When I was pregnant and planning my first home birth, there was an endless supply of birth stories for me to read. My midwife had even compiled and published an entire book of birth stories from local women, birthing at home just like I'd hoped to do. Near the end of my pregnancy, my husband and I would read one story together each night. Sharing those stories together eased our nerves and helped us feel prepared for the many variations of the big day ahead.
Over the past seven years, I've sent our clients to various blog sources and Ina May books in search of positive birth stories. Not that reading about Sunny birthing in the school bus in 1976 isn't enjoyable (and empowering, even!)...Sunny's bus birth simply isn't relatable. Wouldn't it be nice to read about Greater Cincinnati folks giving birth in Greater Cincinnati locations sometime this century, dare I say, over the past five years?! I sure think so. I've been dreaming of a Birth Story Series for years and today, I present our first installment.*
Christy was a client of mine last year who overcame some seriously tough twists during her labor (You're 10 centimeters! Just kidding... still 7!) to birth her sweet baby boy, Ashby, at Mercy Hospital in Anderson. She blogs over on Eat Clean Live Simple (go give her some love) and she's kindly written her birth story for us to share and enjoy.
Her birth photographer captured some beautiful images, as well. You can check those out here.
*If you want to share your Cincinnati birth experience on our blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our contact form.
I consider myself lucky and had a pretty picture perfect pregnancy. No morning sickness, barely any aches and pains, and to be honest didn’t really feel uncomfortable until week 39. But maybe it wasn’t luck, I took really good care of myself. I continued to have really good nutrition…(other than my weekly fix of ice cream). And I continued to do barre3 all throughout my pregnancy about 2-3 times a week up until week 39. I also got regularly adjusted by husband throughout my pregnancy (bonus points for marrying a chiropractor!) I truly believe by staying active, eating healthy, and taking care of my body, I set myself up for a healthy pregnancy and I am so thankful I did.
Throughout my pregnancy I was like any other first time mom, wondering what our baby would look like, nervous about what labor would be like, and also hoping and dreaming for a labor and delivery that we envisioned and planned. I can be a bit of a control freak sometimes always, so I tried my best to keep an open mind to expect the unexpected when it came to labor and birth. Early on Steve and I decided we wanted to have a natural childbirth. I knew though to accomplish that goal I would need to be mentally prepared. I did a lot of reading, watched documentaries, and we took a 6-week childbirth class to help us prepare. We had a great team of midwives that provided amazing care throughout and we hired a doula to help us prepare and assist us at the birth. I learned so much! I mean I knew where babies came from in all, but I was surprised at the very little I actually knew about what really happens during birth. But it was all very exciting for me. I was nervous, but I didn’t want to be scared of birth, instead I wanted to embrace it. Drugs were not an option for me and I was more than convinced to trust my body and let it do what nature intended it to do. This may sound weird, but I wanted to fully and completely feel our baby being born. Plus, all the benefits of a natural childbirth were more than enough to convince me. I wanted our baby to be fully alert and breastfeed as soon as possible and knew that a natural childbirth would help make that more possible.
So there it was, June 15, my due date. I had a midwives appointment and wanted to get checked just to know where I was. Welp, I was not dilated at all and I was maybe 60% effaced. I carried high the whole pregnancy and our baby still felt way up in my ribs. That was enough to convince me that the baby was sitting pretty comfortable in there and that I would get to enjoy being pregnant for a little bit longer. I was hoping for more than that, but tried not to get too down, knowing that the baby would come when the baby was ready. So what did we do? Stopped for ice cream of course and went to a park to talk. It was actually really nice, we still hadn’t decided for sure on a boy’s name and since we were being surprised on the gender, we knew we had to have both boy and girl names ready to go. So we talked about names and talked about what we would be most excited for if it was a girl and if it was a boy. It was a really fun afternoon just eating ice cream and enjoying being with Steve talking about how our lives were about to change.
That evening, we watched a How I Met Your Mother. We started binge watching that on Netflix and happen to be to the part where Lilly is pregnant. I had been wanting to write the baby a letter before it was born, but was having trouble getting in the mood to write. Well this episode, Lilly found out she was pregnant and with all my pregnancy emotions I just started writing. I wrote a beautiful letter to our soon to be baby and headed up to bed.
I was having trouble falling asleep, which is rare for me, and I got up to go to the bathroom around midnight. When I laid back down I felt a small gush of water. Shit did I just pee my pants? Nope, I just went, that couldn’t be the case. So I laid back down, knowing that if this was my water that contractions should be starting soon and that it was best if both Steve and I got as much sleep as we could. Steve woke up and I told him that I think my water might have broken, but it wasn’t a ton of liquid so he agreed that we should get some sleep and call our midwives in the morning if I made it that long.
The next morning, I had leaked some more, but still nothing major and no contractions so Steve headed to his office since he had patients scheduled. I was working from home that week, so luckily was able to relax and just wait as I knew contractions should be starting soon. I texted our doula and she suggested I should call our midwives to see if they wanted me to come in. Sure enough they said they wanted to see me to be sure. So Steve came home around lunch time, we packed our bags just in case and we headed to the midwives. My midwife gave one look at me and said yup that’s your water, but still did a test to be sure. She confirmed my membranes had ruptured. Okay, so now tell me how dilated I was. Thinking you know this party was getting started I thought 4, 5 maybe? Well try zero, zip, zilch, nada…I was still not dilated at all. But since I had been ruptured for over 12 hours, she sent us on our way to the hospital.
Now knowing that once we got to the hospital, we weren’t going to be sent home until the baby came, we knew we were in for a long stay. At this point I really wanted labor to start on its own and since my water had been broken over 12 hours I knew it had to start soon and we tried to kill some time before going to the hospital. We thought it would be good to get a good meal in as well so we went to Chipotle and then Kroger to walk around and get some tea. We wanted to walk some more to maybe try to get labor going so Steve suggested we walk over to TJ Maxx. Of course I didn’t object to that (I am a proud Maxxinista after all), so we browsed around a bit and picked out a new toy for Dakota, our fur baby. At this point it had been about 3 hours since we left the midwives and so we reluctantly went to the hospital, knowing they would be wondering where we were since they were expecting us.
When we checked in, they knew we were headed over and so we skipped triage and went straight to our room where we would labor, deliver and recover with our sweet new baby. I had requested a tub friendly room, that had enough room for the portable tub, because I was planning on laboring in the tub as much as possible for pain relief.
Once we got to our room our nurse got us settled and we waited for another one of our midwives to arrive. When she arrived I knew I wasn’t going to like what I heard. Since my membranes had been ruptured for over 15 hours now and I wasn’t starting labor on my own, I knew they were going to want to induce me. The longer your water is ruptured, the more you are likely you and baby can get an infection. I was right. My midwife wanted to start Pitocin. I know Pitocin is not the worst thing in the world, as it is the synthetic form of oxytocin and is used to start contractions, but this wasn’t what we planned. We were starting labor exactly how we didn’t want to start it. We planned on contractions starting at home and laboring there together as long as we could in a nice relaxed environment before heading to the hospital, but that was no longer an option and here we were in the hospital and labor needed to start. So we discussed our options and decided to start with diffusing clary sage essential oils and using a breast pump for nipple stimulation to see if those things could get these contractions going. I was ecstatic when some small contractions started and were around 5 minutes apart. I begged my body to start increasing the intensity, because I knew it wouldn’t be long until they would be back to check on me. After about an hour we stopped the stimulation when my nurse came back and told me that my midwife really wanted us to start Pitocin now. We asked for more time to discuss it and the nurse agreed to give us some time. I texted my doula Emily and she replied “Pitocin is not the devil.” I knew she was right, but I still didn’t want it, it’s not what we planned, I knew contractions would likely be more painful with it, and being the control freak I am, it was hard for me to accept. We were also reluctant to start Pitocin because this increases the likelihood of a cesarean, something we strongly wanted to avoid. We asked to speak with my midwife, by this time my contractions had basically stopped all together. Our ultimate goal was to still have a natural childbirth and to avoid a c-section. With that in mind, talking things through with our midwife, and coming to terms that my body had stopped contracting by itself we knew it was time for Pitocin.
They started it at 1mcg, the very lowest dose. To me it seemed like contractions started right away, but were still pretty mild. At this point we should have been sleeping to save our strength even though it was 6pm because we had a long night ahead of us, instead I ate dinner that my parents smuggled in for us (which I would later regret lol). Gradually over the next few hours they bumped the Pitocin up to 6mcg and from there I was having stronger, steady contractions and labor had officially started.
I knew I was in the early stage of labor and was easily able to breathe through the contractions with the support of Steve. They felt painful and intense, but still manageable. I was happy we took our birth classes to teach us breathing, it really helped me out a lot. Once contractions got pretty intense I wanted to labor in the tub to help with pain. But…..since I was still on Pitocin and which we later found out they really wanted me on it the whole time, I had to have a heart monitor on which meant no tub for me. Not that I pictured labor to be spa-like in a luxurious tub, but when I envisioned my labor, I knew that is where I would feel most relaxed in water and just found out that wasn’t a possibility for me. So one more thing unexpected change to our birth plan. Luckily I was allowed to use the shower instead.
I have no idea how long we labored in the shower, it felt like hours and it very well might have been but it was so nice and was really helping me with my contractions. I think it was about 3am at this point, so my water had been broken for around 27 hours. I moved back into the bed and labored there for about another hour when I told Steve that it was time that we called our Doula Emily to come help us. At this point I was 5 inches dilated so knew the hardest part was still ahead. I was getting pretty tired, and I knew Steve was too. It was a relief when Emily arrived at 4am and the first thing she did was tell Steve to go lay down and get some rest. She then took over and helped me through my contractions.
Steve slept for about an hour until he was woken up by me barfing my brains out. (See I told you I would regret that dinner I ate earlier). He was really worried about me barfing because I have a tendency to sounds like I am dying while getting sick and gasp for air. And you know the tiny little kidney bean bowls at the hospital, I have some thoughts about that. First how in the hell Emily caught my puke in that tiny little thing is beyond me, I’m talking ninja status fast grabbing that bean. And secondly those things are so dang small, I filled it up within seconds and had to upgrade to a larger tub. In all honesty, puking actually felt great and probably helped with moving the baby down and dilation.
After throwing up, things were getting harder and I felt like this was transition. I also started feeling a lot of pressure, hmmm….we were getting close I hoped. At this time, there were two nurses in there because of shift change. The nurse who had been attending to me all night checked to see how far I was dilated. Before she said anything, she had the incoming nurse check me as well. I was ecstatic when they both said, “there is nothing there, you are fully dilated!” I was so relieved, I would be able to push soon and meet our little baby! I was at the home stretch now and knew I could finish this birth without medication. I couldn’t wait to push, but knew that I wouldn’t push until my body felt like I needed to. They gave my midwife a call to return, and started prepping for the arrival of our baby and brought in the crib and scale.
Our midwife arrived within 30 minutes and after about another hour of contractions she wanted to check my cervix herself. I watched her face and the expression melt away to disappointment. I could tell immediately she didn’t have good news to report. “You are only 6 centimeters.” Um excuse me, what? I was just told that I was fully dilated by two different nurses! I just experienced the worst pain in my life, puked my brains out and that wasn’t even transition? There is no way in hell I can do this! Hearing I was only 6 centimeters dilated is so hard to describe. I was crushed. I really struggled here. I honestly didn’t think I could do it any longer. Being so close to being done and meeting our baby and now the worst was still yet to come. How was I going to do this? Mentally both Steve and Emily really encouraged me here and I know I wouldn’t have been able to go on without their strength and support.
