My pregnancy with Eloise was really beautiful and there are so many reasons and facets as to why. I’ve always felt so connected to my babies as I was growing them. Carrying the miracle of life within is such a beautiful experience and journey. I love everything about it.
If you haven’t read my previous birth stories you can read Everett’s here: https://amberdenaerhodes.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/everett-benjamin-rhodes-birth-story/ and Teddy’s here: https://amberdenaerhodes.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/teddys-birth-story/
Both of my boy’s births were very long, hard and arduous. Their positionings weren’t ideal and labor just felt so agonizingly long and impossible. I delivered them both naturally with incredible support but I was unable to birth either of them in the water as I had desired to because of the assistance that I needed. I began to wonder if something was wrong with my pelvis or if my body just didn’t labor “well”. Second babies were supposed to come a little quicker and with more ease, after all.
It’s amazing how your birth experiences change you. I don’t feel like the same person after having experienced so many things in my life but there is absolutely nothing like birthing your children. It undoubtedly marks you.
Teddy’s birth changed me. Something happened. I felt a shift. I knew I needed to begin to dig deep around that time in my life. It’s hard to explain. I’ve dealt with fear and anxiety much of my life. Could I perhaps be taking these feelings (even inadvertently) into my births? Am I holding onto something? Is there a reason it’s been so hard for me? As a birth worker, I’ve seen lots of different scenarios and I’ve studied physiological birth. I’ve sat with mamas for days, I’ve missed births because they happened so quickly and I’ve experienced those few hour births that happen so beautifully and quickly that they’re electrifying. I love seeing a mama have that experience. I love the elation. I love the oxytocin rush. I love the empowerment she feels in that moment especially when she gets exactly what she wants, be it a VBAC, natural birth, water birth etc. It’s so redeeming and beautiful to behold.
When I found out we were expecting Eloise, I knew I was going to approach things differently. I was very health conscious and did lots of prep for my boys but I knew I would be doing more inner work this pregnancy. Accepting. Releasing. Feeling. Mindfulness. Relaxing. Being.
Instead of fearing a long and difficult labor, I began to visualize a redeeming one. Instead of feeling apprehensive about it or starting to dread it, I would embrace it and actually look forward to it. I did yoga, saw a chiropractor and my dear friend who is a massage therapist and specializes in prenatal care helped prepare me throughout my pregnancy, working on my ligaments, sacrum and pelvis and doing myofascial release. I wanted to give myself every chance possible to go into labor entirely natural (no castor oil, no membrane sweep, no pitocin etc), to honor my body and my daughter and let things happen when we were both ready.
My original due date based on my period was March 31 but they changed it to April 8 based on our measurements so I felt really good about timing and not feeling the pressure to “make it happen”.
Due date week rolled around and I was feeling amazing. The boys and I stayed active and I was really enjoying spending quality time with them. I had been having contractions for a couple of weeks at this point and sometimes they would rev up at night but then dwindle when I would fall asleep. I tried not to think much of it and just allow my body to do what it was doing. Whereas with my past pregnancies, I would get up and bounce on a ball until I tired myself out and get frustrated that nothing was happening.
I scheduled an in-home massage on April 6 with my friend, Christan. My mom asked to keep the boys that evening and so it seemed like a good time to have it done. Ben and I went out for a bite to eat at Bonefish beforehand since it was just the two of us and unbeknownst to us enjoyed what would be our last spontaneous date night before becoming parents of three!
Our car needed some work and so Ben planned to be in the garage while I was getting my massage. Christan arrived around 8:30 PM and began to set up. She brought me the sweetest gift, a painting she did of a photo of me pregnant with Eloise. The tears flowed and I just felt so much gratitude. She has walked through so much with me and painted some of the most beautiful pieces of art that contain rich symbolism in my life. It was incredibly special to receive this beautiful gift and the timing, more than appropriate. The massage was both healing and releasing. She kept saying things like “you’re releasing so well” and “you’re melting like butter”. Evidently that relaxin hormone was strong and doing its thing 🙂 She was with me for a good two hours and it was heavenly and I felt SO good afterward. My house smelled like clary sage and there was soft music playing and lamps lit. I was so relaxed and just excited to climb into bed and get a good nights sleep 🙂 And I did just that.
