Without a doubt, giving birth to my daughter was the most incredible and extraordinary phenomenon I’d ever experience. I’ve known I wanted to be a mom since I can remember, but the experience of becoming one was unlike anything I’d ever experienced or imagined. And after three long, trying trimesters of pregnancy, I finally got to meet the sweet spirit who grew inside me for 9 months.
I’m excited to say that my birth experience went according to “plan” (there’s only but so much you can control here), and I delivered a healthy baby GIRL after about two days of labor. But let me set the stage…
The Days Leading Up
Looking back at my journal, I started experiencing hip and back pain about a week before delivery. As a family, we’d dressed up for Halloween, and I remember feeling a little achy when we took Hula out for her walk that night. I hadn’t experienced physical symptoms like joint pain throughout the pregnancy, so I took it as a sign that I was getting closer and closer to delivery.
I felt my first round of contractions (well, they were more like cramps that turned out to be practice contractions known as Braxton Hicks) in the early morning of Thursday, November 4th. They didn’t last long though, and I went about my day as usual. I’ll also note that I would unknowingly vomit for the last time that day!!!
In the wee hours of Saturday morning (the 6th), I started feeling the cramping again. But this time, the sensation came and went for a few hours! And in addition to the cramping, I started feeling like I needed to take an emergency poop, but…I couldn’t! (more on this later). I reached out to my midwives, who suggested I take a bath and a nap and see how I felt. I took a bath and washed my hair, and my cramping subsided. With my hair damp and half twisted, I went back to bed and napped for a while.
That afternoon, my mom arrived in town, ready to wait out the baby with us! We went to Target and spent time making dinner together that evening. I felt like my usual self, except I still needed to poop, so I started drinking prune juice and Metamucil in hopes of helping.
As Saturday turned to Sunday, I started cramping again–this time, more regularly. I reached out to my midwives and doula to loop them in on my symptoms: I had cramps, my back ached, the bottom of my belly felt sore, and I couldn’t get rid of the urge to poop (or actually poop, for that matter).
After checking in, my birthing team confirmed that I was likely in early labor and experiencing real contractions! At this point, I was contracting pretty irregularly though–1-15 minutes apart and lasting 30-40 seconds. We were getting close, but definitely had a way to go so my birthing team advised me to go about my day as normal. I downloaded a contraction timer app and went on my way.
I breathed through my contractions at church, after church at a coffee shop, at D’s fraternity brother’s apartment, and after we came home to hang out with my mom. I was in pretty regular communication with my doula at this point and was trying not to stress about how long it was taking me to get to a more active stage of labor.
I wanted to get the show on the road, but we were playing by baby’s timing…
I labored in that same, inconsistent pattern through Sunday night and into Monday morning. I was frustrated that things were moving slow and that I could not get comfortable. I mean, I felt like I couldn’t even breathe comfortably!
In these moments, all my reading and pre-labor prep came into play. In the months leading up to my due date, I tried to physically and mentally prepare myself as much as possible. I knew physical exhaustion could lead to me asking for pain medicine or needing a C-Section, so I tried to nap as much as I could. I knew mental exhaustion could lead to fear and unpleasant physical reactions throughout, so I pulled out my affirmation cards and prayed a ton.
As I urged myself to stay calm and patient, I was working hard to mask how miserable I felt–I didn’t want to worry my mom! I knew that she’d be overcome with emotion and start panicking the moment she found out the baby was coming, and I wanted to keep my stress at a minimum for as long as possible.
I spent the whole day like this–feeling like I needed to take a huge poop, timing my contractions while trying to downplay the pain. And by the early evening, I was certain I should be grabbing my bags and heading to the birthing center.
With my contractions still fluctuating between 5 and 8 minutes apart, we called my midwife again to see if we were ready to deliver the baby. At this point, she suggested taking another bath to either calm down or intensify my symptoms. Well, I was hit with an intense wave of contractions once I got out of the water and there was no hiding it–the baby was on its way!
Getting to Delivery
Once the heavy-duty, no-doubt-you’re-in-labor contractions started, I was ready to head to the birthing center. D called our birthing team, but they encouraged me to stay home and labor there as long as possible (to avoid being sent back home if I still had a way to go).
But I was beyond ready to leave my house and deliver the baby. And after a very painful hour or two of laboring on my knees, hugging my labor ball, I told my husband we were leaving! I have no clue what he communicated to my birthing team, but within 10 minutes, we were in the car making the 45 minute drive to the birthing center.
