It was the morning of Friday, October 7th, eight days past my “guess date” for our baby, and I was driving home after a night shift. On the drive, I saw the most breathtaking fall sunrise of pinks and oranges with clouds radiating the texture of the sky and the brilliance of God’s beautiful handiwork. As I drove home, I became emotional and started to tear up. I gave thanks for all the blessings in my life God has given me- a loving husband, a strong, healthy baby growing inside me, and supportive family and friends. I did not know at the time, but God gave me a beautiful gift to mark the end of my working career and the start of motherhood.
Here is the birth story of our little Harvey Robert, our first child that God entrusted us with.
It was 1:30pm on that same Friday after waking up from a nap. I had one more night shift to end the work week that evening, and I was trying to rest up for it. I woke up feeling like I had cramps and I passed it off as Braxton Hicks. I went about my afternoon but after finishing my quiet time, I realized that the cramps had a pattern. I started tracking the cramping at 3:35pm and realized after an hour of tracking, they were 10 minutes apart.
My husband, Justin, came home from work around 4:45pm and found me tracking these cramps I was calling Braxton Hicks. Even though I told him that they felt different, the “cramps” were coming every 10 minutes and were not leaving. We decided to go on a walk around the neighborhood, I felt like getting some fresh air. Plus, I was planning on going to work that night, I needed to tire myself out so I could take a nap before my shift which started at 10pm. During the 20 minute walk, I was very uncomfortable which made me realize that this was different. I had enjoyed each and every daily walk I went on throughout my pregnancy, but this time it was uncomfortable to walk.
We walked back to our house at 6pm, and I went to take a nap to rest up for work, I was determined I was going to finish the work week. I laid in bed for 30 minutes and could not fall asleep, the cramping and the excitement of possibly meeting our little one had too much power over me. This is when I realized I needed to be in contact with my birth team to let them know cramping was occurring with a pattern.
One of my midwives, Noel, strongly recommended me to call into work that night, she insisted that I needed to be fully rested for tomorrow if this was true labor. She also instructed me to take a relaxing and warm epsom salt bath with a glass of red wine. This is what I did for 3 hours! That bath felt so great, it took the edge off the “cramps”. Noel also suggested trying to sleep after the bath to become fully rested for what laid ahead. I still was hesitant to call into work that night, but falling asleep with Justin was tempting. While in the bath, I realized that I needed to take everyone’s advice and call into work. I was in so much denial thinking I could go to work with these cramps, I felt relief after calling in.
While in the bath, I relaxed but I struggled to get comfortable. I realized my plan to have a water birth in my standard-size tub was not going to work. The extra 20 pounds made a difference getting comfortable in the tub. At 11pm, Justin helped me out of the tub after 3 hours in the bath. We followed Noel’s instructions and laid down for a night’s sleep. The bath faded away much of the cramp’s pain so I felt confident I would be able to get some shut eye.
I was actually able to fall asleep from 11pm to 12:30am, but the cramps gradually came back with more pain each time and I could not sleep through it any longer. I knew this was going to be a day filled with fear, anticipation, pain, excitement, and nervousness due to Justin and I never experiencing labor before. I knew I needed Justin to be fully rested to help me with each stage of labor, so I let him keep sleeping. I went to take another bath at 1am, in hopes of having the cramps dissipate again. But to no luck, the bath wasn’t cutting it anymore, it wasn’t taking the edge off as it did hours before. The relief I was seeking was not there anymore. But I made due. One of the hardest things I encountered that I didn’t put much thought in preparing for a home birth was the fact that I potentially had to call my birthing team in the middle of the night. It felt like the biggest inconvenience I had ever encountered. I had it set in my head that I was going to wait until morning to call them and update them on my cramps- which now I knew were surges. Another 3 hours past by in the tub in the middle of the night. I wasn’t comfortable, but I knew being out of the water risked the surges to be worse. I stayed where I knew it gave me relief in the past, I didn’t want to feel more pain on my own.
Justin woke up at 4am and found me in the bath, he was caught off guard how much pain I was in, but how I refused to call my birth team in the middle of the night. I insisted we wait until morning to update the team. Justin did not like the sound of that one bit and gave me a stern tone that I needed to call now. “Is your agenda to have an unassisted birth because that is the direction you are going if you are not communicating with them with this much pain,” shouted Justin.
I found the courage to call my doula, Sara, at 4am. I told her how much pain I was in and wasn’t able to sleep. She informed me that she was going to communicate with our midwife, Noel, about the pain and that she was going to go back to bed for another 2 hours, shower and then be on her way over. I was hesitant with that plan but I trusted she knew when it was appropriate to show up to a labor. I told Justin the plan and we both felt like our birth team was going to miss the birth, we felt I was further than they made it seem. We were not going to have support for another 4 hours, but we knew that this was going to be our last time just being husband and wife alone. Justin helped me out of the bath and we moved to the second bedroom to labor and wait for our birth team. The pain felt intense, but with Justin placing counter pressure and rubbing me, it took some of the edge off and gave me comfort to have Justin helping me through each surge.
