Part 2: Phoenix Rae Hodson’s Birth Story
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can do so by clicking HERE. I talk about why I decided to switch from an OB/GYN to a midwife at 39 weeks pregnant (and have a lot of pictures too!).
*Disclaimer* This is a story about birth. There are a lot of TMI details in here, and a lot of information that pertains to birth (blood, discharge, bloody show, pains, etc). Please know that these topics are throughout the entire story, even in the first sentence of the story, so if you aren’t comfortable with those topics, you may not want to continue reading. I considered taking some of the ‘gross’ details out of this story, but I know when I was pregnant the stories I read that included these details were most helpful to me while preparing myself for birth, plus it may be helpful for me to read this later on if we decided to have more children, so I decided to keep every detail in the story. Please keep your comments respectful, any disgusting or rude comments pertaining to the birth process will be deleted.
I woke up around 7am with a ‘crampy’ feeling and a lot of discharge. What I was feeling was similar to menstrual cramps but nothing that was time-able and I wouldn’t call them contractions yet, but definitely more than I’ve felt any other day and not just regular Braxton Hicks. I was excited because I had gotten 8.5 hours of sleep the night before! More sleep than I had gotten during most nights in my pregnancy. By about 8am or so, however, the cramping feeling would come about every 12 minutes or so and last about 20-30 seconds. The contraction feeling was very light, I would usually just close my eyes during the contraction. It felt very similar to menstrual cramps, nothing too intense at this point. I told my husband when he left for work that he might need to come home today and just to keep his phone on him while he was in his meetings. I didn’t really want to admit to myself that labor was starting, and I didn’t really want to tell anyone either because if it wasn’t the real deal I didn’t want to feel disappointed and I didn’t want anyone else to get excited and then disappointed. At around 11:45am (about 5 hours after the crampy feelings started) I texted my midwife (Tierney Dovan of Marshall Midwifery) and let her know how I was feeling.
At 11:46am here was my text to Tierney:
Me: “Things have been consistent all morning – contractions coming about every 10-12 minutes about 40 seconds long. Still having a lot of brown discharge – maybe tiny pieces of plug too? Nothing too crazy, but definitely enough that I need to stop during a rush. Getting house cleaned up and then we are going to go for a walk later to maybe get things moving. Just wanted to keep you in the loop.”
Her response was,
Tierney: “Wow!! I am so excited! Stay in touch! Today is a beautiful day to have a baby”
A few minutes after that text I lost my mucus plug. I forgot how gross that was! I was trying to keep myself distracted by keeping myself busy. Here is a picture I put on Instagram (@nataliehodson1) that day with this caption: “Super cute $5 Target tulip flower craft + mint nail polish + 55 degrees outside = great day. Trying to distract myself from the fact that I’m a week past my due date.”
With the birth of my first son, I had to take castor oil at 41W 5D to get labor started. It worked (although it wasn’t fun. at. all.), but this time around I was really excited that labor had started “on its own” and there was a sense of peace that my body knew what it was doing. Right after I texted Tierney, I texted my husband and asked him if he wanted to come home for lunch (we live right down the street from the corporate headquarters he works at). He came home and it was great because I was able to take a 30 minute nap while he was home, and it was nice to have a break from my 3-year old since getting into the world of a 3-year old, playing dinosaurs and running around playing freeze tag (his favorite things to do right now) was practically impossible to do while having contractions. So, Sheridan took over during his lunch break and I was able to rest for a few minutes. After my husband went back to work, I decided to make a big pot of my homemade spaghetti sauce (click HERE for the recipe) and let it simmer while my son and I went for a walk. It was a beautiful 55 degree day outside and I thought a walk would help pick things up. I decided to snap a quick picture before we left for our walk – my stomach gets really big when I am pregnant! Notice my little guy trying to sneak into the picture in the corner 🙂
In my head, I still kept telling myself that this probably wasn’t really labor, and didn’t really tell anyone that I was having contractions. I didn’t want to get too excited and then feel let down if this wasn’t the “real deal”. My son helped me pour the spaghetti ingredients into our huge silver pot (I made a triple batch to store for freezer meals), we put our jackets on, grabbed the stroller, and headed out for a walk.
I decided to walk to a park that is about 2 miles away. It’s a bigger park that my son likes going to, the weather was nice, and I figured pushing a jogging stroller four miles round trip would help speed up the contractions. During the walk, the contractions were about 10 minutes apart or so and lasting about 40 seconds. During a contraction I would need to stop walking and breathe through the contraction, but in between contractions I felt completely normal. Someone asked me what I meant by ‘breathing through it’. Well…basically I was using they hypnobirthing/hypnobabies approach. I would just stop talking, get quiet, usually shut my eyes, and use different visualization techniques that they teach in their book to get through the contraction. I would try to relax every muscle in my body as much as possible and not tense up during the contractions. I really tried to focus on not tensing up my face and not talking or using high-pitched voices such as saying, “ow ow ow”. I found that when I did that it actually made the contractions so much harder to get through, and so instead I would just sort of focus inward and focus on getting through each 45 second contraction. I was a cross country and track athlete in college, and I kept thinking of contractions like interval workouts. I knew the contraction wouldn’t last forever, and so on the especially hard contractions where I felt like it was getting really hard, I would think about those interval workouts and how I would push through to the end of each workout even though it was really hard and then I would get a rest afterwards. I used that same mentality and focus with the contractions. The contractions lasted about 45 seconds but then I would get a 5-8 minute rest in between.
