Disclaimer - I'm a bit of a birth junkie. I love the thought of women trusting their bodies, and being supported through birth. With this post, I'm putting myself out there, specifically in sharing some very intimate photos that were captured by our wonderful doula, during my labor and delivery of Arrow. I figure I can't be a true "birth junkie" unless I am open to sharing my experience, through words and pictures, with other women. All the photos are modest, but very "honest", for lack of better words. If you think you may not deal well with birth photos, you've officially been warned that there are MANY in this post. :)
When I think back on Arrow's birth, it feels like a dream....like I can float through the memory. It begins with a small contraction that woke me at 6 a.m. Zac was just about to walk out the door for work and I didn't mention the contraction because I wasn't sure it had even been one myself. I figured I'd just see what happened. As I heard his truck drive off, I had a second contraction. Still not wanting to call attention to anything too soon, I waited a bit more. A few contractions later I called him home. He had made it to town before turning around. At that point, I knew Arrow was on his way, even though the contractions were very small. But with how fast I labor and deliver, I also knew I needed to act. While I waited for Zac to get home, I gathered up a few last minute things, woke the kids up, and brushed their hair. By the time Zac got back home, I was just starting to need to breath with the contractions. I popped my ear buds in, put on my labor and delivery play list, and we left the house about 7 a.m. It was then that I'd say actual labor began. The hour drive to the hospital was beautiful. The sun was just up, making for a pink lined sky against our dry yellow hills. I kept my ear buds in and worked with the still easy but picking up contractions. By the time we closed in on the hospital, I was wanting to get out of the car and work with the contractions more physically. Good timing.
As I walked into the hospital, I noticed my whole support group had made it there just as we did. My mom and sister took the kids to the cafeteria for a quick bite while Zac, our doula Amy, and I went to get settled. A wonderful nurse came in and asked if I'd like to labor in what I was wearing. I'd planned on it and was happy to just nod my head instead of asking permission to please not wear a gown. I was 4 cm upon arrival and tried not to let that get me down since that's what I had been for two weeks. We got settled in our room and labor picked up. I had been taking my ear buds out here and there in between contractions, but once settled in our room, I shoved them in and didn't remove them until Arrow was born. Instinctively I asked Zac to hold me up through contractions. He'd stand behind me and let me hang from his arms. My doula got me a ball to sit on in between contractions. That is how we spent the next hour and a half....sweating all over each other, working together, me focusing on the baby, and Zac focusing on holding me up through it all.
I kept my voice low by matching the bass tones in the music that was flooding my head. Not many songs stood out. I can't tell you specifically which songs played during that hour and a half, save a few....but I can tell you they were my saving grace. When I felt transition coming on and wanted to "give up and take a nap," a song came on about Christ's sacrifice for us and I told myself that if Christ could die for me, surely I could get through this pain for my son.
Transition came and I started pushing involuntarily at the end of my contractions. I tried to hide what I was doing at first because I know my body does this, and during Kian's birth, the nurse told me not to do it. But my doula and my midwife encouraged me to give over to my body and do what it was asking of me. And so I did, and I literally felt Arrow's head lower into my pelvic....a miraculous feeling I hope I never forget. A bit later my midwife said, "Jenny, why don't you get up onto the bed and push him out?" She had not checked me for progress so I asked her how she knew it was time. I was so nervous about getting out of the good groove that Zac and I had going. My midwife said she knew because she was listening to me and could hear that it was just time. How amazing to feel so focused on and listened to during that time!
Sure enough, she was right, it was time. But I wasn't fully dilated. She told me to push anyways, if that's what my body was doing. My bag of water was about to burst and she knew how I labored....knew that once my bag broke I'd be complete. So she encouraged me to push against the bag if that's what I wanted to do. A few contractions later, though, she asked to break it and I was happy to let her! Once broken, I was complete and Arrow was on his way into the world. I geared myself up for the horrible "ring of fire" that I remembered from Kian's birth, my only other med free delivery. But amazingly, Arrow didn't hurt that bad. I can only assume its because I was in more control, and was in "the zone" way more this time around. I was even able to know what was going on around me. Poor Logan was having a hard time watching the pushing stage, and I remember having enough control to try and console him, while pushing. Once Arrow's head was out, our midwife told Zac to help with the rest. At 9:49 a.m., not even 3 hours after early labor started, our son was born into his Daddy's hands, and placed into my arms.
Arrow's cord was alowed to stop pulsing before being cut by his Daddy. And Arrow was left in my arms for a good long while. No one picked him up to try to make him cry. No one was in a rush to get stats. No one was in a rush to clean him up. And so we laid there together, just soaking each other up. Eventually the nurse did ask to weigh him as they told me he looked rather large and if he was over a certain weight, they would want to make sure his blood sugars were OK.
Zac picked him up and took him to the scale. I couldn't see the scale but heard a gasp from everyone in the room at once. Zac turned around and told me he was 10 pounds. I told him to "shut up" (aren't I nice....all in play) and tell me what he really was. Again, Zac exclaimed "10 pounds"! I didn't believe him until everyone stepped aside and let me see the scale for myself.
After his quick weight check, Arrow was given back to me. We spent time together, skin to skin. And as he nursed for the first time, he reached up and took hold of my necklace...a gift Zac got me last year to represent our two lost babes.
After family went home, we were left alone to just bond with our sweet boy. Again, no one pushed us to get the rest of his stats, or to bathe him. The next evening, we were home, all together, a family of 6!
Arrow's birth, for me, was so empowering and amazing. I have always wanted a birth like this. After three kids, I was starting to think that I was possibly envisioning an impractical outcome. Maybe a med free, fast birth was never going to feel controlled. I thank God for Arrow's beautiful entrance into this world and I feel lucky to be able to say med free, fast labors CAN be controlled, beautiful, and rewarding.