I gave birth to my first boy, Oliver, at the age of 20. I was unprepared and scared, and he pushed me to my absolute limit at 42 weeks. I had dreamed of a natural birth, but was secretly afraid of the pain. When we were forced to induce, I was slightly relieved, and mostly just ready to have a baby in my arms—I didn’t care how it happened!
After his birth, I began to feel a deep sadness for how his birth had transpired. It was magical in its own way, but I still felt a longing to do it on my own (intervention free), to complete the cycle of empowerment and manifest the birth of my dreams.
At just 16 months postpartum, we found out we were expecting baby number 2! I immediately started visualizing the birth, and how it would transpire: I was going to go into labor at 9 p.m. after we put our son in bed, deliver that night, and be home the next evening to put our babies to bed together. I knew I was strong and capable this time around, and I KNEW in my heart that this birth held a lot of healing power.
At 39 week 6 days, my water broke on its own at 9 p.m. I had just come down the stairs from putting my oldest in bed, and went to the bathroom to pee when I got the tell-tale “gush”! We went straight to the birth center, where our second little boy, Isaac, was born just 12 hours later.
I labored with my husband by my side, walking the halls, soaking in the birth pool, and even took a nap early on. Isaac was born with the afternoon sun streaming through the blinds, around 3:30 p.m. I was complete. I felt healed. I felt strong.
We rested for a few hours afterward, and made it home for bedtime with our oldest. Our little family was complete.
I was a new mom but I was really good at researching what I needed for my pregnancy. I will never forget how amazed I was when I watched “The Business of Being Born” when I was in my first trimester. After watching and learning about how beautiful and strong women’s bodies are—and also how fully capable we are of having a natural birth—I knew I had to take the natural approach to birthing my first child.
My pregnancy was pretty easy. I went for massages every two weeks, had a diet filled with fresh fruits and veggies, and a birth partner who made sure I was drinking a ton of water daily.
The day it all started, I didn’t know I was in labor. I was home relaxing on the couch while the cable guy hooked up cable because I had family coming soon. I remember sitting on the couch having contractions. They didn’t bother me much, but they were noticeable. Later that night, my contractions were picking up and I contacted my midwife to give her the status, and she recommended I pop open that bottle of wine I had in the fridge to calm me down and let me get to rest so I had energy for the next day: Birth Day.
I tried to go to sleep around 11 p.m., but my contractions were coming faster and harder so I knew it was time to meet my midwife. On the ride to the birth center, I began listening to my Hypnobabies lessons to put me in a calm mindset while going through the contractions—and it worked!
I arrived to the birth center and my midwife checked to see if I was dilated. I could not believe that I labored at home all the way to 8 cm. She rushed to get my room together and made up the birthing pool.
My contractions were now intense. I was asked if I wanted to have my water broken, and I said yes. I continued to labor in the birthing pool for 2 hours until I began to fall asleep listening to Hypnobabies in the birthing pool. My midwife was instructing me to push, but I wouldn’t listen because I was so zoned and relaxed. She then made me move to the bed to wake me up.
I chose to try Hypnobabies because I was into the idea of meditative breathing and self-hypnosis. After a lot of Googling and watching other moms use it for their births, I knew it was the route I needed to take to ensure that I could have my baby without drugs or interventions.
I began to feel everything—and it was intense. All I wanted to do was push out one big bowel movement. But I soon realized that it was not poop, it was in fact the baby’s head. I continued to push and take breaks when I needed them. After one big, final push, baby Malcolm arrived.
At first, I began shaking and avoided touching him because I couldn’t believe that I really made a baby who grew inside of me for 9 months. My midwife handed me my baby and we laid skin-to-skin for an hour to bond and give Malcolm warmth. It was such a euphoric feeling. I felt no more pain, I had no more shaking—just peace and a beautiful baby boy.
It all started on Friday, May 25, which coincidentally, was my due date …
I had woken up early to make it to my favorite 5:30 a.m. strength workout. I sure hoped my water would break during the workout and things would get started.
Right before the workout began, I hit up the bathroom, where I found a little blood that resembled the end of your period. I was totally freaked out, but still did the workout. Turns out I had some bloody show, a good sign labor will be happening soon (ish).