My son and I played at the park for a long time. One of my good friends met us at the park with her 2-year old son and the boys played for an hour or two. I got home around 5:30 to a house that smelled so good! The walk back was a little more difficult, but mostly because my 3-year old wanted to walk and not sit in the stroller. Of course, in true 3-year old fashion he wanted to stomp in every puddle and pick up every stick. I ended up buckling him into the stroller just so we could get home a little faster and I was a little worried that he might run off while I was having a contraction when I couldn’t chase him down (the little stinker is fast!). My little guy:
At 5:30 I got a text from my midwife asking how I was doing. I responded with,
Me: “Good, walking back from the park now. The contractions have picked up to about every 5-6 minutes, but still only 30-40 seconds long and they are still very manageable. Like, I need to stop talking during the contraction but in between I feel normal and fine.” She wrote back with,
Tierney: “Great! Keep in touch! Good progress”
My husband had to work until about 7:30 or so and I remember feeling irritated that he wasn’t getting off sooner because my contractions were getting harder to work around. I told him that he should probably let his boss know that he wouldn’t be coming in tomorrow. I ended up letting my 3-year old watch way more tv than usual, because my patience was being tested with an overly-energetic 3 year old and contractions every 5 minutes. I had plenty of friends I could have called to watch him, but for some reason I still was in denial that this was real labor. I kept thinking that things were probably going to taper off and I would have been fussing for no reason. I just cleaned up the kitchen, got the dishes put away, put in a load of laundry, cleaned up the bathroom, etc to try to keep my mind off the fact that I was probably in real labor. My husband got home from work, we ate an awesome spaghetti dinner, and at that point it was almost 8pm and time to get Lincoln ready for bed.
Here is a video my husband took right around this time. I almost didn’t post this because my face is so swollen and puffy here (this always happens to me in the last few weeks of pregnancy. I retain water really bad but it seems to always show in my face so much) and my husband was shooting from below which is never flattering. But, then I realized that it would be dumb not to show a video just because I thought I looked a little chubby, plus it is an awesome belly shot 🙂
I texted Tierney at 8:15 and said:
Me: “I’ve been keeping track the last hour with this contraction app I downloaded. The contractions are getting closer together (about 4 minutes apart), but I still feel completely normal in between contractions. I still feel like it might be too early to head out. They are about 45 seconds long, but only about 20 seconds of the contraction are to the point that I can’t talk or move – the first 10 seconds are uncomfortable but not unbearable, and the last 10 seconds are uncomfortable but not unbearable if that makes sense. I also have been drinking red raspberry leaf tea and put clary sage essential oil on my lower stomach.”
She told me to call her so we could chat. When I called she wanted to hear how I sounded and told me that the frequency of my contractions was great, but that she wanted the intensity to pick up a little bit. I agreed. She suggested that I try to get to bed and rest for a bit or take a bath. She said that things may slow down while I was in the bath, and that was ok, but that if we were going to have a baby tonight I would want to give my body some rest. I told my husband that if he wanted to go workout, this was the time to do it. It took me a while to get to the point that I could run a bath (still had to do pajamas, baths, brush teeth, etc for my 3-year old) but finally was able to get in the bath around 9:30pm and take about a 45 minute bath (I used the French Kiss lavender bath bomb from Lush and it was so relaxing!). Tierney was right, things did slow down, I only had two or three contractions the entire 45 minutes I was in the bath. I used a plastic blow up ‘u’ shaped pillow that supports your neck (like one you use on an airplane) to rest my head and turned my body sideways so that my belly sort of rested/floated in the water. It felt so nice to sit and relax after being on my feet for most of the day. The house was quiet while I was in the tub while Lincoln was sleeping and Sheridan was working out. After I got out of the tub my contractions really started to pick up again. I started putting the spaghetti sauce in freezer bags and was having a really hard time focusing long enough to get the sauce in the bags. At 10:45 I texted Tierney and said:
Me: “So I think we should head out since we probably still have an hour or so by the time we drop Lincoln off. Contractions are 2.5-3.5 minutes apart, still 45 seconds long but hard to breath through now.” She responded with:
Tierney: “Good idea. Text when you are in the car on your way”
*Side Note: I am so thankful Tierney texts her clients and that I was texting her the entire day because it really helped me keep track of the time frames for everything as I was typing this all up!*
The next 45 minutes were a little stressful for me! I realized that I forgot to put together a bag for my 3-year old (who was going to stay at my friend’s house), so I quickly threw together a bag with clothes, food, etc for him (doing the best I could in between contractions while my husband was away at the gym). I still wasn’t sure if we had 37 hours ahead of us still like I did with my first labor and so I definitely over packed for him. My husband got home from the gym and I remember being irritated with him when he made the comment, “we are probably still a long way away from this baby being here, right?” It was an innocent question, and he wasn’t trying to be rude at all with his question, but I think I said something like, “I have no clue what my body is going to do, but I can tell you that things are really picking up and we need to hurry!”. He made his protein shake, chicken breast, and sweet potato while I was running around getting our bags together! I think he thought that we still had a long time until this baby was going to be born. Little did we know our sweet girl would be here 2.5 hours later. Finally Sheridan left to take Lincoln to our neighbor’s house and then told me, “I think I am going to have to run down the street and run into work to put the ‘out of office’ on my computer and grab my laptop”. What?!?! Was my initial thought! But all I could really focus on then were the contractions and I couldn’t really think about much else. I just told him whatever he was going to do he needed to hurry and stop lalli-gagging around (I know that’s not a real word, but that’s what I told him).
About 10 minutes after they left I was sitting on the edge of my bed and felt a contraction coming on. With most of the contractions I had to either stand up and rest my palms of my hands/weight on the counter or lie down during the contraction. The contractions had become a lot more intense from what I was experiencing this morning. What I found worked the best was when I put my arms around my husband’s shoulders and faced him so that my weight was leaning in on him during the contraction. I didn’t like it when he talked and just wanted things very quiet during contractions (talking in between contractions was fine). I didn’t really talk much or make many noises during contractions, but just kept continuing to use the visualization techniques that I read about in the hypnobirthing book and also in the Bradley Method book. So, I mentioned that I usually needed to be standing up or lying down on my side during contractions, but this particular contraction came on quickly and I didn’t have a chance to move (I was sitting on the edge of my bed) before it peaked. During the peak part of the contraction I remember feeling like everything felt sort of compressed in my stomach because of how I was sitting on the edge of the bed, then all of the sudden I felt a little kick, then felt a pop, then all of the sudden felt a big gush. My water broke! I ran (wobbled) over to the bathroom. I think it was a smaller tear in the amniotic sac because it was enough to get my skirt wet but didn’t completely drench me to the floor. I texted my husband at 11:19pm and said,
Me: “My water just broke – please hurry!”.
