by Brittany Carney (Notes) on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 8:45pm…
Because this is written completely from my perspective, it may be grammatically incorrect, graphic and/or otherwise unpleasant to read.
Long before I ever even planned on getting pregnant, my best friend and I sat and watched “the business of being born” together. We were horrified by the awful birth practices that main stream society considers to be normal. I was even more disturbed by the fact that information about natural birth seemed to be so inaccessible and frowned upon.
I’m a woman who loves her research, (probably a little too much) so when I discovered I was pregnant, I took it upon myself to be as informed as possible. Initially, I chose a midwife who delivers in the hospital. I figured that for the birth of my first child, I’d have the best of both worlds. My family seemed more comfortable with this idea and my sweet partner (Aaron) fortunately, wanted whatever I thought was best. As my pregnancy progressed, we decided it would be better to live close to my family and we moved to Houston. With the move, I was given the option of picking a different midwife. In making my decision, I couldn’t help but recall wise words: “if you want a completely natural birth, stay away from the hospital.” Ultimately, I chose a midwife at a birthing center. Despite all of the worry, negative comments, criticism, and discouragement that followed, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
On a Sunday night (the 27th of January, to be exact), following a much needed adjustment, I began to feel very strong contractions right before midnight. I excitedly rushed Aaron to bed telling him we needed to rest up because I was sure THIS (unlike the 54 previous THIS’s) was it. (Aaron had already missed numerous days of school because I was so sure that I was in labor when I wasn’t.) He rolled his eyes and we laid down. Right when I had just managed to doze off, CONTRACTION. I smiled to myself. Again, as soon as I felt myself drift off, I experienced a big, huge contraction. Around 3 a.m., I could no longer stand to lay in bed. I paced my living room, neurotically timing my contractions and praying they wouldn’t slow.
Around 5 a.m., during one of the numerous bathroom breaks I took, I spotted my mucous plug. A tingle of excitement flowed through my body. I immediately called my midwife proudly stating that I was in labor. Much to my dismay, she told me to let my “body do its work” and come to the birth center at 10, when they opened. I was shocked! 5 hours?! I thought surely (based on how I felt) I would be nearly having this baby by then. I hung up with her and continued to roll around on my birthing ball and speed walk around my living room. I called her once more about an hour later, updating her on the consistency and power of my contractions and still she insisted I wait until 10 a.m. I ran a bath for myself in the oversized tub in our master bathroom and slowly crawled in.
The bath certainly eased my pain but not my worry. I had read and been told that when you could no longer talk or walk through a contraction, you needed to be on your way to wherever you planned on birthing. At this point, I was focused completely on each contraction as they rolled in and absolutely couldn’t bare to do anything but that. Aaron sat beside me, holding my hand and empathizing with every ounce of pain he could see etched on my face. Finally, around 9, we headed for the birth center.
The 45 minutes it took to get there felt like an eternity. Every bump and turn had me groaning and my contractions were getting stronger by the minute. Aaron was focused and drove slowly and carefully, verbally checking in with me the whole way there. When we arrived, we were greeted by my mom who had been there awhile and was eager and anxious to help. She was loaded up with soup, crackers, juice, Gatorade, and 80 million other items I couldn’t even stomach to look at.
I vaguely remember riding the elevator with a few other people and wondering whether or not they knew what was going on when a large contraction broke my concentration. If they didn’t know before, they definitely did now.
We walked into the birth center and I greeted the receptionist with inaudible grunts. I was weighed, (a whopping 169 lbs! I was 117 pre pregnancy.) and then finally, we were ushered into the room where I would give birth.
My midwife glided into the room in her usual joyful and goofy manner. (“Lets have a baby!”) She asked me to lay down on the bed so she could check me.
