If you want to know what victory feels like, give birth naturally. The exhilarating high that comes from giving birth to a child you carried for nine months is probably equal to the raw power felt while making the birth happen. There is seriously nothing else like it. (Sorry, guys, guess you’ll never know this triumph.
I really hoped that I would feel like so many moms who gush about “getting their VBAC” and the high they live on for weeks. I wondered if it was exaggerated – because let’s face it, labor hurts. But they were right and I feel so strong and it feels so right to say:
I got my VBAC!
But let me back up and describe how this all took place.
Not So Fast!
Around 35 weeks, I felt some signs of preterm labor – some contractions, pressure and just an overall sense that something wasn’t right. A few weeks earlier I was thrilled to have made it longer than I carried the triplets. The new goal was to make it to 37 weeks so I could deliver at home. I called my midwife about 24 hours after monitoring my contractions and body and told her I had been off my feet all that time. She gave me the option of waiting till my next check-up or her coming out the next morning. I decided to get checked the next day – chasing around after three preschoolers was no joke and I didn’t want to forfeit my chances of a home birth!
She checked me the next day and said I was about 2 cm and 50% effaced. And while my first round with PPROM was more than likely due to the fact that I was carrying, you know, three babies and all their accessories, there was still the possibility of going early again. I was slightly frustrated but we decided that it would be best to spend the next two weeks off my feet to ensure the ability to deliver at home.
As you can imagine, that wasn’t easy! It sure was different than spending months on bedrest all by myself! Thankfully our church brought some meals, helped with the kids and did some cleaning. They kept us sane when we couldn’t easily leave the house for quite a few days. Before I knew it, I made it to 37 weeks!
And then I was literally in shock: I could actually go into labor at any time now!! I spent my first pregnancy doing everything possible to not deliver babies. I hadn’t realized how much of my mindset with this pregnancy was the same! And now the thought of impending labor being a good thing was both exciting and a little concerning.
David and I had spent the past five weeks doing a birthing class online, crash course style. We read several books (this one is my fave, hands down). I had been making huge lists of all the things I wanted and needed for the birth and, once my jail time was up, we began racing around town to finish preparations.
Our room began to fill with chux pads and blankets and towels piled high. I had a box of essential oils to use during labor, homemade massage oils and heating pads and “pad”sicles in the freezer. Our cozy bedding was pulled off our bed and just the sheets remained. I had made all kinds of cards with encouraging quotes and Scriptures to read off during the birth.
The birthing tub was set up for a trial run and then packed away (much to the disappointment of our kiddos!).
We had arrived! Everything was ready! And I suddenly had a sneaky feeling that Baby (we still didn’t know whether we’d have a boy or girl) would not be coming early.
Still, my mom and I felt it was best for her to join us just in case, so she arrived on Week 38 on the dot. She promptly sent me and David away for a couple days, a “babymoon” we didn’t get while pregnant with the triplets!
We also took each child out for some special time with just mommy and daddy – the first time we had been able to do that…ever! They were on cloud 9 and after we took Makenna to Costco and Whole Foods (hey, gotta get groceries!!) and got a special treat, the other two were insistent that they go to both places and get a treat, as well. Score one for mom and dad’s cheap dates! Maybe it was the hormones, or maybe I was acutely aware of the upcoming life change we were all about to experience. Either way, I really treasured those hours with each of my children and David.
I had also spent several weeks preparing them with birth videos of all sorts on YouTube. We had practiced what it would sound like for mommy to have the baby – and that it was hard, hard work to get a baby and sometimes mommies get owies but it’s ok because we are so excited to see our new baby! We took turns trying to push one of their beds away from the wall to see what hard work was. Boy we were all grunting and groaning. We roared like lions and mooed like cows – some mommies are quiet and some are loud. We talked about how some babies are born while the mommy is kneeling over, sitting in bed, swimming in a tub!, or standing up. We acted out what it was like to be in the womb (picture below). Some mommies wear clothes and some are “nakey nakey” (which they took in stride and surprisingly didn’t bat an eye). We discussed how Baby would get milk from mommy and not a bottle. We talked about vernix and umbilical cords and messes and how special it would be to watch their baby brother or sister come into the world! Those were precious moments to me as I saw them comprehending what would happen and becoming excited. So precious.
The clock ticked slowly by and Week 39 came around and then began to end with no signs of labor. I had not even reached the “David, I can’t do this anymore” point which surprised me as I had reached that point at about 30 weeks with the kids (and gave birth at 32+4!).
