I knew that I eventually wanted to be a midwife before I even got pregnant with Keira, but it was her birth that led me down the path of midwifery much sooner than I had initially planned. I had wanted to wait until I was done having kids and they were all in school, but I found myself called to start my midwifery schooling when she was only a few months old. My daughter and her birth changed me in many ways, and I’ll be forever grateful. To fully understand how, I have to start a little further back…
It was the end of August 2006, and I was 36 weeks pregnant. I don’t remember why, but my nurse-midwife, Marcia, wanted me to go have an ultrasound to check on the baby. During the ultrasound with the doctor, he made numerous comments about how large she was measuring. When we got to the end, he told me that she was already measuring 8 pounds, and that with me being a 5’5” medium build first-time mom, it was doubtful that I would be able to vaginally birth her if I remained pregnant much longer. He recommended I transfer from my midwife to his practice to have an induction or preferably to schedule a c-section at 39 weeks if I had not gone into labor on my own by then.
I was devastated. Here I had been dreaming for years about my out-of-hospital birth and everything I had pictured it to be, and all of that came crashing down around me. I left feeling deflated and scared and deeply saddened. My wonderful husband Jeff and I talked that evening about everything and we were left with two options: 1) take the doctor’s advice and schedule an induction or a c-section at 39 weeks, or 2) put the doctor and his opinions out of our minds and go forward as planned with our out-of-hospital birth, knowing that the later I went, the greater my chance could be at ending up in a c-section if she continued to grow as big as the doctor suspected.
I decided to trust my body. I had faith that my body knew what to do and that it would not grow a baby larger than I could birth since I was healthy and low risk. I decided to put that doctor and his comments out of my head and go forward as planned. I refused to see him for future ultrasounds to check on baby’s growth because I had decided it didn’t matter how big he said she was. I was going to go for my out-of-hospital birth!
I will admit though, I did start trying to naturally encourage labor to begin around 40 weeks (I figured it would give me a better shot if I went into labor while she was smaller). I tried all the usual things: spicy food, walking, sex (my husband was happy about this one ;-) ), nipple stimulation, herbs and finally caster oil (yuck!). I thought for sure one of these things would work since my midwife had told me that I had been dilated to 4cm since I was 37 weeks! But alas, baby was not ready, so labor did not come. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be pregnant forever and she was never going to come out ;-).
The afternoon of October 8, I was 41 weeks pregnant. I started having contractions while I walked, but as soon as I stopped, they would slow down and space out…..but they didn’t go away completely. I had hope that maybe during the night they would kick into gear and I’d go into “real” labor. I laid down for bed early and was awakened in the middle of the night by my fore-bag rupturing (that’s when a small pocket of fluid releases, leaving the rest of the bag intact). I thought my entire water was broken though and was so excited! I immediately started having more intense contractions than the little ones I’d felt off and on while I slept during the night. I woke up my husband and told him to call Marcia.
Normally, my nurse-midwife would have told me to stay home and rest and wait for labor to intensify, but she knew that I would labor more efficiently at her birthing center, so she told me to go ahead and come in. We were living with my in-laws at the time, and I just didn’t feel comfortable laboring in their home. So we loaded up in the car and began the 20 minute car ride to the birth center. It was HORRIBLE! Every bump, every turn, every contraction was made worse by being in the car. My husband was playing my favorite song (“My Front Porch Looking In”) from my labor music cd to help me stay relaxed and while it did help, I was so happy when we arrived and could get out of the car.
My midwife checked me and I was 5cm, still had my water bag intact and contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart. She broke my water to speed things along (I didn’t know I had an option to do otherwise) and I quickly went into more active labor. I got into the tub and it was like heaven. My husband got in with me and we had candles set around the rim of the tub with dim lighting and our favorite songs playing. Everyone left us alone. It was so nice just talking and cuddling in between contractions, and it really made me feel closer to him.
Then, I was in “transition” for about 4 hours….hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. What made it worse was my horrible low back pain I was feeling due to a prior car accident injury. It was really difficult for me to handle and there were times when I wanted to give up and even asked to be taken to the hospital. My husband knew I didn’t really want to go, but was just saying that as a way of reaching out for help. He reminded me of the birth that I wanted and kept telling me over and over again how strong I was and that I could do it. Then the others came in and I was being supported by my nurse-midwife, doula, husband, mom and best friend…it felt nice to feel so loved and to have everyone believing in me.
Around 12:30pm I was ready to push, but like most first-time moms, I didn’t know how. My midwife tried to give me some perineal pressure with her fingers to give me a point of reference for where to push, but with her long acrylic fingernails……let’s just say that didn’t feel too pleasant and some curse words might have come screaming out of my lips ;-). She also wanted me to push while lying back in the tub, because it would be easier for her to catch the baby, even though she knew my back was in excruciating pain and I kept asking her to “let me” go hands-and-knees. This went on for about 90 minutes and is the biggest thing I regret about my first birth experience—not being able to push in the hands-and-knees position that my body was telling me to get into, but rather being forced into a more painful one for the ease of my care provider (I vowed after this that I would NEVER be this kind of midwife).
At 1:57pm on October 9, 2006, Keira Sage was born in the water weighing 8 pounds 8 oz!! I was so elated, proud, joyous, grateful, etc! Not only had I birthed my baby vaginally when I had previously been told I probably wouldn’t be able to, but I did it out of the hospital and without any pain medications! I vowed never again to doubt my body’s ability to birth a baby, and again thanked God for guiding me to not follow that doctor’s advice. She weighed only ½ pound bigger than the doctor had said she was 5 weeks earlier (side note: babies gain ¼-½ pound a week the last month, and ultrasounds can be off my up to 3 weeks and 2 pounds in the final months of pregnancy—wish I had known this at the time). If I had taken his advice, I would have had either an induction or a scheduled c-section for a little 7.5 pound baby.
Keira’s birth reaffirmed for me that my calling was to become a midwife, but it also changed how I viewed midwives. I love my first midwife, but I would not choose her again. I didn’t know that midwives could be “med-wives”, where they are more medical in nature, and I knew I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to teach moms to trust in their own abilities and to have faith in the body that God had created for them. So while there are definitely things I would have changed about my birth, hindsight being 20-20, I am so happy with my experience and how I was able to welcome my first child into the world….in a room filled with warmth, water, candlelight, and love.