A Beautiful Birth: William Isaac

Thought I'd kick off this week with another beautiful birth. My childhood friend Pam honored me by asking me to be her doula for her son's birth. I could write my own story remembering the time we spent together while she is in labor but I asked her to tell the tale from her perspective. 

On Monday, January 11, I went to work at exactly 38 weeks pregnant. That morning before leaving I cried to my husband Brad for no good reason.  He kept asking me what was wrong and I told him, in all honesty, that I had no idea.  This continued at work.  More crying for no good reason.  I even texted my friends and told them that I "needed some space" because even they were getting on my nerves.  I had decided that day that if I had not delivered before my appointment on Wednesday, I was going to have my doctor take me out of work.

That night I went to my parents house for dinner because I was not in the mood to cook.  I spent most of the evening crying on their couch.  Around 6:00pm contractions started, but this had been happening for a couple of weeks so I didn't think much of it.  I forced myself to eat some dinner because I wasn't hungry, which I thought was weird.  On my ride home, I had 2 more contractions, called Brad and told him that I thought I may be in labor.

As soon as I got home the contractions continued but were irregular.  Then, out of no where, I threw up.  I seriously thought I had the stomach bug and that God hated me.  How could I get the stomach flu at 38 weeks pregnant!?  I called my mom who said she knew right away that I was in labor.  I spent the next hour or so texting my birth team, packing my hospital bag, and barfing my brains out.  The throwing up got worse and I was worried that I was going to dehydrate quickly, so I called the doctor.  She didn't even let me speak before telling me to come in and get checked.  In hindsight I probably could have stayed at home for a few more hours, but I needed my parents to come keep Morgan and I was anxious to find out if this was the real deal.

I arrived at the hospital around 11:00pm and was 4cm dilated.  I walked the halls for the next hour and dilated another centimeter.  It definitely felt like active labor!  I spent the next hours walking the halls and working through my contractions.  I felt very in control of my body during and things were going well. 

My birth team arrived around 3am.  I was so relieved to see them!  The nurses and doctor continued to check me regularly and were eager to break my water.  I had to keep telling them that I did not want to have my water broken as long as I was making progress.  The doctor told me to let her know when I was "done farting around."  This was the same doctor I overheard bad-mouthing me at the nurses station while I was walking the hallways (she didn't know that I was out there).  I regret not complaining about it then but I was too focused on getting my little man here. 

At around 7cm, my body decided to slow down with the contractions. I continued walking the halls and moving into different positions but I stayed at 7 cm for several hours.  My doctor finally arrived to the hospital around 8am and convinced me to break my water.  I trusted her opinion and also wanted to get things moving.  It wasn't long after my water was broken that the contractions intensified.  This went on for a couple of hours, but it seemed much longer.  I was screaming, groaning, crying in pain.  I begged for help.  I even told my husband to knock me out at one point. 

My nurse, despite knowing that I was trying to go unmedicated, continued to ask me if I wanted an epidural.  I remember her asking me mid-contraction, to which I replied, "DON'T ASK ME THAT NOW!"  She kept reminding me that if I was going to get an epidural, they would need to start pushing fluids.  I remember being in the worst pain of my life and getting checked, only to find out that I was at 8cm.  I was so discouraged.  I didn't know how much longer I would last so I asked them to start the fluids.  At one point, the contractions intensified so much that I flipped to all fours in order to find some relief (still none), but it felt like the right position to be in at the time.  My birth team was so supportive and reminded me how well I was doing, but at this point I was in full on transition, and I was DYING.  It was then that I started begging for the drugs. 

I was delusional and exhausted, and the epidural had been dangled in front of my face long enough.  At 9.5 cm I received my epidural.  My birth team tried so hard to avoid the epidural because I was SO CLOSE.  All that kept running through my head was how long it would take to push and I could not stand to go on like this for hours.  How I sat still long enough to get the damn thing I will never know.  The epidural did not kick in as quickly as it did with my daughter and the contractions still had me screaming in pain.  My legs went numb, but that was about it. 

I pushed my son out in one contraction about 30 minutes after getting the epidural.  I felt the contractions, I felt the pressure of him coming out, but I fortunately did not feel too much pain from pushing.  I was in complete shock that I was able to push him out so quickly.  The moment I saw his face I knew it was all worth it.  He was absolutely perfect.  He was born on January 12th at 10:31am, 7lbs 14oz after about 16 hours of labor.  

