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When Matt and I found out that we were pregnant, we knew that we wanted a different birth experience than a typical hospital birth. I had done my research and learned a lot about the ways in which birth had become a real money making business for the hospitals if done “correctly.” This means getting the mom in and out as quickly as possible with the use of medical interventions such as Pitocin and C-sections. This is not what I wanted for our birth so we decided to look into birthing centers staffed by midwives.
We ended up connecting with Alma Midwifery in Portland and we have never once regretted that decision. We had a team of three midwives who were absolutely incredible. All of our appointments were personal and thorough and we had a part in all decisions regarding my pregnancy and labor.
I had a fairly normal pregnancy, which was thankfully free of complications. We planned to labor at home until I had progressed to a latent stage and then transfer to Alma’s beautiful birthing center.
As the last weeks of my pregnancy arrived, I was feeling very ready to meet our baby. I was pretty uncomfortable and honestly, with all the free time I had, I was going a little stir crazy. Our due date was anywhere between June 11th and 15th, although I had a feeling it would be closer to the 11th.
And so it began, at 2:30am on June 12th, 2014. I had taken something to help me sleep, as the pregnancy had made it increasingly difficult to make it through the night without waking up eight times to pee. I awoke to a contraction that was stronger and more painful than any that I had previously experienced. I struggled to make it to the bathroom through the contraction and the Unisom induced haze. I prayed in that moment that labor hadn’t started because I was afraid that I would be too groggy to get through it!
I went back to sleep and woke again at 4:30am to more painful contractions that I was unable to sleep through. I decided to stay in bed to try to sleep through them as I could.
I noticed that I was waking up every ten minutes as they were noticeably painful. As my husband Matt slept next to me, I debated when I should rouse him to let him know how I was feeling. Around 6:30 I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had some bloody show. I knew then that labor had probably started. I woke Matt and asked him if he was ready to have a baby that day. He responded, “Seriously, it’s happening? Awesome!” We decided that he should stay home from work as the contractions had become stronger as we got closer to eight ‘o’clock. We laid together and cuddled. He rubbed my back as I went through each contraction.
By about nine we had let our midwives know that we felt labor had started. Kori said to stay in bed, eat, drink, and rest as best I could. Matt brought me a Gatorade and made me eggs, bacon, and toast. I did my best to eat in between contractions, which were now coming at uneven intervals but sometimes as often as every five minutes. By 9:30 I was unable to lay in bed and was needing to use the wall, the edge of the bed, or Matt’s hands to squeeze to get through each contraction.
At around noon Matt drew me a bath, which was a nice relief as my contractions had grown very painful. He sat with me in the bathroom and poured water on me, rubbed my back, held my hands, and talked me through each contraction. He would tell me how strong I was, that I was doing so well, and that he was very proud of me. He would also pray out loud for the Lord to help me through the pain and I noticed an immediate relief each time he did this. I decided at this point that it was time for one of the midwives to come over and at around 1:00, Kathy texted that she would be there in about 45 minutes.
After the tub, I got into the shower for a bit and the contractions came on strong and consistent. I was now crying during some of them and using a lot of vocalizations. The pain was very intense and I was eager for Kathy to come so that she could tell us it was time to go to the birthing center, as I was really looking forward to getting into the big tub. At around 1:30 I started to feel nauseated and Matt quickly grabbed me a bucket so I could throw up. I felt somewhat better afterwards but the contractions were now coming every two to three minutes. Up until this point I had been very pleasant with Matt but he had begun to pack up our things and was now asking me questions during my contractions, which I had asked him not to do. I eventually yelled, “would you just shut up?!” I immediately felt terrible and began apologizing. Matt was totally unfazed and continued to be sweet to me, what a guy.