The Day Before
On Friday, May 29 I was 39+6 weeks along. David had left to meet with some clients and my mom was getting the kids dressed after breakfast while I puttered in the kitchen. I texted him to say I wasn’t feeling good and didn’t know if it was Baby or some sinus stuff I’d been feeling – ha! I told him to keep his phone on, though. And then around 10:30 am I realized I was having contractions! They were certainly different than the Braxton Hicks I’d experienced for months (for all you first-timers wondering if you’ll know the difference…you’ll know! :). But they weren’t super strong yet. I decided to go upstairs and get ready for the day and just quietly time them to see.
They were about 5 minutes apart for quite a while. We debated calling our midwife and then they seemed to slow slightly – 7 or 8 minutes apart. I decided to move forward with the plans for that morning and take my mom out to see some property we had been looking at. David didn’t like that idea and said he was almost home and that we could all go together. I thought that sounded smart so we waited for him.
We headed out and got some coffee (tea for me) and enjoyed the beautiful Tennessee countryside. Unfortunately, that countryside comes with windy roads and as the waves got stronger, those roads seemed to become more “treacherous.” We finally arrived home, ate some lunch and called my midwife. She said to let her know how I was doing in about an hour. I fell asleep and slept off and on for a couple hours. We debated her heading on down here but it seemed the waves had spaced out quite a bit so we made plans for an appointment on Monday, thinking this might be the beginning of prodromal labor.
I joined my mom and my kiddos and worked through some more waves, explaining to the kids what was happening. My mom suggested we walk around outside for a while. I wasn’t sure I would like that but it ended up being a nice quiet time with the hubby – the calm before the storm. We walked and stopped and stopped and walked around our little neighborhood. We’d make it back to our house and I’d sit in a lawn chair to rest before heading around the block again.
We went inside for dinner and sat down to watch a movie. Note: if you are ever going to watch a movie while in labor, be sure you have the remote handy so you can pause during each wave. We had lost our remote a while ago so no pausing could happen. It bothered me that it kept playing, even if he muted it. Eventually we turned it off and I would jump off the couch and bend over a chair, David would rub my back or put counter pressure on my hips, letting me know when each one was almost over.
Around 11 pm they had been at 5 minutes apart for a while. I decided to finish making the waffle batter for the kids’ breakfast the next morning and head to bed. Immediately the waves became about 3 minutes apart. I’d measure flour and throw it in the bowl and bend over the counter for a wave. And then crack some eggs and give in to another wave. It’s not a pleasant way to bake.
At this point we decided it was high time to have our midwife and doula here! However, we could not get ahold of our midwife. She wasn’t answering the phone or responding to texts. We spent the next hour trying not to panic about what to do – she lived about an hour and a half north of where we lived! I coped by taking a warm bath and letting David make the calls. Finally, we called one of the back-up midwives who said she would head our way and attempt to get ahold of Talitha (our midwife). Just minutes after we hung up with her, relieved someone would be here soon, Talitha called – her phone had died and she didn’t know it…and she was on her way. Whew! I didn’t find out until afterwards that she told David to get ready to deliver a baby. My poor husband.
During this time David set up the bed with extra sheets and waterproof mats (shower curtains work great!) and prepped the bathroom for the birthing tub (which Talitha had picked up a week earlier to take to another mom who gave birth before me – she was bringing it back that night! And don’t worry, when you rent the tub you get a brand new liner that covers the tub like an inverted shower cap – so no icky germies between mommies!). Every time I felt a wave, I called him and he ran over and massaged or encouraged or talked me over the hump of each one.
Finally, Talitha’s assistant, Heather, arrived. Then my doula, Katie. And then around 1:30 am Talitha arrived. I wonder if my body kept things slow till she got here because things sure picked up after the team arrived! They got right down to it and began setting the tub up and bringing in the oxygen tanks and supplies, checking what I had on hand and mess-proofing the room.
I wanted a check (the second in the entire pregnancy) to see where I was – four centimeters. Not bad considering I could sometimes still talk through most of the waves.
At one point, I got horrible pain in the left side of my chest. I mean horrible. It was worse than a contraction as each breath was piercing. They actually checked my vitals to be sure it wasn’t my heart. It wasn’t. Someone suggested rubbing peppermint essential oil on the pain – immediately it went away! I also experienced pretty excruciating ligament pain with several waves but a warm compress seemed to eliminate those, as well.
Probably my most exciting remedy was when my sweet husband checked my list of oils and their uses during pregnancy and began rubbing basil oil on my back during a contraction, the back pain disappeared. Would you believe neither of us thought to use it the rest of the labor, though?? It’s true. I can’t believe it. So, ladies, keep that bottle handy and rub away!
I labored from about 1:30 am to 5 am on my bed, listening to spa music, walking up and down the stairs and bouncing on an exercise ball. It was all pretty incredible. Katie and David spent those hours coaching me, reminding me how to breathe, rubbing my back, speaking quietly and just taking care of me.
