While I was pregnant I heard more horror stories about childbirth than anything else related to babies. I knew there had to be positive stories but the “bad” ones are just more intriguing somehow, those women couldn’t wait to try and scare me with how poorly their delivery went.I am sharing my birth story (even though everything didn’t go as planned 🙄 it never does) because more positive births should be shared, too. This is real life and sometimes it’s scary…but sometimes it is glorious. I wouldn’t change anything about Isla’s birth. And as a woman, I want to encourage more women to do their research and feel empowered in their womanhood. We’re stronger than we realize.
First a little background…I am 31 years old and exactly 39 weeks pregnant with my very first baby. I began feeling Braxton Hicks contractions the morning before Baby Brown arrived and you can read about that here to catch up. I had minor complications through my pregnancy (small fibroid, partial placenta previa, and a “small” baby) that all cleared up around week 35, just in time for me to be cleared for vaginal birth. I planned to deliver at a birth center without medication so I was preparing my mind and body for the marathon that is childbirth, starting late in my third trimester.
At 7 am on Saturday I woke to a cramping sensation in my abdomen. It came and went pretty sporadically throughout the rest of the morning. I was able to eat and walk around as usual so we figured they were the start of Braxton Hicks contractions. My husband had longstanding plans out of town around brunching hours but around the time he was to leave, he started to stay home. I felt like the practice contractions were about the same and there hadn’t been much change yet. Since I was only 1 cm dilated the morning before, I told him to go. He agreed to keep his phone close and skip the eating/social component of his event. He left around 10:30 am and I still was doing about the same.
I CHUGGED LOTS OF WATER THROUGHOUT THE DAY, FIGURING THAT TOMORROW, OR EVEN THE NEXT DAY, COULD BE GO TIME.
I started my morning off with a granola bar and later planned to prepare a real breakfast. After 11 am I had lost my appetite but continued drinking lots of water and spent the majority of the morning going back and forth to the bathroom to pee. Around lunch I had my nephew prepare lunch for my son because I didn’t feel well enough to stand. I was a little nauseous and could feel my legs weakening so, I grabbed a popsicle from the freezer and joined their Netflix marathon on the couch. I watched TV with the boys through noon without much issue. I moved from my exercise ball to the couch because it started to feel deflated and therefore counterproductive. I was increasingly less comfortable on the couch (even with my feet up) and took more trips to the bathroom. After a while the bathroom trips were just to sit on the toilet, something about it made me feel better. I could suddenly understand what a birthing stool was all about.
I HADN’T REALIZED IT THEN, BUT I WAS STARTING TO DEVELOP A PATTERN.
Lie down (on my side) on the couch, and feel relief for a while. Then I’d get uncomfortable cramping again, which led me to sit on the toilet. Once in a while the toilet trip would take a little longer because I would get a hot flash or feel the nausea trying to creep back up. Then I’d just head back to the couch.
When I noticed that I was no longer able to find a comfortable spot on the couch I decided to move to my bedroom. I didn’t want to alarm the children (16 and 9 years old) and while I was uncomfortable, I knew that much worse would be coming later. At this point I started to think maybe the baby would be here sooner, like late that evening. I fell asleep twice on my bed but I’m not sure for how long. Both times the cramping woke me. I stretched and drank water through them and sat on the toilet if I still needed relief.
Around 1:30 pm I got up and headed to the bathroom, actually to pee this time, not just to sit on the toilet. I went and made it back to bed to lie down. As soon as I did I ran back to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet but got very hot and very dizzy. I stayed a moment, pushed my arms out against the walls next to the toilet, and this made the world stop spinning. This happened twice more. Toilet, hot, arms out, cooled off, back to bed. I tried a few yoga poses in between to distract myself. I held the world’s longest child’s pose and then climbed back on the bed. Back to the bathroom. This time though, I peed, and felt something else pushing its way down.
MY WATER BAG PLOPPED INTO THE TOILET.
I looked down and saw absolutely nothing, and then remembered that it should be clear-ish. I wiped and tried to stand to grab my phone and call my husband home.
A wave of heat hit me and I shut my eyes immediately. I pushed my hands out again hoping to find the walls as I folded back down to sit on the toilet. Again I tried to stand, and my legs shook.
I called out for my nephew and could barely hear my own voice so I knew he couldn’t possibly have heard me. Of all the times to not have my phone in hand! I began banging on one of the walls in the bathroom from my seat on the throne. Nothing. My nephew’s a stomper so I knew he wasn’t coming. I banged again, I heard shuffling but he sounded like he was in the kitchen, so I began banging on the walls with both hands. He was at the bathroom door with my phone. I told Siri to call the birth center while my nephew blew up my husband’s phone. I caught the midwife on the phone and she began to ask me the normal questions they told us we’d hear. I was able to tell her my water broke but then a contraction hit. I screamed. My poor nephew asked what he should do and again I told him to get his uncle on the phone because we were leaving.
