This is the story of how Felix Ario came into this world. It was Easter morning and I was at 41 weeks pregnant with my second child, and definitely getting tired of playing the waiting game! I woke up before everyone else (never happens!!) and made a special Easter breakfast while I waited for my husband and our 3 year old son, Oliver, to wake up. Around 8:30 we all sat down to enjoy our fresh cinnamon rolls, fruit, and hot coffee. I loved having the quiet morning and special breakfast with my boys. My husband left to go meet his mom for church at around 10:00 (she was visiting us in Germany and also eagerly awaiting the baby’s birth), and on his way out my midwife showed up for an appointment. I set Ollie up with some cartoons and my midwife and I talked about my different options as far as helping the little man decide it was time to make his way out. I decided it was a good time to have her check if my cervix was dilated at all. She checked and could tell that I was already open to about 2cm, I also requested a membrane sweep. After that and some instruction on exercises to encourage the baby to get down and into the best birth position, she left and Ollie and I enjoyed a very cuddly, quiet and special morning together snuggled up on the couch watching cartoons. I knew that already being dilated and having had the membrane sweep were good indications that labor was definitely in my somewhat near future, but I did not at all have my heart set on it happening that day. Even though I assumed that day was not going to be the baby’s birthday, I still tried my very best to totally soak in that time I had alone with Oliver. I am so glad I did.
Once Ryan and my mother in law were back from church, we all had Easter lunch together then settled in for an afternoon nap. Once we were all up, i suggested we go for a family walk in hopes of helping encourage some birth action, also, that 3 year old of ours had been inside all day and needed to burn some energy! The 3 of us set out for a walk and all the while I kept having tightening contractions, nothing painful, but a ton of them nonetheless. Once back at our building and up the 70 steps to our apartment (I did lunges up all of them!), we decided to rent a movie and order pizza. While we all watched the movie and waited for the pizza to come, I decided to do some of the pelvic tilts and other exercises on my birth ball that my midwife had suggested. Around 6pm I could tell that the contractions were changing. I started to feel them more intensely and they even started to hurt.
I quickly re-downloaded the contraction tracker app that I had used during labor with Oliver and secretly started to track what I thought were just sporadic and very early labor contractions. At 6:30 I notified my friend, Ash, who lives a couple hours away but was coming to be my birth support and photographer, just to tell her that I was tracking contractions. She suggested that I track for another hour, then let her know if she should leave to start driving or not. So then at 7:30, after a couple slices of pizza and snuggles with my boys, I sent Ash a screenshot of my contraction tracker. She decided she was just going to come then, just be be safe rather than sorry! At this point I was still in denial that I was actually in labor! With Oliver everything was so gradual and I had hours and hours and hours of contractions that felt just like I was experiencing then at that moment. I knew that I was probably in labor, but I assumed it was still very early and I had quite a lot of work to do still. After the movie, Oliver went to go spend the night with my mother in law in the apartment about a mile away that she was staying in until the baby was born. I hugged and kissed him goodbye, knowing full well that would probably be the last time I held him as my only child, my baby. I let the tears fall for a good 20 minutes after they left, but by that time the contractions were getting so intense that I had to move on and focus on the work that my body had to do. I called my midwife then for the first time, at 8:30. I told her that I was in early labor and now that Oliver and my mother in law were gone, I was going to lay down and try to rest for a bit and that I would call her back in an hour or so.
During that next hour, Ryan came home from dropping off Oliver and his mom back at her apartment she was staying in, and Ash arrived (thank God!). And upon her arrival I told her where to find the wine (she had been soberly on call for me for the past 2 weeks, and birth is an event to be celebrated after all!) ;-) I found it strange that I was only able to labor while laying down on the sofa, and that I was seeming to not have much of a break in between contractions! At 9:30 Ryan decided it best to let my midwife know that she should come, if anything, just to check my progress. Just after 10:00pm, my midwife arrived and found me in what turned out to be transition!
