Wednesday, May 9, 2012

a Do It Yourself birth ... my birthing experience

After reading one of my favorite bloggers post about expecting her sweet baby (life, etc.) and our connection with natural birth, I realized there could be more mommies that want to connect over such an amazing experience (natural or not).  
This is also a good excuse to get redding's birthday down in writing... which, I've been meaning to do for almost four months now. 

I'd like to preface this, first by telling you all that I am not a writer (as those of you who follow my blog know, it's much easier for me to 'talk' in pictures).  I also think that not only is the birth of my child something I feel incredibly passionate about, but also something so incredibly physical ... even primal (as any woman who's given birth knows, the mind is something you have to forget in order to let your body do the job), these two things will make it a hard topic to write about.
Second, I need to say, if you are not a home-birth or natural birth fan, this is NOT by any means condemning you.  We all do the most research we can do and then try to do the best we know how to do for our babies, our bodies and our particular situations.  This being said, I can't get around the fact that I do believe (because of my research and my experience) that natural birth was the best way to go for my baby and my body.

ok, now that I've made my excuses ... I will begin.

I have to begin at the beginning, and for me, that is my birth.  My mom (umm, who is ... aaahhhmazing) had me at home with a midwife 28 years ago.  So, I have a 'one-up', so to speak, on most american women wanting the go the natural route, in that while they were programmed by hollywood and the media showing birth as a comically-painful-medical-procedure, I had my mother who would tell me honestly about her birth experience ('a woman's body was made to give birth' and other such statements).

John was always incredibly supportive of my decision to have a home-birth (the only knowledge he had about it was from that awesome documentary 'The business of being born').  So at about 9 weeks pregnant, after (reading and reading about how to interview midwifes) and interviewing a few midwifes we decided on the one I felt most comfortable with. 
I feel like I should mention how smoothly my pregnancy went, the baby and I both stayed incredibly healthy, to the point of perfection the entire pregnancy,  we never had reason to see a doctor (this, however, is not necessary from home birth of course, see a doctor if you want! I just never had reason to).

Redding's 'guess' date was January 17th, but the 13th would not only be on a friday, BUT also be the one year anniversary of our first kiss ... so I decided early on that redding would come that day! (ha! he actually listened to me! for the first and probably only time!)
After the new year though, I had the thought that all 9 month pregnant women have ... 
"he will NEVER come!" 
or "what if I'm pregnant forever ?"
or "will I ever feel normal again?" ... etc.  So, I decided that he probably would hold out until the very last possible day, making us unprepared for his timely arrival.  But on January 12th at 8 pm, right before my family, who was visiting for the day, were going to head back home ... I peed my pants ... or so I thought... dun dun dun. (it was actually while they were photographing me and john, I will insert a picture of us laughing because I'm in the middle of telling him that as much as I tried, I just couldn't seem to hold it in!)  
My parents left town and the evening progressed ... with nothing ... but more 'pee' (you couldn't fool me, I knew, because remember ... I read EVERYTHING ... in only 13% of pregnancies does your water break ahead of time, so I knew that the chances of that happening to me were slim).
a couple things of note: 
1. my dog bronson didn't leave my side this evening, did he know what was about to go down? or was he just interested in the smell of amniotic fluid? ... I'll never know. 
2. I became incredibly INCREDIBLY needy, emotionally.  And believed that John was being mean and insensitive to me.  (incase you don't know him or don't normally read my blog, john doesn't have a mean bone in his body).  It's like somewhere in my subconscious I knew what was about to happen I knew that I needed A LOT of emotional support for my body to do the job.  (I would LOVE to know if anyone else experienced this sensitivity and neediness right before labor began).

