Photography by Meagan Nicole
Read more about having a natural birth doula.
The last few weeks of pregnancy I tried to focus on self care. I journaled about the birth: about my fears, my hopes, my wants. I visualized every step of the birth: the baby being born, the contractions, crowning, pushing. Everything. I didn't want any lingering fears to hold me back in this labor, like my first birth. I made sure to get squats in before bed every night, pelvic rocks and stretching were my go-tos to feeling comfortable.
I was mentally and physically preparing for this moment the best I could.
Friday. May 17th, 2019. 39 weeks and 4 days.
2:45 am- I woke up with what felt like braxton hicks but with a small backache. I had been having braxton hicks regularly for the past few weeks so I did not think this was the beginning of labor...at all! Just another BH with an annoying additive of a low backache. I tried to go back to sleep but the assumed braxton hicks continued and the backache remained. I thought to myself, "maybe I have to go to the bathroom?" Thankfully our bathroom is right next to our bedroom, only a few steps away. I returned to bed and these annoying BH continued. I got out of bed again and got down on my hands and knees to do some pelvic rocks to try and shift my uterus out of my pelvis. Thinking, they have to stop now...right?
2:55 am- I went back to the bathroom and stayed in the bathroom. A good sign that labor will begin/pick up soon is when your body cleans itself out. I was there...Meanwhile, my husband is still asleep. I honestly didn't think anything real was happening! So I didn't wake him. I had been in the bathroom for about 10 minutes, Mathieu woke up and came to my side. The "braxton hicks" continued and I stayed on the toilet.
3:00 am-The strength of the contractions increased and started to come faster. These weren't braxton hicks anymore. Mathieu suggested we call his mom. She was the first person on our birth team we contacted because she was to be on Nora (our 2-year-old daughter) duty. I didn't want to call her, what if this is still nothing? Clearly in denial about labor actually being real. He gave me all the good reasons we should call and have her come over. I agreed and he went downstairs to call and to let our dogs outside. This first agreement was also my mental acceptance.
Yes, labor had started. Yes, I will birth my son soon. Prepare yourself vagina, it's happening.
3:14 am-Mathieu came back upstairs. I was still in the bathroom. I remember saying " no, no, no" at the start of the next contraction. Doubting if I was ready for this and also getting used to the pain. He started timing the contractions with an app. I had a contraction and heard a splash in the toilet. My water had broken. I moved over to the edge of the bathtub. The toilet seat felt like gravity was pulling everything down and I needed more stability.
3:30 am. Grandma arrived and helped us gather supplies. I needed my music and speaker, but I also needed Mathieus support. She also grabbed clementines and apple slices for me. The sweetness of the fruit was very refreshing and gave me energy.
3:35 am-called the midwife to let her know that labor had begun. Gave her the stats for our contractions. Contractions were 2-ish minutes apart lasting 30-40 seconds.
3:43 am- Still on the edge of the tub, a contraction came and blood tinged mucus appeared with it. A sign that my mucus plug had come out. We called our doula and gave her the stats of our contractions. Mathieu put her on speaker phone so we could talk and so she could hear and assess my progress on the next contraction. You can tell a lot about a woman's progress just by the sounds and body position she is making.
The timing here is a little fuzzy but we had the birth pool blown up the night before, resting vertically against the wall. To make room for it to be in the room, we had to move the table at the end of our bed to the side of the bed. When I came out of the bathroom, I positioned myself on the edge of that table, now at the side of the bed. It was the perfect height for my feet to be flat on the floor and to feel secure in my position. Sitting on a towel and a chux pad, leaning over Mathieu's shoulders with every contraction. I needed his support with every contraction, he was always by my side.
When a contraction stopped, he would give me water and a clementine. Music playing, candles on. One contraction after another, I'm focused at this point and not really sure what is going on around me but I felt safe, strong, and comfortable in my space. I was in my rhythm now, I knew what was happening and what I needed to do. I wasn't afraid of the pain anymore.
Mathieu was reminding me to breath and to relax with every contraction. He later told me that he didn't know what else to say in the moment and felt bad he kept repeating the same thing. But it was needed! I needed to be reminded to breath and to relax because every contraction is brand new. Those reminders (no matter how small) take your mind off of what is happening and puts your focus on the acts of breathing and relaxing. It made the contractions bearable and allowed me to get into my rhythm.
As a new contraction began I would tell him, "another one" and I would lean over his shoulders and he would tell me to breath. We stayed in this pattern for hours. Sometimes I didn't even have to say anything, he could tell by my face that another one was coming on.
I knew my team was working on getting the room prepared to their liking and I didn't need to be involved at all. They allowed me to do the most important work. If anyone needed anything, they would talk to Mathieu so I could stay focused.
4:40 am-Midwife arrives. She checks the babies heart rate with a Doppler. He is doing great!
5:00 am-Photographer arrives
5:10 am-Student midwife arrives.
The team was working on filling the pool up with hot water. It was hooked up to our washing machine connection but that quickly ran out of hot water. Thankfully, Mathieu is a home brewer and had a massive 9-gallon 'mash and boil' tank that keeps water at a constant temperature. Our doula worked on getting that setup.
