I can’t believe it’s already been over a month with our little girl Every single moment of every single day I am just so grateful for her, grateful for a healthy pregnancy, a healthy delivery, a pretty smooth transition with her joining our world, and that everything has honestly been as good as I could have hoped for when it comes to this whole experience. I just feel so blessed by it all.
As you may already know, I chose to have my birth outside of a hospital, with midwives at a birthing center. I honestly didn’t talk too much about this subject and my feelings on it while I was pregnant because everyone has an opinion and I really wanted to preserve my peace and not invite unwanted opinions in. Labor is such a mind/body experience and I wanted to keep my mind sound in my decision by not having people question or judge. I’m aware our approach wasn’t what would be considered “conventional” but to me, it’s makes absolute perfect sense. We started our pregnancy with the care of an OBGYN – a very qualified and top class OBGYN that I felt very comfortable with. I knew early on that I wanted to have a “natural” birth with low-to-no intervention and I had made that clear, but as the pregnancy continued, I kept feeling like the birth I really wanted to have would be better suited outside the hospital system. And looking back on it now, I know I made the absolute best decision for me and our family. Birth is the most natural process and something I was literally born to do. Making it a medical process by way of the hospital experience, felt like I would be taking away from that. I do trust in the medical system and believe there is a place for it, when really needed. I think that during the birthing process, intervention techniques have been used overzealously by medical professionals, however. By giving birth at the birthing center, I knew I would have the natural birth experience I wanted, while still having access to intervention if absolutely necessary, as the hospital is only 2 miles from the center.
I want to be clear before I go any further that there is absolutely no judgment or shame from my end if you are one that chooses to have a hospital birth or welcome the idea of planned intervention (such as epidural). I think the most important thing a parent can do is listen to their body and their instincts and make their decisions from that place, accordingly. For me, I simply knew deep down that this was the experience I wanted to have. There’s a lot of information that helped inform my decision for sure though. I actually listened to this podcast after my delivery and it spells out A LOT of the reasons why I chose this path. If you’re curious, you can have a listen here. I wish I had listened to it while I was pregnant as there is a lot of great info about supplements, caffeine, and wine that I would have found useful.
Early labor began for me around 3:30am on Monday, April 4th. I was having contractions about 7 minutes apart. I went down and laid on the couch because I wasn’t sure if it was the real deal or a false alarm, and I wanted to let Brandon sleep. At about 6:30am, I woke him and told him what was going on and he just smiled.
I messaged my doula at about 7:30am and she instructed me to keep myself distracted and/or rest. I had been instructed to eat every 3 hours during labor and have some protein every hour, so I started my day with some protein pancakes. (Thank God I did because I had all these snacks packed for labor that I thought I would want to eat, and let me tell you – taking a bite of anything later on in the day was a struggle!) I decided to get up and take a shower and wash/dry my hair. By the time I was done, contractions were so sporadic – they would be 2 minutes apart, then 10 minutes. It was really all over the place. I texted my midwife and they assured me that it was too early to really be timing them and to just rest or distract myself and then let them know when things progressed.
In an effort to keep myself active/distracted, Brandon and I set out to the grocery store to buy some coconut water and juices. I knew I would need the electrolytes to keep me going and I definitely wanted to have a yummy beet juice after labor to help with circulation and to provide nourishment. Brandon went through the Chic-fil-a drive thru and I got a 4 piece nugget that I basically took one bite of because, like I said, eating is actually super hard in labor! Nothing sounds good.
We came home and decided to watch a movie, King Richard, which was really good! At about 2pm I decided I wanted to go rest, so I went up to bed. I was actually able to get some sleep in between the contractions, which were about 10 minutes apart. I laid in bed til about 6pm when I told Brandon to have my doula come over. In hindsight, I really wish I would have moved around more during this time period, which would have probably helped things progress more quickly.
From 6pm-11pm I was in active labor in my bed. Honestly, it was the worst pain I have ever experienced. I mean…duh, right? But honestly, it was more than I had bargained for, for sure. I had prepared so much for birth in the months leading up to it, that I really thought it was going to be easier because my mental game was so strong. Maybe it was easier than it would have been if I didn’t, but still…that shit was ROUGH! I would be laying on my side and then when a contraction would hit, I would jump up on all fours and breath through it. I had utilized a hypnobirthing practice throughout my pregnancy, and I was actually surprised that more of the techniques weren’t offered to me to use during my labor (especially since my doula was my hypnobirthing instructor). I had anticipated her instructing me to really use the deep mediations but she basically told me they were tools for me to pull from and more of a mindset thing for me to practice leading up to labor. I was a little disappointed by this in hindsight for sure, but I will say the affirmations were deeply embedded in my subconscious and were so helpful for me to have to call on in my mind as I went through each surge.
At around 10 pm my mucus plug and waters were still seemingly intact, so my doula instructed me to go sit on my toilet during the next 3 contractions to try and help things along. Thankfully, that helped my mucus plug come out and things really progressed quickly after that. I continued to labor in bed, but contractions were progressing to the point that I really couldn’t move during them. In fact, I began to shutter at the end of each surge – my body basically curling over like I was going to vomit. My doula said that it seemed like I was at the point that we needed to get the birthing center, and if I continued to have 3 contractions like that, we would go. After my 3rd contraction like that, I was like…”Ok time to go!” Haha!