I was positive that upon inspection she would declare “5 cm!” or maybe even “7 cm!”. She concluded that I was “almost 2” and I felt my heart sink. I immediately started crying. 10 hours of labor pain, no sleep, and an estimated 15 hours of work ahead of me that looked absolutely bleak. My midwife suggested I walk the halls and assured me that once I was in active labor, it would be much easier. I didn’t understand how that could be possible.
This is where my mom and Aaron’s roles became exceedingly crucial. I had mentally forfeited. I was declaring that I was done. I wanted to be taken to a hospital, and I wanted the pain to end. Aaron encouraged me that I was more than strong enough to accomplish this birth exactly how I wanted to and that this was EXACTLY what I wanted. We, as a couple, had been preparing mentally for this exact moment for months. In the event that I couldn’t help but be weak, he was my strength. I couldn’t have mustered on without him.
And so, we walked. A long, narrow hallway, outside of the comfort and privacy of the birth center. (which is a suite in a much larger building) My mom, Aaron, and I slowly but surely made our way up and down this hallway over and over again listening to “Chopin” radio on Pandora. It’s funny to think now how odd and miserable I must have looked to anyone else who happened to see me but I can say with 100% certainty that I’ve never given less of a shit what anyone else thought.
Eventually, I’d had enough of the walking. As we returned to my designated room, my midwife offered to play a hypnobirthing CD and I was all for it. I had heard only good things and I needed something, ANYTHING to help me relax. I laid down on the bed with Aaron laying right behind me and the CD began. It sounded like techno music, or trance. Something I would make fun of in almost any other instance, and then the narration began, “Imagine your child is already born…” My initial cynical thought was “this is bullshit”. As we laid though, I wasn’t exactly able to sleep, (my contractions were within 5 minutes of each other) but I was able to rest. Every time I felt that all too familiar powerful surge of energy creeping up on me, I swatted Aaron’s hands so he would know to push firmly on my lower back and hips as an absolutely wonderful counter pressure.
We ended up listening to that CD four times in a row. I was drinking so much water that I was running to the bathroom almost constantly. I was now able to breathe (not moan or grunt) my way through the intense waves flowing through my body that were urging Alexis outward.
As I’m sure my mom and Aaron were more than tired of that CD, they both urged me to be checked again since about 5 hours had elapsed. I broke down again, remembering how defeated I felt the last time I was checked and told them both how scared I was that I hadn’t progressed much.
We talked our options over with the doula while I rolled around on a birthing ball and I decided I would be okay regardless. This time, my midwife announced that I was 5 cm. “NOW you’re in active labor!” I grinned with excitement and had a sudden surge of positive energy, the first I had felt since arriving at the birth center. I had caught my second wind. I was renewed and ready for the rest of my journey. And the words “you can get in the tub now” were the cherry on top!
This is where my memory begins to fail me and things get a little hazy. My doula filled the deep tub while I waddled over and slowly but surely sunk in. The sensation of warmth surrounding my body was so calming and eased my pain significantly. We closed the blinds, lit some candles, and continued to enjoy classical music while I labored. My mom was on constant back and forth ice chip runs for me, I probably would have died if not for those ice chips. It was a perfect juxtaposition the warmth of my body and chewing it offered a welcome distraction. Aaron was even able to take some pictures and videos of me between contractions to update friends and family.
I can remember being hot and needing a fan, being cold and needing it off. I can remember wanting to try and move around and labor in different positions until I had a contraction on my hands and knees, squatting, and finally decided that I was destined to labor and lay reclined. Around 45 minutes after I’d gotten in the tub, my midwife did a visual check and told me I’d managed to dilate another 2 cm. Everyone around me seemed impressed and I have to admit, I was too.
Around this time, my doula asked me if I was starting to feel “pushy” and I nodded. I had honestly been feeling that way for about 10 contractions previous to her asking but I couldn’t put a name on what I was feeling. Birth is an experience with multitude of physical and mental sensations and at some point, it becomes hard to distinguish one from another, especially if it’s your first time. Regardless, my contractions were immense and my doula said if I felt the urge to push, I should. So with my next contraction, I pushed with intention and let out a noise that reflected just how animalistic it felt.
