I am so excited to share our sweet Esmé’s birth story! I wanted to write this out so I don’t forget any of the details surrounding this wonderful event in our lives. I also love that I will get to share all of this with my daughter one day. (Scroll to the end of this post to see her birth video!)
About a week before my due date I started having mild, inconsistent contractions (with my first baby the very first contraction was the start of labor). So I kept thinking, “this must be it!” but then they would stop and another day would go by. When my due date came and went I felt so discouraged. My son was born the day before his due date so I didn’t have this experience of waiting and wondering and feeling like this baby is never coming!
The waiting was agony. I was so incredibly uncomfortable and so ready for my baby to come! But looking back I think those extra days were a blessing. I believe my body was doing the work it needed to on the front end before active labor started. It also gave me time to really meditate and get my mind and body ready. I listened to podcasts of encouraging birth stories and hypno-birthing soundtracks. I spent a lot of time doing exercises I knew would help get baby girl into the best position for birth. And ultimately, I trusted my body and my baby to do things in their own perfect time.
My due date was August 7th. On August 11th at about 3 pm my contractions started to be more consistent. I started timing them even though I was trying to not get my hopes up once again and be disappointed if they stopped. I sat on my yoga ball at the dining room table while I timed them. After an hour I told my husband Shawn that I was going to go to our master bedroom. I turned down the lights, put in my earbuds listening to my birth playlist, sat on the ball next to our bed and continued to time contractions. After another hour I let Shawn know I though this might be it but I still wasn’t convinced! By 6 pm the contractions were still coming, though they were still very mild. I texted my mom and let her know that she would probably be watching Ethan for us that night. Shawn put Ethan to bed and made me some peanut butter toast since I felt like I needed to eat something.
At about 7:30 we decided to call our midwife and just let her know what was happening. My contractions were over a minute long and between 3 and 5 minutes apart (my contraction timer app kept yelling at me to go the hospital haha). But they were still mild and I was easily tolerating them. I didn’t want to leave for the birth center too soon and have to go back home because I wasn’t far along enough. But when we called our midwife she was so sweet and laid back and really left it up to us when we felt it was best to come in. I told her we would like to leave in about 30 minutes and meet her at the center. So my mom came over and we got our bags and got into the car. I sat in the backseat so I would have more room to get into a comfortable position. The car ride wasn’t bad which I was so thankful for!
We arrived at the birth center around 8:30 pm. Our midwife Rachel met us and showed us to our room. We got settled in and turned on our birth playlist. Rachel asked if I would like to be checked and I said yes. She let us know I was already at 7 cm dilated! She said it was a good thing we came in when we did. I was surprised and relieved to hear that. She started filling up the birth tub for us while I labored on the yoga ball for a while. Then we moved to the tub and labored there for a couple of hours. I ate some apple sauce and sipped on my red raspberry leaf iced tea to keep my energy up. That whole time was so peaceful. The warm water was so relaxing and Shawn was right there to give me counter pressure on my back during each contraction. I would lay my head against him in between contractions and just rest.
I could actually feel her starting to move down while I was in the tub. It was the craziest thing. The contractions were getting a bit stronger and I moaned some through them but it was still very tolerable and not painful. At one point I told Shawn I was kind of freaked out by how easy it was so far! It was so different than my first birth. I felt so much more aware and in control this time. After a while our midwife suggested that I get out of the tub and try to use the bathroom. So I did and after getting dried off I realized I felt too unstable to be standing so I sat on the ball again. My contractions started gaining intensity at this point. Shawn, our midwife, and our birth assistant took turns giving me that counter pressure on my back that I so needed.
It was about 11 pm at this point. My midwife gave me cool wash cloths for the back of my neck and my forehead. She gently rubbed my back and told me how amazing I was doing. One of the things I loved most about delivering with a midwife was that I felt like she was a friend. Someone who was not just there to meet my medical needs but my emotional ones as well. Someone to make me feel safe, heard, and loved throughout this incredibly vulnerable and humbling experience. She held space for me, received me without judgement, and believed in me when I doubted.
Again this birth was so different from my first. With Ethan’s birth, I felt completely overwhelmed and out of control. I had my eyes closed most of the time, screaming in pain, not even knowing whose hand I was gripping. This time I felt like I found that perfect place between control and surrender. Every time I had a contraction instead of thinking “PAIN” I though “STRENGTH.” I thought wow, these contractions are strong… which means I am strong because they ARE me.
I think this was when transition started for me. It is at this point during a natural birth that mama says I’M DONE. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. It was starting to be more than I felt I could handle. I felt like I was going to throw up (thankfully I never did.) Shawn asked me if I wanted to try the nitrous oxide and I said yes. The nitrous was something that I hadn’t used with my first birth and I was curious how much it would help. It was… interesting. I think mentally just knowing that I had SOMETHING to help me get through the hardest part was helpful. It didn’t really lessen the pain, rather it just made me slightly less aware of it. Things were getting really hard and I felt like the upward counter pressure of the ball was getting in the way. I felt so tired and like I just wanted to lay down on the bed. So I did, which was ok between contractions but during made them much worse.
