Preparing for Carson’s pregnancy and birth was hands down the most transformative experience of my life. I spent a few years detoxing and preparing my body to conceive after already spending 3 years utilizing different fertility treatments. Once I felt like my body was ready, we easily got pregnant with Carson without the use of any medications or fertility treatments. This also allowed me to have a wonderful pregnancy where I felt the best I have ever felt. Yes, I did have some nausea and food aversions early on, but other than that I felt incredible for the next 41ish weeks!
Once we got our positive test, we immediately started assembling our birth team. I always knew I wanted a homebirth and that I would do it with Carrie LaChapelle Craft from Hatched. I called her up and got set up with an appointment to meet her and her team to see if we were a good fit! Spoiler alert: We were totally a good fit and I cannot imagine giving birth with anyone else! The care that you receive through a midwife during your pregnancy is unlike any other. During each visit we would sit together in her cozy office and talk for 45 minutes about any of my questions, concerns, or parenting needs. We got to know each other well and that is a huge necessity when sharing your most vulnerable moment with someone. She took care of my labs and helped me with my nutrition and supplementation when different things would come up. I felt so loved and cared for. Who can say that with their OB?!?! During my time with Carrie, I also created such a bond with her apprentice, Jen Conway. I knew I needed her at my birth so I chose her as my birth photographer as well. Our energy just matched and she brought so much comfort to me on this journey.
Next up was my doula! I knew I needed to take a birthing class to prepare my mind, body, and soul for this experience, so we decided to do Julie Byers’s Hypnobabies class. I also always knew I wanted her as my doula so luckily we were a great fit! I remember when I first met Julie to discuss utilizing her services, she told me that she was not one to necessarily comfort me and hold my hand during birth (that was Megan’s job!), but that she was more like a coach or a trainer. She proved that to be true during my birth! More on that later 😉
The Saturday before I gave birth (5 days prior), Megan and I took our older daughter, Peyton, to the pool which is where I noticed I was feeling cramps in constant intervals. I decided I should probably start timing these and see if they were Braxton Hicks or what. They continued to progress throughout the day but were mild and pretty far apart. I figured if this was going to be the start of labor, I should be sure to get plenty of rest while I could and follow the directions of my very wise doula. After falling asleep, I was woken up by more intense pressure waves (what we call contractions in hypnobirthing) that were consistently 9 minutes apart. I did everything I could to rest in between because I knew that many first-time moms could labor for quite a while and end up transferring to the hospital simply from exhaustion. I wasn’t going to let this happen! The pressure waves became intense enough that I did wake Megan to let her know what was going on but told her to go back to sleep and rest while I relaxed in a hot bath. I was convinced that this was it, so I called my mom early that morning to let her know she needed to come get Peyton! Megan packed Peyton’s things and my mom came and picked her up. It seemed as soon as she left, everything for me stopped. No more pressure waves. I was a little annoyed but also relieved because I was so tired. I slept that entire day anxiously waiting for everything to pick back up again. By the following day, nothing had happened, and I felt totally fine. Megan and I decided we didn’t want to be away from Peyton that long, not knowing how long this break could last, so we decided to go pick Peyton up from my mom’s and spent the day out on the lake with my family.
As the days continued, nothing else happened and I felt back to normal. Megan and I decided we were going to walk this baby out. We spent hours walking around downtown Greenville one day, and another day walking around our neighborhood until I was actually in pain from so much movement! That Wednesday, June 23rd, we had a checkup with my midwife. I was 41 + 2 days and a cervical check showed I was 80% effaced and only 1cm dilated. I knew that if this baby didn’t come this week, I could very well end up delivering in a hospital which was never something I wanted to do. For many, a home birth seems so scary, but for me it was the exact opposite. I knew all the interventions that came once stepping into a hospital and that is not how I personally wanted to bring my baby into this world. Plus, last time I was in a hospital I basically had a panic attack during an IV and tried to get Megan to help me escape before going into surgery. Anyways, my midwife started discussing different natural inducing methods we could try to get this baby to come on her own. One was drinking castor oil which has a potential to make you sick to your stomach, so if you know me you know this was a giant fear. I HATE throwing up. The emetophobia is real, y’all! Before trying any of the midwife tricks, she wanted me to go to the hospital and have an NST (non-stress test) done to make sure all was good with the baby since I was past my due date. They had me scheduled for the following day.
That afternoon and went and saw my wonderful acupuncturist Ashley over at Key Acupuncture. I told her I needed her to pull out ALL of the stops to help get labor started. After she stuck in all her needles, I remember having a mild pressure wave on the table and thinking how awesome it would be if this actually made me go into labor. After she was done, she sent me home with a ton of pressure points for Megan to do constantly to help induce labor naturally. I then stepped over next door to my office, got adjusted to make sure my pelvis was aligned, and headed home.
