Much.Most.Darling.: Baby J's Birth Story: My Med-Free Birth Center Experience

Monday, October 10, 2016

Baby J's Birth Story: My Med-Free Birth Center Experience

Now that Jude is two weeks old, I figured it was about time to get his Birth Story written down! His birth was incredible - it was fast and strong and when it was all over, I was left thinking "holy cow - did that really just happen?!".

Let me preface this post with this: there is nothing wrong with hospital births, pitocin, or epidurals, there is nothing wrong with having a C-section, and there is nothing wrong with Obstetricians or hospital staff. I had a terrible experience with my eldest son, and did not want to repeat that again this time around, so I sought to have a med-free water birth in a local birthing center, and utilized both techniques I learned in a Hypnobirthing class and essential oils to do just that. 

This is the (somewhat TMI, but what Birth Story isn't?) story of Jude's birth! Completely opposite from the recumbent hospital bed induction I had with older brother H, Jude was born in a birthing tub after 2 hours of labor, 1 push, and lots of deep breathing. This is the story of my "perfect birth".

(FYI, this post does contain birthing and after birth photos that some might consider graphic)

Sunday September 25th:

2:00 am: I went to bed with strange sharp sensations in my pelvic area - they kind of felt like strong gas pains though, and I didn't want to say anything about the sensations, so I shrugged it off to eating too much for my midnight snack and went to bed. I woke up multiple times at night, though, because of how strong they were, so I started thinking "ok, maybe something is happening?", but put it out of my mind and went back to sleep.

5:00 am: I woke up to go pee (for the 100th time), and when I wiped, I noticed lot of blood, and freaked out. I called my midwife and told her about the blood, and she asked me a ton of questions about what I was feeling and seeing, and told me that it was likely my mucous plug (aka: bloody show), and those sharp gas pains? Those were most likely contractions! I felt like a total idiot for how much I was freaking out over the blood, but I didn't have any of this with H's pregnancy or birth, so it was all very new! The last time I had that much bleeding, it wasn't a good thing, and all I could think about was the miscarriage instead of this baby's impending birth. She told me to take some deep breaths, and try to go back to sleep, but to call them back in an hour so she could check in again. I got in the shower to try and relax, and ended up falling back asleep!

11:00 am: My Midwife, Bri called me to follow up on my 5am phone call (she had also called at 8am to check in, but I was asleep!). I let her know I still had some bleeding, but it wasn't as heavy as it was before, and that I was still having the weird lightening sensations, but that I wasn't timing them because they were super irregular with how often they were happening and how long they were lasting. They definitely felt more intense than Braxton Hicks, and were starting to feel more like period-like cramps with a sharp sensation near my cervix that was then radiating outwards, and my lower back was sore. She told me to keep as hydrated as possible, and to treat every meal from now on like it could possibly be my last, so they all needed to be nutritious and have adequate calories and protein. Bri also told me to listen to my body, and to rest as much as possible, but to not think about the contractions if possible, and to keep on with my day as planned. I felt much more cheerful at this phone call than the last, and kind of excited that it was sounding like I was in early labor!

Zach, H and I continued on with our day as normal, and ended up picking up some french toast at a favorite local restaurant going over to my parents house for a little while so that H could get in some time with my brother and we could get out of the house. We were all exhausted, and Zach ended up falling asleep with H for H's nap time, so I decided to take advantage of the silence and take a nap myself after calling and checking in with my dad (who was all the way over on the East Coast for work). H and Zach ended up sleeping for almost 4 hours (!!!) and I got in about an hour and a half, and we all woke up super hungry.

6:30 pm: Because we weren't sure how much longer we were going to be a family of 3 (and really, none of us wanted to cook), we decided to take my mom out for dinner. We headed to a delicious local Indian resdatuaruant, but unfortunately had to switch gears since apparently they close on Sundays... Luckily for us, Red Lobster was right down the street, and seemed pretty appropriate as it was both my Grammy and late Grampa's favorite restaurant. As dinner continued on, I was struggling more and more to sit in the booth during the contractions. I was having to close my eyes more, and breathe a little deeper each time, and by the time we had ordered our food, both my mom and Zach were begging me to start timing, as they seemed to get closer and closer. I downloaded an app for my phone, and started trying to eat, but it was taking forever due to how often I was having to take breaks to breath through the oncoming contractions. Everyone else had finished their food, so my mom offered to stay with me and let Zach and H go home, so I gave kisses and away they went. 

