After the birth of my first son, Shilo, it took me months to finally sit down and write out his birth story. I felt I really did us a disservice by doing that since my “amnesia” about the birth had already set in and I knew I was missing so many important details! This time I wanted to try to get it down as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing this special documentation with me.
I decided early in my pregnancy with Arlo (baby 2) that I wanted to have an unmedicated, out of hospital birth. My hospital birth with Shilo was a great experience (read about it here), however my intuition was just nagging at me to do some research about the natural biological process of birth and where I fit into that picture. After reading several books, watching some documentaries, hearing/reading/watching countless birth stories, and looking at the evidence behind natural birth I realized that it was very important to me to support the pregnancy, labor and birth of my body and my baby as naturally as possible and with no unnecessary interventions. I chose a provider I trust and who I energetically connected with, and decided to birth with Utah Birth Suites (a birth center) in Orem with Melissa Chappell as my midwife.
Early Stage of Labor
I woke up around 5:30 am on April 21st feeling a strong contraction. I was 39+5 weeks and had been having similar random contractions for days so I didn’t feel it was anything to get excited about. I decided to get some rest just in case.
At 7:00 am I woke up again to another strong contraction, and I just had a feeling I was going to meet my baby that day. I got up and did my hair, tried to look cute-ish, and texted my midwife. I started timing my contractions and they were 10 mins apart. About every 30 mins they would get a few minutes closer together, so Michael and I decided to drop Shilo off with Grandma and head to the birth center.
During my pregnancy I had compiled a play list of songs that help me feel relaxed and energized at the same time… You know, those songs that give you “goose bumps”. In the car I played that music and guided myself into a meditative and relaxed state. My contractions were more like “surges” or “rushes” of strength but I didn’t find them painful. They were 4 minutes apart for the 35-40 minute car ride until we arrived at the birth center. I felt very in control and relaxed! I told myself over and over that every rush was bringing me closer to my baby, and that my body knew what it was doing.
Melissa checked my cervix when we arrived and I was already dilated 7 cm. Wow! I somehow knew I was in active labor but it was so much calmer than I had heard it described before that I was surprised. I laid on my side in the bed with my music and had Michael rub my lower back during contractions to help with the pressure. At around 10:15 am I decided I was ready to get into the birthing tub. My surges were about 2 minutes apart at this point, but I still felt very in control. Before getting in the tub I was about 8.5 cm dilated and we knew baby would be here soon.
One of the most difficult parts of my pregnancy was discovering I was GBS (group b strep) positive. I had worked very hard to try to be healthy to prevent antibiotics during labor. At this point in my labor Melissa gave me the decision as to if I wanted to get the antibiotics or not, and I chose to do it. I knew it would be hard for me knowing that I could be affecting my healthy bacteria balance I’d spent the last few years working on, but I would never forgive myself if my baby was sick! Because this was an emotionally charged topic, I tried to remain relaxed even though I knew I would be receiving the antibiotics soon.
Once I was in the birthing tub I could really feel the endorphins and hormones working for me between contractions. I honestly felt on top of the world! I remember saying “I feel drunk” (haha). I just felt a little slap happy and was giggling at silly things. Once a rush would come I would put all my focus into relaxing into it and letting my body do it’s thing. When it was done I loved popping back up and acknowledging my awesome birth team and feeling the love. During this state is when I got the IV for antibiotics and I was surprised how completely relaxed I felt. They commented that I didn’t even budge a muscle during the prick and shot even though I was going through contractions.
Shortly after this was the one time in labor I started to lose my focus. My thumb somehow became numb from the IV and I started to feel super anxious. I was telling my mom “MY THUMB. My thumb is numb!” Now looking back we all giggle because you think I would be concerned about the pain of contractions and the fact that they were 2 minutes apart but I was obsessed with my thumb being NOT how I wanted it to be haha. I just was so determined to stay in my “zen”. I felt like my mind was a dark pool of water and in the corner a red flashing light was saying “thumb is numb” haha. It seems so silly now. But once my mom immediately started massaging it and put a warm compress I completely forgot as I delved into the next surge.
