Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Finally! Our birth story.

Jo turned one this past Saturday. In honor of her birthday, I finally finished our birth story. And by "finish" I mean: write the last sentence and proof. I didn't change much from when I wrote most of it right after the birth. After re-reading this and reflecting, I feel very lucky. We got the birth that we wanted. We had an "easy" birth especially compared to most of the mamas I know. I did notice that the sentences in our birth story are short. It feels very factual -- not a lot of fluff. There were gaps in my memory, even then. There are more gaps now. I'm glad I had most of it down. So with that, here you go:

I didn't have any of the "normal" symptoms announcing that labor was coming: diarrhea, bloody show, and there was no sign of my mucus plug. So when I started to feel light cramping at 4am on October 6th I thought I was just constipated. I was up and about until about 6am when I called our doula, Barb. I would have called her earlier, but I didn't want to bother her so early (even though she said I could). I mentioned that I was feeling constipated and having cramps and every once in a while I would get a bigger cramp. She said it could be the beginning of labor so recommended that I take a nap, or a bath, or have a glass of wine and try to get more sleep. We didn't have wine and I didn't want to sleep so I hopped in the bath.

Nick came into the bathroom and sat with me. Almost as soon as I was in the tub the contractions started. We timed them and around 7am they were 3-4 minutes apart lasting 45-60 seconds. I could still talk through the contractions when Nick called Barb back to let her know that, yes, I was in labor. I don't remember when Nick called to have her come over, but in the meantime I helped Nick make the bed with a plastic sheet, get all the birth supplies on the dining room table, and set up the birthing tub in the living room. Every time I had a contraction I had to stop and rock or brace myself, but I could still talk through them. Nick also made me eggs that I tried to eat.

At some point I got on the birth ball for the contractions. I was on the ball when Barb got here. She immediately put her hands on my back and everything felt so much better. Most of the pain was in my back at that point. My arms were tired from bracing myself on the ball so I moved to the toilet. I labored there for quite a while. It felt good to cave my chest in and lean back on the toilet during the contractions. Barb reminded me to not brace against the pain, but to ride it like a wave and to try to relax my body into the pain. That's easier to tell someone to do than to actually do. But I did my best.

While I was sitting on the toilet I threw up all the eggs I had eaten earlier. Barb asked Nick to call Sarah (our midwife) and have her come, and then Nick started to fill the birth tub. When it was filled the water was so hot that Nick had to add ice to cool it down. I was having really intense contractions. Really really intense so I was bent over the side of the tub. It felt good just to hang there. That's when Sarah came. 

When I got in the tub the contractions were immediately a bit easier. During the first contraction in the tub I actually said, "Wow, this is nice." I had made a labor playlist that was going the whole time and I remember hearing songs that I didn't like and I said, "NEXT SONG," or "SKIP." I also remember telling everyone to shut up because they were talking too loudly during one of my contractions. Sarah fed me water from a straw or yogurt every once in a while. I think the bendy straw is the best invention -- I could drink water in any position. Nick also had those endurance goo packs from all of his races. He fed me those too.

During one of my contractions in the tub I felt something pop and release. I noticed some stuff in the water and asked Barb if I pooped. She said my water must have broken and the mucus plug came out in the tub. I started to want to push. Towards the end of my laboring in the tub Sarah told me to rest as much as possible between the contractions and actually try to relax enough to sleep. There was no way that I was going to be able to sleep in between contractions, but floating in the water was close enough. During the contractions she wanted me to get in the position where the contraction felt the strongest. The water helped me float and the contractions seemed a little easier, but they were still so so intense.

When it was time to get out of the tub it just felt right. I got out and Sarah checked my cervix. I was already at 7 centimeters. She asked me to get back on the toilet and labor there. I was really feeling like I wanted to push. The contractions were long and hard. They made by whole body shake. At least it felt like my body was shaking. Heavy. Deep. It didn't take long to dilate to 10. I was so ready to push.

I started pushing on my side lying on the futon. I had Barb on one side of me and Nick was holding my other leg up. Pushing was hard. It was probably the hardest part for me. I remember hearing during my pregnancy that many people thought that pushing was the easiest part. NOT FOR ME. The breaks in between contractions were nice and long and I could rest, but the pushing was so hard!

We warned our neighbors prior to labor that we were planning a home birth so not to fret if they heard screaming. I'm pretty sure I went primal during the pushing. I don't remember a lot except for this: each time I had a good push everyone cheered. My eyes were closed most of the time, but I knew when I was doing well. Also, when the baby was really close to coming out it hurt. It hurt a lot. I even said, "I don't want to do this. I want to quit." That's when Barb said, "Don't be afraid of the pain. The pain is what gets the baby out."

So I kept pushing. I didn’t really have any other option. And then Jo’s head came out. And then her whole body came out, and it felt like the absolute best thing in the world. Nick caught her (and dropped her just a few inches) – she was super slippery. Then someone said, “Bergen, hold your baby.” And I did. 
Johanna was born at home at 11:45am on October 6, 2011. 


  1. I just cried after reading this!!! Great job. I love you guys and that little miracle, Jo!

  2. WOW. This is such a beautiful story. And she's such a gorgeous baby; I *loved* reading this. Happy birthday to Jo! (What a year, huh?)

    1. Thanks, Jen. Glad you enjoyed reading it. I certainly loved writing it!

      What a year!

  3. Oh man, just teared up. Thanks for sharing this. I love you! And Jo! And Nick!

  4. This is what it's all about. Just think about when Jo gets big and reads it. No other story is going to be quite like hers. Glad you took the time to finish it.

    1. Thanks, Mom. I hope she'll enjoy reading it someday. I know I will.

  5. she'll probably want to take it for show-and-tell at school.........if she's homeschooled you can talk about the socioemotion context in which she finds value....or something else!