This is a long post. When I was pregnant, I loved reading about other mothers’ natural birth stories (which I talk about more here. I hope by sharing my story of a beautiful natural birth, that went on much longer than I expected, that you can either relate or help prepare yourself for an upcoming birth. When I read other mothers’ birth stories, I would think to myself, “How would I have handled that situation?”, and it helped me process many of the unknowns of the birthing process.
Whether you’re just curious, or hoping to find some insight into what natural birth might look like, I hope you enjoy reading the story of the most transformational few days of my life.
I’ll start out by saying, I knew early on that I would have the baby before my due date. Everyone kept encouraging me to “hold out” because the baby was due on my Dad’s birthday. My mother-in-law kept reminding me that all her babies came very late, and that I was carrying those genes. But I just had this feeling baby would arrive at least a little bit early.
I thought the baby was going to come on a Sunday at 39 weeks, so I rallied everyone’s help the week prior week to get our house organized as well as some things at the store. I stayed late at work the Friday compiling orders, because I didn’t think Steven or I would be there the next week.
On Saturday, just over one week before my due date, we did some last minute running around, and in the afternoon we decided to try inflating the birth pool to make sure there were no leaks. Around 4pm as we are working on the birth pool, I got a strange feeling of downward pressure and noticed my belly was a little tight. I hadn’t had any Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I wasn’t sure what it was, but I said to Steve, “I think I just had a contraction”. He got this panicked look on his face and just responded with, “Seriously?!?” I said I’d have to wait and see if it happened again, because it could be nothing. We went on tidying up the birth pool, but sure enough, 30 minutes later another bout of pressure, and another 30 minutes after that.
That night, I had a huge urge to clean the house – the scrub every surface and clean out every drawer type of cleaning. Steven was a good sport. We stayed up until almost 2am cleaning, doing laundry, hanging photos on the walls; finishing up a bunch of loose ends. When we were both sufficiently tired, we went to bed.
I slept well that night, and even “slept in” a bit until 9am. When I woke up in the morning, I went and made myself breakfast as usual. While Steven and I were eating, he asked if I was in labour. I said I wasn’t sure because the contractions were so mild, but they were every 20 minutes now. For the entire day Sunday we went on about our day as usual, by the end of the day my contractions were about 12 minutes apart.
That night we made dinner, and just hung out as a couple. Steven really wanted to watch some TV shows he’d recorded, knowing he wouldn’t have much time for TV for a while, so we stayed up until after midnight watching them all.
I was asleep by around 12:30am on Sunday night/Monday morning. Then, I woke up suddenly with some discomfort low in my abdomen around 3:30am Monday morning. I had been waking up once a night, at least, for the last 2 months of my pregnancy to pee, and at times I was quite uncomfortable. I’d said on more than one occasion “I think my bladder is about to explode!” So, I just got out of bed to go to the bathroom. I was back in bed a couple minutes later, thinking that I felt better, when another “woosh” came over me. I had heard contractions described as a wave, and was pretty sure that’s what this was. I stayed up on my own for about 10 minutes breathing through each contraction, but they were only about 2.5 -3minutes apart, and lasting 45 seconds or so. I woke up Steve so he could time some, because I thought maybe I was crazy, or timing them wrong. He timed a few, and they were all less than 3 minutes apart. He started to get anxious, and said “you need to call the midwife”. I didn’t really feel like I was “there” yet… the contractions were somewhat strong, but definitely not what I’d expect to push out a baby. I knew I had some time. However, our guideline did say if your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart to page the midwife. So, feeling really bad about waking her, I did.
My midwife, Monica, talked to me about how I was feeling, how strong the contractions were, the timing, and how long they were lasting. She asked me what I thought. She said she would come and assess me and check me if I wanted her to, but in her opinion, I didn’t sounds like someone in the thick of it. I didn’t really want her to come until it was absolutely necessary. I’m the type of person who likes to be alone when I’m uncomfortable or stressed, so I told her I didn’t think she needed to come. She told me to call her right away if I changed my mind, and said if she hadn’t heard from me already, she’d call to check in when she woke up. She suggested I take a bath to calm down and see if the contractions stayed as strong.
