The birth of our son wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be, but in the end, it was what I needed.
Let’s just say when I woke up that morning I was definitely NOT expecting to give birth before the day was through.
I remember waking up that Saturday morning, thinking about all of the things I wanted to do that day. I was just shy of 39 weeks pregnant at that point. So many people told me first time moms usually go late (about 41 weeks!) so I wasn’t giving my hopes up for an early delivery, but by that point in pregnancy you’re pretty much ready (or think you are!) to be done carrying the bump around.
I remember asking Craig if he wanted to go out to breakfast and go to a few stores with me afterward. Typically an excuse to go out for breakfast appeals to my hubs, but that morning he wasn’t really feeling it and wanted to run some errands of his own. So I thought, ok, fine I’ll just go to the stores later that morning myself.
Well, around 9:30am I was in the bathroom and noticed something that was…different. If you don’t want to hear about bodily fluids because you think they’re TMI, just skip over the next 2 paragraphs (ha!), but I noticed a light pink discharge. I wasn’t sure if this could be the “bloody show” I’ve heard about, or mucus plug. But I knew something was going on and wanted to keep an eye on it. It was then I thought “ok, maybe I won’t be going anywhere without Craig today…”
Not long after that, I was walking around the house and I felt a GUSH. As I hurriedly waddled to the bathroom unable to hold it in, I KNEW something big was happening. Whatever it was, it was clear and there was a good amount of it. Later that morning I felt another gush. I texted my doula and called my midwife to tell them the news.
Basically, my water broke.
Like, what?! Is this real life?
My midwife let me know that once my water is broken, it’s important that we get labor going as soon as possible as the risk of infection to the baby increases the longer he’s still in there. After 12 hours of my water breaking they would need to give me antibiotics, and after 24 hours and no baby we’d have to look at induction / possibly transferring to the hospital.
We decided it would be best for me to go to the birth center after dinner so they could assess me and possibly give me the antibiotics if needed later that night. In the meantime, I was to keep track of any contractions or progress.
From the time I found out I was pregnant, my goal was to have a natural, unmedicated water birth at the birth center. The thought of possibly having to be transferred to the hospital if things didn’t move along scared me. I had made birth plans A, B, and C just in case something like this had to happen, but I couldn’t help feeling that bit of fear: what if everything I’ve been working for, this experience I’ve been wanting for birth, won’t happen?
Not long after I started noticing contractions; or at least, I thought they were contractions. To me, they felt like menstrual cramps that eventually would get a bit more intense as the day went on. Obviously, it was hard for me to tell since I’d never had them before. I scoured the pregnant mama forums to figure out what contractions were ACTUALLY “supposed” to feel like? Everyone’s body is different so they can show up uniquely for each one of us, but in my heart i knew that I’d never felt these sensations like this before in my pregnancy, so they HAD to be……right?
Something else I never really knew was that while the contractions did get more intense and closer together over the day, it’s not a linear progression (or at least it wasn’t for me!). I got a mild one, then an intense one, then a moderate one, then another intense one, then another mild one, and so on. And the whole timing thing? That was tricky too. It was hard to tell exactly when one started (though I knew when I was in the thick of one!) and then eventually the sensation would dull until it was gone.
Since I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, I had some doubts fill my mind: “Am I making this up in my head? Am I really feeling what I’m feeling? Am I just being a drama queen, and these aren’t so bad (or visa versa - do I have a high pain tolerance and I should be going to the birth center NOW?!)”.
Let’s just say the wait until dinner seemed like forever (but at the same time, the day went by quickly. It’s hard to explain).
I was able to eat a few bites of food, but my contractions were getting more intense and my appetite was gone. Craig and I loaded up our bags in the car and drove the 45 minutes to the birth center.
The car ride wasn’t the most pleasant experience, especially when I was having contractions every 4 minutes, and by this time, felt like extreme menstrual cramping and a feeling of heavy weight on the front of my pelvis. My intuition told me before leaving to bring a pillow for my back (thank goodness!) and I used my scarf to apply pressure to my pelvis whenever I felt a contraction coming on. I tried to remain as calm as I could and breathe through them as I had learned about in my birth classes and books. I was basically living for those moments between contractions. I would think to myself “okay Mary, once you get through this contraction, everything will be peaceful again. Just make it through.”
We pulled into the birth center at about 7:45pm. Our midwife greeted us and took us to our birthing room. I immediately laid on the bed on my side with a pillow between my legs, working through my next contraction.
As we waited for my doula to arrive, my midwife got me some water and took my temperature and blood pressure. She then checked to see how far along I had progressed (if at all). Her eyes opened wide as she told me “You’re about 5-6cm dilated! Getting to this point is one of the hardest parts!”
I thought: “Okay, so I’m NOT crazy, and this wasn’t all in my head! THIS IS HAPPENING.”
My doula arrived around 8:15pm and at that point, I was getting in the shower for some hydrotherapy. I had Craig spray warm water on my lower back through my contractions to ease some of the discomfort. I don’t know how long exactly I was in the shower, but it didn’t seem like very long. I eventually felt the urge to use the bathroom, and I learned from my birthing class that sitting backwards on the toilet can be helpful while in labor, so I did just that.
While I was sitting there, I noticed that the only people in the room were Craig and I. I was feeling urges to push and my fight or flight brain had a mini freakout: WHERE WERE MY DOULA AND MIDWIFE? WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS NOW?! I asked Craig (most likely in a panicked tone) if he would get one of them.
