All photo credits to my amazing doula, Rita. If there’s one piece of advice I could give to attaining a natural childbirth it’s this: hire a doula! They are worth their weight in gold.
“It’s like you were pregnant one day, and the next day your baby was here!”
Exactly. Honestly the first few days after the birth felt like a dream. I had waited so long to meet our little one, dreaming of him every night, that his presence inverted fantasy and reality, causing me to double think every time I gazed at his beautiful, angelic face.
The birth, however, the 20 hours of labor that brought our son into this world, remained strikingly vivid in my mind as I thought it over throughout those first few days. While the pain faded the moment he was placed on my chest, the supernatural experience of natural birth is seared in my mind forever. It was messy and raw, serene and perfect, all at the same time. It was coincidently nothing like I expected and exactly what I anticipated. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was the most beautiful event I have ever been a part of.
I am so grateful to have been able to give birth to my son with no pain relief, no medical intervention, and to have felt every single moment of my labor. Even though I had the dreaded back labor, said to be the most painful thing someone can experience, I am grateful for the pain. I truly believe that the elation of childbirth can only run as deep as the pain which accompanies it. When Jimmy laid my son on my chest, I was completely coherent, in my right mind, and ready to bond with my baby. He was bright-eyed and quiet, staring into my eyes as if acknowledging me as his mother.
I am so grateful to remember this story in such striking detail, to be able to share it and encourage others in the wonder and beauty of natural childbirth.
The hardest part was, perhaps, the waiting. I was 8 days overdue, and everyone was anxious. I had been having regular contractions in my back every day since my due date, but they never picked up in intensity and slowed when I rested. Each day I woke up thinking “today could be the day!” and day after day, I went to bed thinking of tomorrow. I did everything I could to keep from becoming anxious, but eventually I started to fret. I saw the chiropractor and my midwife early in the week, and both remarked that I looked ready to have my baby. They were right.
On Thursday I had an appointment with my backup provider, a family doctor in Bay View who would deliver my baby if we ended up having to go to the hospital. Knowing my due date, she greeted me with her characteristic grin “we are going to sweep your membranes, how about that?” I had researched the process and found no risks, so I was all on board to get my labor started. The sweep produced a bloody show, and I became more hopeful that it had worked, but tried to remain calm in case I did not end up going into labor.
I was grateful Jimmy had driven me, as I had cramping the whole way home. When we got home I wanted to start a load of laundry and take care of some chores, but decided to take it easy, hoping I would need to save my energy for something more important. We sat down on the couch to watch the Packer game, and the contractions I had been having all week started to demand my attention. I texted my midwife, Sabrina, and my doula, Rita, letting them know what was going on, but reiterating that it could be a false alarm. I found myself breathing slowly through them and started to get excited because FINALLY something was changing! I started to time them, and when they were 6 minutes apart at 9pm I decided to go up to bed and try to get some sleep, thinking I would go into real labor in the morning.
My body had other plans. I did not get any sleep, as the contractions started to pick up from there. I just laid in bed praying, letting them sweep over me, waiting, waiting, waiting for the next increase in intensity. I knew I wanted to wait as long as possible before calling in the team so my labor would feel shorter. At 2am I woke up Jimmy and told him I need to make the call and we need to start getting ready. I’m glad he got a few hours of sleep!
I had all the supplies for the birth gathered in the closet in the nursery, but by that point, I was completely unable to do anything except try and move and moan through the contractions which were coming every 2 minutes. I started to feel nauseous and light-headed, which I later learned was my transition into active labor. I directed Jimmy to make up the bed with a shower curtain liner, diffuse some essential oils, turn on the candles, and unlock the front door. My back was in excruciating pain, so I tried to explain how he should rub it, but I was unable to put it into words.
Rita arrived first, around 3:30am. The first thing she said was “It sounds like you are working very hard.” Yes I was! I thought for sure I was going to have that baby by dawn. She took over for Jimmy, applying counter-pressure on my back as I laid on my side, which really helped ease the pain. She put peppermint essential oil on a washcloth and put it near my nose, which immediately helped the nausea.
Sabrina arrived around 4am. All I could think was “I need the tub!” which she had brought. Though it was excruciating at the time, I now see it is fortunate that the tub took so long to set up. The longer I waited before going in, the more effective the pain relief was. She asked if it was okay to check my cervix, since my pain was so intense, and I happily accepted.
