“This is the story of the birth of my third child. It was my first time to try a natural delivery and it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had a wonderful natural hospital birth with a supportive OB, a fantastic nurse that enjoys working with moms going natural, a doula, and a birth photographer, and my husband.” – Alicia
After days of off and on prodromal labor, two trips to L&D for false labor, and lots of tears, I finally turned over this birth to God. I let go of trying to keep things going and just accept that labor would begin when the time was right. I spent January 8 with that mindset and relaxed mostly, caught up on some grocery shopping, and cooked a big meal of all the things I’d been craving.
On the morning of January 9, at 5 a.m. I turned over on to my side to try and roll out of bed for a bathroom trip. I felt and heard a pop in the silence of the early morning. I immediately knew what it was and although it was not how I had wanted my labor to begin, it was how my baby chose to get things started. I was filled with excitement and anticipation as this was my first natural birth and I had been preparing diligently for it for 16 months. Contractions began immediately – mild, but coming every 2-4 minutes right off the bat. I decided to shower, finish packing, and get the kids up. I placed a call to my mom to come watch the kids and my doula to let her know what was going on.
We headed to the hospital around 7:30 a.m. and I notified my birth photographer also of what was going on, but that we likely had a long wait ahead of us. We got checked into triage and the nurse was wonderful. She checked my cervix to find I was at 3 cms dilated, still thick and posterior, but very soft. She also verified that it was amniotic fluid and we went over my birth plan briefly. She monitored my contractions, which nearly all but stopped while I was laying down on the stretcher, and also the baby’s heartbeat. Everything looked great and we were admitted to our room. She was kind enough to put us in one of the suites with lots of room even though I wouldn’t be allowed to labor in the Jacuzzi tub considering my membranes had ruptured. We quickly got settled, I received my IV antibiotic for GBS, and had some more monitoring done. My OB dropped in to check on us at that point and remind us that he was leaving to go out of town at noon so he let us know who would be covering for him. I was sad that he wouldn’t be at the birth, but knew that the OB that was covering was great too, and also supportive of natural births.
At that point I was essentially cut loose to labor how I wanted. I knew that I needed to walk and get things moving again. So we began to walk the halls. Contractions started out very manageable and I could easily walk and talk through them. My husband and I spent some time alone at this point walking. We made our way back to the room for my nurse to put me back on the monitors for a bit to check on baby. I was allowed to do this while on the birth ball, which was nice and kept the contractions moving. We all sat around laughing and talking during this time – me, Micah, my doula, and our birth photographer. I started to notice the contractions begin to get a little more difficult to talk through. Everyone took turns going to get lunch and it was really nice to be able to eat my own food and drink my own drinks during labor. There were no IV fluids and being told that I couldn’t have anything to eat. I knew I’d have to eat to keep my strength up and surprisingly I had a big appetite. When the monitoring was done, I decided that it was time to get up and get moving again. I knew that it would help me progress. So we started walking the halls again. Things quickly began to intensify. I could not walk at all or talk through contractions. I felt the need to squat deeply with them and let my belly hang. It was the only way I could relax through them. It was natural to try and fight them and I constantly had to remind myself to breathe and relax – to let them happen. Before I knew it my doula was at our side and she had to help talk me through them. I began to feel really sleepy and wanted to head back to the room to rest.
As we walked back into our room I decided that I no longer wanted in the bed. I knew that I needed to be up while I could. So I opted to use the birth ball again. This time we spread out a huge blanket on the floor, I got on all fours, and rocked back and forth through contractions on the birth ball. I spent this time just working through contractions as they came and I remember distinctly it was during this time where I began to moan through them and really had to concentrate on breathing. My husband was on one side of me and my doula on the other for every single one. They were coaching me through and holding my hands as I needed. My nurse appeared here and there to briefly check the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler, but otherwise left us alone to labor how we wanted. I had requested no cervical exams unless I asked for one at some point due to the fact that I was GBS positive and my membranes had ruptured. I didn’t want to introduce any bacteria unnecessarily. I wondered where I was on the scale of cervical dilation, but also knew that the numbers don’t mean much as they can change fast or slow. My doula assured me that I was progressing through the normal stages of labor and my cervix was definitely changing.