8:45 pm: Both my Doula and Midwife had called during dinner, so we headed over to Target for a few "necessities" (Aka: a wireless mouse for Zach's computer, hair ties, and coconut water) and I called them back to keep them updated on my status. My contractions were definitely starting to get stronger and closer together, and in the last 20 minutes had been about 5.5 minutes apart, lasting about 60 - 80 seconds, and I still had some light bleeding / spotting. I had several contractions while on the phone with my midwife, and was able to breathe and talk through all but the last one, so we agreed that I could continue walking around, but to go home and try to rest if I could, and to call back in an hour with another update unless I had fallen asleep. I was feeling really excited and at that point was still very much enjoying the fact that I could feel everything, so I was in pretty good spirits!

9:30 pm: We got home from Target, and the contractions were definitely coming on harder and stronger. H was still up with Zach, so I gave him a kiss and a hug, and headed to the shower to hopefully alleviate some of the strong discomfort I was feeling. I ended up staying in the shower for about 45 minutes because of how good the water felt on my back and belly while contracting, which just confirmed the likelihood that I'd want to labor in the tub when it was time to go to the Birthing Center. 

10:30 pm: I realized it had been over an hour since I last spoke with my Midwife, and since my contractions were coming on harder and stronger, and seemed to be lasting for longer, I dragged myself out of the shower to give her a call. I let her know that according to the app on my phone, they had been about every 5 minutes and lasting 90 - 120 seconds since getting home from Target. Bri was super patient with me during this 15 minute phone call, as I had multiple contractions during our conversation, and was unable to speak through them. She asked me a few questions, and during our call the contractions had started to come on at every 4 minutes and lasting 120 seconds. She offered to come over to the house to do a cervical check on me, but the next contraction I had lasted about 140 seconds and was only about 3 minutes after the previous one, so with that information, plus the fact that my breathing was getting heavier and I was able to talk less, she told me it was sounding like it was time for everyone to meet at the Birth Center! I called my Doula and told her the plan, and she was excited to head over!

10:45 pm: By this time I could barely talk during the contractions, so I quickly called the birth photographer, Sarah of Shutterhappy Photography (who took all of these photos!), to let her know we were headed into the Birth Center. She let me know she was on her way to the hospital downtown, as another mom had also gone into labor, but to call her when I got to the Birth Center and she would come over and check in. Called my mom next to let her know we were on our way over to drop off H, but a huge contraction came on, so I handed the phone off to Zach and breathed through it. 

10:50 pm: We all loaded into the car to head to my parents house to drop off H. H was having a really hard time with seeing me in discomfort, so it was really hard to leave him. Zach tried to take him in a few times to the house, but he kept asking for "mama", so I walked in with them (very slowly, thanks to the contractions that were now coming super close together) and tried to get H to calm down. I finally got him to lay down in his room at my parent's house around 11:20, right before a big contraction hit and I breathed through it on the stairs. My mom came in to read him a book as we snuck out and drove over to the Birth Center!

11:39 pm: We finally arrived to the Birth Center (only 34 minutes late...), and my amazing Doula, Carren, met me in the parking lot. Another contraction hit me right as I stepped out of the car, and Carren immediately went into Doula mode and helped me navigate the parking lot while contracting, and we made our way into the Center and to my birthing suite. 

11:51 pm: We are all settled in the Birth Suite, and my contractions are now coming every 4 minutes, and lasting around 180 seconds. Zach turns on my Labor Playlist, gets out all my snacks, and puts extra drinks we brought into the refrigerator to stay cool. The Midwives have lavender essential oils diffusing in the room, which automatically makes me relax as that's what I diffuse at home during my Hypnobirthing self study! They made a note in their charts that I seem to have crossed over to active labor and that I am "well supported by birth team" and am "breathing well through contractions". They took a few measurements and checked in on baby quickly, and both baby and I looked healthy, so we are officially ready to get started!

Monday September 26th:

12:05 am: My contractions are getting closer and closer and a little bit stronger every time. Chocolate coconut water is all I want to eat or drink right now, and I feel like I have to pee after almost every contraction (although it takes me a little while to get to the bathroom from the bed area, as my contractions are so close together). Right after peeing, I have a really strong contraction and I feel a ton of pressure. Things are definitely starting to feel different, but I don't think anything of it.

12:12 am: I am on the floor, on my knees, leaning forward onto the bed, breathing and rocking through the contractions that are getting stronger and stronger. My Doula, Carren, is a magician, and starts applying sacral counter-pressure like my Hypnobirthing book suggests (as seen in most of the pictures where I'm on my knees and she's behind me), and it feels AMAZING and helps to take the edge off.

