This is the birth story of Noelle to Sophia and Tyler and big sister Alayanna. It is a long story, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut any of it because it all felt so essential to the overall story. Enjoy!
I wish every woman believed in the power of birth, and knew in her soul how amazing and empowering birth can be. But, I don’t think it’s something I believed myself, really truly believed, until Noelle.
If you asked me to describe my birth experience in one word, I would tell you: “thrilling”. Yes, the birth of my second daughter, Noelle Jay, was the most thrilling experience of my life. I have not had a boring life. I have sailed in a race (and won!) on the Puget Sound, I have jumped off cliffs in Venezuela, I have climbed mountains in Colorado, lived at the base of active volcano’s in Guatemala, white water rafted in New Mexico, surfed the waves of the Pacific, and the list goes on. And still, my homebirth experience was more thrilling than any, or all of these.
I went to bed Monday night feeling minor menstrual-like cramps. Trying not to get excited I told my husband, turned off the light and forced myself to fall asleep. The cramps woke me up around 1:30am, but were coming about every nine minutes and lasting only about 30 seconds. My husband told me to fall back asleep, but they were strong enough to keep me up. I tried not to get too excited, and told myself I would only call Aly if I had some bloody show. Minutes later, I went to the bathroom and was on the phone with Aly. I told her what was going on, that I was going to try to sleep, and that I would call her if things changed. Things didn’t change much. I laid in bed (my husband telling me over and over to go to sleep), and called Aly at 5:30 to tell her things were still pretty strong and I wasn’t able to sleep. I wasn’t yet convinced I was in labor yet though. She told me to eat something and that she was going to start getting ready to head over. Around 6am I told my husband that our doula and Aly were on their way. Annoyed, (not believing I was really in labor) he got up and ate something and started to get the tub set up.
Around 7am I remember texting my doula asking her how far away she was. Her reply was “I am in your neighborhood”. I said “that’s the best news I ever heard”. By 7am things were picking up. My contractions were coming at 3-minute intervals, and I mostly had to sit down or kneel during them. My doula and Aly arrived within minutes of each other. I felt a sense of relief as they arrived. With this relief, my labor picked up.
My husband started to believe I really was in labor around this time. I still wasn’t convinced though. I laid in bed with my husband, riding each contraction as it came, while cuddling and kissing him. It felt so good to be so close to his body, feeling safe, warm and surrounded by love. I felt good.
At some point Aly told me I could get into the tub. I was worried that I wasn’t ready to get in the tub, that maybe things would slow down, but Aly assured me she thought things were going well, and that they would continue to go well once I got in the tub. I climbed in and felt amazing. Surrounded by water and the soft air-filled walls of the tub I just sank in and let myself float. It felt beyond good. The contractions were still strong but felt so much lighter in the tub. I kept saying “this feels so good!”, and then began to ask if it was feeling too good. The midwives smiled and said “It’s good that you feel good, your body is doing exactly what it needs to do”. This floored me at the time. How amazing! I said “that is sooo cool” out loud, feeling high off the energy.
Shortly after I started to feel tired, I got out of the tub to go to the bathroom and laid in my bed for a while after that. My bed felt so good. After a few contractions, I started to grow anxious that maybe my labor wasn’t progressing as much as everyone was thinking it was. In my first labor I had contractions like I was having at this point, for almost two days with no progress. I laid in bed and prayed. I heard a voice tell me to ride three more contractions in bed and then check my dialation myself. So I did. Three in bed, and then I felt….an entire head!! Just two knuckles in and there it was, a bare, hard, round head. What an amazing feeling. I knew instantly that I was dilating (even though I never felt my cervix before), and that things were progressing nicely, just as Aly said. It was at this point I finally believed I truly was in labor, that I wasn’t making a big fuss about nothing, and that my baby would indeed be coming shortly (not in days). Feeling a new rush of energy from this, I got back in the tub ready to welcome my new baby.
When I got back in the tub I felt great again. Not too long after things picked up once more and I started feeling I was getting closer to transition. I was afraid of entering transition because that’s where things fell apart in my first labor. But I just welcomed things as they came. I started feeling like I didn’t want to be in labor a whole lot longer, and that I just wanted to start pushing. I told Aly this. She assured me that she thought I was going to be ready to start pushing soon, and that my baby was on it’s way. Just then I felt some really strong contractions. I started praying again and heard a voice of reason tell me; “you can sit in the tub and do several mild-but heavy- contractions like this, or you can get out and stand up and do one really heavy one and be through with it”. I told Aly that I wanted to get out and stand but I was scared. I rode one more in the tub and decided to get out and try it.
I made my husband hold all of my weight as I rode what was the strongest contraction I remember, and once it was done I sat down and prayed again. The next contraction felt different, lower, lighter, easy and smooth. The next one did too. Then a third. I asked Aly, ‘are they all going to be like this from now on? I can do this, this is so much easier’. She said she thought I was going to start pushing soon. I got back in the tub and that’s exactly what I did.
The head was the hardest part, but it felt SO good to push. Roaring low, I remember thinking’ I can can be afraid and keep doing this gently forever, or I can go for it fully, really try and get it over with.’ I worked hard. I pushed through the stinging, which was over quickly. Once the head was out I sat there in disbelief, with a head between my legs, for 3 minutes. My husband remarked that soon we would see if it was a boy or a girl, to which I said of course it’s a boy!! (I was convinced the entire pregnancy it was a boy). With the next push she was on my chest. What a rush. The way it felt to hold her, to have pushed her out, to have experienced birth fully, consumed me for what felt like eternity. Bliss. Sheer bliss. Minutes passed and someone finally said “we should look to see what it is” (boy or girl). I looked to check, everything was swollen from the hormones and I was confused. “It’s a boy”, I said timidly as I went back to hugging her.
“NO! You are so convinced it’s a boy” my husband said “look again! It’s a girl!”
“WHAT?” I exclaimed, and I looked again. “OH MY GOODNESS!!! A GIRL!!” I yelled, suddenly entirely happy to have two daughters. I laughed at myself and continued to be high off of the experience.
I was a million miles away on a cloud with my daughter and husband. The feeling lasted for days after. I have an abundance of milk. To this day, just the thought of it brings me back. I am still riding the high.
A big part of my second pregnancy was spent trying to overcome my fears of birth. I was afraid of birth after my first labor, which lasted 40 hours and ended with an epidural and a vacuum. I was convinced that my second birth could be, would be, different. In both of my pregnancies I read avidly about natural birth, and read birth stories published in Ina May’s books. The first birth I knew I could have a wonderful labor, but I don’t think I believed I would. I tried to control how my labor would go to ensure it went how I wanted. Trying to control birth is as good as stopping it. Like anything in life, it is going to go the way it was meant to. The more I tried to control my birth process, the more anxious I became and the more difficult birth became for me. Such is life.
My second birth, instead of knowing I could, I learned to believe I would have a wonderful labor. I chose to overcome my fears. I chose to have a home birth. The use of Hypnobabies CD’s, the support and love of my wonderful husband, the care I received from Aly and my birth doula, and the power of prayer all helped me have the birth of my dreams. When it came time, they helped me let go of expectations and be present in the moment, letting go of the past and future as I welcomed my daughter in the here and now. For me, this was the most powerful mindset to have while giving birth, and I believe this mindset, combined with the support I had at home, is what changed my second birth experience and made it so different from my first.