At 2:00pm Kathy came in while I was in the midst of a strong contraction and she was quiet and reassuring. She rubbed my back and talked softly and reminded me to visualize my cervix opening. I realized that I needed to relax more into the pain in an effort to allow my body to work more efficiently at opening. She then suggested that we check my cervix to see where we were at. She reported that she felt baby was at -1 station, that I was 80% effaced, but that I was only dilated 2 centimeters. She said that we most likely had a while to go and that we wouldn’t be able to go to the birthing center that early. I was very disappointed and I bawled during my next contraction. I felt concerned that I wouldn’t be able to last through the rest of the labor at this pain level as I was already very exhausted. Kathy suggested that we do our best to get me comfortable as she felt we had a long road ahead of us.
I decided I wanted to get back into the tub and she and Matt helped me to transition there. At this time Kathy said that she was going to leave so that we could continue laboring in peace and she asked us to call if we felt that things were progressing or if my water broke. I was a bit unsure about her leaving but I was too tired to argue and just tried to get my mind focused on opening my cervix more and more.
As I lay in the tub, the exhaustion overtook me and I was dozing off in between contractions. They had slowed to about every four to five minutes now and had lessened in severity, although still very painful. I was worried that my labor wasn’t progressing and felt sure that I was going to be in labor until late that night. Matt went to lay down for a while as I could barely stay awake. I stayed in the tub and labored surprisingly quietly until about 3:45 when I asked Matt to come help me get out of the tub and I headed for our shower in the other bathroom. Matt then excitedly called out that my mucus plug was in the tub and that I should come see it. I wasn’t all that interested and continued on my journey for the shower. (It’s pretty cool to have a husband that finds all the gross stuff about pregnancy and labor not only acceptable but also interesting, lol)
Once standing, the contractions started to get stronger once again. I was beginning to use the walls and handrails in the shower and was vocalizing more and more. It was after about ten minutes in the shower that I started to feel a strange sensation like I needed to either push or have a bowel movement. As I was unsure about what was happening, I decided to head for the toilet. As soon as I sat down I had an extreme urge to push and felt totally out of control of my body.
Matt came in and I told him that I felt like I was pushing. I was also making sounds now that were so loud and so foreign, I can only describe them as animalistic. Perhaps if you crossed an angry woman with a gorilla, elephant, rhino, and lion, you might hear the sounds that I was making. I was sure that my neighbors were freaked out, and as I learned later, they were. LOL! I recognized this as one of the signs of the transitional phase of labor and also noticed that my expression and overall feeling was one of a crazed woman. I knew I looked crazy and I apologized to Matt who laughed at how ridiculous my apology was.
I was still on the toilet, and after involuntarily pushing during about five contractions, my water broke. We decided that was needed to get Kathy back over to our place right away. When Matt called her and told her that my water had broken and that I was pushing, she asked to listen to my contractions over the phone. Once she heard my safari animal vocalizations, she told Matt that we needed to get to the birthing center immediately.
Matt got off the phone and told me that we needed to go. I looked at him like he was totally insane. I was totally naked, contracting, pushing, and screaming every two minutes and he wanted me to get dressed, walk down two flights of stairs, get in the car, and drive to the birthing center. I started crying and repeating, “I can’t, I can’t, there’s no way, I can’t do it.” Being the strong and supportive labor coach that he was, he felt that he had prepared for the moments in which I said I couldn’t do it and felt that all he needed to do was reassure me that I could. He began to do just that and was saying “yes you can babe, we’re just gonna get you dressed and ---,”....yea, he didn’t finish that sentence before I screamed, “NO I CAN’T! This baby is coming NOW! He’s coming out! I won’t make it to the car...I LITERALLY CAN’T GO!” He then rushed to call Kathy again.
She told him to stay put and that the team was on their way. He came back in the bathroom and I was crying and asking where they were because I knew that the baby was coming soon. Now keep in mind, it was only about 4:45 at this point so this was less than three hours after I was only dilated to 2 centimeters! Talk about shocked!
