DISCLAIMER: This is a birth story and is a somewhat detailed recollection. If that’s not your thing, skip on over 😉 Also, I share the intensity of the birth in this blog so if you’re healing from a difficult birth or are pregnant and afraid to give birth, please be aware ❤
Ironically Mother’s Day falls on the same day as Teddy’s first birthday this year. I thought that now would be as good a time as ever to share his birth story. I’ve been sitting on it because it has literally taken me a year to finish writing it. Partly because I’ve procrastinated but also because it’s been really emotional for me to revisit my birth experience with him. It’s still burned in my memory just as Everett’s is but I know that with time, the details will become harder to remember. It’s so important to me to have these to come back and read one day. So without further adieu.
Oh that last month of pregnancy. Somehow hours begin to feel like days and days begin to feel like weeks. Marked by discomfort and anticipation and on the cusp of being in the throes of labor, you’re ready. So ready. You simply can’t wait for your long awaited babe to be placed in your arms and to start loving them and caring for them on the outside. I really enjoy my pregnancies and loved every second of carrying both of my babies. It’s such a beautiful journey and miracle to be able to participate in. The last few months were spent going to and from the chiropractor’s office, rolling my hips on a birth ball, doing forward leaning inversions and any and every spinning babies technique to ensure optimal positioning and to give myself the best chance at having a shorter and maybe even an easier labor this time?
My ‘due date’ was calculated to be May 4, 2016. May 4 came and went. Everything was fine. Baby was healthy and I was feeling really well other than the sheer exhaustion and general aches and pains that accompany those last few weeks of pregnancy. I had been having braxton hicks contractions for weeks but they had yet to get longer and stronger and the pattern was still so inconsistent. So we waited (somewhat) patiently for this little one of ours to make his debut. I read birth affirmations and positive birth stories, nested, packed our bags and we enjoyed a few date nights and time with Everett before we added another little bird to our nest. Over the course of the next few days (which then stretched into a week), we took long walks, I bounced on my birth ball, ate all the spicy food and pineapple, had a labor stim massage and tried just about any other ‘natural labor induction’ method that you and google could possibly think of.
Baby boy was undoubtedly cozy.
At my 41 week appointment with my midwife, we had a non stress test and an ultrasound to check fluid- everything looked and sounded good. At that point, we discussed some other methods of natural labor induction. I had to go back for another NST in two days so my husband and I decided to give it until then before we made any decisions. I was now 9 days over my calculated due date and desperate to not have to go the medical induction route.
On Friday morning (May 13), Ben and I dropped Everett off with my parents and we headed to Statesville for our appointment at Natural Beginnings Birth Center. We had another NST and my midwife checked my cervix. I was about 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. We decided to have her do a membrane sweep to try and get things moving along. As we were leaving, one of the girls in the office said “What do you have going on this weekend?” and I responded with “I better be here having a baby!” We all laughed and she joked that she was looking for that exact answer!
Ben and I started toward Charlotte. We made a stop to eat lunch and then went and walked at Target to pick up some last minute things we needed. I was starting to have some really intense cramping followed by bloody show and was definitely feeling like something was starting to happen.
We arrived back home and I made a little concoction to drink that included the infamous and oh so delectable (insert gag face) castor oil, downed it as quickly as I could and laid down to take a nap. Contractions woke me up! These were feeling like some good ones and so my husband and I started timing them. They were 4-5 mins apart and lasting about a minute to a minute and a half. It all started feeling familiar. Labor was officially starting! I texted my midwife to give her a heads up.
We called our videographers because we knew they wanted to get some footage of us laboring at home before we headed to the birth center. They arrived at around 7 PM. They filmed for a little bit and headed home to get rest before we called them to meet us for the birth and we went to grab dinner at Panera.
By the time we arrived at Panera, I was having some pretty intense contractions and had to stop in the middle of my order to breathe through one. The workers looked a little disconcerted that I was in labor and ordering dinner. Carry on, folks. Nothing to see here 😉 The man taking our order said “Oh shoot! She’s about to have that baby right up in here.” We laughed, grabbed a seat and waited for our food. I tried to eat but started really feeling powerful contractions and began to lose my appetite. We headed back home as they started to close the restaurant (10PM).
Things started to really pick up at around 11:30 PM. Ben called our doula and my sister to go ahead and come over. My contractions were getting closer together and were definitely becoming longer and stronger. Shelly (our doula) arrived shortly after and she and Ben were coaching me beautifully through each one, applying counter pressure to my lower back and we laughed and talked in between. I remember my house being immaculate (I did some mega nesting beforehand) and being so happy that we didn’t have to bring the baby home to a messy house! My sister arrived as I had invited her to attend my birth since she was pregnant with her first baby. Things were officially happening! I labored on my birth ball a lot and when I started doing more vocalizing, my doula suggested we go ahead and call Nicole (our midwife). Nicole suggested I get in the tub and see if they intensify. And they did. I labored in the tub for a little while and at around 2:30 AM, Ben called Nicole and we headed toward the birth center.
