This time seven years ago, I was about to become a mother for the first time. What an amazing experience and the beginning of my real love affair with everything birth and baby. I thought it fitting to share my own birth story with you tonight. I hope you enjoy.
My baby boy, Judah was born on the 30th of Jan 2009 at 7:58am. He was born at home, into the hands of a loving midwife.
I was due sometime after the 24th of Jan. I’d had *prodromal labor all week . It was frustrating to say the least and every night I would think “this is it!” only to have the contractions fade with the morning light. It started to wear on everybody since we were up almost every night thinking the baby was about to arrive. On the evening of the 28th, the contractions did something they had never done before – they came in a pattern of 5 mins apart and lasted a minute each. This went on for 8 hours and so of course we were “sure” this was it. I called my midwife to let her know we might be having a baby and she told me to keep her updated. By midday on the 29th, the contractions had vanished again.
I was so frustrated that I decided I was done trying to have a baby and went to bed for the rest of the day (this was a blessing in disguise!). I slept for about 5 hours, had dinner and started watching tv. To my delight, the contractions began again, but I didn’t trust them, so by 11pm, I told everyone to go to bed . My mom and my husband’s sister were staying with us for the birth. The moment everyone went to sleep, labor began in earnest. Contractions became a lot stronger and were coming every 2 mins. They lasted over a minute each. I was having a lot of back labor and I tried to wake my dear husband (I needed someone to rub my back). I told him to call the midwife and he sat up and asked where my phone was. Before I could answer him, he laid back down and fell fast asleep. Contractions were taking a lot of concentration and I couldn’t rouse him (he doesn’t remember any of this). I knew I was in labor, but I was extremely calm.
Contractions felt powerful, but not overwhelming. I felt tired and laid down in bed. I fell asleep instantly, but woke up as I felt a contraction come on. I was completely overwhelmed by it and I panicked and jumped up as soon as it was over. I found a way to lean against the bedroom wall and doze between contractions. I hadn’t taken any childbirth preparation classes and I knew nothing about visualization, or relaxation, but I instinctively found myself imagining each contraction as a wave. I breathed each breath deep into my belly and welcomed each contraction by relaxing my body and allowing it to do the work it needed to do. I was so glad that this was happening and so pleased with the way birth felt. I had been afraid of labor my whole life and here I was, enjoying bringing my baby into the world.
I decided to take a bath, since I would have to go downstairs to get into the birthing pool, and that would wake everyone. I kind of wanted company, but I was also in the moment and hyper focused on just getting through each contraction. Getting into the tub was the moment I noticed that I felt drugged between contractions. I would breathe and hum through the pain and then would fade off into a dream world before the next one began and snapped me out of it again. I don’t know how long I sat there for, but eventually I realized that I would be delivering the baby myself if I didn’t wake anyone up. I went downstairs and found my mom pacing. She helped me to time my contractions and rubbed my back, which felt wonderful.
It’s a strange thing to say, but the pain of the contractions really felt exhilarating. I am not someone who likes pain – I cry when I have to get blood drawn, but this was so different. It was like I could feel my body working to bring my baby into the world and I didn’t even have to “do” anything at this point – just breathe. Eventually my mom convinced me to call my midwife. I told her I would like her to come over (I had been in active labor for about 3 hrs) and she arrived around 30 minutes later. I managed to get upstairs and wake my sleeping husband and told him the midwife had arrived. We went back downstairs and I continued to labor bent over the sofa with my husband rubbing my lower back.
Suddenly my water burst. It wasn’t just a pop, it really felt like it exploded out of me. I mentioned that my water had just broken, but no one heard me. I was in the middle of a contraction and I think everyone just thought I was moaning. The minute that bag of water broke, I began intense labor. Contractions really took every ounce of concentration I could muster and I had a lot of pressure on my bladder. I recognize now that I was beginning transition.
Eventually my midwife was set up and came over to see how I was doing. I mentioned that my water had broken again and she offered to check my dilation. I was 10 cm with a small lip of cervix. She suggested that now was a good time to get into the birth pool and told me to listen to my body and that I could push whenever I felt like I needed to. I climbed in and the water felt SO good. The contractions were at their peak though.
Being over-eager, I misinterpreted her suggestion to push when I was ready and felt like since I was 10cm dilated, I should start pushing right then. I tried to bear down with the following contraction and it hurt more than I ever imagined anything could hurt. I completely lost my cool and focus for a moment and started crying in anger and frustration that this was actually going to hurt. It was only for a moment though. My midwife repeated her earlier advice to listen to my body and that helped me to pull myself together. My husband held my hands and prayed for me and I felt ready to keep going.
It was hard work pushing in the tub though and I wasn’t making much progress (which I realize now was because I began pushing far too early). I didn’t feel an urge to bear down at all. I would try to push and sometimes my body would take over, other times I just felt like I was wasting my energy and it was excruciating. My midwife suggested the birthing stool. What a great tool! I really felt him moving down during the contractions where I was able to push effectively. After about two hours of pushing, I was really exhausted. I of course had no idea how much time had passed – I was either focused on the pain, or in my own other world of oblivion. You really never hear about the breaks between contractions, but during that short rest, I felt so relaxed in my body and my mind that it was almost an out-of-body experience (I don’t think that’s what it was, but I am having trouble finding the words to describe how it felt).
After an hour or so on the birth stool, we moved to the bed. I leaned back on my husband, with a pillow between us and pushed with contractions. It really didn’t do much to get the baby out, but allowed me to relax a lot more between pushes, because I could lay back. I remember saying “if I could just sleep for 15 minutes, this would be so much easier!” I also remember saying “I could do this if I didn’t have to breathe.” I don’t know how to explain it, but breathing was the hardest thing to do at this point in labor. Eventually my midwife moved me into a squatting position on the floor. My husband would stand behind me and pull me up between contractions and when I felt the next one coming on, I would squat and push with all my might (very primal, but VERY effective). I don’t know exactly how many contractions I pushed through like that, but I know that I felt every single move the baby made down the birth canal – this position was what got him out.
My midwife checked his heart rate at one point and I noticed she spent a little longer listening to it than usual. She said to me in a very gentle but firm tone “come on, it’s time to push this baby out.” She placed a mirror on the floor so we could watch him being born and with the next contraction I pushed with everything I had left. I don’t know where I got the strength, but I just kept pushing, even after the contraction ended. I felt him crowning and that pain made me so happy – I knew this was the end.
Judah had his little hand up by his head and that’s part of the reason it took so long for me to push him out. It took a long time over all, but he literally came shooting out with the final push. He was covered in blood and vernix and he was a dark color and I was totally stunned. It felt like time stood still – I was in disbelief at what had just happened. My midwife handed me my warm, slippery, gooey baby and it was, at the same time, the most wonderful and foreign feeling to hold him on my chest. I noticed he was a boy before anyone else and that was such a surprise, I really thought we were having a girl. He didn’t look anything like I imagined our child would look, but he was a perfect little human being.
When he was born, the mother in me was born too. The next year would come with all kinds of challenges, anxieties, joys and the most overwhelming love, none of which I knew existed before he came into my life. Our birth gave me an inner strength and confidence to press on during that “year of travail.”
Mishka is the creator of B+BF and owner/educator at Birth by Heart, where she helps couples to prepare for birth and baby. She is a certified childbirth educator and a breastfeeding counselor. Her dream is for mothers and babies to thrive from their very first moments together. She lives in Fredericksburg VA, with her husband and three children.