Disclaimer: This is a birth story! It has a lot of details which may be considered TMI. If you aren’t comfortable reading it, then please don’t! 🙂
My pregnancy and birth with Amelia will always hold a special place in my heart, since we plan on having no more biological babies after this (and we really, really, really mean it, this time). Being pregnant for the third time (technically fourth) was very challenging, as I was more sick than I’d been with my previous pregnancies. I experienced nausea throughout my pregnancy, as well as my usual pregnancy discomforts, the worst of which was heartburn nearly every day. While I always enjoy seeing my belly grow and the experience of growing my baby inside my body, I really did not love being pregnant, and I am honestly so glad it’s over! As for my birth, it was really the best birth I could have imagined, and I feel so blessed to have that as my final birth experience. I prayed most of all for a smooth, safe, and healthy birthing, and that is exactly what I had. God is so good!
Amelia Madeline Westropp was born on Wednesday, October 14th, 2020 at 10:38 PM. She was born at home, completely unmedicated, in about 6 ½ hours from start to finish. She was 20 inches long and weighed 7 lbs 5 oz. Here’s how it all happened.
On Wednesday, October 14th, I was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant. Cory was on paternity leave, starting on Monday the 12th, and my mother-in-law Marsha came over in the morning for her weekly overnight visit to help out with the kids. I had my weekly prenatal appointment with my midwives that day at 11 AM.
One week before, at 39 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy, I’d asked the midwives to sweep my membranes, a way of encouraging birthing to begin, but it hadn’t brought on any waves. At that point, I’d been about 2 CM dilated, 20% effaced, and baby was about -2 station. I’d also lost my mucous plug on Sunday, at 40 weeks, which is a sign of the cervix beginning to dilate.
On the 14th, I was feeling anxious to get my birthing time started because I was worried about the increased risks to baby of going past 41 weeks of pregnancy. I was considering going to the hospital for an induction if I didn’t have her by then, but was also considering following the original plan of waiting until 42 weeks. There’s a lot of gray area in terms of research and evidence for the safety of continued pregnancy versus induction between 41 and 42 weeks, so I was really struggling with the options and hoping it wouldn’t come to that point.
So at my appointment, I asked for another membrane sweep as well as a foley balloon “induction.” For those not familiar, membrane sweeping is done by brushing a finger around the inside of the cervix to stimulate further dilation, effacement, and possibly birthing waves. The cervix must be at least 1-2 CM dilated already in order for a sweep to be done. A foley balloon induction involves inserting a tiny balloon just inside the cervix and then slowly inflating it with saline to further dilate the cervix and encourage birthing waves to begin. Foley balloon inductions will only further dilate the cervix to 3-4 centimeters before the balloon is fully inflated and will slip out, and is then thrown away.
For both of these procedures, many women say that they feel mild to extreme discomfort, but fortunately I’ve never experienced any discomfort with membrane sweeps, and the foley balloon was equally fine for me. No biggie! I figured that even if it only got me an extra centimeter or two, maybe that was what my body needed to get things going.
It can take a few hours, or even up to 24 hours for a foley induction to be finished and the balloon to fall out. For me, it took only 2 ½ hours, and came out at about 2:30 PM. For the next couple of hours, I focused on encouraging birthing to begin by staying in a quiet, dark, room by myself and listening to my birthing time worship music playlist and praying.
At about 4 PM, I noticed that I was having some more intense waves at seemingly regular intervals. My doula checked in and encouraged me to eat some good protein to be well-nourished in case my birthing time was starting, so I did that. Then I went to rest some more and started timing my waves. They were coming about every 6 minutes, lasting about 30 seconds, and staying strong. After an hour, they were still continuing and starting to move closer to 5 minutes apart and 30-40 seconds long. I tried moving from laying down to sitting on my birth ball to test out how consistent they would be with a change in position. The pattern wasn’t as consistent when I changed positions, but the waves didn’t stop. They started ranging from 2 to 6 minutes apart, and sometimes were only 30 seconds but a few reached closer to 60 seconds. After about an hour and a half total of timing waves, I called my midwife, Alicia, to let her know I was noticing a good pattern. Then I texted my doula, Grace, and we decided that she could start getting ready to come over.
My mom video called me to see how I was doing and I shared that I was most likely in my birthing time. I also texted my family to pray for me and Amelia, but decided to wait to text my friend prayer group until I was more certain it was really happening.
While I was waiting for Grace to arrive, my waves were becoming intense enough that I was 90-95% sure I was in my birthing time. I asked Alicia if she thought she should come as well, and she suggested having Grace check me (since Grace is also an experienced midwife) and go from there. Meanwhile, I told Cory things were heating up and asked him to inflate my birth pool and start filling it up. He was surprised because he hadn’t realized it was that “serious” yet. We’d always had so much more leadup to birth, with a really long early birthing time, so this was a totally new experience.
At this point, I was moaning through my birthing waves; not in pain, but just from the intensity of them and knowing that low tonal sounds can be helpful for working through them. Grace arrived at 7:45 and checked me shortly after, finding that I was about 8-9 CM dilated, with some cervix left in the back. “I had a feeling,” I told her with a smile. I was happy to hear the news, but also cautious because of how quickly I’d dilated with my previous births without easily progressing further.
She went to call Alicia to come, while I got into the birth pool. Cory texted my prayer group to let them know I was in my birthing time. I kept the room dark and had my birthing time worship music playing throughout my entire birth, which I believe was helpful for my body and mind to stay relaxed. I also spent the majority of my birthing time in the pool from that point on, even though I’d planned on alternating more between lying down, sitting on my birth ball, and the pool. I did spend a little bit of time lying down, but most of it was in the pool. I did a lot of squatting leaning back, trying to encourage the rest of my cervix to open. I also did some hands and knees, and squatting leaning forward with my arms supported over the edge of the pool.
Cody and Abi came to visit me throughout this time, and Abi got in the pool with me for a while. She laid her little hand on me during my waves to comfort me, which was so sweet. Cody was a quiet, shy observer for the most part, but he stayed in the room for longer.
During my active birthing time and transition stage, my waves were very strong and intense, and I started feeling some anxiety about getting through them. I asked Grace to read my birthing time affirmations with encouraging scriptures, and leaned on God for strength and comfort. Cory was great at massaging my lower back and encouraging me with my “RELAX” hypnosis cue and reminders to breathe deep and slow.
After a little while, I laid down in bed and reached for Cory to cuddle, feeling like I needed some comfort. I whispered to him that I was scared and it was really hard. He encouraged me and reminded me that I’d done this twice before and could do it again.
When I got back in the pool, at 8:30, Alicia arrived and her student midwife Julie arrived soon after. They checked my temperature and blood pressure, and started to monitor Amelia’s heart rate after every few pressure waves. Everything was looking good, and I was reassured that all was well.
Just before 10, Grace suggested that I could try feeling for Amelia’s head if I wanted. I felt something else instead– my amniotic sac bulging almost to the entrance of my birth canal! I described it and Grace told me what it was. It felt like a water balloon, but with a thicker skin. She asked if I wanted the midwives to break it, which could encourage Amelia’s head to come down. I said yes, please!
Julie tried to break it with the amnio-hook, but it was so strong that she had trouble. Alicia checked to make sure it was my amniotic sac, which it was, and helped walk her through it. We did it in the water, and I felt the warm gush as my water broke. The midwives confirmed that the water was clear, which is a good sign.
They checked Amelia’s heart rate again, and it was slightly elevated. Alicia said it was most likely from head compression from moving down into the birth canal. They had me take some focused deep breaths, and her heart rate calmed.
It wasn’t long until my waves changed dramatically. I’d already noticed slightly trembly feelings since about 7:30, but I suddenly felt very shaky. Then my waves were PUSHING waves, without a doubt. I felt a powerful bearing down urge and my body pushed voluntarily several times with each wave. My entire body would shudder as I pushed, and the noises coming out of my mouth were something like a sumo wrestler might make. It was loud, and I simply couldn’t help it. My birth team encouraged those low, deep groans– the deeper and louder the better! Cody had gone to sleep in his bed (which is in our room) a little while earlier, and I was shocked that I didn’t wake him up. (Abigail had gone to bed with Marsha in the guest room.)
I felt Amelia’s head moving down and knew I’d be holding her soon. I pushed for about six waves, if I had to guess– the time is obviously a blur, but it only took 40 minutes to push her out. I remember the wave where I felt she was almost crowning, and the wave after that where I felt the most intense stretching sensations and knew she had to be crowning. After her head came out, I found out later that she opened her eyes and looked around under the water.
My midwives suggested to bring one of my legs forward into more of a lunge position, as I had been squatting leaning forward before that. I did so, and I pushed my hardest, not wanting a repeat of Abigail’s shoulder dystocia. I was asked if I wanted to catch her, or for Cory to, and I just said “you do it.” Within a minute or two, she slipped on out and I reached down to find her. They handed me my baby while I, apparently, shouted “baby, baby, baby!” She was born at 10:38 PM.
