Last Saturday night when I went to sleep, I had NO idea little Belle would be here the next day before I ate lunch! I had no signs of labor on Saturday, in fact we went shopping and were out half the day and I felt fine. This post is Annabelle’s birth story, so if you’re not into that kind of thing or if it makes you squeamish, feel free to skip this one and come back later for my next post. 😊
I woke up Sunday morning and a little gush of fluid came out when I got out of bed. It stopped so I wasn’t sure it was my water breaking, but I lay down in bed again to wait and see if it happened again next time I stood up. Contractions began almost immediately. They were mild cramps, 10 mins apart for one hour. I called the midwife and applied some Clary Sage essential oil to my stomach and massaged it into the uterine reflex points on my ankles. Clary Sage can strengthen contractions to make them more effective, which is what I wanted. The midwife thought maybe contractions would stop because it was daytime now, but I wasn’t convinced, since I hadn’t had any contractions this consistent during the pregnancy. I made breakfast and some snacks to take to the birth center, and texted my parents and in-laws to keep them posted. I kept moving during contractions, swaying my hips back and forth. I told Judith we were playing “red light, green light.” Red light means mommy has to stay still because her tummy hurts as it helps get Annabelle out, green light means mommy feels good and can move and talk again.
At some point Judith (who was painting with my sister’s supervision) fell face-first into her painting and I found them in the bathroom scrubbing paint off her face, haha!
Two hours later I called the midwife again to tell her my contractions had been 5 mins apart since we last spoke. I still wanted to stay home, since contractions were manageable, and I’d had 10 hrs like this with my first daughter’s birth. After I hung up with the midwife, I dropped to my hands and knees for the next contraction because it suddenly got more intense. I called her shortly afterward as contractions continued to intensify, and we agreed to meet in 40 mins at the birth center. By the time I got in the car I was crying, sweating like crazy, and saying “remind me to never do this again!” I was in transition in the car! I was playing my labor playlist by this point and “King of My Heart” (by John Mark McMillan and his wife) started to play, which helped so much. That was one of my favorite, most calming songs the weeks leading up to giving birth.
Thankfully it’s only a 10 minute drive to the birth center, but I had 4 contractions during the trip and I arrived completely dilated. My back was aching during the last few contractions and I had whoever was closest by give me counterpressure on my back while I lay in bed for a few minutes. The counterpressure helped tremendously! I never knew about that during my first daughter’s labor, and I wish I had because it made the back labor pain much more bearable.
The birth tub filled up quickly and I relaxed as my back pain eased once I got in. I’d been feeling contractions in my back and my stomach – they wrapped around me like a hug. I felt ready to push, but I kept saying “I don’t want to push!” My midwife, Michelle, said just what I needed to hear: “You don’t have to, your body will do it for you.” And she was right! My water broke at 2:12pm with a loud “pop” and my body kept pushing with contractions. I was moaning through them, making so much noise Judith came in to see what was going on! She calmed down after she saw me and I talked to her during a break in contractions, and she ran back out to play. When I gave birth to her two years ago, I was so quiet the midwives had to encourage me to make noise. It was so different this time around!
I was surprised how clear the difference was between contractions and breaks where I’d feel more comfortable as my muscles relaxed; I didn’t remember feeling that relief last time. During breaks, I’d look at my vision board which had a quote saying “I enjoy the birth of my baby” and “Birth is joyous” and reading that helped me stay strong and happy. It sounds crazy, but I really was enjoying the birth of my baby! My husband cracked a few jokes during breaks in contractions during the pushing stage, and I laughed or told him to “hush!” depending on what he said. I was expecting to be super angry if he tried to make me laugh, so I was pleasantly surprised that I was still being polite 😉
Michelle soon told me if I reached down I could feel my baby’s head. I was in shock, because it had only been 5 hours since my first contraction! When I felt Annabelle’s head it helped me keep going and emotionally stay stronger. We told Judith her sister was coming and brought her in to watch. Annabelle was born just 20 minutes after my water broke, at 2:30pm. Her head and shoulders came out pretty easily, but her tummy got stuck (of all things!) and I didn’t feel like pushing at all so I asked Michelle to help pull her out from under her arms. Just like Judith’s delivery, I didn’t tear or need stitches. I sat in the tub, snuggling with Annabelle, completely shocked by how fast her birth was. We had only been at the birth center for 45 minutes before she was born!
Judith’s first look at her new sister!
Annabelle was very quiet and sleepy, it took her several minutes to let out her first cry. The cord kept pulsating for a long time, so we let it keep putting that blood into her system and she started to turn nice and pink. Her cord was so short I could pull her up just barely far enough to nurse but no farther. I kept carefully rearranging my hold on her to keep her out of the water and tried not to tug on the cord! When my placenta was delivered, the midwife told me it was super heavy compared to most placentas. We discovered the cord was attached to it on one end instead of in the center, with some giant blood vessels.
Daddy’s first time holding Annabelle <3
Annabelle weighed 9lb. 2oz. – that’s 6oz. more than her big sister had at birth! Learning this only added to my surprise at how quickly and easily she’d been born. This time around, my body is recovering so much better already. I’m much less achy and swollen and sore than I was after my first daughter’s 18 hour labor. I never had to use my peri bottle while going to the bathroom because I don’t have any pain down there! This was totally unexpected because I relied so much on my peri bottle and frozen pads for weeks last time. The after pains were worse, but only for the first two days, then they significantly tapered off. I am so amazed at what my body is capable of!
I think a few things made a big difference in labor and recovery this time. I didn’t do any of these things listed below (except use the reduce bleeding blend) during Judith’s pregnancy or labor, because I was a little afraid of causing more intense or effective contractions. But I think the quick labor helped prevent a lot of the inflammation and pain that I had last time, because there was no time for swelling to happen from sitting around or pushing for long. This time around, I wanted things to go quickly, gently, and easily (that was my mantra during pregnancy whenever I thought or prayed about labor) so I did several things to encourage more effective contractions:
• drank 1 qt. organic, loose leaf red raspberry leaf tea (steeped 4 t./quart for 10 mins, covered) each day for 4-5 weeks before labor. Sometimes I added 2 nettle teabags to this.
• applied Clary Sage 3x during the first 2-3 hours of contractions
• took alfalfa capsules a few weeks before delivery
• ate 1/4 c. chia seeds daily the last 7-10 days before labor (I was craving chia pudding for breakfast, so this was an accident! Chia seeds are very anti-inflammatory and contain iron, calcium, and a host of other benefits. Maybe they helped reduce swelling?)
• did many hip circles on the exercise ball and pelvic tilts 4-5 weeks before labor (not only did this help my joints feel better, but it may have helped get Annabelle in a great position for labor and open my hips)
• epsom salt bath almost every night during pregnancy (this was mostly for helping my muscles and joints relax, which can help the pelvis relax during labor)
• applied midwife Stephanie Fritz’s “reduce bleeding blend” of essential oils for about 4 weeks before delivery
So there we have it! I’d love to hear your birth stories in the comments as well. Feel free to share this post with a friend interested in med-free or water birth, and if they have more questions I’d be happy to answer them. Comment here or email me at [email protected] with any questions.