Around 2 p.m. (this is the only actual “time” that I remember), the covering OB, came in to see me. He told me that he’d like to check my cervix, but didn’t have to. I was so impressed with how laid back he was and how he let me call the shots. I was on my hands and knees and he offered to do my cervical exam that way if I was more comfortable so I didn’t have to get up and into the bed. I decided I’d be more comfortable in the bed anyway so he checked my cervix and found I was 7-8 cms, very stretchy, and there was a second bag of waters that was still intact, which he offered to break for me. I decided against having him break it, thinking that it would make the contractions much more intense and I’d like to see how it progressed without that intervention. After he left I made one of many trips to the bathroom and like all the others, every time I sat on the toilet, my contractions intensified immensely. I remember sitting there and telling my doula that I felt like I needed to push. So they got me back to the bed quickly. My nurse was hanging around so she checked my cervix and I was still just 8 cms, so not ready to push yet.
At this point my doula suggested we get the squat bar out on the bed and I could sit up and then squat with contractions to try and bring baby down. It sounded really good at the time so my nurse fetched the squat bar and they broke the bed down. It was a really neat setup and felt good for a while. This was when the most intense part of my labor hit. I could literally feel my pelvis opening and with contractions I could feel burning as everything spread to make way for my baby. I squeezed that bar so tight with every single contraction, my husband to my left, and my doula, to my right. I had to have both of them for every single contraction. I’ve learned that I’m not one of those people who could do it on my own. I needed a lot of verbal coaching and need hands to hold.
During this time they kept telling me since my cervix was so stretchy that if it felt good to put a little pressure behind the contractions that I could. So I tried it a few times and it did feel good. I was scared of pushing too prematurely and risking my cervix swelling so I tried really hard to listen to my body and push a little if I needed or hold back if it didn’t feel right. It was during this time that I definitely entered the self doubt period. My support team was so calm and reminding me that I was doing it and that I was almost done. Although I was so angry at them because I had been stuck here since 2 p.m. and I thought that at 7-8 cms with a third baby that I really was almost done, but I kept looking at the stupid clock on the wall in front of me and noticed time going by but nothing happening. I finally told them I had to lie down.
I lay down in the bed for a while and drifted off to sleep between contractions. Real sleep – I was dreaming. Then another contraction would hit and I would want to just die. I squeezed hands on either side of me through every one and spoke more nonsense of self doubt. Then when it was over I would drift back off to sleep. I did this for what felt like forever and my nurse checked yet again per my request to find that I was still 8 cms, but the baby had come down and that bag of water was now bulging though my cervix. This was officially my breaking point. The hardest part was knowing I was still only 8 cms two hours later and who knew how much longer this would go on. I knew that if I could get up and squat again that this baby would come much quicker, but I physically could not get up. My support team tried to lift me up several times but it felt like my body was ripping in half when they did that. I begged them to get the OB to come back and break that stubborn bag of water so that the head could come down. I was scared at the thought of how painful it might become, but knew it would end.
Dr. G arrived quickly to check my cervix. I was now 9 cms and he broke that second membrane. It gushed tons of fluid and he assured me it wouldn’t be long. He was about to walk out the door and said he’d be right outside when I stopped him and said I wanted to push. He told me to go ahead. I had always expected to feel this natural urge to push and that my body would just take over and do it, but it wasn’t like that. I felt the pressure and tried to push a little with it and it felt so good. Once I reached a certain threshold my body took over at that point and started to involuntarily push baby down and I remember grunting uncontrollably.
Suddenly I felt the burning that I assumed was the stretching for the head I’d always heard described as the “ring of fire.” It burned, but it felt so good to just push right through it. I asked if they could see anything and they said the head was right there. One push more and the head was all the way out. I heard Dr. G say that this was going to be a big baby. I wanted to have a controlled pushing stage so that I may not tear bad or at all, but at this point, there was no control. I just pushed with all I had a couple more times and the baby was all the way out.
I had done it! I had managed to make it through. I leaned up and saw that it was a baby girl just as I had always had a feeling about. Our sweet Emmy Clare. She may be our third child, but she is certainly the first to teach me that I can do anything. I swear it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I am so proud to say that I was able to with the loving support of a couple others. I think we were all shocked when they put her on the scale to see that she weighed 8 lbs 5 ounces! By far my biggest baby.
I have to say that the hospital staff was wonderful including every nurse I encountered throughout my stay and Dr. G that delivered me. They respected every aspect of my birth plan from laboring and delivering to even postpartum baby care. I am so thankful for such a great hospital birth and know now that we made the absolute best choice for us.
Birth Photography is by HF Photography.