Caleb's Birth StoryJul 05, 2023
Message from me before we get started...
This is my positive birth story, and I do use words like "contractions" and other terms that I encourage women preparing for birth to replace with what resonates with them most (wave, surge, etc.). Always consult with your healthcare provider before attempting any induction techniques for birth. Nothing in this blog or on my websites is to replace guidance from your medical provider. This is an unmedicated birth story. Unmedicated birth is not for everyone, and sometimes is unavailable for birth in certain circumstances, but I encourage those reading to read with an open mind.
This is also a birthing center birth. Circumstances such as, but not limited to, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, having multiples, baby being breech, premature labor before 37 weeks, late term labor after 42 weeks, and more make one ineligible for a birthing center birth. Birthing center pain management only includes narcotics (early labor only), nitrous oxide, breathing techniques, hydrotherapy and freely changing birthing positions utilizing different birthing equipment such as peanut ball, birth ball, etc. Epidurals are unavailable at a birthing center birth and would require a hospital transfer if desired mid birth at a birthing center. The birthing center is very big on education at every appointment, as well as requires childbearing, newborn care, and breastfeeding (if applicable) classes before birth. They also highly encourage the use of nutrition and physical activity throughout pregnancy, as well as pride themselves on empowering the birthing person to make informed decisions for them and their own bodies. I again invite you to have an open mind and for those who are considering this style of birth, explore your options and see what feels best for you!
I'm so excited to share Caleb's birth story with those who are open to reading. The last 9 months have been absolutely amazing, and now that I've given birth in the exact way I envisioned, I feel ready and open to share more. At the start of my pregnancy I originally was so excited to share my whole journey along the way, yet quickly realized what my mind and body was craving more was to be in every moment of it and protect my mindset as fiercely as I could knowing the style of birth I desired.
I planned for an unmedicated (no epidural or anesthesia), birthing center, water birth, and that's exactly what we did. Throughout my pregnancy I got a lot of questions on this. There is a lot of fear and minimal true knowledge on other forms of birth other than what we see on the TV and in movies.
Women have so many options, they can say "no" to a lot of interventions in pregnancy and in birth, yet we as a society often times do not know what these options are. There is so much that is NOT taught about pregnancy and birth, and I am so excited to continue to advocate and share in the pregnancy and postpartum space through social media and my prenatal and postnatal women's coaching experience, The Wholistic Picture Mama.
Here is our story...
On the morning of Thursday, June 22, 2023, I woke up around 4:00am to what felt like menstrual cramping that lasted about 4 hours. I was able to sleep through it and they never became stronger, so I didn't give it too much thought.
At this point in my pregnancy of 40 weeks and 3 days, I had not lost my mucus plug, and therefore, I also did not have my waters break either.
I had a friend come over that morning to go on a walk and do some curb walking to continue to help get Caleb's head more into my pelvis. We talked for a while after our walk, and then I got ready for my midwife appointment.
I had my midwife appointment scheduled for 2:40pm that day, and was planning on doing a membrane sweep with my midwife at this appointment as long as I was able to (you must be a minimum of 1 cm dilated to have a membrane sweep performed). A membrane sweep is a natural induction technique that is when your healthcare provider goes into the cervix and does a sweep with a few fingers to pull the amniotic sac from the uterus. I was 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced at this point, so she was able to do the sweep.
The membrane sweep was performed around 3:00pm and my midwife said cramping for the following 5 hours or so probably is just cramping from this natural induction technique and that if it were going to work, that it can take up to 24-48 hours for contractions to begin. Also would like to note here that this was the ONLY cervical check I opted for during my entire pregnancy. The midwife center does not do them unless requested or in conjunction to see if a membrane sweep is doable. Another form of empowering the birthing person to make these decisions on their own whether they would like to know if they're dilated or not because sometimes you can be dilated a few centimeters for a few weeks to a month before birth.
I went home and my doula, Lisa, advised me to go on a walk or do some pregnancy inducing yoga to enhance the membrane sweep even more. Then I was to rest and relax as best I could.
Around 5:30pm I began feeling what I thought may be contractions (with this being my first, I wasn't sure what to expect that sensation to feel like in my body). I texted Lisa and she said to track my contractions for 30 minutes or so and see if they were coming in a pattern. I was having contractions lasting 70-90 seconds and they were coming every 6-7 minutes.
At this point in time, my husband, Brett, was on his way home from work and was bringing us dinner home. By the time he got home around 6:15pm or so, the contractions started to get a bit stronger and closer together.
Brett came home to me mid-contraction leaning over the kitchen island, breathing through it. We tried to relax and enjoy our dinner, but I began to feel a bit nauseous and it seemed like the contractions were speeding up even more. I felt like something was feeling a bit off, so we Facetimed Lisa.
