Isla’s birth story begins 5 days before her birth because that was when I decided where to bring her into this world. On Monday, December 18th I went to my scheduled 37 week appointment with my OB/GYN. He is the doctor I have seen for all my pregnancies and have always held him with high regard. Throughout my entire pregnancy with Isla, he supported my decisions with not going along with standard protocol maternal care (gestational diabetes test, flu shots, etc.) and never once had I ever felt that he treated me differently for going against the grain. He knew my desire to have an unmedicated birth and again, supported my request. When he provided me with my GBS test results (negative) I confirmed with him that there would be no reason for me to be hooked up to an IV, and that I was excited to be able to labor as needed (not be confined to the bed). When I said this, he kind of laughed at me, like, I was being ridiculous. I was put off by this behavior and looked at Shane – his face said the same thing I was thinking….WTF? When I then asked for the on-call schedule for the 7 other OB’s in the office (because I wanted to know WHO would be delivering my baby), he kind of brushed me off. Again, WTF? Immediately following that appointment, I went home and got a wild hair to re-watch the documentary, “The Business of Being Born.” About 15 minutes into the documentary, I turned it off and told Shane that I wanted him to watch it with me; we watched it together that evening after the kids went to bed. Following this came a VERY long and serious discussion that ended with the realization that I wanted to birth Isla at a Birth Center. I wanted this for several reasons, which I won’t go into here (if you are interested, message me!), but the number one reason was that I wanted both myself and Shane to be 100% supported during Isla’s ENTIRE birth process.
The next morning (Tuesday), I called the Birth Center that a few of my friends had delivered at. I spoke with Angela, who offered to schedule an appointment for a tour and consultation on Thursday. I suggested an earlier date because I was 37 weeks pregnant, 3cm dilated and 70% effaced; Angela spoke with the midwives and was able to accommodate my request, my appointment was for that afternoon at 4pm. When Shane and I arrived at the Birth Center, we immediately felt at home. We met with one of the midwives, Jessica and she put us at ease answering all our questions and showing us the rooms we would possibly deliver our daughter in. Jessica hugged us as we left and said, “We really hope you choose us!” Those 5 words resonated with me and made our decision that much easier. Our guts told us this was the place to bring Isla into this world. We hadn’t even gotten to the freeway when I called the Birth Center and told Angela we wanted to birth there. She made me an appointment for Thursday to meet with the other midwife, Heather and the midwife student, Felicia (this was so that I would be able to meet the midwives that could potentially be delivering my baby).
On Thursday, we met Heather and Felicia. Felicia took the reins on the appointment and Shane and I both agreed that we felt an immediate connection to her. We half-jokingly mentioned that we really wanted to meet Isla before Christmas, so she offered to strip my membranes. I had this procedure done with Jackson and went into labor within 24 hours – so I was hopeful. Felicia confirmed that both her and Jessica were on call Thursday through 12/27, so it was likely she would be at my birth. As we were leaving, both Felicia and Heather said that they wouldn’t be surprised if I went into labor THAT NIGHT because now I was 4+ cm dilated and my cervix was very favorable. They suggested to further this possibility, that Shane and I should have sex and I should try to pump some colostrum. When we got home, the cramps kicked in and I was bleeding. This is all normal of having membranes stripped. However, it got so bad, there was no way sex was happening. I went to bed excited not only to go into labor, and meet my daughter, but to have this experience at the Birth Center. I was finally able to have the birth I had dreamt of where I didn’t have to tell people what I wanted, needed and most importantly, what I did NOT want. I was ready to labor in a tub, on all fours, squatted and walking around. I couldn’t wait to have Shane be my sole partner, guiding me through this marathon of pain where we could celebrate, together, at the end with our creation. I had my dream team in place. I felt supported. I felt empowered.
I woke up Friday with no baby and no labor pains. I’ll admit, I was disappointed, but I was still hopeful it would happen before Christmas. Since I wasn’t feeling crampy anymore, I figured it was time to take the midwives suggestion and Shane and I got after it (TMI). About 15 minutes later (8:45am), I lost my mucus plug (a great sign that labor is coming!). At 10:00am, my bestie Ellisa came over with her daughter Jules. I was having Braxton Hicks contractions during the entire visit, but nothing stood out as “laboring” cues. Around 11:15 I felt what seemed similar to a Braxton Hicks contraction, but another one came about 5 minutes later, then another about 5 minutes later and then another….At 11:30, I began to time them. At around noon, I let Shane know that I was having contractions, but they were very inconsistent and not painful. For the next several hours, I timed these contractions, but they were all over the place. 8 minutes, 3 minutes 11 minutes. They were 1 minute long, 40 seconds long, 30 seconds long.