Later that afternoon, I had a midwife appointment. I got checked for the first time and was 90 percent effaced, 1-2 cm. dilated. I had my midwife strip my membranes a bit in hopes of getting things going. Jacob and I really wanted Hunter to show up that weekend.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I did tons (TONS – at least 1.5 hours each day) of walking and also had a few more contractions.
On Sunday afternoon, I decided to take some castor oil. Castor oil only works to bring on labor if your body is ready to go into it. If it’s not, you just give yourself the runs and feel horrible for 12 hours or so. I was willing to take that risk. We both had this feeling it was time, especially with my bloody show and the contractions I’d been having.
A cup of OJ, fresh strawberries and a shot of castor oil all blended together went into my belly around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Jacob and I went to Fred Meyers that afternoon, and did something we never do — bought 3 movies. Then we did something else we never do — watched two in a row. We just knew something was going to happen.
At 8 p.m., about halfway through the second movie, I began to feel a warm liquid start to flow out of me. I dashed to the toilet, excited and hoping this was it. I couldn’t tell if it was my water breaking, me peeing myself, or just lots of discharge. I called my midwife, she said it probably was my water breaking, and to see how the night goes and come into the hospital in the morning unless labor progresses faster.
So we went for a walk, and one hour later, the contractions started. Jacob got the biggest grin on his face during those early contractions. It was time!
I always wondered what contractions would really feel like, and to me it felt like really, really bad menstrual cramps. Before being pregnant, mine were pretty bad, so being worse means they were really uncomfortable.
Fast forward a couple hours, and the contractions were about 1-2 minutes apart and about 30 – 45 seconds long. I was feeling kind of freaked out—how could it be happening so fast? I spent a good amount of time in the shower, letting the warm water run down my low back (which was a big part of where I felt my contractions) for a little relief. Nothing really made them change. Jacob was on the phone with our midwife a few times. We both didn’t know why they were so close so soon. Was my labor really happening this fast?
Around 11 p.m. we tried to get some sleep, knowing we had a long night ahead. I couldn’t nap, they were so close together. I made it to 12:30 a.m. Monday morning and told myself at 1 a.m. we would leave the house and head to the hospital. I could make it just 30 more minutes, right?
At 12:45 a.m. we got the bags, and were in the Jeep on our way to the hospital.
At 1 a.m., we arrived at the family birth center. I got hooked up to two monitors—one for my contractions, one for Hunter’s heart rate.
A nurse checked and indeed my water had broken — we were there to stay. When my midwife arrived, she checked to see how much I’d progressed — 3 cm., almost 100 percent effaced and he was at zero station, meaning very low, locked and ready to go!
After 30 minutes on the monitors, I was free to move as I pleased. I walked around the room a lot, spent some time in the tub, and did some hands and knees rocking. I was feeling pretty drained from the lack of sleep and began to drift off to sleep between contractions.
Typically things start to progress along in labor — longer and stronger contractions that get closer and closer together. Well the opposite began happening for me. They kept getting further apart, leaving me with 5-6 minutes of rest in between each (before they had been 1-2 minutes apart). I was even able to get an hour-long nap in, and apparently I had a 24-minute break from contractions at that time.
Although the relief was nice, I knew it wasn’t a good sign.
By noon on Monday, my midwife decided to check me again, only because my labor didn’t seem to be going the right way. At that time I was 5-6 cm. dilated. I had made progress, just slowly. We decided to give it a couple more hours to see if things picked up before talking about other options.
The nurse did some acupressure on my feet/ankles and we tried hot wash cloth nipple stimulation—both things that can help pick up contractions. I moved around the room, did lunges, got on my hands and knees. I wanted my body to do this on its own without help.
Four p.m. rolled around and I was checked again — only 6 cm. dilated. Barely a change. Since my water had broken at 8 p.m. the night before, the 24-hour time clock was counting down. Note: If a woman’s water breaks, after 24 hours, doctors often recommend interventions.
I knew what my options were going to be, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice with them, but when my midwife suggested a little pitocin, I broke down and cried. It’s not what we wanted or planned for. The lack of sleep was making me pretty emotional, and at the time I felt like a failure. Why couldn’t my body do this? Did I do something wrong? This is not what we had planned.