At this point my contractions had accelerated to be 60 seconds in length to only 2 minutes 30 seconds apart (not usual for a first time birth this early on). Lisa thought that I may be dehydrated, which for me is a rarity. In hindsight, it was the perfect storm of a day that I did not drink nearly as much water as I normally do. I drank big gulps of water in between contractions to see if that would space them out a bit more, and it did, however I could not hydrate fast enough.
We ended up calling the Midwife Center around 8:30pm to reach the midwife on call. She listened to me through one of my contractions, and asked us to come down. There was a chance I would go in, they could give me an IV to get hydrated, and they may be able to send me home to continue on with early labor.
We got our bags, grabbed some towels in case my waters broke in the car and a garbage bag in case the nausea progressed further. The car ride was a bit tough. The bends and motion of the vehicle increased my nausea and halfway there I threw up quite a bit (thank goodness for the garbage bag).
We made it to the birthing center and the midwife met us at the car to help us in. Nia was our Certified Nurse Midwife for the first half of my birth, and Brittany was our Registered Nurse. (At the birthing center you have a Certified Nurse Midwife and Registered Nurse with you at all times, plus your support people of choice, talk about amazing support!) Lisa also met us at the birthing center to help support during this early labor stage.
Brittany put my IV in and I received a bag of fluids, plus Zofran to try to help with the nausea. I received my first of only three cervical checks during labor at this time, and I was 2 cm dilated. (Cervical checks are something you are able to deny during labor, and request when desired.) My favorite position to labor in at this point was standing with hands on the bed, however I was having trouble sustaining this position. From throwing up and the hormone surge I was periodically having uncontrollable convulsions, something very normal in labor, but mine was escalated for me due to throwing up.
I tried laying down. I tried doing all fours on the bed. I tried leaning over a "CUB" birthing stool on the bed. Everything was still making me nauseous. At this point I was starting to feel exhausted and desired something to help me rest. In early labor, you are able to utilize a bit of narcotics to help with rest. It does pass through the placenta, however it does not stay in your system long enough to affect baby.
Around 12:00am, after exploring our options and asking questions about narcotic options, I decided to have morphine administered that would last 1-2 hours. It did not allow me to sleep through contractions, I woke up for every single one, but it did allow me to lay down without nausea and to sleep in 2-3 minute increments between contractions. I labored in bed lying down on my side, for about 5 hours.
At 5:45am, I felt ready to change things up. I received my second of three cervical checks at this time and I was 4-5 cm dilated, 80% effaced and at a -2 station. When I stood up out of bed I experienced some bloody show and fluid down my leg which was my mucus plug and a bit of my waters starting to break.
Around this time our next team of midwife and nurse came in, Annetra was our CNM and Adrianna was our RN. I was so excited to have Annetra, as she was the midwife I saw the most during our prenatal visits and is such a light and fun spirit to have in the room.
At 6:00am I got into the birthing tub. The water felt so good, it ranged from 98-100 degrees Fahrenheit throughout my time in the tub. Lisa had gone home to rest for a few hours while Brett and I were laboring in bed, and at this point had returned with breakfast for us. She brought a smoothie for me that I was able to take little sips of, but I was still feeling a bit nauseous so wasn't able to consume much of anything except sips of water and smoothie.
I started laboring facing up in the tub, floating on what was similar to a giant pool noodle. I stayed in this position to labor for a little while, but then decided to flip to an elevated child's pose position for the majority of my time in the tub. I also tried a bit of side lying in the water too.
Brett and Lisa were absolutely amazing support the entire time. Lisa stayed at my side and for 6+ hours would gently cup water onto my back and upper body to keep me warm, while also coaching me on my breathing and mindset when needed.
Brett was incredible and the best husband and support a wife could ask for. Those that know Brett, know how positive and uplifting of a human he is, always lighting up the room and giving motivating pep talks. This experience was no different and he really turned on his motivational talk every time I needed an extra boost. It helps too that we are both fitness instructors ;) We joke now that for him it was like teaching an 18 hour boxing class!
Throughout my time in the tub I continued to use my breathing techniques, grasping a comb, baring down a bit on the edge of the tub or in Brett's arms, and periodically I would sway my head with my breath to help hold a pace with my breathing and release the built up energy/intensity.
Around 10:30am or so I was feeling the strength and intensity of it all and I communicated to Brett and Lisa that I was not in a good head space. They really turned on their positive talk and affirmations to help me through what I now know was my transition phase. Having a clear enough mind to stay in communication with them and be open about what I was mentally experiencing was a huge help.
At 10:42am I got my third of three cervical checks and was 10 cm dilated, 100% effaced and +2 station and had been feeling the urge to start pushing for a bit. At 10:50am I began actively pushing.
I did end up trialing nitrous oxide a little before this point, but it made me personally feel very claustrophobic and ultimately wasn't doing anything for me in this stage of labor. After trying it with about 3 contractions, I decided I didn't want anything.