Matt turned on the flashlight on his phone and tried to see if he could see the baby’s head. He looked and saw what he thought was the head, but at this point he chose not to tell me. I reached down and felt something but was totally unsure if I was feeling the baby or my own flesh...it’s all very confusing in the moment! Matt then told me that we needed to get me off the toilet and onto the floor in a hands and knees position so he could catch the baby if he arrived before the midwives did. He was so calm! When I would ask where they were he would say, “babe, they’re on their way but who cares, we’re gonna be fine! I’ll deliver the baby!”
As assured as he seemed, the thought of my untrained husband delivering our baby on our not so freshly mopped bathroom was a little frightening. I told him to put down some towels and I transferred to the floor like he asked me to. As I stared down at the square patterns on our towels and contracted and pushed, I felt as though my insides were no longer inside! It was at this time that I yelled, quite comically, “My butt’s exploding!! I think I am going to die!!” Matt was quick to reassure me, quite sternly, that I was not going to die and that I needed to stay positive.
At about 5:10pm, Kori and Kathy came rushing in. Apparently Kori took the elevator at the end of our very long hallway, and even though she was eight months pregnant herself, she ran all the way to our apartment. When she saw where I was at she told Matt to grab large garbage bags, which luckily we had! We placed them on the bed and the floor in between our bed and dresser. Kori then had me get onto our bed on all fours so that she could see the position of the baby.
At that point she told me to reach down and feel my baby. I was shocked and totally excited/scared. I told her that that was what I had been feeling for the past half an hour! After my next contraction she said that I was going to have the baby in the next two pushes but that she could tell that I needed to be in a better position. She had me transfer to the space between my bed and my dresser and asked me to squat and push with all I had.
All the while, she was checking the baby’s heartbeat and all I remember feeling was that he must be in distress with all the intense pushing I had been doing! I was so worried about him and just kept asking over and over, “is he ok?!” She assured me that he was fine but that I needed to give it all I had. I bared down with Matt on one side and Kori on the other and pushed but the pain was so intense. It was burning so much and I just begged them to get him out.
After that contraction she asked me to hold on so that she could use the olive oil to soften the skin and to push it back around his head. She asked me not to lose the progress by allowing him to slide back in at all. It was so hard to hold in that position but I did it. When the next contraction came 30 seconds later, she said “this is it, now push Amanda, you can do it!” I squatted down again and pushed with all I had. Before I knew it I felt this incredible surge of relief and there was my baby in front of me, crying loudly, looking very pink, and being held by my husband and my wonderful midwife.
I was still in an awkward squatting position, and was thoroughly freaked out by how quickly everything had taken place, that when they asked me if I wanted to hold him, I immediately said, “No! Who is that??” LOL. It seems utterly ridiculous to me now but at the time, I was so overwhelmed by what had happened, was afraid I would drop him in that position, and at that point he seemed like a stranger to me!
I quickly got into a better position and they laid him on my chest. I was so overcome with joy and love and more emotions than I can even explain. I cried and laughed and made a lot of terrified faces for all the photographs that Kathy was thankfully taking for us.
The aftermath was a bit frightening as I did lose a lot of blood. Luckily though, I had a very capable team to help me and I knew I was in good hands. As I lay on my bed next to my husband, baby on my chest, bliss in my heart, I couldn’t believe what we had just experienced. I was a mother and a strong one at that.
I am finishing writing this as Carter just turned 13 months and I am still on a high from the birth and what I was able to accomplish. I feel as though I can do anything and I am so looking forward to my next birth experience. The joy of seeing my little boy and holding him for the first time was the most special moment of my life. He is a spit fire and his personality definitely fits his birth story….he doesn’t like to wait for anything.
We made it to the birthing center later that evening. We were pampered by incredible round the clock doulas and it was so magical. I couldn’t have imagined a better experience. Next time though, I think we’ll skip the drama of trying to leave the house and just plan a home birth!
Amanda | Portland, Oregon | Mama to Carter, 2