After we put Peyton to bed, Megan started doing all the pressure point stuff on me. When she did one on my right shoulder, it caused a pressure wave every time! We both thought that was pretty awesome, so she did it a few more times and then pressure waves continued on their own. We knew we needed to get some rest, but I didn’t have my hopes up for anything to happen as it had all stopped before. At 11 pm, I noticed things were intensifying and did all I could to rest. Around 1 am I needed to get in the bath to ease the pain, so I woke Megan up to let her know what was happening. She drew a bath for me and started helping me time the pressure waves. Megan figured we were in for a long night, so she set up a fan right next to the bath, made herself a pillow pallet on the floor so she could lay next to me, and turned on our birthing playlist. I had tried listening to some of my hypnobirthing stuff that I utilized every single night during my pregnancy, but it was not the vibe I wanted in this moment. The music was perfect! I relaxed in the bath with Megan next to me helping me get through each and every pressure wave. Megan made sure I stayed cool with cold rags and fresh water at all times. She was so in tune with me and so amazing. It was peaceful and so beautiful. This was HONESTLY my favorite moment of labor. Just the two of us working quietly together through the night while being serenaded by the beautiful music I had handpicked for this moment.
After getting some relief, I got back into the bed to try and get as much rest as possible. However, anytime I laid on my side, things intensified, and I could not get comfortable. By 3am the intensity was so strong that I got back into the bath hoping for some relief. After noticing that my waves were 2 mins apart and about 40 seconds long, I had Megan contact our doula, Julie. Megan described to her what was going on and she said it sounded like early labor and to pour a glass of wine to relax and try and get some rest. Megan told her I could not get comfortable lying down, so Julie suggested creating a pillow throne in the bed with a heating pad so that I could sit up. Man, Megan made one BOMB pillow throne because I was finally able to sit back between pressure waves and actually rest – even if it was just for a minute or so. This continued through the night with me also going in and out of the hot bath to find more relief. Things continued to get more intense and I was having a really hard time getting through the pressure waves alone. I started trying to activate every other sense in my body to take away from the pressure (it was pain…not even going to lie!) I was feeling. I started smelling peppermint oil like my life depended on it, squeezing Megan’s hands with all my power, and counting slowly to 13 which got me to the peak of every wave – at least in my brain. I remember during our birthing classes that our doula talked about how birthing moms will start a ritual without even realizing it. I believe this was mine and it continued for hours that only felt like minutes. When you are in labor, time seems to stand still between each pressure wave as hours somehow pass you by. It’s really bizarre, honestly.
Around 6am, Peyton woke up and busted up in our room like she normally does. By this point I was very vocal with my pressure waves and could not calm it down. This seemed to scare her a bit so she ran back into her room asking what was wrong. We had prepared her with tons of birthing videos (she was obsessed with them) and communicating with her what would happen. Megan quickly got her ready and rushed her off to school which is about 3 mins away from us.
Once Megan returned, she contacted Julie again and told her she should probably start to head our way. I remember mentally feeling relieved knowing that Julie was on her way because I think I thought everything would be easier if someone else was there. I also think we assume that Julie has some magical powers that make everything feel wonderful until the baby comes out! Julie arrived at 9:15am and I quickly begged her to make the pain stop and told her I was totally okay with going to the hospital and to give me all the drugs. I was halfway joking, but also would have accepted an intervention in this moment had it been possible. Her calm presence was so reassuring, and I know Megan was for sure happy that she was there to help. She watched me through a few waves and coached me on pushing the pressure down and away from my face. She hooked me up to her TENS unit that I also thought was magically going to make the pain go away. It didn’t do a damn thing for me other than add another annoying sensation to my back LOL. During a pressure wave, she did a hip squeeze that made everything worse! She then had me do some hip dips which sent me straight to my knees. Finally, she stood me against the wall and had me try a belly lift which also sent me to my knees.
Remember when I told you that while interviewing Julie she told me she would act more as a personal trainer and not coddle me through labor? This was the moment she proved her point. She told me I could either try her doula tricks to make something change, or get back in bed and deal with it like I had been. I looked at her and jokingly said “is that all you have for me? Then you can go now!” I did crawl back into my pillow throne because that was the only comfort I knew but I could no longer find relief between pressure waves. At this point I truly did not know if I could get through this – It was much tougher than I thought. I remember looking at Megan and crying to her that I could not do this and hearing Julie say “You can do this Chelsea. You’ve got a team of people cheering you on.” We’ve never talked about this, but Julie’s words stuck with me in my brain and kept me going. When you are in labor, there is not a whole lot that makes sense around you. Your brain is fuzzy and things don’t make logical sense. Having someone who knows you and knows your desires and strengths and can encourage you in this moment is crucial!