With the help of my support team, they reminded me to allow the contraction to build and instead of the "up" breathing I had been using for management of the intensity, we switched to "down" breathing and sending the breath down to push. Lisa also aided with some counter pressure on my sacrum during the push phase which helped. The strength and intensity was great, but at this phase of birth I also knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and we were about to meet our beautiful baby boy. This mindset kept me going through every contraction and push.
His head crowned at 11:36am and his head came out at 11:39am...fully birthed at 11:40am.
With the assistance of Annetra, I caught my baby boy myself underwater and brought him to my chest. He immediately raised his head with such strength and looked me right in the eyes...WE DID IT! The most magical, amazing, intense, endurance challenging, beautiful experience I had ever had in my entire life. The emotion just rushed through me, it was truly incredible in every way, I wish I could bottle it up forever.
I have never been so proud of my body and mind in my entire life.
We made our way out of the tub, Caleb still at my chest and on our way to the bed for delayed cord clamping and our "golden hour" to cut the cord, do skin to skin, birth the placenta and try our first breastfeeding session.
Brett and I cut the cord together while Caleb was at my chest, after 10 minutes of delayed clamping. Delayed clamping helps them obtain maximum red blood cells, aids in the transitional circulation, increases iron stores and more. This involves waiting until the cord turns completely white before cutting.
At 12:00pm I birthed my placenta, which felt amazing. Prior to this I felt like I still needed and was ready to push something out. I was also checked for tearing at this time. I had two small abrasions (brush burn like) and one minor first degree tear which did not require stitches. I can attest that the water birth and laboring in water for 6 hours helped with this immensely.
Once I birthed the placenta, we relaxed for a few minutes laying skin to skin in bed. Caleb then did a spontaneous breast crawl himself at 12:15pm for his first breastfeeding experience. This is when you allow baby to find their way themselves to feed for the first time, and it is truly amazing to watch nature running its instinctual course!
I breastfed him on the other side as well after this, then Brett and I had our own first postpartum meal prepared especially for us by Annetra and Adrianna. Brett, Caleb and I had breakfast in bed all together, and it felt so amazing to rest, relax and refuel after such an experience.
After your "golden hour" (which was actually two beautiful hours) they do all of baby's measurements and APGAR test (appearance, pulse, grimace, activity and respiration).
At the birth center, they monitor you for anywhere from 4-12 hours normally to make sure mom and baby's vitals are okay. At first my blood pressure had gone up a bit and was being monitored (everything else for me was normal).
Caleb throughout this time had slightly increased breathing rate and periodic low blood sugar. Due to Caleb being a waterbirth baby which makes it such a smooth transition for babies coming from amniotic fluid into water, and my push phase being shorter than a lot of first time births which means he didn't get as much respiratory compression coming through the birth canal to help push some of the fluids out of his system, we guessed that it was taking him a bit longer to get the fluid out of his body and trusted that he would self regulate without it being a concern.
We ended up being monitored past the 12 hour mark until about 2:00am when all of his vitals finally had regulated into the normal range and we were able to bring our sweet baby boy home.
This birthing experience was absolutely life changing. It was, for the most part, exactly what I envisioned.
Like any birth, there were definitely things that I didn't anticipate for example:
- Being dehydrated and having that affect my early labor. Prior to this, I thought I would have labored at home for much longer.
- The nausea. While I knew it was normal, I wasn't sure if it would affect me or not, and man did it! Which then affected my ability to eat through labor, another thing I thought I would be able to do.
- Positioning. Some of the birth positions I thought would feel good for me, ended up not. Hip squeezes, all fours, squatting, moving around the room, all ended up not feeling good for me.
Every birth experience is uncertain. That was the part leading up to birth that started to get to me the most. I was extremely prepared from an education stand point, as I have become a huge birth advocate and birth nerd over the last two years, but even with all of that knowledge, every birth and woman is so different, that you truly don't know what to exactly expect.
That leads me to a few tips leading up to labor and delivery:
1. Find your positive and supportive people leading up to birth.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of people who are "against" unmedicated birth and can be extremely unsupportive of those who desire to plan for an unmedicated birth. (*Note: Unmedicated birth is sometimes unattainable for true medical emergencies/conditions and by no means am I ignorant to this fact. I am speaking for low risk births in this case.) I have found this is usually because of two main reasons; not knowing much about unmedicated/physiological birth and the options we have for contraction management OR when someone feels they are unable to do something, they will also tell you that you can't.
It may not always be these two reasons, but my experience shows that these were often the two main reasons. With that being said, find your tribe, especially as you get closer and closer to birth. I placed myself in a mindset bubble and stopped telling most people how I planned to birth towards the end of my second trimester. I did not share on social media what my birth preferences were. I spoke only to friends and family about my birth preferences who I knew were supportive of my choices. This is HUGE for the mental aspect of birthing in this fashion.
