I want to preface this by saying every single birth is magical, and every single woman who brings a human into this world is a damn powerhouse. This is just my story, so please, before reading any further, if you have given birth before, I ask you to please not compare your story to mine. It’s not about who had a “better” birth or the “perfect” birth. It’s about sharing the experience so others are aware of all the different scenarios of birthing a baby. This is just one of those scenarios. I kept this story extremely raw and real, mostly because I want Jade to be able to read this one day, in all its realness, so please be kind and enjoy!
It was about 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, when I was laying on our couch with my husband, Nick, when I felt my first real-deal contraction. I had been feeling a lot of Braxton hicks and crampiness for a little over a week, but when I felt that contraction that night, it was like nothing I had been feeling before. It popped into my mind that this could be the start of labor but I didn’t want to get too excited. I decided to start getting ready for bed to try and get some rest just in case. As I was getting ready for bed, I lost the rest of my mucus plug (I had lost a little bit of it a couple nights before). I got into bed and couldn’t help but time the contractions that were coming. They were about 10-15 minutes apart, so I called in Nick just to make him aware. Around 10 p.m., we decided to text our birth center to let them know what was going on. Our one midwife called us to talk through what I was feeling and told us that this could be early labor and in that case I should try to get some sleep because my future laboring self would thank me. That was a funny joke. By 12:30 a.m. I was on all fours on our bed breathing through contractions. I told Nick that I couldn’t lay in bed any longer and was going to go out to the living room but he was welcome to try and sleep. He said, “Well, I definitely won’t be able to sleep so I’ll come out there with you.” I’m so thankful he did because that’s when contractions really picked up.
Nick laid out a big padded mat on the floor with a blanket where I spent a lot of time roaring (yes, roaring) through contractions on all fours. I also spent some time side lying on our couch while working through contractions, which was nice because in between them I could totally relax my body. I was also up moving around a lot because I was in and out of the bathroom (my body clearly wanted everything out of me so I could push this baby out when the time came). Throughout my whole time in active labor, I just kept picturing my vagina as a blooming flower, that visualization really helped me to surrender to each contraction and not try and fight them. A word I kept repeating in my head was “surrender” to keep from tensing up. My contractions came on really strong and were pretty close together until I tried laboring through one on my yoga ball and immediately threw up (luckily Nick had gotten a trash can beforehand). This was kind of early on, and I was told throwing up is a big sign of transition and my first thought was, there’s no way I can be in transition and if I am I’m going to have this baby in the car! But Nick was doing an amazing job timing my contractions and just being so in tune with me that we both knew it wasn’t transition. Once I threw up that first time, my contractions backed off a little and weren’t so close together. I threw up two more times at home. (Side note: If you know me, you know I have a sweet dog named Mo. He laid on the couch nearby the whole time I was laboring, and every time I would throw up he would come over to check on me—so adorable!) Nick will tell you he didn’t do much but let me tell you, I could have never done it without him. He was so calm and supportive the whole time and just having his presence there put me at such ease. He knew I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible, so I knew we were getting close to leaving for the birth center when Nick started to get things together in between contractions. I asked him if he thought it was getting to be about time to leave and he said yes, my contractions were pretty steady at 3, sometimes 2 minutes apart, lasting a minute and that had been going on for about an hour. I’m so thankful that he knew I needed him to make that decision, it was one less thing taking up space in my head. At around 4:30 a.m., Nick helped me waddle to the car and we were off to the birth center.
The car ride was kind of a blur and I just kept roaring through each contraction and ended up throwing up in the car as well, but luckily we had brought the trash can. As we were turning onto the street of the birth center my water broke, gushed all over the backseat, but thankfully Nick had put down two big blue hospital pads so it didn’t get anywhere on the car. Nick parked the car, and as I waddled into the birth center, our two midwives greeted us and one says, “Well, we know Kelsey is in active labor, she’s not smiling.” (Which was such a cool experience that they knew me so well!) They took mine and the baby’s vitals and everything was looking good. They got us situated into our room where they drew a bath for me and checked on my progress. They announced that I was basically fully dilated and to keep doing what I was doing! That was literal music to my ears and gave me the extra strength I needed to finish out the work! I think my actual words were, “fuck yes, let’s get this baby out!” I got in the tub, which felt so nice and helped ease the pain and discomfort of the contractions, but I found I couldn’t rest/get comfortable in between contractions and that’s what I needed so desperately. So after about 45 minutes of being in the tub, I started to feel like I was needing to push. When people say you just know when you need to push, they aren’t kidding! It was like all of the sudden I had this immense amount of pressure that I needed to try and get out of my body. So the one midwife came in to check me, per my request, and says, “Oh yeah, I can feel your baby’s head, you can push whenever you feel ready!” Again, MUSIC TO MY EARS!
