This is part II of the long overdue story of the birth of my second child last September. To read the part I follow this link!
It was a Wednesday night. Five days earlier, I had been told I was already dilated to 4 centimeters and was expected to be in full-blown labor by the end of that day. As usual, my plans did not quite line up with God’s plan. As usual, his timing turned out to be better than mine.
From my Facebook page on the last day of my pregnancy, captioned: “She just loves it in there. I’m gonna need some bigger shirts.”
My contractions had been coming and going in waves for nearly two weeks and finally kicked into high gear that evening while my husband was at church for Wednesday night services. My mother-in-law was staying with us during this time to care for our son, so when Ryan arrived home we would be ready to hop in the car at whatever point I felt it was time. Although my patience had been wearing thin up until this point, I did not want to check into the hospital until I was sure active labor was well underway.
While my husband was still at church, I put our son to bed and retreated to our bedroom to watch YouTube videos on natural birthing techniques and pace the floor. I was determined to remain relaxed throughout the birthing process this time, and to do so I wanted to be prepared with a variety of breathing techniques fresh in my mind. One of these techniques involved vocalizing through each contraction with a long “Ohhhhh” while visualizing everything opening up for the baby to pass through the birth canal. (I’m sorry if this is too much information! I just want to be helpful to those who are preparing for a similar birthing experience.)
I quickly found that vocalizing and visualizing were my new best friends in the child birthing business! As the contractions became more and more powerful, it was as though my mind was completely focused on the purpose and productivity of the contraction rather than the pain it was causing. When the contractions were consistently within five minutes of each other and difficult to talk through, I called my midwife and let her know we were on our way. It was shortly after 11PM.
We arrived at the hospital around 11:30PM and were settled into the holistic birthing suite by 12:15AM. I was already amazed by God’s provision. Here are just some of the ways His timing blew my mind:
- Though the labor & delivery floor at the hospital had been overflowing the previous weekend when I had WANTED to be in labor, it was now quite empty and I was the only patient in active labor.
- The holistic birthing suite was vacant and ready for me!
- The midwife on call that night was the one who knew me best and had seen me most throughout the pregnancy.
- The nurse assigned to my care was INCREDIBLE. From the time she checked me in to the point she grabbed our camera to take pictures after the birth — absolutely incredible.
- As we were being admitted to the hospital, the nurse was shocked to find that I was already dilated to SEVEN centimeters. I wish I could show you all the look on her face when she made that call.
- Active labor was well underway, but my water had not broken. This was a hope and prayer from the beginning!
When my midwife arrived at the hospital, she estimated that the baby would be born within a few hours. After some discussion, I agreed to allow her to rupture my water — though I admit I was unprepared to make that decision and still I am unaware of any risks associated with it. She assured me it was safe, and I chose to trust her. She advised my nurse to let me continue laboring as I had been and allow me to get into the birthing tub at whatever point I felt ready.
So I continued to labor, chatting with my husband in between contractions, and then getting into my “comfort position” to ride through each wave of pain. I found my ideal position during this time was kneeling beside the bed, hands folded in prayer position, and legs shoulder width apart. I would close my eyes, vocalize, and rock my hips from side to side. Around 2AM, the intensity of the contractions began to wear on me, and I requested to get into the tub for some relief.
It was so comforting to feel as though my care providers trusted my instincts and were willing to follow my lead. This was such a welcome change from my first birthing experience. My midwife simply wanted to know when I felt ready to push, and other than that she let me make the calls and did not question my decisions in the process.
The “Am I dying?” part…
It did not take long in the water before I reached the “Oh, Lord, I think I might be ready to die,” phase of labor, otherwise known as “transition.” Up until that point, I had not felt myself well up with fear. This was the hard part for me, though, and somewhere in the midst of my most intense contractions I felt the fear roll through my body and tell me I could not handle one more surge of pain. For the first time since labor had begun, I knew I needed the women in the room to help me calm down.
In the 60 seconds I had between contractions, I started to whine. Just like a small child looking for her mother’s sympathy, I told my midwife I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I told her I was scared, and I just wanted it to end. “Soon,” she told me, “your baby will be here very soon.”
“You’re doing great,” my nurse kept repeating.
Before I could start in on my next whining session, I felt my hands begin to tingle intensely and chills run through my body. I had only felt that sensation once before in my life, and I remembered it well: five minutes before I pushed my son into this world.
This realization renewed my drive to continue. I told the nurse it was time to push, and she hurried to help my midwife prepare for delivery. I fully expected the midwife to take control at this point. During my last birth, this was the part when my previous midwife told me exactly how to position my body, held me in that position, and told me when to push. She reached down, guided the baby out, and lifted him out of the water.
Do you know what my midwife did this time? None of that! She sat back in her chair and calmly told me how to reach down and deliver my own baby. No one tried to hold my legs or force me into an unnatural position, no one screamed at me to push, and no one even tried to touch me! I followed my midwife’s instructions, slightly shocked that she wasn’t helping me, and I delivered my baby with my own hands and pulled her up onto my chest.
At 3:33 AM, I held my baby girl for the first time.
After only three hours of laboring in that birthing room, I had the unique honor of being the first person to hold my newborn baby. At this point, do you know what my awesome nurse did? She grabbed the camera from my husband so he could come meet his baby girl, and she took some awesome pictures for us. She seemed just about as excited as we were to be a part of this process and didn’t put that camera down until she absolutely had to do so.
“This was a text-book perfect birth,” my midwife told us, “the kind that should be video recorded!” I don’t know how I feel about a video of me giving birth, but she was right: it could not have possibly gone any better than it did. Everything progressed quickly, I coped with most of my contractions calmly and without fear, and not a single complication arose.
Amelia nursed well from the beginning, another specific answer to prayer, and she even let me get some sleep the next day during my brief stay at the hospital. I am one who prefers to get home as soon as possible with my babies, so we checked out first thing Friday morning. I stand amazed at the beautiful birthing experience we were able to have, knowing that this is not the norm, knowing that it is something many women dream of having but are never able to have. I don’t know what to make of that, except that I am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. This experience was the gift of a lifetime, and I am thankful to God alone for that gift.
Amelia is now over eight months old! The word that always comes to mind to describe her is “delightful.” Purely delightful. If I never have another birth or baby as easy on me as Amelia, I will tease her siblings in adulthood that she will always be my favorite. (Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they know I am only joking!)
If you are reading this story and you have any questions regarding your own birthing plan, don’t hesitate to send me an email or comment on this post. While sometimes there are medical reasons that make a birth like this impossible, most times that is not the case. I believe the first steps toward a healthy birthing experience are prayer and education — I am happy to encourage you in either of these steps!