Mary's Second Birth Story
This time, my birth experience was an all around positive experience. The labor itself was fast & hard, but not so fast to where I felt out of control. My Midwives timed this birth to be about 5 1/2 hours from the first sign of contractions to when baby came out. To me, the real work lasted about 3 hours. My last birth was a marathon, ending with 6 hours of pushing. This time, 35 minutes of gentle spontaneous pushing was all it took. However, this was not a dreamy birth, a pain free birth or a birth without fear. I had a lot to work through birthing with Post Traumatic Stress from my first experience and the slow stressful days that got us to the labor itself.
The Days Leading Up To My Birth
Friday night (June 29th) I was pretty sure my water was leaking just before midnight. The fluid was clear, I had no fever, there was no foul odor or signs of infection, so I decided it was best to go to sleep and rest before labor kicked in. I tried, but I couldn’t rest. My mind was racing. At 2:00am, I called one of my Midwives, hoping she could settle my mind. She told me I had made the right decision and rest was best. Her words provided the comfort I was seeking, so finally, I was able to go to sleep. I woke up the next morning still without contractions. Little did I know, it would be almost 72 hours until my labor would finally begin.
Over the next 3 days, my Midwives frequently visited my home, monitoring baby and I. My husband and I would count movements, listen with a doppler (A Doppler fetal monitor is a hand-held ultrasound transducer used to detect the fetal heartbeat for prenatal care. It uses the Doppler effect to provide an audible simulation of the heart beat. ), check my temperature and blood pressure, and watch the color and odor of my fluids. My Doula, (Michelle Howell), would visit and attend discussions about my care. My daughter’s sibling support Doula, (Alison Feese), would come spend time with her during the confusing waiting period. I’d prepared for the last minute change of plans of having a back up Birth Photographer, because my dear friend and Birth Photographer, Samantha Steen of Samantha Steen Birth Stories + Film, was with her husband who needed emergency brain surgery (you read that right). While waiting, we monitored the situation closely with lots of questions and many discussions about benefits, risks, alternatives and evidence. I looked up Cochrane reviews, watched evidence-based Birth videos on Premature Rupture of Membranes and induction options. These are all topics I’m well versed in as an educator, but in those days, I needed to find comfort deep in the research in order to quiet my mind.
Although waiting was not comforting, I kept the situation to myself and my birth team, telling only my mom and brother that my water was leaking. I stayed home and protected my space. My husband had to inform his family, friends and coworkers of the impending birth, because he had chosen to be with me instead of working on the farm or in his shop. The few times I ventured out of my quiet space, I could feel the energy of everyone's worry and stress around the farm, despite all my efforts to remain positive. I chose to retreat back to the solitude of my quiet space, where I felt safe and so was better able to encourage positive thoughts.
On Day 3 (July 2nd) I kicked my husband out of the house. His hovering was making me feel nervous. I centered myself, and found my calm nature that I knew was still there inside. I had a one-on-one discussion in my quiet space with one of my Midwives about where I was emotionally & physically. I decided to do what I could at home to encourage labor to begin. Not because my baby was in any danger, or because I wasn’t willing to wait. but because my family couldn’t take many more hours or days of worrying. For everyone’s mental health, it was time to encourage labor. While being monitored by my Midwives, I used a series of home remedies (such as herbal tinctures) that won’t induce labor, but will encourage labor if your body is ready.
When Labor Began
On July 2nd, 2018, just as the hot summer sun was setting, and it was finally cool outside, my real birth story began. I had felt a need to move, to get outside. My body needed help encouraging labor. Together with my daughter and our two Doulas, I began to walk down the uneven gravel road. We walked and talked, together hoping for the sporadic contractions I had just started to feel would culminate into a labor pattern. When I felt tired, I went inside to rest for a minute, then returned to walking, but this time alone with my husband. We walked hand in hand, down our gravel drive sharing a few moments of time together in quiet solitude. Just as we neared the end of the drive Sam (my friend and Birth Photographer) had arrived. Her husband had just been released from the hospital, but she came straight to me after getting him settled in with family. With her sacrifice I felt the caring support around me finally become a circle. It was almost time.
Once back in the house, I felt relief as I looked around at my family and my entire birth team. It was in that moment that I finally felt the much anticipated contractions that signaled the true beginning of labor. My Midwives checked on both my vitals and baby's before going to the guest room to rest before active labor began. My daughter fell asleep in our bed, and I invited everyone to hangout with me in the bedroom. Les Brown curled up with Marley Ann and I laid next to them resting. Sitting around the room and on the bed were my two Doulas and my Birth Photographer. We chatted and laughed a lot. The belly laughs seemed to bring on harder contractions, and before I knew it, I was having to work hard through them. An hour had gone by and one of my Midwives came to check on me. Baby and I were doing good and a labor pattern was appearing, but she felt if I could rest I should to be rested during labor.
When she left, I discussed with my support team that the idea of sleeping felt discouraging. The idea of sending everyone home was heartbreaking and I didn’t want to rest when I had contractions going. Everyone offered to go to the living room while I rested, but we continued to talk and laugh in my room. Not long after, time became a blur. Despite all the waiting and anticipating, everything happened so fast. I could of course look at my Midwives' labor notes for the exact times, but exact times don’t matter. I went from breathing through contractions to moaning through them. I walked the house, made a couple trips to empty my bladder and waited on the toilet for contractions to encourage dilation. I eventually ended up back in the bed side-lying and needing to hold hands with my Doula and husband to get through each surge. My Doula encouraged me to get up, and when I felt these contractions while standing I pleaded, “I want the pool!”.