Pushing was hard for me to grasp at first. I got on the bed and went on all fours, and the next time a contraction came and I felt the urge to push, I did. Except that was not a comfortable position for me, I was too exhausted to try and hold myself up and I couldn’t get comfortable enough to relax in between pushes. I decided to lay down on my side and Nick held one leg and knee up for my next push. After it was over, my midwife asked if I was truly pushing and I told her I didn’t think so because I was kind of just expecting to keep doing what I was doing during contractions by just breathing my way through them. She informed me (very sweetly) that I was really going to need to push on this next one. She put two fingers into my vagina and told me to push against her fingers the next time. So the next time I had the urge to push, I used the contraction and roared with all my might into her fingers and she immediately said, “That was it! That was exactly what you need to be doing!” So now I knew I actually had to push (silly me). So every time I felt that urge to push, I used the contraction and gave it all I had. My midwife told me she would let me know when baby was crowning so I could give little, quicker pushes to help prevent tearing. During this time, I could literally feel her getting closer and closer, and I just kept going back to picturing my vagina as a blooming flower during every push, and that continued to help make my pushes count and helped me stay calm. There was a time during my pushing when baby’s heart rate dropped a bit, nothing that was too alarming, but my midwife did suggest trying to move more on my back to see if that would help adjust baby’s position and help bring the heart rate back up. Thankfully, that worked. My midwives and Nick were all really good at reminding me to breathe and relax as much as possible in between pushing to help get oxygen to baby. I did end up going back to my side when pushing because it hurt my back too much to lay completely flat. They monitored baby’s heart rate with a doppler to make sure all was good and it was. At one point in between contractions, I remember looking up at Nick and saying, “Are you crying yet?” and he said, “No, not yet” and our midwife goes, “No, but he’s giving you very loving looks right now,” and I said, “Yeah, who wouldn’t be?” Granted, I was butt naked, sweating my ass off from pushing and the room being kept warm for when baby came, and I hadn’t put deodorant on since the previous day, so I was definitely smelling like roses.
So remember when my midwife told me she would let me know when baby was crowning? Well, she didn’t need to tell me, I knew instantly. Some people call it “the ring of fire” and now I understand why. I think this was probably the most painful part for me. It burned in a way I can’t describe. But my midwife just said really calmly, “Kelsey, this is just your baby, this is just a sensation, it’s your new normal right now.” That helped me avoid getting caught up in the pain and allowed me to refocus mentally. As she was crowning, I gave a couple little, quicker pushes like my midwife suggested (which worked! No tearing, other than 2 small lacerations on the sides of my labias) and her head was out! The second her head was out I felt instant relief, and I felt like a damn warrior. Then I heard her chatting, no not crying, she was chatting with her bright eyes wide open! The cord was wrapped around her neck (which sounds scary but it’s actually pretty common) so she was probably just so happy to have that away from her neck. I just kept saying, “I hear you baby, I hear you!” I then gave another big push and her shoulders were out and Nick swooped in to catch her as the rest of her body came earthside. Nick was the very first person to hold her and I think that will bond them forever. He laid her on my chest and I just kept saying, “You’re here, you’re here, I’m so happy you’re here.” And then he said, “I think it’s a girl?” I had totally forgotten that we didn’t even know the gender! The midwives double checked and sure enough our babe was a little girl! The second I heard that it felt so right. After about 9ish hours of labor, at 7:30 a.m., our sweet Jade Harper Ortlieb (7 lb., 3 oz, 20 in. long) met us earthside and we were completely smitten!
I honestly could not have asked for a smoother birth and I am so thankful for Nick, my team of midwives, Jade, but most importantly, myself. I put so much work into mentally preparing for this day and to have it all go so smoothly makes me so, so grateful.
Written by Kelsey Ortlieb