Nature has a way of prepping your body for childbirth. About 10 days prior to my due date, I started experiencing pre-labor symptoms. Nausea, cramping, soft stools and a burst of energy to clean and nest, then moments of exhaustion. I’d wake up in the middle of the night anticipating the labor, with nerves and excitement. I called all my support people letting them know it might be happening soon, but then it didn’t. A week passed and Friday, June 3rd rolled around. My due date was June 7th, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t make it. I started feeling those symptoms again, but didn’t get too excited this time. I went to bed thinking, maybe tonight or tomorrow knowing the new moon was happening on Saturday, June 4th. I remember going into labor with Barrett, our first, on a full moon and was curious if Emelia was born around a full or new moon. I looked back and sure enough, I went into labor with her the night of a new moon so my mama intuition said things would start getting into motion on Saturday. This particular new moon was supposed to be the strongest of the year as four planets were all intersecting simultaneously.
On Saturday, I woke up with more intense, regular cramping, although they were mild. We went about our day cleaning the house with Lorraine, I treated myself to a reflexology massage while Ryan entertained the kids and I relaxed a bit while listening to my birth affirmations and reading in bed.
We decided to get out of the house and venture down to Ortega’s, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Hillcrest. I had dinner at Ortega’s the night I went into labor with Barrett so I thought we should follow the craving and maybe we’d have a repeat performance. I felt several sensations during dinner but nothing too serious or regular.
We took the kids to the beach at Fletcher Cove and walked for an hour around sunset. It was a beautiful evening, it felt great to be by the water, playing and being silly with the kids. I kept thinking about the ebb and flow of the tide and how the waves rushing in and out reminded me of being in labor. I held this vision of the ocean during surges in my previous labors and it helped keep me grounded, connected to source and the energetic flow of the whole birthing process. I remember telling the baby that I can’t wait to meet him/her soon. I knew it would be that night.
After we got home and put the kids to bed, we thought it would be a good idea to get all of our things together for the birth center. I talked to my mom and sister so they would know it’s happening soon. My sister had her grand opening for her new restaurant, Nourish, the next day and we joked a few weeks back that our babies would be born on the same day. Then I texted Susan around 9pm to her know things were in motion as my cramping (starting to refer to them as actual contractions), were about 10-15 minutes apart and lasting around 45 seconds. I told them to stay put and I would call them when we are about to leave for the birth center.
Around 11pm, I knew it was game time. Contractions were still fairly mild, although they were coming every 3 minutes and I was experiencing a lot of body shaking. Kristin came over around 11:30pm to stay with the kids. I let Robin and Lauren, our photographers, know we were about to leave. We got loaded up in the car and headed to Tree of Life in Encinitas. It took us only 12 minutes to get there and the car ride was easy and enjoyable. We were both calm and relaxed, yet brimming with excitement at the thought of meeting our precious baby soon. I told Ryan how happy I was to be driving to the birth center instead of a hospital. How nice the transition will be to go into a peaceful environment instead of the stark contrast of the hospital. I felt so grateful to have made the decision to birth at Tree of Life late in my pregnancy, around 34 weeks, instead of holding on to any fear of what could be, and staying with the hospital plan.
We arrived at 12:30am and Susan, the head midwife, was already there to greet us. Lauren pulled up at the same time. I went back into the exam room and Susan checked me. I was fully effaced but only 3 centimeters dilated. I felt slightly discouraged, although I knew things were moving fast and my body was doing the work. Based on my last two labors, I had a feeling the baby would come within hours. I worried more about disappointing Susan and her thinking we came to early. However, she gave me a warm smile and reassured me that things were just as they should be and I was progressing perfectly.
While Susan checked me, the rest of the crew arrived. Leslie, the other nurse midwife, Shannon, the nurse, Annely, our doula and Robin our videographer showed up. I felt such love and support from all the people present and so happy they were all there. I worried about feeling observed by having the photographers (who are close friends) there, but I didn't at all.
We decided to take a walk around the birth center with Annely. We did a couple of laps and stopped during contractions. I would lean on Ryan’s shoulders and he would massage my shoulders. It was so nice to be outside, enjoying the cool coastal air and taking in the scents and sounds of nature surrounding us. After about 30 minutes or so, we decided to go inside. I hung out on the birth ball for a while with the heating pad around my shoulders, listening to the music from my birth playlist. We chatting and joked around in between contractions which at that point were around 1-1.5 minutes apart. I remember being very present in the room and with everyone throughout the entire labor, instead of checking out into a faraway land like I did in the other previous labors.