Upon arriving, my midwife checked me and I was 5 cm dilated! We were greeted with so much love, excitement and smiles from our INCREDIBLE birth team. The ball was officially rolling. They began to fill the birth pool and I was getting eager to meet my baby boy. I labored pretty hard all hours of the night and felt certain that I would be delivering my baby before the sun crept up.
Until the sun came up… and my arms were empty.
Seeing the rays peer through the window and not having a baby in my arms was such a difficult moment for me. I think that was when my tears began to fall endlessly. I was about 7-8 cm at this point and my contractions were spreading out but they were oh so intense. One of the incredible birth workers, Meliea had me try multiple positions to help get baby engaged- hands and knees, peanut ball, curb stepping, lunging, squatting, side lying, rebozo lift- YOU NAME IT, WE DID IT.
My labor was primarily in my back and my contractions were becoming harder to handle and more excruciating. I was feeling exhausted, so defeated and was finding it difficult to cope through the intense pain I was experiencing in my lower back. Being submerged in water helped but it also felt like it wasn’t doing it’s job to help me relax. So we tried the shower and for some reason, hot water sprayed directly on my lower back/tailbone was really helpful.
The weather that morning was exceptionally beautiful and my midwife suggested that maybe I try to go outside and get some fresh air as well as do some walking.
As I was walking out of the room, my dear friend, Christan showed up. She embraced me and spoke the sweetest words to me. Christan is such a kindred spirit to mine and has been there for me through so much, not to mention, she is an incredibly gifted massage therapist and she specializes in working on pregnant women. Her touch is so healing.
The midwives noticed that my back was bulging and that possibly due to the positioning of the baby, my sacrum and/or coccyx might be protruding. The back labor I was experiencing was so excruciating that counter pressure was entirely necessary. Christan used her hands to help me. She offered firm yet gentle pressure and loving words. At one point, she and Nicole were both using their hands to bring relief to my back.
I remember feeling so bad that everyone had been up all night with me and that a baby hadn’t come by morning. The morning started dragging into early afternoon. Time was inching by. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I kept checking in with my pregnant sister to see if she had eaten and napped and was apologizing to everyone that it was taking so long. That nurturing instinct was in high gear 😉
I remember laboring in the birth pool at one point as Shelly (my doula) was feeding me beef jerky. I looked at her and Ben through tear filled eyes and said,
“I really need my baby“.
“He will be here soon, Amber. You’re doing so amazing!”
“No, I need my baby. I need my Everett.”
Shelly suggested that Ben call my parents to bring Everett to me. Maybe I needed the emotional release. Maybe I just needed to see him and hold him one more time before life changed so drastically and we welcomed another child into our heart and homes.
There is something so special about the child who made you a momma. The night before my appointment to have the membrane sweep, I climbed into Everett’s crib, hugely pregnant. I cried onto his little blonde head and held him tight. My baby. He suddenly seemed so big. Where had time gone? How were things changing so fast?
Everett walked into the room not too long after my request for him and the peace and joy I felt in seeing him was so healing and rejuvenating. My sweet first baby.
He ran in and wrapped his little arms around my neck.
“Mommy, THAT’S A BIG BATH!”
His little smile and voice warmed my heart immediately and gave me an instant burst of energy. I’m so grateful for that moment and I will remember it for as long as I live.
I continued to labor. Minutes dragged into more hours. I was dilating but the baby just wasn’t engaging.
Was this emotional? Was it mental? Was I doing something wrong?
Self doubt engulfed me.
“What is wrong? Why can’t I do this? Why is this so hard? I’ve done this before- this should be easy. Second babies should come fast. Why can’t I do this? Everyone is tired. It’s taking too long.”
Meliea suggested that Ben and I be left alone for a little while and for me to try to rest in between the surges of contractions. She mentioned me being too tired at this point and that I needed to try and regain some strength. Everyone vacated the room and Ben laid down with me, said a prayer over me and held me as I tried to cope through the waves and rest in between.
After about 20-30 minutes of that, I was at my wits end. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was exhausted and so confused as to why I didn’t have a baby in my arms yet. I was either quitting and going home or someone was going to have to just cut me open and prove to me that a baby was in my abdomen.
I needed to stand up and be in the shower.
“Babe, I really can’t do this anymore- I have to get up. I can’t do it. I’m done. I need help.”
