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    Natasha Nailah’s Birth Story + Birth Photography

    (All photographs taken during my labor & delivery are by the lovely and talented Cynthia Dawson Photography.  Please do yourself a favor and follow her on Instagram! @cynthiadawson)

    Oh, sweet Natasha.  It’s been 3 weeks since she arrived, and I’m still in awe of how her birth all went down.  I spent months prepping for it- mentally & physically.  I read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, watched all the videos.  I was ready, man!!  Exceeeept that I actually wasn’t.  I made a plan for how I wanted to spend my time in labor, and the moment it happened I went entirely against that plan cause… well, because I completely underestimated just how intense (read: painful) this labor was going to get!  Bouncing on a birth ball?  YEAH RIGHT.  Laboring in a tub?  Well, it wasn’t available at the hospital, but that’s completely okay because I would have screamed if someone tried to stick me in it.  Listening to music, hypnobirthing tracks, huffing my essential oils… Nope. Nope. Nope.  I didn’t even want to hear anyone speak to me, let alone listen to music or have some woman whisper in my ear how each “surge is a wave of intensity that my body was enjoying riding” or whatever else I had spent months hearing while doing my nightly birth affirmation/hypnosis practice.  Good grief.  I’m not saying it doesn’t work…  But for this labor- nah.  I just had to go through it!

    I’ll tell you one thing, though- if I could do it all over again exactly as I did on that October morning, I would.  It was wild (and loud), and there were moments I felt like my body couldn’t possibly handle any more than it was already going through, but I came out the other side in complete and total awe.  In awe of myself, in awe of Dana for how incredibly supportive and strong he was through the entire pregnancy, labor, and birth, and in awe of the miracle of seeing and feeling a baby emerge from my body for the second time.  If I ever were to do this one more time, I wouldn’t even think of dulling that sensation.  Now that I’ve experienced it (and have had a few weeks to process it *wink*), I’m a big fan of the natural birth.  So here’s a slideshow of our photos, and here’s my story.  Hope you enjoy!

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    Contractions started out like they did every other night.  I had been going through weeks and weeks of false labor, so at first I didn’t know it was real.  But when I had the sudden urge to jump in the shower at 3 o’clock in the morning, I started to realize something was up!  It was a good idea, though, because my hair was greasy, I was dirty, and my legs were unshaved.  I needed a dang shower if I was about to let everybody see me in all of my glory.  😉

    I started timing the contractions and realized they were coming on about every 4-5 minutes.  I figured if they lasted like that for an hour, I’d know it was the big day.  But after my shower, they seemed to slow down a bit.  Dang it.  Soooo, there I was.  Clean, but annoyed that I was once again teased with false labor.  Back to bed I went.  It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later when I was hit with a contraction that was stronger than I’ve felt before that I realized that there’s no way labor wasn’t starting.  Today WAS the day.  How exciting!  And nerve wracking…

    I continued to have contractions of this kind every 5 minutes, and I actually was having difficulty not moaning throughout the peak of them… which is what woke Dana up.  And Nadia!  By 4:30 a.m., we were ALL awake.

    But still I labored at home.  I blow dried my hair, determined to not go into the hospital like a hot (or wet) mess, and I plugged in my curling iron.  A little makeup never hurt anybody, right?  Contractions, contractions, contractions.  Okay, Marybeth.. it’s time to call the midwives.

    I called the answering service and was told that midwife Kim was on call tonight.  To be honest, I was disappointed that it wasn’t Irma or Shelby.  Or Erin.  Or ANY of them that I’ve met before.  Kim was the only one who was still a stranger to me, and she was about to deliver my child.  When she called back, I knew it would be okay, though.  She was sweet and gave me the option to wait it out a little longer at home or come in.  I knew I should probably come in, but I still wanted to wait.  She said I’d just know when it was time to leave.  Boy was she right…

    In the meantime, I called my birth photographer Cynthia and made a plan to text her on the way to the hospital so we’d get there around the same time.  After we hung up, I finished curling my hair and painting on my eyebrows… cause, you know.  That’s what’s important at such a time, right?  😉  By the time I was finished with that, the contractions were so hard and so painful that I knew I needed to go in ASAP.  I called my friend Kelsey and let her know today was the day we needed her to hang with Nadia.    (Don’t know what I’d ever do without you, Kels!) I heard Dana packing Nadia a bag for the day while I labored in the bathroom on the phone, on the floor, over the toilet.  Cause that’s when the vomiting began.

    “Dana, I think we waited too long!!!!  People don’t usually vomit until they’re close to transition phase… which is like right before pushing the baby out!!  We gotta go NOWWW!”