At this point I really started to doubt. I asked my midwife to check me again because I felt like I needed to start pushing but I was afraid to. Also my water had still not broken! She told me if I felt it was time to push then it was time. I did a couple of pushes on the bed but it was not working for me. She asked me if I wanted to try the birth stool and I said yes. The birth stool is where things really changed with my first birth. It’s where I found control and the strength I needed to birth my baby. So this time I knew it was where I wanted to be again. At this time Chance, another midwife from the practice, joined us.
This part may be TMI but hey, it’s birth lol. Rachel put a mirror under me and used a flash light so we could see what was happening. I pushed a few times and I just remember thinking that it was not working, that my baby was not coming. I was confused about why my water still had not broken and why I could not see my baby crowning. Then with the next contraction I bared down as hard as I could, and with a guttural primal roar, my water EXPLODED. Everyone in the room jumped! It was a huge pop and fluid went everywhere. It was the craziest thing. And then with the next huge push, Rachel said “there’s the head!” and with the next one, she was born. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even have a chance to reach down and feel her crowning because it all happened so fast! Rachel lifted my daughter up and handed her to me. I just kept saying “Oh my God, Oh my God” which may have sounded like swearing but I really was praising God in that moment!!!
Esmé was born just a few minutes after midnight on August 12th. We moved back to the bed and I held my tiny, perfect person to my chest. Hearing her little cries was the sweetest sound. That incomparable joy and overwhelming love came rushing in. It felt so surreal. All the pain was instantly gone. It’s so hard to describe. It really is love at first sight. Complete bliss. This little person who I just met has my heart and I would do anything for her. After a minute I just had to check and make SURE she really was a girl! haha. I kept saying “my girl, my girl.” She latched on soon after birth and was so content snuggled up on me.
Very soon after she was born I delivered the placenta which was painless. Our midwife checked me and told me that I had a very minor tear and that I would not need stitches! I was so thankful. With Ethan I tore badly and needed a lot of stitches, which without an epidural was really awful. After a few minutes, when the umbilical cord was done pulsing, Shawn cut the cord. They brought me a big soft blanket which was warm from just coming out of the dryer. It was heavenly. Our midwife made sure baby and mom were well and then everyone left so we could have some family bonding time. The three of us just marveled at one another for a long time.
After a while Rachel came back in to do the newborn exam. I love that at the birth center they prioritize bonding over the exam. That “golden hour” of skin to skin contact immediately after birth where baby does not leave mom’s chest was so important to me. Esmé weighed 8 lbs 9 oz (3 oz more than her brother) and was 21 in long. They also checked her blood oxygen levels (which at first the reading was low and it really scared me) but after checking again a bit later it was normal. She also failed her hearing test but we were told that was normal at this point and they would recheck it (she passed at her two day check up.) Rachel asked us if we wanted her to put a diaper on Esmé and we said yes please!
Then our birth assistant came in and asked what we wanted for our post birth meal! Normally you can order from pretty much any nearby restaurant but because it was so late not a lot was open. We ended up getting burgers and shakes from Denny’s. (Actually Denny’s forgot my shake so Rachel made me one by putting vanilla ice cream and Lindor chocolates in a blender. It was amazing!) After dinner the three of us took a nap together in the bed. We were all pretty exhausted!
After a while Rachel came back to check everyone again. I was able to get up and take a quick shower which was nice. Chance offered to wash Esme’s hair because it was totally caked in blood. (At the birth center baby isn’t given a bath unless the parents request it. The vernix on a newborn baby’s skin is very beneficial!) But we were grateful she went home with a clean head haha.
Once we were cleaned up and everyone was doing well we were medically discharged 4 hours after birth which for us was about 4:30 am. We had the option to stay there overnight if we wanted to but Shawn and I both wanted to go home and sleep in our own bed. This is strange for most people who are used to staying in a hospital for multiple days after birth. But for a low risk pregnancy and a successful natural birth without any complications, it is safe. (And of course instructions are given on how to recognize a postpartum hemorrhage and the midwives are on call 24/7 in case anything changes once you are discharged!)
So we got Esme dressed in her “little sister” sleeper and put her in her car seat. Chance walked with us out to our car and then we made the quick drive home! My mom woke up when we arrived and was the first to meet our daughter, and her first granddaughter. She got teary eyed holding her which was so sweet. Then we got into bed and fell asleep pretty quickly! The next morning Ethan got to meet his baby sister which was one of the sweetest moments of my life!
Happy Birth Day, our beautiful Esmé.
We already can’t imagine life without you.