Atlas Birth Story
Being a momma for the past 5 months and birthing this little boy has been such a wild ride, and man am I receiving the lessons every day. Birth and parenting is an amazing, beautiful teacher.
I had gone past my "due date" but I was still feeling great and in no rush. I wanted the baby to come when they were good and ready but I was definitely excited for the experience and to meet them. I began having contractions late Saturday night. They were pretty intense and started immediately at about 5 min apart. I had been working hard trying to manifest a super easy, short labor, so my contractions being that close together made me feel really happy and excited. Instead of focusing on myself and my baby, I decided to clean the house. I did initially try to sleep through the contractions, but they hurt much more when I laid down so I got up and went to work. I tidied up and even made muffins for the midwife and apprentice for when they would come. I didn't even kinda rest in any helpful positions. My memory gets a little foggy throughout this experience, but I believe that I texted the midwife, Rachel, around 9 pm or so to let her know that I was having intense contractions, 5 min apart, but that they weren't getting longer, stronger, or closer together...which is what I tell all my mommas is the sign of true labor, so it's funny that I didn't think much of it for myself. I recognized that those things were not happening, but I felt like, still, "this has to be it!" They continued for several hours. The apprentice, Jaimy, came to check on me around 10am on Sunday, and of course my contractions had all but stopped by the time she made it. A part of me knew good and well that it wasn't true labor because I remember even telling Jaimy that I would feel badly if she drove to us and the contractions stopped!.. and so they did. She checked me anyways and found that I had hardly dilated at all. I felt like a complete wuss for "overreacting" to practice contractions. I see now that not only was that unhelpful thinking, but also just wrong. What I felt was real and I know now that I shouldn't be ashamed for expressing it.
I was feeling exhausted from having been up all night and disappointed that all those contractions didn't at least dilate my cervix (although I knew that information really doesn’t tell you much about when you will actually get to meet your baby!). I tried to rest and managed to only squeeze in about 3-4 hours of sleep. Looking back, it's funny how much of my knowledge flew right out the window as Justin and I both got swept up in the excitement.
My contractions resumed around 6 pm that day--the same, 5 minutes apart and very intense. Having just gone through this the night before, I waited a lot longer to text Rachel. The contractions were starting to get to me, so I decided to let her know. Jaimy came to check on me again around 3 am Monday morning. She checked me and found me to be about 4 cm dilated. She felt something was a little off and thought maybe the baby's head was asynclitic (off-center). That wasn't the best news, but nonetheless, I was very happy to hear that some tangible progress was being made and labored on. I felt my contractions very sharply in my low back. They did seem to get more intense but remained about 5-6 min apart.
Jaimy checked me again around 8 am and found me to be 7 cm dilated! We all rejoiced a little, thinking I would soon be able to push my baby out. Justin began filling the tub and we both got in. The water felt amazing. It allowed me to relax and made my contractions space out to about 10 min apart. I tried to sleep in the minutes in between contractions and was rebuilding some strength. During this, Rachel arrived and after some time suggested that I get out so we could see what was going on. Rachel discovered that Atlas had flipped posterior and was indeed asynclitic. His head was tilted in my pelvis and wasn't assisting my cervix in continuing to dilate since it didn't have the pressure of his head. My contractions quickly returned to about 5 min apart and were very, very intense. I felt like I had to pee after every contraction and tried to. I also tell my mommas to make sure to drink plenty of water and use the bathroom frequently. I'm not sure what happened exactly, I was definitely staying hydrated and I thought I had been using the bathroom enough, but somehow his tilted head had pinched my bladder. When I sat down to pee after a contraction, only a few drops would come out. It reminded me of the sensation of having a UTI. At the time, I didn't think too much into it. I figured maybe contractions just gave me the sensations as if I needed to pee but didn't really need to.
After a couple hours of laboring and being very vocal about it (moaning way more than I imagined I would), Rachel began to assist me while breathing through some different postures. She began to manually work on helping Atlas align his head. She moved something in just the best way and I was able to release my bladder.... all over the floor (and probably all over Rachel, Justin, and Jaimy--sorry guys!). As soon as I did, though, my contractions eased up significantly. The intensity was partly caused by my super full bladder. I've never been so happy to pee in my life.
After hours of breathing through different postures on the floor, on the toilet, and even one standing with my left leg up as high as I could get it in a lunge type position, I was starting to get really, really exhausted. Justin and I got in and out of the tub multiple times throughout the day. (Thanks babe for doing the heavy lifting--keeping the water nice and warm for us!) It was my place to take a break and relax my low back… which was screaming at me. I didn't want to eat anything because the intensity of my contractions made me feel sick at the idea of food.
