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  • Writer's pictureJessica Bower

{Birth Story} A Happy Ending

By Alison Presley

We tried for four years to conceive. After many (many!) pills, shots, and tears, our third round of IUI got us the double lines we’d been hoping for. At our conception appointment, we played cards while waiting between procedures and joked with the doctor during insemination. Since our relaxed and jovial nature is what got us our baby (we’d been so nervous the first two rounds), we decided that our birth was going to be the same way.

I knew I wanted a natural water birth and called Natural Baby Doulas first. Our initial meeting with Jessica gave us that same happy feeling we wanted for our birth. Jessica was warm, friendly and generous and we knew immediately we wanted to hire Natural Baby Doulas for our birth experience! We joined the Natural Baby Doulas childbirth course and while this was Cary’s second child, he says he learned so much more from Sarah and the other members of our class than he did the first time and felt so much better prepared for this birth. We met with Sarah and Kristian to discuss our birth goals and found them to be just as wonderful as Jessica. My mom asked me which doula I wanted present at the birth, and I just shrugged and said I would be thrilled with any of them!

I checked in with my doula team often throughout my pregnancy. All three of them knew the ins and outs of my health and my goals for the big day. They helped me form my birth goals and quickly answered all my questions at all hours of the day and night.

Three days before my due date I went in for my 39-week appointment and my midwife told me my blood pressure had spiked and we made the mutual decision to induce, knowing that I wanted a natural water birth. We were afraid that if my blood pressure got any higher that it would no longer be an option. On my way home from my appointment I called my husband first and NBD second! I told Kristian to get ready because I knew she would be on call by the time the baby was ready to come out.

Per the recommendation of NBD, I went home and ate! I cooked the meal I was planning on cooking that night while my husband and mom got the last-minute items in our bags - don’t forget your water bottle with straw and phone charger! I had been experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions for the past week, and between my appointment and getting to the hospital, I had 4! My baby was ready to come out!

We arrived at the hospital around 6:00pm and knew we were in for a long night. Cary set up the room with LED lights, battery-operated candles, essential oil diffuser with ylang ylang, and 12 mantras I wrote taped to the wall. The nurses who came in the room smiled and laughed at my jokes we put up. Just like I wanted - my baby came in because we were smiling, I wanted everyone smiling when he came out! (Among my favorites…”Cary loves me. I will not cause him intentional physical harm” and “Step 1: Watermelon out; Step 2: Ugly cry from joy; Step 3: Mimosas”).

My midwife ordered me a round of Cytotec, which was going to soften my cervix. The nurses had to monitor my son for an hour after I took it while I had contractions and then I got a 3 hour “break” before doing it all again! I threw up all my dinner in the early evening and opted to take some anti-nausea medicine so I could hopefully get some rest (ha - wishful thinking!) I got my third round of Cytotec at 4:00am. When my midwife came in at 5:45am I think I had maybe gotten about an hour of sleep total all night. My cervix had opened enough for her to insert the Foley bulb and she bid me adieu for what we expected to be about 5 hours while the bulb did its thing.

I closed my eyes and breathed through ever increasingly intense contractions. At 6:30am - 45 minutes after the bulb was inserted I wanted to go to the bathroom and felt water dripping down my leg. I asked the nurses if it was possible my water had broken and they lovingly told me probably not. I exclaimed, “Then I definitely just peed… whoops.” The nurses helped me to the bathroom and as my husband sat with me we heard the bulb splash into the toilet. Sure enough, in that 45 minutes my cervix dilated to 8 centimeters and my water had broken!

Cary called Kristian and told her it was time to make the drive to the hospital! Kristian and Betsy (who was then in training at the time) arrived at 7:00am, gave me a hug and started setting up the tub. Cary turned on our birth playlist and everyone grooved out to Aerosmith, Rachel Platten, Jason Mraz, and others. Well, I didn’t do so much grooving as breathing and sweating, but I was pleased to have happy people around me to keep the energy in the room light. I was able to labor in the tub for about 90 minutes and Cary joined me for a bit of it to hold and massage me when I needed it. Kristian was right there with my water bottle with straw - the straw is key, people! You don’t want to mess around with lids and tipping your head back when you’re in labor! After 90 minutes the tub water got too cold and I moved to the bed for awhile. My midwife told me I had a cervical lip, which was keeping my son from progressing down the birth canal. Other providers perhaps would have rushed to perform a C-section, but fortunately mine gave me the option to push for some contractions while she shifted the lip to the side of his head. Though I wouldn’t have called the procedure pleasant, compared to what I’d already been through, it was okay.

I got back in the tub once my midwife confirmed I was indeed at 10 centimeters after the lip incident. This time Cary sat outside the tub and held my shoulders as I squatted facing him through a few extremely intense but productive contractions. My midwife instructed me to put my fingers on my son’s head and I am grateful that moment was captured on video, thanks to Betsy. I gasped with delight because I could tell he was so close to being in my arms.

I adjusted my body to my final position for the main event as “The Greatest Show” popped up on our playlist. I welcomed the two midwives, two nurses, two doulas, and my husband to “the greatest show” as everyone laughed. I remember someone commenting on how they rarely see a woman smile at this stage of labor. I was thrilled - I was going to see my baby soon!

With the help of a team of six amazing women, one incredible man, and a large mirror angled so I could see the progress of each contraction, my son was out only four pushes later. I definitely ugly cried. My son’s cord was short so our skin to skin contact was only a few seconds before he was whisked away to be encouraged to breathe on his own and I was gently helped out of the tub. Betsy and Kristian helped me into the bed and told me how amazing I was while I watched the team of nurses and my husband with my son. In less than 2 minutes Cary brought me our baby and I held him close while we shared our precious first moment as a family (I’m fairly certain I remember a tear dropping down Cary’s cheek as well).

Cary and I named our son Declan, which means “full of goodness” because he is just that. Declan latched right away in the hospital but my body never made colostrum for him. Jessica brought me several bags of donated breast milk our first night in the hospital and helped us arrange to pick up 40 more ounces on our way home. I cried a lot our first few days at home because I just wasn’t producing hardly any milk to feed my baby, despite the endless time at the breast, pump, bottle feed, repeat, schedule. I met with an amazing lactation consultant three times in four weeks and I am very happy to say within that time my milk supply boosted and my son’s growth has been amazing! After 9 weeks I was producing enough to start bagging milk and even donated my first 40 ounces to another mother in need when Declan was 15 weeks old.

Getting pregnant, giving birth, and subsequently feeding the birthed human was by far the hardest journey I’ve ever endeavored. I cried a lot from sickness and pain at the beginning and frustration and hormones towards the end. But when I look at the tiny, perfect face that is full of goodness I realize it all was totally worth it. Declan brings Cary and me endless joy and I am so pleased to say I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience. Declan was conceived in happiness, came out with jokes and good music, and will be raised with a joyful spirit.

I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing support of Natural Baby Doulas throughout my whole pregnancy, birth, and beyond. Hiring them was by far the second best choice I made in 2019 (after the insemination :) ) I am honored to call all five of them my friends.


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