A Personal Post // Elliot Muir's Birth Story
I want to start by asking something of you. Let’s refrain from passing judgment, no matter the intention, on a woman’s birth story. Let’s try not to gauge a stories worth based on how difficult we assume the experience to have been. Unmedicated, medicated, short, long, cesarean, home birth, hospital birth. Easy is never a word I would use to describe the art of bringing another human earth side. “I’m so happy you had such an easy birth” or “take it easy, you were only in labor for x amount of hours” is never an appropriate thing to say to a woman who spent any time brewing a human and then getting that human from the inside to the outside. Am I empowered by my bodies ability to house a human, survive in moments of discomfort, emotional turmoil, and lack of sleep and then get that human outside of my body only to begin what is a very bloody, swollen, emotional, and sleep deprived recovery? Yes. Women are amazing and I’ve never felt more powerful in my life. But easy? It’s not meant to be. We trust our bodies to do what they need to do. Sometimes that trust is proven undependable, other times the road is straight and narrow. It’s difficult, but the reward and love that has come from it in the form of the greatest support I’ve known from my husband, to the tiny dependent body laying on my chest right now, is worth it all.
Now that we’ve established intent and created a safe place, I would love to share my birth story with you with the help of photo prowess and amazing supporter Rouxby Photography.
It was 11 pm. While Ben had already begun resting his eyes to the point of heavy breathing, I rolled over to attempt my own version of what had become sleep “ish” due to the discomfort of my protruding belly, Braxton Hicks contractions that were not as painless as the internet thinks they should be, and frequent trips to the bathroom. As I rounded my body over to welcome the support of my body pillow, I felt my belly tighten and audibly pop. I thought I’d pulled a muscle, but quickly realized that my water had broken when I felt a tiny gush let loose between my legs.
All it took was an “Oh shit, my water just broke,” and Ben was pulled directly from sleep and out of bed with clothes on, instructing me on what he deemed I should do next. I’ve never seen him or anyone hop up and get to it any quicker.
You see, our first baby came both sooner and far quicker than we anticipated, and with the way my body had been prepping earlier than it should have been, we’d been expecting the arrival of sweet Elliot for over a month with direct instructions from our midwife to book it to the hospital as soon as there were any signs of labor.
While I ran to the bathroom to rescue our brand new mattress from the amniotic fluid (leaking water is one of the most disgusting feelings, by the way), we began calling in the troops. Before we knew it, contractions had begun at 3 minutes apart straight out the gate, there was a knock on the door as my dad came to stay with Judah, and Ben, my mom and myself were headed to the hospital.
It’s funny how you can be so sure you’re in labor, be informative of how quickly your babies come, and still be doubted. It took seemingly forever for us to get through triage even though my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart already, my water was leaking everywhere (and was very obviously not me peeing myself over and over), and had already been hovering over 4 cm dilated for over a month. It took even longer (and 3 people with a total of 8 or so tries) to get a “just in case” port put in and blood drawn for labs. Your girl has some slippery veins. Finally, my mom and our lovely photographer were allowed to come back, and things were getting real. Don’t let the smiles fool ya.
Since I was having an unmedicated birth, I was able to be free of wires and monitors, and chose an exercise ball to do most of my laboring on. My mom went straight to work applying essential oils (my favorite was a rollerball blend of copaiba and peppermint) and keeping me hydrated (see below for our super fancy pants and delicious hydration concoction courtesy of “The First 40 Days,” while Ben held my hand through rushes and I repeated my mantra in my head to get through them.
In reading some of the stories from “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth,” a couple women stuck out to me. One was of a woman having a vaginal breech birth and her focus on the word “huge” as her body prepared to birth her baby buns first, and another of a woman imagining each rush as water flowing into a cave, filling up, and returning to sea. Knowing I needed something to focus on that I’d seen before, I pictured one of the waterfalls we’d photographed at during our last Iceland elopement. Gljúfrabúi is a waterfall inside a cave, and I imagined the water flowing up top as the rush came on, and then as it approached its fall, I imagined myself becoming as big as the mouth of the cave the water fell into. With one last purposeful descent over the edge, the water pounded to its destination, the rush came to its peak, and then dissipated in a remarkably calm flow back through the cave with completion.
