Due date: Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 (I was hoping baby would wait until about the 15th though, as we were hoping to get our house more ready after extensive renovations). Sex: Surprise! I thought it would be a girl and was hoping for a girl. Birth plan: Birth center with certified nurse midwives, a doula, and a birth photographer. Ideally a water birth.

I had been feeling crampy off and on for several days and asked about it during my 39 week appointment (Thursday, November 2nd), but of course it didn’t really tell us anything besides that my body was preparing. At that appointment, Angie (one of the midwives) did note that the head was lower down in my pelvis, which hadn’t been the case at the 38 week appointment. They don’t do vaginal checks until 40 weeks, so that’s all the info I had. I had not seen my mucus plug at all. On Saturday, November 4th, we finished the major parts of our home renovations, moved back into our bedroom, and got everything set up including the crib and changing table. My lower back was pretty sore and I was kind of crampy, which is more or less how I had felt most evenings for the past few days.

On Sunday, November 5th at 5am (after the time change where we got an extra hour), I got up to pee and noticed I was cramping again and couldn’t fall back asleep. At 6:30am I started timing the crampy feelings and found that at first they were coming 9-17 minutes apart. My cramps reminded me of cramps when you have to go to the bathroom, and I ended up going a lot between 7:30 and 3:30, as my body was cleaning itself out. We spent the morning and early afternoon working on our bedroom, putting together the closet and bringing our clothes in from the other room, hanging up the shower curtains and other things in our new bathroom, and finalizing what to pack in the birth bag. During my contractions (or cramps, as I called them) I would lean over the table/counter/baby bed and Kyle (my husband) would push on my back. Contractions came between 4 and 22 minutes apart during this time, and they lasted 30 seconds to a minute and a half. Around 4pm we went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and to the grocery store, which was not particularly fun. When we got home around 5pm I was exhausted and decided to lay down. My contractions spaced out to 15-20 minutes apart and I was able to doze in between them. Unfortunately, they were becoming more painful and I couldn’t find a comfortable position to get through them in (Kyle was making dinner so he was not there to provide counter pressure).

When I got up around 6pm things started to move faster… between 6 and 7pm contractions were 2-10 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds to about a minute and 15 seconds. I found I really needed Kyler to push on my back…Sometimes in the middle and other times on the sides (I told him where to push), and the contractions that were spaced further apart were more painful and when they came closer together they weren’t as bad. Around 7pm I texted the doula and asked her to come over, and at 7:15 I ate dinner (and was surprisingly able to eat quite a bit). Around this time I found that standing up at the beginning of the contraction (because I always needed to be standing or it was way less bearable) was really painful so I pretty much just stayed standing. From 7-9:30pm, contractions were getting closer together, 2-8 minutes apart. The doula arrived at 8 and around 9:25 Kyle and I laid down to cuddle together, I was hoping that if he was there to provide the counter pressure on my back maybe laying down during a contraction wouldn’t be too bad. We got to rest for at least 5 minutes before I had a contraction, but when it hit, it hit hard. I thought I might throw up or poop or something, and I felt my body push for like a second a few times (that’s why I thought I might poop). I remember being stuck in bed and feeling like I had to get up right away, but also feeling like I couldn’t move during the contraction. After that we moved to the bathroom and I would sit on the toilet between contractions (I wanted to be able to pee at all times) and then stand up and Kyle would push on my back during them (sitting on the toilet during contractions didn’t feel good to me at all). Contractions were now coming 1-3 minutes apart, and lasting 30 seconds to about 1 minute and 10 seconds, and they were quite painful. Kyle called the birth center at 9:38pm but we didn’t decide to go in right away. Mostly, I think I was still in denial and wasn’t realizing how close my contractions were together, and I felt like they weren’t consistently lasting 1 minute like they were “supposed to”. And the midwife didn’t say I should come in so I assumed that meant I still had a while. We called the birth center back at 9:54 and said we wanted to come in, and we called the birth photographer and told her to meet us there. I had one contraction in the car before we started driving, then thankfully only one more as we were turning into the birth center.

