So here is my best recollection of the hardest and most glorious day of my life…
It all started just after 4am on Saturday July 21st. I felt a cramp and knew that it was the beginning of a long and hard journey ahead. I started timing my contractions and they were all over the place but generally around 20 minutes apart and lasting over a minute.
We had the kids over and we knew that would add a layer of complexity to the day so we had to arrange for them to go be with family for the day/night since I was planning for a home birth.
At about 7:30 I got out of bed to take a bath, which was so nice and took the edge off of the pain of the contractions. After I got out I started to play with different positions that felt good. Unfortunately any seated, reclined or lying down made the pain worse so I was on my feet or kneeling and leaning forward for my entire labour. My legs and knees were so tired by the end but there was no other way.
So with every contraction, I focused on swaying my hips, breathing, and remaining calm. I lost track of time but eventually called my doula to keep her in the loop and paged my midwife who assured me that I didn’t need her yet and to just keep doing what I was doing. My doula told me the same, but eventually she came over to start performing some acupressure points to try to get my contractions a little more consistent, as the pain was getting worse but my contractions were still between 4 and 10 minutes apart.
Let me tell you, having a doula was literally life saving. She knew exactly what to do and when. Between telling me when to walk, how to move, how to relax, different positions to get into and her manual work (counter pressure, hip squeezes etc.), she literally gave me the ability to get through my labour. I couldn’t have done it without her here. My husband Pat and my mom were here too but there’s only so far moral support goes. Don’t get me wrong, it helped immensely and was beautiful to have them here, but my doula was the quarterback and she took us to the superbowl 😉
So according to my midwife, we had about 6 hours of active labour. To me it was just a continuum of increasing pain and intensity with less breaks in between. I’m not sure when the doula told Pat to call the midwife but I was labouring in the bathtub and apparently it was important that she get over ASAP. I was in active labour and we now needed the midwife there to start to monitor myself and the baby.
I started to feel like what I had to get through was next to impossible and I couldn’t believe how far I had to go and how exhausted I already was. I was done. But that being said, never once did it cross my mind that I wanted to give up on my goal of having an unmedicated birth at home. I put so much work into getting my body ready for this and baby was in a good position. The only way I was going to the hospital would be if I needed to for my safety or baby’s.
Contractions started to feel like boxing rounds. Between each round my mom or Pat would feed me bites of food, give me sips of water, and put cold wet towels on my head, neck and back. Then, as soon as a contraction waved back in, everyone retreated and let me zone out. It was brutal, it was incredible, it was the hardest work I have ever done in my life. I can’t imagine having gone into it without a solid base in strength and conditioning. My legs were utterly exhausted and my whole body was shaking.
When it was time to push, I started in a side lying position, but every time a contraction came I tensed up, which was working against me. So I went to sit on the toilet for a few contractions which helped but baby didn’t like the pressure (the midwife monitored baby’s heart rate between each contraction). Finally I ended up back on my bed on my knees, hands gripping the backboard, pillows stacked under my elbows, and we had found the right spot (side lying and all fours are the birthing positions where you’re least likely to tear). With each contraction I pushed the baby down and pulled into the backboard for leverage with my hands.
I started to feel the baby’s head emerge and it was like fire. I would push with all my strength and she would emerge and then retreat a bit once the contraction was done. I thought at the time that it was energy wasted, but in reality, me and baby were working as a team to get her out without damaging my body. Each time that happened, her head would stretch my tissues just a little more and then I would get a break. Finally it was the moment when I had to bear down and get her head out. I knew intuitively that I had to push a bit beyond what I thought was possible to ensure she was out safely and that I was using my energy as efficiently as possible since I had so little left. Once her head emerged completely I got a quick second before it was time to push her body out. She had her hands up under her chin so her body took some extra work to come out. But at long last, she flew out, and was passed to me from between my legs and I held my baby girl in my arms, still kneeling, as the midwives dried her off. I had pushed for a total of 28 minutes, even though it felt like a lifetime. I flipped over, holding my girl, and shaking uncontrollably (apparently due to the adrenaline rush). I was in awe and couldn’t believe what we had just accomplished. Baby girl worked hard and so did I. It was and will be the biggest physical challenge I have ever faced in my life.
A lot of people think the story ends there, but after you birth your baby, you still have to birth the placenta that nourished your baby for all this time! I had to give a little push when my body prompted me, and that was that! When the placenta came out, the cord was still attached to baby and it would stay that way until the blood had stopped flowing through the cord (this is to give the baby all the last bits of nutrients and blood she would receive from the placenta). In the meantime, I got a tour of the placenta (where it attached to my uterus, where the baby was etc.), and when it was time, my mom got to cut the cord! It was so special. By then the shaking had subsided and although I was still very sore, I was in bliss, looking down at my little angel. Days later as I write this, I still can’t believe it’s real.
I really did everything I could to prepare for this home birth that I so desperately wanted, but that being said, there is lots that is out of our hands. I wish that all mamas could get to experience birth the way I did. It was the most painful, but also the most empowering experience of my life. And with the right team of support, I got through it. Thank you to Kensington Midwives, Nutmeg Consulting, my mom, my husband, and my baby girl for being the dream team I needed. I am eternally grateful.
Get your complete guide to prenatal supplements: