Leading up to my second birth, I didn’t think I would feel much anxiety. However, as my due date came and went, February turned into March, and the COVID-19 hysteria began, I found that there were more and more reasons to allow anxiety to creep in. This was my second planned natural birth but my first planned home birth. I knew what to expect when it came to unmedicated birth but I still battled with negative thoughts like, “I’m going to be pregnant forever!” And, “can I really do this?” It’s amazing how despite these thoughts and fears, birth really is instinctual. Once labor started, I knew that I had to clear my mind of anything that would interfere with bringing my baby into the world.
I was 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant when labor finally began. It was around 2 in the morning and I began to feel uncomfortable cramps that I wasn’t able to sleep through.
By 3 AM, contractions were pretty regular and intense so I called my midwife. My sister/doula, Cristi, was the first to arrive that morning. She helped me settle into a groove with labor comfort measures—showing my husband Kenny where to hip squeeze and how to use the rebozo. One thing I did differently during this birth was what my sister/doula would call, “sounding my labor.” Breathing through each contraction really helped me stay focused and relaxed.
Both my mom and my midwife arrived around 6 AM. By that time my contractions had picked up and I wanted to get into the birth tub. It’s not recommended to labor in the tub until you are 6 centimeters dilated because any sooner and water can stall labor. I was 7 centimeters dilated so my midwives filled the tub while I continued to breath and focus through my contractions, my husband providing counter pressure on my back as needed. As soon as I got into the tub, it was immediate relief. I continued laboring for a few hours in the tub. Along with sounding my labor, I also practiced visualization. Through each contraction, I imagined my cervix opening for my baby to arrive. It’s amazing how these simple sound and visual tools helped me mentally during labor. I would even go as far to say that until the very end, contractions, while painful, were extremely manageable.
There came a point when it seemed like my contractions were not as productive as they had been. I was falling asleep in the tub in the middle of contractions. My birth team gave me a spoonful of honey to give me some energy. I knew from my first birth that my body would tell me when it was time to start pushing. I would feel an “urge.” However, it seemed that this step was taking forever. This was the point that I began silently praying that labor would continue to progress and that I would begin to feel the urge to push within the next few contractions.
Despite my heavenly pleadings, it seemed that my labor was not progressing. My contractions were not getting me to the pushing stage. My sister/doula suggested that I go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet. She knew that a transition may help push my body in the right direction and that sitting on the toilet gives your body that natural urge to push. Sure enough, sitting facing the back of the toilet while resting my head on my arms, my husband rubbing my back, I had the most productive (and loudest) contractions of my labor. After 5 or 6 contractions, I felt ready to bring my baby into the world. I got back in the tub and with each new contraction focused on breathing my baby down through the birth canal. I finally was able to reach down and feel her head. I knew we were close! The next contraction, I pushed with everything I had and while my water broke, her head was delivered! This was the “the ring of fire” moment that we’ve all heard about. My baby’s head was delivered in the water and while I wanted to continue pushing, my midwife told me to wait until I was contracting. I said, “but it hurts!” I wanted that baby out! Those few seconds between contractions while baby’s head was out were painful. I knew that the next few pushes would bring my baby into the world. However, I wasn’t feeling any contractions! At this point, Graceyn’s head had been out for a full minute. My midwife said, “on your next contraction I want you to go ahead and push your baby out.” As the next contraction began I heard my sister/doula say, “Tess, push your baby out” and as I pushed the ‘push heard ‘round the world,’ my midwife helped guide baby’s head out. I didn’t realize what I had accomplished until my midwife said, “Tessie, reach down and grab your baby.”
Graceyn arrived at 9:56 AM after almost 8 hours of labor. I spent the next few moments in euphoric relief soaking up the first cuddles with my new baby. She weighed 9 lbs, 10 oz and her chest measured 1/2 inch bigger than her head—which is why pushing was more difficult once her head came out. As my midwife was measuring her during the newborn exam, she said, “let’s give mama the credit she deserves.” During the pushing stage, my mom, both sisters, and my 20 month old, Maelyn, along with my husband Kenny, were in the room and able to witness Graceyn’s grand entrance. I couldn’t have asked for a more peaceful and comfortable environment to give birth in and I’m so glad that I was able to have a home birth experience. I’m once again blown away by how special and empowering birth can be and I will forever treasure this special experience that I will always share with my Graceyn Josephine.
Author: Tessie Rush