Disclaimer: This is a Birth Story. This is not sugar-coated. This is Real. Raw. Birth. There are photos. If you do not want to read about birth, or see photos of a birth or a baby breastfeeding, please exit your web browser immediately. I warned you. So if you continue to scroll, it’s your own fault.
Since the birth of our first child, I’ve been obsessed with everything birth related. Birth stories. Birth groups. Birth photos. Birth videos. Birth plans. Birth everything. It’s crazy how something so common, something that happens millions of times a day, can be so compelling and consuming. When we fell pregnant with our second, my wheels started turning immediately. What did I want this time around that didn’t happen the first? What can I control that I couldn’t with my first? I was so determined to experience birth on my terms this time that I dove right in.
Through following different blogs, pages and groups such as Birth Without Fear, Take Back Postpartum, The Essential Midwife and others I decided the most important things I needed or wanted to have a successful and comfortable (if that is even possible??) second birth were a solid support team and medical staff, the end goal of a successful waterbirth, a healthy pregnancy, an environment supportive of natural childbirth and the ability to have control over myself and my surroundings during labor. And a Waterbirth. I really REALLY wanted a waterbirth.
Now I know I can’t control everything during childbirth, or at least that is what we are told. But I felt if I wanted something bad enough, vocalized my wishes strongly and had a supportive partner to back me up, I had a good chance at having the birth I wanted to experience so badly.
Early labor started on Sunday and I was 37 weeks 6 days. Monday would mark my 38th week of pregnancy. The Tuesday previous I had been checked by my Midwife and was three centimeters dilated and 70% effaced, which had given me hope the end was in sight. Sunday afternoon around 2:30 PM contractions started. We timed them and although weak, they were close in time and consistent enough in pattern so I spoke to the on call Midwife and (to no surprise) she told me to wait it out at home until things geared up. Having gone at 37 weeks 6 days with my first I was telling myself this was it.
My contractions were weak, mostly pressure. During the day I had enough distractions with work and Stella that I at times barely noticed them. The nights were worse, they intensified in the evenings, or maybe I just noticed them more. Monday night I woke up to a very sharp and painful contraction. I thought, this is it! I decided to wait for a consistent pattern before waking Eric. My adrenaline was pumping. But the clock ticked and an HOUR passed and I didn’t have One. More. Single. Dang. Contraction.
By Tuesday I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Waiting for labor to kick up a notch was a torturous mind game. Contractions were anywhere from five to 30 minutes apart since Sunday but never stopping or increasing in intensity. I was starting to go insane and my anxiety was getting worse with each contraction. So I moved up my weekly appointment to that afternoon. At 2:40 PM my midwife greeted me by saying her office was waiting for me all weekend and couldn’t believe Monday morning that I still hadn’t come in to have a baby. I agreed.
My blood pressure was higher than normal; I was checked at 4 cm and 80% effaced. I was sent to Labor and Delivery for an hour of monitoring and labs to check for pre-eclampsia. The L&D nurse greeted me by letting me know my chart had been on their desk for days and they’ve been wondering where this poor woman was. Again, I agreed. My labs checked out but my blood pressure was still registering high and contractions were timing two to four minutes apart. We decided with my slow progression and elevated blood pressure that staying and having a baby today was our best and safest option.
At 4:30 PM I received my first dose of Cytotec. Although this did help things to progress in intensity, contractions were still very mild.
I was checked at 7:30 PM. I had increased to five centimeters and 90% effaced. We agreed to break water, labor more, and check again at 10:00 PM. And can we just talk for a minute about the gush? I missed this sensation with my first since I slowly leaked for days without knowing. But the gush. It’s so weird. And so warm. I was almost too fascinated by the gush.
So 10:00 PM came and went and I was still at five centimeters. The lack of progress was frustrating and the mention of possibly needing Pitocin scared me (I had it with Stella and wanted to avoid it at all costs). We agreed to labor until midnight and do one more check before making any decisions. My midwife went home to nap while I (hopefully) progressed.
