Editor’s note: This is part six in a series of birth stories submitted by readers and fellow bloggers, featuring a wide range of women and their birth experiences. Today’s birth story is from Bianca, The Pierogie Mama. Read on for the story of her first birth: a midwife attended, natural water birth at a birth centre (and how she got out of a speeding ticket too!). If you would like to share your own birth story, please visit this post to learn how. ~Olivia
I’m Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, the mama of two feisty and beautiful daughters. Today I’m sharing my first birth story: how Penelope was born. Penny is now almost 4 years old and a big sister to Ruby.
Shortly before becoming pregnant with Penny I began to learn about natural alternatives to what are now considered “common place” procedures. I learned about natural birth, cloth diapers…all these crunchy things and I just loved it!
Let me preface the story with a little bit of background. Shortly after becoming pregnant, my husband took a job that would start our relocation from our current home to 3 hours north. We were just finishing up our renovation and were prepared to put our house on the market. When I was 8 months pregnant, we had finished the renovation and moved temporarily to my parents’ house which was closer to my husband’s work and allowed us to list our home and have it staged for showings.
The night before Penny was born, we drove down to spend the weekend at our house. We wanted to relax, possibly just one more time, before she came. I was 39 weeks and positive that I would be late. Birthing was not on this girl’s mind. Obviously, that tends to be exactly when the birthing process begins!
The morning that we drove down to our home I had my midwife appointment and she gave me a cervical dilation. I started to lose my mucus plug but kind of ignored it. We decided to drive down anyways, and Constance (the midwife) was comfortable with me being 2 hours away from our birth center.
We chose to deliver Penny at a free standing birth center, where midwives and their assistants are in control. My health and pregnancy were low risk and this is where I felt the most comfortable delivering. I wanted a water birth and in Washington State, you cannot have a water birth in the hospital. A few hospitals are now making water labor available, though!
It must have been the support from the midwife that I would go into labor so soon. Sheesh, she has a better idea of when I’m going to have my baby than I am, so I figured that she wouldn’t send me 2 hours away from the birth center knowing that I was close. Being relaxed in our home, in privacy with my husband, must have helped too. We had a nice dinner at home and went to sleep early.
At midnight, I was dreaming about a friend in labor, and I woke up to my own labor! We waited an hour before packing ourselves and our two dogs back into our car to begin the drive home. My contractions were consistent but tolerable. My sweet husband, he was in more of a hurry than I was, and did what all husbands do when they think their wife is going to have a baby soon – he started to go faster.
We cruised at about 80 mph at 1:00am, no other cars were on the freeway so we felt safe. We saw a police car ahead of us, so he made the decision to keep at his speed but to turn on the hazards. Maybe the office will sense that we are in a hurry, but are doing so safely and recognize that he can see us, so he will just let us go.
He got us to pull over and came over to ask what was going on. I’m in the frumpiest clothes ever. I’m pretty much dressed in the largest size I have of sweats and am in a huge comfy robe. Hugging and puffing in the passenger seat, I explain to him that I am in labor and it’s time to go back to our birth center. His eyes get wide and he says “if you’re going to speed because you think that baby is coming so soon, I’ll escort you to our nearest hospital.”
I quickly lost my patience and snapped – “I am delivering in a free standing birth center, it’s 2 hours away. I am NOT having my baby at ____ Hospital! Please give us a ticket and let us go.”
Again, his eyes got wide and he went back to his cruiser. A few minutes later he returns and says, “Go – but no more speeding, ok?”
Off we went!
We arrived at my parents’ place at 3am, and I was at the “5-1-1” rule. We called Constance, let her know how things were going. She suggested that I labor at home for a while. Around 5am I was no longer chipper and we climbed into the car again, this time for a 10 minute drive to the birth center.
This time contractions were not tolerable. We actually got to the birth center before the midwife and her assistant did, so we waited outside.
I was welcomed into one of the two birthing rooms. I chose the yellow room because I knew that I would have her in the morning so I wanted to welcome the sunshine and natural light in through the windows.
When I labored at home, I was bent over the bed. I tried this at the birth center and quickly realized that this was no longer working. While the tub was filled, the birthing assistant took Penny’s heart rate by gently pressing the monitor to my belly. This sensation immediately sent me into contractions and I could hardly politely tolerate it, but we had to check for 10 minutes. Soon the 10 minutes was over and Constance beckoned me to the tub.
I climbed into the water and felt immediate relief. The water wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be. The tub was a little long for me, and I had a hard time finding a position to have some control in. Eventually I draped my arms over the side and rested on a hip while my husband talked to me. My mother was also present. Eventually I began to hang my full weight on him during intense contractions.
Adam and my mom alternated holding my arms, my hand, wiping my brow with a cool cloth. As I transitioned and left the current world I coped with the contractions by following the droplets of water run down my arm and hang on my elbow. I played a game with myself – would the droplet fall first or would my contraction end? I don’t know how long I stayed this way. I was quiet.
Constance left me to myself. After a while she checked my dilation and I was at 5cm. My midwife again checked for the heart rate and I was not appreciating it as it truly started contractions sooner than I was ready for them to. I only had a few outbursts of anger – the first was to the heart rate monitor.
My second outburst came when my water broke – I wasn’t prepared for it and I thought I had peed myself. I lamented over the humiliation of it, and Constance cheerily assured me that it was my waters. I felt less embarrassed.
Later, Constance began to encourage me to get on my knees to open my hips. I was terrified to move, but my husband also encouraged me. Constance checked me again and announced that the baby’s head was low. She encouraged me to feel, which gave me a surge of enthusiasm. This is happening. She is coming. My labors are working and my girl is coming. This was not a drill. I was here to stay until she came. My husband became weepy, and I asked him not to be afraid.
I became impatient. I had felt her head, I knew she was right there. I wanted her out. I knew that I needed to add my willpower to the power of my body to help her out. But I didn’t have the urge to push. I asked Constance if I could push, and she recommended only to push when I felt to. But I was anxious and inexperienced (in hind sight). I moved into position on my knees and used the power of my arms on my thighs to help the birthing urges. I focused on my shoulder and arm muscles, willed even them to help this baby come.
I felt her head again, this time it came further and retracted as a contraction ended. I knew this was how it happens, but it threw me into despair. I worked so hard, and I wanted her. I pushed more without the urge.
Eventually I did get that urge and it was the most terrifying feeling ever. It was the strongest feeling I had ever had. Even though I had hoped and prayed for this feeling to come, it terrified me to my core. It wasn’t controllable, my body took over and I was helpless to do anything about it. The immense amount of energy for these urges drained me and I remember actually falling asleep during contractions.
For my whole labor I had kept my eyes closed, except when I focused on the droplets. I remember a very intense stare down into the eyes of Constance, who had the most amazing way of encouraging a woman with just her eyes. I pushed about a dozen times. After the sixth one I began to feel the ring of fire. I was still kneeling and was moved to reclining.
Eventually I opened my eyes and found a stranger in the room. I asked who she was – no one knew what I was asking. I began to fear that I was hallucinating. The woman came over and introduced herself; she had been at one of my previous appointments and she was the birth assistant. Another sign that birth was soon.
My midwife gloved up, stretched me some more and shifted the baby. Her head came out.
I took a small break, asked if it was ok to push the rest of her out and closed my eyes. Penelope came.
She was immediately laid on my chest; I saw a baby but didn’t realize it was her. I felt the waxy vernix, I saw and felt her wriggle. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and with three snips by my husband – Penelope and I were physically separated.