Written by Danica Donnelly
In birth there are always things that you do to prepare for it as well as a good amount of letting go to the process of how things will go because it is so unpredictable. It's also so amazing how different births can be even for the same person. My first and second birth were so different and unexpected in so many ways and yet both were perfectly beautiful and couldn't have gone any better in my opinion.
For my first son's birth I had hoped for a beautiful water birth at a birth center and my fear was that I would have to go to a hospital but that it wouldn't be an emergency (obviously if it was an emergency I would want to go!) but I feared that I wouldn't get the unmedicated natural birth that I wanted at a hospital. I feared that an induction would lead to a lot of other steps and not allow labor to progress naturally and it would end in a c-section. It's funny how sometimes God makes us face our fears and then walks with us through the challenge and shows us that it's still ok and all is well on the other side. Well, I ended up being about 42.5 weeks pregnant and labor still didn't start on its own so I had to go to a hospital (for a non-emergency just like I feared) to have my water broken. And yet I still got to have the beautiful unmedicated water birth that I was hoping for. I had to face my fear, was walked through it and everything came out lovely on the other side.
For my second son's birth I had two birth clients who I was on call for to photograph their births and they were both due the week before me. So my fear was that I would be called to a labor, be there all night photographing and then go into labor myself without having sleep or energy to make it through my own labor. So what do you think happened... ;)
I got called to a birth and was there all night. The funny thing was that in that birthing room there were 4 of us women who were pregnant (the nurse, the doula, the laboring mother, and me). I thought to myself, if all these pregnant hormones don't put me into labor then I really have no hope of getting an earlier labor this time. I got home and settled into bed around 3am and about an hour later my own contractions started...just what I had feared. But of course I feel like God walked me through labor, gave me everything and everyone that I needed as support and I still got to have another unmedicated natural water birth like I wanted.
This time contractions started about 4:30am so I laid in bed for the next 2 hours just casually looking at the clock whenever one would start and breathed through them pretty easily, trying to rest as much as possible in between. They were about 7 minutes apart for 2 hours.
When my husband got up for work I let him know that I thought I was in labor but wasn't sure if this was the real thing because I was only 38.5 weeks and I fully expected to go at least to 41 since last time I went so late. I texted my doula to let her know that this might be labor but I wasn't sure since I had never experienced a labor starting on its own before, but contractions were consistent and hadn't faded or spaced out in the past 2 hours. She suggested I rest as much as possible and relax in the tub so I did. Contractions stayed consistent. I started to time them with an app instead of just glancing and guessing with the clock. After looking at the pattern of contractions on the app they were about 3-5 minutes apart lasting at least a minute. I texted that to the doula, still not knowing if things were intense enough to head to the birth center, yet not wanting to cut it close either since my first labor had been quick and I knew this one could be even quicker. She said let's head to the birth center with what seemed like urgency over text message.
We gathered the remaining necessities, the 3 year old, some snacks, a few extra outfits in case it was a long labor and headed out the door around 7:45am. The birth center was 15 minutes away and I had 3 contractions in the car which weren't fun but things were still at a point of me being able to breathe through them and manage them without feeling totally out of control.
We got to the birth center about 8:15am and my doula and birth photographer met us outside. It was such a feeling of joy to see them and know that everyone I wanted to be at my birth was able to make it and that this was actually happening!
I got inside, had about 10 more contractions, which were manageable and pretty easy to breathe and move through, but slightly more intense. I didn't know you could have a "favorite" contraction but my favorite one was when my 3 year old son climbed up on the bed and held my hand during the contraction and looked into my eyes and smiled at me. I can't remember if he said anything to me but just looking at his sweet face and knowing that he was loving and supporting me and that he wasn't scared, but rather excited for baby brother, it made that contractions so easy to get through it almost dissapeared when I looked upon that sweet face.
Then suddenly the next contraction felt insanely different, like a rocket ship was barreling through my body, trying to make its exit. I felt a bit like I needed to throw up and I thought to myself, "could this be transition already?!" I've been to enough births to know the signs of transition: when things make a big shift, when you suddenly don't have a break in between contractions, when you throw up, and when you think "I can't do this". That's when you've turned a corner and you are close to the finish line; pushing is just ahead.
I thought to myself, "this is too soon! I am not ready for this! It's happening too fast! I need time to transition!" They hadn't even checked my dilation yet! But there was no time to check, no time to process, my body was already pushing and I couldn't stop it. For the first time in a labor my body tried to resist what was happening and tried to fight everything that was happening instead of working with the labor and relaxing into it. Everything in me wanted to run away but I had no choice.
Suddenly my water bag ruptured with a force of a thousand sons and I knew it felt too intense to have this baby while standing in the air - I wanted to be in the water to help ease the intensity and to create a smoother transition for baby and for me. Thankfully the tub was barely full enough for me to get in so I climbed in, then with one more intense push that felt like my world was ripping in two, I felt a head be born, then a few moments later the shoulders, and the midwife guided my son into my arms! That glorious moment where he was free and I was done (with that part) and my baby was in my arms!
My first labor was 7 hours total, 1.5 hrs of pushing. This one was 4.5hrs total, maybe 10 minutes of pushing, and baby was born 40 minutes after arriving. Since I never got checked during my labor I'll never know but I think it was a situation where I went from 5 or 6cm to 10cm in just a few moments. It's true when they say that short labors are all the intensity of a long labor packed into the shorter amount of time. I feel like my mind had to process the insanity of what just happened for many hours.
Having these beautiful photos (and video!) of my birth have really helped me to process it. They also make me so incredibly happy and thankful to have such an artistic and well composed story of one of the most incredible experiences of my life!
I felt so loved and supported by my birth team and will forever be grateful that I didn't have to do it alone. It was far from the birth and the timing than I expected, but it was just what we needed.
Birth Story by Danica Donnelly
Photographer: Kadi Tiede