I labored over the side of my bed. I labored pacing back and forth in the room. I labored walking the halls. I labored leaning on the counter. I labored leaning on Eric. I had placed Lavender essential oil on a washcloth and inhaled during contractions to help stay relaxed. My legs were growing tired from walking and standing during contractions but I remembered how painful laying in bed was with Stella’s birth so I didn’t know what else to do. My anxiety started building.
I cried to Eric. It may actually have been more like bawled. That might depend on who you ask. I asked him to get me some Ylang-Ylang essential oil. I needed some balance and stability for my emotions at this point. Eric listened as I cried. I was starting to get frustrated with the lack of progression when I felt like I should be advancing so much more.
My labor nurse, Mollie, walked in mid meltdown and asked what was wrong. I told her I just wanted to be able to do this myself. She was adamant that they’d help me get to where I’d need to be. Having the support from the hospital staff was so amazing. During early labor I had explained how badly I wanted to experience a waterbirth naturally so she knew this part of my birth plan was so important to me. She suggested laying on my side in bed with the peanut ball between my legs and said she always has great results with dilation. So we started on the left side at 11:00 PM.
My contractions started intensifying rapidly in this position. As each contraction started I would say “contraction” to Eric so he could start timing. I focused on deep inhales through my nose, followed by slow exhales (counting to four) through my mouth. I had my Lavender and Ylang-Ylang washcloths next to my face, so with each breath I was inhaling the oils. As I exhaled I would moan. The “ooooooh” vocalization helped me to focus on the progress. In my head I was telling myself Ooooooopen. I was visualizing progress. I was visualizing my baby lowering into position.
Still, my contractions were inconsistent in interval, ranging two to six minutes apart. Even eight minutes at one point. At times I was having coupling contractions lasting up to two minutes. Coupling contractions basically double peak, or are two contractions back to back with no break in between. These were very, very tough to get through. But even with things building in intensity, this position was so soothing to me. I was zoning out and almost sleeping between contractions. I’m not sure if it was the breathing, the visualizations, the oils or the positioning. It was truly meditative and the most amazing and surreal experience laboring through these contractions.
Eric is seriously an amazing partner and birth coach. He talked me through each one and kept my focus on progress and breathing. He sensed every moment I tensed my body. He would watch me and say “relax your shoulders” or “relax your hands” or “relax your legs.” He watched and read me like a book. I cannot stress enough how perfect of a partner and support he was for me. This labor experience reassured to me he was meant to be my partner. He was meant to be my husband. I don’t want to be cheesy but we make a damn good team and this experience is living proof.
At 11:30 PM I switched to my right side. By 11:45 PM contractions were very intense. What I didn’t realize was that I was actually almost through transition at this time! I was so zoned out and focusing on Eric’s coaching and my breathing and progress that the pain was almost managable. My transition was managable. After my first experience of labor and transition, and transition being my biggest fear going into this second pregnancy, I never ever thought I’d say that!
At 11:50 PM, mid contraction, I looked up to Eric and all I could manage to say was “PRESSURE… PRESSURE NOW.” At this point he thought I was sleeping as I hadn’t had a contraction in about eight minutes. His head was burried in his hands resting. My urgency startled him and he asked if he should call the nurse and I said yes. He paged Mollie and told her I was saying pressure and he thought the baby was coming, to which she ran into the room. At this point the pressure was so intense. I needed to push. I was starting to panic as I wasn’t in the tub yet, and I was just only five centimeters an hour and a half ago.
Mollie was a sweet nurse with a Georgia drawl and I’ll always remember her saying “Don’t push yet sweetie, I need to make sure you’re complete first.” To which I replied (probably in a possessed demonic voice) “I have to push NOW. The baby is coming NOW.” She checked and I was complete at 10 and ready to push. She paged the other nurses as she ran out of the room to fill the waterbirth tub and call our Midwife. I opened my eyes mid contraction to see Eric had grabbed my phone and was calling someone; I yelled at him to get off the phone! You can get pretty demanding when the baby is basically crowning. He told me I wanted him to make this call, as he was calling our friend Lacey to get to the hospital for birth photos.
