I have looked forward to writing this birth story for a long time. Just a week ago I was so excited to experience what my birth story would be and wondered how it would play out. Now that our little girl is here I can’t believe that my birth experience has happened and that I now get to share it.
For about three days prior to Hazel being born; I felt myself relaxing. My body was telling my mind that birth was coming close and my mind knew what to do. I was calm and my mind was free from worry or doubt. My muscles (which are chronically tight) were relaxed and I was peaceful. Fear releases pay off.
Saturday morning I fully woke up at 8, after about an hour of surges that were pretty consistent. There wasn’t much physical evidence that today would be my baby’s birthday, but I just knew that this was it. I asked my husband to time the space between my surges and it was about 4 minutes. I thought that was pretty close but the surges weren’t very uncomfortable so I figured I would stay there for a while.
That morning seems like a blur in my mind. There was excitement all around me but I had already gone into my birthing body and didn’t want to feel any emotional sway from outside sources. I can see now that my relaxed attitude was a little misleading to my husband. He would ask me “are you sure your really in labor?” and I would lazily say “mmhmm” and I suppose he just went with it because that’s the only information he had to go on. I even mislead myself a little bit; I was so relaxed and feeling good that I wasn’t sure when to call my doula, Laura. Thankfully, Carter (my husband) told her to come at the right time.
My wonderful midwife, Janee, came when I told her how far apart my surges were. She wanted to make sure she had everything ready because the general consensus was that this labor would go fast. She arrived and she and Carter filled up the tub. I was sitting in the birthing room circling my hips on a birthing ball. I would breathe through my surges as they came, though I felt they were fairly low in intensity. It felt so good to breathe through them. Janee’s assistant, Emilie, arrived not long after.
Once the tub was full and ready I got in. I’ve always been one for bubble baths and swimming, so I knew that the tub was the place for me. I was excited to get in and get laboring.
The tub felt so amazing. Carter had lined it all with pillows so it was like a combination bed and bath. I would live in there if I could. We dimmed the lights and lit candles. I had chosen rose water for the scent in the room. It was raining outside and I had music from The Birth Year playing. I was so happy that I had taken the time to make this room my birthing sanctuary.
I laid in the tub on my left side, my head on the pillows and just melted into each surge, going deeper into my birthing body.
After about 20 minutes I felt like I had to throw up. I didn’t want to get out of the water but it had to be done. So, I went to the bathroom and threw up the only food I had eaten that morning, one baby pear.
Once I got back into the tub I felt a little “pushy” with each surge. Janee asked to check my dilation at that point. I agreed, though I was nervous that I would be at a 4 and have some of my relaxation broken because of disappointment. That was the first time in my pregnancy that I was checked for dilation. The news was good; I was at 8.5. Hooray! My baby was coming and soon.
It was around this time that I became mostly unresponsive. I was at my deepest level of relaxation and coming up from that took way too much energy and loosing my focus wasn’t worth it. Once or twice I’d come up to answer a question or say something and then I’d think “why did I just do that?” Carter became my translator, thank goodness for marital telepathy.
Laura arrived and was instantly by my side, breathing with me through surges and doing shoulder press and light touch massage. Everything she did worked wonders. She would stroke my hair and repeat affirmations. The intensity of the surges was picking up and she was my birthing angel.
The time between Laura arriving and when I started really bearing down with each surge is a bit of a blur. I changed positions in the tub a few times, Janee wanted to check for a cervical lip and I had to change positions to laying on my back (I was actually floating on my back). I do remember her asking if changing positions was all right and I said “yes, well no… but ok”. I got into that position and there was a little bit of a lip. She had me sway my hips back and forth with the next surge and that took care of it.
Once I was in that position I stayed there until right before the end. Surges became intense and I was bearing down with all I had. Laura was there to remind me to “ahhh” my baby down, relaxing my cervix. My waters ruptured during one surge. I wasn’t sure if it had before that time, but there was no mistaking when it did. It was a great pressure release that felt really good, if only for a few moments.
