I got a lot of feedback about ending the previous part on a cliffhanger, but it was too much to read all at once!
(Read part one of our birth story here!)
We left off with me laboring in the pool surrounded by my husband, his mom, our girls, and my birth team. This labor had so far been peaceful, and dare I say… magical. It was my dream.
After laboring in the pool a while I got so relaxed and my contractions slowed a bit, so I went to labor on the toilet (something about toilets man, they really help us open!)
While in there my midwife encouraged me to see if I felt like pushing. I pushed with a few contractions but it felt off, like it wasn’t time. I was going in kind of blind, my midwife was being very respectful of my past trauma and said she’d check my cervix if/when I wanted to. But I was so so fearful of that, the pain, and possibly being triggered.
Kathy (friend/videographer/doula extraordinaire) got down on my level and gently talked me through my feelings and said if I did choose to be checked I’d have an idea if I was close to pushing or not, so I decided to go ahead and get a check.
Rosie, of course, was much more gentle and respectful than that OB had been, so while it was naturally uncomfortable it didn’t hurt and didn’t bring back any bad memories. But I saw her face, and knew something was up. I don’t remember what exactly I asked but something along the lines of “how far am I? Am I at a ten?”
She shook her head and quietly said “Two.”
Two. Two…. TWO?! How could this possibly be?! I’d been at this for hours! (Justin would like to interject that he made a Friends reference at this point, but I don’t recall haha. Ross, during Rachel’s labor – “Just three?! I’m dilated three!”)
Now, in retrospect, my cervix likes to take it’s time. And then BAM it’s 0-100. Or, 0-10 in this case haha. This same thing happened with Emery’s birth, I was at a 3 for ten hours of miserable labor! Then within the span of three hours I was pushing. But I wasn’t thinking of that now… My mental space was too busy shattering and considering myself a failure.
It was very late, around midnight, so my team decided to head home for some rest until I needed them. I was going to lay down and try to sleep during contractions, and call them when things got more advanced.
Once everyone left, though, everything hit the fan. My contractions started getting so intense and I was miserable. I was angry. So my squeezes weren’t so fun anymore, they got very very hard.
Justin fell asleep and his mom held me and massaged me. She was incredible. My contractions got so close together and painful, so I asked them to empty some of the pool for refill with hot water.
The girls had fallen asleep in the living room and somehow stayed asleep during my vocalizing. I wasn’t just vocalizing during my contractions but I was also yelling at Jesus quite a bit. This wasn’t what I envisioned. It had been! But it wasn’t anymore. I was supposed to be fully dilated by now, my team was supposed to be there with me, and I think things got so intense at that point because I felt so defeated. I gave up inside.
Sometime around/after 4 am I couldn’t do it alone anymore. Both Justin and his mom seeing me in pain suggested going to the hospital for an epidural and rest, and I know their hearts meant well, but I didn’t need that. I needed a push to get through this. I didn’t want to go alone, I didn’t want to labor with a mask and not have my family there. I chose a home birth because I wanted a home birth. And even though I felt so weak, that little twinge gave me the courage to push through. I know why I wanted this experience. (Justin wants to interject that he didn’t suggest an epidural, just going to the hospital. Its foggy, so I’m not certain, but in my mind what was the point in going to the hospital if not for an epidural? Be miserable there instead of the comfort of my own home? I’d rather be in my own space, that’s why I chose to birth here.)
I asked Justin to call a friend who offered to doula for me and had put herself on call in case I needed her. She didn’t answer, and I felt hopeless. I needed someone there! Justin then asked if he should call Rosie and I said yes, please! I need her.
Remember that other client I had mentioned earlier? Well she was in serious active labor now. My whole team was at another birth. I felt devastated. Obviously it wasn’t their fault! I was just so upset at how things were turning out, I was crushed. None of this was going according to my plan.
While we waited to see who would be coming I needed to get out of the pool. I was cranky and just mad at everything. I labored on the side of my bed, in my mother-in-love’s arms, crying over my “failure” and screaming in my pain and anger. I also cussed a lot, and ignored my grimacing husband when I did (he laughed when he read that ha).
Robin, my MIL, gently suggested the hospital again. Something broke inside as memories from Emery’s birth came flooding back. “They’ll tell me I can’t be loud, that I have to be quiet, I can’t.”
Women deserve to labor how they need. Some are quiet birthing goddesses. Others are loud wild warriors. Some float in between. Being bossed and threatened and told to hush is not how a birthing woman deserves to be treated. When I said that to Robin it felt like she got it, I could see it in her eyes.
At this point, close to 5am Justin told me Colleen was on her way. I felt relief wash over me. Colleen was my other midwife in Emery’s pregnancy. I was still crushed my team wasn’t there, but so glad my back up midwife was someone I knew and was familiar with.
Very soon Colleen arrived and I was flipping out at this point hah, there’s no other way to say it. Looking back I can see I was in transition. If I had known that then I wouldn’t have been judging myself internally. Transition is a beast!
As I was getting through another contraction I heard Colleen ask Justin for baby blankets and in my mind I was thinking “what the effffff do I need baby blankets for?! I was dilated two centimeters 4/5 hours ago I’M NEVER HAVING THIS BABY!” (But midwives are smart man! She knew.)
