I was not originally intending to share baby Lindszlo’s birth story on the blog. I’ve always thought birth stories were weird, and they usually contain a little TMI for my liking. But then I got pregnant and started looking for positive birth stories, and I realized just how powerful and important these stories actually are. Unfortunately it seems like most people who choose to share their birth experiences with expectant mothers have horror stories or negative experiences they want to talk about, which does little to empower these mamas-to-be.
So here I am, doing the unthinkable—sharing my own birth story. But I promise to keep it appropriate. No questionable pictures, no gory details. Just my account of what I think was a pretty awesome birth. If you want the cliff notes version, you can see it posted on the Mama Natural site. If you’d rather not see me in a swimsuit top or think about me having a baby, feel free to stop reading here. Also, it’s really long. Sorry ‘bout that.
I already wrote about why I was choosing a natural, out of hospital birth. But as excited as I was, I still had a few worries—
- That I would not have the baby within the 37-42 week birth center window
- That something would go wrong at the birth
- That I would have a large baby
Spoiler alert: 2 of those 3 things happened…and it was still awesome!
One of my biggest fears was that baby would come before the 37 week mark and we would have to deliver at the hospital. I was counting down the days until we reached the 37 week cutoff and even made my husband take a picture of me outside the birth center when we finally made it into the “safe zone.” It was not long after that point that I started to experience what many people call “false labor”—I choose to think of it as “pre-labor” because even though it wasn’t active labor, it was still a necessary part of my body preparing to deliver our baby. It seemed like every weekend for the three weeks leading up to his actual birth, baby Lindszlo would “mess with us” and cause this pre-labor. It usually consisted of nausea, cramping, back pain, Braxton Hicks contractions, and generally feeling “off.” Nothing too crazy, but enough for me to choose to stick close to home and lay low. Each time I thought “this could be it!” But since it happened so many times, I really started to doubt myself.
My due date (October 11) rolled around, and still no baby. I was not surprised, as the average for first time moms is to go 8 days past the due date. In fact, I was holding out for one of the midwives to get back in town, and figured baby wouldn’t come for a few more days, since she had said she always pictured herself at my birth and was pretty sure he would be late. What did arrive on my due date, however, was a sinus infection. Just my luck, I thought, and then proceeded to stuff myself full of fluids for two days and head to bed at 6:30pm on Wednesday, October 12.
Thankfully I had that extra rest, because at 4:22 am on Thursday, October 13, my water broke. At least I thought my water broke. There wasn’t much fluid that came out, and no “pop” that some people experience, but it was definitely wet. So I laid down a towel just in case and got back in bed. (Someone in my family (who shall remain nameless) once thought their water had broken, only to find out from the doctor that she had peed on herself…suffice it to say, we no longer make assumptions). My contractions started at 4:30am, and even though I wasn’t using a timer, my watching of the clock led me to believe they were coming every five minutes and lasting at least a minute in duration. I thought “this can’t be right—that’s when you’re supposed to go in!” I should stop here to tell you that our number one concern was WHEN to go to the birth center. We brought it up several times in our childbirth class and talked to both our midwives and doula about it. We didn’t want to go in too early or be too late. Guess what they tell you? You should come in when your contractions are four minutes apart, lasting a minute in duration, for at least an hour. It’s the 4-1-1 rule. Obviously I was confused when my contractions started out so close to this level…but I figured I still needed to wait an hour to make sure they were consistent if nothing else…so I laid in bed and continued watching the clock, expecting them to slow down.
My husband woke up at 5am and his first question was “are you in labor?” He got up to get ready and pointed out that he hadn’t put his work clothes on. I told him he could go to work (still doubting that I was in labor), but I was quickly glad he had chosen to stay home.
At 6:30am I decided that we should probably officially start timing the contractions, because based on my clock watching, they were still coming every five minutes and lasting at least a minute. Sure enough, they were that consistent, if not more! So we sent a text to our doula at 7 and she said she was already at the clinic with the midwife since they’d had another birth that morning.