Looking back on his birth, I am so incredibly grateful for a complication-free, vaginal delivery. Despite being in labor for nearly 16 hours without any medication, I still feel a sense of failure for getting the epidural.  I had so badly wanted to go without the epidural this time.  Not because I wanted a gold star or recognition, but just to have the experience and bring my son into the world in the most natural way possible.  I had done my homework and mentally prepared myself for an unmedicated birth, or so I thought.  You can never fully prepare yourself for something you haven't experienced.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Had I known I would push William out 30 minutes later, I would not have done the epidural. I am so thankful for my supportive birth team who made me feel so loved and supported throughout the whole process.  I could not have done it without them.  

Once again, I am so thankful Pam was willing to share her story. It was a true honor to witness her bring sweet William into this world and something I will cherish forever. 

** Birth photos by the amazing Layna Rae Photography.

Until next time...

A Beautiful Birth: Azalea Rae

I had planned on spacing out sharing birth stories but this one is just too lovely not to share right away. My dear dear friend Layna gave birth a little over two week ago to her second little girl in a beautiful and inspiring VBA2C (Vaginal Birth after 2 Cesareans). I'm skipping around in the order of my students' births but so many people have asked her about some of her birth and postpartum details that I thought I'd go ahead and share now! This is a long one (and every word is worth reading) so if you are eager to jump to the VBA2C go ahead and skip to "Part Four". However, like I said, I HIGHLY recommend reading the whole thing! Without further ado, here's Layna's story!

Part One: 

Sitting here next to my barely one week old, brand new baby girl and I just can't get over how your heart really does expand for each child. I think all moms of multiples worry about that. Can I love another like the first? Second? Third? How can it be possible? I think our hearts must have stretch marks too because oh my, I am so in love with this new little addition. 

Which brings me to my birth story. My successfully unmedicated VBA2C.
In order to understand why I chose this route, you have to know about the first two births.

My firstborn, my son Ezra, was your textbook hospital birth gone awry in my opinion. At my 40 week appointment I was already 5cm dilated and had been crampy for days. Finally went into labor two days later. Got to hospital and was told I wasn't having "the right kind of contractions" (whatever the hell that means) so they gave me pitocin. Oh pitocin. Satan's drug, I swear. Needless to say things got intense quickly from there. Water broke around 8cm and at that point it was too much to bare. I was in no way anti-epidural so I said hook me up! 

I progressed easily to completion and began pushing without feeling anything. I wasn't making progress so my OB tried to turn him (my husband said it looked like he was trying to rotate a tire inside of me). I pushed more. They could barely see his head each time but he wasn't anywhere near coming out. They did forceps, nothin. They did the vacuum, nothin. After two hours of this the decision was made to go for the cesarean. I trusted my doctor knew best. And I still respect his decision in that moment. 

Once in the OR (I won't go into those details of fear) they said they had to basically dig him out of my pelvis which was "too small" for him to go through. He was barely 8 pounds. He had a busted blood vessel in his head from the vacuum and all the blood had rushed from his body, to that spot, so he was white as paper all over. So weird and scary to see... and his head was mush. 
 A pediatric doctor who was rude and wearing a Hawaiian shirt in October told me that"it could be nothing, or it could be fatal". Seriously dude? 
Because of this, Ezra spent 14 hours in the NICU before I was allowed to see him for more than a glance.

My husband was allowed to go in and visit but I was not for fear of getting him too worked up and overstimulated. Man was I naive. I didn't know any better or I would have demanded to be with him. Live and learn. 
He healed perfectly, praise God. My recovery was complete hell. After laboring so long, pushing so long, and a very fearful surgery, I felt I had been run over. A lot. For a long time. 

As my mom literally bathed me in the shower I sobbed to her that he wouldn't bond with me because I hadn't been allowed to see him and we weren't able to breastfeed. Her response? "Layna--I had a c-section with you, I gave you formula, and I'm bathing you right now. Do you think we're not bonded?" Oh. Solid point mom. 
Spoiler: Ezra and I are insanely bonded. 

Which leads us to...

