It is a shame for a woman to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable.
I have often seen this quote plastered over the visual of a powerful female athlete. Her muscles stand out, her body is chiseled, her focus is clear, and she is typically completing a feat of great strength or endurance. I love these inspirational memes. I love women who take an active role in their physical health and who train their bodies to do amazing things in various athletic endeavors. But, as an athlete, fitness enthusiast, and personal trainer, I have found myself widening or transforming the definition of true feminine power, strength, and beauty.
I became a mother.
I have emerged into a totally new world, and I am astounded and embarrassed that I have not noticed or appreciated it before. There are women ALL OVER THE WORLD entering this club of motherhood, and it is the most amazing, terrifying, and all-consuming experience. I find myself wanting to ask every mother I know, “You knew about this?”, “You’ve experienced this?”…”Why didn’t you tell me?!?”. And as I sit down to simply relay the events of a birth story, I find myself understanding the seeming lack of dialogue.
There are no words for this experience.
So, in lieu of successfully articulating this wildly spiritual, and totally whimsical adventure, we tell our “birth stories”. The details of labor; the good, the bad, the highs and lows. A birth story is black and white, or cut and dry. Every mother has one. The happenings are based on fact, because as soon as we try to go beyond the facts, and into the way childbirth has transformed our lives, our minds are rendered speechless.
So, like a reporter states the events, here is my birth story.
Quick aside: If you would like some background leading up to these events, you can refer back to the blogs which reveal my birth announcement and my plan for a home birth. In addition, I will be covering my experience seeing both a midwife and an OBGYN doctor for my prenatal care, in an upcoming blog.
I was cleared for home birth at 37 weeks, and I was CONVINCED I would go into labor early. Baby was head down and perfectly poised for making her appearance. Everyone warned me that first time moms carry longer, and that I needed to be patient, but I was hearing none of it. At 37 weeks I began to do as many of the natural labor inducing/prepping activities as possible.
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
- Eating spicy food
- Exercise ball bouncing/hip work
- Squats (like a ridiculous amount of squats and squat holds ;))
- Sex, yes sex, I apologize for anyone currently blushing right now
- Primrose Oil (orally and vaginally)
- Massage (crania-sacral massage)
- Chiropractic (Webster’s technique)
- Perineal Massage/stretching
- Working out/walking/hiking/biking/yoga
- Eating pineapple…is this a real thing? Who knows…
- Praying every night that labor would begin and that God would make me patient 🙂
I started feeling tightening, or Braxton Hicks around Christmas time, which was in the middle of week 38. I had a really hard time knowing what a contraction was, because they mostly just felt like baby moving and my abdomen tightening in response to her movement.
By new years, I was getting super anxious for baby to arrive, and I was looking for ANY possible sign of her appearing. I believe it was around this time that my mucus plug began giving way, as I noticed some extra gooey-like discharge.
January 4th was my due date, and I had gotten advice from lots of people to really enjoy this day. Make it a special day of fun and maybe do a date night, they advised. But I was a total bear. I woke up crabby, and I spent the day in a funk. It felt like my baby was just hunkered in for the long haul, and I was so ready to meet her and be done with pregnancy. I went to work to finish some final things on my to-do list and came home to pout some more.
On that night, I started to journal and prepare my mind for waking up the next day “over-due”. My husband, Danny, encouraged me with a verse found in Psalm 27:14
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
This verse, my frustrations, and my anticipations inspired a spoken word poem (which I shall share at a later date :)). After completing the poem and existing in the peace of mind offered by God’s Holy Word, I fell asleep around 9:00pm.
At 11:24pm, I woke up to use the bathroom, and when I wiped I noticed the toilet paper was pink/red colored. I almost skipped back to the bedroom to tell Danny. Then, I tried really hard to go back to sleep, because I have heard that early labor can last for hours and the most important thing to do, is rest.
I could not rest.
I felt slight contractions, so I asked Danny to time them. They were noticeable, but super manageable. The contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and lasting about 30-40 seconds. After about 4 contractions, I decided to update my midwife. So, I called her just before 12:00am. She told me to try my best to relax, because sometimes this early stage can come and go. But that I should call her back if the contractions got more regular, more intense and or my water broke.
I decided to hang out on my bed, in child’s pose as the contractions came and went. In between contractions I was able to carry on conversations or walk around-which was mostly walking to the bathroom, because I felt like I needed to poop. (I would later find out that my urge to eliminate was actually my urge to push) During the next hour, the contractions were consistent, but not very painful. I moaned, focused on deep breathing and mooed (yes, “mooed”) through the contractions. During contractions Danny would rub my lower back…I have no idea where he went in between contractions, but he was always there for the hard part!
Around 1:40am, I had the urge to vomit…which I followed through on. And this was a notable sign to me, because I NEVER throw up. I am the type of person who will sit in pain for hours, instead of succumbing to the vomiting urge.
This was a turning point for me, as my body was clearly preparing for something it was not used to. I believe I entered active labor around this time. So, I called my midwife, and she told me she would head my way.
