Photography by Meagan Nicole
Read more about having a natural birth doula.
It started out like any other day. Got up with the kids, made breakfast, dressed kids, cleaned up the house. The morning bathroom visit had a very small amount of pink mucus and diarrhea. These are really great signs that labor may be soon! Truthfully I was in denial. Thinking “well it is pink, but it’s not blood red so maybe it’s nothing” I’m the 40 week pregnant lady in denial that labor is imminent. That’s me! I texted our doula and photographer and let them know today may be the day.
My rockstar of a mother in law was coming over to drop off a mountain of food she had cooked for us. She walked in with a large crate of homemade food around 11:20am, amazing!
I was starting to feel longer Braxton Hicks with a very small cramp/twinge. We played with the kids while I sat on my ball. Not really focusing on anything. Braxton hicks continued and around 12:30 we made lunch for the kids and my mother in law and I chatted about whether she should stay or go. I didn’t want to burden her if it wasn’t the real thing, but she had good intuition and decided to stay. I texted our doula that the Braxton hicks were continuing with small cramps. They were sporadic and nothing serious. I had lunch and decided to take a nap with Luke at 1pm.
Around 2:15 pm I woke up from nap. Luke was still asleep next to me. I had about 5 small, very mild contractions. They were short but I did have to breathe through them. Luke had woken up so I stayed in bed trying to get him back asleep until around 2:30 ish. Mathieu then informed the team of the update, but that it all was still mild. Since Luke was asleep in our bed, Mathieu and I walked over to the baby’s room to be together.
We labored in the nursery peacefully. Small contractions, but had to close my eyes and breath through them. I was sitting in the rocking chair when I shared a story with Mathieu:
When I woke up from nap, I decided to talk to my mom and dad in heaven. You ever hear the saying that angels are holding your baby for you until they are born? Well, I told my mom and dad to give the baby one more hug and kiss. When they were done they could send the baby to me. Mathieu and I cried together in this moment. This saying must be true because thirty minutes later serious labor started! Thirty minutes later! I do believe they were holding onto him until it was the right time.
I labored gently, sitting in the rocking chair and Mathieu started to time the contractions. We stayed here for about twenty minutes. Then I stood up and labored over the side of the crib, Mathieu standing next to me the whole time. My hips swaying next to his. He was reminding me to breath and to let go, assuring me that I was doing a great job. My mother in law brought in a bowl of fruit and asked if we needed anything. Contractions were about five minutes apart but I still felt it was early. Rather than follow the timing of the contractions, it's best to listen to your emotional signposts. For example, being chatty and alert are typical early labor signs. Comparatively, being focused and quiet could mean you're progressing into a serious, active stage of labor. I was still talking between contractions, but my full focus was needed during the contractions. Here’s more denial. Thinking, "this isn’t real yet, don’t call anyone, it could be hours." Silly Heather.
Around 3:37 we got up to go to the bathroom. We used the kids bathroom since Luke was still asleep in our room.
Mathieu sent a screenshot of the contraction timing to our doula Steph. She indicated she would work on leaving where she was and head over. He told her things weren’t too intense and we discussed my emotional sign posts: mildly serious. I had a couple contractions on the toilet, with the goal of having another bowel movement. I absolutely hate sitting on the toilet in labor (though it is amazing and I make all of my doula mamas do it! I’m sorry, I love you). The toilet is a great tool to relax your muscles and open up, but it’s just too much open for me, too much release. So I decide to sit on the edge of the bathtub instead. I did the same thing with Luke’s labor. I feel like I have more control and can still relieve myself or catch anything in the tub that may come out. We called Steph to check in.
My contractions now shift and are strong, intense. Things changed so quick! I need to hold onto Mathieu, I can’t be alone anymore. Moaning, groaning, clutching onto Mathieu. I can feel a lot of pressure and opening in my hips with each contraction.
3:57pm We had Steph on the phone and my water broke while I sat over the edge of the bathtub. I had not felt this with the other two, what a weird sensation! I asked Mathieu to check if the waters were clear and it was. We hung up with Steph and called the midwife. Everyone is now on route to our home. Things changed so rapidly. When your bag of waters is in tact it provides a cushion during contractions. Once it breaks, you lose this cushion and the contractions can feel more intense. Boy did they become intense! They were coming fast, strong and I felt a lot of low pressure and my hips opening. We went from mildly updating everyone-to-you better get over here as fast as you can. Mathieu and my mother in law worked on filling up the birth pool. I was still sitting on the edge of the kids bathtub, calling Mathieu back to me with every contraction. My rhythm with this labor was to hold onto Mathieu's neck with my face pressed against his. This was my need for coping and if I didn’t have this, it felt impossible. I felt a ton of pressure and could feel my body using downward force with the contraction. I said, ”put a towel on the floor just in case.” It really felt like he was low and could possibly be born very soon.
By now Luke was awake and out of our room. The birth pool wasn’t ready yet but I needed water asap to cope with the contractions. I started filling our normal bathtub and labored in there for a little bit. I just needed hot water. What an amazingly simple tool! The contractions were so strong but the hot water was just enough to take the edge off, to make me feel like I wasn’t losing control.