We fully expected it, but the ride to the birthing center was the worst car ride in my entire life. Since our birthing center was 45 minutes away without traffic—which we avoided with this late night drive, fortunately—my midwives had prepared me to labor in our car. 45 minutes, in reality, meant 10-12 contractions that I’d need to breathe through on my way. So my husband nervously drove and I noisily breathed through each surge, wincing at the slightest bump in the road.
Once we arrived at the birthing center, a little after midnight, I had the first vaginal check of my entire pregnancy (not typical for traditional care, but a huge relief for me because I HATE them). To my relief, I was measuring at 6cm dilated—I was laboring for real (although my water hadn’t broken)! My midwife confirmed that I was right to come to the birthing center when I did, which was a bit of a confidence boost for me. I know my body better than anyone else and I won’t ever shy away from advocating for the care I need.
Within minutes, I changed into my laboring gown (and an adult diaper), cued up my labor playlist, and started walking laps around the building to keep my labor progressing. With little warning, my contractions intensified severely and I let out deep belly groans at each one. From there, I headed to the bathroom and, at my doula’s recommendation, labored sitting backward on the toilet. It helped so much, especially with the rectal pain I was still struggling with!
After some time on the toilet, my midwife advised me to head to the birthing tub. I knew I wanted to labor in water for some time–I’ve heard many women talk about how great of an experience it is–so I eagerly changed into a sports bra and got in the tub. But while I enjoyed the warm water, I could not get comfortable in the tub, especially as the urge to bear down became increasingly evident.
While I was trying to get comfortable in the water, I looked up and noticed one of the other midwives wheeling a baby incubator into the room. Almost immediately, I was overcome with fear–I wasn’t ready! In an instant, I was having a full blown panic attack. Both of my thighs cramped and I begged D to get me out of the tub.
The next hour or so was a lot! I got out of the tub, sobbing and apologizing to everyone because, in my mind, I wasn’t going to be able to deliver the baby. In hindsight, I think I was overwhelmed by being moments away from experiencing the extreme pain I’d heard about over the past 30ish years. I hadn’t realized it until then, but I’d been dreading this moment for years!
It took a lot for me to calm down. I changed positions, hugged my husband, yelled at my birthing team, and sang along to worship music. And at a certain point, my midwife gave me a stern look and told me it was time to meet my baby. I’d made my way to my hands and knees (next to the birthing pool) and had finally refocused my mind on the task ahead–I was going to meet my baby.
And with a few more contractions, I did just that!
We were “Team Green” at the time of delivery and I’ll never forget the moment my husband, who had gloved up to “catch” the baby, announced to the room that we welcomed a baby girl.
My daughter made her near-silent entrance into the world–I screamed “is she okay?!” about 50 times after delivery in the absence of a loud cry–at 4:57am on November 9th, exactly 39 weeks gestation. Her presence immediately stilled something in me and I was met with incredible peace after her delivery, eternally grateful for such a gracious gift from God.
Once I delivered the baby, the team helped me off the floor and onto the bed so we could quickly start skin to skin bonding. As my doula stepped in to help Baby Girl on latch to my breast for the first time, my midwife worked to help me deliver my placenta.
I’m not sure if it was the intensive pelvic floor strain I’d felt for the three days leading up to delivery or if I was in literal shock, but I had more trouble than expected. By definition, I retained my placenta! For starters, I didn’t feel any of the post-delivery contractions that I was told to anticipate after delivery (even after a shot of Pitocin at the 30 minute post-delivery mark). And when directed, I couldn’t engage my “pee muscles” to help at all. In the end, in order to prevent a hospital transfer, my midwife delivered my placenta manually…and whew–that was definitely one of the worst parts of my delivery experience!
After my placenta ordeal was behind me, D cut the umbilical cord, the baby was weighed and measured, and a father-daughter skin to skin session was initiated as the midwife finished my post-delivery checkup. I had a bit of tearing but, fortunately, didn’t require any stitches.
D ordered breakfast for us and we enjoyed the opportunity to bond as a family of three (and ask our birthing team a million and a half questions). And by 10am, we packed our things and made the incredibly cautious ride back home, where my mom and Hula were waiting. And just like that, the magnitude of the prior hours really sunk in–we’d become parents to the most incredible baby.