As I’ve mentioned, this pregnancy was no cake walk. Starting with extreme sickness and migraines and ending with a pain in my pubic bone/hip that left me barely able to walk without crying some days. I was very ready to give birth despite my anxiety over how birth would go
All signs pointed to baby coming early or at least on time. I had contractions throughout the month of January, but nothing regular or serious. The due date, January 25th, came and went. So did January 26…and 27… and 28. We shuffled the kids between Oregon City (our town) and Silverton (my hometown where my mom lives) expecting the baby to come any moment. I ate spicy food, walked as my body would allow, pumped to help kickstart contractions, but not much was happening. We were all pretty tired and on edge. Around 9:10 pm on the night of January 29, I was messaging with my friend Julianne and joking that my pregnancy was all a sham and that maybe I wasn’t even pregnant at all. A moment after I sent her that message, I heard a tiny pop. My water broke.
When Josh called the midwife, I wasn’t having contractions yet. But within 30 minutes my contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds to a minute. For me, labor primarily happens in my lower back. This time it seemed to stretch even deeper into my tailbone than in the past, causing a body-shaking pain as if had a broken tailbone. I am thankful the drive was only 30 minutes. We arrived at the birth center in Aurora and as soon as my contraction ended, I hurried inside and up the stairs before another one could fully set in. Once in the room, I got down on my hands and knees and someone brought over a yoga ball. Leaning over the ball, I swayed with the contractions. I felt nauseous and (having made some poor pre-labor food choices at Mac’s that night…) asked for a bowl and threw up a few times. Glad to have that out of the way, I was ready to get in the tub. Hydrotherapy has always been my greatest relief in labor, so we filled up the tub and I climbed in. I’m not sure what time it was, but I labored, transitioned and started pushing while in the tub. Contractions piled on top of each other and my inner resilience felt thin… I didn’t want to be checked for how dilated I was, so I had to trust my instincts. I tried to get comfortable but any position that added pressure to my tailbone was out. Once again (as with Abby) I found my myself wanting to lie sideways – it seems to consistently win out as my best option.
With no real relief between contractions, I knew I had to be close to pushing and yet that urge wasn’t quite there. I tried to bury the worry that my instincts were wrong and the fear that I’d go on for hours at this pain level. I gasped for help and expressed that I didn’t know what to do. My midwife, Jessi, assured me that I was doing everything exactly as I needed to. Josh held my hand tight, my sturdy shelter, and supported the back of my head. As Jessi monitored the baby’s heart rate she let me know that I must be close to pushing because baby’s heart rate dipped during my contractions, indicating that baby’s head was near. Thankful for this confirmation, I tried to tune into my body more. The urge to push was there but I was resisting it because of the pain in my tailbone. Pushing offers a lot of relief in terms of how the baby feels in my body, but makes my tailbone feel like it is being crushed. At this point I recalled the prayer intentions for which I wanted to offer up this birth: for each of my children to always walk in the Light and God to protect them from any darkness that tries to take their hearts captive. For our family to remain close in Love and united in Faith. I offered my pain to Jesus and asked him to bring peace to the family of Jennifer Naraki, a woman fighting an aggressive form of cervical cancer, for the needs of each of her boys’ hearts and for her husband. I held these intentions in my heart until I could no longer hold back and gave in to pushing.
I love the idea of a waterbirth, but there is a point for me that I feel I need grounding. When I imagined this birth over the last few months, the image of an oak tree consistently came to my mind. I imagined its strong roots, pushing down through the earth slowly….deepening, weathering the change of the seasons, and each spring returning with new life, strength and growth. When that feeling came, that I needed the earth to push through, I got out of the tub and moved to the bed (as I choked out something about my legs not working and my other midwife, Meredith, assuring me that my my whole body will work even though it felt like it was broken 😂).
Shivering cold, I huddled under my towel and began to push again. Sometimes able to bear down through the whole contraction and other times barely able to breathe through the pain. They told me they could see the head and the next few pushes I gave it everything I had left. The familiar burning feeling came. With Abby there was relief between her head and her body. Not so with this birth… but as I gave my final push and felt my baby leave my body, the instant relief poured over me.
I lifted my head and shouted with great surprise, “it’s a GIRL! I’m so glad you’re here! I love you! Thank you Jesus! You’re HERE!”
Start to finish, this birth was an intense 2 hours and 20 minutes long. There is nothing in the whole world that compares with the feeling of finally meeting this whole new person that lived and grew inside of me. Completely unique, completely her own…and yet, even in this picture, we are still united, sharing blood. I can’t believe we have another daughter! We REALLY thought we would have a boy – I dreamed about a boy over and over again. But here SHE is, and of course, all feels right. She latched right away and we are off to a good start on our breastfeeding journey. She is our littlest one yet- 7lbs even, 20.25 inches long. They they did her examination they actually came to believe the due date was wrong – they said she looked like she is 39 weeks. So far all we know she may have been early and not late at all!
I thought I had it good at Family Beginnings in Ohio…and then I came here. This is the birth experience I always hoped for: birthing naturally in a beautiful, uplifting space with calm, loving and supportive people. I am eternally grateful for the attentive care I receive at Aurora Whole Family. We have so much respect for these strong, selfless midwives who plan their own lives around bringing other people’s babies into the world. They thought I was going to go into labor the night of the 28, and they went and spent the night at the birth center just in case. They consoled me and gave me practical advice throughout my pregnancy to treat both my physical and emotional troubles. They respected my decision to monitor my glucose at home when my Gestational Diabetes test came back positive and encouraged me in my eating habits. They were always concerned with my overall whole well-being. Natural birth may seem very scary and it is certainly painful…. but being able to give birth in this kind of environment was everything I dreamed for birth. I mean, it felt like I was staying at a bed and breakfast! When the midwives went home, a post partum doula stayed the night to check my vitals, get me snacks and anything else I needed. 1 on 1 care. I didn’t feel like a bother. She cooked Josh and me a delicious breakfast in the morning. I felt empowered and respected…and RESTED. We got to leave as soon as they were sure baby and I were healthy and we were home less than 20 hours after arriving. It was amazing!
We love you, Audrey Clare! We are so happy you’re here! We can’t wait to know you more and more. This is our FAMILY!!!