On May 15th, 2023, at 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant, our precious Théo was born into the loving arms of his father at Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center. Ever since finding out that we were expecting a baby again after two miscarriages, José and I were eagerly and excitedly waiting for the day to come when we could hold our baby and see his face. The birth of Théo taught us that not only is God faithful in His promises, but He truly wants the best birth experiences for us. He made our bodies with the intention of creating new life and it isn’t supposed to be something that is a fearful experience.
I am still processing all that happened, but I do know that God was with us in every moment. Leading up to my birth José and I were praying for a birth experience that was joyful, safe, and holy. We prayed over Théo while he was in my womb declaring his good health and thanking the Lord for loving him even more than we were able to. Every day I asked God for a labor that was peaceful (I know, that might sound crazy to some. But I truly knew that birth did not need to be a painful process and that God designed birth to be beautiful. With the curse in Eden childbirth became real work. Real labor. But God did not curse women to have the most excruciating experience of their lives).
Now, to the birth story. I woke up a little after 2:00am on Monday the 15th, the early morning after Mother’s Day. I got up to pee and while I was using the bathroom I felt a soft pop inside of me almost like a water balloon popping. I sat there for a moment thinking there is absolutely no way that was my water breaking, I’m not far along enough to go into labor. Nothing came out after I heard the pop so I dismissed it and headed back to bed. I didn’t get very far, however, when all of the water came gushing out at once. “Babe, my water just broke,” I said to José. He jumped out of bed very quickly and grabbed me a towel. A million thoughts were running through my head. It’s too early, I thought, even though I knew I was at term and this was perfectly safe. I’m going to have this baby within the next few days. I’m going to have my baby in my arms. I’m three weeks early. Why did I think it was a good idea to do this at a birth center with no medication? The light panic set in.
We called the midwives and they assured me that it was okay I was only 37 weeks along. They told me what I knew, that it could be hours or even a day until contractions started so it was best to try and go back to sleep and rest up to conserve my energy for when early labor began. I was to call them back when things picked up. After hanging up I felt the emotions roll over me and had to lean into José and have a thirty second cry before getting myself together. My sweet husband reminded me that I was okay, that I was safe, and that I could do this. We would do it together.
There was no way I was about to go to sleep after that so I put my headphones on and started to listen to my birth playlist to center myself and get into a calm state. At 3:16am I had my first contraction. It felt like a very manageable period cramp, except it started at my back and worked its way towards the front of my stomach. Contractions were immediately 5 minutes apart. I was sitting on my exercise ball moving my hips side to side or front to back and listening to worship music while telling myself all of my positive affirmations. No contraction will ever be stronger than me because they come from me. My body knows what it is doing. I can do anything for 60 seconds. I am safe. This is a privilege. Thank you, Jesus.
By 4:30am contractions were 4 minutes apart. I began to vocalize through them, making a moaning sound and working with the feeling to let it wash over me and not fight it. José brought me my wooden combs to squeeze (combs are believed to help with labor for many reasons. 1. Distraction from pain. 2. The teeth of the combs hit acupressure points in your hand. 3. Gate control theory. Your mind can only process so many sensations at once and the comb gives your mind something else to feel instead of just the contraction). I also had José squeezing my hips. At some point we called the midwives again and let them know how things were progressing. José also notified our doulas. I became nauseous and threw up a couple of times. My body was making sure it was empty in order to push a baby out soon!
We were given the okay to leave the house at 5:00am when my contractions were 3 minutes apart and we headed to the birth center. During the car ride I continued to listen to my worship music, squeeze the combs, and keep my eyes closed. The contractions still felt very manageable and riding in the car didn’t feel nearly as bad as I was expecting. I was practicing my hypnobreathing (in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 8). I remember José telling me to open my eyes and see the sun rising over Mt. Hood. It was 5:30am when we arrived at the birth center. When we parked I had a contraction that was particularly difficult and I couldn’t get out of the car until it had passed. I remember asking God to fulfill my wish of a joyful, safe, and holy birth.
We left our birth bags in the car and went straight into the room where our son would soon be born. Things got harder at this point. With each wave (I was calling each contraction a wave or a surge) I would drape myself over José’s shoulders and squeeze him in a big hug while squeezing the combs in my hands. He continuously was telling me how powerful and amazing I was. The midwife asked to check how dilated I was. I felt nervous to say yes because I knew that if I was only a few centimeters dilated I was going to let fear enter my mind and question my ability to do this. I was feeling that things were very hard, but I wasn’t yet feeling like I couldn’t do it or that it was too much for me and I didn’t want to get to that point. I told her of this worry and said “I just don’t know if I am being dramatic with how difficult this is, maybe i’m not even that far along.” She told me I was definitely not being dramatic and I agreed to a cervical check. To my surprise I was 8 and 1/2 centimeters dilated! Our midwife told us she’d start the bath water so I could get into the tub.
