Our Perfectly Imperfect Birth Story
My Birth Story - Part 1
Written By: Sam
I am thrilled to finally be getting my bearings as a new Mama and finding the time to share my birth story with you! Thank you for being patient with me as it’s much harder to spend time on my computer these days. I want to start by saying I truly believe that all birth is beautiful. As a young girl I navigated my way through many hardships, which equipped me with the skill to see the beauty in all situations. Life just feels better that way. I believe that all feelings are valid, and everyone’s perception of beauty is different. That being said … some people may find my birth story traumatic while others will find beauty in it.
My birth story began when I was almost 2 weeks past my guess/due date. It was so much more of a mental struggle than I ever imagined. The truth is, I needed this hard time in my pregnancy. It taught me many life lessons, further prepared me for motherhood, and truly gave me an opportunity to work through some deep dark fears before I could truly become the mother I wanted to be.
Before we get in too deep, I think it’s important to point out that I tried ALL the at-home natural labor things. I was drinking 8 bags of organic raspberry leaf tea, eating dates, having sex, using nipple stimulation, fitness circuits for natural labor, curb walking, regular walking, bouncing on the medicine ball, drinking pineapple juice, acupuncture, massage therapy, and still no baby.
Aside from the massive life lesson in patience, I was able to work through demons of my childhood that I truly didn’t know were there. I hadn’t realized that I was quite scared to become a Mama due to the poor example my Mom unintentionally set for me. So, the morning before I went into labor, my husband held me tight as my body purged all these emotions through many tears and a scary panic attack. Once my body LET GO of these fears, I was able to get excited about the birth of our baby again! I am ready to birth this baby!!
During this time, I was working closely with our Midwives. After all, everyone shared the same goal to help me birth our baby at the birth center. Also, when your baby is choosing to take a little extra time to cook in the womb, it’s important to keep a close eye on them because the placenta may no longer keep up with their demands. At 41 weeks and 4 days we went in for a non-stress test and an ultrasound to make sure baby was still thriving. Thankfully he was happy and healthy just like my Mama intuition was leading me to believe. At this point, with the support of our Midwives, we made the decision to move forward with a membrane sweep in combination with castor oil to potentially get labor started. For those that are not familiar with a membrane sweep, it’s a very conservative drug free intervention where the healthcare provider uses their finger to help create space between the amniotic sac and uterus to help stimulate the uterus in contracting. In my experience it was painless and quite easy. We felt good about this drug free intervention and felt hopeful that it would induce labor. On the ride home I began to feel mild cramping. Yay this is promising!
Now all I need to do is purchase and drink the castor oil. The Midwives informed me that it’s best to layer these methods by drinking the castor oil in combination with the membrane sweep for best results. Sounds easy enough right? Nope. My husband and I drove to 5 different stores late at night searching for castor oil only to come up empty handed. Plan B was to start the castor oil first thing in the morning once we got access to it.
So, the next day (41 weeks and 5 days pregnant) I woke up heartbroken still with no baby. The membrane sweep didn’t work as well as we hoped. Every day that I woke up with no baby I would talk to my belly and say the words – “Baby … You are wanted, You are safe, You are loved, Mama and Dada can’t wait to meet you.” I was doing everything I could to keep myself together mentally and emotionally. In effort to protect my mental state, I made the decision to put my phone down for the day. My Midwife and Doula were the only people I would contact about my labor updates. I simply couldn’t handle people asking me nonstop where my baby was. People that I hadn’t spoken to in years were asking me if I was in labor. As if it was any of their business!! Please don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciated my close friends, family, and our community offering me so much support as I went almost 2 full weeks past my guess/due date. Putting my phone down allowed me to take my power back. It helped me to get a grip and to create space from the fake pressure I put on myself about birthing my baby. I couldn’t believe I let myself fall victim to the expectations of others when I had no doubt in my mind that everything was going exactly as it should. Our bodies are never messing up. I just needed to refocus, trust the process, and trust my baby like I’ve done my entire pregnancy.
Later that day, I was listening to positive birth affirmations on repeat and on a mission to get this castor oil in my body ASAP. Not going to lie, I was slightly nervous about the castor oil because I heard it can cause terrible loose stool and nausea. I finally took my first dose of castor oil mixed with scrambled eggs (thanks to the advice of my Midwives) to help prevent the side effects. And I waited. And I waited. No loose stool or vomit. No cramping. Most of all STILL NO BABY! Four hours later, I decided to call my Midwife to see if I could repeat the castor oil dose. After getting the green light from my Midwives, I choked down another round of castor oil. I was instructed to call my Midwives by 3:00pm if labor hasn’t started. Our plan was to potentially drive to the birth center for another membrane sweep as a last-ditch effort to induce labor.
Keep in mind that the birth center would consider me a “high-risk” pregnancy if baby went past the 42 week time line. They would be forced to transfer my care to a hospital setting incase baby needed extra support after birth. We were on a real time crunch here! I was determined to get labor going in order to birth this baby at the birth center where I felt comfortable, at ease, and truly supported.