We said OK to the pitocin. Our midwife knew what we wanted, but sometimes things change with unexpected situations. I started off with the smallest dose of pitocin, which we hoped would kick start my body back to where it needed to be. For the next hour I got two tiny increments.
Things were starting to pick up. By 6 p.m. the contractions were much, much stronger. I could no longer walk them off. I’d instantly have to get on my knees, arms on tub, with Jacob putting hot compression on my back. It was the only way I could deal with them. There wasn’t talking, just walking then onto my knees during the pain.
I wanted to be checked again, hoping I’d be at the point of pushing. Pushing meant the contractions would soon end and Hunter would be here.
Only at 9 cm. Keep moving as much as I can. Keep things moving and get to that 10 cm.
Just about every 20-30 minutes, I asked to be checked again and I was stuck at 9-9.5 cm. It seemed like I was stuck there forever.
Contractions were back to back and I could barely deal with them. I kept saying that I wanted to push, but they knew I wasn’t ready. I wishfully wanted to push. That would mean it was over.
Stuck at that 9.5, I began to feel defeated. I kept telling them I couldn’t doing it any more. Jacob and my midwife would encourage me and get me through that contraction, one at a time. My breathing would start to get out of hand, then Jacob would start doing the slow deep breathing and I’d begin to mimic him.
In my head, each time I said I couldn’t do it anymore, to me that meant I needed drugs. That’s the thing about transition, you begin to say things you don’t really mean.
Since I kept having my midwife check me, she was skeptical about when I’d really need to push. She said there were behaviors she would see and she’d know it was time.
It felt like I was in transition f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Every check left me disappointed since each time I had not reached 10 cm. There was this tiny little lip that just wouldn’t budge.
When I switched from ‘I feel like I need to push,’ or ‘I want to push,’ to ‘I need to take a poop!’ that was the sign!
My midwife checked me once again and although I wasn’t at a 10 still, she told me to push with the next contraction and she’d see what my cervix did. During that next contraction, I pushed, she pressed that tiny part of my cervix over (holy ouch!) so he could begin to pass and it begun.
I was so glad to start pushing. Finally the end is near! My midwife saw I still had part of my bag of water in tact, so she broke it. Surprisingly there was meconium (baby’s first poop) in the bag. That meant the neonatal staff had to be there just in case he swallowed any of it, which would be bad.
The team was intact. Me on the slightly inclined bed, my midwife there to catch Hunter, the nurse holding my left leg and Jacob on my right. It took me a few pushes to really get the feeling of what pushing was like. Honestly, it’s the same feeling as pushing out a poop. Just gotta give in to the feeling.
I’d get two good pushes out of each contraction, try to catch my breath and push for a third. Everyone was cheering me on and telling me what they could see with each push. The feeling of his head making its way past my cervix was crazy. I thought he was already out but that was just step one. Once he passed the cervix, I was in a rhythm. A contraction would come, I’d take a breath in, let it out, take another deep breath in, hold it, pull my legs back and push like crazy. Pushing was amazing. I was doing something! I couldn’t believe the lack of pain I felt during the pushes. Contractions didn’t hurt anymore.
When his head started to crown I could feel the burn begin, but my midwife used oil and helped stretch me and he began to emerge, quickly. Once his head was out, I just wanted to keep pushing, especially since it felt sooooo weird just having his head hanging out! A couple more pushes and boom he was out, face up, fist under chin and screaming like crazy.
Just 28 minutes. That’s all it took to push out our 7-lb., 12-oz. baby boy Hunter.
They put him on my chest right away since he looked and sounded good (the neonatal nurses left). All I remember saying was ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh’ and that he was so big! Jacob thought he was big, too, but apparently he wasn’t to the nurses. To us he was!
Our baby was in my arms. He was perfect. After the cord was cut and placenta delivered, my midwife was going to stitch me up a bit. I had tiny little tear, and since it was so little I was given the option to not have stitches, which I decided against.
About 30 minutes after he was born he’d already started nursing — for 30 minutes! He was a champ from the beginning.
We let them weigh him, give him his vitamin K shot, then he was back in our arms.
