This is my story, as a first-time mama. This is the story of my son Samuel’s birth!
What a swirl this past year has been! It’s time to write out his birth as his first birthday is drawing close!
I’ve always adored kids and connected so well with them.
I’ve also always avoided newborns. They are just so sweet and tiny and incredibly precious! I wanted to leave these treasures in their own parents’ arms. Even though, of course, I was drawn to the sweetness!
I had NO idea that having my own would be soo sweet and soo simple, yet soo difficult.
Looking back, I had an amazing birth story, but the birth & recovery hasn’t been easy.
Labor was gradually and then immediately intense for me. I like to call it the “marathon of labor.” For most first-time mamas, this is what it is. Statistically speaking. In some way, pregnancy is a marathon of labor for all mamas. The birth story is incredible in that it ends up being completely unique for each mama & child. There are probably little or great disappointments and there are probably little and great joys.
Here is mine!
It began with cramps close to menstrual cramps the day before giving birth, just as I was finishing up working from home. I was 40 weeks plus 2 days at that point and it was 2p.m.
I had a lovely dinner date with my hubby at Cheesecake Factory the night before and I just felt like it was my last big meal. I just had this peace.
My parents also came into town that week and once they got here, I felt like okay, now I can give birth.
So, on June 22nd, after finishing up work, I took a nap. This is the advice of my midwife team. Time to rest up for what I was pretty sure was to come. It was also recommended to go to sleep to see if the labor continues, or if your pregnant body just needed rest. (If tired or dehydrated, this can cause Braxton hicks, those practice contractions, but if you rest and drink water, they may go away).
I woke up around 4:30p.m. and it all continued.
By 6 p.m., I realized I was having back labor, which really surprised me! I also started to lose my mucus plug.
I jumped in the tub and ran hot water over my back to soothe it. My mom and sister came over and prayed with me.
I went to bed early and this began a full night of pretending to sleep as the contractions kept coming and bringing me awake. I knew my body needed to lay down and to rest if I was going to make my goal of having a natural home birth the next day or days; statistically first-time labor can go 24-48 hours! My midwives recommend drinking a glass of wine and going to bed once labor starts. I’ve never had a glass of wine, so I decided not to start now! Haha!
I was texting back and forth with my midwife and with my doula, just to update them that my mucus plug seemed to be releasing and the cramps/contractions didn’t lessen after sleep. They told me to take an Epsom salt bath and go to bed! I was laughing at that point, because I knew EXACTLY what my midwife would recommend and was already planning on it! (Epsom salt baths got me through my pregnancy, helping me to feel like a normal person each time the aches and pains got out of control.)
My long night of letting my husband sleep and pretending to sleep in and out of contractions ended at 4a.m. I was pretty sure I would throw up at some point during labor because I often did during the first painful day of my period (the rest of my period, I usually had no pain, but that first day was so rough most of my menstruating life pre-having kids!)
I finally yelled, CARL, I NEED YOU! It all came together, how intense things had been all night long, just me and Jesus and this babe. Time for some support!
I laid on my left side all night long, as this helps position baby best for labor. There is also a position where you lay on your left side with one leg up & bent that is really good, so I stayed in that position, of course moving when it was comfortable to change positions. That can also be good, to keep baby moving as they will probably keep moving during labor until they finally are engaged and it’s time to move through the birth canal.
Oh, how I loved studying about pregnancy, labor and birth these past few years! I took some courses I love from Kristen Burgess of naturalbirthandbabycare.com. Her Great Pregnancy course is amazing and just all of her classes. Helped me to prepare for becoming pregnant, know what to eat through all the trimesters and she’s just so. calming!! Not to mention she has had 7 babies of her own.
Carl, God bless him, woke up and then we were together for the next hours. I opened a book, Birthing From Within, and read about putting wash cloths in hot water in a crockpot and asked Carl to do this. That’s all I read! But it turned out to be a godsend.
After I rested as much as I could during the night, I began to record the contractions. I actually couldn’t hit the start and stop button because of the intensity and the plan had been that Carl would do that, anyway! I just didn’t realize I’d have to focus so much for so long. But it was good. The work of labor was good!
I would rotate between the bed, the couch, then my exercise ball and I tried to stay out of the tub though I would’ve stayed there forever, mostly because I knew I’d want hot water later for the blow up birthing tub! (Room temp water, not good for it to be more than a few degrees above body temp).
The warm birthing bath was going to be my “epidural”, so to say. My birthing education that happened with my midwives & doulas group (check out Arise Birth Doula, google it if you’re local), gave me tools to move through labor and move through pain. Especially the pain that can come with contractions. (Read Supernatural Childbirth if you’re wondering why I say “can” and not “FOR SURE WILL COME”). 😉
My doula was so amazing. Just looking into her brown eyes is the most peaceful and encouraging and calming experience! I knew I wanted her at my birth from the moment we met with her in my home. I got to not only have her at my birth, but another amazing doula who is a midwife in training and had her babies at home unassisted, and of course my amazing, wonderful, beautiful midwife. (And hubby, and at the last minute, dear sister).
