Time is literally flying by these days. 71 days before baby #2's due date and the holidays are right around the corner. Now that I have reached the third trimester I have noticed a shift in my focus. I am seeing labor in view. We met with our lovely Doula this week (Katie Spataro of Sacred Womb Services-highly recommend!) and since then have been reflecting on my last birth experience and what my hopes and wishes are for this go around. I wanted to share my first birth story, its been on my mind, and I am taking the wisdom that Kimberly Ann Johnson speaks of in her book The 4th Trimester, that our birth stories hold powerful wisdom that is important to share with our communities. Birth is a right of passage, the birth of baby, of a mother, of a father, and a family. It has ripples into your community and beyond. Katie asked me a powerful question when meeting this week- Based on my first experience, is there anything I want her support or reminder of during my second labor? My response- I want to remember to surrender. In my first labor I remember the moment I fully gave in and surrendered, let my body relax and trust in its ability to birth my baby, about 10 hours into laboring at the hospital. She smiled, and said I have a button for you, I looked at the button she was wearing and it said "Again, I Surrender".
The magic of birth is live and present already. I welcome its arrival. And I prepare to surrender.
Our first birth was nothing like we had planned. I was born at home and I always felt like I wanted to have my children at home as well. My due date came and went. We had planned for a home birth. The birth kit was ordered, tub was ready to be delivered, I had ingredients to make a chocolate cake in early labor to distract me, snacks for our labor team were purchased, I made fresh lavender candles to infuse the home with a lovey and relaxing smell, we had a phone tree to notify loved ones, camera's were ready, we took Penny Simkin's home birth class from Penny Simkin herself, and Birthing from Within. We were as prepared as we could be in all facets.
As I got closer to my due date I kept getting messages from my girlfriends about dreams they were having. One had a dream that he was a beautiful baby boy and in his adult life worked at the hospital supporting people with disabilities, another had a dream that I was birthing in the tub, with my mother-in-law in the tub and all my close girlfriends surrounding, and the funniest was two of my girlfriend breaking into a bakery to steal cupcakes for me, one in each flavor. Little did I know, these dreams would play an important role in my coping ability during birth.
My due date came and went and my patience was definitely tested as we moved into a week past my due date. Thank goodness for the Great British Baking show, I literally binged watched that for survival the last week! The day before my labor started I was extremely emotional, my body was discharging everything I was stressed about, I couldn't stop crying. I had no idea that was my body preparing me for the next part of my journey and just thought I was an emotional wreck. Thankfully, Cody was wise enough to suggest we call our doula, and she was able to help support me in understanding what my body was doing and preparing for. In my ATMAT for Childbirth massage that day my massage therapist did the sidelying release from Spinning Babies, and asked why in the world I was waiting to make that chocolate cake. She said "go home and make it today"! While I was at my massage Cody went to the store and bought all the ingredients for this lasagna that was supposed to induce labor as well. We were really pulling out all the stops!! So I went home, made the cake and enjoyed the rest of the day.
The following morning I woke up at 4 am to go to the bathroom, I made it to the toilet and as soon as I sat down....GUSH! My water broke, thankfully, into the toilet. Ummmm....CODY....he was stirring at this point as the sound of my water breaking literally woke him from his slumber. I looked in the toiled and realized in that moment that there was meconium in the water, my heart sank as I knew this was going to change our plans. I called the midwife and she asked me to come into the office to make sure, but that I was likely going to need to go to the hospital instead of birthing at home. Within 30 minutes my contractions started and picked up quickly, they were 3-4 minutes apart within an hour of my water breaking. We met the midwife at her office and she sent us off to the hospital as the meconium was confirmed.
I felt some increased anxiety as we set off for the hospital, hearing stories of home birth transfers not being treated well, and not knowing if the meconium was going to affect the health of my baby. And I was definitely sad that we weren't able to birth at home, but at this point I really just wanted to get somewhere where I could be as comfortable as possible while birthing my baby. And I wanted him to be safe with the meconium in my waters and understood that the hospital was the best choice for that in case any intervention was needed. When I arrived at the hospital I was 3.5 cm dilated. We were welcomed with open arms and had a super positive experience being transferred in last minute. My bestie ran over some electric candles, we dimmed the lights, closed the curtains and plugged in the essential oil diffuser to try and create an ambiance close to what I wanted at home. She also brought in a bag of Swedish fish- which she enjoyed as a snack after having an epidural- it was incredibly thoughtful, but I was a annoyed (to be honest...). I wanted an intervention free birth and even the idea of getting an epidural was not something I wanted to entertain. So I told Cody to get them out of the room!