He called me and asked if he should just come straight home (he was walking into his office building). I told him I didn’t care but that if he was going to go into work he needed to literally run because this was just taking way too long and my contractions were hard to get through by myself. Before he left, the contractions were strong enough that when I would feel a contraction start (I usually had about 5 seconds where I could feel it building up before the contraction actually happened), I would wave Sheridan over and put my hands around his shoulders, lean my weight on his body, I would usually press my forehead against his, and just breathe calmly through it and stay as calm as possible. At first he tried talking to me during the contractions and telling me what a great job I was doing, but that was irritating me and I just wanted him to be quiet during the contraction and then talk to me afterwards. I remember one time he was eating a chicken breast (after his workout) and I almost threw up because the smell of the chicken was so strong I pushed him away for that contraction. Looking back, I am really proud of myself for staying so calm and collected during my contractions. With Lincoln’s labor I would cry out during the contractions. I had a few like that this time too, but I found that I actually was able to handle the pain better if I just stayed really quiet. I kept thinking back to when I was running track and cross country in college. We would often need to do 45 second intervals on the track. I kept telling myself that this was no different than a track workout and I just had to focus on staying strong through the 45 seconds and then I would get a break. I read the Hypnobirthing book during this pregnancy and it helped me in my early labor. I guess I didn’t really focus on the hypno part of it very much, but the visualization techniques were so helpful for me. I didn’t do a lot of the practicing, and I lost the cd so didn’t listen to the mantras, but in the book they teach you a lot of visualization techniques that I used a lot in early labor. (Two other books I read during my pregnancy and loved were, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way”. In my opinion, every pregnant woman should read Ina May’s book even in you aren’t planning on having a natural childbirth. You never know if the anesthesiologist can’t get there in time or if you have a quick labor you may find comfort in the things she teaches to help with labor). I also watched a lot of the natural birth videos that people have posted on YouTube. When I was pregnant it was so helpful to watch those.
Sorry….back to the birth story….so at 11:35pm on March 19th I texted Tierney and said,
Me: “Well that took us a lot longer to get out than I thought it would to get out the door. Water just broke but I don’t think all the way. It got my skirt wet but not too bad. Felt a big pop then gush. A little bit pink but no meconium. Leaving now – about 45 minutes away.
She wrote back with,
Tierney: “Oh boy! Park in back of birth center. I am super excited!!”
Sheridan and I got in the car and we were on our way. It was still about a 45 minute drive to the birth center and I was really nervous about getting through the contractions in the car, but it wasn’t too terrible. They actually slowed down a little bit while we were in the car to about every 4.5-5 minutes. Sheridan said at one point, “The contractions aren’t that close anymore, are you sure this is really the real thing?” and I remember getting snappy and telling him that if he wasn’t going to say anything positive just to keep it in his head and not talk. It’s funny because what he said wasn’t really negative at all – he was just pointing out what was going on. I think I was really nervous that I still had hours and hours ahead of me still. The only frame of reference I had was from Lincoln’s birth and that was a 37 hour experience after contractions were 5 minutes apart. Little did we know how soon we were going to get to meet our baby. We called our parents on the drive out there and let them know I was in labor – I finally was able to admit to myself that this was the “real deal” and let people know.
We got to the birth center at 12:30am and I was having a contraction right as we pulled up. Good thing the street wasn’t busy that night because I made Sheridan stop the car in the middle of the road with his blinker on and wouldn’t let him pull into the driveway until my contraction was over (I thought the bump of going on the curb would hurt too much during a contraction). Tierney and Esther (Tierney’s birth assistant) saw us pull up and were outside waiting for us and greeted us on the porch. As soon as I got out of the car my contractions really picked back up. I’m not sure if it was the motion of standing up, or just my mind “allowing” contractions to start again because we were finally there. I couldn’t make it from the car to the front door (only about 40 meters) without having a contraction and they kept coming quickly when I got inside. I had to stop twice on my way to the bathroom (only about 30 meters) when I first got there because of contractions. To visualize it, I would walk 15 meters, stop and close my eyes for 45 seconds while the contraction happened, walk 15 meters, stop for 45 seconds while the contraction happened, etc. In my mind, I think I still thought it was early because the contractions were really hard and I had to breathe deeply to get through them, but in between contractions I felt like I could keep a pretty normal conversation.
Here is a picture we snapped right when we got to the birth center. I didn’t know when we took this, but I would have my baby in my arms 40 minutes later.
I went to the bathroom, Sheridan brought my bags in, and we went into one of the birthing rooms to check the baby’s heart rate. Her heart rate was 160 which was great. I wanted to change clothes and pull a few things out of my bags. I didn’t even think to take off my earrings and because things went so quickly after this I have my dangly earrings on in all the pictures! It had been about 20 minutes since we pulled in the driveway and we decided to do a cervical check to see where things were at. When Tierney checked me I was at a 6 but could stretch to a 7. I had a contraction while she was checking me and that did not feel good at all. She said that my cervix was paper thin and that the baby’s head was in perfect position. This was all really exciting for me! There was so much more progress that had been made with this birth than with Lincoln. Someone asked me why I think the births were so different, and I don’t really think there is a specific reason that I could pinpoint. I think the largest reason is just because this was my second pregnancy and so my body knew what to do. I wonder if staying calm and laid-back about being in labor instead of getting excited (adrenaline can slow down labor) played a part, but there is really no way to know.
So, after the cervical exam I felt like I had to go pee. A contraction came on while I was still in the bathroom and I just had an instinctual feeling to get down on my hands and knees during that contraction. I remember after that contraction feeling that something was “different” and I had felt a little pressure in my back too (with all the other contractions the feeling was a strong tightness/contracting feeling in my lower stomach. Basically, the entire area that the stretchy material of maternity pants covers). I went into the birthing room and told Tierney about the last contraction and she suggested that maybe we pull out the trundle she had under the bed. It was a smaller mattress and I was able to kneel on it so my knees wouldn’t get sore and then put my hands and arms on the edge of the bed. I really liked kneeling that way during contractions. I was able to sway my hips back and forth and that helped to relieve the pressure. I had a few more “breathing” contractions (ones that I had to breathe deeply to get through). Tierney and Esther had stepped out of the room to give Sheridan and me some privacy. Sheridan and I were alone in the birth room and he was sitting on one side of me and after each contraction would let me know I was doing a great job, would gently touch my back, etc. He had learned not to do it during the contraction, but it was so nice to know he was right there as soon as it was over.
