Paula & Baby Alex’s Birth Story

I am a mom. It is so wonderful. My gratitude is immeasurable….. This was how I began one of the notes I wrote down during the first week of Alexander’s life. Thinking back on that week, I remember just how struck with gratitude I was. So thankful for this healthy baby boy; for Dave, my love, my rock; for my family; for the amazing experience of pregnancy and birth that I had just gone through. “Birth was and will always be the most commonplace of miracles.” Giving birth was at once the most normal and the most profound experience of my life.

Women spend pregnancy in anticipation and uncertainty. We do our best to prepare, learn, and make good choices, but we never really know how it’s going to go. However, I had seen too much fear surrounding birth and wanted to empower myself to really own my birth experience. Birth is not a major medical event, but a major life event and I wanted to be a participant in every part of it. I read EVERY book on natural birth, but the best ones by far were Ina Mae Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner. Being in the best health of my life, I felt that I was setting myself up in the best way by choosing to give birth in a birth center with a midwife and a doula. As long as I had a normal, low risk pregnancy, chances were excellent that birth too would be normal and low risk. If anything changed, if I “risked out,” my midwife would refer me to an OB.

As we got closer to expecting baby’s arrival, we set the birth plan. I had my lists of things I needed, and things I thought I would need. Most importantly, I felt prepared for any circumstance but had no expectations. I was ready to simply take everything as it came, which was good, because it came two weeks earlier than “expected!” I had a usual work day, Thursday January 7th. Taught my morning yoga class and spent the day in office. That day and the day before I was experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions, not too bad, they were sporadic and just a little uncomfortable. I was also feeling a little under the weather so I was looking forward to a good night sleep. Ha! Around midnight I was awakened by contractions, they were uncomfortable enough to keep me awake. Over an hour I just laid in bed and observed. The contractions were becoming more regular, and I was not happy! At 1am I decided to take a relaxing bath with lavender and epsom salts to see if that would get the contractions to stop so I could sleep. No dice. I decided to let Dave sleep and I spent the night out on the couch. I alternated laying on my sides, resting in child’s pose, and standing, leaning over the arm of the couch. I timed contractions and took slow, deep, even breaths in and out through my nose during each one. It just felt like bad menstrual cramps, I was very calm and still mostly unhappy because I wasn’t sleeping! Contractions averaged 10 minutes apart. In between contractions there was no pain, and I did my best to relax completely, I even fell asleep a few times until the next contraction woke me up. Morning arrived, I decided to take a shower and Dave made me breakfast. I was tired of timing the contractions, so I had Dave take over. We still weren’t sure what would happen next, the contractions could very well have gone away and not come back for a few days, after all, it was two weeks early. No dice. At 9am my water broke. It actually sounded like a little “pop!” After we got over our surprise and incredulity, we knew that this was it, our baby would be born that day. The water breaking has a way of accelerating things, contractions started to get more intense. During the night in early labor I felt them mostly low in my abdomen, now in active labor I felt them more in my low back. Thank goodness at this time my doula Allison arrived! She and I hung out in the bathroom, with each contraction she rubbed my back and I sipped on a homemade rehydration drink. Contractions came 5 and then 3 minutes apart. Unlike in early labor, these contractions required my full attention. I read descriptions of the primeval sounds that some women make during labor and wondered if I would be one of them. Sure enough, I’m a vocalizer. These contractions were painful and intense, it was good I had no inhibitions and just let it out. Vocalizing, back rubs, and deep nostril breaths got me through it. It was hard work, but I was still calm. I was not worried or fearful at all because I knew that my body and my baby were doing exactly what they were meant to be doing to move baby down and out. Lucky for me, active labor only lasted for 3 hours.

Since we were two weeks early, we did not have anything ready to go except the car seat (thank goodness!) so while I was with the doula, Dave did his best to pack. It wasn’t long before contractions got even closer together and I started to feel like pushing. I said, “We gotta go. We gotta go. We gotta go.” Thankfully I managed to put my pants on, but when it came to the shoes, forget it! I bolted out to the car wearing a tank top, pajama pants, and socks in the middle of winter. Good thing we live in Southern California! The drive to the birth center was the hardest part of the whole thing. Sitting in that car, fighting pushing contractions was tough! Not only that, but I neglected to fill up on gas the day before. That’s right, on our way to the birth center we stopped for gas! I knew we had to do it, so I just accepted it. Thankfully there was no traffic, so despite our stop, we made it there fairly quickly.