12:23 am: My Midwife, Bri, asks if I want to be checked, just so we can "get an idea" of where I am. I agree to a cervical check, and we try to find a time in between contractions so I can lay down and be examined. I puke a few times (thank goodness coconut water and granola bites don't taste terrible coming back up), and then climb up on the bed, lay back, and finally get a long enough break to let Bri do a cervical exam. I am SO GLAD I elected to do the exam, because Bri lets me know I'm at least 9cm dilated and 100% effaced, which explains why the contractions are so strong, and why I feel so much pressure! I have a really embarrassing moment where I shout "Holy Balls!", because apparently that's all I could think to say, although it does give everyone a good chuckle!

12:25am: Carren asks if I want to get in the tub and start hydrotherapy, to which I happily say yes please! The Midwives start filling up the tub, while I remain side-lying on the bed in a fetal position and start breathing through the contractions that seem to be getting more and more intense.

12:33am: I puke, I contract, I breathe, I laugh, I listen to music, I puke some more. Now I know why my Midwives were suggesting I stay away from acidic foods!

12:41 am: I pee, have a ton of pressure again (although this time it makes sense as to why!), and make my way over to the tub to get in. I ask Zach to bring me my peppermint essential oil while I'm in the bathroom, as I am starting to feel a little tired. I put a few drops in my hands, inhale, and then apply to the back of my neck, and feel totally refreshed and like I'm super ready to go now. 

12:45 am: I seem to have discovered that contractions are more bearable when I'm on my knees, rocking back and forth, and so I've assumed that position once again, just in the tub now instead of on the floor. I can tell that they are getting stronger, but the warmth of the birthing tub seems to alleviate so much of the pressure that they almost feel like they're getting easier to breathe through.

12:47 am: Carren is putting cold washcloths on the back of my neck, which feels amazing, especially in conjunction with the peppermint essential oil. I am starting to feel like Superwoman, and am breathing through my contractions pretty easily. Between contractions, we are cracking jokes, and Zach is feeding me ice cubes and jolly ranchers, and I totally feel like I can do this. My Midwives make a note in my charts that I am definitely well supported by my birth team, and that I'm coping really well! I start to feel more and more pressure.

1:09 am: After a particularly strong contraction, I start to feel the urge to push, and let my Midwives and Birth Team know! What I don't vocalize? The Superwoman feeling starts fleeting, and I get really nervous. This is when the scary thoughts start coming into rotation, but rather than give into them or let myself think about them any longer, I remember some of my Hypnobirthing visualization exercises and go to my safe place. I think my body can tell that I was tensing up, because things seem to slow down a little, but after a few minutes of deep breathing and visualization, I know I'm ready.

1:15am: I am feeling strong, nervous, scared, excited, and very ready to meet this baby. Zach and I have a moment (see pictures), and emotions start flooding in. I ask for a few more ice chips, and continue breathing and visualizing, and can feel that something has shifted. 

1:26 am: As I start swaying along to the James Taylor playing in the background, a really strong contraction comes on, and I have an urge to push again, so this time I execute a birthing breath, and WOAH NELLY, I feel a HUGE pop, the water in the tub bubbles, and I feel a brief moment of relief. I let my Midwives know that I'm pretty sure my water just broke, and a jolt of electricity goes through my whole body. I know this birth is almost coming to a head (no pun intended), and that we are about to meet our baby! Zach and I have another moment by the tub, and one of my Midwives comes over to do a quick monitor of baby with the doppler.

1:35 am: My ankles and knees feel like they need a little break, and I know big things are about to happen, so I move to laying on my left side in the tub to alleviate some of the pressure.

1:36 am: My Midwives make a note that I start to vocalize more! A HUGE contraction starts, and I know I can't be on my side any longer. I move back to a kneeling position, leaning forward on the tub, and my Doula, Carren, starts providing me with more words of encouragement. 

1:37 am: I hear Stevie Nicks' raspy vocals come on, and It's a good thing I adjusted my position, because right as I think the contraction is about to end, it surges back, stronger than ever, and it feels like my body starts "pushing" on its own. There is SO MUCH pressure, and I am in SO MUCH discomfort, I am not sure I can do this. Carren brings me back to my safe place and lets me know I've got this, and I forget about being quiet or calm any longer, and I know this is it. I let out what I feel like is 3 or 4 hugenormous yells (Zach describes my vocalization as a crazy exorcist style yell, but tells me it was only one and it was pretty short) as I push out baby - all at once. My Midwife, Bri, has just barely managed to get her gloves on as I birth our baby our baby's head and body in one push, and she immediately places baby onto my chest.

