Amelie Evelyn Merino – born 9 days early on Monday, October 23, 2017 at 12:06 PM, weighing 7 pounds 5 oz, at 20 1/4 inches long.
After wondering if I was in early labor beginning Sunday afternoon, on October 22, I realized at about 12:30 AM on Monday that being in active labor seemed like a definite possibility. While the contractions weren’t awful, the light, surely Braxton Hicks, menstrual cramp contractions I had earlier in the day were gone. (Note – they were not Braxton Hicks) I texted my doula, Deborah, and told her she “may” want to have childcare ready for Monday (aka I was really thinking this was game time). After timing my contractions, I texted my midwives and midwife Angela told me to try a bath to see if it would even out the contractions. They initially had been coming about every 3-4 minutes, but only lasting 30-45 seconds. Then they started coming every 6-7 minutes, but lasting a minute. At about 2 AM, I walked up and down the stairs of my apartment building, and then got in a bath. All of 5 minutes later, the contractions started to regulate and they were 5 minutes apart, lasting about a minute. At 3:30 AM, Angela said “Ok. Let’s head in.” (And apparently texted my doula being like, “You better not be bringing her in at a 3!” #butforreal)
We left at 4 AM, getting to the birth center at 4:45, after a rather festive drive of laboring in the car (note to future self – putting clary sage on your lower abdomen as you get in the car will intensify your experience). Walking into the center, midwife Angela commented that I was still smiling, but they checked me and I was 5, almost 6 centimeters dilated! Amelie was already station +2 (aka about to fall out) and my midwives said her head was only the length of the first pinky knuckle away. WOO, it wasn’t a fake out! We were staying and having this baby! Praise be and shout out to Deborah – she knew it was for real.
Labor progressed naturally and with ease. I would labor in various positions for different amounts of time and then switch. Laboring on the toilet was super effective for me and my pelvic shape (lol, I know, I just said “on the toilet” – but it’s so comfy. You get to face the wall and lay down on a pillow on the back of the toilet while encouraging gravity and basically being forced to relax – it’s basically the dream.) I would labor in the tub two times before finally entering the tub to deliver. The biggest obstacle was a cervix lip that was hanging on, so my midwives had me labor on my sides with a peanut ball between my legs and then they were able to move it up and out of the way. Up until the point where they had to move the lip manually, (and boy do I mean manually). I don’t recall labor being super difficult. Don’t get me wrong, it was getting more painful, but it was a pain that could be worked through and managed, especially with a team of people speaking life into me, putting cold rags on my head and neck, or a warm compress on my lower back. However, the lip being moved was automatically level 100 painful. Not pleasant and definitely the hardest part of my “transition.” PS shout out to Deborah for keeping the throw up away. I was feeling nauseas as the contractions got stronger and stronger, but we defeated that! Legit, throwing up was one of my biggest fears of labor. I HATE throwing up.
Once the lip was moved though, I got to get ready to have this baby! I moved back to the tub and started laboring to get my water to break. That’s right – my water did not spontaneously break and fall on my shoes at work. Don’t let the movies scare ya! My water broke with contractions about 15 minutes after I got in the tub and now I was entering the legitimate pushing phase. This phase of labor is hard not because of the pain (though read: yes, it is painful, you are pushing a human out of a small canal), but rather because of how exhausted you are at this point. I had a relatively short labor. It was about 7 hours of active labor, which I’ve been told is fairly short for a first time mom. But it doesn’t matter if it’s 7 hours or 24, your body is tired and it really does become mental.
Maternal exhaustion is the #1 reason of transport to the hospital from the birth center, especially for a first time mom, and boy, do I now understand that statistic. I operate really well off knowing what to expect. So in a workout class, if the instructor tells me we are going to do 30 second sprints, followed by 1 minute at your run, followed by 1 minute jog, 4x over, I can mentally prep for that scenario. Even if the workout sounds like absolute hell, I know I can do anything for that 30 seconds, 1 minute, or whatever has been set in front of me. I can get through it and reserve energy accordingly. You don’t necessarily get that in labor. Midwife Angela knew that kind of information was helpful to me and so as I labored and pushed, Angela and Leighah would tell me what was going on and how I was progressing. I remember Leighah pointing exactly where to push, which helped me engage into a really effective pattern. Pushing is exhausting. Profusely sweating does’t even begin to explain it, and to be honest, I didn’t even realize, but I can tell you I felt like I should be sweating, based on the work I was doing.
