We’re getting closer to spring, and I can feel the warmth of the sun finally shining through. We had a crazy thaw around here, in NY, and there has been ice melting and crashing everywhere. Change is abundantly flowing around us, and it feels really good and fresh and free. In this blog post, I’m going to change things up a bit and share the my totally WILD first birth story.
Check This Out!
Speaking of change and new things, I have a really awesome Facebook group blossoming called Follow Your Own Compass. You can search for it and request to join, and answer some basic questions so I can make sure you’re not a troll. Check it out, it’s for families who are interested in following their own compass in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. You’ll have access to a ton of resources, group support, FB lives, and more.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
I’ve been thinking a lot about our perspectives on birth. When you’re a first time parent, it’s so hard to know what to expect. You can take all the birth classes, courses, read all the books, watch all the videos, and take in tons of information about birth. But, it’s impossible to totally understand what birth feels like or the true depth of the transformation that happens.
I mean, you can know it on an intellectual and cerebral level – inside your thinking brain – and that’s okay. Preparation is one of the most important things you can have and I’ll continue to say that every day.
But on some level, it’s hard to understand the impact and intensity of that experience. Not as a good or bad judgment, but from an intensity and sensation perspective.
As a doula and educator, it’s always a process of figuring out which information to give families and finding the sweet spot between enough information and information overload. You don’t need to understand every textbook detail about birth in order to have a confident and powerful birth. I’d actually say that 95% of it is mindset.
Birth is a HOLISTIC Process
I always try to find a balance between information and thinking preparation and spiritual attunement. Birth is a holistic process, and we have to prepare for not only the physical elements but the emotional, spiritual, and chemical aspects of the experience.
Like I say a lot, we birth in the primal brain and not in the thinking brain. Birth is a very left-brained activity that we try to understand with our right brain.
My First Birth Story – Why Tell the FIRST Story?
My first instinct was to tell my most recent birth story. Mostly because it’s only 6 months old. But for some reason that’s not feeling like the most relevant story to tell.
As a doula, I support a lot of first time parents. I feel like there is this perception that because I have had so many births at home that it must just come easily to me. I’ve definitely spent a lot of my career as a birth worker supporting first time parents in challenging birth experiences.
It always makes me reflect back to my own first birth. This was a long time ago, she is almost 6 today, and it feels like forever ago. I thought it would be interesting to go back into my first birth experience and retell the story through the lens of what I know now.
The Impact of Loss on the Birth Story
At that time, I definitely wasn’t a birth worker. I was actually a middle school reading teacher in Jacksonville, FL as part of Teach for America.
I shared on the podcast last week that my first pregnancy ended in a loss, and that experience left a profound impact on my thinking process and helped me better understand my true desires in pregnancy and birth.
The experience of losing a baby (a D & C in the hospital) made me think that there had to be something else to this birth thing… that there had to be a different way somehow. So when I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I was going to make a radically different choice than my first pregnancy.
The Birth Story of Alana Artemis
It was April 21st, 2015. It was starting to get pretty hot in Florida at this time, I remember the strength of the sun for some reason. I do miss so many things about this place by the way. But that feels like a different lifetime ago.
I’ve always been somewhat of a cramper in pregnancy, even from my first pregnancy. I remember I would have tons of strong BH contractions while teaching, that was very notable to me. And this is actually something that became very regular for me in all my pregnancies, lots of irregular end of 3rd trimester contractions.
I was at 40 weeks and 2 days, and started having some small contractions throughout the afternoon. I remember being really irritated and was SO ready for real labor to start. After hours of this and nothing really progressing, I got mad and snacked on way too much chocolate Easter bunny candy and took a long hot shower.
Around 5pm, I started noticing that the contractions were getting more regular and intense. I called my partner to come home from work, and when he got home I remember he started packing up our items to go to the birth center where we were planning a home birth (community birth… basically home birth at someone else’s home).
I have no idea what I was doing during this early labor time. I remember that I was probably feeling anxious, I remember being tired, worrying about having all the things we need, and I think I was standing around my kitchen listening to my labor music. This is funny to me now because, my more experienced self is screaming at my first time parent self to go take a nap that day.
I remember the contractions were becoming much more intense and I started to need to vocalize through them. It had only been about 2 hours since contractions started to happen regularly, but things were feeling intense and we were thinking that active labor had set in. I want to point out here that I didn’t have a doula for my first birth, so we were pretty much on our own.
Heading in to See Our Midwife
We packed up our bags. My partner dutifully packed his book from our Bradley Method Birth Class. Too funny! We went in to the birth center and they were filling the birth pool and the room was smelling like sweet lavender oil. My midwife checked my cervix and I was 1 cm dilated. I remember that cervical check was the most god awfully uncomfortable experience I may have ever endured.
She said she thought my baby was posterior. She send us home with a rebozo and me to try some different positions to get baby to turn.
We got in the car for an AWFUL car ride with super strong labor contractions happening. I remember these car rides were pretty awful. We got home and I labored on my hands and knees on the floor for SUCH a long time. I don’t remember if we used the rebozo or not. It didn’t help that no one told us what to really do with it, I don’t think. I don’t remember honestly.