In reality, they were only gone for 5 minutes - they went to fill up a jug with warm water I could use for pain. But my limbic, reptilian brain wasn’t in logic mode at the time! Reflecting back, I was actually in transition at that point. Transition is basically when baby makes his decent into the birth canal - he was ready!
They both returned to the room and my doula was talking me through how I was feeling (very disoriented and unsure!). I heard my midwife’s voice ask “Did you want me to fill the tub?” and without hesitation, I said “YES!” My body knew it was time to do this.
I eased myself in the tub of warm water. I felt relief all over my body! The warmth soothed my poor aching muscles that have been contracting all day. But the relief was short lived; as I laid there my body wanted to PUSH.
It’s hard to explain how I knew when to push, but my body just….did it. And I was along for the ride and tried to help it out, too, while also remembering to take deep breaths through each one. That was one thing I knew: deep breaths. If I was going to get through this, my body (and baby) needed plenty of oxygen to remain calm and do the work!
Craig stepped out of the room to use the bathroom, but he wasn’t gone long when my doula and midwife called him back to the room in a frenzy. I didn’t know what was going on until one of them told me: “why don’t you feel for yourself…his head is showing!” It was one of the craziest moments; how? What? How was this happening so fast?!
However, the last part of labor didn’t feel so fast to me. I was in the tub for an hour total, but it felt like 4. I was on my back in the tub for a while, but my lower back was getting sore so I decided to labor on all fours for a little while.
I kept hearing so much loving and supportive messages from everyone: “You got this”, “You’re amazing”, “He’s coming; you’re doing this!”, “I’m so proud of you!”
This energy kept me going. I was pushing and pushing, though I didn’t know whether anything was happening or not. Eventually I put my right leg up in a runners lunge, then shifted to my left, then back to my right to hopefully open up some space for this baby to come out!
After a while, I was feeling exhausted. I was pushing my body to (what I thought) was my limit, but still no baby. After a while my thoughts were getting cynical, thinking silently to myself “If I’m so amazing, WHY ISN’T THIS BABY OUT YET??” I was wiped, and I was afraid if I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own.
I knew I needed some extra energy if I was going to power through, so I asked Craig to get me some juice. I took a few long sips and rested in between contractions. In my next few pushes, I heard my midwife say: “Just push past it, Mary. Push through it, you can do it.”
She was right; I was at a point I was afraid to push more because it burned. so. much. No amount of perineal massage could ever prepare me for the amount of stretching and opening I would feel giving birth. But I took her words to heart and gave them my all. When I felt like I was at my limit, I channeled my energy and pushed even further.
Then, I heard those beautiful words: “The head is out!”
Without thinking, I blurted out: “THANK YOU JESUS!”
I knew once the head was out, the rest would be smooth sailing. With one slow, final push the rest of the body came and my midwife said to me “Grab your baby!”
On 2/16/19, at 10:52pm, at 7lbs 7oz and 20 inches, our little Mark Wesley arrived.
I picked him up from the water and held him close to my chest and looked at him in awe. I thought to myself: “HE’S HERE! HE’S FINALLY HERE! I’m a mom! How was this baby inside of me?! He’s perfect!”
It was so surreal to see this little human in my arms. To look at his perfect little body and think “I did that”, to look him in his deep blue eyes, to hear his squeaks and cries and coos. My body created and birthed a life.
I heard Craig say “That’s our son!” with the proudest dad voice ever, and my heart melted.
After an hour or so of all of the fun after-birth stuff (placenta, mama checks, baby checks, weighing, bonding, breastfeeding, etc.) my midwife and doula gave us hugs and well wishes and were off for the night. Craig and I stayed overnight at the birth center to get some rest before heading home in the morning.
However, I didn’t sleep at all that night. I reflected on the whole day and experience all night. Trying to grasp what just happened. Looking at my sleeping husband next to me, and my sleeping baby on my lap, and thinking: These are my boys. This is my family. What a beautiful and peaceful end to a pretty crazy (but amazing) day. It just felt so good to be able to lie on my back in the stillness of the night after the marathon my body was put through.
And my body….she sure is amazing.
My pregnancy was a healing experience for me in terms of overcoming body image fears and obstacles I’ve had for years growing up. But the actual birth of my son was also a deeper level of healing for me.
It’s shown me that no matter what my body looks like, how many curves I have, whether my muscles show or not, and no matter what anyone else thinks, my body is STRONG. My body knows what to do. My body wanted to prove to me that she could do this. She did this without any medication (not even ibuprofen afterwards). My body is capable of doing amazing things.
My baby wanted to be birthed this way. They did this together.
This whole experience has shown me it’s important to trust my body, and to remain focused on the outcomes I desire in my life (and not dwell on the doubts and fears or worries). To surround myself with the support I need in whatever I am trying to accomplish, and that it’s okay to seek out help along the way.
I wanted a natural birth, so I sought out a provider and doula that honored my wishes. It’s possible to create the reality YOU want. It may not be easy, but you CAN do it. If you care deeply enough, advocate for yourself, and feel empowered in your decisions, you can do anything your mind, heart, and soul wish.
And remember that while things might not always play out exactly how you imagined, however it happens is FOR you and what you need to learn and grow through life. It could even end up better than you could imagine if you release the details of “how” it will unfold. Focus on the feeling you want to have and the rest will fall into place.
Mark’s birth was a gift in my life. Not only do I have the gift of my son, but also the gift of a deeper love and trust for my body. I feel more at home in my body than ever before, and look at her with her new stretch marks and squishy tummy with a newfound sense of appreciation that I would never have before. I’ve been through the most physically demanding job my body could undertake and came out thriving.
I am strong as a mother.