Our Birth Story
Before I tell our story, I wanted to explain why I even wanted to share it in the first place...
I had really put a lot of effort into reading and researching birth and pregnancy before Jack was here. My interest in all of this started a long time ago and began to exponentially grow due to several different life experiences, starting with the birth of my little brother. When I was nine years old, I got to watch my mom deliver him. It was a smooth, hospital birth where my mom was given an epidural and peacefully pushed him into the world. I videotaped the entire experience, cut his cord, and got to immediately hold my first and only brother. I remember never feeling frightened, worried, or scared for the entire experience, only amazed as I watched him emerge earthside. This sprouted my interest and love of birth and when I was in my twenties I watched the well-known documentary called “The Business of Being Born”. Everything about this film made sense to me personally, and then, my feelings were validated even more during my future travels where I met and saw many mothers without first-world medical options. I never felt fear when I thought of bringing a human into the world, and I refused to believe that it would be a negative, painful experience. To me, nothing seemed to be more powerful than birth, and as long as I knew my rights and was armed with tough questions, I had faith that I could deliver on my own terms in our very medicalized society.
I did my best to research the opinions on both ends of the spectrum when it came to making the decisions that were right for me and my baby, but, like with most of the issues in my life, my choices ended up being based on my own instincts. My desire was not only to bring my baby to me and my husband naturally for its own sake, but to also endure what I was made to endure as a woman. I could not possibly think of anything that would be more beautifully feminine or truly empowering than giving in to this force that only my gender could perform.
All of the books that I had read and interest that I had accumulated over the years had little to do with my desire for knowledge.
Ultimately, I was driven by the desire to feel.
I wanted to feel all of it. I wanted to feel my body overcome with an intensity that I could never replicate on my own. I wanted to be immersed in one extreme, so that I could then immediately be flooded by the following extreme. I wanted to feel alive and also bring forth life harmoniously. And, I wanted to feel what women have felt since the beginning of our existence, while simultaneously experiencing it with women all over the world.
I wanted all of the feelings...
Of course, nature has no boss, and this birth did not come to fruition as I had dreamt. It was still pure and powerful despite the circumstances but not my fate to control. That’s the beauty and tragedy of life. And, that’s why I’m telling our story...
Our alarm went off in the early morning of Friday the 13th. I rolled my belly towards my husband to snuggle him awake, when I felt myself wet the bed. Of course, at this stage of pregnancy it was normal for this to happen to me, but this felt different. I sat up fast and ran to the bathroom to finish whatever had just started. It was almost four weeks until my due date, so I began to hope that it was just my full bladder. I continued to leak as I went about my morning making coffee and packing Trevor’s lunch, and that was when reality began to set in. We called my midwife who confirmed that my water had broke. I was five days away from the thirty-seven week mark, which meant that I was just short of being full term. Because of this, I would have to head to a hospital instead of to the birth center.
Trevor packed bags and printed off our birth plan while I showered and got ready. Thankfully, my midwife has a great relationship with the midwives at University Hospital, so the transfer process was stress free on my end.
As we were directed into the busy parking lot of the hospital, I began to reel in my anxiety. There were hundreds of people walking in and out of the huge building, which was a huge contrast to the little birth center with only two rooms where I thought I would birth my baby. I breathed out my stress and did my best to let these feelings pass by as we checked in. I changed into my own robe instead of the smock that they had offered to me. I knew that I needed every aspect to feel as non-threatening and comfortable as possible if I wanted to progress as I had visualized. Trevor and I paced the room together, hugging eachother and crying. We struggled with expressing our mixed feelings of excitement and nostalgia as we began to realize that we would not get those last extra weeks together of “just us”.
Thankfully, everyone in the birth center side of the hospital was very respectful of our wishes. They allowed me to go nearly forty hours without intervention to see if my contractions would start naturally. I was able to go on as many walks as I wanted outside between the hourly heartbeat checks, and I even pumped some collostrum in hopes that my body would be responsive. After nearly forty hours, and no sign of contractions, they wanted to induce labor.
