After randomly watching “The Business of Being Born”and “Born in the U.S.A.” early in my pregnancy (my husband and I are Netflix documentary nerds), I became intensely interested in having a natural birth experience. I should note that I wasn’t always so interested in intervention-free birth – quite the contrary. I had always assumed I would go the “normal” route and opt for inducing labor and having an epidural. Heck, even the idea of a C-section sounded nice to my uneducated mind (considering the alternative – pushing a watermelon-sized object out of my hoo-ha!). In fact, you might say I was scared to death of giving birth.
Well, they say that becoming a mom changes everything…and…the prospect of it definitely did for me.
I won’t get into the complicated/controversial reasons that more and more women are choosing out-of-hospital births. You can read more about that here. Suffice it to say that once I did my own research, I was convinced that the hospital experience wasn’t for me and my growing family. Of course, I was open to medical assistance if some complication arose, but I knew that most births go without much of a hitch. That’s what I was aiming for. With that, I began researching my options online, and I was happy to discover BetterBirth.
This group of local midwives and their students serve the entire Salt Lake Valley, and they attend both home births and births at their Bella Natal Birthing Suites in Salt Lake City and Orem. My husband and I opted for the student program which cost a total of $1,600. YES, $1,600. That’s less than the deductible/co-insurance on some insurance plans, and it included prenatal care, the actual birth and two postnatal visits for my daughter and me. (The regular, non-student package will run you $2,600). The only thing it didn’t include was a mid-pregnancy ultrasound (and any other ultrasounds that one might choose to have – each costing $150 through BetterBirth). SOLD!
Upon meeting the midwives, I was extremely impressed. They answered all of my questions in our visits, and I never felt rushed or pressured. They constantly reassured me that I was mentally, emotionally and physically capable of doing what my body was made to do. So, after 40 weeks and 4 days of what I considered to be a miserable pregnancy (nausea throughout, 50-pound weight gain, body aches, insomnia, chest pains, intense fatigue, you-name-it), the time came for me to give birth to my sweet Harper.
Aaaaaand, my birth story! (Scroll to the bottom for more photos!)
On the morning of Sunday, June 5, I woke up at 3:20am to what felt like menstrual cramps. I had been having some stomach discomfort for a few days when I woke up, so I didn’t think too much of it. Just to be safe, I pulled out my iPhone and starting using the Stage 1 app (free – and it was super helpful to me) to time everything. After a few 45- to 90-second-long contractions at only a couple minutes apart, I realized things were getting started pretty fast and furious.
I lay in bed for a couple hours monitoring the contractions before I woke up my husband. The contractions had slowed but intensified, and I wasn’t sure what I should do. We called the midwife, and she didn’t seem to think that I was quite ready to come in yet. In fact, my contractions slowed to only every 7-9 minutes for a little while, but they were growing more painful (yes, painful, I admit it) by the minute. The midwife had me get into my own tub for 30-45 minutes while my husband ran to our new house to grab the camera (which never made it out of the bag – thank goodness for the iPhone again!). By the time I had been in there 40 minutes, I knew it was time. Everything was leveling out and getting more and more consistent. We called the midwife back, and she said to meet her at the birthing center at 8:15am.
Side note: I often see women asking what contractions feel like on this board, so I wanted to share what kept growing through my head during my earlier (pre-transition) stage of labor. I kept imagining a woman on a diving board (a little above my pubic bone) diving toward my back. As she plunged through the “water,” the surge intensified until hit my lower back (the “ocean floor” or whatever). At that point, she morphed into two divers who diverged and plunged back up by way of going around my hips and back to where the original diver started. I know, I know…kind of abstract. But that kept going through my head over and over. Sometimes I would even imagine the diver finding a pearl at the bottom – and that was what motivated her to dive again.
By the time I got to the birthing center, I was in a decent amount of pain. I didn’t want lower-back massages…or any touching…or any talking…I just wanted to hum and breathe in silence. I lay on my side for a couple hours doing just that until they came in to check me. I was quite annoyed when they found me to only be 2cm dilated (90% effaced). I started thinking this was going to be harder than I had imagined…
At that point, the midwives wanted me to get up and walk around. Well, I would make it about two steps before I would lean over the bed, hum, and dry heave. However, the few steps I made felt like they made a difference. After resting on the bed a little longer, they checked me again and said I was at about a 4 (I think – the numbers got a little hazy at this point). I was still a bit disappointed. I asked if I could get into the tub, and they began filling it for me…
So, into the tub. I labored a while on my back in there until the contractions felt like they were one on top of the other. There was a point where I was getting no relief. Again, they checked me and said I was about 4-6cm. Devastated. That’s the point where I started to think I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine it getting any worse, and I found myself thinking that I was going to write home afterward with one of those “traumatic” birth experiences.
At that point, the midwives discussed the option of breaking my water manually. I heard my husband asking them the pros and cons, and mid-contraction, I just started waving my hands and shaking my hands, NO. I was committed to doing this naturally, and I didn’t want ANYTHING to come in between that. They told me breaking my water would speed things up, but it might also intensify things. I couldn’t imagine anything more intense. At that point, I hunkered down and kept up with my deep breathing and humming.
