The birth story of our third child little Miss Alice could not have been more different than the birth stories of her big sister and brother. Even though she’s pretty new around here, she is already showing us that she is going to be a girl who blazes her own trail and does things her own way and in her own timing.
If you haven’t read my other birth stories you can read Fern’s here and Clive’s here, but the basic gist of it is this…
My first birth was at an out-of-hospital birthing center (Andaluz Waterbirth Center) where I delivered my daughter Fern. Her birth was 12 hours of steady and straight-forward labor from start to finish. She was a brow presentation which made pushing incredibly challenging (3 hours long), but in the end she made her way into the world was was healthy and alert and I felt strong and empowered. My second birth was at home. My labor was longer and harder – 19 hours with 4 hours of pushing. Clive came into this world weighing in at 10 lbs. 8 oz., 23″ long and with a gigantic 15″ head. He was also posterior (well almost…”sunny side sideways”).
That labor left me a bit scarred to say the least. It was technically successful and my midwives were wonderful, but it was just really difficult for me to process emotionally. As a result I decided I wanted to go back to the same birthing center where I had Fern. Essentially there isn’t a ton of difference between a birthing center and a home birth as I would have to be transferred to a hospital in the event of an emergency, but for some reason it felt “safer” to me. I just couldn’t really get over the mental hurdle of being in the same place as my last birth.
Over the course of this third pregnancy I learned that this little lady I was growing was going to challenge me and push me to my limits in an entirely new way. The entire process was just harder all around. More aches and pains…nausea well into my second trimester (even though I barely had it at all with my other pregnancies). We had a worry with our 20 week ultrasound where they found a soft marker for Down’s Syndrome. I also dealt with severe anemia and then borderline high blood pressure and a preeclampsia scare which led to NSTs throughout the final months of pregnancy (after the initial scare and some interventions everything leveled out, but I still received wonderful close care). It was a lot. By the time the final weeks of pregnancy rolled around it was a fairly strong understatement to say that I was feeling a bit anxious.
For weeks all I could think about what birth and how much I was dreading it. In my worst-case-scenario-forming-
mind, I just “knew” it was going to be long and terrible and horrifically painful. I psyched myself out to the Nth degree and pretty much cried every day about how much I didn’t want to have to give birth. At the same time, I found myself wanting it to come quickly so I could just get it over with, because I now know that my body makes BIG babies and I simply couldn’t escape the fear that with every day that passed our “little Alice” was quickly turning into a “great big Alice” who was going to be super painful to deliver.
I tried to stay positive about the whole thing in the days leading up to Alice’s birth. I filled up my calendar with fun activities like dinners with friends, mani pedis and having my house professionally cleaned. But once my due date came and went my anxiety level began to steadily increase. Every morning I woke up in tears, filled with disappointment that I hadn’t gone into labor during the night and lamenting how big Alice was going to be the longer she cooked.
Finally on the 5th day after Alice’s due date, I decided it was time to “let it go”. In my heart, I truly believed that part of the reason Alice wasn’t coming out, was because she and my body could feel my fear. It might sound weird – and maybe it is a little – but I really do believe that the mind is a powerful tool when it comes to birth. I had gone to a midwife appointment that morning and after an unsuccessful attempt at stripping my membranes or even having a cervical check (apparently it was in a weird, tilted-back position because of Alice’s position which made it difficult) I was definitely feeling discouraged and needed the cathartic release of all of my fears and anxieties. So, I sat down and wrote this blog post.
Around 3:00 PM (within about about an hour of publishing the post), I had a couple of contractions. I had been having them for weeks at this point, but they were always erratic, so I didn’t think much of it.
Around 4:00 PM I decided that these contractions felt different than the others I had been having before this, so I called my husband at work to tell him to be sure to head home right after work “just in case”. My contractions were varying from 20-40 minutes apart, lasting about 30 seconds to a minute, but I figured it would be nice to have him around to entertain the kids and make dinner since it wasn’t the most comfortable. I was able to handle them fine though.
Around 6:00 PM I called my parents to ask if they could come take our kids for the night. My contractions were still 20-40 minutes apart and definitely manageable, but having kids hang on me while my uterus contracted wasn’t my favorite and I figured with them gone I could maybe get some rest before labor “really started”…hopefully sometime during the night. I texted my midwife to let her know what was going on so I would be on her radar for the evening “just in case”.
Around 8:00 PM my parents picked up our kids and my husband and I sat down to watch “Fear the Walking Dead” and eat ice cream (as one does during labor). I asked Craig to pause the show a couple of times during contractions so I could get comfortable and breathe through them, but then we just went back to watching the show.
Around 9:00 PM I texted my midwife because the contractions had gotten to be 10-15 minutes apart and were lasting for a minute to a minute-and-a-half. I told her I was going to take a shower and rest, but that it seemed like maybe labor would be “really starting” during the night sometime. I tidied up the house for about 15 minutes before heading to the shower and during that time had 4 pretty strong contractions lasted at least a minute (some almost two minutes). I texted my midwife again to let her know that things were speeding up so maybe we would be going to the birthing center sooner rather than later.
Around 9:50 PM I realized that I probably wasn’t going to make it to the shower. My contractions had ramped up in intensity really suddenly and were coming every 2 minutes and lasting for at least a minute. I called my midwife to tell her I thought we should meet at the birth center. She said my birth team could be there by 11:00 so we agreed to meet then.
Around 10:20 PM I started wondering if my birth team was going to make it to the birth center in time. We live close to the birth center, so I knew that we could get there quickly, but I didn’t know if 11:00 would be too late. It seemed ridiculous in my mind because I had never had super fast labors in the past, but these contractions were so close together I was starting to get a little nervous. Craig packed up the car and I made him grab extra towels “just in case”.
Around 10:45 PM we arrived at the birth center. I was thankful that one of the apprentice midwives was already there and had filled up the tub. I immediately stripped down and got in. I labored in the tub for just a bit, but couldn’t get comfortable and quickly moved to the toilet – my odd, but most-favored birthing position. I labored there for a bit, but couldn’t get comfortable there either. I kept moving around, which was something I never did in my other labors. I simply couldn’t seem to do anything to stay ahead of the pain from the contractions. I tried standing, leaning on Craig, leaning on furniture…it was just beginning to feel like too much. I got in and out of the tub two more times. It just felt SO fast and overwhelming. I was getting worried that I had endless hours of this left and I didn’t feel like I was equipped to handle it.
Around 12:15 PM I was back on the toilet laboring and getting loud (like real loud). I asked Craig to go get my midwife who was in the next room. I was freaking out, because I felt like I “had to poop” but I wasn’t sure if it was poop or if I needed to push. I didn’t want to exhaust myself pushing if it was too early (and I was almost positive that it was too early), so I wanted her to check me. There are typically no cervical checks at the birth center, unless you request them or there is a reason for concern. She checked and confirmed that my cervix was “completely gone” and I could start working on pushing. This was the part I had feared the most. For me pushing is absolute hell and lasts SO long. I pushed on the toilet for a bit longer, before getting back into the tub.
Each contraction was brutal and they were coming one right on top of the next. The pressure was insane and I kept feeling like her head was “right there”, but there was no way it could be, because it was just “too fast”. At this point it’s all mostly just a blur, but within minutes I could feel myself at the edge of the gloriously awful precipice known as “the ring of fire”. I knew that if I gave a couple of really strong pushes that baby bowling ball was going to explode out of me. I tried to hold back a little, but I knew I had reached the point of no return. She had to come out sometime, so and it was now or never. During one insanely long contraction I gave push after push and suddenly her head popped out! It freaked me out a bit, but my midwives and Craig were able to calm me down enough to make it through one more contraction.
At 12:43 PM I had my last contraction and Alice Rosalie officially made her entrance into the world. 9 lbs. 4 oz. and 20.5″ of tiny perfection (ironically a 9 pound baby is “tiny” in my world). When her body came out and I could actually see/feel her do that cool spin movethat I’ve seen in birth videos so many times, but have never quite experienced because of my oddly positioned babies. So amazing!
My entire labor from the very first far spaced contractions was just 9 hours, but active labor was only 2-3 hours and pushing was only 20 minutes! Such a far cry from my previous birth experiences. I had friends and family praying that this birth experience would be a redemptive one for me and it was exactly that. While it was definitely an intense, fast and furious labor, it was such a great experience and we all just kept marveling at how insane it was that she arrived so quickly!
This is probably (most likely) our last little one, so I am very thankful that my last birth experience was such a positive one. We are all over-the-moon to finally have our Alice here (especially Fern and Clive!) and we can’t wait to get to know the little trail blazer she will become!