I woke up to empty my bladder at around 3 am and realized I was contracting again but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t sleep through so I just went back to bed.
I awoke around 7 am to contractions. The house was so quiet and peaceful and so I perused downstairs, made myself a cup of herbal tea and sat on my exercise ball. I was loving the alone time as mornings are usually a bit of a chaotic time with an almost 4 yo and an almost 2 yo. Contractions were coming every 6-7 mins and lasting a good minute but nothing too crazy. I tried not to think much of it as I had been experiencing some prodromal labor weeks beforehand. I knew my body was gearing up for the real thing and that these were all happening as preparation and for good reason! But these felt different and I felt different. She felt closer.
Ben woke up around 9am and we chatted about grabbing breakfast. He mentioned going to his parents in Gastonia so his dad could help him install some new parts on the car because he didn’t have all the tools he needed. I looked at him kinda sideways and said, “maybe we should wait because I’ve been having some good contractions this morning and I feel like maybe something is happening.” So he waited to make any concrete plans.
Around 11:30 AM, I went to the bathroom and lo and behold, I had what would be my first ever ‘bloody show’ and sorry if this is TMI but was it ever a SHOW. I actually began to freak out internally a little bit because it wasn’t just a mucous plug and I hadn’t experienced that before. I yelled for Ben and told him to call our midwife, Nicole. Ben called her and she asked us to send her a photo to which she said she was ok with and that my cervix was probably thinning out but for us to be ready to leave if things get stronger quickly as the birth center is a 40 min drive from us.
I texted my birth team to give them a heads up as to what was going on. Meliea was on her way back from the beach. Christan stated that she would come whenever we needed her to. My dear friend, Brandee was doing a Spartan race and didn’t get my text until she finished around 3:30 PM and she ran home to shower so she would be ready to come and our photographer/videographer team was notified and they stated the same- let us know when you want us to come. I felt zero pressure from anyone and just felt love and support 💞
Contractions continued to come consistently but I felt really good and didn’t feel any sense of urgency. Ben began to pack the car and I walked out to the passenger seat covered in towels and a pair of gloves sitting on it. Ben has always had this desire to deliver one of our babies and was kind of secretly hoping for a car birth! Haha! We both had a good laugh. We decided to stop by my mom’s because I really wanted to see the boys. We were greeted with hugs and kisses from them and of course, I had a good little cry snuggling them. My mom really didn’t love the fact that I was in early labor and we were taking our sweet time to get to our place of birth and so she kinda rushed us out (with lots of love 😉 ).
We started toward Statesville and stopped to eat a late lunch at Jimmy Johns in Mooresville. We split a sub and upon going to the bathroom during a contraction, I experienced more bloody show. I knew in my heart that this was happening and that she was getting closer. Contractions were still a good distance apart but they were definitely getting stronger but not unbearable.
“Let’s go walk somewhere” I said to Ben. I had been texting with Nicole throughout the day to let her know where we were at with things and soon discovered that there were two laboring women at the birth center and that a room wasn’t available but that one was getting ready to deliver.
We arrived in Statesville and went to the mall which is completely desolate- we walked around for a little bit and Ben kept making me laugh which actually strengthened my contractions. If you’ve ever been to the Statesville mall, you can probably guess that we didn’t stay very long 😉 Ben suggested going to a TJ Maxx that was close by to get a little gift for the boys for when they meet their baby sister. We did that with Everett when Teddy was born and it was really sweet to have a “big brother” gift for him.
More contractions and more walking. Brandee called me and stated that she was on her way and that we should meet at Starbucks and maybe I could get a hot tea and relax some which seemed like a great idea. I kept telling Ben that I felt “too good” to be in labor. I texted the same to my midwife to which she replied “we’ve all been praying for you to have a smooth, quick labor!” Those words brought my heart so much peace.
As we were leaving TJ Maxx, Nicole texted me that they had delivered in one of the rooms and that we could come in whenever we wanted to!
We met up with Brandee at Starbucks, I got a hot tea and we spent a good hour talking while I was still contracting every 5-6 mins. But still, felt too good to be “in labor”.
We arrived at the birth center around 5pm and Nicole checked me. I was 4 1/2 cm and 60% effaced. Contractions continued consistently. I was actually in labor but still feeling just SO good. We chatted and shared laughs with the midwives and took our place in the waiting room until a room was made available. I sat on an exercise ball and rolled my hips through contractions.
Christan arrived shortly after and began doing some acupressure and massage in the waiting room of the birth center. I started my birth playlist and the song “Hold onto Hope” by Amy Stroup started playing. I looked up at Ben and he had tears in his eyes and said “oh why did you choose this song”. So then we both started crying and it was such a tender and sweet moment that I will never forget. So many emotions releasing. We were about to meet our first daughter. The anticipation was palpable.
We were settled into our birth room at around 7:00 PM. The same room we welcomed our Teddy in. Our amazing birth team was present. Essential oils were diffusing and our playlist was playing softly. It was such a peaceful environment and I was getting so eager to meet our sweet girl. Christan continued to do acupressure and some massage on me. It was tremendously helpful. My contractions were starting to intensify and get closer together.
I had my midwife check me again later in the evening and I was 5 cm but handling contractions well and still felt “too good” to be in labor. I actually began questioning if I was really in labor because I wasn’t in agony at this point. I laid down for a little while to rest in between contractions and used the peanut ball.
Soon after, I wanted to get in the water and so Meliea began to fill up the birth pool. I was really wanting to experience a water birth this time but didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. I actually waited for a little while to get in the water because I wanted to experience more pressure and intensity before I got in. I labored in the water for a little bit and then Nicole suggested I move to the toilet to have a few contractions at around 12:30 AM, I had her check me and I was 7cm! I remember having a few contractions in the bathroom that felt really intense and hard. I went from the toilet to hanging off of Ben’s shoulders and rocking my hips through the pressure.
I got back in the birth pool. My amazing birth team was making sure I stayed hydrated, fed and they seriously kept my spirits lifted. I honestly have so many fond memories of the moments we all shared in those last couple of hours. I didn’t want silence at all. I loved the conversations and laughter that ensued in between contractions. It helped me relax and focus. I also remember wanting to talk about my boys a lot. Ben and I were sharing stories about them and it really helped me to feel relaxed and at ease. The intensity really started to pick up and the pressure was starting to feel even more intense. I was talking myself through them by saying things like “this is good” and “open up. relax. breathe”. Basically repeating what Meliea and Nicole were saying to me. And intentionally believing it. I felt so present. I even wanted to feel how low her head was at one point and I did. It was amazing. I was so aware of what was happening and I felt safe, loved and cared for.
This was transition. It was hard and I knew pushing was close. It was coming and there was no way around it. Pushing has always been so hard for me. Historically (and unlike many others), pushing has not been my favorite. The ring of fire is real and I don’t like it. I could feel myself getting tense just thinking about it. I began to release the fear and accept that this was part of the process. I knew she was close. I could feel it.
But how long would it take for her to descend? How many times would I have to push?
Would she be born in the water?
Could I do it without assistance?
Was I capable?
A battle in my mind.
Release fear. Embrace peace.
A few more really hard contractions, more breaths, more relaxation, more self doubt, more releasing and more embracing.
An urge. I felt the pressure. I felt the urge to bear down. Fear. Doubt. Excitement. Peace.
“Can I push?”
“Yes, if you feel like you need to push, you can push!”
I leaned forward onto my hands and knees. I gave ONE push. I felt her head. Her head was OUT. In ONE push!
