Hi Friends! Welcome back to the blog. Today’s blog post is really special… I am sharing our daughter Ella’s Birth Story!
For those that have been following my pregnancy journey on Instagram and YouTube you know that we planned and prepared for a Natural Birth! By natural birth I mean no pain medication. I was inspired by the documentary The Business of Being Born and upon further research felt that a natural birth made the most sense to me personally. Although, I was fully aware that we truly have no control over how birth will take place and to be open minded and accepting if medication or a C-section was necessary. Instead of the typical OB appointments, I met with midwives at a birth center for my pregnancy care. The midwives were incredible and provided me with the most amazing care and support during my pregnancy which really helped me have a wonderful pregnancy experience.
My due date came and went. I was 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant when I went into labor. That week and half being overdue was very hard on me emotionally. On my personal instagram I posted my thoughts & feeling about being overdue, you can read that here!
THE DAY LABOR STARTED
On April 16th I went into the Birth Center for an NST test and to check amniotic fluid and we also planned to do a membrane sweep, castor oil smoothie and I had an acupuncture appointment scheduled that early evening to help induce labor. We were ready to try all the natural methods to move things along! Because at 42 weeks I no longer would be able to birth at the birth center and would likely need to be medically induced at the hospital… which I really did not want to do.
NATURAL INDUCTION TECHNIQUES
I was really nervous about the membrane sweep and castor oil smoothie because I had heard stories about how uncomfortable both can be! I am happy to share that both were not that bad! The membrane sweep wasn’t a walk in the park but it was not as painful as some have sad. The castor oil smoothie was made for me by my midwife and I drank it at the birth center. It was a combination of castor oil, almond butter and some other liquids… I wasn’t really paying attention! But my midwife mentioned the addition of almond butter helped reduce the occurrence of nausea or diarrhea – I had neither thankfully! I also had an exam and my midwife said I was 2 – 3 centimeters dilated, which was good!
We drove home and I felt a little worn out so my plan was to eat a bowl of oatmeal, watch I Love Lucy and relax. We also decided to send out a text letting people know Aaron was now in charge of baby updates because I was getting overwhelmed and stressed by all the texts asking how I’m doing and if baby had arrived yet. All of the messages I know were meant to be supportive and coming from a place of love – but it was only adding pressure onto the situation!
3:30 CONTRACTIONS STARTED
I was relaxing on the couch when I started feeling cramps, they felt like period cramps. This was at 3:30pm in the afternoon. I kept track and I was feeling a cramp for about 12 seconds every 10 minutes. At this point I assumed they were contractions but I had been told that the castor oil smoothie can stimulate cramps and contractions that are not necessarily true labor and to not get too excited if I started feeling cramps. It’s important to conserve your energy in early labor!
I had an acupuncture appointment at 5pm. At 4:30 when it was time to get ready to go I told Aaron about my cramping. Aaron came with me to my appointment to help keep track if the cramps increased. While on the way to acupuncture and during the appointment the cramping increased so much that we told the acupuncturist that we needed to end the appointment short. On the way home I remember yelling funny things through each contraction like “fig newton that hurts!” At this point I was able to talk and laugh but we are also nervous and excited. My contractions were now about 45 seconds long and were coming every 3 minutes. I also felt this incredible pressure in my bottom like I had to poop! For those that don’t know, (I didn’t until I was pregnant) before heading in to the hospital or birth center you want to wait until your contractions are 4 minutes apart or less, the contractions last for 1 minute, and you have had them for at least one hour… it’s called the 4-1-1! At this point I was having contractions every 3 minutes apart almost a minute long and for over an hour… so we were pretty much there! I was also having incredibly intense pressure on my lower half – basically it felt like I needed to take a giant poop!
We texted the midwife on call and she recommended I take a shower to see if contractions would stop or continue to determine if I was in true labor. Again, that castor oil smoothie can stimulate false labor! She also recommended I try and go to the bathroom being that the pressure sensation could be from the castor oil smoothie. While in the shower the warm water felt good and I did feel the contractions slowing. However, as soon as I turned off the water they returned. I put on comfortable clothing to get ready to relax and labor at home or head in the birth center if necessary. When I sat down on the couch I felt and heard a pop and felt warm water. I told Aaron, “My water broke!” and when I stood up I felt more warm water move down my leg. We went into the bathroom where I pulled down my pants to see what was going on. When your water breaks it should be clear and odorless liquid. Mine had a little bit of dark color to it, so we took a picture and sent it to our midwife to update her. I’m sure midwives love all the photos they receive like this! She told us that is was meconium, which was fine for now because of how light it was but we should come into the birth center to check on baby. Contractions were increasing and she recommended we head into the birth center. At this point our house was a disaster. My birth bag was packed but I didn’t feel ready! Aaron has attempted to make dinner when we got back from acupuncture so there was food out on the counter, clothes laying on the bathroom floor and bedroom – not the clean home I tried to keep up with to welcome our daughter home to! But, that’s real life!