Another side note: I did not take any classes or read any books about how to breathe, hum or deal with the pain. I kind of winged it. My husband was amazing. He left me alone when I wanted to zone out in my own world, and he coached me when I needed reassurance.
Shortly after the “devastating” news that I was only 4-6cm dilated, the midwives and my husband encouraged me to use the bathroom or at least sit on the toilet for a little while to open me up a bit. While getting out of that tub and onto that toilet seemed like the hardest thing I ever had to do, it was worth it. I’m not sure, but I think my water broke a little while I was sitting there, and things got really intense once I was back in the tub (I never had a definite water breaking – but I felt a couple warm gushes while in the tub after that). A couple times I cried a little and said I was just too tired. I truly felt like I couldn’t go on. I swore up and down that I would never do this again.
A short while after, they checked me and found me to be COMPLETE. COMPLETE!! YES!! COMPLETE! Even though I pretty much wasn’t responding to anyone or anything at that point (other than my body), I was doing the most exuberant happy dance you could ever imagine in my head.COMPLETE! That’s all I needed to know…
Soon, my body kind of started involuntarily pushing at the end of my contractions. I was overjoyed when they said I could start pushing. From reading other birthing stories, I thought it would provide much-needed relief. Well, yes…and no.
Lying on my back in the tub, I pushed several times with what seemed like absolutely no results. It just didn’t feel like it was “catching” if that makes sense. I couldn’t feel any progression. I got up on my hands and knees to push a little more, and still, no progression. Back to lying on my back in the tub, I needed a rest. Still no progression. Meanwhile though, baby’s heart rate stayed in the 120s-140s the entire labor. She seemed to be taking her time and enjoying the suspense. NOT MOMMY!
Finally, I got into what seemed like a strange position to me. I had my back against the long side of the jacuzzi, and my legs were bent in front of me pushing against the opposite side of the tub. I was kind of in a frog position. Over my head, there was a metal bar that I grabbed onto. The midwives and my husband coached me to pull down on the bar like I was doing a pull-up. Finally, something felt like it was working. I pushed like that a few times and truly wore myself out to the point of utter exhaustion. The ONE drug I guess you could say I had during the labor was right then – a shot of a caffeine energy drink.
A few pushes later, they told me to reach down and feel her head. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was feeling in there, but it was enough to give me that final jolt of energy I needed to meet my daughter. My husband kept saying, “You’re about to meet Harper. You’re about to meet your daughter.” In about four sets of four pushes (deep breath, hold, push X4), She was OUT! First she crowned, then the head was half-way, then the head all the way (so they checked her cord – not wrapped around her neck), and finally the shoulders and rest of her body. Midway through those pushes, I said, “Yep, there’s that ring of fire!” I couldn’t be happier though. Everyone always worries about tearing and feeling the horrible pain of actually pushing the baby out – but it was nothing to me at that point. I just wanted to meet this perfect little being!
The best way I can describe that last pain of getting her out was the ultimate release: yes, it hurt…but it didn’t hurt as bad as the contractions, honestly, and I knew that I was SOOOO close. The feeling when she finally popped out was one like no other. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. In that moment, it was like all the bad memories of the labor were gone, and I knew everything had gone exactly how it should have. She lay on my tummy (short cord – wouldn’t make it to my chest) while they let her cord stop pulsing.
Finally, my husband cut the cord and I brought her to my chest where she was alert and calm. They suctioned a little fluid out of her nose/mouth, and she was so happy and content to lie there with me in the tub. She got an 8 for her initial APGAR because of her bluish tint and her fluid in the mouth/nose. (She was later a 9.)
A few minutes later, my husband took the baby while the midwives helped me out of the tub. I was dirty, sweaty and exhausted, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to hold my baby and look at her. My husband brought her to me where she quickly began breast feeding. I was absolutely amazed that nature could design such a perfect system! I instantly fell in love, and I even saw my husband in a whole new light. He’s now not only my best friend, but he’s Harper’s daddy and he’s my absolute and unwavering support. He is so wonderful.
The rest is what you would expect – I did have a tear (2nd degree), so the midwife and one of her students sewed me up while another student did the full exam of the baby. I smiled and ignored what was happening to me while I looked over at my husband’s giddy smile while holding our precious bundle. When they finally finished getting me situated, I took the most glorious shower and quickly returned to my little one. She was sleeping peacefully and did so until we got home and nursed again. That night, we all lay in bed and were a family together for the first time.
- So, total time in labor: 13 hours, 38 minutes
- Total time pushing: almost 2 hours
- Total time at the birthing center: approximately 12 hours
- How long at the birthing center after birth: roughly 5 hours
- Weeks pregnant: 40 weeks, 4 days
- Born 4:58pm, Sunday, June 5
- 7 pounds, 8 ounces
- 20 inches long
- APGAR: 8/9
- Hair: YES! Full head!
And of course, what you really wanted to see – pics! (Yes, iPhone pics…I know…I know.)
And of course, now that I’m getting around to posting this, she is twice as big as she was at birth. Ahhhhh…where does the time go?