As far as birth stories go, I don’t personally think this is graphic AT ALL. However, if you don’t want to hear how my doula gushed over my gorgeous placenta in detail then you might want to skip it but that’s one small paragraph. Likewise, I don’t think the candid photos of the birth are graphic either, BUT I’m in active labor and giving birth so ya know… not the prettiest of photos, but they are REAL.
I’ve always wanted to give birth early
I’ve always wanted to give birth early, before my due date. But the Universe REALLY wanted me to ‘savor’ every single minute of being pregnant, I guess!
With my first daughter, I was SURE I would deliver early and she was a week and a day past her estimated due date (I honestly thought I was going to be pregnant forever). But they always say 2nd babies are faster, so I figured this time, I would DEFINITELY give birth before my estimated due date. Ha!
At 39 weeks, I didn’t feel great and made an appointment with my acupuncturist. Since we knew it was “any day now,” my hubby came home from work to take me to the appointment. He was going to get a matcha latte from one of our favorite spots across the street while I was in the session. Well, the acupuncturist said I was in labor and remembering the freight-train experience of my first, we rushed home. (He didn’t even get his latte, poor guy!).
The entire way home I kept telling my husband I didn’t ‘feel’ like I was in labor, but I was aware that things could change in a second so I was on edge for sure.
Two days later…
Two days later, still not feeling like I was in labor AT ALL… I saw my massage therapist / energy worker. She said that the baby was ready to come but waiting for me to tell her/him when it was ok.
Now this made MUCH more sense. I DID in fact want to give birth early BUT I also wanted the baby to be the air sign of Libra (who are often considered the nicest, most charming, communicative, and easy-going people in the world. They are a favorite of almost everyone they meet!) so I couldn’t have it both ways and I was sending a mixed message to the baby. I also had a lot of anxiety about how things would go giving birth at home with my toddler around, so that might have been confusing as well. Anyway, that night I spent a while meditating and communicating with baby-to-be and I gave the OK to come a few days later, on Sept 22, the first day of Libra and the Autumn Equinox. Coincidentally, it was also the estimated due date I was given, many months ago (which I never paid any attention to because it’s just that… an estimation!).
One of my biggest concerns about the birth actually wasn’t myself or new baby at all – it was my toddler. We don’t live by family who could take her for a day or two, and I wasn’t sure how she’d take it if she saw me laboring, moaning (or screaming) and giving birth at home.
ON my due date
Around 5 or 6 in the morning (ON my “due date”) I had what’s called “bloody show,” like a light period, which was new for me – I never had it with my 1st (my water broke with her instead).
Soon after, I had some sporadic contractions that weren’t too long or intense, but it still didn’t feel too “active.” I let my birth team know, and they said to keep them posted, but it wasn’t urgent yet.
In fact, although I wasn’t crazy about the idea, my husband left with my daughter to drop her off at school. He made the round trip in 30-35 minutes door-to-door, which was a record by at least 10-15 minutes!
After he came home, I tried to lie down and rest while he was on a conference call just outside the bedroom door. Fortunately, he was on “mute” most of the time! I was definitely in early labor, and breathing loudly through the contractions.
I had most of a green smoothie for breakfast, and the 2nd half of it for lunch. I didn’t have much appetite, but didn’t want to run out of energy if things took a while.
Going into Labor…
I didn’t go into active labor until the afternoon when things got more intense. With my first, it helped to vocalize (and by vocalize I mean scream my head off, but honestly it felt GOOD to do that!). Although I tried it with this birth, I really couldn’t make a sound. This was a VERY quiet birth which was 100% the opposite of my first one!
It’s a surreal, almost out-of-body experience. I could feel what my body was going through, but had no control over it. It sounds cliche to say, but it really is like a wave, you move up and down with it, but you’re along for the ride. Definitely not the one driving!
With my first labor I am honestly not sure I could’ve done those last few pushes without the help of my essential oils but I couldn’t stand any scents this time around. With the first, I also had to get really low to the ground with each contraction – literally I would drop to the ground every time. With this one? Neither the oils nor getting low to the ground worked at all! I rode out each contraction on my hands and knees on the bathroom floor (I was just too tired to stand…), and relaxed as best I could against my husband in between them.
My birth team assembled
My doula and midwife both arrived at 3:30, in fact they ran into each other in the elevator!
The midwife’s assistant (another midwife) arrived soon after, and they started setting up the birth tub in my kitchen. While my husband and I stayed in the (darkened) bathroom.
Periodically, the midwife or doula would come check on me, offer some words of encouragement and generally reassure me that everything was normal. For me, it was anything but!
Then my midwife said the tub was ready. I was eager to get in but I remembered hearing that it tends to slow things down if you get in too early. Well, I didn’t want *that*! So I waited.
