Well… here it is. I’ve tried to start writing this blog about 365 times, give or take. Every single day I think about Evelyn’s birth and the events leading up to it. I think about all the false labor, the random pains (e.g. “lightning crotch” - enough said), how miserable I was that last week of pregnancy. Now that I’m on the other side of her first year earthside, all I want to remember is this: I. DID. IT. I set my mind to something and I did it. Not because I wanted to say I did it, but because I felt this was something I needed to do, so I could heal from my first birth experience.
This blog post is going to be long and it’s going to be very detailed. I will discuss natural birth and stuff like vaginas, mucous plugs, bleeding, tearing, and poop. This is birth; it is raw, it is the most natural thing that we do, and it is absolutely beautiful. If you’re not here for that, please exit now.
My first pregnancy was a whirlwind of crazy town. Newlyweds, new house, new life, and now baby. All of our hard, first-year marriage milestones were further complicated by hormones and anxiety. We had no clue what we were doing, and I had really not much desire to learn anything about what we were doing. I really had it in my head, “people have babies literally every minute of every day… who cares?” I listened to doctors and nurses tell me what I needed to do and didn’t give much thought to it otherwise.
I had two major goals in mind when preparing for the birth of Evelyn. The first was obviously to get her here safely. The second was to educate myself on birth so I could decide how I wanted to approach it. In retrospect, my birth with Jaxon was far more traumatic than I realized, and I believed is partially what led to my severe postpartum depression and anxiety. I went into his birth thinking I could deliver naturally and that my doctor, the nurses, and the hospital staff would help me to do that. We did not take any childbirth education classes while I was pregnant with Jaxon. also did not choose a provider that would allow me the resources to have a natural childbirth. In the end, I was forced into an induction I did not want but did not have the education to fight it. My bag of waters was manually broken (within the first hour Pitocin was started) without any medical necessity. The reasoning for the procedure was not explained to me, and it was not specified that I could refuse. I trusted my OB because I had no reason to think otherwise. Quite frankly, by being induced, he was able to control almost every aspect of my labor and birth. I was also at a higher risk of having a c-section. Thankfully that did not happen and I was able to birth Jaxon vaginally. If this is the kind of birth that you want for yourself, great! That’s just not what I pictured for myself, so this time around, I fixed it.
Okay, back to Evelyn’s journey earthside:
This is your last warning… I’m going to be talking about stuff that happens to vaginas leading up to the labor, and also labor, and then birth, and then afterbirth (as in placentas and stuff). There will also be pictures and video… last warning… don’t bitch to me about it later.
I decided I wanted to seek the care of a midwife for this pregnancy and birth. We chose the San Antonio Birth Center. I had several friends deliver at SABC and heard only stellar things about the midwives who practiced there. When Dustin and I initially started trying for baby #2, we became pregnant the first month. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. A couple of months after that, I was attending a natural pregnancy and birth event as a vendor. I just so happened to be across the aisle to the amazing midwives of the SABC. I instantly imprinted on one of them, Heather. Her smile was so radiant, and I watched how she spoke with expectant mothers. I felt the need to talk to her. I introduced myself and told her my husband and I were “taking a break” from trying after a miscarriage, but that I couldn’t wait to be pregnant again so we could come to SABC. We talked off and on the entire day. I felt so at ease speaking with Heather.
A few weeks later, I took an at-home pregnancy test that showed a faint positive result. I called my OB to report it; not because I thought I was pregnant, but because we kept having these positive tests the last few months following the miscarriage. I had a unique type of pregnancy/ miscarriage that could have resulted in some abnormal tissue growth on my uterine wall (if you want to know more, just look up partial hydatidiform mole or molar pregnancy). Because of this, I was going in every 2-3 weeks for blood work and/or ultrasounds to rule out any growth that could eventually turn into a cancerous tumor. It was all kinds of scary, but my OB assured me it was super rare. But because I kept having these weird spikes in my bHCG (with pregnancy symptoms), I was monitored very closely. I had ZERO reason to believe anything except this was tissue regrowth and I would potentially have to have another D+C or take drugs to prevent the tumor from turning malignant. It was just another sad (no baby) ultrasound, so I didn’t even ask Dustin or my Mom to go with me. In fact, my mom was traveling for work, or I’m sure she would have forced herself into the room. In my previous ultrasounds, I asked the sonographer to please turn off my monitors. I couldn’t stand to look at my sad, empty uterus anymore. It was so heartbreaking. To my surprise, she turned the monitor towards me and said, “that’s a new baby - this is a new pregnancy!” I was in shock. Just a couple of weeks later, I had a second ultrasound to confirm, and we finally heard that beautiful heartbeat. Heaven! I thanked my OB for everything he did for me and called SABC to set up a tour/ appointment. Don’t worry, he knew all along that I was going to transfer, and even told me I was a good candidate for a low-risk, out-of-hospital birth.