Part Two

I was in love with love and so crazy happy to finally be a mother. Ezra was everything I ever imagined and before we even left the hospital, I said I can't wait to do it again. I wanted that "I'm a mom!" feeling over and over! So when I was healed enough, I told my husband my wishes and told him it was up to him. Well...when Ezra was just two months old, we saw those two pink lines show up again! Hooray! Right? Yes! I think so. Oh boy. Its ok. Yeah. It's ok. 

Let me tell you, taking care of a three month old, and being newly pregnant and super not easy or fun. My goodness. I remember a specific morning that I wore Ezra in a wrap on my front and suddenly needed to be sick but had nowhere to turn because he was strapped to me I couldn't bend over a sink or toilet. So I grabbed a cup off the counter and turned my head. Glamorous lemme tell ya. It was not a fun pregnancy. I hadn't lost the baby weight from Ezra yet, and here I was gaining again. Super sick. Sciatic pain that killed. Second summer pregnancy in a row with all the swelling that goes with it. Ugh. 

But, we were so excited to be having our girl! Eizley! If I only knew then how in love with her I would be. The date for our repeat cesarean approached (having them so close together it was highly recommended that I not attempt a vbac at that time--looking back, I wish I fought for it or researched more--but again, live and learn). The closer it got, the more panicked I became. I was still getting to know Ezra. I didn't want to share any time away from him with another baby. I was still learning how to do this mom thing. I was still really missing sleep! 

Again I was crampy and had been having tons of Braxton Hicks contractions, which was just par for the course for me when I went in for my 38 week appointment. The decided to hook me up to monitors just to see and evidently I was having real contractions so they checked me and I was at 5cm. So they sent me over to have my baby right there from my appointment. 

Cue hormonal freak out. 

I'm not ready! We aren't supposed to do this for another week! I don't have our bags packed and she needs a bow! She has to have a bow! 

But away we went. My husband, a police officer at the time, was in full uniform coming from work.

"Honey, go change, you can't take a gun into the OR!" 

The c-section went so smoothly. Everyone says the second is better and its so true. I was making jokes with the doctor and giving out my business information to the anesthesiologist as they were cutting me open. Totally easy surgery. Cesarians are weird though. You lay there, and then someone hands you a bundled up baby and says that it's yours and you just have to take their word on it. 
Thats how I felt anyway. I'm sure not everyone does. But I did. There's something odd about not seeing or feeling it happen at all. It makes you slightly out of touch. And then it's as if you're being asked to babysit after you just had major abdominal surgery. That's not cool. But our girl was here and healthy, again, praise God! My Eizley! My pretty little twirly bird. 

While the cesarean was a much smoother process, right away I had recovery issues. High fevers that came and went and no one could ever figure out why. We were in the hospital for almost a full week because of it. Intense, I mean intense shoulder pain that I was told was trapped gas. To this day (including during my VBAC) I have never screamed like that shoulder paid made me. Horrendous.
Once we were home, the baby blues hit. I cried so much in those first 3 weeks. I remember googling (such a smart move, I know) about the lack of bonding and one lady said she didn't bond with her daughter until she was 9 years old. WHAT?! That sent me into some serious weeping.

A few months later more health issues in myself arose. I won't bore you with details, but to sum up, many doctors told me my symptoms were anemia related then finally figuring out that it was thyroid all along and was due to pregnancy. Eventually it worked itself out, but I didn't feel normal until she was almost a year old. 

Each day our bond got a little better. I blame hormones obviously; the fact that she came along only 10 months after her big brother so I didn't feel ready, how her birth played out, the fact that she looked absolutely nothing like me and everyone insisted on reminding me of that daily, the array of health issues I had postpartum, our struggle with breastfeeding, and again..hormones. Man hormones are a bitch aren't they? So naturally, I was a bit nervous this time around about those blues. That darkness. My health. Baby's health. I was determined the next time to do anything I could to avoid the blues, and the horrific recoveries.

part three

Before even getting pregnant this time around, I was in such a different headspace about babies and birth than I had been before. Blame it on the day job! Photographing newborns several times a week will give anyone baby fever! Through photography I was honored to witness and document several births as well. I can't put into words how impactful those were to me. Medicated, inductions, natural, scheduled cesarians, vbacs, each one taught me something. Each one led me closer to my own victory. My birth clients will never truly know what they've meant to me.  