I remember I made a floor nest with blankets and pillows and I would lay down on my side on between contractions, and get up on my hands and knees and lean onto my pillows with each contraction. That was my ritual for handing the contractions.
At some point, she must have turned from posterior and things got notably more intense.
Of course, I decided to take a break at one point (haha take a break in labor…) and I laid down on the couch. And of course that’s when my water broke during a contraction. I still remember how intense that sensation was, how immediately the pressure changed, and almost how out of control the sensation felt. That’s when we started getting ready to go back to the birth center.
…heading back in!
We went back to the birth center, and my midwife checked my cervix again and I was at 5 or 6 cm at this time. So, we were able to stay.
I don’t remember the protocols that were used to check on baby or anything, I have a few memories of my midwife coming in and listening to my baby’s heart tones. I think it’s just a fuzzy memory space for me because I was so much inside my labor at this point.
Then, I got in the birth tub and labored on my hands and knees in the pool for a long time. It really felt like a long time. We got back to the birth center at about 1am, and I stayed in the birth tub until about 5am. At some point around that time, I pooped in the birth tub and they had me get out. I didn’t even see it but I remember being told I needed to get out.
Out of the tub I went. I remember during the last hour in the tub, I was feeling a TON of pressure and bearing down sensations during contractions. It was happening for quite a while before anyone really came in to check on me. Then the poop thing happened and I had to get out. My midwife checked my cervix while the assistant cleaned out and refreshed the birth tub. I was at a 9 with a cervical lip.
That Damn Cervical Lip…
I remember I labored for a while after that, and got back into the tub. My midwife had me push in the tub while I was laying on my back. That felt super awkward and wasn’t working. She suggested that I get out and try pushing on the bed while she pushed back the lip of my cervix. So, that’s what I did.
This was literally the most painful sensation I could imagine. It was so incredibly uncomfortable and terrible. But what else was there to do? I don’t know, I’m not a midwife. And I had next to no knowledge of what else to do and no other support person. We just went with it. I started pushing around 5am.
The Pushing Stage
I remember pushing on the bed for a long time like this. We tried the birth stool but that wasn’t effective at all. Then it was back to the bed. I feel like I must have spent hours pushing on the bed with my knees pulled back to my shoulders.
Cold washcloths between contractions were really the only comfort saving me at that point. I was asking my midwife’s assistant for help with the wash cloths but I felt like she was irritated with me for asking for help. I’m not sure why I walked away with that feeling.
I was having tons of space between my contractions, as we see can happen with long tiring pushing phases. I remember sleeping a lot in between them. At one point I think my midwife suggested I just lay in bed and not push at all, but that urge was so strong that it was impossible and incredibly uncomfortable.
A Six Hour Pushing Stage…
Finally, after about 6 hours of this pushing stage pulling my knees back and basically willing my baby out of my body, she moved under my pubic bone and we got to crowning. There was quite a bit of massaging my perineum and just tons and tons of uncomfortable touching.
Then, I remember the incredibly intense sensation of the ring of fire. I actually think this might be the only time I really experienced it feeling like this. I don’t remember a ring of fire in my last birth. Interesting. The body is just amazing. I remember my midwife saying to her assistant to have the suction ready because there was meconium.
Eventually, after this huge long pushing phase she was finally born. It was such a difficult pushing phase because she had her arm wrapped behind her neck and out the other side like a scarf. My midwife said that in 10 years of midwifery she has never seen a baby come out like that before.
So, there was meconium just like all my other births. I honestly don’t even know if there was any suctioning done. I never asked and definitely couldn’t see it since I had birthed flat on my back.
A Blissful Ending to a Challenging Birth Story
She cried and they put her on my chest, and everything was totally fine. Then there was that sweet moment of, “wow, I can’t believe I just did that!!!” and the moment of pure amazement and shock.
I remember my midwife looked at my bleeding and said I was kind of bleeding a lot and she said she needed to massage my uterus to get it to contract more. Knowing what I know now, I was probably technically having a postpartum hemorrhage. I remember a few rounds of uterine massage.
I’m in this place of wondering how this would have been handled today in my life. But anyway, no one ever told me if I hemorrhaged, but I can read between the lines a little bit there.
Afterwards, everything was fine. I remember my midwife kept asking me “did she latch yet?” for breastfeeding but I had NO clue at all how to latch a baby. I never saw anyone breastfeed a baby before in my life, I had no clue how to do it.
Breastfeeding is one of those areas where you can learn all the things beforehand, but it doesn’t really sink in until you’re doing it. It’s such a learning by experience kind of knowledge. But I remember being asked a few times and it was so hard to ask for help and say ahhhh I don’t know what I’m doing. Someone tell me how to do this!
One of the best parts of birthing outside of a hospital…
I remember I showered, got dressed, we dressed our baby – baby Alana Artemis. She was born at 11:00am and we were home by 4pm. How amazing is that! It was definitely a hard experience in a lot of ways, yet also really blissful.
The only thing that got me through that experience was the patience, compassion, confidence, and strength given to my by my support team. My midwife kept saying, “I’ve never seen a baby this far down that didn’t come out.” And so, in my work as a doula, I try to be that rock of a presence for the families I serve. I try to help parents find their confidence and strength as they follow their own compass in birth.
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