After I was done throwing myself a pity party, I sucked it up and put my big girl pants back on. (Well not literally, it would have been hard pushing a tiny human out of my who-hah with pants on). We then decided to labor back in the shower since that really helped me before. I really liked it in there and the warm water felt so good, and I got to put my Michael Jackson glove back on to cover my IV. (Okay it was just a latex glove, but calling it my Michael Jackson glove was way more fun and I believe somehow gave me super powers!) By now I had been in active labor for over 14 hours, I was extremely tired and exhausted. I had not slept in 26 hours and I was starting to get delusional. Apparently, or so I’m told, really tired Christy is a lot like drunk Christy, and I became pretty slap happy in between contractions. You know that cute little boy who had his teeth pulled and said “is this real life?” That is exactly how I felt. I would look at someone’s face and say this isn’t real. I was tired, so tired. At one point while I was in the shower Emily asked if she could get me anything, and I replied yes my baby. She then said sorry she couldn’t do that right then, so I told her to punch me in the face, and I meant it. Unfortunately, she said she couldn’t do that so I told her I was going to jump out the window. Luckily the windows didn’t open. But I really wish she had punched me in the face.
This part gets pretty blurry for me. I was so tired and I was leaning forward on my hands and knees back in bed. While leaning forward and I think I was actually semi-sleeping in between contractions. This was the hardest part, I begged my body to dilate. I could no longer breathe controllably through my contractions, I had to scream. I swear I woke everyone up on my floor and almost made Steve go deaf. My midwife and nurses were also getting worried at this point, my membrane had been ruptured for almost 36 hours, my risk of infection was increasing. They were monitoring the baby’s heart rate and knew that this baby needed to come soon. Steve was amazing during this part. He was right by me, telling me I could do this, how amazing I was doing and that we would get to meet our little boy or girl soon.
Things started to feel different. I felt a ton of pressure and once I started feeling like I had to poop during my contractions my midwife wanted to check me again. (Apparently that was a sign!) She checked, I was close, almost fully dilated. Thank the Lord! Then shortly after, I really began to wanting to push, I felt like I needed to and that I couldn’t stop it. Finally! I was so ready to meet my baby! When my midwife nodded her head and said I could push, it was like Christmas morning. Pushing felt so good and I just listened to Emily and my midwife guide my pushes. Steve helped me to relax my face and breathe while pushing, and this really felt good. I had pushed for over an hour when my midwife told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head. It was squishy and I could feel our baby had a full head of hair. Ahh what a feeling!
I knew things were getting real when the transformer light came down from the ceiling and Steve gloved up. He was going to assist our midwife in delivering the baby and I knew if he had gloves on I was close. I remember my midwife saying this was it and to try to push slowly on the next contraction to help prevent tearing, she was also doing warm compressions with oils for the past 30 minutes or so to help prevent a tear.
I felt it coming on, that final contraction. That final push, I couldn’t wait to feel my baby come out. I pushed, I breathed, and there he was. Born at 12:12pm, Steve helped deliver him and placed him on my chest. He was so excited he forgot to announce it was a boy. Here I was staring at our perfect baby boy and I couldn’t believe it. I did it, we did it. He was here. We were instantly in love.
All I wanted to do was hold our baby boy, but the nurses got concerned he wasn’t as active as they would have liked him to be. It had been several minutes and he still hadn’t cried. They said they had to take him off me and over to the table to examine closer. I really got concerned, but Steve assured me if something was really wrong, they wouldn’t still be in our room. They did some movements with his limbs and he started to cry, whew. Soon after, he was back on my chest and breastfed right away. He seemed like he knew exactly what to do, and it was beautiful.
Experiencing a natural childbirth was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I knew mentally that is what we wanted for our birth, but having accomplished that in spite of not starting out labor how we had planned, is an awesome feeling. I never once asked for drugs. (I just asked to be punched in the face instead LOL). I never knew I was this strong. I never knew how much closer it would bring Steve and I together. We were an amazing team, instinctively working together deeper than I ever imagined. Our love has grown for each other and for our little boy Ashby, who came out looking just like Steve. I still think he’s gonna be a blondie, like his mama.