// This is my transition into focusing on all things pre- and post-natal nutrition, health and life. This birth story is honest and detailed, not for the faint of heart. The purpose of posting this story, our story, is to show couples how beautiful labor and birth can be. I hear so many scary and traumatic birth stories and I think that we are truly starting to believe that’s just how birth is. My heart aches for those mommies who experience these incredibly tough births, but those are their sacred stories. Just as this is ours. After much research, conversation and prayer, a natural home-birth was what we decided was best for our family. With that being said, I understand this is not necessarily for everyone. I hope that our story inspires moms and dads-to-be just as the many birth stories I read and watched before we had our girl inspired us and gave me strength. I hung onto the words of those moms who had speedy and non-complicated births and I let my mind run wild with these. I think that worked out well for us. So, this is the story of our sweet Elle Grace's birth, an incredible journey. //
How do I even begin to write out the incredible experience of laboring and birthing our precious girl, Elle Grace? I've told the story so many times now in the first few months of her life, but putting it to paper, per se, seems challenging to capture the intense beauty of it all.
My body began preparing for labor weeks before Elle's arrival (a fact we didn't quite realize until after). I started having really light period-like cramps here and there, mostly in the evenings, for about 2-3 weeks and I also began losing my mucous plug around the same time (though I thought this was just a new pregnancy discharge, I didn't realize what it was until a few days before I went into labor). I felt really good in those last weeks and I mentioned to Matt and friends that I didn't feel like labor was anywhere close! What a blessing, to have such a smooth pregnancy- I truly loved carrying this child.
On December 22 (baby girl's due date) Karen, our midwife, checked me and I was 80-85% effaced and about 1 cm dilated. The evening of December 23 I had more light crampiness, but nothing intense or uncomfortable. My tummy was very tight most of the day with long lasting Braxton Hicks contractions. I think I had some cramping during the night as I would wake up and feel discomfort, but not enough to get me up or keep me awake.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, I had a loose bowel movement in the morning and the first appearance of a bloody show. I was so excited! I sent texts to Karen, Autumn and Lara (our midwife and two good doula friends) to ask them more info about what that meant as I had read that a bloody show was a sure sign that labor was imminent. They all said 1-5 days, but again, you never know! I felt good the whole day, tight Braxton Hicks off and on and some very lightly bloody discharge. In the later evening I started to have the period crampiness again, like a general achiness. When we were going to bed, around 11pm, I felt something a bit more uncomfortable and it kind of scared me a bit. I think because I knew that labor could really start at any moment and there's no turning back from there! We went to bed and all was well.
At about 4am on Christmas morning, I woke up with a more intense period-like cramp that made me want to sit on the toilet...like I needed to go poo. I didn't have to go and the surge went away so I went back to bed. I woke up a few more times feeling this sensation and around 6:15am I got up again with the same crampiness and urge to go to the bathroom. I had a loose stool and got back in bed only to doze off and on for another hour. I finally got up, hopped in the shower and started tidying up the house. I was still having the achy cramps, but now they were starting and stopping. I called my mom, continued tidying and planned on making some grain-free cinnamon rolls...yah right!
I woke Matt around 8am to let him know what I was feeling. I definitely thought this could be the start, but the surges were so light I figured this would go on for hours. I knew I needed to eat breakfast, but my appetite was already starting to dissipate at this point. I texted Karen to ask if it was ok to not eat much and of course she said, "Just listen to your body." I made a chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie and tried to sip on it between surges, but I think I only got down about a third of it before things got real! Little did we know at this point that I was already prepped and ready for high gear and my appetite was reflecting this.
At about 9-9:15am, I told Matt we should start timing the surges as they were starting to come pretty frequently and by this time I was in our room having to stop and sway during each of them. They were coming about every 5-6 minutes and lasting about 30sec-1min. By 10:30am they were coming every 3-5 minutes, lasting a whole minute and increasing in intensity. I was quiet during the surges and had to keep swaying, rocking my hips the whole time. I was either leaning over our bed or on my hands and knees. As the surges intensified they would literally drop me to my knees. I told Matt we should probably call Karen given their frequency, but the sensation was not as intense as I thought it'd be at this point (active labor). Karen said she'd gather the team and call us back in an hour, I'm sure she was thinking they had plenty of time given the fact I was a first time mommy.
By 11am, I believe I was in full blown active labor. My body went from 0 to 60 in just a few minutes and the surges became quite intense, long (60-90 seconds each) with little breaks in between.
Matt was scrambling around the house at this point trying to get the birth pool filled. Of course we ran out of hot water with the pool only partially filled up so Matt had pots heating water on the stove! Since the pool was in the living room and it was midday, it was quit bright. Matt literally stapled blankets above the huge window in our living room! He lit candles, put on relaxation music (our favorite Pandora station: Relaxation Radio) and made it just perfect. As I labored, I didn't want any touch as it made the sensation more intense for me. Thank the Lord because Matt wouldn't have been able to do anything with how quickly I was progressing. I stayed in our room laboring on my own while he was hustling around the house.
