Photo Credit: Nicole Jackson Photography- http://nicolejacksonphotography.com/
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.1 John 4: 16-18
One of the many verses that got me through the first nine days of my labor was this very one. I share this story of my first baby being born openly in hopes that at least one mama is given the opportunity to hear an experience like the one I was so blessed to have. This birth story is descriptive and raw, so if that sounds unsettling to you, I suggest you stop reading now. In transparency, I can’t help but include even the harder parts to share with you. I believe this was and is one of the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life…
The Start of Labor
On a Wednesday evening, my mother in law and her mother came to town. My mom came into town closer to 39 weeks and was staying with us in our apartment. I had been experiencing prodromal labor* for nine days leading up to this particular evening. I was 40 weeks and 3 days along at this point and they decided to make the 8-hour drive just in case things were going to pick up soon. It was close to 7:00pm when they arrived at our home and they left sometime around 8:00pm. That’s when things started…changing.
My contractions were all of a sudden making me stop what I was doing. I began feeling like we needed my doula, Gabrielle, there to help us. I don’t remember thinking, “Ok, this is it. Now we’re in labor.” I didn’t *know*. It wasn’t like they say, “Oh you’ll know when it’s actually labor.” No. Nope, not for me. Things just began getting really intense, really fast.
Gabrielle got to our apartment sometime after 9:00 pm and started helping my husband, Craig, support me laboring. My mom provided any extra hands that were needed. I became focused, loud, thirsty, and loud. Did I mention I was loud? I don’t mean that I was screaming, or anything like that. I just mean breathing with my vocal cords to help relax my body throughout each contraction isn’t exactly quiet, as far as I can recall.
Preparing for Childbirth
Craig and I had attended a comprehensive 12-week long childbirth class (in 6 weeks time, as soon as we found her). We took The Bradley Method series with Gabrielle to learn how to achieve what I knew I wanted for us all along, an unmedicated and intervention-free childbirth experience. As first time parents, we felt so lost before we found out about these classes and learned an immeasurable amount of valuable information. We would have walked our way into an induction that probably would have lead to a Cesarean if it weren’t for Gabrielle and the Bradley Method.
Almost Time to Head to the Hospital
So I was clearly in labor, for real this time. This definitely felt different than what I was experiencing the nine days prior. I labored mostly in bed at home and some on our toilet in our bathroom. Craig remained by my side, helping me through each and every contraction. He helped me to relax, and breathe through each and every one.
I got very tired at home and expressed that I didn’t want to keep “doing this.” With the encouragement of my loving doula, I kept going. Gabrielle knew our hopes were to get to the hospital when I was basically ready to push to avoid any unnecessary interventions. The time came to get in the car, that ride was NOT fun. I was feeling like I needed to push and that’s an interesting feeling in itself. However, having to do that for a 25-minute car ride, so not such a great time.
Arriving at the Hospital
We arrived at the hospital sometime around 2:00 am. Craig and I had a birth plan typed up and and printed and Gabrielle had copies with her as well. The hospital already had a copy on file as well (Gabrielle made sure we had a clear birth plan and that the hospital knew what that was). Part of our birth plan included the three of us staying together.
We walked into the admitting area for labor and delivery and I had to stop right then and there and squat to get through a couple of contractions. In the meantime, while the hospital argued with Gabrielle about me feeling like I needed to push, they were insisting that I only have one person come to the group triage with me. I felt strongly that I needed both Craig and Gabrielle. They allowed me to have them both, praise God.
My mom went ahead to get the rest of our things, then waited for us to go through group triage. We went through them monitoring the baby and my contractions with the belly bands for about 20 minutes. Baby was great. My cervix was checked for dilation, and we learned that I was only about 5-6cm dilated. No pushing for me, darn it. But, they admitted us, so to our room we went. I stood firm when offered an IV, a hep-lock and continuous monitoring, none of that for the sake of me continuing my hopes to experience the childbirth I had worked so hard towards!
Things Got Real, Real Fast
This is where things start getting pretty…hilarious, in some ways. We walked into our room and I swear to you it was like a FURNACE in there. It’s actually beneficial to have a warm room to birth in, it helps labor. However, turns out I’m not a fan of being hot. I began sweating instantly and it was all I could do to not shatter the big pretty window in this hospital room at 2:30 in the morning. They said they would turn down the temperature of the room, but I couldn’t hang. My mom said I was completely naked after 15 minutes of being in the room. She found that extremely hilarious because I am [was] one of the most modest people you would ever meet when it comes to my particular body parts that are primarily kept to myself and my husband. Well, the doctors, the nurses, my mom, Gabrielle, and Craig all experienced the rest of my labor with me naked.
Side Note: While this is funny, removing restrictions such as clothing during labor actually does help things along. It frees your body from constraints clothing might provide. This is also why having bands strapped to one’s belly for continuous fetal monitoring (NOT proven to improve outcomes based on the evidence, it can in fact INCREASE the risk of Cesarean during labor is very uncomfortable and the exact opposite of what your body needs during labor.
The Intensity Increases
Things became more intense from there. Many more contractions came my way. I began to feel like I could push, but wasn’t able to due to not being fully dilated yet. Feeling like I needed to have a bowel movement again (I had already done so at home), I asked Craig to help me through the contractions. Poor guy had to come with me to the bathroom for what felt like eternity to me. He was amazing though, he knew I needed him and nothing was going to make him not be there for me.
Sometime after, they monitored baby’s heart tones for roughly 10 minutes and he was still doing just fine. I was checked again and they said I was finally dilated to a 10, woah! However, there was a lip on my cervix that still needed to pull back and my water bag was still intact but bulging.
