This birth story, written by my sister Malorie Melson, is about the birth of my nephew, Rhett Austin. Malorie, along with her husband Ben, gave a natural birth at the Austin Area Birthing Center on Christmas Day in 2017 in Austin, Texas. Scroll to the bottom for Malorie’s favorite natural birthing resources.
It is difficult to put into words such a profound experience. Trying to articulate the raw emotions that come with the birth of my little Rhett Austin has proven to be quite the challenge. As I sit here, wearing my little boy right against my chest, I listen to his breathing and settle into the cloud of remembrance required to recount the day.
I have always been one to put full trust in my body so it was clear to me that intervention free was the way to go.
When I think about his birth story, it really and truly begins in December 2015. My period was late, I took a test and my world changed. We (my husband Ben and I) were in utter disbelief. I was pregnant. No doubt about it. We had five days of panic, fear and excitement before those emotions turned to confusion, sadness and quite honestly, relief. While we didn’t plan to become pregnant, we also didn’t plan for the miscarriage that followed.
However, I won’t get into the details of that experience. That is for another day. Today I’ll share a story of life. I will say, however, that that experience alone planted the seed in our minds for a future. Five, highly emotional days was all it took. I could tell you I was heartbroken but I won’t because the emotion I felt was pride. We were capable of creating life and that knowledge stuck with me.
Ready or Not
Daydreams of the little one that could have been floated around our hearts (and dinner conversations) more and more increasingly as the months went on. There really was no clear conversation between the two of us that we were ready to try for another. It just felt like the right time. Words were not necessary in that decision. Our hearts did the talking.
May 2nd 2017, I had an all too similar experience to that chilly day in December 2015. This time, however, I was not afraid, I was elated. I was confident this was meant to be. I was guarded at first. I wasn’t going to forget my first experience of pregnancy. However, the weeks went by, and a healthy baby was continuing to grow.
As new parents, we were faced with the decision on how to deliver this new life. I have always been one to put full trust in my body so it was clear to me that intervention free was the way to go. Ben was understandably skeptical at first. However, his trust in me, and his confidence in himself to be my advocate, made the decision to have our baby at a local birth center crystal clear.
I was fortunate enough to have a healthy and uneventful pregnancy. I loved being pregnant! I loved developing a connection with my tiny baby and felt so proud of my capability to provide a happy home. I loved our birthing class full of wonderful parents going through the same thing. I even loved the thought of having a boy (although, for a while, I wasn’t quite so sure).
At 34 weeks we went in for a scan and found out the baby was breech. In that moment my stomach dropped and time stopped. The world around me drained of color and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. My confidence quickly faded in fear and the questions started rolling in. What happens if we can’t get him to turn? How will I cope with having a C-section?
The dreamy thoughts of a calm and relaxed birth at the birth center began to seem more and more distant.
The dreamy thoughts of a calm and relaxed birth at the birth center began to seem more and more distant. After weeks of doing every technique in the book from laying upside down to chiropractic to hypnosis, our little guy was still cozied up with his head nestled right underneath my ribs.
At 36 weeks, we scheduled a gentle version as a last ditch attempt before we were to make plans for a scheduled C-section. Fortunately, our midwife was able to turn him from the outside and we were all set for our natural delivery! Lots of worrying for nothing.
The two weeks leading to the birth were kind of a blur. I had some false labor and was really getting frustrated on what my body was telling me. I just couldn’t be sure! Finally, on Christmas Eve, I started feeling what I assumed was more false labor symptoms. I was 38+2 weeks and was sure there was no way I would have this baby on Christmas. I mean, I still had two more weeks before my due date! I spent the whole day with my family in early labor causally ignoring those pains that were becoming closer and closer together. Little did I know, Rhett was about to have his very first Christmas.
We knew our days of a family of two were numbered but we had no idea just how limited they actually were.
That evening, Ben and I settled in to watch some Christmas movies and enjoy what we now know was our last evening of just the two of us. Thinking back, it really was perfect. It was cozy and casual and full of those weird, super pregnant snuggles that had become the new normal. We knew our days of a family of two were numbered but we had no idea just how limited they actually were. I eventually moseyed on to bed around 11 p.m. because I was beginning to have an instinct that tomorrow would be a very exciting day.
I was up a 4 a.m. on Christmas Day not because I was excited to see if Santa had come but because I was brought to my knees with a monster contraction. Still in denial, I scurried out into the living room as to not wake Ben. I didn’t want to cause a fuss. The house was dimly lit from the giant Christmas tree. Looking back now, I remember feeling a sense of calm. My instincts were telling me that I was in labor but my heart was telling me to stay in blissful ignorance for just a few minutes longer.
I waited to see if another contraction would come and started a timer. Seven minutes. Seven minutes was all I needed to say goodbye to regular Mal and say hello to my new name, Mama. Those seven minutes seem like hours in my memory. After that next contraction, I knew my motherhood journey was truly beginning, and that my baby and I were going on our first adventure. From that moment on, Rhett, Ben and I worked together in perfect harmony to bring that boy earth side.
After that next contraction, I knew my motherhood journey was truly beginning.
I labored at home for about four hours. For Ben it felt like minutes, for me it felt like days. I was coping well and trying my best to relax my muscles when the pain began to wash over me. I knew the more relaxed and calm I was, the quicker my guy would make an appearance. While at home, I labored mostly in bed. At first, I used the shower but eventually my body was telling me to lie down. I was on my side in bed with Ben standing next to me allowing me to focus all my tension from my hand to his.
