I decided to write out Olive's birth story on our blog for a few reasons. First, because her birth was (second to Colin and I becoming man and wife and coming to know the Lord) one of the most powerful and beautiful moments of my life. I read a lot of birth stories on various blogs and websites in the weeks leading up to our birthing time, so if there is anyone who finds this interesting, informative, or encouraging, it is worth it! ***Disclaimer*** it IS a birth story, so there may be some details that make some people uncomfortable. Please don't continue if you think this is the case for you! There are also a few pictures at the end. No nudity is shown, but there is a picture of a newborn baby with vernix and some blood covering her. Don't scroll down if you're squeamish!
The weeks leading up to Olive's birthing time were, as I've said before, full of peace and patience. We were obviously very excited to meet her, and to experience birth, but at the same time we were confident that she would come when she was ready, and we wanted to cherish our last moments together as a single family. If ever there were slight discouragement, it was only because my body had shown no signs whatsoever of impending labor-- only the mildest of Braxton-Hicks contractions, I was still carrying very high...etc. I chose not to do internal exams at my appointments as well, so I had no information to go on.
I woke up on Saturday morning and pretty quickly began to notice that my pressure waves (Hypnobabies talk for contractions) were more powerful, and I could feel them wrapping around my back. This was exciting for me, but at the same time I knew that many women have stronger pressure waves for weeks before their birthing time. Colin and I got dressed and ready and headed off to his afternoon soccer game, where I decided to walk the length of the field back and forth, back and forth, to see if anything happened with my waves. The whole time I was experiencing the pressure waves , but thinking very little of it, besides how cool it was to have a new sensation. After Colin's game, we headed home and laid down for an afternoon nap. I could only sleep about a half an hour (Colin slept for 3 hours, which turned out to be a very good thing!), but did notice that during my rest the waves hadn't slowed down or gone away at all, despite my being well hydrated and comfortable. I woke up and made dinner, still in doubt. When Colin woke up, we ate and hung out a little bit and watched an episode of The Office. I could tell that he was quietly watching me as I sat on our birthing ball and dealt with the ever-increasing strength of the waves. He was very calm and encouraging (as he would continue to be throughout or birthing time!), and made no attempt at timing them... he just watched me as I experienced them. Around 8 or 9 o'clock our landlords came over, and as we were chatting with them my pressure waves became stronger. I was unable (well, more unwilling at this point) to interact during them, so I began to lean over the counter and focus my way through them.
After they left, Colin and I decided that it may behoove us to begin listening to our Hypnobabies track "Easy First Stage". I didn't particularly enjoy this part of our early labor, as I much preferred to be able to move around instead of being in the "off switch" position (where your body has been trained to remain loose and limp from head to toe). It was at this point, around 11 o'clock, that I began really using my Hypnobabies training by switching to the "center switch" position (where you direct your anesthesia and relaxation to your birthing muscles, and are fully able to interact and move around as desired). I was still in disbelief that I was in actual labor, even though my pressure waves were about a minute long and 2-3 minutes apart (Looking back: WHAT?? ha!). I was very comfortable and would in no way describe these pressure waves as painful. My mind and body fully accepted every wave with gladness and excitement-- I knew that whatever was going on in my body was preparing it for our little girl's arrival. I smiled, laughed, and talked with Colin in between every pressure wave. This definitely contributed to my disbelief. I always imagined that labor would be much more grueling, even though we prepared very well with Hypnobabies.
I had always thought that I would be very active (walking) during the early stages of labor. I knew this was good for positioning the baby as well as keeping labor progressing. But, when it came down to it, all I really wanted during these waves was to be sitting down or squatting, with my arms or forehead on Colin's shoulders, focusing, breathing and lowly "aah"ing. It felt good for me to vocalize the pressure I was feeling. After a little while, Colin suggested getting in the warm bathtub. He lit some candles, turned the light off, and played guitar for me and sang while I worked through each coming wave. I cherish that memory.
It was soon after that Colin insisted that we call our midwives (again, I was still in some form of disbelief and had been asking him not to. I think at this point I knew things were happening, but again, had heard so many times that first time labors are usually very long. I knew we could be laboring well into the morning and next day, so I didn't want to get ahead of ourselves. Olive had other plans). After talking to them on the phone and having them listen through one of my pressure waves, they confirmed that I was most likely in active labor. They advised laying down to try and sleep for an hour, and calling back. Well, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to sleep, as the waves were becoming longer and closer together (still around a minute long but no more than two minutes apart). I wanted to feel clean and comfortable, so I decided to shower, as it helped me relax. Colin was at this point finishing up packing our bags (birthing clothes, all of the fresh fruit, protein and such for smoothies during labor), and I could see the excitement in his face, although he kept his physical excitement low (adrenaline is contagious and works against the birthing process). It was while he was packing the car that I noticed some bloody show when I went to the bathroom (I know, TMI, but as I said, this is a birth story!). As I had previously stated, we had learned to keep our adrenaline to a minimum in our classes, but I couldn't help but excitedly yell out to Colin, "BLOODY SHOW! BLOOODYYY SHOWWW!!". This is when I knew that I was in actual labor for the first time! It took me that long, but now it was undeniable. I became even more excited.
At 1:45 am, Colin and I knew it was time to head to the Birthing Center. Between waves I moved myself from our bedroom and onto our couch, and then I promptly vomited multiple times. I knew this was one way my body was alerting me that I was progressing in the laboring process. I was so happy! I continued breathing and "aah"ing through every pressure wave, with Colin by my side for every single one, offering a hand to hold, a forehead to lean on, and shoulders to grasp. We got into the car and began to make the 15 minute drive to Covenant Birth Center. I can honestly say that was the most surreal drive-- we knew that our lives were about to change forever. We knew so little of what to expect. 9 months just can't prepare you for that moment. It was so quiet on the road, and despite having frequent and long pressure waves, there was such an air of peace in that early morning hour. I don't think I'll ever look at I-20 and I-26 the same.
We got to the Birthing Center and our two midwives, Lisa and Alex, were bustling around making preparations. The first thing that they had me do was get on my back on the bed to be checked. (Side Note: I officially feel awful for women who are forced to spend their entire labors on their backs. That one minute it took our midwife to check me was so extremely uncomfortable!) She looked at me and smiled as she told us that I was 7-8 cm dilated (I was already in Transition!), and she could feel my bag of waters bulging! This gave me a burst of confidence, as one of my fears in labor was lack of progression. Colin and I had made it through our entire active labor at home and were in the middle of the "most difficult" part. It was around 2 a.m. I was so incredibly proud of our baby and, as strange as this may sound, continued to look forward to the rest of our birthing time.
Colin began helping Lisa and Alex fill up the inflatable birth pool as I continued working through the waves. I found it comfortable to labor on the toilet (How odd is that?), so I sat there for a good amount of time. It was a very surreal experience, being at the Birth Center. This is the place that I knew we were going to deliver Olive at for months. This is the place where I had learned so much about pregnancy and our baby, month after month. The lights were dim, there was music going, and I was left in peace with Colin to work our baby out.
There must have been a time vortex somewhere in the center, because we really did lose all sense of time. The next thing I knew, my water broke as I was sitting on the toilet (Very convenient)! Our midwife, Lisa, looked at me and said, "You're planning a water birth, right? Well, I'd suggest getting into the tub before this turns into a toilet birth." HA! The tub was full of water and I was able to climb in. If you are pregnant and planning a natural birth, I highly recommend laboring in the water! It felt amazing to have weight taken off of my body, and it was much easier to maneuver myself into different positions. The quietness of the room was perfect. The midwives were incredible-- they really left Colin and I to ourselves. They had told us before that they wanted to give each of their clients what they needed and wanted in labor (within reason, of course), and it was clear that what we needed most was to be in peace, together. So with the exception of quietly sitting and watching and occasionally checking Olive's heart rate, Colin and I were left to experience much of our labor alone together.
Let me tell you a little bit about Colin as my birth partner. If ever I witnessed silent strength, this was the moment. He spoke to me in near whispers, speaking the word, "peace" in my ear over and over and reminding me to go to my "Special Place" (a Hypnobabies technique in which the mother mentally and emotionally goes to a safe place with her baby). He recited Psalm 16 with me during pressure waves. I felt like he was anchoring me, watching over me and protecting me, and radiating pride all at the same time! His affirmation, I'm sure, had so much to do with the confidence I felt our entire birth.
