Looking back at Amanda’s birth story with her Everett after 365 days around the sun, I still can feel the energy in that room! So much strength in that body, so much love and sacred space for a baby that both Amanda and Charlie had waited patiently for. And the connection between Amanda and Charlie, who met in high school, was that kind of love that poets spend their lives writing about, musicians spend their careers singing about, I will spend my life seeking out to document in photographs!
I first met Amanda and Charlie when they mini-interviewed me to photograph their birth, and we got together again at her 36 week in-home appointment with Paige St. Cyr, her midwife. I love seeing my mamas at this appointment! Often I meet them at their maternity session, but that isn’t for everyone, so this way we still sneak in a few casual photos of pregnancy and I get to meet with her support team in person.
Just a few weeks later and I got the text that mama was in labor. I arrived around 8:30am to a warm house that smelled of fresh baked muffins. Amanda had passed the time in early labor by baking dozens of muffins… from here I’ll let Amanda tell her story in her own words!
I had a very normal and boring pregnancy overall. Pinky (her husband) and I would joke however that I didn’t get the “normal” pregnancy symptoms and that my body just reacted very uniquely to pregnancy at times. There were a couple poignant pieces such as not being able to sleep from the moment I conceived and having extremely chapped lips starting around my 6th month of pregnancy which would not resolve without prescription steroid cream. At 38 weeks exactly I thought my water may have broken as one evening I felt a bit of a gush and noticed my underwear was completely saturated. I had a few more gushes during the night and the next morning. At 38+1 I also had some very light contractions for the first time and later that day Everett dropped into my pelvis. I would later learn that my water did not break, but that my body reacts to some hormone that is released prior to me experiencing contractions by creating a lot of watery discharge. This would happen each time I would experience contractions for the rest of my pregnancy. From the day that Everett dropped into my pelvis however, I had excruciating right hip pain in my SI joint. I was barely able to walk or use stairs, even turning from side to side in bed caused terrible pain. Due to this pain, I made the decision to start my maternity leave earlier than I had planned (started at 39+4). I had originally planned to work up until I went into labor. I saw 2 different chiropractors and my Primary Care Physician who all agreed there wasn’t much I could do besides deliver this baby in order to resolve my hip pain. This information, combined with the fact that I felt increased pressure on myself to deliver since I knew that each day that I didn’t deliver was one day less that I had to spend with Everett when she did arrive, caused some intense emotional distress that I did not expect. I felt intense anxiety to go into labor and new found anxiety around having a stillbirth and being a mom who was not present emotionally or physically for her child.
I requested that my midwife do a membrane sweep to see if we could encourage labor to start. We did one at 39+5 where I was a fingertip dilated with a soft cervix. I had some intense cramping a couple days later, most likely from baby trying to move into a better position for birth, but no real results from that sweep. I requested another at my weekly midwife appointment at 40+1. The following day at 40+2 I started having some very light contractions beginning at 4:30am. They lasted throughout the day and were gradually increasing in intensity. They were approximately 7 minutes apart and 1 minute long throughout most of the day. Pinky and I decided to go out to dinner that night and for a short walk around a store to see if we could encourage things to pick up. During dinner I started to get more intense contractions and began to think this would stick around to become actual labor. Unfortunately at around 10pm that evening the contractions stopped completely. I was also in even more hip pain than I had been the previous couple of days due to pushing myself to walk. My midwife and chiropractor would later agree that the prodromal labor most likely occurred due to baby not being in the best position. It was at this time that I tried to make some peace with the fact that she was going to come in her own time. My chiropractor also showed me some different exercises to help baby move into a better position out of my right hip. This provided the first noticeable difference since the pain started. My mood however was still in a dark place. I met with my midwife to discuss my emotional state and any fears I may be having which may be inhibiting my body from going into labor. I shared my very intense fear of having a stillbirth. After two miscarriages, I knew that nothing was guaranteed in pregnancy and that our child could be taken away in an instant. I remember the very serious and honest nature in which my midwife stated that this was not something she took lightly and she would not hesitate to transfer should the need arise. I trusted her completely. We scheduled a biophysical profile and non stress test at 41 weeks to try to ease my anxiety. These tests showed that everything was great with baby. Despite this information, I still felt intense anxiety that something was wrong. At the suggestion of my midwife, I went to see a Cranio-Sacral Therapist. I also did some guided meditation around my fears of having a stillbirth. These were both intensely helpful in getting my mind back on track and helping me to feel that my baby and I were safe. This helped to bring me back to my confident and empowered self.