After only a few contractions all of the sudden things started getting a lot more intense. I said that I felt like I was going to throw up when I was having a contraction. The brought a bowl over for me to throw up in and I never actually did throw up, but I would just get these little burps after each contraction. It’s really hard to describe what it feels like when I say things got more intense. But, basically the tightening and contracting just increased significantly and I had to moan in a low voice to get through the contraction. It wasn’t anything somebody told me to do or to say, it was just a very instinctual feeling that moaning would help with the pain. Tierney and Esther came back into the room once they heard me getting more vocal (up until that point I was just staying really quiet during the contractions and not talking). One thing I am so grateful for is that they never once told me how to act or what to do. They let me have a completely mother-led birth (until the last push). It wasn’t something I necessarily had expressed a strong interest for, but Tierney told me that was her style and I really loved the fact that they trusted my body enough to know what to do. I didn’t have people telling me when to push or what to do, they just trusted me to listen to my body and do what came naturally to me.
This was the part of labor that was really, really hard. I started feeling scared. With Lincoln, I pushed for an hour and a half, and I kept thinking to myself, “We haven’t even gotten to the pushing stage yet, this feeling is so intense I can’t imagine doing this for another two hours!”. I started thinking that the pain was too intense and too much to handle and that I couldn’t do it. I was thinking how I completely understood why women would ask for epidurals in a hospital at this point, because this amount of pain was hard and scary. But then, two things happened. One: Tierney turned off all the main lights in the room. There were still a few smaller lamps on in the room so it wasn’t pitch dark, but it was very dimly lit in the room. I had read in so many of my birthing books how a dimly lit room was optimal for birth, but honestly, I always brushed it off as sort of a high-maintenance request and it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. So, I had never asked Tierney to do that in part of my birth plan, but as soon as she did that something switched. It was almost like I was able to go deep inside myself and re-focus my energy. The second thing that happened (almost simultaneous to the lights dimming) was that I remembered a part of one of the natural childbirth books I had read that talked about how every single woman who gives birth has feelings or deep fears at some point of not being able to do it or handle it, and wanting to give up, but that usually those feelings happen right before transition which means that pushing is very close and your baby will be here soon. Remembering that gave me some hope that maybe I was closer to meeting my baby. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, there is nothing I can do at this point – I can’t stop the baby from coming and being afraid won’t make this any easier, I might as well try to work with my body and help get this baby out”. Each contraction was very strong and very intense, and I had to moan quite loudly with a low, deep voice to get through it. I remember there were a few contractions where I literally felt the baby’s head moving down the birth canal – that was one of the most intense parts of the entire labor. This “moaning” part of labor lasted probably about 20-25 minutes or so.
I should mention that I was still on my hands and knees at this point (arms on the bed, knees on the trundle), and this is how the baby was delivered.
Tierney and Esther were down below me and had lights so they could monitor everything and Sheridan was still sitting on the bed behind me. They were monitoring baby’s heart rate every few minutes with a Doppler and I was completely drenched in sweat. All of the sudden I started to get a feeling near my tailbone that I had to push. The only way I really know how to describe it is like when you have to go #2 so bad that you just can’t hold it in anymore, that is what the pushing feeling is like. You can’t not push, the feeling is so strong that you feel like you just have to push. I know that some woman really like the pushing stage, I wouldn’t say I feel that way. Pushing was hard and intense. The first push feeling I got was towards the end of one of my moaning contractions and so towards the end I sort of groaned/grunted and pushed. I didn’t really like the strong feeling of pressure I felt in my bottom. When the contractions would end, everyone stayed really quiet, and when Tierney and Esther had to talk to each other they would just whisper which I really appreciated. Someone had put on a lavender scent that I remember was really refreshing to smell. Since the moaning contractions had begun, I wasn’t able to talk, everything I was thinking was just an internal conversation and my thoughts weren’t very cohesive. I wouldn’t think in sentences, I would think more in one-word ideas, if that even makes sense. The next pushing contraction came and I could feel a lot of progress was made and the baby had moved down quite a bit. I pushed during the entire contraction and the most painful part was actually after the contraction was over. During a contraction the baby uses the force of the contraction to move forward, but without the power of your uterus contracting, in between contractions, the baby scoots back a little into the birth canal. I remember feeling the baby moving backwards and that part hurt, and I just wanted to keep pushing and not go “backwards” with my progress, but pushing without the power of a contraction was almost pointless. The next two contractions I felt a ton of progress made.
Tierney told Sheridan that she could see part of the head, and Sheridan later told me that he looked at her in complete surprise, because he thought we still had at least an hour to go (based off my last labor). He moved off the bed and got down on the floor so he could watch. In one of these contractions I started to feel a strong burning sensation. I remember saying, “it burns, it burns, it burns, it burns” really really fast. The midwives had warm compresses on my perineum area to try to minimize any tearing. I also remember thinking in my head that burning was a good thing! I remember with Lincoln’s birth when I felt the burning sensation he was born just a few pushes later. I started to get excited! I just couldn’t believe how quick it was going. The next push I could really feel a lot of progress was made and her head was out. Sheridan said she was a dark blue/purple color and that the cord was wrapped around her neck. Tierney said to me, “Natalie with the next contraction I am going to need you to move your leg up near your shoulder so we have more room to get your baby out.” So, next contraction that’s what I did. In that contraction Tierney said to me, “Natalie you need to push with everything you have”, and in that moment I made the loudest, most primal noise I have ever heard in my life! I never though I was capable of making a noise like that! I just used every ounce of force my body could muster and pushed as hard as I possibly could, and used my voice to propel that energy. It worked! She was born in just six pushes! But, the cord was wrapped around her neck (not necessarily an uncommon thing – it happens in about 30% of deliveries) and she was very blue and limp. Tierney told Sheridan and me to talk to our baby. Sheridan and I were saying, “come on baby, it’s ok” things like that. It probably was only a few seconds before she started coughing, but in that moment it felt like a long time. She started pinking up right away after she started coughing. I was still on my hands and knees and hadn’t actually seen my baby yet. I was so tired from this fast and intense labor and my head was still resting on the bed. The baby was born at 1:40am – just one hour from the time we pulled up to the birth center and only 40 minutes after I had a check and was at a 6!
