Amias Charles was born on October 14th 2019. Normally, I share my birth stories soon after my baby is born, but this time was harder to share, emotionally. He was born two months after divorce papers were filed and at that time, that was something I didn’t know how to say. Now, a year later, Amias is turning one and I am here to share the story of his birth.
My labors are typically quick and simple, but I still had never given birth without someone there to support me. My close friend offered to be with me, which I gladly accepted, and I found a doula that would offer her services without charge (spoiler: he was delivered before they could arrive). Still, there were other things to arrange; how I would get to the birth center, if I would even make it to the birth center, who would watch my kids, and how I would make it back home. I had so many sweet caring people offer to help me when the time came and if no one was available, there was always Uber. It all depended on how things would play out, since labor is by nature impossible to predict. Yet even with the lack of predictability, I was at rest.
The night before Amias’ arrival, I could not stay asleep for longer than a couple of hours. It was a full moon and my bedroom was lit brightly by the moonlight. Morning eventually arrived and my four year old reliably came to say good morning. Rather, to ask me for breakfast – he knew a dozen donuts were waiting to be shared.
I noticed the first glimpse of a contraction at 7:30-ish. By the second contraction several minutes later, I took note. We finished breakfast, got dressed for the day, and left by 8:40 to walk Pip to preschool. I made a mental note of the mild contractions that were less than ten minutes apart. Pip’s preschool teacher noted, “No baby yet?” and I lightheartedly replied, “Maybe today!” without being quite sure myself. I made sure to give Pip a big hug goodbye – just in case. In the early stages of labor, I always go through a sort of denial. I doubt the legitimacy of each contraction as they come, and am hesitant to believe that this is the real deal. I also convince myself, that if this really is labor, that it will be long.
After arriving home, I began making some phone calls. I called my midwife and asked what she thought about being adjusted while in labor. It could only help and may progress contractions, she said. Knowing that, I decided to keep my 10:00 am appointment. I called my mom, who had been on standby for days, to tell her my plan: go to the chiropractor and be prepared for labor to progress shortly after. I urged her, though, not to cut her breakfast date short. I texted my friend Rebekah, who planned on being in the room for the birth, to let her know I could be in labor. I made arrangements with another friend, Tasha, to be on call for a quick drive to the birth center or to watch my children, depending on what was needed.
On the way to the chiropractor, I continued to feel mild contractions. I hadn’t heard back from Rebekah so I called another friend to see if she was around to be on standby, just in case. It turned out that they were both together an hour out of town. After my adjustment, my doctor said goodbye and asked my children if they were excited to meet their new baby brother today. Today, she said, and that’s when it sunk in. Contractions were steady, still mild and manageable, but definitely present and not slowing down. I drove myself home, heard from Rebekah, and insisted she not cut her day trip short since labor pains were nowhere near intense, the tell tale sign that birth is near. It seemed obvious I still had a ways to go before labor became serious.
At home I made myself busy preparing for the baby. I cleaned what needed to be cleaned, mostly picking up after baby Dennis’ messy play, grabbed a quick snack, double checked that my birthing bag was packed, and packed the children’s bags for a stay at Grandma’s.
I wanted to make sure I arrived at the birth center with plenty of time to spare. In the past I had pretty intense labor pains on the drive to the birth center only to arrive and give birth within an hour. Because I needed to arrange everything myself, I didn’t want to be in a panicked rush, so I asked Tasha to pick me up for the birth center around 11:30 am. My mom and step-dad, having finished their breakfast, were on the way to pick up the children. At this point, contractions were getting a little more intense, causing me to take a pause out of the task I was doing to focus on breathing. I sent out a few text messages to let my children’s father, my dad, and some friends know I was in labor. After saying goodbye, Tasha, her daughter Lili, and I made the 25 minute ride to the birth center. I texted Rebekah at 11:53am to let her know I was en route.
The car ride there was peaceful and not nearly as painful as I expected. Tasha, Lili, and I chatted about baby names while I breathed through contractions that were now longer and closer together. Having their company helped the car ride go by quickly.
After arriving and saying goodbye, my midwife Casey checked my cervix. I told her I didn’t want to know unless I was pretty well dilated. I wish I could remember the exact number, I think it was 6cm or 7cm, but I remember her explaining that I’ve made it through what is typically the longest part of labor. Casey and I chatted in between contractions while she monitored Amias’s heartbeat and administered antibiotics. I spent the time slowly pacing the room, pausing to labor through the quickening contractions, and arguing with my ex through text messages. Thankfully, my supportive friends, family, and birth team helped me through the stress of emotional conflict during labor.
I was tired and tried lying down to close my eyes. Contractions paused for about five minutes then picked up around 1:00 pm, stronger than before. Rebekah was on her way back into town and Casey was right by my side providing back pressure to ease contractions. I felt the need to vomit (the telltale sign of transition) and prepared to while the pressure in my back became intense. Breathing deepened, the feeling of hopelessness cropped up and provoked an internal argument within myself, which I won by reassuring myself I could survive this. After two contractions over the toilet – still no vomit – I stepped into the tub to finish labor in the water. Casey called in Erica, the birth assistant.
After one contraction in the water, while Casey checked baby’s heartbeat, I explained that I felt I could have pushed during that contraction, but didn’t want to start pushing too soon. Casey assured me to try to push if I felt ready. Another contraction was coming, and as I was breathing through it, about halfway through, I impulsively started pushing with a “now or never” mentality. With one long push, Amias’ head was half born, just as the contraction ended. I held the pressure, since I could feel his head attempt to go back if I relaxed my muscles. The atmosphere in the birthing room during this point in birth – when baby’s head is born and we wait for his body – has been nearly identical in all of my births. Everyone gathers – this time, Casey and Erica, positioning themselves and waiting to make sure baby is caught safely, with an eager, intent anticipation. Relief was coming, the next contraction began to build, and with a deep breath I strained harder on the muscles that were holding his head steady, and scooped my baby out of the water and onto my chest. He was born at 1:53 pm.
Casey had documented the pushing stage of labor and noted that the software recorded it as taking zero seconds. She took some photos for me and they helped me move to the nearby bed. Rebekah arrived shortly after and stayed with me before I went home. Giving birth alone, as a newly single mom, and catching my baby for the first time, was such a new, yet familiar experience.
I love to give birth, I really do. I looked forward to labor, even though everything in me should have been dreading it. I didn’t have anything perfectly planned. I didn’t exactly know who would be with my kids or who would be driving me to the birth center or who would even be driving me home, but there was still a sense of peace. Labor was calm, despite the circumstances, and the logistics just fell into place.
Amias has grown so much the sweet first year of his life. He was born into a family that is much different than the family his siblings were born knowing. Our family isn’t what it was, and with so much sadness in saying this, is forever changed. A sweet new baby doesn’t know this, though, and still enters this world with so much joy and love. Despite the immense stress he must have experienced in utero, he was born healthy, and beautiful, and happy and has grown into an amazing one-year-old. Happy Birthday, Amias Charles.