I could not believe how quickly he came out, especially being a posterior baby. All that working out I did during my pregnancy definitely had me ready for the big pushing event, which much like working out, I loved.
Jacob was amazing the entire time. He was my rock and kept me from freaking out when my contractions would get intense. I felt so much support for our choice for a drug-free childbirth, not only from our midwives (we started with one, ended with another), but the two nurses we had at the hospital as well. There were definitely some moments I didn’t think I’d make it, but once it was over I couldn’t imagine having done it any other way.
The birth of my daughter almost seems abstract after three years has passed. She has grown up to become an intelligent, strong willed (aka stubborn) and confident little girl. Raising small children is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, and it has challenged me to become a better person through all of the difficulties.
Prior to Isla’s birth, it was hard to comprehend the reality of becoming a father. I felt a much deeper connection with my wife and fell madly in love with her beautiful pregnant body. It sounds a bit odd, but we often joke that I had developed a bit of a fetish. As her due date approached, we began to get everything organized for her arrival, but it still somehow didn’t feel real. I had not yet developed the connection that Nicole had already begun to experience through carrying her for 9 months.
We were a couple of days past the due date and were taking everyone’s advice and enjoying our time alone before Isla’s arrival. We had stayed up a bit late and I had probably had a little too much wine, I was drinking for two after all. Nicole woke me up around 2 a.m. and told me that she thought her water broke. I asked her if she was sure that she hadn’t just accidentally peed the bed. Being the good husband, I took a peek under the hood and confirmed that it was in fact probably not just urine. She tried to go back to sleep and I began to time the contractions to see where we were at. We quickly realized that we were too excited to sleep and that the contractions were getting closer together. We called the hospital and they wanted us to come in because her water had broken. They assured us that we would be able to come back home for early labor, so I didn’t even grab the hospital bag. Everything that we had learned about the first birth was that it would be a long experience.
On the short drive to the hospital I passed the entrance and had to execute a U-turn. I was clearly a little nervous at this point. We got checked into the triage room and apparently Nicole had progressed enough to need a doctor’s opinion on whether or not we would be able to go home.In the short amount of time the nurse was consulting with the OB everything began to change. The nurse came back in and looked at the strip and told us we were staying. Now I felt like a complete idiot for not grabbing the bag. No worries, I would speed home while they got her settled in. Twenty minutes and no missed turns later I was back at the hospital and Nicole was in serious pain. When I walked in she asked me for some pain medication. I waited until her contraction was over and let her know that she could do it without the meds. I’m not sure if she just needed that quick reminder or just needed to know that I truly believed in her, but that was the last time that topic came up.
As the labor progressed I had no idea what to do. The first few breaks between contractions I was offering her water or wiping her brow and asking her what she needed. I quickly realized that I was interfering with her and that I needed to get out of her way. At this point, she turned inward and I was awe struck by her amazing focus and strength. She was in serious pain and from the outside, it seemed as if she was in a trance. We were fortunate enough to have extremely knowledgeable nurses who were very supportive of an unmedicated birth. We had a shift change around 7 a.m. and Valli would be our primary nurse for the day. She showed me different ways to press on Nicole’s hips and back to help relieve the pain and it made a massive difference.
The rest of the morning is a bit of a blur as we moved back and forth between the tub and the bed. She tried several positions, but lying on her side seem to work the best while I pressed hard on the top of her hip. I was literally standing on the seat of a chair for leverage as I pushed with as much strength as I could muster. Both of our mothers were in the room for support, and at some point someone asked if I wanted breakfast. I realized that I was hungry and Nicole’s mom offered to take over while I had a quick bite. After one bite and the first contraction, it was clear that Leslie wasn’t able to apply enough pressure, so I was back in the game. Food would have to wait. Nicole’s original plan was to have as few people in the room as possible, but once she began laboring she was happy to have the support that we did. My mom has been a labor and delivery nurse for over 30 years and it was amazing to have her in the room. She had a very calm demeanor that radiated to the rest of us in the room.Nicole’s mother was in the room as well and was extremely supportive and did everything she could do to help. It’s interesting how the plans changed in the moment and how well Nicole did with little subtle twists.
