“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” – Rajneesh
On January 4th 2010, my husband, Chris, and I found out we were expecting our first child and thus began our almost year-long journey of becoming parents. We read pregnancy books, watched movies (Business of Being Born was our favorite), read blogs and websites, attended classes, laughed a lot, cried a little, and spent most of our time talking about becoming a family. After five months of education one thing became clear: natural childbirth was important to us. So we hired a doula, fired our OB-GYN, switched hospitals, and selected a midwife. Our drastic change in plans was set to the test on August 24th when I went into labor three weeks early.
I woke up at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 24th, and felt like my pregnancy was nearing an end. I went downstairs to send our doula and my mom an e-mail saying I thought Braeden would come sooner than we expected (thinking a week or two – not that very day). When I stood up after sending the e-mails, I felt something wet running down my leg – my water had partially broke (but I was in such denial I thought I had just peed!).
By 2:00 a.m. I woke Chris because I was having contractions. I was convinced it was false labor and I could get back to bed soon since the contractions were erratic. Rather than doing the smart thing of calling our doula, I began pacing around the dining room table for three hours while Chris timed each contraction.
Around 5:00 a.m. we finally did the smart thing and called our doula, Whitney, and she immediately told Chris to get me in the bath. She also told Chris to force fluids and have me eat something. The idea of eating sounded terrible but Chris was so encouraging that I tried. After a few bites of toast with almond butter I was “sick” but getting it all out actually made me feel better. Chris asked me if I wanted anything and I said, “I’d like an epidural.” I was trying to make a joke but I was a little serious because the contractions were harder to handle than I had expected.
After about forty-five minutes in the tub I felt the need to pace again. By this time we were in touch with Whitney every half-hour and knew a decision had to be made soon if she was coming over to our house or if we were meeting her at the hospital.
I was a good little nester and had almost everything ready for our son’s arrival; everything but the all-important hospital bag! So Chris frantically started running up and down the stairs packing the hospital bag and I resumed pacing around the dining room table, calling out to him every time I had a contraction. We must have been quite a funny sight!
Chris called our parents a little after 7:00 a.m. to let them know they were going to become grandparents that day! Chris’ parents had just visited us on the tail end of a very long road trip two days prior, but immediately prepared to hit the road again for an eight hour journey from Los Alamos, New Mexico to Denver, Colorado. My mom, in Southern California, jumped on the internet to book a one-way flight in hopes she’d make it in time for the birth.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m., Whitney called and asked if I wanted her to come over to the house or to meet us at the hospital. My response: “HOSPITAL.” By 8:30 a.m. we were in the car and headed to the hospital after six and a half hours of laboring at home. Chris pulled in front of Denver Health Hospital and I got out and told him to park the car. He wanted to walk me in but I knew I could do it on my own.
A few minutes after I was in the OB screening room I saw Whitney. She walked up to me, held my hand, and rubbed my forehead with her thumb. The instant I felt her thumb between my eyes I relaxed for the first time since 2:00 a.m. Even though my contractions were getting stronger, they were a million times easier to handle with Whitney teaching me how to ride them like a wave and blow them away. Chris and I had taken classes, read books, and watched movies on how to cope with labor but all of that knowledge becomes a blur when labor arrives.
Whitney immediately started advocating for me and our birth plan when the nurse in the screening room wasn’t very pleasant. I was four centimeters dilated and admitted to the hospital just after 9:30 a.m. When we went upstairs to Labor and Delivery, a compassionate midwife named Magi greeted us with a big smile. She heard about me from the midwife who was handling all of my prenatal care and was thrilled to be working with me.
This was such a dramatic change from the cold and routine service I had received in the OB screening room. In the screening room I had to lie on my back so they could monitor the baby and make sure I was progressed enough to be admitted. In the Labor and Delivery room I was free to move about as I desired. I ate, drank, and wasn’t strapped to any monitors. I knew I had a wonderful birthing team and Braeden and I were in the best possible hands. From that point on I knew I could have a natural childbirth and never once asked for medication! During labor, Whitney kept encouraging me to change positions. I would sometimes respond with “no” or “after a few more contractions” because I was afraid of the pain, but she was always right and I always felt better after I followed her advice.
I really enjoyed laboring in the tub because the water felt nice and helped me to relax. Call me crazy, but I also liked laboring on the toilet. There’s just something relaxing about sitting on a toilet. My least favorite place to labor was the bed. I completely understand why women, who are forced to labor in bed, turn to an epidural rather than try to naturally cope through labor. I also can’t imagine laboring without the assistance of a doula and supportive partner.
Braeden’s heart rate was checked about every half hour with a portable Doppler so I didn’t need to stop laboring in whatever position felt best to me at the time. I wasn’t checked hourly for my progression or made to feel like I was on a timeline.
Around 2:30 p.m I started having such strong contractions I felt an urge to push and we thought I might be going through transition. No such luck. I was only five centimeters dilated and moved into the tub to try and relax. I was disappointed I had only progressed one centimeter after so many hours had passed. Whitney was immediately reassuring and told me going from four centimeters to five is the hardest.
Soon after this pep talk my mom arrived! I’ll never forget the moment she walked into the bathroom and all I could focus on was the hand sanitizer she had just put on. I’m pretty sure I told her she smelled before I could utter “hello” or “I love you.” Once the smell dissipated I was pleased and she helped me through more contractions. Chris was also there to help remind me to breathe. From this point on I went into my primordial brain and solely focused on moving my baby down.
Prior to five centimeters’ dilation, I had gotten the hang of riding contractions. When I felt my body start to contract I did my best not to fight it and breathe through the pain. After the contraction would peak I was able to regain control and exhale the pain away. Birthing is an intense process but the built-in breaks between contractions are such a blessing.
Soon after I hit five centimeters I completely zoned out and gave full control to my body. I remember calling out deep warrior cries. Chris later told me you could hear me screaming all the way down the hall from my hospital room. I had no idea how long I had been in labor or even what time of day it was when I moved onto a birthing ball by the bed. My mom had been there for just two hours and in that short time I had progressed to nine and a half centimeters! Just goes to show how much I wanted her there and how even my body was holding back for her arrival.
I came out of my zone for a few moments while laboring on the birthing ball. I looked at everyone standing across the bed from me and euphorically said “I’m having a baby” and everyone responded with “yes you’re having a baby” and then I repeated myself. It was as if all of a sudden the gravity of what was happening finally hit me. My life was about to be forever changed and my son was about to enter this world.
Before I knew it my midwife asked me to climb on the bed and it was time to start pushing!! Now, I had spent months learning different techniques for coping with labor and had spent a lot of time envisioning what my labor would be like. I never once thought about how I would actually birth my son. Magi could’ve told me, “to have this baby I’m going to need you to hop on your left foot and bark like a dog,” and I would’ve done what was asked of me without questioning it because I was so focused on getting my baby out. Thankfully there was no barking involved and I was just told to climb onto the bed on my knees and lean against the bed that was propped up facing the wall.
Throughout my labor music was played and I remember hearing the song Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley as I started to push. Whitney kept pressure on my lower back and told me to listen to what my body was telling me to do. It wasn’t like in the movies where someone tells you to push and then everyone counts to ten; I just completely let go mentally and gave my body control once more and it was magical. My body knew exactly what to do.
We had a birth plan in place that included Chris catching Braeden. Magi told Chris it was time and asked him if he wanted gloves. Chris responded, “No gloves, but can I change my shirt?” and Magi said “Yes, but hurry.” Part of me wanted to say, “Are you insane? I’m about to have your son and you want to make sure your white shirt doesn’t get dirty?!” but the other part of me knew Magi saying “hurry” meant Braeden was coming soon. I was ready for the birthing process to be over so that made me happy (plus, I couldn’t have vocalized my thoughts anyway).
I pushed for thirty minutes and I could feel everything but it wasn’t intolerable. I was so glad I had decided against medication because the minute my son came out I felt so incredible! All of these endorphin’s coursed through my veins and I felt a level of happiness I had never experienced before!!!! After sixteen hours of labor my amazing son was born at 5:52 p.m. weighing 6 lbs ¼ oz and 18-1/4” long.Braeden was passed from between my legs into my arms and I remember my first reaction: being shocked that I had created such a perfect little being. We were looking into one another’s eyes when helplessness washed over me because Braeden was limp and blue. This was the first time our birth plan was overridden and Chris quickly cut the umbilical cord because Braeden needed some oxygen. From this point on Chris never left Braeden’s side as he was taken to the nursery to receive some extra care. I joke that I could’ve been hemorrhaging to death and Chris wouldn’t have noticed. Chris was so in love with his son that the world around him seemed to disappear.
About forty-five minutes later Chris, Braeden and I had a moment all to ourselves. This was the moment I felt like I had waited for my entire life: the moment two become three and we were a family.
About two hours later we were moved to the Mother/Baby Unit. As Chris slept I couldn’t help but be enamored with my son as he laid skin-to-skin on my chest. My mother had always shared the story of her talking to me for hours in a rocking chair soon after I was born. Before dawn, I noticed a rocking chair in the room and gently moved Braeden from my chest to arms and we cuddled in the chair. I rocked Braeden and talked about his limitless future with blissful tears streaming down my face.
My life will be forever changed by the transforming experience of natural childbirth. I have a new-found love for my imperfect body that can do extraordinary things. I now know I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieving. As for Braeden, I now truly understand the meaning of love and I am experiencing a level of joy that I never knew was possible. I love being a mom!*Jen is the owner of the page www.plussizebirth.com or you can find her on FB at www.facebook.com/plussizemommymemoirs for positive plus size birth resources and information.