As I have contemplated writing out this birth story, I’ve come to the conclusion that this story isn’t really about the actual birth as much as it is about all the times surrounding the birth. I didn’t even realize it until after, when the peace and calm enveloped me and I knew I’d finally settled into a time of being the mom I was created to be.
All of my pregnancies have been hard in their own way – either due to extended morning sickness, emotional instability, or outside forces – but this one was definitely the hardest of the three. The week we learned we were pregnant Caleb began working out of town Monday through Friday and I learned that my parents were beginning the process to divorce. I began getting sick and exhausted when my main support was 3 hours away, and while I was fighting through processing the news about my parents. Breakdowns were frequent and ultimately led to my midwife writing a letter to Caleb’s employer requiring that he be transferred back or the family be moved out to be with him, for my health and the health of the baby. The following Monday he was back in Fort Worth, and I began doing immensely better.
Shortly after I began seeing a therapist to work through the breakdown and processing my feelings concerning my family and parents. Because my family has always been very core to me, I feared that the anger and resentment that seemed to be building would negatively affect my birth. I had to make some of the most painful decisions of my life in setting boundaries with members of my family, including requiring that one of my parents would not contact me at all. I was able to push this all to the back of my mind most of the pregnancy, but it still sat as a dark cloud that I was always slightly aware of. Obviously none of this has to do with the actual day of birth, but it is so tied into it in my mind that it must be a part of this story.
My pregnancy progressed very well, from a physical perspective, from this point on. The baby did well the entire time and my care was the best I’ve ever received during pregnancy. The team we built around us was focused on Christ and I cannot imagine the last ten months without them in my life. My community here in Fort Worth surrounded us and I learned what it means to have people really truly care about my family.
Typically I get very impatient once I hit 37 weeks, the gestation that allows a midwife to attend a home birth. I worked very hard at being calm and peaceful about going full term during this pregnancy, and really felt alright when I hit 37 weeks. I joked online about being done, but really I was calm about being pregnant for quite a while longer. Some days were hard and I was tired of being pregnant, but those were few and far between. Then I had a full afternoon and night of labor – feeling so real we had the birth pool set up and the midwife almost ready to come to our house. Then they just stopped. Two days later another four or five hours of labor – and then nothing. A week later another few hours of labor that slowed down again. Although I was content to wait as long as baby needed me to, the false hopes that prep labor brought me wore me down. I knew that my body was preparing and doing what it needed to do, but the days following prep labor were hard. The kids picked up on my stress, making the last couple weeks that much harder.
Saturday, May 4th, I hit 40 weeks gestation. I’ve never made it to my due date, so this brought on questions we’d never had to answer directly before, regarding non-stress tests, biophysical sonograms, and natural induction methods. On Sunday morning I began having consistent labor, which lasted consistently through the entire day and into the night. The spacing was 6-9 minutes and each wave lasted 1-2 minutes. I woke up the next morning knowing intuitively that my body had been trying to get into an established labor, but something was off and preventing it from doing so. I called my midwife and shared my feelings with her – with which she agreed. We decided to send me to her chiropractor for an adjustment and then for me to meet her at the birth center with my breast pump to see if we could help my body get into established labor with nipple stimulation. As I was preparing to leave for the chiropractor I went to the bathroom, and very apparently lost my mucus plug. I called Caleb to let him know what was going on and mentioned the loss. He immediately told me he’d meet me at the chiropractors and was going to take the rest of the week off. “We’re having a baby today, Morgan”. I didn’t really believe him, after so much prep labor, but I didn’t argue.
I received a great adjustment, and then got the kids set off with my mother-in-law and then Caleb drove me down to the birth center. By the time we arrived any labor that had been going on in the morning stopped. My midwife did a non-stress for the baby, which turned out fine, and we discussed our options. Although one of our original agreements was to have absolutely no vaginal exams, we decided to do one to double check that the baby’s head was engaged in the pelvis at a good angle. I requested to not know the dilation, as I don’t believe dilation truly indicates a woman’s place in labor and the numbers mess with my head. Afterwards, though, Caleb said I’d probably like to know what it was. Sitting there, with absolutely no contractions, I was dilated to 5-6 cm. I was shocked.