The next 10 minutes are a blur. I've totally forgotten how floppy and tiny newborns are, and I am in serious awe over the fact that I just birthed a baby out of my vagina, med-free, in under 2 hours. As soon as my Midwife puts baby on my chest, baby opens it's eyes and looks straight at me! Baby stares at me for a while, then reaches up and grabs my "mama" necklace and falls asleep on my chest. Nothing really feels real for a little while, and everything feels like it's buzzing, as I hear Carren and the Midwives congratulate us, and then I realize - WAIT! What did we just have?! A girl or a boy?! I hand baby over in Zach's direction and he moves back the sheet to tell me IT'S A BOY! My first thought is "are you sure?" since I was so sure for such a long time that we were having a girl, but as I put baby back on my chest, there's no denying theres a penis there! I don't realize that I've been holding my breath, but I let out a big exhale and let myself celebrate that our rainbow baby is here and healthy. 

1:47 am: I deliver my placenta, but am having some issues with postpartum hemorrhaging. I don't even notice how much I'm bleeding because I'm in a newborn haze, but apparently Zach is freaking out by all the blood (made all that more obvious by the fact that I'm in a tub). After a shot of pitocin in my left leg, and then another in my right leg, and another lovely dose of Misoprostol, things are finally under control enough to slow down the postpartum hemorrhage and I still have no idea that this is even happening. 

1:56 am: (19 minutes after birth), the umbilical cord stops pulsing, so my Midwives double clamp it, and Zach cuts it! 

1:58 am: I hand baby Boy to Zach so they can get some skin to skin time as my Midwives have me move from the tub to the bed. 

2:10 am: While I have baby Boy laying on my chest and the midwives are cleaning everything up, I look down and see he has latched! Yahoo! Baby Boy is officially breastfeeding!

Carren congratulates us and gracefully takes her exit, and the Midwives leave the room to allow baby, Zach and I to have some bonding time. Zach and I basically take this hour to freak out over the fact that that all just really happened, there is a real live baby here in my arms again, and we are officially a family of 4. We talk names and pretty much decide on a first name, but struggle with the middle. We lay together on the bed and breathe and take everything in.

3:10 am: Newborn Physical performed and baby is perfect! His Apgar score is 9/9, he looks very much like a 40+ week baby, and he is a pro at breastfeeding from the get-go. He peed all over Bri while she was doing his newborn exam, and Zach got to help weigh and measure him, which was pretty cool to watch. While they were doing his newborn exam, the Midwives really wanted me to start eating and drinking to replenish myself, so I sat back and drank some gatorade and ate some of the treats I had packed in my Birth Center Bag.  

Baby's Stats:

Weight: 4026g / 8lbs 14oz (which is actually kind of funny, as he was only measuring about 8 lbs!)
Length: 52.07cm / 20.5in
Head Circumference: 36.83cm / 14.5in
Chest Circumference: 36.83cm / 14.5in
Heart Rate: 135 ppm

By about 3:45 am we were ready to be discharged, but in the crazy haste of getting to the Birth Center earlier, we realized we had left baby's carseat at my parents house! So, Zach went to pick it up while I finished some of the discharge paperwork and postpartum care information and we ended up officially leaving the Birth Center at around 4:20 am, on a total high. By 4:45 am we were back home, in our own bed, and it felt darn good!

It's incredible to me how much different this birth was, and I can honestly say that I had exactly the birth I wanted. My Doula, Carren (of Helping Hands Boise) and my Midwives were instrumental in me achieving my "perfect birth", and I am so so SO glad I had the birthing team that I did! Carren providing me with the support I needed, when I needed it, and her knowledge of Hypnobirthing techniques was invaluable. Knowing that my body is capable of birthing (a very large baby) on its own has made me feel strong, capable, and to be honest, I was pretty in awe of how well I was able to handle everything as it happened - from the intensifying contractions, to the "ring of fire", to pushing him out, I was just amazed at what I could do. While I'm not sure my husband will ever be on board with a home birth, I think now seeing how different, and more relaxed everything was at the Birth Center might help sway him by the time we have our next one. Regardless of how our next birth experience is, I will always be so grateful for this birth and the knowledge and power it has given me.


  1. Beautiful birthing story. You are a very strong and great mom! Glad you had your husband and people who love and care about you on that beautiful day. And for your angel, welcome to the world!

  2. Beautiful Shannon, congrats to you and your beautiful family. Thanks so much for sharing your birth story and your photos. Enjoy your snuggles with you beautiful baby boy! <3

  3. So wonderful! I just love birth stories. It makes me want another, for sure. ;) I'm so glad you got to have the birth you wanted. And I have to agree with you--water births are the best!!

  4. This was so beautiful, Shannon! I specially love how he grabbed your mama necklace. Congratulations!

  5. What an amazing story and beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing! I can see such love and support from your husband and birth team it's a beautiful thing to "witness" and very inspiring.

  6. You're such a Super Mom in my eyes!! It was also great seeing Zach in some of these. Birth stories are my favorite and I'm so glad you had such a great birth! Hope your back soon, but snuggle with those babes as much as you can!


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