Now please, before I go any further... I am not here to hate on c-sections. C-sections brought two of my greatest blessings into my life. How could I not love how my babies were brought to me? Those were their stories. And I love them. But it's ok to want a different experience. To want an easier recovery and faster healing. To want a more intimate environment while bringing baby earthside. 

That being said, when we got pregnant, I was motivated, encouraged, and determined to get my vaginal, healing birth experience.We read books. We met with doulas. We took childbirth classes, Bradley Method. So much learning and preparation went into this! It's all so fascinating. Oddly I found myself feeling closer to not only my baby in my tummy but also to my husband and to God during the whole process. The more I learned how intwined and perfectly planned each part of childbirth is, the more you can see God's handiwork in it all. Truly amazing and undeniable. 

My pregnancy was wonderful...well, other than the beginning. At 7 weeks I had heavy bleeding and was told I was having a miscarriage. After calling in ultrasound (and hour after being given such devastating news)  to "confirm the loss" the tech was able to find a heartbeat and report that all was well. Praise God again. I bled for 16 straight weeks for no given reason at all. But, overall, I had hardly any sickness at all, and only a small stint of sciatic pain to deal with. Otherwise it was smooth sailing! 
By 35 weeks I was over it. The Braxton Hicks were often and annoying. And I was just so tired from the two toddlers that need all my energy and attention. 
On Christmas Eve the first round of prodromal labor started. Contractions that were different and steady, but not really that painful. We packed our bags that night, just to be safe. But eventually we went to bed and the contractions fizzled out. 

This pattern would go on and on and on over the next several weeks. 

At least 3 different times I legit thought I was in labor. Painful contractions. For several hours. Steady intervals. Almost every night. 

If you have experience prodromal or latent labor, you know the toll this can take on a mom-to-be. Hormonally, physically, mentally, emotionally. Drained. Every night thinking this might be it! but no. In my case, having to psych myself up each day. The VBAC pep talk if you will. Amping myself up for this marathon. And then no. Not today. Again. 

40 weeks came and went. So did a blizzard and a full moon. Seriously? Come out girl!!! 

In talking with my midwife and doula, we all suspected she was in a less than ideal position and was slightly posterior. I did tons of different positioning at home to try and turn her and get things going to no avail. My birth ball got a good workout as well. And I've never eaten so much pineapple in my dang life. Per my amazing doula's suggestion I decided to go see a chiropractor who was familiar with fetal positioning. Last ditch effort ya know. On my way to his office Tuesday morning I could very much feel baby in my left hip. Plain as day. He did his adjustments, which always feels totally bogus at the time, and I left. On my drive home, no lie I could tell she was centered and in my pelvis. So weird. 

Little did I know...

Part Four:

That evening my husband was working later than normal so getting the kids fed and down to bed was on my big pregnant self. They were actually really well-behaved and after my husband Michael got home shortly after they were in bed, around 8pm. When he came in I was bouncing on the birth ball, eating an entire pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and watching gossip girl. Naturally. 

I was having a few contractions here and there, but that was nothing new for me. He fell asleep on the couch, and I went up to bed around 10pm. At midnight I woke up to pee and when I got back in bed I was annoyed to feel a contraction. Great. This was going to keep me awake for no reason, once again. They kept coming, and I kept not caring. I laid there in the dark, timing contractions and browsing Facebook and pinterest. This went on for 2 hours and were just ever so slightly getting more painful. But I still wouldn't really call it pain at that point. Just annoying and tight. Since I was wide awake I got back on the ball in hopes that it would get things either steadier or make it stop. 

They kept coming. 

At 2:30am I went downstairs and woke Michael up just asking him to keep me company. Figured if I could hang out with him and occupy my mind watching a show together then they would fizzle out.

They kept coming. 

I bounced on the ball a bit more and I guess it pushed things around because suddenly things were, ahem... moving... and I needed to run to the bathroom. Several times this happened. Let me tell you, bathroom cramps, on top of labor contractions... not a fun combo. 

At 3:00 we called the midwife. Told her contractions were steady and getting more intense but only lasting about 45 seconds each. She said I was fine to stay home longer, and to call back when they lasted for a minute each, or were 2-3 minutes apart. 

