In case you aren’t aware, I had a pretty traumatic birth with my daughter, Ellie, despite all my intentions for a natural water birth at the hospital. Before I ever even imagined getting pregnant again, I knew my next birth would have to be different. No, the length of my labor and other factors wouldn’t be entirely in my hands. Birth is unpredictable…no one had to tell me that! But, I had to seek out better, more personalized care. I needed more support and less intervention. Truly, I didn’t want to be back in a hospital. After seeing so much great feedback from friends on their experiences at Natural Beginnings Birth Center, I had to try that option first. On May 16th, against almost every odd, I found out I was going to have our second child. Within a few days, we were touring NBBC. Thankfully, they considered me to be low risk and a good candidate for having this baby in the birth center. Not sure what a birth center is or how it’s different from a hospital birth? Here are some FAQs on NBBC’s website. From my first visit to the birth of our son, the midwives and staff at NBBC invested into my family. We were important and we were known. All 3 (well, 4) of us!
In the week leading up to Carter’s birthday, I had tons of contractions but nothing actually ramped up to the point of being active “labor”. I was trying not to get my hopes up because it was still early and I hadn’t even hit my due date yet. Ellie came 3 days “late” so I knew it could be a week or two more. Trust me, I didn’t like the idea of it. I had a pretty good feeling I was carrying a bigger baby and I was getting pretty tired. On Tuesday night, January 24th, I took my usual epsom salt bath to relieve some swelling and relax. It had been a quiet day without many contractions but I distinctly remember standing in the bathroom thinking, “I think my water is going to break tonight. I should text my doula. No, that’s crazy. My water isn’t going to break.” So, I released the thought, went downstairs and watched “Fixer Upper” with Philip before heading to bed. I remember waking up uncomfortable a few times with the feeling like Carter had moved into a different position in my pelvis. I had a couple contractions that woke me randomly. I even got up and checked on Ellie just to walk for a minute and see if I could relieve some pressure. Still had no expectation of anything happening.
At 4:45am I woke to feeling a strong kick (totally normal, he was insane in the womb) and instantly felt a pop that was distinctly different from the kick. Before my mind could even finish the thought of, “Hmmm I wonder if that was my water breaking,” BAM! Warm fluid pouring out of me. I guess some people have their water break in less dramatic fashion, but there was NO denying what was happening. The next 10 minutes I wish would’ve been captured on video. I patted Philip frantically on the back and said, “Philip! My water broke!” Poor guy jumped out of bed, turned the light on and asked what to do. I asked for towels and when he brought them I nervously asked him to look and make sure the fluid was clear. I knew if there were signs of meconium in my water things would be very different. All these thoughts were rushing into my mind as I tried to figure out who to call first. “What if my labor doesn’t start on it’s own?” “This is not how I wanted things to start. This really could complicate the birth.” “I don’t want to be put on a strict clock to have this baby.” Thankfully, the fluid was clear.
I first called my mom because I knew if things did start up soon, she’d need the most notice since she was on Ellie duty and lives an hour and a half away. I told her to take her time and shower and I’d let her know how things progress. Then, I woke up my doula, Mary, who was with us for Ellie’s birth and is such an amazing part of my support system. For some reason, the last of my important calls was to the birth center midwife on call. I think I was nervous to find out what they wanted me to do. Marcia answered so calmly and encouraged me to clean up and do what I needed to, but if contractions weren’t starting to try and go back to sleep to keep my energy up. She told me I had a full 24 hours before I’d even need to come to the birth center if labor didn’t start and then we’d try natural things for a while to get things going. I was relieved to hear all this. I decided since my water was still gushing, that I would get in the shower and stop soaking everything in sight. While in the shower, I started getting hit with lower back contractions that I quickly realized were forming a pattern. That pattern was every 2 minutes! WOAH! They were only lasting 30-40 seconds but I wasn’t getting much break. These were distinctly different from contractions with Ellie that were the classic full on tightening of my whole stomach.
