OTTO'S BIRTH STORY
Just a bit of background
When I found out that I was pregnant for the second time, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to have a water birth at Beautiful Mountain Birth Suites in Draper. I had had the privilege of shooting a water birth there earlier in the year and was blown away by their facilities, midwives, and the peaceful environment they created. Bryan was extremely nervous about the whole situation (he says it’s his job to worry and he does his job well HA), but we had a consultation with the midwives and he was quickly put at ease. I highly recommend them if you’re in Utah and wanting to birth in a wonderful, non-hospital environment!!
In preparation for this water birth, we decided to take Hypnobirthing classes with The Curtis Method. I cannot emphasize how wonderful these classes were!! Bryan was super skeptical that we needed them and he is now a believer. Seriously, as we were driving to our very first class, he told me he thought we didn’t need them and he didn’t think he was going to learn anything (you can imagine how annoyed I was HAHA) and now he talks them up every chance he gets!
The main idea behind these classes is that fear = pain. If you don’t understand what is happening during birth, it is SCARY! The contractions can become overwhelming (you’ve probably never felt a sensation like it before so it’s new!) and if your mind isn’t prepared, your body’s inclination is to fight them, which makes them way more painful and also fights your body’s natural birthing process. Also, this makes your labor much longer than necessary and can also result in more medical interventions! When you are able to eradicate fear from the birthing process, accept and welcome each expansion by listening to your body, keep your birthing muscles relaxed and loose through each expansion, and feel completely safe in your birthing environment, the sensations you feel aren’t associated in your brain with pain. Pressure, yes. Opening, yes. Intense, YES! But not painful because you know exactly what is happening and it is completely natural. After the classes, I practiced deep meditation every single day in preparation for birth. I can genuinely say that there were only two very short moments during my birth where I experienced actual pain and both of them were when I lost my focus and my breathe! The sensations were intense, but completely bearable and I had a very peaceful, empowering birth experience.
Our Birth Story
I told myself through my whole pregnancy that I wouldn’t set expectations for when he would come (due date was February 14th), but for some reason I was convinced that I’d have him at 38 weeks. Don’t ask me why, I just was. I had Rea at exactly 39 weeks, so when 38 weeks passed and then 39 weeks passed, I was kind of a wreck. I hadn’t gotten a pelvic exam my whole pregnancy because I didn’t want to psych myself out, but at my 39 week appointment, I asked my midwife to check just to see what was going on. I’d been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions starting at 34 weeks and tons of cramping so I was sure that things were progressing. I was so relieved when she said I was already 4cm and 90% effaced! Baby boy’s head just wasn’t down far enough and in position so we were waiting on him to drop. That was on Feb 7th and my parents and sister were driving in the morning of the 9th, so timing was perfect! Bryan predicted that baby boy was just waiting for his Nona to be here so I could relax and we wouldn’t have a situation like last time (read Rea’s birth story for a recap lol).
My parents arrived Saturday morning on the 9th and we spent the whole day trying to get labor started. We went to breakfast and then the mall to walk around for a while; I had tons of cramps and downward pressure but nothing consistent all day. When we got back to the house, I took a 4 hour nap, which ended up being the best decision ever because I was in for a long night. The plan for the evening was to grab dinner with my family and then go hang out with some friends to celebrate a close friend’s birthday. I was sitting on the couch and submitting our dinner order online for pickup when I felt two contractions. Real contractions, not just cramps!! I could feel the waves build up, peak, and then taper off. I got kind of excited in my head but didn’t want to say anything and scare them off. It was a little after 6 and I went upstairs to get dressed and realized I was spotting and losing some mucus plug AND had another contraction. I knew without a doubt this was it! I went downstairs and told Bryan he needed to call our friends and let them know that we weren’t going to make it. My whole family started freaking out, of course; we couldn’t believe how perfect the timing was! We packed up all our stuff and headed to Bryan’s parents’ house, which was right down the street from the birth center. We wouldn’t call Angie (our midwife) until 5-1-1 - contractions 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute or longer, consistently for 1 hour - so we planned on hanging out at their house until it was time.
We got to their house around 7pm and I was consistently feeling contractions, but they were still pretty spaced out. I could talk through them with no reaction or needing to stop to breathe. Each expansion brought a wave of endorphins so I was feeling really awesome. I walked laps around the house, snacked on fruit, bounced on my ball, and walked up and down the stairs. The waves were strong, but still not super consistent and I didn’t need help getting through them yet. My father-in-law asked me if I was sure I was in labor because I wasn’t wincing or anything at all haha. I assured him that I was and that it would be happening early the next morning for sure.
