the birth of river jeremiah

The Start of My Labor

My water broke at 1:00pm on August 10th, which I immediately thought was crazy and hilarious, since John kept saying my labor was going to start with my water breaking. I have been all about statistics this pregnancy (it's easy to debate homebirth with people when good statistics are on your side), so I kept telling him "only 15% of labor starts with a woman's water breaking, so I don't think that's going to happen." I also thought it was crazy and hilarious because it was only 2 days after River's estimated due date, and I expected him to be a week late, if not more. Two days isn't bad for a first time baby (first-time mommies are 8 days late on average. See? Statistics are handy.)

Our air conditioner was out at our apartment, so we'd spent the night at the church, and John had just gone downstairs to work 15 minutes earlier. I was half-snoozing when I felt a small stream of water, and at first I thought I had peed in my pants, which was strange since it's not everyday I involuntarily,or voluntarily, for that matter, wet myself. I ran to the bathroom and called John, saying "This might sound crazy but I think my water just broke." It felt weird to say that. It sure sounded crazy to me. I knew I was 9 months (uh, 10 months?) pregnant, but seriously, did I actually have to give birth? WHAT?!

John came upstairs to, well, do nothing I suppose, and then went downstairs to send off a few emails before going home. I started happily packing up my things, thinking "Oh hooray, we'll have a baby by tomorrow morning!" and joined him downstairs, where water gushed twice more before we finally went home, soaking my pants. How awkward. And they say you probably won't be in a public place even if it does happen. Thanks, What to Expect, for trying to put my crazy pregnant mind at ease.

At the exact moment I started climbing the stairs to our apartment, I had a contraction. It was 45 minutes after my water first broke. It was crampy, but not bad at all, and I was so excited and relieved that my labor was actually starting. I kind of figured it never would. (I don't know how I expected the baby to actually enter the world.) The maintenance man was still fixing our AC in the apartment, so I decided to take a shower to keep cool and pass the time. I got out twenty minutes later when the contractions started getting a little harder, and John called my friend Samantha for me, who I had planned to have at the birth. I gave her a list of things we still needed for the birth, and when I was about to get off the phone ten minutes later, I realized I had had about five contractions during the conversation. They were like mild menstrual cramps - I could talk through them, but they were a bit painful. Nothing I couldn't easily handle.

Labor Gets Difficult

She called me back a few minutes later and said she was coming over right away, because it sounded like I was going into active labor, and that her sister Grace was going to stop at the store . This is when things started getting a little foggy. I'm pretty sure Sam showed up around 3:00 pm, and she immediately started timing my contractions, which were all thirty seconds to two minutes apart, and very sporadic. Within the next hour, three calls were made to my midwife that went a little something like this..

1. 3:15pm: It's Whitney. Oh yeah, I'm doing great. They are painful, but I can still talk through them. No worries!

2. 3:34pm: Um, hi. It's Samantha. I think Whitney's in active labor. Yeah. They are getting stronger and closer together.

3. 4:20: It's John. Uh, Whitney needs you. Now.

So, as you can see by my very descriptive story of my labor, everything happened very quickly. Sometime during the last forty-five minutes, Samantha's sister Grace and their sweet aunt Beate arrived at our apartment. Beate and Sam were helping me through contractions and rubbing my back while Grace and John were running around (probably like chickens with their heads cut off - but like I said, I don't remember much after about 3:15) getting things ready (I assume). Right after John got off the phone with her, Alisa lef for our apartment. Salli, the assistant midwife, had left her home a while ago to come check on me and update Alisa on my labor and was expected to arrive before her (Alisa had sprained her ankle just two weeks before and was avoiding walking if she didn't have to) - my whole pregnancy, I warned John that I might get very grumpy during labor, but the bitchiest thing I said (or grunted between contractions, rather) was "I don't want that other midwife - I want Alisa!"


During my whole labor, I kept running a typical first birth through my head - I was expecting this to last at least 12 hours, and the first few hours of labor to be easy enough for me to continue through my day. At one point, when I had been laboring for about two hours, I told Beate after a very hard contraction, "I don't want to go through hours more of this." And she said, "Oh you won't...this baby is going to be here very soon." I remember not believing her, but hoping with all my heart she was right. After another contraction, I said I didn't think I could do it. I heard so many women say the point where you don't think you can handle any more is right before the baby is about to arrive. I thought I was just being a baby, but I held onto that bit of knowledge.