The midwives entered the room, Les and Alison started filling the birth pool, Sam got out her camera and Michelle held me as I labored. When I needed Les, he was there to hold me and support me. When Les was busy tending to the pool, Michelle was there so that I was never without a support person. During the preparations, there was a humorous moment where my mind failed me. I had began to put on a brand new sports bra I had bought just for the water birth and suddenly, I couldn’t figure out how to get it over my head. It proved we could still find reasons to laugh between the most intense contractions. The random humor was helpful in this moment of apprehension and expectation. Standing beside the pool I said in disbelief, “I think I’m already in transition”. My Doula said, “I think you could be too”. My Birth Photographer (who is also a Doula) agreed. My daughter’s Doula seemed to share the same thought. Despite everyone being in agreement, still I worried, wondering if we could all be wrong.
Once in the pool everything moved so fast. The intensity was indescribable. It wasn’t pain really, but instead a level of sensation I had never felt before. I tried to describe it between contractions, “It’s just ALL the sensations. It’s EVERYTHING!”.
As the time passed, I would lie my head on the side of the pool to rest between contractions. When they returned, I’d go to my knees holding my Doulas hand on one side and my husbands on the other. I found strength in their support, a focal point of energy between the two of them as I’d work through each surge of pain. During one contraction, I lost control and lost my deep moan and I remember after that saying, “I want to do better next time”. I was determined. As I waited for that next contraction, I prepared my mind and when it hit, I focused all my energy down with a deep moan, working hard to keep in control with the tools i’ve gathered over the years.
There are so many lessons I could pull from my second birth story. Most importantly, I want everyone who reads this to know it wasn’t easy. When it came time to push, I was not without fear. I was not confident in my ability. I recall between contractions saying to my Doula, “I don’t want to do this...I can’t do this...It won't fit!”. There were moments where my mind wasn’t even in the room anymore. I was back in that hospital room where I lost all control 4 years ago. I was fighting between two worlds as I worked to leave that trauma behind me and be present for this baby...in this place of comfort, support and understanding.
The things I said during labor, were all the things I didn’t get to say the first time I birthed such as: “Make it stop!” or “I don’t want to!” I was never suffering this time at home despite my words. I was working hard physically and emotionally, but I never suffered or felt out of control. When I rose up in pain against my Doula and my husband they remained calm and didn’t rise back up against me.
When I said “I can’t” they said “you are”. When I said "make it stop" they said “relief is coming soon”. Nobody rushed me or told me to push. I had zero cervical checks. Nobody told me what position to be in. My baby and my body told me what to do. I did say to my birth team, “I feel like I need to poop (generally means it's time to push) and I know what you’re going to say that means, but I don’t want to.” One midwife gently said, “just push when you are ready”. This time, I had the freedom to birth in my own way.
I can’t recall if it was the next contraction or a few later, but I recall suddenly looking to the ceiling as my whole body began bearing down involuntarily, and that did feel like a great relief. I needed my body to work for me. I wasn’t confident in my ability to push a baby out. I had to let go and trust my body, but with each contraction my body found a way.
Not long after instinct took over. I let go of my Doula's hands to put my hands in the water. She nodded as if to say, “it’s ok” and I put my hands on my baby’s head. I felt my baby caught between two worlds, and suddenly my battle ended. I was there in my home and nobody was touching me or my baby except me. I looked to my Midwives and said, “I want to catch my own baby”. A gentle nod and affirmation was all I needed. With the next contraction I said “It burns!” and my Midwife reminded me to ease baby out, but I had to push through the burning. I blew, blew, blew sending as much energy out my mouth as I could to be sure my baby gently entered the world. And with that, relief came. The sweetest and most satisfying relief I’ve ever felt.
I had not just birthed my baby, but caught baby with my own hands. I had confronted demons and won. Surrounded by those most important to me, I found the inner strength I had lost.
I held baby to my chest. I felt the thick layer of vernix, smelled the sweet aroma of the newly born head and suddenly the battle I had just won felt so far in the past. As if it was already years in the distance.
When I laid down in bed, with my baby still on my chest, I broke down in tears of pure joy and relief. For now, I was in a safe place, free from the grasp of the painful trauma from the past. Free from the risk of my baby being taken from me before I could bond. In that moment, feeling such peace and strength, all I could say to explain my tears was, “nobody’s gonna take my baby away."
Official Birth Announcement
Name: Olen Wiley John Brown (We call him Wiley)
Date: Tuesday, July 3rd, at 1:45am
Weight: 8lbs 3oz and 23inches long
It took us a week to name baby! We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl and hadn’t picked any names. We chose the name Olen in honor of the 4 generations of Olen Browns who came before him. Wiley is in honor of Wiley Brown who was the first Brown to farm in Allen County, Ky over 200 years ago. John is for my baby brother John Duke. Online he will be known as #dukebrownbro
His big sister Marley Ann (#babydukebrown) was beyond excited to meet brother. She slept through a lot of the labor, but was awake and able to see the birth of Wiley. She has been enamored with him since.