Once upon a time, I truly believed that my career status, my job titles, and my resume of activities marked my greatest achievements. There was even once upon a time that I stubbornly declared that I didn’t care if I ever had any children and that I would never even consider being a stay-at-home mom. I saw myself as the Career Barbie, certainly not the Barbie & Baby package.
All along I had it wrong – my biggest life achievement to date has been receiving the title of a mother. My greatest accomplishments have been giving birth to two beautiful sons, and sustaining their wellbeing day-in and day-out. It’s been found in the moments of being witness to the very first smile, the first laugh, the first skinned knee, the first steps, the pure joy on their face during their first time flying a kite, and so much more than any desk job could ever offer. The birth of our second child, Finnton Ray, has reaffirmed this as I re-experience the flood of pride and emotions that comes with laboring over a new life.
I dared to hope for a similar birth story for Finn as to his brother Greyson’s, but with much more ease that might come with experience. With Greyson, I was walking around 8 centimeters dilated with no active contractions and a week past due before I finally had my waters ruptured. After only 45 minutes of hard labor, Greyson required nearly 4 hours of unproductive pushing before making his appearance. This formula led to a long and painful recovery time – I think it was 3 months before we even left the house!
I’m happy to say that Finnton’s birth achieved a much more even pace. My labor began a few days before his official due date. Grey and I spent the day walking around some stores and visiting with family to pass the time. Late that night, I needed a distraction and started some craft projects. It was nearly midnight, and the baby was doing his usual song and dance inside my belly (a nightly occurrence that normally went on until 1am or so). He was kicking and jabbing, when suddenly I heard a “pop!” and I thought, “Uh oh,” and the baby went completely still and I imagined him saying, “OOPS uh oh what did I do!” My craft project was nearly done, but not quite, so I stubbornly decided that daggone it I was going to finish this craft before going into labor, so I didn’t move an inch but instead crafted another 10 minutes before hollering at my husband to help me stand up, LOL! No joke!
As I stood, I felt a gush and ran to the bathroom to confirm that my water had indeed broke. I instantly freaked out – this was it! I started shaking with excitement and since Greyson came so fast, we decided to make the 1/2 hour drive to the hospital so I could labor close by. So, we packed up the van, drove through the thickest fog we had seen all year down to Seymour and got cozy in the hospital’s parking lot on a warm summer night. For two hours, I paced the parking lot in my night gown and flip flops (yes, the sight was as redneck as it sounds), working through some manageable contractions that were 7-10 minutes apart. I had to keep using the bathroom but didn’t want admitted yet, so I kept attempting my best casual walk to the ER waiting room restroom while the receptionist gave me suspicious glances.
At 2am, our beloved doula arrived. Oh, I how much we adore this lady! I thought, “Here’s my team – this is it!” She instantly made a game plan of ways to increase the strength of my contractions. As I lunged, waddled, and hoochy-shook my hips around the empty parking lot, she trailed and shook her own hips with me while having me sniff essential oils and gently reminding me of ways to stay focused. By 3am, I finally had my first painful contraction and new I was ready to get into a room. So my team entered through the ER, which the receptionist stopped me to ask if I was finally willing to confess I was in labor, which I responded with a smile.
As we settled into our labor & delivery room, the doula unpacked all her natural remedies while the nurses asked me silly questions and had me sit on the bed while they hooked me up to heart rate monitors. My contractions once again slowed down as my focus went elsewhere. It quickly turned into one hour of fidgeting with the monitors, then more time passed, and as 4am came and went I realized I was getting tired and needed to get up and work for this. So I announced that enough was enough, time to get up and labor! So we did. We pushed pressure points, we sniffed more oils, and once I got up and started walking and lunging around again, BAM the contractions grew so intense! As one wave came after another, I drifted within myself and listened to doula’s coaching “….deep breath…let the contraction work….moan in a low soothing voice…relax your shoulders….melt back into the contraction and let it bring you one stepper closer to your baby….” again and again and again. I grew shaky and nauseated, and my doula placed a wet rag soaked with lemon oil near my nose to ground me. My husband embraced me and fanned me while my doula placed wet rags on my neck and head. Time either stood still or flooded right by me, I couldn’t tell. But I could feel my sweet baby turning lower and lower with each hug of my abdomen, and at some instinctual point around 5am I told the nurse that I would be pushing in 20 minutes. She responded that I needed to give her a proper heads up because the doctor was at home and needed time to come in. I thought, “Didn’t I just give you the heads up??” Another contraction passed and afterward again I told her, “Get your doctor here.” No action, and again after the next contraction, I muttered “I’ll be pushing soon, get your doctor.” I think she finally realized I was dead serious about my timeline because she finally said that she’d have to check me before calling the doctor, after which she announced I was already at 10cm and kicked it into high gear.
