Arista’s birth started slowly on a Tuesday morning with some bloody show. I woke my husband up at 6:00am to tell him, “I’m in labor. You may want to finish your dissertation now.” He got up fast, got dizzy, and went straight to work.

After a day of baking and light cramping, all indications of labor went away just as quickly as they had come. On the plus side, my husband did finish his dissertation and got a day off before baby. My midwife advised me to take a bath that evening and get some sleep. Contractions resumed with a bang the following evening. Arista moved a lot that night at around 12:30am. It felt like fireworks, and I dreamed that I was in Nepal, being helped by Penny Simkin, who was giving me a massage.

Because we had a slow start, I didn’t believe that these were real contractions, so we timed them for nearly 2 hours before calling our doula. I was so grateful for many reasons to have her assistance, the best being that she came over at 2am and was with us during a very confusing 12 hours at home. My midwife said we couldn’t go to the birth center unless we were in active labor, so we waited until 2pm when I could no longer bear them at home.

My labor felt easy in the beginning. I thought, “If this is it, I could certainly do it again.” Sitting in a bathtub with essential oils being poured in and receiving gentle massages from my husband was bliss. I was too excited to sleep and eating small portions of food made me throw up, but other than that, each contraction came and went.

Around lunchtime, contractions became excruciating. I had the most intense pressure on my tailbone, which caused me to be able to no longer sit down. It was almost 2pm, and I thought I must be at least 5cm, which made us call our midwife to make a plan to transition to the birth center. When I got there, she checked me. I was only at 3cm. She said I was having a “weird labor.”

After about 5 more hours and feeling some of the most intense pain I could imagine, she checked me again to find I was still at 3. The look on my midwife’s face told me that we needed to try some other techniques. My doula used every tool she had. My midwife thought that perhaps the baby’s head was facing the wrong direction and putting uneven pressure on my cervix. We tried lunges, the rebozo (a scarf from Brazil used to sift the baby into a better position). My mucus plug fell out, but other than, after 20 hours of labor, I was exhausted. I had always imagined that if my labor went past 20 hours, I would get an epidural.

My midwife suggested either I get a shot of morphine and then go home and sleep or go to the hospital for the epidural. I wasn’t going home without our baby, and I knew if we went to the hospital, we would get the baby out. We ended up transferring to Northwest Hospital. I loved it. All of the nurses and midwives were spectacular. I found out later that I was fortunate I could transfer there since my water didn’t break until we arrived, and there was meconium in the fluid.

After sleeping for around 5 hours, my epidural wore off. They checked me, and I was at 6cm. I think worse than the pain of the contractions was the memory of the pain. I believe I did go through some suffering during that stage of labor and had some nightmares about my doula asking me to get in different positions. Thankfully, that was not happening at this stage. I got them to give me a higher dose and was able to rest some more.

Still, they felt my labor wasn’t progressing as well as it could have. A midwife came in around 4am and offered to turn the baby’s head. This was relieving news for me because things felt wrong, and I knew this could be our last effort before a c-section. After an attempt at turning during one contraction, I felt Arista resume her comfortable position between contractions. It was intensely frustrating, and I felt she wasn’t cooperating with us. I then asked my husband to sing to try to encourage her to move to the correct position. He sang at my belly, and I said, not there, down there. He did what was asked, and we sang twinkle, twinkle little star together. The midwife looked doubtful whether a change had truly been made, but something felt better to me.

The next time they checked me, my doula and one of my best friends had returned. A new midwife on shift wanted to check all sorts of causes for the slow labor. However, I was able to strongly advocate for myself and tell her that it was due to the position of the baby’s head. She had 30 years of experience, but I appreciate that she took the time to listen to me. She checked me since there was a decision to be made about what we were going to do as a result.

We were all extremely relieved and grateful that I was at 9cm! Not long after that and a few doses of Pitocin, I was ready to push. The contractions felt intense again, but I was able to get on top of them. My husband let me know when they were coming so I could breathe and set the rhythm. Feeling the pressure and urge to push was also a welcome sensation. My eyes widened during these contractions. I was excited.

My doula had me get on my side with some pillows between my legs. I was able to hold one leg up, and it was go time. On the first push, everyone started cleaning the room. I asked why this was happening, and it was clear they needed to get ready for our baby! An OB never entered the room. There wasn’t time. Me, a first-time pusher, pushed our little girl out in 39 minutes. I was able to touch her head and help catch her and lead her up to my chest. It was such an amazing feeling to meet her! I exclaimed HEY! I had always cried during birth videos and birth stories, and this, our own story, was no different in the amazing emotions that came. I have been grateful since to hear her every cry, knowing how intensely she needs us too.

Recovery was easier than expected. I love the hormones that allow me to feed my baby, and the tingling sensations my nipples feel when it’s time to feed her. The first night in the hospital, I dreamt of her face. I cried on the car ride home from the hospital, worshipping God. Here was my little dream. Someone I had prayed to meet for 37 years when I took care of my dolls as a child and waited to meet my husband for all those years. It was all worth it.

– Nicole