By 3:15 I texted my doula to fill her in. And also texted my friend Sara (also our childbirth educator) who was planning to come watch our kids. I told her to go ahead and come over 'just in case'. Well, about 15 minutes later I was saying, ok I hope Sara has left because this is getting intense. I walked around the house packing last minute items in my bag. The contractions were strong. I was moaning through them and holding onto Michael and swaying, but after that 45 seconds I was totally fine. 

"Ahhhhhh....oooooooooo......uuhhmmmmm....ok, hey I'm gonna go brush my teeth/check on the kids/grab my makeup bag"

He thought it was weird how normal I was in between them and how focused I had to be during them. 

By the time Sara arrived it was game on. She walked in to find me on all fours over the back of my couch, moaning into the pillows. No sooner than she said hello did I bark back that I needed a trash can to puke in. Welcome Sara! We all agreed it was time to leave. There was still snow and ice on the ground and the hospital is a solid 35 minutes from our house. But I was stuck on the couch. Contractions were close together and strong. I had stopped timing at this point. 

Michael kept saying "Ok babe lets just get you to the kitchen island ok, baby steps."


"Ok babe lets get you to the island"


"Lets try and get to..."


That was the only time I snapped at him, which I'm damn proud of! 

We finally make it out to the car around 4:45am . The drive was rough but I mostly had my eyes closed and concentrated on getting through the waves of pain. Sitting felt horrible and my belly felt so distorted. Next was parking deck. As soon as I stood up from the car I think thats when major transition stage hit. I'm moaning getting onto the elevator... loudly... and these three older men pile onto it with us. They reek of smoke and talk like their from Manitowoc County, I swear. Listening to me moaning and swaying and saying "Oh it looks like its almost time". 

How I didn't punch them I'll never know. 

We make it to the wheelchair. I couldn't walk any further but sitting was just as awful. All the bumps on the way to L&D, oh my word. We get to registration and are there for what seems like an eternity. I'm very loudly moaning at this point and my doula walks in right behind us. With one big contraction in the lobby my water somewhat breaks. I remember saying "Water! My water!" 

We get into the room around 5:30. 

They asked me to stand up to get in the bed so they can get the monitors on me. The second I stood up I started involuntarily pushing. It was her. She was pushing. I had nothing to do with it. And it freaked me out. I knew it wasn't time to push so why was she trying to come out? 

Meanwhile they have the monitors on me but I don't hear a heartbeat. I'm asking them why and no one answers me. Michael tried to tell me they didn't have the speakers on. Nice try hon. My midwife tells me I need to get in the bed on my right side to help baby's heart rate. My right side may as well have been the location of actual hell. It was horribly uncomfortable. In this moment she also has to check me, and the other nurse is putting in an IV (just in case surgery became necessary). All the while the contractions are on top of each other and every time, baby would push down without my effort and it hurt so bad. In those moments, the high pitched screaming happened. I didn't know I could make those sounds.

The midwife said I was almost a 9 and they were putting on an internal monitor to better track her heart rate. They put oxygen on me as well because I was really starting to panic.
Birth without fear my ass. I was scared. 

I told them maybe I needed the epidural so that I could calm down and that would help baby calm down too. I was so worried about her and worried I had a long way to go. Everyone kept whispering and you bet your butt I called them out on that.

"Why is everyone whispering? I know whispering is bad, just TELL ME!" 

They all reassured me that baby was just fine, and that if something was a concern they promised to tell me. I could not bare to be on my side any more and told my husband to get behind me so I could roll to my back and lean against him. In that instant, transition ended. Thank you Lord. 

Sitting back felt so much better. 

I was told then that it was time to push on contractions. At first I still wanted to moan/scream when I pushed. They had to get it through my head to hold my breath while I pushed. That was confusing because so far I thought I needed to breath steadily through them. But not with pushing. Ok. Got it. Once I made sense of that I was making progress. They said they could see her head and I just shouted "Yeah I've heard that before, I don't care"
So my midwife told me to reach down and touch her head. Talk about motivation. Come on girl.

At this moment the anesthesiologist guy comes in the room and goes over protocol if they have to do an emergency cesarean and blah blah blah. Great timing bro... get out of here. 