Around 10:30pm, I decided to go lay down in bed with Rea, who was already asleep, and try to nap; I had a feeling if I could sleep or at least rest, my contractions would start coming more consistently. I got into bed but couldn’t sleep so I just snuggled my baby girl. I knew that it would be the last time it was just us two and it made me really emotional. Bryan came to bed at midnight and we had our last family snuggle with just us three. Those memories are so precious to me.
I wasn’t able to actually sleep, but resting did the trick and I started to feel more consistent contractions. I kept a pillow between my legs as I lay there to help keep my hips open. They were still bearable, but I started using my breathing exercises to keep my muscles nice and loose. A little after 1am, I couldn’t lay down anymore so I went downstairs alone to walk through the waves. They were coming on consistently and much stronger so I also started timing them. They were about 4-5 minutes apart and lasting over 1 minute! I knew active labor had finally started and we were on our way! The sensations were totally bearable as I used my breathing I had been practicing until they passed (breathe in for a steady count of 8, breathe out for a steady count of 8); I also started vocalizing quietly through each contraction, making an “ohhhhhhhhh” sound to keep my throat and face relaxed. I could feel that things were moving quickly and I woke Bryan up at 2am to help me through the contractions. My mom, sister, and Bryan alternated rubbing my lower back, rocking me, and doing counter-pressure on my hips through the contractions. 2:30am rolled around and I knew it was time to call Angie! It would take her about 30 minutes to get to the birth center, so I also had Bryan call Kenzie, our photographer. My intuition was telling me that things were going to move quickly so she needed to get there ASAP. At this point, I had to vocalize and really focus to get through my contractions; I talked and laughed in between waves, but as soon as I could feel them start, I needed to stop, concentrate, and let out an “ohhhhhhhhhhhh” to keep my birthing muscles loose.
We got to the birthing center at 3am and my contractions were about 3 minutes apart. I had to keep jumping off of the exam table to vocalize and sway through contractions when Angie was trying to check me. When we finally got a break, she checked and I was dilated 7cm and completely effaced! Baby boy’s head was also in the perfect position (hooray not posterior like Rea!!) and we were ready to go! They immediately started filling up the tub with nice hot water, which I was SO READY for. Kenz also got to the birth center soon after my exam and started snapping away!
When I first got into that water, it was like my entire body melted and relaxed. It was HEAVENLY! I immediately said “wow I’m so dumb, I should have been in the tub at the Hardisty’s house”, but it was probably good I wasn’t because I don’t think I would have been able to get out. The warm water was so soothing and it also made it much easier to switch positions between resting and the expansions. The waves started coming VERY quickly after that. I barely had any time to recover between them so each time they tapered off, I had to quickly adjust my breathing, take a sip of water, and soak in that surge of endorphins before the next one started. One of the student midwives assisting in my birth also acted as my doula and her counterpressure techniques were wonderful!! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to birth without a doula again.
I can distinctly remember the first time I felt pain the whole labor: I had a GIANT contraction, I could feel it so deeply in my birthing muscles. The peak seemed to last forever! It completely took my breathe away and I couldn’t seem to get on top of it. After what felt like forever, it finally subsided only to start up again with another huge contraction! I knew that I had just transitioned and I was almost there.
Quick side note: When birthing in a hospital, everything is very choppy, especially when you’re medicated. Nurses are constantly checking your cervix (p.s. ask them not to) and when you’re dilated 10cm, they say “okay let’s practice pushing before the doctor gets here!” and you’re usually there pushing for at least an hour. But basically, the staff makes you wait until they give “permission” to proceed to the next part of birth and they are running the show!
The only reason I bring this up is because I was basically waiting for someone to give me permission to push. I was feeling these urges but I kept “running away” from them and trying to stop myself from pushing because I didn’t know if I was ready. Looking back at it, I just laugh but in the moment I didn’t even realize I was doing it! I had my eyes closed and I could hear Angie’s voice off to my right saying “Madisen, are you feeling the urge to push? Don’t run away from it, push when you feel the contraction!”. At some point, during a break, Angie asked Bryan if he wanted to catch the baby (that’s when I thought to myself “HOLY CRAP THIS IS REAL IT’S HAPPENING”). He said no, he wanted to stay holding my hands this time - which I am so grateful for because he gave me so much support - so I turned to my mom and asked if she wanted to catch. She was absolutely ecstatic and I’m so happy she got that experience!
