I know it’s cliché to say this, but children are the most beautiful gift.
So far, I only have a few hour chunks to sit down and write, and of course, the café I chose to sit down at today doesn’t have Wi-Fi that my computer finds tasty.
Therefore, today’s blog is about me, or rather, my daughter! Woohoo.
When I was pregnant, I found it exciting to read other people's birth stories, even though they were sometimes traumatic and ended up much different than the mother had planned. Therefore, I decided to put my story down for those who may find it interesting to read.
I always knew I wanted to attempt as natural a birth as possible. I mean, if women have been giving birth out of hospitals and without pain medication for thousands of years, surely I could do it too! Plus, I heard over and over that it’s painful at the moment, but as soon as a few days have passed you forget about how much it hurt to push that baby out! (So true). That is not to minimize the pain that some women feel in childbirth or belittle the birth narratives of women who were unable to go the route they desired.
Facebook, as it creepily does, discovered that I was pregnant! And started showing me ads for all kinds of pregnancy-related things. I came across an online natural birthing class led by a Doula and decided to invest in the (hopefully) good information she would be able to share with me. From her, I learned that women’s bodies know how to give birth. I learned about the intricate hormonal bell curve that happens in labor, and how each plays an important role in moving the baby down and out, helping them get the adrenaline they need to start breathing and helping mom and baby bond after birth.
I started using the labor preparation tools she explains such as Kegels, vaginal EPO, perineal stretching, red raspberry leaf tea, dates, and overall eating plant-forward and continuing to stay active until the very last day.
Me after a very mellow hike, at 34 weeks pregnant.
However, I was still quite a bit overdue. My due date came and went as to be expected for first-time moms, but then each day I continued to wait… and wait…. And wait. Boy was that the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done! It’s so hard to keep your mind off of giving birth when your huge, stretched-out, painful belly reminds you every second that, “I want to give birth, RIGHT NOW”. Side note, I’ve never longed for pain in my life before, but those last 2 weeks I keep rejoicing every time I felt some sort of contraction/pain.
I had prodromal labor (labor that starts and then tapers off) multiple times. I had lots of Braxton hicks contractions (thanks red raspberry leaf tea), and every night I would hope and pray that I would wake up in pain sometime in the night- too funny!
Well, we reached the point where my midwife proceeded with a membrane stretch and sweep to try and kick things off, and boy did she STRETCH. That was so incredibly painful, and Ray said he saw her hand literally shaking from the effort she was exerting in stretching out my cervix.
The next day I was so sore from that sweep that I wasn’t sure when I was feeling pain from bruising and when I was feeling contractions. Turns out I was feeling a pretty decent amount of contractions, but I didn’t know how far apart they were until I laid down in order to stop feeling the pain from the bruising.
When I did, the contractions were about 11-15 minutes apart. But then within an hour they were getting closer together, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, sometimes 1 minute. We called the midwife and headed to the birth center because we didn’t want to accidentally have a home birth if all of a sudden I progressed really fast.
Funny thing, in that hour that I was contracting at home, my parents had decided to take a LONG walk to see our local beavers, and when they came back, our basement suite neighbor was there attempting to get into the house for a dresser he was selling. In the chaos happening outside, Ray and I packed up the car and left while my parents were left thinking, “Lucy’s in labor?”. Again, too funny!
We beat our midwife to the birth center, and therefore I was left to labor outside for about 15-20 minutes. Actually not such a bad thing considering it was hot and at least outside we had a breeze.
I think I was about 6 cm when we got inside the birth center- somewhere around 10 p.m.
Hannah drew me a bath, and that it where I stayed for the majority of the night. It was still incredibly painful, but standing outside the water with full gravity pulling down on that baby was much more painful. We started a little circuit where I would labor in the tub, then labor sitting over the toilet for 10 minutes, then she would check me on the bed, and then I would get back into the tub.
At sometime around 1 a.m. I think, Hannah asked if I would like to have my water broken, given that it was NOT breaking on it’s own. But she added that if there was meconium in the fluid (likely for me, given I was 10 days past my due date), then I would have to be transferred to the hospital (in my private vehicle of all things). I could not think about how painful it would be to be in active/transition labor in a car so we decided to stay and see if it would break on its own. An hour or so later, I was at my whit’s end. I could feel the membrane bulging out with each contraction, but the DAMN THING WOULD NOT BREAK! So I decided to have her break my water.
She prepared herself for a huge explosion of water, but as she ruptured it with her crochet hook (yes crochet hook), it just kind of gurgled out due to how low Junie’s head was at that point. Ray could see her dark luscious hair, and I even was able to reach down and feel it.
After a few more INCREDIBLY painful contractions on the bed as her head stretched out (and tore through) my perineum, her head was out, and then this whole slimy wet thing was laid on top of me! This was just before 3 a.m. on Friday, June 4th (my twin sister’s birthday!).
After she was delivered, the pain was instantly gone. They injected me with Pitocin to help the placenta deliver, and pressed on my abdomen to encourage it out, but no pain compared to what I had just experienced in labor. As Jackie Hill Perry says in her daughter’s birth story video, I also imagine giving birth to be a small picture of what receiving a glorified body in eternity is like. The instant relief from the pressure of carrying a human inside your abdomen is immense and only becomes more glorious as your body recovers from the childbirth experience.
Junia, with her full head of hair.
I had torn, and therefore the next 2 hours were spent getting sewn up, trying to pee without bleeding out, and getting all the fun measurements of our sweet daughter. She was 7 pounds and 5 ounces, was 20 inches long, and strangely looked a lot like my father-in-law due to all the swelling in her face from labor.
I got a “placenta tour” as the midwives call it, and Hannah mentioned that my membrane was one of the strongest she has ever seen. No wonder it wouldn’t break on its own. I think it may have had something to do with my excellent diet. Just saying.
As for all the tools I had to help with the pain, I only ended up using one or two.
In the car, I used two hair combs to squeeze and distract myself from the labor pain, but once we got to the birth center, I started using Rays meaty muscular hands which were somehow much more satisfying to squeeze. When they weren’t as intense, I used deep breathing to get through them, but then switched to deep vocalizations as they intensified. Ray would do these with me, matching my intensity. He also would say Psalm 121 over me.
I wished that I could use worship music to distract me, but it was too hard to hear the doppler over the music so we just stopped. So in the end, the best pain relief I felt was through the bath and through squeezing Ray’s hand and vocalizing. Fun fact, it was so hot that I was sitting in the bath with a HUGE fan blowing on me and cold towels and water to cool me off haha.
Hannah and Junia at 6 weeks.
All-in-all, I think I was in early labor all of Thursday, but then went into active labor late Thursday night. She was out in about 7-8 hours since I first started timing my contractions.
Oh, and did I mention? NO MECONIUM! My daughter came out perfectly healthy, and then spewed all kinds of sticky meconium on me during our first breastfeeding session.
I am so pleased that I got the birth story I desired. I was able to have an unmedicated, midwife-assisted birth at Arbour Birth Center in Calgary, AB. Labor was relatively short in comparison to some women, and it only took me about 3 days to forget how intense the labor pain was.
Would I do it again? Well, as Hannah said, I was made for giving birth.