Our tour of the birth center and meeting with the midwives was just a few weeks later. We were in the middle of closing on and moving into our new dream home. Life was chaotic, but when is it not with kids? I have to admit, I was starting to feel super anxious about it all; moving, new house, new baby… it was a little overwhelming. But I felt at ease with every appointment at the SABC. It was my reset button during the entire pregnancy. For each prenatal appointment, you cycle through and meet with all the midwives to find your best fit. I knew I wanted Heather immediately; and after a few months of meeting with the others and talking about my story, I felt a strong connection with Alisa, and graduate midwife, Naomi. Boom, by the beginning of my third trimester, I had my birth team ready to go!
My due date was determined to be February 6th based on my last menstrual period. One thing to remember, if you’re expecting, is that this date is not set in stone. Your baby is considered full term anywhere from 37/38 weeks (I was told conflicting gestation dates across providers) to 42 weeks. Just because you’re at 40 weeks doesn’t mean your baby is in harm’s way if they don’t come out that day! We knew Evie would be coming sometime in late January to early February. There was a full moon the day of January 31st, and I thought that would be pretty awesome to deliver that day. The previous year on February 1st was the day I had the D+C for the miscarriage. I thought that would have been kind of poetic to have had Evelyn born on that day; maybe at the time I just wanted to replace that shit memory with a good one. But she had other plans… now that she’s here I can definitely tell she does stuff her way!
In the wee hours of February 5th, the day before her “due date,” I had a dream that Evelyn told me she wasn’t ready to be here yet. She said she would come soon. In the dream, I felt intense pain in my belly and woke up mid-contraction. I laid there a moment, thinking of Evelyn, and my belly loosened as I fell back asleep. That was about 1:30 in the morning.
Due date, February 6th, came and went. Literally, nothing interesting happened that day.
On February 7th, I noticed an increase in vaginal discharge. It was definitely more watery in consistency. I thought maybe it could be my mucous plug, but after a quick google search, I was like, “nahhh….” Also, don’t google stuff when you’re pregnant. Just don’t.
Because of the round ligament pain, sciatic nerve pain, tailbone pain, and pubic bone pain, I was adjusted by a chiropractor often during my pregnancy. On some days, it was the only way I felt I was able to walk. On February 8th, I was adjusted by my chiropractor. I love her. I had also had a visit with my midwives that day.
The next morning, February 9th, I woke up to two intense contractions back to back; one at 3:00 am, then again at 3:30 am. I took a few deep breaths, meditated, and ended up falling back asleep. The next morning I woke up sad. I wanted my girl so badly.
On February 10th I passed my mucous plug (don’t make that face - I warned you!) It was, surprisingly, a lot less disgusting than I thought it would be. I took this as a warning my body was working up something and spent the day doing last minute stuff like finishing up my business taxes. Then I took a long shower - exfoliated everything, shaved everything I could still see, washed my hair, meditated, prayed, thanked my body, etc. I felt really good after this. I felt a peace wash over me (ha). I also remember giving Jaxon some extra kisses that night. If I could pinpoint one thing I was having anxiety about, it was how my relationship with J was going to change. No matter what, he will always and forever be my first baby. But, I knew I was going to miss it just being us. I was worried I couldn’t love her as much as I loved him.
On February 11th about 1:00 am I woke up mid-contraction. I fell back asleep. At 3:00 am I woke up to another contraction. That second one felt different. I felt a rush of adrenaline flow throughout my body and I was awake. I woke up Dustin and told him to be ready because I thought this was it. At 3:30 I had a third contraction, and then another at 3:32, then another at 3:34. I called my midwife. The contractions were coming every 2 minutes which freaked me out BUT were only lasting like 30-40 seconds. So my midwife told me to do some pelvic rocks and take a shower. A little before 5:00 am I called her again. The contractions were still coming every 2 to 3 minutes, but only lasting 30 seconds or so. She encouraged me to lie down and rest and follow up if the contractions became more intense. I went to lie down and the contractions starting hitting me hard. They were much more painful than those first few. I immediately told Dustin to call my family. The contractions slowed to every 5 minutes and lasted a full minute. I was taking breaths between words while chatting with my midwife, doula, and photographer on the phone.
