This post contains the story of my home water birth with my oldest son. It’s about the moment I became a mama! I remember spending hours pouring over birth stories I found online trying to figure out how labor would be. So, in a way, this is me giving back to that! I hope this post finds some mama somewhere, nervous about birth, and shows her that she already has within her what she needs!
All photos in this post are credited to Foothills Midwifery. There aren’t many of the actual labor because, well, it was ridiculously fast for a first time labor.
By the time my due date rolled around, I swore I was just going to be pregnant forever. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions, back pain, nausea, and more for weeks! I had tried EVERY trick you can Google short of castor oil to get things started. I planned on working up until I went into labor, but by the time my due date rolled around, I told my boss I was done, and went home to rest up. My mom gut was telling me to get ready. I’m so glad I had an understanding work situation!
That weekend, I had my next prenatal appointment. I was already at 4 cm dilated, and baby was quite low and ready, but no labor yet. It was nice that all that discomfort I’d been having had been actually making changes in my body to prepare for birth! I had my midwife sweep my membranes, a procedure that can stimulate the uterus and cause release of hormones and thus jump start labor. That evening, I had some gnarly cramps, but no labor. I went to bed and woke up the next morning convinced nothing was going to happen. Ever. Like first woman pregnant forever, me, right here. They’d make a documentary about me and everything. (What, me? A dramatic streak? What?)
6-9 pounds? Ha! Try 9 pounds 8 oz.
It was a cloudy Sunday morning and I was trying to put on my tennis shoes and tie them, which at 40 weeks pregnant took about 25 minutes. All of a sudden I had a weird pain and tightness I hadn’t felt before. I had to sit back on the couch and breathe through it. “Man!” I thought, “that sweep sure messed me up!” The pain passed, but before I could finish tying my shoes, another pain came. It felt like a pulling/tightening/cramping. I told my husband I wasn’t feeling well from the sweep and went to go lay down (mostly because I was ticked off I couldn’t get my shoes on to go on the walk). I was still convinced it was a side effect from the sweep.
I laid down and a few minutes later my husband came in and said, “Babe, I think you’re in labor!” But it wasn’t like what we were prepared for! It felt like as soon as he said that, the contractions were already forming a pattern and getting close to 5-6 minutes apart. Dylan called our doula who came over to help.
I 110% recommend having a doula! When she got there, she got me out of the bed and tried out a few different positions to give me some relief and confirmed that, yep! I was going to be a mama and I could hold off on getting the documentary crew ready. She also timed out a few of my contractions and decided we should have the midwife head over.
You guys, I was sure I was in it for the long haul now. The average first time labor is about 20 hours, and I assumed I was pretty average. Twenty hours is a long time, and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so when our doula asked what she could do for me I begged her to make me some eggs. I thought I had better load up on some protein so I wouldn’t fatigue.
The contractions were so intense and getting so close together that it seemed like nothing brought relief. We tried sitting, standing, walking, hanging, swaying, squatting, kneeling, in the bathtub, on a yoga ball, we tried everything. My contractions were quickly right on top of each other with no break in between.
When my midwife got there, she helped Dylan fill up the tub but told me to hold off on getting in. I don’t know that anybody, including myself, had any idea how quickly things were going. As they were just finishing filling the tub, my midwife was getting some things ready, and my water broke. I got into the tub, and my midwife went to take care of some things in the kitchen.
Meanwhile, my doula was helping me cope — pouring water on my back, squeezing my hips, and suggesting ways Dylan could support me. Amazing. Seriously, if you’re having a baby, get a doula.
After seeing birth photos online, I have to admit, I kind of thought labor was going to be some glamorous thing. It was beautiful in a primal way, not like how I’d imagined at all. This was raw, real, and wild. It was a whole different type of beautiful. Some women are able to put on a whole face of make up and do their hair in early labor. That didn’t happen.
Not long after my midwife arrived, I remember calling out “Hey, I’m pushing! Hope that’s okay!” I was, and still am, so amazed at how the body just knows what to do! My mind had no idea it was time to push, I didn’t really realize what people meant by the “urge to push” until it just happened. Like, there was no not pushing, my body just kicked in. One of my favorite things about having a midwife was that she spent much of her time just sitting and observing, letting me labor in my own way.
After a little while of pushing, I remember telling my midwife, “OH MY. I know why they call it the ring of fire! OH MY!” The funny part is, I honestly don’t really remember much about how much it hurt. Even the next day, it’s like my body erased that part of the memory for me. I do know he had a 15 cm head so I do know it hurt quite a bit. A few pushes later, his head was out.
At some point leading up to this, my midwife realized baby had a nuchal cord, which is where the cord is around baby’s neck. It actually happens in 25-30% of births and is typically not dangerous.
When his body came out, my husband and midwife did a somersault with him in the water, and then my husband picked him up and put him on my chest. I was just in complete shock. All I could say is “IS THIS HIM??? IS THIS MY BABY???? THIS IS MY BOY????” Like, what other baby would it have been? I still think that was such a funny reaction. I was in such shock and awe. And also a little terrified! I hadn’t held a baby let alone been in charge of taking care of one.
Nobody could believe how big he was! 22 inches long, and 9 pounds 8 ounces. God heard my fears of “breaking” a baby and blessed me with a chunky little hunk of a baby.
Coincidentally, this is still the face he makes when he wakes up.
I love how newborns look like wise little old men. Look at that squishy face!
Another part I loved about our process was that the same slow, compassionate care extended after the labor as well. I got to just sit with my baby in my bed during the newborn exam. My doula heated us all up some food. And then came the terrifying moment when everyone left and my husband and I were parents. On our own. With a baby.
My husband was a MASTER of Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for soothing newborns. Seriously, check out Happiest Baby on the Block. It saved our lives! (That link is affiliate, so if you purchase through it, I receive a small commission at no cost to you)
EDIT: My husband would like me to add that it was Superbowl Sunday when Silas was born and the Patriots won.