Around 5 am, the intensity of the contractions increased so much that I decided to try the birthing tub. I climbed in and immediately knew my body needed to be flipped so my belly was in the water. That buoyancy felt amazing! The slightly warm water – relaxing. But then a wave hit and it was like nothing I’d ever felt before! I suddenly needed all my energy to focus on making it through each wave. It was all I could do to focus on what Katie and David were saying – these waves were sucking my breath away! (At this point, David made a joke about the floating duck-thermometer drifting over to my bum and getting fresh with me. He became informed that jokes were not appreciated at this stage. Haha!)
I flipped over and sat in the tub, holding onto the sides for support, when another wave hit me and I silently begged for a helicopter to air-lift me to Vandy! That was not a good position so I flipped back over with my belly floating in the tub. I spent several waves that way when I felt a pop and said, “I think my water just broke.”
After a few more very, very intense waves I sensed a change taking place and informed Katie, David and my mom that I needed to push! My mom went and got the midwives who came in and said I may not be complete (I was only 4 cm a few hours earlier). Suddenly, I knew clearly that I would not give birth in that tub and that if I did not want to end up passing out from the body heat I was creating in the space between the top of the tub and the surface of the water, I needed to get out. (It’s amazing how strong our God-given instincts are at a time when we are so mentally consumed with the at-hand tasks!) I also realized the only position that I felt comfortable in was on my knees leaning over the side of the tub and that it would be very difficult for me to catch the baby myself in that position – second on my list of desires, the first being to give birth at home. So out I climbed, pausing for a wave on the way to my bed, holding onto David.
As I climbed into bed, ligament pain and a wave hit at the same time. Oh.My.Soul. I remember Katie and Talitha saying “you need to turn over on your back or get your leg up” and I yelled “I CAN’T!” Well, somehow I did.
Talitha checked me and to everyone else’s surprise, I was complete. So she began massaging and stretching with coconut oil and warm compresses. I had read often that when it came time to push, no coaching is needed as your body takes over. Well, I definitely needed coaching. It seemed all I could do was focus on one thing at a time and even breathing required a reminder. I remember saying, “it burns!” and the women saying, “yep, it does – that ring of fire!”
As I began to push, I remember this feeling of being at the end of the tunnel and seeing the light break through the darkness – I was almost done. Oh, how my energy came back! I have never worked so hard in my life and also have never experienced such sheer strength as I did during those moments.
I pushed for about 45 minutes when all of a sudden everyone began to say, “I can see the head!” At that point I knew I was close. Close to holding my baby in my arms. Close to the end of one work and the beginning of another. I continued to push. Suddenly, the head was out…and so was the body! Talitha said, “Reach down and get your baby! Reach down!!” I put my hands down and caught this wet squirming baby. I pulled the baby to my chest and saw that it was a boy. “My baby! My baby!”
I did it. We did it. My baby and I met face to face.
A few moments later, everyone asked if it was a boy or a girl. I said, “It’s a boy!”
I began to bleed pretty heavily as she suspected I might. She said we needed to do pitocin to stop the bleeding. The pitocin didn’t work fast enough so they gave me Cytotec. I hated the thought of taking either of those but no way was I going to hemorrhage and end up in the hospital, separated from my baby. Finally the bleeding stopped, the placenta was eventually delivered and admired by the midwives. I know some women feel super connected to their placentas. I did not. It served its purpose but now my baby was consuming my attention.
After the cord stopped pulsing, David cut the cord. At my request, haha! And then I put my sweet baby to my breast and he quickly figured it out and camped out there for about an hour, just chillaxin. What a welcome experience that was!!
As they began the clean-up, and I fought to stop those uncontrollable shakes, Talitha told me that despite all the massage and stretching I had two 2nd degree tears – labial and perineal. That boy just shot out so fast! I found out I was actually way more anxious about getting those stitched up than I was about the whole labor!
But…let’s get back to the happier part:
Judah Alan came barreling into my sight at 6:25 am on Saturday, May 30, 2015, my due date. He was 8 lbs 9 oz and just about 21″ long, with a head full of hair. (It would be almost 48 hours before we settled on his name!)
I am so thankful to be able to experience natural childbirth. It probably sounds strange to say that, for anyone who knows how painful it can be, but it’s true. Ever since I witnessed my first natural childbirth at age 10, I knew that’s how I wanted to give birth. The Lord had other plans for how I would give birth to the kids, so I’m especially grateful to know “my body is not a lemon.” (Ina May Gaskin)
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Made to give birth. Made to cope with pain. Made to open and close. Made to grow and release a baby into this world. And I did it. With the best team I could have imagined at my side, I did it.
Have you had a natural childbirth experience?