Ewyn’s birth story begins years before the date of his arrival. I was very involved in the birth community as a prenatal massage therapist, doula, and eventually student midwife in the years preceding my pregnancy. I had done lots of research and learned all about different medical interventions and complications. In talking with my husband, we decided that home birth was the right choice for us if the pregnancy remained low risk, and I started care with Natalie Wommack at the Katy Birth Center.
My pregnancy went fairly smoothly. I didn’t have much morning sickness at all, and was able to continue my midwifery apprenticeship until I finished all my catches at 30 weeks. At that point, I hunkered down and started really preparing for the birth. I really enjoyed reading Birthing from Within and continued regular chiropractic care- things that I think really assisted in the smooth delivery that I had. I sat on my bathroom counter and penned Zechariah 4:6 in dry erase marker on the mirror. My mom was scheduled to arrive from out of town three days before my due date and as we got closer, we became more and more confident she would arrive in time. Once she got here, we started walking daily on the path by our house.
The day after my due date, I had a prenatal with Natalie and her apprentice Jennifer. Everything looked good. Ewyn was healthy and kicking, but I knew at this point he was getting bigger. As my mom stepped out at the end, I turned to Natalie. “He’s at least 8 ½ lbs, isn’t he?” She nodded and smiled. I nodded back a little more apprehensively. I was around 6 lbs. My husband was 7 ½ lbs. I knew that 8 ½ lb was not a “big baby”, but I figured it was plenty big for my family’s genetics. When we got home from the prenatal that night, I drank a bit [a lot] of red raspberry tea hoping to start things off. Later that evening I was a bit of a wreck. I think my hormones were kicking in. I spent a lot of time listening to worship music and praying with Matthew.
The next morning I woke at 4:30 with stomach cramps. I was up for a couple hours until I woke Matthew up. I didn’t think I was in labor at this point because I knew that first time moms usually had a practice run before they went into labor, and I hadn’t had any strong contractions yet. As the morning went on and things didn’t let up, we started timing the contractions and they were about every 7 minutes. I texted Natalie to let her know before her appointments started for the day. I felt like if this wasn’t labor, it was awful and I wanted it to stop, but if it was labor, I could manage just fine. It’s funny how expectations and assumptions play such a big role in pain management. I rested in bed while Matthew set up the pool, then got in the shower while he made up the bed with plastic. By this point, I was feeling nauseated (but I have a strong nauseous response to pain in general) and texted Natalie to see if she could come by and check on me during her lunch break. When I got out of the shower, I had a bit of show and was now hopeful it was really labor. Yay! My mom came down and we got out the ingredients to make kimbly, but as soon as we started I became pretty useless. The contractions were stronger and closer together and I barely had time to get out an ingredient and check the recipe again before another would come. I relinquished the cake making to my mom, and went to sit on the ball.
Natalie got to our house around 2:00 pm and I was 4 cm, so she stayed to see if things would continue to progress. They were stronger at this point, and I was getting tired so I lay down to sleep. I think I was able to rest an hour or so, and then got up to do an inversion off the couch and walked up and down the stairs two at a time before I sat on the ball again. The cake was done at this point too, and I have to say, that was the perfect snack for labor. The couple times I threw up or felt nauseated, I had no problem turning around after I recovered and eating more of the loaf. I can’t think of many other foods I’ve done that with. It was sweet and spiced without being sugary. I had the TENS unit on my back, and Matthew was doing hip squeeze with contractions. I felt really at peace with how things were going, and even though I was tired here and there, I found the pain to be more manageable than I expected. My friend Keeley arrived, as well as Alex. My sister-in-law Katie, a nurse and birth assistant, also arrived to help Natalie with the delivery. They were the perfect additions to the birth team.
After a couple hours, contractions had gotten stronger and Natalie checked me to find I was 8 cm. I got into the pool and it felt glorious- again, better than expected. The warm water was soothing and really helped me to relax. Matthew and Natalie took turns massaging my back, which really helped as well. I was pretty verbal about what I was feeling. In hindsight it probably sounded a lot like complaining, but I don’t think I was internally. I was just trying to help those around me understand what was going on (“My back hurts here.” “I’m hungry but so nauseous.” Etc) After about 90 minutes, I was getting impatient and wanted everything to be over. I was probably in the middle of transition, the shortest most intense part, and since I had gone so quickly from 4 to 8 cm, I thought we should be near the end by now. I checked and I was still 8-9 cm, and I think I kind of lost it. I was done. It wasn’t the pain- it was my brain starting to get into things, wondering if I was stalled and how this would end. I got out of the pool and sat backwards on the toilet for a good period of time while Matthew rubbed my back and everyone gave us some space. During this time, the contractions became so faint. I could tell I was still having them, but they really didn’t hurt at all and they were only about every 7 minutes. Looking back, this was the normal rest period or plateau that happens right before pushing, but I was still thinking I was stalled and that my uterus just needed a break before it started up again so I was nervous.
After a period of time (30 minutes? 45 minutes?) I asked Natalie to check again, and to my surprise I just had a rim of cervix left. She broke my water on request and I started pushing. I had anticipated pushing feeling productive and rewarding since that’s how many people described it, but it was so intense I couldn’t tell what was happening. I knew it was normal to take a while, but I couldn’t feel if I was making any progress. According to everyone else, things were going fine though, and once Natalie showed me with a mirror, I believed them. 😉 Soon enough, at 10:31 pm, Ewyn Oliver was born and passed to me by his dad.
It was amazing to see the little guy that had been in there this whole time! The placenta came with no problems, and I had a quick repair before Matthew and I were given some space to look him over and bond as a family. After the newborn exam was done, we bathed and ate. Then our team packed up and headed home to their beds while we tucked in with our new baby.
All in all, my labor was very straightforward and “average” for a first time mom (it’s funny to say that, because there is no average labor, but it went by the textbook). I had mentally worked through all the possible variances and complications and none of them came up. It was 18 hours from start to finish and I pushed for one hour- perfectly average times. The “pain” of labor wasn’t as bad as I anticipated with the wonderful support of Matthew and the TENS unit, and it’s true that you really do forget. The familiarity of my birth team was such a support, and I really leaned on them through the labor. Pushing was harder than I thought, but I think that again proves that a large part of the experience is based on your expectations going into it since I thought pushing would be the easiest part. In thinking back on the labor in the following weeks, I realized God was showing me his faithfulness and that I could trust him. I don’t think that having all the knowledge I had about labor helped much- it probably made me overthink things more than I should have. People can grow closer to God through challenges, but I grew closer in the normalcy. I knew the complications that can come up, but He was showing me that, through his faithfulness, birth can be uncomplicated and good. Ewyn has been such a joyful baby and we are blessed that he joined our family!
Photos by Alex White