Our story begins all the way over in Santa Fe, New Mexico where my husband and I were living when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. Glorious news! The irony is we had just announced to friends and family that we were moving back to my hometown on the Canadian border of Minnesota in the Spring of 2014. We obviously had a lot of changes to look forward to that year with a baby due in December! My dream was to have a midwife-assisted natural birth at a birth center or something very near to it, and as happy as I was to be back in my little hometown, the lack of alternative birth assistance such as midwifery, doulas, birth centers, etc was really disappointing. I had ultimately resigned myself that I would have to give birth in a hospital with an OB and tried to arm myself with knowledge and methods of an unmedicated natural birth.
However that all changed when my husband got a permanent job in a suburb of the Twin Cities in the Fall of 2014; and I was so excited to look for a place that matched my dream of how and where I wanted to give birth. I searched high and low to find the best place and upon finding the Minnesota Birth Center, I could not have been happier because it filled my expectations of a birthing place perfectly! Upon touring the birth center I was truly blown away by the intricate details and loveliness of the place, the birthing rooms, the birthing tubs, the common areas and the staff. I liked that it was so close to a major hospital if anything went wrong, but was not a hospital or anything like one. I was so happy when it worked out that my insurance would accept their facilities, and my long journey to find the right place to give birth was finally over! And the MBC was kind enough to accept my business late in my third trimester and very close to birth!
While all this moving and changing was going on, I was still trying hard to concentrate on having a strong, safe birth. My mother was a huge advocate of natural childbirth and she had in some ways been preparing me for it since I was born, with her positive attitude towards it and supportive influence. I had an arsenal of natural childbirth books that I was reading, I was staying active and doing prenatal yoga as much as I could, and like many pregnant mothers-to-be I was mentally preparing myself continuously for this big day. I sort of had this mantra running through my head my entire pregnancy: “Everything will be fine, everything will be normal.” I don’t know if that was my body telling that to my brain or the other way around! We had been in our new house in the Twin Cities for just less than two weeks when I went into labor, two days shy of my due date. Being a first time mom I wasn’t entirely sure I would know when I started labor, as many women have strong Braxton Hicks contractions first that progress into real labor contractions. I’d been experiencing Braxton Hicks off and on since about 34 weeks so had that in mind too. Well there was no mistaking I was in labor! My husband and I had gone to bed around 10:30 pm on a Sunday night and that whole day I was just feeling like things were feeling different. By about 11:30 pm I was having what felt like very strong menstrual cramps right in my uterus area (not on my sides or back). I’d had nothing like this before in my pregnancy so I was pretty sure the birth was beginning. By midnight I let my sleepy husband know that our night was about to get a whole lot more exciting! I texted my doula, who had previously interned at the MBC, and let her know I thought I was in labor. I tried to sleep but that wasn’t happening. I spent the next couple of hours trying to time my contractions which I found extremely hard to do! I labored in the position of being on all fours on my bed, kind of rocking back and forth and lowering my head. I was in this position the entire time I was in labor, even in the car on the drive there and in the birthing tub, except for about 20 minutes at the end when pushing. For whatever reason this is what felt best for me. My doula Jill showed up about 3:00 am and took over keeping track of timing contractions. She was there for about one hour when she said I was ready to head to the birth center. Considering we lived 25 miles away in the northwest metro, I was ready to get there!
Can I just say, driving 45 min while in active labor is NO FUN!? Especially through the pothole-covered streets of downtown Minneapolis; and it was about 0 deg F outside but I insisted on having the windows cracked—I was hot! We arrived at the MBC around 5:15 am to the nurse (I don’t remember who it was! Insert nurse’s name here!) who checked me and said I was about 5 cm dilated. I couldn’t believe it! I was sure I was an 8, I was in so much pain. She had me get in the tub right away and that was such a relief as it was all I could think about through the whole experience hoping it would feel better. The water did help alleviate a little pain, I was grateful for it. Within 30 minutes of being in the water, I was dilated to a 10 and fully effaced! Ready to push! Looking back at my experience, my contractions were very strong from the beginning, and lasted anywhere from 30, 60 or 120 seconds or more at a time with less and less time in between. So a quick transition at the end must have been helped by strong contractions throughout the labor and the relaxation of the tub. I was still on all fours while I pushed, my husband putting cold wash cloths on my neck and my doula coaching me. My midwife-in-training Tasha was terrific, letting me labor as I felt I needed to and also directing me when to get on my back and push at the end of the labor. I was really only semi-conscious throughout these last few hours as my body dealt with the pain and the birth, yet all my senses felt heightened and I didn’t want to be touched. I remember the nurse and the midwife checking the baby’s heartrate every so often and it was always strong and good, thankfully. I had read about women groaning and moaning in birth and I honestly didn’t think I was going to do that. However once I started pushing I realized that my body had other ideas and I couldn’t have kept quiet if I wanted to! I would groan these low, deep sounds with each push, Tasha helping me by saying, “Don’t waste your strength, lower your tone (or something like that)” and “Push through your bottom.” Both suggestions helping me focus and push her out more efficiently. Although I only pushed for an hour, there were times while when I thought it was never going to end, and I had a panicked thought that maybe she wouldn’t come out and I’d have to leave and go to the hospital. I said something like this, to which everyone replied, “Oh she’s going to come out!” It turns out her head was halfway out at this point when I thought it wasn’t working!
Near the end I was truly exhausted but I really wanted it all to be over, so I just pushed and pushed as hard as I could with fewer breaks. And finally, at 6:49 am on December 1st, 2014 my beautiful daughter was born, screaming! Healthy and bright, we were the luckiest parents in the world! In the end the whole experience only lasted about 7 hours, from the first true contraction until her birth, but what an exciting night it was. My parents were called (no time beforehand!) to announce her birth and to come to the birth center to see us. By some amazing twist of fate, upon arriving to the Minnesota Birth Center my step-father revealed that as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in the 1960’s, he and his roommates had lived IN THAT SAME HOUSE, tenants of the third story apartment. He toured the whole house and showed the midwives where his bedroom and bathroom were. Absolutely amazing! We left with our little miracle by mid-day and have been in love and awe of her ever since. We are truly grateful to the staff at the Minnesota Birth Center for this experience and all the assistance before and after her birth.
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