Portland’s Birth Story

i get it now.

all the talk about mothers. empowerment. the incredible feat of bringing a child into the world. something to never be seen as the everyday….although happens every day, it couldnt be anything other than an every day event. the days leading up to it, the day she was born. something i would and could never forget, but i have wanted to journal her story. for myself, for her, for her to later on in life read and know how she was brought into this world.

its quite the story.

and nothing close to short, so if you’re ready for a read….here you are.

if you want to listen to our birth playlist….its not too long, but these songs really created a perfect space for me. 

//

my original due date was January 6th – but with some reading about cycles and when ovulation happens, i knew that with my really long 31-34 day cycles, that she was gonna be due later than the 6th because of when i ovulated and when we conceived bc we knew the actual date. the thing that i loved about midwifery was that they really include and listen – i felt like i was a part of it all with them and based off my cycle length, they changed my due date to the 12th. little did i know then, that would help a lot when it came time to her birth. that extra week.

i want to start off saying, our midwives advised january was our “birth month” and i really wish that was more often the method used. every woman is different and the model that if you dont have your child by 40 weeks on the dot, that something is wrong. it couldnt be more false. by the time i had gotten to almost 42 weeks, i had done an incredible amount of reading – as one does – and was learning about different ethnicities and how long they generally carry their children. asian cultures are less, more like 37-38 weeks, swedish and german….german in particular i read more often be 40, 41, 42. so in that moment it all made sense as i crept up on 42 weeks. and trust me, any bit of info, any tiny study…you read it and it makes sense and you hold on to that. any tiny info you hold on to at 42 weeks. like grinding up ginger in tea to go into labor.  or black licorice. or dates. or evening primrose oil. (dont get me started on foods that induce bc its total bullshit and i did them all – as one does – and what puts you into labor is your baby and your body being ready. i digress.)  The women in my family went later, they just do. at least 41 weeks. and for next time i will know 41+) there is nothing wrong, this is just how we carry and 2) I’m saying a general “birth month” oh we’re due mid january instead of an exact date because regardless of how positive you can be, the SECOND you arrive or pass your due date and still are with child, you WILL think something is wrong with you – even just a tiny – even when you KNOW there isnt. and 99% of the people around you will be falling over with anticipation and 220494 texts asking if you’ve had the baby. do yourself a favor and say “around this time” and save a lot of heart anxiety.

so as i crept up to 42 weeks (i got to 41 weeks and 5 days…..thats 2 days until a medical hospital induction which couldnt have been more opposite of the natural birth we were going for. tears. anxiety. tears. anxiety.) it became the most difficult mental experience i’ve ever ever gone thru. there’s no explanation and no way to say it unless you’ve done it. you’ve carried a child for 10 months – anticipated, waited, gotten the house in order, built 19482 things, taken the classes and mentally prepared. when you get to 40 weeks….you wanna see your damn baby. and every single second past that, is an extreme mental challenge, and i mean every minute, every hour. when you’re waiting for your child….you dont measure it in days, you measure it in moments. will i go into labor this moment? what was that twinge? is this another braxton hicks? is today the day?  you measure by the moment, when will i go into labor. i’ll stop there, and i actually was keeping a blog journal of the daily things as we waited THE 10 EXTRA DAYS PAST OUR DUE DATE TO MEET OUR CHILD. imagine physically and mentally gearing up to run a marathon and then you wake up and the marathon is pushed to the next day. you have so much mental build up – your head space has to be a certain way. and then before you know it – its two weeks and the marathon is still being pushed off. its hard to wait. its hard to mentally stay prepared and its emotional….so. so. emotional.

42 weeks might as well be 75 weeks.

                         when you’re waiting to go into labor, you dont measure it in days,                              you measure it in moments.

friday. the 20th. (one week 1 day past due date)  i woke up at 5 or so to go to the bathroom and laid back down to feeling cramps. this was different than the millllion braxton hicks i had since like forever. i laid there next to CJ for a few hours feeling them come and go, just as they say they feel, like bad period cramps, and just got sooo excited. this was it. it was happening. around 7 or 8, CJ woke up and rolled over and i smiled huge. its happening.  I told him to go to work because there was no point in him waiting and watching me, because labor is not fast like the movies (well, most labor) and i wasnt expecting anything quick. i was just elated to be feeling something.  he went to work. and i had an incredible day. i got stuff done, i showered, washed my hair, made some PB&J on white bread (because that sounded amazing during labor), watched shows, colored in my coloring book (what you do when you have an insane amount of time at home waiting for labor for 10 days)  and called my midwife and doula. told them i was having contractions. my midwife said to relax and go about my day as normal and to call her later if they were getting closer. and to NOT use the contraction app, because it was gonna drive nuts. at that point, it wasnt causing me anxiety, i just loved knowing what was going on. i wasnt there to rush anything. i wanted every moment. every contraction was fine by me, because i was just so happy it was happening. sidenote: the night prior was a breakdown night. i had been in major tears. a week past when i we thought we may have our baby by then. it was just one of those nights. i wrestled a lot in prayer and just wanting to meet my baby so badly. so when i woke up to contractions, it was a pretty incredible thing. i actually had done some breast pump sessions on and off for 5 min to start contractions the night prior as a natural induction. and so i didnt know if it was that or what. but i was in labor and it worked and i wasnt complaining.

