Written and Shared with Permission by Emily Brumwell
Originally written and posted at https://www.brumwellphotoblog.com/2021/11/01/felix-wilder-birth-story/
If you know me, you know that this is going to be super long and wordy. I love photos, but I also love super detailed stories so here we go…
It is still humorous to me that the last wordy post I made (about pregnancy insomnia of all things) was written the day before we met Felix. I wrote “Next step, meeting baby boy!” at the end of that post truly thinking it would be at least a week, but probably way longer, before anything happened. Before October hit, I was super convinced that I would go way past my due date. Xavier was born 17 days late, I was born 9 days late so I assumed our baby would follow suit and take his time.
But then I started having stronger Braxton Hicks during the first few days of October. A few times they made walking or sitting difficult, but they always went away if I ate or took a nap or changed my surroundings. I kept telling myself I had to make it to October 4th so that Xavier could start his job and get paternity leave. I was intentional to listen to my body and do whatever I needed to do to stop the practice contractions any time they started. Natalie and my mom were convinced I was “getting close” and I had at least one meltdown about missing the October 4th goal by going too early. But then Monday rolled around and things were pretty calm. I had almost no contractions that day and I scheduled a few house showings for Tuesday afternoon while we were having inspections done on our house. My dad graciously offered to go with me since one of the houses was a potential fixer upper and I wanted his input.
Tuesday ended up being a longer day that I anticipated. By the time we started to head for home, I was feeling very uncomfortable. I assumed my Braxton Hicks were so strong because I hadn’t eaten very much for lunch and it was nearing dinner time. I focused on breathing through them but the bumps in the road were making me so irritated. My dad dropped me off at home right as two friends showed up to drop off food. I was feeling desperate to have everyone out of my house… it was getting hard to focus and I just wanted to eat and lay down. They left and at 6:15pm I realized our foster care licensing worker was coming at 6:30pm to do our annual foster renewal interview. I texted Xav, scarfed down dinner with girly and drank a ton of water. If I wasn’t going to be able to lay down, I thought that maybe eating and drinking water would slow the contractions. I texted my midwife and she recommended a relaxing shower and early bedtime. We spent the rest of the evening checking our fire alarms, answering interview questions, and reviewing some of our bills from 2021 while I used the chair rail in the kitchen to massage my lower back. I was trying to focus on breathing and rolling my back on the wall so I’m sure some of my answers were super funky, but I honestly don’t remember what the questions were.
As soon as we were alone, I told Xav I needed to tell him about the houses I had seen so we could make an offer and so I could go to bed. I didn’t end up falling asleep until close to 3am. At 6am on Wednesday October 6th (the day before my due date), I woke up and texted my mom. Xav was getting ready to leave for work and I was so uncomfortable that I didn’t think I could walk girly to the bus stop. She had me time some contractions and send her the results. They were 45 seconds long and coming every 3-4 minutes.
For most of the first half of my pregnancy I was in survival mode. I was living day by day and minute by minute. The start was just so rocky that I was having a hard time picturing anything other than what had happened before. At one point, a nurse asked me what my birth preferences were and I just shrugged and said I would cross that bridge when I came to it. She had me sign a paper that stated I acknowledged that I would get no postpartum care with them if I had the baby outside of a hospital. At the time, I thought it was silly and pointless to sign because of course I would have the baby at a hospital. As the days slowly rolled into weeks, it started sinking in more and more that this baby was in fact real. We decided to find out the baby’s gender, in part, to help me start to connect and bond with this little one. I relied heavily on my OB for the first 16 weeks as I took medication and stayed on pelvic rest. As I started to get a little tummy and began to feel flutters around week 17, I also began to get a few red flags about my OB. In May, I asked my OB office if I could switch to the midwives at the same practice since they all deliver at the same hospital and work so closely together. I spoke with one of the midwives on the small team of providers and she said I could switch in June after my 20 week ultrasound. I had the ultrasound and everything looked good enough to move the pregnancy to a “low risk” category. The OB came in to talk to me and, out of nowhere, started lecturing me on trusting my care providers. Maybe she had heard I had been asking questions or maybe she just didn’t like that I was switching to the midwife team at her practice. But I sat there in shock as she told me that I would need to make sure I listened to my providers when they said it was time to induce me at 38 or 39 weeks. She mentioned that I was going to have a big baby and that I don’t want to risk having him get too big for me.
Combined with all of the other red flags, that was a turning point for me. I felt like the OB was telling me that she doubted my body could birth this baby. I had already battled through so much self doubt about my body’s ability to have a healthy pregnancy and I left the office feeling frustrated. I decided to look into alternative options a little bit more. I interviewed one of my dear friends, Marissa, who had had a home birth and was planning another one and I remember that she told me to just keep asking questions. I reached out to Rebecca at Allomother Midwifery on June 11th and during our very first phone call, she spent SO much time answering my massive list of questions and talking to me about my fears and concerns. Two weeks later, Xavier got a job offer for a position in Ann Arbor and we decided to stay in Lansing until after the baby was born so that we could have Becky as our midwife for a home birth.
