I have been toying with the idea of sharing Gabriel’s birth story on my blog for 3 months now. Being transparent and open on my blog is something I feel has been a great thing for me…and every time I open up and share something personal, my readers really appreciate it! Giving birth is quite possibly one of the most personal and vulnerable times I will ever face…and a lot of women face it every single day.
One of the things I heard the most when I was pregnant was, “Are you going to get an epidural? Or are you going to try natural?” First off, I want to say that “natural” is ALL childbirth. Giving birth IS NATURAL – any way that you do it. “Unmedicated” is a better descriptor, I think. Secondly, I would always tell people that yes, it was my intention of having an unmedicated birth. Most people wanted to tell me that I’m crazy or that “an epidural is always an option”. So if you’re in that boat…you’re not alone. If unmedicated is what you feel in your heart is best for you and baby….trust yourself. You were made to do this!!
Lastly, I didn’t hire a birth photographer to capture my labor & delivery. I knew that I would need calm and quiet with as few people as possible in the room. Next time, I may hire one…but I’m glad I didn’t for my first. Our doula took a few iPhone photos, which I won’t share here, but those photos, as terrible as they are (it was nighttime, so they are SO grainy) are incredibly precious to me and Nate and the thought of the world seeing them just doesn’t feel right to me.
This birth story is long, I know. But it’s our story…and I didn’t want to forget a thing.
Gabriel’s Birth Story – November 25, 2016
On Thanksgiving day, Nate and I decided to stay home, watch movies and take it easy. We knew Gabe’s due date was Thanksgiving or the following day and we wanted to use the time to spend together, not wrapped up in all the craziness of the holiday.
Around noon on Thursday, I started to feel what felt like period cramps – they would last about 30 seconds- 45 seconds but would only happen every 30-45 minutes. In between each early contraction, I would convince myself that what I had felt earlier wasn’t a contraction and I wouldn’t feel it again for a long time. That would be about when I would feel another one! At this time, I was very excited…but cautious. I knew that these kinds of contractions could go on for just hours…or could extend into days! I even texted my doula, Amy, and she said that it sounded like things were happening, but nothing to get excited about just yet!
Around 3 or so, Nate and I got dressed and went to Cracker Barrel for a Thanksgiving meal. It was so nice outside, we were able to sit in the rocking chairs and chat while we waited for our table. Before they called us back to our table, we also chose two ornaments to mark the occasion. We found the cutest white fuzzy polar bear ornament for Gabe’s first Christmas! This ornament will always be so special for us! We also got an ornament that has Isaiah 9:6 written, “For unto us a Child is born.” That one is special too because, the Bible verse is about Jesus, but we also had a feeling that unto us a child would be born very soon!
After we had a delicious meal (I ate very lightly and packed in the protein…just in case) we headed home. My contractions were still very light and were still around 30 minutes apart. We got home and went back to our business of just hanging out!
Around 8PM on Thanksgiving, my contractions had picked up to be about 15 minutes apart, lasting about 45 seconds each. They were still fairly easy to get through. I was still able to lay on the couch and read without much discomfort. Nate went out to a few Targets to get some Black Friday shopping done for his Amazon store and I stayed home to relax. Around 10:30PM I thought it a good idea to get in bed and try to get some sleep. Well… I should’ve tried that sooner in the night, because right when I laid down, my contractions increased in intensity and I could no longer just rest through them…they were requiring some breathing and working through!!
Thankfully Nate got home around 10 and he was able to help me through them. We got in the shower to let the hot water run over my lower back and I “slow danced” with Nate through each contraction. That worked for about 10 minutes before I couldn’t stand through the contractions anymore! We got out quickly and I ended up in Gabe’s room. Nate got me the yoga ball and I was able to sit on my knees and lay over the yoga ball and rock through each contraction. At this point, my pain was pretty bad, but I was still able to breathe through them without too much difficulty. Around 3:30AM, we called the midwife on call because my contractions were about 3 minutes apart lasting about 1 minute each. We were happy to hear that Ashley was on call that night! She listened to me through a few contractions and decided that we should call back around 5AM and she guessed around then I’d be ready to head in around then. She was right!