i was tracking the contractions all day just because it was fun to know where i was…and they were progressing closer and closer. by the evening, and by the time we went to bed around 10 or so, they were 4.5 minutes apart….keep in mind you go to the birth center around 4 min apart so i was like we’re close…..lets get some sleep and wake up in a few hours and go to the birth center.  because thats how you think it will go. but it didnt. i woke up in the morning with no contractions and still pregnant.

i talked to my midwife and she said that can happen, your body ramps up and by the evening when whatever is highest for why most people go into labor at night  – your body just isnt quite ready and it goes back down. gah. ok. she told me to baby myself that day, rest, relax because i was likely having my baby that night. it was saturday, so CJ was home. we relaxed and headed into another day waiting for our baby. this day, the contractions were all over the place, no rhythm to them and sporadic which i knew meant no go. by the end of the night, i was so frustrated. whyyy wasnt anything going anywhere. we called our midwife later in the evening and she said we were top priority and she wanted us to come in that next morning to be seen, sunday. we were schedule for a non-stress test (to make sure she had enough fluid and was good in there) on monday, so she said we’d just do it sunday and see how things were going.

keep in mind, i was still laboring. i was still contracting. all day. this was day 2. that night, i was up from 1-3am laboring in the bathroom for hours, doing a squat after each contraction. down on my birth ball. laboring. groaning. thinking i was having the baby that night. texting with my doula. like WTF this is DAY TWO OF THIS. of contractions. i was beginning to get tired. i wanted to be on my feet while i was contracting, so it was sooo many hours walking the house, laboring, contracting. so much time on my feet. which, while you’re THAT pregnant, its no small feat. they peaked at 3am and i went back to bed. and again, the contractions subsided and i woke up still pregnant. i think we actually went to a movie this day. and i had to stand towards the end because i was having contractions and everything was so uncomfortable. we walked out of the movie and i had a serious breakdown right there in the middle of Pacific Place theater lobby. crying, i just want her to be here.  it was a real release of emotion – every breakdown – i was very very mentally tired then. it seemed so never ending. i had done so good all the way, the week prior. all the days. the day after my due date, when i decided to make it a thing – to think of the the things i couldnt do once she came and do those…… a long breakfast at portage bay reading & journaling. a mani pedi. i cant remember what else….but for the whole entire past 2 weeks, i was calm, at ease, just believing and ready when my body was. i had 2 weeks of being in a good head space. that time was over.

41 WEEKS. 4 DAYS. 

Sunday. (contractions started 5am friday…..awesome)

we wake up. CJ makes pancakes. and 10am head to the office to meet one of the midwives, get checked, talk it over, cry, wait, do a tress test. gah. i was contracting the entire drive over. still all over the place. at one point, we were almost there and i had a really painful contraction – which is NOT fun in the car – THAT is true in movies. and i just broke down – again – and cried – i had waited 2 extra weeks to have my baby and now 2 DAYS of labor and still nothing. there’s no way to explain the mental distress i was in. and i hadnt even fucking started the real labor which i knew i needed a WHOLE NEW MENTAL GAME then. it began to be really mentally difficult.

(reminder: this is why i was asking no one to call, text, contact us…..put yourself in the car, contracting, crying, being a mental mess….and getting a text “did you have her yet?” ….yea i think it would have even more put me over the edge. juuuuuust keep that in mind if you know someone about due. the texts can be rough.)

the appt went well, and gave me new hope. we did the non-stress test and Portland was doing great in there. they said her heart rate was the best it could be and exactly what they want. so no problem there. we talked things over. it was kind of a whole lot of nothing. i cried. they cried with me. (again, i cant speak highly enough about the emotional care with midwifery…..we used Seattle Home Maternity) So. she decided we could do a Cervical Sweep – where they disrupt your bag from your uterine wall – it releases a bunch of hormones – the kind that you need to put you into labor. YOLO. it didnt hurt like i had heard and expected – apparently my midwife has very long fingers and she is a pro – and because it was such a nothing routine – i really didnt think anything was gonna work. plus, i felt like i was eternally gonna be pregnant – so i WAS NOT getting my hopes up about shit.

we drove home and i took a nap. i was exhausted from laboring up all night. i woke up around 4-5 and went down to lay on the couch. then i started having more contractions. great. here we go again. i laid there for a bit and got up and went back to my spot along the railing. doing a squat after every contraction. (the classes are great but instinctually you will KNOW what to do to ease the pain and what is best for your body…..you just will.)  Then after a while, i think around 7-8pm i noticed a difference, i needed CJ for the first time in those 3 days….i needed to put my arms around his neck and him to help me. i got to the point where the shower sounded good. went upstairs and stood in the shower with the water hitting my back for probably 1.5hrs. CJ came in and sat next to the shower as the contractions totally changed and i could tell these were going somewhere. in my mind, i wasnt allowing myself to go there. i wasnt allowing my mind to believe WE WERE HAVING HER. not after all those days of waiting. we started timing the contractions again on our app (i think called Full Term it was great) and that was the first time i couldnt stop to start and stop them. CJ had to take over, prior to the shower, i was doing the app, but at that point, he was doing it and had called our midwife and doula again to update them.  he kept not wanting to tell me how far apart my contractions were. which was so annoying to me. i wanted to know. but i think he didnt want me to know just how close there were and how long they were. it was go time. this wasnt fake anymore. THANK THE LORD!

he kept telling me lets get of out the shower babe. you need to get out. and i was like YOU ARE NOT IN MY BODY YOU DONT GET TO TELL ME WHAT I NEED TO DO! i needed to be in there, the water on my back helped and i also couldnt really move. i was just getting by in between contractions and i needed that rest for teh next one. in those contractions, it shifted from me being able to walk around and then pause during a contraction. with these, i needed the break to stand there and find relief. that minute of a break. let the water hit me. i couldnt and didnt want to move.  i finally convinced him to tell me how far apart they were….and they were 4 min apart, 1 minute long and it had been over an hour….so thats the 4-1-1 they want you to wait for to go to the hospital or birth center. at that point i got out – and labored in the dark bathroom with a dim light on. CJ out of there. he was on the phone and im not sure what else. i wanted to be solo. and i knew that i would be like that. not being hovered over. im the only one that can do the work. i liked the solace.

enter the doula. (which i will write a whole blog about. if you’re having a baby and not considering a doula you might as well just not have your baby. in my opinion….it should not even be a choice. it was the SINGLE GREATEST THING WE DID in having a baby….was having a doula. and especially ours.)

i thought i was managing just fine without the doula there. i just kept thinking “its not gonna change anything” when she gets here. well. i was wrong. she came. i was still in the bathroom in the dim light and she came and scrunched down to see how i was in between contractions. (one thing i will say is, im so glad we #1 booked her #duh but also #2 that she herself had children and with that is obviously a woman. she knew what i was feeling and going thru. i needed CJ there. but her understanding and presence was incredible, again..i need to write the doula blog because i have a lot to say here). She suggested that we go in the bedroom and try another position. at that point, i had already been contracting for 2 days mostly while standing – because thats what felt good – and because her position and having back labor, my back was so sore and my legs had done 10483920 squats with each contraction. (again, you literally have no idea what will feel good in contractions….the classes are great but instinctually you will know what to do.)   I got on to the bed, candles were lit, we had our playlist going and it was the best environment you could be in to give birth. i remember saying “we’re not even going to the birth center next time….why would we leave?!”  It was the feeling and environment i had envisioned in my head about birth. just us. quiet. dark. i’m so glad i had those moments in our birth experience because about 90% of shit we planned didnt happen…..but those moments were beautiful. i felt in control, at peace, surrounded, and getting ready to meet my baby. whatever you envision…fight for it if you can. there are little victories all along and that was one of them and even with the craziness that also came with her birth, it was that moment i think back to. my moment of surrender to the birth and being surrounded.

i cannot say how much work my doula, lisa, did. she knew the exact thing for what position portland was in. i had incredible back labor and she did a clothespin move on my hips with every contraction and it helped so so much. i felt so much more in my back than i expected and she brought SO much relief to me with her knowledge. at that point, i had needed those quiet moments and i needed the laying down for all the work ahead.

i believe i labored there for an hour? two? who even knows and then she assured me it was time to go to the birth center. i only only wanted each part to happen when it HAD to. doula coming. heading to the birth center. i didnt want to just sit there. or have a lot of waiting (hilarious actually the amount of waiting i did overall) but i wanted it to be on my own terms. going and being a 4 was my nightmare. all those stories of girls being turned away because they’re a 1 when they go to the hospital? no. not me. so when it was absolutely time….we left. our bag had been packed for a good 45 days at that point. i made my way down to the car between each contraction. CJ was scurrying around and lisa was with me at each contraction. we really became one. she knew when i was about to have one and she knew what to do. the doula does not leave your side until you have your baby….CJ was running around doing stuff, heating up the car, getting our bag in…..if i hadnt had a doula i would have been on my own….1 of 389320 reasons a doula is so necessary. i was so swollen i couldnt even get my tennis shoes or any shoe for that matter on…it was literally a joke. i went in my little dress, a robe and slippers. good times.

it was like 11pm i think. we had to drive from queen anne to the other side of lake union. not far. maybe 15 min? i would give CJ full warning when a contraction was coming and that meant drive fucking slow and dont go over any bumps. there was no one on the road. i knew he was recording me on the drive but i stayed in my body and just left that alone. (videos that will never see the light of day) we pulled up to the birth center and got inside. we were met by my midwife and her assistants. it was a pretty well lit big room, bed, big jacuzzi tub, bathroom, couch. definitely not the comfy feeling of my dark bedroom but it meant shit was happening and i was glad to be there. we were gonna meet out baby.

lisa (doula) was parking and i had a contraction up there without CJ or her…just the new team and one of the assistants was stroking me and talking like a butterfly and as soon as that contraction was over i promptly told her “i dont want to be bitchy here but please dont touch me soft, if you have something to say, say it. if you need to touch me, touch me real.”  thats another amazing thing about a doula…..you talk prior to language, to touch, how you want it. she knew she was to talk to me normal. challenge and encourage me but not in a way like a kindergarden teacher. i didnt want any soft touches. you get to customize it. and when you’re in labor its fucking important you’re not annoyed.

i got checked by an assistant and she said YOU ARE AT A 10.

