I’ve been contemplating this blog post for the past few weeks, as I tried to imagine putting my experience of Wyatt’s birth into words. Even now, just five weeks after this perfect little person was born, some of the memories are fleeting from that morning. If you know me well, you know that I think birth experiences are incredibly important. You know that I think that birth matters. And that I think that no matter how a woman chooses gives birth, it’s an important story to tell.
I wish that all women would talk about birth in an open way. I wish they would tell their stories the way I’m telling mine today. I wish that pregnant moms didn’t have to fear childbirth. When you haven’t experienced it before, it’s like this big scary top-secret experience – no one talks to you about it except to maybe tell a horror story – no one really tells you what it’s like or how it feels, and you’ve seen the crazy movie scenes with lots of screaming – and so you brace yourself for something that you know is going to be horrible and hard and painful and scary. But I wish every woman could know that birth can be peaceful and easy and pain free and empowering. I wish every woman could know that their body is made to give birth, and that it knows exactly what to do when left to its own devices away from intrusive monitoring and inductions.
I’m excited to share my story with you today…
A huge thank you to our sweet friend Aislinn Rain Photography for rushing over in the middle of the night to be there for the birth…all of the photos in this post were taken by her, she captured everything in the most beautiful way, and these photos are truly priceless to us.
I’ve been lucky enough to have three healthy and low-risk pregnancies, and I believe (and the statistics show) that a home birth is a completely safe option for me. In fact, it’s incredibly hard for me to imagine going to the hospital to give birth after the experiences that I’ve had. Home birth to me means being in a safe and supported environment, being in the comfort of my own home, being in the care of an experienced midwife, being relaxed and happy, actually enjoying my labor and birth, and curling up in my own bed with my newborn afterwards – and I can’t imagine it any other way.
In the weeks leading up to Wyatt’s birth, my intuition kept telling me that he would come before his estimated due date…so when that day came and went I felt a little out of sorts. We went to an appointment with our wonderful midwife, Mandi (www.milestonebirth.com), and told her that I felt like he was coming soon and asked her to check my cervix and do a little sweep to see if that would get some contractions going, and although I wasn’t dilated when she checked me, on the way home I did have some contractions in the car…probably because I think Rick was purposely hitting every bump in the road(!), but they slowed down again once we were home. I felt huge at that point and was starting to feel uncomfortable with some pain in my hips, especially at night, but otherwise I felt great and confident that he would come that week…over that next week we proceeded to have two practice runs with Mandi when I thought that labor might be beginning and called her to come over just in case. Because my last labor had been really fast (less than 2 hours), I was a little worried about her making it to Wyatt’s birth on time so we wanted to play it safe! At that point I had been having non-painful but constant contractions for almost 2 months, which is normal for me at the end of pregnancy, and I was just waiting for them to change into real labor – but at the 41 week mark they actually stopped completely and I irrationally starting wondering to myself if Wyatt was ever going to come, or if I was going to be pregnant forever. With no contractions I was feeling awesome and energetic, which (in my mind) seemed to contradict that I was about to have a baby, I was just progressively a little more uncomfortable as my belly swelled bigger than it ever has before, and we spent our days going for long walks and trying to soak up our time as a family of 4.