Ben asked the Midwives to come back in and I got in the shower while he used the shower head to spray water straight on my back. The pressure was so intense and the breaks in between seemed to be getting shorter.
“THIS HAS TO BE TRANSITION. THIS HAS TO BE THE END.”
It felt like I had been in an eternal transition.
My midwife offered to break my water- I was hesitant. Yet desperate. I sat down and let her check me, I was near complete but had a cervical lip. When I stood up, my bag of waters spontaneously ruptured. Baby was coming. It was happening. I made my way back to the bed and started having expulsive contractions but it felt very different from Everett’s. With Everett, I couldn’t NOT push. This felt intense and there was undoubtedly pressure but I didn’t feel like my body was fully doing it’s job. I felt like it was still failing me. It was tired. I was just so tired. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
I will never forget the Midwives looking at me and saying
“We know you are so exhausted but you HAVE to reach down deep within you and find your strength. You have to go to the depths of yourself. It’s there. You have it. YOU CAN DO THIS. We believe that you can do this, Amber!”
I had a playlist going and the song “It is Well” was playing. My tears fell profusely and I made a conscious decision.
I had to do this. I could do this. I was made to have babies. He would come and I would have him in my arms.
Quite honestly, giving birth is the most present I can ever remember being. The inwardness and self awareness is extremely powerful and hard to explain.
I had done this before. I COULD do it again. I was doing it.
I desperately needed to hear those words. I needed the boost of confidence. I needed the belief and empowerment.
Contractions came intensely and I bared down with each one, trying to hold my breath and focus on pushing but the pain was so intense that all I could do was vocalize. I screamed.
Fear rushed in. It hurt. I couldn’t. It was too hard. It was too much. Too intense. Too hard. Too painful. Too scary.
Nicole and Meliea looked at me and said “BREATHE and bare down, Amber. BREATHE.”
I couldn’t. I was panicking. It really hurt.
“You don’t understand. I feel like I’m being torn in two!”
“We know but he’s almost here! We can see him!”
Hearing those words gave me the extra energy I needed and in just a few more pushes, he was OUT.
At 3:34 pm. Theodore Sullivan Rhodes was born onto my chest. He was here! All 7 lbs and 13 oz of him. He was real. He was here. It was over.
“You’re here. You’re here. Oh you were so worth it! Hi!”
I couldn’t believe it. I looked over at Ben and tears were streaming down his face. The look of joy and relief on his face I will never ever forget.
He told me shortly after the birth how hard it was on him. He was so strong for me, by my side continually and so encouraging and supportive. He was my rock. The intensity of the labor and birth really affected him and he was probably just as relieved (if not more) as I to be on the other side.
Our boy was here! Healthy and whole. He gave us the most beautiful cry and we marveled at his perfection and beauty. So alert and just so magnificently beautiful.
Bliss washed over me. Until the contractions came in more waves. (Postpartum contractions after a second baby are much more intense than the first btw 😉 But it hardly mattered. We were finally on the other side.
We did it.
Everett came to meet his baby brother and brought him a Teddy Bear he picked out. The four of us piled in the bed together and my heart soared. We stayed at the birth center for a few hours and I remember wanting so badly to go home yet also not wanting to leave.
It was the end of an era. The Natural Beginnings staff has become so close to our hearts as we have been through both pregnancies and deliveries with them. I really can’t say enough wonderful things about their care, compassion and love.
It took me a year to finish writing this birth story. I have sat down multiple times to write and could only write little bits at a time. It’s still vivid. So vivid. I’ve come to some conclusions as to why it was so difficult but I can’t be completely sure. Maybe my babies just REALLY enjoy my womb a little too much 😉
In any case, I’m beyond grateful to my amazing birth team and to the people who believed in me, provided me a safe place to labor as I needed to and closely monitored baby and I. There are times when I look back and think if I had been somewhere else, I could have easily been induced, had unwanted interventions or been forced into a c-section.
This birth was hard, yes but it was also empowering and beautiful. I didn’t come away feeling traumatized or disappointed. I felt loved, safe, cared for, empowered and supported so compassionately through every high and low.
I can’t believe it’s been one year since our Teddy graced us with his presence. He has added such an amazing element to our family. His sweetness is a blessing and his big blue eyes melt me everyday. It’s a privilege to be the one he calls momma and I would go through every bit of pain and discomfort all over again for this precious little one.
A special thank you to Natural Beginnings Birth and Wellness Center for being so wonderful and caring for our growing family so well. We are so blessed to be apart of the NB family. And a big thank you to Impressions by Emily Nicole for documenting my pregnancy, birth, our newborn and Teddy’s first year so incredibly beautifully for us.
Below you can view our birth video:
Happy Birthday, my sweet boy! Life is richer with you in it ❤