Marcia did mention poor positioning of the baby could cause my water to break like it did and the back labor had me suspicious that Carter was OP – meaning he was head down but facing up. It’s safe to give birth like that, but it can really make for a long and hard labor because it isn’t nearly as easy of a journey out with how everything is designed to come out. Awesome info on posterior position and what that means here. Ellie was OP and my labor with her was full of stalls, exhaustion, interventions, and lasted 40 hours.
I was cautiously optimistic that it might still go a little better since my contractions were consistent and close together already. I also felt confident that my team would be on top of things and would be prepared to help us try to shift him or to keep labor going well despite his position. After my shower we started to pull things together and Philip went to get breakfast since that might be the most complete meal he’d have for a while. I turned on my playlist of worship music and started really focusing and breathing through the contractions. I also was able to consume a high protein yogurt since I know I tend to get really sick during labor and I wanted to get something in before things got too intense.
Things only got more intense as my contractions moved closer to a minute long and mostly remained 2 minutes apart. With rush hour traffic on the horizon and a 50 minute drive ahead, we decided to get things moving. Thankfully Saundra, our pastor’s wife, offered to come to the house if there was a gap between when we needed to leave and when my mom would arrive. My mom was still about 30 minutes away but we needed to get going. So, at 6:40am we headed on the road with the music playing. The contractions were pretty much awful in the car without the ability to move around. I did my best to focus on the music and take it one at a time. My birth photographer, Victoria, and my doula, Mary, were also both on the road to meet us there.
Surprisingly, the car ride didn’t feel as long as it was (50 minutes) because I just focused on one contraction at a time and didn’t really look at where we were on the road much. It was a beautiful but chilly morning. It was 37 degrees when we arrived but over 70 by the afternoon! What a beautiful day to be born. Victoria captured the sun rising so I will never forget it!
Victoria Brown Photography
Upon arrival, I worked through some contractions leaning over the bed in the birth suite while the nurses and other staff were getting situated since we all arrived about the same time. Then, I was checked for progress and they listened to little man’s heart. It was the very first time I had been checked since they don’t do routine checks at the end of pregnancy. I loved that aspect of my care. I was kind of surprised to find out I was only at 3cm and thinning. They said they wouldn’t officially admit me in case I wanted to leave and come back at any point but since my water was broken I was welcome to stay. The thought of going anywhere was pretty laughable to me with it being a few hours into contractions coming every 2 minutes or so.
Everyone was pretty confident he was OP so our goal was to make room in my pelvis for him to turn into better positioning and to move down more since I believe he was at a -1 station. I don’t believe it was too much longer when my midwife Nicole came in to see me. I was so excited because I didn’t think she was going to be at my birth and I felt so comfortable with her (although the other two are fabulous as well!) I do believe she was meant to be there, though. One of the nurses recommended laboring with the peanut ball between my legs to help make that room for him. It was very comfortable for me and allowed me to really rest between contractions because I had no idea how long it was going to be with only arriving at 3cm. My back labor was probably the trickiest part of things because I really needed good counterpressure. Thank goodness for my doula, Mary, who would lean over me and provide that while I squeezed my husband’s hands to provide a distraction for me so I could keep my face and jaw loose through the contractions.
Mary suggested a shower might also help get him moving around. They have a fabulous shower there with multiple shower heads that can be handheld and apply that warm water wherever you need it. This felt good for a while and Mary would reach in and put pressure on my back in there as well. I would try to squat and do some cat/cow stretches but it proved difficult for me in the contractions. Eventually I got tired and decided to head back to the bed to work with the peanut ball some more. But, we used the journey back to get some more good moving contractions using things like the edge of the bed.
Per usual, my team of two were there every moment providing everything I needed to cope.
Somewhere in the 9am hour I asked to be checked again to see if I had made enough progress to get the tub filling up so I could labor in there as I had so desired all along. You don’t want to get in too soon because it can stall labor early on. Not what I wanted either!
