I’d been experiencing prodromal labor for two weeks. Every afternoon, I’d start having surges, back pain and cramping. There was a free city concert for Summer Solstice downtown and we thought that it would be something I could do and my parents could join us. So we went at about 6pm and I was starting to have my normal prodromal pains. I didn’t think anything of it. By the time we came home I was getting more uncomfortable. By 11pm, I was having consistent surges that weren’t going away. I gave Jennifer Allison, our doula, a heads up. I figured it was too early to let the midwife and photographer know because I didn’t want to be the girl who cried wolf. I was able to go to sleep for a few hours and woke up with even stronger surges. Jen recommended I take a shower so I did. It felt good to shave and wash my hair and have the water hitting my hips and lower back. It helped the intensity not feel as strong. I needed more sleep if this was going to be the big day so I went back to bed and got a couple more hours of sleep.
When I woke up, I knew for sure this was it. The surges were strong. I let the midwife and the photographer know this was it. I was in pretty constant contact with Jen and I let her know I was ready for her to come once I couldn’t talk or walk through the surges anymore. She let me know she would have to wait for a sitter to arrive and to make sure I notified the midwives. I believe my photographer was the first to arrive but I was already zoning out.
That was around 10 or 11am. Then Jen Hoadley, our nurse midwife, arrived shortly after. Everyone was sort of interested how far I’d progressed so we decided to have Jen check me out. That hurt like a SOB! I was so discouraged because I was only dilated to 1 cm but the good news was that I was totally effaced. Baby was at a -2 station and my cervix was posterior. I was told that effacing was usually the hard part so I tried to focus on that. At least baby was LOA! I still couldn’t believe I was only at one cm though.
Shortly after I got checked, Doula Jen arrived and Midwife Jen decided she would leave for a couple hours and check back in once I had some time to dilate more. I was staying hydrated with coconut water and eating fruit flats and RX bars to stay fueled. I knew this was going to be a marathon. The surges were getting way more intense so Jen A. suggested I get in the shower. The last thing I wanted to do was move from my hands and knees position leaning over our chaise. Hands and knees ended up being my position of choice during the entire labor.
I finally made it to the shower and the water felt like heaven on my hips and lower back. I stayed in for a long time but I kept getting the chills, even in the shower.
When I finally got out, I was wrapped in warm towels and put on some dry clothes, swimsuit and sarong. I wasn’t sure when I should get the tub ready but I knew I would enjoy how the water would feel when that time came. I didn’t want to slow any kind of progress down that we were making. I labored a couple more hours until Jen H. and Stormy, the apprentice, arrived again. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth team. I love all these women so much!
We all decided that I should get checked again because I was showing signs of moving into the next stage of labor and I was starting to go to my place in my head where nobody else was even around me. It was that dark place I go when I’m doing something hard. We couldn’t believe it! I was at 9cm!! Holy crap it hurt like crazy to be checked during a contraction. Jen H. said, “If you want a water birth, we better get you in the tub fast.” This got me excited. I was pumped to meet our baby.
I slowly made my way towards the tub once it was ready. It took a few surges to get there. Once I was in the tub, it was harder to find a comfortable position than I thought it would be. I went back to hands and knees and leaned over the side of the tub holding Cody’s hand and putting my head on a towel. I labored hard for a couple more hours in the tub.
It was getting more challenging and I was starting to feel more grunty at the peak of my surges. My doula, Jen A., noticed this and suggested I get out and move to a new position. Changing positions was NOT fun but I knew it could help speed things along. She suggested I sit on the toilet. I agreed after some coaxing. That’s the most intense position but very effective at getting the baby to get moving. I stayed there for quite a few surges and was trying to push hoping my water would break.
I decided that I wanted to discuss breaking my waters. I asked the midwife and my doula what the pros and cons would be in my situation. My main concern would be taking too long and having to go to the hospital. We all decided that breaking my waters was the best plan for me at the time.
I made my way to my bed and got on my back. I don’t know how women labor on their backs. It’s so much more uncomfortable. We had to wait for the right time with surges and Jen H. broke my waters. WOW! I couldn’t believe how much water came out. Jen said my bag of waters was very strong. Sweet! That is one sign that I fed my body what it needed during pregnancy. It was not colored and that was a relief. Now it was really game time. Having the pressure of the baby’s head down there was an entirely new sensation. I wasn’t sure I could walk but I wanted back in the tub.
Once I was back in the tub, the pushing really came on strong. This was where I thought to myself, “This is what you wanted. There’s no turning back now. This is what has to be done. My baby is my prize.” It was beyond the most intense experience I’ve ever had. I knew I could do it. I’d done several hard things in my life for hardly any reward. I kept looking up at Cody telling him “I love you” and he’d say the same. It was such a special time for us.
