This blog is a bit different than our typical posts, but as I wrote about in my very first entry here–Running Our Pace is most definitely about what happens in running shoes on pavement, but perhaps even more so about what happens in life. So with that said, this week I experienced a very different kind of marathon in the natural and unmedicated birth of our daughter Emma Katherine Nance. I’d like to share her birth story
To truly tell her story, I must back up to a year ago. On July 28, 2015 we experienced the loss of a pregnancy. Flash forward to November, David’s birthday to be exact, and we discovered that we were pregnant with Emma. Furthermore, our “due” date was estimated to be July 28, 2016. We knew this was a God wink. We knew she was meant to be. I had a blessedly healthy, smooth, active pregnancy (some of which has been shared here) that went to 40 weeks and 6 days. She was born at 6:25AM on Wednesday August 3rd, weighing 6 pounds 15 oz, and measuring 20 inches long. Her birth is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.
Before I get to the details, let me start by acknowledging that any woman who has birthed a baby, in any fashion, is an incredible warrior goddess. I don’t put natural birth up on a pedestal. I realize a healthy dose of luck is what made my birth possible for me and that many women are forced by circumstance to deliver in other ways. The goal is a healthy baby–a person that was grown inside your body, under your heart, coming into the world full of spirit and light. So, while I am happy and proud that my birth went to “plan”, I think every birth story is just as beautiful, inspiring, and powerful.
On Tuesday morning, August 2nd, I woke from a night of very poor sleep (or so I thought prior to mothering a newborn LOL) and was very tired. David and I were chatting after his morning workout, and when he shared that one of the guys said he had been praying for us I burst into tears. At that point David, rather sternly, convinced me to take the day off. Something I did begrudgingly and with a little guilt. I was trying to save all my time off for the baby, and also felt bad for leaving my residents before leaving them for so long in the near future. But I’m glad I listened to him. I rested and took care of myself. I also went to see Alison Beard at Palmetto Acupuncture to see if she could encourage things along. Tuesday evening seemed like any normal evening. At dinner David casually mentioned how great it would be for me to go into labor that night since his brand new employers had agreed to give him 3 days with me. So he would have Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then the weekend as well. 5 days! I guess Emma heard him.
We went to bed around 10:30pm. Not long after I started feeling what I thought were actual contractions, or birthing waves as we learned to call them in our Hypnobabies birthing classes. I decided to time them around 11pm. When I had been having them about 4 minutes apart regularly for around 45 minutes I decided to call the on call OB to let her know. The Stars had aligned–my favorite OB in my practice was on call! As soon as I heard her voice I happily exclaimed “you just made my night!”
“Let’s see how that plays out…” She responded. I think we both assumed my labor would be long with a first baby, and so she might not be on call anymore. She asked me a few questions and then suggested that since I was hoping to have a natural birth I should stay at home “until you think you’re gonna die, and when you think you’re gonna die wait 30 more minutes.” One of the reasons I love her is her sense of humor.
So I labored at home until 3AM. Getting up and walking a bit, sitting on the birth ball, going back to bed (assuming this would be a long process and I should rest while I could.) At 3AM David said he felt we should go. I agreed. Not because I felt like I was going to die…(and I knew I probably wouldn’t thanks to staying calm and centered with the tools from my class), but because I knew I just wanted to be where I was going to birth. I didn’t have any anxiety about going to the hospital, but was feeling some about the whole question of when to go and not wanting to wait too long. So after 3 hours of labor at home we left for the hospital. We left home for the last time as just us two.
When I was checked at the hospital I was at 5cm, which was a relief to me. I was afraid I was gonna be one of those women they send home because they aren’t really in labor. I knew I was feeling something and it was intense, but I just wasn’t sure.
Shortly after I was checked in I started having waves of massive nausea after each pressure wave. I did actually throw up a few times. David was so sweet to me through all of this. Always there, always calm, cool, and full of love and palpable joy. Thinking of the way his face looked as I birthed our baby still makes me tear up as I write this.
Time was very fluid to me at this point and my eyes were closed almost 100% of the time. I wasn’t really talking to anyone or even very aware of anything around me. I was so inwardly focused.
I soon noticed something with each pressure wave was different. No one was there telling me to push, I wasn’t *trying* to push, and yet my body started involuntarily pushing. I asked David to have someone come check me again because they were kindly leaving us to do our thing and no one had been in there in awhile. I was at 9cm already! Now it was a rush to get the OB there in time. No one expected me to be that quick! Emma was gonna be here soon! From that 9cm check to Emma’s arrival is kind of a blur. What I do remember, in much the same way that the pushing was involuntary, these primal guttural sounds were coming from me. Again, nothing I was intentionally doing. It just happened. My temperament stayed very true to me though, as I would apologize to the nurses afterward for “being loud”. This was funny to them. They assured me I was most certainly not loud. I stayed calm and centered the whole time. I never had one of those fabled moments where I was mean to David. The closest I came to that was once when he leaned in to kiss me right as one of these pushing waves started and I told him “I feel like I’m gonna bite your face.” It was really funny actually. I wasn’t mad or anything, I can’t even explain it. Primal. Hey, at least I warned him!
I did some pushing side lying, but wasn’t comfortable so I moved to hands and knees. Just as my OB suggested I try squatting, a big push happened and I felt her head come out and then the rest of her just slid right out. So fast! I heard her cry before I saw her. I was looking around for her and didn’t realize she had been passed underneath me. The second I saw her I scooped her to me so fast that I had to be reminded that she was still attached and not to pull too hard. Feeling her against my chest was…I don’t have the words. It is a moment I will never, ever forget. She was so alert and so soft. She cuddled and cooed happily. David and I were both tearing up and talking to her. They waited for my cord to stop pulsing and then David got to cut it. The placenta was delivered quickly after, and I remember thinking it was so cool looking!
David was so amazing and loving the whole time…for the birth, the time in the hospital, my continued recovery at home. I could never have done it without him. There were maybe 4 times I felt and said to him that I didn’t think I could do it. Each time he said just the right thing to make me feel empowered and safe. Toward the end of my labor my “peace” cue I learned in Hypnobabies turned into “help me God”. David was quick to remind me that he was right there with his arms wrapped around me. And I really felt that. One of the older nurses at work who used to do labor and delivery told me that it was always her favorite because at every birth you could feel God in the room and there was always a little glimpse of heaven. She is absolutely right.
I have never been more proud of myself. Birthing Emma was hard, and yet beautifully natural and easy. I’m so blessed to be her mother and I can’t wait for the adventures to come!