6:30pm HEADED TO THE BIRTH CENTER
At 6:30pm we started the drive to the birth center, which took us 40 minutes. The sun was starting to set as we drove onto the freeway I was nervous about LA traffic. The car ride with contractions was uncomfortable but I listened to my hypnobirthing soundtrack & breathed through them. I definitely recommend checking out The Positive Birth Company for hypnobirthing resources. Her breathing techniques of breathing in for 4 and out for 8 is one of the best tools I had to get me through early labor and through my contractions. After 40 minutes we finally arrived. The midwife looked at my pad and confirmed my water broke and at this time there was a lot more meconium and I would need to transfer to the hospital right then. Our doula Alyson met us at the birth center. Before we left, my midwife examined me to confirm I was 4 centimeters dilated. Then we left for the hospital. Aaron and I drove in our car. Our doula followed in her car and our midwife in her own car.
7:00pm HOSPITAL TRANSFER
The contractions continued to increase and I remember wanting to keep eating because I had hardly eaten anything all day! I had breakfast, a castor oil smoothie for lunch, oatmeal for a snack and no dinner! I heard hospitals do not let you eat once admitted & not eating felt scarier to me than labor! I need my food! We were told to go to emergency room however, when we arrived it took us awhile to find a parking spot & then we couldn’t find the entrance!
A nurse let us in a back door, which is when Aaron remembered he left the hospital transfer paperwork in the car. He told me to go ahead and walk to the Emergency Room Area which was suppose to be right around the corner & he would meet me there. I started walking (more like a waddle because hello I was still having contractions and I was almost 42 weeks pregnant!) & immediately felt lost because it was a lot farther than around the corner.
Someone at an information desk asked if I was in labor and I said yes. I told the “desk man” that I was headed to the emergency room & that is where everyone from my birth team was meeting. He said that everyone would eventually be sent up to labor and delivery so I could just go there. I started crying & told him “but everyone is meeting at emergency!” I gave in and waddled over to the elevators, but there was no sign showing what was on each floor. I yelled down the hall “what floor is labor & delivery?!” He shouted back “5”! So up I went.
When I arrived I could either walk to the right or walk to the left but again, there no was good signage! A couple saw me & pointed for me to go right. I waddled down the long hallway to another desk & told this new “desk man” that “everyone left me & everyone is at emergency & can you call down there & tell them I’m up here?” The people at the desk were confused & asked if I knew my husbands phone number, which I do not! I really should memorize that. I said no, that I had nothing with me, no cell phone (I had turned off my cell phone and stuck it in my birth bag so I could focus on laboring and not text messages coming in). I was just dropped off & everyone left me! I felt really frustrated that I was alone at this point. Finally, I saw Aaron coming around the corner from the elevators & I shouted, “You left me! Don’t ever leave me again!” My contractions had stalled since arriving at the hospital, likely from the stress of being abandoned. Which in hindsight it was probably only for 10 minutes but when you’re in labor being alone in a building you’ve never been in before is really scary. We filled out hospital paperwork & then were told to go into the waiting room.
My doula & midwife showed up. I was still able to talk & laugh between contractions. I ate a peanut butter protein bar (still trying to cram food in before I was cut off) and then felt bad that my breath smelled like peanut butter. There was a little bathroom off the waiting room so I brushed my teeth at the same time while having another contraction and my doula rubbing my back. My doula ended up rubbing my back for almost 8 hours straight – she really had my back during labor!! We continued to wait in waiting room for what felt like an hour as I breathed through my contractions, listened to my hypnobirthing soundtrack & my doula rubbed my back.