I started getting a little nervous and then doubting myself. I had never had labor brought on naturally before (my last birth was induced), so I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. I thought the contractions would be further apart for sure, and I also thought they would involve my entire stomach, but I was really only feeling pain deep in my pubic/ pelvis region. Kind of like that, “I ate something nasty and I’m gonna shit my pants” feeling. To me, they felt like Braxton-Hicks contractions but were coming so fast. So I was really unsure if this was it. I kept going back and forth in my head. I decided I needed to distract myself from it all because I knew my body was going to do what it needed to do no matter how much I obsessed over it. I went into the bathroom and sat on my birthing ball, rocked back and forth, and straightened my hair. I focused on breathing and riding each contraction out. They were definitely getting stronger.
At 6:00 am I called my midwife, Heather, to report in. She asked me if we could meet at the birthing center. Side note: my midwife is literally the kindest, most calm, sweetest human alive. Although I sensed compassion and calm in her voice, I didn’t sense any hysteric emergency that I had always seen in the movies, you know? In my head, I felt like she was saying, “let’s check you out because something is definitely going on.” Honestly, I was a little embarrassed because I still felt like this was just Braxton-Hicks and we were waking people up and I was like… meh… I hope this is real.
My parents arrived right around 7:00 am, and my grandparents were going to be close behind them. My step-dad stayed at the house since Jaxon was still asleep. Dustin, my Mom, and I headed to the birth center. I remember the ride to the birth center was so uncomfortable. I felt the contractions getting more intense and I started actually having to really concentrate to breathe through them. I kept wanting to turn on my music, but the contractions were happening so fast I couldn’t find the words to even ask for it. I found myself lost in my head; I imagined my cervix opening, I imagined Evelyn’s little body wriggling down. I kept having to pull myself out of my own mind. It was a deep meditation I’ve never experienced before.
[From this point on, I’m relying heavily on the amazing charting done by my midwives for specific times and events]
We got to the birth center at 7:23 am. I was still having intense contractions every 2-3 minutes that lasted a full 60 seconds. We went into the Ina May room so my midwife could talk to me about what I was experiencing and how I felt. Heather asked me for a urine sample; I walked down the hall to the bathroom and actually had to lean against the wall during a contraction. So… I was thinking, “okay maybe this is labor and not just Braxton-Hicks.” My midwife asked me if she could examine me. She only wanted to do this once just to get an idea of where we were at, and if the pain from the contraction was too intense she would stop. I felt SO AT EASE. She wasn’t telling me she was checking me, SHE ASKED ME. For someone who wanted an intervention-free birth, this really helped to put me at ease. She checked me at 7:50 am, about 4.5 hours since my contractions started, and said I was a “stretchy” 5 cm dilated. WHAAA? I remember asking her, “wait, so this is real, I’m going to see my baby today?!” She laughed and said, “Yes mama. Let’s get you admitted!”
Another thing I should mention; we were SO LUCKY to be on Evie Bell’s timing. She decided she was ready to greet us early on a Sunday morning. The birth center is typically closed on Sundays, so we had the entire center to ourselves. It already is set up and feels like a home when you’re there, but the added privacy was really nice! While Heather got my room ready (they have to go in there and set up all the emergency equipment, toss all the fluffy pillows and bedding aside, stock with towels and such), I stayed in the Ina May room so I could work on side-lying release. My doula, Katelyn, had arrived by then and was helping me with side-lying so I didn’t fall off the damn table. Seriously that was kind of scary. And I was feeling the contractions getting even more intense. Thank God for doulas; Katelyn rubbed my back and reminded me to breathe through it all. Heather reappeared and told me my room was ready. I hobbled down to the Mary Belle suite, my favorite room in all of San Antonio. I was ecstatic to be in that room. I dreamed of birthing Evelyn in that room for nine months, and it was finally happening. SHIT… now I’m crying again just thinking about it.