At about 11:30pm I went to the restroom and there was blood.  I, without thinking, starting freaking out and crying (as anyone who has been pregnant knows, you spend 9 months terrified of blood).  As i get my bearings and realize it is just my mucus plug, john comes in to comfort me. (umm, and yes... duh, we started googling mucus plugs to make sure that's what it was... ewww!) 
It was around midnight when we realized we needed to get some sleep while we still could.  We turn off the lights, snuggle up (as much as is physically possible at 9 months pregnant), turn on the hypno-birthing relaxation cd and BOOM, it starts.  Slow at first, like menstral cramps, but within seconds it is excruciating. I jump up and run to the shower to start spraying warm water on my lower abdomen. BOOM, it starts again, I jump out of the shower and run back to bed.  This goes on for about twenty minutes, barely a few minutes between contractions ('sensations', 'waves' or whatever else they call them in the natural birthing world, at this point, let's be honest, you don't give a f**k what they're called).  John, then makes the biggest mistake of his life (oh, and he will never EVER be able to forget it... ). "honey, it could just be false labor" he says.  (Lord, have mercy, this is when I became like the women you see in movies!)  I responded by yelling at him (ok, he was in the next room, I had to yell ... right?) to go by the store and get birthing snacks and juice and run by the birthing center and get the tub we never picked up.  Lucky for me though, he didn't listen, instead he called the midwife.  I was disappointed about this, because I really wanted to labor by myself for a long time before we called in the troops.  but, there were not many minutes between contractions now and the blood was starting to alarm me).  
The midwife doesn't answer (she does get back to us quickly though), but in that time I tell john (I think 'yell' would be more like it) to call my mother and tell her to come back into town (luckily my folks are only a little over two hours away).  It was funny, all pregnancy I didn't know if I'd want my mom there or not, but as soon as the 'goings-got-tough' I needed her! And, really I needed any female.  My only close girlfriend that lives in austin had her baby a week before, so I knew she couldn't come, so we were just left to wait for the midwife and my mother. (I'd also be very interested if this is common? did you find yourself wanting another woman at your side when in labor?)
The midwife returns our call and says it will take her 45 minutes to run by the birthing center, collect her equipment and get to our house. damn.  
OH, I should also probably mention that a few times in the first hour (when there were actually a couple minutes to breath in between contractions) I told john I couldn't do it and that I wanted to go to the hospital.  The last time I said this, he took me seriously and asked me if that was what I really wanted to do.  I quickly remembered my resolve and responded no.  And within minutes it wasn't even an option any more.  I found my spot on the floor of the living room and couldn't even run back and forth to the bathroom like I had been doing.  I would go to the bathroom either to sit on the toilet ... which everyone was right, it did feel good... or spray myself with warm water in the shower (we stuffed the exercise ball in the bath tub!)
Does this sound crazy and chaotic? perhaps not, but even as I write it, that's how it feels.  I read so much about calm peaceful birthing experiences, but that was not mine (I should probably mention I am not a calm person).  It felt chaotic and actually terrifying.  The pain of contractions is traumatic. it is terrifying.  And if you can imagine, not on only a mental level, but terrifying on a physical level.  That doesn't make sense as I reread it, but that's what it is nonetheless.
When I told someone a few weeks later that I was disappointed I didn't have the peaceful quiet birthing experience I expected, she asked me if I was a peaceful, quiet kind-of person.  Which, I had to answer 'no'.  I am loud, energetic and louder. So my experience matches my nature... which I found comforting.

Our midwife arrived a little after three (did I mention, she wasn't actually my midwife, but one who worked with her. April, my midwife wasn't on call that night and just planned on coming early in the morning... surely I wouldn't of had the baby yet, right? haha, oops).  But, I didn't mind this turn of events, i had met and trusted natalie, the woman who came.  And honestly at this point all I really needed was someone to tell me everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be.  Well, that and put a straw in my drink (poor john, there was just too much to remember and it was too hard for me to verbalize).
Being in labor is kind of like being under water, you can make out a little what is going on around you, what is being said and done, but you can't really participate in it.  

What I hear:  I brought the birthing tub, but there probably isn't time to set it up 
my mind: really? how is this possible? I've only been in labor a few hours, doesn't that mean there are like twenty left? Also, are they SURE there is a baby in there?  
What I hear: you should put a straw in her water
my mind: FINALLY!
What I hear: Andrea, if you'd like i could check your dilation
what i manage to say: HELL NO! 