After a little while of bearing down, Janee started checking Hazel’s position in the birth path. Having her hand there gave me a direction to push into and I made the best progress when she did that. I just couldn’t come up from relaxation enough to tell her that I liked the direction. Janee has such a sweet way about her, she didn’t do anything to break my concentration and she let my body do what it needed to do. She also followed her instincts for what would be the best help during this birth.
A couple times during pushing I thought “it’ll only be ten more minutes” and that helped my brain wrap around the fact that I needed to keep going. I don’t want that to be confused with “I can only go ten more minutes” because I really did feel fine, I wasn’t in any pain, it was just a “big” feeling. Birth is big, physically and emotionally. Everything in your world is right there and your focus is so singular to what you are doing in that moment. I think the mind might like to switch to a different focus or just take a break for a minute, but keeping your focus and relaxation is key. Having some way for my mind to cope with the intensity made it easier.
I was visualizing Hazel and where she was in the birth path. I felt a connection to her as we birthed together and I could see her happy as she was making her way. We made a good team. I didn't realize it then, but the way I saw her is exactly how she looks.
I was worried that at some point during labor I would have the momentary lapse and ask to go to the hospital or decide that I didn’t want to do this anymore. Though I never did have that moment, I did have the thought during one of my surges “I bet it’s too late to go to the hospital” and then I laughed at myself.
My perception of time is completely skewed. My husband tells me that I was pushing for about an hour and a half. So, I’m guessing that it was after about an hour I could feel the mood in the room switch to concern that Hazel wasn’t making much progress past the last bit of my pelvis. She was posterior and in military presentation, one of the most difficult positions to birth. Had we been at the hospital, they would’ve “strongly encouraged” a c-section.
I wasn’t worried, Hazel's heart tones were perfect, but I could tell that my ladies were thinking of the next step to take.
Janee asked me to stand up, putting all of my weight onto Carter, and lift my right leg onto the side of the tub and take some surges in that position. In my head I thought “umm, what?” but I knew it was best, so, I somehow ended up in that position. I honestly don’t remember how I got there.
I took one or two surges in that position, then they had me squat down into the tub. After just a couple surges there, Hazel slipped past the last part of pubic bone and was ready to make her debut.
Carter was still holding my weight with my arms around his neck. He would stroke my sides and whisper encouragement. I loved having our baby come into this world with her father whispering sweet things to her mother. Yesterday, while talking with some friends, my husband described Hazel’s birth as romantic, and I will forever love him for that.
Hazel was all the way out in two surges. I don’t know that anyone will ever be able to describe the feeling of receiving your baby into the world. I doubt any language has words to encompass it. It happened so quickly and in slow motion at the same time. My baby was here in my arms and the scene was exactly how I had pictured it so many times in my head. She was perfect in every way and that moment was perfect.
My previous birth was a conventional hospital birth, a.k.a.: induction resulting in exhaustion and then an epidural. One of the moments I remember from that birth was making the decision to have the epidural. I knew I would need to sleep before I could push and so I had to make the decision, though I didn’t really have a choice. It was everything I didn’t want and in that moment I remember feeling completely stripped of my right as a woman to birth my baby the way he was entitled to be birthed. Though that birth was “perfect” on paper, it left me feeling of little worth and with incredible self-doubt.
Through preparation for Hazel’s birth I healed that self-doubt and birthing Hazel has awakened within me what all women are entitled to. A supreme love and appreciation of the power of the female body and realization of the limitless capabilities we have in all aspects of our lives. A line from one of my favorite old movies has been playing in my mind all week. It describes so perfectly what I think birth should ignite in women:
“A magnificence that comes out of your eyes, in your voice, in the way you stand there, in the way you walk. You're lit from within. You've got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts.”
However you decide to birth, this is how it should make you feel.