God bless Colleen. I was angrier than a hornet and she crouched down on the floor while I got through contractions to get the baby’s heart rate and my own. I decided to get off the edge of the bed and get on my hands and knees; I was kinda bearing down at this point and could feel my waters bursting out as I did.
I climbed into my bed and now during the contractions I kept bearing down and then BOOM I felt the baby engage in my birth canal. My body was doing the dang thing! I hadn’t even been checked but I could feel myself pushing and I could feel her coming down.
But man it hurt. This part was so fast its all a blur now but I remember pushing and thinking wow, this hurts more than it did with Bree, that’s interesting.
Colleen asked me to give it my all and push, her voice seemed intense so I took her seriously. Justin was on the bed whispering encouragements into my ear, my MIL was there as well, and now Bree had woken up and come to pray over me. She stood right behind me with the midwife and watched her newest sister come out!
I felt the baby flop right out and felt immediate relief. I did it. I was done. I felt like I’d just run a hundred marathons and I was done. I collapsed on the bed happily. Colleen needed me up on my knees to pass me the baby though, and I so didn’t want to haha. I didn’t want to move for a long time, I wanted to sleep now after all my hard work.
Even so, I got up on my knees so Colleen could pass the baby, still attached to me. I looked down… and there she was. “That was awesome, you freaking did it!” Colleen said to me.
Meeting your baby is the most surreal moment. A minute earlier this person was inside me, and now she was in the room staring up at me in all her birth-y, gooey, delightful glory. I kissed her sweet little head as she cried and scooped her up. So warm, so wet, smelling like she was laid in my hands straight from Heaven.
Here’s the kicker. I wasn’t just pushing out a head. Magnolia was born with a nuchal hand! Her hand/arm came out along with her head. It clicked then why it hurt so much more than my first homebirth! A little more was being pushed out haha.
I got to rest and hold my baby and greet my team who showed up fresh from the other birth. We weighed our girl, 9.6! We were in disbelief, because she was so short and small! Where was she hiding all that?!
The biggest plus? Even with her size, even with her hand coming out with her head, I didn’t tear!!! My number one wish for my birth this time around and I definitely got it. I was in complete disbelief!
In the days to follow I processed my emotions regarding the twist in my labor. I’m so thankful for an encouraging husband who helped me through my feelings.
I had done so much reading about and believing for a pain-free experience, and for the majority of my labor I got that. I had a lot pressure, it was hard work as it progressed, but I wasn’t in pain and miserable.
As my team left and I felt so awful I truly believe my mindset added to the pain. Yet, experiencing this pain does not negate the rest of my experience.
Pain isn’t a bad thing. It can lead us to growth, change, it can direct us to something being off or wrong. Ultimately however, birth pain isn’t a pain being inflicted upon you, it’s not coming from brokenness or dysfunction. Our human nature likes to run from pain, to try to escape it, but birth pain is the kind you need to surrender to. It’s your body doing what it was created to do, it knows what it’s doing. Pain with purpose.
Originally I felt like I failed in some way… I don’t feel that way anymore. I heard something amazing long ago that I will paraphrase here – “Birth isn’t a time for a woman to be rescued by a knight in shining armor. It’s her time to be brave and lay claim to her victory.”
I’m so proud of my story now. It was an adventure and I came out a victor with the most amazing treasure that was worth it all.
My birth taught me so many things and I’m very content with it. I do still believe that pain free births are possible, I’ve spoken to women who’ve experienced them! I think it’s amazing. But births with pain are beautiful too. I got to labor and laugh and enjoy this experience and I am beyond grateful.
Our birth experiences do matter. How we are treated while we labor matters. So often after a woman is processing her birth she hears the term “all that matters is a healthy baby!”
Sorry not sorry, but that’s so wrong. A healthy baby is so important and does matter, but mom’s mental health matters too. Her body and heart matter too. It doesn’t have to be one or the other! These things can heavily effect postpartum depression and anxiety. It’s more complex than “healthy baby! Get over your feelings.” Birth impacts a woman for a long time, and it’s a day and experience she will remember in detail forever.
This birth was incredible because an incredible birth team made it so by caring for me so well. They had my physical and emotional well-being at the center. I chose homebirth for a variety of reasons, one of them because I’ve experienced jaded, unkind medical professionals more than I’ve experienced kind, understanding ones. I’ve been made fun of, shamed, and treated poorly in the medical system.
We need more professionals who understand what bedside manner is. Who care for patients and not just push them through to get to the next one. Laboring women aren’t sub sandwiches and births don’t have to be freaky fast. And women shouldn’t leave their births feeling defeated or broken. I felt important, cared for, and empowered. And that is my prayer for every birthing woman, wherever she chooses to have her baby.
Now, four weeks postpartum, this has been my best birth recovery yet. My midwife takes postpartum recovery very seriously and third time’s the charm, I finally did this time too. My first week was spent solely in bed resting and nursing and downing fluids, thanks to my hubby and helpful friends and family. This is what new moms need! To be taken care of and only worry about themselves, their baby, and recovering from a long 9 months.
So here we are, the beginning of Miss Magnolia’s brand new life. I’m thrilled to be her mommy and to see who she becomes!