By 2:00am, my husband and my parents were all actively involved in some way or another. I really cannot tell you what everyone was doing. I think it involved some food preparation, filling the birth tub, and general collections of our birth supplies. The only thing I know for sure is that when a contraction would hit, either Danny or my mom would rush to my aid and try to apply counter pressure to subdue the pain. (I say ‘try to’ because I don’t know that anything was helpful in appeasing the discomfort, at this point ;))
Erin, our midwife, arrived at 2:15am. She did a quick exam, and discovered my cervix dilated to 9cm! Whew! At this point, I was praising the Lord for this news, because each contraction was strong and furious. She immediately began prepping her supplies and directing our birth team. Once again, I cannot fully explain what anyone around me was doing, because it took all of my energy and focus to breathe and sway through each contraction. I do know that efforts to fill the birth tub were quickly abandoned, because all hands needed to be on deck and ready for a speedy delivery.
Danny put in a quick call to our close friend, Kelly, who happened to be awake after feeding her own baby of 5 months. She lives nearby and she selflessly and energetically gathered herself and came over to record our birth.
By 2:45am, I was on all fours on the floor of my bedroom, moaning through intense contractions that were lasting about 1 minute and coming about 2-3 minutes apart. Somewhere around this time, my water broke, it felt like a little water balloon releasing inside me. There was some merconium in the water, so Erin told me baby would be following quickly. I was attended by Danny, my mom, and Erin. Kelly came with positivity and camera in hand, and my dad was upstairs praying for us all (and cutting fruit, to keep everyone’s energy up :))
I remember every contraction very clearly, and being that this was my first (and possibly only) time giving birth, I had determined I wanted to be able to explain what a contraction felt like. They were BY FAR, the most uncomfortable feeling I have ever experienced, and yet I have a difficult time thinking of words that will accurately elucidate this discomfort. It felt as though every bone or muscle in my body wanted to be someplace else. There was not a location from which the pain seemed to be emanating, and therefore, it seemed there was no remedy. Counter pressure was something people told me was helpful, but at a certain point, counter pressure did nothing, but frustrate me.
We had been prepared for all kinds of birthing positions, and multiple ways to alleviate the pain, including a birth tub, a rebozo, a birthing ball, and various massage techniques. However, the labor escalated so rapidly, we never had time for any of these devices.
Around 2:50am, I crawled onto my bed and laid on my side. I remember asking if this was a good position to be in, and Danny answered with, “Of course, remember in ‘Call the Midwife’ they always have the women lay on their sides”. So clearly, our many hours of watching BBC’s “Call the Midwife” paid off.
One noticeable period of relief was the moment I realized that the urge to “poop” was actually the urge to “push”. Up until this realization, I was tensing my muscles during every contraction because I didn’t want to have a bowel movement on the floor. However, once my midwife explained that the urge to eliminate was actually the nearness of my baby’s head to crowning, I felt much more relaxed and able to start the pushing process.
A little after 3:00am, I really started to push. First I laid on my side to push and after about 15 minutes Erin had me move onto my back. I pushed for close to 30 minutes, and I am immensely grateful for the training I had prior to this time period.
Erin had explained that I needed to prepare my body for the pressure of baby on my cervix and vaginal opening. I was told to only push on the contractions, which would move baby down and stretch my vaginal opening. However, in between contractions, I needed to breathe, relax and allow baby to remain at whatever position she got to on the previous contraction. This is an EXTREMELY difficult process. It is much more intuitive for us to want to push until baby comes out, because the pressure of a head crowning is remarkably intense. However, the patience and focus required to wait in between contractions is crucial to the efficiency and health of the labor process. The “pushing” effort is much stronger if it is used in cooperation with the uterus contracting, but convincing one’s brain of this fact, is altogether a different struggle. I can still recall the pressure of my crowning baby, mixed with the knowledge that her hard was visible, as I was told to breathe deeply and wait for the next contraction.
At 3:29am, my baby girl was delivered.
She let out a small cry/gasp for air, and was immediately placed on my chest where Danny and I strained to see her through our glossy eyes. There were tears amongst laughter and inexplicable joy.
After she was born, Erin’s assistant, Brandy, arrived and we were very grateful to have her around for all the afterbirth activities!
I had a small hemorrhage (Erin estimated 600cc?) which was remedied by 2 shots of pitocin in my leg, to get my uterus to start contracting again. After this, my placenta came out, fully in tact, and was placed in a container to be dehydrated and encapsulated (I know, this is weird! ;)). I also had a significant, and somewhat unusual tear from my perineum to the inner part of my vaginal wall, due to my little girl’s nuchal hand, which was secured to her head upon arrival. It was determined to be a 2 degree tear, which Erin and Brandy were able to mend with a few stitches.
Baby’s measurements and health were checked out. She weighed 6lbs 13oz and was 20 inches long. Everything was cleaned up by the time the sun was rising, and we were left in our cozy room to bond and sleep. 🙂
I believe birth comes with a myriad of possibilities and everyone has a different and unique story. I wanted to share mine, because I was inspired and encouraged by the many stories of other women and their birth experiences. Also, if you are looking for an opportunity to hear more stories, I highly recommend the podcast, The Birth Hour.
There are so many details about the support I received physically, spiritually, and emotionally from my family, friends and midwifery team. However, I promised myself I would spend more time navigating those feelings and emotions and allow this platform to remain purely event based. All I would like to say now, is that I am intensely grateful for everyone that had a part to play in this process, but especially, my husband and partner, Danny. He was an active participant and supporter from the day I took my first pregnancy test, and he far exceeded any expectations I had developed about a husband’s role in childbirth. I will never be able to thank him enough.
Labor was by far the greatest athletic event my body has ever participated in, and I am so happy with the process and outcome of this experience. In the next couple weeks I plan to delve into the way I “trained” for labor and my experience with the care providers I chose to use.