Labor was completely exhausting me. At one point, I remember being on the bathroom floor, so tired I fell asleep for a minute in between contractions (ME! The person with chronic insomnia since I was BORN!). I hadn’t been sleeping well, if at all, the few nights and weeks prior. If I could have talked at that moment, I was ready to say “I can’t do this anymore, let’s go to the hospital.” NOT because I felt I couldn’t do it or it hurt too bad (although it DID – those contractions were INTENSE) but because I honestly didn’t think I had the energy to go on. I was SO utterly tired!
But (fortunately?) I was too exhausted to get the words out. It’s funny, but I can never speak while giving birth… it’s so odd. Like literally. I can’t speak.
Time for the Tub
Finally, my midwife said it was time for the birth tub! (She later told me she’s guessing I was about 6 cm dilated when I got in the tub. 2 deliveries and I still have never had anyone tell me “you’re this many cm’s.” No one ever checked. I definitely prefer it that way! It is what it is, you know? Why put all that pressure on yourself?!)
The moment I hit the water everything went super quickly. The water instantly made me relax, and changed the whole dynamic of how I felt during the contractions. It didn’t take long before I was ready to push. Maybe 5 minutes? I didn’t feel the same urge that I did with my first, but it was definitely unmistakeable. After 2 pushes, I reached down and felt a head! A head! I never felt a head before. And HAIR! The baby had HAIR!!! (side note for those who don’t know my toddler… she didn’t have hair until she was 2 1/2 and even then it was VERY little!)
Out she came!
One more push, and out she came! I caught her myself, and put her to my chest. I said “Hi Baby” (over and over.) Since the gender was a surprise, she didn’t have a name yet. I was not expecting to catch her and be the first to put her on my chest. I never experienced anything like that before and we never discussed it at all. It was such an amazing, incredible, precious, miraculous surprise! I did it ALL myself! WHAT?!?! So unbelievably empowering (and scary… I didn’t know what the hell I was doing).
Someone tossed a towel (my soft bath towel… the joys of giving birth at home!) over us. I caught my breath in the tub another for another few moments. Then they helped us out to go to the bedroom and get in bed. I still hadn’t let go of her.
I had a first degree tear, quite minor. It was on the scar from the 2nd degree I had with my first. There wasn’t even any blood. Like in the ENTIRE delivery process. Nothing. No where. Not even in the tub. It was still clear when I got out holding my brand new daughter! When I had my first in the hospital, it was like a blood bath. I remember they had me get up about 30 minutes (or so… I don’t exactly remember) after giving birth to go walk around and pee. I went to the bathroom and before I could sit down on the potty the ENTIRE bathroom floor was bright red. It scared me so much (was I losing too much blood!?) I actually called for a nurse. According to her, it was normal (didn’t look so normal to me). I later learned that in hospitals (since they don’t want to wait for the placenta to come out on its own, when it’s ready, the doctors often literally pull it out of the women… meaning much more blood and… ouch?)
NOTE: This is the paragraph to skip, if you want to!
With my midwife’s coaching, I gave birth to the placenta naturally. It took 45 minutes, even though I took Shepherd’s purse (an herb to help move it along). It seemed like a long time to wait, but it came out eventually and all was well. Speaking of my placenta, my doula encapsulated it (I did that with my first too. Highly recommend.) and according to her, it was perfection. Gorgeous, with no fatty deposits or calcification, and no clots. Cranberry/pomegranate red and very thick – it took a long time to dehydrate (because it was so freakin’n incredible and thick and luscious) and made over 150 pills! Apparently that was a record for her. I’m so proud… I guess? Seriously… we had this conversation. For real. It brought back memories of my first placenta being so great and making so many pills too! LOL! I’ll agree it’s not ‘normal’ typical conversation but hearing you have an extremely healthy organ is actually very good. I must be doing something right! I should really give my health coach a raise. 😉 She asked if I wanted to see it (yep, I’m talking about the placenta again). I told her I was good but thanks anyway. She seemed disappointed but I had just been through a lot and really had no more ‘toughness’ in me to see something that I expected to look yucky! (There is a reason I’m a health coach and NOT a nurse or doctor!)
Nursing and Cuddling
After giving birth I got in bed and nursed the baby right away. She was a champ! We did delayed cord clamping of course. Then Michael towered over me, on the bed and cut the cord. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to hand him scissors so close to my baby, but he looked like he knew exactly what he was doing! Very impressive. (I have many photos of that for any family who wants to see!)
This picture is of me in my own bed, with my own clothes and my newborn. Himalayan salt lamp instead of a candle by my bedside, but I’d say it’s pretty close to what I had in mind! ‘Ma’ Carolione Ingalls (and Ina May Gaskin… who I had the HONOR of meeting when I was pregnant with my first) would be proud!