THE WORDS EVERY LABORING MOTHER DREAMS TO HEAR.

she said i could start pushing soon.

now, pushing. and “the urge to push” we’ve all heard it on movies or from other mothers and its an indescribable thing. it just came. with a contraction. i started to feel a new feeling and literally the urge to push – a physical change happens and your body starts doing it on its own. my groans changed. its the craziest sensation. the only thing i can align it to is the urge when you vomit. its instinctual. your body just does it. and you know it when you feel it. and there’s NO STOPPING IT.  tell a pushing woman to stop. well you cant. (at least not until later in this story). i told lisa i felt like pushing and she said….ok, you can. so i did. such a crazy thing.  up to that point the contractions just build, peak and go down and then with the pushing, at the peak, you push. push that baby down.

at that point they said i could get in the tub. another thing i didnt want to do until it was time.  the tub can slow things down….so i was like no no no. but they said…..trust me, where you’re at….there’s no stopping it.  also amazing words to hear when you’ve already been in labor for 3 days.

i got in the tub and praise god it was amazing. people ask why its amazing….well, imagine carrying 45 pounds of groceries for months…..everything hurts, then someone comes and takes them for you. weightless. thats what its like. you are suspended and you dont feel your huge ass belly pulling you down. your back is relieved. you feel light as a feather. omg do the tub if you can. for me, it just acted as a break. i was still pushing and contracting but there was relief for that time. i got to each some of my white bread PB&J (highly recommended. also. eat while you can even when you’re not hungry……the PB&J saved me because you never know whats gonna happen later and i was so grateful i was able to get some calories at some point.)  it was a while and i just felt like it wasnt going anywhere. i knew gravity it was i needed so i said….lets get this baby out and use some gravity. i knew i needed to labor standing and get her moving down.

there’s really no putting things off. its not that corner of your closet you’ve been meaning to organize. with birth, its gonna happen. and i felt it was best to face what i knew i needed to do right then. anything to make it happen and get me one step closer. // and to me, at that point…it wasnt even my thought “to meet my daughter” i wasnt there mentally…..where i was, was getting the labor over, being done being pregnant, being done with this longest waiting period that my labor was. you cannot escape the physicality of labor. you just get thru each contraction, recover and then mentally prepare for the next one.

i got up and dried off and out.

soon after at some point i thought i needed to pee. so i went to go pee. a drop came out. i stood up and turned to walk back out and SWOOOOSH my water broke. omg the most amazing, fun, just like the movies thing. it was a giant water balloon inside me that popped. it was incredible. also, in my experience…your water breaking is like an orgasm. if you dont know if you’ve had one…you havent had one. there was no mistaking it. it was literally like a balloon popping from inside and a galloon of fluid hitting the floor.  i had thought at some point when i was in the tub that my water broke but obviously it hadnt….im sure there are more that come with leaking, etc…but mine was a HUGE gush and went everywhere. no mistaking that. such a fun moment. everyone cheered!

from then, the contractions got worse – this was my transition – and supposedly the most painful part of labor.  i just remember being on all fours laboring and fuck it was terrible. the strongest ache contractions. just the worst feeling in my lower front. like cramps straight outta hell. after my water broke, blood was coming out, which is normal.  i remember learning in our class when they teach kids who attend their siblings birth….that there’s “food blood” and “owie blood” – the blood inside that is “feeding the baby” and for them to not be scared when they see it. and i remembered that and it helped…

this whole time was really a switch in my labor. you go thru sections and get used to it and then it changes. at some point i laid down on my back for some directed pushing from an assistant and this was terrible. at no point in my pregnancy did i like laying on my back, i was so uncomfortable while she was doing it, the touch was terrible and i just hated it all. my midwife was trying to get the heart rate and portland was just freaking out. rolling all around and my midwife was like what is going on!? she was tumbling all around. spinning and swirling and going crazy inside.  i didnt know what babies were like during labor but she was really still for the most of it, portland was such an active baby in utero i thought she would be moving around during labor but i didnt really notice anything during labor….until then. little did i know then what was happening and with that, i encourage you to do what feels right, i wish i wouldnt have even laid on my back at all because thats what started this whole sequence.

then everything changed.

so from there, i tried some pushing on the birthing stool and a few in, an assistant was watching and called the midwife over with some force. she watched one contraction and said “There’s meconium coming out, im sorry but you cant have the baby here. we need to call 911. and you’re not a 10, you’re an 8.” so i had been pushing for all that time before i even was a 10. i might have regressed in the process….i will never know.  well those are words you dont want to hear in your birth. a flip switched in the room and my relaxed crew went into go mode. they called 911 which i heard the midwife tell them what was going on, and hear her describe what specific hospital i need to go to in order to have a certain level NICU team i needed. i didnt really know what was going to happen. i knew about meconium and its when the baby gets stressed in birth and poops and its dangerous for her to swallow upon being born and taking her first breath. so i needed to be ambulance transferred to the 1st Hill Swedish Hospital. CJ had to take our car there and my doula had to go in her car….so i had to go by myself with an assistant. we walked out to the ambulance, it came quickly, it was like 1 or 2 am. i was still having contractions and pushing – my midwife met me at the door and specifically said – you cannot have this baby in the ambulance. you have to be at the hospital when you have her. so they told me i had to pant lightly in my contractions and basically not allow my body to push. which is impossible. but what i had to try to do. i was scared. everything changed so quickly.

the feeling around me was a bit frantic but controlled, they all knew what to do and had a job. and i was just kind of standing there in between contractions. CJ had to throw all our stuff in a suitcase, everyone had to get all their things, flag down the ambulance. i asked, am i going to have a c-section? they were like no no, you just have to be around a NICU team in case she swallows it. ok. i didnt know what things were going to turn into. i felt a peace come over me, i knew that i had to be calm and relaxed. if i was freaking out – i knew it would get to her and i wanted her to stay calm and know it was going to be ok. these feelings, it all happens so fast but also in slow motion. its the birth of a mother…putting aside how you feel for what is best for your child. i knew i had to stay calm and i knew i couldnt have her until we got to the hospital.