I told Dave to not bother with parking, pull right up please! I was ready! Sure enough, when my midwife Rachel checked me she said “Yep. You’re complete. Get in the tub!” The pushing phase of labor is very different than what precedes it. I don’t know if it was just because I was sitting in a tub of warm water, but it wasn’t painful, just very intense. Imagine all the muscles in your body working very hard to push a large object down and out. Yeah, it’s like that. I started getting a little weary, wondering how much longer, but when Rachel said I should reach down and touch baby’s head, that gave me a boost. I knew I just had to keep going. I remember my immense relief when after a long, intense push Rachel said the head was out! Then I knew it would only be a little bit longer. With one more big push, Rachel told me to reach down and pick up my baby. I scooped baby up in my arms and brought my little nugget right to my chest. I said, “Hi little goober.” I knew that it can take a little time before baby cries and was ready for that, but I was so relieved when baby cried right away. Since we opted to not find out the gender, it occurred to me then that I needed to peek down and see who this little nugget was! I looked down and said to myself, “It’s a boy.” I then lifted my head and announced to the room with a big smile on my face, “It’s a boy!” Everyone cheered and Dave leaned over and kissed me. I then looked into my son’s face and said, “See, that wasn’t so bad!” Everyone laughed. They helped me out of the tub and Dave, baby and I cozied up on the bed. After making sure everything was all good with me and the babe, Rachel and the birth assistants left the room so we could have our golden hour. Our first hour as a family of three. My doula, Allison went out and picked up some burritos for us for lunch. When my parents arrived, I will never forget the look on their faces. Absolutely overjoyed and so in love with their grandson. Pretty much a perfect afternoon.

As we got ready to go home I was glad Dave remembered to pack my shoes! He did not however, remember to pack anything for the baby. My dad had to run to the nearest Target and buy some going home jammies for our little guy. Once we were all ready we packed up the car, our most precious cargo in tow, our newborn son.

We also made an impromptu stop on the way home. We took my placenta with us, I had hired someone to dehydrate and encapsulate it for me. I wanted to get straight home though, so my parents agreed to drop it off for me. We met up in the parking lot of a Taco Bell en route.  Dave had had quite a day and needed a soda, so through the drive through we went and then when my parents pulled up we handed over the placenta for them to take to my friend to encapsulate. It’s these quirks of the day that just make me giggle: stopping for gas, burritos for lunch, soda from the Taco Bell drive through, placenta pass off. Not usually part of the average birth experience! So normal, and yet not so normal. The ride home was pretty surreal though, sitting in the back of my car, having just given birth, feeling simultaneously tired and triumphant, in awe and inept, my eyes glued on my tiny son who didn’t have a name yet, driving north on the 405 freeway.

I consider myself very lucky that my labor was only 12 hours long. As it turned out, it went exactly as planned, and not at all as planned. I got the natural birth that I wanted, the labor and birth went quickly and smoothly. It was amazing. It was hard work, and I absolutely loved it. On the other hand, the bag didn’t get packed, the car didn’t have gas, I didn’t get my shoes on, I didn’t have the candles, music, or the coconut water and other things that were on my list. But we had everything we really needed and nothing we didn’t. We took it as it came and it all turned out beautifully. Somewhat comical, and absolutely beautiful. The best part of all, a healthy baby boy joined our family and we get to love him for the rest of our lives. The biggest blessing of my life, in addition to meeting Dave.

The next day we named him Alexander William. Alexander after his maternal great-grandfather, and William after his paternal great-grandfather. He is such a good natured, curious, and happy little boy. It has been a joy to help him grow this past year and we are so excited for the adventures ahead with our little Alex.

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2 Thoughts on “Paula & Baby Alex’s Birth Story

  1. Kathryn Rynea Thompson on February 9, 2017 at 4:52 pm said:

    You and baby look so beautiful. So glad you have been so blessed!

  2. Grandpa Larsen on February 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm said:

    This one made me tear up. Again. What a day….!

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