I pushed for a few more hours. I began to lose energy and motivation. I knew I needed food and water and I was very tired. I couldn’t let this get me. I’d come so far and we were so close to meeting our sweet baby. I asked what time it was because I’d lost all track of time. I don’t remember what the answer was but I think it was around 9pm. I just really wanted to have this baby on the 21st. I told Cody I needed food. He fed me honey sticks and some water between surges.
Between a couple surges, I looked up to see what was going on. I kept my eyes closed most of the time. Everyone was quiet and sitting on my bathroom floor. They were starting to look tired but it was such a calm, peaceful feeling knowing I was so supported and I had my best birth team right by my side. I told them “I’m starting to lose motivation. I need a pep talk and some encouragement. I don’t know how much longer I can work like this.” I’m so glad I got the strength to tell them this.
Everyone chimed in separately. Jen H. is more like me and doesn’t sugar coat things. She told me, “this is what you wanted, Ashley. You know you can do this. Think of this as a hard workout you are getting through or the toughest mountain you’ve climbed.” (Something like that, not sure of the exact words but it was tough love.) Stormy came over and comforted me. Jen A. said several encouraging sweet things like, “You’ve got this, Mama. You are strong. Make deep sounds when you push. Let it all out. What’s holding you back? Let it go.” Jen had a doula in training with her and guess what essential she had with her she put under my nose! It was called Pep Talk. It smelled so refreshing. I think it was a citrus scent of some kind. This is what I needed. This is why picking your birth team is so important.
I felt a new energy and I went full force out the gate. It wasn’t long after that I started to really feel the baby coming down.
I decided to change positions and lean back against the tub with my knees bent. Jen H. told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head during the next contraction. I thought she was full of it and that I wouldn’t be able to feel it. So I did and I could feel it!! It was so soft but hard and I could feel hair. This was so encouraging. I knew we were almost at the finish line. So I pushed longer and harder. I tried to get in at least 3-4 pushes with each surge at this point. We gained an inch and lost some with each push but we were making progress. Jen H. really started coaching me at this point. “Push through this one. Give me one more during this contraction. Let’s get in 4 pushes. Get the baby back to where she was at the last contraction then make it further on the last push.” This helped me a ton. I was feeling her head throughout this whole process. I was also feeling that lovely ring of fire as she came down. That was scary to push through. It’s one huge mind block I dealt with the whole pregnancy and during labor. I was so scared of tearing. It’s really not that big of a deal when you look at the big picture.
Jen H. leaned down and felt the baby and was coaching me through each surge. I guess they were further apart at this time because I was able to take a little nap to recoup between them. Cody says they were about 10 minutes apart.
Then the baby was crowning. I couldn’t believe it when Jen said to push my baby’s head out on the next push. Were we finally here?! Sweet. That was the craziest feeling to push her head out. The hardest part was over. Everyone was super excited and came alive. Jen said, “On this next push you will get to hold your baby. Get ready to catch your baby.
So I got some strength up between my surges and got so excited to meet our baby. Then I could feel the surge coming like a wave. Here it was. I pushed one big push and felt our baby’s body and all those limbs come out. Jen H. was there to catch her while she was being held by Stormy around the waist so she didn’t fall in the tub.
She handed me my baby and I burst into tears of joy and relief. I was thrilled that we did it. I was holding our baby on my chest in our tub at home with our birth team.
It was a few seconds before she started crying and all was perfect! We were in awe. Jen did all her checking whatever she needed to check with her on my chest then told us they were going to give us a moment alone while they went to do some charting.
As they were walking out, Cody looks down as if he wants to confirm the gender. And I thought yeah we should probably check that. I move the umbilical cord to the side and I was in shock. I said, “either she’s really swollen or we have a boy!!!” I couldn’t believe that in this day and age the ultrasound could be wrong. What a huge surprise! Everyone came rushing back in and couldn’t believe it.
I started to feel the last surge coming on to push out my placenta. I’d almost forgotten about that. Once it came out, Story had it in a container. It was amazing to look at this organ that fed our baby BOY for 39 weeks and 5 days!
Cody came over to cut the cord while Stormy protected the baby and helped to hold the cord from slipping.
They took Cooper from me so that I could get out of the tub and Cody could hold him. They swaddled him in the purple swaddle I had set out and Cody held our baby for the first time. It just filled my heart with so much love and joy and I fell deeper in love with my husband in that moment.
Having our son at home was such a blessing and I’m so thankful that I had a healthy pregnancy and was able to make it happen. Getting in our bed at home and not being woken up all the time was the best.
Cody helped me so much during the whole process. I was actually surprised how involved he ended up being. He held my hand through every surge. He gave me my coconut water and honey sticks when I needed them, encouraged me when I needed it, kissed my head and told me he loved me so many times. I love that man more and more every day.
I also want to say thank you so much to our birth team. You all were amazing and you made our birth everything I dreamed of. You are all very special. Love all of you.
Here’s our Photographer’s slideshow.