We called our doula, Amy around 3:30 as well to let her know and she offered to come over, but we let her get more sleep and called her around 4:30 and she ended up coming over around 5:00AM. She sat with us through a few contractions until we called Ashley back and she said to go ahead and come in. Amy helped me through contractions as Nate packed up the car with all our bags. Amy was such a calm presence to have around. And she knew just how to help me as we made our way to the car.
Contractions in the car are NOT fun! At this point my contractions were about 2 minutes apart, lasting about 1 minute to 1.5 minutes…so I was having only a short 30 seconds to 1 minute rest in between each one. Let me tell you, working through intense contractions in the car is one of the worst things you could wish on someone!!
Once we got to the hospital, I decided to walk to the L&D unit because walking during labor is good for you…and I couldn’t imagine sitting through any more contractions in a wheel chair!! I had to stop often to slow dance with Nate through contractions. It took what felt like forever to get to the L&D unit and I remember hearing Amy say to passersby “she’s okay, she’s just in labor!” I can only imagine what those people thought was happening!!
Once we checked in we waited through the 20 minutes of monitoring that they have to do. I had blood work done and they put the monitors on my belly. I remember slow dancing with Nate through a contraction…at this point only in a pair of panties and a man walking in and I was so confused and got so modest all of a sudden! Turns out it was the anesthesiologist making me sign papers about epidurals and c-section stuff.
They started filling the tub for me, and Amy decorated the room in white Christmas lights and started my essential oil diffuser. Before I got in the tub, Ashley wanted to check to see how far along I was and Nate and I were prepared to hear, “Sorry, you’re only 1 cm dilated” or something like that, but it turned out I was already 6-7 cm dilated, fully effaced, and at 0 station!! It was such a relief to hear that! We could celebrate a little bit! The tub was ready and I turned on Pandora…with every intention of turning on a piano instrumental station, but the Lauren Daigle station started playing and her song, “Trust In You” began to play. I knew that was the Lord speaking directly to me. Calling me to trust in Him.
“Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what you see
I try to win this war
I confess, my hands are weary, I need your rest
Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face you’re by my side”
These words were words I needed to hear. To let go of my expectations, to admit my exhaustion and weariness, and to call on Him to be my mighty warrior, my king of the fight I was fighting through in that moment, and know that whatever happened in the coming hours, that He is by my side.
I got in the tub and as soon as I felt the warm water hit my belly, I knew that I had made the right decision. The tub is exactly where I needed to be. I found that sitting on my knees and laying my arms on the side of the tub was perfect for me as I was able to rock though my contractions while resting my head on my hands. Nate sat in front of me and held my hands, rubbed my head, kissed me through each contraction. Nate was so encouraging through each one and told me I was doing an amazing job through and after each contraction.
Laboring in the tub was such an incredible experience. It allowed me to feel weightless (as much as a full term pregnant lady can!) and it allowed me to move more freely through each contraction. Amy brought with her lavender washcloths that she soaked in ice water and switched out on my forehead throughout the entire time. The combination of the ice water and lavender was exactly what I needed to breathe deeply through the entire process.
I was so surprised with how “easy” the laboring was. I had built it up in my head that this would be the most unbearable pain I had ever felt! And yes, while I have never experienced pain like that in my life…it never crossed my mind to ask for an epidural. It was amazing how calm and quiet in the room it was. It allowed me to really listen to the worship songs playing on my phone and breathe through the contractions. With each contraction, I let out a low almost hum-like sound that helped ground me into the contraction, I let myself rise and fall with the wave of pain and I pictured each contraction as another step towards meeting our son. I could feel him moving in me and sometimes I swear it felt like he was using his feet to push himself down.
