Adoptive mother Davney Nowak shares the birth story of her first biological daughter – an inspiring natural childbirth at a birth center.
I married my high school sweetheart. Every life choice we made was made with our future children in mind. We got married at 22, and immediately started to try to start our family. I had always been birth- and baby-obsessed. I had shelves full of books about babies, birth, and breastfeeding. I started stocking up on clothes and cloth diapers. After a year of trying to conceive with no luck, we saw a fertility specialist, underwent all the tests and several procedures, and were devastated after our first failed IUI cycle.
We knew we wanted children and wanted them NOW, so we decided to become foster parents. We went through the classes, the home study, the home visits, and we waited. We waited and waited and waited for that first call. The call finally came – and we quickly had a house full with three kids under the age of two; and after a few years, had a house FULL with five kids under the age of five, and were on the road to adoption for three of them. I grieved the biological babies I would never have, as well as the natural birth experience I had studied so much about, but we were happy and grateful for the family we had. Every child we brought into our home (six all together, in three years) was treated as they were our own, and we did all we could for them while we had them.
One day, after being nauseated and tired for several days (which I attributed to a stomach bug my kids had), I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had had my period. While running errands with the kids, I grabbed a pregnancy test (the first one since we completely gave up hope three years earlier). I didn’t mention it to my husband, because I assumed it would be negative, but something told me I had to take it. We got home, I took the test, and the second line immediately showed up.
I just sat there and stared at that test. I honestly couldn’t believe I was staring at two pink lines. My husband barged into the bathroom to ask me if I needed to add anything to the grocery list, and I said, “This is positive!” He was so confused because he didn’t even know I was taking a test, and he kept saying, “No, that’s negative!”
I responded with, “I’ve seen PLENTY of negative tests—this is positive!” He was completely confused, and left to go grocery shopping. He says it started to sink in while he was there, and he bought several digital tests and chocolate. He finally started to believe me when he saw the word “Pregnant” on the digital tests.
The next morning, I woke up with severe nausea. After two days, I was completely unable to take care of the kids. I couldn’t even leave the bathroom, and I slept on the floor. I lost 15 pounds in three days and was almost hospitalized for dehydration. (Thank goodness for Zofran!) I spent the majority of my pregnancy feeling sick, and gained no weight. (Also during my pregnancy, two of our foster kids went back to their biological families, so we just had the three children we would later adopt.)
After several weeks, it finally sunk in that I was actually pregnant and that I finally had a chance at the natural birth I’d dreamed about. I saw an OB for a few months, who didn’t even have much hope that I could deliver vaginally. At around 25 weeks, I was extremely pleased to find a birth center an hour away, and I met my amazing midwives. I spent the rest of my pregnancy taking birth classes and doing all I could to prepare for the natural birth I’d always planned for.
One night in my 39th week, after an especially active day, I finally laid down for bed. It was 12:30 a.m. and had just turned to October 19th, which was my daughter’s birthday. This was the one day I didn’t want the baby to be born because I didn’t want them to have to share a birthday. But as soon as I lay down, I immediately had a contraction. Then two minutes later I had another one. And then another. It was impossible for me to lie down during these contractions. After several consistent contractions, I decided to get up and take a shower and clean the house, in case this was really it. I let my husband nap so he could support me later.
I spent some time just soaking in the tub. I reread some birth affirmations I’d collected, and used the time to really center myself and focus. I chose the mantra, “Pressure; not pain” while I soaked, and continued to use those words throughout my labor. After a few hours I called my mom and sisters, and busied myself around the house, all during consistent back labor. I finally woke my husband up so he could do the dishes because I couldn’t imagine coming home from the birth center to a pile of dirty dishes!
After about three hours of consistent, every-two-minutes contractions, I called my midwife who told me to go ahead and come in to the birth center. My family congregated at my house so we could leave together, and my sister-in-law stayed with the kids. I just kept thinking, “Of course, the one day I didn’t want to go into labor, and here we are!” We all got to the birth center at about 5 a.m. The hour-long drive through curvy back roads, with back labor, was torturous!
My midwife, Lisa, checked me and said I was dilated to four centimeters. My contractions had slowed down in the car. She told me to go back home and rest, because she thought my labor would be long. I decided I wasn’t going to go home because I couldn’t imagine another hour in the car with those awful contractions, and then another hour to come back when it was time.
My mom and sisters and I decided to go to Walmart to walk around, in hopes that labor would pick back up. My dad and husband stayed and napped in the parking lot of the birth center. Walking definitely worked; and we made many comments about having a Walmart baby! After an hour, contractions were about 90 seconds apart; so we headed back to the birth center at about 9 a.m., and I told my midwife I wasn’t leaving again!
I met one of the nurses, Leanna, while I was getting in the birth tub. Once I settled into the water, the contractions were manageable. I labored there for several hours, and got into what I call my “birth zone”. At this point, I was completely lost in myself trying to manage the back labor. I completely lost sense of time, and was unaware of who was in the room. My husband and Leanna took turns pouring water down my back and applying pressure during each contraction. Both of them were amazing and never left my side.
At some point they had me get out of the tub, and they determined that the baby was not in an optimal position. They had me try many different positions to get her to turn, and they had me labor out of the tub for several hours. This was torture! All I wanted was to be back in the water.
Finally in the late afternoon, Lisa suggested that it was time to head to the hospital since I’d already been in labor for so long and was exhausted. I kept saying I was sure that if I did, I would have a cesarean section; and that I just wanted to give birth and go home and be with my other kids. I asked to just get back in the tub for awhile. During each contraction, I said after the next contraction I would get out and we could go to the hospital. I remember thinking that there would be no way I could handle a contraction out of the water. I couldn’t even fathom walking to the car! I just wanted to stay in the tub.
Finally, at around 11:00 p.m., I heard a “POP!” and realized my water had broken. Soon afterward, I felt it was time to push. I don’t know how long I pushed for, but I remember after several pushes just deciding that I was going to give the next push everything I had; and then I heard Leanna say, “Pull her up!” The baby was out, and I hadn’t even realized it! I laid back and pulled her to my chest. She was perfect! The first thing I said was, “She looks just like me!”
I couldn’t believe I had finally had a natural birth with the miracle baby I never thought we would have. I did it!
Willamena Faye Felice was born at 11:39 p.m., weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long. She was born on her big sister’s third birthday.
Her daddy cut her cord and then held her skin-to-skin while I got out of the tub. We stayed and rested and nursed for a few hours, then came home so the big kids could meet her. They absolutely love their baby sister.
We adopted our three oldest kids a few months later, on February 28th, 2014. We felt the day was perfect, because it was February 28th, 2013 that I had gotten that positive pregnancy test. Then again, on February 28th, 2015 our next surprise miracle baby was conceived; and he will be making his appearance in the next few weeks. Life has a funny way.
Willa’s birth changed me. It taught me just how strong I am. I always say, that if I can survive 23 hours of natural back labor, with a posterior baby with a nuchal hand, that I can do anything! Willa has furthered my passion for natural birth. Soon I will be starting classes to become a certified Childbirth Educator and Lactation Educator.
After being faced with the fact that we may never have children or a family, after that is what we desired most out of life, we look at our family as an extra special blessing. Every day we look at these four (almost five!) little faces and can’t believe they are ours!