Then the bearing down sensations started coming on STRONG. I couldn’t have resisted even if I wanted to, it was unlike anything I had ever felt before. I had been medicated (unfortunately) for this part of Rea’s birth so it was my first time experiencing those sensations. They are indescribable! I could literally feel his head moving down through the birth canal and no, it didn’t hurt! The pressure was super intense, but I could feel my loose muscles giving way to his body and he moved down in just a few contractions. I felt my water break as I pushed and that really set it into my head that this was happening. (Funny story, my sister almost passed out when I was pushing. When my water broke, there were little membranes and stuff that went into the water - which you’ll see in the pictures - and something about that made her feel dizzy and she had to sit down HAHA). It felt wonderful to listen to what my body could handle instead of hearing people counting to 10 and making me push harder! The only other discomfort I felt was a burning sensation in my tailbone; I pushed towards that sensation and as each contraction subsided, I felt some relief. I remember saying to Bryan “he’s coming, he’s coming, I want him out”. I had read so many birth stories where women said that they had nice long breaks to catch their breathe between pushing contractions, but it must only be a ‘first baby’ thing, because I only got about 10 seconds between each urge!
The second time, and only other time, I felt actual pain during the whole experience was when his head was first crowning. It was super stingy as I felt everything expanding, so I started panting to push slowly so I wouldn’t tear. My midwives were supporting my tailbone and perineum which helped a lot. As I felt the stinging, my brain started panicking. I remember whispering “I can’t do it, I can’t” and I could hear a chorus of voices (I can’t remember who it was) saying “yes you can! you’re doing it!”. I had so many cheerleaders in that room, it makes me tear-eyed just thinking about it. With one more push his head was birthed and I felt so much relief! I could hear my mom behind me freaking out and my midwife saying that she was unwrapping his cord. Angie told me to push one more time to birth his shoulders and he was out!! Otto was born at 4:48am! I remember saying “I did it! I did it!”. Cue all the ugly crying!
I started to feel some more contractions and it was time to birth the placenta! I barely pushed and it came flopping out like a jelly blob. Easy! The midwives checked it over to make sure no pieces were missing or still stuck inside. They showed us the amniotic sac - my baby’s first home! - and the rough side of the placenta that was attached to my uterine wall, making a perfect imprint on its surface. BODIES ARE FRICKIN COOL GUYS! We had also decided to do delayed cord clamping so he would get all that awesome cord blood! Otto stayed attached to the placenta for over an hour after he was born! (Some of the benefits of delayed cord clamping are lower risk of iron deficiency and jaundice. Basically, his body takes what it needs and gets that extra time to soak in the placenta goodness.)
Postpartum time was fantastic. Bryan took Otto while the midwives helped me out of the tub and into the bed. They put warmed blankets over me and let us do skin to skin for an hour. My bleeding was fine so they left us alone. No prodding, no stupid power cords, or blood pressure machines. I still had to get the occasional push on my belly to check on my uterus but we really got to soak in the golden hour. I couldn’t get over how delicious and soft his little body was!! He had tons of dark her, thicker and darker than Rea’s was. He looked so much like her, but more masculine and much more like a de Gala (my family) than she did. His body was also much plumper, with tiny little back rolls. I put him up to my breast to try nursing and he latched immediately and so strong! That whole time was so heavenly. I wish I could adequately put it into words!
Our families left to get some sleep and we were left to enjoy our alone time. The midwives came back in to work on me which wasn’t fun, but not as bad as I feared! I only needed 3 TINY STITCHES!! I was so freaking proud of myself. The worst part of the entire birthing experience was the 3 shots of lidocaine I needed down there before they started stitching and I feel like that’s really saying something HAHA.
Rea meeting Otto for the first time was the most joyous experience. Her reaction to him was so sweet! She kept giggling and just wanted to touch his little face and his legs. I just love my little babies so much!!
My whole birth experience was such a beautiful whirlwind! Early labor started at 6pm, active labor started around 1am, and he was born by 4:48am! I felt in-control, listened-to, empowered, and present through the whole process. I’m so grateful for the support of my husband, midwives, doula, and cheering squad through the whole process. One of the best parts about being in a birth center was that by 9am, I was at home resting in my own bed! Healing has been so much easier on my body this time around and I 100% account it to not being medicated this time around.
It was the most perfect and peaceful way to welcome our chill baby boy!