2. Be mindful of staying hydrated.
I was mindful of this my entire pregnancy, and of all days, the day I went into labor I was not hydrated. I did not realize how much this would affect my early labor. Now that I have experienced the affects of it, I would have definitely been more mindful of ensuring I was super hydrated during my last few days especially before giving birth. (I stopped teaching at 39 weeks and 6 days, birthed at 40 weeks and 4 days...when I teach I am super hydrated, but being off and at home I was less cognizant of it)
3. Choose your support team wisely.
Mindset is EVERYTHING in labor and delivery. Your support team is one of the biggest pieces to this. Choose people who lift you up, motivate you, are positive and encouraging and that can help you through the more difficult times in labor.
Doulas are worth their weight in gold! I can not advocate enough for our doula, Lisa, and all doulas! Shoutout to Lisa Byerly and the Golden Lotus Doula Services here in Pittsburgh, PA. She was absolutely amazing through my entire pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Have your support team get educated. The classes provided through the Midwife Center helped Brett immensely to understand the physiology of birth, how to best support me and opened him up to unmedicated birth. He was fearful and nervous about this style of out of hospital birth at first, but he will tell you now he wouldn't have changed it for anything and he walked into this birth with me very confident and ready to support!
4. Stay physical (if you can) and prepare your mindset.
Staying active through my pregnancy and continuing to teach my fitness classes up until Caleb's due date definitely aided in my labor and delivery. This is not always feasible for everyone, as some develop conditions that make physical activity off limits, but if you are able to even do gentle activities like walking, light weight lifting or yoga, I highly recommend it! Women are often nervous to workout during pregnancy, which has been my inspiration to develop The Wholistic Picture Mama and build awareness and education on safe prenatal and postnatal fitness practices.
Even more than the physical is the mental part of birth. I listened to hypnobirthing podcasts (this is not hypnosis, but a preparation of the mind and body for labor and delivery), took childbearing, newborn care and breastfeeding classes (because knowledge is power) and invested in a hypnobirthing online course as well to dive deeper into this style of birth. I also practiced what I preach as a mindset coach and continued to navigate the periodic self doubt, negative comments from others, etc. just like I have been practicing for the last 10+ years.
Ultimately, birth is out of our control. Due dates are only 4-5% accurate, we cannot predict when baby will truly arrive. We can prepare our mind, body and spirit as much as possible, yet your experience is going to pan out slightly different sometimes than you expected.
We can only prepare ourselves so much, until we ultimately have to surrender to what is.
Yes, things can happen that you didn't expect. Yes, in some cases there may be an emergency.
However, these things are often out of our control. All we can do as a parent and birthing person is do what we feel is best as we encounter these unexpected events. We can trust our intuition and gut instinct. We can ask questions, see what our options are and course correct as needed.
To do this, we must surrender to what is and stay as calm as we possibly can.
My doula, Lisa Byerly, with Golden Lotus Doula Services who supported me through my entire pregnancy, birth and postpartum, especially on the difficult days when I questioned myself. She helped make this experience so positive and amazing.
My midwives and nurses, Nia, Brittany, Adrianna and Annetra with the Midwife Center for Birth and Women's Health for being such an amazing team through my entire labor and delivery experience.
My incredible husband, Brett, for being open and supportive of my choice to have an unmedicated birthing center birth. Even when he started out skeptical, he stood by me and was open to educating himself on birthing center births, water births, unmedicated births and beyond. He was by my side through 20+ hours of education, 18 hours of labor and delivery and countless hours now postpartum. I could not ask for a better partner in this life. His positive energy was unmatchable during birth and I could not have done it without him helping to keep my mind right through it all. Watching him become a dad has been absolutely magical. He ADORES Caleb and has been a trooper during our postpartum journey.
My baby boy, for helping mama birth you into this world. We were quite a team through it all. Your strength and resilience amazes me already. I cannot wait to watch you grow and learn every day!
Thank you for following along on this journey with us and being open to learning about unmedicated birth. Every woman is entitled to birth her baby as she so chooses. Unmedicated may not be the best option for everyone or available to everyone, and that is okay!
Choose your birth preferences based on education and information, instead of fear. If you feel called to break the mold of our society's vision of birth, go for it, and have the strength to advocate for yourself and your choices. KNOW your choices. The pregnancy, birth and postpartum world has SO many options that are unknown to many. Seek the knowledge and make an empowered choice for yourself, not based on other's opinions.
For those that would like to chat more or have questions, my door is always open! Feel free to connect with me on Social Media or via email at [email protected]
For those interested in working with me inside The Wholistic Picture Mama coaching experience, visit the website here, and feel free to register for the sneak peek and a quick consult call with me here.
Thank you again for reading our birth story and stay tuned for more on our postpartum journey, and beyond!
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