The mental part of labor is almost as crazy as the physical part if it. When my mom showed up at 7am, I was leaning over the kitchen table, breathing heavily through contractions… part of me knew these contractions were different than before, but I was also concerned that they would suddenly stop and that I would have ended up wasting everyone’s time. I had sent Xav to work because I didn’t want to feel guilty for having him home on his third day at his new job if nothing was going to happen, but I was also torn because I knew this was different than previous days. At 9:45am, Becky came to check on the baby’s heart rate and I had her do a cervical check to see where things were at. The contractions hadn’t spaced out at all and I was hoping that the sudden intensity and duration meant that things were moving at a quick pace. I ended up only being dilated 2cm and Becky left my mom with me to do the Miles Circuit and get some rest. It definitely made things more intense and around 1pm I started getting emotional and I asked my mom to text Xav. I was in the birth pool an hour later when Xav got home and Becky came back to check on my progress. Around 4pm things were starting to feel real. The whole birth team showed up and I was having to really work through contractions. I felt a weird sensation and thought I felt pushy. I got out of the pool and dried off so that Becky could do another cervical check (I was worried about pushing too early). Turns out it was good that she checked, because I was only at 4cm… nowhere close to being dilated enough to push. The news was so discouraging. I knew that was the risk of getting cervical checks – number disappointment and mental fatigue but I was also thankful that I had gotten checked instead of simply pushing.
The midwives offered to stay, but by then I had found out that they had been up all night with Marissa who had her baby earlier that morning! I sent them home so that I could process my disappointment in the slow progression and so that they could hopefully get some rest. I knew dilation could happen at different paces and that I could jump in numbers pretty quickly… but having labored for the entire day with no real breaks to only be at a 4 was so exhausting. Xavier got down, near my face and he could see the fear and desperation starting to creep into my eyes. He grabbed my shoes and announced that we were going for a walk. The last thing I wanted to do was go for a walk, but I let him put my shoes on and help me to the front door. We did the half mile loop around our neighborhood pond and every time I needed to stop, I would lean on the fence while Xav pushed on my back. The weather was amazing and being outside for half an hour was extremely calming. Despite still having contractions close together, the intensity seemed to be less while I was outside. When we got home, my mom suggested a nap and I somehow fell asleep for 30 minutes. It felt amazing to be able to rest but I woke up to a massive contraction. I came stumbling out of the bedroom and collapsed onto the birth ball in our living room. Xav and my mom were the sweetest pair of supporters. I took turns squeezing their hands and arms and they took turns trying to feed me bites of applesauce and sips of water. They never once voiced any doubt or fear, but they kept telling me that I could do this, even when I thought I couldn’t. They kept asking me if I wanted Becky to come back, but I felt so unsure of where my mind and body were at and I knew I couldn’t keep going if I heard that I hadn’t made any progress.
About an hour later, I was really out of it but I started feeling like I wanted to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Becky came at 8:30pm and watched several contractions. She decided to check everything out an hour later. I don’t remember much from this point but I had lots of people who helped me reconstruct the timeline. I do remember that she said the heartbeat and everything looked good but that she had to step out of the room for a second. When she came back in, she explained that the baby’s head was tilted and in a wonky position. My body was trying to correct the weird positioning with the intense contractions, but that’s why it had been slow progress all day. Becky also told me I was at 7cm and I felt a wave of relief! I started saying “I can do this!”. She had a long scarf that she had Xav use to try to shake my belly a little bit and get the baby to move. This made the contractions almost unbearable and after the scarf shake they helped me get back in the birth pool again… The water felt amazing. My water broke 20 minutes after I got in the pool and I immediately started pushing involuntarily. I don’t remember when everyone else showed up again, but all three midwives, my mom and Samantha were all there when Xav and I met Felix an hour later at 11:40pm.
It was the most magical feeling in the world to look into Felix’s eyes as he took his first cry and feel Xavier’s hand on my head and enjoy the moment together in our home. I instantly thought “I’d do this all again in a heartbeat”… The love and support we felt from our birth team was so astounding. They respected our space and cared for us in every way possible. At one point during my transition or pushing (I can’t remember) someone started reading one of my birth cards with Psalm 42:7-8 written on it. I don’t think I responded to it at the time, but it cut through the fog of labor land and calmed my soul. They helped me gently walk to our bedroom and we got to snuggle Felix for an hour while they tidied up our house and made us food. It didn’t matter that it was 2am and that they had been up for over 24 hours with births… they cared for us so amazingly and fully. The love I felt for my baby and my husband and the love that was shown to us that night will stick with me forever.
It seems like a crazy idea to switch healthcare providers at 24 weeks, but it changed the entire experience for us and I am so thankful! I knew Becky would keep an eye on everything and make the transition to the hospital if there was an emergency and she thought we needed it. It was so peaceful to labor at home (despite the sounds that came out of me :P) it was actually peaceful! Having someone who believed in my body’s ability to birth my baby and someone who got to know both me and my baby throughout the pregnancy was incredibly empowering and special. We are so thankful for God’s provision and His grace to us to bring our boy to our arms. How our hearts have ached for this!