It was now 6am and I called Sara again and told her I needed more support, she said she was going to jump in the shower and then be on her way. I also called Noel to tell her the same as I did Sara, and that I needed her to be on her way. Noel lived 3 hours away so I knew there was still a significant amount of time with no support. I happened to have a surge while on the phone with Noel, I was on all fours in my upstairs hallway while Noel was on speaker. She was proud of how I handled it and encouraged me to relax through the surges and she would be on her way.
While we waited for Sara to arrive, I laid in the second bedroom bed and birthed on all fours while Justin rubbed my back and did counter pressure- he truly was my Mr. Doula. Before this point, I had been texting my sister and my mom throughout the night. The pain was becoming too intense that I retired my phone at 7:30am without telling my mom that I was intentionally avoiding my phone.
Sara could have not came at a better time! She arrived around 8am and took over Justin’s job of counter pressure, so Justin could get something to eat for breakfast. From one surge to the next, Sara dove right in, she was the encouragement and the wisdom we needed. She knew what to say and where to place pressure for relief. After laboring on the bed for awhile, she insisted I sat on my birth ball and read my birthing affirmation wall.
“I trust my body!”
“Each wave has a purpose.”
“I trust my instincts. I am not afraid.”
“I am focused on a smooth, easy birth.”
“Every good and perfect gift is from above”. James 1:17
“I honor the sensations of birth and let our baby move down.”
“I am safe. I trust my support team and I have faith in my body’s ability to birth.”
“I am fully capable of giving birth naturally.”
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”. James 4:8
“I am thankful our baby can be born safely this way.”
When a surge hit I laid back on the ball and Sara would catch me while Justin rubbed my feet. I went through all my words of affirmations, but sitting on the birthing ball was not the most comfortable. Sara encouraged me to walk up and down the stairs sideways to open up the pelvis. When a surge hit, I would sit on whatever stair I was on and lean back into Justin while Sara was in front of me holding me so I wouldn’t fall. Most of the conversations I had, I remember vaguely, but I remember expressing my concern to Justin how I had no idea how military wives do labor without their husbands. I really found comfort in being close to Justin, he was my biggest support. I also remember while on the stairs during a surge, complaining how my back hurt immensely. I remember shouting “My back! My back!” during surges. Because this was our first child, I didn’t think anything to it, I thought that was normal to have pain in your back during labor. After Sara heard my complaints how painful the surges were treating my back, Sara excused herself to go call Noel who was on her way. She went outside to talk. I am guessing she was telling her that this labor was going to be more of a challenge than anyone thought. I labored on the stairs for about an hour and half.
I became very tired going up and down the stairs sideways, so I decided to go labor on the bed I prepared to labor in. I found a position that felt the most comfortable with the birth ball. I placed a pillow on top of the birth ball and placed my elbows and head on top while I knelled on top of the bed. Sara started counter pressure on my hips with a heat pack. From this point on, the heat pack was used until I delivered. Justin noticed as labor continued, the red marks from the heat pack on my back were lowering due to baby lowering and that’s where I needed the direct heat. I did not have an electric heat pack, so poor Justin and Sara had to run downstairs to the microwave to heat it up between surges until baby came. At one point I heard my birth team whispering behind me while I labored, “The heat pack is causing blisters, we need to let up on the heat.” I responded back, fully knowing they didn’t realize I heard them, “That heat pack stays where it is, I don’t care if I end up with blisters, I need that heat!”
Noel finally arrived at 10:30 am. I did not even notice she showed up until I finished an intense surge. Oh I was so thrilled she was there, I truly thought it meant I was getting closer to the birth of our child. Noel has such a peaceful and comforting spirit. With Sara and now Noel, I felt even more safe in their care. Noel asked if she could check my blood pressure between a surge and to try to find the baby’s heart rate with the fetal scope, but had no luck. She asked permission to use the Doppler. She knew how hesitant I was to use a Doppler. I was warned during my prenatal visits that it is difficult to hear baby with a fetal scope and a Doppler might need to be used. I agreed. It was my first time being exposed to the Doppler or any form of ultrasound in my entire pregnancy. Noel found the heartbeat. She said that the heart rate was beautiful and strong and that the baby had lowered even more from two days ago when I had my last appointment, and that each surge was doing it’s job. Between surges, I asked her why I was feeling so much pain in my back.
My midwife checking baby’s heartbeat.
“Baby’s back was on the right side when we checked the other day, ideally baby needed to move it’s back forward to get baby’s back in the optimal left side. Instead the baby decided to go the long way and go around your back on the way to the optimal position. It’s called back labor and it is a more challenging and longer birth,” explained Noel.
I don’t know if another surge was taking my attention or I was overwhelmed that my envisioned birth was shattering in front of me, but I did not understand the extent of what that all meant. I even responded with humor, “I guess baby got my navigation skills!” I went into another surge and started to become discouraged, I did everything possible to avoid a challenging labor: chiropractic care, acupuncture, Nutritional Response Testing, and pregnancy exercises to get into optimal labor position. Noel noticed I needed a distraction so she asked what we have been calling the baby during pregnancy due to the unknown gender. I answered with “Baby or Lil’ Harv.” (A combination of the two names we had chosen for each gender.)