Around 10 a.m., Nicole was fully dilated and it was time to push. For some reason, I thought this would be quick. Once again, I was reminded of how little I knew about childbirth. I watched as Nicole gathered everything she had to push Isla into this world and felt completely helpless as she neared exhaustion. I was overwhelmed with emotion because I could do nothing but stand by her side and encourage her. She was in the middle of the hardest fight of her life and I had to let her handle it. We tried several different positions for her to push from and ended up with her feet up on bars on the end of the bed. She was given a towel to pull on that was connected to that same bar. Her strength during the pushing was amazing.
The doctor was called in and I could tell that she was becoming impatient with the progress. She told one of the nurses to draw up a local and I guessed that she was about to conduct an episiotomy if things didn’t progress. I leaned down and told Nicole that she was almost there and that she had to push as hard as possible. She knew what was going on despite her exhaustion and that was all that she needed. A couple more big pushes and we got to meet our daughter for the first time.
It was amazing to watch her come into this world. Saying it was surreal would be an understatement. She didn’t make a peep when she came out. They immediately placed her on Nicole’s chest and there was a massive wave of relief that washed over the room. Nicole was now the mother to my daughter and I have never been more proud of her than I was in that moment.
The staff became a little worried with Isla’s color and the fact that she hadn’t let out a good scream. They checked her O2 saturation levels and became a little concerned that they were a bit low. My mom was an amazing resource during this time because she assured us that everything was going to be fine. I fully trusted her experience and knowledge and the conviction she had. Over the course of the next few hours, her oxygen levels drifted slowly higher to an acceptable range and everything looked good. We were in the clear and had a perfectly healthy baby girl.
The experience of Isla’s birth was profound on many different levels. I was witness to the miracle of childbirth and the amazing strength of my beautiful wife. It’s still hard to comprehend and process everything that happened that day, but becoming a father has changed a lot of things in my life. My intent is to provide the anchor that they need as they grow and explore and figure out what they want to pursue in this world. The responsibility has awoken in me the desire to accomplish more and live life intentionally. I don’t think that I have fully comprehended how much my life has and will change. It’s exciting to think about the journey ahead with this little addition to our family.
Danny Lesslie of Dadswagger wrote this story about his second-born daughter, Ace. Dadswagger empowers fathers to be present with their families. His Instagram account features images of dads being dads in their everyday lives, and illustrates the power of a present father. Hear more on Danny’s birth and fatherhood perspective here.
Birth Story of Ace
Birth—what a crazy experience! It really is hard to put into words and feel like I have even scratched the surface or the emotion/experience of it all. The first birth was a true rite of passage for us. I have never been a part of something so visceral, and wildly joyful at the same time. There were moments of sheer terror, and moments of unequaled gratitude. My wife, a warrior and a champion of humanity, took no drugs, and fought tooth and nail for hours for us to meet our first daughter. I watched and was by her side as it all went down, with the few bouts of nausea, and 2-3 near blackouts. Not to downplay the pregnancy, because that was no easy task. I just got to go along for the ride and see what strength really is.
After all was said and done with our first, it turned out that we were still discussing the birth all the time. My wife was, and still is dealing with the psychological and physical implications of creating, and birthing a human. This is quite a journey and everyone has some serious adjusting and healing to do. If I had it all to do again, I would do exactly what I did. I believe my wife would say the same. We would change nothing. Our daughters are beautiful and bring us more joy than I can explain. But birth is traumatic, it is not a pleasant experience. Each birth is in the wild success column, and each birth was completely different, and equally as traumatic.
For the birth of our second daughter, my wife was 7 cm dilated when we got to the birth center. If you don’t know this is well on your way, 10 cm is the number to start pushing and baby is coming soon. We got to the birth center about 6 a.m., and she had our daughter by 8:45 a.m. This birth was way faster than our first. My wife was also present the entire time. In the first birth, it was almost like she left her body, and her body did the work. I distinctly remember the moment she left, and the exact moment she returned. This is part of the mysteriousness of the whole experience. In the second birth, she was lucid and battling demons and pain the entire time. It was truly an amazing thing to be a part of. Let no one ever tell you birth is easy, or downplay the strength of a mother. I am about to reinforce this with our birth story. The pushing, the screaming, the vicious reality, the hope and excitement when you see your child’s head. I can’t help but get teary eyed talking about it.
