When I was pregnant with my second child, D’Artagnan, I knew without a doubt that I wanted a better birth experience this time. By choosing Breath of Life for my care and trusting in the natural process of birth, I was able to achieve it!
With my first baby, Aya, I had a pretty typical American birth. When I got to nearly 41 weeks of pregnancy, I was induced at the hospital with Cervadil and Pitocin (simply because my care providers wouldn’t let me go past 41 weeks). I was confined to bed with an IV and fetal monitors. I was able to make it through with 2 doses of Stadol, and thus avoid an epidural, but it was excruciating. Aya was well worth every minute of it, but I knew that there had to be a better way. Birthing a child is a natural bodily function, not an illness! So, unless something goes wrong and medical intervention is required for survival, why would I need to be in a hospital?
Before I was even pregnant with D’Artagnan, I started researching my options for the next time. I was very excited to discover Breath of Life, and knew early on that this was where I wanted to be for my second birth. All through my pregnancy, I was very confident that I’d made the right choice. Everyone I encountered at the birth center was so warm and friendly, and I fully trusted that the midwives there would do everything they possibly could to help me have an ideal birth experience.
D’Artagnan’s due date was July 6, 2012. That day came and went with no baby. Though I was eager to see my son at last, I was completely willing to be patient for another week or so…. but still no baby! At this point, I started to get a little nervous, since I could not legally birth my baby at Breath of Life if I hit a full 42 weeks without being in active labor. I tried so many of the supposed labor triggers that I’d read about. spicy food, walking, sex, acupressure points, nipple stimulation, oregano and basil (my doula – the amazing Sarah Weatherbee of Blue Moon Birth – even made me an oregano and basil oil to sniff and massage with!), evening primrose oil, cohoshes, sweeping membranes, talking to my belly and telling the baby to come out….but none of it got my labor going. Finally, at my 41 weeks and 5 days appointment, Vikki (our wonderful midwife) and I decided that it was time to break out the last resort, castor oil. It was pretty disgusting, but it started my labor! I took it at 2:15 that afternoon (mixed with scrambled eggs), and it actually took a few hours for me to feel any effect from it at all. But, by dinnertime, I was having contractions with an edge that felt like gas pains – highly uncomfortable! Eventually, the castor oil took its full effect, and after a rather uncomfortable evening, I was having pretty strong contractions that seemed to be coming a bit more frequently. I tried to get some sleep around 11 PM. Between contractions, I got some. Around 1 AM or so, it became extremely uncomfortable to be dealing with the contractions in bed. So I sat out in the living room, moving up to hands and knees and leaning on the couch arm during contractions. My husband, Doug, sat up with me and played video games (he needed something to do during this time!). After a few hours, the contractions seemed to be spacing back out instead of getting closer together. Doug suggested that we go to bed so we could be well-rested if “it” happened the next day. But I had a strong desire to avoid a second dose of castor oil in the morning, so I opted instead for a cup of red raspberry leaf tea. I don’t know if the tea actually helped, but almost as soon as I started drinking it (around 4:20 AM), my contractions started coming every 5 minutes and lasting about a minute each. Doug clocked them for an hour, and then we started talking about getting ready to leave for the birth center, as they were pretty strong!
I called our midwife, Vikki, and told her we were going to have a quick bite to eat and then start packing up. Nearly as soon as I got off the phone with her, my contractions started coming even closer together. I ate a little bowl of oatmeal while Doug packed the car. Right before leaving, we woke up Aya (2 years and 11 months old), and told her that today was the day her baby brother would be born. She seemed pretty excited, as were Doug and myself! At around 6:30, we piled into the car and made the 25 minute drive up to Breath of Life. Fortunately, traffic was not bad, and my contractions eased up majorly while we were traveling. A part of me was concerned that I would be one of those women that shows up at the birth center, hospital, etc, and immediately stalls out on her labor! Fortunately, this was not the case. As soon as we pulled up to the doors of Breath of Life, I felt a really strong contraction come on!