The contractions were getting closer and closer together and we knew our Christmas baby was well on his way. Ben, the ultimate birth partner, was there for every contraction. The memory of him coaching me through these intense pains I will forever cherish. It seems almost comical now to picture him being my human stress ball then having only four minutes (that is how far apart my contractions were at this point) to get our things together, pets taken care and phone calls made before he had to be back by my side. At 7:45 a.m., we left for the birth center and the last thing I remember is seeing that unused car seat soon to be filled with a precious new life.
I remember being so afraid to get in the car. I was so worried that leaving my calm and warm bed would make things even more difficult. At this point, getting through those contractions took some serious focus. We live about 30 minutes from the birth center and had it not been a holiday, that 30 minute drive would have been easily double with traffic. Fortunately, the roads were quiet and slow. It was 37 degrees outside when we arrived. The birth center and that cold weather felt amazing to my hard working body. My midwife checked me, I was 6 cm dilated. Things moved very quickly after that.
The place was so quiet. The facility was closed due to the holiday so the usual hustle and bustle of pregnant mamas was a distant memory. The scurry of our midwives and the ticking of an analog clock were the only movements to break the stillness. The cozy, spa-like room was dimly lit and I felt so safe. So ready.
I decided to get into the birth tub somewhere around 9 AM. At this point our doula, Mia, had come to join our birth team. She was prepared with all sorts of coping methods. Hip squeezes, essential oils and music were just a few things she offered me but in the end, all I wanted was the support of my loving husband, Ben. The only things I wanted and needed to get through those waves was Ben whispering “let your body lead” and “down, down, down” over and over again. The contractions at this point were so close together that I don’t remember ever getting a break. I was so focused on moving baby Rhett down.
Pushing was difficult for me. I eventually moved out of the tub and onto the bed to continue pushing. I really wanted to lie on my side like I had just hours before in my cozy room but little Rhett wasn’t having it. His tiny heart rate began to decel and I was forced to switch positions. This will forever be the first time we disagreed. I tried to push on hands and knees with Ben’s support but I was just too exhausted. I had been pushing every other minute for almost two hours at this point. I could barely support my own weight. Eventually, I was fed up. I was tired of pushing and ready to get him out. Mia suggested we try the birth stool and that is exactly what we did. I sat on the stool with Ben supporting my weight behind me. Just two more pushes was all it took and my water broke with his emergence.
Immediately, I had the satisfaction of pulling his tiny body to my chest.
Immediately, I had the satisfaction of pulling his tiny body to my chest. I can only describe the emotion as pure relief. I was elated that we had finally reached the finish line. Those painful contractions were all of a sudden all over. I was relieved to hear a big strong cry just seconds later. I remember feeling so proud of that cry. We allowed the last few pulses from my body to his and Ben cut his umbilical cord. Just like that, we were two separate beings. Baby Rhett was allowed to stay on my chest for almost 2 hours before my midwives measured or weighed him. I am incredibly grateful for those hours of touch I was able to have with my healthy boy. Thinking back now, it bring tears to my eyes with pride that we had just achieved what can only be described as a miracle.
From the time we arrived at the birth center, Rhett and I worked together for just 4 more hours. And just like that, our family had grown at 11:46 a.m. on Christmas Day. An 8-hour experience that can only be described as the pinnacle moment of my entire life. I trusted my body. I trusted my husband. I trusted my midwives.
After a blissful afternoon soaking in our new baby and learning to latch we were ready to be discharged from the birth center. We filled that once empty car seat with a 7 lb 4 oz. ball of love and were home that very same day by 7 p.m. with our new gift. The very same Christmas tree that lit our home earlier that day all of sudden seemed so different.
And just like that, our family had grown at 11:46 a.m. on Christmas Day.
The days and weeks that follow can only be described as pure bliss. My mother, sister, and Ben’s mother all came in the following weeks to support me and help welcome the newest little Texan to our family. That support was crucial to our transition into parenthood.
As I sit here 10 weeks later, I am so proud of myself and of my family for that experience. The birth center was so amazing and my midwives and doula will forever hold a place in my heart. My birth team was so strong, so capable and so confident in my ability. Every mother deserves that. As I count the days before I go back to work, I am truly grateful for my smooth and supported transition into motherhood.
The birth center was so amazing and my midwives and doula will forever hold a place in my heart.
I did want to mention to anyone interested in an intervention free birth that you can do it. With the right resources, knowledge and trust in your birth team (and yourself) you are capable. I realize there are many circumstances in which intervention is necessary. With trust in your care provider, you will know when to make that call. In the end, if you carried your baby in your belly, you had to give birth – and any way that was executed is nothing short of a miracle.
I did want to mention to anyone interested in an intervention-free birth that YOU CAN DO IT.
Here are a few resources that might help you to make informed decisions about your birth:
- Austin Area Birthing Center: This is where I had Rhett. If you can, I recommend “Centering”. Instead of your regular checkups, you meet for a two-hour birth class once a month with parents due around your due date. You also get your regular check-ups and scans as your normally would.
- The Birth Hour: If you are not a reader, this podcast is the only resource you need. Truly. There are real mothers that tell their birth stories from hospital to home birth.
- The Business of Being Born: This is a great first step in learning to be your own advocate and getting informed.