Okaaaaaay here we go. It’s been three weeks since our sweet baby Reya (pronounced “ray-uh”) joined our family and what a WONDERFUL three weeks they’ve been! I’m going to share about our birth experience in this post, along with all the things I found to be particularly helpful in preparing for it and getting me through. This was an incredibly empowering experience for me - not just the birth itself, but everything I did to prepare myself leading up to it. It allowed me to meet a part of myself that I didn't know existed before. A very primal part. A part that is instinctive and intuitive and powerful and often hidden away. If birth stories like this are your jam, feel free to grab a cup of tea or coffee or wine or whatever because I must warn you that my first ever blog post is gonna be a loooooong one.
I’ll begin by saying that I wasn’t always a birth junkie. My fascination for all things pregnancy and birth only ever grew through my own experiences. I seriously looooove listening to other people’s birth stories now, especially the positive ones, because I know we live in a world where birth is something so many of us fear and have only heard terrifying things about. We need more positive stories circulating the internet because birth truly can (and should!) be a positive experience! So that’s why I decided to write this story out in a nice long post rather than just on my Instagram stories :) (I also encourage you to check out The Birth Hour podcast which I listened to throughout my second and third pregnancies).
One word kept coming back to me when I’d think about what I wanted for my third birth experience. That word was "empowered." My goal wasn’t necessarily to have an unmedicated birth or a home birth. It was to have an empowered birth. I know plenty of people who have had precipitous (VERY quick) labours and births which means they weren’t able to get an epidural like they had planned, but they were left feeling traumatized through the experience because everything felt out of their control. I’m also no fool, and have learned through experiences (this one included lol) that “birth plans” really need to be flexible. There are always bound to be some things, big or small, that occur which weren’t included in the plan. So my aim was to prepare my mind and body in such a way that, no matter what, I would feel in control and in the driver’s seat throughout the entire experience.
This whole idea of “being in control” was particularly important to me because I felt robbed of this with my first two births. I gave birth to my son, Avyn, in September 2018 via an unplanned c-section at our local Level 1 hospital. I was 41 weeks pregnant and felt pressured to get an induction which led to a “failure to progress” and fetal distress due to the Pitocin. I think the reason why this birth was so traumatizing for me (and my husband) was a combination of two things: a lack of birth prep on our part, and unnecessary medical interventions from our care team. I went into it with zero knowledge about anything birth related outside of what I had seen on TV or in the movies or heard through people around me (I didn't even take a prenatal/birth prep course!!)
Our second babe, Nova, was born a little less than two years later – in September 2020. Even though the OB from my first birth advised against any future vaginal deliveries (with no reason other than “your body probably won’t progress in labour, so why bother?”), I felt confident that I could have a successful VBAC. This time around I decided I would feel most comfortable going to a Level 3 hospital in the city to deliver, and was so thankful that my body went into labour on its own just a couple days before my due date. While my VBAC experience was incredibly redemptive and truly beautiful in so many ways, there were still several instances where I didn’t feel heard by my care team and knew I needed more support. I recall being in active labour and barely making it through a contraction when I looked at Marc and yelled: “next time I need a midwife and a doula here!!!!!” I realized pretty quickly that I needed assistance getting through my contractions, and while Marc is an amazing support in so many ways, he’s not a trained doula lol. Also I’d like to add that it was 2020 so due to Covid rules I spent nearly two hours labouring alone in triage because Marc wasn’t allowed into the hospital until I was admitted. That was truly the worst and added to it being a hard experience for me.
So even though both of those births were very different from one another, I still didn’t feel like I was actively apart of them. My birth experiences felt more like things that happened “to me,” if that makes sense? So I knew that with my third I wanted something more.
Fast forward to this pregnancy. My due date was May 27th, which was super exciting because that’s actually Marc’s birthday! My pregnancy in general was low risk and pretty chill. We did have one little scare but it was early on and thankfully nothing serious. I also did feel a lot more discomfort this time and, especially towards the end of it, began to experience SPD pain (Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction) which I didn’t have with my first two. It was truly unbearable some days and had me counting down the days to meeting our babe!
Our plan was to prepare for a home water birth. Now let me just start off by saying that I’m no hippie lol. There is truly NO WAY I would’ve even considered the idea of a home birth if this had been a few years ago. But that was also back when I didn’t know a whole lot about birth – how it’s a natural process and not a medical emergency (if it’s low risk, of course). And how, especially for subsequent births, it’s often a safer and more positive experience to give birth in the comfort of your own home than in a hospital. Midwives are equipped with pretty much everything that a Level 1 hospital would have (including resuscitation equipment, IV’s, etc.) and I felt very confident that if there were to be any reason to go to the hospital for additional support, my team would know when to make that call.
