In typical third born fashion, I'm writing this birth story months after Judah Asher was born. Sitting here writing this birth story with an almost four month old on my lap, the whole experience still feels surreal.
Like with my other two birth stories (Greyson's and Camden's) the details in this blog post are real and raw! There are so many details included that are for my own memory, so skip this post if you don't care for the real and raw details of birth.
With each pregnancy and unmedicated birth, I learn so much about not only the birthing process and experience, but about myself.
This time around was no different. From the very beginning of finding out we were pregnant, the entire journey was a learning experience and a journey in releasing control.
As we rounded 36 weeks, I was sure we were close to welcoming Judah. We had a babymoon planned to Sedona and a baby shower around then so we just wanted to make it past those two things before having him.
Each pregnancy, my to do list seems to be longer than the time I think we'll have before the birth. This time was no different as I prepared for maternity leave and prepared for the birth itself.
But, as I've now learned, my babies are apparently very cozy in their warm little homes and are not easily convinced to come out.
At 40 weeks, my patience started to grow thin. Thankfully I wasn't physically drained or exhausted but I had been having lots of signs of labor coming on for a few weeks and was starting to become mentally exhausted.
I was longing for the halt to the busyness of life that follows birth in the postpartum phase. The nights can be long during that time but there are very few expectations on you except feeding yourself and your baby. And that was something I desperately needed after a long year.
After 41 weeks, I started having conversations with my midwife team about what our options would be. Generally speaking, there is no risk to going beyond 42 weeks as long as both mama and baby are doing well. So while I was ready to meet our baby, I was also not in any rush.
In Arizona, once you go past 42 weeks you're required to have a nurse midwife attend the birth as an extra precaution. This was our only reason for wanting to try to speed things up.
As we went into the 41st week, we needed to get an ultrasound to make sure baby had more time to chill out in utero. We found out that my fluid level was very high, which meant all of the contractions I had been having were not doing a lot to speed things up.
Like I had to with my second birth, we tried to use castor oil to induce the labor along. After trying twice and having absolutely no results from it, the conversation changed to our last option. My midwives don't typically advise breaking your bag of waters in almost all cases. But in my case, with such high fluid levels, we were pretty sure that would be the only thing that would get things moving.
The only risk to this was that active labor needs to start within 24 hours of the water being broken or a hospital transfer is required.
On August 24th, we chose to break my water around 12 PM. My midwives instantly commented about how much fluid I had, saying they'd never seen so much. It continued pouring and trickling out throughout the day as we waited for my contractions to pick up.
I tried to eat well, hydrate and rest while we waited. My contractions started up around 3 or so and they were mild but steadily 4 min apart. Because my body hadn't responded to castor oil previously, we knew that wouldn't be an option to help put my body into active labor.
Another trick that can sometimes help is using a breast pump to help steady the contractions. This helped get the contractions moving more steadily and we had the midwives come over around 530.
An important detail to mention is that because we were doing a home birth, we chose to have our two oldest (6 and 4) be at home with us during the labor. We had a back up plan in case it got to be too much for them. Originally I had no plans to have them there, but we asked them if they wanted to be there for it and they both immediately said they did. After seeing how excited they were, I knew I wanted to give it a shot!
My past labors were fairly long but because things were moving so quickly, there was a small part of me that thought this birth might be quicker!
Throughout the labor, my midwives helped position me to get the baby into a better position. He had been flipping around to a posterior position (when babies are born this way it is called sunny side up!) and we knew that would make the pushing phase much tougher on my body.
Around 6:30 PM, we did a cervical check to see how far we had progressed and check the baby's positioning. At this point they were ready to get the labor tub set up - which surprised me! I hadn't yet really been convinced I was in active labor since my contractions were so manageable. I was almost 8cm dilated at this point.
Because we kept thinking that baby was posterior, we did a lot of moving around to different positions, using a wrap over my hips to shake and open up space for the baby to flip and not sitting in one position for too long.
The boys stayed awake to see me get into the tub (the part they were most interested in!) but then we got them to bed, which ended up being a really good choice!
Being in the water felt so good to ease the contractions. I get pretty strong urges to push early on, so almost as soon as I got in the tub I started having little pushes through contractions. I really had no concept of time throughout this but in between contractions, I would be talking with our midwives as they sang along to the worship playlist we had going.
Looking back, the entire beginning phase of my labor was incredibly peaceful. I don't remember pain at all. I focused all of my energy on breathing through each contraction and keeping my body as limp and relaxed as possible.
In fact, during my labor my husband went to make the midwives lattes and bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies (something we also did while I labored with Greyson). I was completely in my zone and didn't mind being "alone" while working through each contraction. The midwives were right there in case I needed anything but they did a great job being hands off when they could.
Towards the end of the time in the water, I started to get nauseous and felt like I would get sick. Like in my labor with Camden, the midwives told me this was a good sign because that shift in hormones is tied to the dilation of the cervix. We used peppermint essential oil to help my nausea and kept my body cool with a washcloth.
We realized the water and the pushing positions I had been in were not doing a lot to move the baby down further in the canal. The tub was also cooling down which isn't ideal for the baby at birth, so we moved out of the tub to laboring between the toilet and being on my bed. I remember checking the clock when I got out of the tub and thinking that the baby could still be born that same day (it was about 11:00 PM).
As soon as I sat over the toilet, strong contractions started and I could feel the baby's head, just still high up in the birth canal.
Because birthing over a toilet is not ideal (though possible!) we decided to move again. My bed ended up being too soft to get enough traction during pushing. During this time, one of the midwives had noticed a swollen tissue and called a second midwife to join us just to be sure everyone was safe.
After the second midwife arrived we realized we had two options. One was to take it slow and hope the tissue didn't present any problems. The second was to get more all hands on deck to get the baby out more quickly.
By this point we were approaching almost 10 or 11 hours of labor and I was getting physically exhausted. Like I mentioned, the midwife team does a great job of sitting back and waiting for when they need to be hands on. In a typical birth, they would be there to support and simply catch the baby when needed. But as I've realized now after birthing 3 babies, my body doesn't do things simply. Lucky me 😉
It was all hands on deck to get the baby out quickly. I had one midwife student, Dwan, holding one foot, my husband, Steven, holding the other, another midwife, Lisette, holding onto a wrap so that I could pull it for counter pressure as I pushed, and midwife, Alyssa, below making sure baby could come out easily and not push the tissue out further.
After 4 contractions, pushing 5-6 times during each one, the baby finally crowned and I instantly felt a huge sense of relief. So much so that I forgot to keep pushing the rest of the baby out 😂 He was born at 2:32 AM on August 25, 2022 at 41 weeks and 6 days. He was my "shortest" labor at 11.5 hours and weighed 8 pounds and 2 ounces.
After the baby was born, we were all so excited that it had arrived safely that no one was even the slightest bit concerned about the gender. Everyone kept saying "he" just naturally and I finally gave them a look like I had missed something. Then we finally checked and our intuition was right that it was another healthy baby boy!
After delivering the placenta almost right after the birth, we rested on the floor and simply stared at this new person who had joined our family! It is always an extremely emotional moment for my husband when the labor is over, mama and baby are healthy and it the reality of it all settles!
After a while, I looked at Steven and told him we should wake up the boys to meet their baby brother. Even though he thought I was insane to wake up the boys at 3 AM, he obliged and we got to introduce the boys to their baby brother. The looks on their faces will forever be one of my favorite moments of this birth!
They had been so involved in the entire pregnancy and birth so it was so fun for them to get to see the placenta (and even touch it with gloves on!) and watch the midwives check all of his vitals and cut the cord.
Afterwards the boys went back to sleep for a few hours and went to stay with my mom for a few days after so that we could rest and enjoy getting to know our sweet Judah Asher.
This was my third attempt at a water birth but now that I've had almost identical pushing experiences with each boy, it's pretty clear that my body and my baby's heads don't match up for a water birth experience.
This birth more than any before taught me the importance of letting go of control and trusting God. It's also about trusting your body to do what it was designed to do and having an incredible team to support you. The Aurora Midwifery team was incredible throughout the entire pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience!