Special thanks to Cara and Gabe for sharing their birth story with us!
Although I totally bought into the idea of a guess date, and theoretically prepared to go past that date, when June 12th came and went I started getting very impatient. I was experiencing contractions fairly regularly, had my cervix swept, lost my mucus plug and was taking frequent vigorous walks… yet still no baby. Sunday night, I was trying to get my head around going in to work again on Monday and facing all of the “you’re still here?” “haven’t you had that baby yet?” questions and feeling generally pretty depressed about it. In spite of sleeping soundly well into my 3rd trimester, that night I was especially crampy and wakeful. Sure enough, at 3am I felt a small gush and had an intuition pretty much right away that this was ‘it.’ I laid in bed for a while, trying to go back to sleep but roughly an hour later contractions were coming regularly – about every 3 minutes. I got out of bed, sent off a few emails/put up an out of office (YAY!), ate a little breakfast and got into the bathtub to try and relax.
We were lucky enough to have my aunt as our midwife, so I called her once it was clear things were getting “organized,” and she suggested I labor for a while and call again as things picked up. Contractions were very intense from the start, so my husband Gabe called her again a couple of hours later and she made her way over to our house. I was amazed and humbled by how ‘in my body/out of my head’ I was from the start and the degree to which I was able to relax in between each contraction – almost in a dream-like state. Once Mary arrived, she checked me and I was 3.5 cm… amazingly motivating news. Since this was our first child, I was mentally prepared for the first stage of labor to take quite a while. At this point the sun was streaming in and birds were singing (not that I was particularly aware of this!) – it was so peaceful being able to labor with Gabe and Mary holding my hands, offering wet washcloths and water etc. I moved around quite a bit and spent time in a rocking chair, on an exercise ball and in bed, all in various positions. And while the setting was peaceful, my body was an absolute force. I could feel the baby moving down, so an hour later Mary checked me again and I was 7 cm! A huge surprise on the one hand, and yet given the intensity of what I was feeling, not a surprise at all – it was completely affirming of what I was experiencing. We decided it was time get to the hospital, so Mary called the midwife unit at HCMC and they started getting the room ready (it was my hope to have a water birth). Being restricted in the car seat/in transition was absolutely brutal… I now realize how important being unencumbered was in my ability to manage the pain. Still, getting to the hospital and into the room was an absolute blur, even though I had a few contractions on the way (and probably severely alarmed anyone nearby by the noise I was making!). Once we were in the room – which was dark and calm and lovely – the babe and I were both monitored to ensure we were OK to get into the tub. Fairly shortly thereafter I got in (warm water + freedom of movement = heaven) and about 20 minutes later I felt ready to push. Although Mary and my husband were amazingly attentive and present with me, it was clear that their job was to simply hold the space… and leave me alone to do the work. Feeling the baby’s head crown (lots of hair!) about an hour or so later was incredible. I kept my hand on the head through many contractions, feeling it pulse in and out, making more progress with each push. Mary instructed me to breathe through a few of those last contractions, I pushed through the so-called ‘ring of fire’ and out he came! Our Anders Oliver “OIlie” was here! Gabe caught him/announced he was a boy and he was immediately put on my chest until the cord stopped pulsing. I think the first thing out of my mouth was “we did it!” – a feeling of utter triumph for the work both he and I did to bring him into the world. He was big and healthy (9 on both APGARs), covered in vernix and had tons of hair and dark blue, alert eyes. I remember looking at Gabe and feeling completely awestruck. Less than a minute later I delivered the placenta, Gabe cut the cord and I got out of the tub and into the hospital bed.
The unexpected/undesirable part of my story is that I experienced a third degree tear. Two OBs came into the hospital room to do some repair work on me as Ollie and I had skin to skin (he latched very shortly thereafter) and after about an hour, they did a ‘final’ check and discovered that the tearing went deeper than they initially thought, so they’d have to remove all of the stitches and start over… in the OR. I was momentarily bummed, since all I wanted to do was eat something and love our baby, but it was also all in perspective at that point. Luckily, it took about 2 hours for them to process some blood work on me and get things set up, so Ollie and Gabe and I got good family time together. Gabe took him to the nursery and I went with Mary to the OR. The repairs took another hour and luckily I recovered very quickly, so we were out of the post-op room in and into our hospital room in about 20 minutes (just in time for the World Cup US/Ghana game!). At that point, Ollie latched again and we just loved each other, in complete awe of this miracle.
Reflecting on our experience, I’m incredibly grateful for the Enlightened Mama class we took. Although my body didn’t need any ‘instruction’ to do the work of labor, I underestimated how important it was to hear positive and empowering messages about this process. I was able to totally surrender to my body and trust it to do it’s thing, knowing that I was safe and loved by my birth partners. I’m a small-boned person, so being able to say that I pushed out a big baby (8 lbs 15 oz, 22.5″) without drugs is so incredibly triumphant, especially given the number of comments I got while pregnant about having small hips/labor likely being difficult for me. Screw that! My body knew exactly what it was doing and was/is perfectly designed to do it. So a big thank you to Charlie for her wonderful energy and for being a part of our journey leading up to this incredible experience!