I was crying that the baby was coming and I needed to push it out. I held my legs together and crossed my ankles as I wanted to wait for the tub so badly. Everything got really hectic from here; I asked for oxygen because I was starting to panic. At one point I told Eric the baby was coming, he asked me if he should get a nurse as they were all next door prepping the tub and room. I said yes, he started walking out of the room to which I said (or yelled) “get the f*ck over here!” I’m convinced if he would have left the room the baby would have come out at that moment on the bed with only me in the room to catch. I’m actually really proud of myself as that was the only time I swore. That I remember at least.
Within a few minutes they rolled me next door to the waterbirth room. They had to pry my hand from Eric’s to get my bed through the door. I managed to climb out of bed into the tub between contractions. We had to wait until the tub was filled enough to get by, and I entered with the faucet still running. The first contraction in the tub I was reclined on my back and it just felt uncomfortable and wrong so they suggested I reposition. Mid contraction I moved to my hands and knees. Lacey, our photographer, came in then and started shooting away.
A few seconds later Kelly, our Midwife walked in the room. She could hear me saying I needed to push. As she walked through the door she said “Push, you did this all on your own! You don’t need me, push out your baby.”
They warmed the water up a bit more which made it more comfortable. I was able to take a breath, regroup. Eric looked me in the eyes and grabbed my hand, “This is it. You can do this. You’re almost done. Our baby is almost here.” I focused on Eric and was able to bear down on the next contraction. I could feel the head crowning. Kelly asked me if I wanted her to check and I said yes. She confirmed the head was right there. I moved to a squatting position to much relief, and pushed the head out with the next contraction.
It was like a moment of peace while I waited for another contraction. I took a breath and focused on our baby. I remember telling myself, This is it. One more contraction. One more push. I’m getting this baby out with one more push. And with the next contraction, at roughly 12:20 AM, I pushed out the body and the baby was free.
There was a pause where Eric and I just sat there, staring at our baby floating in the water. It was probably only a second, but it felt like a lifetime. Kelly said “grab your baby!” Eric reached down first, but he wasn’t moving fast enough for me. I said “It’s a girl!” as she neared the surface. Together we pulled her out of the water. It was serene. It was insanely peaceful. Like Hollywood movie peaceful. It’s crazy how something that takes only a minute in reality can play out in slow motion for you to remember forever. I don’t know if the room was noisy or hectic around me. In that moment all I remember is grabbing our baby and bringing her out of the water and to my chest.
I felt relief. I felt pride. I felt strength. With her at my chest, I sat back and just couldn’t believe what I had done. It was so amazing and nothing short of a miracle. It was everything I had hoped for this birth to be and more. I felt so empowered.
They let baby rest on me and slowly her purple color turned to pink, she gave a little soft cry and that was it. Almost just a whimper. We let the cord pulse to completion for three or five minutes. I wasn’t counting. I just know it was a long time and we got to just take her in and focus on this amazing intimate moment. We just brought a new life into this world.
Me: “It’s a girl!”
Me: “Crap, we need to come up with a girl name!”
Me: “I got it out!”
Me: “I did it I got it out I got it out I did it!”
Eric: “It’s a her! It’s a her!”
When I say we, I don’t say that on accident. Eric was such a strong support during labor that he deserves credit too. The cord was finally clamped and Eric cut it. As we sat with our baby clinging to my chest, the first thing I said was, “Oh no, now we really need to come up with a girl name!” Some time passed, then Eric surprised me and said we could name her Willow. This was my dream name all along. He always refused the name during our pregnancy. I’m not sure what ever did change his mind.
The next moments were filled with baby ogling, placenta pushing, post-labor care, latching and healing. We were surprised with Willow’s long dark hair. With her long fingers and fingernails. With her weight and length (7 lb 8 oz and 21 inches long, much bigger than her older sister was).
There’s something about a second baby that is so different from a first. Maybe it’s because you fully understand the depth of this new love you feel. Maybe it’s because you know this teeny little being will grow into a walking talking amazing wonder. Maybe it’s because you understand the miracle of life. Or because you understand this role of motherhood is nothing to be taken lightly and is the greatest gift you will ever receive. That it is the toughest job you will ever do. I’m not sure all the factors of it, but I know for me it is addicting. And I know, God willing, I cannot wait to do it again.
(Photographs by Lacey Anevicius)