Even before I was pregnant, God gave me an innate sense that He empowers women in the process of becoming mothers. When I learned about the life inside of me, it was an experience of both confidence and helplessness. I felt bold, strong, and capable-- yet without knowledge and control over what was happening inside my body. Those feelings led to joy-filled study of pregnancy, labor, and my childbirth options.
At the time, I was about 26 weeks pregnant and seeing an OB I still had very little relationship with. Unfortunately, when I approached my OB and other hospital staff with questions from my personal study, I was met with criticism and disbelief that I would question well-known facilities and professionals. It was clear to me that the staff questioned my adequacy and independently capable role as a mother, and I immediately knew that facility was not a good fit. After more research and convincing my significantly nervous husband, I switched my care to the Birth Center of Baton Rouge at 30 weeks. I was seen, acknowledged, and treated with dignity by the midwives and other staff there. They validated what I had understood from the beginning- this was my birth, our birth, a very natural, powerful, and beautiful occurrence which shouldn't be frightening but instead should be peaceful and sacred.
Not only was the Birth Center staff knowledgeable and caring, but they connected us to other incredible birth pros who supported our dreams and goals for a peaceful and natural birth. They recommended the childbirth classes offered by the doulas at Birth Help, and we were so happy we attended! The classes helped educate us on pregnancy and birth, but our favorite moments were when the doulas help us visualize our birth as teamwork! For the first time, my husband was excited to be a part of our birth and felt empowered to help me in whatever way I needed. He was especially thankful for the comfort measures class, although we laugh now because the comfort measures I thought I would want ended up being completely different from what I actually wanted in labor! Good thing we were both prepared with a long list of relaxation and refocus techniques!
On Saturday, May 20th, around noon, my heart told me our son was on his way. I was beginning to feel cramp-like sensations, not painful, but consistent and timeable. I mentioned the sensations to my husband, but decided to go about the day as planned and attend the NCAA Regional Softball tournament at LSU. A few close friends were coaching and playing in the tournament and it would be the perfect event to keep me occupied! As the day progressed, a rain delay brought the games to a stop. As we waited for the games to resume, the sensations became stronger, longer, and closer together. Still, I wasn't necessarily in pain and could easily talk or breathe through them. At about 8:00 p.m., before heading back to LSU's softball field, I called my midwife to check in about the activity I was feeling. As I was a week before my due date, we decided that the contractions would probably ease off if I got a good night's sleep and relaxed. I decided I would watch the night's last game at LSU and then head home to rest. Well, the game didn't end until about 12:30 a.m. and by then, the sensations were about 1 minute long and 3 minutes apart, still not painful, just noticeable enough that I preferred to stand instead of sit. After the game, we went home and slept until I was woken up by stronger surges at 4 a.m.
Lance and I remembered from our preparation that light walking and bouncing on a ball could be helpful at this point, so we decided to head to the local Target and grocery store for a few items. Looking back, I'm not sure it was the best idea, as my surges picked up significantly during the car rides. I remember pausing between racks at Target to lean on my husband's shoulders and breath through surges. It was new, but I was truly enjoying every moment we got to work together. While Lance made a quick run in the grocery store, I called our midwife Sherri to update her and we breathed through a few contractions. She told me this was probably the day we would meet our baby boy, but that we should go home and labor comfortably until we felt it was absolutely necessary to head to the birth center. I was so excited and felt a deep sense of determination! We were prepared for this and it was finally happening!
The car ride home was difficult, but once we were home I labored in our bathtub and on a ball for a few hours. We listened to fun music and danced together and I made sure to eat and drink what I felt I could to keep my energy up. I loved sitting on my birth ball and leaning over my bed through surges as it took pressure off of my back. Finally, I looked at my husband and knew it was time to call Sherri and head to the birth center. At that point, I knew the car ride would be difficult, and it was 35 minutes drive to the center. Sherri asked if I was sure, insisting that first time moms often pull the trigger too soon. But I joked with her, "knowing" that it was time. It was a slow journey to the car, as surges were only about a minute apart by this point, but with music keeping us feeling lighthearted, we kept our excitement and headed to Baton Rouge.
I bounced and began vocalizing in low tones in the car. It wasn't what I expected I would do, but it was empowering and comforting and I had no shame of my natural method! Finally we arrived at the Birth Center and Sherri guided us to our room. She joked that she was sending us home if I wasn't yet at 2cm dilation, but I knew that wouldn't be an issue. When we checked, I was fully effaced and 8cm dilated-- in her own words, I had surprised everyone! I felt so confident and empowered in that moment!
So many memories flood me about our laboring experience at the birth center. While standing, I thought my water had broken, but I had actually just peed without knowing it! We all laughed as my friend Amanda realized it might be a good time to leave the room! Ha! I realized I loved being in the water on my knees, lying my arms over the edge of the tub with Lance making eye contact with me and helping me breathe deeply and steadily. However, we realized I was at 10cm and our son wasn't getting any lower. Eventually, at 7:30 p.m. Sherri and I had a very respectful conversation about breaking my water. I was strong but tiring, and it seemed as though the umbilical cord or my amniotic sac was preventing Kai from lowering. Sherri recommended we break my water and I labor with a peanut ball on my side for 10 contractions. I trusted her with my whole being because I knew she respected my wishes and would only recommend something absolutely necessary.
She broke my water and immediately my body began pushing with strong and uncontrollable surges. It was the most shocking and awe-inspiring moment of the whole labor. My body knew what to do, and it was doing it with its own strength! Wow! 10 hard contractions later, Sherri said delivery would be soon and I chose to return to the water in my favorite and most comfortable position. Within minutes, I felt pressure low in my birth canal and near my anus and I asked Sherri if Kai was close. I will never forget how she told me that I should try checking and tell her what I felt. The joy and courage I experienced when I felt my son's head only inches away from the world is indescribable! My smile beamed back at her before another surge came, this was it!
I was advised to turn over so my husband could help catch the baby as we desired, and only a few pushes later, Kai was born into Lance and my hands! I was patient when he crowned and thankfully didn't tear, and my placenta came quickly afterward. The joy, peace, and deep sense of accomplishment I felt is still, to this day, the best feeling I have ever had! My support team helped Kai and I with the beautiful, yet awkward first moments of breastfeeding and then they helped me out of the tub while Lance got to embrace his son for the first time. I remember my legs shaking with exhaustion and my breath shaking with joy. I had done it, and our boy was perfect. Our family was together, finally!