I suddenly felt the urge to go to the bathroom (all that darn Mexican food!). I sat on the toilet for 20 minutes or so then got into the shower. The hot water felt so good on my back while Ryan stood with me, supporting and encouraging me. Annely came in and checked on us quite a bit too. The midwives and nurse monitored the baby’s heart rate at 20 minute intervals and it was always perfect. I loved not having the saline drip or having to be tied to the bed 20 minutes of every hour which is what I had to do at the hospital.
I felt ready to relax in the tub but worried it might slow down my labor since I wouldn’t be upright letting gravity do it’s job. Annely eased my concern and said that if I felt like laboring in the tub, I should get in. It felt great to slide into the warm deep water, especially with Ryan there rubbing my shoulders. I leaned forward a lot until Ryan talked me into leaning back on him. It was more challenging to lean back as it meant surrendering further to the contractions, making me feel more vulnerable. I think the back leaning position helped open the pathway for the baby to move down because shortly after I had the most intense contraction yet. I literally felt the baby engage into my birth canal and the pressure and intensity was mind blowing. I got through it and rested before the next one came upon me.
I think it was around 12:10am when I first felt the urge to push which felt like such a relief. I had been doing some low, soft and deep moaning which eased the intensity a bit during the transition period. But when I had the urge to push, I started making those grunting sounds, which triggered Leslie to get the baby cart in the room and ready. Ryan told me he could see my thighs literally separating making room for the baby to come through. He said it was an amazing thing to witness. I watched Leslie rush to put her gloves on and I thought wow, I am about to meet my baby! I felt powerful and brave and called on all the women that have birthed before me to give me strength. After a few contractions of pushing, I felt a bulging and intense fire sensation around my perineum. I heard Leslie say excitedly, “baby is crowning!” I knew the next one would be it so I geared up to push, with the guidance of my body and breath. I bared down during the next wave and followed the overwhelming urge to push. I felt the baby emerge, although in my mind it was the whole baby, but then I heard Leslie tell me to just breathe because the shoulders need to come through. I waited for the next contraction, and pushed the rest of the baby’s body through. I felt like my mind couldn't comprehend the intensity of those few minutes so I tried to stay present in my body because there was nothing my mind could do to improve the situation.
At 12:32am, I brought the baby right up to my chest and remember thinking, wow all that hair! It was the biggest mixture of pure blissful joy, relief it was over and deep love. It was as though heaven had descended down onto earth when our baby arrived. Time seemed to stand still. This moment was ours to savor, one we knew we would never forget.
I felt down to try to determine if the baby’s gender and thought, “Is that a little penis or swollen lady parts??” My instincts told me she was a girl, but I held her up to confirm. We had a baby girl! Our sweet little Gwyneth had joined our family. I looked back at Ryan and we locked eyes and kissed one another as we thought, “wow look what we did!”
We stayed in the tub for about 15 minutes and Leslie pushed on my tummy a bit. After the cord pulsed out, daddy cut it. A few minutes later, I handed our baby girl to Leslie and she gave her to Ryan when he stepped out of the tub so they could do some skin to skin. I stood in the tub and easily birthed my placenta into a metal bowl. When I got into the bed, Susan checked my perineum and I only had a small skid mark around 6 o’clock, and she said it would grow back together so no stitches were needed. I laid with our baby and she latched on about 30 minutes after her birth. We admired her and enjoyed the first few hours of her life. It felt beautiful, surreal and so magical.
Around 4:30am, they did a short exam, measured and weighed her. She was 8 lbs, 13.5 oz and 21 inches long. The midwives anticipated her weight to be around 6.5-7 lbs based on how I carried her, so everyone was surprised at how big she actually was.
It’s hard to find the words to express the sensations of childbirth. It is so many sensations wrapped into one. You feel the most love and support from everyone in the room. You are overflowing with anticipation and excitement at the thought of meeting your baby soon. You are nervous about the pain. But then you remind yourself to surrender, become a vessel for your baby to enter the world as easily as possible. Reframe the intensity in your body from pain to necessity, remembering this is all for a purpose and to welcome, not fight, the sensations. I stayed in my body more this labor instead of trying to check out and go to another place. This helped me because I was in a state of acceptance versus resistance. I think that is what helped my labor progress so quickly and made the whole process more enjoyable.
This birth was better than anything I could have hoped for. When I was around 32 weeks, I was in acupuncture and got into a deep meditative state. I had a vision of delivering our baby at Tree of Life, which I had toured several months earlier but put making a decision on the back burner. I felt during this meditation, our baby was guiding me. I knew after this experience, delivering at Tree of Life was the right decision for our family, and I had nothing to fear.
As I write this, our little Gwynie is 3 days old sleeping soundly just a few feet away. I admire her beautiful features and can’t get enough of her heavenly soft, deliciously scented skin. I thank God for this gift and promise to be the best mama to all three of our beautiful children.