Rachel explained to me that whichever posture felt the most intense was probably the posture that would do the most work in helping Atlas get in the best position, and that as I should try to stay in that position for as long as I could bare it. As I laid on the ground with my left knee up as high as I could get it, I was trying not to yell out in pain, and despite Justin being with me and telling me I was doing so great, I began to feel really scared that something was wrong with my body. I have mild-to-moderate scoliosis and a thought that my uneven hips wouldn't let my baby come out kept repeating in my head. These negative thoughts caused me to begin to lose the ability to manage my contractions. I had allowed the negative self-talk to consume the positivity everyone was giving me and I just wanted out. I got off the floor and into the tub and began to cry.
I started to tell myself, "who was I to think that I could do this, let alone do this easily?" I asked Rachel what I should do. I wanted her to be like "Ok, you've done this part long enough. Here is the magic pill to make this all stop. I've just been waiting for you to ask to give it to you."
This didn't happen. We had a brief discussion, reminding me what would happen with a transfer, and Rachel encouraged me saying that she had no doubt that I could still do this at home. No one in that room ever seemed unsure of this for me, and that was huge.
At this point, it was later in the day on Monday and everyone was getting pretty tired. Jaimy suggested that I could try pushing whenever I wanted... just to see what would happen and to reach down and feel myself pushing so I could know that I was putting my efforts in the right place. She left the room and Justin got out of the tub to offer food for Rachel and Jaimy since they had all been working for so long, and so hard.
I sat there, in the tub, alone. I was thinking about everything they said and put them against my thoughts still lingering that I couldn't do it. In that moment, I sat up straight and decided right then that there was no way I would voluntarily transfer to a less-than-ideal situation (for me!) and that I was definitely pushing this baby out. Right. Now. I told myself "I don't care what my cervix looks like or what position he's in or if he's asynclitic or what. I am getting this baby out." (Not a recommended course of action…just what “done me” thought)
I began to push during contractions, for as long and as hard as I wanted to and felt right. I would hold off for a couple contractions to recollect myself and rest. I remembered what Jaimy said about reaching down to feel myself and did. I realized that I could just barely feel my baby's head in the canal. I thought "Oh my God, I'm doing it!" I felt a surge of energy. Justin returned and I told him that I could feel the head. We called Rachel into the room for her to check. I think no one believed that it was happening until she used her mirror to look and confirmed that it was in fact his head. I was beyond happy.
Rachel grabbed a flashlight to watch my pushes, Jaimy sat to my left and was my water and cold towel angel, and Justin sat in the water with me holding one of my legs while I continued on. Things start to get pretty fuzzy for me here. Justin likes to say that I left my body at this time, which I believe. I definitely had to find something inside of myself, or maybe outside of myself, to fiercely grasp onto while I was pushing. Rachel checked my cervix at some point and found my cervix to be slightly swollen and that I would have to push past it. This didn't make me feel defeated in any way. I was still thinking in the line of "Alright, I'm going to freaking do this!" And so I pushed and pushed and pushed, still as hard and long and often as I wanted to. I can't imagine having someone dictating how I handled pushing (ie. counting to ten, "PUSH HARDER," any of that. No way). Rachel cued Justin to support my perineum and the top of my vaginal opening.
I discovered the "ring of fire" is indeed aptly named. Feeling the baby crown was almost enough to make want to retreat but I was still feeling the power of giving birth surging through me. Eventually the baby's head came out and I knew the hardest part was over. Justin told me to reach down and feel the head and I told him that I could see it. I was afraid that if I did something I wasn't feeling compelled to do that I would lose everything I was feeling... like I would snap out of it and no longer be able to. He repeated that I still should and so I did. I think that was the single most magical moment of my entire life. I will never forget the feeling of his soft fuzzy head on my fingers. Then, I couldn’t wait to hold my baby. It gave me another burst of energy. A few pushes later, baby was out and in Justin’s arms. He was so happy and excited that Rachel had to remind him to pass the baby to me! It was adorable. Finally I was holding our child and felt such intense waves of love and relief.
We sat together holding him, smiling and crying, until Jaimy asks, “So is it a boy or girl??” Justin lifted a leg to discover that we have a son. The first couple hours are this beautiful haze of staring at our baby. I remember a little sting with birthing my placenta but other than that, I just remember staring into his beautiful face. Jaimy later sent some pictures she managed to take and there were two of me laying in bed holding him. In one I was staring at the camera and smiling and yet I have no memory of it being taken. It sounds weird, but it was all just… pure love.
It was challenging, and definitely not the quick and easy birth I attempted to manifest, but I wouldn’t change a bit of it. It was the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced and I feel immense gratitude to those incredible women, Rachel and Jaimy, and Justin for being with me through it.