In this series, we share real, raw, & honest birthing stories.
Straight from the birth person.
I was honored to be their birth doula and capture photographs.
"Early labor moved very quickly and I felt like we just had time to finish packing our bags and head to the birth center. I was around 5-6 cm dilated when we arrived at the birth center, but my contractions slowed way down once we were at the birth center. We tried so many things to keep things moving. I lunged on the stairs, squatted, walked, rocked on the ball, used a breast pump, took a bath, and tried cotton root bark. Even while I was resting I had a peanut ball or pillows as I lay to keep my pelvis open. I was so frustrated when twelve hours after we arrived at the birth center I was still in the same slow contraction pattern and dilated to around 8 cm. I wasn't uncomfortable, but I was so exhausted and still didn't feel like I was in labor. Active labor didn't at all match with the way I had pictured my birth going. It felt like there was no pattern and even though I was grateful that I was comfortable and not in a lot of pain, I really wanted things to move along. Finally after requesting a membrane sweep twelve hours after arriving (which was extremely intense, and also effective), my contractions intensified and moved closer together. I realized quickly that I was having the most intense contractions in the bathroom, especially on the toilet. Deep squats in the bathroom also brought on more intense contractions. During this time it felt like I needed to move to have consistent contractions, as if I needed to call them in to move through my body. I felt like I could handle a few contractions in the bathroom before things became really intense and I needed a break, and I would move out of the bathroom to rest on the ball or the bed for a few contractions before returning to the bathroom again. From there I finally, in retrospect, knew I was in labor, but at the time my pattern had so consistently been moving to bring on contractions that I don’t think I realized how that they were coming on their own. My body or mind kept calling me to move, so after every contraction ended I moved to a new position to bring on another. I was exhausted and remember laying down at one point on the bed and feeling like I might not make it. I wanted to be checked again to find out if I had progressed. Sessy reminded me that I didn’t need to be checked to feel like I could push. In my mind I really was convinced I hadn’t progressed any more and wasn’t sure if my body could continue on with the movement and the pain. Finally, almost 15 hours after arriving at the birth center, the midwife told me that she could just feel a cervical lip and that I could try pushing it away if I wanted to. I wanted to keep things moving and wasn't confident I could continue working for much longer, so I was all for trying to push."
The midwife asked if I'd like to try to push on the birth stool and since the toilet had been working for me I thought that sounded good. They set up the birth stool and the midwife asked if it would be ok if she felt while I tried the first push. I pushed on the stool but felt really uncomfortable, just like I wasn’t in the right place. I felt hesitant pushing and just didn't feel like I could focus on managing the pain from the contraction and focus on bearing down. I pushed on hands and knees for my first birth and loved how easy it was to rest in between contractions, so after trying on the birth stool I decided to try pushing on the bed. That was so hard. In that position I felt like I couldn’t create power downward, and I was also extremely uncomfortable as the midwife checked while I pushed. I did not like the combination of being checked while pushing. So again I asked to move, this time to the toilet where I knew I was having stronger contractions during labor. I moved to the bathroom and I sat on the toilet. I felt so much downward pressure, and when I started to feel bulging I was taken aback. After how long I had been laboring, and without really having felt the urge to push, I had just anticipated that I would be pushing for a long time. After focused pushing just a few times, there was so much downward movement and expansion and I got really scared. I heard the midwife say that she saw the bulging bag of waters. It felt too fast, and I said so. I thought I hadn't given my body time to slowly expand. I heard Sessy encouraging me to breath and it felt quiet and patient in the room. I did pause for a moment but there was just too much momentum. At that point my body continued baring down, and it didn’t feel like work but was an intense expansion, and my baby was born as I was standing over the toilet.
The most challenging part of labor was really letting go of the expectations for how I thought it would go and accepting the reality of how it was. It was taking so long. I had really wanted my three year old daughter to be able to attend my son's birth, but because of Covid restrictions children weren't allowed in the birth center and I was unable to afford a home birth when my insurance was fully covering the birth center birth. I thought that birth would be quick like it was with my daughter and we would all soon be home. As the hours stretched on at the birth center I felt such grief that my daughter wasn't with us. I felt almost like I was unable to surrender to labor, or I was at least in part blaming my mental or emotional state for such slow progression. Finally after my contractions picked up and the exhaustion and pain flowed over me I felt such a wave of grief and sadness, but also gratitude. I just started crying uncontrollably. As I sobbed I remember saying how long we had been waiting for our baby (we had been trying for two years and conceived him through fertility treatment). Tears flowed as I said it has been such a hard year. And I cried as I grieved that this would be our last baby. I felt like I had just set all of these things aside during my pregnancy to get through the difficulty without really processing or releasing it, and I needed to confront and release it for my body and mind to be able to fully surrender and to be ready to birth my baby.
There are a few things in particular that Sessy did that really stood out to me during labor and birth. When my contractions intensified, Sessy would put her hands on my shoulders then rub her hands down as she reminded me to release tension and send the energy downward. I wouldn't even realize how tense my body had become or how much I was fighting a contraction until she reminded me and I could (at least try to) release the tension and move with the contraction. It's like I would forget again between each contraction but she was there to remind and support me every time I would tense up again. She also just repeatedly reminded me how strong I am, which became more and more important as my body got so tired. Finally, after birth I was having a really hard time focusing on my baby. My mind was all over the place and I was so tuned in to everything else around me, like the nurses and midwife waiting for the birth of my placenta. Sessy saw my attention roving and I so clearly remember hearing her voice saying "Look at your baby. Smell your baby's head", and I am so so grateful for her reminder to bring my attention back to my son in my arms. I'm so thankful to have the memory of his small head and the scent of him.
My partner was immensely supportive. He was so present, focused, and with me each step of the way. He was holding me, touching me, and comforting me at each stage. He listened to me when I needed to process our choices and just held space for me each step of the way. I felt so comforted and grounded by him, and he literally held me up all those hours I was laboring.
After waiting so long for labor to intensify, I was just so surprised that he was in my arms. It felt almost like I would anticipate a precipitous birth to feel, because I just couldn't believe that after a few pushes he was in my arms with how long active labor had stretched on. It felt really surreal. I saw him in my arms and I think the first thing I said was "Oh he's bald!", but it turns out he just has really blond hair! I think that feeling like pushing was so fast was what made me feel distracted from my baby during the birth of my placenta right after he was born. I was holding him but I remember so vividly hearing everyone help me take my shirt and bra off, and hearing the nurses keep count of the minutes since birth, feeling the palpitations on my uterus and the nurses feeling when the placenta might be born. It was hard for me to focus just on my baby in my arms. I really couldn't quite process that he had arrived yet.
I felt like everyone on my birth team gave me the time, space, and information for informed consent at every step of the way. I requested more cervical checks than I would have expected, but it always stemmed from me requesting to be checked. After twelve hours of laboring at the birth center, I was thinking about requesting for my water to be broken to help move labor along. I discussed it first with Sessy, Yarin, and my husband. I spoke with the midwife and asked her the initial questions that I had. I still didn't feel ready and my birth team encouraged me to take some time to rest, and my husband and I decided to take an hour to just lay down and sleep and the nurses paused their regular vital checks for the full hour to give us rest, and our doulas took the time to grab some food and rest as well. When we reconvened I had thought of more questions to ask and they were patiently answered. Although I was desperate for labor to move forward, something about artificially rupturing membranes just didn't feel right to me. I decided to request a membrane sweep instead, which finally helped move things along. Everyone gave me the information along with time and space to consider and process it before making a decision that felt right for me and my body, and my son was born en caul!"