I mustered enough strength to tell the midwife I was in labor but then set the phone down on the trash can so that I could push on the walls again. I could hear my nephew on the other side of the door trying to reach his uncle when he finally told me it was going straight to voicemail. “The baby’s coming” I told him. “What do I do?” was his reply.
“THE BABY’S COMING” I TOLD HIM. “WHAT DO I DO?” WAS HIS REPLY.
I could feel another rush coming so I yelled “get a neighbor” through the door and I heard him blast down the stairs. I had no idea where my son was at this point. I could feel real pressure between my legs now and realized the baby was coming way before Marvin would make it home. Another rush.
When I opened my eyes there my neighbor was, in my bathroom with her arms out towards me. I could still hear the midwife on the phone trying to get someone who could speak to her. I had my pants around my ankles and could only speak enough to let my neighbor know that Baby Brown was not going to wait for her ambulance.
The person on the phone told my neighbor (bless you Melissa!) to get me out of the bathroom and into the car. Her husband had been trying to walk the boys next door to pile into their car when a series of “NO’s” spilled from my lips. She answered the 911 dispatcher’s questions and somehow still listened to me. I told her we wouldn’t make it so we hobbled over to the bed so that she could take a look. Her eyes widened and I saw her lean out of my bedroom to tell her husband to shut the car off. He took the boys outside. I leaned back on the bed to prepare for another contraction. I heard the speakerphone say that the ambulance was already en route, but minutes away. I kept breathing, deep and slow like the birth center had taught us.
I TOLD MY NEIGHBOR THAT I HAD TO PUSH.
I groaned. This time from below, long and loud. “The head is out” she told the dispatcher. There was silence. I was breathing but I think I was waiting to hear that the cord was wrapped around the neck or something because, the whole world got quiet. She asked me to push again and I declined. I took a few more breaths to prepare and then pushed again. Loud groaning and pushing as I lifted my butt off of the bed to make room. I had both feet perched on the bed frame, arms reached out behind me, almost like the bridge pose we used to do in grade school. One more push.“You did it! And it’s a girl!!”
ISLA WAS BORN AT 1:59 PM, BREATHING FINE, GAINING COLOR, AND NOT MAKING A SINGLE SOUND.
My nephew and son had finally caught my husband on the phone but he was already on his way back home. The drive had cut out the signal to his cell.
I was sitting in a pool of fluids on my bed, stacked on a few towels, with my baby quietly lying between my legs. We used the towels to keep her warm until the ambulance arrived. We tried to find something to clamp the umbilical cord but the ambulance and team were emerging at this point.
They came upstairs, all six of them looked shocked. They zipped up my already packed bag and wrapped Isla and myself in my towels and some sheets. I was put in a wheelchair in just my shirt and socks. They told me that the birth center would have to send us to the hospital so, to avoid taking two trips in the ambulance, I agreed to head straight to the Labor & Delivery wing.
In the ambulance we tried to breastfeed but baby was sound asleep. I felt more contractions and realized that we hadn’t seen a placenta yet.
The “labor room” was just like the one we had seen touring the hospital, except there were about eleven doctors and nurses in the room. I had a team, and so did the baby. Three different people actually admitted that they had come by just to meet me (read: gawk at the woman who gave birth at home) and were not actually on our staff.
The nurses hurried to give me a shot of pitocin and manually pushed on my stomach to deliver my placenta.
The pediatricians checked the baby while I was asked the same four questions by at least nine different people. We remained in this room until all screenings were done and my husband arrived with my brave little nephew and flabbergasted son.
As I called my friends and loved ones to share the news that Baby Brown had arrived, healthy and beautiful, I found that most were surprised to hear that we both had even “survived”.
Hospitals, doctors, and medications have become so common in childbirth that my having a healthy baby without them was somehow…astonishing.
ISLA GRACE BROWN | BORN RIGHT AT HOME JULY 6, 2019 AT 1:59 PM | 6 LBS. 15 OZ. AND 20” LONG
I remember thinking “Why, why, WHY?”, right before Isla was born. Why was this the way I’d have my first baby? Why me? Why not just as natural, but at the birth center, why my bedroom? Why is this my story?
Now I know.
I had already planned to deliver Isla with as few interventions as possible at a birthing center. Everyone pretty much accepted that, whether they were rolling their eyes at my naivety or not. But a “dirty birth” probably shouldn’t be so alarming. It’s what our bodies are built to do. I know that there are different circumstances that necessitate different interventions but childbirth isn’t something we should be afraid of. I think part of why I believed my contractions to be Braxton Hicks was because I had prepared my mind for so much worse. This is why I shared my story, but also why I shared so candidly.
Isla’s birth was beautiful. It reminded me not to always take what “they” say as gospel, it reminded me of my strength. My baby girl came into this world her way, true to her personality. While it was a surprise, and I wish my husband been able to be there (and maybe not the children), it was the most incredible thing I have ever done. I’m grateful for it. I’m proud of it. And I wouldn’t change it a bit.
I hope this sheds a more positive light on childbirth, to those who are looking for it.