“You are strong enough. In my weakness. God be lifted up. And I will sing. Lift Your praises high. Lord be magnified. You make all things new. I will believe.” ~Hillsong’s “Believe”
I love birth. I’m just going to say it again: I love birthing my babies.
At first I thought it was just the euphoria of my first few weeks postpartum. Was I still just riding the adrenaline high from the labor?
I don’t think so. Baby Girl is 6 weeks old today, and still say: “I could do that again.”
This labor was pretty much the labor of my dreams...
“Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We won’t know how strong until we’re pushing out our babies.” ~Louise Erdrich
Around midnight on Wednesday, August 22, I went to bed…thinking I had just a couple more days until I was facing an induction but ever hopeful that Baby Girl would come on her own.
Around 2:30 a.m., I woke to use the bathroom–and I never went back to sleep.
Looking back, I think I did feel some cramping sensations in my sleep sometime between midnight and 2:30, but I never looked at the clock or fully woke up, so I do not truly know when the very first contraction hit, but I consciously felt the first one at 2:30. After using the bathroom, I saw more evidence that I was in labor with my bloody show (sorry for TMI!).
I walked back in my bedroom and woke my husband, Will: “I think I am in labor!” I told him I was calling Gayle, my doula. I called her and she said I was probably in early labor and should try to lie back down and go to sleep.
By this point, the contractions felt a little stronger, but I could still talk. But I knew I couldn’t lie back down. They were already too painful for that. I felt hungry, but the thought of walking downstairs was even daunting. The contractions were coming faster and stronger by the minute. I leaned over the bathroom counter and envisioned my body opening up like a flower.
“A woman in birth is at once her most powerful, and most vulnerable. But any woman who has birthed unhindered understands that we are stronger than we know.” ~Marcie Macari
I decided to take a shower. A shower is always the first thing I do when I know I’m in labor. I tried to count how many contractions I had in the shower. It was hard to keep up because there didn’t seem to be much of a break in between them!
When I finished my shower, I ran hot bath water. I had always been under the impression that you cannot labor in water if your water has broken (this is actually up for debate), so I had never labored in water before but had wanted to. Since my water had not yet broken, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to try laboring in the tub. Because I knew I wanted a few pictures while laboring, I put on my maternity swimsuit (which came in handy later when we were leaving for the hospital! I just kept my suit on!).
To be honest, the water felt good, but I also think it made my contractions stronger. They were incredibly intense. I had always heard that contractions with the water bag intact don’t hurt as bad as those after the water has broken. This was my first time labor WITH the bag intact. These contractions were pretty intense…and I had just started labor!
I asked Will to get my birthing ball from downstairs. The ball had helped so much during my second labor. Only about 15 minutes had now passed since I woke to use the bathroom and felt the first contraction.
By the time Will got back upstairs, I could barely talk. “I think you should call Gayle,” I told him.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
When Will told Gayle I could barely talk, she said she would come over immediately. While I was waiting on Gayle to arrive, I started humming very loudly. She had taught me how to hum like this just a couple days before. It’s called bumblebee breathing, and in my mind I was trying to hum louder than the intensity of the pain of the contractions.
Something I felt this time that I don’t remember feeling before was my baby making her way down the birth canal. I could feel her moving and the contractions all at once. Yes, it was very intense! The contractions were all over, but I especially felt them in my back, which confirmed to me that she was posterior, just like my other girls. After three posterior babies, I think the shape of my uterus must coax them into that position.
When Gayle arrived, she attended to me in the bathroom, humming along with me and giving me water to drink. I was incredibly thirsty, but at this point I felt like I couldn’t eat. Will made sure the car was packed, and he brought our computer upstairs with my birthing playlist on. The only song I remember hearing at home was a JJ Heller song. “Awww–it’s our playlist,” I remember thinking. And then I went back into the “zone.”
By around 4:15 a.m. or so, I was already feeling the urge to push. To be honest, this was somewhat alarming, as I was less than 2 hours into labor! I looked at Gayle incredulously and said: “I feel like I need to push!” By this point the contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart.
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” ~Isaiah 40:29
Gayle said we should make our way to the hospital. In my mind, it still didn’t register that I was entering transition. I was for sure I had a few more hours left of labor. I didn’t want to get out of the bathtub at that point because I was scared of laboring in the car. The ride to the hospital is definitely my least favorite part of natural labor!
But, looking back, my contractions actually felt less intense when I got out of the water. I easily made my way down the stairs and told Gayle I needed to use the bathroom before we left. I ended up not using the bathroom, but as we were leaving the house, I said something to Gayle that I had never voiced during my second labor and first natural birth: “I can’t do this.”
“Yes, you can,” she said. “Yes, you can.”
Honestly? I don’t know that I was referring to the labor itself as much as the car ride!
But this car ride actually didn’t seem as bad as last time. And the hospital is only 7 minutes from our house. But still…as I was trying to call my midwife’s after-hours line (which I almost forgot to do), I had to hand my phone to Will because a contraction hit and I started humming.
“So, hear this song. Receive our praise. You are our strength. For all our days.” ~Hillsong’s “Believe”
I LOVE the hospital where I birthed, but the ER is less than is to be desired. The ER receptionist was, well, not sensitive at all to the fact that I was there and about to give birth at any moment! She took her sweet time (as both Will and Gayle also observed), and I think I even asked her if we could hurry things up!
I glanced at the clock while waiting. It was just before 5:00 a.m.
The nurse who came to meet me with the wheelchair (which was a relief…the maternity ward is on the complete opposite side of the hospital from the ER, so I did NOT want to walk there), remembered me from my last birth.
“You went natural last time, too, didn’t you?” she smiled.