After about 2 hours in the tub, I began to feel the urge to push and Ashley said to just go with it and follow my body’s cues. Pushing in the tub felt like a little relief and was very painful at the same time! At one point between the contractions, I looked up and asked when transition was going to start…to which I heard a chuckle from Ashley and Amy…and they said since I was pushing, I’d already made it through transition! I was so excited to hear this because I’ve always heard that transition is the worst part and that pushing was actually a bit of a relief! I had a few more pushing contractions in the tub and then they got me out to push. I labored on the birth stool for a while…which was good because it keeps the pressure off the perineum and opens your pelvis a bit more, but the baby got so low that the nurse was unable to keep Gabe’s heartbeat on the monitor, so they moved me to the bed on my side to push.
I cannot even describe the pain of pushing. This was by far the hardest and most painful part of my labor! With each contraction I was able to push about three times. The feeling of his head moving through the birth canal can only be described as an intense pressure. I wasn’t pushing quite correctly, so when Ashley showed me “where” to push, and I did it, she and Amy, and the nurse all exclaimed, “yes!!! That’s it!!” And I really could feel the difference and felt like I was making more progress with each push!
At some point I guess I began to hyperventilate because they put an oxygen mask on me. I was so grateful because it helped to calm me. They asked if I wanted a mirror and I said yes…however I didn’t have my contacts in so I couldn’t see anything! But I was in so much pain, I couldn’t say I couldn’t see anything! Ha!! At one point, there was about, what I’m guessing, 2 inches of his head out and I was able to reach down and feel it!! That was so helpful because it was the first time I ever touched my baby. I will never forget that feeling. It was gooey, squishy, and I could feel his hair!! I kept pushing for what ended up being a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes (relatively short time for a first time mom), and at the very end, the ring of fire (I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone!), was so painful I screamed, “I can’t do this!!!” Amy and Ashley replied that I had no choice…I was doing it! I knew that I had no choice, but I felt like everyone needed to know how I felt!
The moment when Ashley said that I only had a couple more contractions before my baby would be here gave me the energy to push a little longer and finally, I pushed and his head then shoulders came out and that rush of relief, the feeling of my son being born was almost too much handle. They immediately put him on my chest and he began to cry as they rubbed him down. Nate and I were both sobbing as he laid on my chest crying and talking to us. I couldn’t stop kissing him and Nate was telling me over and over again how much he loved us. That moment is the single best moment of my life – holding my first born child and seeing my husband cry tears of happiness.
We laid on the bed for another 5-10 minutes before his cord stopped pulsing and they asked Nate if he’s like to cut the cord, to which he declined! (I don’t blame him…I wouldn’t want to do that either!) About 20 minutes later, I pushed the placenta out with just one contraction and push. That, is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen….seriously…but incredible to see the organ that kept my baby alive for all those months. Ashley even pulled the sac opening open so we could see the sac where he was so snuggly kept for so long!
Minutes after he was born. Maybe even the first time he looked up at me.
This is quite possibly the best-case scenario for our first birth experience and I am forever grateful to the Lord for that! I am so glad we surrounded ourselves with a great team of midwives at VCU and an incredible doula, Amy. I truly believe that my labor and delivery could’ve been drastically different had we chosen a different hospital and team of professionals. I can’t imagine having a baby anywhere else but at VCU with the midwives. I know that subsequent pregnancies may not go as smoothly as this one, that I may have a c-section or epidural in my future, but I am so happy that I was able to have Gabriel the way I so desperately wanted – with no medication, a supportive team and my husband by my side.
If you made it all the way through that story, thank you! I hope it gives you some encouragement, information, or maybe just a little bit of joy. If you are interested in learning more about my unmedicated birth or have questions, please feel free to ask me! I love talking about this stuff and truly want to help in any way I can! (I’m obviously not a professional, just a mom who recently went through it!)