It felt like a punch in the gut almost as strong as the daggers in my back! But it was good to know how much further I had to go, to know how to budget my energy. Rita insisted I eat something to keep up my energy, so I grudgingly took a bite of a banana and sipped some coconut water. She had been keeping me hydrated with water as often as I felt I needed it.
Rita suggested I get out of bed and try a different position. I wanted to stay right where I was, but I knew labor could stall if I stayed in the same place, so I agreed to sit on the birthing ball. Moving was excruciatingly painful. I draped my head and arms over the bed, and she rubbed my back as the first contraction came. Somehow it was even more intense than it had been! She reassured me that the first few contractions after changing positions are always more painful, but if I persevered they would settle down. She was my guardian angel throughout the birth, supernaturally knowing exactly what I needed when I couldn’t even put it into words.
After some time in this position, I knew I needed the water, and the tub was finally ready for me. I stepped in and immediately said “oh my God.”
“Oh my God in a good way?” Someone asked.
“Thank you Lord.” Conversation wasn’t happening, but they got the point.
By this stage, I was not really getting a break between contractions. The tightening and most extreme pain would rivet through my back with contractions, but the back pain never really faded completely, even between contractions. I did not anticipate this type of pain! I always assumed the pain would be in my front since the baby was in the optimal position, but apparently there was something about my anatomy that caused me to have back labor.
With each contraction I did my best to relax my face, relax my body, calm my spirit, and think about surfing through these “waves” with Jesus. I thought of His pain, the pain He endured for me, and how willingly He did it. I knew that the more I could relax, the more effectual the contractions would be, and the closer I would get to meeting my baby. I turned inward in my labor, and though I moaned deeply through each contraction, my motivation needed to come from within and above.
Sabrina checked me while I was in the tub, and I was at 7cm.
Rita asked me what I was thinking about during contractions, and all I could say was “Jesus.”
The sun was rising on an absolutely perfect fall day, the rays cascading through our southern window.
This is where I started to go into transition, and things get a little fuzzy.
My birth team grew. Earlier on, Sabrina had asked me if I wanted her to call Dr. Jen, my chiropractor, to get an adjustment to help ease the back pain. I had said yes, and Jen arrived around 9 am. She adjusted me right in my bed and used the tapper to tap out some of my lower back muscles. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but I did feel stronger and ready to move forward. I am still speechless that Dr. Jen was willing to leave the office, drive to my house, and adjust me while I was going through transition! What a blessing she was to me throughout the whole pregnancy, during labor, and now postpartum. I can’t imagine how terrible my labor would have been if I didn’t have chiropractic help!
Around this time, the midwife assistant, Jess arrived, though I didn’t even notice.
After the adjustment, I labored on the bed for a while longer before getting back in the tub. Jimmy was right by my side the entire time, encouraging me and just being a strong, peaceful presence.
At one point during this transition period, Rita reminded me,
“This is not stronger than you. This is coming from within you, not happening to you.”
That was so helpful to remember as the contractions continued to roll over me.
While in the tub, I started to feel what they call “pushy,” like I had to bear down during the contractions. I allowed my body to lead and my muscles to tighten, but I did not feel like I was making any progress, so I decided to get out of the tub.
I got back into the bed on my back, where Sabrina checked me for the final time.
“You’re complete, but…” she trailed off.
“There’s still a lip of cervix over the baby’s head. You might not be able to push until that lip is gone.
She encouraged me to refrain from pushing through the next contraction. I tried, and it was the most unbearable feeling, sort of like trying not to vomit while being punched in the stomach, but in my back.
She asked if it would be alright if the midwife assistant, Jess, checked me to confirm. She did, but she also offered that she could slide the lip off the baby’s head while I pushed. I knew this had to be done, so as the next contraction came I pushed with all my might as the pain intensified to nearly unbearable. But she got it successfully!
After a few more contractions, I had found the “sweet spot” for where to push, but still the baby was not descending very effectively. Throughout my pregnancy, God had been giving me the word “surrender” and I had been practicing surrendering my health, my pregnancy, my baby, and every aspect of parenthood to Him. And surrender was exactly what I needed here, to push my baby out with no fear and no inhibition, fully surrendered to God’s perfect design.
I remember remarking comically, “I don’t think it’s going to fit!”