I decided to forego the bath, and instead sat on the birthing ball and leaned forward over the edge of the bath. Earlier at the house, the shower I took was not as comforting as I hoped, and instead, I felt much better sitting on the ball. It was in those first fifteen minutes in Mary Belle that I felt more confident and amazing than I ever had before. I remember smiling, breathing through contractions, and chatting with my mom and sister. I was ready! I knew I would be meeting my daughter so soon! My midwife’s notes quoted me as saying, “oh, this one feels good,” referring to a contraction. What I remember was the contractions were coming back to back to back to back, with zero break, and I was in the zone completely. I found myself in my head repeating my favorite songs over and over. Again... I had entire playlists ready to go, but for some reason never asked for the music to actually be played. Weird.
At about 9:00 am I felt an urge to lay down on the bed. I knew I was at 5cm just an hour ago and didn’t want to tire myself out bouncing on the ball. Something was telling me to lay down and rest. My adrenaline was pumping hard though… I remember shaking as I walked to bed. I laid down facing my left and pulled my left leg up as high as it would go… which wasn’t very high at all.
Within minutes of laying down, I had two contractions back to back that felt SUPER intense; so intense I felt a little dizzy. The next contraction... I’ll remember that shit for the rest of my life, no joke y’all. I remember turning towards and doula and I was like, “yea I’m tapping out… that fucking hurt. Bad!” And she so calmly said, “okay, I’ll be right back, just keep doing what you’re doing.” She returned with Heather and I remember thinking in my head, “yep, this is when the screaming starts!” Heather once again asked me if she could do an internal examination. Again, SHE ASKED FIRST! She didn’t just pull my legs open and shove her hand up there. Her next words made my heart stop. “You’re at a nine!” I was like, “FILL THAT TUB UP NOW!!!” I’m confident I said it super nice, but in my head I was screaming, and if I’m being honest, I was panicking a bit as well. They started filling the tub, and I got naked (yea modesty goes out the window when you’re in labor). This entire process was going a lot faster than I thought it would. I knew second babies typically come faster than the first, but this felt too fast. I was initially so worried my labor would stall, but I didn’t think about how intense it would be. Time was flying by instead of feeling like it was dragging.
I was able to get into the tub about 9:12 am. It felt sooooo good, y’all. I instantly felt my body relax and I leaned forward against the edge. Within minutes though, I felt pressure to push. At first it scared me. My body started doing things on its own. I had almost zero control. I concentrated on breathing and trying to stay comfortable while my body was bearing down. I felt myself moving back and forth between squatting in the tub, to my knees, to leaning forward, to straightening my back. I remember the contractions were rolling together and I felt my body shaking with each one. I remember groaning out loud when my body decided to push. I remember bleating like a goat… literally, a goat. One really important thing I remember was all the beautiful hands that were on me at all times. Being touched is not typically something I enjoy, but at this time, I really didn’t mind it. Looking back at the video, it was incredible seeing all the hands on me, comforting me. My mom and sister held my hands, rubbed my shoulders, whispered in my ear. My husband was behind me massaging my lower back constantly. My doula was to my right fanning me and offering me cold water every so often. It was truly incredible.
After about 15 minutes of pretty intense labor in the tub, I started feeling like my body was splitting in half. “It hurts everywhere,” is what my midwives documented. I couldn’t help but push at this point. I was grunting and groaning, letting my body push while I hung on for the ride. It was just happening, there’s nothing I could have done to stop it. I didn’t want it to stop; the feeling was so intense, I just wanted it to be over. Heather, my midwife, was going back and forth between my backside (at this point I was on my knees leaning forward in the tub) and coming to the front to check Evelyn’s heart rate. At one point I felt her inches from my face, mid-contraction, saying “you’re doing a great job.” My second midwife, Alisa, was there, too. She had appeared instantly out of thin air it seemed like. I’m not sure I even said “hi,” in between my bleats… sorry, Alisa!
The final 14 minutes… At some point, I felt that I needed to be a little more involved in this pushing, so I decided to get my shit together and focus on pushing with intention. I felt Heather’s hand supporting my perineum as I growled through each push. I also specifically remember thinking, “woah, my water hasn’t broken, I wonder if she will be born en caul?” I swear, y’all, that next contraction/push I felt a POP! Dammit! Heather told me, “your baby’s head is right there!” I wanted her so bad, I pushed with everything I had. As I was pushing, anticipating feeling the ring of fire, I instead felt an entirely different pain. I screamed, “fuck! Owww!” It hurt so bad. I asked, “how much longer..” because my insides literally felt like they were ripping in half. There was some blood in the tub, I remember Heather saying that, or maybe it was Naomi…? Oh yea, my third midwife, Naomi, had appeared at some point as well. Heather asked me to lean back. I felt like I couldn’t move at all because the pain was so bad. I remember when I was able to lean back, I started to close my legs because of the pain (instinctual I guess?), and my sister grabbed my leg and said, “ahh, you’re gonna squish her!” With the next few pushes, Evie’s sweet little head was born.