I invested my entire pregnancy into birth education. I chose local midwives who supported my decision for a home birth and didn’t see any red flags for why I couldn’t pursue it. I also hired some amazing doula’s (@dynamicdoulas on Instagram) who are truly sent from ABOVE. And I began taking an online birth course through The Positive Birth Company which filled me with SO much knowledge and confidence this time around. All three things were instrumental in helping me prepare for the kind of birth I wanted.
I didn’t tell a whole lot of people that we were preparing for a home birth, partly because I knew I was bound to receive some backlash for it, but also because I knew that a lot could change! The plan was always “a home birth UNLESS we feel, for any reason, we should go to the hospital.” I was talking to a friend and remember her saying “Joti, it’s not like you’re going to be locked up in your freaking house! You always have the option to go in if you want to.” So, we made sure to be registered at the hospital as a “just in case.” I think you need to be well aware and open to the possibility of plans changing no matter what they are.
So let’s get into the nitty gritty. It all started up at around 2am on May 29th (I was 40w2d pregnant). Up until this point I was experiencing some on and off prodromal labour and had lost my mucus plug a few days prior. I woke up at around 2am to what felt like my water breaking. I put on an adult diaper lol, placed a drop cloth and fitted sheet on the bed and puppy pads just in case I leaked more. Called my midwife to just give her a heads up and let my doula know, too. The problem with my water breaking was that if my contractions didn’t start within the next day or two I’d have to go to the hospital and get induced, which I was really trying to avoid. I slept until about 7am then decided to get up and have the kids ready and out the door to their grandparents a few hours later. I began to cycle through ways to induce labour: step walking, birth ball, miles circuit, clary sage, etc. Took a short nap, then went to see my midwife because I wasn’t leaking anymore and wanted confirmation that it was actually amniotic fluid. She checked and what’s wild is that even though the pH was the same as amniotic fluid, upon further inspection it appeared it wasn’t! I had never heard about this but there can apparently be like a secondary sac filled with about a cup of fluid that can rupture – which isn’t your actual water breaking even though it feels like it! So weird. A part of me was disappointed because I wasn’t even having contractions yet so who knew when labour would start, but I was also relieved because this removed the ticking clock which comes with your water breaking and requiring induction etc.
Nothing happened for the remainder of the day, until at about 10:30pm when I was about to go to sleep. I started to experience mild contractions about every 10 minutes, lasting about 45 seconds. Nothing crazy though so I just texted my doula and birth photographer to give them a heads up and went to bed.
The next morning (so this is now Monday, May 30th and I’m 40w3d pregnant) I woke up at around 6:30am to a decently intense contraction. They were still about every 7-10 minutes and lasting 45 seconds, but very much manageable. I just remember thinking to myself “omg it’s baby day. I know it. And I had a full nights sleep! How lucky am I?!”
At this point my kids had already been out of the house for a day so I didn’t have any more cleaning to do and wasn’t sure how I’d pass by the time lol. I decided to drive down to my in-laws place between contractions so I could visit them and play and hopefully get some feel-good hormones flowing to help labour progress. I also was very confident and emotional that today was baby day so I needed to give my big two a squeeze! We played outside and enjoyed the sunshine but about an hour into being there I realized my labour had actually stalled so maybe I needed to go back home now. I ate some lunch, bounced around on the birth ball, Facetimed my sister, and went for a walk. Let me also just mention that this day was HOT. Like, insanely hot.
At about 1:30pm I was feeling pretty discouraged because my labour had definitely stalled. Contractions were now only every 10-15 minutes and not lasting as long (maybe 30 seconds, tops). Marc came home from work and I asked him to go on a walk with me, but he was feeling incredibly stressed and anxious about work (it’s asparagus harvest aka the busiest time of the year for us on the farm). I felt bad for him but I also was annoyed and told him that I think it would be best for him to get out of the house for a bit and blow off some steam because I needed to protect my birth space hahahaha. Now I sound like a hippie, but seriously. The vibes needed to be positive and they weren’t and I could feel his anxiety rubbing off on me and that wasn’t helping my labour progress.
I decided to take a little nap and fell asleep listening to some birth meditations on the Freya app. Then at around 4:30pm I woke up to strong and consistent contractions – every 5-8 minutes but lasting closer to 45 seconds each. I immediately texted Marc “can you please go pick up some pizza?! I think it’s happening and I need food.” So he quickly went and grabbed some, we had supper, then went on another walk together at around 5:30pm.