5:20 am-Our doula and friend Stephanie arrives. She rubs my lower back, offering counter pressure during the contraction. She had a selection of essential oils with her and she had me test smell each of them to see which one I liked best. She massaged it on my lower back. I could tell now that the sun was up, the curtain was open and the light was pouring in. I said, "The suns up? we've only been at this for 20 minutes!" The focus of labor completely takes away the concept of time; which is a gift. You don't want to know how much time has passed, how long you've been in labor.
I had created a beautiful playlist for this day. It was playing in the background and I only remember seconds of each song playing. Except for one. It played at the perfect time and I sang the words in my head as it played. "I was here" by Beyonce. It's one of those strong songs that gives me chills and makes you believe you can do anything. I also love Beyonce..alot. :) the link above is my favorite version and favorite video.
it played at the perfect time. we were halfway into labor and I was starting to feel like it would never end. questioning everything, doubting myself. and then the chorus played...
I was here, I lived, I loved, I was here I did, I've done, everything that I wanted And it was more than I thought it would be I will leave my mark so everyone will know, I was here
I am here, in labor. I can do it. I can do everything I wanted. I gave my all, did my best. This was a powerful moment for me.
6:00 am-I had been seated at the table by the bed for over an hour, so our doula suggested moving positions. Doing so helps labor not to stall or slow down. I walked over to a chair in the corner and sat back down. For some reason (and this was the same with my daughters birth) I felt strong and in control (as much control as you can have in labor) in a seated position with my feet on the floor. I never liked laying down so moving around just to get in the same position was not what everyone had in mind, but it worked for me.
6:09 am- I got in the pool. Grandma stopped in the room with Nora to say good morning and to give kisses. Nora was shy but sweet every time she came into the room. She would dart in and out of the room to go play somewhere else with grandma.
My contractions slowed down immediately as soon as I got in the pool. This made me nervous because I thought we would have hours to go still. I was chatting with everyone and the midwife reassured me that the slow down was normal. My body was giving me a break. This slow down spaced the contractions out but not for very long. Soon we were back to our normal rhythm.
one contraction at a time, resting in between
6:28 am- Every contraction felt like I had an urge to push now. Since we had only been in labor a few hours, I wasn't sure if I should push or if we were even ready for this stage of labor yet! I asked the midwife if it was okay to push, she agreed to let my body react the way it needed to with the contraction. I really enjoyed her "hands-off" method. I was never checked internally to see how many centimeters I had dilated. She was more confident in reading my body language and sounds. And it was a huge weight off of my mind to not know how many centimeters I was or how far we had to go. There were no interruptions, no stress or worry over numbers or time; just letting labor work the way it needed to.
6:31 am- I thought I could feel his head, so I reached down but couldn't feel anything yet. This was a moment of bravery for me. With my first birth, I was too afraid to feel for the baby, too afraid to make a wrong move. Also afraid of what I would find if I did feel for baby, would it scare me? But I felt in control, strong and when I did finally feel his head, it was magical.
6:40 am- I lean over the side of the tub, for support and to be closer to Mathieu. The contractions were stronger now than they had been and I could feel my body moving into the pushing stage. Every contraction had an automatic response from my body to be rounded over and to hold my breath at the peak of the contraction, to push my baby down.
6:55 am- I again reach down and could feel something there, but it felt very small and round. I thought perhaps I was feeling the cord, that's how circular it felt. The midwife checked and confirmed it was not the cord but the molding of the baby's head. I can't believe I just felt his head! He's so close.
I begin pushing now with more focus. After a few pushing contractions, I can feel the burn of his head crowning. There's this moment when you're pushing, the body is working to get baby out but also not rushing itself. Natures way of stretching and helping you not to tear. It's the "two steps forward, one step back" moment. I can feel with every push that the baby's head is putting pressure on and stretching my perineum, and when the contraction stops this pressure subsides. Imagine putting on a turtleneck sweater, VERY slowly and then deciding maybe you didn't want to wear that sweater so you start to take it off, oh but wait you do want to wear it so you pull it back on. seriously...
We were here for a handful of contractions, slowly making progress. I said out to everyone, "damn that whole 2 steps forward one back thing!" I felt that if I gave just a little more energy then his head would be born and we can finish this dance. I pushed with intensity, the amount of time I could hold my breath comfortably. A little bit forward and a little bit back. Grunting and giving everything I had now while waiting to work with the force of the contraction.
i could feel my fear welling up inside inside as he was sos close to being born. To shake this fear off, I said out loud to myself , ”I can do it, I can do it, I can do it”
until finally his head is born.
His head is born and Mathieu reaches down to catch him, midwife standing near.
a couple more contractions and his shoulders are out, then his body slides out. This is a weird but amazing feeling!
He stays underwater for just a moment. The midwife moves the umbilical cord from around him. Then Mathieu carries him up and hands him to me.
7:02 am- Hello beautiful boy!