I found the most relief laboring in the tub, I was able to relax between contractions and the warmth of the water felt great on my lower back, I felt centered and grounded. Despite having back labor with back pain lasting in between contractions, I was managing and coping well. After a few hours of laboring and feeling like my contractions were progressing the doctor came in to check and I was still only 3.5cm dilated. I remember feeling pretty defeated by this. Our doula and the nurse did their best to explain that labor progresses at different rates and at any moment things can change quickly. That was hard for me to get over. My back pain kept being nagging so that in between contractions I had to try and find positions to manage the back pain and wasn't able to relax. I felt like I wanted to tuck my hips under me as far as possible but in doing so (looking back) I think I was actually tightening my pelvic floor in the process. I was struggling to surrender and to get back to that centered place of laboring I had had early on. After about 8 hours into our experience at the hospital with little progress on the dilation I started realizing that I needed to do something different, I was getting tired and exhausted by the back pain, and I was starting to entertain the idea of interventions. I brought up the idea of an epidural which I had instructed my husband to convince me otherwise. I really didn't want to go that direction, I was so adamant about having natural home birth, the women in my family had natural births, I felt like my strength and self-worth as a women was tied into my ability to have a natural childbirth.
In my decision making process, my doula gently said to me, this can be the most compassionate thing you do for yourself. In that moment I realized I didn't have to fight the back pain and that I had choices. Wait, yes, I had choices!! Remember that dream?! My girlfriends had stolen all those cupcakes for me in all the different flavors. Hell yes! I had choices, whatever flavor I wanted. So I decided it was time for interventions. I received the epidural and the pain slipped away. But my body trembled. I couldn't get it to stop. I kept asking, is this normal? Is this the epidural or is this me? I was fighting the release, I was fighting letting go, I was fighting letting my body birth despite the pain going away. I was fighting the belief I held so tightly that my self worth and strength were tied in my ability to birth my baby without interventions, that I would be seen as weak for needing intervention. I laid there shaking as my doula gentle touched my feet, helping me feels some sort of grounding, and Cody laid next to me holding me. I had the support of everyone around me but I just couldn't let go. I then rembemerd this Swedish fish. My favorite candy as a child. The thoughtful gift from a mama in the know. I asked Cody to get them for me and as soon as I opened the bag and took my first bite my body melted. I surrendered. I surrendered into the experience that was my birth. I surrendered into knowing that it is ok to make the best choice for me in whatever moment, I surrendered into the fact that my self worth is SO MUCH MORE than my ability to have an intervention free childbirth, and is not defined by any outside opinion or standard, I surrendered to the fact that this was not my vision for the day but it was perfect none the less.
As I lay there, my body laboring, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of my birth experience. I started requesting songs to be played and danced and sung in the hospital bed while I let my body do its magic. I settled on my left side with my right leg supported for some rest and the nurse instructed me to let her know when I started feeling a lot of pressure. So I rested and waited and finally decided there was decent enough pressure down there, and low and behold they were shocked, they could touch his head. I guess I had finally done a good job of relaxing and surrendering! Within 20 minutes and 6 pushes my sweet beautiful baby boy made his arrival into this world. I was ready to greet him as his mother, fully present and empowered by my ability to choose what is right for me, in any moment and any situation. A lesson that has and will continue to serve me in motherhood and in life, I am sure of it.
So here I am. Getting ready for my second labor. Excited and nervous, and as prepared as I can be. But this time I'm going in with a mantra (and a button!). "Again, I surrender".
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. I hope you found some nuggets of wisdom in there. I feel strongly that there is too much stigma in the "natural" birth world and that any birth is beautiful, no matter what form. There is so much stigma around how to birth and how to parent. It is disempowering and it clouds our own ability to choose what is right for us. It disconnects us from our own mothering intuition. This has only fueled my passion for working in women's health and supporting mothers in stepping into their power, as I continue to step into mine.