It was now 11:00 am. Just hours before I thought I would be holding my baby in my arms by now. I was determined to have this baby move as quickly as possible so the baby could be in the optimal position. The quicker we got the baby to move, the quicker labor would be over. Noel saw the determination I had and encouraged both Justin and I to go into a labor pose that would help encourage baby to move. She asked for both of us to stand during the surges and when a surge took place, I would fall back into Justin while he pulled up on my stomach and inwards to help the baby move into the optimal position. While Noel described how to be positioned, she asked for us to hold this position for ten surges. You heard me right, ten! I got the number ten in my head because after each surge, I counted down to myself! I wanted the standing up during surges to end! After six surges in this position, Noel asked if I wanted to go back to the bed to rest. I was confused, she asked for ten! I reminded her that I had four more to get through to reach our goal of ten. She had no idea I was counting down and Justin found it to be comical how literal I take directions! Each time a surge hit, Justin would lift my stomach up and in while he pushed his pelvis into my back to create counter pressure with the heat pack that I desperately needed due to the back labor. Sara was in front of me so that I could wrap my arms around her neck. At this point, I had never felt so much pain in my life. It took 45 minutes to get through ten surges in the standing position. I labored in bed to regain strength from the intense labor position, I didn’t feel relief but it was great not to stand. Noel checked the baby’s heart rate and found that the baby moved a tremendous amount and lowered in that 45 minutes. What do you know? That position did the trick, even though it was really intense, it was beneficial and the baby was working with every surge. But when Noel told me the great news, it didn’t register with me, I really thought those standing up surges were in vain and that there was no progress.
Reflecting back at my attitude during labor, I was discouraged at any news- even positive news, because of my need for instant gratification. I also could not feel or see the progress my body was making. I felt like I hadn’t made any progress the last 22 hours because there was no baby to show for it. The surges were forcing me into a different world, where I didn’t know how much time was passing by and my birth team’s encouragement and positive feedback was not registering with me.
Noel and Sara suggested I labor on the toilet to continue the progression of labor. I was hesitant to go on the toilet because I already experienced surges on the toilet. Urinating made my body go into a surge, no matter if I wasn’t due for another one yet. I associated the toilet with painful surges but I trusted my birth team to know what was best for progression. They got me settled on the toilet, I sat backwards on the toilet with a pillow between my stomach and the tank and a pillow on top of the lid to support my elbows. I only lasted 20 minutes in the bathroom, it was not comfortable because the toilet seat made my butt and left leg fall asleep. I realized Justin wasn’t in the bathroom and asked where he was, Noel informed me that he went to take a break and get some nourishment.
I didn’t know at the time but Justin said he had to take mental breaks throughout the last 8 hours of labor, “When you love someone so much and they are crying out for help and there is nothing I can do, I felt helpless and needed a break to find peace and strength,” Justin explained to me after the birth.
I did not like being far from Justin. Before I got off the toilet, Noel noticed how defeated I looked, she told me that this labor was more challenging and that I am doing a fantastic job dealing with the challenge in front of me. Noel emphasized that this was not my fault and it was just the luck of the draw. After hearing her encouragement, I asked to go back to the birth room to rest between surges on the bed. They told me I lost my mucous plug in the toilet. Those surges on the toilet were beneficial. I am still amazed how my birth team knew the toilet was what was needed at that time to continue the progression of labor.
While I labored in the birth room on the bed, I was shouting, “Help me, help me, help me!” The pain was so consuming and I was struggling to stay ahead of the pain. At this point I was pushing my head into a pillow and screaming into it trying to use a low voice during each surge. My birth team kept reminding me to use a low and deep voice to help keep open, instead of high pitch tone. I truly felt I was using a low tone and I shouted back at my team in a low deep voice, “I am using a low tone!” but when the next surge hit, I would go back to a high tone. Justin said he didn’t know I could scream that high. I will have to work on my low voice for the next labor.
I was also becoming rather hot, they opened up the windows to the beautiful October afternoon. After a few surges, I was fearful that neighbors could hear me laboring, I asked for the windows to be closed and to crank the air conditioning. I also wondered from time to time throughout the day if my neighbor could hear me from the other side of the wall! Throughout the labor they fed me small amounts of watermelon chunks, grapes, strawberries and avocado. I was forcing myself to eat, nothing sounded appetizing but we all knew the importance of keeping my energy up and to be nourished throughout the labor.
At around 1:30pm, my birth team once again noticed how discouraged I was. They could tell I was getting frustrated, combative and short with people while I still had a long road ahead before baby would appear. They asked if I would take Benadryl and Tylenol so I could try to take a nap so I could rest and regain my strength. To me, it felt like that question came out of nowhere, I agreed but curtly.
“I don’t have those drugs in our home and I didn’t see that on the list to have those in my birth kit,” I explained.