these feelings, it all happens so fast but also in slow motion. its the birth of a mother…putting aside how you feel for what is best for your child.

the ambulance arrived, like 5 guys. and me. they roll up with the gurney and want to get me on it, im like umm no. i’ll walk. moving in general was so hard at that point, i was just waddling in between contractions. he’s like wait wait wait….whats your name, whats your age….bla bla….I’m like fuck you dude im literally pushing a baby out right now i cannot give you this INNNFOOO. bye. im walking, basically naked, in a robe and my slippers at 2 am in the freezing january cold stopping during contractions and then climbing into the back of an ambulance (this is why they want you on a gurney i see now) and it was literally out of a movie. which is ironic because my entire pregnancy i kept telling people “birth is not like in the movies!!!” haah well, here i am in an ambulance. perfect. i will tell you…..being in the back of an ambulance, while you are having the most painful contractions….the ambulance fucking BOUNCING around the back old ass seattle roads…well, thats not something you put on your bucket list i’ll tell you. i just kept yelling out “fuuuuuuck” when we’d bounce over a hole in the road. they told me, “yea…riding in an ambulance is basically like being in the back of a truck!!” cool, thanks.

we get to the hospital and they wheel me out laying on the gurney – on an incline mind you – im like HELLOOO a baby is about to come out CAN WE PUT THIS THING FLAT!!!! again…men. we wheel in and CJ is already there. he BEAT us to the hospital. i literally cry even thinking about him in this entire process. good lord, he was an angel, there will never be a way to describe all he did and the feeling and bond between us at this time. it was one of the most incredible moments of my life, those first few days. so they wheel me in. and i have my midwifery team, then the new hospital team, a really lit room and me moaning and holding my legs together during contractions. they measure me, yep…i’m an 8, cool. and tell me i cant start pushing for possibly 2-4 hours until i’m a 10. UM, NO IM ALREADY PUSHING I CANT STOP THIS! hello. thats like being mid-puke and someone putting their finger over your lips and say hold it in. you cant. not possible. i was like OKWELL I NEED A C SECTION I CANT NOT PUSH. they actually laughed. the Dr said….hahaha no no no you’re not getting a C Section….you are so close. um ok – well what do you advise for the baby that IS COMING OUT. so what they said was if i got an epidural – I would lose the urge to push. did not. absolutely did not believe them. when you have those pushes going on, there is no way to imagine them going away. impossible. they ASSURED me i would lose the urge to push and i could wait those couple of hours to dilate to 10. they let CJ and i talk it over….after i had said i needed a c section and we decided it was necessary in order to dilate and stop this pushing. somehow our decision got lost in the room and everyone was just standing around – meanwhile im actually saying GUYS GUYSSSS during contractions….like i feel like the baby is coming at any point.  i remind them we want to do an epidural. ohh ok! so they get that going.

however longer later the guy comes in to give me one….which is comical when you’re having this strength of contractions and 42 weeks pregnant because you have to make a C out of your back and bend forward and you have this huge ass belly. its comical. he just about gets ready to do it and goes oh! i forgot to have you sign the form! ok dude what is this your first day?!!? so we sign. and then time the epi in between a set of contractions and i just pray one doesnt come because holy hell its gonna be hard to freeze and have one. anyhow, i get it. its like 4 am at this point. or 5. basically now its a waiting game. its dark, there’s a transition in hospital staff.  (another reason to have a doula…you have no clue who you’re gonna get at the hospital…maybe not even your expected MD so a doula is incredible bc you build a trust and then if you have a nurse you like….their shift could be over in 2 mins. a doula stays with you.) so we have some down time and as this point…..and we’ve been up for so long and missing an entire nights sleep, so we sleep on and off for 1-2-3 hours….they keep moving you side to side because you cant move yourself once you have an epi (something i hated. there’s pros and cons to each way of labor and i got to fully experience each and not being able to move is the worst. i loved being the one in control. and feeling everything. even tho it hurts, you know where stuff is coming from, you can feel a contraction build and YOU feel like the one in control…once i got the epidural…i felt less in control. less powerful. more of a woman ‘to be helped’ rather than the strong one who was ‘doing it’ that i was feeling before.  lets not get into all the birth is powerful any way you do it. …yes, it is – but this was my experience and things just changed with it.)  My sweet doula didnt want to sleep, she kept watching the machines. that’s another part…things switched to machines telling us stuff instead of me just saying how i felt which was strange. they put me on one side and i told them, i dont like this side, its really uncomfortable. then it was 2 minutes and they came back in….the baby doesnt like this her heart heart isnt what we want….so they flipped me back how i liked it. exactly. this was one thing that was so empowering in birth – before the epidural – and im not totally ragging on it, trust me, there were some pros to an epidural…but i really went thru both experiences of natural and medicated deliveries and it was interesting to see differences. i thought it was so incredible and empowering that what felt right to me…was right for my body and the baby. and even when i did have the epidural and said something didnt feel right….it would be minutes and they’d come in and say the machines were showing something. just truly incredible what we intuitively feel in our bodies.

ok here we go.

there was a change in staff and i got a new OB, new nurse and so on. they went over all the new things we needed to know and decide about with the birth. we were doing delayed cord clamping so she could get all her blood…but because of the meconium….they couldnt do that. they had to cut it immediately for her to see the NICU team. we wanted her to come right to me, skin to skin but we couldnt do that either. there was a whole list of things we had to sign off on and it was emotional to let go of our plans and know we just couldnt do those things. we knew it was for her and for her health so of course we would do it. but its emotional to let go of and have more uncertainty of what would actually happen.