As the days rolled by with no contractions happening, I continued to focus on listening to my Hypnobabies tracks to stay relaxed, and found myself giggling when someone would ask when I was due and I would get to tell them “two weeks ago!” As the 42 week mark loomed, I knew that he would need to come soon or we’d have to try some natural induction techniques, but I also felt at peace knowing that he would come when he was ready. On January 30th, before getting in bed, I had Rick take a quick iPhone belly picture because I was marveling at how huge my stomach was…and I had no idea that it would be my last photo before I went into labor. I went to bed and felt nothing telling me that labor was approaching, so I told Rick that there was no way we were having a baby that night, and I slept peacefully until 3:30am when I realized that a REAL contraction had woken me up. I laid in bed and waited a couple of minutes and sure enough, another one came with even stronger intensity. Whereas before, the contractions would be just a tightening on the surface of my belly, these felt much deeper – like my whole uterus was contracting, especially down low, and although they weren’t painful I did need to focus on relaxing and breathing through them. I immediately called Mandi and told her she needed to come over, and woke up Rick to start setting up the birth pool. I decided to stay in bed until Mandi arrived, because I knew that if I got up and moved around it would speed up my labor, so I put in my headphones and listened to the Hypnobabies birth track and stayed perfectly relaxed, drifting off to sleep between contractions. As soon as she arrived she checked my vitals and then, with the help of her assistant, started setting everything up around the house. I got out of bed at that point and went out into the living room, where everyone was, and alternated between sitting down on an exercise ball between contractions and popping up to stand and lean against the couch while they happened.
Our midwife, Mandi, still in her pajamas doing paperwork:)
Rick started filling the birth pool with hot water, which we ran out of pretty quickly because of our small hot water heater, so he found every pot in the house and started heating water on the stove to fill the tub. The contractions continued to get stronger and stronger, but as each one began I reminded myself to stay perfectly relaxed, and marveled at how incredibly powerful they were – while only feeling pressure and no pain. I asked Rick to rub my back during the contractions, to help me stay relaxed, so each time I popped up to lean on the couch he came over and lightly rubbed my lower back which felt wonderful.
I have to cut in here and say that I realize how crazy it sounds when I say that I had a pain free birth! I thought that it sounded crazy the first time I heard another woman say it, because I had never heard anyone describe birth as easy or pain free before – but I’m happy to tell everyone reading that it is possible (I’ve done it twice!), and I attribute it all to learning how to stay totally relaxed by taking the Hypnobabies home study course during my pregnancies. As soon as I heard about Hypnobabies and watched some videos of births using its techniques, I was skeptical but wanted to try it…and I’m so thankful to have benefited from it and actually enjoyed my births.
The hot water crisis continued, with steaming pots continually rotating on the stove, but it was completely calm and peaceful in the room – and I focused on taking really slow and deep breaths and trying to imagine my cervix opening up with contraction. Right when I decided that I wanted to get into the water, because I was starting to have a hard time staying totally relaxed during the strong contractions, the birth tub was declared ready for me! I was so relieved to get into the water, and I laid on my side to keep my belly submerged and was able to slip back into total relaxation. At that point I was moaning a little bit with each contraction, because they felt so strong and it felt like the right thing to do – but I focused on staying totally relaxed and in tune with my body. During my previous births, I had always felt like I needed a lot of support from Rick and from my midwives, but this time I felt great being more alone in the water and letting my body do its thing. Shortly after getting in the water, I asked Mandi if she would check me, because I felt like I was getting somewhat close to being able to push. She declared me to be 8cm, which was awesome news because it’s exactly what Iwould have guessed. At this point it felt like my entire body was participating in each contraction, almost like I could feel them from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, and although it’s hard to stay relaxed when such a big force is overcoming your body, I found that by continuing to let the contractions wash over me and not fighting them at all or tensing up they were just huge waves of pressure with no pain. Moaning as the contractions came also helped a lot, just to have some type of energy release as my body did its work. A couple of times I noticed that my hands would start to tense up and hold onto the side of the tub tightly when a contraction would begin, so I started concentrating on keeping them 100% relaxed and limp and it helped to have something specific to focus on. I asked Rick later how loud I was, and he said I was actually very quiet, and although Trevor woke up and came out to join everyone just before Wyatt was born, Dylan never woke and was sleeping just down the hall.