Almost Time to Push
I felt like we tried in every single labor position that exists. It could have gone bad if I had started pushing without first trying different positions to fix the lip on my cervix, so that’s what we tried. Gabrielle helped me get into what seemed like every different position in existence to help open the cervical lips out of the way to allow baby to come down and out!
I had to go to the bathroom again, so Craig came with me again. This time, though, when I beared-down, we heard a POP! My water bag broke, right on Craig’s leg. He sort of jumped back for a second, looked at his leg, and as far as I know he just kept on smiling and helping me through it all. I believe they checked me once more soon after that and found that my cervical lip was still there. The nurse said it was very soft so she was comfortable with me beginning to push.
Time to Push
FINALLY! Yay. Amazing. Baby should be here in 1-2 hours (roughly how long it takes for first time moms to push). So we started pushing. I thought I had done all the positions, but little did I know there were more. I felt like I did so many different positions. Squatting, squatting on the floor, squatting on the bed, side-lying, slightly reclined on my back, and who knows how else (Gabrielle definitely knows). It was around 6:30am when I started to push. And push, and push, and push…..and PUSH. I pushed all over the place, and with that pushing, came a lot more…sorry but, poop. If this is news to you, I’m sorry but you totally poop in labor. Good news is by then you seriously don’t care. That continued to happen numerous times over the course of the next couple of hours.
Hitting My Breaking Point(s)
I was beginning to get really, really tired. My blood sugar was not where it needed to be for me to have the energy to keep going, so I asked for something to eat to help with that. I believe they brought me jello, I may have had a bite of that and sucked down some orange juice. That definitely helped.
There were a few times my body gave me about 1 minute to rest and shut my eyes (and I fell in and out of sleep in some of those moments), but aside from that, I went on to push for the next 4 hours and 15 minutes. Thankfully it only seemed like I was at about 2 hours by that time. Baby’s head kept peeking out, but would come right back in after each contraction. Gabrielle was doing some perineal massaging with coconut oil and Frankincense in hopes that I wouldn’t tear.
At one point, I began to have a very hard time and became much more sleepy. Gabrielle stopped, looked at me, and said to me, “You need to find your inner strength, you don’t want to see what they have on this table over here to get this baby out with.” In that moment, I just prayed. I internally called out to God and pleading something along the lines of, “God, I need you. I need help to get through this.” Instantly, I found the strength to keep going.
Getting Help From the Midwife
The midwife that started her shift at 7:00am that morning came in and began preparing to help get baby out. She was unaware that I had already been pushing for as long as I had. (This particular hospital had a 2 hour maximum rule for pushing). Gabrielle did express to us later that she was becoming worried about how long I had been pushing. I’m sure they checked the baby’s heart tones again in the midst of this, though I don’t recall those specific memories. I felt very out-of-body.
Once the midwife came in I was laying slightly reclined on my back with one of my legs in Craig’s arms and the other in my mom’s arms. I believe Gabrielle was close-by my head talking me through everything (and secretly taking pictures throughout, I would find out later). Being very indecisive about wanting any photos of the birthing experience, I am grateful she decided to just do so anyways.
Learning New Things
The midwife helped me to use my lower abdominal muscles (and oh how I wish I had made them stronger during pregnancy) to push through a contraction. Once I had finished pushing through each contraction, she encouraged me to HOLD baby where he progressively moved to. That made hard work take a whole new turn. That was NOT easy. I didn’t have the muscles there that I probably should have had so I was really needing to work at this, but by some mere miracle I was able to do it anyways. We tried that for a while and his little head continued sticking out. They asked if I wanted to reach down and touch him, to which I said no. Finally, after being asked repeatedly I would give in and just touch his head. I just love the way Craig describes what happens next…
The Moment that Changed Everything
In Craig’s own words this is how he describes what happened at that moment, “As soon as you touched his head, you completely changed. You weren’t just a 21 year old girl living for herself anymore. In that moment you became a mom.” I absolutely adore that he experienced that change in me that I wasn’t even aware of happening at the time. I just know it gave me a new wind of strength to keep going.
From there, things seemed to go pretty quickly. The midwife guided me through all of the pushing. She quietly and calmly discovers that baby has a double-nuchal cord (cord wrapped twice around baby’s neck). In between pushes she carefully unwraps them. They believe the cords could be why I was pushing for so long. I personally think the cervical lip swelled due to being permitted to push before it was completely resolved. I pushed a lot more while he was coming out, for the head, for the shoulders, and for the rest of him. Then he was officially out and born!
In Love and Awe
I wanted him on my belly as soon as I saw him. I was so in awe of him. They had to do some suctioning with a bulb syringe because he had a lot of fluid in his nose and mouth while the midwife held him. Then they handed me our perfect baby boy. I was so in love.
I was making some new-for-me crying noises in affection of him while Craig and my mom were crying. (Turns out, my mom was crying the entire time I was in labor but she hid it from me so that I wouldn’t kick her out.) Everything that happened from there on was like a breeze. My placenta came right out soon after baby came out. I had a third-degree tear, so the midwife had to numb me and stitch me up from that. My life will never be the same. I allowed my body do exactly what it was created to do, which gave our baby the best start to his life that I could offer to him. I am beyond grateful to my husband, my mom, Gabrielle, and God.
Photo Credit: Gabrielle Menn
**Gabrielle Menn is a certified Doula and Bradley Method Instructor in the East-Bay Area of Northern California, if you would like her contact information, you can find that here. I must express all of the gratitude in the world for God bringing this woman into our lives, she is an absolute angel. I don’t know where we would be today without her.Thank you, also, Eco Chic. Had it not been for them, I would have never been connected to Gabrielle. We could not have done it without any of them and God’s amazing grace and will for our lives.