“That’s okay. Sara is going to run to Target to get them and return back quickly.” replied Noel.
I nodded but instantly became frustrated. Being told that I could take a nap, but first they needed to obtain what I needed to attain that nap was cruel to a laboring woman who had been in labor for 24 hours already. I wanted that nap that they said I could get now, even though in the back of my head I had no idea what they were talking about. I was in so much pain, how was I going to be able to fall asleep feeling like this. Then one of the worse realizations came to mind, I wanted a break! I wanted to tell my body to pause and we would resume tomorrow, but reality kept reminding me every couple minutes that before it would be over, I would have to endure more pain at a faster and stronger rate. That terrified me.
While Sara was running the errand, I went to take a hot shower and to relieve the back labor and distract me from yearning to have the Benadryl and Tylenol. Justin knew I was in pain when I didn’t put up a fight to use over the counter medicine, that I haven’t touched in years.
Justin asked months before if I would at least wear a sports bra during labor until baby came. Since I got out of the bath at 4am that morning I was wearing the perfect black sports bra. I realized that if I wore the sports bra into the shower, I would not be able to continue to wear it for the remainder of the labor, so I took off my sports bra. But after the shower, things became too intense that I didn’t even notice that I forgot to put the sports bra back on or ask someone to fetch it. At this point in the labor, I was too innerly focused and modesty went out the window!
As I showered, I had hot water run down my back. This was the first and only time throughout the 30 hour labor that I didn’t have to work through my surges. They disappeared a little to the point of tolerating them. I only had to breathe through them, and I was able to stand in the shower. I didn’t need other’s support, so Justin got a bite to eat, while Noel charted. I wondered if this is what “normal” labor feels like without the back labor.
As I continued to shower, my body became accustomed to the water temperature, the surges were seeping back, I would have to increase the water temperature every 5 minutes until the temperature was at its hottest setting. The surges were starting to get unbearable again. Sara arrived back from her errand. Noel peeked her head into the shower and gave me the Tylenol and the Benedryl. I decided 30 minutes of standing in the shower was enough for me.
Noel assisted me out of the shower. She handed me a “nice” towel, a towel that I didn’t want used during labor.
“I don’t want this towel! Where are the birthing towels!?” I snapped.
Without a word, Noel went to grab a “Nicole approved” towel and wrapped me in it. They insisted that I go take a nap in the master bedroom where it was cooler and darker. I was hesitant. I had my mind set on the second bedroom being the birth room plus I did not prep our master bedroom for labor.
“I am not laboring on our $3,000 Tempur-Pedic mattress!” I repeated over and over.
Sara and Noel convinced me I would be more rested in the master bedroom and that they were placing more than enough puppy pads on our mattress. I could rest confidently, our mattress was protected. I laid down just wrapped in a towel. Due to the hot shower, my surges were at bay compared to an hour before, but as each one came, I could feel the intensity coming back. As I laid there in the dark room, Noel asked what was going on inside my head, what was I feeling and struggling with. I became vulnerable and admitted, “When is Brenda (my other midwife) going to get here? Do I have a long way to go still? If you haven’t asked Brenda to get here for the birth, that means you think I have a long ways to go still!”
I thought knew how this worked. With Brenda being the master midwife and Noel being the apprentice, I knew Brenda would come at the end of the birth. I had it stuck in my head that with no phone call yet to Brenda, my experienced birth team knew I had hours left to go.
“Is that what you would like? To have Brenda be here? She is sitting at home waiting for our phone call Nicole,” explained Noel. I asked for Noel to call Brenda to start making the 90 minute drive over. Mentally, I felt like there was progress if Brenda was here. phone call, Noel was getting myself comfortable with placing pillows around me. (By the end of the pregnancy, I was up to sleeping with 6-7 pillows). Noel was placing a pillow between my legs while I laid on my side, when all of the sudden I felt a warm gush of fluid go between my legs and all over the bed. My $3,000 mattress, thank goodness for puppy pads everywhere! My water broke at 2:53pm. It made a loud popping noise, even Sara who was in the other bedroom room tidying up heard it. Noel said that it is uncommon for a noise to be present. Poor Justin, he was at the end of the bed when my water broke. He was rubbing my feet before we were going to rest together in bed. All I remember him saying, “I will be right back to change my clothes!”
As Noel studied what just happened, she expressed, “The amniotic fluid is clear, that means baby is safe and healthy!”
I laid there in the fluid so exhausted. I have never felt so beaten before. It didn’t register with me that the breaking of my water was a turning point. “Don’t worry about the mess, I want to just close my eyes,” I declared.
With the most serious face, Noel told me due to my water breaking, there would be a change of plans, there would be no more nap. “These next surges are going to be the most intense, painful, and more frequent than you have experienced so far. The breaking of your water makes the surges more intense and closer together.”
Did I just hear her right? More intense? I didn’t even know that was possible. I have been struggling with back labor for the past 24 hours and to be told it was going to be more intense and the surges were going to be closer together, it made me feel so small and defeated. I was truly scared. Scared for the rest of my labor. Scared for this next surge that was going to hit any second. I wasn’t ready for this intensity I was warned about. How could it get even worse and more painful?