i really didnt like my new nurse because i’d really bonded with the last. but then, she warmed up and ended up being totally great and just what i needed. strong, less emotion and an advocate. the OB came in and talked to me, met me. again, whole new team. my midwives knew me, knew CJ and I. met with us over the past year and knew us so well. that all went out the door and i had someone who knew nothing about me or about what we wanted. but you gotta roll with it and we really lucked out with an incredible OB, a younger gal, probably mid 30’s and she was great and i liked her vibe. she came in and out between other births and we were given the go ahead to start pushing. it was me, CJ, lisa and my nurse. then the OB every once in a while coming out. i was on my back kind of turned on my side. we developed a whole system. lisa would hold my leg and CJ was up by my ear counting for me. the counting helped. the nurse at my side and telling me when i had a good push.

pushing is fucking hard. and pushing when you’re numb is hard. (but also great because you’re numb) but it interferes with when you can feel a contraction build. when you arent numb, you intuitively can feel it building and you know exactly when to push. when you’re numb they are watching it build and tell you when. its like someone else putting a contact in your eye. it just helps to have that inner body connection to what you’re doing. but we did it. i pushed a really long time. the time kind of blurs…all of it. i had no concept of time going by, although it was light out and i could see the clock.  we – i keep saying we – no I – started pushing at around 9. i felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my head even tho my eyes were closed every time i pushed. you kind of learn the best way to push. the nurse would tell me or yelp with delight when i had a good push….so i eventually learned what feeling and what push and where to in order to do it well. that is an art to learn! over time, we made progress. they started to be able to see her hair. omg she had so much hair! CJ said it looked like a puppy ahahhaaha. we tried to move a time, get me on my hands and knees because i liked that at the birth center and at this point, i hadnt upped my epidural so i was starting to get feeling back. i could old myself up on hands and knees but in that hospital bed its just too small and awkward and so we went back to the system before.

then it got exciting and i was making way. the nurse just kept saying yep, push her down! my doula kept telling me to push my baby out. these are very motivating words. you go thru so so so many stages and emotions and we were day 3 in, 42 weeks….my mind had been thru the ringer. by far the most challenging mentally and physically experience of my life. i was so close. it really didnt seem real. wasnt she just gonna keep staying in there? wasnt i gonna be pregnant for another month? its a crazy transition to know you’re really gonna meet your baby soon.

i was doing it. she was getting close. i remember getting to the “ring of fire” as they call it – when the head is crowning. a delight! it felt like it took an hour for her head to get enough out that it wouldnt go back in. the ultimate game of prairie dog. at that point i could start to feel my contractions build – well this was earlier actually but whatever – so i was so happy to not be relying on the nurse telling me, i wanted to feel it and tell them. i wanted to know inside when to push.  the nurse would remark, wow you really have the intuition to know when they are coming! which felt really great to me, a tiny victory, i felt like i was in control and i was taking my birth back into my hands. something i needed. that motivation. to feel like i was the one with the strength to do it.

so they would ramp me up mentally – ok you got this! and i would puuuuuuuush. omg where does a woman get this strength. i literally thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head. but i liked doing something, after all the waiting and waiting literally for weeks – it was nice to do the work towards something.

ok, her head was coming out. there was so much excitement in the room. they were cheering me on. finally. it was still me, lisa, cj and the nurse. the OB came in to do another check and tell us that she was about to start another birth so she was gonna be away for a while and that another OB would do my delivery if needed. she watched my progress thru one contraction and said….nope, i’m staying here. YES. that is good news. that means its go time. the OB suited up and let the NICU team know it was time to come in.

so then there was more people in the room. i had my eyes closed every push so i wasnt always aware of who was in or out but now we had the NICU team and the OB was all suited. i started to push her head out – keep in mind this was now 1230…i had been pushing since 9 something – now i know that the american OB bla bla bla recommends only 3 hours of pushing for first time moms, so i was at the max. good times. it was an eternity of pushing. pushing 1-2-3-4-5-6. 1/2 second break. 1-2-3-4-5-6. break push 1-2-3-4-5-6. doing that every couple of minutes, for 3 hours – its a lot of pushing. hundreds? thousands? and no wonder my body felt destroyed after…like i had gotten in a car wreck.

all the exact details are a blur. but i know i pushed and got her head out and then the room flipped once again. in less than an instant my legs were grabbed and i was put on my back.

feet in the stirrups. the OB yelling out terms and calling certain people and certain Drs into the room. i instantly had all these people around me yelling at me.

