As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I (like many pregnant women approaching week 40) was ready to…not be pregnant. My whole pregnancy I had a ~feeling~ that Heidi would be an April baby by surprising us a few weeks early. Well, April came and went. I had a membrane sweep at 38w4d. I was 1cm dilated, and the sweep didn’t do much of anything. Another sweep at 39w4d seemed much more effective. I was 3cm dilated and 75% effaced, and I almost immediately started cramping, spotting, and losing my mucus plug. I just knew this had to be it!! We had my mother in law come down the day of the sweep so she could babysit Christian when the contractions kicked in. But they never came. My due date came and went, and I became super impatient and just overall had a really negative mindset. My body felt ready, so why wasn’t I in labor? I slept a lot, moped around the house, and I felt really disconnected from my pregnancy. Thankfully, my doula and midwife helped snap me out of that funk. They reminded me that my negative mindset was only going to hold me back from going into labor. If my body didn’t feel at peace, it wasn’t going to feel safe enough to start labor. I had to surrender to the fact that my body and baby were working together to find the perfect time for Heidi to come earth-side. I had to remind myself that I was blessed with these extra days for my baby to grow and develop. Within 24 hours of changing from my negative mindset to a positive one, I was in early labor! But my two hours of consistent contractions fizzled out. On May 19th, I went in for a prenatal appointment and found out Heidi was posterior, or “sunny side up”, which explained why my labor stalled! My midwife did another membrane sweep that morning, and I spent the rest of the day on my hands and knees over a medicine ball to encourage little miss to twist anterior.
May 20th, 2020. I felt like today was the day! But frankly, I had felt like that every day for the past 3 weeks, so I didn’t let it get me excited. Chris went to work that morning, and I spent the morning on my hands and knees trying to get Heidi to rotate anterior. Around lunch time, I ate chick-fil-a, pumped, and laid down for a nap with Chris. Around 1pm, I started noticing contractions every 8 minutes. I had had false labor before, so I wasn’t letting myself get too excited. I timed them from 1pm to 1:40pm. Then I decided to get up to get on my ball to see if I could encourage things along. As soon as I got up, at 1:50pm, MY WATER BROKE. Just like in the movies, it popped all over me and the floor. I excitedly told Chris and waddled to the bathroom. I immediately called my doula and texted my midwife, birth photographer, and mom! Chris and I did a happy dance in the bathroom while I called my doula. The excitement and adrenaline between the two of us filled the room as we realized we’d be meeting our second daughter soon! My doula and midwife both told me to wait about an hour to monitor my contractions. They immediately went from every 8 minutes to every 4-5 minutes, and they immediately got much stronger. My birth photographer was coming to our house to ride with us to the birth center. Since this was my first unmedicated, birth-center birth, I was super impatient to head to the birth center. I didn’t want to labor at home because I was worried of having a super quick labor. My birth photographer got to the house around 2:50pm when my contractions were closer to 4 minutes apart and increasing in intensity. I told Chris it was time to go. I said an emotional goodbye to Christian. The next time I would see her, she would be a big sister — no longer my only baby girl. It was the longest 30 minute car ride of my life — straight out of a movie. Construction was holding traffic up by 15 minutes, so Chris was driving on the shoulder with his hazards on. We were passing cops directing traffic, who waved us a long as soon as they peered in the car and saw me, a huge pregnant lady in nothing but a sports bra, grimacing through a contraction. At one point, Chris looked back at our photographer and asked “did you get that on camera?”
Getting to the Birth Center
We finally got to the birth center around 3:30. My birth team was waiting on me. They had the birthing room ready to go: essential oils diffusing, music playing, the bathtub running. The energy in the house was incredible: a calming, strong female energy. A team of women that I loved and trusted, who were there to support me and encourage me. Things got intense quick. My contractions were less than 3 minutes apart. I found most comfort leaning forward against the bed or medicine ball with pressure and massage on my back. Chris and my midwife took turns doing the back massage. It didn’t take long for me to “get in the zone”. I was no longer talking between contractions, and I was instead using the break to rest. I also didn’t want people talking during a contraction. My mom got there around 4, and she quickly caught on that things were getting serious. I was spitting into a throw-up bag and groaning during every contraction. Chris, my doula, and my mom all rotated different jobs: massaging my back, fanning my face, offering me sips of water, or even just witnessing every wave as I did my best to embrace them one by one. It was probably around 4:30 when I asked if I could get in the bathtub, and my team helped get me in. I remember making a comment between contractions about how much I missed a scalding hot bath — this water was HOT and I loved it. The position I took in the bath was leaning over the side and swaying my hips during contractions. My midwife checked Heidi’s heartbeat occasionally, and with my permission she checked to see my progress. I was so nervous to hear how I was progressing. My big fear was that I would only be around 5cm and that the intensity I was feeling was nothing compared to what was to come. I was an 8cm but at a 9cm during a contraction. I was so grateful to know that I was close. But I still had no idea how close — 15 minutes? an hour?
I spent the next contractions leaned over the tub, and thats when I reached my point of feeling like I couldn’t do it. My body was no longer giving me breaks during the contractions. As soon as one stopped, the next one began. My doula reminded me, “The only way out is through”. The only way I would get to the other side of this intensity was to embrace it, get through it, and get past it. This is when I really felt like my mind took a backseat and my body took over. The contractions were so strong, long, and back-to-back. I remember thinking “I can’t do this” but I refused to say it out loud. At one point, I just said “no” and slammed my hand on the stool in front of me. I felt like I was losing control. I looked at my midwife in desperation, “Am I close? How long do I have to do this?” My midwife looked my in my eyes and reminded me, “This is pain for a purpose. Don’t think ahead. Stay in this contraction. Birth your baby down.” This is the beauty of an amazing birth team — you trust these people. You know them, and they know you. They respect you and your birth space. I remember being SO HOT and telling my birth team as they used cold water with peppermint to cool me down. Looking back, my midwife and doula were interpreting so many nonverbal cues telling them I was close to being ready to push that I didn’t even know I was giving. I started refusing sips of water, and my groaning during contractions got even deeper and guttural.
I told my midwife I thought I was ready to push. She told me, “You have to decide when you’re ready to birth your daughter.” Quickly I responded, “I’VE DECIDED! I’m ready”. I was ready to leave the intensity of transition, and the thought of pushing was welcomed. Leading up to labor, I always assumed the need to push would be overwhelming, but this was more of a question: “I think I’m ready to push?” She told me if it felt good to push, that I should. I started pushing during the next contraction, and it felt so good! It channeled the intensity of the contractions in something that felt more useful. At this point, I could see the finish line, and I was so ready to meet my daughter and bring this labor to an end. With every contraction, I pushed with my everything. My midwife had her fingers on my pelvic floor to help me focus my pushing right where it needed to be. Again, this part just did not feel how I thought it would. It literally felt like I was pooping, and I genuinely thought I wasn’t making any progress in pushing Heidi down the birth canal. But I just kept pushing — honestly I don’t remember any pain. Or maybe it was just that this was a welcomed relief from the intensity of the contractions. After about 12 minutes of pushing, Chris, my midwife, and my mom told me they could see her head! I still was having trouble believing them — it didn’t feel like I was pushing her out still. I reached down and touched the top of her head. I pushed again, and the room told me her head was out! I remember thinking this part wasn’t bad at all. I knew on the next contraction, I would meet my daughter. Apparently this was when my midwife checked to make sure there was no cord around her neck. It was the WEIRDEST sensation, and it was at this point during labor, when the hard part was over, that I just screamed “I can’t”. And then I birthed my baby girl at 5:01 pm. My mom was to my left crying happy tears. My husband was to my right catching our daughter and putting her on my chest. It was the most incredible moment as 41 weeks of pregnancy and this intense labor came to an end.
The next hours were a blur. I held my daughter and spoke to her as I welcomed her into this new world. I delivered the placenta, and my midwife drained the tub and refilled it with an herbal bath for the two of us. Heidi latched and I nursed her — something I will never take for granted. Chris and I moved to the bedroom for some privacy with our newest addition. My mom came in to give us my requested Nothing Bundt Cakes. My midwife’s assistant came in to drop off our requested What A Burger. A while later, newborn exams were done where we learned Heidi was 6 pounds 9 ounces and 20.5 inches long. She had a severe tongue tie and a moderate lip tie. I thanked my amazing birth team for their support and encouragement. And I spoke with my mom about what the birth was like from her perspective. I had been so in the zone that I wanted to be told what it was like for the rest of the room. As newborn checks were finished and vitals were taken for the last time, the birthing center cleared out one by one until it was just Chris and I with Heidi. We enjoyed the rest and quiet, and then Chris loaded up the car and we were home by 10pm…officially a family of four!