[I must take a moment to explain a revelation I had about my birthing experience. After I gave birth to River, I knew that what every other woman had said about a planned, drug-free, relaxed birth was so true - that it was an amazing, empowering experience. But one thing I didn't understand when I was reading others' birth stories was that women used the word "intense" to describe their contractions getting harder. I wondered if that meant more painful, or something else, and if it did mean pain, why didn't they just say pain instead of confusing and scaring a poor, young, about-to-birth mama like myself? There are enough unknowns already! After I gave birth, I was telling my story to someone and realized I was using the same word - intense. I thought about why I was using this, because my contractions were very painful, and when they got more intense, that does mean the pain intensified. Then it dawned on me - in our society, we associate the word "pain" with negative things. But my birthing experience was anything but negative - it was the best experience in my life. Just thought I would let you in on that little birthing secret. ;)]

Sure enough, I was in transition, and started feeling like I might throw up. This was one of my biggest fears, but I had come to a point of acceptance before I went into labor that if I threw up,
everything would really be okay, and besides, it might help me dilate a few centimeters. I ended up not throwing up, but realized what I was feeling was the need to push. Weird to get those things confused, but that's how I experienced it. I started grunting a lot during my contractions and didn't even realize this was my body trying to tell me to push. Alisa arrived at about 4:45, and checked to see how much I was dilated - I was 9.5 cm. She told me I could breathe through the next few contractions and push when I reached 10 cm, or I could push if I wanted, but that she would have to push the lip of my cervix back so that I was fully dilated and it might hurt. I couldn't imagine just breathing through the next few contractions, and also couldn't imagine anything could hurt more than these contractions, so I decided to push.


I got in the birth pool that had magically been blown up during sometime for which I was apparently not present (I was busy in Labor Land, as my midwife calls it). The warm water was amazing and helped so much with the pain. I grunted a lot through the first push, and Alisa told me to use all that energy to push downward. I remember that not making sense at first (my head was very foggy), and asked her to say it again. Once I got it, it helped more than I could imagine, and after the first few pushes, I got the hang of it. I can't remember if I could feel River moving down at first, but I do remember a bit later, when I realized how freaking huge he was, and wondered how the hell that head was supposed to fit. This is when I experience fear for the first time, but this is also where the labor got truly amazing. I realized I was scared, and even voiced "How is this supposed to come out?" but I was also thinking of all the natural (planned) births I had read about. In Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, she talks about how much psychology has a hand in having a good birth experience, and that women who were scared, embarrassed, sad, or upset (or any other negative emotion) wouldn't progress in their labor, or sometimes their labor would stop altogether. I reminded myself that this is what my body was designed to do - that women thousands of years before me had given birth naturally, perfectly, and were just fine, and that I would be holding my baby in my arms in just a short while. I decided to push through the pain. I could feel him moving down, and reminded myself that it was two steps forward, one step back - but that every push was a step closer to having my baby.

The whole pushing experience was worlds better than trying to deal with contractions. Pushing through the contractions sort of masked the pain, and made time go by so quickly. I was exhausted, like I hadn't slept in forever, and rested against John between pushes. Despite the pain, it was a very calm, relaxed time during the labor.

River, Meet World

When Alisa told me I was crowning, I couldn't believe it. Even though I had been pushing for almost an hour, I had no concept of time, and I could sit here today and tell you I pushed for ten minutes. She asked me if I wanted to feel the baby's head, but I said no (I understand why, but I am still surprised!). I was concentrating so hard on pushing, I didn't want to stop or get distracted. After a few more pushes, she and John made me feel his head, and I'm so glad she did. What a hit of reality! His head was wrinkly and his hair felt like algae on a river rock (haha, seriously, no pun intended). Finally his head was out, and I was more than ready to get the rest of him out and hold him. Eventually, that happened too, and when he came out, I squealed...haha. I hate that word, but that's what I did. It wasn't because it hurt, at all, but because I was so ecstatic to have this little boy I had been bonding with for nine months, in my arms, FINALLY!

During my birthing experience, I felt such a strong connection between me and God, between me and River, and it gave me a better understanding, respect, and pride in my body and what I am capable of. One of the things I was worried about while I was pregnant was becoming too tired to give birth. I am a person who has zero resistance (totally and sadly out of shape). While I definitely got exhausted, I found strength in myself I didn't know I have. I feel like I gave River a gift, too. He was born in a peaceful, loving environment. I was the one who "caught" him. I was the first person to hold him. He laid on me and nursed within ten minutes of being born. And then he didn't leave me for a while, because I got to hold him as long as I wanted. He got to spend his first night of life in bed with me and John - in our home.
I can sit here today and say I truly enjoyed giving birth. I encourage ALL women who plan on having babies to RESEARCH birth. I am thankful to God that it is something he has given me as a woman - he created my body to do something incredible. If you are low-risk, consider drug-free birth. It is a beautiful, natural thing, not something to be scared of. It's not an illness that requires you to be hospitalized and pushed in a wheel chair. And it's something you are totally and completely capable of.


  1. for daddy's story visit: http://blogs.myspace.com/vintageunion

  2. Yay!! That was an awesome birth story! I loved all of your statistics and the thoughts that kept popping in your head.

    The birth of my daughter a year ago was a VBA3C and I did the same thing. Telling myself, "you are starting to lose it, so you must be in transistion. Transistion doesn't last long."

    Thanks for sharing.
    Beth aka MotherJoy @ the Shed

  3. i never tire of birth stories!!! chills! good job momma. :-)

  4. Sorry I meant... to post a link to my blog but instead I posted a link to our myspace music blog...

    Here's "river's very long short story from daddy's perspective:


  5. loved this post. am on my way to a homebirth soon, in a month, and reading this was so soothing & informative so, thank you for sharing! :)



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