I spent the next few hours alternating between laying on the couch or the bed, working my way through contractions (I must have been really concentrating because time went very quickly). A little before 10am I threw up my breakfast and zoned out on the bathroom floor. I came out and had no idea if it had been 5 minutes or 45 minutes. I decided to eat some chicken soup—which sounds silly now, but during our childbirth classes they had put so much stress on eating and drinking during early labor that I wanted to make sure my stomach wasn’t empty. As I was sipping some of the broth I realized that I had the classic transition symptoms—nausea/vomiting, shaking, zoning out, and feeling hot/cold. I turned to Laszlo and said “it’s too soon for transition, isn’t it?” Transition is the period of labor right before you start pushing, and I always assumed it would take MUCH longer to get to that point. But the contractions were getting a little more intense so I decided maybe it was time to head to the birth center. We had an 11:30 prenatal appointment already scheduled, so I figured if nothing else we would just have our appointment and go home (clearly I was still in denial that I was in labor). I even told Laszlo on the way out the door “I’m going to feel so silly if we go in and I’m not very far along.”
He wanted to notify the family but I told him to wait until we got there and heard from the midwives—because I didn’t want to have to announce a false alarm. My poor husband—I was not giving him much to work with. I don’t think I really conveyed at all how I was feeling through the process—I was very much in the zone. It was also funny because all the prep work we did—the relaxation techniques, the different comfort positions, the playlist, the birth affirmations, the snacks—it all went so fast we didn’t use any of that! I let him rub my back for maybe two contractions and then I was done with any sort of comfort techniques. I guess that’s what happens when you skip all of early labor!
So anyway…we got in the car and before we even made it to the end of the street I threw up all the chicken soup I had forced myself to eat. I don’t remember the rest of the drive at all—although we did comment on how we had assumed we would be driving to the birth center in the middle of the night, not the middle of the day, so we had to rethink the traffic plan. The birth team met us in the parking lot, while I waited out a contraction in the car. They asked how I was doing and I smiled and said “oh I’m fine” and then jokingly apologized for being half an hour early to our appointment. They later told me that based on my attitude they assumed that I was probably not very far along upon arrival—since the joking usually stops by the time you hit active labor. They asked about my water breaking and said it sounded like it probably wasn’t actually my bag of water—just “mystery fluid” since no more had come out afterwards.
We headed upstairs to get settled in and our doula started timing my contractions for awhile. They were definitely feeling more intense, and I got up to use the restroom but ended up getting sick again instead. The midwife came in and checked the baby’s heartbeat while I sat on the bathroom floor. She offered to check me to see if I was far enough along to get into the tub for a little natural pain relief. We moved to the bed and when she checked me she had a big look of surprise on her face. She asked if I had been feeling “pushy” at all, because I was fully transitioned and all she could feel was a full head of hair! I told her I had been feeling a bit of pressure, I just hadn’t known what it meant.
They hurried to get me changed and fill the tub with water so that I could start pushing. Laszlo said “so she is in labor? I can text the family?” and I finally agreed that he could let the family know that Baby Lindszlo was on his way. I remember looking up at the clock when I got in the tub—it was 1pm, and I thought “oh we’ll have this baby out by 1:30!” A little optimistic on my part! I ended up pushing for 2 hours—he was crowning for a full 30 minutes. But it didn’t feel at all like 2 hours. I remember hearing in our childbirth classes that the average pushing time is 2 hours, and thinking “how could anyone do that?!” but it goes rather quickly because you are in the zone and you get nice breaks in between each of the contractions.
The other midwife was still out of town so they had called in the backup midwife. She was about an hour away when they alerted her that I was in labor, but they told her not to hurry because I was a first time mom and probably wouldn’t have the baby until later that night. But once the midwife discovered I was fully transitioned she called her back and told her to get there as fast as she could. They also asked how I would feel about having my doula assist incase the backup midwife didn’t make it—“because you’re not really using her as a doula! In fact, you don’t really need a midwife. You are just doing what you need to do.” I told them that was fine, whatever they needed! Since I pushed for longer than expected, the backup midwife made it in time, and my doula did a great job of wiping down my brow with a wet washcloth and bringing me juice and water to stay hydrated. She also took some very tasteful pictures which I didn’t think I wanted, but am now very glad I have.
At 2:54pm our little guy was born in the water and immediately placed on my chest. He took a breath, gave a good cry… and then stopped breathing. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I remember looking down at him, seeing his eyes roll back, and saying “are you supposed to be going to sleep already?” The midwives kicked into high gear, using all their techniques to bring him back. After a few puffs of oxygen he started breathing again and everyone else breathed a sigh of relief. Since the chord had stopped pulsing, they had Laszlo cut it and then they handed him off for some skin to skin contact while I delivered the placenta and got out of the tub.