The three of us decided to go to lunch and had a fantastic meal at a local Mexican restaurant. During lunch labor picked back up again, but only required moments of deep relaxation during the peak of each wave. It was during the drive home that labor really picked up – I completely blame the roads and railroad bumps. I’ve never been in a vehicle in labor before and I cannot say I was missing anything! I can’t believe so many women routinely get into their car to drive to their birth place while in fully active labor! I definitely hope to never be in a car again while laboring.
Once home Caleb began to set up the birth pool and I started working on my little ‘birth day to do list’, pausing every few minutes to relax during intense waves of labor. Once it felt like every other minute I was having to stop, I asked Caleb to call our midwife. She started on her way to us, as did our birth photographer. Our photographer showed up first and chatted with me in between the waves, which now took all my concentration to relax through.
In between I was calm and chatty, bouncing between Facebook and a private Instagram feed I’d set up to document the birth. My midwife showed up, followed quickly by another midwife’s sister, who was shadowing them at my birth. The two of them, along with Caleb and my photographer, kept me company over the next hour. Every wave required my full attention, but none were so strong I was afraid. I relaxed perfectly into each wave and felt peaceful – moving between sitting on the birth ball or laying over it. I thought to myself “these can’t be stronger than me, because they are me”. It helped. I imagined that each wave and pain was just a muscle stretching in good exercise. I still didn’t believe I was in active labor. I didn’t believe we would have a baby that day.
Then I just knew I needed to lay down – whether for exhaustion or for less intensity, I don’t recall.
I had been snuggled into the pillow on the couch for a few waves when I was overwhelmed with emotion regarding my mom. I hadn’t spoken to her in over 5 months and couldn’t believe I was going through this experience without her actively in my life. I began sobbing, cuing Caleb and my midwife to come to my side. They began to pray over me and in the next couple minutes I had four intense peaks during the prayer and told them immediately after that I needed to pee and then get into the pool. They felt the water was a little on the cool side, but that I could get in if I wanted to. I did.
It was cool. It wasn’t relaxing. But now I was wet and another wave was coming. It was intense and I sank onto my knees, holding onto the side of the pool. The water was deep. I think my midwife was in front of me. I think Caleb got into the water sometime soon. The water was cool and the waves were intense. I kept saying I wasn’t comfortable. I had started trembling and shaking and couldn’t stop myself. I knew I was going through transition, but we had agreed to not identify transition for this labor to help me through it. But I knew. I told someone I just wanted to stop shaking. The waves were even more intense.
And then suddenly it felt like every piece of my body internal began pushing down toward the floor, and stretching. The pain and strength were too much for me; I couldn’t imagine how this could be me, because it was so strong and so intense. My body wasn’t this strong, couldn’t achieve this intensity. Caleb moved in the water and the movement of the water shifted me. It hurt and I told him to stop moving. The door opened and I saw the two assistant midwives arrive. I don’t know where they went right then as another wave began. It pulled at me. I moaned and groaned. I tried to bite the towel they had placed on the edge of the pool for me to lean against, but it didn’t help, it only hurt my jaw – something which irritated me. I asked or demanded for a fan, some air on my face. I think I demanded, because I remember those around seeming a bit frantic to get something to fan me with. They stopped after a little bit and I demanded they continue. I didn’t understand why they would stop. Another wave pulled at me. I told them I didn’t want to do it anymore, that it was too painful. I didn’t like it, and I told them that. In between the next wave I remember asking my midwife how I was supposed to let my body push the baby out, because that’s what I wanted – I wanted to not push at all, and just let my uterus do it. She said to just breathe through every wave and let my body tell me what to do. Another wave tore at me.