I got off the phone with her, and promptly ran a bath. I told Steve to try and sleep; he tried, but couldn’t. The bath felt wonderful. I could feel that the contractions were still coming on every few minutes, but they were not uncomfortable at all. It was nice. I sat in the bath and relaxed for a while, then shaved my legs, and had a shower to get ready for the work I had ahead me.
After I was ready, with my hair blow-dried and my choice labour pyjamas on, I laid in bed for a bit to try and sleep… but laying down brought on much more discomfort. So, around 6am I decided I’d get up and have breakfast. I had the same thing I do almost every morning, it was calming to be able to eat what I wanted and be in my own space.
Around 7am, I did some last minute work for Healthoholics, called our families to let them know what was going on, and informed our employees that this was it and Steve and I would be away for a few days.
By 8:30am I was feeling really tired. Monica called quickly to check in and make sure I still didn’t need her. At this point, I had to consciously breathe through the contractions to try and relax. I laid down to try and rest, and my contractions started to space out. By 9:20am, when Steven’s Mom arrived to pick up some of my work, my contractions were only every 7 minutes and I managed a minute or two of sleep between each one.
Throughout the day I kept drinking lots of water, and eating snacks as I felt I needed them. My contractions were about 10 minutes apart by noon. I didn’t want my labour to stall after all the work I’d been doing since 3:30am, so, I did some laps up and down our stairs. Steven and I went out for a brisk walk up and down the block, he was great and held on to me and let me lean on him during contractions. We did a whole bunch of things we’d read about that speed up labour.
Around 2pm we called my Mom over for some more support. We were both getting quite tired. Shortly after my Mom arrived, Monica called again to check in. I told her my contractions had spaced out to about every 12 minutes, but were much more intense than the last time I spoke with her. She suggested I try to sleep. I was skeptical of this, but after a couple more hours my Mom convinced me to try and sleep since the contractions were about 13 minutes apart.
Steve and I went to bed. I was surprised that I was able to sleep for about 2 hours. Then, I woke up suddenly again around 6pm with the strongest contraction I’d felt yet. I couldn’t stay in bed. I went downstairs and had my Mom time some more contractions. They were back to about 7 or 8 minutes apart.
For the next few hours we basically just hung out. I breathed through contractions, used an exercise ball to sit on, ate snacks, drank water, and chatted when I could.
Around 9:30pm we went upstairs to the bedroom so I could lay down. It wasn’t comfortable, so I ended up coming back down to our powder room (because I like to be alone when in discomfort) to sit on the toilet. It was very comfortable; I think because we are used to relaxing our pelvic muscles while sitting on the toilet, it was second-nature to be relaxed through the contractions while sitting there.
I went back upstairs, and my Mom and Steve tried to convince me for about 30 minutes that I needed to call the midwife. My contractions were about 4.5 minutes apart and lasting 45 to 75 seconds; they were visibly more powerful. I finally agreed to call her around 10:30pm. Monica said she’d grab some tea and head over.
I was just coming out of the bathroom shortly before 11pm when Monica arrived. We all went back up to the bedroom and she checked my blood pressure, temperature, asked me a bunch of questions and got all our paperwork filled out. She checked my progress around 11:30pm and told me I was a good 6-7cm. She stretched my cervix out to 7cm, while apologizing that she knew it was uncomfortable, but would help. I was so relieved I was already at 7cm. I had been nervous for her to check me, because I was a little worried I’d been doing so much hard work, and she’d come and tell me I was only 1cm. This was reassuring.
Steve and my Mom moved a few pieces of furniture around in the bedroom to make more space for us and the birth pool. Steven then pumped up the pool. The rental had come with an air pump that you had to do by hand. I reminded him jokingly not to complain about how tough it was because his wife was in labour. He managed to get the pool inflated and filled pretty quickly.
I went on contracting. I used the exercise ball, knelt on all fours, put my knees on the ground and flopped over the exercise ball so I could rock, sometimes I had Steve apply counter pressure (though we didn’t use the tennis balls in socks that was recommended to us as an option), I spent some more time sitting on the toilet, ate more, and basically just took it one “rush” at a time, remembering to relax.
