January 27, 2016 started out like any other day; wake up at 6:30, quick shower, bite to eat, brush my teeth and start my commute to work. Down the hall, around the corner, down the steps, sharp right – and the day began. Of course morning emails were waiting, and a pile of orders pinned to my priority board. My husband, Christopher, and I had been trying for nearly 6 months for our first child. I’ve read 6 months is average, for some reason we thought it was going to be easy. Of course orders were on my mind that morning, but so was the thought of having our very own baby boy or girl. When you’re trying to have a baby, it’s always top of mind. That morning in particular, I got the idea that I wanted to take a pregnancy test – you know, just to check ☺. Imagine my surprise when the little blue (+) took the place of what I halfway expected to be a little red (-)!
For some reason I thought it had to be a false positive, and tried to get back to work. A few hours later, my curiosity got the better of me and I took another test – still positive. You’d think I’d be convinced at this point, but I still had my doubts. I called the local health center and ran in to do a “legitimate” pregnancy test that afternoon. Positive again! That’s when reality set in. I was so excited; I could hardly contain it. We were pregnant! If you’ve been in my shoes, you can imagine my level of productivity for the rest of the day – I could hardly work. It was a long afternoon but finally my husband came home and I shared the great news.
I once heard that natural, un-medicated, labor felt like you were dying. I’m not sure who said that, but the statement alone ought to have scared me away from even considering un-medicated labor – let alone a home birth! But I’m bullheaded and determined to have my way. Here’s the birth story of our first child – Ms. Payton Avery Cauley.
We hadn’t really ever considered a home birth. From the beginning, we started out like most couples. We were “in the system” and started going to regular check-ups and of course we had our ultrasound – but we didn’t find out the gender. An un-medicated birth was absolutely something I wanted. I wanted to experience every part of birth, even if I felt a little discomfort or what one might describe as pain. It wasn’t until a few months in that I began to consider and research a home birth. Experiencing birth for what it is in the purest and natural moment was what I desired most – and a home birth was just that. I have several cousins who have experienced a home birth and read countless stories of women proclaiming it was the best experience they’d ever had. I brought up the idea of having our baby at home with my husband, he was all for it. I remember him saying, “If I were a woman and had the opportunity to do something as amazing as having a child at home, I’d absolutely be in. I think you’re capable and I believe in you. The choice is yours, I’ll support you either way.” Being told it was my choice was something that stuck with me the entire pregnancy. I had the opportunity to choose how I wanted to have our baby, and I chose an at home birth.
At 39 weeks I was really antsy, and like many women say – I was ready to be done. I sort of expected to go a little over my due date and of course I also expected birth to be the hardest thing I’d ever done. My husband kept reminding me of the time we hiked into the Rocky Mountains, through snow, and camped in 7-degree weather – he said he didn’t know any other women that would do such a thing and if I could do that, I’d do just fine.
Saturday September 24th, I was planning to work all day and catch up on several wholesale orders. I was already behind and knew our baby was coming soon. I had experienced some irregular, mild cramping throughout the day – as close as every few minutes and as far as 15-30 minutes apart. Several times during the first half of the night I woke up because the cramping started getting a little more intense and painful. I could handle it but it was enough to wake me up. Pre-labor stuff still right?
While Chris was asleep, I got on my phone and downloaded a contraction timer app just to check in and make sure they weren’t too close together. The app was frustrating and didn’t make much sense so I dismissed it and went back to sleep. I woke up again at around 1:30 am, this time my husband woke up too and we just sat and talked for a bit. Around 2:30 it became harder to talk through the contractions. I found it most soothing to hum in a low voice to help me through each one. We finally decided we had better call our midwife to check in and ask that she head our way.
While we were waiting for our midwife to arrive, my husband turned on some low lights and began tidying up the house and preparing for what lay ahead. Around 4:00 am our midwife showed up. I was so excited she had arrived because I wanted to know if this was the real thing, or if it was just intense pre-labor. She checked my vitals and we talked a bit; my husband remembers her saying it’s likely I was just into pre-labor. She asked if she could check me for cervix dilation, just to be sure - what happened next shocked all three of us. I was dilated at a 7cm! It was finally time for the show to begin!
My husband and our midwife began prepping our room and were quietly chatting – I’m not really sure what they were talking about, I was a little preoccupied ;). The midwife’s assistant arrived soon thereafter, followed by our photographer at around 5:00 am. Before long my body began to do exactly what God designed it to do – contract. As a first timer, I really had no clue my body would do most of the heavy lifting on its own! I didn’t ask my body to push, and I didn’t strain or force anything – my body just knew what it was doing. Contractions on the bed were a bit uncomfortable so we tried a birthing stool for a few cycles. There isn’t a once size fits all or a this is how you must do it. Your body will tell you what’s right or wrong, what’s working and what’s not. I must say, the birthing stool was not right for me – it just wasn’t working… I hated it. I could feel baby coming and there was no way I was going to sit on his/her head!
We had rented a birth tub to use for a water birth because our jet tub is surrounded by 3 short walls and hard to access. Well, by the time we were going to start filling it up, the midwife had decided that we didn’t have enough time to do that. It was probably going to take an hour to fill up the rented tub and this baby was well on its way. I honestly think I chuckled out loud when she said that.
We quickly drew a bath in our tub. Once it was filled, I was ready to hop in. At this point it was very difficult to walk around. Not painful because of contractions but just very uncomfortable with a baby working its way down. The tub didn’t feel as good as I had thought. I was sweating and hot and having a warm tub didn’t feel much better on my body. I went from pushing on all fours, to squatting, back to pushing on all fours again.
As the baby slowly moved down, the midwife asked me to reach back and touch the head and I kept saying no because it was just a little weird! Well by the time I had successfully pushed the head out into the water, my husband encouraged me to reach back and feel the head! Oh my word the baby was almost here! The joy and feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming - and it wasn’t even over yet. A few minutes of pushing and an assist from my husband and midwife, out came baby Cauley. They brought the baby up out of the water and cupped him/her to my belly. OUR BABY WAS HERE!
A few seconds went by and after I recovered from the shock of how quickly the whole birth went, I looked down and shouted “IT’S A GIRL!” We were so sure it was a boy because this baby was BIG! My husband and I watched as she made a couple cat cries and wiggled around in my arms. She was so perfect.
After a few minutes of resting I held her as I was assisted out of the bathtub and into bed to deliver the placenta a little more comfortably.
(Soon after this photo was taken we found out our baby girl was 9 lbs and 11 oz! We were very blown away that she was so big!)
During the next two hours our midwife gave us a refresher on breastfeeding and healing care before we were left on our own. I was even fed pancakes in bed! When I think back to that day, all I remember was that our lives were completely different and changed in such an amazing and uplifting way. I was so thankful and amazed that God had blessed us to care for this little girl.
Just for fun. Payton Avery Cauley was born at 6:22 am. At around 8, my father-in-law called to find out if we were going to the early service at church. Through our laughs and giggles we let him hear Payton whine a little bit to give him the hint that our baby was here! All of a sudden he said “did you guys have a baby?!” It was the funniest phone conversation I’ve ever had. We weren’t quite ready to accept visitors, so we asked them to go to church and come back around noon. We put a plan together for an after church lunch, inviting my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their significant others (of course without saying a word to any of them as to why we wanted to have them over for lunch). Imagine their surprise when they showed up for lunch and there was a little baby to greet them!
Thank YOU for being a part of our journey and allowing us to pamper and spoil your precious babies in our clothing. You are part of our story!
(Photo Credit: Rachel Demand Photography)