It made me feel good she remembered me…but I later realized that these nurses see such a small percentage of women go natural that I guess when someone does it is pretty memorable!
(By the way, my nurse’s name was Janie, and she has had 6 natural births herself!)
As soon as I sat down in the wheelchair, I yelled: “RUN! You can RUN with this wheelchair! RUN!!”
I don’t think she ran, but it did seem like she sped up!
While in the elevator, I started humming very loudly again–and screaming: “Oh Jesus, help me! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” (I later told my husband: “I hope they didn’t think I was taking the Lord’s name in vain!”)
When we entered my room, I remembered being surprised that what seemed like a swarm of nurses was waiting on me. In my previous experience, you only have one labor nurse, and other nurses come in to assist at the very end.
It hadn’t hit me yet: “I WAS at the end!”
“Am I in transition?” I think I asked someone. “Oh yeah,” they answered back.
They started talking about who would deliver if my midwife didn’t arrive in time. Really, it was all very exciting–and I didn’t feel scared one bit! Was it painful? Yes. But emotionally, I was in complete peace and my previous fears didn’t even cross my mind.
The nurses were all very kind and wonderful and the best group of cheerleaders a birthing mother could ask for. One of them took off my skirt and someone checked me for dilation. I was at an 8. A few seconds later my water broke. I must have closed my eyes because I don’t remember much of what I could see at this time, but I just remember shaking all over on the bed and screaming over and over: “JESUS!!! JESUS!!! JESUS!!!”
“You are my light. You are my strength. You are my Rock. On You I stand.” ~Hillsong’s “Believe”
At this time, I heard another song from my playlist: “Believe.”
And one word that stood out to me was “strength.” He gives strength. HE gives strength. And I felt that strength surge through my every inch of my being.
Soon after, my midwife arrived: Lynn. My entire pregnancy I wondered who would deliver. Oh how I had stressed myself over which midwife would be on call. Would it be Beverly? Oh, how I loved Beverly! Really? She was my favorite…and I am sure all the midwives knew that. You form a special connection with the people who attend your births. Beverly delivered my second.
But I didn’t mind the other midwives, and Lynn was one I most definitely felt comfortable with. (And now I absolutely LOVE her.)
When she entered the room, I felt myself smile. I had seen her less than 36 hours before and talked to her on the phone the day before. She had talked me through my fretful decision to cancel the induction.
Before coming to this hospital, Lynn had worked in a birth center. And, boy, could I tell! She checked me, and I was at a 9. A few minutes later I was at a 9 3/4. Soon after, I hit 10.
When Lynn saw how much pain I was experiencing in my back, she immediately said: “Can you get on all 4s?”
You see, back labor indicated to Lynn that Baby Girl was posterior…her little face was facing up instead of down. Posterior babies are much harder to birth–and many end up in C-sections. I had birthed two other babies in the posterior position. But I certainly wanted the opportunity to try to get Baby Girl to turn face down!
And she herself helped us confirm her position. For a very few seconds while I was pushing while lying down, the room fell silent as one of the nurses said: “Look at her feet! Look at her feet!” All of the nurses, Will and Gayle gathered around my belly. They could see Baby Girl’s tiny feet pushing against my belly, which showed she was lying on her back. Her spine was pressing against mine.
I had read about the all 4s position for pushing, and I was eager to try it. So I turned around and hugged the back off the bed and pushed in a semi-squatting/semi-all 4s position. As humiliating as this position would have been if filmed on tape, I absolutely loved it. It was much easier to rest on the back of the bed during contractions than it is while trying to hold your legs up into a pushing position while lying on your back.
While I was pushing this way, I remember hearing the Joy Williams Christmas song playing: “Here with Us.” The thought of Jesus being born flashed before me.
Pushing this way took all the pressure off my back, and Baby Girl turned. Yes, she TURNED!
When she turned, Lynn told me to turn back around. And that’s what felt right to me as well.
I could feel Baby Girl crowning. I had heard about the “Ring of Fire” before, but I don’t remember it hurting very much. But this time I felt it. Lynn talked me through the stinging. But, honestly, I knew I was at the end, and it made it bearable. I reached down to feel Baby Girl’s head, which was so encouraging to keep me going.
And baby girl was out. I pushed 40 minutes total, which may seem long for some–especially for a third birth–but it was my shortest pushing stage ever. And I think the fact that I pushed on all 4s and she turned made it so “short.”
Lynn helped me and Will reach down to deliver Baby Girl ourselves. We pulled her onto my chest and let her begin to nurse. I then delivered the placenta. This was my first labor to actually remember pushing the placenta out.
Baby Girl entered the world at 6:03 a.m., Wednesday, August 22, 2012. From start to finish, my entire labor was only 3 1/2 hours long!
Will cut it the cord after it stopped pulsing. I continued to snuggle Baby Girl, and no one asked to take her away (as they had in the hospital with my firstborn). I held her as long as I wanted. When they finally weighed her, she weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs., 2 oz.!
Gayle suggested that we wait to bathe her and that I not take a shower for several hours, so we could just bond and so that Baby Girl would have the familiar smell from the womb on her body. So we spent the day nursing and cuddling and sleeping since Will and I were up most of the night.
Oh, Your love
Your love it never fails
Your love, it knows no end
Your love will never fail
Oh, Your love
Stronger than my shame
Greater than my pain
Your love will never fail
I will believe ~Hillsong’s “Believe”
She may have been 12 days “late”–but she was absolutely worth the wait.
“So the question remains. Is childbirth painful? Yes. It can be, along with a thousand amazing sensations for which we have yet to find adequate language….” –Marcie Macari
Watch Hillsong’s “Believe” below. I pray it blesses you and you can praise Him through it.
If you can’t see the video, click here.