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On October 12th, 2013 Remy and I woke up around 9:00am, had some breakfast, and headed to Fort Lauderdale for my 3rd and final acupuncture appointment with Doctor Claire in hopes that she could help me open the channels necessary for labor to begin. I was 41 weeks pregnant and growing more anxious by the hour- partly because I was so excited to meet our baby and partly because I was so terrified that I might have to face a medical induction if the baby didn’t come soon. It was a strange place to be in because I felt so confident in my body’s ability to birth my baby naturally yet I was starting to accept the idea that maybe it wouldn’t. With all the tension and doubt swirling around in my mind, something about that morning felt very surreal and very peaceful. The appointment went really well and afterward Remy and I decided to go to the beach since we were so close. The acupuncture had left more of a resonating feeling this time but still no signs of labor.
We splashed around in the ocean for an hour or so and took some photos of my HUGE belly while passersby made remarks like, “Geez! Twins?!” Umm no just one baby who’s in no apparent hurry! The rest of the day we spent taking it easy and trying to figure out where we could get the spiciest food in South Florida but we ended up going out to eat at a place we both like called Bash where I had a big salad and Remy had a big portabello burger and the waitress joked that she was afraid I was going to go into labor at her table. After dinner we stopped at Publix to get a Redbox movie, still no signs of labor. We started the movie around 11:00pm and roughly an hour later I realized that I had been resituating myself every so often for some reason. Then I realized that I kept resituating myself about every 10-12 minutes. Hmmm. It just felt like stronger than usual period cramps and since I’d had this exact feeling happen a couple of times for the previous two weeks I was hesitant to get excited just yet. None the less, at 1:00am on October 13th I was pretty confident that this was the real deal so I told Remy and then we both got really excited and stayed awake for another 2 hours timing the contractions just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating my own labor. Sure enough, they were every ten minutes and then they were every 8 minutes and it was so great! I knew I needed to get some sleep so we laid down around 3:00am. Admittedly, I was scared to fall asleep because up until this point my prodromal labor had always stopped during the night and I didn’t think I could handle another false alarm. I woke up at 5:30am in a sleepy daze to use the restroom and while I was on the toilet I popped awake instantly when I felt another contraction! Even stronger than the ones just hours before. I knew it was for real and it was more exciting than Christmas for a 5 year old!
I battled in my head whether I should alert anyone just yet because although the contractions were stronger they were still 8 minutes apart and very manageable. Nothing that could be called painful just yet. I call this stage “fun labor.” I couldn’t contain myself so I sent a text to my mom, sister, brother, and grandma telling them that labor had officially begun. It was 5:45am. I knew I really should’ve been sleeping but I was so incredibly excited that I stayed up talking to my mom and writing in the journal I’d been keeping for the baby until about 7:30am. I slept again until about 9:30, giving me a grand total of 4.5 hours of sleep. I was so high on “fun labor” that I didn’t feel tired at all so Remy and I began our nesting marathon which would involve cleaning, grocery shopping, re-cleaning, cooking, and baking birthday cupcakes. At 10:00am I had my bloody show- which only jacked me up more. I was ecstatic. Lost in a bubble that was just me and my baby getting ready to finally behold each other face to face. I lost the whole mucus plug around 1:00pm, just after we got done grocery shopping. I remember loving that I was in labor and no one at Whole Foods knew it but Remy and myself. We were on cloud nine. Contractions at this point were coming every 6-7 minutes and getting stronger but still nothing that I couldn’t easily deal with. At 3:30, we took our midwife, Corina’s advice and went for a walk to help coax the baby down a little lower. During the walk the contractions started coming 5 minutes apart. We were making progress! We came home and showered then I put on my Hypnobabies meditations and rested/listened to those until about 6:30. Around 7:00pm I made a vegetable lasagna and we danced to 60s pop music as my contractions started coming every 2-3 minutes. Still, I couldn’t say that they hurt or anything. I just danced right through them. After dinner we made some really yummy birthday cupcakes and watched a couple episodes of Cheers on Netflix. My contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, lasting 30 seconds, and gaining strength. I also noticed that I was leaking fluid around this time. For the next couple of hours Remy and I just enjoyed each other and talked and meditated and as my contractions grew stronger they required more of my attention so Remy would rub my head and my face as I breathed through them. At this point it was apparent that the 4.5 hours of sleep I got the night before would be the only sleep I got. I tried to sleep but the contractions were too intense so I just rested in between them. Around 11:30pm, I notified Corina that the contractions were lasing 60 seconds and that I could no longer talk through them, they required my full attention. Remy had run me a warm bath to help ease my discomfort but I only stayed in for a few minutes because I couldn’t find a position that was tolerable in the rock hard tub. An hour and a half later I told Corina it was time to come over. She was coming from Miami so I knew I would take her a little while to get to our apartment. I was nervous that I had asked her to come too soon, especially since I’d never been in labor before. She arrived around 2:30am on 10/14 and checked my vitals as well as the baby’s and we were in good shape. Corina suggested that we all lay down so that I could get some rest between contractions while I still had time. Pretty much as soon as I laid down I was back up- it seemed like the contractions kicked into high gear out of nowhere- maybe they wanted to impress the midwife.