Finally a nurse came in to take me to triage & said I had to go by myself. I remember the nurse asking, “So what brings you in?” And I said, “I’m having a baby.” What a silly question. In triage (another waiting room with beds divided with a curtain) the nurse gave me a gown, socks & bag to put my clothes in. I went into the bathroom in the triage room & noticed another couple on the other side of the curtain also pregnant & waiting. In the bathroom I felt so overwhelmed & alone. It’s really hard to get undressed & put on a gown when you are having contractions and are (warning TMI)… dripping everywhere still from your water breaking! I went back out to my side of the curtain. At this part during the labor process things start to get blurry. I remember the nurse trying to put a catheter in my vein for an IV in my wrists and the veins blowing (I had bruises for weeks on both wrists) and finally they were able to put one on my hand. Normally I had needles but I didn’t even feel anything because the contractions were so strong. While in triage I was alone breathing through contractions for a while until my doula was able to join me. I’m not sure why they made me be alone for a while in triage before anyone could join!
Again my doula rubbing my back through the contractions was so helpful! I only wanted her to rub my back! Although our baby was in a great position I started having a lot of back labor. Then eventually my husband and midwife from the birth center were allowed in the room. I ate another protein bar… I wish I had packed more food options! Contractions continued to get stronger and I got more vocal with loud, deep moans. I remember feeling bad for the quiet pregnant couple on the other side of the curtain who were not progressing in labor as I moaned loudly through each contraction.
LABOR AND DELIVERY ROOM
I remember saying “I want to be in my room!” & asking when I’ll be moved to the room I would labor in. I think my body knew I was not meant to give birth in triage & my body was holding back to really progress until we got to our labor & delivery room. The backup hospital we chose has midwives also, which is why we chose it! So I still was able to labor with a midwife which I loved.
The hospital midwife introduced herself and we were ready to be transported to my labor and delivery room! They wheeled me in my bed down the hallway, into my room & I rolled onto the new bed. This is where my birth center midwife left us & I was now in the care of the hospital midwife and nurses (plus my husband and doula).
My contractions continued to increase. I just remember snap shots of laboring because time was a blur. I liked to labor standing up & hunched over the bed. I would hold onto Aaron’s wrists and rub my head on his hands and forearms while my doula massaged my back. The next few days after birth my forehead felt sensitive and bruised & Aaron reminded me that I was rubbing my head on his hands throughout labor because I didn’t even remember that until he told me!
Another time I was having contractions, I was standing in the bathroom in our labor and delivery room holding onto the sink faucet with so much force, thinking “this thing better not break off!!”
I don’t remember going through transition as it’s described in birth books. For me transition felt long and with every wave of contraction I would say, “Not again!” and “Someone help me! Someone please help me!” Even though I did have amazing help, all around me. Aaron told me I screamed, “Someone please help me for over an hour”. Aaron mentioned later this was really hard for him to experience, to watch and hear his wife scream for help and to see me in so much pain. And when I say scream, I literally mean scream. Deep, loud screams and warrior moans. . Looking back I was likely screaming those words because I wanted someone to take the pain away. I wanted God to help me! Although my body was laboring & progressing well & I was doing it! I was birthing my baby naturally even though it felt like torture, honestly torture.
At some point I was checked again and had progressed to 7 cm dilated.
I felt so much pressure on my butt, there is no other way to say it. At this point in labor it does not feel like a massive poop, as some would refer to it as. It feels like a giant baby is trying to come out of you because… they are! It was so painful.
More contractions and I was checked again and was at 9cm dilated & told I could start pushing soon.
TIME TO PUSH
When it was time to start pushing I tried 4 different positions. First on all fours, then squatting on the floor next the bed. Aaron reminded me that I pushed on all fours for so long, because my knees hurt for days after! Those two positions did not seem to move things along quick enough & I was getting exhausted. It was recommended I move onto the bed & try pushing on my side with one leg up. This seemed to work a little better but between contractions & pushing I started experiencing THE WORST back pain of my life. The back pain between contractions was worse than the contractions! My entire body with seize up & I would hold on to the side of the hospital bed & ram my head into the plastic side boards of the bed while my doula rubbed my back and I would screamed “my back, my back!” My voice was so sore the next few days after birth.
Then when the next contraction started, it was time to push again! Still, we were not progressing as quickly. I remember thinking – this isn’t working! The midwife then recommended I lie on my back & bring both legs back. This is the traditional birthing position in hospitals you see that I was told is not effective. However, this position ended up being the best position for me to birth my daughter! Although lying on my back meant no one could reach my back to rub it between contractions (so painful!), it also allowed me to rest between a contraction, which is what I needed to have the final strength to push her out.
4:05 am IT’S A BABY! IT’S A BABY!