As I mentioned, one of my fears was to have something go wrong at the birth— and yet while it was happening, I was not scared at all. I don’t know if it was because he was there on my chest, or I was hopped up on adrenaline from the birth, or maybe I just couldn’t see the whole picture of what was going on around me, but I felt very calm and fully trusted the midwives as they worked around me. Understandably, it was a much scarier experience for my husband as he watched from a few feet away. They later filled us in on what had happened—it’s called secondary apnea, and basically once the placenta detaches from the uterus the baby doesn’t make the transition to breathing on their own. It doesn’t happen often, but we were super impressed with how well the midwives handled it—and how they left him on my chest the whole time to get that much needed skin to skin contact to help him through the challenge.
We got to snuggle the rest of the evening, and they gave us an hour of skin to skin contact before they came in with a home cooked meal for us to enjoy while baby had his newborn exam at the foot of the bed. We all took guesses at his weight, and having no concept of how big a newborn should be, but knowing that ours seemed big, I guessed that he was 8lbs 10oz. The midwife guessed 9lbs 5 oz, but said she’d been overestimating lately. She hooked the scale to the sling and said “oh boy! I underestimated this one!” and then turned it around so we could see that he weighed in at a whopping 10lbs 2oz! He was 22 inches in length, and his head was 14.5 inches. Everyone was shocked that I had a 10 lb baby, and we circled back to the conversation about my water breaking. The midwife told me that it probably did break when I thought it did, but since he was so big, there probably wasn’t much room in there for any fluid! That explains why I was so uncomfortable in the final days of my pregnancy, as there was not much of a cushion around baby.
The midwives kept saying how impressed they were with how I was laboring, how easy I made it look, and how I was “a midwife’s dream”, but obviously I didn’t know any other way to do it. I really just listened to my body and did what I felt I needed to do. One of the midwives kept saying “she’s so strong” as I was pushing, which I thought was interesting because during my prenatal yoga class we were instructed to pick a mantra to focus on, and mine was “I am strong” and “my body is capable.” My whole life I have been concerned about how childbirth would go, since I don’t have the typical “child birthing hips.” But I just kept telling myself that God wouldn’t give me a baby too big for my body to birth, and sure enough—my body rocked the delivery of a 10 lb baby! So I guess I had nothing to fear.
After a few hours the midwife drew an herbal bath for me and baby, which was really nice and soothing. After a final exam she cleaned up and headed home. My sister and brother in law came to visit, and then we packed up our things, tried to squeeze a 10 lb baby into newborn clothes, and went home around 10pm. It was really nice to be able to sleep in our own bed, even though we were a little nervous about taking care of a newborn during our first night as parents.
The midwife came to our house the next day for our 24 hour exam, and we have gone back to the birth center for our postpartum appointments since. Little Lindszlo had already gained back his birth weight and then some by our 12 day appointment, and was up to 12 lbs 4 oz at his 4 week check up. They gave him the “most weight gain” award at his 6 week checkup, where he weighed in at a whopping 15lbs 2oz and measured 25 inches.
Overall, labor was not at all what I expected. Obviously—since I didn’t even know I was in labor until it was almost over! I think what confused me the most is that only 15% of labor starts with the water breaking—and it looks a whole lot different when it happens that way because there’s no build in the intensity. In my mind, I imagined things would start slow and build, so I quickly adapted to the intensity of the contractions and braced myself for it to get much worse—even though it never really did.
I never once wished I had delivered at the hospital, and only once (ironically, at the very beginning) thought “I could see why people would get drugs”—although I never wanted them myself. I honestly can’t imagine trying to push through an epidural, not being able to feel the contractions. I think the fact that I was guiding my own pushing, as well as birthing in water, contributed to the fact that I didn’t have any damage that needed stitches or care after birth. I also didn’t even process that I’d had a water birth until the next day when someone asked me about it. We went into it not really planning to have a water birth, but being open to whatever happened. I would definitely recommend it!
For all you mamas-to-be out there, I would advise that attitude is everything. Yes, things can go wrong in any labor—I am not ignorant of that. But as my yoga instructor frequently reminded us, if you concentrate on your fears, on the bad things—they will be more likely to happen. I always thought that I would get to my ninth month of pregnancy and dread the end—knowing that I would have to push a baby out. But that’s not what happened at all. Through my prenatal care and education I realized that birth is a beautiful (albeit hard) thing, and I looked forward to the experience. Since it went so well…I guess we’ll have to have lots of babies!