It is hard to sit down and write about the experience of giving birth to our first child. I have been going over the whole thing in my head so that details do not slip away. Giving birth to a new life, the first addition to our family, was the most intense experience of my life – I was both extremely present and somehow completely taken away by the current of it at the same time.
When we found out I was pregnant, Jamie and I started researching birth and labor and we both decided that having midwives and planning to birth at home was the route we wanted to take. We moved to Monterey when I was three months pregnant and soon after found Maggie and Caroline. Having them as our midwives was an incredible experience. We met up once a month and spent no less than an hour chatting about any questions we had and throughout the pregnancy we felt that not only did we have an incredible team behind us, but we also had two women that cared for us beyond the surface level of a patient/provider relationship. I felt so confident and well taken care of throughout my entire pregnancy.
A month prior to my due date people started asking if I thought the baby would come early. One of our midwives had a trip scheduled around my due date and to have both of them at the birth he would have had to be early or later than his due date. Jamie had a feeling he would arrive early (he came two weeks early) and I didn’t want to make any kind of guess because I didn’t want to jinx it or get my hopes up.
At thirty eight weeks I felt very pregnant, but not to the point where I was completely over it – I was enjoying each day and trying to take it easy and get as much done as possible. Although I didn’t have an overwhelming feeling he would actually come early, I did feel like I was ready (and so was my body) whenever the time was right.
Thirty eight weeks and two days roll around and I am deep cleaning like a crazy person. I had heard that nesting urges would pick up closer to the due date, but I still didn’t think much of it. That night Jamie and I ordered take out for an easy dinner after a day of organizing and cleaning. As I sat down on the couch to start eating I felt a gush of water and I looked up at Jamie and said “I think my water just broke!” That was at 7:30pm. We called our midwife to let her know and we were told to get back in touch when I started to get regular contractions. Jamie and I starting researching online and figured we might have 24 hours before labor would actually start. I started more cleaning around the house and put together a list of things I wanted Jamie to pick up from Whole Foods the next day.
About an hour later contractions started coming strongly and quickly. I was hoping to sleep through the night, but I quickly realized that wouldn’t be in the cards for us. I tried to rest as contractions started to come every five minutes and last for a minute, they kept coming quicker and got progressively stronger. I wasn’t able to stay in bed for too long and decided to take a shower – the hot water felt amazing. I labored for awhile in the bathroom and before I knew it contractions were just a minute apart and sometimes double peaking. It was 3:30 in the morning when Jamie asked me if I was ready to call Maggie, our midwife – I was definitely ready and could hardly talk or communicate anymore in between contractions.
I had planned on laboring and delivering Oliver in a birth pool, and at this point I could not wait to get into the water. However there was a small miscommunication between us and our midwife and we didn’t have a pump to set up the birth pool. Caroline was on her way and she would bring a pump, I would just have to wait it out until she arrived. Somehow through a daze I hardly remember, I got my yoga ball into the bathtub, turned on the shower and labored for several hours that way. I was definitely in active labor at this point and everything seemed so surreal, the feeling of labor was intense and my body definitely felt the contractions, but at the same time it seemed as if time and everything around me was just a blur. I remember looking out the window at this point and seeing the sun rise. The sky seemed to be burning into oranges, yellows and reds. It was beautiful. I remember thinking that the sky looked just like the tulips we had bought the day prior, even through the intensity of labor, everything in that moment seemed insanely beautiful. I made it a point to focus on the beauty of that moment while my body went through feelings I never knew were possible. By this time our second midwife Caroline had arrived with the pump and we began setting up the birth pool.
For the next few hours Caroline came in and out of the bathroom to help support me through tough contractions and give me coconut water (best thing EVERRRRR while in labor). I couldn’t wait to get into the birth pool. I had run out of hot water from the shower and was starting to get more uncomfortable, but just tried to relax through it. I knew relief from the pool would be coming soon. When the pool was finally ready, Maggie checked my cervix to see how far along we were (this was the first cervical check I had gotten) – I was 8cm dialted!
I got into the birth pool and the relief was instant. It felt so amazing. Maggie asked me if I was ready to push and I wasn’t sure, I didn’t know what the feeling would be like when I was ready. All of a sudden I felt a strange pulsing through my body, I thought I was going to throw up. The only way to describe how my contractions changed as I went through transition is to tell you that it feels like a dry heave but your whole body starts pushing down. It’s involuntary and completely consuming. I pushed down through each contraction. We hadn’t planned on Jamie getting into the birth pool, but at this point the midwives suggested he get in so I could lean on him and that he would have an easier time catching our baby. When contractions came I squeezed him, all the tension from my body came out into my arms.
My midwives told me to feel my baby, I could feel that he had moved down, I could feel my body stretching. It was definitely the most intense part of the labor. Your body just starts taking over. Once I figured out how to work with my body, it became much easier. I stayed on top of the contractions and succumbed to the pressure my body was creating and worked with it instead of analyzing and fighting against it. Everyone was there supporting me, our two midwives, their apprentice and Jamie. I felt safe. There was no screaming, no one yelling at me to PUSH!!! After twelve hours of labor our son was almost here. My body was built to do this and I had let nature be in control of the whole process without confusing it with medicine and other interventions. When Oliver was born, Jamie was in the pool with me to catch him and I remember him and the midwives putting him in my arms and seeing his amazing face. I just remember crying. Oliver’s birth was such a natural amazing experience, and I am so happy with our choice of having a home birth.
There are all different ways to birth our babies, and by no means do I think one way is better than another. Each woman has to decide what is right for her and her baby – there is no wrong way to do it. I do believe that there are amazing advantages to having a home (or natural) birth and I would be happy to talk to anyone that might be interested about our experience.
For now, we are enjoying each (sleep deprived) second with our little love. And thoroughly enjoying this new adventure as a family.