Around 1:30am, on Tuesday now, Monica asked if she could check me again. She said I was at least 7-8cm. I was happy because I had read and heard that from 8-10cm is the fastest part of labour. Contractions were about every 3 minutes by now.
We tried out the birth pool, but I didn’t find it comfortable. So, I got redressed and went back to using the exercise ball. I placed it on top of the bed so I could stand beside the bed, and flop my upper body over the ball. Standing seemed to be bringing the baby lower and it felt good to be able to roll around on top of the ball during each contraction. My midwife suggested I stand on the stairs, with one leg higher than the other and rotate my hips to try to bring the baby down. I tried, but felt very unstable. My knees kept shaking. I didn’t feel nervous, and mentioned it to Monica. She said it was very normal and usually due to the extremely high levels of hormones in the body. I asked Steve to come and stand behind me so I didn’t accidentally fall down the stairs. Someone made a joke about that being a terrible reason to end up having a baby in the hospital.
It was around 2am when I said to my Mom, “I’m still thinking if THIS is all it takes to have a baby, people complain waaaay too much!” My Mom agreed that people do complain a lot; Monica just giggled.
Around 2:30am, Monica checked me again. She said, “I hate to give you bad news, but you’ve gone backwards a little bit, you’re only at 7cm.” I was SO unbelievably disappointed. I was exhausted! I had been contracting hard for almost 24 hours with only 2 hours of sleep; only 5 hours of sleep in the last two days! I felt discouraged. Monica said “you should think about having me break your water”. I really didn’t want her to. I wanted to let the waters break naturally. I decided not to break my waters just then, but I told her I would think about it.
Monica had a migraine, so she went to lie down in our guest room. I looked at my Mom and Steven and said with a little catch in my throat, “I don’t know if I can do this for five more hours”. (Where I got 5 more hours from, I’m not sure…)
I lay down on the bed in Steven’s lap with my eyes closed trying to compose myself. Even though it hurt more in that position, I needed the rest. I jokingly said to Steve, “Is this the part where I’m supposed to tell you I hate you?” Steven ran his hands through my hair, rubbed my shoulders and whispered to me how great I was doing, how much he loved me, how we were going to have a gorgeous baby so soon. I was thinking to myself how unlike him it was to say such loving things in front of other people. I opened my eyes, and realized my Mom had also left the room and we were alone. I giggled a little to myself, and that was enough to get my mind back in it.
Around 3:30am Monica checked me again, I still hadn’t changed from 7cm. I knew that the prostaglandins in the amniotic fluid would help ripen my cervix, and that the greater pressure from the baby’s head pressing directly on my cervix would likely help things move faster; weighing risk to reward, I decided to have her break my waters at that point. She informed me that it was easiest to break the waters while I was having a contraction. I was laying flat on my back on the side of the bed with my knees up, when the contraction came on, it felt at first like she was checking my cervix again and then I felt the warm gush. Monica said, “and there is nice clear fluid”. I got a twinge of anxiety. I had forgotten to be worried about meconium in the amniotic fluid, which would be a reason to transfer to hospital. I quickly reminded myself that there was no longer any reason to be worried and that everything was fine.
I got up onto the bed on all fours with my chest flopped over the birth ball waiting for the next contraction. When it came, it was a rush! I felt my body bearing down. I said to Monica, “I feel like pushing”. She told me not to push yet, that my body wasn’t ready and if I pushed now it would cause inflammation to the cervix and would make it harder to get the baby out later. She said, “just breathe through it and try not to push”. I stayed on the bed for one more contraction. It was so difficult not to push, everything in my body wanted to. It took so much effort to keep myself from going along with it, and I felt just a tiny bit out of control.
I asked for permission to go into the bathroom on my own again. I went in and sat on the toilet, because I knew it had helped me relax before. During these contractions I was vocalizing a bit, very low groaning noises, while trying to hold back from pushing. I felt like I was going to the bathroom, but I wasn’t sure, so I looked down into the toilet; there was a bunch of blood. I yelled out, “I’m bleeding a lot!” My midwife came in quickly and asked if she could see. She checked and assured me it was nothing to worry about, it was just cervical blood and was totally normal. She left me alone again.