Back to pushing. I had long breaks between each contraction which was blissful. I leaned back on Michael and breathed steady and slow. Then the build would start and we all grabbed a leg and worked together. I buried my face in his arms with each push, and remember my doula rubbing my leg and affirming my efforts over and over again. 

I don't remember a ring of fire just bowling ball pressure. My eyes were closed the while time until her head was out. I knew then that I had done it! She wasn't going anywhere. I opened my eyes for the final push and watcher her slide out. I felt it all. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Right up to mama. Slimy and gooey in the most wonderful normal way. My other babies were handed to me all bundled up and pink. So I relished in the grossness. 

Hi baby girl!!

I did it! 

We did it babe!

Oh I'm so glad its over. 

Those were all my first words in that moment. 

Azalea Rae was born at 6:08am (whew, good thing we left when we did!)

For the first time, Michael got to cut the cord! After about a half hour of looking at us and snuggling, my sweet Azalea latched right on and had a birthday snack. It was everything I wanted. Ok minus the third-degree tear. Ouch

While my c-sections are not regretful, they were filled with so many outsiders. Doctors, nurses, anesthesia, NICU team, etc etc. I wanted this experience to be about a team I picked myself. That mainly consisted of my husband, me, and our baby. And that's exactly what we got. 

I'm incredibly proud of myself for doing something I used to be so scared of. I watched so many women go through it and thought they were much much stronger than me. Ask anyone, I'm a pro at self-doubt. But I did it. Exactly how we wanted. I fell in love with my husband again during this birth. He was as strong as I was, strong with me and for me. I felt safe in his arms through the worst of the pains and I'll never forget that feeling. 

Recovery has been amazing. I feel so bonded to her right away! For some reason, seeing her come out truly makes a difference. Like I really know that she belongs to me. My body was sore the next couple days but nothing compared to a surgery! I took a shower and dried and curled my hair 6 hours after she was born for goodness sake. I wasn't swollen from meds or fluids, I wasn't hooked up to anything. A few Motrin and I was good to go. 

I also decided to have my placenta encapsulated. This was done through a local doula service that offers several ways of consuming your placenta. The smoothie option was much cheaper but um... no thank you! Since I went through a lot of mental and physical issues after my last baby and had read about the benefits of placenta encapsulation I was ready to do anything that may help with those unwanted postpartum experiences. 

Here's a few things ingesting your placenta can do:

  • Replenishes iron from blood loss during birth which can prevent anemia
  • Provides natural pain relief
  • May lessen the risk of postpartum depression by supplying mama with many of the hormones she had during pregnancy. PPD and baby blues are largely attributed to the sudden hormone shift experienced after birth.
  • Lends a consistent flow of oxytocin long after birth euphoria ends
  • Provides the HPL hormone to help establish early and healthy milk supply
  • Replenishes B vitamins and energy used during the labor and birthing process

Now that I've been taking these pills for two weeks I can honestly say I feel a difference. It's more so that I can tell when I have missed a dose. I start to get really frustrated and overwhelmed and can feel the mean ol hormones take over. But when I've kept up with them, that doesn't happen. 

I have literally not cried yet at all! Well, other than happy tears. I'm sure I'll never know if it's due to the pills, or the birth, or whatever, but I'm just glad I'm feeling so great! 

I'm so glad I had such blessings placed into my life in the form of my midwife, my doula, and my birth instructor. They made all this possible for us and never ever lost faith in me all through the pregnancy and the never ending prodromal labor phase where I was going psycho. I'm forever grateful to them. And I can't wait to share this story with Azalea when she grows up. Not that I plan on letting her grow up :) 

A huge thank you to Layna for sharing her story and inspiring other mamas!

Until next time...

A Beautiful Birth: Anneli Mae

Because I'm just a teensy bit obsessed with birth stories (translation: completely obsessed) I've asked my former students if they wouldn't mind sharing their birth experiences here on my blog. I think it's important for expecting mamas to read all kinds of birth stories, whether they went exactly as planned or had a few hiccups along the way. I'm so honored that these mamas (and I might even get a few stories from the dad's POV) are so graciously sharing their births with me, and all of you!
First up is Christina, a first-time mom.