Finally feeling more back to normal than I had in weeks, I had made the decision that I would pull out all the stops that weekend to try to get labor started. If nothing happened, I would then wait until 42 weeks exactly and would go for an induction at our local hospital rather than waiting to go into labor naturally in order to have the homebirth we had planned. I had some feeling that our baby needed a little help to get things started. At 41+2 I tried a protocol of Cotton Root Bark with nipple stimulation. I had some cramping but that didn’t turn into anything. At 41+3 I made the decision to go for my last resort option of caster oil. I decided to try a small amount spread over several hours to try to avoid as much of the GI upset as possible that caster oil is known for. I started at 11am with 1 Tbsp, and then did 1.5 Tbsp two hours later, with a final 1.5 Tbsp 2 hours after that. I didn’t have any GI upset until about 6pm when I started to have a slight bit of nausea. After a couple of loose stools I felt completely fine. I was feeling a bit discouraged that this too might not amount to anything until around 9pm when I noticed that I was (finally) losing my mucus plug. I went to bed as usual that night hoping that things would continue to progress. I knew from my research that about 50% of women will go into labor within 24 hours of taking caster oil.
I woke up at 12:30am with contractions. They were all concentrated low in my uterus, below my belly button. I realized fairly quickly that they were coming and going regularly. I decided to time a few on my own. They were approximately 45 seconds long and a minute and a half apart. At 1am I decided to wake up my husband to let him know I was pretty sure I was in labor. We timed some contractions intermittently for the next couple of hours. They remained consistent around 1 minute long and about two and a half minutes apart. While my husband was strongly encouraging me to contact my midwife, I kept telling him that I thought we were still in early labor and we had plenty of time. I didn’t realize how close together my contractions were occurring. I was convinced I was in early labor particularly with knowledge that most first time moms spend approximately 24 hours in labor. I decided to bake some muffins for our birth team to pass the time. I would stop baking while I was experiencing contractions, squat down holding onto my kitchen counter tops and try to relax and breathe as much as possible. I would also try sitting on my yoga ball and doing some hip circles while I was waiting for the muffins to bake. I made two different types of muffins. After pulling the 1st set out of the oven, I mixed the batter for the 2nd set but could not finish the baking. It was approximately 5:30am when I told my husband I thought it was time to contact the midwife. My midwife suggested that I hop in the shower to get some relief while she prepared to head over. She asked if I felt nauseous at all or if my water broke. I let her know that I was not nauseous and my water had not broken yet. She also encouraged my husband to get the birth pool set up. I decided to hop in the shower per her suggestion while my husband set up the birth pool. I found that holding the shower head where I was feeling the contractions (below my belly button similar to really intense period cramps) was helpful. I came out of the shower at approximately 6am and sat on the yoga ball. I went to stand up at one point and my water broke. It wasn’t a huge gush, but was quite noticeable. I observed that it was watery, but definitely had meconium in it as the water was a brown color. Pinky had taken over all communication with my midwife and was relaying information back and forth as well as finishing the muffins I was unable to put into the oven. I was insistent that we had to finish the muffins!
My midwife came to my house to check on baby and I at approximately 6:30am. She was having difficulty getting in contact with her childcare providers and wanted to make sure we were both okay before dropping off her daughter and coming back to my house. I was laboring on the yoga ball when she arrived. We were both doing well. Everett’s heart rate was perfect. I let her know I was still not having any nausea yet. She encouraged me to eat something so I would have the energy I needed for the rest of the birth. She then left to continue to find childcare for her daughter and let me know she would return shortly. She also encouraged me to hop back in the shower. After she left, Pinky asked what I wanted to eat so he could grab it. I immediately let him know that I didn’t feel up to eating anything but we agreed that I would drink a protein shake. After finishing the protein shake, I hopped back in the shower per my midwife’s suggestion. The contractions were getting more intense. I asked my husband to hold the shower head on my lower belly while I was on hands and knees in the shower. At approximately 7:25am I felt extremely nauseous and threw up in the shower. Pinky texted my midwife to come quickly.