Karen arrived around 11:30-11:45am and the rest of the team trickled in by noon. I'm sure they were a bit surprised at where I was at this point. Matt had filled up our bathtub with warm water since the birth pool was not ready and I slowly made my way to the guest bathroom. The water felt so good initially, but the tub was so uncomfortable to me. The surges were intense and I had to flip onto my hands and knees with each one, sitting Indian style sideways in between. I just remember taking a deep breath as I felt the surge coming on and just trying to relax my body into it...let go of my hands, face, back, etc. Tensing up only made it worse.
Finally, Matt came and asked if I wanted to get in the birth pool…anything sounded better than where I was. It was about 1pm at this point. We slowly walked to the living room which was surprisingly dim from the blankets hung over the windows. Karen, her assistant Karen Dobbins and Katie, a student midwife, we're all there waiting around the pool.
When I got into the pool, the warm water felt heavenly for a moment until another surge hit. They were very intense at this point and I was up on my hands and knees rocking back and forth, using my voice through each surge. Katie was pouring water on my back during each surge which felt amazing. I knew at this point I was in transition because the surges were double peaking. I had about 3 surges like this.
I remember feeling pretty alert in between surges, aware of where Matt was at all times, hearing the camera shutter and flash, thinking about my affirmations and talking to baby girl, reminding her we CAN do this together. That surprised me. I thought I'd be in total la-la land the whole time, but that was more during surges.
I vividly remember one surge that felt like it was split in two. It started out normal, but about halfway through my body bore down and began pushing. I remember turning back to Karen and saying, "What was THAT!?" I believe she said something like, "I think your body is ready to push. Just breathe. And do one second pushes at a time."
Of all the different sensations of labor, the bearing down was the most incredible surprise. It was so different than I anticipated, like someone was supposed to tell me when to push once I was confirmed to be ten centimeters dilated. No ma'am, that was not the case. My body was going to push her out whether I was ready or not! There was no control, it was so crazy...and intense! I was roaring at this point. Like, literally roaring! I began to let out these deep, primal moans which I felt helped me get through each surge.
I pushed for about 40 minutes before my water broke which by the feeling of it, I wondered if it was her head. Not so lucky, but we were progressing. At this point I was needing more reassurance from Karen on where I was at as the sensations were so intense as she moved lower and lower and closer to emerging.
I remember bearing down through what I can now say was the "ring of fire" as her head emerged and at that moment I could hear everyone saying, "Her head is out, her head is out, you pushed her head out!" I was so overwhelmed by the possibility of this being the end, I hardly believed them. Karen encouraged me to reach down and feel her head as the surge stopped and left her little head squashed between my legs. I couldn't believe it! I was almost there, one more push and we'd be meeting our angel.
At the next surge, I bore down and out came her body. Karen grabbed her and in a split second asked me to reach between my legs (I was on my hands and knees) and grab my baby. I pulled her out of the water and up against my chest is one swoop. I was holding my baby, the most incredible sensation yet! I couldn't believe we had done that, together. Seeing her for the first time after carrying her in my womb for so many months, anticipating what her precious little face would look like, was absolutely surreal.
Matt was videoing and you can just hear the overwhelming joy in his voice as he watched this take place, seeing his baby girl emerge into the world.
Karen encouraged me to lie back against the pool and place her on my chest as they covered her with a little grey receiving blanket. She was calm and quiet as I held her, letting out a little whimper after a few seconds. She was beyond perfect, I was in awe that this was the very soul that grew within me all those months prior. All the dance parties we had together, the late night kicking and rolling, the hiccups...that was her, the one I held in my arms.
Matt took some pictures then squatted down behind us to kiss her and love on me. We did it. We made this little girl together. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful moment, one I will never ever ever forget. It was perfect. And we were sitting in our living room…so crazy.
We continued to love on her as Karen did her assessment and the midwives hustled around us. I asked what time she was born thinking it was around 6 or 7 pm. Baby girl was born at 2:28pm on Christmas afternoon. I couldn't believe it! Under 4 hours of active labor and less than an hour of pushing! This was the kind of birth story that inspired me the most because I'd always think, "Could I be that lucky!?"
Since I hadn't delivered the placenta after about 15 minutes sitting in the pool, we decided to walk to our room and get comfy. I felt pretty energetic at this point having had a good night sleep the night prior and my labor being so short.
I delivered the placenta in bed and watched as baby girl went front laying on my tummy to kicking and pushing her way up to my breast. She began nursing with very little help from me. We just watched in awe at how beautiful our girl was.
The midwives finished cleaning me up, measuring Elle, helping me shower, charting, etc. We couldn’t believe this was all happening in our home. What a gift. The midwives were gone by about 6 or 7pm and my mom came to help with laundry and to snuggle her precious new granddaughter.
Reflecting on the day, I was absolutely in awe of what my body was capable of doing and what it had done on that day. It sure wasn't easy, but no part of me wished or wishes I could have masked the intensity of it one single bit. I felt like a mama lion, capable of doing anything. I think that labor and birth prep you for the challenges that are such a part of motherhood, making you believe in who you are as a woman more than ever. I had this calm and confident sense of who I was and the strength that lies within my heart.
Once my mom left that evening, we were on our own. We laid in bed, Elle swaddled and propped up on a pillow between us, just in awe of what had transpired earlier in the day. We were parents now and life would never be the same. And we were perfectly happy about that fact.