For as long as I’ve been reading blogs I’ve been reading the birth stories of those bloggers, the ones who’ve been brave enough to share. Each birth is so different, and I learned so much reading about their unique experiences.
I wanted to write out Harrington’s birth story for my own sake and for his, so I thought I might as well share it too. My prayer is that this is helpful to someone who’s trying to make a decision about a natural birth. I want you to know–I think whatever decision you make is a good one! We are so blessed to even have options living in a first world country, aren’t we?
Honestly, I was really on the fence for my whole first trimester about whether I wanted to attempt a natural birth. I did end up deciding to go that route and will definitely do it again. I liked that it increased my chance of being able to deliver vaginally, which has a lot more benefits for baby and mama than I even knew about until I researched it.
I highly recommend finding a great doula if you’d like to do a natural birth. Ours was fantastic, and charged only $600 for an extensive amount of help during pregnancy, birth, and even afterward. It’s a bit of money, but we didn’t have to do a birthing class at the hospital and we probably saved money on all the medical interventions we didn’t need. Kyle loved having her around; she gave us both so much peace of mind! (Her name is Carolyn Oteman if you’re curious and live in the Milwaukee area–look her up! :))
Here’s the story of Harrington James!
Saturday and Sunday | February 18-19
In the couple days leading up to Harrington’s birth, I was pretty sure I was leaking amniotic fluid, but it was slow and minimal enough that it didn’t seem like my water had broken. I talked to my mom and our doula on Sunday about it and they suspected maybe I simply had a small tear or hole in my bag of waters. After talking to them on Sunday afternoon I decided I would see how things went the rest of the day and call my doctor in the morning to go in for an appointment if nothing had progressed.
I had a feeling we were getting pretty close; I had already had a few nights in a row where I woke up with consistent contractions that I thought might be the real deal. They were too frequent and painful to sleep through, so I’d get up and do some things around the house, but then they’d eventually go away.
Side note: You’ll notice throughout the rest of this post that I refer to contractions as “pressure waves.” About halfway through my pregnancy, my cousin—due the same day as me!—had told me about Hypnobabies, a unique approach to natural birth that we both decided to try. You can look it up, but basically you train yourself to be very relaxed (a form of hypnosis) and to have a very positive mindset about birth. Countless women have actually had very comfortable natural births using these techniques. (I’ve seen the YouTube videos to prove it!) Crazy. As you’ll read in Harrington’s birth story, I was definitely in pain for the last few hours of birth, but I know Hypnobabies helped a lot!
Monday morning | February 20
1 am: I woke up around 1 am with the same kind of feelings I’d had for at least a few nights. “It’s not tonight, Diana,” I told myself. “It’s just the same thing as the last few nights.”
I couldn’t sleep, though, so I got up and went and sat in the nursery and decided to do my quiet time with the Lord for the upcoming day. That way, I thought, I’ll sleep in a little Monday morning and then get up and get right to work for the day.
The devotion for February 20 in my New Morning Mercies devotional had a little summary at the top of the devotion that said, “Today you’ll face things bigger than you, but you needn’t be afraid because none is bigger than the One who rules them all for your sake.” I remember thinking I thought it would be cool if today was the day our baby was born, based on that very appropriate encouragement.
2-4 am: The pressure waves weren’t going away, and I started thinking this could be legit. I wasn’t timing them, but I would look at the clock when they came, and I realized they were about 5 minutes apart.
At some point I realized that this was the day. I turned on my maternity email response, cleaned up my email inbox one last time, and let my VA and my business coaches know what was happening to prepare them for my absence!
4-6 am: Around 4:00 I started writing down the times of my pressure waves and realized they were 4 minutes apart. I woke Kyle up and told him this was the day! He asked if he could sleep a little longer, which at the time I thought was a bit silly, because I thought 4 minutes apart was kind of close and like things might be happening soon! Rookie mom. Haha. I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the length of the pressure waves themselves, and many of them were only 30-45 seconds, so we had a lot more time than I thought.
I also called our doula during this time, and she started getting ready to come over. In the meantime, Kyle woke up, and we finished packing our hospital bag (I had a packing list, of course). We both showered and got ready. It felt good to be clean and have makeup on. I knew I’d be super gross eventually, so I figured I might as well feel good for as long as I could.
At this time I also started listening to some “birthing day affirmations.” The Hypnobabies course included a bunch of mp3 tracks that I listened to during pregnancy and also on the birthing day. The birthing day affirmations was one of those tracks.
6:15-Noon: Our doula arrived around 6:15 as the sun was coming up. I was thankful it was a sunny day and that I got to labor during the daytime.
Kyle, Carolyn, and I spent the next several hours hanging out in our living room. They took turns helping me with each pressure wave. I didn’t know what pressure waves would feel like, but I expected it would be mostly in front, in my stomach area. Nope. I honestly remember barely any pain the whole day anywhere except in my lower back. We figured out our rhythm quickly—when a pressure wave was coming, I would say, “Here it comes,” or “Pressure wave” and Kyle or Carolyn would rub my lower back firmly with both hands while I swayed back and forth.