“Oh honey, it’s going to fit.” Everyone laughed.
Though all of this was the most difficult thing I have ever done, I never truly believed I couldn’t do it. I never wanted to give up. I never suggested we go to the hospital. I never once asked for pain medication. I never doubted my body, my baby, my team, or my God who had led me here. And there was not a wisp of negativity or doubt in the room to drag me down. I was safe and protected, and I fully trusted.
Through all of this labor, my water had not yet broken. They could feel the water bag bulging, and suggested that perhaps it was inhibiting the baby’s descent. Sabrina offered to break my bag of waters, and we quickly weighed the pros and cons. Labor would probably intensify, but the baby would be here sooner. So I consented and she broke my water.
Things picked up from there. At one point the baby’s heart tone started to drop slightly, so they had me change positions. We tried all-fours, which was how I had always imagined myself delivering, but the back pain made it absolutely unbearable. Eventually I settled on my side, with Rita behind me applying counter-pressure, Jimmy fanning my face with a popsicle box, and the midwives holding my legs so I could push against something.
I got to reach down and feel my baby’s head, but he was still so far away!
Someone grabbed a mirror so I could see my progress. Finally he was crowning: first a penny-size, then a quarter. Soon, I thought.
But he crowned for another 45 minutes or so. With each push, he would descend a little further, then when I released, he would slide back up.
I needed much reassurance that I was making progress, and Jimmy provided just that. With each push, he would cheer “Great job Jasmine! You’re almost there!” I don’t even remember the exact words, but I’m not sure I would have made it through 3 hours of pushing and 45 minutes of crowning without his relentless enthusiasm and belief in me. Anyone else could have told me I was doing great, but it wouldn’t have helped. I needed to hear it from him. He also let me squeeze his hand with each push, grounding me.
I felt like I was going to break in half. I felt like I had no more energy. I remember thinking at one point “I just need a little break. Give me like an hour and I’ll be ready to do this.” But something bigger than me swept over me and gave me the strength to keep pushing, even when I was at the end of myself.
Jess said, “Jasmine, there’s only one way to meet your baby. You can’t go around it. You have to go through it.”
I felt the “ring of fire” and pushed right through it with no fear. Finally with one big push, his head was out! Jimmy later told me that he was surprised that the baby was facing downward.
The moments until the next contraction seemed endless, my baby’s head out but his body still inside. Finally the contraction came and I gave another huge push and felt the ultimate relief! Jimmy and Sabrina caught him and immediately lifted him to my chest. It was 12:53 pm.
I looked into his face, then immediately looked down his body. Jimmy asked and I exclaimed “it’s a boy!” I held him tight to my chest and wept tears of joy and elation.
I didn’t even notice that he was a little blue from his ridiculously long time in the birth canal. But he was breathing and aware, and the midwives rubbed him a bit to make him cry. He pinked up within 5 minutes.
Of course my labor was not quite over, I still had to deliver the placenta and receive some stitches for a tear. Apparently his head made it out just fine, but his shoulders did not come so smoothly. He is broad-chested like his daddy!
But honestly, none of that really mattered to me once my son was here and staring into my eyes.
The cord was not cut until after the placenta was delivered and it had stopped pulsing. Even then he remained attached until I needed to move.
About 20 minutes after birth, he started smacking his lips and I put him to the breast, where he immediately started suckling his first drops of colostrum.
While I was being stitched up and breastfeeding for the first time, he had his first bowel movement.
Jimmy held him then, skin to skin.
After all was complete, they stripped the top sheets and shower curtain liner off the bed, revealing fresh sheets underneath. Jimmy and I laid in our bed with our son, and our birth team cleaned everything up. They packed up all the supplies, did the laundry, and even made us eggs! Rita was right by my side, making sure I continued to drink water and coconut water to replace electrolytes.
Then we measured him: 7lbs 8oz and 20 inches long. His head was 36.5 cm. He passed every test with flying colors, scoring 100 on the pulse oximetry.
Though I had been awake for 36 hours by this point, I did not feel the slightest bit tired. All I could feel was this overwhelming, all-consuming, life-altering love for my new little family.
We were given everything we needed, then left alone to start our journey as a family. We were so grateful to be home and alone. With starry eyes and full hearts, we laughed and cried and rejoiced that we were parents to the most perfect little boy!