On August 26th, the day before my due date, I woke up and told my husband Matt that I was going to go into labor that night. I was joking and didn’t really think that I would, but something made me say it! That morning I had a check up with Stephanie, my midwife. Everything looked good and we talked about some things we could do if we went past 41 weeks to help encourage labor. As a first time mom I fully expected to deliver a week or more past my due date. I also expected it to be a long process and was mentally prepared for a marathon. As it turned out it was more of a sprint!

After our appointment we came home and I took a nap. Matt went into a cleaning frenzy and by the time I woke up the house was spotless. We now joke that he was the one who nested instead of me! That night we attended our last birthing class (we took Bradley Method classes) and I told my instructor that I was going to go into labor that evening, again thinking I was just being silly. She put her hands on my belly and told the baby that it was time and to cooperate. In hindsight there were signs that labor was coming, like a change in my gait and a lot of rocking back and forth while sitting, but no contractions. When we got home from class I went to the bathroom and saw what I thought to be my mucous plug. I knew this could come days or weeks before real labor set in so I tried to stay relaxed and keep the adrenaline low. Less then an hour later at 10:15pm my water broke. After that happened contractions started immediately. Apparently I had been correct that morning, and labor was suddenly in full swing. I paged Stephanie and she told me to go to bed and call back if contractions got 5 minutes apart for an hour or in the morning if they hadn’t.  I hardly had a chance to even attempt rest. I started timing my contractions at 11pm and they were all coming 2-3 minutes apart and lasting a minute or more.  Every contraction was felt entirely in my back. From the beginning to end of my labor I never felt even a twinge of pain in my belly, it was 100% back labor.  We called Stephanie back at midnight and again at 12:30am. By this time I was getting nervous about staying home since the contractions had come on so quickly and were not slowing down. Stephanie agreed that it was time to come in.

Matt got our bags while my doula Emilia helped me walk to the car. Matt sat in the back with me while Emilia drove. It was awful being in the car but I am lucky to live only 10 minutes from the hospital, so it was a short trip. We got there at 1:15am, only 3 hours after labor began. I was checked and found out I was 5 cm and 80% effaced. This baby was not wasting time! I labored on the bed and on the ball, and then for about an hour in the shower.  It was dark in the shower and it was just Matt and I in there for most of the time. Even though I was experiencing a lot of pain, I remember feeling very peaceful during this time, warm and safe in his arms. At some point I told Matt I needed to lie down and he got me to the bed.

My contractions started coming one after the other and I knew I was in transition. I was desperate for a break and tried to be patient as I knew I would get one soon. Sure enough, after about 15 or 20 minutes they slowed down and Stephanie put me on the birth stool. She checked me again and I was fully dilated and she told me if I felt like I wanted to push to go ahead.  At first pushing was confusing and I wasn’t sure if I was working with my body the right way. After a few contractions the urges got stronger and I became more confident in what I was doing. I changed position multiple times and ultimately ended up lying on my side with Matt and Emilia on either side of the bed helping to pull back my legs when I pushed. The contractions spaced out and I went into deep states of rest in between, even dosing off a few times waiting for the next rush. By the time the baby was crowning I was exhausted and it was a struggle to push as hard as I knew I needed to. Stephanie had me reach down and touch the baby’s head and I was shocked to feel her there, so close to being in my arms. As the baby moved further down I could feel her stretching me and I got to the point that every contraction was a welcome relief because it felt better to push. I ended up pushing for a total of an hour and forty minutes. I remember getting to a point of being so exhausted that I felt like I had nothing left to give. It was around this time that Stephanie told me that my baby would be born on the next contraction. I didn’t really believe her at first but sure enough as the wave came and I pushed with more strength then I thought I could have, my hands were guided down to take my baby.  I looked down and saw her face for the first time and slowly pulled her out and up to my chest. The exhaustion I felt melted away and the first thing I said to my daughter was “Hello! Thank you for coming out of me!” I was shocked, relieved, and so in love.

Anneli Mae was born exactly on her due date of August 27th at 5:33am, one day before my 30th birthday! I am so grateful for the excellent care I received from all of the midwives, especially Stephanie who helped me feel safe and confident as she guided me through my labor and delivery, and Meghann who was there during the birth quietly coaching and offering words of encouragement. Thank you VCU midwives! 

Again, another huge thank you to Christina and Matt for sharing such a beautiful story. 
Until next time...