Michael was absolutely wonderful through this whole thing. Right before the antibiotics he decided he wanted to get into the birthing tub with me to help keep up our awesome synergy we had going during my surges prior. He was so sweet and loving. He told me I was beautiful and softly kissed me between contractions, and during them he put all his energy into rubbing my back and making sure I was completely loved and comfortable.
Things really started to pick up very shortly after that. I felt that my moments of feeling like I was on a cloud were getting shorter and shorter and almost non existent. My back labor started to feel SO heavy. I remember thinking “I just want to yell. So loud.” I didn’t want to because I just thought I wouldn’t, and I hadn’t up to that point. But I promised myself I would listen to my “primal instincts” since birth is a very primal and intuitive thing. I just let go and did what my body wanted me to.
During each super intense contraction I would allow my voice to completely go. I let go these deep, intense moans that I honestly have never made before and I didn’t recognize myself. I loved it though. I felt like letting my voice go just let all the power out of my body so it didn’t feel like the contraction was hitting me like a train. It made me feel very in control and it made it seem less “heavy”.
I felt like the energy in the room was so strong here. Michael was so in sync with my body, I felt like he was reading my mind. Every time I had a thought that something needed pressure or help, he knew exactly where it was and gave me that support. He was so strong and never gave up even though it was very physically taxing for him. Melissa and my mom were giving me emotional support by reminding me to relax my body and let my body go.
There was a point in transition where everything felt so powerful it started to scare me. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I had memories of laying peacefully in a hospital bed feeling nothing at all with shilo and I kept thinking “wow… I’d really like to be there now, instead of here” haha. But, that thought left when my Mom’s voice carried me through that discouraging moment and she reminded me to let go of the tension and let my baby down and out. I felt like he was never going to come. (although – I had only been in this phase for maybe 30 minutes at this point. Time is so weird in labor).
Meeting Baby Arlo
I had been pushing for quite a few of these super intense contractions when Melissa suggested that I stand up. I wasn’t making much progress while pushing in a squatting position. (later we saw a lot of bruising on his little face, his big head was hitting my tailbone…. standing up helped to get my tailbone out of the way). I stood up and turned toward Michael, resting on his body for support to let gravity work for me. I felt my energy return and all I could think about was pushing. During my next 2 surges I let my body push on it’s own. I don’t remember needing to put much effort into it, just a LOT of focus. I had a moment where my body felt like it was going to split in half. I remember reading many women feeling the same way, so I told myself “even though this feels like I might split in half, no one ever does. This means I did it”. Right then I felt a little pressure and pop! His little head popped right out almost effortlessly. This was the best feeling through all of labor. I loved crowning, and I didn’t feel it hurt at all.
I just want to add here how grateful I am for an intuitive provider that recognized my position wasn’t working for me, and helped me move my body in a way that allowed baby out. We think because of the size of baby and his pressure on my tailbone that if I were birthing on my back in a hospital he really would have struggled to get out, possibly resulting in c-section or broken tailbone for me. It’s moments like these I know movement in labor is so important.
Little Arlo’s head came out with the water bag still intact around his face! Shortly after, the sac broke and another big push later his body came tumbling out. The cord was around his shoulders like a little seat belt, so Michael got to catch the lower half of him while Melissa unwrapped him. I grabbed him and laid in Michaels arms and snuggled my new little nugget!
The after birth
Arlo struggled a little to get some fluid out of his lungs, but his cries and coughs were strong. Everyone was telling me how big he was! He still looked tiny and perfect to me. I was feeling super shocked and a little like I had just gotten hit by a train at that point. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was only about an hour since I had gotten in the tub that he came.