We loaded up in the car and I was in the backseat propped up on all fours. We are about 15-20 minutes from the birth center and that was definitely the worst car ride of my life haha. We walked into the birth center at about 11:30pm and the midwife checked my cervix which was fully dilated by that point. They allowed me to continue the natural birthing process alongside my doula for the next hour and half. I worked through several different laboring positions attempting to “breath the baby down” with my hypnobirthing techniques. At around 1-1:30am I told Brandon that I just needed to get the baby out of me, so the doula called in the midwife who began to instruct me on how to push to progress the birth along. I was getting so tired and I just knew I needed to move things along.
I actively pushed for 2.5-3 hours. Woof. I tried a few different positions, some on my side with a big “peanut” shaped ball between my legs to create some space, and some on a birthing stool, but neither of them felt right in moving things along. The midwife suggested I lay on my back with my legs in the air and pull against a scarf in a tug-of-war motion while my doula held the other side. If you would have told me during my pregnancy that I would have ended up giving birth on my back, I would have adamantly protested, but alas…that’s exactly what happened. In a birth center, they offer so many different positions to you, and I always thought laying on your back was how they did things in the hospital to be more convenient for the doctors. I still think there is a lot of truth to that, but it ended up proving to be what worked for me, so whatever.
From this point on, I labored and actively pushed for another 1-1.5 hours. The midwife had informed me that my water had not yet broken and when I was pushing she could see the sac pushing through. She gave me the option for her to break my water. I really wanted to try to do everything with as little intervention as possible – even when it came to breaking my water, but ultimately I felt that it was creating a barrier for me in the process and working against me as I was trying to push the baby out. My doula told me to listen to my instincts and make the call, so I did and had the midwife break my water. (Apparently, I had a really thick amniotic sac lining, which they said is from eating a lot of protein. Fun facts. My mom however told me that she didn’t have her water break on any of her births – this is info that would have been useful beforehand haha)
After my water was broken, things seemed to progress pretty well. The nurse on site continued to monitor Luna with a doppler to make sure her heart rate was sustaining. At one point, the midwife did tell me that her heart rate had dropped a little due to her positioning in the birth canal, and told me I really needed to make things happen and get her out. That was definitely concerning for me and I did everything I could from that point to bring her into the world safely. I would get about 3 surges during a set of contractions to work with when pushing and I really gave it my all. Brandon and the nurse were on either side of me helping my legs stay in the air, while pushing them back toward me to give me some leverage. My doula held one side of a scarf/blanket while I held the other and with each surge I would curl my head/shoulders forward while pulling against the scarf for leverage. I pushed with all my might each of those three surges and then my body would give me rest. The midwife was so great about continuing to lubricate and massage me to create space for the baby to come through. (I didn’t tear in birth and I am convinced it was because of her attention to this area! I also was pretty diligent about perineal massage throughout the last month of my pregnancy, for what it’s worth.)
The midwife had asked me if I wanted to put my head down to feel her head peaking through, or to have a mirror to look at. They said this helps motivate some people. Honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to do! I wanted to just focus all my energy on getting her out and I felt like that would be a distraction. I’m not sure how many cycles I pushed but it felt fast and slow all at once. The midwife and nurse were so encouraging. With every surge I was getting closer to meeting my baby and they would cheer me on letting me know she was getting closer and closer. Brandon was cheering me out the whole time and when her head started to crown, he asked the midwife if he could receive Luna. After a few more surges, her head was out and in Brandon’s hands. One more set of surges and her shoulder was out and the rest was a breeze. Her cord was wrapped around her neck so they quickly maneuvered it off of her and sat her on my chest. Brandon kissed my head as we held our precious baby – the sweetest relief I’ve ever known.
The midwives began to check her and my vitals, making sure everything was ok. She and I were exceptionally healthy afterward, which I am so grateful for. The placenta was left attached to her so continue to feed her vital nutrients and the midwives left her there with us to bond for the next hour and a half. They would come in every 15-30 minutes to make sure she was still doing well, but otherwise, we were pretty much left alone, which was amazing. I do really wish I would have napped during this time because I barely slept when we got home, but you’re savoring the moment so it’s hard to think about taking away from that. I did finally dose off for 20 minutes as Brandon held her, and then we switched so he could get a little nap. After 3 hours of bonding, the nurse came in and helped me get a shower. Then we began to pack up, get one last vital check and were on our way home.
Leaving 4 hours after birth may sound intimidating, but it was AMAZING! We got to come home to our own space to be able to rest in the comfort of our home and begin to integrate our baby into our world right away. I seriously am so grateful for that.
Many have asked if I would do the birth center again, and my answer is absolutely! Natural labor is incredibly hard, so the idea of that doesn’t have me jumping for joy, but the environment we brought our daughter into this world in was so peaceful and supportive and absolutely beautiful. I’m so grateful for that. The verdict is still out on whether or not we are “one and done” or if there will be a second attempt at a Behr baby, but if so, I hope our experience can be just like it was with this birth.