Better Birth Advocacy Network
Celeste's Birth Story
On November 20th of 2020 I welcomed my little one into the world at 8:25am after 6 hours of labour in the care of my wonderful husband, amazing doula, and two fantastic midwives. It probably goes without saying, I did not deliver on my due date! I delivered at 40 weeks and 6 days.
At my 38 week appointment, my midwife had offered for me to have a stretch and sweep done the following week, I was excited and needless to say I didn't know that it would be painful and uncomfortable I was sure that with having that done we would get to meet our little one that day, before the due date of the 14th, at least that's what googled told me, that labour could start 24 to 48 hours after having it done! This was one of the lessons I learned on my body, and my baby having their own natural timing! 39 weeks rolled around and nothing was happening yet, not even early labour. As for Braxton Hicks, what are those anyways? "You'll know when you're having them!" Well meaning friends would tell me, as if Braxton Hicks are specifically painful practice contractions, and that anything else wasn't that. When I finally asked my midwife, as she was measuring my bump, she said "you're having one right now! If you feel your bump and it's rock hard that's usually a Braxton Hick." That was good to know, I had been having those for awhile unbeknownst to me. For me, they were like my baby got their foot stretched way out just under my rib and would stay there forever, it hurt, but it was more uncomfortable than painful.
My due date was approaching and I kept going over in my head what day would be best for 'Little B' to be born, as if I had some control over it! My husband would be taking two weeks off so depending on how it landed on his work schedule it could have meant 2.5 almost 3 weeks off for us to transition into parenthood. Part of me believes that stressing over this wasn't helping my body relax to initiate labour, and I had to let it go to stay relaxed and for things to go smoothly, everything else I could figure out later. If I needed more help, there was family, around but not local that I could get up the guts to call, or if it really came down to it, I had met some wonderful postpartum doulas to help us navigate the first while. They waited to give the stretch and sweep until 40 weeks and 2 days. There were other moms over due at that time so they didn't want to rush into everyone having a baby all at once if they could help it!
I'm a "hold your breath" through pain type, but I also got to practice squeezing my husband's hand off while they swept my membranes and measured dilation.
When it was done, my hands were clammy, it wasn't pleasant but I was glad I had done it because I wanted to know how my body was progressing on its own, because to me I didn't know anything was happening otherwise, I appreciated the confirmation. It allowed me to let go of some of that control I was trying to hold onto. My midwives shared with me that they were impressed how my body and cervix were preparing itself since this was my first pregnancy and baby. It didn't seem as though I was a first time mom, my body was doing it's thing, what a relief! I was 3 to 4 cm dilated and they said they stretched it to 4 or 5 cm, they were confident we could have a baby in our arms by the next evening (Tuesday) I remember saying out loud to my husband "those dates were good for something!" honestly they may have had no effect at all, but if I had to keep stomaching through eating those things on my own will, I had to believe they were working haha. In addition to dates some of the other things I did to have the best possible outcome if I could help it was seeing a Chiropractor, and a Massage Therapist, eating better food, taking my prenatals, drinking more water, cutting down on my sugar intake, exercise, and a doula!
I went home, slightly uncomfortable still from the stretch and sweep, but we made sure things were good to go, snacks, drinks, the birthing pool, everything was ready. Monday night I had an awful pain in my lower back, I thought I had pulled a muscle and all I could think was I need to work this out because giving birth like this would be awful. That lasted all night, and when my husband was home the following day he helped me massage it out. It went away, but not entirely and I did more stretching to keep it from returning.I could get it to go away for a few hours at a time after massaging it out with a ball, some Tylenol, and more stretches. The pain did return a couple more times but it wasn't until Thursday evening it really returned but not significantly, thankfully. I imagine now that this was my early labour, change of positions here, did not seem to help with the pain. Some may have called this back labour, which has to do with your baby's position, but from all my appointments my little one had been in position for a long while, head down and facing my back. Throughout that week I continued to do what I could, I went for a walk most days, I did stretches to keep opening my pelvis, stair lunges, bouncing on an exercise ball, I was trying to get things rolling! When I informed my midwives that nothing seemed to be happening Tuesday, they told me to sit tight and not to bring on labour as another woman was in early labour. I should add, I read their email after doing stair lunges haha, oops. I felt kind of lost to be honest, I was highly anticipating having my baby soon and then told to stop helping it along, whether I had any control over that or not. I felt I had to stop my anticipation and go back to doing things as before, not bringing labour on, not resting, still running errands, It felt weird, but honestly if my body and baby were ready it would have happened regardless of what I was or wasn't doing.
I remember going to Walmart Wednesday evening though, and something was different, almost like it took too much out of me, not breathing wise, more so moving felt different. So I decided I would stay home from there on to rest. Thursday evening the low back pain faintly came back so I rolled it out with a lacrosse ball and did some yoga and stretches. It was still there but I headed to bed to sleep it off at 12:30am.