Now it’s 1:00pm and I have loads of castor oil in my system and STILL NO BABY. I decided to pick up my breast pump for a round of nipple stimulation and I began to feel a longer than normal contraction. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up considering I had been having contractions off and on for 3 weeks at this point. After nipple stimulation, I felt a tightness in my low back. I decided to do my favorite yoga move to release the back tension when I heard a pop followed by a gush of water. YAY! MY WATER BROKE! And no, it’s nothing like on the movies!
I grabbed my phone and rushed to the bathroom. I was sitting there with a steady stream of clear fluid leaking from my body while dialing my Midwifes number at warp speed! Amy, the midwife on call for that evening, answered and advised me to rest, eat, and prepare for contractions to pick up within the hour. Excuse me. You want me to rest!? How is that possible?! MY BABY IS FINALLY COMING!!!
Here we go with obstacle number 1 in our birth story. Ideally the bag of waters breaks during active labor. Mine broke before active labor. When this happens there is concern of infection, so for safety reasons I had to birth my baby within 24hrs after my water broke. So here I was in yet another time crunch. The pressure is on!
Well, Amy wasn’t lying! My contractions picked up quickly. Each contraction building up, hitting a peak, then fading away. Meanwhile, my husband was busy packing the last minute items into our birth bag and cooking us some Annie’s organic mac n cheese per my request. I wanted to eat something plain that I wouldn’t mind puking up considering vomiting is common in unmedicated births. I found this to be true as I puked twice during our birth but in the moment I couldn't have cared less. As the contractions grew stronger and required my full attention, my husband called Amy and we agreed to meet at the birth center in one hour. Amy encouraged me to labor in the comfort of our own home for as long as I could stand to. Laboring at home was to help keep me as comfortable as possible to keep labor progressing since labor can stall if Mama’s are in a place where we don’t feel comfortable or safe. However, heading to the birth center in active labor made for an intense car ride!!
There we were in the car sitting in 5 o’clock traffic. I was riding the wave of each contraction. The car ride was less than 30 minuets but felt like hours! I would feel the contractions building as I screamed as loud as I could out of our sunroof. It helped me to cope with each contraction by letting my body take over and feel any kind of way I needed to in the moment. For me that meant screaming! As the contraction drifted away I was back to my normal old self for a few minuets of rest. There is truly nothing like it!
We finally arrived at the birth center and had the place to ourselves. I was welcomed by Amy and my amazing Doula, Alexia. My husband had his hand in mine as we were getting settled in to birth this baby. Arriving at the birth center and laying my eyes on my birth team’s faces brought great relief. I felt safe. I felt empowered. I felt ready to get this baby out!! Alexia gave me some aroma therapy while Amy squeezed my hips to make the contractions more bearable. My husband was busy creating our birth oasis. The birth room we picked looked like a cozy bedroom with a soaker tub in the corner big enough for two people. My husband started playing calming music on our phone, plugged in our pink salt lamp, and unpacked our snacks. We are so ready to rock this birth!
With each contraction I slipped further into labor lala land. I was surrounded by my supportive birth team as I welcomed all the magic of unmedicated birth to unfold before me. In the warm orange glow of the salt lamp, I allowed myself to fully surrender to what is now our birth story. I labored on the bed, in the tub, in the shower, on the toilet, standing up, squatting down, and on a birth stool. You name it. I tried it! Amy only making suggestions as she felt necessary to keep things moving. Giving birth at the birth center truly allowed me the freedom to listen to my body and labor in whatever position my body was telling me it needed to keep our baby comfortable and to keep labor progressing. All I needed to do was listen. To my surprise it’s all way more intuitive than I anticipated.
Now for the most physically and mentally challenging part of our birth story. The pushing! It wasn’t until after my baby boy was born that Amy informed me that I had a premature urge to push. At the birth center and generally with unmedicated birth there is no checking of dilation or telling Mamas when to push. There is no real need for it considering I could feel everything and was able to be in-tune with the ques my body was giving me to push. This is quite different if an epidural is given because it will most likely numb any natural pushing urges so additional coaching on pushing might be necessary.
There I was working my way through obstacle number 2. An early uncontrollable urge to push is not common but obviously I'm proof that it can happen. This brought on obstacle number 3. A stubborn part of my cervix that refused to clear and baby boy struggling to pass under my pubic bone. It wasn’t until after birth that I realized my sisters had a similar experience in their births leading us to believe that it’s our unique anatomy to blame. Amy suggested I hold back the urge to push so the contractions can attempt to clear the cervix and so I could conserve my energy. But I couldn’t fight it. My body had completely taken over at this point and I just had to push!