I have gone through labor twice before, but I still wasn’t sure if “this was it” because nothing was consistent and/or painful. At 2pm, Shane urged me to call my midwife Jessica and ask what we should do. She said it was up to me if I wanted to go in. For some reason, it just didn’t feel right to call it, so I suggested I take a walk to see what happens and I’d call her in an hour. Shane, Malia and I bundled up and headed out for a walk around our neighborhood. For the entire walk (1 hour) my contractions were 1 minute long and 2 minutes apart – Shane started freaking out, so we headed back to the house. Once we got inside, the next contraction was 11 minutes later, then the next one was 15 minutes later. I called Jessica and she again, told me to follow my gut – my gut said, “Not yet.” Frustrated to all heck, I told Shane I needed some space to figure out what was going on. I went to my room where I meditated and sure enough, within 30 minutes, the contractions became consistently 1 minute long and about 5 minutes apart and I had to stop to breathe through each one. My pain level was still manageable, but at 4:45pm I felt like it was time to go in.
At 5pm we called Jessica and let her know we were ready to come to the Birth Center. She indicated it would take about 45 minutes for her and Felicia to arrive, so to plan on meeting around 6pm. We then called our dear friends the Steele Family and let them know to make up some beds for our kids – we were dropping them off for the night. We dropped the kids off at about 5:15pm and headed to the Birth Center (about a 20 minute drive). We made record time (weird, wonder why) and had about 15 minutes to spare. I decided it would be a great idea to go to Trader Joe’s and get snacks for everyone. I wasn’t sure how long the night would take, and I wanted to make sure everyone had Whole30 approved snacks just in case! When we arrived at Trader Joe’s, that’s when the contractions began to get a little more intense, not painful, but I had to stop and breathe through each one. That poor TJ’s checker had no clue what was happening in her check-out line.
We arrived at the Birth Center at 6pm and were greeted by my amazing birth team, Jessica, Felicia and Angela. A few moments after arriving, my birth photographer, Erin arrived. My midwives asked to examine me, and I figured I’d be 4-5cm dilated. I was 7cm dilated, and there was a small hiccup. Although baby had dropped and was engaged, my cervix was completely covering her head and this was the reason my contractions were so inconsistent. My midwives suggested I get things moving along by taking a walk around the building, up and down the stairs, outside…..in December (it was 35 degrees outside), so we bundled up and a walking we went. My contractions were still manageable, maybe a 3 on the pain scale.
Shane and I spent about an hour outside, walking and talking while Erin followed us. Finally, I just got too cold and asked to go inside and we walked the halls of the Birth Center for about another 30 minutes. My midwives asked where I wanted to labor next; the tub sounded great since I was pretty cold. I hopped in the tub and labored there for about 45 minutes while I got to know Felicia. We talked, laughed and she shared with me all about her midwifery program. She even mentioned that she thought I would be an awesome midwife! With each contraction, I would pause, close my eyes and breathe through, I was never in pain. I was at total peace in the tub, I honestly could have stayed there all night….but we needed to move things along. Felicia offered to examine me in the tub to see my progress. She confirmed that my cervix was still not allowing the baby to descend and I needed to make a choice. I could labor in the tub or anywhere really, and the baby would eventually arrive, likely in about 8+ hours, or I could get the show on the road by popping my water bag and having Felicia push my cervix back while I push the baby down. Yeah, ouch. I chose option B – the painful choice.
Felicia tried to pop my water bag while I was in the tub, but because of my positioning it was kind of awkward. She also tried to push my cervix back while she had me pushing at the same time, all while having more intense contractions. Pain level upped. This was a white knuckling moment – level 9 on the pain scale. At that point Felicia asked me if I planned on delivering in the tub – which I had never considered before. I didn’t even have a chance to think about it since I literally switched to the Birth Center the day before. I asked Shane for his opinion and he said it was all up to me. It took a few moments, but I decided to get out of the tub (can I just say how different it was to be GIVEN the option to deliver my baby wherever I wanted).
I moved to the bed where Felicia confirmed I was fully dilated and proceeded to pop my water bag – this is where things got intense and really blurry (Shane had to confirm the rest of this story). At this point I knew from my other births that the contractions were going to get even harder and more painful, so I asked if I could try laboring on all fours. I did this for about 15 minutes, but couldn’t get comfortable. Felicia suggested that I move to the toilet and straddle it while they place a pillow on the back part for me to lean on. She said it would help to move the baby down – so to the toilet I went. I labored through each painful contraction, legs spread in hopes that the baby would descend more all while Shane was massaging my back.
