The birth of my first child Adelyn Perry was one of the greatest life changing, and empowering experiences that I have been a part of. It has put me in a place of awe and trust in the way God has beautifully designed a woman’s body. Probably like most new moms I was fairly naive about what labor and birth really meant before I actually experienced it, but I read a lot of books on natural childbirth and purposely searched unassisted births and breech births online (which is how I came across the Birth Without Fear blog).
Reading stories of the unassisted births particularly encouraged me that if women can give birth without assistance I could give birth with the caring help of a midwife! I’m am so thankful that my husband, Elijah, was on board with doing a birth center birth. Honestly it was kind of by default that we ended up at the birth center. At the time many of our friends were hiring the midwife, Tiffany, and using her birth center facilities with great results, so she was the first (and only) care provider we looked into. We immediately felt comfortable with her, and LOVED the fact we would not have to deliver in a hospital (Elijah greatly dislikes hospitals).
During the pregnancy we chose very little testing, and even declined an ultrasound, therefore we did not know the gender of our baby. Most of the pregnancy I thought we were having a boy, but as it got closer to meeting baby we simply could not decide on a boy name, yet we both had fallen in love with the name Adelyn. It was from that point on (about two months before the due date) that I felt we were probably having a girl, all because of the name. The entire pregnancy was very easy, with little to no morning sickness and very few complaints. I kept exercising the whole way through and felt great.
My due date was December 23rd, 2012. Leading up to the date and after I did not feel in the least that I was about to go into labor. I was nine days overdue (January 1st) and my family, who had been in town for the last two weeks were going to be leaving in a few days.
That day my midwife, Tiffany, called to see how I was doing and suggested if I wanted I could get a membrane sweep the following morning, to see if it would move things along. Both Elijah and I really wanted me to go into labor with NO interventions. After getting off the phone with Tiffany I remember sitting there and praying to God. I told Him that I was ready to have this baby, I didn’t want to hold back anymore (up till that point I had been fine with being overdue) and I really wanted to have the baby before my family had to leave town.
Around 3pm that afternoon two of my very best childhood friends who had driven all the way from Oregon to California came to visit me. One of them had said it would be neat to both see me pregnant and then meet the baby during the few days they would be in town. They got what they wanted! We all went on a hike up a mountain by my house, and of course my non pregnant athletic friends set a fast pace. I didn’t complain however, I wanted the exercise. It was funny though how unaware they were with my very pregnant state and that I usually would not walk that fast! During the hike I started getting painless contractions, but thought maybe they were Braxton Hicks, something I had rarely experienced before but heard many other pregnant women complain of. After the hike I said good bye to my friends and was pleasantly surprised to find that the tightening sensations did not go away. I was getting several painless contractions every hour.
Elijah came home from work, and I showed him how my body was contracting. By 7pm the contractions got slightly uncomfortable, it felt like I was stretching way down low in my abdomen. Slowly they got more intense, longer, and more frequent, but they were never unbearable. I was preparing myself for a potentially long labor and really did not want to drive a whole 45 minutes to the birth center only to be sent home if I wasn’t far enough along. I was going to stick it out as long as possible at home. Birth stories I read encouraged doing what you would normally do if you weren’t in labor, so as to conserve energy. For example if you usually eat or sleep at a certain time of day, do the same if you’re in labor (if you obviously are capable of doing it). I thought of a story I read of a woman who had a really long labor, and looking back had wished she had slept. I did not want that to happen to me and was determined to learn from even the harder more unfortunate stories I read.
It was 9pm by then and I was getting bloody show and starting to lose my mucus plug. I thought I should pack my birth bag, notify my midwife of my labor suspicions, and then try to get some sleep. When I called her to let her know about the loss of mucus plug and the tightening sensations, she told me I could be in the start of labor or it could be a while that things actually got going. I was having contractions about every 7 minutes by then but did not have to focus on them to get through it.
After the phone call I went upstairs to our loft bedroom (while Elijah cleaned the house… he likes to keep moving and doing things). I rested/slept between contractions, took several trips downstairs to the bathroom, and ate a piece of toast for energy. Eventually Elijah came to bed and the sensations got stronger and closer together. I felt the most comfortable during a contraction to get up on my knees in bed and sway in the darkness breathing deeply. Elijah’s presence next to me in bed and occasional comforting hand on me was strengthening. We were unsure of when to go to the birth center and even though the contractions took a lot of my focus, they still never felt out of control. It wasn’t the easiest thing to time the distance and length of contractions.
It was around 1am when I thought they were coming about every 4 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds long. We decided to call Tiffany to check in and see what she thought. When I had Elijah call Tiffany to let her know I was in labor he was relaying some of the timing of the contractions wrong, so I corrected him, and Tiffany could hear me talking in the background. I think because of my ability to communicate well, and lack of obvious pain, she did not think I was very far along. She said to call her back when the contractions were lasting longer like around 1 minute long and have been that way every 4 minutes for over an hour. After that I stopped timing contractions, I didn’t feel like spending all my focus and energy on the clock and timer on my phone, plus I believed what Tiffany said: that I might have a long way to go…
It was somewhere around 3am when I distinctly remember the contractions starting to come at a much faster and actually overwhelming pace. Elijah was finally asleep and I was having a harder time managing. I decided to go down stairs and take a really hot shower. I turned the water on and while letting it get hot, sat on the toilet. For the first time I was really not enjoying this. I cried out to Jesus saying I can’t do this anymore please help. Looking back I realize now that I was going through transition, and it was just me and God. I jumped in the shower, finding temporary relief with the hot water. Every contraction brought me to my knees and they were coming quickly. I wanted Elijah, but I was so consumed with the contractions I couldn’t call out to him. All I could do was loudly moan hoping he would wake up. He did wake up, thankfully, coming into the bathroom. At that point I definitely wanted to be at the birth center having my midwife help me. I asked Elijah for us to go to the birth center and he wanted to time the contractions first and call Tiffany to see what she said. I didn’t have the energy right then to talk about it. He timed between two contractions and they were a minute apart; He immediately called Tiffany. While Elijah was talking to Tiffany I was loudly moaning in the background (surely she would think I was in real labor, because of all the noise!).
Then I got the urge to push. It was scary but so instinctive; I did not want to be pushing though, I wanted to have my midwife with me! I told Elijah I felt like I was pushing. I decided to reach up inside to see if I could feel the baby’s head, but I really did not want to feel the baby’s head. I nervously reached up there a little tiny bit and was amazed at how open I was! Thankfully I did not feel a head. Tiffany told Elijah we needed to immediately drive down to the birth center; I didn’t think we could make it with such a strong urge to push. He briefly hashed out on the phone the option of having her drive to our house, but Tiffany had no idea where we lived, and we were very far out in the dark country down a winding dirt road. Without my knowledge Tiffany told Elijah we had a much better chance of getting to her faster than her getting to us, and also that it usually takes an average of 1 ½ hours to push out a first time baby, which was within our driving time.
The craziness continued. Looking back I am so thankful for an amazing husband who managed to get everything together to get me to the birth center. He grabbed all the things on my list to bring to the center, plus a bunch of towels in case we had the baby in the car. The worst part about transferring was having to get out of the shower soaking wet and then put cloths back on. I briefly wondered if I could go naked, then decided that if we got pulled over for speeding I would prefer to have cloths on. I managed to dry off and get my pajamas back on. I crawled into the car and buried my head in a pillow, informing Elijah not to tell me how close or far we had to drive, I didn’t want to know. I had three contractions on the first mile of bumpy dirt road and it was awful. I started praying out loud that the contractions would stop until we could get to the center. After praying I only had contractions every 10 minutes for the rest of the 45 min drive.
When we arrived at the birth center, the dark parking lot and surrounding office buildings were lit up with only a street light. Tiffany and my mom (who Elijah thankfully called while I was getting my cloths back on at the house) walked out of the birth center, to help me in. I made it to the room when I had another contraction bringing me to my knees. After the contraction Tiffany asked if she could check me. When she did she said the baby’s head was right there. I was fully dilated and baby was already in the birth canal. My body kicked back into gear with pushing the baby out. I tried several pushing positions preferring being upright and on my knees on the soft bed. Pushing contractions felt much different than the dilating contractions. They did not take lots of focus and energy, but rather felt very natural; my body seemed to know what to do. Eventually Tiffany suggested I lay down because the baby’s heart rate responded the best in that position and it was beginning to drop low. Having been awake off and on all night I was very sleepy at this point, and was surprised I was actually able to dose off between pushing. While pushing Tiffany broke the waters and there was some meconium in it. Even with these potential concerns Tiffany had a very calm reassuring presence that encouraged me so much. I asked her if the pushing was doing anything, and if she could see the baby coming. She said yes, reach down and feel. I reached down and was amazed to feel a bulge of head right there. It gave me so much strength to know I was very close to being done, and with that I worked harder. Baby’s head began to crown and I felt the burning ring a fire. Tiffany supported, oiled, and put warm compresses on my perineum. I felt like I was tearing everywhere, the first true sense of pain during the labor. Wanting to cross the finish line I gave a loud roar. Her head came out with an immediate sense of relief, and then her body slid out without any more pushes. Tiffany held her up and I saw a purple screaming baby, and she put her on my chest. Elijah and I were both so dazed we did not think to check the gender. Tiffany finally asked Elijah what the baby was. He looked and announced that it was a girl.
Our Adelyn Perry was born at 5:42am, January 2nd 2013, about an hour and a half after we arrived at the birth center. She weighed 7 pounds 3 ounces and was 19 ½ inches long. When I pushed her out, her head and her hand came out at the same time. Surprisingly and thankfully I did not tear at all!! Elijah cut the cord, and the placenta was delivered easily. Adelyn pooped all over my stomach right after she was born, but I could care less. Eventually we put a diaper on her because she pooped all over the blanket again after cleaning up the first mess. The meconium that was found in the water did not cause any problems for Adelyn’s breathing. Elijah and my mom got to hold and look at her, and my mother in law drove down to meet Adelyn, while Tiffany helped clean me up and get me comfortable. I rehydrated and ate some food, feeling amazed that I just gave birth and that it was all over and our baby girl was with us. Only about two hours after having Adelyn, while the world was waking up on that fresh sunny winter morning, we loaded up in the car and headed home. At home I was greeted by my warm bed where my baby and I snuggled up for a much needed nap, and various family members came over to meet Adelyn and bring us dinner. It was then I decided that next time we had a baby we would be doing it at home; we were barely at the birth center!
I loved almost every aspect of the birth of Adelyn and fondly thought about it over and over again in the many months to come. The hardest parts about recovery was a very sore tailbone from pushing her out while lying on my back and the challenges of breastfeeding and getting use to a newborn. I eventually healed from my bruised tailbone, so thankful that it wasn’t a fracture. As for learning to breastfeed, I was surrounded by other moms who were successfully nursing their babies and encouraged me to push through the first hard three months. Things got easier and smoother knowing how to feed my baby, and we ultimately found a rhythm to our new life. For me having an enjoyable birth experience was an empowering stepping stone into entering the unknown world of motherhood, and I wouldn’t trade the experience!
Story and photograph submitted by Janelle.