Then came the moment, my wife pushed one final time and our baby’s head came out, then quickly came the rest of her beautiful little body. The first time you lay your eyes on someone you created is a moment I wish for all of you. You can’t help but lose your breath and just feel humility for the blessing. The sense of warmth in my heart and soul radiated through my whole body. We still didn’t know what we had. Boy or girl. Our trusted midwife Robyn immediately laid the baby on mama. So then we looked, we had a girl. YES! We couldn’t be more proud, and grateful. I cannot explain to you the sense of relief when your child is out safely on mama’s belly. Everyone was finally calm. The crazy confusing hurricane of birth was past us. While you are anxiously awaiting the birth, contraction to contraction is like a roller coaster if you were blindfolded, you are on the verge of sick the entire time, sweating, and your heartbeat is through the roof. This can go on for hours, with no end in sight. And finally it comes to an end, and all your anxiety melts into pure joy, relief.
Our midwife then began to do the post-birth activities, one of which is clamping the umbilical cord. She grabbed onto it, as mama and I were fawning and feasting our eyes on or new baby girl. When suddenly we realized something was awry. The umbilical cord just pulled right out. It was attached to nothing. This is a big “no bueno.” If you have never been a part of a birth, the baby is the first thing to come out of mama. Then must come the placenta. This is attached to the umbilical cord. Typically, you grab ahold of the cord and apply traction. While doing this mama, has a few more contractions that help push her placenta out. This is not a pleasant or comfortable thing for mama, either. The placenta is not meant to stay inside the mama. When it does, it is called a retained placenta. Although somewhat rare, this definitely does happen. Our well-earned relief quickly took a very sharp and treacherous turn. As if birth was not enough of a traumatic experience, we then learned that our midwife was going to have to go on a recon mission for the placenta.
You can use your imagination as to what has to go on here, but this bad boy has to come out. Our midwife calmly went through the options with us about how to frame this and move forward. After a painful and exhausting 30 min. or so of failed attempts at getting the placenta to come out, we as a team—midwife, mama, and papa—decided it was time to go in. By going in, I mean going in to the hospital, which means drugs, and a whole host of things we specifically chose to avoid. Herein lies a risk in out-of-hospital births. There are some things that are just not possible. We were willing to accept these risks. We were all heartbroken. Such a moment of joy, and still mama was not in the clear. She was far from it. In these moments where she should be basking in the warmth of her new baby on her chest, she was quivering with exhaustion, and facing the reality that she still had work to do.
We made the choice to send our older daughter home with grandma, I would stay at the birth center with the new baby, and our midwife and my wife would go to the hospital. I almost threw up even playing this out in my head. Fuck no! I won’t let my wife go alone, without me. But we were not taking our just-born daughter into a hospital waiting room. Not a chance. So I was stuck. Then my mind began to race. In this moment that is supposed to be so perfect, I am horrified as I hold my brand new daughter. What a weird moment in time. My heart didn’t know whether to be completely broken, or to be exploding with joy. I now have two baby girls, and I am shuttering at the thought of my wife not being OK. What if by some crazy circumstance my wife doesn’t come back? What if something goes wrong and I am not there? How is this now a life and death thing? Is this a possibility? My heart was hurting, I wanted to burst into tears as I watched my wife endure this. But we were going forward. It was the only way.
My wife stood up off the bed, quivering. We all felt so defeated. We began to wipe her off, and wrap a towel around her to get ready for the trip to the hospital. I had a thought, and asked her to squat down and see if that might help the placenta move along. As she squatted down, all that once was hope, like a small candle in the distance began to grow. She peered down between her legs, and there it was. She said she could see the placenta. So Robyn encouraged her to try to grab it. I was fully goose-bumped and almost shivering as this went down. It was like God put a handle on that weird looking squishy thing. My wife grabbed onto her placenta and pulled it out. WHAT?! Let me say that again: MY WIFE GRABBED ONTO HER PLACENTA AND PULLED IT OUT! Now THAT is some POWER OF A WOMAN WARRIOR SHIT! What was a terribly dismal and heartbroken scene, exploded into pure awestruck jubilation. I swear my heart skipped 20 beats. We were all in tears, we were all just giddy. My wife was OK. I cannot relay the sense of calm in my heart at this moment. It almost seemed like we just played out some sort of unrealistic fantasy together. Reality was bent. I still have to pinch myself to know it’s really true. No matter what happens, you better read the last page of that book. Holy moly, is there some serious truth to that statement?!
