This morning we share Pam’s birth story, titled “Sunrise Baby”. This sweet little one was the second baby to be born at Minnesota Birth Center – St. Paul. Thank you for sharing, Pam and John!
A few years before I got pregnant, I became very interested in all things pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Unlike so many women, I looked forward to the day when I would bring my baby into the world – the whole birth process. I set my eyes on a natural birth, and despite all the naysayers, I was confident I could do it. We chose Minnesota Birth Center to be our birthplace and our guide.
I had a pretty easy and enjoyable pregnancy, with only a few discomforts along the way. As I neared the end of my third trimester, I had sporadic contractions and other signs of pending labor for about four weeks before the main event. It definitely tested my patience.
On May 20, two days past my due date, I woke up from a nap around 3 p.m. and felt different. I thought I might finally be feeling “real” and regular contractions, so I called my husband, John, and told him to come home early from work. A few hours later, contractions were still fairly regular, but not too close together, so I started in on my early labor plan of making homemade cinnamon rolls – a lengthy process with a lot of down time and a delicious reward at the end. Perfect for a long first labor, right? I swayed and moaned my way around the kitchen, feeling generally calm and happy. I sent John to bed early to get some rest and kept in touch with my doula throughout the evening. She told me not to bother timing the contractions, but instead wait for the intensity to change and call her back. At about 10 p.m., she suggested I lay down for about an hour. I ended up falling asleep and awoke a few hours later. The contractions had stopped. I got up and tried to squat and lunge myself back into labor, to no avail. I finally crawled into bed frustrated and disappointed at about 3 a.m.
The next morning John and I decided to blow off work and spend the day together. We ran some errands and just tried to enjoy the day. We went to my regularly scheduled midwife appointment at MBC in the afternoon and I expressed my frustrations about my false labor episode the night before. Kerry, one of the MBC midwives, reassured me that all this early labor was just my body preparing to have a more efficient “main event.”
As we were cleaning up after dinner that evening, I had a couple contractions, so I said to John “let’s get walking and see if these pick up.” They definitely did. After about 20 minutes walking, John was not-so-inconspicuously timing my contractions, and they were about 3 minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds. We would stop for each one and I‘d hang on him, swaying and moaning. I was feeling it in my low back, so I had him squeeze my hips during each contraction. It was funny to have people passing us on the sidewalk during this scene. When we got back to the house, I got on my hands and knees in the grass to continue working through contractions. It was a gorgeous late spring evening and it felt so right to stay in the fresh air and feel the cool grass on my skin. Meanwhile, John called our doula and the midwife on call to let them know things seemed to be rolling. From here, the labor is somewhat blurry for me. Since it got pretty intense pretty fast, I really didn’t have a lot of time to think. I just focused inward and breathed through it.
I opted to get into the bath, and John continued timing my contractions while I was in there. After a while, I got fed up with it and barked at him to stop – the only time I snapped at him during the labor. Next, I migrated to the guest room where I hung out in the dark listening to my birth playlist. I was calm and just letting the process unfold. I certainly didn’t try to force anything along.
Our doula, Michel, arrived about 10:30 p.m. and she was a little more eager, encouraging me to try different positions on the bed, the ball, and even sitting on the toilet. Holy hell, the toilet was a torture device! Instant strong contractions every time you sit down.
My birth team says I was calm and alert, and talked to them between contractions. I really don’t remember any of the conversations. At one point they made me talk to the on-call midwife and I was really annoyed that she couldn’t get her answers from John and Michel. She asked me a lot of dumb questions, which I later learned was only for the purpose of listening to my labor to see how intense it was. I must have been convincing because we got the green light to head to the birth center about 4 hours after labor had started.
The drive was intense – about 20 minutes and six contractions later we were walking into the birth center at midnight. Mary-Signe, the on-call CNM, greeted us and took my vitals, and we settled into the birthing suite we had chosen – the Donna room. The birth center was quiet and peaceful. Mary-Signe and Nicole (the assisting midwife) came in and out to check on baby and me. They occasionally offered ideas about positioning, but other than that, they were nearly invisible to me. They just let me, John, and Michel do our thing.
There was never a moment in my labor where I thought I couldn’t do it or questioned my decision to go natural. I never wished it would go faster or really complained I was in pain. I only had one moment of feeling overwhelmed or panicky – I was on the bed on hands and knees and I felt I couldn’t hold myself up a minute longer. I pleaded for a break, just a minute to rest. My team found a way to let me lie down on my side for a while and I was able calm down, despite the contractions piling one on top of the next.
When I asked if I could get in the tub, Mary-Signe said, “You can do whatever you want.” That’s exactly what a laboring mama wants to hear. This was my birth and not once did I feel otherwise. The water was a nice change and allowed me to relax more between contractions. I went back and forth between squatting during contractions and reclining between them. It was as if I had no choice but to jolt back up into a squat for each contraction. Everyone thought it looked exhausting, but it was what my body wanted. At some point, I got out of the tub and moved back to the bed.
I was on the bed on all fours with John doing hip squeezes when my water broke and gushed everywhere. John jumped back with a yelp and I laughed. It surprised us both. Not long after, I started to naturally get pushy, grunting and bearing down. I made some progress lying on my side with a bean shaped birth ball between my legs. Then I got back in the tub to start pushing out my baby. No one checked me to see if I was “ready” – they trusted that my body knew what it was doing.
Things were moving slowly in the tub. My contractions spaced out a bit, so the midwives suggested I get on the toilet to try to help baby drop down. They set me up on the toilet facing backward with pillows and blankets. It was as nice as it could be, but damn that torture device! Clearly it worked, because a few contractions later someone asked me if I wanted to stay there to birth my baby. I remember saying, “I don’t want to have to tell my baby they were born in a toilet!” So they asked me if I wanted to get back in the tub and that’s when it got very real. I was going to meet my baby very soon. I was going to get my natural water birth.
I pushed for about an hour and a half total. I pushed squatting in the tub until baby started crowning, then I switched to a reclined position. My team suggested ways to breathe and tuck my chin to have more efficient pushes. I used my voice and low tones to work baby down. I was able to relax between contractions. When I was pushing the head out, Mary-Signe kept saying “So much pressure, so much stretching, so intense!” And I completely agreed! They held a mirror underwater and I could see the progress, which was encouraging, because this part seemed to take forever. Once the head was finally out, baby rotated in the birth canal between contractions. Everyone in the room ooh-ed and aah-ed, seeing baby’s head moving around between my legs and open eyes looking around underwater. For me, it was the most bizarre feeling I’ve ever felt. On the next contraction, I pushed the body out and Mary-Signe brought baby up to my chest. “Hi baby, I’m your mommy!” was the first thing I said (squealed). And “joy” doesn’t even being to describe the feeling. It took me about 10 seconds to realize I needed to look to look to find out the sex.
Eliza Pauline was born at 5:36 a.m. on May 22, 2015 – the exact minute of sunrise in St. Paul. Together we had the most incredible birth. We made our way over to the bed and spent the next few hours snuggled together as a family, nursing, napping, eating homemade cinnamon rolls, and gushing over our perfect little girl. So many hopes and dreams had just come true.
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