The pressure waves were now seemingly right on top of each other and much, much stronger. As weird as it sounds, my heart felt gratitude towards them. I think this is one of the main principles of Hypnobabies that really became engrained in my mind and heart and helped me through labor. These powerful sensations were taking over my entire being in order to help our baby come to us safely, and soon! My "aah"ing became more intense, but again, as strange as it may sound, I can honestly say that pain was still not the sensation that I was feeling. Minutes after my water broke, my body began to attempt pushing without me! It was such an odd feeling, not being able to control such a thing. Lisa instructed me to reach down and feel our baby's head for the first time. Talk about surreal. I could feel her hair and her scrunched up skin! This gave me the boost of energy I needed, and soon I was able to participate in the ride my body was taking me on. I had heard women say that pushing was such a relief, and I have to agree. Allowing your body to take over you for hours is one thing-- being able to work along with it is awesome. I focused on breathing her out instead of vigorously pushing, but when it came down to it, it felt good to put a little bit of power behind it. The midwives were again amazing and allowed me to choose how long and hard to push on my own. So, with my arms around Colin's neck (he was in the tub at this point), I began to work baby girl out.
Every pressure wave brought her head down more and more. The midwives kept encouraging me to feel her! I can honestly say that birthing at that point becomes such an animalistic process. The noises that you make and the focused mindset that you come into is purely... animal. I don't know how else to put it. It was so powerful. After about 20 minutes of pushing, Lisa asked if I would like to change positions to make it easier for both Colin and I to see Olive come out. So, with Colin's arms around me from behind and me leaning into him, I pushed. After two pressure waves, I pushed for the last time as Olive's head came out. What a strange sensation! One more push and out came her squirmy little (or, not so little) body. Colin quickly retrieved her from the water and brought her to my chest.
Her body felt so good in my arms. She was so squishy and soft! One reason I am so glad we did a natural birth was the state she was in when she came out. I imagine the transition from womb to world is usually pretty traumatizing-- going from a warm, wet, and dark environment to a cold and usually bright room. But she was born into the warm water, and because of the lack of drugs in both of our systems, her eyes were open when she came out! She let out a scream immediately. Colin and I were both in such disbelief. All I could say over and over (after asking, "Is she still a girl?" haha) was "my baby. my baby!". After the cord stopped pulsing, Lisa allowed Colin to cut through the cord. He was amazed at how strong it was! They handed Olive off to Colin to go lay on the bed, skin to skin, while I delivered the placenta and got checked out. That was a very long few minutes for me, as my body was hemorrhaging blood and wouldn't stop, on top of having a bad tear from her unexpected size and how quickly she came out. They had to give me a shot of pitocin in my leg and monitored me closely. None of this mattered. I got to hold my baby girl and nursed her for 45 minutes, drinking it all in with Colin. She ended up being 9 lbs. 3 oz. (which is funny, because just days before, Lisa predicted around 6 lbs. 10 oz.! HA!), 22 inches long, and scored a 10/10 on the apgar scale. We were all shocked at her size-- especially because of the amount of weight I actually gained in pregnancy, how much I showed, and a pretty intentional diet. So it goes-- the perks are plenty of fat rolls to kiss and pinch!
Preparing for the next pressure wave, right before Olive was born!
Seconds after she was born!
Daddy having skin to skin time with his new daughter.
Olive's birth was perfect. I could have never truly imagined what it would be like to experience labor, which is possibly a lot of the reason I was in disbelief for the vast majority of it. I highly recommend preparing your body, mind, and heart for such an experience with a class like Hypnobabies. It cleared any tension and fear I had about birth and replaced those bad thoughts with truth and confidence. It's hard to explain how, but practicing creating anesthesia and being able to direct it where you need it in your body actually works! We were blessed to be able to bring Olive into the world in peace with a quick and uncomplicated labor. The midwives at Covenant offered us so much information during pregnancy as well as a strong knowledge of how to treat the laboring process. I have so much confidence in them and am such an advocate for what they do!
God is so gracious to us! Thank you for reading through all of this. I am so impressed if you made it the whole way through.
Grace and Peace!