“Is that her head?” I leaned back. One more push.
“Reach down and grab your baby”
Words I will never forget. Words that will never not make me cry.
I reached down and I pulled her precious tiny body up out of the water.
“YOU DID IT!”
The most beautiful baby girl. She was earth-side. It was over. She was here. It wasn’t agonizing. It was beautiful. It was perfect. SHE WAS PERFECT.
“I did it! We did it, babe! She’s here! I had her in the water! You are a girl- OHHH you’re our girl! Oh Eloise!”
I couldn’t stop kissing her and smelling her. It seriously was electrifying. I looked up to see Ben wiping his precious tears as he met his first baby girl. I am always so moved at my husband’s reactions when he meets our babies. They’re burned into my memory forever. My heart has fallen more in love with him through each birth as he never leaves my side and loves me so well through it all.
I admired huge smiles on so many beautiful faces. I glanced around the room and felt immense love and gratitude for the ones in this sacred space. Christan and Brandee were hugging each other tightly through tears. My precious friends who have walked through so much with me. Christan has used her gifted hands to help me through all of my pregnancies and two of my labors. Her heart is so beautiful. Brandee has been such a cherished friend for what feels like forever. I’ve witnessed two of her beautiful births and it was such an honor to have her by my side. Nicole and Meliea were caring for Eloise and I so lovingly while sharing in our joy and jubilation. They truly believed for a beautiful experience with us from the beginning of this pregnancy. Nicole has been our midwife through all three births, has become a dear friend and is so very precious and loved by our family. Meliea was present for Teddy and Eloise’s birth and has become such a wonderful and trusted friend the past couple of years. She also happens to be my
yoga instructor and helped get my booty (literally 🤣) in the best shape throughout my pregnancy. And Emily and Christa were capturing all of it through their lenses and with so much love for us. Emily and I met through doula training and she, Christa and I have all been in each other’s birth spaces. So special. It was perfect. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.
It was redemptive. Truly so redemptive. It was peaceful and gentle.
Our baby girl was here. And every bit as perfect and beautiful as we could have imagined and more. We spent the next few hours admiring her. She latched beautifully. We soaked up the sweetest skin-to-skin newborn snuggles. I’m convinced that those first few hours with your newborn and spouse are about as close to heaven on earth as it gets. We were overjoyed. Elated. In love. Beaming with pride.
7 lbs 11 oz. and 20 1/2 inches long of pure perfection.
I had no tearing and was up and feeling really well just a couple of hours after she was born. I felt really good. Understandably tired and a little sore but SO different than I felt after my previous births.
It’s been a month since this sweet girl has joined our family and truly we couldn’t adore her more. Her brothers have welcomed her with open arms and endless amounts of love and affection. She has brought so much love and light into our home and our hearts and we just can’t imagine life without her.
Birth is such a powerful experience. Each and every experience I have had has marked me in different ways. Beautiful and empowering ways. I am grateful for each experience.
This beautiful poem was written by my friend, Meliea before Eloise was born. It so accurately depicts her birth and is something I will cherish forever.
And still higher
This is our exhortation
When we are being born
When we are birthing
She must descend
I must descend with her
Into my depths
Into her depths
Into the realm where breath meets pain
Where agony meets ecstasy
Where darkness meets light and night
This realm of descent
Waves of surrender
I must bathe in this madness
So that she can dive into her greatness
So that she can descend through holy water into holy hands that respect and revere her journey.
It stands still and flies by
She knows no time
She moves to my rhythm
Squeezing, pressing, contracting
She moves on the vibrato of my hum, my growl, my guttural groans.
She dances to my song
And descends lower
Opening and releasing
The way has been cleared
She accepts the firm embrace of this path
Molding, shifting, turning
I propel her through it
On wings of love and spoken prayers both holy and profane
That final descent
I feel the fire for her
She feels the fire in her
Lungs open and cries go up all around
Arms reach out and lift up and
She gets to ascend