Rachael's story of the birth of Mirabel
The photos were taken by Blu Hippo Photography
My first baby, my son, was born almost 4 years ago at the hospital. I was 41.5 weeks and my labor started two days before I was scheduled to be induced. To this day I am grateful that my labor started on its own, because I believe that it played an enormous role in my ability to birth my son with very few medical interventions and without pain medication. I felt empowered and in awe of the strength of my body. I was fortunate to have a very supportive care team; a family doctor, doula and partner that never left my side (yes-my doctor was with me during my entire labor). It was my ability to experience labor naturally which started my path to becoming a childbirth educator (Lamaze Certified) and knew from that day on that I wanted to help women have positive birth experiences. Through my journey as a childbirth educator I discovered The Midwife Center (Pittsburgh, PA) and I knew that if I was to have more children this would be the ideal environment. I strongly believe that birth is a normal and natural process and I wanted to be in a setting that supported this belief.
It was May 3, 2013 around eight in the evening when labor with my second baby started, and I have to admit, I was probably in a bit of denial. I was 38.5 weeks and never thought I would have this baby before 40 weeks. To my knowledge I hadn't lost my mucus plug and I had been feeling normal all day. I even spent half the day at the park with my 3 year old! However, because I went into labor at night with my son, and as a result lost an entire night of sleep, I figured I better lay down and get some rest just in case this was the real thing. I ignored my contractions for about 3 hours, put my son to bed and then laid down, but due to the contractions, I never fell asleep. At around 11pm, I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. As I was sitting on the toilet, I felt a very strong contraction that resulted in the passage of a blood clot. At this point, I knew I was in labor. I let my husband, Dave, know that this was it. I also called the Midwife on call who assured me, after asking a bunch of questions, that the blood clot was normal and my cervix was opening. Dave ran a bath for me and transformed our bathroom into a spa with music and candles. I got in the tub (with my phone) and started to time my contractions. My contractions were every 5-7 minutes and were about 45 seconds in length. In the tub I was able to easily manage them with deep slow breathing. An hour later my contractions started to get stronger and closer together but were still fairly manageable. I got out of the tub and walked around, getting my bag together. I decided that I better call my sister to see if she could come over to care for our son over night. Another 2 hours passed as I was in an out of the tub and walking around to cope with the contractions. At around 2:30 we decided to leave for the Birth Center. My contractions were about 2 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I was sure that I was well into active labor.
When we arrived at The Midwife Center we were greeted by Theresa (midwife) and Paige (nurse). Immediately they checked the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler and timed my contractions. They also offered my husband some coffee (talk about hospitality) and got me in the Jacuzzi tub. While in the tub they checked my dilation. When they informed me that I was 3-4 centimeters I felt a range of emotions from disappointment to annoyance. WHAT!? My contractions are 2 minutes apart and fairly strong! I thought I had waited at home long enough; I was expecting 5 or 6 centimeters at least! Theresa and Paige assured me that things were going to progress quickly since this was my second baby. I still wasn’t convinced but figured I better relax and focus on my contractions and the warm water of the Jacuzzi. If ever I was going to follow my own advice, it was now. Deal with the contraction and then relax and so forth; frustration is only going to make labor long and harder. After all, I always teach my clients to live in the moment during labor since you have no idea how long it is going to take.
I labored in and out of the tub for the next 2 hours. My husband Dave moved in and out of the bathroom keeping me company and offering assistance (rubbing my back, pouring warm water over me during the contractions). However, unlike my first birth where I really needed a person to be nearby at all times, I felt ok on my own. I was listening to relaxing music (Jack Johnson), breathing deeply and focusing on my contractions. Around 5am I started to feel increased pain in my back as the contractions began to intensify. I was positive I was in transition. Theresa offered to check me and reported back that I was 6 centimeters. Again, I was very frustrated. I know what transition feels like, I was in transition for over 2 hours with my first baby! Theresa could sense my frustration and again assured me that my labor was moving quickly. She confidently said to me, “If I break your water right now, you will have this baby in 30 minutes.” I really thought she was insane when she said that because I was so focused on comparing this birth to the birth of my son (long labor with 4 hours of pushing!) I told her that I needed to think over her offer. My plan was to have a birth free of all interventions (as long as the baby and I were safe and healthy). Luckily, I never had to make that decision because while I was thinking it over (and my husband was calling the birth photographer that I put off calling way to long because I was convinced I was going to have a long labor) my water broke. As soon as it broke, my pain hit the roof, especially in my back. I had to lean over the side of the tub or on all fours to cope with the contractions. I could barely breathe during the contractions and I remember very clearly, Dave reminding me to breathe because I was tensing up and holding it in. This was transition and I was completing my dilation fast. I could feel the baby coming and I wanted to push, in what felt like minutes after my water broke. Everyone was quickly helping me out of the tub and over to the bed. I knew, because of the pain in my back, that there was no way I could lie down to push, s I pushed standing up holding on the edge of the bed and then moved on the bed and pushed my baby out on all fours. I pushed for about 7 minutes. My baby was born in the posterior position which is why I was having a tremendous amount of back pain at the end of labor. She also had the cord so tight around her neck that Theresa needed to cut it at the perineum before I pushed her body out. I had no idea any of this was happening; the room was calm as a cucumber and I am so thankful for that. Mirabel Taylor was born at 6:00am and she was the most beautiful baby girl I ever laid eyes on.
My experience at The Midwife Center was exactly what I had hoped it would be. The staff was tremendously supportive, both emotionally and physically. Paige’s presence in the room was extremely calming and she offered so many helpful ideas like pouring watering over me during the contractions and more comfortable positions to be in during labor. Theresa also displayed the same calm demeanor that helped me to stay relaxed. The Jacuzzi was an essential tool that I used during my entire labor to stay relaxed and comfortable. The room was quiet and the lights were dim and there was not staff busily moving in and out, like is often experienced at the hospital. My two favorite things about the Birth Center is their use of intermittent auscultation with the doppler instead of an electronic fetal monitoring unit and the queen size bed. Using the doppler allowed for complete freedom of movement and the nurse completed the reading quickly allowing her attention to be returned to the mom instead of a computer. I also really appreciated the queen size bed as it allowed for Dave and I to lay together and bond as a family unit. I am so grateful for my experience at The Midwife Center and the memories will last a lifetime.