Rena – A Birth Story

What a roller coaster ride it is becoming a new parent. We are two and a half weeks in and it already feels like we’ve had little Rena for ages, yet are still getting to know each other. The fog and extreme highs and lows of the first few weeks are starting to dissipate and it’s actually setting in and becoming reality…we have a daughter! A gorgeous, healthy, spunky daughter.

The week leading up to Rena’s birth felt like an eternity. I wanted so desperately to meet this little girl that had been growing inside me for 9 long months and manifesting in my head for so much longer than that. But at the same time I had a lot of anxiety about the labor itself. I really wanted to give birth naturally, without an epidural or any other medications or medical interventions (as long as they weren’t medically necessary), but I was unsure if I would be able to handle the pain.

Rena’s estimated due date was April 12th, and we had an appointment that day with my midwife, Paula. Paula did a physical exam and said it would likely be awhile longer before I went into labor, but just to be sure she hooked me up to a machine to see if I was having contractions. Sure enough I was having Braxton Hicks (pre-labor) contractions at a fairly regular interval and pretty strong. I didn’t even know that these were pre-contractions until she pointed it out and asked, “Can you feel that?”. Paula quickly revised her estimate for labor and said it wouldn’t be long now. My first thought was, if I didn’t even know that these were contractions, am I even going to know when I’m really in labor? Not to ruin the story, but yes, yes I did absolutely know when I was really going into labor.

But first, the pre-contractions continued for several days, until 2am on April 15th when I was fast asleep and awoke to a painful and very different contraction. I sat in bed and waited to see if another one would come…yep there was another one! And when I went to the bathroom I realized that there was some liquid, but not quite enough to think that I had broken my water (maybe I just peed myself a little? Anyone who knows me knows of my frequent urges to pee, so it was plausible).

I woke up George and we knew from all we read and talking to our midwife that the best thing to do was to pass as much of the labor in the house as we could before heading to the hospital. It happened to be Coachella weekend, a major music festival in California that we had attended with friends so many times I lost count. Some of our best memories were from this festival in years past. So we sat in bed and streamed the closing acts of Friday night’s Coachella music festival live while passing contraction after contraction. I’ll never forget watching one of our favorite live bands, Empire of the Sun, waiting for baby Rena to come.

At 6:30am we called my midwife, Paula, and she told us to sit tight and call her at 8:30am. We did this and at this point I was using my exercise ball and yoga mat to get through the contractions that I thought at the time were VERY painful. So she said ok, lets meet at the hospital in an hour. I survived the car ride which took us over a dirt road with potholes (George had to stop every time where was a contraction) and we arrived around 10am, only to hear upon examination, that I was only 3 cm dilated. My energy immediately deflated and I felt like I was starting to doubt whether or not I’d be able to have an unmedicated birth. Paula also informed me that my water did in fact break, and that’s why my contractions were feeling so intense.

I was determined to keep going with our original unmedicated birth plan, and my midwife told me that relaxing my muscles during the contractions would help move things along. I also remembered a friend telling me that chanting the yoga OM (auhm) was a great tool to use. So during each contraction I closed my eyes, squeezed the heck out of George’s hand, and pictured a flower blooming and opening while George joined me in a long OMMmmm. The pain intensified when I tried to relax my muscles and after an hour I had hit what I thought was my limit, and definitely my lowest point of the labor process. I couldn’t get comfortable in the room (despite trying several positions) in order to get that much needed minute or two break from the pain between contractions. I told George and my midwife that I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but my wonderful midwife Paula, looked at me with conviction, put a hand on my shoulder, and told me I COULD. Somehow her words and the look in her eye gave me more confidence. I asked her to check me again to see if I had made any progress, knowing that any progress would give me energy. She checked and lo and behold I was almost at 6 cm! Paula seemed surprised and said that the rest of the 4 cm would go fast and that I could move to the birthing room. WOW that was what I needed to hear. With renewed focus and energy I bared down for the next contractions as we moved rooms, and found a position laying on my side in bed worked really well for giving me a break between contractions.

Before I knew it we were all set up in the birthing room – George brought the music and Paula had some great smelling essential oils. I was going through contraction after contraction laying on my side, not wanting to move at all. After an indeterminate amount of time, Paula checked me again and I had progressed to 9 cm! I knew in that moment that I was going to do it – I was going to give birth soon and feel the whole process.

At this point Paula suggested moving to the exercise ball on the floor because all that side laying had my belly/baby leaning to one side! Moving was the last thing I wanted to do, but I managed somehow and went through some contractions on the floor before I suddenly felt like pushing. I wasn’t quite at 10 cm but Paula suggested I go ahead and push lightly. After a few rounds we changed positions to sitting on the birthing stool with George behind me and the doctor and midwife on the floor, ready to deliver the baby…is this really happening?!

Now the real pushing was to begin, and I learned that I didn’t know anything at all about pushing. Paula and the doctor literally had to teach me and tell me how to push. And as I started doing it an animalistic scream came shuddering through the room, and I realized that it was me! I would describe pushing as the more comfortable part of the process, and the screaming actually felt natural and like such a release! It was exhausting work and I was so grateful to have George sitting behind me, physically and emotionally supporting me. I can’t tell you how long or how many pushes it took, but it seemed a short time before I felt the burning sensation of our little girl’s head crowning. And with one or two more pushes she came out, wet and crying with a head full of hair. To this day it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I think I said, “Oh my god” about 50 times, in total disbelief of what had just occurred.

Renata Lara Meredith came into this world at 2:24pm on April 15th weighing a healthy 7lbs 3oz, and measuring 20 inches tall… and my life will forever be changed because of this tiny little person.

– written by Jenine (AKA Mom)