At some point in my subconscious, I decided I wasn’t getting up for anything less than 3 pushes. When I was actually pushing, I was on my knees with my arms up over the tub, kind of squatting. So when I wasn’t pushing, I would fall to the side of the tub where my husband was and I would rest on his arm. I would feel a contraction and kind of decide if it was worth the effort. When it was, my body would take over and move me to position. If it wasn’t, I would let it pass and take that resting time. When I did get into position, the first push was automatic, the second push required more decisive effort, but the third push was balls to the wall, me deciding I was going to stay and do one more. And let me tell you, there was a lot of “I can’t” happening at this point. Thankfully, my midwives, doula, and husband were so strong and reminded me that I could. They prayed over me, they helped me capture my breath and channel my energy from a scream into a push. (Yes, I said scream – not from dying of the pain, but from needing to scream to harness the energy it was requiring!) I remember Leighah saying “Crown!”, then Angela immediately going “Head!” and then I honestly thought I blacked out. I remember hearing Angela tell me “Catch your baby. Elizabeth, catch your baby. Elizabeth, look down. Reach down and catch your baby” and then I looked down, saw this little body and my midwives helped me bring her to my chest. The pushing phase was 45 minutes start to finish, but I’ll admit it felt way longer, though also I had no sense of time. She was crown to water in about 45 seconds. Turns out it was in the same push set and I didn’t actually black out. So much magic, so much joy, and so much relief.
I had some pretty intense postpartum bleeding after delivering the placenta. Clots were building on top of each other at the top of my uterus. Excavating those clots was more painful than almost every other part of labor. (Fair enough, we are talking about having an arm from hand to elbow going back up an area that had already been through enough that day multiple times… YEA, AND WE ALL CRINGED TOGETHER…) But I never felt unsafe or worried. I knew I was in the most capable hands. They sprung to action and I received hemorrhage meds and fluids within seconds. I had two rounds of clotting, so I ended up getting Pitocin in my leg and Pitocin via IV in my arm after the first round, and then Cytotek pills, and IV fluid in my other arm when I was continuing to bleed. Finally my body calmed and the bleeding stopped. I had been skin to skin with Amelie the whole time, which helped me be calm, because she was my number one priority, regardless of what was happening with me. We rested and recovered before doing the newborn exam and inviting my parents in to see and watch us weigh her, etc.
We went home that evening about 5 PM and had our first night alone with our daughter. I loved the birth center experience, and it definitely deserves its own post and thoughts. I’m so blessed that I was able to achieve my prayer of an unmedicated natural water birth. Amelie’s heart beat was so strong and victorious the whole labor and she didn’t even have any molding! (Literally because she had been in the canal and so low for SO long haha #champ) My labor was perfect and everything I could have hoped for and more. We love our little babe and are thankful for her everyday.
There are so many people that I need to thank for such a wonderful birthing experience. All of the midwives at Origins Birth and Wellness Collective, I can’t even say thank you enough. Angela (my main midwife), Gina and Kaitlyn (who both showed up during my birth right as I needed their life, Leighah (a student midwife who was with me the whole time), and Keyana (another student midwife who came later) and Justine (the third student midwife, who wasn’t at my birth, but was supportive all through my pregnancy) – you are all so special and dear to me. I love each of you dearly and owe you every piece of my heart for bringing Amelie safely into this world. My doula, Deborah was such a gift, knowing exactly what I needed without me ever having to ask. I could not have done it without her. Mary Kate, one of my oldest friends, who took these beautiful pictures of my labor and acted as an intercessor, praying for me and Amelie the entire time, I am so grateful for your gifts and talents. But I would be remiss if I did not thank my husband. He was beyond steady and calm. He never left my side and was one person I always needed by me. I couldn’t have gone forward or succeeded in this without him. He calmed my fears, encouraged me, loved me, and believed in me, even when I wasn’t believing in myself.
We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. We will be here, enjoying our favorite person and thankful for this new phase of life.
xoxo – elizabeth, dj + amelie