Well it’s time for me to finally share Clarabel’s natural birth story. It’s a long story but I never want to forget all the fun little details so here it all is. This little one was almost born in the parking lot of the birth center so be sure to stick around till the end to read about it all.
It all began four days earlier. I had an aggressive acupuncture appointment Friday morning (one day past my due date). I already had two previous acupuncture appointments to get things moving but since we were now passed my due date she goes at it full force and pulls out all the tricks to get labor moving. By Friday night, I remember mentioning to my sister-in-law that my low back hurt more than normal and I was hoping that was a sign. Through the weekend the low back pain was joined with low cramping. Now, I very rarely get cramps so this was a whole new phenomenon for me. We went to church Sunday morning and then headed to the expo center for America’s Largest Christmas Bazaar (a yearly tradition that I wasn’t dare going to break unless this baby was coming). We decided to walk those aisles and visit every booth with the hopes of getting baby out. By the time we got back to the car two hours later, the back pain and cramping was a little more severe but certainly nothing unbearable. (Looking back I realize this was all early labor.)
We spent Sunday night hanging out, watched a few movies, worked on baby’s quilt some more, and most importantly worked to get this little one out. I was so ready to meet her!! For a few hours, I would do 10 deep squats and then bounce vigorously on the yoga ball for one minute. And then would repeat 15 minutes later. Not sure if it helped move things along but at least mentally I felt like I was helping.
The Waiting Game
Monday morning I woke up thinking I peed myself. Super excited thinking my water broke I realized it was just my mucous plug. A sign that things were moving in the right direction but they can grow back so a little disappointing. I called my midwife around 8am just to give her a heads up about the cramping, back pain, and now losing my plug. She thought I might be in early labor but it could still be days so told me to rest, sleep, and be lazy to store up energy. So, although I wanted to go on a 10 mile walk to get baby out, I plopped myself on the couch with a heat pack on my back and my poor husband headed back to work.
By Monday night around seven, I started realizing the tightness in my abdomen seemed to coincide with my back pain. It finally started hitting me that I might be having back labor so started googling the heck out of it in case that was it. All I knew was back labor sucked usually worse than normal labor. Awesome!!
Pretending It Isn’t Labor
Around 9:30 I was convinced it was back labor, although the pain was certainly not unbearable, but still super early so called my midwife with an update and decided to go to bed with the hopes I would be woken up during the night ready to meet our baby. My midwife, however, said, “Go sleep. Sounds like baby might be coming tomorrow so get your rest.” She gave me a few tips on how to cope with back labor and said call me if anything changes. The last thing I remember Justin saying as he set his alarm for work the next morning was that he “dang better not be waking up to that alarm in the morning.” And off we went to bed.
About an hour later, I was out of bed pacing. The back pain seemed to have gotten worse. But then again I had been convincing myself for 2 weeks I was in labor so I decided to not make a big deal about it and sleep as much as I could. We were taught in our bradley method birth classes to not dwell on the contractions in early labor because it will make time pass so much more slowly. So I tried to sleep and ignore the back pain. By 1 am I remember walking back up the stairs as another contraction hit and just started shaking uncontrollably. At that point, I woke Justin up and I asked him to get a hot bath going. Note: This whole time he’s been snoring away sleeping. We figured one of us might as well be rested in case this was it.
The bath helped but our tub is only so deep so I showered and tried to go back to sleep for a little bit longer. That didn’t last long until I was leaping out of bed with more contractions. At this point, I was starting to wonder if this was a little more serious than just early labor and I started using more of the coping mechanisms I had been taught. For the next hour I paced, sat on my knees leaning over the bed, leaned over the yoga ball, and when the pain got too intense, Justin got up and pushed on my tailbone or squeezed my hips which really seemed to help. By about 3am, I was back attempting to sleep on the couch and was trying to track contractions on the app I had downloaded in preparation weeks ago. I would press start when I felt it coming on, stop as it let up, and then fall back asleep until the next one hit. This went on for about 30 minutes, until I realized I had leapt off the couch in pain for multiple contractions in a row. I finally went upstairs, told Justin this was it, and asked him to look through the app.
He seemed a little horrified as he looked at the stats and said we should have called the midwife an hour ago. They go off the 5-1-1 rule. Contractions 5 minutes apart lasting at least 1 minute for at least an hour. He called my midwife to give her the news. She asked questions and I said I felt good but would like to come in sooner than later just so I could use the big birthing tub to help relax. After back pain for two days I felt super tense. We decided to meet at the birthing center in an hour.
Fun fact: Forty minutes later, I was leaning over a giant mound of pillows on our bed as Justin tried continuously stuffing a lollipop in my mouth. He thought I needed some energy. Good thing he didn’t get punched in the face for that one. I remember being very angry but no energy to do anything about it.