Paige arrived at approximately 8am. The birth pool was finally ready for me to get in. Our birth photographer and my mother in law arrived shortly afterwards. I had asked my husband to not give them the go ahead to come over until after my midwife arrived. I wanted to be sure that I was actually in labor and I didn’t want everyone sitting around staring at me for too long. I did not have any cervical checks throughout my entire labor. According to the notes from my midwife, I started pushing at 8:53am. I had no concept of time during this point. My body was pushing on it’s own. I remember at one point saying, “I don’t even know if I should be pushing yet.” Paige asked if it felt good to push and I replied that it did. She said that I could just listen to my body then. Paige was checking Everett’s heart rate intermittently. I tried a few different positions in the pool, but was mostly on hands and knees. I had trouble finding a position that felt like I was making progress with pushing and that was comfortable. At one point my midwife was checking Everett’s heart rate and said that baby didn’t love what was happening at the moment and encouraged me to try a couple different positions to see if that would help as she continued to monitor baby’s heart rate. Shortly thereafter she stated that baby’s heart rate was quite low and that she thought we needed to transfer to the hospital. I didn’t know at the time how low it was getting but would later find out that her heart rate was around 90-130bpm, and she did have some decels to 60bpm. I did not feel even a hint fear at the time and trusted my birth team completely. Paige asked me to get out of the pool to try a few more positions while they called the ambulance for transfer. I tried pushing on my side but continued to have difficulty making progress. Paige then suggested that I try standing up to see if gravity would help. I wrapped my arms around my husband for support and gave the strongest pushes I could. At one point I remember my feet not being on the ground as I pushed and had him hold me up. I also remember him being bent over at one point from the weight of me pulling him down. I gave him a very stern command to stand up straight! The next push I gave it my all. With that push I felt the “ring of fire” and knew my baby was coming. I hesitated during that push and held off a bit due to that sensation. I remember being afraid of tearing and also of pooping while standing up! The whole time I remember being very tuned into Paige’s voice. When she noticed my hesitation I heard her say, “Whatever you just did, I need you to go there. I need you to birth your baby.” I gave one more big push with all that I had. I also gave a very loud “I am woman hear me roar” type of yell. I remember Paige saying midway through this sound to turn that inward. I dug deep during that roar and out came my baby all at once into my midwife’s hands. My baby girl was crying from the moment she was born and was perfectly okay. The midwife who was on the phone with the ambulance passed the phone to my mother in law so that she could tend to Everett and I. Once everyone realized that she was perfectly okay my mother in-law was able to let them know that no ambulance was needed. We were THAT close to transferring. The ambulance didn’t send someone to the house to double check which is often their protocol and this was very welcomed on our end. I had 3 small 1st degree tears, two of which were internal and one going towards my perineum. No stitches were needed. I did need to have a catheter as I was unable to urinate after a few hours of giving birth. Paige later let me know that when Everett was born she had an apgar score of 9. The only mark off was because Everett had a very red face most likely due to all of my hormones. This went away a few days after she was born.
So far I felt great postpartum. I had some swelling in my feet that didn’t seem to want to go away, but we were pretty sure this is lymph node related. My blood pressure was fine. I was on a giant birth high for about 72 hours after she was born and could barely sleep. I think I got 7 hours of sleep in 3 days. My mind would race every time I laid down to try to rest as it processed her birth. On day 3 I became very pale and really took this as a sign my body needed to sleep. I tried to really focus on recuperating and nourishing my body. We are completely in awe of our little girl. After giving birth, a friend of mine stated that having a child was like the thing you never knew was missing. For me, Everett was the very thing that I knew was missing in my life for quite some time. We are so in love and so blessed to have this wonderful child choose us to be her parents.