PUSH PUSH PUSH – EVERYTHING YOU HAVE ANDRIA IT HAS TO BE THIS PUSH.

i could make out CJ right in my ear – babe, you have to get her out now! this push!

i had no idea what was going on but – i will never forget this moment – and although there was so many people in the room and so much chaos i felt around me, i went inside my body – and everything else literally went away, i could feel the urgency in the room and the yelling and i knew i had to get her out and i knew i had to do the work. i was just praying internally for strength i knew only came from God. in those moments just feeling an incredible connection to God and ultimate reliance on Him to give me the strength here.  

i could tell the energy in the room that it had to happen now. and i pushed probably 6 or more times all in once contraction, when prior, i was getting in 1-2-3 pushes a contraction. (she had shoulder dystocia – so imagine you’re baby coming out with their back facing up, how you want them because they can tuck their chin and get out – but she was sideways so her head came out and then she got stuck – her shoulders were hitting my pelvis instead of coming out in line with them.)

the deepest strength came…and out!  i felt a gush and i knew she was out. she immediately was taken thru the people over to the NICU table to check her out for the meconium. i still hadnt heard her cry. it seemed so long, i knew it was longer than it should be because they should just cry when they come out. i was hysterically crying out loud please God let her be ok watch over her let her be ok Lord cover her cover her Lord.  over and over and over my eyes clenched with tears and just waiting to hear her breathe.

waiting. waiting. it seemed so long. 5 seconds? 10 seconds? waiting to hear your baby cry is far too long regardless. 

she finally let out the wettest cry and it was the best sound i’ve ever heard. i still couldnt see her. they were sucking fluid out of her lungs because she swallowed a lot of meconium.

i dont know how long went by but they told CJ he could come over and “cut the cord” which to him, meant she had to be ok because they wouldnt do that otherwise. he went over and came back – they were still working on her – and a moment i’ll never forget in my life….he came back and my eyes were still closed and i was crying and he said “you did it babe, you did so good. thank you thank you. you got her out. she is so beautiful.” and his tears were streaming off  his face onto mine so i could feel them falling on to my cheeks. the feeling of his gratitude towards me was an incredible moment. for me, and our dynamic, we’re two strong people and hearing him be in such gratitude for me, was something really beautiful. i felt so loved and thanked – growing and carrying a human is something your husband can never really understand. all the feelings and changes and emotions and your body and the sacrifice – and in that moment i felt like he got it and i felt his love for me and what i did to bring her into the world.

all the feelings and changes and emotions and your body and the sacrifice – and in that moment i felt like he got it and i felt his love for me and what i did to bring her into the world.

i still hadnt seen her and i finally looked up and thru the people in the room there was a window to her and i saw her being held up under the light and they were bringing her over to me. a vision i’ll never forget. meeting your child for the first time is something you cannot prepare for. they are not there and in an instant, they are there and they will never not be there in your mind from then on. they put her on me and she was so close to me i couldnt really see her and we were just crying and CJ was over me. it was really something. they wanted her to get some good cries out because she had a lot of fluid in her chest and so i just held her and cried and looked her over. she was pulling on my cord and she let me know i was gonna deliver the placenta and i asked if i could just push it out instead of her pulling it and so i did that and it was an awesome feeling….if only babies didnt have bones. it was like giving birth to a jelly fish.

a few minutes later, i noticed then that the OB was working on me and was moving pretty vigorously. i knew something was going on but i was just trying to focus on Portland. they called in an older male Dr and they were talking and moving around and i knew something was going on. they let me know that they couldnt get my bleeding to stop. they had already given me pitocin to get it to stop and that didnt work so a nurse came up and briskly said (i could tell she didnt want to alarm me) that they couldnt get my bleeding to stop so they were going to give me something to make it stop. she jabbed something in my leg. so i was hemorrhaging. of course. just add it to the list! i had already said that earlier in the birth, might as well add one more thing.  so they got my bleeding to stop, sew me up and then i was done. it was a long time…getting all done after birth. no idea. then another nurse came in and started to help with breastfeeding. we wanted to try right away and it had taken a bit longer than we wanted because of everything that went on. a nurse immediately gave me a nipple shield – now looking back – i almost wish i hadnt had it – but who knows if that would have helped or hurt our whole breastfeeding situation – who knows.

eventually they move you up to recovery out of the labor room. i had my baby in my arms and in a wheelchair up to the new room. i remember sitting there and holding her – there was just some nurse in that i didnt know and CJ was actually taking the placenta out to the lady who encapsulated it (he did so much i didnt even know where he was doing all these different items – another reason to have a doula….your partner has to leave and do things at times.) But i was sitting there with Portland, looking at her. its the most wild thing….you think all your life about a child and then you meet your spouse and you wonder what will they look like?! you imagine the whole pregnancy who they are…and then in an instant they are in your arms and you are staring at this face. it was actually a bit strange. in other situations…you have the time to fall in love with your spouse, its gradual…over time. but with your baby its just placed in your arms and its your child. thats that. its the strangest thing i cant explain properly. its just something you dont think about. but to me, it was a strange feeling of being like ok-this-is-my-baby. this is her. not in any negative way, its just crazy they are just there. all the imagining and there’s no real way to imagine who they will be. and then they are there staring back at you.

we went upstairs and its was probably 3 or so. and just laid there and looked at her. i was so exhausted. i had pushed for so long and cried so much i could barely even open my eyes. my face was so swollen. omg the swelling. just everywhere. prior to birth – you just hold on to allllll liquids and it looked like i’d gotten my lips done and my face was the real 10 month pregnancy look. i was so physically and emotionally spent.