Here are some videos my husband captured right after this point. I really hesitated whether or not to share these videos because these moments captured are so special to me. I’ve edited out any nudity and have kept a lot of the videos out, but I think this video captures the raw emotion I felt. It is so hard to describe, but the feeling of emotions that runs through your body immediately after birth is incomparable to any other feeling I have ever felt. For me, I get very emotional. I am so grateful that I finally get to meet my baby, that the pain of labor is over, I feel proud of myself for delivering my own child, and I just start feeling so in love with everyone around me. Oxytocin is the hormone your body naturally releases when your baby is born, and some doctors and midwives call it the “love drug” because of the warm, happy, loving feelings it produces. We didn’t get it on video, but I almost immediately started thanking everyone in the room and was talking about how perfect the birth was. Please keep in mind when you watch this video that these moments that were captured are very special to our family. Any rude or disrespectful comments will be deleted.
I am so happy that we have video of my baby girl just moments after she was born. Also, I was shocked that I actually had a girl! We had waited to find out the gender and I had convinced myself that we were having another boy.
The midwives waited to cut the umbilical cord for a very long time! They allowed all the extra blood, oxygen, and nutrients from the umbilical cord to transfer to the baby until the cord quit pulsing. After the placenta was delivered, they just put the placenta in a bag inside a bowl and kept everything attached to the baby while they were taking care of me (you can actually see that in few of these pictures – the cord was white and had quit pulsing at this point). Here is a video of my husband holding the baby for the very first time. He was holding her the entire time Tierney and Esther were attending to me:
He got to cut the umbilical cord right after these pictures were taken and the midwives commented on how it was one of the thickest umbilical chords they had ever seen! Right after the umbilical cord was cut we weighed the baby. Tierney has both a digital scale that you lie the baby on and a hanging spring scale. We opted for the hanging spring scale – I have to think for a brand new baby lying on a cloth scale is much more comfortable than a hard, cold scale.
I was really excited to see how big she was because I had gotten so big in my pregnancu and she was very big – just two ounces shy of 10 lbs!
15″ head circumference
She was almost the exact same size as her older brother at birth and just perfect. Here are some pictures my husband took on his iPhone shortly after:
After they had taken care of me and made sure the baby was weighed and measured (about an hour or so after delivery) they gave us some time to rest. We realized at this point that we still had to decide on a name! We talked about it for a bit (we had a few names that we liked but wanted to wait to see the baby until we decided for sure), and decided on Phoenix Rae. The name Phoenix means: a person or thing regarded as uniquely remarkable, and I also loved the idea of a Phoenix being someone/something who rises from the ashes a strong, powerful and beautiful creature. Rae is my grandmother’s middle name and we thought it went really nicely with Phoenix and so decided on Phoenix Rae. Sheridan took a short nap but my body was still so full of adrenaline and oxytocin hormones that I was full of energy. We called our parents and sent texts out that the baby was born. The next hour or so was spent just loving on the baby. Tierney and Esther would come in to make sure I was hydrating and eating (I had brought a bag of food with me and some Gatorade bottles) and to watch my postpartum bleeding. About 4 or 5 hours after the baby was born we felt like we were ready to head home. One of the things I love so much about delivering at a birth center is that as long as mom and baby are ok, you get to go home quickly. I can relax so much more when I am in my own bed and in the comfort of my own home. Tierney then comes and does home visits at your house in the next day or two and is in constant communication via text to make sure you are feeling ok. As I was getting dressed to leave I passed a few large blood clots and started to feel light headed. Tierney handled the situation appropriately and after that happened she wanted us to stay a few more hours so I could be monitored. After a few hours I was feeling fine and was given the ok to head home. We left at around 10am or so (about 8 hours after the baby was born), drove home and spent the day resting at home and loving on our new baby.
I warned you that this story ended up being long! If you read through the entire Part 1 and Part 2 I am impressed! Like I said at the beginning, this began as a way for me to share these memories with my daughter someday, but I am glad I get to share it with those reading it. Phoenix Rae is 6.5 weeks old as I am typing this today and just yesterday I had my 6-week checkup with Tierney.
I am sad I no longer have a reason to visit with her! She is an incredibly skilled and experienced midwife, but we also became friends throughout the process and I will forever be grateful to her for taking me on at 39 weeks and allowing me to have the exact birth experience I had hoped and dreamed of. I will leave you with a few photos of our family last week. I feel so blessed and lucky to have our little family of four.
This was a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing your precious moments with us. 🙂 I was just curious if you ended up tearing or not and if the midwife does stitches in that case…I don’t think I saw it mentioned in the story?
Hey Alicia! Thank you! I did end up needing a few stitches because the baby was so big and she came so fast. Yep, all midwives are trained to stitch when necessary. Tierney has been involved with midwifery for over 30 years so has done thousands of stitches. She really did an incredible job with her stitching and surprisingly I never really felt any postpartum pain from them.
Such an amazing story! Love to you and your family of four!