Once she arrived my body went into labor over drive. My contractions were on top of each other, very strong, but still bearable! I was using coping methods such as envisioning my cervix opening like a blooming flower, I chanted my baby’s name, moaned, breathed down to him, and tried my best to think of making room for him to come down, making him feel welcome to the outside world. I asked my midwife to check my progress, and I remember saying that I was afraid to be told that I was only at 3cm or something, though deep down I knew that my body had been WORKING and working hard. Julia (my midwife) did a cervical check and much to my amazement she said that I was almost completely open! Hallelujah!! I wanted to throw a party right then and there! I had only been laboring for a little over 3 hours!! The end was in sight and I was going to meet my baby boy very soon! Deep down I knew I had been going through transition already and must be ready to push soon, as I had all the sensations of the baby moving down lower and lower, and the pressure was building in all the right places :-) Thank goodness Ryan and been so on top of getting the birth pool filled and at the right temperature, because I needed to get in right at that moment! And another shout out to my amazing doula of a husband, he remembered to ask me how many drops of what essential oils I wanted in the diffuser <3 I had long forgotten what essential oils were at that point, but he knew how important it was for me to have them used during my labor. He’s a good good man.
Anyway, I got into that water and things sure picked up. After a couple more contractions which also led to my waters breaking (about 3 seconds after my midwife offered to break them for me), that urge to push became overwhelming! It was a welcomed change from the pain of contractions, and I was excited to meet my baby!
With Oliver I pushed for 2 freaking hours, so I had no idea what to expect with this labor. In the water I felt so much more comfortable and in control. Throughout the whole labor, I actually never once felt out of control or panicky. I pushed as gently as my body would allow, never feeling panicked or scared. The burning sensation was almost unbearable, and at that point I do remember telling my birth team that I was DONE, haha, yeah right. I would say that it took about 6 good pushing contractions for the baby’s head to be born. And funny enough, after his head popped out, i had a VERY long break from contractions! I was squatting there in the water, just rubbing the baby’s head for what felt like 10 minutes! In reality, it was probably just a minute long break. I remember feeling his wet fuzzy hair and just being in awe and in shock that this was happening so smoothly and so quickly! He was already here! Well, halfway ;-) With the next contraction, he slid right out and I brought him out of the water and to my chest.
What an amazing feeling of accomplishment! My baby was here and in my arms, finally! I remember telling him how proud I was of the hard work we both did, that we had accomplished this amazing miracle together! His cord was very short so we needed to get the placenta out quite quickly. To get my contractions going again, the second midwife suggested we get the oxytocin flowing again with the help of some romantic kissing with my husband. I’ve always loved the idea of this, so I went no problem into this makeout session with Ryan… in front of everyone, me still in the water holding the baby and him awkwardly leaning over the side of the pool trying to reach me as best as he could… it was great haha! It must have worked though, because with just one position change, out came the placenta!
After hanging out in the water for a bit, snuggling and ooooo-ing and ahhhhhh-ing, my midwifes helped Felix and I out of the pool and onto the sofa, just a few steps away. Once the cord was done pulsing, Ryan cut the cord and my midwives started to examine the placenta to make sure it looked healthy and that it came out in its entirety. Upon examination, the midwives nervously exclaimed that Felix had a true knot in his umbilical cord! This can be a dangerous element to a birth, but thankfully all was totally well and fine.
After an hour or so of cuddling on the sofa and getting breastfeeding off to a great start, I swallowed a bit of placenta to help with my contracting uterus, I got a few stitches, used the toilet, showered off, my midwives did Felix’s check up, and then tucked us all into bed. Ah, I was in birth heaven!!! All night I just stared at my baby in disbelief that a birth could go so amazingly well, and fast! I was definitely on a birth high and could not be any happier. I had my sweet baby Felix in my arms at last, and I had the most beautiful and peaceful home water birth, everything that I had hoped for and worked so hard to achieve!
I wish these same feelings of peace, empowerment, confidence, strength and joy for all birthing women! It is possible! Your body is not broken! I hope this story encourages at least one woman to fight for a normal birth, a peaceful and joyous birth! You can do it!
And thank you to Ash Raddatz with Studio La Muse for the gorgeous photos!