Harper James : A Birth Story
I went back and forth, contemplating whether or not to post my birth story. It is such an intimate experience and I wasn't sure whether I wanted to share with just anyone. I had written it out for myself, to document, but up until just a few weeks ago had planned to keep it to myself. Then I was reminded how helpful and encouraging it was for me to read other women's stories before I went into labor and decided I wanted to share. So I hope this encourages and inspires, from one woman to another:
you are created for this, you can do it!
It all came on a bit slow, the night after our maternity photo-shoot. I had had small pains like the ones I experienced that night in weeks previous but they were inconsistent and I shrugged them off as gas pains. I was about to do the same when I started realizing there was a rhythm, so I started timing them-- and to my surprise they were consistent. I woke Tyler and asked what he thought and he groggily told me that unless they were getting gradually stronger and/or longer, I shouldn’t worry. (He read ALL the baby books - such a good hubby.) They weren’t too intense and definitely nothing like what I was about to feel but they were strong enough to keep me from falling into a deep sleep. The next day I went about my normal day and the contractions continued in waves; they would last consistently for a few hours and then stop for a few hours. I knew from reading The Birth Partner & Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth that if in fact these were contractions, they would be considered pre-labor or what I’d also heard called “Braxton Hicks.” Which is a little frustrating because the general public seems to think that this stage of labor is also called “false-labor.” Try telling that to a woman who is experiencing this and it’s like telling them they are crazy and due to the hormones raging to create this little baby they already feel crazy. This stage of labor is still working, it’s softening the cervix and getting the body ready for labor. The hardest part is knowing how long this part will last, for some women (like me) it is just for a day or so prior to active labor, for others it could last sporadically for weeks prior to active labor.
By the following evening I was having intense enough contractions that I called our doula, Alexia, and by eight or nine we were on our way to the hospital. When I arrived they checked me into the triage room to see how I was progressing before they took me to a labor room. I was only 1cm dilated but the contractions were so painful (so I thought at this point) it didn’t make sense. I remember feeling that I couldn’t progress because I felt in this “purgatory,” I wasn’t in the room I’d deliver in and I wasn’t at home. The midwife suggested I go home with a prescription sleep aid and try to get some rest. At this point this felt like a blow to my confidence. Leading up to this night I had had multiple dreams about a fast, peaceful labor and I felt like a failure that it had already taken this long. I was believing for the pain-free supernatural childbirth that I knew (and know) is possible. God intended my body to give birth, he created it that way. It of course would be intense, but I was believing for pain-free! Alas, this was not my birth story. What Tyler & Alexia kept reminding me was that I was going to have my own birth story and I couldn’t compare myself to anyone else's. After some convincing and my realization that I was already not relaxed and not at peace--- which was not how I wanted to birth, I agreed to go home.
Sleep was difficult but I’m thankful for the bits of sleep I got and by morning I was definitely experiencing longer and stronger contractions and labor was progressing. The contractions stopped me in my tracks and I let them run their course. Each contraction was like a wave, it came on gradually, there was a peak and then faded out. My way of staying focused was counting by breathing in and counting my breathing out, trying to make them match, a tool I learned in prenatal yoga. Throughout this process I tried every position I could think of and Tyler was being unbelievably supportive. When Alexia got to our house again, she asked me how I was doing and I knew she meant not just physically. I was still struggling with letting go of the fast labor idea and I was ready to meet my son. I remember her telling me that there were things we could try to speed things up but she wanted to make sure I was ready. I told her I was. Looking back I know that was when it all shifted, the power of the spoken word and me saying yes--- I’m sure in addition to the things we tried---is what got things moving.
Upon our second arrival to the hospital they took me to a room with a tub (which I had been praying for!), Teale, the photographer, arrived and I felt like this could happen any moment. Prior to this point I had been praying to myself almost every contraction. I was praying for God to help me, get me through this, give me the strength, etc. I fought fears that said I would be sent home again and chose to believe that it was time and He’d give me the strength. Sure enough, I was dilated to about a 6 and ready to continue on the journey.
As they progressed and the ability to be “lax” in-between contractions faded quickly. I tried many positions and was lucky enough to be in a room with a tub. After I got in the tub I felt a rush out of me after a contraction. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” I said. I was reminded of the uncomfortably embarrassing YouTube video of a girl having diarrhea in a hot tub full of people. Thankfully that was not the case for me haha, my water had just broken!
I don’t know how to express with words that although my contractions were getting so intense I wasn’t sure I could make it through some, I never once thought I couldn’t make it to the finish line. Fear didn’t creep in. I'm confident this because I constantly kept my focus on this truth:
my body was made for this, God designed it that way.
And he was there ever so present, I could feel him supporting me, giving me strength. I’d call on Jesus and feel the rush of peace. His grace combined with my husband, doula and mom cheering me on, kept me focused. There wasn’t an absence of pain like I had prayed for and heard of in this amazing book---which I still believe is possible---but there was overwhelming peace and love that guided me through.
The contractions went on for what seemed like forever and I transitioned to the delivery bed so the midwife could check my cervix. She told me I was at 7cm. Feeling a bit discouraged, I replied “Are you f****** kidding me?!”, a reaction Tyler and I now laugh about. I felt as though I had been contracting so intensely that surely I had progressed more than that! What I learned from that moment was not to judge my progress by how far I was dilated. After all, women can dilate up to 9cm in no time! The rest of labor was a blur. I know at one point I asked mom and Teale to leave, I didn’t want anyone who didn’t need to be in the room there. And at one point I looked up from pushing and noticed a girl, who I’m sure had been in the room the entire time but I just then realized she was there. I asked in between pushes “Who are you? Can you please leave?” Turns out she wasan intern of sorts and was just there to observe my birth. Mom later said she was really nice and didn’t seem like her feelings were hurt. At least there were some humorous parts of labor!
I’m not sure how long I had been pushing, but I was there, at the finish line. We had been watching Harper’s heart rate because towards the end it was dropping pretty low each time I’d contract and then it would rise back to a healthy level. Now, every time I pushed it was dropping and taking longer and longer to rise. They suggested the use of forceps which I did not want to use but I did want to meet my healthy baby. Still set on not using an epidural, Alexia suggested unbroken eye contact with Tyler while they used the forceps. This was the most amazing moment of this journey next to meeting our son. We locked eyes for what felt like 5 minutes or more. It felt as though I was using his strength, like we were pushing together. The level of intimacy we felt in that moment is indescribable followed by sweet Harper being laid on my chest. The rush of overcoming was unbelievable. “Life changing” doesn’t even begin to describe the miraculous journey of childbirth. It’s nothing to fear and the reward far outweighs the intensity. I’d do it again and plan to.
Our beautiful baby boy, Harper James Falcon. Born April 16th at 7:55pm. 5lbs, 7oz. :
*All photos by Teale Photography....she's amazing!