A warning in advance--this is really long and detailed, so if you don't want to read a detailed birth story (with pictures), then stop now! This was an important record for me to make and I didn't want to spare any details. :)
Technically the story of my labor begins on Riley’s due date: July 24, 2013. Because I have to go back to school as a teacher very soon (my first meeting is August 14), I was desperate to see if I could use some “natural” methods to get the labor going. So, on Wednesday, July 24 around ten in the morning I took about 1.5 ounces of castor oil, which is known to get labor kick started occasionally by basically freaking out your bowels so you have the runs—lovely. I waited for a few hours but nothing happened at all. Bummer. My mother and sister came to Salt Lake and we celebrated Pioneer Day by going to temple square and having lunch at the Lion House. After lunch I started to have some horrible pains in my stomach. They didn’t feel like contractions—just horrific, stabbing stomach pains. I had to sit on a bench and breathe like crazy to get through them. Once I felt a bit better we went shopping at City Creek hoping all the walking would help get labor started. I wasn’t feeling super great (thank you castor oil…) and I had to use the bathroom one time (6 whole hours after I took the castor oil), but other than that…nothing.
Me on my due date, July 24, at Temple Square
I assumed the castor oil had not worked at all so that night we went out for Mexican food (at the suggestion of my dad…he wants me to mention this) also hoping it would get something started. The next morning (Thursday) I woke up around 5am with cramping pains—much more contraction-like. I started timing them and they were consistent from 5-10am, exactly a minute long and 10 minutes apart. I was so excited! I totally thought this was it! Unfortunately at 10am, they stopped almost completely. I ran errands all afternoon and went out to lunch with a friend. I occasionally had mild, sporadic contractions, but nothing major. At 6pm I went out to dinner with my husband and we decided to try Mexican again so we went to Café Rio. By the time we got home I started having contractions again. This was the beginning of my “real” labor I guess and it was the started of one of the longest, most miserable nights of my life.
The contractions lasted all night long, again about 10 minutes apart and a minute long each. I didn’t sleep at all and on top of everything I felt really constipated so I took some milk of magnesia. Well, about two hours later, around 3am I began to have the worst diarrhea I’ve ever had in my life—on top of contractions. Didn’t think it was possible to have both of those things going on at the same time? It is. And it is something that should be reserved for the 7th circle of hell. So all night long I endured that. I labored on the couch and on our exercise ball mostly throughout the night. Laying on my side was particularly painful but I was trying to doze off between contractions. It didn’t work out too well. By the morning I was practically delirious I was so exhausted. Still, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to go to the birth center until contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute long and going on like that for at least an hour. I was also not supposed to be able to walk or talk through them, and I knew that these contractions, although unpleasant, were not painful enough to warrant that.
So, it’s Friday morning and Daniel goes to work. I told him I’d call him if I felt like this labor was actually going to go anywhere. My mom and sister came to hang out with me that day so I didn’t have to be alone. We stayed at my apartment all day while my sister timed my contractions. To my horror they were hardly getting any closer together and definitely not quickly. After laboring all day long (still awake after laboring with no sleep all night) the contractions were finally getting about 5 minutes apart. That was around 5:30pm when Daniel got home from work. I was kind of freaking out because I couldn’t imagine another night like the one before with no baby to show for it. I had been awake for 2 days and could not imagine trying to have a baby when I was already this exhausted. Little did I know that was what I was about to do.
My mom and Haley left to go back to Ogden and told us to call them if anything progressed. My contractions slowed down for a few hours…much to my horror. Then, they started picking back up around 8pm. I labored on the bed for a bit but it was making the contractions more painful so I actually ended up getting through a lot of contractions in my new rocking chair. I didn’t think I’d want to be sitting during contractions, but for some reason just sitting and concentrating got me through them. Around 9pm we tried to put in a movie—The Amazing Spider Man. We didn’t even get to the part where he turns into Spider Man. The contractions started getting pretty severe. This included some very painful back labor. This confused me because I knew that he was anterior, not posterior which is usually what causes really painful back labor. I would find out later why…
Anyway, I started begging Daniel to call the midwife because I thought the contractions were close enough and strong enough. He wanted to wait—possibly until morning (haha…) to call because neither of us wanted to be sent home. That was literally a huge fear of mine. I had been awake for 2 days, already been laboring for more than 24 hours and if I showed up and wasn’t dilated enough and got sent home I think I would lose it. Still, I started to really feel the baby pushing against my bones “down there” and knew this baby was coming. Also around 10:45 pm I lost my mucus plug. I had been wondering when that was every going to happen and when it did I definitely knew what it was. We called the birth center at 11pm and the midwives conferred and agreed that I should come in at midnight. I was SO EXCITED (but still nervous they were going to send me home). At this point the contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes. They felt like they were coming on top of each other. It was pretty dang painful but it wasn’t really the contractions that were excruciatingly painful it was my back that felt like someone was trying to claw right through it or something—literally the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
We used that hour to bustle around the house getting last minute things packed for the birth center. The car ride over was not super pleasant but we got there in less than 15 minutes. We came in and the midwives started setting things up to check me. Jennifer the head midwife on call that would be helping me through the birth told me later that the minute she saw me she thought, “Oh this girl is definitely going home.” She told me I was way too happy and cracking jokes so there was no way I was dilated enough. A few minutes later she checked me and to her and the student midwife’s surprise I was 7cm dilated. They were shocked! When they told me that I was definitely staying I almost cried with relief. I was also incredibly scared—this was it. There was no going back now. I was also scared because I was already exhausted beyond belief from the last 48 hours and wondered if I had any strength left to birth a baby. There wasn’t much I could do about that, so I just mentally moved on.
