I’ve always heard that time flies when you have children, but I still can’t believe how true that is with my own baby. One year has already passed and I remember the day she was born like it was just yesterday.
Leading up to the birth of my sweet Rosie Joy, I did not know much about labor, but I knew I wanted to try to have a natural waterbirth and that I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid having a C-section. When I first started telling people I was pregnant, all I kept hearing were the horror stories of birth – different women’s awful experiences with either birth or postpartum and breastfeeding and how everything is terrible, but “you just have to push through” or how they hoped it would be different for me (but not with very much confidence). In the end, one of the birth affirmations I wrote out was “NO EPIDURAL… for all those women who said you couldn’t do it.” I knew I wanted my story to be different than all the stories I had heard – I knew it would be hard, but I wanted it to be empowering and magical.
We were going through Greenville Midwifery, and when I was about 20 weeks pregnant my husband and I decided to take Julie’s Mindful Birth class. I can’t recommend this class enough (especially for first time parents like us). This class completely changed Andrew’s and my perspective on what we wanted the birth of our first child to look like. I remember leaving Julie’s class one night and telling Andrew I needed Julie to be my doula. She is so knowledgeable about all things labor, delivery, and postpartum, and she is such a calming presence to be around. I also knew that if anyone was going to help me avoid a C-section, it was Julie. We begged her for weeks to be our doula even though she was already booked for the month of January. Eventually she agreed to take us on.
Another first-time mom in the class said she was doing a homebirth and I remember thinking she was a badass and that I wanted to be like that. So, Andrew and I did some research about homebirth, we asked all the questions regarding the “what ifs,” and we came to the decision that we were going to switch to a homebirth with Julie as our doula. Of course, some of our friends and family members thought (and still think) we were crazy, but that truly was the best decision we could have made. Despite the negative comments we received about planning a homebirth, Andrew and I stayed strong and confident that this was going to be a positive experience for us. I also made sure to prepare in every way possible. I went to the chiropractor consistently, I drank the red raspberry leaf tea every night, and I put dates in a smoothie literally every single day. I was determined to prove I could have a natural birth like my mom did with all five of her children, and I was also determined to prove to the naysayers that homebirth was the way to go.
Fast forward a few months and it was the 9th of January – a Sunday evening – when Andrew and I were watching some TV that I felt my first contraction. Julie told us in the class that this wouldn’t feel like a Braxton Hicks contraction, but more like a period cramp. I turned to my husband and said, “Oh! That kinda felt like a period cramp!” I never thought I would be excited to feel a period cramp, but I was. I didn’t think anything of it though, because I was only 39 weeks pregnant, and I had been told I would probably not go into labor until 40-41 weeks since I was a first-time mom. We continued watching TV until about 20 minutes later when I had another one. Around 8:45 p.m. I texted my midwife and Julie just to let them know I was having contractions about 15-20 minutes apart. Julie advised me to have a glass of wine and go to bed since we were expecting my labor to be long as a first-time mom. I hadn’t had any alcohol in nine months, so I was excited to indulge and also super pumped about the possibility that this could be the start of labor! I drank my wine and I told Andrew we should go ahead and take our dogs over to my sister’s house just in case this turned into something substantial (I did NOT want any animals near me during labor).
We got home around 10:00 p.m. and got in bed. I tried to stay in bed, but my contractions were getting more and more uncomfortable. I kept getting up to go to the bathroom for every contraction, and I wasn’t able to be very quiet for Andrew to sleep, so I called my midwife around 11:00 p.m. to ask what she thought I should do. She said to try a bath and see if that would slow things down. I got in the bath, but they were getting more intense, and I was only getting louder. I got out of the bath and called Julie around 11:30. She told me I really needed to commit to staying in bed during the next three contractions. She sent me a peaceful sleep hypnosis track and said to either make a pillow bed on the couch or get in bed with a bunch of pillows, but that I needed to make myself go to sleep. My midwife advised me to take a Benadryl and drink another glass of wine and stay in bed. Well, I tried all the things: more wine, Benadryl, hypnosis sleep track, pillow bed on the couch, laying down in our spare room, etc. Nothing was working, contractions kept getting stronger, I was now screaming so loud and finding it impossible to sit still even after a Benadryl and a second glass of wine!