    Umm, go, we did!  He grabbed all of our bags while I moaned and cried and breathed and yelled through contractions that were only getting waaaay worse in intensity.  With as much practice as I did during the pregnancy, I knew it still wasn’t enough to get me through this without mild fear.  There’s no getting around it- I could think all the good thoughts, recite affirmations in my head, try tricking myself into thinking it’s just “waves” I’m riding- but it was pain.  Of the highest kind.

    We arrived at Kelsey’s at 5:58 a.m. and she immediately came outside to get Nadia from the back seat of the car.  She had Nadia tell me bye and “You’ve got this, mama!” which made me smile on the inside despite the fact that I literally couldn’t make any other face on the outside besides a furrowed-eyebrow-mouth-open-give-me-drugs-and-now expression.  Then we took off.  At 6:02 I called Cynthia to tell her we were on our way- I said that it would probably be best if she took off as soon as possible, too, because I didn’t think I’d be laboring very long.  Every single bump along Anthony Wayne Trail was a nightmare!!!  (Seriously, what’s with all the potholes?!)  The contractions had me closed off in my own world, and while I could hear Dana being calm and asking me questions to try to distract me, I couldn’t answer him.  The only words I could speak the entire drive were in a whisper… “Drive faster.”

    When we were 5 minutes away from the hospital, that’s when I began vomiting again, except this time it was all over myself.  Over and over and over.  When we made it to the parking garage, I could barely get out of the car.  My legs couldn’t hold me up.  The contractions were coming on every 2 minutes, and I was done.

    We got on the elevator, and I collapsed on the floor.  I was mortified because although I knew I looked dramatic, I couldn’t help it.  It was like my body was just doing whatever it had to do without me having the ability to override it with my brain. When we arrived at the main entrance, I couldn’t get up to walk- a lot of this is now a blur because all I remember doing is yelling out in pain and vaguely seeing someone come to us saying they’d get a wheelchair.  I was now deep into this labor.  I still tried to say thank you to anyone who was helping us during the 30 seconds between contractions, but I was completely incapable of doing any more than that.  So after the long car ride and my inability to get up to the 7th floor without a wheelchair and LOTS of help from people along the way, we finally made it to the labor and delivery ward a few minutes shy of 7 a.m.

    Someone met us outside the door when we buzzed in.  I was moaning out in pain while Dana wheeled me through the ward, and I heard someone giggle and say, “I know that sound. You must be Marybeth… I thought you’d be here about now.”  I believe it was Kim.  In Room 709 I went.  It wasn’t as I expected.  I looked around- it didn’t have the birth tub I had originally wanted, no birth ball, and goodness, are they about to hook me up to monitors?  Then another contraction hit, and I knew I didn’t care about ANY of the things I originally thought I’d use to ease the “discomfort” as I once called it.  Silly Marybeth… If someone tried to stick me in a tub or play music or diffuse essential oils or dear God, put me on a bouncy ball- I knew I’d SCREAM.  I needed to be in my own space.  And in bed.

    At this time, I had been in labor for 3-4 hours, and I knew there wasn’t much time left.  Two kind nurses that I’ll always remember (Sue and Cortnee) led me into the bathroom.  One of them gave me a hospital gown since we left our bag with my own gown in the car.  We had intentions that Dana would go back and get it (yeah right!  Like I’d let him leave me at that point!!!), but that’s ok. Sue asked if I could give her a urine sample.  I barely could get anything out, and I was in such pain that I couldn’t even concentrate on putting on the hospital gown either.  I opened the bathroom door with just my bra and undies on and mumbled something along the lines of “I can’t do anything…” and I heard them laugh and say I don’t have to wear anything if I don’t want to.  Thank the Lord.

    They led me to the bed where they put a fetal monitor on me.  I told Dana to text Cynthia so she’d know where we were.  A few minutes later she came in and I briefly said hi before another contraction hit.  Kim checked my cervix and said, “Good job!  You’re already at a 7.”  Goodness.  Seven cm dilated.  I KNEW I was at transition!  I vaguely remember saying something like, “Screw my stupid plan, I want an epidural.”  Which I really didn’t.  But at the time I was desperate for the pain to end… although, once again, I knew I was talking nonsense because if it came down to it I wouldn’t have allowed anyone to stick that needle in my back.  Kim looked at the nurses and at me and said, “You’re past the point of being able to get one.  This baby is coming soon.”  That’s when they offered the nitrous oxide.  YES, PLEASE.

    The next hour is a bit of a blur to me.  Contractions were horrendous, but I could hear baby’s heartbeat on the monitor and it was sounding great.  Okay, at least he or she is safe.  I can’t believe I’m going to discover in a bit if baby is a HE or SHE!  How exciting… but the contractions were keeping me from enjoying that thought for too long.  I took a whiff of the nitrous.  The mask vibrated against my face, and I felt myself breathing in that air as deeply as possible.  Nothing.  Nothing!  It’s not working!!!