I remember hearing her say, “Wait, we still haven’t put in your IV lock! You can’t push yet!” I was told to hold out my arm during the most gut-rocking contractions so they could put in the IV lock. “Hold still!” they’d say, as I laughed inside and tried my hardest not to sway or shake. Poke number one was followed by the declaration that I had wiggly veins. Poke number two ensued, and my patience wore thin. A different pair of hands tried poke number three, to which my amazing team said, “Enough!! Search the hospital for your best person and tell her she only has one shot!” So a third person eventually got the IV in but at this point I was focused internally on the sweet little baby that was descending his way down down down, down through my pelvis and informing me that he was set and ready.
As we waited for the doctor to arrive, I had to fight the urge to push. Dear doula coached me through the contractions with short quick blowing breaths, focusing on my breath rather than bearing down. But still, I felt my sweet baby corkscrewing his way a bit further down with each contraction. After a half hour, the doctor FINALLY arrived and apparently I looked so chill that she didn’t believe I was ready to push and announced that she’d be at her desk waiting until I was ready to push. The room emptied of extra personnel, and I thought to myself, “I’ve been ready to push for ages, and I’m going to whether you’re here or not!” So by golly I started pushing (and gushing) to which the one nurse in the room reacted appropriately and called for everyone to parade back in for the show.
I asked for the squat bar to be installed on the bed, which took 5 minutes and 4 different nurses to figure out because apparently none of them had actually seen it used before. I just knew I didn’t want to be on my back for pushing. So I decided I’d try pushing from my hands and knees while leaning over the back of the bed. Once the doctor realized that I was turning around, she abruptly said, “We don’t do that here.” Dear husband said I gave her the dirtiest look while I proceeded to turn around and stick my rear in her face, LOL! Meanwhile, I hear the doula trying to smooth things over and ensure the doctor that I would only try this for a short while then flip back over once crowning. I was only there for one contraction because I was distracted by the frenzy of everyone panicking behind me about this “unconventional” position, so to make everyone shut up I decided to flip back over into a semi-sitting position. Meanwhile, the squat bar is installed and dear doula throws a rebozo scarf over the squat rail and coaches me to pull using my arms.
This leads me to the only part of a natural birth that I really find no enjoyment from–crowning. With my first birth, pushing was awful and lasted almost four hours, to which I blame the trouble I had recovering for weeks after. This time I knew how to push, so once in position I pushed with all my might. As primal sounds escaped from the depths of my gut, I remember that I pushed so hard I felt nauseated, my lips going numb and running out of breath. Dear doula kept whispering to me, “If you want to meet your baby, you must push…take a deep breath and give your baby oxygen…you’ll push more effectively if you’re quiet…” So I listened and tweaked and pushed with more might than I thought I contained because all I knew is that I did NOT want stuck here for hours. And oh, that burning pain! I started screaming, “Get it out of me!!” over and over, LOL. I truly had no clue if what I was doing was effective until I heard husband say he saw baby’s head. To which I pushed yet even harder, and sweet Finn’s head came out and with it that sweet relief from the burning sensation. I was snapped out of my zone when the doctor made a big scene at this point by announcing a reminder that this was a gestational diabetes baby, “He’s a predicted 8-pounder, everyone be ready!” to which I assumed she was referring to shoulder dystocia. Regardless, this rubbed me the wrong way as I thought to myself, “I’ll show you that this baby ain’t stuck!” so without prompting, I bared down and finished delivering my baby.
And on my chest was flopped this beautiful, plump baby boy who I promptly thought, “You do not look like your brother–what’s that crease between your eyes?!” LOL. Per our request, we delayed the bath (because the smell of a newborn is intoxicating, why wash it off?) and the cord-cutting, the measuring and weighing, and just held our sweet little one, who immediately latched on and nursed from both sides without any hesitation!
All together, from my water breaking to baby in my arms was almost exactly 6 hours. I was grateful that this time was slower – my goal was to be present and remain calm, and with an enormous amount of help from my dear husband and beloved doula, we did it! I have never felt anything so empowering and euphoric as giving birth – what a privilege! Call me crazy, but I truly find the miracle of giving birth intoxicating. I was able to get up out of bed much sooner this time (even taking a shower shortly after) and bounced back so much quicker! I am so grateful for my new little one and our birth experience.