My natural birth story of my first baby, a positive birth story at a birthing center.
Author’s note: I originally wrote this post in 2019, in honor of Archer’s 1st birthday. Since then we’ve had 2 more children! You can read about our second child’s birth here, and our third child’s birth story here.
It’s hard to believe that Archer was due 1 year ago today: Monday, July 16th. So much has happened in the past year, and it hit me that I’ve never actually told his birth story in full. So today, in honor of what could have been his birthday, I would love to share the story of Archer’s birth, along with our natural childbirth, with all of you.
Of course that due date came and went (and if no one has told you this, a due date is really just a fun estimate medical professionals use to torture you!). Over the next week we tried every fun and natural labor induction tip we could think of. First, of course, was the food! We took advantage of living near Scalini’s Italian Restaurant and their famous eggplant parmesan, which pregnant women have sworn by for years to help induce labor, and headed there the evening of the 16th.
Within 30 minutes of finishing dinner, I began having contractions! We were sure this was it, but they disappeared by the time I woke up the next morning. So Matt started cutting up pineapple core for me every day, and I began adding hot sauce to literally everything I ate.
I was still working full-time at this point, and I had been willing Archer to stay inside through the 18th to get me through a big work event I really wanted to be at. I successfully made it through the insanely hot day in Atlanta, and insisted on walking back to my car from the event facility.
I had hoped that the heat and the exercise, coupled with being on my feet for the event for the past few hours, would help motivate this little man. All it ended up doing is making me feel completely wiped out!
So instead that night I dragged Matt to our favorite local Mexican spot, Los Bravos, which has a dish that I had also heard helps to induce labor: the pina brava! It was super yummy, and I’m always down for an excuse to feast on cheap Mexican, but still this little guy didn’t seem to want to budge.
We decided to spend the next few days soaking up the time remaining for just the two of us: taking long walks, making dinner together at home, and loving on this sweet little bump as much as possible. We spent Saturday at the pool and Sunday the 22nd I even attempted to dance our little guy out.
I woke up on the morning of July 23rd with a ton of energy and positive feelings. I had planned to work from home that week to help combat the body aches I was struggling with, and being able to take a break in the middle of the day to go for a walk was exactly what I needed.
It was way too hot to be able to walk around outside, so I headed to the mall and met Matt for lunch. I did a few laps before he met up with me, and then after we finished eating I did a few more. I felt a little bit like a little old lady cruising around the mall, but hey, anything to meet our babe!
That evening I began having stomach problems and was up multiple times throughout the night. I continued to get sick throughout the following day and by that afternoon I started feeling a lot of pain and body aches.
I happened to have an appointment already scheduled with my midwives and threw my hospital bag in the backseat of the car just in case. When I arrived they hooked me up to the monitors and checked me out, but I wasn’t in labor yet so back home I went. I remember texting Matt and feeling so incredibly frustrated.
On the way home I stopped at the chiropractor, where I had been receiving regular adjustments during my pregnancy. After adjusting me she suggested I add deep sumo-style squats to our other labor induction practices. Matt came home around 5, and I started doing squats with him there to make sure I didn’t fall over and not be able to get back up!
He drew me a bath and within a few minutes of sitting in it I began feeling cramping, which soon became measurable contractions. Labor began that night (the 24th) around 6pm! Of course at the time I didn’t believe it was actually real labor, and was convinced that by the time I woke up the next morning that it would have disappeared.
I barely slept that night with the contractions, and when I got up on the morning of the 25th they were still going strong. I knew from friends that this early stage of labor could last a while, so I lied to Matt and told him I was fine and that he should go to work (he only worked 15 minutes from our home, so I knew that he could get back quickly), and I made the decision to actually work myself!
I figured it would be a really great distraction, so after answering a few emails I jumped on a conference call over lunch. It was during that call that I realized my contractions were getting more intense. I texted Matt around 12:30 that he needed to come home and take me to the birth center, and he got home right when I was wrapping up the call.
We arrived at the Atlanta Birth Center around 1:30pm and they took me back into the triage space. I remember being so excited about the possibility of meeting Archer, but also very bummed that the room I wanted to deliver in (known internally as the Fire Room), was currently occupied by another mama.
After monitoring both me and the baby for about 30 minutes and doing an exam they let me know that yes, I was in labor, but was only about a centimeter dilated and hadn’t progressed enough to be admitted and needed to continue to labor at home. The drive home to our house was so hard. I cried the entire way from frustration.
When we got home I crawled into bed and Matt just held me and let me cry it out for a little bit. I got up and felt determined to not let this effect my mood, because regardless of how far along I was it still meant one thing: we were going to meet our baby soon! Matt was amazing in helping me labor at home. He rubbed my back and my legs and helped me change positions to see what might be most comfortable.
He also got on the phone with our doula to keep her in the loop of how I was progressing. We turned on music and I walked around the house, and at one point we danced for a while, giggling like kids over how excited and happy we were.
Around 5pm our doula suggested that I get into the bathtub, which helped a ton with the pain and discomfort I was feeling. It was at this point that we decided to let our families know that I was in labor and would most likely be heading to the birth center shortly, so that they didn’t panic if they tried to check in and couldn’t reach us.
I labored at home until about 7pm that night and then headed back to the birth center. Frustratingly I was still only about a centimeter dilated, but while standing in the triage room my water broke at about 7:40pm, and they admitted us.
The Atlanta Birth Center only has three birthing rooms, and it just so happened that when I was admitted all three rooms were full! So instead of going into a birthing room to begin with, I labored next to the nurses station and also in the lobby for a brief amount of time. It was for sure an experience, especially when a new dad walked by on the way to get his family for checkout!
Everything ended up working out perfectly though, as the family that was checking out was actually in the Fire Room, the room I had hoped to deliver in from the very start!
Our beautiful room had a huge bathroom with a walk in shower, a birthing tub, and a queen size bed, plus tons of space around the room to walk, stretch and labor, along with tons of twinkle lights and electric candles. I spent a big part of the next 12 hours laboring in the shower, with the hot water being used as a tool to help relieve the incredible back labor I was feeling.
My doulas, Shari and Rebecca, were amazing at helping me shift positions and were incredible at helping relieve some of my back labor pain by utilizing counter pressure. Even our sweet birth photographer Linnea was jumping in to hold my hand and help me labor in the shower.
While that active labor pain at first was manageable, over the course of those first 12 hours at the birth center it became far from that. I’m just going to be really real here: my pain level shot through the roof and honestly became kind of scary. Think about the worst period cramps you’ve ever had. Now multiply that by 100%, and imagine that you’re feeling that pain not only in your stomach, but intensely concentrated in your lower back, and coming in waves that are coupled with bouts of nausea.
Slowly that pain began to shift to not just being in my back, but radiating down my legs. My birth team began to realize that something wasn’t right, as I had been in active labor for this long but wasn’t progressing. The pain level was incredible, but more than that, my mind and body were starting to give out from being in labor for so long.
Our doula, Shari, was instrumental in getting us back on track. After conferring with our midwife team, they decided that Archer most likely wasn’t in the birth canal in the most ideal position. Shari asked if she could shift him from the outside, and utilized a technique called Rebozo Sifting to help get him in a better position.
I’m not going to lie: it didn’t feel good. It was also during this sifting that Shari had insisted Matt take a nap (to prepare him for being able to help as much as possible after Archer arrived), and all I could think about was ways to kill him.
However, in what felt like just minutes after Shari finished sifting, the excruciating pain I had been experiencing seemed to shift to something much more manageable. It was in that moment that I started to feel like I could really do this again. I would later learn that Archer had most likely been pushing on a bundle of nerves for the majority of my active labor, which skyrocketed my pain level beyond what it really should have been.
(Are you thinking about having a natural childbirth? I can’t recommend hiring a doula enough! Check out What is a Doula? The Benefits To Hiring a Doula for Childbirth)
Things moved quickly after that. Matt and I moved into the birthing tub in the hope that I could deliver there. Soon Archer was close enough that our team realized that while my water had broken, Archer was actually still in the inner bag!
I was struggling to make progress, so one of our midwives physically popped that remaining bag. After trying for nearly an hour to deliver in the tub, we made the decision to shift to the bed.