I woke at 2:30am unexpectedly, nearly wide awake (typically I drag myself to the bathroom a couple times a night, but still sleepy) I felt a kind of 'pop' in my pelvic area and partially thought I imagined it. So I went to the bathroom as I thought that's why I woke up. I had discharge throughout pregnancy but this seemed like a bit more, slightly different, maybe discharge and additional liquid, I thought maybe my mucus plug had let go. I sat on the toilet to see if there was more flow after peeing to see if my water had broken, I didn't notice anything. As I left the bathroom though I felt what I know now as a contraction. I braced myself on the door frame and slunk down to the floor, not for crippling pain, just to be more comfortable. Once it passed I went and took a tylenol and a gravol, thinking it was early labour and that I should try to go back to sleep, as midwives had directed me to weeks before. Before messaging my husband I was experiencing more contractions so I started to time them, they were 4 and 5 minutes apart on average. I made my way back to the bed and texted my husband who was at work on a night shift telling him I thought my water had potentially broken, but not to come home yet, I was going to try and sleep. My husband said he was coming home, and I said "I don't know if its go time, this could just be early labour." He did decide to come home, obviously better judgement haha. He also told me to call the doula, again I was hesitant, being 3 in the morning now, "I don't want to wake anyone for a false alarm. Why don't we make the decision when you get here." When my husband got home, he almost immediately told me to call the doula. So I texted her, to my surprise she replied right away. He then said we should call the midwife. She answered calmly for it being 3 in the morning haha. I remember her telling me a few weeks prior that when it's active labour you won't be able to hold a conversation. On the phone, she was so calm, and I was trying to remain composed, why? I don't know, I didn't want to call and bother too early! I thought she was going to tell me to call back when you can't have a conversation. She didn't though, she asked me how far apart contractions were, and heard how far apart they were! Then she let me know she was going to grab breakfast and make her way over. I'd say my doula was there by 3:30 and the midwife was there by 4 or 4:30. I am so grateful we did call the doula right away because that hour waiting for the midwife meant I had some help with pain management. Hip squeezes saved me! Hahah, it made it all bearable, without them I can understand why someone would want pain medication.
When the midwife arrived she got her things set up and prepared and then checked me. I was 7 or 8cm dilated. I promptly asked when I was allowed to get in the pool. They said I could now, so they got it ready for me and I got in at the first chance I had. The pool was relaxing to me like I thought it would be, I also picked the pool as I thought I'd feel cleaner, and lighter, movement would be easier while in contractions. This was true for me. My husband and my doula switched out many times to provide hip squeezes, snacks and Gatorade. I remember driving my head into the side of the pool with every contraction. I'm short so it was the easiest way to bare down. :P I believe by 5 or 5:30 the second midwife was called as things were moving along quickly. When she knew she was on her way the primary midwife told me I could do some practice pushes, I didn't know what that meant so I just started and kept going, while the midwife checked to make sure I was pushing correctly. They also cautioned me that because things had been moving so fast that they may have to inject oxytocin after the baby is delivered into my arm, that was fine with me if it was needed.
I'm not sure of timing at this point, but I know they checked me an additional time, they said I was fully dilated but there was still a small portion of my bag of waters left that could be preventing things from really getting going. I gave them the go ahead to break the rest of my water. As I laid on my back in the pool, a contraction came (they hadn't stopped at all since they started) and I asked my husband to try to do a hip squeeze. He came from over top of me and had his hands come down the sides of me, nearly under me to squeeze my hips. I could tell this was a highly uncomfortable position for him so I said loudly, "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR A MINUTE BABER!" in the most loving and encouraging way possible. We all laughed. Again, I didn't expect at this point my water being broken to be painful, but it was, just the literal breaking of it. After that I promptly turned back around and held tight to my husband and the pool as the contractions kicked in harder, pushing began again. I remember being told, low moans, don't waste a contraction. So I would bare down as the contraction crept up and pushed with all my might, with the longest exhale possible, until I couldn't feel the slightest bit of the contraction anymore and then I would breathe as much as I could before the next one came. I alternated through different positions like knees with arms over the side of the pool facing out, one knee down one knee up to open the pelvis, that one wasn't too comfortable but it got the baby moving.
After some more pushing I said, "I'm not tired, I can keep going but, like, what do we think the ETA is here?" Again everybody laughed, they said "literally on the high end, about 15 to 20 more pushes" I was so excited, like pff I can do that, let's go! Around that time they asked me to lie on my back again, and let me tell you, I'm nearly 5 foot 4, not quite, and the pool is oval. I propped my legs up across the shortest side, and I could still barely reach hahaha. Someone pushed my knees down for me so I could brace myself somehow, we made it work. Then they told me, when I say stop pushing, stop pushing! Unless you want to tear. "Okay but you may have to yell it, I might not hear you when I'm intensely focused" was my response. There it was the "ring of fire," after probably 3 or 4 hours of low moans and pushing, I went to a high pitched "ow, ow, ow," as my baby's head crowned and we waited for it to slowly make its way. It honestly didn't last long, within 10 to 20 seconds maybe, even that sounds way longer than it was. And then ploop, my baby is born and placed at my rib cage. Small, purple and...there it is, the long awaited cry, and then we were immediately wrapped in freshly warmed towels to keep the baby warm. I tried to adjust the baby, but the umbilical cord was too short so we waited. I was given the oxytocin in my arm as I gazed down at my little one. I remember they asked me how I felt, and all I could say was, proud. So proud of my body and having given birth naturally, I did it, I was impressed with myself.
