3 days oldAll throughout my pregnancy I wondered how labor would start. I was induced at 36 weeks 4 days due to pre-eclampsia with Rose, and Alice came on her own at 38 weeks 6 days. Everyone, including myself, thought that Charlotte would come early, especially considering how many July birthdays are in our family (mine being so close to the due date - July 30!), but our third daughter had a strong will of her own and my due date, August 1, came with no signs of impending labor. I’d been doing everything to get her into a good position (more focused on that instead of getting her to come early, though wanting to post a baby eviction notice wasn‘t too far from my mind!) - staying very active with walking and maintaining our playdate schedule, rocking on a birthing ball for weeks, mentally preparing myself for childbirth with incredible books and talks with my midwives at The Birth Center at Bryn Mawr. I was so excited and so eager for our baby girl to arrive but also to experience the natural labor that I never had before, and I couldn’t wait for everything to begin! I didn’t have to wait too long, because I woke up with contractions about 2 minutes apart and bloody show at 1:30 am on August 2, the day after Charlotte was due.
At Eagles training camp with my nephew (and kids, husband, sister and brother-in-law) the day before Charlotte was bornThe Birth Center is about an hour away from our house, so we planned on going to my parents’ house, which was only about 20 minutes away from it, to labor there when my contractions were close. I rocked on the birth ball for a few hours and then we packed up the kids, left our house at about 4 am, and got to my parents’ house around 5 am. My dad was super excited and wanted me to go to the Birth Center right then, but it just wasn’t time. He was so adorable. His greatest joy is definitely his grandchildren! I rocked on the birth ball and focused on all that I’d learned, especially from Ina May Gaskin’s amazing book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I didn’t want to prevent the pain of labor; I wanted to maximize it so that my body could experience the natural process of childbirth to its full advantage. Around daybreak my contractions spaced out to about 15 minutes apart. Even though they were 2-3 minutes apart before that, they weren’t very strong and I wasn’t very dilated. Upon self-examination, I thought that I was about 3 centimeters, and I’d been dilated a bit for weeks. I knew that we didn’t need to rush to the Birth Center. Ed got me an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts (what don’t I do with the help of iced coffee?) and we hung out at my parents’ house. We walked around their pretty, woodsy neighborhood and it reminded me of the birth stories that I’d read in Elizabeth Davis’s Orgasmic Birth and a May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth where the women were walking around in nature. It was so wonderful to spend that quiet, beautiful time with my husband while being in labor. Everyone I knew was nervous that I wasn’t going to make it to the Birth Center on time to have Charlotte (because it was an hour from our house) and I wasn’t really planning anything out in terms of how/where/when to labor, but I knew that God was going to create our path for the entire childbirth and that He would take care of everything with absolutely the right timing and environments. He definitely did. Being at my parent’s house was distracting, and it was pleasant to be there with my children, my husband and my mom.
Ed and I went to my midwife appointment at noon just as scheduled, and I was shocked to find out that I was already five centimeters and 80% effaced! I was so happy! Lisa was the midwife that I saw and she stripped my membranes. She consulted Jamesina, the midwife who was catching babies during that shift, and they both said that I could have my water broken right then if I wanted or just hang out and labor in one of the birth suites, or we could go out and have lunch or spend more time with our family and then come back when I felt ready. They had me at lunch, so Ed and I went out to Uno Chicago Grill in Broomall or and I had two bowls of French onion soup and a great salad (yes, food descriptions are necessary in my birth story!). I was still contracting during lunch but not very close together, so we went back to my parents’ house afterwards. I took a shower and then felt like we should probably just go back to the Birth Center because the contractions were getting stronger, and off we went!
The Birth Center at Bryn Mawr is an absolutely amazing place. I cannot talk enough about how fantastic the midwives are and how supportive, knowledgeable and personal everything is. I longed for an experience like Ina May Gaskin’s clients receive on The Farm in Summertown, TN after reading her book, and I remember wondering during the pregnancy if I was going to have the same type of atmosphere at the Birth Center, and I knew that I would. I most definitely did! The Birth Center midwives fit my childbirth values perfectly, and knowing that they understood that I wasn’t a patient - I was a woman having a baby, the most natural thing in the world - laid the foundation for a magical, which is a word that I seldom use, experience.
Nancy checked us into the Blue Room, our birthing suite, and I got into the Jacuzzi tub. Putting my back against the jets helped me through contractions. Jamesina then came on duty and brought some flameless candles to help create a relaxing atmosphere. The midwives were readily available but not intrusive. Their presence was soothing. There was no television in the birthing suite, but I always need to listen to something during labor, which happened to be sports with Grace and I think Food Network with Libby, so I had Ed put the sports station on the radio (we did on the car ride down to my parents’ house, too) and we listened to that. The Eagles had just gotten Nnamdi Asomugha so there was a lot of great football stuff to listen to! After being in the tub for awhile I wanted to walk, so we went outside to the Birth Center’s garden. It has a circular walkway, so we went around and around that and it helped me to work through contractions. It was a beautiful day and I was so thankful to Jesus that the sun was out and the weather was beautiful.
The sun began to set around 7:30 pm, and we went back inside to the birthing suite. The midwives don’t do a lot of vaginal exams, which was nice, but since I’d been laboring for so long they checked me and I was dismayed to be only 6 centimeters dilated. It’d been 18 hours by then, and 6 centimeters is exactly where I got “stuck” during my labors with Alice and Rose, which led to interventions (Pitocin then epidurals). I knew that I could work through this, and since my water had never broken on its own in any of my other labors I decided that I was ready for the midwives to break it for me to get things going. I’d wanted it intact up until that point, because I’d read so much about contractions being more manageable with an intact bag of water, but I soon realized that in any subsequent labors I’m having that sucker broken as soon as I hit five centimeters! The contractions were no more intense and things went quickly as soon as the water was broken. Jamesina was almost done her shift when I decided to have the water broken, so she wanted me to wait ten minutes for the next midwife, Trina, to do it when she came in. That was fine with me, and it was also ironic, because Trina would probably be the last midwife that I “saw” at the Birth Center and she was also the first one that I had an appointment with!
My water was broken at 8:17 pm. I had been working through terrible back labor during the entire labor experience, but it really intensified when we’d gone inside from walking in the garden. I really focused on walking, different positions, keeping my mouth open and loose (Ina May’s sphincter law teaches that keeping your mouth open instead of tense relaxes the spincters in your body, including your cervix, and it’s so true!). I was standing up and swaying back and forth and grabbing my back, massaging it during contractions, and after having my water broken I got on all fours on top of the bed and leaned over the birthing ball. Ed would knead my back after each contraction ended to calm the back labor that slightly stuck around during the breaks. I remember Trina and the nurse, Megan, remark on me having more bloody show while I was bent over the birth ball. Ed later told me that Trina had been sitting there with a cup of oil ready for when I felt the urge to push. Everyone was so calm and comforting and amazing. They gave me space but also reassurance. Ed is always incredible in labor, and I just feel so blessed to be his wife and to have such an amazing man as the father to my children from even before they’re in this world.
The contractions were extremely intense, but I was happy to experience the difference between natural contractions and Pitocin-induced contractions. There was no time that I felt that I couldn’t handle them, though the pain was indescribable and unbelievable. I knew that I could do this; my body was made to do this. I had such confidence and I wanted this experience so badly. There were a few times that I got close to feeling like the contractions were just too intense and I asked the Lord to please help me, and each time they stopped abruptly right then and I had a break. God truly held me through the whole experience, and I knew that He was right there empowering me through childbirth and giving me the gift of such joy in allowing my body to bring my child into the world in just the way that He so gloriously designed.
I’d been feeling like I had to have a bowel movement for awhile, and of course I didn’t really think that I was ready to push that soon after having my water broken, so when I finally said that I felt like I was going to go to the bathroom, Trina checked me and I was 9 centimeters dilated with just a cervical lip standing in the way. I was ready to push! She had me lay on my side, which made the contractions so much worse (when I’m in a standing or kneeling position it makes my contractions manageable but sitting or laying down for me makes them absolutely excruciating), and she pushed the cervical lip over Emmeline’s head. That was the only moment that I said, “I can’t do this!” and Trina said, “You’re already doing it!” I guess I also grabbed Ed’s head and almost ripped his ear off, and they all thought that was funny and he didn’t mind at all. Everyone there had a great attitude and no one was too
serious. Everyone viewed my labor as something positive and an experience meant to be wonderful.
I pushed in a semi-sitting position and had about four pushes before Charlotte was born at 10:16 pm! I wasn’t prepared for the pushing part, and I found that worse than labor. I think partly because I’d prepared so much for the labor and didn’t know what to prepare for with the pushing or maybe because I had no idea that it could hurt that bad! However, it was amazing to feel her head coming through my birth canal and emerge. I’d said at one point that it hurt so badly and that I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, and Trina said, “Then take the biggest dump of your life!” (I love her!) I certainly did! I pushed Charlotte out with everything that I had and didn’t even want to take the breaks that Trina reminded me to take, especially when she crowned and I held there to open up and breathe. The feeling of pushing Charlotte’s head out of my body was surreal and amazing, and I love to kiss her beautiful head and marvel that her body was born from my own. God created woman from man’s own body, and He continues to create His children in the same way - body from body - though He gives women, not men, the gift of being the beginning. I am so grateful and in awe of how precious that is.
Love her little hand folded up against her chin as she sleeps!We stayed at the Birth Center for twelve hours after Charlotte was born, leaving at 10 am the following day. Ed, Charlotte and I spent the night in the birthing suite all sleeping together with our precious daughter in the middle (co-sleeping is advocated by the Birth Center, which is awesome!). I heard another mother in labor having her baby and prayed that the Lord would bring her through it, because she sounded like she was in such immense pain. I just knew that it was her first and found out later that it was. I remember hearing her baby’s first cries as I gazed at the pure morning light streaming in through the large windows in our suite. I was so thankful to be in a place where God’s children were entering the world in such peace and such confidence. And such hope. More than anything else, Charlotte’s birth taught me about hope. I had hope that this experience would be different from my others, and I had hope that God would see me through. It’s the kind of hope that isn’t desperate and doesn’t “wish”. It doesn’t plead and it doesn’t beg. This hope is the kind that is rooted in strength, and faith and confidence, knowing that as women our bodies, just like those of our babies that we bring forth, are fearfully and wonderfully made.
The blessed parents of three lovely daughters!