Between the tub and the time spent in bed, I pushed for more than 2 hours before Archer began crowning. To be totally transparent, by this point I was starting to really doubt that I was going to be able to do this. Looking back I realize that it wasn’t so much the physical pain of labor that had gotten to me: it was my mind.
I started to associate the amount of pain I was in with something being wrong. I remember being so incredibly scared those last few hours of labor, as my mind tried to convince me that he was stuck, or I couldn’t do this, or I wasn’t strong enough to make this happen.
I 100% know that I wouldn’t have stayed the course of a natural labor if it hadn’t been for the incredible team I surrounded myself with: our doulas, midwives, nurses and birth photographer (along with Matt, as the most incredible birth partner).
As we entered that home stretch these women breathed so much belief into me. They kept telling me how strong I was, how close I was to meeting our baby, that I could do this. I knew as long as my birth team believed I could do it, I really could, and promised myself that until they said otherwise that nothing was going to stop me.
Unlike with a hospital birth, at the birth center I was free to move around on that bed, finding the positions that would work best for me as we went. Shari, Rebecca and Matt each jumped in to to help guide my body or offer the support that I needed, while our incredible midwives Kimberly and Stacy made sure that our little guy was progressing the way he needed to. We even invited the group of midwifery students who were at the birth center to come in and witness the end of our labor journey (which looking back at was slightly insane, but also amazing to be able to show students our natural birth).
Our sweet boy took his time, crowning for nearly 45 minutes, until finally at 2:34pm on Thursday, July 26th Archer made his appearance earth side, weighing 6 pounds 6.5 ounces and measuring 18 & 3/4” long. I remember feeling almost like a popping sensation as he emerged, and there he was, landing right in Matt’s hands!
They placed him on my chest but quickly realized that he wasn’t breathing correctly. The EMT’s had to be called, and the team of midwives and nurses worked on getting him to breathe.
I was so exhausted by this point that I was barely aware of what was happening. I remember Matt in the middle of the bed holding one of my hands while also holding onto one of Archer’s, as I gently called his name as the team worked on him (while Matt, on the other hand, was basically shouting at him to breathe while trying not to panic me).
It took about 10 minutes for the EMT’s to arrive, though it felt like forever. By the time they got there though our amazing care team at the birth center had taken care of everything, and our little guy was looking and sounding so much better.
The EMT’s stayed for a bit to make sure everything was ok, and by the time they left I remember being so completely exhausted that I could barely keep my eyes open. Archer laid on my chest, with Matt curled up next to us, and we just napped like that for the next hour.
I had lost a good amount of blood, and coupled with the exhaustion from being in labor for nearly 45 hours, I actually fainted when the nurses tried to get me up to go to the bathroom. After trying once more and getting lightheaded again, they decided to let us wait just a little bit longer. Matt ordered delivery (burgers and fries!) and they made sure I not only ate, but drank plenty of Gatorade and coconut water.
Once the team checked me out and decided that we were ok, they made the decision to have us remain at the birth center for longer than normal as my labor had been so lengthy. Archer wasn’t latching, and I was pretty much dead to the world from exhaustion, so Matt got up multiple times during the night to feed him with a syringe.
We left as a family of three around 7am the next morning.
It’s hard to believe that in just 10 days we will have been this family unit for an entire year. I am beyond grateful for the birth experience we had. As scary as it got at times, and as difficult as my labor was, I know without a doubt that was the path we had to walk for our little guy to come into this world.
I am so thankful for the incredible care team we had for Archer’s birth:
Shari Aizenman, our doula
Rebecca Williams, our apprentice doula
Linnea Geiger, our birth photographer
Augustina Delaney, Stacy Ulmer & Kimberly Spence-Jensen, our midwives
Our rotating team of Atlanta Birth Center nurses
I also want to thank Matt, for truly being my rock during delivery. Not only did he take the time to attend any and every birthing class I was interested in, he read books, watched movies, and asked all of our care providers so many questions to make sure he was prepared. During Archer’s labor and delivery he provided me with constant encouragement, love and support. I am so lucky to do life with him.