I forgot to say that my whole labor experience was more involved than I had expected, so I didn’t use my music playlist. Instead, it was written on my heart from months of soaking in it and I could hear it in my head during some of the most challenging moments.
I moved through labor, with my rotation and eventually got to the point where I stayed on the exercise ball with a hot wash cloth pressed on my whole lower back. It was very painful in that area and I needed every inch covered at all times. Carl did this for me. ❤
At this point, drinking water made the contractions more intense, as did trying to drink a healthy smoothie. Things were intense, moreso than all night and I asked Carl in between contractions if he could please ask the midwife and doula if they could come. And also if he could get the tub ready. And if it wasn’t time (close to the end), DON’T TELL ME!!
Thankfully, it was time for them to come and it was time for the birthing tub to be blown up and filled. (We didn’t blow it up or fill it prior to keep it clean.)
My doula came and took over with the hot wash cloths against my lower back and I kept breathing, low and slow into the pain and through the pain. It was incredible.
I had a thought while I was breathing through some contractions- even if I could get an epidural, I’d still have to go through all of these hours of labor to get to that. And by that time, it will be close enough to birth and this is the part that I want to feel and be fully alive for. To me, being aware as I gave birth was a pinnacle of my womanhood and life. I love a challenge. This is probably why I wanted to have my firstborn at home. (That and we felt immense peace about it).
My midwife came and I was allowed to jump into the pool! It was amazing for 5 minutes and then the contractions came back. This told me that I was really gearing up here, the fact that labor didn’t stall out but continued. This is exactly what the birthing pool was for, relaxing my body even further to continue the work of labor.
It was a godsend to have my midwife there, helping with counterpressure on my back (counterpressure is a tool of natural labor that is AMAZING!). She talked me through some of the contractions and then offered to check me. Not a normal practice, but I was happy (& a little nervous) to find out how dilated I was.
I was almost there and they said, okay, you can get up and kneel to melt the cervix away. I was like, OH MY GOSH. I had begun to feel the urge to push, but I really had no idea if I was going to be laboring for another night and day, or if I was close and they were also trying to figure it out. I think I was a bit too calm for them to tell. And though I tried to communicate with them via text & phone calls, I really labored on my own for about 20 hours. (about 8 of those with Carl awake.) So they were trying to gauge where I was at in labor.
It turned out that they were with me for 5 hours, and that was active labor, the last phase of labor. It was about 26 hours altogether, from the very beginning and Samuel was born at 5:06p.m. on Friday June 23rd!
A prayer of mine was that my water wouldn’t break until it was close to birthing my son, because I heard that having the waters intact could be less painful. (And who knew, it could’ve been a miracle en caul birth!)
I had to get out of the tub to recalibrate, so to speak (you should only stay in about 90 minutes or less at a time). So I went to the toilet. This was where I was going in and out of sleep which is sign that birth is near. It doesn’t seem that it could be near the end, but things have been so intense and this is the body’s way of making it happen & getting the energy for pushing.
My water also broke.
So, I remember that I left the part about getting up to kneel. This position helps the cervix to open and works with contractions to let the baby come down quicker than other positions could. It’s still a process but effective. I couldn’t imagine breathing deeply and calmly, relaxing every muscle, but against the feeling of pushing while in this position. But I also knew that I needed this birth to come, that I couldn’t exert energy and labor forever.
So I said, with Christ, ALL things are possible! It was the most difficult sensation ever. To calmly breathe through an urge to push and not give in. My pelvic floor muscles were shaking with the effort but I did it again and again. I thought I would give up, in a panic and as I voiced this, my doula and Carl and midwife said, no Ailene, breathe, you CAN do this! I came back down into the peaceful, gentle birthing place I desired to be in.
My darling sister walked in at this point and was a calming presence who was praying and just being a support.
All the prayers I’d prayed about this birth, the miracles I’d asked for, they came alive in me.
I gave birth in an apartment in peace, quietness and gentleness and even 10 months later, some of my neighbors were so surprised to hear it had taken place!
My mom also turned inward for strength during her experiences, so I believed that I would be the same. In prior intense physical experiences, this was the case with me, so I also had that knowledge.
In fact, for years, during the first excruciatingly painful day of my menstrual cycle, I learned to pace and read Scripture to get through until the pain meds kicked in. I just kept going for those 45 minutes and I believe I built up a well of trust in God, through physical pain that came back around to help me through this birth, as well. So incredible.