After she finished warning me that it was going to become more intense, the first surge after my water broke surfaced. Oh I wish Noel was wrong, but she wasn’t. It was the worse pain I have ever felt in my life. The pain jumped 100 notches. I didn’t even know that was possible. I laid there in the dark room on our bed, laying in amniotic fluid, squeezing Justin with all I had in a choke hold position. I was howling to take the edge off the pain that was a minute long, until the excruciating pain drifted. I was in disbelief how I was going to make one more of these surges, let alone the rest of my labor. I remember this was the point I started drifting off into a different world. A coping and defensive mechanism for the pain that was yet to come.
I remember being asked if I wanted to stay where I was or move to the other bedroom. With just experiencing only one surge so far after my water breaking and feeling how much fluid was still finding its way out, I wanted to move for the sake of our mattress. I didn’t know how much longer the puppy pads were going to hold up. I wanted to wait to have one more surge before moving. I was hesitant to move now due to how frequent the surges were coming. I did not want to get caught moving when one came about. My fuel tank was running on low and I wanted to make each movement count to conserve my energy.
And then Noel suggested I do the unimaginable- that standing pose during the surges to get baby moving more. She had more faith in me and knew my strength better than I knew my own because these surges were unbearable laying down. I couldn’t imagine standing up during them. But I trusted Noel and listened.
Everyone got into position. Sara in front of me, so I could wrap my arms around her during the next surge and Justin behind me so he could lift my stomach and push it in. Surges were coming every two minutes and I remember between the surges, I had put all my weight on Justin and Sara while my eyes were closed or looking down at the ground. I was standing on a puppy pad, watching liquid and blood drip down my legs onto the puppy pad. I felt so weak standing up, it was taking everything in me to take on every surge standing up, the pain! When a surge hit, I fell back into Justin, I tilted my head back towards the ceiling, and gave out horrendous howls. It got me through the surges. I stood up for 6 surges before I started feeling immense, agonizing pain in my butt. I guess it was only 15 minutes in the standing pose, but to me, it felt much longer. Being in my own world, time seemed to be longer and unimportant, another defensive and coping mechanism after going on for 26 hours of back labor.
Noel heard my complaints about my butt hurting and suggested I go onto the bed on all fours and labor with the birth ball with a pillow on top. Looking back, this was baby lowering further and now rubbing against my tailbone. I ditched the exercise ball and went with a tower of pillows. I stacked up 4 pillows to lean into. After a few surges in this position, I shouted, “I need to poop!” It did not register to me that it was my body ready to push. Looking back, I am thankful I didn’t think of it as pushing, because I still had hours to go. Noel responded back with, “If you feel like you need to push, do what feels natural.”
So I started pushing during the surges. My body was controlling what needed to be done. I naturally would bear down 4-5 times during a surge and lower into a squat bearing down. This truly wore me out. Once again, I didn’t feel like this was the final stages, I still felt like there was no progress.
I asked to lay on my back to see if that would help my exhaustion and the burning pain. One surge of that and I was done with that, it was so painful. I had no idea how women could give birth on their backs. I needed to be on all fours. Thank goodness for a birth team that encouraged different positions and movement.
At 4:30pm, Brenda arrived and entered the birthing room without talking, she just wanted to observe what was happening while Noel and Sara had everything under control. Between a surge, I heard Brenda behind me, “Oh hi, Brenda!” It took me about 10 minutes to notice Brenda standing beside Noel. This was the first time I felt like I might actually be progressing. The Master Midwife was here for the delivery.
Did that mean delivery was soon I wondered?
My tailbone was on FIRE. Once again, I thought I had already experienced the most pain a person could bear and then another painful sensation tops the last one. So the team started performing counter pressure on the tailbone. Do you know what that means? It means someone took their finger and found my tailbone and pulled up on it for EVERY surge from here on out. You heard that right! There you have it! Raw and real birth for you. But it helped a lot. It gave baby room to move down without scrapping my tailbone. There was one surge that someone forgot to place counter pressure (AKA: dig for my tailbone!!!) during the surge and I screamed, “TAILBONE PLEASE!” It made all the difference to have counter pressure.
Oh, did I scream! (I wish I could say it was low tones, but I am afraid I had a hard time keeping them low and deep!) I channeled the pain and pressure into screaming. I shoved my face into the pile of pillows that I stacked up in front of me on the bed, and screamed curling howls. The screams were so intense that the howling made me puke up avocado and strawberries at one point. I remember someone grabbing the wastebasket to my face, anticipating I would continue to puke during the surges if I kept up the howling into the pillows the way I did. This position and puking was taking up too much of my energy and was getting uncomfortable. “What else can I do? I am done with this bed and position!”
Brenda offered two suggestions, the toilet or the birthing stool that she had in her car. I disliked the toilet so it was an easy decision to choose the birthing stool. I lasted two surges on the stool. It was very uncomfortable to say the least. Brenda’s other option became my reality, the toilet. I did not want to be on the toilet, I was seriously afraid of the toilet, it meant very painful surges in a very confined area.
