness when I would open my eyes and ask for a sip of water or for the ceiling fan to be turned on or off or the water to be warmed or cooled in the tub. I added a squatting position and hands and knees to my rotation.
Nicole took over again and I remember her telling me what I could expect next. She said the pressure in my back was going to stay even between contractions and the baby was going to start moving through the birth canal. She was right and suddenly I had to lay on my back in the water and was so shocked at the powerful first push that overcame my body. It felt like my body had taken over and my mind was just along for the ride. It was insanely powerful. It took me by surprise. It seemed like contractions were not as close together during pushing and I felt so exhausted, and had to mentally prepare for each one. I had to stand up and stretch my legs a few times because I was mostly squatting by this point and my legs were tired. I was glad for all the squats I had done in body pump at the Y!
I had no idea how long I was pushing or how long I had been pushing. I could feel the baby move down and back up a few times and asked to have Courtney and Emma back in the room. I reached down to see if I could feel the baby’s head and was so dismayed that I couldn’t. It felt like I should be able to feel the head and it made me think I had so much time still left to push and the pushes were so strong and took so much energy. I asked for some encouragement. I remember Emma telling me I was doing a good job.
Luckily it didn’t take very much longer, maybe an hour? Nicole told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head and I did and felt it! I will never forget what it felt like. It was squishier than I expected and she had hair! I was so excited. It was like I had been so preoccupied with the work my body was doing that I had forgotten I was going to have a baby at the end. The baby wiggled her head from side to side and I could feel it and it took me by surprise. It was so cool and bizarre! A little baby was about to be born!!!!! I asked Aaron if he was ready to meet our baby.
It was maybe 10 minutes more until I could feel her starting to crown. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. It stung but it wasn’t as painful as I had expected, and I was more excited about seeing our baby for the first time. It was just surprising and wild. I was saying WOOOOW!!!! Wow and ow together at the same time. Her head came out all at once and the rest of her popped out at the same time and she was born!!!! I was sure I was going to have to work to push out her shoulders. It seemed to happen so fast. Nicole grabbed her in the water, and I scooped her up and looked at her little face. I couldn’t believe we had a baby!
She looked just like my husband. It was an infant girl version of my husband. So unexpected and expected at the same time! It was funny. I think I was saying, “Our baby!!!” and cried for a few seconds while I studied her little face and waited for her to breath.
Nicole helped rub her to get her breathing started. She was grey at first but started making little gurgly squeaky noises and crying and she pinked up quickly after that. I was a bit worried at the noises but no one else seemed alarmed. She was just making normal noises clearing the amniotic fluid out of her lungs. When I knew she was ok, I laughed when I realized no one had said boy or girl so I checked myself to find that she was a girl, as predicted. The midwife, Aaron and an assistant helped me out of the tub and onto the bed with Heidi in my arms.
The photo above is my favorite picture from the birth. Don’t you love Aaron’s shirt? I gave it to him on Father’s Day.
Look at our baby!
I couldn’t stop staring at Heidi’s little face. Aaron and I sat on the bed for 10 minutes or so just studying our little baby while I held her skin to skin to my chest. Nicole said that I needed to push as she gently tugged on the umbilical cord and the placenta came out without a problem. It didn’t hurt at all, or maybe I was numb to it or something because I was so excited to have the baby in my arms. Aaron cut the cord and I tried to help Heidi nurse right away, but it took some practice.
The next couple of hours are a blur. I felt like there was so much going on and I had trouble taking it in because all I wanted to do was stare at Heidi and get to know her. We had some time alone with Heidi, we called our families, and then a birth assistant came in to weigh, measure and examine Heidi. An assistant helped me to the shower and I rinsed off and then our families came to meet Heidi. It was awesome seeing their faces as they met her for the very first time. I had been looking forward to that moment since before she was conceived, and I’m so glad Courtney was there to document it all for us.
I love this photo with both of Heidi’s grandmothers’ hands in the picture.
Heidi was born at 4:49am and weighed 7 lbs 7.5 in and was 21.5 in long. We left the birth center 3 or 4 hours after she was born and headed home! The birth of my daughter was one of the most powerful and best experiences of my life. That’s about it! Thank you readers if you made it the whole way!