I tried swaying while kneeling on all fours, while sitting on an exercise ball, or while bracing myself against the kitchen counter. Carolyn was so great at encouraging me to keep moving positions.
Eventually, we put coats on and went outside to walk up and down the street. Carolyn thought that might help the pressure waves progress, and it totally did! Every time a pressure wave was coming, we’d stop walking and I’d put my arms around Kyle’s shoulders and sway back and forth while Carolyn rubbed my back.
At one point we saw our neighbor outside and I wondered why he wasn’t working. We realized it was President’s Day! Kyle and I both have holiday birthdays, so we thought that was kind of fun.
Around 10-11ish, my pressure waves were 3-4 minutes apart and 60-90 seconds long, so I called my doctor’s office to let them know I was coming to the hospital and we started packing up.
We also called my mom and let her know she was going to become a grandma! I know Kyle called his parents, too, but I can’t remember when. He also sent out a big group text to all of our parents and siblings (and their significant others) so everyone was in the loop on one text.
I was nervous about the almost 30-minute drive to the hospital from our house because I had figured out the pressure waves were much more difficult to manage if I couldn’t move. Amazingly, I had only 4 during the whole ride, and 2 were at stop lights, so I could lean way forward and Kyle could rub my lower back. I also listened to a hypnosis track on the way to help keep me calm and focused.
Noon-3:00 pm: When we got to the hospital, our doula recommended walking around more to get the pressure waves going strong again and to put off checking in to the hospital. We wanted to wait as long as possible because we knew once I checked in I’d have to do fetal monitoring and there’d be more distractions overall. Plus, with it being my first, we knew it might still be a while, and she didn’t want me stuck in a hospital room for too long.
The three of us walked in circles on a sidewalk near the hospital, pausing again for each pressure wave. I realized that it helped me to actually keep my eyes open during pressure waves and find some random thing to look at that would distract me rather than closing my eyes and being super focused—that seemed to be more painful.
Eventually, I got tired of walking, or I should say that my pelvis was getting pretty sore, so we got our stuff out of the car and headed into the hospital. Before checking in, we went to the cafeteria to eat. Kyle and Carolyn ate a full meal, but I just had some fruit. I hadn’t really been hungry all day; food just didn’t appeal to me. In retrospect, I wish I would have forced myself to eat a little more so I would have had more energy for the long labor.
3:00 pm: We finally headed to Labor and Delivery around 3:00 and checked in. They sent us to triage, where we met our nurse, Peggy. She had just started her shift at 3:00 and informed us she’d be with us till at least 11:00 p.m., if not 3:00 a.m., since she was on call. We shared our birth plan with her and she reacted so positively. “I love natural birth!” was the first thing she said. She birthed her kids naturally as well, all four of them I think! We told her she was literally an answer to our prayers!
At that point, I was dilated 6 centimeters, and still feeling pretty well. I was in a great place mentally—cheery, positive, confident. I was totally myself between each pressure wave, talking and laughing and enjoying myself with Kyle and Carolyn, and remember expressing how thankful I was for the relief that came between pressure waves. It’s odd to have quite a bit of pain for 60-90 seconds and then feel totally normal for a couple minutes!
Carolyn also pointed out that when I had a really strong pressure wave I’d say afterward, “That was a good one!” instead of “That was a bad one!” My Hypnobabies preparation had helped me to view intense pressure waves as positive rather than negative, since they were bringing my baby to me! And, I know that was God’s strength. He has given me so much more strength for birth and for motherhood than I ever imagined!
Peggy took us to our room and we got situated, amidst pressure waves every few minutes, of course. She said I couldn’t eat anything anymore, which, oops, I didn’t think hospitals still enforced that. (I had heard that wasn’t a thing anymore. Wrong.) Even so, I snuck some powdered gelatin supplement, a honey stick, and a KIND bar because, like I said, I had barely eaten all day.
4:00 pm: The next 6 hours are fuzzier in my memory. There was a lot going on—decisions to make, staff to meet, intermittent fetal monitoring, changing positions frequently—all as the pressure waves slowly became more intense.
I sat on a birthing ball for a while, tried using a squat bar, and eventually got into the bed because I was starting to feel physically spent. It was nice to relax in bed in between pressure waves, but it was harder managing pressure waves in bed when I couldn’t sway and move around during them.
6:40 pm: Dr. Thompson, the doctor who would be delivering me (not my doctor but I was totally okay with that and really liked her) checked me out and said I was 8 centimeters dilated but that my water still had not broken. She broke my water, and I remember pressure waves being very intense for the next couple hours. I tried really hard to focus on taking them one at a time, but there was still a part of me that wondered, “How many more of these do I have to go?” To be honest, for those couple hours I thought to myself, “I am never doing this again. Ever. I am never giving birth, in any fashion, ever again.” (I’ve already forgotten how it felt and will definitely do a natural birth again. Haha)
Kyle held my hands and Carolyn rubbed my back and as I let out my deep breaths I moaned deeply like an animal. Carolyn had told me those noises would naturally come out of me and even though I had never heard them, she was right! Haha
I also repeated “peace, peace” over and over. At this point, I barely spoke at all. It honestly felt too tiring to even use my energy to speak; I just wanted to rest as much as possible between each pressure wave. Kyle says he never felt bad for me even in the midst of the most intensity; he said I seemed very in control. I laughed when he told me that, because I felt a little out of control at that point.
