We are the only species of mammal that doubts our ability to give birth. It’s profitable to scare women about birth. But let’s stop it. I tell women: Your body is not a lemon. -Ina May Gaskin
I believe there is power in normalizing this primal ability we have to birth. One way to do that is by sharing normal birth stories. So here is a beautiful one, in honor of my daughter’s first birthday.
At 9 days past my baby’s due date I was anxious to meet our 4th child, but at ease, knowing that I was at the very end of a beautiful journey. So, while my toddler and 3 year old took their naps that afternoon I rested as well. After school and nap times were over, my father-in-law came and took my two oldest boys deer hunting close by. In an attempt to distract my toddler from the fact that he did not get to go hunting with the other boys, I took him for a short stroll down our street. I felt damp, so when we got back to the house I went to the bathroom and it appeared that I had a very slow leak from my bag of waters. Within an hour or so my husband got home from work and the boys returned from their hunting excursion. While we ate dinner I mentioned that things might be starting to happen.
I was feeling more and more crampy (similar to the feeling of light menstrual cramps). After dinner when I went to the bathroom I noticed some blood so I decided to call my midwife, and give her a heads-up. She said it sounded like early labor and that it's hard to say for sure, but if she had to guess she would expect me to have my baby that night. She told me to call back in 3 hours, around 9pm, and give an update.
We made arrangements with our parents to have our boys stay with them for the night. While we packed all their suit cases and loved on them, our 5 year old son said, "I know what's going on, you’re going to have the baby." I told him, “Yes, it looks that way."
My sister had planned to witness the birth, so I called to let her know and she was very excited. She said "I'll be right there!" But I laughed and said, "No, please don't, there's nothing going on yet, and I don't want to be watched, so I'll let you know when to come."
My contractions still felt like cramps but were beginning to feel more distinguished, one from another. I sat on the birth ball a little. And finished folding some laundry before calling my midwife around 9:30pm with a boring update. We went to bed and tried to sleep. As we were getting ready for bed the contractions began to change into the real deal, and when I laid down they became stronger. I began timing them when there was an obvious consistency. They were about 8-10 minutes apart. My husband fell asleep while I watched "Parks and Rec" and rested while timing my contractions. I slept from about 11pm-12am, and my contractions basically stopped during that hour. But when I woke they were so strong that I felt the need to get up and work through them. I kneeled with both knees on the floor and my body on the birth ball and watched TV in our room between the contractions to stay relaxed and distracted. Soon they were getting more intense and I no longer felt like I could keep track of timing them (to make sure I didn’t get too close to having the baby before I called the midwives), so I woke my husband to ask for his help with timing. I walked around the house, and our back yard, paced our room, and look up at the starry night sky out our bedroom's open window.
At about 2:30am, when my contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart and lasting over a minute I called the midwife and told her it was probably time to head over. My sister got to our house before the midwives. I greeted her with a smile and talked for a bit. My contractions basically stopped, for about 30 minutes while everyone arrived and got settled-in. They took my vitals and listened to baby’s heart. I told them I was going outside for a walk to get things going again. As soon and my husband and I got outside my contractions began again. My husband was so sweet. He held my hand and didn't want to us to get too far from the house in case we needed help. My contractions were once again long and strong and close together. During contractions I would lunge or squat with my arms around my husband's neck.
When we came back in the 3 ladies were just watching a show in the living room. My husband told them things had picked back up. I asked if it was an ok time for me to get in the bath, they said, "of course!" When I got in the bath I went into another world. I did some heavy laboring in there. At one point the midwife joined us and monitored baby's heart rate. My husband kept falling asleep, but never left my side. I sort of slept between contractions too...but they were almost constant. I had a routine to get me though, of shaking my head and breathing out loudly as I shook my head towards my left shoulder. After probably about an hour, I got out of the tub and came into our room where the midwives were getting things ready for baby's arrival. My sister also came in and quietly sat next to our bed.
They had put a shower curtain liner, covered by a soft sheet, at the base of our bed. So I kneeled down on it, and rested my head on our bed during contractions. Periodically, during the last couple hours of labor, in my bedroom, the midwives would listen to baby during contractions to make sure it wasn't stressed at all. Never once did the baby seem stressed. They added some pillows under my head and that felt nice. They kept giving me drinks of water and quietly encouraging me. The second midwife that was with us was also a doula. They both tended to me with such loving care and empathy.
My contractions were very intense and hard to work through, but were spread out. I believe I finished dilation in the bathroom, but was waiting for the urge to push as baby’s head slowly worked its way down the birth canal. After several more contractions I felt a little more pressure and felt like I should push...not a major urge, but I felt like it was time. So I did some small pushes during a couple contractions. Then a little harder on one and my water broke. My poor husband was kneeling behind me, performing the hip squeeze that I had taught him, so he got soaked with amniotic fluid. I told him "I am so sorry!" And he laughed and said "it's ok babe! Really, no big deal!" It was a happy, light hearted moment; I think everyone laughed.
I pushed, with some reservation, during a few contractions with my right leg up and to the side, in a kneeling lunge. Then I decided to get up on the bed. My husband got up there with me and sat behind me. It was such a comfort to feel his strength and love behind me. I was hesitant to push and told the midwives I hadn't been hesitant with my last two babies, although with all of them having been born in the hospital I had been told when and how to push, instead of just listening to my body and not being rushed. So this was a little different. Finally something inside me felt like it was time and I started to really push, holding my knees up toward my chest. But my hips were very uncomfortable in that position, so I changed to a side lying position as I pushed that sweet baby out.
The midwife was there to catch the baby, but as I felt her emerge I instinctively reached down and pulled her up to my chest as I laid my head back on my husband in pure ecstasy. It's all so overwhelming. Like nothing else in this world. My husband and I, overcome with emotion, quietly sobbed and held our child together, lovingly welcoming her into the world. It did not even cross my mind to check the gender of our child. It was just our baby and we loved it an overwhelming amount regardless of its gender. After about 5 minutes I lifted her leg gently and opened my eyes just long enough to see that she was a girl, and I quietly said to my husband, "it's a girl" and he said "really? Are you sure?" So he and the midwife checked together, and, indeed, it was a girl. They asked us if we had a name for her, and I told them "her name is Jane."
Jane (gift from God) Kathryn (pure heart) King was born at 7:43am on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 (10 days after her due date). She weighed 8lbs. 4oz. and was 21” long. 13.5” head, and 13.5” chest. There was a knot in her umbilical cord, just like her brother, Heston, but that didn’t cause any problems; she was perfectly healthy in every way.
We were so blessed by her peaceful entrance into this world and are forever grateful to the incredible midwives that cared for us.