My baby is now just over a month old, and I am always awed by how fast time really does fly by. While it's still fresh on my mind, I wanted to take a moment to share his beautiful beginning in life.
I'll start by reflecting on my the birth of my firstborn son, Talmadge. I was surprised by pregnancy, even having been married to my husband for just over 4 years. He had always wanted children, and I was undecided. Even though that was the case, I started doing everything I could to prepare myself. I read countless books, started following all of your typical pregnancy and mom groups on apps, Facebook and blogs, and scrutinizing every part of my lifestyle to give this child the best chance at succeeding in life. Phew, was it overwhelming. Everyone has a pregnancy story, and 85% of the people that want to share their's will terrify the hell out of someone who is already scared about squeezing something the size of a melon out of their body. I wanted to go natural, but the more I heard from people the less I found myself trusting my body to do what it was designed to do.
My water broke around 9:30 p.m. of the night of his due date, and the contractions began the next morning around 5:30 a.m. My doctor wanted to see me when the office opened, and I went in for her to confirm my water had indeed broke and I was dilated to 4 cm. She urged us to go to the hospital and not knowing any better we conceded to go on. Upon arrival, I was encouraged by nurses to take an epidural (men aren't expected to go through surgery without anesthesia, so why should you do this on your own? there's no shame in it, just take it!). I resisted, and continued to labor with my husband and doula by my side. Shit got real around 1:30 p.m. and I thought I was dying. I remember thinking "How could anyone do this naturally? My body physically cannot take anymore". After about the 100th request to just go ahead and take the epidural, I caved and said to give it to me. I felt a tinge of disappointment, but told myself to never regret that decision because I really needed it in that moment.
I was around 8 cm dilated at that point, and continued to labor painlessly for a few more hours. Talmadge arrived at 6:27 p.m. weighing 7 lb 11 oz and 19 in long. He was bright eyed and beautiful, and I was so in love. Though he was born at 6:27, I was unable to feel my legs or walk on my own until 2 a.m. From the catheter and the stitches, I was in so much pain following birth, but it was worth it every time I looked into my little boy's eyes.
Fast forward a little over a year, and my husband and I decided we wanted to have another child around the time our son was turning two. We timed it almost perfectly, with Talmadge's birthday at the end of August and this baby due in September. It was another boy, and while I initially had a twinge of sadness it was soon overtook with the excitement of raising two little boys that would grow up as best friends. While I didn't regret the way my first son came into the world, I was committed to giving my next baby a different entrance. There was talk of the WNC Birth Center opening in time for my birth, and that was all I wanted. I knew I needed to make a commitment to not taking any medications and for the gentle birthing experience I had always dreamed of. The center did open in time, and I was able to transfer my care there when I was 31 weeks pregnant. I didn't feel the slightest bit of hesitation or anxiety at switching in the last few weeks, because I knew this was what I always wanted.
The midwifes at the birth center were rock stars! They gave me a great sense of peace and confidence that this was going to happen the way I wanted it to. I immediately saw a huge difference in being treated by an OB/GYN vs. a midwife. For one, a midwife actually touches you and takes the time to talk with you. My OB/GYN never really touched my bump besides a quick measurement each week, and they would have you in and out in 10-15 minutes. When I would visit my midwifes, they would press on my belly and tell me what position the baby was in, how big they thought he would be and seemed to genuinely care about me and my family. This is what I had been missing the first pregnancy - a support group to cheer me on through pregnancy and labor!
On the day that I was originally given as my due date, I just woke up thinking this was it. I went to see the midwife and asked for a sweep. I wanted to do everything I could to have this baby at the birth center and not go to far past my due date. After leaving, I felt a little crampy but nothing significant. That night, we went to bed and I woke up about 1 a.m. to a contraction. I thought, that was pretty strong, but I'm going to try to get some sleep. I fell back asleep for about 30 minutes and then woke up to a really strong contraction. I went ahead and woke my husband up and told him, "this is happening but try to sleep if you can". I got out of bed, and my two year old sensing something was going on, joined me.
I turned on some cartoons and sat on the couch with him for a minute. He decided he was hungry so I went to the kitchen and started making grilled cheeses for us. The contractions continued to get stronger and at this point I decided I should make Walker a pot of coffee. He got up himself around this time, and asked me if I had called the midwifes. I told him I didn't want to be that person that bothered them unnecessarily, so I would wait until I was sure. At about 2:45 a.m., I became sure that this was happening. It was getting intense. I called my midwife and said, "It's baby time!". She asked if I was sure and I told her I definitely was. We agreed to meet in 45 minutes at the birth center. I then went to sit on the birth ball while my husband got everything together.