It’s Baby Time
So we finally made it into the car. I called our birth photographer and just remember saying “it’s baby time!” And then we called my mom. She said I sounded in pain but not miserable so was going to take a shower and then head to the birth center. Apparently our 25 minute drive ended up taking only 8 minutes! Oops!! Apparently, Justin was a little terrified he might be delivering the baby in the car and ran a few lights on the way. I don’t remember much of the car ride except the big bump into the driveway at the birth center. And then as I swung my legs out of the car a contraction hit and BAM!! “I have to push!” My poor husband runs to my side of the car and says, “Don’t you dare push. Come on, let’s get inside.” Now, if you know my husband, he is the most chill, no-stress guy. I saw a little bit of fear in his eyes though and still thought this is just what it felt like to finally be in labor. We walk to the door to the birth center and realize it’s locked. We had beat the midwife. Ahhhh!!!
Thankfully, I just continued standing there moaning as Justin frantically calls her cell phone. No answer. And this whole time, I’m like rationally saying “I seriously have to push. This is not good.” I so wish there was a video from us waiting outside. I’m sure it was only a few minutes, but I had at least 3 contractions on the doorstep and worried the baby might fall out the whole time.
About two minutes later, one of my midwives arrives and we quickly get downstairs. I remember her commenting that she didn’t think I was that far along in labor based on our phone call an hour earlier. Me either!! I told her I didn’t feel like I had to push until right when we pulled up. Later I learned that with back labor it just takes one little movement to make the baby fall into the correct position. So either the bump into the driveway or the shift getting out of the car caused this little one to drop.
It took about 15 minutes for the tub to fill and I just stood there leaning on the bed thinking wow the need to push is huge! I don’t remember being told about feeling the urge to push before pushing time but figured I must have just missed something. I changed clothes and finally it was time to get in the tub. The tub felt great!! I remember asking Mr G to turn on our baby playlist thinking we would be there for hours. Soon he was back at my side telling me to breathe, focus, and a few times he even shoved my head down saying “chin down!” He’s lucky he didn’t get slapped for that one. At that point though I was in my zone.
My midwife and one of the student midwifes were furiously gathering up supplies and getting the room ready. She had said relax and have a few contractions in the tub and then I’ll check you. A few minutes later I remember I just kept groaning the midwife’s name thinking I’m not sure how much longer I can ignore the urge to push. So she came back and said let me check you. I saw her eyes get super wide as she said 10 cm. Meaning it’s go time!!
This was our reaction as she told us 10 cm. So glad this was captured on camera!!
My midwife quickly rushed out of the room, called my other midwife and told her to “get here NOW!”
I honestly still felt like I had hours to go just because I had so many tools in my toolbox still. More positions to try. Ways to cope with the pain. Heck, we hadn’t even pulled out any of the labor snacks I had brought yet. Plus, the candles weren’t even out.
She came back in just in time for another contraction. She asked me to take off my skirt so she could see better and I was like, “What do you mean? I’m not having this baby in the tub.”
She looked at me a little shocked as I reminded her we had planned on birthing squatting or in the bed or something. She said squatting was definitely not an option because it would put too much pressure on my pelvis and labor was already going too fast. She said I don’t care what you do but you need to decide NOW. I honestly wasn’t sure I could stand up out of the tub and I think she knew that. She asked what our hesitations were about a water birth, we all talked it out, and decided water birth it would be. I could see a look of relief when I said I’d stay. I think she knew this baby was coming any second.
So off came the skirt and three pushes later I felt my midwife shove her hand up me providing counter pressure and then on the next push out come our little Clarabel Rose at 5:12 am! Only 42 minutes after arriving at the birth center. And with that I look at my husband and we both just start laughing. Did that seriously just happen?!
A few minutes later my other midwife walked through the door and her face dropped as she says “I missed it! If only I didn’t have to scrape ice off the windows!” Oh and sometime shortly after I got in the tub, our wonderful photographer, Nakalan McKay, arrived. I was so grateful to see her because I was worried that things were going so fast that she might not make it.
Twelve minutes later I birthed the placenta, which was awesome by the way! I love all those medical things. Her cord had like a figure eight in it and was super fat. Daddy got to cut the cord and momma got to examine the placenta so it was a win-win for us all.
And then daddy got his first chance to hold her. So precious! These two had a special connection from the beginning.
Later, that night my midwife came to check on us and hung out on our bed and I was able to ask her questions to get the timeline right in my head. She said she heard “the groan” and knew it was the ring of fire. She put her gloves on the fastest she ever had to shove that baby back up there to help lessen my tearing since birth went so dang fast.
So grateful for our midwives and all the guidance and support they have been through the past nine months.
After the shock wore off that our baby girl had just been born and I still hadn’t even been convinced I was in labor but for an hour, I looked at the contraction app to see if it really was just 4.5 minutes apart for an hour like Justin had told the midwife on the phone. Well, ya, not so much!! Apparently he didn’t know how to use the app I had downloaded to see the details view and because I was trying to sleep through contractions I had missed tracking some which threw off the averages when he looked. By 2 am, my contractions were about two and a half minutes apart and we didn’t even call the midwife until 3:30. Oops!!
This birth was so not what we planned when we wrote our birth plan. But ya know, this birth was awesome. I love how we both just laughed as our little girl was born. Or how we had a water birth. I mean, heck, how Portland is that?! And we got the natural birth that we wanted. So glad to have our little one in our arms and start this journey of being mommy and daddy!
Thank you to the fabulous Nakalan McKay Photography for capturing those moments in time so beautifully!