A side comment from one of the midwives was "look at her," and I said "it's a girl?" "oh we haven't checked..." hold for dramatic effect... "It's a boy!" And without skipping a beat I said "It's Carson!" As for the placenta, I don't fully remember the details of how it went, I was distracted to say the least, I think one contraction, a push and it was delivered, I wasn't concerned about it as I had decided to donate to dogs for search and rescue training.
My husband got promoted to Daddy, and cut the cord when the pulsing had stopped.
Everyone helped Carson and I up and out of the pool, dried us off and laid us into the bed set up nearby. We were so zoned in to our little man, the midwives and doula then helped us with our first latch. Which had a bit of a halt when we realized he had already pooped on me! Hahaha we didn't hear or feel a thing, and lucky me, I didn't have to clean the first poop. That was the start of our breastfeeding journey and that journey, as I've told my husband, was harder for me than the birth of our son. Birth took roughly 6 hours, with no early labour (besides that pulled back muscle) I am incredibly fortunate. But for the first 2 months, breastfeeding was painful, everyday multiple times a day it was jaw clenching, toe curling, make you want to cry pain, this pain didn't seem to have an end where as birth does. Our breastfeeding journey wasn't the norm though either. My son had a tongue tie, right to the tip, that was clipped on day 3 or 4, and then again deeper on day 10. A tongue tie presented a couple issues. My son's tongue couldn't move effectively to remove milk, and it also gives a shallow latch. Which is where a lot of the pain and initial nipple damage came from, I was doing what I could to improve it prior to the tongue being clipped but I didn't know his tongue could be making it a challenge. I thought I just had to grin and bear the pain until my body was used to it.
The tie also meant that he was working hard but tiring himself out eating, not getting full and then falling back asleep. The less milk intake, the less newborn jaundice can be flushed out and he was not flushing his out fast enough, although with the tie being clipped and supplementing with my own pumped milk we got it under control borderline to needing light therapy. This was one of the most important pieces of my care by midwives, and their priority they place on breastfeeding if that's what the mother chooses- my son needed more milk to get rid of the jaundice before it got back to his brain. This is my best piece of advice for the success of your breastfeeding journey, Only seek help and advice on breastfeeding from people who have successfully breastfed, or who are a midwife or LC, the woman we saw for Carsons tongue tie was a doctor who also specialized in lactation consulting, and sometimes a doula, because they can normalize it, and help guide you! Also if mom or dad has a tongue tie, check babe day 1 for tongue tie as it's genetic. We knew my husband was tied but didn't even think of what that could mean for our baby.
A midwife comes and checks your baby on day 1, 3 and 5 of your baby entering this world, if your baby is starving, she will let you know! It's unlikely the case but let them in on your concerns, you're body was made for this.
I was very fortunate, all of the suckling, and cluster feeding he was doing, even though tiring himself out, brought my milk in well! I was able to pump, which meant I did not have to supplement with formula for these two weeks, which I desired, and was quite emotional about it with all of those initial postpartum hormones! Boy did I cry, and I am not one to cry typically. My midwives, conscious of nipple confusion, and breastfeeding establishment, suggested a small tube attached to a syringe, or a small cup to get my son the milk he needed, not a bottle. I am so thankful my husband was home at the time so we could do this as well, it really required both of us. I would latch our son, and my husband would insert the tube in the corner of my son's mouth just 'so'. As my son suckled, he would now get my milk and the suction to the tube meant he would pull that milk in as well. Double the milk! We thankfully didn't have to do this long after the tongue tie was fully clipped as his tongue could now move effectively and get milk himself. He started to gain his weight back finally, he nearly lost 10% of his birth weight through all of that. And then slowly the jaundice started to disappear. I'd say we had most of this cleared up by 1 month and now it was my turn to figure out how to manage the pain that was caused by the damage. I was always looking up ways to improve the latch. Thankfully it helped! It was a mixture for us, some feeding positions work for some and not others, prescription nipple cream, (I originally got natural nipple balm, which won't do a thing for damage, lanolin was necessary) patience, technique. We got it by month 3 though! And pain has been a worry of the past. Aside from the odd bite here and there ;) As a first time mom, a lot of this is new, you won't know what it's going to look like. From what early labour vs active labour is, how sleep deprived you are going to be, what cluster feeding actually looks like, that your milk not coming in or it being low in supply is rare. When you're unsure, ask! (Is my baby starving or is this cluster feeding? Can you skip early labour, my contractions started 4 minutes apart? Do I have to wake my baby to feed them, or let them cue me?) Your midwife and doula can eliminate a lot of your worries if you just ask. I 100 percent believe things for myself and my family would not have gone this smoothly without their care and attention. I'm excited to do it all over again soon!
If you would like to share YOUR birth story like Celeste has, please visit the "submit your story" page on our website. Or click here: https://www.betterbirthadvocacynetwork.com/submit-your-story