My placenta came out in a strange way that caused me to start hemorrhaging. It quickly filled the tub with blood and one of the midwives on my team gave me a quick shot of pitocin to stop the bleeding! Luckily it stopped shortly after that, but it was dripping like a faucet when I stood up. I felt really no negative effects except it took awhile for me to get enough fluids to not feel light headed while standing up.
I snuggled my little dude & did skin to skin while allowing the cord to remain attached to the placenta. I wanted to delay the cord clamping to allow all the blood to pulse through and give Arlo whatever nutrients, blood volume and benefits he could get from the placenta! The cord pulsed on its own for about 45 minutes. We left it in tact during our snuggles until it was done pulsing, and then Michael got to cut the cord.
I spent the next little while eating, drinking, and getting stitches (I got a second degree tear and some tearing in both directions – big head!!) while Arlo got some skin to skin snuggles with daddy. Michael instantly bonded with him, and I felt that bond was stronger because of his active participation during the birth. It was so cute to see! After I was all settled I finally got to introduce breastfeeding to the babe. He latched on right away and had a powerful suck! He’s had one ever since. I was so thrilled as breastfeeding is so important to me and I love the endorphins and oxytocin we both get from that special bond. It helped me come out of the pains of labor and feel so much love and gratitude.
My Arlo Bug was born on Saturday April 21st, 2018 at 12:14 pm. My labor was only about 5 hours long from the onset of early contractions, but only 3 hours long if you only count active labor. It was so fast! He was a chunky dude at 8 lb 12 oz, 21 inches long and a head circumference of 14.75 inches. I couldn’t believe he was so big, Shilo was only 6 lbs and just a tiny little guy. I started out my pregnancy after a year of health complications and was only 94 lbs when I got pregnant, so it really goes to show that even smaller frames have the ability to birth big babies! Almost 9 lbs! I will say, however, that I did tear a little in both directions. I actually didn’t feel the tearing at all. The recovery has been a little frustrating, since I definitely feel like a huge baby came out of me with how sore my muscles/pelvis/bones/vagina are haha… But it also gives me a lot of confidence in women’s bodies and removes that fear I had that my baby will get stuck or be too big. Our bodies know what to do, and they can grow a baby that is perfect for our body. ❤
I’ve been thinking about the birth all week. Some days, it seems like it was so much easier than I thought it would be, and that I handled it really well. Other days I feel like it was super hard, and that I would be really anxious to have a natural birth again. I go back and forth between feeling like I am super woman and that I can’t believe that I did it… that it was so smooth and baby was healthy. Then I feel disappointed because in many ways I feel like I didn’t like it. There are many women who birth naturally who can say “I loved every minute of my birth”. My honest raw feelings are that I enjoyed parts of it, but that there are parts I really didn’t enjoy and it took everything in me to cope through it. It’s hard to be vulnerable because I want to be the person who takes everything on 100% and passes through the experience with flying colors. I felt like even though from the outside everyone tells me I did a great job – emotionally it was such an intense experience. Physically it was so taxing I honestly didn’t even know my body could feel so exhausted.
BUT, with all of that being said… I wanted to share all of the nitty gritty and the truth about the hard stuff because at the end of the day – I was healthy and baby was healthy. There are so many fears surrounding birthing naturally and out of the hospital but even with a few things happening in an unexpected way, everything was still OK. More than okay, even. With both completely different birth experiences I’ve had, I can say birth is hard no matter how you do it. It empowers me to realize that birth truly is a beautiful natural experience and that it is not something to be feared. It’s absolutely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I would be lying if I said I wanted to go do it again tomorrow (haha). But I believe the things of most importance in this life that bring the greatest joy are also a lot of work, and they are hard. Every experience that has really taxed me and exposed me in such a raw way through my life has been the most transformative and beneficial in helping me to be my best self. This experience is definitely one of those times. It was so beautiful and sacred, and I feel so happy that I followed the intuition I felt to have this birth of baby Arlo the way I did.
Thank you for those who have taken the time to read this and share this experience with me! ❤