I found myself laboring on the toilet a lot and it seemed like I had a thousand bowel movements in the three hours I spent on and off the toilet. I hated being distracted by the urge to poo so much! It was very annoying but I had been warned of this so I knew it wasn’t abnormal. Poor Remy was so amazing during this time- kneeling in front of his laboring love, feeding me water through a straw, rubbing my feet, and speaking calming affirmations to me while I’m on the toilet groaning through contractions and pooing uncontrollably in between them. That’s love. And although it was awful at the time it’s pretty funny to look back on now. The contractions were to a point now that no position felt better than the next but I seemed to like alternating between toilet labor and standing with my weight on the bathroom counter. Somewhere during this period I got nauseous and vomited quite a bit. Corina thoughtfully reminded me that vomiting actually helps open the cervix so at least I felt productive! After 3 hours of intense labor in the bathroom all I could think about in between my contractions was the birthing tub and how badly I wanted in it. Remy and Corina began setting it up while I continued to work through my waves. I found my voice to be the most helpful tool and I was surprised at the primal sounds that were bellowing out of me. Somewhere around this point I went so deeply inside of myself that all I was aware of was what was transpiring between my baby and my body. I was officially in “Laborland.”
Corina hadn’t done an internal exam yet but since I was about to get in the water she thought it would be a good idea. I remember hating being on my back during the contractions but she was pleased with what my cervix was doing although she didn’t tell me how dilated I was (later I found out I was 5cm at this point) she encouraged me that I was opening up nicely and doing a great job. Frankly, I didn’t care what my cervix was doing I just wanted in the tub! So, I got in and just like before the contractions took themselves up to the next level as soon as I hit the water. This took me by surprise because I had always heard that many times contractions will slow down for a bit when a woman gets in water. Guess I wasn’t so lucky this time. I still felt nauseous so I was holding on to a bucket with one arm and the other arm was draped over the tub holding me up. Corina suggested that Remy lay down and get some rest and he obliged so through the next hour or so Corina was the one rubbing my back and feeding me water and encouraging me through my contractions which seemed to be coming every minute and lasting 50ish seconds. Corina’s soft, knowing presence was so wonderful during this time and throughout the whole labor. She has a really beautiful energy around her which I appreciate always but especially then. After an hour and a half of laboring in the tub she checked me again and again I didn’t know until after the fact but I had opened up to 8cm in a short amount of time. I could tell by Corina’s demeanor that she was truly pleased with how I was opening and that was all I needed to know.
