Reaghan Noelle's Birth Story
I took a hot relaxing bath, looked in the mirror and thought “tonight would be a good night for a baby.” Of course probably not since everyone was telling me “most first time babies are 10 days late.” I did some squats and went to bed refreshed and content.
At midnight I woke up to my water breaking. I thought to myself “was that my waters, or did I really just pee myself?!” I went to the restroom and sat on the toilet for a minute to see if anything else would come out, and sure enough, a bigger gush of water did. I started shaking immediately, most likely from nerves that labor was actually starting and a good rush of adrenaline. I sent a text to my doula and midwife letting them know, and they both advised me to go to sleep. I wanted to sleep more than anything since I had only been sleeping for an hour before my water broke, but I couldn’t get past that half-asleep state. My waters kept trickling out gradually, which was incredibly annoying since it kept me uncomfortable, and therefore, awake.
Contractions started at 1 am, and felt like strong back pain. This was the first of what seemed like three phases of contractions for me. The contractions were painful but manageable, and I continued to lie in bed, on my side, how I usually sleep. Then suddenly I got really hungry. Jordan made me some food and I again tried to sleep with no progress. Somewhere around 2:30-3 am I sent a text my best friend and asked for her prayers. I was worried if I didn’t get some sleep that I would lose my energy and wouldn’t be prepared to push. I drank a small glass of warm milk and did doze off a bit.
The second phase of contractions hit. These felt like the first phase but the pain wrapped around from my back to my abdomen, like intense cramps. It really did feel like my uterus was contracting, and was very painful. Oddly enough, it was this beginning part where I thought to myself “I get why someone would take an epidural if offered one right now.” This is funny to me because the beginning really was the hardest part; although the pain was worse the further I progressed. I think this was because I hadn’t surrendered to my body yet – I just kept thinking, “I don’t want to feel this way,” as most people do when experiencing pain. Despite this, I had an overwhelming sense of calm and felt that what I was experiencing was so pure and right. That gave me so much strength.
At this point I couldn’t lie on my side anymore, and instinctively got on my hands and knees. This eased the pain a lot, and as a contraction would hit, I would stick my butt out all the way (like child’s pose in yoga, but with my bottom out as far as I could go), and this would make my contractions melt away. That’s exactly how it felt – like warm melting, and felt very good to come out of a contraction and enter into more rest. At some point I hit Jordan, who was sleeping next to me, saying “I need you!” and he started timing my contractions and coaching me through them. His coaching adding another dose of pain relief. He would describe scenes from our honeymoon: how beautiful the sunsets were, the gorgeous beach, our condo, the food, etc. This helped me focus on something other than the pain and become more relaxed.
During this whole process I never opened my eyes but for a few seconds. I was focused on relaxing and trying to sleep as best I could in between contractions. There were times when I would sense myself wanting to control how my body was handling the contraction. Even though we had practiced relaxation so much prior to labor, it was very hard to relax. During a contraction all my body wanted to do was tense up, so it took all my energy to focus on letting my body take its course and run the show. This was very hard work. The thought of “letting go” and surrendering to my own body got me through and again, eased the pain quite a bit.
The third phase of contractions came and this was the most intense part. These contractions had me on the floor, still in the same “child’s pose” position. My contractions were MUCH more intense, and I could really feel my uterus pushing down. The contractions were so intense I threw up twice. This didn’t bother me but actually encouraged me that I was progressing well, since we learned in our Bradley classes that vomiting was a sign of progress. Looking back this may have been my transition (what is supposed to be the worst and most painful part of labor, also the shortest part), but again I was so in tune with my body I really didn’t notice it being that bad. Each contraction was one step closer to meeting Reaghan, and Jordan reminded me of that often. After each contraction was over I would tell myself “that was great, easy, I can do this.” At this point my body was completely taking over, and I would push back my bottom all the way out, melting my contraction, and started vocalizing very low tones with my voice, at times grunting. I literally had no control over this; it was just my body’s way of handling the contraction.
About 7 am Jordan told me our doula was coming in an hour – I was so excited! I had been hoping for her to show up all night, just wanting her presence with us. When she arrived the first thing she told me was that she could tell the baby was very low by the vocal tones I was making. Great news! She was very quiet and calming – constantly encouraging me and telling me I was doing a great job. Though I was a hot mess, sweating bullets during a contraction, teeth chattering with chills during the breaks – the atmosphere around me was calm and serene. It was dark and quiet, and I had loving voices in my ear cheering me on. That was the main thing I remember from this phase – Jordan and my doula telling me over and over how amazing I was, how great I was handling it, and how hard I was working. I remember at one point Jordan bursting into laughter as he told me if I could do this I could do anything. It was a sweet moment of him realizing the intensity of this crazy thing I was accomplishing!
I heard my doula explaining to Jordan to pack up the car and get things ready. Our bags were already packed so they were just gathering a few things and getting the car prepared. They pushed the front passenger seat all the way up so that I could stay on my hands and knees in the back seat. I prayed in the car that God would allow my contractions to be less intense so I could endure them during a bumpy car ride. I thought, “This is why people have their babies at home! Why on earth would I get in the car right now?!” My contractions had become very pushy, each one pushing blood and amniotic fluid out. Each contraction felt like my whole bottom was going to explode. The coolness of the morning (I think I rolled my window down a bit) felt amazing and a needed break from the constant hot flashes. We arrived at the birth center at about 9 am.
We were met by the rest of our birth team – our midwife, assistant midwife and a student midwife who had been at all my appointments. What amazing people to see. I had another contraction right as we pulled up, and my midwife ran to my side, explaining that I wasn’t relaxing (though I thought I was) and needed to “motor boat” my lips when I breathed out. What a relief! I wish I would have known that earlier because with it came much relief. Walking to her office was so hard! My midwife could see that I was pushing with each contraction and told me I needed to stop. I couldn’t help it. So, onto her table I went and she check me – 10 cm dilated. Everyone in the room cheered! What a shock and relief to me, as I had been telling myself the whole way not to be discouraged if I showed up and was only 4 cm! I had very much expected everything to continue building in intensity and pain, without knowing I had already been through the hardest parts.
What I remember next was breathing in the sweet smell of peppermint oil, being prayed over by my entire birth team, and getting in a warm tub. My first contraction in the tub Jordan said “Oh my gosh, we’re crowning” – the baby’s head was coming out. I was filled with so much joy at this point I felt absolutely no pain, just readiness. A couple more contractions and her head was fully born. The sensation felt like burning – what they call the “ring of fire” most certainly was, but only lasted a few seconds, a minute at most. My midwife said to me “okay honey, on this next contraction your baby will be born!” and started explaining to Jordan how he was to pull her out. I laid my head back on the edge of the tub, with sweet people around me smiling and feeding me water, and just waited for my body to push this sweet baby into the world. As promised, Reaghan Noelle was born on my next contraction, only 40 minutes after arriving at the birth center. I’d say we made it just in time J Jordan lifted her out of the water and placed her on my chest, which was the most natural, normal, yet thrilling experience. It felt like she had always been with us.
What a crazy intense experience. Definitely the hardest work of my life, but so worth it. I think a few things made all the difference in birthing naturally: 1) the relaxation techniques and slow deep breathing, 2) the education my husband and I received, and 3) a skilled birth team who were all on the same page. I am so grateful to have been given these things and for the immense amount of grace and strength God gave me through every moment of the process. His presence was surely with me, allowing such a beautiful birth which was free of fear. Now, we are loving and caring for sweet Reaghan and learning so much more in the process!