I stayed on the toilet for a few more contractions, but I was so exhausted. It was taking everything I had not to push. I finally just lay down on the bathroom floor. I moaned pretty loudly, surprising myself a bit, through a few contractions there as well, and then felt this huge gush of fluid. I didn’t have the energy to get up and make sure it was amniotic fluid not blood, so I called out, “there’s a lot of stuff coming out of me!” Monica came and opened the bathroom door. She said, “oh, we are on the bathroom floor now, okay…” She told me it was just fluid, and when I felt like I could to come back into the bedroom and she’d check how I was doing. It was shortly after 4am, best I can estimate.
After a few minutes, I got myself up and wandered slowly and kind of unsteadily into the bedroom. Everyone was sitting there waiting for me, and I was greeted by Monica who said with a bit of a grin, “THIS is the part everyone complains about… let me check you and we’ll see if you’re ready to push”.
She checked and announced, “I have good news, you’re at 10cm!” She stood up and was taking her gloves off, while I started contracting again. She said, “Feel free to push this time, we’ll see how things go. We’ll see how you’re doing with pushing in a bit. Start thinking about which midwife you want to have come and assist. I know you prefer Skye to be here, but she has clinic tomorrow, so it would be better to have Sheryl or Jess come if you are okay with that. Just think about it”. My Mom piped up for me that I would prefer Skye, but we all decided we’d see how things were going.
I stayed laying on the edge of the bed, Steven was behind me, propping me up a little, and my Mom was standing by my knees. I just let my body do what it wanted with the next contraction, and it felt so much better! My midwife turned around from discarding her gloves and writing in my log. When I finished the contraction she said, “Okay, so if you can just breathe through the next few contractions, I’m going to call Skye and get her here now”. I said, “Is the baby coming?!?!” She told me that they could see the head a little when I was pushing.
I panted through a few more contractions, and the Monica feverishly gathered all the supplies they would need for the birth. Skye arrived within about 10 minutes, and as soon as she did, they told me I could push again. Monica and Skye organized the last few things they needed, and Monica quickly filled her in on my wishes for delayed cord clamping, no eye drops, no vitamin K shot, and passive management of the placenta.
Monica then sat on the floor and began applying counter pressure to my perineum with hot washcloths while I was pushing. I think it helped. I was still laying on the edge of the bed, with Steven propping me up a little. I was holding both his hands from behind me. When a contraction would start I would pull forward on his hands, I guess using it for leverage. My body would straighten out like a board and I’d push back on him (I’ve been told since that he was cross legged and my Mom was worried I’d break his leg, Steve said I was hurting him pretty bad – but it was completely unintentional). I also kept closing my knees, so my Mom was holding one so I wouldn’t whack Monica. After a few contractions while pushing, it started to sting a lot. I felt like my skin was going to split open up the front of me. I was grunting and moaning with each rush and starting saying, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!”
After a couple contractions, Skye suggested that I hold my other knee back to help it go faster. I just said, “I don’t think I can”. I was SO tired, and felt like I couldn’t reach down. Skye assured me I could do it, and I think I tried.
After a couple more contractions, I asked my Mom if they could see they head. She said, “oh ya, it’s right there!” She looked excited, and nervous, and I could tell she was trying to be strong and hold back tears. Someone offered to get me a mirror so I could look, but my curiosity was dampened by the fact that I was ready for the baby to be out!
I was having a hard time verbalizing anything, and just kept running through in my mind, “the baby is almost here, this is the best way to get the baby out, stay calm”, and so on. I was very much in my own head.
Skye told me the baby would be there soon, and said I’d want to pull up my night dress so it didn’t get dirty. I said, “like pull it up or take it off?” She said it was up to me. I was in between contractions. All modesty was gone, and I immediately yanked it up over my head…now totally naked except for my socks.
I think there was one more contraction, and I heard this gurgling sound. Monica said, “take your baby”. I looked down, and there was this tiny person, still halfway inside my body, but already starting to cry. I reached down and pulled that tiny purple human up onto my chest. I looked at the baby, then looked at Steve, then looked at the baby, then looked at Steve. It was 4:52am on Tuesday – a full 2 and half days since my first contraction.
