Winnie's Birth Story

Winnie is about one and a half months old now. The first weeks of her life have been so slow and so incredibly fast. Did April even happen? I am experiencing new motherhood, gratefully, in a completely normal way.

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The story of how Winnie came into the world is not miraculous in the way that it deserves a headline. She wasn't born in a car or on a plane and there were no unusual complications. She was born at home on our bed, after nineteen long and blurry hours of labor. For most, staying home for an event of this kind is not the norm. This was a choice we made. This was a choice I made for my labor and for my daughter. In the very opinionated world of mothers and birthing, I need to say that any other way that mothers give birth is just fine. But if you are pregnant, or someone who wishes to be pregnant in the future, put the research in and make the most informed choice you can for yourself and your kid. Know what could go wrong and be OK with it. It will never go the way you imagine, and that's just fine too. I waited until the end of my pregnancy to decide between a hospital brith and a home brith. There were advantages and risks to both. 

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While I had read as many birth stories as I could get my hands on and carefully listened to the experiences of women in my life first hand, not one of them prepared me. Labor was labor. It started after we combined as many at home tactics to stimulate labor as we could {hello castor oil smoothie}. I noted to Remi that I was feeling cramps as we ate spicy burritos.

In the beginning there was warm socks, period like contractions, hot cocoa & raspberries, an exercise ball from heaven, music, and counting the minutes between each wave of pain.

Then my mom was there, then my mother-in-law, then the midwife and her assistants. I felt mild cramping between contractions, the only place that helped was the exercise ball {though I wouldn't call that comfortable}. Our midwife checked me, and decided we should try to turn Winnie by laying on my side for a while. She was head down but turned the wrong way. This was the second hardest part of labor for me. Not being able to bounce or move through the waves, having to absorb and feel everything was exhausting. My one reprieve was my tired husband constantly rubbing my back, even as I attempted to doze between contractions he remained steadfast. We stayed this way through sunrise.

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Then finally Winnie had moved to the right position and I was dilated enough to get into the tub. My waters still had not broken at this point. After some time laboring in the warm water, I tried pushing after suggestion from the midwife. Pop! The extremely foreign and weird and sudden feeling of the amniotic sac breaking while I was submerged. After a while the water had started cooling and mothers boiled teakettles and brought them in steaming. I could smell soup cooking from the kitchen. Much of the night and morning I spent unaware of much around me, leaning only into Remi and my breath for support.

The urge to push never came. But I was fully dilated so I pushed anyways. Nothing happened. So, my calm midwife checked me. There was a part of my cervix that was keeping Winnie from moving down. My best option was to move to the bed so she could assist. The water was too cool for comfort anyways. 

I hated laying back where there was even more pressure than before. I held tightly to Remi's hand not wanting to allow him to change out of his swim trunks. Eventually he moved to the end of the bed and held my feet, and I held my knees. It was as if time slowed for the last two hours of huge pushes and tiny progressions. There were moments where I felt so tired that it was all I could think about. The moments between were only for breathing. Sips of water and heart rate checks {though necessary} became distraction to the point of frustration. But the room was filled with calm and helpful women, and one incredible coach of a husband. My mother excitedly with delight at the sight of Winnie's scrunched features after two hours of pushing helped. Encouraging words and laughter helped.

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Her stuck shoulders had me on my hands and knees for the last push, then it was over. Her cord was too short to pull her to my chest, and for an unknown reason it had already stopped pulsing. She was bigger and so much heavier than I thought she would be {though she was only 7.13lbs to the 9.6lbs the doctor informed us she was at our 37 week ultrasound}. My placenta was impressively large {thank you very much}. Remi cut the cord and helped her onto my chest where she had her first meal without any fuss. Winnie kept her eyes scrunched to the late afternoon light streaming through the large window in our bedroom. She squealed her perfect little squeal. She was sticky and squirmy. 

Everything about giving birth was more than I thought. Everything about the moments afterward were greater than I imagined. 

It was wonderful to be at home and in bed surrounded by women I trusted. Winnie's grandmothers got to be the first family to meet her. They served us homemade soup in bed, and filled our kitchen with food. We spent the first of many sleepless nights all together in the bed where she was born. I am proud of myself and the strength that I have. I am proud to have experienced pregnancy and birth in the ways that felt the most natural to me. I am thankful for my husband who is now every bit the father I knew he would be. Most of all, I am thankful for my healthy, strong daughter.