95% Pain Free – 100% Unmedicated & The Birth of Augusta Nicole

By Melanie Keeton

 

95% Pain Free — 100% Unmedicated

I had a spontaneous vaginal birth at 40 weeks plus four days. We made Scalini’s Eggplant Parm the night before and I went into labor the next morning at 4 a.m. so it worked for me.

Contractions were regular by around 9 a.m. and very manageable with the breathing I learned in my hypnobirthing class. We stayed at home until about noon when my contractions were getting stronger and closer together. We called my doula to come over and started getting ready to go to the birth center.

Melanie’s newborn daughter, Eleni Josephine

Melanie’s newborn daughter, Eleni Josephine

As we were about to leave, I threw up so that was a good sign that things were intensifying. Then, as I walked over to the front door, I heard and felt a pop and a gush and my water broke. I threw on a Depends, so glamourous, and we got in the car headed for the birth center.

That drive was horrible. Everything intensified drastically after my water broke and we were in the car driving over cobblestone brick roads.

By about 12:30 p.m., we arrived at the birth center and when they checked me, I was at 6 centimeters. My mom left to get my grandma, my husband went to the bathroom, and the midwives went to check on a woman in another room, so it was now just me and my doula.

They had the tub all ready for me in our room. I planned to go to the bathroom first and then get in. While I was sitting on the toilet, my body started pushing on its own. It freaked me out because the midwives had just told me I was only 6 cm along. I was afraid of hurting myself or something.

The doula called the midwives back in and they just told me to listen to my body.

I stood up and delivered my little girl standing in the middle of the bathroom. I used hypnobirthing “J” Breathing to breathe baby down instead of pushing but my body definitely was doing the work. I think I experienced a bit of that baby ejection reflex. She would have shot right out, but her hand was up by her face.

I had a small 2nd degree tear. Total transition was about 15 minutes and my “pushing” stage was about 15 min. My husband barely made it back from the bathroom in time and my mom, who is a doula herself, missed the birth. She got back about three minutes after I delivered, and I think I’m the only birth she’s ever missed.

Eleni Josephine was born at about 1:30 p.m.

 

The Birth of Augusta Nicole

 

With my second delivery, I had a few days of feeling a little crampy on and off where I thought maybe something was going to happen, but it always stopped.  I never had Braxton Hicks with my first pregnancy so that was a little confusing.

Melanie with her two daughters, Eleni & Augusta. Photograph by  Sofia Putrino

Melanie with her two daughters, Eleni & Augusta. Photograph by Sofia Putrino

The day she was born was just another day and I felt fine for most of it.  Later in the afternoon, I felt more and more uncomfortable but wasn't having contractions.  Around 8 p.m., I was uncomfortable enough that I just wanted to be by myself and not have to worry about Eleni, now a toddler.  The plan was for her to stay with my sister in law, Nicole, when I went into labor, but I wasn't sure if this was another false alarm.  I called my mom who told me it would be a good idea to have Eleni picked up, so I could relax enough to let my body go into labor.

I think Eleni was picked up around 8:30 or 9 p.m.  My mom was now at the house with us convinced I was in labor, though I wasn't so sure just yet, and Nicole's boyfriend, Ian, was on his way over too.  Ian is an acupuncturist who agreed to come to the house to give me a treatment. 

I hate the crampy feeling of early labor.  It's actually more uncomfortable and harder for me to cope with than actual contractions, so when he asked if I wanted needles that would help me relax or get things going, I said, "Get things going!"

My mom thinks I was crazy to say that as my first baby's labor was pretty quick, just nine hours total.  I laid on my bed on my side so Ian could place the needles in my back.  Almost as soon as I laid down and got two or three needles in, I got intense heartburn where I needed to sit up.  I also had a couple small contractions.  He took out the needles and I sat up which felt much better.  We then had the idea to sit me backwards in a chair in the living room, so I could stay upright and still get the acupuncture treatment. 

While sitting in the chair, my husband Clinton was on the phone with the midwives to let them know tonight was looking like the night, so they could be ready for our call to come over. Our midwife, Kayti, said to call her whenever we wanted her to come over as it would probably be awhile. She ultimately decided to head over to the house already and just sleep on the couch until we were ready for her help instead of waiting for a call. This was a good idea on her part, as I soon found out.

