My Birth Story – Third Time is A Charm
A woman will never forget the moment she became a mother. I even cry when I read or hear a birth story, so for me this is the most important post I have ever written. Birth is that transforming and important to me, and I believe if our society valued birth more, then America would not have the highest maternal and infant mortality rate in the developed world.
For many mothers though, their birth stories are filled with fear, pain, or regret. Fear of birth, regret of not having or getting the birth they want, pain from birth trauma, lack of support, or lack of choices in childbirth.
Empowering mothers in birth is the chief reason I have decided to share my birth story and also the chief reason for this blog. This is the first time I have shared my birth story, although it is my third birth. I know it seems a little backwards to write first about my last birth, and a whole lot of strange to have waited four years to share my own story on my own blog for mothers.
I don’t know why I waited this long. Perhaps I was waiting to share my birth story in a different forum or perhaps I was hesitant to post it because it shows vulnerability or seems preachy about natural birth or is too personal and private.
Whatever my reason for not sharing, I disagree with my feelings before. I think mothers who share their birth story aren’t being preachy or oversharing. I think mothers who are brave enough to share their birth story bring a message of courage, strength, and support to other expectant women.
A Blog of Support for Mothers
I started Breathing In This Life four years ago, sitting on the concourse floor of the Las Vegas airport. At midnight. After my flight was cancelled. I decided, in a moment of great inconvenience, that now was as good a time as any to start writing about my greatest passion: supporting mothers toward better birth.
Sharing our birth story is a way we can lend a hand of support and a word of encouragement to expectant mothers.
Telling our story requires revealing to others our incredible will and soft underbelly at the same time. Telling our story requires sharing the most harrowing and most special and intimate time in your life. Telling our story means you are cheerleading for every mother, telling her YOU CAN DO IT!
I am here to say to every mother, as a mother of three sons all birthed naturally, Your body is built for birth. Trust yourself. No matter if it is natural birth, an epidural birth, or a C-section – you can do it! You are strong enough.
So through the literal blood and guts and tears of agony and sheer joy, here is my birth story. I hope it helps you on your journey to motherhood.
My First Birth Story of My Third Son
To my son: June 17, 2011 you arrived at 8:54 AM. Your journey from the arms of God to mine was, in earth time, very quick and intense.
Just like my previous two births, I wanted very much to have a natural labor and delivery. My wonderful midwife had caught my first two boys, seeing me through every prenatal visit and being by my side through all the hard work. Now, with my amazing birth partner husband, Mary the amazing midwife, and the wonderful staff of New Hanover Regional Medical Center who honored my birth plan, respected me and my family, and treated me with utmost dignity, I found myself ready to give birth one more time.
Contractions had been occurring for weeks prior, which started with my emergency hospital visit in May. So when they started up again the night of June 16, I didn’t give them much attention – if I had not been actively trying to induce labor, using every (safe and natural) method under the sun. Knowing I had been working actively toward James’ arrival made me get up when the contractions got stronger, somewhere around the 4 AM hour. I don’t keep an alarm clock in my bedroom, so I had no idea what time it really started. However, I got up – to check the time and to move around, since the contractions were really too strong to just lay in bed anymore.
I started to read The Quotable Woman – an exhaustive book of empowering quotes. Starting with the suffragists of the 20th century and moving backwards to emancipation and black women’s rights in the 19th century, I had deliberately picked this book to build my confidence for the hard work of labor that lay ahead of me.
By the time I got to the 16th century – reading quotes by Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, and other influential women in English royal history – I had timed contractions (3 minutes long and around 5-7 minutes apart) and realized I had already spent an entire hour reading! The whole time I was reading I stayed in a supported squat position on my yoga mat and rug. I looked down to see what the wetness was – and saw plenty of blood on my yoga rug. That was enough evidence to know I was in real labor – and I went to wake up my husband. That was at 5:45 AM.
I labored through the one hour it took us to prepare to leave the house.
Different from labor with my first two sons, I actually got rest between contractions – feeling no pain between each one. In fact, my husband was actually able to snap pictures of me smiling and looking rather normal between contractions. That was a very different story than my last two births.
We left the house for Wilmington, a town that is a jog straight down the coast from our island, (about 1 hour and 45 minutes away) about 6:45. The back of our Toyota Sienna was my “nerve center.” My mobile “birth center” was all set up – with my husband’s help of course – so the 90+ minute bumpy ride in the back of the car was made more bearable – with my birth ball and even a trash can set up for when the nausea overtakes me (which it did).
By the time we left my labor had progressed considerably. I was doing my yogic breathing, yoga postures for labor, and a “centering meditation” I had practiced for this very moment. I also used acupressure points and several other methods for natural pain management, including vocalizing and listening to my birth (music) playlist. At one point I even bit down on the seat belt buckle (I was laboring in the back of our family minivan, after all) thinking it would distract me from the pain. It did help a little!
We arrived at the hospital about 90 minutes later, despite morning rush hour traffic. My husband fetched a wheelchair.
I pointed and said “yoga mat” because I knew my mat, my birth ball, plus my husband of course were the critical things I needed to make it through labor, including my iPod I had specifically outfitted with music for pain management/birth playlists. My husband was outfitted like a pack mule – music in tow, camera bag, plus me in the chair.
At check in, I had to get up and move to handle the pain – so I used the handrail in the hallway to leverage a squat – so he could move down further into the birth canal. Just then Mary rounded the corner – and said “Hi Ginger! What can I do to help?” I was in too much pain to say anything, and although I was afraid of being rude, I knew she understood.
After that contraction, I said my hellos and told her I could walk to triage. She effortlessly hooked me up to EFM (which I do not like but did not protest because I knew she would do it quickly). Then she checked me. She said, “you are 8 or 9 cm.”