I pulled her up to my chest and stared in wonder and incredible relief at my little girl. I couldn’t believe it was already over! I felt immensely triumphant, and shouted out, “I f***ing did it!” to the laughter of everyone else.
Because of my history of postpartum hemorrhage, we’d already planned on a managed third stage (the delivery of the placenta). That involved drinking an herbal concoction just before Amelia was out, and getting a shot of pitocin right after. They helped me to the bed with Amelia, and we waited for the placenta to come out. Our plan was effective in leading to a pretty quick delivery of the placenta with minimal bleeding.
After that, though, my bleeding did pick up again, so I was given some misoprostol and another pitocin injection, along with uterine massage. The bleeding wasn’t hemorrhage-level, but it was getting close and my midwives wanted to be conservative, which I appreciated.
I worked on getting Amelia to nurse throughout that whole time, and she struggled at first but was able to get latched on after a few minutes. We eventually decided that getting my belly bound up could be helpful for controlling the bleeding, as well as emptying my bladder. So we cut the umbilical cord, which had long stopped pulsing, and I handed Amelia off to Cory. After my belly binding, we very slowly and cautiously walked to the toilet, and after a minute I was able to pee quite a bit. I hadn’t realized how full my bladder was, and how important an empty bladder is to helping the uterus stop bleeding. I went back to the bed and finally passed a good-sized clot, and that was the last of the bleeding.
Then the midwives were able to stitch up my small tear (which they said I could choose to either leave alone or have stitched). It was a challenge because I had a lot of swelling, so it took a while. Marsha was holding Amelia while I was being stitched. Afterward, she came back to me for a quick nursing while getting her vitamin k shot, before her newborn exam. She cried briefly for the shot, but nursing did seem to help distract her.
After that, Julie did her newborn exam, and everything looked good. Amelia cried for most of the few minutes it took. When it was time to weigh her, we all gave our guesses; mine was 7 lbs, Cory’s was 6 lbs 12 oz, and Alicia’s guess from her last in-the-womb exam was 6 lbs 13 oz. She was 7 lbs 5 oz, just an ounce more than Cody was, and 20 inches long (both Cody and Abi were 20 ¼ inches long).
By the time everything was finished, it was nearly 2 AM. The midwives left, and we went straight to bed, which was weird for us!
Amelia’s first night was surprisingly restful, and she was a great sleeper. She woke up to nurse a few times, but slept soundly otherwise. I got a decent sleep in, too. In the morning, I was the first one up and I took Amelia to my rocking chair to wait for the kids to wake up so they could meet her. Cody got up first but needed a few minutes to go downstairs and wake up fully before he was ready for the introduction. When he did come in, he said she was cute and looked like a baby doll, and that he couldn’t believe she was born. When Abi woke up, she was completely enchanted and wanted to hold her. (She’s been pretty obsessed ever since then!) She gently stroked her baby sister’s head, face, and hands, and said she was so cute and that she was going to play with her and teach her how to walk.
We’ve been settling in together since then, and adjusting to being outnumbered by children! Amelia wants to nurse and be held a lot, as expected– and I’m not holding back because I really want to savor this last baby.
Since Amelia’s birth, I’ve been nothing but happy. Not only is my precious baby finally here, but I had the most amazing, fast, and smooth birth experience I could’ve imagined. It wasn’t easy, or painless. “Pain” doesn’t feel like the right word to me, but it was incredibly intense, challenging, and at times overwhelming. It felt like my body was trying to tear itself apart at times! I had the most discomfort around my pubic bone this time, and some discomfort in my lower back (but not as extreme as with Abigail’s birth). The crowning feeling was also more intense this time, and I remember thinking that I was probably tearing and hoping it wasn’t going to get worse (even though I ended up with only a very mild first-degree tear). But the fact that it only lasted about 6 ½ hours from start to finish is pretty amazing, and I was so grateful that it went so well. What a way to end my final pregnancy!
I give the glory to God for helping me through my pregnancy and birth, and blessing me with such a beautiful family. My amazing husband and now my three beautiful children are the most precious gifts I’ve ever received, and I feel blessed beyond belief. As always, I couldn’t imagine getting through the challenge of birth without God’s presence and strength. He is my rock and my fortress at the times I’m at my weakest, and he gives me the strength to do hard things. I’ll be forever grateful for three beautiful, unique birth experiences, two of which were natural and at home– but all of which were amazing, empowering, and life-changing.
Welcome to the world, Amelia Madeline. You are a precious treasure.