As the pain intensified, I found myself vomiting frequently, just as I did with Judah. I remember being so surprised by that with my first born. It didn’t seem fair to have to throw up when you’re already in the throes of human birthing pain, but alas, this is how my body tends to react on the norm, so I’m not sure why I thought birth would be any different. When the pain started to get unbearable, I decided I should change positions and get into one of personal comfort, side lying on the bed. The nurse had just been in moments before to measure me and I was only 6 cm, so I was sure this was going to be a longer birth than my first and I had a ways to go. Wrong. I thought I’d made a huge mistake by moving, but I was paralyzed and couldn’t fix it. The simple act of getting into bed literally took me from 6 cm to fully dilated in moments and I’d be lying if I didn’t express that it was the most agony I’ve experienced in my life.
With this new version of distress, came the surprising inability to hold in my screams. This immediately brought in a gaggle of nurses. My main nurse checked me and confirmed I’d shot to 10 cm but instructed me not to push because the Dr was just down the street. I’m not sure if I said it out loud between the cow like moans and what can only be described as the act of speaking in tongues (you’re welcome nurses, for that laugh), but either aloud or in my head I told her to suck it because the urge to push was strong and I could feel that familiar burn of the babies head emerging.
In what seemed like forever later but was surely only a few moments, the familiar face of my midwife strolled in, was gowned in a flurry and prepared to catch my little. At this point I just wanted the pain to stop. It was constant, it was excruciating, and I had reached the point that I didn’t think I could do it. With the instruction to push and the reminder to try not to scream but to focus that energy into the depths of my pushing, there was a head. I honestly expected the rest of the baby to slide out from there. Judah exited that way, Elliot was not as smooth a transition, but I was determined as hell to get him out so the pain could come down from the persistent high it was at. They told me they thought I could bear down one more time during that same moment and so I believed them, and so I did. If it hadn’t been for Ben’s encouragement and reminders of how I’d imagined this birth to be while holding my hand through it all, I’m not sure I could have mustered the strength.
The cord was short so they laid the baby on my low belly initially to wait for the cord to stop pulsating so it could be cut. I laid back exhausted and heard them announce the time of birth before realizing we still didn’t know whether we’d had a boy or a girl. With that realization, the cord was ready, and they held up our little boy to put on my chest and be nursed.
The rest is a story of both bliss and pressure as the placenta was delivered and then the uterine massage began. Massage is an evil word to be associated with this practice. Ain’t nothing about that like a massage. I was bleeding more than they were comfortable with, so with that stubborn port they’d put in earlier, they started me on pitocin to slow the bleeding and let me rest as much as possible with my new bundle before whisking him over to the weight station where he’d weigh in at 8 lbs 9.5 oz and 21.5 in long.
From here, my body began its journey back to home. With a still swollen belly that hasn’t quite realized there’s nobody inside yet, breasts beginning to expand in order to feed life, hospital grade mesh underwear filled with an array of diapers, ice packs, witch hazel pads and numbing spray to catch the blood and begin the healing from being stretched and torn - the postpartum body is a whole new adjustment. It’s raw, it’s real, it feels a little bit broken, and it’s all for you, sweet Elliot.
And to you, my dear boy. You are so loved. You have the best big brother in the entire world who can’t get enough of you, and your mellow spirit is already displaying itself so clearly. We can’t wait to see who you become and how your personality transforms. You are a force in this world and while the anticipation of your future is so exciting to us, for now we will soak in your tiny smushy snuggles between the seemingly incessant feeding, and admire your every breath. We love you.
Oh, and here’s that recipe for the super refreshing, super hydrating, magic labor and postpartum beverage I promised.
Ginger Lemonade Switchel // makes about 1 quart
As seen in “The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother
1/4 cup raw honey
1 cup hot water
3 cups cold, room temperature, or sparkling mineral water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp fresh ginger pulp/juice (use a garlic press if you have one)
3 drops ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops
3 drops Bach Rescue Remedy (optional)
1/4 tsp sea salt
In a small heatproof mug or bowl, add the honey to the hot water and stir to dissolve. Pour into a 1-quart jar or pitcher, and add the cold or room-temperature water, vinegar, lemon juice, ginger pulp/juice, trace mineral drops, rescue remedy, if using, and sea salt.
Keep in the fridge for up to 1 week and give it a shake each time you serve. Feel free to adjust the sweetener and any other flavor elements to your taste.