I pushed with this same intensity for the next few contractions. I could feel my energy waning, big time. My doula’s eyes caught my attention. She looked at me very seriously and quietly coached me, “You shouldn’t be making a whole lot of noise when you push. You really need to bear down, and use all that breath, use everything inside you to push.” I only THOUGHT I was pushing before. I closed my mouth into a hard grimace, flexed my abs and felt immense pressure sinking lower into my pelvis. The lower half of my body has never felt so ridiculously heavy.
My midwife popped in one last time and visually assessed me. She said I was 10 cm, fully effaced, and ready to push my little girl out. She went to gather supplies and my mind raced. I remembered reading about and seeing so many natural births where women used the gift of gravity to aid them in pushing. I hadn’t really planned on laboring reclined and I thought, “this will be so much easier if I get up, she’ll fall right out.” I told everyone I wanted out of the tub but as I began to get up, I realized that Alexis’s head was well beyond my pelvis. She was as far down as should could be without having emerged. I immediately started yelling “Wait! NO! No! I can’t.” Everyone around me seemed to be confused, but to me, the decision I made had a firm purpose, even if I couldn’t (and still can’t) express it.
By many a mother, the pushing phase has been described as “the best part of birth” and I’d have to say I completely disagree with that. As soon as I felt Alexis’s head begin to emerge, I had a new and unparalleled understanding of the term “ring of fire”. I had very little time to rest between each burst of energy I used to push. I was so drained, and so anxious to meet my daughter. I longed for something, anything, to signify that this wouldn’t last forever.
Around 4:45 pm, the doulas had a shift change and so, I was left alone in the room with Aaron and my mom, so close to the ending. I made what must have been the most pitiful face ever at them. Aaron grabbed the flashlight and peered into the water. His eyes widened and he said “Babe, I’m not an expert, but I see a lot of hair.” My pulse quickened. “You can see her head?!!!”
The new doula arrived along with my midwife and confirmed just how close Alexis was to being born. They told me regardless of my contraction status, I needed to be pushing. I was too close to the end to do any more resting unless absolutely necessary. Everyone in the room joined in together encouraging me towards the finish line like a chorus of cheerleaders. “You’re so close!”
What I remember most though, is the intense feeling of her moving outward and down, the blackness behind my tightly closed eyelids, and the absolutely horrible noises I made in a desperate attempt to get her out. Nothing was louder than I was in those last few moments and then, release. The pressure was gone.
I opened my eyes and my big, purple baby was being placed right in front of me, onto my chest. My jaw was hanging wide open. I was amazed and elated. I looked at Aaron and he was grinning and teary eyed. I rubbed her and hugged her close. I couldn’t believe she was mine.
Just then, my family flooded the room. They had been outside listening! My dad, grandparents, and cousin witnessed my first few moments as a mom and congratulated Aaron and I. Everyone remarked (still to this day!) about how much hair she has. The room was filled with warmth and new life. I was exhausted and the happiest I’ve ever been. There is nothing more precious that those first special moments when you get to observe the person that’s been growing inside you for so long. Her tiny features and movements are easily the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the privilege to see. Watching her grow little by little every day is such a joy.
Alexis Elizabeth Lewis
Born January 28th, 2013
At 5:14 pm
8 lbs 4 oz 19 1/2 inches
10 Glute Bridges
10 Alternating Bird Dogs
10 Down Dog into Cobra
4 Turkish Getups (L)
50m Front Rack Position Walking Lunges (25m down/back)
4 Turkish Getups (R)
50m Sprint/Job (25m down/back)
- Advanced: 25-44#
- Intermediate: 15-25#
- Beginner: 5-10#, 4 Rounds
- Do not use weight on lunges if uncomfortable.
- Kettle bells or dumb bells are just fine.