The midwives filled up the jetted tub and I got in—heaven. Everyone should be able to do this in labor. It felt SO NICE. They cooled my head with towels as my labor got back on track and I continued with the horrible labor phase that is transition. It felt like I really had to poop. That is the only way I can describe it. It was me trying to get the baby’s head all the way down and around my pubic bone. I labored in the tub for about an hour and a half with my birth playlist going and Daniel at my side. Eventually I just started to feel too hot. My body also started to sort of convulse and involuntarily made me start pushing a little. I also decided I had to pee and wanted to labor on the toilet for a bit (I was still convinced it was poo and not a baby haha). So, I started to get out of the tub. This was when I couldn’t hold my pee anymore and just let it out. Well, a LOT more came out and we think this is when my bag of waters ruptured (it never fully broke and pieces of membrane came out later when he was born).
Laboring in the tub, going through transition
Daniel was awesome at helping me through each contraction
I got out of the tub and the midwife told me she thinks I’m ready to start pushing to get the baby’s head around my pubic bone. So I leaned on the counter in the bathroom and started squatting a little with each contraction and pushing. I became pretty vocal at this point. I was begging someone to just rip out my spine because my back was in SO much pain. It really is indescribable. I just begged someone to help me. Daniel was doing all the pressure points but they weren’t helping. At one point I had 3 people all pushing on my back at the same time trying to relieve me of some of the pain. I did this for maybe 10 minutes but then realized I was too weak to hold myself up anymore. So, the midwife suggested I transfer to the bed.
The bed was probably the worst part of everything. I have pictures of this, but they all involve my naked bum so I'm going to forgo those. Again, lying on my side was way too painful. They had me lift my leg high in the air and back as I pushed with each contraction to try and get the baby’s head around my bone. He was having a hard time getting around it. This was all in the transition phase (known to be the most painful and when a lot of women want to give up). On that bed I wanted to give up. I looked at Jennifer, the midwife, and I told her I couldn’t do it, that I was too weak, that the birth was too far away and that I give up. She looked me in the eye and told me I could do it—that she had done this four months ago and had thought the same thing I did, but that I was wrong. She told me I was really close. I didn’t believe her. I thought she was just telling me that so I would keep going. I felt despair that I had failed. The midwives decided that the bed wasn’t working (and I definitely agreed) and that the birth stool would help me be in the right position to give my pushes more power to finally get the baby’s head around my bone.
The birth stool is a padded U-shaped stool about a foot off the ground. I was skeptical. I got on it and Daniel positioned himself behind me to give support and hold me under the arms. Turns out the birth stool is the best thing ever. I pulled my legs apart and gripped Daniel and started pushing again with each contraction. It worked. The baby’s head got around the bone and they told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head—I felt it! I could do it! I was almost there! Feeling that head gave me the strength to get through the rest. I pushed on the stool with each contraction and then went limp on Daniel to rest in between. With each contraction I felt him getting a little closer, which also got me excited. I would say this part of pushing was actually one of the least painful parts of labor.
Laboring in the birth stool
Any minute now!
Eventually though I got to the ring of fire—what women call it when the baby is crowning. It is aptly named! I had been warned to go slow at this part because if you just try to push fast to get through the pain you will tear. So, Jennifer coached me through each push. At one point I had to “hold it” as his head was crowning to let my skin stretch. This was the most difficult thing in the world because my body just wanted to push so badly. I had to lock eyes with Jennifer as she told me I could do it and to hold it and not push. With coaching from the midwives I suddenly felt his head fully come out. I was shocked at how it felt and the relief it gave. Everyone in the room gasped (my mom and sister were watching) and I knew he was almost here. After just a couple more pushes the rest of his body slipped right out and I collapsed against Daniel. It felt so unbelievable I can’t even describe it. All the pain immediately went away and I knew I had done it. They placed him on my chest and the best day of my life began!