So, my water broke and then I asked if I could get back into the tub (I didn’t talk a whole lot, it was too intense). The instant they said yes, I actually ran and jumped in! My doula laughed, surprised and said I’ve never seen a pregnant woman in labor run and jump like that! (I just didn’t want to have the baby on the toilet!)
It was time to push. I breathed and groaned deep and low (the lower your sounds, the less pain, the higher the sounds, the more energy used).
And oh my GOSH, my husband made up this cold red raspberry leaf, ginger and honey tea for me to sip on that was a PERFECT labor drink! I highly recommend it!
I just asked him and he made it up the day before. It was red raspberry leaf tea bags, fresh ginger and honey, he stirred it all up and then refrigerated it (take the bags out after 10-15 mins, maybe a little longer, leave the ginger in).
Red raspberry leaf was an incredible tonic for me. It really gets your uterus ready for birth. I drank it in my second and third trimester. Another supplement that was huge for a home birth was alfalfa tablets. This built up my stores of Vitamin K and baby’s stores. This way, we both would clot really well during birth.
I felt SO strong while pushing. In fact, I pushed and they said, he is crowning! I pushed again 1 or 2 times and they said, his head is out! I felt his head but it was a bit distracting and honestly kinda grossed me out! 🙂 I pushed a few more times and, just like we talked about & practiced, he was up and through and into my arms, out of the water!
He was so heavy and real and it was the most crazy outta this world experience of my life.
He was so cute and Samuel opened his eyes and looked around, so peaceful and calm. Like, hello world! He made some noises and his lungs were clearing of the fluid (which actually this process starts the lymph system for the first time! So amazing!)
He latched and we practiced nursing on and off all night. I was not a natural, it wasn’t easy. It was awkward and I hoped I was doing it right. My doula and midwife literally taught me everything (and my mom, she’s such a pro). 3 days later, at the home visit from the midwife, she helped him latch on and my milk literally came in. He has always had such a strong latch and suck, but I had to learn how to let it happen!
I was on such a high. Nothing like it.
30 minutes later, on the dot, I gave birth to the placenta. This is TOTALLY tmi, but it was heart-shaped and one of the dear doulas pointed out. Nothing was gross about the birth except for the placenta, but honestly it wasn’t shocking, probably because they handled it professionally and were fascinated by it scientifically. Telling me that it was showing signs of aging. I had been overdue 40 weeks and 3 days and Samuel was a big boy! 9 lbs, 9 oz. So shocking, but totally made sense. Gosh, he was heavy those last days!
They let the placenta pulse until it stopped, giving Samuel an incredible blood transfusion that gave him enough iron for the first 6 months of his life. You could alternatively have the cord blood saved in case of illness in the child’s future. Pretty incredible, but I preferred it went straight into him after birth, especially since we wouldn’t be monitored at a hospital.
It turned out that I had a third degree tear. It was decided that I needed to get to the hospital right away to be stitched up. I was so grateful for my midwife’s wisdom.
My mama got to come with us to the hospital, and my midwife came in and held my hand through it. So tender and I needed her support and strength. Samuel was skin to skin on Carl’s chest and went for his very first car ride. Aunt Deni had dressed him for the very first time, so precious!
I was very happy to be numbed up after birth, and even though it wasn’t ideal the birth hormonal high that comes from natural birth got me through! (I don’t know if it comes with every birth, I’d imagine it does in some way but I haven’t researched that!)
The hospital I went to and the doctor and nurses were so incredible. I really appreciated them.
We finally made it back home and my dad was so grateful to finally be able to DO something after a day of waiting and praying. He met us with Chipotle and the picture we have of that moment…it’s beyond words! SO much joy!
At this point, I headed straight for bed in a completely cleaned up apartment (not that it was hugely messy). Midwives and doulas do an incredible job keeping birth neat and tidy. Birth in itself, without intervention is a lot neater than you’d think! I only have one experience, but my experienced team let me know this when I asked during one of our planning meetings.
Everyone else left us and we snuggled in bed, smiling huge, very tired and ready to dig in to our food.
Anytime I left the baby at this point, I shivered violently. We were both regulating each other’s temperature. Did you know that mamas are the only ones who can both warm and cool a baby?
Thus began the craziest chapter of our lives, 72 hours of skin to skin and becoming a family of 3.
It was an incredible labor. I relished each moment and found grace to meet every turn by leaning in and rising up instead of backing down and curling up like I wanted to. I’ve found that this is the calling of not only pregnancy, not only labor, but motherhood itself.
It continues to be a journey of rising up into beauty, rising up into strength and transforming.
Thank you to all who helped and prayed. Those prayers were so strong.
Thank you to all who have read this!
Much, much love,
p.s. do you feel that oooshy gushy tender love? I think it happens with each and every birth. Families get doused in it. I think it’s a gift from God.