At 12:15 a.m., January 10th, I texted Julie that my contractions were happening pretty consistently about five to eight minutes apart. She still encouraged me to try to rest. For the next hour I tried staying in bed and screamed the whole time. Andrew was across the house during this time, dead asleep, and didn’t hear me at all. Finally, at 1:30 a.m., I called Julie and, gasping for air, explained that I could not sleep through these contractions and that they were closer together now. She knew I was panicking so she said she would be right over and to wake Andrew up because “it’s all hands on deck.”
At this time, I was really feeling the need to be on the toilet during every contraction, so I sat in our guest bathroom (still across the house from Andrew) SCREAMING his name. “ANDREW! ANDREWWWW!” Nothing. I felt like I was screaming and crying so loud and for so long and he just wasn’t responding. Finally, I was able to get off the toilet and waddle across the house between contractions. I busted in our bedroom and yelled, “I have been screaming your name!! How do you not hear me?! Julie said it’s all hands on deck and she’s coming over here!” Y’all…you should have seen this man’s face. He was dead asleep when I busted in that room and he jumped up IMMEDIATELY and started getting all the things done. He set up the birth tub, set up our bed with a shower curtain and an extra set of sheets, set up the candles and the diffuser, and then came to see if I needed anything. At this point, I was walking around our bathroom moaning so loud and saying things like, “I know they don’t believe me because I’m a first-time mom, but I think this is just going really fast! I know they think I’m being dramatic, but I don’t think I am!”
For both Andrew and me it felt like an eternity from 1:30 when I talked to Julie until 2:00 when she got to our house. I remember thinking back to a story Julie told in her class about someone who would not move around during labor and ended up having a C-section, so I kept pacing around the bathroom until she got to our house. At this point my contractions were less than one minute apart and I was shivering. Julie told me she just needed to watch through the next few contractions because either I was having an extremely fast labor or something else was going on. She helped me slow down my breathing and find a rhythm, and I decided to get in our bathtub. Andrew told me later that I was able to really calm down when Julie got to our house.
I continued in our bathtub for about an hour until my water broke. Seeing it burst in the water was the coolest thing to me. Soon after, I started feeling the need to push and they moved me to the birthing tub in our living room in front of our fireplace. We had worship music blaring, Andrew had turned on the twinkling lights, my birth affirmations were hanging up on the fireplace, the diffuser was going, and the candles were lit. It was such a beautiful and peaceful scene that I will never forget. I realized right before Rosie was born that “Great is Thy Faithfulness” had just played, but that was the song I wanted her to be born to, so I quickly asked Andrew to turn it back on. A few moments later at 3:44 a.m., my sweet 7 lb., 8 oz. bundle of joy entered this world and was placed in my arms. Time and time again throughout my life, the Lord has shown me that He is faithful, but in this beautiful moment – with my supportive husband by my side and my newborn baby in my arms – I knew it more than ever. Great was – and is – His faithfulness.
It was a whirlwind, rollercoaster labor experience for a first-time mom who had no idea things were even progressing so fast. I even asked Julie an hour before Rosie was born if I was going to have a baby that day. I was in active labor for about five hours and pushed for 22 minutes, but I remember thinking, “Is it really going to be THIS intense for another 12 hours?!” I did, however, feel especially proud of myself for accomplishing that crazy of a birth on two glasses of wine and a Benadryl. 😉
As I finish writing this story, I am pregnant with our second child and planning another homebirth because now I can’t imagine any other way I would want to bring our babies into this world. My experience with my Rosie girl was too good to be true considering all the horror stories I had heard. After hearing many hospital birth stories, I know that homebirth is a much more personal experience. My midwife and doula took their time getting to know me and what I wanted my birth to look like; I was not just a number to them. I was also able to plan exactly who would be there when I gave birth. During my labor, not only was I able to move around my house – my own space – freely with no obstructions or beeping machines or random people walking in and out during my labor, but I was able to set the mood for how I wanted my birth to be. And yes, it was both empowering and magical. Even after Rosie was here, my midwife and doula tucked me into my own bed, my husband made me the most amazing egg and cheese sandwich, we shared a champagne toast, and all my baby’s checks were done right in front of me on my bed. For a few weeks after her birth my midwife and Julie came back to our house several times to check in on us and make sure Rosie was happy and healthy. I could go on for days about the positives of homebirth and I’m so thankful for Julie’s gentle “push” in that direction. I’m excited that I will be even more prepared this next time around, and that I’ll be more aware of what the different stages of labor feel like. But I think I’ll hold off on the Benadryl when my labor starts.