Danielle, my wonderful nurse, came back in and checked me again and even though I had only progressed to 4cm, my cervix was paper thin. I don’t remember if she told me what station he was at then or not. All I recall was that I was getting in the tub as soon as it was ready!
The tub felt really great, but unfortunately it didn’t really put enough pressure on my back and so I stayed in for a little bit but decided I felt the best getting the counterpressure from Mary. Got back out for some more time with that peanut ball. Seems crazy looking back how much time I spent on my side like that with the ball but it wasn’t much longer (probably around 11am) that things really shifted.
I distinctly remember a contraction hitting and hearing myself grunting…hard…as if I was already bearing down. But, I wasn’t trying to do that at all! It was all my body! It kinda freaked me out because it didn’t really happen like that with Ellie and I had an epidural at that point with her. I could see Philip looking concerned and I think he even asked what was happening and if I was okay. I believe at that point Mary walked out and I’m sure she was getting the attention of my care providers because next thing I knew Nicole had walked in to check me. Mary told her I sounded “pushy” I believe. Getting checked at this point was purely awful but I was shocked to be told I was essentially at 10cm! She actually said “9 and 7/8” and I can laugh at that now. Nicole suggested that if I wanted to birth in the tub that now would be the time to get in before I wouldn’t be able to. I suspected it would be a little while because I could tell when she checked me that she had to feel a little ways up and so he would need to labor down some.
I got in the tub and leaned over the side on my knees. Mary and others were making sure I was hydrated and had cool compresses consistently on my neck. I was in another world and couldn’t really answer anything I was asked. I just opened my mouth when offered water or ice.
I remember thinking it was taking forever and that no matter what position I got into, I really questioned if I was making any progress. I never had a thought that I couldn’t do it, but I did say out loud that I missed the drugs! There were quite a few people in the room between my team and the midwife and the students who were helping and observing. But, there wasn’t any unnecessary talking or noises or interventions. I was left to do the work with only some suggestions of position changes.
This was fine until I kept looking up in my exhaustion and would see Nicole just watching me. In my state of mind I kept thinking, “Why isn’t she doing anything? This isn’t happening. I’m not pushing him out!”
I decided I would try to feel myself if his head was close. I thought I might have felt it but honestly I had no idea what I was doing. They noticed and asked me what I felt and that’s when I think I made it clear that I needed some assistance. Nicole came over and checked to see where his head was and he was very close. What a relief. She asked if I wanted some help feeling where to focus my pushing and I gladly accepted because for some reason the water was making it difficult for me to push effectively at first. She and my doula grabbed my legs to help me get some leverage to push against and things really started to kick into gear. I could feel what to do and pushing went from feeling difficult and incredibly frustrating to powerful and effective.
The only struggle became that the water was so wonderful and effective that my contractions were not quite long enough for me to get tons of progress each time. The second the contraction was over my pushing felt completely pointless. I think this ended up being helpful because I never tore. Things went slowly enough that my body had time to work with it.
Finally, his head came out and it was confirmed that he never did turn his little head and came out facing up at everyone. I knew there was no rush to push the rest of him out because his body wouldn’t try to breathe under the water but because I was working so hard to get his head out, I had no idea how little effort it would take to get his shoulder and body going. Literally he came shooting out into the water. We joke he looked like a kid in a pool who pushed off the side with their legs. He was like a rocket! And I lunged out fast for him and in just a short second pulled him up to my chest. It was crazy and amazing how he entered the world like that.
Almost to the minute, he was in my arms 8 hours from when my water broke. We got to recover in the same bed I labored in and we were both so healthy. I never had a high blood pressure reading and his temperature and heart rate were perfect. We still can’t stop talking about how much God blessed us with a beautiful birth and a wonderful supportive place to have him. Just a few hours later we were headed home and a family of four. It was so wonderful to be in our own home that same day. What redemption January 25th held for us. Thank you, Jesus!