Time for a birth story. I believe I’ve edited out most of the “whoa, tmi” details. John wrote the chunk of it with my two cents attached, so that is what is below. It was the most incredible and spiritual experience of my life. I knew even before I became pregnant that as long as I was healthy and my baby was healthy and we had a “low risk” pregnancy, that I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated childbirth. That was always my goal. We decided to have a Certified Nurse Midwife and have the labor & delivery at a free standing birth center. The birth center is a very homey environment where I’d be free to labor however I wanted. The rooms have a big bed, low lights, a shower & tub (should you want them), birth balls & stools, bean bags, anything you could want. The nurse and midwife are the only ones in and out of the room and they are only in as much as they need & you want them to be. You are allowed to eat and drink freely — they encourage it, labor is hard and you need to keep up your strength. An epidural isn’t an option there. They have some mild pain meds that they can give if you want, but I told them I wasn’t interested in knowing what they were and for them to not offer them to me unless I asked (spoiler – I never asked. I went into the experience thinking it wasn’t an option and the thought of not being able to do it without pain meds never even came into my head – I think it helps if you just don’t consider it an option at all.). John wanted to be able to catch the baby, to be the first person to hold our daughter and the birth center allowed this also. They put her on my chest immediately for skin to skin and delayed exams so we can bond, they delayed cord clamping, they encouraged breastfeeding as soon as the baby was ready (in my case, not too long after she was on my chest.) — all the things we wanted and could not necessarily get in a hospital environment.*
From Rhianna —
John is much better with words than I am – he is the talker in our relationship, so I let him write the birth story because I know he’d say it better than I ever could. But here are my two cents…
John told me later that our birth story was almost boring. Of course it is far from it, and he did not mean that in a negative light at all, but everything was so very calm and went so smoothly that it really isn’t that exciting of a tale as far as drama goes.
I had no clue on Wednesday (January 8th) that I would get to see our baby the next day. I had been having increasing Braxton Hicks but nothing worth noting and certainly not strong & regular so when things picked up very slightly there was not a thought of “this might be early labor.” However, my water broke and I knew it was actually happening. Once active labor started I turned inward and was in my zone. I didn’t want to be touched during contractions and didn’t want music or anything. I did not know what I would be like during labor but I am a fairly introverted person who spends a lot of time inward, so it did not surprise me that I hardly spoke and stayed in a zone. I can only describe the feeling as being in some sort of spiritual trance. My body was doing the work and I calmly let it. When it came time to push I remember pushing feeling good. Fulfilling the urge that I got felt right and I knew I was close to meeting our daughter so I started to get excited. The feeling when Lyra was placed on my chest, with her extra-long cord, was the greatest feeling in the world.
Here’s the birth story as told by John —
I have no problem elaborating on a story (like the one about the time I got arrested at a Motley Crue concert— no charges!), but the fact is, because of our preparation and Rhianna’s unwavering strength and focus, our birth experience was simple, calm, and pleasant.
Rhi’s water broke at 9 pm on Wednesday night. The amniotic fluid was clear, and she hadn’t experienced any contractions of magnitude yet, so we just went right to bed, excited that we’d be parents by the next night. A few hours later, she had some more significant contractions, tried out a bath, but went back to bed, calmly laboring at home, the two of us watching tv and reading until around 1 pm the following afternoon.
Then, however, things started to escalate. Rhianna went from a birth-ball to her hands and knees, handling the contractions expertly, though no longer able to chat through them. After another hour and a half, it was time to head out, Rhi having told me that our 40 minute trip to the birth center might not be tolerable after much longer. When we arrived a little before 3 pm, the initial cervical check saw Rhianna at 4cms. Instead of being a little anxious or discouraged (everyone wants to go in and be told to just start pushing, right?), Rhi and I just sort of took a few deep breaths and quickly wrapped our heads around what we assumed was going to be a very long process. After about half an hour in the shower, Rhi went back to bed, lying on her side, changing positions whenever Emily or Nicole (our wonderful midwife and nurse) suggested she should. Nicole and Emily were only encouraging, and the next few hours just sort of floated by on our collective positivity, Rhianna vocalizing throughout intense contractions, resting—almost sleeping—in between them, her eyes closed, practically in a trance. She stayed on the bed, she breathed through the work, and she remained calm and focused to a degree I just haven’t ever seen before. She didn’t yell at me, or speak to me crossly (which is good, because unlike her, I would have burst into tears); in fact, she barely spoke at all. Around 6:20 that evening, Maureen came in to check on Rhi, having heard some change in her vocalization during contractions. She asked if she could perform a second cervical check and we agreed she could, although—as noted in our plan—we didn’t want to know the number. But after checking, she said, “I don’t have to tell you the number, but are you ready to start pushing?” Rhianna went from 4cm to 10cm in a little over three hours—and at 7:32 pm, I helped catch our daughter, Lyra.
I am, and will remain, unabashedly grateful regarding our birth process. Lyra’s heartbeat never wavered, and although she had a quadruple nuchal chord, Emily instantly unwrapped her and handed her over to mom. Everything went so well that Rhianna, just a few minutes later, remarked, “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. I could have five more babies!” Emily and Nicole made sure to compliment her efforts again, and said she was welcome back any time— I, however, am now keeping an eye out on Craigslist for quintuple bunk-beds.
Overall, our process was enjoyable (albeit in an unorthodox way) and straightforward—Rhianna knew the work she had to do, so she did it. She was in utter control throughout, and because of her strength, her trust in her body, and some bit of great fortune, our birth process was wonderful, and, thank goodness, quick. And Lyra’s been pooping and peeing up a storm; she took to nursing quickly, and isn’t even too rough on us at night. Other than the fact that I can’t run to the grocery store without tearing up and yelling, “I miss you!” as I walk out the door, everything is going just superbly—which is, I’ll admit, nothing more than I’d expect from my beautiful wife, and now, my beautiful daughter.
*I would like to add here that in the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) of North Carolina, most of the hospitals are becoming more and more natural birth friendly which is awesome! It’s a great place to give birth. Also — I understand that all interventions are sometimes necessary and I was open to any and all of them should I really NEED them. I think a lot of time they are given without being needed and I wanted to try my hardest for as natural a labor process as possible. Luckily, and I am truly so so so grateful, the baby and I were safe and healthy the whole labor process so no interventions were needed. This is such a touchy subject and I’m not trying to sound as if my way is the right way for everyone. After a lot of research, tons of research, John and I decided this is what we wanted and what was best for us.