I didn’t know until about 3 months ago that people wrote out birth stories. I didn’t really understand why until I had my own to tell. It’s such a crazy, incredible experience that I don’t ever want to forget one detail. You think the birth of your child is something you will never forget – and for the most part it is – but I’ve been reading other birth stories for the past couple of weeks and it made me realize how much I actually had forgotten. Bits and pieces trickle back into my memory, and I can’t believe how much has slipped my mind in just 2 months. It’s crazy that the most painful experience of my life is also the most amazing, and I want to always remember it so I’ve decided to write out Fiona’s birth story.
Writing out an entire birth story seems so daunting. I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose from the day I found out I was pregnant seems like a good place to start.
It was Christmas Eve Day 2010, and I was in our backyard, standing at the patio table putting twine around the home videos of Jr. that Evan makes every year to give to family members for Christmas. I honestly cannot explain what made me even think about it, but for some reason I suddenly stopped and thought, “I’m going to take a pregnancy test”. It was honestly the weirdest thing because we weren’t really trying and I didn’t even have any signs of being pregnant. Before that very moment it hadn’t even crossed my mind that it was a possibility. The thought literally just popped into my head out of nowhere that maybe I’ll take a minute and check.
I’m so glad I did it then and not a day later because we were going to celebrate Christmas at my parents’ house, and Christmas at my parents’ house involves A LOT of drinking. A LOT. Phew! Coincidentally, the night before I fell asleep thinking, “If we had a baby, where would we put it? It was like my subconscious trying to let me in on the secret because my body obviously wasn’t. I took it. Positive. I freaked. I called my sister, who knew what I was going to say before I even said it. She seemed so excited, but I was too nervous to be excited just yet. I took another test. Positive. Whether or not I was excited it was happening.
Anyway, I told Evan that day when he got home from work (of course it involved some cute little trick, because girls love that stuff) and we told our families that night – Christmas Eve. And there it was; we were going to have a baby.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to have a natural childbirth. It’s just how I am. That probably didn’t surprise anyone who knows me well. I didn’t know much about birth, but what I had heard from most people always sounded so awful and traumatizing. I felt like birth should be a beautiful experience, and I had never heard anyone describe it that way. I felt that as a young, healthy person my body should know what to do, and I should just let it be.
At my second prenatal appointment I was about 8 weeks pregnant and I decided to talk to my doctor about my options for giving birth. Before I could even tell him about my interest in a natural childbirth he proceeded to tell me that he could schedule a C-section right then and it would be over and done with. WHAT? Was there something wrong with me, why would I need a C-section? I didn’t understand. I told him I didn’t want a C-section if it wasn’t necessary. So he began to tell me that I was too small and probably couldn’t get a baby out. He told me it would feel like someone threw a grenade down there and that he would be pissed if I did it natural because it probably wouldn’t be possible for me. Yes, he literally said, “Frankly, I would pissed if you decided to do it natural.” I could not believe what I was hearing! I came to him for some professional advice and this is what he was telling me? I’m all for C-sections and medical intervention when it’s necessary, but what he was saying to me just didn’t seem right. I left the office so confused. I didn’t know what to do. The 2 visits I had to my doctor were stressful, confusing and discouraging. He didn’t seem to care about what I wanted.
I decided to take some time to do some research on natural childbirth, and over the next few weeks I had learned so much that backed up everything I thought intuitively. I learned that I did have other options, and if I didn’t feel comfortable with what my doctor was telling me, then he shouldn’t be my doctor. I decided I wanted to give my doctor the boot, find a midwife and do a homebirth. Of course, it took a little effort to convince my husband to agree with this decision whole-heartedly. He has a son who was born in a hospital and didn’t know any other way. I showed him some of what I had researched so that he understood it more, but I think it wasn’t until he met and talked with our midwife that he really started to have more faith in the decision. Going with a midwife and a homebirth was honestly the best decision we could have made. Our midwife, Kim, was so amazing throughout our whole pregnancy. She was just so approachable and knowledgeable. She put any anxiety we had about having a baby at home to rest. And our visits were so nice! Her office was warm with lovely pictures on the walls, a bookshelf, cute little knick-knacks, and a comfy couch. Nothing like the cold pallor of a doctor’s office. She actually knew us when we came in instead of having to glance at a clipboard to be reminded of our names. It was like visiting a friend who happened to be delivering our baby.
My due date was August 28th, but I thought our baby would come late because I had read first-time babies often come a week or two past the due date. Since almost everyone in Evan’s family has birthdays in August, I was really hoping baby would wait until at least the 1st of September. I was growing incredibly tired of hearing, “another August baby?!” followed by the list of August birthdays in chronological order. Plus, I just wasn’t ready. I liked being pregnant. And labor terrified me, obviously. I never questioned my decision to do it naturally, but I still couldn’t stand the thought of it. I was a nervous wreck for the last few weeks with the thought of labor looming over my head.