and let me enter here and say – the tradition of having family at the birth or waiting in a waiting room is absolutely. isane. to. me. we didnt even tell our families when i went into labor because i didnt want to know that subconsciously there were people out there waiting by their phones. i didnt want CJ having to check in with people and update them and then with everything that ended up happening with us – there would have been no way to keep up with updates and people would have been worried. and when we got back to the room and i hadnt slept in two days and just went thru such a delivery – there was no way i could even look at my phone or call let alone let people into the room or pass off my baby. i would deeply encourage you to not have people there or have guests come to visit that first day. and this is completely MY experience but 1) you have no idea what kind of birth you will have and the last thing you’ll want is having people wait on you or then tell people they have to leave if you’re not up for visitors. and then 2) you are meeting your baby for the first time. you have this first day only once with them. its an incredibly private and sacred moment you will never get back.  and this is just me….but i couldnt have handed her over to anyone. not a family member, not a friend and i will never want to share that with anyone else. you arent allowed to hold them while you sleep because you could drdop them but no way was i gonna lay her in that little bassinet and not hold her. so i held her all night and we slept. there was a period i fed her for hours..she just kept eating (enter tongue tie clue) and i hadnt slept – so i woke CJ up (they give you a single bed in the hospital room which is so nice for the dads, i thought he’d be sleeping on a chair.) and he came over and held her and i got a few hours of sleep. now, he says they just stayed awake those hours and looked at each other and it was their moment.  we’d ordered burgers that afternoon because i hadnt eaten in forrrever and we got the. best. burgers. of. all. time. it actually changed my life. (im sure anything would have tasted good). place is called 8oz burgers and its in ballard. brioche buns. enough said. we ate them and i was still so hungry we literally ordered another batch from a different spot (although not quite as good.)

the next day. you have nurses coming in. lactation consultants. changing your ice packs on your vag. CJ had ran home to get a few things for us because we werent expecting to go to the hospital – luckily im an over-packer in my birth bag and had a ton of stuff but we were expecting to go home that day at the birth center. which now im so glad we were at the hospital because i loved being taken care of by staff and not doing it ourselves. there’s pros and cons to so many things between midwifery, the hospital, staff, nurses, hospital vs home vs birth center….so many pros and cons and we dont quite know what we will do for the next birth but if it was our ideal, we’d go thru the year of appointments with midwifery because its incredible incredible non-lab-coat care, casual and so much experience. one of our midwives had delivered thousands of babies. thousands. but then we loved being take care of in the hospital after and there are so many questions we had, i’m sure the most with your first baby, that it was great to have care there at our call, helping me.

oh right, they measure your pee after you have a baby and they noticed i wasnt peeing enough. so they did a ultrasound and saw that my bladder wasnt emptying…so i had to get a catheter – lovely. it acccctually was nice not to have to get up to pee. omg peeing after and then eventually pooping – those are scary scary things to think about after pushing out a baby. but it actually wasnt as bad as i expected. but still. carrying around a catheter bag….not something i expected. i later learned when i got it out a few days later that my bladder was displaced and “pissed off” essentially because the OB had put her hands inside of me to grab portland out.  add another thing to the list.

there’s so much more. its incredible to live all this out and you have an entire new perspective when you see someone had a baby. so much empathy and understanding what a woman and a couple just went thru. even if it was an ideal birth….its a life changing event and you will never see the world the same after.

and the crazy thing is, its just the beginning. we’ve seen friends have their babies since and we know what those days look like. what those nights look like. the feelings. the emotions. the non-sleep. the omg its already 3 hours in the middle of the night feeds. its a club im honored to be a part of and i know we’re lucky to have entered into it.

her birth was a passageway for me. this first year as a mother has been transformative. there’s truly no way to explain it. and motherhood and the love you have for your child only grows. now, looking back at that first day, its our favorite day. the start of portland. we didnt know who she would be that first day. who we were holding and its been the most beautiful blessing to have one year with her so far and grow to know who she is. i think back to that first day and the chaos, and the stillness and the unknown and its something i would do all over again to be with her. bringing a child into the world is unlike anything else. CJ says its life 2.0 and thats pretty accurate. nothing from before even comes close to what i feel for her and the importance of my daughter. its something you see and try to imagine, but there is no way i could have predicted the love as a mother and what it would feel like to me.

she’s truly my greatest gift and i would have brought her into the world any way it took. 

happy birthday to my first born, beautiful, smart, independent, social, likes-to-do-it-her-own-way girl. you made me a mother and its the best me i’ve ever seen. 

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4 Comments

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  1. Beautiful! And intense. Thank you for sharing. What a journey you guys had! Birth is truly magical. Sometime I look at people in the world and think “everyone of you was once born and come from someone and raised with care. 10 months of pregnancy, 18 years to become an adult. It’s pretty miraculous, the whole thing. You’re an amazing mom, Andria. Happy momma day to you!

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  2. Here I am, in tears. You are an incredible fighter, A. I can’t even fathom these things, but you make it tangible. Everything you shared was exactly the questions I’ve had on my heart for 8 months — details that no one else seems to expose, but that are so important to me. Thank you a million times one million. Happy birthday, little girl!

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  3. This is incredible. Thank you for sharing your story A.

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  4. Andria … WOW … thank you for making this incredible read! I finished it in 30 minutes with a whole tea and a whole bag of Brookside pomegranate bites. Incredible. I cried so hard because I could just feel what was happening when you were describing your relationship with CJ during the birth process, and why the birth was so powerful for you both. When I began following your photography years ago, I never knew how much I would come to love your writing: first about the couples you shot, then the adventure of meeting/marrying CJ, and now your steps into “forever motherhood”. Amazed!! THRILLED for you, and so thankful for an account like yours of an actual birth. Nothing fluffy, everything is raw. On behalf of the other wives who aren’t moms yet (like me), you’re SO APPRECIATED. God was so strong in you. I’m sure He is pouring out infinite grace on you both as you raise your little angel girl. Thank you again … so much. Please keep writing. Nobody else has the same voice quite like you have!

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