I woke up early on Saturday, July 22nd. We had a midwife appointment that morning at 9. I decided to take a long shower, wash my hair and shave my legs. I put on makeup and one of the only dresses that still fit me but luckily it was also one of my favorite dresses. Our son had definitely dropped and I walked with a waddle. Portland summer weather was hot and sticky but that particular morning was cooler than mosts. As we were driving to our appointment I got the idea in my head that I wanted to make a meyer lemon cake with cream cheese frosting from scratch. I don’t know why but I assume it was my nesting brain. When we arrived to the birth center my midwife Marilyn gave me a big hug and listed to the babies heart beat, measured my belly and asked how I was feeling. She was due to go to Hawaii in a few days and I was pretty bummed. When I had made the switch to the birth center only a few months earlier I developed a quick and deep emotional connection with Marilyn. I knew if I delivered on my due date or later I would work with the second midwife. My bond with Marilyn was so deep I really had my heart set on having her deliver our baby. I told her I had been having mild contractions since my acupuncture appointment on Thursday but they didn’t last more than 15 mins and they just felt like mild cramps. She asked if I had lost my mucus plug and I said no. She asked if I wanted her to check to see if I was dilated at all and I said no. We had no signs our baby boy was on the way. She sent us off with a warm smile and hugs telling me to rest, relax and enjoy the day.
We grabbed brunch and I remember everyone staring at me as we left. I had that “she’s about to pop” look I guess. Since I was technically “due” that coming Wednesday we decided to stop by the local party store to get a “Welcome Home” sign for the baby and pick up the fixings to make my meyer lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. My husband had plans to hang out with a friend for a bit then head out golfing with another later that day. I was originally going to hang out with my friend while our husbands golfed but I was tired and just had this feeling like I should stay home so I parked myself on the couch and turned on Friends. Friends is my happy zone out show. I knew my husband would be home soon to change before he headed out to the golf range so I decided it was time to get going on this epic meyer lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. I stood up and WOOSH. A gush of liquid came spilling out beneath me. I stood stunned for about a minute. I was told again and again that rarely do women actually have their water break in such a way but there I was standing in a puddle of fluid while Friends “so no one told you life was gonna be this waayyyyy” blared in the background.
With a shaky voice I called my husband and screamed “My water broke! You can’t go golfing!” I called my dad next to alert him that him and my step mom should book that flight up to Portland and that this baby was coming early! When my husband got home we called our doula who asked if I was having contractions and I told her nothing other than what I was experiencing before. Our birth plan had included laboring at home as long as possible so she told us to sit tight, eat some carbs for energy and to try and sleep before my contractions kicked in. I think the time at this point was around 4/5pm. I was so excited that our baby was on his way that sleep was not an option. We ordered a pizza, boarded the dogs for the night at their daycare, I texted with friends and family and yes I even got an IG post up letting social media know baby C would be here sooner than later!
So the next bits are a little of a blur because when you are in labor you lose track of time but I remember around 10pm my contractions were starting to feel like very intense period cramps. They reminded me of the pain I had had before with cysts on my ovaries. By this point we were in bed and trying to sleep. My husband was timing my contractions and in touch with our doula and midwife. Barely an hour later it was apparent sleeping was not going to happen. My contractions felt like they went from a pain scale of 6/10 to 10/10 in less than an hour. I couldn’t lay down comfortably and moved back to the living room. I don’t remember where those 4 hours went but it got to the point where I couldn’t talk and was making the deep beast noises. The best way I can explain them is a walrus having an exorcism. I could hear my husband on the phone with our doula and telling her my contractions were xx minutes apart for xx amount of time. I saw him hold the phone up and obviously I was making the que noises that I needed to get to the birth center right away.
Now I am going to describe the rest in fragments, because that’s how I remember it.
In the car, on all fours, in the back seat, moaning and crying.
We get to the birth center first. I am laying in the backseat and have a brief moment of clarity. It’s the middle of the night and cold. I stare at the streetlights and fog outside trying to breathe and remain calm.
The midwives escort us in to our birthing room. I see Marilyn and feel relief. I see our doula Brooke and feel relief. I see the tub water drawn and candles lit. I can hear my husbands playlist he made me softly playing. I use the restroom and lose my mucus plug. I am very alert and awake for the next few hours. Extremely aware that I am about to push a baby out but somehow all those classes about birthing and breathing also go out the window.
I labor in the tub. The water is warm and helps the pain a bit. I labor there for a while but loose focus and need to move to a more comfortable spot.
I labor on the toilet with a cloth wrapped around my husbands shoulders that I pull down on so hard I am convinced I am breaking him.
I move back to the tub where I am passing out in between contractions. Sipping water here and there and I remember vomiting once or twice. My eyes are closed as I try to focus and breathe. I remember constantly reaching out for hands to hold and squeeze. I held so many hands that night. My husbands, my doulas, all three of the midwives.
I am squeezing hands and I look up at everyone in the room at one point and say “My body is going to break. I don’t think I can do this.”
I hear my doula say “Nicole, you can do this. You have to do this.”
It was then my labor shifts. I give in to my body. I let go of any thoughts, I let go of the control I was holding onto and the idea that I was going to have a water birth. I trust my body. I know it is capable and wonderful and the gift I am about to receive doesn’t care where we met. We can meet in water, on the floor, in a bed, it doesn’t matter.
I tell my team I need to move to the bed. It’s in the transition to the bed that I see the daylight peeking out from the curtains. It’s very obvious it’s morning. Not dawn, but morning.
I labor on my side on the bed but I am not pushing correctly. I have been up for over 24 hours at this point and am very tired. Marylin can tell I need guidance pushing. She proceeds to insert her fingers in me and instructs me to push them out. Once I do this task she says “That’s how I need you to push.”
I remember having a deep eyelock with her and we both knew this is not the right position I need to get this baby out.
I am moved to a birth stool where I feel a completely different kind of labor. The gravity and position que something in my brain. I am pushing in a way I didn’t think is possible. I can hear Marylin say “I can see the top of his head” and then I feel it. The ring of fire. It’s the only part of labor pain I can clearly remember in detail and I am going to be very honest and frank about this part because no one told me how it feels and I think calling it a “ring of fire” is almost sugar coating it.
It feels like a rusty chainsaw being shoved up your vagina then being twisted and slowly pulled out.
It lasts for only a few minutes and after that pain I could feel his head and shoulders slip out.
Pushing a baby out it the most relieving feeling in the world and in an instant I had my sweet lil boy in my arms.
Caspian was born on July 23rd at 10:53 am. Perfectly healthy, happy and a Leo just like me.
A HUGE thank you to the incredible staff at Andaluz Water Birth Center for providing the most amazing support during pregnancy, labor and postpartum care. Extra love to Marilyn who is our fairy godmother.
We could not have done this without the guidance and support of our doula Brooke at Portland Doula and Birth Services.