Everything was happening so fast it was difficult for me to process. I could not fathom that I was 8 and 1/2 centimeters dilated already. I threw up once more into a bowl and then was able to get into the tub around 6:00am. Between this moment and the birth of Théo things are fairly blurry for me. I was swimming in and out of my body. The water felt amazing, but from here on out each wave now felt fairly painful, like very extreme gas pains that squeezed your entire torso, and I felt myself yelling loudly each time. My husband and the midwives kept reminding me to keep the tone of my voice low rather than high pitched. They told me to make an “ooooo” sound and use the energy I was feeling to channel it down and out rather than up and out of my mouth. This was a super helpful reminder and made each wave feel more productive. I was on my knees in the tub and leaning over the edge. José was pushing a cold wash cloth on my forehead. My chin was resting against the tub and I was still holding the combs in my hands. Between each wave I would completely relax my body. I had asked for my headphones to be taken off and for my music to be played out loud. My eyes were closed the entire time. I was only aware of peoples voices but I had no idea who was actually in the room. At some point my doula arrived. I began to feel my body bear down, pushing my knees and feet into the bottom of the tub. Later I noticed that I actually bruised my chin from pushing into the tub so hard. I began to not be able to form full sentences but was giving people one word commands. I’d tell José to make the wash cloth colder or push it harder into my head by whimpering “colder” or “harder.” I was getting very close to pushing my baby out. I began to feel Théo’s head descend and I felt a lot of pressure. I felt the urge to push with the contractions and I let my body do what it needed to do while I was roaring my baby out. I was never coached on when to push. No one ever counted to ten while I pushed. I completely listened to what I was feeling and followed it.
The moment before my baby came out I remember thinking yep, I can see why people want an epidural to do this. I muttered that I didn’t want to do this anymore. The midwife reached down and could feel the Théo’s head and told me that I was about to meet my baby. José had wanted to catch his son, so at this point he quickly took off his jeans and jumped into the tub. Since I was on my knees the midwife told me to prop up one of my legs so I was in a lunge so that I wouldn’t put so much pressure on my perineum. As I pushed I expected to feel the “ring of fire,” but to me I felt my bones and my muscles painfully stretching to fit the head out rather than a burn. I started to resist the urge to push because it did not feel good, but then I remembered that this was a privilege to suffer in this way. That this experience brought me closer to Jesus who died for us on a cross. It brings me closer to God who suffered through the death of His son. It brings me closer to Mary who suffered through witnessing her son be crucified. To suffer was to be closer to them and to be holy. In the next push our son entered the world at 7:26am. It felt amazing to have his body exit mine. José caught him and pulled him up out of the water.
I looked back in shock at seeing this wriggling baby in my husbands arms. I took in the thick blue cord and listened to him start to cry immediately. Lifting my leg over the cord and leaning back, I took my son into my arms for the first time and held him. My soul came back into my body and I heard that the song Hold On To Me by Lauren Daigle was playing, my favorite song on my birth playlist. I held Théo close to my chest in disbelief at what I had just accomplished. José was kissing my forehead and holding me and Théo in his arms. With another two uncomfortable contractions out came the placenta without any pain. And with that my five hour labor was over.
I started to feel dizzy at this point so I gave Théo back to José and sat on the edge of the tub with an oxygen mask over my face so that I could stabilize. I was given a Pitocin shot to reduce my risk of hemorrhaging. Thankfully I did not hemorrhage and soon felt well enough to get out of the tub and into bed with my new family of three. I just could not process the fact that I had just given birth, that it was all over, and that I did it!
After all of our vitals were taken we were given the space to soak up our new baby and be together as a family. We left Théo’s cord attached for roughly an hour and a half, giving him all of his blood back to his body. José cut the cord, the midwives weighed him, took his measurements, and told us how perfect we already knew he was. All 6 pounds and 14 ounces of perfection.
We were given breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the birth center and were taken care of so well. At the end of the day a postpartum midwife drew up an herbal bath for me and I was able to soak in the tub and then bring Théo in with me, a wash cloth warming his back as he laid on my chest. We were given the okay to head home that same night. As we drove home, our baby in his car seat, we watched the sky turn pink as the sun set. We were able to see the sun rise while I was in labor and the sun set on our way back home — complete at last.
“you built a life. under ten moons, you were a house of water. you held a second heart in the arms of your rib cage, dreamed two sets of dreams, merged the rivers of your bloodlines under your skin. and then, in the early hours of a spring morning, i watched a piece of you leave, swallowed in the pain of your shattering. you broke, and the rains of new life poured out of you. you are now the mother to that dawning ground. the guardian of its soil. the mender of its aching. the gardener of its joy. this is your work now. you were born in your dying. you were delivered to a new life as you birthed one into existence. you are utter magic. building that mountain. birth. -emory hall”