Pushing was HARD work. I kept thinking “I can’t do this anymore” and that they’d have to give me an episiotomy so she could be born. The last many pushes I remember praying asking God to please help me! Finally after what I think was 5 strong warrior pushes in a row of determination, I felt what I’d describe as a Jelly Fish falling out of me! A slippery relief & I asked, “What just happened?!” They put my baby up on my chest and I looked at her and said, “It’s a baby! It’s a baby!” Her eyes were open looking at me & she was screaming! Hi Mama!! At 4:05am our daughter Ella Grace was born.
They let the cord pulse for a minute before clamping. We could only let the cord pulse for one minute because of the meconium, she needed to be checked out by the NICU team. The NICU teamed assessed her off to the side. Everything checked out great so there was no need to transfer her to the NICU.
Meanwhile the midwife helped me birth the placenta, check me for tears & clean me up. Thankfully no tears!! She said my slow pushing (which I had no control over and didn’t plan for) helped my perineum slowly stretch so no tears. My doula later told me I pushed for 2.5 hours! No wonder I was exhausted!
They brought Ella back to me & she wanted to eat right away! She latched on and had her first meal!
I was also so thirsty & hungry and all we had to eat were rice cakes and protein bars! I was so sick of protein bars, having eaten 3 in the past 12 hours. We had chili in the car we were going to heat up after birth at the birth center, but that wasn’t an option at the hospital. I really did not want another protein bar but ate it for something!
From there I had to make sure I could pee (after a few attempts I did) and they transferred us to our room where we would spend the night, “rest” and recover.
This photo below is of me, Ella and our AH-Mazing doula Alyson right after birth!
This photo below is the ONLY photo of the three of us from the hospital!! I wish we had a “better” photo. But I also kind of love that it’s so real. Aaron is exhausted and sleeping in the background, I’m still awake running on adrenaline post birth and Ella is doing what she loves to do best… nurse!
COMING SOON…. POSTPARTUM BLOG POSTS
This is where I’ll leave this story! I would LOVE to write another blog post or many blog posts on what happens next and our postpartum journey. Honestly, my postpartum experience combined with breastfeeding has been harder than pregnancy and (in my personal experience) harder than labor in a strange and different kind of way! There are so many books and resources to prep you for pregnancy and birth but I feel that postpartum days are like the Wild West! No one is talking about them or sharing how truly hard they are! It can feel lonely and you question everything! Am I doing this right? It can be filled with anxiety. You can follow me in Instagram where I share a lot of real motherhood Instagram Story videos. I will try to blog more when I can chatting about all things postpartum when I get time in between feeds, naps, diaper changes and staring at our adorable daughter.
NATURAL BIRTH THOUGHTS
People would say, “You’ll feel like a superhero after giving birth!” Honestly, I didn’t. I felt exhausted and traumatized. I think it’s okay and important that we don’t make birth and motherhood appear perfect and always a high. It is really hard! It’s so worth it, but motherhood in all areas is the hardest job in the world. Moms you ROCK!
It wasn’t until a few weeks after birth that I started to feel really proud of myself for giving birth to our daughter and enduring the natural route. Birth is beautiful no matter how it happens. Although we didn’t birth at a birth center as planned, we still had a wonderful natural birth experience overall. Mom and baby are both healthy and that is what matters most!!
Would I recommend natural birth? Absolutely!! There are so many benefits to it. If you haven’t yet, I recommend watching the Business of Being Born. I would say that what I wish I would have done was prepare myself more mentally and emotionally than physically. Because your body truly knows what to do, it takes over and births that baby! What you really need is a STRONG mental state to endure natural birth.
I also am so happy that we hired a doula. I highly recommend it!! DoulaMatch.net is a great resource to find one in your area.
Would I go through natural birth again? Absolutely!! If we are blessed with more babies in the future I would definitely give natural birth another go. I would even be interested in a home birth possibly.
I am going to write a second blog post answering your FAQS about our birth experience!! Right now however this is all the time I had to write while caring for our new baby! This blog post in fact took me weeks to write in moments of ten minutes here and there.
I would also LOVE to hear your birth story so please share with me under this post on Instagram!!
Thank you ALL for following along our pregnancy journey, celebrating with us in the birth of our daughter and for your continued support and encouragement during these new weeks as new parents. I love our online family so much. You are simply the best!
Lastly, please excuse and typos or grammatical errors in this blog post. I’m a new mom running on very little sleep.