I always knew I liked the idea of a birth center, but it wasn't until I became pregnant that I actually decided to look into what it really meant to choose that route over a traditional hospital birth. I only knew that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth even though the idea definitely made me nervous, and that I wanted to have 4 of our family members able to stay in the room. The idea of the extra interventions, bright lights, giving birth on my back, and loud noises that came along with a hospital birth also compelled me to look for other options. After a consultation with Jackie Griggs, a CNM who founded Bay Area Birth Center in Pasadena, Trent and I felt strongly that both prenatal care and giving birth with them is what we were most comfortable with. After everything, we still couldn't be happier with that decision!
Thanks to my extremely talented sister Hannah, this day was so well documented before I even thought about writing it all out! She never put the camera down and didn't complain when I insisted on making the room as dimly lit as possible. All these photos are taken by her, as well as the short video at the end of the post. Please keep in mind before you continue that while these are all in good taste, these photos and the video invites you into the birth room with us.
Muahaha you've been warned now lets begin.
It starts with a lazy evening at home, 4 days past my due date. Trent was scheduled to have the next day off so we were just about to finally watch Civil War when at about 10pm, I started having what felt like menstrual cramps. I wasn't even slightly convinced it was labor since I had already had some serious Braxton Hicks the week before (the in the middle of the night kind that make you alert everyone and get your midwife out of bed), and this felt just the same. We decided to get out of the house for a healthy late night snack (first Sonic then Dairy Queen, naturally), and then went back to the house to rest. While Trent slept like a baby, I was in and out of it. They were starting to feel a little worse, but still I could only compare them to menstrual cramps and I wasn't about to wake everyone up with another false alarm. Then finally, at about 2:45 am, NO MORE CONFUSION. I had what I knew was an unmistakable and painful real life contraction!
*Commence running around like a headless chicken* Jk, I was totally calm. Mostly. Or maybe Trent was calm and I was the headless chicken? Anyway, I woke up Trent "IT'S REAL, THIS IS REAL!" and we loaded up and prepared for the long drive to Bay Area Birth Center in Pasadena with my amazing mother-in-law Donna following in a car behind us. The drive from our house normally takes about an hour and 20 minutes, but Trent was driving his laboring wife at 4am so naturally we got there in under an hour. Of course it felt like a lifetime to me because I couldn't get comfortable and I had convinced myself I was definitely about to give birth in the car. (Poor Trent) I can remember having moments of excitement in between contractions and sending out texts, and then feeling like the world was ending as soon as another one came on. It was also then that I discovered that making a melodious/moaning "who" sound was my #1 coping mechanism.
Once we got there and got settled in at about 5 am, my incredible midwife Jackie checked me and I was dilated 6cm! Hearing that made me feel way better about how intense the contractions already felt. She listened to Wilder's heart rate for about 15 minutes through a couple of contractions to make sure he was doing well and he was! I loved hearing his heartbeat stay steady through contractions.
Trent started our labor playlist (I highly recommend making one for labor, it was the bomb), and Jackie started a bath for me. I love baths and just knew it would be my favorite place to labor and I was right-the rest of my labor was basically spending 90% of my time in the bath and the other 10% trying to find other comfortable positions to labor while someone drew me a new one. But hey I'll drag out the details anyway. :)
Over the next hour, Paige, Amanda and my dad arrived, as well as nurse Amber and student nurse-midwife named Madison.
I spent the next hour or so laboring in the tub with Trent. I remember feeling calm and relaxed especially in between contractions. Everyone seemed so full of joy and peace and it was definitely rubbing off on me. My sister Amanda had an oil defuser going and prayed for me, and I remember hearing sniffles from Donna, Paige and my dad all while smiling at me. Even Trent seemed so moved-at the time I was mostly just sleepy but it felt so peaceful.
At about 6am I started feeling nauseous and threw up a couple of times, and by 6:30 the contractions started to feel very strong and I was ready to get out of the tub to try new laboring positions. I learned that for me, squatting and laying on my side in the bed is what felt best.
It wasn't long before (surprise) I was ready to be back in the tub. At this point I was super lightheaded and wanted to try to eat something, and so I spent a few minutes there before eating some dried pineapple and kept it down for all of 5 minutes. I remember falling asleep while sitting up in the tub and and apologizing. So I moved back to the bed after that, where Jackie checked and I was 7-8cm! I remember hearing this and feeling really excited that things were moving along. The contractions were feeling pretty intense and the only relief I could find was staring at Trent’s face and asking someone to put pressure on my lower back.
The sleepiness was real, and sometime around 9am while I was still in the bed my blood pressure got down to 86/40. I think this was the only time anyone was worried at all, but after drinking water and getting up to labor on the toilet for a bit (which totally felt awesome. it really helped me relax all of those muscles through contractions and I liked the assisted squatting position), my blood pressure came back up. At about 10am, Jackie checked me again and I was STILL about 7-8cm dilated. It was discouraging to feel as tired as I did and it seemed as though the past 3 hours of laboring work was for nothing. At this point my midwives suggested breaking my water in order to help move things along. This worried me simply because I never really considered the possibility that my water wouldn't break on it’s own, and because they explained that it would make contractions more intense which I couldn't fathom. After a few minutes more of resting and laboring I decided it was worth it to move things along and I trusted their recommendation. Jackie then asked me to go ahead and try to rest as much as I could before they broke my water to try to get my energy up for pushing.
So that’s what happened. Trent and I both spent the next hour sleeping in between contractions. They hurt of course, but looking back this was a really sweet calm time and I absolutely felt the peace of the Holy Spirit there with us.
At 11am, they broke my water, and it was clear! (That’s a good thing, meaning my little one didn't poop in the womb.) About 30 seconds later the worst contraction yet hit, and hit hard. I probably said it a dozen times during different contractions, but I meant it when I said it was the worst one so far. I labored some more on the toilet, then some squatting, and then settled in the bed on my side because I had finally felt a real urge to push. I pushed on my side for about 30 minutes and while it felt as comfortable as pushing could, I didn't feel like I was making good progress there. Jackie suggested the birthing stool to allow gravity to help, and which would put me in the squatting position I had liked a lot so far.
After about 15-20 minutes of pushing after that (45 minutes or so total, aka a lifetime), he was here and it was the single most magical moment of my life. Of all the thoughts and feelings that come rushing during those first moments, I simply couldn't believe how big he was, or how beautiful he already looked. 8 pounds and 11 ounces of pure, gorgeous, squealing baby, and 23 inches long. A few moments later my dad and sister Elizabeth came in the room and we announced his name for the first time.
Trent was absolutely my rock throughout labor. I think I literally had one contraction where I wasn't holding on to him. Having someone who believes in me the way he does gave me the strength I needed. I know having eight people total in the room with me sounds like a lot, but I wouldn't change a thing. Everything and everyone was so peaceful. The room was filled with my close family and the most wonderful medical team I could have asked for.
And now, here's the highlight reel. Bet you wish you knew this was here so you didn't have to read all that. Muahaha. A HUGE thank you once again to my (not pictured anywhere above) sister, Hannah. She turned these wonderful memories into priceless photographs and footage. I am forever grateful.