Once I couldn’t handle that position any longer, Felicia suggested I move back to the bed and try lying on my side. My pain level was at it’s highest and I could barely see straight. When I got to the bed, the pain got even worse and I was losing control of my breath. I felt like I was going to vomit due to the intensity of the pain – Jessica brought me a barf pan. I never did throw up, but I felt like I was losing control. I knew I needed to speak up on my next break, so I told Shane I needed him to breathe FOR me. Shane got an inch from my face and told me to look at him. We breathed together, in sync for about 15 minutes. One breath, one soul. It was as if we were the only two people in the room; all I could hear was his breath and that was all I needed to stay calm and focused.
Although I was fully dilated, I still did not feel the urge to push and the midwives could tell that I was extremely uncomfortable. Jessica suggested I move onto my back, she said that that position was probably more familiar to me (since that was how I delivered my other two kids) and perhaps I’d find some relief there. So, on my back I went, and Shane moved behind me, straddling me. It was comforting to have him not only mentally, but physically supporting me. With each contraction he was keeping our breaths as one and my focus clear. Once sitting upright against Shane, Felicia tried again to move my cervix while I pushed the baby down. It still didn’t feel right to push, I didn’t have the urge yet. I felt like I was pushing up against a wall, a wall of extreme PAIN. It almost felt like I was doing it wrong and I wasn’t making any progress, I was almost to the point of defeat when a few moments later, I got the urge. I don’t believe I told anyone, I just started pushing. I pushed for about 15 minutes. The longest 15 minutes of my life and through each push, I yelled so loud, I was positive all of Kirkland could hear me.
When I began to crown, I felt that all too familiar feeling – the ring of fire. During those few moments, I was stuck between wanting to suck Isla back inside me and push her out. I was torn, I couldn’t find my breath and was scared. Felicia and Jessica could tell I was struggling and suggested I feel Isla’s head on my next push. I replied that I couldn’t do it, I was in too much pain. They did not accept that answer, they said, “No, Brianne, you NEED to feel Isla’s head. You need to feel how much progress you are making.” After the next push, my shaky hand moved to feel Isla’s head. I could see Isla’s round head covered in dark brown hair, my watery eyes met Jessica’s and she grabbed my hand and put it on Isla’s head. I felt my daughter coming into this world. It was then that Felicia said something that changed my course and gave me the strength I needed to make it to the finish line, “Brianne – two more pushes and you will get to meet your daughter!” Two pushes later and Isla’s head was born. I leaned down to pull the rest of her out when Felicia yelled, “STOP!” Isla’s umbilical cord was wrapped in a figure 8 around her neck and right arm. Jessica unraveled the cord and said, “Okay!” I grabbed Isla’s armpits and pulled her out of me and onto my chest. Shane’s hands met mine when Isla reached my chest and we both held her warm, wet body together; exhausted, relieved and amazed.
Isla didn’t cry as she was being born, but once she got to my chest, her wails came and so did mine and Shane’s. We held our daughter together for what felt like eternity. We had our miracle baby in our arms and she was healthy and happy and covered in love. About 3 minutes later, Felicia asked if I was ready to deliver the placenta; one push and it was out. Shane cut the cord as I held Isla, wrapped in a blanket on my chest. I had a minor tear, so Felicia stitched me up while Shane did skin-to-skin with Isla. After all that was complete, the midwives, Angela and Erin all left the room so that we could have some time to bond together. I nursed Isla and Shane and I just stared at her in awe. 15 minutes later, we called everyone back in so that they could do a full examination of Isla. At first glance we all agreed she looked like an 8 pounder; we were shocked to see she was only 7lbs, 3 ounces! She handled all her tests like a champ and especially loved being on her tummy. Jessica noted that she had a minor tongue-tie, so we may want to address that later on (which we did).
At about 11:30pm, 2 hours after delivering Isla, we got our orders to go home and go to bed. The midwives told us to sleep for 6 hours straight! We got dressed, packed up, Isla secured in her car seat and headed home. We arrived home at 12:15am and although we were on a natural high from what we just experienced, we were also exhausted. We all fell fast asleep and slept until 6:30am.
I can’t say enough what an amazing experience we had delivering Isla at a Birth Center with midwives. I am so incredibly happy that I followed my gut and switched just the day before. The journey that we shared with Jessica and Felicia will forever hold a special place in my soul. Every time I think about Isla’s birth, I am overcome with emotion. It was the exact birth I have always envisioned, and I can honestly say, there is no better way to complete our family than with this amazing birth experience.