Then our midwife helped my wife to the shower where she helped her to shower off, and we were good to go. With a little bit of relaxing we were in the car headed home. We joked about going to get waffles for lunch. This was crazy, this whole thing still has me speechless. It still seems fake.
I was seriously taken aback at the thought of possibly losing my wife while sitting there holding our daughter. For some reason, when you think of having a baby, you don’t think about loss, or problems, or that everything and everyone might not be OK. These moments are burned into our story, and they are forever etched into the story of my wife’s strength as a human and as a mother. I am in awe! I am so blessed to have such a wife, and two powerful and beautiful baby girls.
My wife and I always spoke about having many kids. I was the one who wanted to push four to the craziness of six. After this birth, my wife said that might be the last baby she has. I couldn’t be more in agreement. I harbor no ill will to this perspective after watching her give birth to our two daughters, and watching the recoveries from both. Each birth had its own drama, and its own trauma. Don’t let anyone tell you birth is not beautiful, but there is also a dark side. It forever leaves scars, it forever leaves emotional and psychological hurdles to be dealt with.
I can tell you this: I don’t want to be back in the shoes of being in a life and death situation again. Making those choices haunts a person. We were crazy fortunate to have made out like birth bandits on this day. We have two beautiful girls, I have my warrior of a wife, and I have to tell you there is nothing more I/we need.
Each day, I see my three beautiful girls, and they all remind me of the strength of the others. I will never forget the experiences of seeing them both come into this world. I look at them and I see the strength of my wife, I look at my wife and am eternally thankful for the two amazing gifts she has given me. This is all positive. Granted, birth is like going through the ringer and then being run over by a truck, and I am the dad. I don’t know how my wife does it. Let me tell you, watching someone go through and experience what I have described is an amazing thing. Talk about falling hopelessly in love. This is my life.
For most of my pregnancy with my first child, I was planning a natural hospital birth with midwives present. At about 24 weeks, when I was supposed to take the gestational diabetes test, I started to have second thoughts. I had done a lot of research and took all my at-home blood sugar monitor numbers to my midwife (all of which were totally normal), and just because I refused the test, they marked me as having a high-risk pregnancy and tried to guilt me into taking the test anyway. I didn’t feel respected or supported, and I didn’t want to have to feel that during my birth, or have to advocate for myself that strongly. When my husband and I met my home-birth midwife, Sarah, the first time, it just felt right. She had the right mix of an evidence-based scientific approach, and an ease about her that made me feel comfortable. We talked through all the scenarios that might cause me to have to go to the hospital, and what it would likely look like if I did.
I called into work on a Monday morning, two days before my due date, and said I wanted to take a half sick day from home. I wrapped some things up, and started to get some light contractions by lunch time. I tried to take it easy during the day, but it was in the middle of a weird late-September heat wave in Chicago with record high temperatures and I hadn’t slept in four nights. After I went to bed, I was getting contractions about every eight minutes. I knew I should try to sleep, but I was on my phone tracking contractions, and jumping up when I had them, and leaning against the wall because I had a sharp feeling in my tail bone. I was up every eight minutes all night, while my husband remained asleep next to me. I woke him up at about 4:30 a.m. as I was about at the point in which I needed labor support to get into different positions. We waited until about 6 a.m. to call my doula and my midwife, when my contractions were about five minutes apart. Then we went downstairs, and I threw up.
My doula arrived first, and was helping me manage the pain by making noise through the contractions. We had shopped the night before for labor food, and she was making me eat anything that sounded appetizing, which I think was just a smoothie and coconut water. When Sarah arrived, she talked to me and did an exam. I found out that I was only at 3 centimeters dilated. This was devastating, and I was exhausted. She told me to stop making noise and that I needed to rest. She gave me the option of either having a glass of wine or taking a Benadryl. I chose wine, and she said to drink it and get in the bath. She was doing this to slow down the labor so I could get some rest. She also told everyone to go home so that I wouldn’t feel pressured in any way. I had the wine and the bath, and pretty quickly the contractions went down to every eight-10 minutes and were less intense. I laid down in a dark room, on my side, with about three pillows under my top leg because I was still getting that sharp tail-bone pain. Shockingly, the next eight hours seemed to go by pretty quickly, just trying to rest and taking it one contraction at a time.