It was only those few hours of transition and pushing where I had to work really hard to keep my mindset positive. I pictured Jesus with me and him saying over and over, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).
7:55 pm: The last bit of dilation seemed to take forever, but finally they said I was 10 centimeters. Everyone told me I would know when I was ready to push—that I would feel “pushy” and feel like bearing down. I never felt that! But as much as I physically didn’t have the urge, I was more than ready to start pushing our baby out.
A lot of people told me that when you get to pushing, it’s a relief. I agree. I liked pushing much better than transition. It was much less painful than I thought it would be—really the bulk of the pain I felt was mostly just the back pain at the beginning of each pressure wave.
However, it was waaay more physically demanding than I thought it would be. I really wanted to push while squatting, but that was super exhausting and didn’t last super long. We tried a couple other positions, like pushing on my side, and eventually ended up with me holding my own legs up each time I pushed, while also curling up like I was doing an ab crunch. That was a lot more work than I anticipated. I thought someone would be holding my legs for me! I remember wondering how on earth I would be able to do this if I wasn’t athletic; I felt thankful for my health, muscles, and stamina. (Note to self: Make sure I stay strong and healthy between now and my next birth!)
I pushed for the next 2 ½ hours. Every pressure wave equaled 3 or 4 long pushes. I can still hear Peggy’s voice coaching me. Each time a pressure wave was coming I’d say, “Let’s push.” She’d respond, “Deep breath innnnnnnnn,” as she took a deep breath herself, then “Curl up, and 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . .” as she counted to 10. At some point Kyle counted for me, and I appreciated that he counted more quickly. Haha.
Pushing seemed to last a long time. I think the toughest part was not knowing how long it would take. It was like running a marathon or competing in some brutal athletic event but not knowing when you’d hit the finish line. In the back of my mind, I thought, “What if this takes 3 or 4 hours?! I don’t know how much longer I can do this!” I asked the doctor multiple times, “How much longer?” as if she would know. Haha. She did give me vague answers and everyone was encouraging that I was making progress, so that helped.
Harrington crowned and I could see the top of his head, but it still took over an hour from that point until he came out. That big head just didn’t want to fit through! Still, it wasn’t painful like I thought it would be—just exhausting.
I knew I was getting close when the doctor got all her official gear on and called in a team of extra staff. (I had thought I was super close before, but obviously I wasn’t. Joke’s on me!) She turned overhead spotlights on all the action. (I had the room dark except for a couple lamps—and some Christmas lights Carolyn had put up).
I kept up with the pushing game, finally feeling like the end was in sight even though the finish line was still vague. Finally the doctor told me that she thought baby would be out within several good pushes. She was right!
10:20 pm Our son was born! On the push where he finally came out, I didn’t even realize he was out until I saw the doctor holding him up, trying to untangle the umbilical cord that was twisted all around his leg. I was expecting a lot more pain, but I didn’t really feel anything when he came out. I did feel loads of joy, emotion, and relief!
“It’s a boy!” Kyle announced. “What?!” I said. At least 90% of people thought we were having a girl, so we just kind of assumed they must be right. A boy was such a surprise! They put him on my chest, precious and covered in slime, and when the umbilical cord stopped pulsing the last of its blood, the doctor showed Kyle where to cut the cord.
I was exhausted and a little out of it, but I was so happy to meet him! We were in love with him instantly. I think Kyle was surprised how quickly he fell so much in love with him. We were also surprised how cute he was for just being born. “He’s not ugly!” I said, and all the staff laughed.
The next few hours are a happy blur. Harrington was very healthy—praise God! Mama still had some work and recovery to do. I lost a lot of blood and was shaking pretty violently, so I needed a shot in my leg for that, which came with a hilarious, unfortunate side effect. On top of that, my tearing required a lot lot lot of stitches. On top of that, my uterus wasn’t shrinking on its own the way it was supposed to. I tried to breathe deeply and stay calm through the discomfort of the nurses pushing hard on my belly.
Overall, though, it was a really wonderful few hours. We talked and laughed and my energy started coming back. We praised God (out loud!—we wanted everyone in that hospital room to know that it was God who got us through) and played relaxing Christian music in the background.
After all of that, and breastfeeding for the first time, and lots of tests and measuring and monitoring for Harry and me (Harry was 8 lb, 3 oz, 21 inches), and the epic (read: long and slow) first bathroom visit, and trying to get some food in me so the shaking would chill out, and saying goodbye to Carolyn, and Kyle finally getting to hold his son, we were finally sort of alone. It was already 1 or 2 am! We called our parents and all four sisters and they all picked up the phone, their voices sounding both happy and groggy.
And then we all passed out, including our sweet little son sleeping wrapped up like a snuggly burrito. We were just amazed at God’s goodness, care, and love.