Big Sister came home
Luckily, everything with my 3 year old worked out perfectly. It was a weekday, so she was at preschool until early afternoon. Then the babysitter picked her up and took her to the park after school. Then they went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner, across the street from us. At about the same time my daughter was dining out, overlooking the marina, her baby sister came into the world. She came home from dinner and I introduced her to her new sister! The timing could not have been more perfect! She came back from dinner (with her babysitter) close to 7:00. She came in and hardly noticed anything was off. She went right into her room and started playing. (We were in the bedroom by that time.)
My doula left after baby successfully latched, nursed, and fell asleep. My midwife and her assistant finished cleaning up and draining the tub, weighing and measuring the baby (with something that looked like a sling! So old-school, it was awesome!), and generally making sure we were all set. Baby girl was born at 5:30pm weighing 7 lbs 7 oz and was 20.5 inches long, and in perfect health!
This picture is the first of us as a family of 4 (baby is nursing). I feel so grateful that timing worked out the way it did. Laboring while my toddler was out, and having a new baby for her to come home to was amazing!
Postpartum & Recovery
I didn’t leave the home for 2 weeks (on purpose), since our pediatrician made a house call for the 2 days old appointment, and my midwife came almost daily to check in. It was glorious. Just incredible. To be home and focused on the baby and your own healing and not have to deal with getting dressed, getting out, going in public, germs, other people touching the baby, etc for that precious time… so worth it. I wish everyone had that experience.
I did the 40 days confinement of Chinese/Ayurvedic tradition, as best I could. Basically, for the 7 weeks after giving birth, the new mom attends to her baby, while others attend to the Mom. She just went through a very depleting experience, and it’s so, so important to help her recover her energy.
Except for the 2-week pediatrician appointment, and family visiting at about 35 days, I was diligent about it. And I HIGHLY recommend it. I am writing a blog about all of that and my entire post partum experience (healing, nourishing recipes included!) so stay tuned!
The difference it made was in my recovery. With my 1st, I walked the 2 miles to the pediatrician for the 2 day old appointment in NYC’s Lower East Side. I felt fine while walking, but it made me start bleeding again and took so much longer to recover from. Since then, I’ve learned how much resting and recovering really does help. The saying goes the 1st 40 days after giving birth determines how the next 40 years of your life go, so make sure you spend them well! It’s a precious time for YOU and BABY. Other people (yes, including family and close friends) can wait. Your health and the baby’s health come first!
My Doula’s Account
Here is my amazing doula (who is also a midwife)’s account of the birth that she shared with me many weeks later:
I remember thinking to myself that this is going to be a beautiful birth. You have such a clear vision about what you wanted to create this time around, that in your clarity there was so much room for magic to happen and magic did.
Your birth was full of humor and whimsy,The first moment being that Amy (the midwife) and I arrived at the same time. (side note from Abby: there were issues about arriving during home prenatal visits so that’s why this was comical)
As we made our way in, Amy and I checked in with one another and congratulating you on how well you were progressing and managing your labor before we arrived. Brilliant job.
When we walked in you and Michael had created a beautiful safe labor zone beautiful space where he was really supportive of you, giving loving whispers of encouragement.
The tub was your magic place.
You were in complete control and knew exactly what you wanted to do. Basically we waited as you guided us through your journey and it was perfect.
I remember the look on your face when you reached down and felt your baby’s head, it was the face of pure bliss. Not long after that you pushed really great strong pushes and you got to guide your baby out and into your arms.
Just in time for Big Sister who came home shortly after the birth. Well done mama!!!
MANY deep heart felt THANKS!
Like with anything, I could not have done this alone. It really was a team effort!
There is one person I could have not had not one but TWO successful and healthy natural births with and that is my incredible husband. He is so amazing that even my doula commented that she wasn’t needed because I had him! He was my rock BOTH times, he held my hand the entire time for BOTH births, he was there for every minute for both births supporting me, encouraging me…. I can’t imagine another human on this planet, I would rather birth a baby with than with him! (After I had Ariana I asked him why he didn’t get in the birth tub with me. His answer: I was holding his hands too hard and wouldn’t let go long enough for him to get in!) 🙂
I am SO unbelievably grateful to ALL women who came before me and shared their POSITIVE stories, guidance and support! I am also forever grateful to my incredible prenatal & birth team who made my birth dream come true: my supportive doula, Haize Hawke Rosen, my awesome midwives Amy & Laura from Art of Birthing, my acupuncturists Adam at Acutonix & Kumiko at Tao of Wellness, my Hypnobirthing/hypnosis teacher Amy at Connect the Mind, my massage therapists Bea Holst, Lori Bregman & Carmen Thomas-Paris, my craniosacral/chiropractor Maura at Rosewood Family Healing Center, my energy worker Angelica at The Ocean Inside and my amazing prenatal yoga teachers Desi Bartlett, Paula Mallis & Lisa Arshawsky.
They say “it takes a village” to raise a child, but it takes one to support a pregnancy and birth as well!