Soon after that internal I started to have the unbearable urge to push. Actually, it wasn’t an urge- it was a command. My body was just doing it- it was such a powerful feeling. I remember having a coherent thought that I was so grateful to be in my home without access to drugs because I knew how vulnerable I was at this point and it would have been hard to say no to an offer of numbness. Even though I was happy to be laboring the way nature intended I thought surely there was no way my body could take this much longer. Corina noticed that I was bearing down and she asked me to try some different breathing techniques during the peek of my contractions to avoid pushing just yet because she didn’t want my cervix to become swollen if I were to push before it was completely open. I did my best to heed her advice and sat in the pool flapping my lips together like a horse during contractions for what seemed like hours but was probably one hour max. This was a really hard stage for me- I remember how intense and exhausting it was to fight that urge to push. After awhile I grumbled out loud about how I could not fight the urge any longer. At this point I propped myself up on a little ledge in the pool so I was in a squatting position. Corina suggested that I stick my fingers inside of me to see if I was able to feel the baby’s head yet. I did and sure enough- there she was! I couldn’t believe it. I was very thankful for Corina’s advice to feel for myself because it definitely boosted my energy and my confidence that I could do it and that I was very close to holding my precious baby in my arms.
I had no concept of time at this point and hadn’t for a while but I started pushing and it didn’t seem like it took very long for her to start crowning. I remember being semi in awe that her head was so close to crowning after all my attempts to keep from pushing. The female body is just so amazing. Birth is so amazing. I crowned for I think about 45 minutes or an hour. This was mentally challenging because I knew I had to take it slow if I didn’t want to tear but I also knew that I could probably push with all my might and have the whole 34 hour labor over with in a matter of minutes. I remember with each wave of pressure feeling her head come out a little bit more and the burning was so intense. I definitely understand why women refer to this stage as the Ring of Fire. I remember having an internal conversation with myself wherein I accepted the fact that my yoni would never be the same. I was sure I was tearing. Remy had been in the tub with me for some time now and he was so sweet and loving during all of this intensity. In between feeding me water and coconut water he constantly thanked me for bringing our daughter into the world and although I couldn’t say much at the time, I’ll always remember hearing him softly say that and loving him more than ever in those moments. We’re a pretty great team. Finally her head came out halfway and at this point it wasn’t going back in anymore. Corina told me that with one or two more pushes I would probably have her whole head out. I was only willing to push one more time and I pushed as hard as I could when the next contraction came and just like that her head was out and her body followed almost undetectably after and before I could process that I had just given birth to my baby she was in my arms and letting out her first little cries. It was positively spectacular. She cried for a few moments and then she just gazed up into my eyes, blinking, taking it all in. I can only assume she was just as relieved to be looking at me as I was her. I’ve never felt more accomplished as a woman than in those moments holding my new baby knowing that I brought her into the world as peacefully as I could: without any drugs or interventions and just as importantly- without fear. I was and am so proud of myself and all women who take that giant leap into womanhood.
The three of us stayed in the tub for about 45 minutes just basking in the afterglow of new life just born. I will never forget that feeling of pure love and joy, it will be with me always. I’m not sure when but at some point before the birth Jamarah, Corina’s assistant, came over to help out. I remember her placing a cool cloth on my forehead during those huge contractions at the end and loving her for it! It was time to birth the placenta so Corina, Jamarah, and Remy helped Levi and I stand up and climb out of the pool. I felt so weird and wobbly standing after all the energy spent on the birth. I was very happy to have their support! I’ve never run a marathon but I imagine it was a similar mix of exhaustion and elation. The order of things is a little blurry at this point but I know Jamarah made me a sandwich that I eagerly devoured, Corina and Jamarah ate their much deserved lunch, Corina told me to push and out came the placenta, Remy cut the umbilical cord, I breastfed my beautiful daughter for the first time, Corina did Levi’s newborn exam while monitoring me, and then she checked me out to see if I had any tears down below and to my complete astonishment I was as intact as the day I was born! Hooray! The female body DOES know what it’s doing. ☺ Levi was born at 10:13am and sometime around 2 or 3:00pm Corina and Jamarah left and it was just the three of us. The rest of the day/week/month we were all just pretty much in awe of each other. So very blessed to have a healthy baby and so very excited to share our life adventures with her.
I’m beyond grateful to Corina, Jamarah, and Remington for their constant support through my pregnancy and birth. In the heat of labor it’s always comforting to know that you
are loved and encouraged even if you can’t acknowledge it at the time. I’ll never forget how incredible and powerful the birth of my first baby was or the people that were there to nurture and protect us through that sacred, magical experience.