The following quote was recently shared with me, and I have found it especially meaningful and empowering.
“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers — strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” – Barbara Katz Rothman
I climbed in bed on Saturday night, hoping for a few hours of rest. Just a few days shy of 40 weeks, I was very ready to have this baby. While I wouldn’t describe my pregnancy as difficult, it certainly wasn’t easy. The nausea was ever-present up until the last month, and intense food aversion made it hard to stay nourished. But I was very blessed to have no complications, and was classified as low-risk, for which I was very grateful.
There was little sleep to be had that night, and after a couple fitful hours I got up and paced around the house, looking for ways to distract myself. I texted my best friend / midwife-on-call, Janelle, (a labor and delivery nurse who was finishing her nurse midwifery degree and was serving as my doula for the birth) and whined about how miserable I felt, and said that I had better be in early labor because surely I couldn’t survive being this uncomfortable much longer. In addition to the random pressure waves, I had an intense backache, cramping, and the feeling that my pelvis had been run over by a truck. I tried to keep busy that day, finishing up some small projects around the house.
Sunday night. Another night chasing sleep with little success. I was roused around 6am Monday morning with strong waves. These felt far more intense than what I had experienced before, and soon I had to get out of bed and move through them. They were coming consistently 8-10 minutes apart lasting at least 1 minute, and I excitedly thought this was labor beginning. I focused and breathed through the pain, using the relaxation and visualization techniques I had learned in our Hypnobabies birthing class. Unfortunately, the waves continued exactly like this for the rest of the day… and through the night… and into the next day. Still 8-10 minutes apart, still quite strong, still not progressing.
By this point I was exhausted, physically and mentally, and was quite discouraged. I was feeling a lot of back labor, and the discomfort was starting to wear me down. I began to worry that if I couldn’t handle this part, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the natural unmedicated birth I had planned. In hindsight, I think the physical exhaustion was what really got to me. After 3 nights with only a couple hours of sleep, I just didn’t have the energy to keep my head in the game while powering through the continual pressure waves.
I went to my scheduled midwife appointment that Tuesday afternoon, hoping for some insight, or perhaps a magic spell that would get things moving. They diagnosed me with prolonged prodromal labor, basically, strong waves that don’t progress. They warned me that this could last for days or over a week (!!!). We decided to have the midwife check me, and strip my membranes in hopes that it would tip me over the edge into full-on labor. The midwife joked that she had been on a winning streak with stripping membranes and putting women into labor, and I pleaded to be part of that streak. I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. My cervix was low and soft, with baby’s head fully engaged. I knew that I could go on for days like this, but was desperately hoping that the end was in sight, and soon.
That evening Janelle and my sister Annie came over, and pretty much talked me down off a cliff. I was fantasizing about c-sections and epidurals, and had decided I didn’t care anymore how the baby came out, I just wanted him out already. They patiently listened to me fret, and offered encouragement and back massages. We talked about some realistic scenarios of what I could do if labor didn’t begin in the next day or so. It was exactly what I needed to keep me going.
Tuesday night. I settled in for another long night. At this point I was so tired that I was dozing off for a few minutes in between contractions. Then at 2am, the waves suddenly went to 4 minutes apart and dramatically increased in intensity. I could no longer work through them on my own and needed Cory to support me through each one. After the 42 hours of prodromal labor, I was hesitant to believe this was the real thing. But the pressure waves progressed for an hour and continued to get closer together, longer and stronger. I told Cory it was time to call Janelle, and before I knew it she was at my side. She watched me labor through a few waves, then said that I looked like I was 5-6cm dilated and that she would check me after the next one. She checked; I was 6-7cm dilated and completely effaced. It was time to go to the birthing center. Cory put the bags in the car, and they wrapped me in a big blanket. The car ride wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been expecting, I listened to my Hypnobabies scripts on headphones and tried to stay in the zone, working through the waves as they came.
We arrived at the birth center around 5am. It was so wonderful walking into the quiet room, no bright lights or people everywhere, no waiting and no paperwork. We got settled quickly while I labored on a birth ball and the tub was filled. Getting in the water felt fabulous, and things progressed quickly from there. The waves were incredibly strong but I could tell they were doing their job. Cory was on my left, offering a hand to squeeze, speaking words of strength and love. Janelle was on my right, fanning me with a cool cloth, her calm voice telling me to breathe and keeping me centered. I don’t even remember going through transition, I think it was only a couple pressure waves long.
My water broke and then the pressure was quite intense. Soon after that, I was ready to push. My sister Annie arrived, ready to lend another hand to squeeze and to take photos. I pushed for about 40 minutes, though looking back it felt like 10 minutes to me. The waves were coming strong and fast and this was the hardest part. As the waves came I felt like I had lost control of what was happening and just had to hang on. There was no way out but to get through it. Then in one wave, he crowned, and Janelle had me hold off pushing through the rest of it to allow for some stretching. In the next birthing wave, he was out! Just 4 pushes in that last wave, twice to get his head out, once for the shoulders, and once for his body (Cory says he shot out just like a bar of soap … ha!). They had me scoop him out of the water up to my chest and I remember he felt so incredibly good. He was perfectly soft and sweet, and he felt familiar, like I already knew him. He coughed a little to clear his lungs then snuggled right in to my chest.
Kittredge Oliver was born at on Wednesday, January 13 at 7:48am after less than 6 hours of active labor, into a gentle pool of water with no medication or intervention. He was welcomed into the world to the tune of Odin’s Raven Magic, Chapter 3 by Sigur Rós, surrounded by all the love in heaven and earth.
We were so blessed to have the birth we hoped for, a safe delivery, and a healthy baby. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing birth support team… Cory was my rock, Janelle gave me power, and Annie brought peace. I can’t say enough good things about the care given to me by the Greenville Midwifery Care, and the experience provided by their birth center. The Hypnobabies birthing class we took gave me invaluable tools and the confidence to attempt a natural birth, which I’m so grateful was achieved. Whatever discomfort I felt during birth has already disappeared from memory, and I look back on the delivery as a wholly positive experience. If this was a Yelp review, I’d say “5 stars. Would birth again!” 😉
I’m utterly amazed by what God created our bodies to do, and I’m so grateful I could experience the magical miracle of childbirth.
To all you mommas out there…Whether your birth went just as you dreamed or you had to roll with a new plan, whether you chose to have an unmedicated delivery or opted for the amazing powers of an epidural, and whether your babies are snuggled in your arms or already in heaven, I applaud you.