I'll never forget my two year old's face. He could tell I was in pain and wasn't sure what to do with himself. At one point he looked at me and said "baby hurt?". We had told him there was a baby in my belly and I guess he noticed me rubbing my stomach during the contractions. I told my husband to grab a bucket for the car ride because I was pretty sure I was going to throw up at some point in time. We picked my doula up on the way, and she helped to entertain Talmadge as we drove. The car ride was only about 30 minutes long, but a lot went through my mind as we went. First, I was thinking my husband was driving like Mario Andretti and that it was completely unnecessary. I didn't feel like complaining though, or even talking for that matter. I was also doing a lot of praying and meditating for strength. I was pretty sure at this point I had made a huge mistake. Why did I chose a birth center again? They invented epidurals for a reason, right?! If I get there and I'm not at least 8 cm, I don't know what I'll do. Then my thought would go back to Talmadge and how I wanted to have strength in front of him and I wanted to be back home in a few hours holding him and my new baby together. We pulled in, and Walker helped me to the door while my doula sat with Talmadge until our friends could arrive to watch him. Speaking of friends, we are blessed to have some of the best friends in the world that when we called them at 2:30 a.m. they hopped out of bed and drove to the birth center to help us. My parents were planning to be there with him, but they didn't even have time to make it up from GA once labor started.
We walked into the birth center and a midwife was waiting to greet us. I had to stop while walking in because of an especially strong contraction. Once it passed, she asked which room I wanted and I think I responded with an answer but at that point I didn't care. You could have stuck me anywhere and I would not have cared. We went into the room and one of the midwifes started filling the birthing tub. The glorious birthing tub that I so wanted to use. The other midwife began asking the standard questions, to which I could no longer respond. I told them I needed to go to the bathroom. They asked if I was sure I really needed to use the bathroom and if they could check me first. I told them no, I just needed to go. I felt like I really did, but I also felt like I needed to sit down for a minute and be by myself. When I'm really in pain I internalize it instead of expressing it to others.
Almost immediately upon sitting on the toilet, my water broke with force. I continued to sit there in too much pain to talk. After I had been in there a couple minutes, I could hear them asking me if I was okay. I couldn't talk at the time, and finally all I could do was shout, "My water broke, I need to push". I heard the midwife say, "Help her to the bed now." Walker helped me over to the bed and I was throwing clothes off as I went. The midwife then checked and said that the head was coming down and there was no time for a water birth. This was a little saddening but I definitely didn't care at the moment.
This is when I started thinking that I had made a mistake again, because now this baby had to come out. I believe I said something along these lines, and that I didn't want to push. Walker went to grab our doula, and the midwifes got me in position to deliver. Then, this amazing thing began to happen. My body just told me what to do. They would say push hard, or don't push as hard on this one, but they almost didn't need to. My body was pushing without me telling it what to do. It was instinctual, and in an odd way, felt good. I was dreading this part more than laboring, but this was nothing compared to that. I will say the ring of fire is no joke, but at that time in your laboring experience, you won't care. All I cared about was getting the baby out of my body. A little bit of pushing, and our sweet baby boy arrived in this world at 3:53 a.m. He was actually smaller than my first at 7 lbs 6 oz, and was longer at 20.25 inches. Lawson came into this world fast and strong, and I can't wait to figure out who he is and see the amazing things he will do.
What happened afterwards was nothing short of miraculous either. I was up and walking myself to the bathroom within two hours, and heading home with my new baby in tow in six! At the WNC Birth Center, the midwifes do not only deliver your baby, but they stay with you the whole time you're laboring and recovering. After having Talmadge, my OB/GYN stitched me up and was gone before I was moved to a recovery room. I will say it again, it is amazing what a difference it makes having a midwife! Though there were moments I wasn't sure I could do it, the people around me pushed me through. There was absolutely nothing I would do differently, and if I ever decide to have another child I will without a doubt use the birth center again. It was exactly the peaceful and gentle birthing experience that I had dreamed of.
It could be coincidental, but the recovery after my second was quick and so much easier than my first. I did make an effort to take care of myself - staying hydrated, taking calcium/magnesium supplements, using my postpartum bath salts twice a day, and using a homemade postpartum spray on myself and my pads. I would say within 1-2 weeks I felt like myself again down there. With my first, it was more like 6-8 weeks. I had also been seeing my chiropractor throughout the pregnancy which helped with both delivery and recovery in my opinion.
If you are pregnant and reading this, if you take anything away from this just know that you are strong and you can do this. Your birth experience may turn out exactly like you want and it may not, but it will be beautiful and something you hold onto forever. Becoming a mom woke up a part of me that I never knew existed. I now have a passion for helping pregnant moms to feel their best before and after delivery. I also have a passion for providing natural products for babies, as something so amazing and fresh to this world should only receive the best there is to offer!
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share your stories!