To make the toilet less miserable, the lights were off in the bathroom and I put pillows between the toilet and my belly and one on top of the tank to cushion my elbows. I had all hands on deck at this point to help manage the pain. Even in a small bathroom, Justin sat on the wall of the tub and applied counter pressure to my hips while Noel performed counter pressure for the tailbone behind me. Sara took over Justin’s duty so he could have dinner, which he told me later was just a piece of cheese and time for him to regroup and clear his mind. I will give the toilet some credit on how natural it felt to push while sitting on it, but my left leg once again fell asleep while the surges hit me over and over, faster and faster. I was becoming less comfortable and desired to move. Both midwives suggested I move to one of the bedrooms. The birthing room all prepped for birth or the master bedroom with the $3000 mattress not prepared for birth.
I didn’t even think twice. “Master bedroom, it has the firmer mattress.” (Note to self for future births: prepare all beds, birthing mama doesn’t know what she wants until she’s in labor!) Plus, the master bedroom is cooler and darker, it’s naturally what laboring women prefer. Point taken for next time. They rushed to prepare the master bedroom for birth. Thank goodness for the over abundance of puppy pads in my birth kit!
They brought me to the master bedroom and got me on all fours with the birthing ball and pillows in front of me. I was now two hours into pushing, and once again when I thought I had reached my limit, the surges kept on roaring in faster and stronger. I dealt with each one as they came. I became stronger as each one drifted away.
“Help me, help me, help me,” I said in a somber and sad voice. (Justin described the tone “like a dying cow”).
“God, where are you?” I shouted repeatedly.
“He is all around us watching over you and baby,” Brenda replied back. “He wants baby to come into this world as badly as you do.”
“God is with you, Nicole!” Justin whispered into my ear.
I remember very little at this point, birthing women go into a different world at this point. Time is not relevant, conversations and words said are not remembered. Everything’s a blur and is morphed together, but I remember a little of Justin singing, “You are a Good, Good Father” to me quietly. The song I sang to our baby throughout pregnancy. Funny how in my birth plan, I wanted worship music playing, but besides Justin singing in my ear, I didn’t want any music throughout the labor. I also remember Justin praying into my ear between surges. At this point, I have three hours of pushing completed.
I released the agonizing pain through hurling screams. Right into the pillow. Face planted right into the pillow tower I created. I ditched the birthing ball and had a tower of pillows to rest on. Oh that room was not prepared for birth. The white sheets, oh the white pillow cases. I was fed strawberries by Sara periodically. The strawberries did not last long in my belly, they ended up all over Justin’s pillow from my deep screaming. I don’t remember much, but I remember registering that out of all the pillows I was using, it was Justin’s pillow I just ruined. How selfish of me, how selfless of Justin.
They said I was progressing, I didn’t believe them. Remember to me, no baby equals no progress. Noel and Brenda suggested I go into a “Runner Start” position at this point. I would describe it as a “Tim Tebow pose”. It was kinda like when a guy gets on one knee to propose. I was skeptical.
“Why that position?”
“It helps open up the pelvis so baby’s head can get through,” replied the midwives. I asked for help to get in this position. I didn’t have the energy and was confused how they wanted me to be positioned. I was too weak. I couldn’t hold this position on my own. Justin had to hold me up and my elbow felt the most comfortable resting on his thigh. He ended up with a battle wound, a green and purple, baseball sized bruise.
“Down and out, Nicole, down and out!” the birth team repeated, “Down and out!” I was not in the right state of mind to register what they were asking of me. It frustrated me so much to hear that!
“What are you asking from me?” I shouted angrily, “I don’t know what that means or what you are asking of me!” It’s hard to explain anything technical at this point to a laboring woman of 29 hours. I was not with it!
A few surges in this new position and Noel asked me to feel baby’s head. Her asking felt out of place, it still felt I was a ways off from the delivery. All through my pregnancy, I had it a part of my birth plan that I wanted to touch my baby’s head before baby was delivered. I envisioned it to be this beautiful moment, but in reality, I had the attitude, “Do I have to?” It was going to take more energy and I was worried I was going to feel disappointed that baby wasn’t further along. And that is exactly how I felt.
When Noel asked me to feel baby’s head, I thought baby was on the surface, but in reality, between the surges, baby’s head gets sucked back up a little bit. I felt that, and became instantly disappointed and frustrated. In my mind, I had hours left because baby was not on the surface. I thought those last few inches of baby to move down was going to take hours to move. In reality, I was getting to the finale, but I didn’t comprehend and believe that. In my head I was having a severe dilemma, “How was I going to sustain the hours I had left?” I thought.
“When is baby going to be here?” “I can’t do this any longer!” “Like is this going to happen in 30 minutes or 3 hours, because I can’t do 3 more hours!” I could tell that it was getting darker outside, which made the bedroom darker, I was guessing it was evening now.
“There is no timeline or time frame, baby will come when baby is ready,” my birth team said gently in unison, “ You have come so far!”