Natalie, some of the things you wrote reminded me exactly of my feelings & thoughts w Cambrias birth. You know w Gunner I had an epidural but w Cami I was all natural, even though it hurt like a mother lol, I felt that my birth experience w her was so much more the “way it should be”.. Everything about it from laboring at home, in a sort of denial that it wasnt the real thing, those are just a couple of the many things I felt I could relate to from her birth. Also, making me think if i EVER, which is not the plan, have anymore kids, I think I would look into a center. Even though I was proud of myself & loved Cambrias birth, I Hated the hospital staff that night. W gunner I felt so relaxed even tho a lot of concerns were going on because he was 6 weeks early so hooked up all kinds and long labor, but i still felt comfortavle and loved the nurses I had.. The main nurse I had w gunner made me feel uncomfortable, I felt she wasn’t sympathetic to my needs and I felt like she was kind of rude and maybe looked down on me? I don’t freakin know why but that’s how I felt. But of course when I pushed Cami out, all I could think about was her and how I “did it!” So I forgot about that silly nurse as focused on my family.. Anywho, Hearing your story and thinking about camis birth at the same time just stirred up all kinds of emotions! Wonderful ones of course but they brought tears (happy ones lol). It’s so nice you shared your story w everyone. I think I should try & write down my birth stories for the kids before I forget the details. Thanks for sharing!
The main nurse I had w Cambria*** ^^ (not gunner)
Thank you so much for sharing this story! I have two children also and the raw emotion in your video brought tears to my eyes. There is nothing quite like that rush of a bundle of emotions right after you meet them for the first time. Congratulations on your beautiful family.
So Amazing Natalie….I can’t thank u enough for sharing such a special moment with all of us. It touched my heart. Wish you and your family nothing but the best!
I just love you to death. You had me crying during the video!! I wanted to do natural but couldn’t handle it. Congrats to you and I love your chubby little princess!! She’s perfect!
Natalie, that was a beyond beautiful experience!!! Thank you so much for sharing your personal story, along with the video and pictures. The video was just amazing……I was smiling from ear to ear and had tears in my eyes at the same time. There is nothing that will ever be more beautiful than bringing a baby into this world!!!
What an amazing birth story & baby Phoenix is beautiful! I have been following you on Facebook & Instagram (@SandyPants) for awhile & was so happy when you shared about being a believer in natural birthing! Thank you for sharing your birth story. 🙂
This was one of the sweetest things I have ever read! Watching you tearing up in the video made me think of when my baby girl was born I cried like a baby! So sweet I loved reading your story!
What a beautiful story! I’ve read so many incredible and amazing stories of natural birth. I can only hope to have something similar to this when I decide to become a mom <3! I loved the amount of detail that you went into with everything! If someone gets negative with you on this story they have something wrong with them because it's so amazing.
Such a beautiful story……. It was so touching and made me cry…….. My daughter’s were both born with a C-section because my cervix never dilated. My youngest just turned 23 and she is a fitness trainer and the one who shared your site with me. I have enjoyed reading everything you post. Much congratulations – enjoy every minute of parenthood – it passes very quickly!!!!
Beautiful story! I am due anytime and pray that my birth experience is just as smooth (as my first one was traumatic). God bless your family!
♥♥♥ Beautiful ♥♥♥ Thank you for sharing such precious moments with us!
Beautiful story! I also had a natural birth and found the experience to be amazing and deeply emotional. I loved it! And I totally cried watching your video. You’re so beautiful inside and out! Thank you for sharing this incredible experience. My son is now 8 months old, and I wish I had written my birth story down, because I have already forgotten so much of it!! Bless you and your sweet family of four! 🙂
What an amazing birth story 😉 So beautiful! I teared up at several parts & my favorite part is when you’re lying on the bed with the baby beside you & she’s rooting & ready to nurse 😉 What an amazing mommy you are! 🙂 <3 <3 <3
I came back for Part 2 and read it all! (I’m the one who commented on the last post about my vbac next month.) For some reason I teared up at the part where you talked about the primal noises you made at the very end.
Thanks for writing this up! I like how you related the contractions to interval workouts. I’ll try to do the same. I’m so glad I found you right before you had your baby. I feel like I’ve “found” so many people/sites that are helping me along my new crunchy midwife path this time around, and I can’t help but wonder if all of that was no accident. 🙂
Natalie- what a truly beautiful birth story. Thank you for sharing everything. The video is such an amazing momento of her birth. Congrats on all the hard work again! So beautiful.
Natalie, I can not thank you enough for sharing your story! I came across your blog some months back, I had decided to make a huge lifestyle change and as a reward lost 20kg and became a happy healthy woman. Then a little shock hit my husband and myself… I fell pregnant! Not planned and was never really on the cards. I felt upset because I had got this great new body and now what? I am now 14 weeks, just got into my first trimester and even though I had the worst first trimester and picked up far too much weight (thanks to the donughts!) I am now over the moon to be welcoming a little 1 into my already amazing family. All of my friends have done the hospital C sec birth and for some reason right from the start I was attracted to a home birth … I live in south Africa and we have the highest rate of C Sec births in the world if I am not mistaken… take it the OB’s need to schedule us around their golf days …. I have done so much research and found an amazing mid wife but i was still a little nervous as it is not at all common and could speak to no one who had been through it so I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this story, because if it wasn’t for you I don’t think I would be as excited as I am now to be looking forward to a home birth, Thank you again!
I don’t have any children myself. However, my husband and I have discussed the options of child birth for when the time comes. I have always been open minded for all the possibilites, but I really enjoyed reading (from start – finish) your experience with a mid-wife. Weirdly enough, It got me excited to bare the pains of child birth. I believe that if our bodies were built for childbirth they can do it without the medical expectations that hospitals carry. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal experience!
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love documenting important parts of my life as well and this was amazing. I don’t have kids yet but would like to have natural childbirth. My mom gave birth to 3 kids that way 🙂 Reading about your midwife experience has prompted me to give that option some serious consideration!!
You’re a strong women and you have a beautiful family!
Tierney is tops. I never had the privilege of having her deliver one of our babies but she is a friend and one of the best people in this world. Glad you know her.
Great Job Nat!!! You are super mom and I am so proud of you! What a journey it was!
Tierney is tops. I never had the privilege of having her deliver one of our babies but she is a friend and one of the best people in this world. Glad you know her.
Ps. Cute kids & great names!
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I came acrossed the first part the other day and couldn’t wait to read about the birth! Thank you for putting so much detail in it, I think any woman expecting a child would be grateful to hear anothers account that is truthful and positive like yours.