I remember walking around my room, bathroom, even in my closet moaning through the waves and suddenly realizing Julie was getting the birthing tub ready. She looked at me and said that I was further than we thought and would be bearing down soon. I got back in my bath while she set up the birthing tub and then my body started pushing. I fought against the first one and felt like I was just “trying it out.” It was the CRAZIEST feeling! I then told Megan and Julie to both leave because I knew I was going to throw up and didn’t want anyone around for that. They scurried out and left me with my puke bag where I conquered my biggest fear in labor – throwing up! Haha! If you know me at all, this is a huge deal! After that, I felt SO MUCH BETTER and had all this energy to start pushing. The pain subsided and I felt like I was in control. My midwife, Carrie, had arrived at this point and told me that I was doing a great job. They got me out of my tub and helped me walk over to get into the birthing tub. This felt amazing. The water was perfect and I was in such a comfortable position to really push while being able to rest on the side between each push.
After bearing down for an intense push, I looked up and saw my photographer, Jen, with her salon cape on and hair wrapped up in foils. Unbeknownst to me, Jen was having her hair colored that morning and everyone thought they had plenty of time to get to me since I was a first time mom. Joke was on her 😉 I looked up and smiled “Hey look at Jen!” And we all had a good laugh before I got back to pushing.
I remember my midwife saying that once the baby was out, all the pain would stop. In my brain I thought, say no more….challenge accepted! I was determined to get this baby out ASAP! Everything from this point forward felt very primal. I was very vocal and felt so much power going through my body while my brain was in sort of a focused haze. I was very inside myself and didn’t know much of what was going on around me. I remember feeling the ring of fire as the baby started to crown. Carrie told me that in the next push I would feel the baby’s head come out and it would stay there, I would pause, and then push the rest of her body out with the next contraction. Something about her head being underwater between my legs did not sit well with me so I powerfully pushed all of her out with the next push ( I would not recommend this unless you WANT to tear…which I did.) I then felt Carson come out and I reached down and scooped her up into my arms.
I looked at Megan and could not believe I had actually done it! We started crying tears of joy and relief and just took a moment to excitedly stare at our baby. Everything we had been through leading up to this moment just came rushing over me and the emotions just overflowed. She was here. My perfect baby girl that we had spent years praying for. It was a moment I am so glad I finally got to experience and one I will never forget.
My birth team let us have our moment here, and then told me I needed to get out and get in bed to birth the placenta and get cleaned up. After everything was done, Julie, Carrie, and Jen were like little quiet fairies cleaning everything up while Megan and I laid in our bed smitten with our daughter, Carson. Carrie helped show me how to latch her to breastfeed for the first time and we waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing. Megan was then able to cut it and finally hold her daughter for the first time while the ladies cleaned me up and checked me out.
Julie reached out to everyone she could to find someone to come to my house and stitch up my tears so I didn’t have to leave my home. I am so grateful for Janelle (The Peri Fairy, apparently!) from Paris Mountain Midwifery for coming and taking such great care of me! This was such a vulnerable moment, but I felt so loved and cared for by my entire team. Julie and Jen supported my legs while Carrie gentle stroked my arm and held my hand.
Julie then made me some lunch, Jen brewed some herbs for my peri bottle and Carrie helped Megan wash the vernix from Carson’s hair and did all the necessary exams on us both. I remember looking around in this moment and seeing everyone working in some way to support us while Megan held our daughter. It was pure bliss. This is where the perks of having a homebirth really shine. No loud beeps and crazy machines, no nurses rushing in and out, no one taking my baby. I held my baby skin to skin while a group of loving women cared for us in our beautiful, calm cocoon.
We finished with a champagne toast, sat around in our room for a bit admiring our baby and what just happened. I loved every second of it.
Then it was time for everyone to leave and let Megan and I spend the rest of our day and night alone together with our new baby. We stared at her in awe, knowing we should rest, but soaked up every moment of this perfect human we created and birthed together. It was the best experience of our lives and we could not have done it without our village around us. I am eternally grateful to my birth team and to have finally experienced the transformative power of birth. June 24th 2021
Carson Elizabeth Rainey was born at 10:52 am after under 12 hours of labor with 40 minutes of pushing. She was 7lbs 11oz, 21 inches long.