I wanted so badly to reach down and get my baby girl, but I was paralyzed. This is the one thing I would change about my birth. At this point I hadn’t realized I had extensive tearing in my vagina and my perineum. It would definitely explain the intense pain I was having. I wish I hadn’t torn, and I could have delivered her a little more gently. But I wanted her out!
One big push (owww owww owwwwwww owwwww!), and at 9:47:15 am our Evelyn Bell was finally in my arms. I was in total shock; I actually did it! I can’t really describe the feelings I had immediately after. When I think about it, there’s a flood of emotions that swirl in my head. There’s relief, happiness, shock, empowerment, excitement, comfort…
Evelyn Bell Hall, born 9:47:15 am on Sunday, February 11, 2018, at the San Antonio Birth Center, Mary Belle suite. She was born in the water and into our arms. She was 20 ¼ inches long and weighed 8 pounds + 8 ½ ounces.
Within a few minutes, my midwives wanted me out of the tub to examine me. Dustin, Evelyn, and I snuggled in the bed and I tried to focus on her instead of the pain I was still experiencing. I birthed the placenta; that was weird! The midwives did their thing; examined the placenta, membranes, and cord, they drew blood from the cord, and they did a pretty thorough examination of me. The entire time, I had my baby on my chest, and I could only focus on how absolutely beautiful she was (well… still is). I kept thinking it was all a dream. I did it my way AND I got this beautiful daughter to love. Eventually, Daddy was able to cut her cord and snuggle with his daughter one-on-one for the first time. Then, our sweet boy, Jaxon, came in to meet his sister. It was a beautiful sight to see!
It was decided pretty quickly I was going to need a repair, and it was also decided that I needed to be moved to a “clinic” room since there was better lighting and an exam table available. I was a little nervous they were not going to let Evelyn come with me, but they actually encouraged her presence. A fourth midwife, Tracy, came to help, and I was so grateful for her! She held my leg or hand or gave me food or drinks from my smoothie. It was so wonderful seeing these beautiful women work together to comfort me. Evelyn napped on my chest and occasionally nursed, while I was examined and repaired. If I’m being honest, it was excruciating at times. They used a local anesthetic to numb the areas (yes, that’s plural), but I still felt a lot of pain. I just kept focused on my beautiful daughter the entire time. The nursing helped because there was lots of oxytocin being released, which comforted me. After about an hour they were finished, and I hobbled back to my room assisted. All I can say is THANK GOD we had the entire center to ourselves. I loved seeing all of our families together in the living room. It was definitely a source of comfort for me.
The remainder of our afternoon at the birth center was filled with mama and baby checks, resting, hanging with family, and loving on our daughter. At about 4:30 pm, we were given the okay to go home. We slowly gathered our things, dressed our precious daughter, and prepared to embark on our journey home. We left the birth center at 5:50 pm. Overall, we were only there for 10 hours, which seemed like an instant. I know Dustin and I were happy to know we would be sleeping in our own bed that night.
So, that’s it. One year ago today labor started; one year ago today I did it my way and birthed my daughter in the water; one year ago today we were already back home with her. I’m so incredibly grateful for the amazing staff of midwives at the San Antonio Birth Center, including, Heather, Alisa, Naomi, and Tracy. A huge thank you to my doula, Katelyn, for her amazing support and encouraging words. I was so thankful to have almost my entire family present for this beautiful occasion. Thank you all for the encouraging words, the comfort, the love, and the support.
Having my birth documented with photographs and video was a decision I am so glad I made. It is worth every penny, and I’m so happy it is something we invested in for Evelyn’s birth. Thank you to Brittany Reynosa for documenting this journey for us.
Evelyn's full video is here. I shouldn’t have to give you a warning… you know this is graphic content, right?
More blog posts including my postpartum recovery, breastfeeding journey, and Evelyn’s first year will be coming soon!