I’m 24 weeks today and just switched OB’s in the middle of my pregnancy. I felt a little crazy for doing it, didn’t want to hurt feelings or anything, but I’m hoping to do a natural birth and a VBAC and I didn’t feel like my OB was 100% supportive of that, so I switched. I feel really confident in the OB that I found. I don’t think that I’m quite ready to birth at a birthing center, but maybe for my next one ;). I just finished Ina May Gaskin’s book and felt so good about what she was talking about. I just knew that I needed to try this. I’m also waiting for my hypnobabies home study course to come in the mail and excited to learn about that. I have a 5 year old boy who is so great (born via c-section) and we lost another little boy 4 years ago when I went into labor at 21 weeks. I’m nervous to give birth again, but I really really want to have a good birthing experience. I think it’s important to me as a woman who has been through some rough times getting to this mothering stage in life, I just want to feel prepared and confident that my body can do what it’s meant to do. Thanks again for your inspiration!!!
I can’t wait to read through all your awesome healthy eating ideas too! I’m sure I’ll need all the help I can get once baby comes!
I’ve only met Tierney once, I think, but I am friends with one of her daughters. She linked to your birth story on her facebook page so I had to come over and read it. I am about 2 weeks away from baby #5 and hopefully home birth #3. We live in a different part of VA, so I don’t use Tierney, but have 2 midwives who I adore and take great care of me. I was most impressed to see someone who is so fit have a large baby. I also have large babies (and no gestational diabetes). Babies 2 and 3 were 9 lbs and the last baby was 10 lbs 6 oz. So, I was so glad to see someone else do it and get their body back into great shape afterwards. Sometimes when someone comments about my belly, I’m thinking “yeah, they must just think I eat all day.” I just seem to carry big babies! This baby is going to be a little smaller according to the midwives so that’s good but I still get constant comments about it!
I’m doing a VBAC as well and just got my hypnobabies course the other day. Good luck!
This was so beautiful! Thank your for sharing. Both of my children are adopted so I have never experienced pregnancy or birth but I just find it so miraculous. You had me crying through your story and I love your outlook on natural birth. She is a beautiful little girl (just like her momma) and I am truly grateful to have read this. Thank you:)
I’m currently pregnant with my second and I’m almost 10 weeks along. My goal is a natural childbirth with no interventions and reading birth stories like this are so motivating and inspiring for me. Thank you for sharing this, it was beautiful!
I can relate to a lot of your story with natural childbirth. Although I had my second daughter in a hospital I knew I wanted it to be a more natural experience than the first. The first book suggested to me was Ina May’s Guide. I devoured every word of it, more than once, and reccomend it to all of my friends now. What a beautiful experience you had with baby Phoenix – thank you for sharing!
Absolutely beautiful from start to finish. I wasnt going to leave a comment at first, but then watching your video brought me to such tears as it reminded me of the emotion and moments after my son Forest was born at home. I also used Tierney and am so glad you were able to experience the birth you and every woman deserves! An inspirational story for sure. 🙂
im delivering our third baby at home. first homebirth looking so much forward to it. one thing i want to say to you is thanks for this really nice and fresh way of saying things. and seeing your video and pictures only talk about a good preparation and of love. your birth story makes me feel excited my birth has yet to come. in less than a month.
thanks, and take care
This is absolutely beautiful. You have opened my eyes to a whole new world!
LOVED reading both parts. I had two birth center births and this story reminded me of my second child’s birth. Born 40 mins after pulling up to our birth center.
Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to me. I am a mother of three girls and i am constantly working on my fitness and trying to be a good example for my daughters on how to lead a healthy life. You have a beautiful family and are blessed 🙂
I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story with the world. I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and even though I am really aiming for a natural birth, I wouldn’t dare to try the Birth Care Center. I kept hearing about their long wait list, thinking my hubby is more comfortable in a hospital, they may fire me if my pregnancy gets complicated…blah, blah, blah!
I had this weird uncomfortable feeling during the tour of VHC, also. I was seeing a very competent team of OB’s that would be great if I needed intervention. They have all kinds of interventions down pat and I am sure that during an emergency there’s nowhere I would rather be.
I just kept thinking…. “I am not sick. My baby is doing so well!!” I intended to discuss my birth plan with two of the doctors and both times left the office in tears. They were there to tell me what to do, not the other way around. One of them even dismissed my Hypnobirthing class and said I needed to enroll in the prenatal class provided by hospital because I need to be ready for a c-section…’cause “You never know”. Shortly after I came across your article (Link in DC Urban Moms site…I think), and I felt empowered by your story.
I decided to call the Birth Center; there was no waiting list and they accept my insurance. I talked to my husband and he agreed to go to one of their orientations. I told him I would not make any appointments until then, because his opinion was important to me. I was trying not to cry in front of him about how I felt about the other doctors… I didn’t want to use that card! Ha, ha!! We went to the orientation and he said “I am comfortable with this. When can we schedule an appointment?”
I almost cried of overwhelming emotion. I haven’t done this for fear – of getting transferred, of my husband not approving, etc. It was all in my head. I have not delivered yet, so I am not sure how it’ll all play out. The important thing is that I am trying, though. I am moving in the right direction to have the best birth for me and my baby. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
This story brought tears to my eyes! As somebody who has no children, but is very passionate about breastfeeding and wanting to learn more about using a midwife, this story was so helpful beyond words. You are so detail-orientated too. So happy for you and your family and that you made a decision to work with a midwife when you felt it was right. Thanks for all the insight. : )
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story! I have been following you since you first announced how Jamie’s Live Fit Trainer helped changed your life. I am currently 19 weeks pregnant and so encouraged by your honestly and transparency. I also struggled so much with delivering in a hospital and at 22 weeks made a firm decision to spend the money my insurance didn’t cover to have an all natural birth with a midwife. The amount of relief my husband and I both had after our first visit with the midwife, was complete confrimation in our decision. I pray that I will be able to labor so beautifully at home as you did and to listen to my body as you did about what laboring position to be in and knowing when to push. I am currently in the Bradley Method birthing class and your story is a perfect representation of how a woman’s body is made to deliver children. I appreciate every blog you post and it really helps me to love myself as I go through this process too. Thank you again and please keep it up! You rock! <3 xoxox
Thanks for sharing your birth story! I delivered my son on March 15, 2013 and he weighed 9 lbs. I originally found your blog through Pinterest as I’m looking to lose the baby flab that I still have 13 weeks later. This is my 3rd child and I’m 37 so I think that is partly what is making it harder this time around. Thanks also for sharing your postpartum tummy pictures. I will definitely share the link with a mom’s support group that I’m a part of. We all struggle with frustration when our bodies don’t bounce back as we’d like them to after birth. It’s nice to know that other moms have the same struggle.