I was so relieved. Well that is a GRAND understatement.
So relieved to know all that laboring (and in a minivan for crying out loud) was paying off. Releasing into the dilation and contractions was working – now I was close to meeting my baby.
I could have cried aloud – if the pain was not so searing. Things started moving quickly since the nurses realized I was about to give birth at any moment. They rushed me into an L&D room and I mustered the focus to walk to the room myself.
I asked for a birth ball – and then rolled out my yoga mat – and with the next contraction I turned on my TENS (I didn’t have access to a water birth, so with my third birth I decided to try TENS, a harmless and simple form of pain relief, commonly used in physical therapy), sank into a squat and motioned for my husband (and veteran birth partner) to come over and start our well-oiled routine of acupressure, compression, and yoga.
This labor was very different than my last though. I could feel it. This time transition was lasting longer, and I could not explain why.
But being an on the spot kind of thinker I used my physical therapy and birth experience to dream up a manual therapy SI (very low back) adjustment to help open the pelvis and relieve pain. I quickly taught my husband to administer it – right there on the spot in L&D. I know the nurses and midwife thought us to be a little unorthodox.
But the therapy helped tremendously – much more than just the standard compression points I learned in birth coaching. The manual therapy movement was akin to compression and traction on the pelvis at the same time. It was a real life saver since hospital policy mandated getting a strip for the EFM – which also required I lay still and in bed for those few moments, despite the obvious fact that my baby was about to crown at any moment.
I kept reaching down to feel for his head – but I didn’t feel anything. However, my body was starting to push involuntarily and shake – so I knew his birth was imminent. I transitioned to the bed on request, because they could not get his heartbeat on the monitor. However, I was not worried about the monitor – I knew he was fine. My faith told me so. I was right.
Transition was different. This birth was different.
Mary said my bag of waters was holding you back from being born – they would not break. She asked for permission to break them – but I was again, in too much pain to answer. I was no longer getting breaks between contractions- the pain was continuous and excruciating. So my husband gave the permission to break them – and with a gentle prick – my water gently poured out of me. But then came the slamming of his head against my perineum. My husband said I let out a reflexive groan with that force – I don’t remember doing this but I do remember the instant increased pain when my water broke. So I guess I screamed in response to it.
However, Mary was right – after she broke my water things moved quicker – and I began to push in earnest. I was in right side-lying – with 2 nurses cheerleading me on and Mary sitting at my side. She suggested my husband catch our baby this time. He was surprised and elated. The nurse took over picture taking at this point – but I missed all of this being in the “zone.”
I pushed once, then twice – but he was not coming out. I even said, “I can’t push him out!” But the nurse at my side – her name was Jane – said, “yes, you can do it. Yes, you can.” So I pushed again – I felt my bottom stretch beyond its natural limits, my body pushing involuntarily, alongside my conscious efforts to push.
After about two more pushes, my baby boy’s head literally popped out. But his shoulders did not.
That created pain – and was more painful than with giving birth to my other two sons. I had to push again – and again – and then his shoulders worked their way out. The rest of his little body slipped right out without pain even though my body was trembling from the aftershock.
That moment was absolutely beautiful – when my husband put our baby on my chest. A rush of great relief and joy overtook me. In that moment, the pain was instantly gone. I said a prayer of thanks.
I saw my baby, James Solomon, all covered with white vernix – and he was healthy, crying, and alert. My husband continued his cheerleading efforts, showering me with kisses and exclaiming,“you did it, you did it!” I cried with joy as I held my baby boy – both of us messy and warm and cozy.
Then something very different happened, and I’ll never forget it. The experience was akin to the few times in yoga when I think I have felt, what ancient yogis called samadhi, a kind of superconsciousness.
Time slowed to a crawl and I saw no one else’s face in the room – no one’s but my husband’s and newborn son’s.
The rest of the room, and the world, was in very slow motion, a very distant blur. The only life I saw was my own, my husband’s, and my son’s – and it wasn’t in “normal color” either. All three of us were in a kind of suspended, super Technicolor-animated state. I felt love abundantly, a great peace, and a joyous calm I knew I could access at any time for the rest of my life simply be recalling this memory.
In hindsight, now almost 2 years to the day, the ‘superconsciousness theory’ still holds true. When I want the greatest peace and calm, I return to those times in my life where I believe I was as close to Heaven as I can get on earth. Giving birth is one of those times.
After what seemed like a long time – I delivered the placenta naturally to which I said, “boy, that feels a lot better.” The staff was in no hurry to cut the cord or deliver the placenta – and no one moved my sweet baby James from my chest. Skin to skin, they let him be warmed by my body – and after 35 minutes he calmed and was able to latch on. He nursed beautifully for an hour or so after that – resting peacefully. I studied him like he was my first baby, the amazing and perfect little points on his “brand-new-never-before-used” fingertips and bottoms of his toes, the downy lanugo/hair on his shoulders, his little tiny chiseled deltoids, and an incredibly full head of strawberry blonde hair (wow, where did that come from I thought?!).
I felt incredible, empowered, and most importantly, well supported, thanks to an amazing husband/birth partner, staff, baby-mother friendly hospital/center, and knowledge of birthing and birthing options.
We did it together, James and I, June 17, 2011 – our special day, forever.
I felt incredible, empowered, and most importantly, well supported, thanks to an amazing husband/birth partner, staff, baby-mother friendly hospital/center, and knowledge of birthing and birthing options. I encourage all mothers and those who care about them to keep searching for the right caregiver/baby catcher AND hospital or birthing facility. Here are two posts I wrote on them on Modern Mom: