I am truly blessed with an amazing birth story, and it is one I will revisit for the rest of my life when I need to remind myself how empowered we truly are. The body, especially a woman’s body, was beautifully designed; pregnancy and birth has given me such a heightened sense of appreciation for it. My pregnancy and birth story has a beautiful beginning and a beautiful ending that reminds me of how blessed we are.
I grew up the only child of a single mom. From a young age, I dreamed of loud family gatherings with children running from room to room chasing one another and laughing. My family consisted of my mother, my grandmother and myself, so our house was anything but loud and lively. Rooms often echoed the ticking of clocks as my imagination dreamed of what the future could hold. My dream was always to be a mom when it was my time.
In August of 2012, a specialist had informed me that I had all the symptoms of endometriosis and discussed the difficulties I might encounter when I tried to conceive, if I could at all. Fear swelled inside my chest when I thought of my dreams being threatened, but I knew God had a plan for me. My husband and I decided it was finally time to try in May of 2013. Every month it did not happen was emotionally wearing–I grew more desperate and fearful, but I continued to pray.
I was driving home from work on just another ordinary day when a gnawing thought urged me to take another pregnancy test. The closer I drew to our apartment, the more hopeful and excited I became. A few tears might have fallen at the stoplight before I was to turn into our street. It wasn’t thirty minutes later that we had finally had the moment we had longed for so long. It is amazing how you can be carrying another life for four weeks and not even know it, but once you find out you instantly connect with it. It is funny how one can love another in just that instant, just knowing they exist. That was our beginning, now to fast-forward to our beautifully ending (which is truly just another beginning–that of motherhood.)
I will admit that I can be a bit of an anxious hypochondriac. I worried about if I was gaining enough weight, if the egg salad I just ate would give us food poisoning and cause my unborn child harm, if my blood pressure was normal. The motto for my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum was undoubtedly, “is this normal?” with an anxious twinge in my eye. Thankfully, God blessed me with a “textbook, perfect” pregnancy and birth (the midwives words, not mine.) Every appointment things checked out perfectly. God knows if they had used “fine” or “good” I would question it, but perfect was the only word that left me feeling calming relief.
From the beginning I had longed for an all natural, unmedicated birth. I quickly learned that birth centers were not in the cards for us because of insurance technicalities and red tape. Nonetheless, I longed for a birth that reminded me that birth was natural, normal, and that a woman’s body was beautifully built to do so. Birth felt like a rite of passage; I wanted it to be peaceful and one that proved I was strong and empowered.
The weeks passed and appointments bled into one another as they became routine. I’d walk to the bathroom before they asked for a sample, put out my arm before they whipped out their blood pressure cuff and pull up the many layers of fabric to expose my swelling, pregnant belly before they were ready with the measuring tape. As everything came back “perfect” and “textbook,” the “what-ifs” about my delivery subsided and my longing for a birth outside of hospital walls grew. I will always be amazed, surprised and proud of myself for making the swap to a birth center at 37.5 weeks pregnant. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a scrupulous planner, spontaneity on a large-scale isn’t exactly in my nature.
It was after my 37th week appointment when my certified nurse midwife began to discuss hospital protocols that my long harbored desire for my “dream birth” rose to the forefront with a voice that would not be murmured by fear or red tape. With many odds stacked against us, I surprisingly was able to coerce my insurance provider to agree to pay for a birth center birth at in-network rates. I immediately cancelled my 38th week appointment at the OB office and scheduled a tour and prenatal appointment at the Inspiration Family Birth Center in Winter Park. Two good friends of mine had raved about their birth and how the team there had made it all possible.
I wasn’t at the birth center for more than a week before I went into labor. But of course, I was convinced that it was prelabor and I was about two weeks away from holding our sweet baby boy. After all, we still had to pack up our small apartment and move into our first house, he couldn’t come before then. How naive I was! Not to mention, throughout my entire pregnancy my family and friends would joke that he was going to be born on my 23rd birthday. It was the day before my birthday when “prelabor” contractions began.
My husband and I had an infant CPR class scheduled that night, but as the day went on I could feel the waves of contractions come on with greater frequency and intensity. It was with great difficulty that I sat there, squirming in my seat as the CPR instructor told us to blow harder into the plastic bags meant to inflate our plastic baby’s chest. We joined my mother-in-law for dinner at Olive Garden afterwards. As my husband and her recapped their week, I found myself gripping onto the cloth napkin with white knuckles with each contraction. Every so often my mother-in-law would glance at me as she noticed my breathing change for each one. I couldn’t imagine how I could last another week or two through these “prelabor” contractions.
We weren’t home but five minutes before I found myself on my hands and knees, trying to keep my mind “on my breathing” and unable to speak through it. I called my doula the second the peak of that contraction subsided. She had thanked me for the update, generously asked if I wanted her to come over and comfort me, but I reassured her that I wasn’t sure how long this could go on for and she should get her rest incase the next day was the big day. I called my midwife and she informed me as to the 5-1-1 rule and told me to keep her posted. I was having a contraction every five minutes lasting a minute within forty-five minutes; it was time to leave for the birth center already!
Throughout my entire pregnancy, my husband and I looped Pink Floyd albums. Wouldn’t you know it, “Comfortable Numb” was stuck in my head that night. I played it over and over as we drove with the windows down, the cool night’s breeze sweeping into the car as I sang through the contractions,
“There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.”
Everything felt surreal and yet perfect. Our son decided it was his time and he was ready to meet us. By the time my husband, doula and I walked into the birth center I was between 2 and 3 centimeters dilated. We couldn’t believe things had escalated so quickly, especially for a first-time mom like myself. My midwife suggested we might go for a walk or do another activity to stimulate progress. I hadn’t seen it before, but I was so thankful to discover the beautiful lake nestled behind the birth center. The night was beautifully crisp. The moon shone brightly with only a sliver cut away from its almost perfect sphere. Every few steps a contraction would come on and I would feel it with unimaginable intensity in my lower back. I found comfort in leaning into my husband’s chest as my doula pressed two tightly clenched fists into my lower back to counteract the pain of each contraction. Within a minute we were walking (more like waddling) and talking our way down the street parallel to the moonlit lake.
We headed back once I started to feel the exhaustion coming on; I thought it wise to rest while I still could. My midwife checked me again and we found that my son was “sunny side up.” That would certainly explain the back labor… My midwife advised us to try Spinning Babies techniques. In that moment, I thought of how God leads us to things and we see how they fall into place just as they should in time. I had decided at 29 weeks that I really did want a doula to attend my birth and that I should look for one familiar with Spinning Babies techniques. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew this would be a valuable asset to have “just in case.”
We went into one of the bedrooms that was designated as my birth room. It was decorated so serenely; during the tour I had enjoyed the bed and breakfast feel the birth center gave off–so warm and inviting. We began with an inversion through several contractions and then side-lying release. I grew more exhausted and it was while I was resting between one of the contractions that everyone in the room heard a loud “POP” as my water broke and I felt the gush of fluid. The next time my midwife checked me we found that our son did in fact flip and was now in an optimum position. I was truly amazed, and I gained unimaginable appreciation as I realized that he too was an active part in his birth. I was, and still am, proud of him for working together through the Spinning Babies exercises.
I was finally told the words I had been waiting to hear, “time to hop into the jacuzzi tub.” The jets were heavenly against my back through the contractions and I would push up against them at the peak. Water has always had such a calming quality to me, which is funny considering the fact that I am an absolutely horrible swimmer. Between contractions, I let the warm water grace softly between my fingers as my doula took a washrag dipped in ice water and let it drip over my forehead, neck and chest. My husband kneeling at the side of the tub in silent admiration and holding my hand. I truly was blessed with an amazing team. I pushed for an hour and six minutes before our son graced us with his presence. I didn’t scream through contractions, my doula reminded me to focus on my breath and concentrate my thoughts on words like “down,” “loose,” and “out.” Toward the very end I felt so exhausted that just as I was about to make progress with that contraction, I was unable to push anymore. I had prayed to God for strength as I grew desperate and weary. I felt a wave of energy and strength wash over me with the next contraction and was able to push my son into this world. Weeks after my birth my husband told me how amazed he was by my unwavering peace and strength. He never could imagine that I would hold up in such a way and he admired me for it.
The second my son was placed on my chest he smiled. As he started to cry I kept repeating, “I know, I know” through tears of joy as I sympathized with the transition he had endured from my body into this brand new world. I was blessed with the most precious gift at 7:28AM on my 23rd birthday–not only was my son born, but I felt as though I was reborn. My life would never be the same. I had learned how strong I truly was and how valuable life is. It was looking into my son’s face, one I had daydreamed of and imagined for so long, that I felt whole and at total peace. I thank God for blessing me with him and bringing him into my life in such a safe and peaceful way.