I love this! so in depth I couldn’t stop reading. Any thank you for showing me a lot of what happened to you during the whole process. I’m showing this to my wife right now!
amazing story loved it so much!!!!
This is one of the most beautiful birth stories I have ever read. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us. I’m due with my second girl in less than three months and now I’m even more excited to meet her! You are just north of me! 🙂 We are using Mary Washington Hospital (I am high risk) but have an amazing doula and have found an OB practice with a midwife and OB who are both fully supportive of my choice to try a natural VBAC. I’m not crazy about all of the hospital protocols but know I’ll be in good hands with my midwife and doula. Thank you again for sharing – Phoneix Rae is beautiful!
Thank you Dawn!! That is great!! Congratulations and good luck with your birth – I am excited for you!
Beautiful birth story! I really enjoyed reading it. While all 3 of my births were natural, only my third was born at a birth center. She is now 3 months old and reading your story brings me right back to her birth. All 3 of my births were special and different, but the birth center is by far the most supportive environment and was an amazing and peaceful experience. I think you made a great choice to change at the last minute and would have been disappointed otherwise. Thank you for sharing your story and bringing more awareness to the beauty and options of a natural birth!!!
Natalie, I love your birth story, I am pregnant with number 2 now and my first birth was a planned home birth that after 25 hours at home, I transferred to a hospital because I was exhausted. Your birth story gave me hope that this birth will be better. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful raw moment.
Thank you so much for writing about your birth story. I am at 40 weeks today with my first baby and absolutely loved your candid portrayal of a natural birth. We are planning on a home birth with our midwife, and I love reading inspiring stories like yours! The details really help me to have a better idea of what to anticipate. Your family is beautiful, and I wish you all the best!
My husband and I are trying to get pregnant with our first child and I am reading everything I can get my hands on about pregnancy. I just read your birth story and have tears streaming down my face. You are such a beautiful person and I think it’s so wonderful that you chose to share your experience.
Wonderful story. I enjoyed reading it. I have a son and daughter also, I and just thought I was crazy emotional when I would start crying after they were born 🙂 Thanks for sharing this incredible story.
You’re right, this was long, but literally one of the coolest blog posts I’ve read – ever! I’m not sure about having kids, me and my husband-to-be are not quite there yet, but I am so intrigued at all the incredible things that the body can do! This is so cool and I’m so excited to share it with my friends!
This is quite an amazing birth story and what a memento for your beautiful daughter! I too wrote out the natural water birth of my big (9lb) girl who was born late last semptember. Though she is just 5 months old now, reading your story makes me want to have another one asap! I found that trusting my body was such an amazing and humbling experience!
I read both part 1 and part 2 and was so emotionally involved by the end I cried watching your little video clip right after she was born! 😀 Beautiful story!! You make me want to have another one ASAP! 🙂
Thankyou for your amazing and beautiful story Natalie.
I had first seen you through your transformation story on Jamie Eason Live Fit and was looking for food ideas to eat during my pregnancy (I’m currently 11 weeks) and having trouble eating my old diet and didn’t expect to have ended up reading how you had your lovey baby girl. Anyways reading your story has really helped me with my decision on having as natural birth as possible. I live in a small town, so have limited options, however I am very happy to say that we have a midwife based centre at our hospital. You have also eased by mind on a some worries I have been having, as not many ladies, seem to talk about their experience unless it is a bad one.
Thanks again 🙂
Natalie, first off I really enjoy your website as a whole! Your birthing stories is amazing!!! I have always said that when I became pregnant, I would always ask for the epidural at labor because I do not like to handle pain! But after reading your story and would really like to try my best to have a natural childbirth oneday!!! I am now even interested in studying midwifery then before! Thank you for sharing this story and everything on this website! Especially your story in the #ownit section!!! You have no idea the encouragement you give and the hope I have now!!!!! I am blessed by you!!!!
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to have read your experience. I am about 35 weeks pregnant and starting to get some anxiety about the whole birth process– especially because every time I tell someone I want to deliver naturally, they typically scoff and respond with, “you’ll change your mind..” So I have been feeling as though it must just not be possible. It was super refreshing reading how incredible of an experience it can be! Especially since you don’t sugar coat anything and keep it very realistic. For the first time in my pregnancy I feel like I can do this and no longer dread the moment I go into labor.
Thanks again 🙂
One week ago today I had the most amazing, natural water birth and I couldn’t have done it without reading this post. Your written experience and the video we’re so encouraging to me that I finally made the decision to transfer to a natural birth center near where I live in Fairfax, Va. at 39 weeks pregnant! I had told everyone that I was going to do it but deep inside I was scared and I didn’t know if I could go through with it. Your story helped me find the courage to do it. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your precious birth story and video. It truly made a difference! I feel like a superhero for conquering natural child birth and I’m so grateful for your positive example and experience.
Oh my gosh Stephanie thank you SO much for sharing this with me!! I am so happy that my story was helpful for you and congratulations on birthing the way that you had hoped for. I am so happy for you!! xox – Natalie
hei Natalie.. i am fridha from Indonesia.it`s a very good story, i finished read your two posts in just 30minutes. i`m waiting for my labor coming. now i am at 39weeks 4days. and very grateful i found ur blog. this is exactly the birth experince i wish i could have when everybody around me keep asking.. why you finally chose to have ur birth at midwife clinic as in my country that kind of birth experience is rellly old-fashioned and rare in a big city （when a preggy woman asked for the first time by others, they usually ask `where the hospital` or `who`s ur OB/GYN?` . thanks natalie for ur writing. really appreciate it. 🙂