By 4 p.m., my mom and my mother-in-law were there, and it was time to call the doula and midwife again. Contractions were back to five minutes apart, and felt much more consistent. My doula, who arrived first, was really focused on making me drink coconut water with every contraction, I think I went through about 8 liters that day, and she helped me to breathe more deeply.
I was trying to bargain with her. This was really hard, and I said I think I could do it if it would be over in the next few hours. She replied, “You are doing it,” and assured me that the baby would come before the end of the day. Sarah was back, and this time I was at seven or eight centimeters dilated. I had some leaking fluid, but the midwife tested it and couldn’t tell if my water had broken yet or not. I was still resting on my side during contractions, but she wanted to play with different positions to intensify the labor. I had to be ready to work now, resting was over.
I turned to the other side, and she had me put the other leg up and push against her during a contraction. She asked how it felt, and I said much worse, to which she replied, “Let’s do that for the next three contractions.” Then she suggested I get in my bath. I was worried that it would slow down the labor again, but she said that at this point, there was no going backward. It was really intense in the bath tub, and she was making me lean over the edge so that I was above my baby during contractions, and then lay down to rest in between them. Everyone was really cheering me on. At one point my sister came in and heard a contraction and started saying, “Aww, poor thing,” and I said I didn’t want that kind of energy. It needed to stay positive.
I got out and I asked to be checked again. I was almost there, 10 centimeters with a little flap still in the way. She said to wait to push until it felt like I couldn’t not push, like my body was just bearing down. I pretty much did feel like that. We tried a few different positions for pushing, but what felt the most comfortable was sitting down on the toilet with my legs on the squatty potty. I had visions of squatting my baby out, but not exactly like this.
My master bathroom is large and from the 70s, and all the walls are mirrors. We had a soft red light in there, and I had nine people in there. I was pushing, and I could feel the head moving down. Pushing on the toilet, I felt like I could be done in a couple more contractions. Sarah asked me to move to my bed to push for a bit. I laid down on my back and pushed, but I didn’t feel nearly as much movement from the baby as when I was on the toilet. I felt like I was wasting my time there. The assistants were bringing in hot towels and putting them on my perineum (which now I am so thankful for because I didn’t tear at all).
Soon we got to move back to the toilet, and everyone was gathered around. Then my water broke, and splashed into the toilet. It startled me and actually splashed a few people. And within a few more pushes, my baby’s head was out. Sarah gently held his head in me while I got off the toilet and got on all fours on my bathroom floor. I actually asked if I could have a few minutes before I could push the rest of the baby out. I looked at Sarah and she was kind of laughing and saying “no.” Oh, just a few more pushes, but I was exhausted. He came out with his hands up by his neck, and he was handed to me and I leaned back to hold him. I walked to my bed with the cord still attached, and tried to latch him. He was very alert and he started to breastfeed.
While breastfeeding was supposed to help bring on the contractions for the placenta, that didn’t really happen. I just said that I didn’t feel anything. I got a shot of pitocin about 20 minutes after Connor was born to help stimulate the placenta. Still nothing. I got another shot about 40 minutes later. Still nothing. I wanted it to be over, I just wanted to be with my baby.
Everyone was cleaning up around me and eventually they weighed and measured the baby. Sarah got everyone out of the room and had my husband hold the baby next to me so I could focus. I wanted to talk about what had just happened and how amazing my baby was. I never really felt contractions for the placenta, but at one point, over 90 minutes after the birth, I said I felt some pressure and they had me push. The placenta came out, thank goodness, because apparently I was really close to having to go to the hospital for that after my natural home birth.
I had a lot of support at home. My mom stayed over for a couple nights to help out, and both my doula and midwife came back over for the next few days to check on things. I felt really supported, and it was a great way to welcome my baby to the world.