For the birth of my third baby, I decided I would do things a little differently. My first was born via cesarean and my second was a VBAC. While I was thrilled with the outcome of the second birth, I felt that something was missing. I was so focused on having a vaginal delivery that I didn’t prepare for the intensity of labor and felt like I wasn’t an active participant in the birth with the epidural.
Once I became pregnant again, I decided to spend the pregnancy focusing on setting myself up for an unmedicated birth. I researched pain management techniques, maintaining a high level of fitness, managing weight gain, and delivery options. I decided on a water birth, chose a supportive OB, and hired a doula. I continued running and spinning, drank copious amount of pregnancy tea, and consumed so many dates that I could barely stand it. I was ready to do this!
4 days past my due date around 6 pm, I had a contraction while preparing dinner. I just knew I should start timing them, and they were about 10 minutes apart. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to create a false sense of excitement. I wanted to labor while everyone slept. No distractions, no audience! Around 10, my son came into our room. Rather than let him climb into bed with us, I put him back to sleep in his room which was unusual. I knew that if I was in labor, I needed him to be in his own space. When I got back to our room, my husband knew something was happening. I explained to him that the contractions had started coming around 5 minutes apart around 11, and we decided to get a little more sleep. The contractions weren’t painful and the plan was to labor at home as long as possible. By 1 am, I called my doula to give her a heads up. She suggested I try to get some more rest.
I got back in bed and was able to sleep through contractions for awhile, but anticipating the next contraction was becoming stressful. In preparation for my impending waterbirth, I decided to get into the bath to see if it would help me relax. I got into the tub, and the contractions started increasing in intensity. They were coming in 3 minute intervals, but I wasn’t worried. With my son’s labor, they were at 2 minute intervals for hours before delivery. I assumed I was around 4 cm dilated based on my other births. I was trying to make comparisons to judge when we should leave for the hospital.
The tub was wonderful, but not quite deep enough so I was pouring hot water over my belly trying to get comfortable through contractions. They were manageable, but requiring effort to focus. I noticed that when I changed positions, another contraction would come. In some silly way, I felt like it was messing up my contraction pattern. Now they were 1.5 to 3 minutes apart and getting hard to manage, mostly because I couldn’t get in a comfortable position in the tub. I started thinking that we should call the doula and that if we waited much longer, the car ride would be miserable. At 2:35 am, my husband called the doula and I decided to get in the shower while he loaded the car and let the dogs out.
I got into the shower, and I liked the change of comfort measure. I put my hands on the wall, leaned forward and let the water hit my lower back. It really helped, but the contractions were getting stronger very quickly. I started thinking about vocalizing. I admit, I was sort of embarrassed doing it even in the privacy of my own home. But, it was supposed to help, and things were starting to hurt pretty badly so I went with it. Then doubt started creeping in. I wasn’t sure about my ability to follow through with an unmedicated birth.
Suddenly, things changed. I got hot and nauseated and had a strange disassociated sensation. I don’t know what went through my head, but I opened the shower door and got down on my hands and knees. My body was on auto-pilot for the most intense contractions I’ve ever felt. All I could do was repeat, “Oh, God. Oh, God! Help me, Jesus. Help me, Jesus.” After what felt like an eternity, my husband walked in. My chant changed to, “Help me, Josh!” He applied counterpressure to my back until I gained a little composure. I told him I needed to get back in the tub. I had no idea how I was going to get it together and get to the hospital, but I needed out of the shower. I took one step out of the shower, and it hit me. The “I need to use the bathroom” sensation you read about when you need to push. I stood there for a second contemplating whether I should go to the toilet but settled on the tub. I knew what was happening. At 2:48, my husband called our doula and asked what to do. Of course, she advised him to call 911, but it took him a few seconds to process what was happening. I told him I had to push and the baby was coming and she told him to get off the phone and call 911 immediately. At 2:49, he dialed 911 and put the phone on speaker. I did a little test push to see if it alleviated the pain and if it was the baby I was feeling when I realized it was coming now! I pushed the rest of the head out involuntarily. I never felt the “ring of fire”, but pushing was definitely a relief! The operator talked by husband through the process, but my body was in overdrive and instinct took over for me. A few pushes later, my baby was born at 2:50 am. At home, in my bathtub, into my husband’s hands, and placed on my chest.
We didn’t know the sex and were in such shock, it took us several minutes to remember to check. We had a perfectly healthy baby girl. It was the most surreal experience of my life. Ten minutes later, the fire department and EMTs arrived to cut the cord, take vitals, and load us into the ambulance. My mother and two older children slept through the entire thing. My new daughter and I went on to meet my doctor and doula at the hospital while my husband followed. All I needed was two stitches and another shower! It was by far my easiest delivery and recovery. Although the circumstances weren’t ideal, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Everything happened perfectly, and the end result was a beautiful, unexpected birth.
Jamie is the 33 year old mother to Lillian (5), Bronson (3) and Georgia (8 weeks). She was born in Texas but raised in Louisiana, and attended Parkview Baptist and LSU. She and her husband Joshua were married in 2007. She is a stay at home mom that telecommutes for her husband’s company. In her free time she enjoys running, gardening, and spending time with family. She is passionate about cesarean awareness and VBAC advocacy. The beautiful pictures were taken by photographer Kimberly Meng.