4:05pm I was laboring on my knees in our normal sized bathtub. This was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t open my legs wide enough, but I just needed to be in water. The contractions are definitely pushing for me at this point. The moaning and groaning had stopped and I could feel that I was using energy to grunt down, quiet.
4:12pm Mathieu called the midwife to inform her I had the urge to push and that my body was pushing during contractions. She was on speaker phone and I can hear calm voice saying, "try not to add any extra effort on top of those body pushes." I tried my best to breathe through them.
4:25pm The birth pool was ready. I wasted no time and climbed in. Mathieu was always by my side and I continued to grip the back of his neck with each contraction. He turned my birth playlist on. It is still only Mathieu, my mother in law and the kids present in the house.
4:40pm Our doula Stephanie arrived. She helped with adding hot water to the pool, giving me counterpressure on my hips and giving encouraging words. My body was working for itself and was pushing all on its own. I gave no extra effort on top of these surges because I knew the midwife hadn’t arrived yet. I wasn’t holding back but I also wasn’t fully bearing down.
4:50pm Mathieu checked with our midwife Zaina for her eta. She was stuck in traffic but said that her student midwife was about 15 minutes away.
5:10pm Student midwife Tali arrives. She entered the room peacefully, set down her things and asked me if she could check the babies heart rate. “Yes please,” I told her. 127-135 very good! She reassured me that I was doing great, the baby was doing great.
5:17pm midwife arrives. She also enters the room peacefully, sets down her things and listens to a couple contractions. I later learned that she told Tali she was going to go change her clothes, but she didn’t have time for that because…
5:23pm the baby's head begins to crown. What a force! I had more control over this stage with my past labors. I was able to bear down, slowly stretch, and slowly feel the baby descending and slowly begin to crown. But this time, it went so fast. I had nothing to do with it! I screamed out loud from pure surprise. The whole head was born in one contraction. There was no slow stretching, no control. I was certain I had a tear.
(look at my amazing midwife! Stretching her body to help hold the baby as he is born.)
5:24pm Meagan our photographer literally runs in at the perfect moment! Our doula said “everyone is here” to reassure me that everyone had made it just in time.
5:25pm one more contraction and Theo was born! Zaina could see he had a nuchal cord and worked to unwrap him in the water, between my legs. He actually had a double nuchal cord that was very tight. He was placed on my chest with a blanket and Zaina was gently massaging his back.
He hadn’t taken his own first breath in 30-45 seconds so Zaina instructed Tali to try the bulb syringe to stimulate him. After a couple failed tries with this, Zaina then peacefully grabbed a floating board and oxygen mask. He was laid on the board in front of me and was given only a couple breaths before he started on his own. His heart rate was strong and just needed a little help to get his first breath. The team was very calm and reassuring during this time. There wasn’t a sense of fear or worry, for me at least. He was then laid back on my chest. Around this time is when I learned it as a boy!
5:27pm first cry. The kids were in the room and welcomed their new baby brother. Nora was infatuated! Her smile was soft and permanent. She gently touched his head, gave me kisses and told me multiple time that I did a good job. Luke exclaimed that he would like to go swimming and hold the baby.
5:38pm Theo latches for the first time
I spent about thirty five minutes laying in the pool with Theo on my chest. He was nursing so strongly! I could start to feel small cramps. Hello third stage.
(Bradley Method tradition to have orange juice after birth to refuel your sugars, liquids)
(The whole crew, dog included)
I could feel cramps and started giving gentle pushes to birth the placenta. But I knew it wasn't going to come out in the pool laying down. I knew I had to get up and out of the water. The team supported me out of the pool while I held Theo.
Full team effort to get me over to the bed. Slowly moving, no rush. Covered in chux pads, towels, a hand to lean on, encouraging words and love. The placenta is born bedside and the midwife helps to guide it out and place it in a bowl. Once I'm comfortable in bed, the bowl is placed next to me, under the blanket. The cord is still in tact.
The kids are SO excited to see him and to give me kisses. It is so special (for all of us) that the kids were present. I hope Nora is old enough to remember it. To remember how strong her mama is and how strong she can be too. To be connected to her little brothers forever.
We prepared the kids by talking to them about the baby, about the things they might see and hear. We also watched Luke's homebirth video together a few times. Nora was so impatient in the final weeks. "Is the baby coming today?," she would ask me almost daily.
We had time together in bed. Skin to skin and nursing. I had a snack. Mathieu cut the cord and the midwives took the placenta into the bathroom to inspect it.
Then he had his newborn exam on our bed.
He never left my sight
Eight pounds and seven ounces
With all three kids, grandma gets to put on the first diaper. It has become a tradition. I am so happy that she has been present for each birth.
Theo is handed to Mathieu who is sitting next to me in bed. They continue skin to skin together while I have my exam. No tearing! Just a small bruise. Hallelujah! I couldn't believe it! At the speed he came out I was positive there would be a tear or two, or three. Thank you squats and perineal massage during pregnancy! Nora and Steph held my hands during the exam. Nora told me I was doing a great job!
Now a family of five.
The team cleaned up the room, gathered their supplies and gave me instructions for the next couple of days.
Labor of love
Born at 5:25 pm on 2/2/22
Three hours of labor