Everyone started crying and again I was in awe at what I had just done and that there was a baby on my chest. I couldn’t believe it. He was here after all that time and worrying and waiting. They put him on my chest and we snuggled still sitting on the birth stool for a little while. They had me remove my sports bra to get really good skin to skin and to make sure that the wet bra wasn’t making him cold. We also had him covered with a warm fuzzy towel. He hardly cried at all. He just whimpered a bit and gave us a few squawks. He immediately looked up at me and just started quietly looking around. He also came out almost completely clean. There was practically no blood, no vermix. He was juts a little slick looking. After a quick towel dry he was looking perfect.
I gave the baby to Daniel so he could have some time with him while I got checked out. The midwives helped me to the bed and they examined me. I had a first degree tear, which wasn’t too bad all things considered. The midwives realized as they watched the baby come out that he had grabbed onto his umbilical cord near his shoulder and stuck his elbow out in front of his face the entire way down the birth canal. His elbow had literally been dragging down my spine the entire way—hence the horrific back pain. He stuck to that position the whole way out and they said it was a miracle that I didn’t tear more because of that elbow.
Then it was time for the placenta to be delivered. In all honesty I had completely forgotten about this until I realized what was happening. I remember thinking that I hope it wouldn’t hurt or take too long. Well, it DEFINITELY didn’t take long. This was one of the funniest things ever.—and kind of gross so skip this part if you want to. I had the thought about hoping it wouldn’t hurt and then the midwife told me to cough. I let out one small cough and the placenta literally shot out of me and slid at least two feet down the bed. I saw the shock on the midwives’ faces and my sister pretty much gasped. It was like the little sneeze moment from the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting where her baby shoots out with one small sneeze. It didn’t hurt at all, it was just a bit of a shock—and hilarious. They told me it was a large, very healthy placenta so I guess it was all good. I will never forget the looks on everyone’s faces though when that thing came out!
Next, Jennifer stitched me up, and let me say that getting those three numbing shots was TERRIBLE. It was like getting a nasty bee sting somewhere you should never get a bee sting. I literally screamed out loud all three times. I couldn’t help it. After I was stitched up they brought me to the bathroom to try and pee and I started realizing how weak I was. I wasn’t aware how much blood you lose on top of how exhausted you are (and how exhausted I already was before I even got to the birth center!). It suddenly hit me and I could barely keep my head up and my eyes open. I couldn’t quite go to the bathroom yet so they got me all “bandaged” up and brought me back to the room. I barely made it to the bed, I thought I was going to pass out. So, they got me all comfy sitting in the bed while they did the newborn exams.
Daniel brought Riley over to the bed and the midwives did all of his measurements so we could be near and watch. I started talking to someone when they laid him down and he immediately started looking around for me and stretching toward where I was laying. Everyone couldn’t believe it, it was so adorable! He knew my voice! It was a really nice first “I’m a mom” moment. He ‘passed’ all of his tests. He is LONG AND SKINNY! He weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 22 inches long. His head was 13 ¾ inches. He was born at 3:12 am.
After all the testing stuff was done they put him to my chest and we breastfed for the first time—definitely an interesting sensation! He latched right on and was so good right from the start. I did this for about 10 minutes but then I was so weak I couldn’t sit up or hold him anymore, so I put him down, which made me feel so bad but I really didn’t have a choice. Me, Daniel, and the baby all napped on the bed together for about an hour or so. They brought us breakfast in bed, which was awesome. After that Daniel and my mom helped take me to the tub where they helped me shower and clean off. This was literally a three person job! Again I was weak and had to sit down in the tub while Daniel and my mom soaped me up and helped get me feeling like a human being again. We slowly worked our way back to the bed so I didn’t pass out and I rested for a while longer while Daniel, my mom, and my sister started packing up all our things to leave. We left the birth center around 9am and were home taking an awesome nap by 10 am. I was so happy to be in my bed!
It was a miracle we got these two perfect prints!
First family photo
How many people does it take to put a newborn in a car seat?
One hour old
Anyway, that is the story of Riley’s birth. I know there are lots of details I will probably remember later or add, but I think the most important things are here. Already people are asking me if I would go natural again and can I even think about doing this again right now. It is definitely a bit soon to be thinking about having another kid and going through all of that again, but I’d say I would definitely do it again. It blows my mind that I could have gone to the hospital much earlier in my labor and gotten an epidural and had a much less painful experience, but now that I’ve done it naturally I cannot imagine doing it any other way. I can’t imagine not being able to really feel what it feels like to give birth. It's crazy to me that most women, at least in the U.S., haven't got to have that experience. Our bodies are SO AMAZING and it was a special privilege to be able to experience what a woman’s body is capable of doing firsthand. It was not the easier road to take but I knew it was the right one for me and absolutely the best choice for the health of my baby. I am in love with this boy!