When did you realize you were really in labor?
At 41 weeks and 3 days, we decided as a family that it was time to encourage this little guy it was time to celebrate his homecoming. So on Wednesday morning, January 20th, 2021 my husband poured me the recipe for the magical "midwives' brew". I drank the mix by 9:35 AM and let our midwife know so she could plan when she needed to arrive at our house by to start preparing for my labor to start. She suggested that in the next two hours I start pumping: from 10 AM to 12:00 PM I was to pump 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off, for a total of 8 cycles. It was overwhelming and exhausting to say the least. I didn't notice much difference in the first hour of pumping on and off. My breasts had felt full for several weeks but nothing had come out yet, and still hadn't. However, once the clock struck 11:00 things began to change. At first, I just thought they were mild Braxton Hicks. But then, things began to pick up the pace.
Real contractions began right around 10:50-11:00 that same morning. I started timing my contractions during the pumping sessions. They remained pretty consistent occurring anywhere from 3.5-1.5 minutes apart for 45 seconds or less. I let my midwife know and she said those were all good signs and to continue pumping if I could until she arrived. I pumped in cycles, still timing contractions until about 11:50 when the castor oil from the midwives brew kicked in. If you know anything about the purpose of castor oil... then you KNOW!
I was in the restroom when my midwife arrived. She was patient and checked on me several times to make sure I was okay. My contractions remained consistent and started to progress with intensity. I was sure to breathe through each one and remind myself of the positive affirmations I had posted on my wall and listened to through earlier meditations and prayer. My midwife's assistant arrived shortly after and I was checked for dilation progress around 1:00 PM to try and understand where my body was at in the laboring process. My midwife stated that my waters were bulging and she didn't want to rupture them since I was already at 7 cm dilated.
The birthing team was quick to make sure our birthing pool had an adequate amount of air and that the water would be comfortable enough for me to get in. While I waited for the pool to be filled up more (our poor hot water heater struggled a bit) I continued to breathe through contractions while sitting in our glider chair out in the living room where I planned to deliver our baby boy. Within minutes my water broke during a contraction in the chair and the midwives helped me walk carefully to the bathroom to clean up and prepare to get in the water. My water broke at 1:14 PM and I was in the water shortly after.
It was 1:30 PM when I gently got into the pool, resting on my knees, barely out of the water, and then pressing deeper into the water during contractions. I could tell they were beginning to get more intense and that's when my best friend and doula for my birth arrived. I called her to come over quickly and I reached out to her for comfort. She held my arms and she became my quiet and safe space. At 1:31 I began pushing. My body was telling me to push and I went with it. I urgently called for my husband to come into the water and like lightning speed he was in there with me, applying gentle pressure to my back and running warm water over me during contractions.
By 1:36 his head had crowned, and he was completely out by 1:38 PM. My husband was able to catch our son from behind and I was welcomed with the cry of our son entering into the world. What a sweet little miracle! I couldn't see him and I felt great relief and joy and I felt tears brimming my eyes and I remember crying out, "Is it a boy??" I had my little doubts right up until the end when they laughed and reassured me that YES I had just given birth to a precious little BOY. I heard my midwife laugh and respond with, " Turn around and see for yourself!' And when I did I was overcome with such joy. McKinley Atlas had finally entered the world and claimed his birthday
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
Honestly going natural was an easy decision for me. I went natural with my daughter over 3 years ago, and had the most beautiful experience, in such a spiritual way that I was completely willing to do it again. It wasn't a question for me; it never was a second thought or something I worried about. Sure, I was aware that sometimes things just happen. We can type out this completed and perfect birthing plan and nothing may go according to OUR plans. But my prayer and heart desire was for a natural birthing experience, and so I did my best to focus on that. I surrounded myself with other moms preparing for a natural birthing experience as well and that helped me not only feel confident in my own capabilities and strength, but it was a safe place that offered me support from a group of understanding women. Natural isn't necessarily EASY, but it's beautiful. It's raw. It's vulnerable and challenging. But so, completely and profoundly the most wonderful and powerful thing you'll ever experience if given the chance.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
- Prenatal yoga once a week for several months leading up to my babe's birthday.
- Positive birthing affirmations, meditations, and podcasts (positive natural birthing stories)
- Miles Circuit (I did this twice to help reposition my baby from a posterior position into anterior for birth)
- Yoga ball exercises (wide circles, figure 8's, and gentle bounces)
- Support from like-minded mamas and close friends
- Supportive friends, family, and birthing team
What surprised you about your birth?
I was surprised by how quickly things progress. My daughter's birth was quick as well, but with this being our second child I had no clue how quickly labor would progress, especially being past 41 weeks and showing no signs of early labor. I wasn't surprised by what my body could do when I needed it the most but was surprised afterward at some of the comments my own birthing team was saying regarding my natural ability to birth babies like Wonder Woman. My midwife could tell I was in transition before I ever did. When she was recalling it back to me later my literal response was, "I went through transition?" I seriously did not even know.
Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's difficult. You might be questioned by friends and family that don't understand your wants and desires to go natural. It's not common. It's not the norm, but if it's what you truly desire and want for your birth, then by all means go for it. You can do this, I wholeheartedly believe in you and your body to birth your precious baby into this world.
What pain relief strategies worked best?
Prayer is a big one for me. Praying always helps and from the start, I wanted to make sure God was the center of my birthing experience. He is the one who deserves all the credit for writing my birthing story. The power of prayer is a real thing and I believe in it fully.
I practiced the breathing techniques that I used in my prenatal yoga classes. I would breathe in deeply for about 4-5 seconds and then gently let the air escape in about the same amount of time. Breathes in... and breathes out. Sometimes I would need to close my eyes and other times I just focused ahead and breathed. In times I forgot to breathe or was lost in a moment, my midwives were right there to help me refocus on my breathing and I was able to remain calm and focused again. I continued to practice my breathing all the way through pushing my baby out.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
Words cannot even describe. It makes everything else so worth it. The pain, the discomfort, the anxiety, and fear... it seriously all vanishes at the moment you're holding your wet, gooey, sticky, crying baby for the first time. It's a beautiful moment and congratulations to you mama because YOU did it! You can truly celebrate now because you are holding the baby that YOU worked hard to bring into the world. It's seriously the most precious and wonderful birthday present you could ever receive.
What did you name your baby, and why?
His name is McKinley Atlas. My husband and I prayed deeply for the first and middle name of our eldest child, and we did the same for him. We are both strong Christians and the meaning behind names are very important to us. Once we found out that we were having a boy, we heard the answer to our prayers that the name should convey great strength and fortitude of faith. We believe that now, more than ever, our generation needs strong leaders in the faith. He is named after Mt McKinley, the tallest mountain in the United States which is in Alaska. It represents a strong, steadfast, immovable, and unshakable faith in Christ. Our prayer for him since he was in the womb was that God would give him this kind of faith. His middle name echoes the same theme of strength and courage and perseverance. We believe that God will use him mightily and boldly to impact his world in the name of Jesus.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
Believe in your body. Believe you are strong and worthy and capable of a natural birthing experience. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's difficult. You might be questioned by friends and family that don't understand your wants and desires to go natural. It's not common. It's not the norm, but if it's what you truly desire and want for your birth, then by all means go for it. Do your research. Reach out to other moms who have had natural experiences and find out firsthand from real-life moms who have gone through it all and would do it again and again and again because it was an experience they can look back at and celebrate in. Listen to podcasts, interview several midwives and find the birthing team that is perfect for you and your family. You can do this, I wholeheartedly believe in you and your body to birth your precious baby into this world.