Their plan was to give me a Cytotec pill every four hours for up to sixteen hours, before giving me Pitocin. I had learned all about interventions in my reading and during my hypnobirthing classes and knew that Cytotec was a commitment due to the fact that it would stay in my bloodstream. Pitocin, however, can be removed from the IV and even be regulated dosage wise. I did not know, however, that these drugs were ever used in conjunction together. So, I agreed to the plan, thinking that it would still be a long process. By the time it came to take my second dose of the pill, I was having strong surges. Trevor thought that my contractions were picking up speed and was worried that it was getting too intense too fast (which the doula in our hypnobirth classes had warned us about), but the nurse continued to insist that I take the second dose. Her concern was that if I didn’t, labor could stop or stall making it a frustrating setback. I placed the pill in my mouth and after she left the room, Trevor and I agreed that I should spit it out.
From that moment on, my labor became a blur. Just as Trevor had thought, the peaks of my contractions had very little time between them. The nurse prepared a warm bath for me with candles and lavender essential oils, and I labored in the tub, riding the waves of surges but without total relief in between. My breaks consisted of rhythmic cramping, that increased in intensity as time went on, getting to a point where I felt no relief between any contractions.
I had always thought that I would be a quiet laborer, but it ended up being the moaning that got me through. Every breath I breathed was accompanied with a powerful sound that I could not control, and as time went on, I think I rarely opened my eyes. I went from the tub to the toilet, where I started to get the urge to push. It was so powerful, it felt as though my lungs were being wrung out, and it seemed almost impossible to inhale air. Because I did not want any mental setbacks, I had had no vaginal checks up until this point. Finally, I decided to see where my dilation was, because I was sure I should be pushing. The midwife had me climb up on the bed and declared that I was seven centimeters, which was a positive mental relief. I endured my next contraction on the bed which was the worst experience of the entire labor. I thrashed through it and got back up to my feet as soon as I could and continued to labor standing, squatting, and leaning over the bed.
I did not want to keep track of the time, just as I did not want to keep track of my dilation, but it was not long that I began to feel excitement flood the room. The midwife came running in and bent down to see where I was. I was sure my baby was coming to me now, and the midwife confirmed it, telling me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. For the first time in my labor, I was getting nearly painless breaks between contractions, so I called to Trevor to come feel also. I breathed through my break as my midwife told me that I could finally push during the next contraction. The wave built and with every outward breath, I flexed my body, squatted downwards, and moaned out my discomfort. It peaked and started to decline as I heard my midwife tell me to reach down and grab my baby. I could feel the entire head outside of me, and then, as my next contraction began, I pushed and pulled the rest of the little body out.
I remained squatted, holding my baby, as the midwife unwrapped the cord from his neck and told me to be careful because the cord was short. I lifted the tiny human up to my face and saw that our little miracle was a boy. I knew then that only birth could ever grant me such an intense combination of relief and happiness, and I grasped my tiny person as I was escorted to the bed.
Jack was here, making chirping sounds and rooting around on my chest. I birthed the organ that gave him life, as everyone bustled about, checking vitals on the little guy and myself. Trevor cut the cord once it became white and stopped pulsing, and the nurses inspected the placenta.
The happiness that had overcame me was at a capacity that I never knew existed. It was nearly impossible to grasp or understand the entire process and the beautiful, perfect result, but what I had felt was somehow beyond my body. It was impossible to convey, so I just cried, and Trevor kissed me all over my face.
I came away from everything with some stitches, plenty of milk, and an exploding heart.
Our Jack Colter Monks worked so hard to come into the world too. He was a mighty 5lbs 1oz, and besides a little bit of Jaundice, he was a happy and hungry baby.
Birth stories should be more positive. With Jack coming early and us having to transfer to a hospital, his birth could have been typical protocol. But, with the amazing coaching from the Denver Center for Birth and my husband as an advocate, I birthed my way, with very little interventions and no pain medications whatsoever. I have never felt more empowered or proud...
I also cannot begin to be more thankful for our birth photographer, Monet Nicole, who not only captured all of the intensity, passion, and love, but also guided me through labor with her kindness and motivating words.
I hope that this story is one that inspires other women. We are amazing creatures, with strength that maybe we cannot understand, but most definitely have. Thank you for reading!