I was in a different world, I was confused. I didn’t know how far I was. I was confused what stage I was in labor. I thought I had hours left. Everything at this point was a blur, but I remember telling Justin that I thought the midwives were lying to me. That I was actually making progress, they were making me feel further along than I thought I was and they were not encouraging me enough.
“I need encouragement guys! I feel no improvements or progress!” I shouted to the birth team.
Oh, but they were giving me encouragement. All through labor they had been but everything was a blur, I wasn’t holding onto their encouragement. I thought if I heard more words of affirmation, maybe, just maybe the words would stick better and I would actually hear it and believe their encouragement.
And boy did that work! All four of them went into overdrive with the encouragement during the surges. It was working! The encouragement on steroids made me push harder and more effective. Noel noticed I needed something tangible to work for (I guess a baby wasn’t enough!), she placed her fingers inside and told me to push her fingers out! Once again, I pushed harder and more effective. They also reminded me to internalize my vocals if possible so my energy would go fully into the pushing. I really had a hard time with internalizing my vocals, but it was extremely successful when I did listen to them. When I started consciously to put all the energy into pushing rather than noise as well, I only had 5-7 surges left before baby was born.
Noel checked the heart rate between a surge, “The heart rate is very faint, which means baby is really deep into your pelvis! Nicole, eventually you are going to push and baby is going to come around the pubic bone. When that happens, don’t push wait for the next surge! I know, you are going to feel an intense burning sensation, but I need you to wait until the next surge”.
Noel was right. It was by far the worse burning and stinging sensation I have ever felt, and I have gone to the ED for 1st degree burns in the past.
“It burns! I can’t!” I shouted.
“Breathe and wait for the next surge to push, Nicole!” replied Justin as he was watching what was happening and noticed how big the baby’s head was.
So I waited. I hummed in response of the burning pain and as I felt the surge developing within me, for what would be the last time, my humming became louder and turned to more loud “awww’s”. It was the first time I was so ready for this surge to begin.
The surge came full blast, I screamed into the pillow one last time.
“Great job, Nicole, you’re doing it!” Noel shouted.
I thought the burning would leave immediately after it began, but to my surprise the burning and stinging became worse before it left to more of a dull burning sensation. It was the full circumference of the head coming through and the shoulders. As I pushed, Noel pulled the baby completely out, a feeling that was very odd and remarkable. Someone who was meant to be out in the world, but felt perfectly inside of me or like how Justin would describe it “something slimy sliding out like birthing a calf.” And then the surges just abruptly stopped, just like that.
I was still in the runner stance and how desperately, I wanted to fall over onto the bed and cuddle with my precious baby, my reward!
“I don’t know where to go!” I frustratingly shouted! It was dark in the room and I didn’t know how to maneuver to get to my baby. Each second that went by that I wasn’t holding baby, felt a lot longer. The team was busy behind me and finally got me on my back and placed baby on my chest with a towel on top to keep baby warm. As they placed baby on top of me, the baby pooped meconium on me, they wiped it off with a towel. It didn’t phase me one bit.
“Oh my sweet cakes, I have been waiting for you!”
This child of mine who I have carried for 10 months seemed so familiar to me, yet felt like a stranger at the same time! Baby was not crying, but wide eyed looking around! I couldn’t stop kissing our baby’s head. I had waited 10 months to do that! The midwives asked us to rub the baby’s back to enhance baby’s breathing. I said I didn’t have any energy to do that, so Justin laid next to me and rubbed while laying on the side of me, just as excited as I was.
Oh, I have never felt more alive but exhausted at the same time. I was in pain, but in bliss all at the same time as I kissed my baby’s forehead. “What are you?!” I said as I realized I didn’t know if I was holding my son or daughter.
I lifted up the baby’s left leg and shouted in excitement, “You’re a baby boy, oh our Harvey!!” The moment we waited for was perfect happiness and joy. To hold our precious baby we had been longing and praying for. Finally finding out the mystery of the gender! I was thankful the midwives did not announce the gender, it was very special to discover our baby was our son!
Then I realized I didn’t have a recollection of the time, I hadn’t looked at a clock since 730am that morning, so I had no idea the time, was it 5pm or midnight? “7:22 pm is the time of birth,” Noel said looking at her watch. I realized I just labored for 30 hours, and I was feeling the aftermath (even with all the excitement): weakness, exhaustion and loopy. Due to all the screaming and howling I had done during the surges, my voice was very hoarse and I actually lost my voice the next day.
As baby laid on my chest, the midwives encouraged me to have our son breast crawl for his first feeding. Babies instinctively know the smell of breast milk and with their own strength, crawl for their first latch. This helps improve bonding and our breastfeeding relationship. Our Harvey was very interested in eating, we joked that he came out hungry and ready to gain weight! He loved his food!
First family picture. 10 minutes after birth.