It was 7pm when I think my body started to enter active labour. I was on the floor in our living room, next to the birth pool, alternating between squatting on my exercise ball and on my hands and knees. I texted my doula saying “sooooo when do you come? Lol” and thankfully she said she was already on her way. My contractions were getting much closer together, every 3-4 minutes and lasting 45 seconds. But the intensity is what really fired up at this point. Up until this point I was able to manage them on my own but knew I was reaching that point soon where I needed someone to help me out. I had Marc bring out a cushion into the living room for me along with my birth affirmation cards. I also had combs that I would squeeze into my palms every time a contraction hit. The idea behind the combs is that, as I pressed the teeth into my hands' acupuncture points, my brain would register that pain before the contraction pain to help distract my mind. It seriously helped SO much! I felt most comfortable labouring on my hands and knees at this point. With each surge I would breathe in for four, and breathe out for six. As I was breathing out I would pick a birth affirmation card and repeat it to myself. I really underestimated how helpful this would be. Some affirmations I remember that I used the most were:
- “I can do anything for one minute”
- “Women all over the world are birthing babies right now”
- “I made this baby, I can birth this baby”
- "This will be a positive experience"
- “My body was built to do this”
- “I will open”
- “My baby is safe, I am safe”
My doula, Lara, arrived at around 7:45pm while I was still labouring on the cushion on my hands and knees. I was wearing a sports bra and pants and realized when she arrived that I was experiencing chills. I asked Marc to bring me a sweater and to turn off the AC (remember, it was a VERY hot day), and I asked for Lara to set up her TENS machine. I had never used a TENS machine before but had heard really positive things about it. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a form of pain relief without medicine - you basically stick electrodes onto the skin of your back and when you turn the machine on it will send low-voltage electrical current into your body. Similar to using the combs in the sense that it would send a painful sensation into my body that would help act as a focal point during contractions.
At this point I still felt most comfortable on my hands and knees but decided I wanted to be in my bed instead. So we went into the room and I felt nice and cozy with my duvet and heated blanket over me. Lara set up the TENS machine and we got into this rhythm where every time I would feel a surge coming on I’d press the contraction timer on the Freya app, she would start the TENS machine, I would squeeze the combs in my hands, and I would continue with focusing on my breathing and birth affirmations. We reached a point where I stopped timing contractions and Lara began saying the affirmations to me during contractions. At 8pm we let the midwife and birth photographer know it was time to come to the house.
I stopped checking the clock for anything after this point. Really just focused on breathing through every contraction and repeating “I can do anything for one minute” helped a lot with that. I also remember at this point Marc would join me during a contraction and having him present with me and massaging my back really helped. But also, for some reason, when my contraction was over he’d quickly leave lol! I was getting annoyed but it turned out that he was filling up the birth pool with water but was lowkey having a panic attack because we ran out of hot water hahaha. So there the poor guy was frantically filling up pots with water to boil on the stovetop. Afterwards he said, “I knew you needed me but I knew you’d also kill me if the water was cold so I think that was the priority” hahaha. Ironic because I never ended up stepped foot in that pool.
My midwife, Kim, must have arrived at around 9pm and at this point things had already quadrupled in intensity. I don’t even remember Danielle (my photographer pal) being there but do recall seeing her figure from the corner of my eye a few times lol. The room was dark, I was super bundled up, and feeling quite hot at this point. But still focused on contractions and feeling like I was doing a great job at controlling myself through them! But my groaning was definitely getting louder and I knew things were ramping up quickly and it was time for me to get into that dang birth pool. But before going in I had to get checked, which Kim did, and it turned out we had a little hiccup in our plans. I spiked a freaking fever! And babes heart rate was a bit elevated. I was immediately like “WHAT. This is a joke right?! Get me into that damn pool!!!!!” lol
I asked for reassurance that baby and I would be ok, and both Kim and Lara told me we were. My midwife was just nervous that the fever was caused by an infection because I was GBS positive and suggested we go to the hospital out of an abundance of caution. Everyone was very calm and I truly wasn’t worried at all. Mostly just annoyed because I knew this baby could come out any second and the idea of potentially giving birth on the road wasn't exciting. But I did agree to go in because I fully trusted my care team and knew it was the best thing to do.
