PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING POST IS UNCESORED + CONTAINS RAW DOCUMENTATION.
Margaret’s Birth Story, as told by Mother
On Thursday, March 22, I scheduled a prenatal massage at 1pm hoping that it would kick start labor like it did with my daughter, Eleanor. I had sporadic contractions starting at 4am, but they stopped shortly after 6am. By the end of the appointment, I began to have regular contractions. My husband and I decided to see how the late afternoon progressed because they weren’t very strong, so we took a walk and ran some errands.
When we got home, the contractions picked up and were consistently 3-4 minutes apart and lasted 30-45 seconds. They still weren’t very strong or painful, but noticeable. I called my midwives around 7:30pm to let them know what was happening. In my gut I didn’t feel like I was in active labor, but my midwives, Monika and Tara, wanted to check me just to make sure because they knew things could move fast. We called our birth photographer and my friend Cassie to come over too just in case. Everyone arrived shortly after 8pm. The midwives checked me and I was 1cm dilated, 90% effaced and -1 station.
When the midwives listened to baby’s heart tones, they were concerned about some occasional drops to the lower end of the normal range. They had me lay on my side because it seemed that baby liked it better when I rested on my right side. They also decided to stay another hour to check baby’s heart tones intermittently as well as see if I made any progress with labor. At that point, my mind went into panic mode. I worried that something was wrong. It felt like I was going to lose out again on having the home birth experience I wanted. Several minutes later they sent my husband into the bedroom. I broke down in big, ugly, gut wrenching sobs. Ryan wrapped his arms around me and we prayed that baby’s heart would be strong, the cord wouldn’t have any issues, and that God would grant me my heart’s desire for a peaceful home birth. We agreed that our main priority was baby’s safety as we didn’t know if the drop meant an issue with the cord, or something else (I had a partial abruption with Eleanor, which ended in a hospital transfer). As he left the room, the song You’re Gonna Be OK by Jenn and Brian Johnson started to play. I knew in my heart that God had His hands wrapped around this baby and me.
The midwives stayed an additional three hours to check baby’s heart tones. After that initial check, the heart tones never dipped back down again. Praise God! Unfortunately, labor never progressed and my contractions were spacing out to 6 minutes apart. The midwives decided to leave, but I was told to contact them if I felt things shift. Per their instructions, I had a glass of wine and went to bed.
I expected labor to pick up the following day, but nothing happened. Monika called me that afternoon and stressed that the drops in heart tones normally wouldn’t bother anyone, but that she wanted to be super careful. She also said that she felt that yesterday happened for a reason: I was supposed to confront my fear of another transfer.
Later that day, Ryan and I decided it would be good to take a walk around our local mall and Target. Contractions were basically nonexistent and we hoped they’d pick up again if I walked a lot. For the rest of the day I felt frustrated and restless. That night, my body emptied itself and I lost a lot of my mucus plug. Ah! There was hope! Contractions were still nonexistent for the most part, but I called Monika to let her know my body was making some progress. She said these were all good signs and to get as much sleep as I could.
On Saturday, March 24th, I woke up at 4am with contractions that were 3-4 minutes apart. They didn’t feel strong — it actually felt like another repeat of Thursday night. I woke Ryan up to see if we should call the midwives. We waited, counted contractions and eventually agreed to try to get more sleep and wait until they got stronger and closer together. I slept a little but was wide awake at 6am. The contractions, though not strong, were still 3-4 minutes apart. I felt excited. This had to be it! I used the bathroom and lost even more of my mucus plug and this time had bloody show (something I never experienced with my first pregnancy). I let Ryan sleep until Eleanor woke up at 7am. By 7:30am the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and getting stronger. They weren’t painful at all, but I had to focus through them. I alternated between leaning on my birthing ball and bouncing on it to help keep labor going. I finally felt like I was in active labor. Ryan called the midwives, alerted the birth photographer, and then called my best friend, Cassie, who we made arrangements with to watch Eleanor while I was in labor.
Cassie arrived around 8:30am to pick up Eleanor. I gave her an extra hug and cried a little as she left. We told her when she came back home she’d have a little brother or sister. Tarra arrived around 8:45am and took my vitals. Monika arrived around 9am and did a vaginal exam. It was such a relief to learn that I was making good progress. I was dilated 3cm. Contractions continued to be painless, but they were strong and came every 3-4 minutes. Monika was concerned that I needed rest since I didn’t sleep well the night before. I laid down for a good hour and a half listening to worship music. The midwives came in every 15-20 minutes to check on baby’s heart tones. Everything sounded great.