Vikki came out to meet us and took us back to our birthing suite. A warm bath was drawn, soft music was playing, and the morning sunlight was streaming in through the window. It was very welcoming and comforting. We got settled in, and our doula, Sarah, arrived. Sarah took beautiful pictures throughout our birth, in addition to providing invaluable support to our whole family. Aya’s main concern was opening up the “big sister presents” we had packed for her. She was very happy to discover a bunch of new Mickey Mouse figurines in those packages. They kept her very well occupied, and the adults in the room highly entertained, listening to the imaginative stories she acted out with them! I labored on the birth ball for a while, with Doug (and Aya, at one point!) rubbing my back. I labored standing up for a little while, too, with my arms around Doug’s shoulders.
Things were really starting to feel intense, so when Vikki suggested I get in the tub, I did not hesitate. In the tub, I labored on my hands and knees. Doug and Sarah took turns holding my hands and rubbing my back and telling me how well I was doing. Between the two of them, they were able to keep Aya happy, and comfort me at the same time. They were an amazing support team! Aya brought me water and came over to hold my hand once or twice. But, best of all, she lined up all twelve of her new Mickey Mouse figurines on the edge of the tub, facing me, so that they could watch! Aya’s presence at the birth is something that I will always remember fondly. She was a perfectly well-behaved little angel, and she kept us all laughing. She and I had watched a bunch of waterbirth videos together in the weeks leading up to D’Artagnan’s birth, and it really did work to prepare her. She was completely unfazed by all the noise I was making, even at the most intense times!
The contractions in the tub began to get more and more intense. I just knew that I was getting close to full dilation. I loved that no one insisted that my dilation be checked before I was given an “all-clear” to push (as in the hospital). The trust that my body would know exactly what to do at the right time was honored completely. I knew that I was heading into transition, and I kept telling Doug that I felt like I wanted to escape or run away. I felt like I had to vocalize what I was feeling without making the grand statement “I’m in transition, now!” I think I was afraid that saying it out loud might make things even more intense! And in between contractions I also remember telling Doug that all I wanted was for it to all be over so I could hold my baby!
Toward the end of one contraction, I felt a pop and a gush of water out of my vagina. I actually stopped vocalizing through the contraction to ask “What was that!?”, even though I knew the answer. It was my water breaking. Pushing followed not long after! I was so hoping that pushing was going to feel like a relief, but it was actually the hardest part of the whole labor for me. I felt the head moving down and then starting to crown and I began repeating “I feel the baby, I feel the baby.” I did not feel an urge to bear down, so I tried my best to relax and let my uterus do all the work. The head receded back up in between contractions. I enjoyed the between-contractions times so much, but dreaded the inevitable contractions on the way. With the next contraction, the head came back out and I felt the “ring of fire” sensation for what seemed like forever as his head worked its way out. All I could do at this time was keep repeating “It hurts so much!” The thought crossed my mind that despite wanting three children, I never wanted to do this again! Then finally, his head was out. I hoped that pushing out the body would be much easier. But it was harder! His shoulders were a little stuck, and Vikki asked me to turn over onto my back. She helped his shoulders out while I mustered as much strength as I could to push. Even though I knew something must be of urgent concern if I was being asked to change position, Vikki remained so calm and reassuring that I just knew that everything was going to be okay. There was no sense of panic, and the issue was quickly and safely resolved. Finally, at 9:24 AM, less than 3 hours after arriving at the birth center, D’Artagnan was born! I pulled him up, out of the water and hugged him, so relieved that my intense labor was over and my little boy was out safely!
After the Doug cut the (very thick!) cord, he held D’Artagnan skin-to-skin while I birthed the (also huge!) placenta in the tub. Interestingly, despite being “overdue,” D’Artagnan was still covered in quite a bit of vernix and his placenta was still in perfect condition. It makes me wonder how much longer he would have stayed in there if left to his own devices! And it’s no wonder that pushing him out was so excruciating – D’Artagnan weighed in at 10 pounds, 7 ounces! We all basked in the sheer joy that not only had my labor started in time for this incredible experience to happen at the birth center, but that little 5’1″ me had successfully birthed a 10 pound+ baby!
I am still in awe of how amazing our “eleventh hour” natural birth experience was! I felt an incredible amount of love and support from all who were present. I felt so well-protected, safe, and cared for in a way that I never could have imagined in the hospital. I owe so much to Vikki, Sarah, and Doug. I feel that we made an amazing team, and I can’t imagine having done it without their exceptional calm and support. Everything about this birth experience was practically perfect. I will always be glad that we chose Breath of Life. I could not have asked for a more loving and gentle way for my son to enter the world.