At this point, I was so deep into labor land that I had no clue what time it was nor did I care. I was having the most beautiful birth as far as I was concerned. My incredible birth team had grown into 2 midwives, several nurses, and my sweet Doula without me realizing it. I was too deep into my flow state to recognize that a growing birth team could mean I was in danger or that something wasn’t going quite right. They were cheering me on into the late hours of the night by saying phrases like “You can do this Sam.” “Your body was made for this.” “Get angry and push this baby out.” I screamed louder than ever through each contraction while they massaged me, helped me into many different labor positions, applied cold washcloths to my forehead and neck, and never stopped showering me with their encouraging words. They had faith in me to push this baby out and that meant the world to me. In unmedicated labor there is a tipping point where I felt like I just couldn’t take it anymore. Unmedicated birth is known for pushing Mamas to the very edge of our limits and it’s when most women cry out for an epidural. But what it really means is that the end is near so just keep going! Giving birth at a birth center there is no option of Pitocin, epidural, episiotomy, vacuum, or forceps. It’s just me and my baby working together in a special birthing haze only we get to experience.
I want to take a pause in my birth story to say life always works out exactly as it should if you let it. My baby knew the perfect day to be born. He picked the day my favorite Midwife was on call. If you read my blog post about firing my prenatal healthcare team at 31 weeks pregnant, you will know that I transferred to the birth center at 30+ weeks of pregnancy. I didn’t spend a large amount of time with any of the Midwives there. In fact, I only met Amy once through video chat. But from the moment our paths crossed my soul knew she was the perfect fit for me. She is an older woman with long white hair and a calm “all is good” hippy vibe that I loved so much. Little did I know this vibe would save me from many close calls of being transferred to the hospital for an emergency C-section.
As I continued to push, obstacle number 4 reared its ugly head. My baby was showing signs of stress. My birth team began to monitor his heartrate after every contraction with a small handheld doppler. Turns out he HATED when I labored on my back! A real bummer considering I found this position to be the most restful during my 6-7 hour of pushing. I would literally fall asleep during contractions because I was so worn out.
When I reflect back on this moment, I realize how grateful I was for the opportunity to labor in any position that felt good to my body and baby. If I was forced to stay laying on my back in a hospital bed, there is no doubt in my mind that my baby would have continued to experience more stress landing me in an emergency C-section situation.
At this point, my birth team hooked me up to oxygen to be sure both baby and I remained stable as the many hours of pushing was catching up to both of us. Amy told me that if his heart rate continued to show signs of stress I will be transferred to a hospital. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t bare the thought of laboring in an ambulance let alone be forced to face all my fears of a hospital birth (also noted in previous blog posts you can find at the end of this post). My dreams of an unmedicated vaginal birth was shattering before my eyes. I began pushing harder and harder while gasping in all the oxygen I could between contractions. Since my husband was not in labor lala land, he did his part to support me between every contraction by holding my head in his lap and reminding me to breathe. He knew the oxygen was making the biggest difference at this point and truly saving us from a transfer. He also kept me hydrated and fueled with organic coconut water and applesauce. I was simply running out of gas as I approached hour 7-8 of extreme pushing. Side note … coconut water was fabulous for electrolytes and energy considering I didn’t have an IV with fluids like some may have in a hospital setting. I found apple sauce to be the right amount of sugar, easy to sip out of the cup, and easy to puke up if needed. I highly recommend adding these to your birth snack bag!
Other side note ... It is not common to push for 8 hours but there I was pushing, pushing, pushing. I used muscles in my body I didn’t know I had. I strained so hard that I gave myself a black eye and extreme swelling in my neck and face. Amy later told me that it was a very rare condition that she learned about years ago in school but hasn’t ever experienced in real life until me. Supposedly most women typically request to be transferred to a hospital for an epidural before ever reaching that point. But I knew my body was capable of hard things and I had faith in my body to birth this baby!
With a swollen face, black eye, and rapidly approaching the “water braking early” timeline, I wasn’t making enough progress. I could feel my energy slipping away and I could tell Amy was on the verge of transferring me to the hospital. I later learned that most other Midwives would have transferred me hours ago. But thankfully Amy kept her faith in my body to birth this baby.
To help things progress, Amy suggested that I empty my bladder. My birth team helped me waddle to the toilet. I sat there on the toilet with my husband’s hand in mine while Alexia gave me a much needed pep talk. Next thing I know, I yelled “Baby Coming! Baby coming!” Amy and the nurses gathered down in front of me on the floor to catch our baby. Amy was giving me little updates by saying “there’s the head” and “I see hair”. Now for the worst of all .. obstacle number 5. I heard the dreaded words “cord around the neck. Twice!” “And there’s a hand up by the face”. Amy pulled him out the rest of the way as I experienced feelings of sweet relief!!!
They placed him on my chest for immediate skin to skin contact which is the standard of care at a birth center to encourage bonding, nursing, and to help baby’s temperature regulate. I remember exactly how I felt in that moment. His body was warm, slippery, and so tiny. I was so in love! I was so proud of our little family. I had so many thoughts racing through my head. I couldn’t wait to see if he was going to latch right away. Was he a boy or girl?! I can’t wait to get into bed and cuddle with my new little family. Yay we birthed this baby! Wow I’m so tired! My mind was busy but also blank from pure exhaustion. A feeling I truly can’t put into words. Meanwhile, Amy was attempting to stimulate my son as he laid on my chest hoping he would take his first breath of air. Then I quickly shifted into fight or flight mode as my husband and I heard Amy say, “call 911”. Our hearts froze. To be continued …
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