Around 11:35am Monika asked if I felt ready to get things moving. I said “yes!” I really wanted to meet my baby. We decided to go for a walk since it was so beautiful outside. Monika, Ryan and I walked around our block a couple times and then walked the greenbelt behind our home. It felt good to move. I’ll never forget how beautiful that walk was. The bluebonnets were in bloom, the sun was shining, and I walked hand in hand with my husband through contractions. I was even able to laugh and talk in between them. I was amazed that there wasn’t any pain. With Eleanor’s birth, I endured excruciating back labor for hours. As we walked, I continued to focus and breathe through the contractions. They felt good. With each one, I took slow steady breaths, imagined my baby working his/her way down and said, “I’m elastic, I’m open, this is just a muscle tightening.”
30-minutes into our walk, I felt like we had to go home. I never stopped walking through the contractions and I felt them beginning to strengthen and get closer together. At 12:10pm, the moment we walked in the door, it was like a light switch turned on and I immediately went into
transition. I began pacing the house and moaning low moans. There still wasn’t any pain, but I had to completely focus through them. Ryan called the birth photographer to let her know to come right away. Monika and Tara rushed to get the birth pool filled. I couldn’t stop moving. Ryan followed me around and tried to rub my shoulders. I snapped at him to get away from me. He motioned to Tara and told her that he believed I was in second stage. At that moment I felt the baby drop. My body was pushing the baby out by itself. I panicked and flagged down Monika. I heard her say, “Oh shit. OK. It’s time to get on the bed.” The birth pool was only partially filled, so I couldn’t get in it. Monika had me get on hands and knees on my bed. A few moments passed and Candice, our birth photographer, walked through the door.
While on my hands and knees my back began to feel like it was on fire. I panicked: it felt exactly like back labor. For the first time, I felt the pain of each contraction and the baby making its way down through my pelvis. I yelled for someone to help ease the pain in my back. With Tara’s help I was able to semi-focus again and regain a little more control of the pain, which is when my water broke. It sounded like a huge water balloon exploded. I looked down to find my knees swimming in brown tinged fluid. I pushed the fear back of another hospital transfer. As Tara changed the chux pads on the bed, Monika stressed the importance of me getting off my hands and knees and birthing the baby quickly because of the meconium stained amniotic fluid. The contractions were right on top of each other, so it felt impossible to move. Monika and Tara guided me to a side lying position and I tried to push the baby out with the next contraction. My leg was on Ryan’s shoulder and it felt all wrong. I exclaimed to Monika how horrible of a job I felt I was doing and she agreed and said I needed to be on my back. Ryan moved behind me with a pillow so I could recline on him and bring my legs up. This felt so much better! Another contraction began and after my second deep breath, I felt my body working with the contraction to push the baby down. What an amazing feeling! I almost wanted to laugh in excitement because it was completely different than my experience pushing Eleanor out. With the next contraction, the baby crowned. Monika asked me if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. I said no out of fear of losing momentum. Ryan excitedly exclaimed, “the baby has a ton of hair!” With another push the head was out, such a relief! Monika told me to push slowly with the next contraction. Tara helped the baby rotate as its shoulders and body were born. Time then seemed stop. I immediately started crying as the baby was brought to my chest. I was oblivious to the gender. All I cared about was that my baby was here. In all the commotion of cleaning up the baby and basking in the high after labor, I was shocked to hear Ryan say “Margaret is here! We have another girl.”
Less than 10 minutes later I birthed the placenta. Monika and Tara checked the placenta and cord and found that they weren’t stained with meconium. Praise God! Debra, another one of my midwives, arrived a half hour later. Shortly after Debra’s arrival, Ryan cut the cord. The midwives helped me get comfortable on fresh clean sheets while Ryan got me some food. I laid with Margaret in bed for several hours, nursing and doing skin to skin while the midwives cleaned up and filled out the necessary paperwork. Monika examined me and found that I had a small 1st degree tear to my perineum. Ryan and Candice took Margaret to the living room while I was sutured. Afterwards, Ryan and I snuggled back into bed with Margaret.
Margaret was born at 12:45pm and was 7lbs 14oz and 21” long. Her labor was around 5 hours long. I was in transition for only 35 minutes once we came home from our walk. I don’t consider Eleanor’s birth traumatic, even with the hospital transfer, but I will say that Margaret’s birth healed the disappointments I carried with it not going the way I wanted it to. We are so in love with Margaret and feel lucky to be her parents.
Images Courtesy of Candice Dawn Photography, Austin Texas