When I found out we were expecting our first baby, I knew I wanted a natural birth. I believe the way a baby is born matters, and wanted as much a possible a gentle birth to start her life. I knew from friends that the midwifery services in Ontario, Canada are truly outstanding, and I signed up with a great practice group (Kensington Midwives). My partner and I were originally planning a hospital birth, but later decided to have the baby at the Toronto Birth Centre, which is only a block away from hospital. We made arrangements with a close friend, who is also a doula, to attend the birth.
I went into early labour the morning after my due date. As the day went on, the contractions became more intense and closer together. I really felt like this would be it! After an assessment by one of my midwives at 6pm where she found that I was only 1cm dilated, my contractions really increased in intensity. Realizing that I needed some sleep, I lay on the bed and dozed between contractions, which were becoming very strong. An hour later, I realized that I should start timing them, and in reality I should have paged again at that point as I was most definitely in active labour. I timed contractions, rocking and vocalizing loudly, for about another hour and a half before paging.
Around 2am, the midwife arrived. She saw right away that I was afraid and calmly, caringly reassured me that everything was okay. She had me come out of the tub (where in retrospect my water had broken) and onto the bed to be assessed. I was relieved to hear I was 4-5cm. The midwife reminded me that intense contractions are a good thing and it meant my body was doing what it needed to do, and that the baby would be born in the next few hours. These words of encouragement are what helped me feel like I could do it without pain relief, even though my body offered me little or no rest periods between contractions.
At this point, I became completely 100% certain that I was unable to go anywhere else to have the baby. I now feel like I should have been able to tough it out, but at the time the thought of getting into the car seemed completely impossible – I was already using most of my inner resources as it was without transferring to another environment. The midwife explained that we could make arrangements for a home birth, and reassured my partner about the safety of this new plan. So, in the moment, we made an informed and comfortable decision to stay home, and called our doula to come join us. Her calm, loving presence was so grounding and reassuring, and I felt safe and secure knowing anything I needed would be supported and taken care of.
As I neared transition, I became unable to verbalize many of my thoughts. The urge to push was getting more frequent and I had to try to control it, which was a real challenge. Somewhere in there I reached 8-9cm, and then lo and behold, I was fully dilated! My mind became clearer, and I started shouting “I’m fully dilated! I’m fully dilated! Do you hear that, I’m fully dilated!” Everything became a lot easier after that point. By the time the second midwife arrived, everything was set up for the home birth and I was allowed to start pushing. I had some very strong contractions and could feel the baby’s head low in my pelvis. I started to feel very impatient and questioning whether they baby would actually come out, to which the midwife said, they always come out! I had been side lying, but my top leg was getting tired and they suggested I move onto my back, holding onto my legs and sitting up a bit. This turned out feel very natural and moved things along quickly. Soon I was able to reach down and feel the head. My partner previously had felt nervous about being in the room for the delivery, but once he saw what was happening didn’t want to leave! On the second-to-last push, I felt the “ring of fire” but it was quite bearable. I had to push hard to get the head out and told myself that it didn’t matter if I tore, I just had to get it done. So I did!
Our beautiful daughter Evy came into the world at 5:50am weighing 6 pounds 6 ounces, in our bedroom. It’s hard to describe the magic of this birth once it was “all over”. The sun was rising and birds were singing, and we were already at home! I kept exclaiming “We did it! We did it!” Our sweet baby was in perfect health and nursed within 20 minutes of the birth. I had no tearing, despite the baby coming out with a hand near her chin. Our doula helped me back and forth to the bathroom, and generally took care of my every need and whim! We had checkups with the midwives on day 1, 3 and 5 and didn’t even have to leave our bedroom. I wish I could tell other women about the flood of joy that came from giving birth this way, in my own environment and surrounded by caring people. I can’t ever recall feeling more loved and taken care of than through the midwives’ and our doula’s touch and kind words. I feel extremely proud that I gave birth the way I did, naturally and powerfully. Even more important, our baby had a truly beautiful birth experience and was received gently into the world, the best “birth day” gift we could have given her.