Then she wanted to check the baby’s heart tones and I rolled to my back against Caleb for her to do so. The water was so deep I couldn’t stay grounded. She said something about thinking my water had broken and that it was clear. I rolled back against the wall and said “No, that was just my vagina farting” and I remember hearing laughter. Caleb said I sounded drunk, and I remember sounding drunk. The next wave felt pushy, like my body was thinking about pushing. I asked if I should move – and was told if I felt I should. I said I didn’t want to, that I didn’t like this. I asked if it would hurt less if I moved. Someone said it wouldn’t hurt more, so I rolled back to lean on Caleb. And then my body began pushing down. I remember only one break for what seemed like 10-20 minutes, although could have easily been shorter. Every ounce of my body was bearing down, pushing my baby out. I leaned back, arching, trying to escape the intensity and pain. My body wasn’t listening to me and it wouldn’t stop. I remember crying out to God to give me some break, but the pushing continued. They said my water broke and it wasn’t clear. My body continued. One small break. I didn’t like how deep the water was, and I said to get some water out. I don’t know if they did or not. I was too buoyant and I couldn’t find my center.
I remember yelling at them, confused – “What is going on?!”. Several of them replied “You’re pushing your baby out!”…but that wasn’t what I was asking. I yelled it again. They didn’t know what to answer. I KNEW I was pushing my baby out, but I didn’t understand what was happening, how close I was, if she was coming out. All I knew was the overwhelming power of my body.
Then I had to lean to the left. I leaned and leaned. Caleb said he had to hold me with all of his strength so I didn’t submerge myself. When I leaned I started pushing too. Records show I pushed for four minutes, although I know my body was bearing down on its own for much longer than that. I felt my pelvis widening, and my body bearing down with me. I couldn’t tell when or if there were waves, I just had to live through the overwhelming power of my body. And then it changed. I yelled out “She’s coming out NOW” and she was. And then someone said her head was born – it didn’t feel any different. I think I glanced down but my body was still overwhelming me. Someone said to wait for the next contraction, but I didn’t know when one began or ended, I didn’t know when to push or not to push. I just knew that my body was taking a small break. Seconds of a break. And then it overwhelmed me again and my daughter was born.
She was on my chest. She was dark and wide eyed, as my children always are in their first moments out of water. I checked and knew she was a girl. I felt calm. I didn’t hear anything, it was quiet – the peace and serenity were just as intense and overwhelming as the pain had been moments before. I didn’t feel a birth high like I had with the other two. I felt confidence, peace, and intense calm. I looked down at her and told the room “She is so fat!” – because she was. I told them about her double chin and I knew a midwife was trying to get her to cry. She wasn’t crying and she was dark. I wasn’t worried. Emma hadn’t cried for a long time when she was born. I knew she was okay. And then she cried and I started hearing the noises in the room again.
She was checked and I was asked if we could move. We moved into the bedroom and I settled into bed. I held her close to me. We worked at nursing and everyone left the room except Caleb. We snuggled, and made phone calls, and admired her fat little face. After pains began, but the placenta didn’t release for over an hour. My other two beautiful children visited and I sat in awe watching the three of them near each other. She was measured and checked and weighed. 8 pounds and 6 ounces, the largest of all my children so far.
That first night it was just Caleb, me and her. As all the midwives left I whispered to Caleb “I know we’ve done this before, but why are they leaving us alone with her? So scary!” And yet it wasn’t at all. During her first time to wake and cry, we calmly changed her and fed her and nestled back down with her to sleep. I was in awe of us, of our confidence and peace. I felt happy. My other two children returned the next day and my husband stayed home for a week with us. The day following her birth I felt better than I had three weeks postpartum with my other two, but I forced myself to complete bedrest (or couch rest) for the first full 6 days. I rested, and felt fantastic, and knew that I was going to be okay being a mommy to three.
I feel like this birth was less about the actual moment of birth, but more about the following week – about the confidence I felt and the solid knowledge that I was where I was supposed to be as a mother. I knew I could do it, because I knew I was created for this. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we only had three children because it felt complete and total. The first week alone during the day with the three kids went so well. It wasn’t until Friday evening that I had a hard time, and even during that time I knew it was postpartum hormones and I would be okay.
I feel like I’m the mother I was created to be now. I feel confident. I feel happy. I am thankful.