I went into labor a week and a half early on August 17th. Around 11pm, I was getting too tired to wait for Evan to get home from work so I decided to go to bed. I was having trouble sleeping because I was having contractions, but I had been having practice contractions for weeks, so it wasn’t anything unusual. I didn’t mention anything to Evan when he got home around 11:30 because nothing out of the ordinary was happening; I was sure it was just Braxton Hicks contractions. But after another hour, they became more intense. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom but couldn’t, and then I threw up. So I called downstairs to Evan, who was watching TV, to tell him what was happening. We didn’t want to call Kim, our midwife, right away because we thought it was just false labor. My water didn’t break. And just a few hours earlier I was perfectly fine, eating a grilled cheese, hanging out at a pub!
Around 2:30 the contractions were starting to come one on top of the other and I was throwing up. We finally called Kim. She thought it was probably labor, and said she’d be right over. She told us throwing up is often a sign of transitioning. “Transitioning?!” I thought, “How did I go from almost nothing to transitioning? What happened to the calm early labor I kept reading about where they recommend walks and daily errands?” I immediately started to cry. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do it. Should I change my mind and just go to the hospital where I could get heavily medicated and then just suddenly have a baby in my arms? How was I going to handle more of this pain?
Evan called my sister and then the birthing tub company to come set up. By around 3:30am everyone was there: my sister, Kim, and her assistant (and midwife in training). It was all happening whether I was ready or not. I remember being upstairs in our bed as everyone showed up. Everyone was whispering to each other. I didn’t know or care what they were saying because I was trying so hard to focus and breathe through the contractions.
Once the tub was set up everyone kept trying to get me to go downstairs into it, but I didn’t want to move. I was so tired, I hadn’t slept since the day before, and I was about to perform the workout of my life.
The next few hours were a blur. I finally moved downstairs after a couple hours; then rotated between the birthing tub, living room sofa, and toilet pretty much nonstop until she was born. I couldn’t sit still; it was like I actually believed I would find a position that was comfortable. Evan tried talking to me soothingly, but I was not having it. I would shush him, throw my arm out and wave it around indicating I wanted it tickled. Apparently that releases endorphins and helps with pain.
I think around 9:30 the baby started to crown, and I knew it was finally almost over. That didn’t, however, stop me from moving around. I was on the move trying to get the baby out. At one pit stop on the couch everyone kept asking if I wanted to move to the tub because the baby would come any minute, and didn’t I want the baby in the water? I did, but I felt like all I wanted in life was to lie down and sleep. They kept saying the baby’s head was out and maybe just one more push, but I felt like it kept going back in and I was getting so discouraged.
I felt defeated and finally waddled over to the tub – to stay – and continued pushing. And pushing. And pushing. Evan was in the tub as well. To support me and to catch the baby, who would come any minute. The noises I made scared myself. I tried performing the breathing exercises from our class, but all my body wanted to do was this weird low, guttural, controlled moan. Kim told me we were so close and if I wanted to I could feel the baby’s head. I did, but I also felt some kind of water sack. Kim said once that breaks the baby would come. I was so done; I wanted this baby OUT. I asked if I could break the sack myself and she told me I could either pull it out or break it like you break a blister. So I took it upon myself to break my water; I pushed a few more times and baby was born. It was the most incredible relief I’ve ever felt. The pain was instantly gone. The fatigue, gone. The baby floated up to the top of the water and all I could say was, “Oh my God” over and over again. I was in shock, I didn’t know what to do. Evan and I picked her up out of the water and just held her. I didn’t even think to check for the sex. Nine months we waited for this moment to find out. Nine months I prayed almost every day that it would be a girl, and when the moment arrived, it didn’t even cross my mind to check. When Evan said it was a girl, I wanted to jump up and down for joy. We had our baby girl. It’s all kind of a blur but I’m pretty sure I breathlessly grunted, “It’s a girl!” about 10 times out of excitement. We sat there and stared at her for a few minutes, I delivered the placenta, she nursed, and then we all got out of the tub to get cleaned off.
It was the most amazing experience of my entire life. I’ve never been in so much pain, I’ve never felt so accomplished, and I’ve never felt so much joy. She was the most perfect thing I had ever seen, and I never knew I could love something so much so quickly. It was she who gave me nausea for 3 months. She who gave me insomnia. She who grew a little every day in my belly and sweetly rolled around while I pushed and “played” with her from the outside. She who I read and sang out loud to hoping she could hear my voice. It was our baby girl all along, and now she was finally here.
Once we got out of the tub Kim did a newborn assessment, checked me, made sure we were all good and then Evan and I were left to coo over our precious baby. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth. People ask me if it was painful without medication…Well, yah! It’s BIRTH! It’s supposed to be painful. But there was also a sense of calm throughout the entire process. Only people I knew and trusted surrounded me, I was in my own home, and when it was done there was nothing but pure joy and excitement. It was a tough experience, but it went exactly how I pictured. And for our sweet baby girl I would do it ten more times.