The next thing I knew my body bore down.  This scared me, what was happening? Is it really already time to push?  Natalie tells me I don't have to do that yet, but when I was able to respond that I didn't mean to, she reassured me it was perfect and to continue letting my body do it's job. All of a sudden the pain shifted.  It was no longer the deep, inner, crampy pain, now with each contraction my body pushed.  I did my best to take a back seat to this, the midwife had a doppler on my lower abdomen this whole time to keep track of the baby's heart beat and because he is such a champ, it stayed strong, which meant I had the luxury of not doing any extra pushing, just letting him take charge.  Now, if I say the pushing part of labor is a nice break from the rest, I wouldn't be lying.  However, nothing can prepare you for the feeling of being ripped open.  I hate, hate, HATE when people say 'it's like pushing watermelon out of your nostril" ... my baby is not a piece of fruit (I could easily get into how his skull isn't fused together so it moves ... but I'll just let you do your own research on that). AND i'm sorry, but the only thing supposed to come out of my nostril is mucus, my vagina on the other hand... is much different (again, I'll let you do your own research on how amazingly cool the vagina is).  BUT, as much as our bodies were made to do this and will fully recover from this ... HOLY MOLY JESUS CHRIST IT HURTS!  I remember looking into John's eyes, which were so strong and sturdy, as the baby was crowning and begging him to help me.   And then the midwife said his head is out, one more contraction and he's here (my mind: so wait, there REALLY IS a baby in there? I really just went through labor? I'M GOING TO HAVE A BABY???).  And then it happened, the coolest thing I've ever felt in my life, I felt his shoulders, his stomach and his legs slide right out of me. wow. nothing can prepare you for that feeling.  And he started talking right away.  not screaming, not crying, just talking (cooing?).  
John and I looked at each other, we laugh now at the faces we made, both in complete shock. We. Made. A. Person.  (!!!)
"spread your legs and I'll hand him through to you" the midwife told me, I was still in the position I was most of labor, on my knees on the living room floor.  I took my baby. My little cone head guy.  John turned on the lights (oh, did I mention I had the house completely dark the entire labor? perfect).  4:20am on Friday the 13th our Redding Atticus was born.
and at 4:30 my parents (and brother) arrived to meet the newest family member.
Having redding is the greatest joy of life. The experience was magical, weird huh? because you read this and it just sounds painful... but it's so much more. Not only would I not change our experience for the world, but I can't wait to give birth again. Giving birth is by far the coolest trip of your lifetime.  I consider myself very lucky to be a woman who can experience such fantastic magic.

From the first contraction to holding my baby in my arms took 4 hours.  Pushing lasting only 20 minutes.   I had no pain or problems birthing the placenta and no tearing.  
Now, yes... I know, this is an incredibly fast labor.  But before you get to jealous, quick labors are not only not great for your body, they are like getting ambushed.  I didn't know what hit me, my body and mind had no time to adjust to 'labor land', I was just thrown right in.

From all my readings, I have found two basic theories to birth 1). It sucks, but don't worry you can have an epidural and be pain free.  or  2). you can have a pain-free, even orgasmic birth... just set your mind right, girl.
BUT, why not this? ... Yes, birth is painful, traumatically painful. But it is nothing that you can't recover from.  Your body was made to do it.  There is a reason for most things our bodies do, perhaps there is a reason for the pain?  Why does 'pain' have to be such a bad word anyways? So it hurts, so what? it doesn't last very long AND you get a baby at the end!!! (one who is bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to nurse!)

I understand birth is a sensitive subject,  and I don't pretend to know your situation, but for me and my baby a home birth is what worked.  I never saw a doctor, I never had vaginal exam, I was not even checked for dilation when I was in labor and we turned out just fine. better then fine.

The cool thing about all of this is that you're not alone.  You aren't alone in your crazy, mind-racing thoughts and questions during pregnancy, you're not alone when you're fearful of labor and you're not alone in the (sometimes loneliness) of being home with your baby.  Women, all over are going through the same exact thoughts and feelings and always have.

Now I would love to hear about your birthing experience, however different than mine.
so much love,

"honey, I can't seem to stop the pee"
apgar test with the midwives


  1. Andrea, I loved your story. It was great. I laughed, cried and teared up a little more. You are right, everyone has a different situation. I appreciate your openness to not judge others. It was a wonderful story and makes me want to share my crazy one too :-).

    1. kristen! you should! put it in writing (both of them) and I would LovE LovE LovE to read them!

  2. This is awesome Andrea! I love your conclusion: these are our bodies, and they can hurt and bleed like any other, and isn't that wonderful b/c look what we can do!! I hope to have the same strength at any birth of mine.

    1. oh girl, i'm sure you will. We are women, hear us ROAR!

  3. I'm so glad you wrote this down. Everyone should do it, and many probably intend to, but it's hard to make yourself actually do it while you still remember it! The memories do fade, I'm afraid.
    I love birth stories. Everyone's birth is so different, and if you are blessed with more children, those births will be unique, too! Just like the little tiny people that come from those births. I still can't figure out why your birth was so fast; I hope women who read this who haven't given birth yet realize that yours was unusual in that regard. Mine were slower and I think more calm, but it's hard to be objective!
    What a wonderful thing birth is. And how wonderful that sweet little baby, Redding, is! We love him and are so grateful for him and his healthy birth and caring parents.
    Thanks for the sweet lovely things you said about me. Love you honey!

  4. Andrea, I loved this. Thanks for writing it down, and for sharing it!

  5. Oh, and Kristin, you really should! What a gift that would be for your girls when they have babies. And you really do forget so many of the sweet details that you still remember now!

  6. Little Redding {awesome name} was born on my fiance's birthday! Back when he was born, it was also Friday the 13th. Just madness :)

    I have learned a couple of very interesting points from your wonderful story. That our character reflects our style of birthing {I will be full on screaming then for 20+ hours}, and I've never heard of your body beginning to push itself! That sounds amazing. I am so fascinated by birth. Also, I would love to give birth the way you did. Laying down makes no sense to me. I don't lay down to take a dump, so why should I when having a baby?

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's making me look forward to future babies even more :)

    1. Yes! if you have a natural birth, your body will do the pushing itself (actually it's exactly like taking a poop - sorry for the honesty!) :) So super crazy and awesome. Actually, if you are interested in learning more about birth, My favorite book, so far, has been 'Ina Mays Guide to Birth'
      oh, and your fiancé must be a pretty rad man! ;)

  7. Oh, man, did I cry! I never had the birth experience I hoped for (all natural, at home) because my first was breech. I am inda glad I ended up with a c section though, because I am such a mediator, I was really nervous about how to deal with all the attention being on me!

  8. Wow Andrea what a fantastic birth experience!! I feel so glad that I may have had something to do with you sharing it, because It may have been just what I needed to write out both my girls birth stories! Hopefully in the next couple of weeks when this baby comes that I will decide not to wait forever to write mine down and share it. You forget in between, but I'm sure that everything will come back to me about the girls birth's when I go through this one here shortly.
    ANyways, you are so strong and brave! I'm so inspired having read your sweet words. I read it from start to finish just now and it has be all choked up! I'm suddenly nervous and excited at the same time!
    THank you thank you for sharing your experience!

  9. Love your story, and love Stephanie and Natalie as well :-) They took such amazing care of me, even though in the end we all decided I should go in for a c/s. They are full of love and professionalism, and make an awesome team.

  10. I loved reading this. I have had 13 children all born naturally and one was at home. Two of those children are twins. I wouldn't give birth any other way.

  11. -"not on only a mental level, but terrifying on a physical level" Exactly! I was in labor for a while before my water broke at which point it was like an earthquake in my body -ahhhhhhh!
    -Ina May Gaskin is a genus, no woman should give birth without reading her guide, especially the chapter on sphincters.
    -Giving birth is sort of like an extreme sport, painful but what a high! The really hard part comes next, when they leave you alone with a priceless fragile little creature you have to nurture and raise for the rest of your life!
    -My sister's boyfriend's dog came and snuggled with her for hours during her early labor, long before her water broke :)
    -And yes, I really wanted my mum and my sister there with me even, thought I ended up naked. I was so lucky to have them and my super husband with me to get me through.

  12. that was great! I spent most of my pregnancy scared to death of birth... i mean to the point i had panic attacks. What happened was I learned to let go of myself. Best lesson. (I think my hypnobirthing practice was great help during my pregnancy. in birth I just let things happen.) i'll never forget the words my midwife said: "Trust your body"... and I did. And I've never stopped trusting myself since! The most amazing thing was bringing my daughter into the world. I would do it all over today exactly as it was.

  13. YAY! I did hypnobirthing too! and loved the class and relaxation cd's ... but didn't actually use any of it while in labor. oh well, I think the meditations/affirmations really helped. And I look forward to actually using it again if there is ever another pregnancy.
    thanks roanna!

