The writer of this beautiful birth story is a midwife. She gave me permission to share it. I thought it was a really unique birth story — she really describes her feelings of being both a midwife (not her own) AND a pregnant woman in labor. Clients will be lucky to have her!
As a childless midwife, you think that when you finally get pregnant and give birth, you’ll be more prepared than most. After all, you’ve seen this journey and you’ve been privileged enough to be allowed to walk with so many during such an amazing moment in time. You imagine that when it’s your turn to carry and birth a child, you’ll be a fabulous testament to the power of women’s bodies. You will be a natural rockgoddess, a shining example of pregnant and birthing fabulocity. Or at least I did. But nothing could prepare me for the intensity of CJ’s birth or the insanity which we call love that could propel me to do it all over again in a heartbeat.
I’d been having mild contractions on and off for weeks, but they were nothing to write home about. It got to the point that I pretty much put them at the back of my mind unless they were strong enough to stop me in my tracks. I’d been having ever-increasing lower abdominal/pelvic pain (which I later found out was caused by a separation of my pubic symphysis) the last trimester as the baby grew bigger. It was so bad, in fact, that getting dressed in the morning was so painful that I’d be in tears at times. So, the day before I went into labor, I woke up and declared aloud that I was DONE!!! I was only 38 weeks and a few days, but I woke up feeling like my body and baby were getting ready for labor and, frankly, I was tired of being in such pain on a daily basis. That night, I took an herbal tincture at regular intervals for a couple hours, had some nice contractions, and inserted some evening primrose oil capsules before bed.
The next morning, I went about my errands and then went to my prenatal appt. While listening to the baby’s heartbeat, my midwife and I immediately noticed his heartrate was slower than usual. Too slow. I turned to my left side. Still slow. Turned on my right. Still slow but picking up. It went back to normal shortly thereafter. Nothing like that had ever happened with him before and I was worried despite my midwife’s reassuring words. I drove home nervously and planned to use my doppler to listen again when I got home. Well, when I got home, I found his heartrate was slow again. With position change, it came back up and was great. An hour later, it was slow yet again and wasn’t increasing with position change. I called my midwife and my husband and we went to the hospital for evaluation. Turns out, my amniotic fluid was low, but baby was otherwise fine. The attending doc recommended I.V. fluids and a repeat ultrasound in 3 hours to see if there was any change. My midwife checked my cervix and told me it was soft and dilated to 2cm. Baby was moving well and his heartrate was normal. A few hours later, the ultrasound revealed my fluid level was back to normal and we were discharged around 2am.
On the way home, I noticed that I was having contractions every 12 min or so but I dismissed it as being due to a full bladder. I couldn’t possibly be in labor yet! After we got home, the contractions began to intensify a bit. I looked at my watch and thought, “Every 5 min? And this increasing pressure? Maybe I just need to go to the bathroom and then they’ll stop.” Because I just COULDN’T be in labor! The house was a mess and I hadn’t gone grocery shopping yet! I called my husband around 2:30am (He’d gone back to the office to wrap up a few things that he’d left when I’d called him frantically to take me to the hospital) and told him to come home so we can get some sleep “just in case I go into labor in the morning”. He came home and we got ready for bed. As soon as he turned the light off, the contractions got STRONG and were every 2 min. So much for sleep. It’s like my body was screaming, “DO YA BELIEVE ME NOW???” and yeah, I finally admitted to myself that I was in “early” labor. At first, I didn’t want to call my midwife because I knew she hadn’t slept much, if at all, either. But the contractions were intense enough that I knew she should be heading over. She arrived in less than half an hour while I was in the shower and proceeded to call the 2nd midwife over as well.
In the bathroom, I was mentally giving myself a pep talk that went kinda like this: “Get a hold of yourself, girlie! Why are you shaking? Cuz shaking comes with transition and you are NOT in transition yet. You’ve got about 12 more hours of this, so you’d better get a grip and hang on. What was that? An epidural? Ain’t no epidurals IN YOUR BATHROOM!!! You can do this. Breathe and hang the fuck on! Do not cry. DO. NOT. CRY.” I cried. Then, I threw up and cried some more. After leaving the bathroom, I asked my midwife to check me. I was 9 and a half centimeters! Holy shitballs! I was totally expecting her to tell me I was 4 – 5cm. Turns out, I was 4cm when she checked me earlier at the hospital! She didn’t want to state that I was 4cm because she knew I wanted a home birth and she knew there was a chance they might’ve wanted to keep me and induce labor.
At this point, I went back into the bathroom to seek refuge from the contractions by standing in the shower and sitting on the toilet. I distinctly remember thinking, “So, THIS is why women get epidurals. I totally get it now…How am I ever going to have the strength to do this again?” After leaving the bathroom, I asked the midwife to break my bag of waters. She was reluctant but she did it after I insisted. I was SO convinced that if she released my waters I would be able to begin pushing within minutes. Apparently, being in hard labor can cloud one’s judgement. Surprise, surprise. Thankfully, I had clear waters, baby had moved down, and his heart rate remained normal. Yay! Now the fun could begin. I wish I could say that the contractions were noticably stronger after releasing my water, but to be honest, I think my brain went into survival mode. I distinctly remember feeling desperation like I’d never felt before. I wanted to reach out and grab onto someone, anyone, to anchor me. My midwife urged me to push and I tried but it hurt so badly. It felt like something inside me was coming apart, like my internal landscape was being restructured with a wrecking ball. I yelled, “I CAN’T!” The two midwives and my husband encouraged me, gave me the old “Yes, you can! You’re doing it! You’re doing such an awesome job!” And I wanted to kick them all. Instead of resorting to violence, I yelled back, “NO, I CAN’T. IT HURTS. SOMETHING’S IN THE WAY!!!”
I was right. I had an anterior cervical lip that had started to swell. My midwife had me blow “horse lips” for what felt like 3 years (really only about 30 min) until, suddenly, the urge to bear down became involuntary. My body was on autopilot. I had to give in and go where my body needed to go. It still hurt a bit to push, but I mentally coached myself, as I had done with so many other moms, to push past that spot. I looked up at our bedroom ceiling and recalled the many women before me who had to dig deep and find the strength to get through what I was currently experiencing. I called on my own mother, who died when I was 11, for strength. “I know you’re up there watching, so you’d better help me, dammit!”, I thought. By this point, I had lost all ability to speak coherently. I was delirious thanks to the oxytocin and the fact that I hadn’t slept all night. Between contractions, I’d fall asleep and actually dream! I pushed with every ounce of strength I had and, after what felt like 8 years, his head began to emerge. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to notice that CJ had an early deceleration of his heart rate as I was pushing and I knew he was moving in the right direction. My midwife brain was still working! In fact, I placed my hand between my legs to guard my lady parts and I birthed his head into my own hands. Without anyone telling me when or how to push, I instinctively waited for him to turn his head and shoulders before finally pushing out his body at 9:26am. My baby was out! All 6lbs 1oz of him!
One of the midwives lifted Caleb up onto my belly while the other filmed the birth on her iPhone (Thank you, Dale!). Within minutes of his birth, Caleb was able to latch on and nurse successfully. I couldn’t believe he was out. To describe what I felt as happiness would be an understatement. I was beyond ecstatic! By far, giving birth to my son was the hardest and most incredibly amazing accomplishment of my life. As I’ve said to moms many times, giving birth naturally doesn’t make you a better woman or better mother. It’s what you are able to learn from your birth experience, whatever that may be, that does that. I hope that for me the lessons not only serve to make me a good mom, but also a better and more compassionate midwife.