While Marc got some things together to bring along with us, my water broke. I moved to the toilet so the fluids could continue to leak out. It turned out I was much more comfortable seated on there, but by doing so the pressure also really intensified. I felt like baby could come out at any point now and almost wanted to give birth right there on the toilet so I didn't have to get up lol
During the ride to the hospital I received IV fluids which caused my fever to drop and baby’s heart rate was back in normal range. At this point I was like “are you SERIOUS?! Let’s just go back home, then!” But that really wasn’t an option at this point lol. My midwife said it could have been caused by dehydration. Remember how I mentioned it was a HOT HOT DAY?! Haha. I continued to use all my pain management techniques on the drive and my midwife coached me in breathing a bit differently (fast paced exhales) because I kept yelling “I NEED TO PUSH!” followed by “I WILL NOT HAVE MY BABY IN HERE!!!!” in place of my birth affirmations. Looking back I laugh at how hilarious that must’ve sounded to everyone hahaha.
We arrived at the hospital, I got wheeled out onto the labour and delivery unit, and I am pretty sure I was now yelling out “THIS BABY IS BOUT TO COME OUT, Y’ALL” the entire way up. They transferred me onto a bed, hooked up fetal monitors, and just as we had already confirmed, everything looked great. I knew I didn’t want to have my baby laying on my back and that also just wasn’t what felt comfortable to me in the moment so I got up on my knees and leaned against the top of the bed. And this is when I began to feel it. I knew it was important for me to take complete control during this time so I began to push with my contractions and what felt right. This is what I wanted, to feel it all and to be led by my body to birth my baby. I looked up and saw my doula, my midwife, and Marc all by my side and it was almost as if having all the three of them there is what finally allowed me to enter this stage of pushing. My support team is what I wanted and needed and I was so incredibly grateful that, despite the hospital transfer, all three of them could be there with me.
At this point I also recall one of the nurses saying “you need to lay on your back, this doctor will not allow you to deliver like that.” To which I responded: “it’s my body and I’m going to deliver my baby the way I want to” (may or may not have thrown an expletive in there lol). So I did just that. During the next few contractions I *really* began to tap into that primal part of myself. I roared through them to push her head out and then it took one extra contraction to push out her body. I reached between my legs and grabbed her and brought her up to my chest and WOAH. I just did that?!?! I was shocked and I also felt immediate relief. I heard a cry and they told me to keep rubbing her and talking to her so I did. Marc asked me to check if it was a boy or girl, which I didn’t even think about. I quickly checked and said “eeeek it's a girl!!!"
I then laid on my back and pushed out the placenta but really don't even remember it happening. It’s true what they say – you’re filled with a huge sense of relief that the pain is nothing in those first moments. I actually just read somewhere that this is referred to as the "exhale" - this sacred pause that happens immediately after birth where your whole body needs to literally exhale the birth before it inhales the baby. Looking back at my birth video I can see it happening to me after I pushed her out and I remember exactly what it felt like in those first few moments - this instant and profound relief. I almost just needed a few moments to travel back from this other dimension I was in before "inhaling" my baby lol.
She was born at 11:17PM on May 30th 2022, perfectly healthy. 8.5 pounds of squish! They let me hold her and nurse her and nobody got in the way. I was super thankful for the hospital staff that really did just that: took a step back and let me birth according to how I wanted to. And the OB even said to my midwife afterwards (in regards to me delivering how I wanted to): “well, I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!” They all left the room and just really respected us and our space. It was so wonderful! My midwife and doula stayed for a while and I was so thankful for that. We talked and laughed and even debriefed the whole wild experience. I literally can’t tell you how much that meant to me. How much they mean to me! I couldn’t have asked for a better support team.
And that was that! I think it was like 3am when Marc and I fell asleep for a few hours, then we woke up and went home that morning. I was able to get up and use the washroom, take a shower, and honestly felt pretty amazing. I didn’t tear at all and was amazed that I also had zero swelling! Recovery truly felt like a breeze. For the most part, that is. The next day I ended up getting hit with worse cold/flu symptoms. Which made us realize that my fever was likely caused by the fact I had contracted some stupid virus and my body was dealing with that as it was also labouring. The virus was honestly the worst part of the entire thing hahaha but what can ya do! Like I said, some things are just out of your control. It took me a good two weeks post-partum to finally recover from it but I’m glad that’s all it was and baby and I are both a-ok. :)
Well, that pretty much sums it up! If you made it this far, thank you. I'll probably do a Q&A on my Instagram stories so feel free to head over there for more or if there's anything you'd like to ask me!
A HUGE thank you to my amazing friend, Danielle, from Paper Suitcase Photography for the images of me labouring at home. And to Lara, from Dynamic Doulas, for the snaps and videos she took on her phone throughout the process of me labouring and birthing. So stinking grateful to have these memories captured.