  14. Really enjoyed reading your birth story. I have just recently begun to write my children's birth stories down.

    Just an odd question for anyone out there. I've found that I crave that birth experience, the high you get from delivery. Does anyone else feel this way?

    1. yes! Just today I was daydreaming/fantasizing about the rush! and the moment that I first looked into redding's eyes and just kept on saying 'you did a good job, you did a good job'
      I mentioned this feeling to people who have not had natural births, and they think i'm crazy! I'm glad to know I am not alone!

  15. I love this story. Maybe because it sounds so much like by middle child's birth, which was 2 hours long. All of my births were fast - ranging from 2-5 hours. My least intense birth was the 5 hour birth. Only someone who has had a really fast labor can relate to what you say about being "ambushed" - (great analogy, btw). I spent my labor cowering on my bathroom floor, gripping the cabinet doors for dear life, while my body involuntarily pushed my son through my body. Intense, to say the least.

    But, in the end, I, too, immediately found myself saying the same thing - I can't wait to do this again! Amazing, those raging hormones, and their ability to magically bring us to such a beautiful place of euphoria and connectivity .

    1. yes! I am glad I'm not the only one! It's so funny, for about 12 hours after my birth I was sad, because I thought I wouldn't be able to have any more children because I could never go through that pain again. Then after that it slowly changed from 'no, I could do that again' to 'I can't wait to do it again'. It makes me feel sorry for women who don't get to have the natural birth experience because perhaps their brains and bodies don't heal in such a magical way.
      thanks for your comment kathi! i'm so glad you're here!

    2. Had my 2nd son (1st homebirth) 2 months ago.. woke up around 2am & he was out by 8am! I loved reading this because his birth was SO intense I knew it had to be because of the condensed time period.. One of the names we had tossed around with my 1st son was Cannon Creek & I joke that we should've named our 2nd that because he shot out like a cannon! Great experience but I must say that pain is something I'll never forget.. indescribable.. worth it definitely but there was nothing orgasmic about it!

  16. I love the honesty of your birth story, and I especially love the little comments thrown in, very entertaining. I had a homebirth in March, there's nothing like it. You're so right, our bodies were made to do this. We just need to believe in ourselves.
    My birth story is here (apologies for the length!)

    1. yes! I am so excited to read this!!! thanks so much Kelly! and congratulations!

    2. OH SHIT! I just read the title! I can't believe it! I've got to share it with my good friend who has also had two cesareans and was told a vbac is now impossible! you go girl!

  17. I loved your birth story! I had a home birth too and it was just awesome. It's great to be able to connect with other women who have had a home birth and are "crunchy" so to speak. I find that some people just don't understand and it can be difficult to be at peace with that. I think I'll write down my birth story for my daughter. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Oh yeah, and next time set up that birthing tub. It works wonders for the pain :)

    1. megan, you should totally write down the experience. I've even found myself wanting to write down little details I remember here and there. AND I really want john to write it down from his perspective.
      you're right, it is hard to find peace with it... I just want everyone to know what I know... but we all have to go through our own journeys.
      thanks for your comment!

  18. Thank you so much for writing your son's birth story. I could relate to nearly every detail. It's one of the first times I have read such a similar birth story. I relived that experience again reading through yours. I gave birth to my daughter in Spain, labored at home, and went to a birthing center nearby for the delivery in the dark in the birthing pool. A doctor never entered the room, just a midwife and a doula and baby daddy of course, like heavenly angels by my side. The experience was amazing! So intense in every way. And yes, I became ultra needy.

  19. Hey there, I know i'm REALLY late in reading this. Just stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago (cool, huh?), and stumbled upon your birth story. Reading birth stories is what us pregnant ladies love to do! I will be giving birth for the first time at the end of the year...I think I'm just a couple weeks behind you! Your story is great. I know another woman who's entire labor/delivery lasted 3 hours. I wonder if it really had anything to do with all the raspberry leaf tea she drank? I'm drinking it, in hopes for it to help with birth! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm so glad you stumbled upon me! Congrats on your little biscuit. hooray for christmas babies :)
      You know, I'm really hoping for a slower birth this time - i mean, no too slow, just a few hours maybe. Something that would give me time to ease into it and breathe. But, it will go a it's supposed to. For you to! I know you can do it! Best of luck!