Pushing is weird, and with all three of my births I’ve found it difficult to figure out how to effectively push the baby down once I’m ready, so Mandi helped by guiding me and telling me exactly where to push…and after a few tries I finally felt my muscles engage with the baby and start to move him down. I’ve always imagined before having babies that pushing would be the worst part of labor, the hardest and most painful part, but that’s been exactly the opposite of my experience. I’ve found that pushing during the contractions, and feeling the baby move down, actually kind of feels good – like a relief, and it’s always been the least intense/painful part of giving birth for me. People often compare having a baby to having a bowel movement…and I’d agree with that sentiment. It’s like you have a crazy stomach ache, and then you get relief when things finally start moving. I had no idea how long I was pushing before he was born, but I think Mandi later told me it was only around 15 minutes. As his head started to make an appearance, she told me to reach down and feel it, and it was the most amazing feeling – to feel his hair and know that he was right there ready to be born. At that point I wasn’t waiting for contractions, I was just pushing on my own…and I looked up and everyone in the room was nodding and smiling at me with encouragement, especially Mandi, who was in position to catch Wyatt, and with the next push his little head emerged – and I heard Rick telling Trevor, who was sitting on his lap, “look, there’s our baby’s head!”
I was ready to push his body out, but suddenly Mandi locked eyes with me and told me I needed to stop pushing for a second, so I breathed and waited as I watched her quickly unwrap the umbilical cord twice from around his little neck. It all happened so fast that I barely realized anything had been wrong, and then she smiled at me and said “go ahead,” and with the next push his whole body came out. During this entire time, I just felt a lot of stretching and pressure, but nothing hurt at all – and I reached down and pulled him up to my chest while I listened to Trevor shriek with excitement “baby, baby!” and marvel at his new little brother. Wyatt started breathing pretty much right away and I couldn’t stop staring at his swollen little face and kissing the top of his head. I think we all decided that my labor was somewhere around 3 1/2 hours in total.
Throughout the pregnancy, knowing that this would probably be our last baby, I had envisioned laboring through the night while the other boys slept, and having Wyatt in the morning so our whole family could be present…and exactly what I had hoped for came true. I am so glad that the boys were there and were able to meet their little brother right away – and I’m so glad we have photos capturing everything. I love this series of Dylan coming down the hallway from his room to see what’s going on…
After I birthed the placenta, which was surprisingly easier this time than it was with the other two boys (no one tells you that you have to push something else out after you have a baby!), Rick had some skin to skin time with Wyatt in bed, keeping him warm while I was helped out of the tub and down the hall to bed. We wrapped up with a heating blanket and he latched right on and nursed for a few minutes, and we snuggled for awhile which Mandi kept close watch over us. At that point I actually was in pain, having “afterpains” that were as strong as my actual contractions. I knew that they tend to get progressively stronger after each birth, but they still hit me hard and came about 2-3 minutes apart for the next few hours. I started focusing on relaxing and breathing through them and that helped, along with having Wyatt in my arms, but they were probably the worst part of the experience.
After we had snuggled and nursed for awhile, Rick cut the cord and Mandi performed the newborn exam at the foot of the bed, and Wyatt passed every test with flying colors. Mandi theorized that he may have stayed in for those extra two weeks because he was a little stressed with the cord around his neck twice, but he was absolutely perfect and healthy. Also, props to Aislinn for grabbing these photos in a very dark room without using any flash!
Wyatt weighed in at 7 pounds, 15 ounces, just barely shy of 8 pounds! We were tucked into bed with him while everyone else cleaned up the house, did the laundry, and made sure we had everything we needed. We laid with Wyatt for a long time, getting to know him and letting him nurse, and then ordered a pizza for lunch and spent the day relaxing in bed.
I am so thankful to Rick, and to our awesome midwife, for giving me all of the support and care in the world during Wyatt’s birth. This past month with him has been wonderful and crazy and fun and frustrating and hard and amazing and everything in between, and it’s definitely chaotic having 3 boys (all 4 and under!). I was sore the first few days after the birth, spending most of my time in bed and on the couch, but recovered very quickly – just in time to shoot our first wedding of the year two weeks later, and we’re now settling in as a family of 5. If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading our story – it’s so important to me to show that birth is a normal and natural part of life, that this is what our bodies are made to do, and that there are safe alternatives to the hospital model of care, and I am thankful to have experienced three wonderful home births! Love, A