Wow! I just realized that I haven't posted our birth story yet! As you all know, we planned a home birth and had selected a wonderful midwife, Brenda. This is what I wrote within days of the birth about our experience. It is raw and somewhat graphic. If you are not prepared to read about a birth, go ahead and skip this one!
On Wednesday, March 9th around 8pm I started having contractions. Almost immediately, they were 4 minutes apart and very intense. I had had several bouts of preparatory ("false") labor in the preceding weeks, which had really prepared my body and allowed me to skip right ahead to true/hardcore labor when things actually got going. John went around the house, cleaning and getting things ready while I walked around in my bathrobe and swayed my hips with each contraction. By 11pm I know it was really the real thing and had John call Brenda to give her a heads up. We continued laboring for several more hours. Brenda suggested that we get some rest and lie down. However, for me, lying down was excruciating. It felt like the pressure of the bed on my belly was blocking the release of the pain. Being upright was my only option. My contractions got more intense and were coming one on top of the other. I would have 3-4 right in a row with barely a breath in between, then a 4 minute break. It was very intense. John was right there with me the whole time. As a contraction would start he would get down on his knees in front of me and I would lean forward and wrap my arms around his neck for support during the contraction. At 4am John called Brenda back and told her it was time for her to come. I remember hearing him tell her that I was asking for help. I also remember that his voice sounded urgent, almost tense. I know I couldn't do this alone anymore. I was ready for guidance. Brenda arrived around 5am. I was in the shower when she arrived and when I got out and dried off, I realized that she was sitting on the floor in our bedroom. John later told me that the way she entered was very interesting. She sat in the hallway and listened to me while I was vocalizing with low tones in the shower. She then moved into the room and continued observing. Once I knew she was there, she moved into the bathroom and sat on the floor in there. It was a very gentle way for her to make her presence known. I really appreciated that.
By the time Brenda arrived, my contractions were stronger and my uterus was staying tight even during my 4 minute breaks and my thighs were shaking. This was the hardest part for me as I could not physically relax and I didn't feel like I was getting a break. Eventually, I started thinking about pushing. I didn’t have a real urge, but the thought was there. It was more like my body was doing Kegel squeezes. Actual pushing started happening with a few of the contractions, but not all at once. At one point, I gave myself and internal exam and could feel the bag of waters. That was incredible because it made the progress much more apparent and tangible. My water broke while I was sitting on the toilet just 2 hours before the birth. After my water broke, things sped up considerably and every contraction demanded that I push. This was so totally involuntary and got to be pretty overwhelming. I did not feel in control of my body at all. Pushing is a feeling I just can’t describle. It is a whole body effort and it truly connects you to the core of the earth. At this time, the most important thing to me was knowing that John was right there. All of the work we had done together became so important. I knew that whatever I needed was right there with him. He and Brenda sat on the floor near me and gave me encouragement and support while I pushed.
Eventually, I could reach inside myself and feel her head. I was afraid I felt her umbilical cord by her head and requested that Brenda do an internal exam. She felt and assured me that I was just feeling my own tissues. This was the only 'intervention' of our birth. It was quite empowering to be able to lead my own birth and to be the one making decisions about interventions like internal exams. Shortly after I felt the head in my birth canal, I started feeling like my pelvis was widening- like I couldn’t close my legs. Interestingly, moving through my birth canal was not painful. The pain was completely from the contractions of my uterus and abdomen.
An hour and a half after my water broke, our baby began to crown. I had moved from the bathroom to our bed and I was on my hands and knees, arms propped up with pillows. Crowning was very painful and lasted about 30 minutes. I would feel the contraction start, then about two breaths later I would begin to push. I was pushing so hard and couldn’t believe I had that much strength. After each contraction, I could feel her move back inside a little. With each contraction, she came further out, but also slid back in a little. The strangest part was feeling my tailbone raise and lower as she passed by. This process started to be discouraging and my abdomen was getting sore from the contractions and pushing. I was so thankful when Brenda suggested that I get up off my elbows and brought my back more level, rather than being in a ‘downward dog’ position. I also made a conscious effort to sort of ‘hold on’ to each contraction after it ended so that she didn’t slip back inside. I made a huge effort to breathe through the end of the contractions even though my body really wanted to keep pushing. Eventually, I pushed and felt her come out further than before and then I gathered myself mentally and pushed again, she came out a little more, then I pushed again even though the contraction was over, and her head was born! I could feel her rotate as she progressed and came out. I needed to wait for the next contraction to push out her body. While I was waiting, I heard our baby cry out and I was suddenly so shocked and the gravity of the situation hit me full force. THAT was why we were doing this! I pushed her shoulders out and she rushed out with the rest of the amniotic fluid. There are no words to describe the split second shift from immense pressure, pain, and difficulty to the feeling of relief and awe as she was born. After her body was born, I stood up on my knees and John handed our baby to me through my legs so that I could hold her. I laid back into John’s lap and just looked in amazement at our daughter. Her cord was a little short, so she laid on my belly as I passed the placenta so that she could reach to nurse. The placenta passed without trouble in less than 15 minutes. Paisley latched on and nursed right away. We cut the cord about an hour after she and our placenta were born. She weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces and came out with a full head of jet black hair.
Our birth was absolutely incredible. It went exactly how we would have imagined in the best case scenario. I am so thrilled that our birth was free of interventions and free of complications for both myself and Paisley! I am so happy with how perfectly everything went and so thankful for how respected and protected I felt by the people I had invited into my birth experience. Brenda showed an incredible calming energy and really made me feel safe. John’s support was something I can’t describe in words.