Just as Clinton got off the phone, Ian continued with acupuncture in my new upright position.  It almost instantly put me into active labor. This was around 10 p.m.  The contractions were strong enough that I needed to move and could no longer sit still enough for acupuncture. These were really intense contractions and they came one after another with barely any break in between.  It was very difficult to stay relaxed and focused with how intense it was and this felt completely different from labor with my first.

Clinton started filling up the birth tub while my mom suggested I get in the regular bathtub in the meantime.  The water helped a lot. We had prepared hot washcloths with lavender essential oil in the crockpot and I draped them over my belly with each contraction.  It felt amazing. The calming smell helped to distract me from the contractions.  At this point, we sent Ian on his way as I assumed it will be a few more hours and I didn't want him to just be sitting around with nothing to do.

At about 11:15 p.m., Kayti arrived and started getting her supplies ready. My mom was with me in the bathroom and helped me over to the birth tub.  The water heater ran out of hot water before we got the tub filled but it was suggested that now would be a good time to get in.  The warm water felt amazing.  In the birth tub, I could be upright and lean over the side with each contraction which was so much more comfortable than trying to be on my back in my bathtub.

Augusta born en caul.

Augusta born en caul.

This is when my mom could switch into photographer mode and Clinton could step in as my support.  He had been getting the tub and bedding ready while I was laboring, so it was nice to reconnect with him.  

I had some intense contractions in the birth tub.  I remember burying my head into the towel Clinton had draped over the side and holding onto his arms for support.  I looked into his eyes between each contraction and felt like I was telling an essay long story with each glance. 

This was HARD – way harder than my first baby.  The contractions felt completely different; they had the force of a train thundering through me.  It took all my focus to relax and surrender to the intensity but they were still getting away from me.  It felt like riding a tsunami and I was holding on for dear life.

At this point, around 11:30 p.m., Kayti was still unpacking her supplies so my mom called her over to check on me. Turns out, the baby was crowning!

Since we didn't have the tub filled all the way up yet, she said I needed to change positions, so the baby would be born into the water. In a water birth, you want to make sure they are born completely underwater and then come up to the air for their first breath.

Kayti and Clinton helped me get from hands and knees flipped over to my back.  Once you're in pushing mode its extremely difficult to move, so that was interesting.  Once I was on my back, I was able to do some much deeper breathing and try to slow down.  The downward force of my body pushing for me was insanely strong.  I tried my best to relax and open with each breath and use Hypnobirthing “J” Breathing instead of pushing to “breathe baby down.”  It felt like the baby was exploding out of me.

I heard Kayti say she was coming as I felt her move down and out into her Daddy's hands.  That's right, Clinton got to catch her.  

As I closed my eyes and took my sigh of relief, I heard Kayti say she was born en caul. This is extremely rare and means that she was born still inside the amniotic sac – my  water never broke. I got a quick glimpse of it before she broke out of the sac on her own on the way out.

melaniekeeton3

My daughter was handed over to me and I got to say hello for the first time to my beautiful Augusta at 11:44 p.m. after an hour and 45 minutes of active labor.

Shortly after she was born, our second midwife Sunshine arrived. She couldn’t believe she missed the birth but was there to help with all the postpartum care for me and baby for the next few hours before leaving us to bond with our new little one.  

I laid in bed with Augusta and nursed her for the first time while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing.  It was actively pulsing for around 45 minutes. We asked my mom to cut the cord. Augusta took to nursing no problem, which is always a relief.  She was calm and alert.  The midwives stayed until around 3 a.m. to make sure everyone was doing well.  I had a bit more bleeding than we wanted so after a few rounds of painful fundal massage and the most disgusting Chinese herbal drink I've ever tasted, I asked for the postpartum Pitocin shot.  That stopped the bleeding almost right away.  We were finally able to settle in for the night for the first time with our little Gus.

This birth experience taught me that I am strong and capable of amazing things. By trusting my body and my support system, I was able to surrender and be truly present for the birth my baby needed.  This birth taught me that I deserve to feel safe and supported and that I have amazing people in my life like my husband and my mom that want that for me too. Thank you, Augusta!

 
 

 
Photograph by  Sofia Putrino

Photograph by Sofia Putrino

Melanie Keeton - I’m a mom of two beautiful girls and founder of Returning to Birth, a project focusing on sharing birth stories with the specific focus of focusing on how birth can teach us more about ourselves. Check it out at www.returningtobirth.com.