    It’s possible it *was* working, but the entire time I used the nitrous, I felt like I was just breathing in air that had the placebo effect.  I was still in horrific pain, but the act of reaching out and grabbing onto something that I was told would help take the edge off made me feel like I wasn’t completely out of control of the situation.  I’ll never know if it was actually helping any, but that’s okay.  At the very least, it was a temporary distraction for a few seconds and helped me focus on taking breaths and not holding it all in.

    Because I was hooked up to the fetal monitor, I labored on my back and sides for a while.  I didn’t want to move until one of the nurses suggested I get on my hands and knees and rock my butt back and forth during each contraction to help get baby turned around.  They asked if I was having back labor, which I was- badly– and I was told this new position would help.  During my contractions in that position, I felt SO weak.  But I also felt comforted and some relief with Dana’s hands pressing against my back.  I also felt a second set of hands helping him- he told me later it was the student nurse Cortnee, and then I saw this photo Cynthia took.  God bless ’em.

    At this point, I was starting to get loud and yell through some of the “surges.”  Occasionally I’d reach out and grab the nitrous, but even that felt like a chore by this time.  Finally, I felt a pop and a big gush!  I turned my head to the staff and said, “I think my water just broke!”  They looked under the towel that was covering my lower half and said, “It sure did!”  For a second, I was scared.  I knew things could get much more painful after the waters break… but how much stronger could this be?!

    I don’t know how much time passed between my water breaking and my next statement, but it didn’t feel long.  I looked at Cortnee and said, “Umm, can I use the bathroom cause… I think I have to poop.  Like a lot!”  She smiled at me for a second then looked at Sue and said, “She said she has to poop.  We need Kim to come in.”  Sue then spoke up and told me that she was sure I didn’t have to poop but that it was actually time for me to push the baby out.  I said again (or at least I think I said it out loud- might have been in my head!), “Really, though, it feels like I have to poop.” Oh, childbirth.  Things get too personal during it, huh?  Kim came back in the room and checked my cervix.  She gave the news- “Alright, you’re fully dilated and ready.  I can feel baby’s head, so it’s time to start pushing.”

    Oh NO.  So many thoughts went through my mind.  Can I do this?  Am I actually going to poop everywhere?!  (I did. LOL!)  Is this going to be too much pain to bear?  What if this takes too long and I end up with a c-section?  Would I even object to having a c-section at this point?! Cause I just need this to be over with!

    They flipped me over onto my back.  Or side.  I can’t remember.  All I know is with the next contraction, I did feel the urge to push.  It wasn’t even voluntary at this point.  I simply couldn’t help but to really let my body do what it wanted and needed to do.

    And, of course, like I said, I did poo.  And pee.  😉

    Sue told me, “Don’t let any fear of anything like losing control of your bowels keep you from doing this.  We’re making sure you’re clean, so just push when you feel the urge.”  Don’t have to tell me twice, friend.

    I eventually ended up on my back in the traditional birth position (and by that, I mean the traditional in the United States of America)- legs pulled back, torso pulled down.  I swore I wouldn’t birth a child in this position ever again after being confined to it when it was Nadia’s turn to enter the world, but whaddya know.  Here I was again.  Except I couldn’t hold myself like this, so Dana took one leg and Cortnee took the other.  I can’t possibly explain in appropriate words what I felt next, but I definitely started to feel like a bowling ball was moving closer and closer down the most sensitive part on my body.  And it made me scream.  LOUD.

    I’d like to say that I “roared” our baby out because it sounds better, but the truth is, I screamed and moaned and screamed louder and louder and louder.  I felt like I pushed for a long time without making any progress, but each contraction brought the baby lower.  I didn’t open my eyes very long, but when I did, I’d see Dana looking at me with such pride.  Kim and the nurses kept telling me to push harder and keep going, but when my body would let up, I couldn’t keep pushing.  I was working with each contraction and listening to only my body.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so in tune with what it was trying to tell me.

    When baby’s head was r.i.g.h.t. there, I saw Dana make a face I’ve never seen him make before- I pushed again and then there was a head peeking through.  He looked down in amazement and said, “Wow- Marybeth, you’re so close…” and gazed back at me like he had just seen the coolest thing he’d ever witnessed in his life.  I recognized that face- it was the same expression my mom made as she stood in the same position 7 years prior when I was pushing out Nadia.  It’s the look of someone witnessing the miracle of childbirth.

    I pushed harder the next contraction and screamed louder.  The burn was starting.  Oh the burn!!!  When I let up on that contraction, I said, “I feel like I’m not making progress!!!  I’m trying!!”  Everyone assured me that I WAS making progress, slowly but surely.  Kim said, “Marybeth, reach down right now and feel this.”  She grabbed my hand and pulled it down, and between my legs poking out of my body was a soft head with hair on top.  I smiled for the first time in hours!

    A few contractions later, I knew I had to push like hell because baby’s head was sticking out and the burning was fierce!!!  I can only describe it as someone suddenly taking a torch and placing it between my legs.. and I finally fully understood why that sensation/moment is always referred to as “the ring of fire.”  I knew I didn’t want to stay like this much longer.  I looked Cortnee directly in the eyes as she held onto my right leg.  She whispered, “You can do this.  You’re doing so great, and you’re about to have your baby in your arms!  Next contraction, just keep pushing and don’t let up.”  The other nurses and Kim were talking amongst themselves when I felt that final contraction coming on.  I nodded to Cortnee & Dana, closed my eyes, and let it begin.  I pushed and screamed, and pushed harder, and when I wanted to let up, I pushed even harder and screamed even louder.  I briefly looked at Dana who looked from me to the baby’s head and said, “Almost there, almost there” and suddenly I felt baby’s head emerge and within a matter of seconds an entire body come through the opening.  Immediate relief!  Dana looked at our baby and said, “A girl!” and I laughed and laughed and laughed as they put our beautiful Natasha on my naked belly and wiped her down!

    A GIRL!!!  Someone said, “Must be the nitrous!” because I couldn’t stop laughing, but Dana replied, “No… that’s just her!”  Yep, he had his wife back.

    I didn’t cry the happy joy-filled tears I did when Nadia emerged (likely because my body was practically in shock), but I felt that same joy and this time it came out in belly laughter.  I did it!  At 9:24 a.m. on Tuesday, October 30th, I had another child.  I had made it through the most intense labor my body has ever felt, and I pushed an 8 pound 2 ounce baby girl into this world safe and sound with no tearing and no interventions necessary.  I had never felt so proud of myself or my body in my entire life.

    When I got Natasha closer to my face, I got a good look at her.  Am I reliving my life 7 years ago?!?!?!  This baby looks JUST LIKE NADIA.   Holy Moly.  Two beautiful nearly identical girls- how perfect!

    Natasha had skin to skin contact with me for at least an hour, and during that time, she did the breast crawl and latched on wonderfully.  Maybe our breastfeeding journey will be off to a good start!  We studied her little features and took everything in.  I was just so over the moon happy.

    After some time went by, we talked a little more to Cynthia (who is pregnant herself!), and we allowed the nurses to do their checks.  Afterwards, Dana held Natasha for the first time while Cortnee took me into the shower and cleaned me up.  I had never been bathed in the hospital before, and I wasn’t even sure it was technically protocol.  (I mean, nobody bathed me when I had Nadia!)  I thanked her what felt like a thousand times when we were in there- not just for the much appreciated shower, but because she was such a support to me during that labor.  Her and Dana were like the doulas I never hired.  When I was finished, they put me into a clean gown and wheeled us down to our room.  Before Sue and Cortnee left to head back to their ward, they both gave me a big hug.  I apologized for the millionth time for screaming through the labor because now that my head was back in the world, I was so embarrassed!  But they laughed and said there was nothing to apologize for, and Sue said she wished they could have recorded my birth to show how a mom roars a baby into the world.  Made me giggle.  😉

    In the next 24 hours, I had a lot of great nurses come by.  Sherri was one of them.  We bonded throughout my short stay, and the day we left, she wanted to be the one to wheel me to the car and hug me goodbye.  She even gave Natasha a handmade blanket knitted by volunteers “to remember them by.”  It tugged on my heart.  Kelsey even came to visit me the night Natasha was born and brought a bag of treats and goodies.  Honestly, there was just so much love all around!!

    The journey of motherhood for a second time hasn’t been without challenges, at least during this first week- breastfeeding went from great to being a nightmare then back to being okay, and now who knows what the heck I’m doing, but I’m giving it my best shot.  I’m also giving myself permission to take a step back and relieve the pressure I’ve put on myself to do everything “right” because doing my best is simply right enough.  Nadia has adjusted well and is loving her big sister role.  Natasha is a good sleeper, but she certainly has some of the late night quirks her big sister had at the same age.  It takes a lot of adjusting, but I know over time we’ll all settle in to our new family dynamic.  We’ve already done a good job and have made great progress in the past few weeks.  It’s been wild and beautiful, and I couldn’t be happier about our decision to open our hearts and our home to one more family member.

    Natasha Nailah, we are so happy you’re here.  Couldn’t love you more, precious girl!

    Thanks so much for reading!  XO

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