Birth Story : James | Jacksonville Birth Photographer
This is such beautiful birth story filled with so much laughter and love! I had the pleasure of documenting Natalie and Matthew’s story as they welcomed their baby boy, James, late this spring. I asked Natalie if she would write her own birth story and it is below. Natalie is the founder of The Mindful Mama Collective, a wonderful resource for encouraging women on the incredible journey of motherhood. Grab some tea or coffee, and soak up Natalie’s words as she recounts her birth experience and enjoy the video and photos that follow.
The week leading up to James’ birth was full of anticipation. I experienced a lot of prodromal labor and was constantly questioning whether it was the real thing which was physically and mentally draining but also exciting because I knew my body was preparing to bring him earth side. On April 24, my due date, I had an ultrasound. At this point I had been having weekly ultrasounds for weeks due to my gestational diabetes diagnosis so I assumed it would be routine as it had been the previous weeks.
My doula, Kelly, who is an actual angel, met me at the appointment and we had my midwife do a sweep. She estimated I was around two centimeters but that he was very low, and I was very soft. I left the appointment with cramps and a feeling that I would meet my son soon. When I got home, I lost a bit of my mucus plug and decided to take a nap since labor seemed near. I awoke to several text messages from my doula and a voicemail from my midwife asking to call her immediately. I called my midwife on speaker phone with my husband and I had a bit of a sinking feeling in my gut. She told us that the ultrasound showed that James’ umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice and given that I was at term and laboring without intermittent fetal heartrate monitoring was not recommended in this situation, that she would like me to head to the hospital that evening for an induction. Although I was really hoping to have spontaneous labor and to mostly labor at home, I fully trusted my practice, Full Circle, and knew that if they were recommending an induction then it was what I needed to do. So I agreed to be there at 5 and in an oddly calm state, began preparing.
I packed a ton of snacks (obviously) and started having my husband, Matthew, load up the car with our bags, pillows, the works. I grabbed all my crystals I could find and some electric candles that had just arrived and was throwing pretty much our entire house into the car at this point. I texted our nanny that it was go time and she agreed to head over at 4:30. Our 21 month old, Lilly, woke up from her nap and I wanted to soak in every moment I could with her but almost as soon as I went to sit on the playroom floor, my contractions started! Matthew and I played with her for a couple hours and I timed my contractions which were around six minutes apart. After so much prodromal labor I wasn’t sure if I was in labor, but these contractions were occurring at much more regular intervals and lasted less than a minute, so I started to think that it was really labor!
Our nanny arrived and it really sunk in that I would be leaving Lilly to go give birth. I felt this intense pull to stay by her side and at the same time, I knew I had no choice but to leave my baby to go birth another baby. We all stood outside our house for a little while and my friend came to drop off some breastmilk in case James had any issues with his sugar due to the gestational diabetes. It was hot and I was in labor so in some ways it was a relief to hug Lilly and kiss her a million times and then get into the air-conditioned car. As soon as we pulled out of our cul de sac I began sobbing. I think it was a combination of accepting that I was being induced, fear about the cord being wrapped and mostly, knowing that I had just had my last moments with my daughter as my only child.
By the time we arrived at the hospital my contractions had slowed. We met Kelly in the parking lot and like the true guardian angel that she is, she guided us through check-in, helped us to our room and immediately began talking to the midwife about the plan. They checked me and I was still at two centimeters, so we decided to go ahead and start a gentle induction. They inserted a bulb to help dilate my cervix which was uncomfortable but only painful when I was contracting.
And then we began to walk. My husband, my doula and I walked the halls of St. Vincent’s for most of my labor and when I would have a contraction, my doula would have me squat while holding onto the side railing. I was surprised at how different these contractions were from my first labor which was a full-on induction and also much different from prodromal labor. They had a rhythm and a predictability and while they weren’t comfortable, I felt strong and in control which was very healing after my first birth where the experience was so different.
About an hour and a half later, my doula was able to pull the bulb out and when they checked me, I was at six centimeters! I was in total disbelief. To help my uterus catch up to my cervix, we decided to break my water at this point and hope that my body would really kick in to labor and start dilating on its own. I was very nervous about breaking my water as I had heard it can be very painful and my body began shaking all over from the adrenaline. I remembered experiencing this from my previous birth, but it was still a bit jarring since it’s not very comfortable to feel so on edge and out of control of your own body’s movements. Thankfully breaking my water wasn’t painful at all. We were all laughing at the amount of fluid that just kept pouring out and I couldn’t get over the giant pad they had me put on that made me feel like Alice in Wonderland after she shrank! My doula and I had a good laugh about this (and so many laughs throughout my labor).
We began walking again and my contractions had definitely intensified but I was relieved to no longer have the pressure of the bulb inside me. I was squatting at every contraction and began to feel more vocal, so Kelly encouraged me to make long, low tones to help open and soften. In between contractions we were laughing and chatting and having so much fun. I felt so relaxed and genuinely happy. I was truly enjoying my labor!
We walked for a few more hours and then decided to go back to the room to rest and have them check me and put me on the monitor for a bit. At this point I decided to have the lights low and to listening to one of my hypnobabies tracks. I was in and out of hypnosis but laying down during my contractions was much less comfortable and I wasn’t sure if they were intensifying or if I just needed to keep moving. I started to doze off in between them and encouraged myself to rest. A bit later, they came in to check me and I was still at 6 centimeters. As soon as I stood up my next contraction felt much, much stronger and I could feel my energy really waning as it was about midnight and I had been laboring since 1 pm.
My midwife and doula proposed starting a low dose of Pitocin and told me that they believed with that augmentation that I would give birth in a few hours. I asked for some privacy while my husband and I talked about how to move forward. My last labor with Pitocin was incredibly painful and I decided that if we were to start Pitocin, I would get an epidural so that I didn’t have to experience labor in a way that felt out of control and triggering for me. At this point my contractions were getting much more painful and I knew in my heart that laboring with the Pitocin wasn’t something I was up for. I felt completely confident in my decision because it was my choice to make and I was relieved that I would be able to get some rest before delivering.
The epidural was definitely not fun to receive but I had such an incredible nurse and doula that I felt completely supported cared for throughout the process and I just kept repeating to myself that every step brings me closer to meeting my baby. At that point we were all exhausted, so we turned down the lights, diffused a relaxing blend of essential oils and went to sleep for a bit. I couldn’t really sleep because I was so excited to meet my sweet boy, but I tried to rest my eyes.
A bit later my doula started looking at the monitor and asked me if I felt pressure. At the same time our wonderful nurse came in and started moving the heartrate monitor around because they had lost contact with his heartbeat – she felt lower and lower and finally my doula lifted up the sheet and said to both of us, “So he’s basically crowning.” All of the sudden the room got very busy, a table was wheeled out with all of the medical instruments, and our midwife came rushing into the room. As everything was being prepared, my doula and I made eye contact and she mouthed the word, “Breathe.”
I’m not sure if she was telling me to take a deep breath to prepare or if she meant to breathe my baby out, but it was as if my body just took control and after two deep ujjayi breaths, he was born! My midwife quickly slipped the cord off his neck and told me to reach down pull my baby up. He was so tiny and slippery and had the loudest cry – the best sound in the whole wide world. I looked over at my husband who was crying happy tears and smiling and back at our son. He was finally here.
He wanted to nurse almost immediately and did for an hour and a half! When he finished, I laid there with him peacefully on my chest. I know there were other people in the room, but it felt like we were the only ones. We stared at each other for a long time taking each other in and I was awash in relief that he had arrived safely, an immense feeling of joy and an overwhelming peace, just me and my sweet boy.