The next hour was the three of us, our little family together, bonding and cuddling in bed, getting to know one another. Brenda brought in a fruit and cheese shortage board to dine on. Sara and Brenda made the sitz bath solutions, cleaned the house, did laundry and made placenta smoothies, while Noel charted and popped her head in from time to time to monitor us during the first hour of bonding. To be completely honest, I had dreamt of the first hour after birth to be the most beautiful hour but in reality, even though the surges had stopped, I felt weak, tired, and was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t get comfortable and wished I could have been propped up higher with pillows. Each time he latched, the sensation of back labor presented itself. I was ready for that feeling to be over with. At 8:33pm, Noel came in and announced it was time to deliver the afterbirth and cut the cord.
Noel clamped the cord and gave the scissors to Justin to do the honors. I took a picture of Justin cutting the cord. It was a bittersweet moment, it was the end of physically connected to the baby I carried for 10 months, but the beginning to emotionally connect with our little boy.
Now it was time to deliver the afterbirth, Noel offered to help due to my fear of pain and exhaustion. Noel said she was going to take a quarter size of it and let Sara make placenta smoothie ice cubes out of it until the placenta capsules were ready. Then Noel would be back with Harvey’s life source of 10 months to examine it with me.
Now it was time to take a sitz bath. I handed baby over to Justin in bed so he could bond with baby while Noel helped me to the already drawn bath. Justin didn’t need a reminder to take his shirt off to do skin to skin, I was very proud of him for remembering.
I got into the tub with assistance and it felt wonderful and healing. The warm water felt wonderful for each sting and sore muscle. Justin came out of the bedroom holding his son in front of the bathroom doorway so I could see my two favorite boys cuddling. It was an image I will always have in my head that I will cherish. I struggled with the decision to shower or not after the bath, I decided I didn’t want to shower in the morning, so I showered with Noel sitting on the toilet monitoring me, because I didn’t feel comfortable taking a hot shower standing up after losing blood. Oh my hair was in one big rats nest that was matted! The sweat and 30 hour labor made my hair a complete mess. I couldn’t get the snares out, I waited for later that night. The shower felt refreshing and I felt so clean afterward! After the shower I felt faintish, so I sat on the floor of the tub, wrapped in a towel, until I felt like I could walk.
Noel helped me back into bed and got me dressed. We called our parents real quick before assessments. Justin wanted to tell the grandparents that baby and mom were safe and healthy, but they had to wait until tomorrow’s visit to find out the gender. I told him that was harsh, and I continued to tell my mom that she had a grandson named Harvey. I told her we were busy with assessments and would tell details in the morning.
Noel and Brenda assessed me and said everything looked great and I would start to heal. Noel brought in the placenta and examined it in front of me and showed me where the sac broke when my water broke, and showed me the tree of life. This is where the blood vessels branched out to give life to my baby. I took some pictures before she took it to encapsulate it.
Now it was Harvey’s turn for his assessment! Noel measured him and Justin weighed him with the cloth weight hanger while I took pictures. I am glad I didn’t know his measurements during labor because his length was 21 inches, his head circumference was 14.5 inches, and his weight was 9 pounds 2 ounces. We had a big boy on our hands! Noel gave Harvey an APGAR score of 8 at 1 minute and a 9 at 5 minutes.
It was 11:30pm, everything was complete and the midwives were ready to leave. We all gave hugs and we’re all joyful while Justin and I cuddled Harvey in bed. The midwives turned off our bedroom light and said they would lock the door behind them so we could fall asleep as a family.
The midwives left and I looked over at Justin and said, “How am I supposed to fall asleep so soon after our Harvey has arrived? I am so exhausted but I don’t want to close my eyes and stop looking at his sweet face!”
4 hours after birth. Ready to nestle in for our first night together.
Eventually we fell asleep cuddled as a family, so we would be rested to spend our first day with our little boy at home with visitors from both sides of the family. I was able to sleep a little at a time throughout the night, but when I woke up and realized what had happened hours before and there was a baby next to me to confirm that, the excitement I had was indescribable. I was ready to do life with our little Harvey and help him discover the new world around him.
I was blessed to have a home birth where my compassionate birth team supported my every wish and trusted my body to know what to do at each stage of labor. Thirty minutes after the challenging, long, and painful back labor, I reflected how much stronger I felt, and I felt I could accomplish anything in that moment. I felt only positive thoughts from the past 30 hours of a painful labor and had no regrets. I am so blessed my birth team and myself were never tempted for drugs or intervention to take over my beautiful, natural birth. I knew I wanted to feel everything. It felt like it was a mother’s right of passage to experience, and that’s exactly how I felt. I give thanks to God for his protection and mercy. Even in the darkest and painful hours leading up to meeting our baby boy, he was guiding me through, like He promises.
Harvey- As I finish typing this, you are nestled into me! Your cheek against my chest, listening to that familiar heartbeat you know so well. You will always be our sweet Harvey boy. Know that you are cherished and loved by so many. My mother’s love towards you will always be there to cherish and protect you! I pray you will never lose that cheeky smile and laughter you have, it warms so many hearts, my dear! I pray one day for you to experience the same love that overcame me on October 8, 2016- when I first met and held my first baby I waited so long to kiss!