I asked, “is it a boy or a girl?!?!” Monica said, “look”. I tried, but the cord was in the way. I responded with, “I can’t see!” Monica realized the problem, and quickly looked between the legs. Monica said, “It’s a girl!” This amazing rush of excitement came over me. Everyone had told me I was having a boy for my entire pregnancy, and I always dreamed of having a daughter. I stared at her for a second, crying on my chest, then looked back at Steven. Then I started saying, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” again. I couldn’t muster anything else. I had a baby girl, it was crazy! And completely amazing.
A minute or two later, I latched the baby on and started nursing, we did that for a good 10 minutes. I remember feeling quite peaceful, though I’m sure it was fairly busy around me.
About 15 minutes after the birth, Skye pointed out that the cord at stopped pulsing and we could probably cut it. I looked at it to make sure, and it was all shriveled up and white. I agreed that we could cut it. Skye asked who was going to cut it. Steven had moved back on the bed a little bit, since I didn’t need him to hold me up anymore. I looked back to him and asked if he wanted to cut the cord, but I didn’t think he would since he’s a little squeemish. He said “no, it’s okay.” I asked him again, then asked if he was sure. Skye said “one of us can cut it, or your Mom can, or you can if you want to”. So, I said, “sure, I’ll cut it!” They set up all the clamps, and handed me the pair of scissors. I was still nursing the baby, so I had to use my wrong hand a little backwards to cut the cord. Skye warned me it was a little tough to get through. The cord was harder and more rubbery than I’d imagined, but I did it!
They asked if I could move down to the foot of the bed and put my feet up so they could wait for the placenta. They normally give a shot of Oxytocin right after birth to make the placenta come faster, but knew I didn’t want that, so they pressed on my belly and tugged the cord a little to see if it was ready. We could all tell it was still firmly attached. At around 30 minutes after birth, there was still no sign the placenta was detaching. Skye let me know that she understood I didn’t want drugs, but that if they didn’t have an intact placenta in 15-30 minutes, legally they had to call an ambulance, and that they’d likely suggest much more radical treatments at the hospital. I really didn’t want the shot, but I had read up all about it, and she was right, some OBs may want to do surgery…I’d be separated from the baby, breastfeeding would be compromised, so many issues could result. So, I stopped nursing the baby, she was asleep anyhow.
Skye got the needle, which they had prepared earlier just in case. I asked her, “will it hurt?” (Yes, I had JUST pushed out a baby and I was worried about the needle hurting – What can I say? I like to know what to expect.) She said, “it stings. But it will hurt less if I slap you first…” I nodded that was okay. So, she slapped my thigh and gave me the shot. It did sting.
Within a couple minutes the placenta was coming. Monica helped by pulling the cord gently, but I had to push a little to get it out. I was surprised at how big it felt. It came out nicely in one piece; no issues. Skye reminded me that my liver was processing the Oxytocin, and it would be out of my system within 10 more minutes.
After about an hour, they asked if they could do the newborn assessment and I agreed. Skye said, “I love when babies aren’t separated from mommy’s for this long!” They checked out the baby, cleaned her off a little better, got her dressed and wrapped up, and we gave her to Steven. They sent me to shower and clean up.
When I came out of the shower, I looked for Steven and the baby. He was just sitting quietly in the rocking chair in her room with the door swung closed, just staring down at her. He didn’t even look up at me right away when I opened the door. That’s an image that will be in my mind forever. It was so sweet! I don’t know that I’ve ever loved my husband more than I did at that moment.
Family then started arriving. My Dad came first. He teared up as soon as he looked at us. My Mom half-jokingly told him to stop it because she was now tearing up and “she’d done so well”. He kissed the baby on top of the head, then my Mom, then me. That is also something I will never forget. There was so much love in that room!
Steven’s Mom arrived shortly after, she was so excited as well, and surprised it was a girl! She had been referring to my growing bump as “her grandson” for my entire pregnancy.
My sister came last, just after the midwives had left. She took a couple photos of us, which I’m still thankful for because we don’t have any other photos of our little one’s birth day. We visited quickly, ate some breakfast, and then went for some much needed sleep!
Our lives had changed in such a miraculous way. There is truly no other feeling like the love that fills you when you become a parent.