According to the birth center records, we arrived at 10:18pm. They took me straight into the room they knew I wanted to birth in, where they already had the bath running. I went straight to the toilet because contractions made me have to pee and I hadn’t been able to pee for a few contractions. Once our birth photographer arrived the midwives asked Kyle if anyone else was coming for the birth and Kyle said “I have no idea”, which was funny because there was no one else that even could come, which is what I told them. There were several contractions where they were taking my pulse and blood pressure and listening for the baby and as soon as the water stopped running they were done and I was ready to get in the tub (10:25 or so). I relaxed in the tub for a couple minutes without contractions and then I got on all fours and Kyle tried to provide back pressure (we only know this from our birth photos, neither of us really remembered that). After probably a contraction or two, I thought I was going to throw up and moved to the edge of the tub, in a frog position on my knees with my right arm in the tub supporting me and my left arm out of the tub (10:33pm, from the birth photos). I stayed in that position until our baby was born. During the next few contractions I thought I might throw up, but instead I felt my contractions forcing the baby down (fetal ejection reflex), almost as if I were going to throw up the baby but out my vagina. I had heard of this but didn’t expect it to feel so strong/forceful, almost violent feeling. Imagine your body wanting to throw up but it’s a bowling ball that you’re going to throw up and it needs to travel through your body and around some curves before it can come out… That’s more or less how it felt. I stopped feeling like I was going to throw up once I could tell my body had decided to focus on getting the baby out. So I pretty much just relaxed between contractions and readied myself for my body to forcefully evict my baby during each contraction. I always wondered how I would sound in labor and found that it never even crossed my mind to moan or yell… I just breathed hard (and too fast), then forced myself to slow my breathing. I also don’t remember having many thoughts… As in, I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t question if I could do it, I didn’t have a manta, I didn’t think about taking medication, I didn’t go to a happy place or visualize anything… I guess I mostly just held on. I could feel the baby moving down a lot, and at one point I reached down and could tell that whatever was happening down there wasn’t how it normally felt. One of those contractions must have broken my water, but none of us ever noticed (I don’t think). At one point between contractions I told Susan the midwife that I think I was pushing (I’m sure that was quite obvious) and she responded with something like “yes I would say so” (they never did check me at all). At another point between contractions I told her something like “this fucking sucks”. I remember the ring of fire and thinking that it lasted for several contractions. And I remember around then I could feel the baby moving down during contractions and moving back up a bit in between… that felt like a relief to me and I totally didn’t mind losing that ground. Kyle was sitting off to the right of me and holding my hand toward the end, but he says I let it go during my next contraction (this was 3 minutes before the baby was born). At some point I think I actively joined in on the pushing, and finally Susan said the baby was right there and would be out in one or two more contractions. Then I felt the head come out and the body turn a little bit before it came out.

Susan passed the baby under my legs and gave it to me. I sat back and was so incredibly happy that the baby was out and I didn’t have to push (or hold on while my body pushed) anymore!!! I was also amazed at this tiny little human that was screaming in my arms, and couldn’t believe it was really my baby (I didn’t have the feeling of familiarity that some moms have). The baby was pink and didn’t have any vernix (it had dry skin instead), and the hands were white and wrinkly. The head was not misshapen from the birth canal like they typically are (or so we were told). We later found out that it had Apgar scores of 9 and 10, which we had been told in our birth class isn’t as common with water births. Kyle and I finally looked between the baby’s legs and realized it was a girl, and Kyle said “we got a Kaiya” (we had our girl name picked out for years but didn’t have a boy name). She was born at 10:56pm, so I guess it was a grand total of 23 minutes of my body pushing (not me) and she was out.

A little while later (15 minutes after she was born, according to the pictures), the cord stopped pulsing and Kyle cut it, and they started to drain the tub. Right before I got out, Susan checked to see if my placenta had detached and it had, so she did something to get it to come out. I felt cramping then a strange jello-like-thing coming out. Then Kyle took off his shirt and I gave Kaiya to him so I could get out of the tub and go to the bed. We hung out in the bed doing skin to skin for a while and then the midwives helped to get her to latch. Eventually they weighed and measured her (6 lbs, 10 oz., 19 ¼ inches long), did all the newborn reflex tests (I wish I had videotaped that), and put her in a diaper. Then they made us breakfast tacos, which we got to enjoy at 2am. We slept (I didn’t sleep too much though), woke up to waffles in the morning, and headed home from the birth center at 10:15am, 12 hours after we arrived the night before.

Looking back, I think I was in early labor from 5am until 6 or 7pm, active labor until 9:30, transition until 10:30, then pushing until 10:56. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and way better than I ever could have hoped for. And it gets better and better in my memory, as the memory of the pain subsides. I have some friends who are amazed I birthed without pain medications, and my response is that childbirth without medication is absolutely doable (at least it was for me in that situation), but with a caveat. It likely would have been a different story if I had providers or policies that would have required me to do anything besides what felt right in the moment. If I had shown up at the birthing location and been required to lay on my back for any period of time, or if I had been asked to get out of the tub or to get in a position that’s easier for the provider to birth my baby (the position I was in was definitely best for me but not for the midwives), this would have been a very different story. So the birth center and the midwives were amazing, and I’m so grateful that I was able to birth there and that they allowed me to just listen to my body and birth as I needed to. Having a doula was great, especially because of the meetings we had before the birth that helped Kyle and I think and talk through who we were and what that might look like in birth (the doula would have been more necessary had I been in active labor longer). And I’m so glad I got the birth photographer… not so much for the photos of me laboring, but more for all the photos of the first hour of my daughter’s life. When they first handed Kaiya to me she was a stranger, but when I look back at the birth photos now that I know her, I see and recognize her and her personality in them.

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