A little backstory:
When we found out we were expecting baby #5 in late 2019, I had no reason to believe that the birth of this baby would be any different than my past four births. With three of them (my girls), I had been induced with Pitocin (for no reason other than feeling “done” with pregnancy), and had received the epidural before contractions got painful. With my son, my water broke and when I got to the hospital, contractions weren’t consistent so they used Pitocin to speed my labor up. I received the epidural with him as well. With my first two, I received episiotomies without consent. I was bullied into getting the epidural with my first baby (I was 18). The nurse told me I didn’t have anything to prove and that an epidural would make things easier for everyone. My fourth baby was ripped from my arms because she “couldn’t regulate her temperature” and they needed to put her under warmers in the NICU. I cried for 12 hours straight before they brought her back to me. Her temperature immediately regulated once she was able to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed.
I thought all of this was normal. I didn’t even realize how much trauma my births had caused me. I didn’t even realize until I started doing months and months of research that I, the birthing mother, have rights. I didn’t realize how many problems intervention can cause (and probably caused me). I was just so unaware.
In March of this year, COVID-19 became very real here in the U.S. and hospitals started banning birthing partners. I quickly realized that I would MUCH rather have my husband by my side than have an epidural. Having several friends that had had beautiful home births, I started asking questions. Millions of them. After a few weeks of research, listening to personal stories of close friends, watching videos of strangers on YouTube… we hired a midwife and a doula and decided we were going to have baby #5 at home.
It was an easy decision for me, especially after my last four birthing experiences. I hoped and prayed for a redemptive birthing experience, but I also knew that anything could happen and I kept my expectations low.
Fast forward to Summer 2020.
Most of June and all of July I had been experiencing prodromal labor (contractions that start and go on for hours, painfully, then stop abruptly). It was extremely exhausting and mentally draining. And of course, painful. ⠀
37 Weeks and 4 Days Pregnant
On Sunday, July 19th, I had experienced the prodromal labor pains on and off throughout the day. They were more painful than usual, but very inconsistent. Around 5pm, I was so exhausted from them, I laid down to rest and accidentally fell asleep until about 7:30pm. I woke up and helped put the kids to bed. Anthony had served the kids dinner much earlier and had waited to eat with me. I was craving sweet cream pancakes from Black Bear Diner, so we ended up ordering that around 8:30pm. Around 9:15pm, I was feeling like the contractions were getting painful and more consistent so I used my app to time them. Our order kept getting delayed and finally arrived around 9:40pm (we NEVER, ever eat this late!) I tried to eat and finished about half of my meal, but was feeling so much pain. Around 10:40pm, I texted a screenshot of the contractions to my doula and said “these are pretty inconsistent right?” And she said yes, but they’re coming regularly and to keep her updated.
At this point, I was tired of timing them and figured it was just more prodromal labor. Anthony and I went to lay down in bed and finish a documentary we had started the night before. He joked “maybe we should just go to bed and get some rest in case this is real labor?” I was like “there’s no way it’s real, I’m only 37ish weeks.” ⠀
As we were laying there watching the documentary, I told him “man, these contractions really do feel more painful than usual though…” Fifteen minutes into the documentary, I went to the bathroom. It was 11:00pm. ⠀
On the short walk from the toilet back to the bed, I thought I had peed myself and called out to Anthony “UH, I think I peed myself or my water just broke, haha”. He rushed in. It was a small gush, nothing crazy. I kept moving and the water just kept leaking down my leg and that’s when we realized it was REAL. ⠀
It was happening.
As the kids slept peacefully in their beds, Anthony lept into prep mode.
As I called my midwife and doula, he started grabbing the birthing pool and making sure the house was picked up. I wasn’t in an incredible amount of pain but my midwife said she would head over to check baby’s heart rate, and that if labor was progressing quickly, she could stick around. If not, she would go back home and come back when I started progressing. My doula said to keep her updated and as soon as I felt my first “OW” surge/contraction, to let her know so she could head over (which happened 5 minutes later). While I was on the phone I realized we didn’t even have any newborn diapers! ⠀
By the time my midwife and doula arrived, Anthony had the birth pool set up and was starting to fill it. My mom and mother-in-law arrived, and my sister-in-law was able to find a store that was open and had diapers… thank goodness, haha!⠀
I was walking around, breathing through surges. Enjoying the breaks in between. The surges had started getting much closer together and increasing in strength. My midwife checked and I was 4cm dilated.⠀
I wanted to get into the birth pool as soon as it was filled because of the pain. ⠀
After about 25 minutes in the pool, my midwife noticed baby’s heart rate was high. She told me to take deep breaths through each surge so baby could get maximum oxygen. After a bit, her heart rate was even higher and they realized it was most likely due to the temperature of the birth pool.⠀
They had me get out of the pool and onto my bed. As I laid there, attempting to breathe through these surges, my midwife, her assistant, and my doula grabbed buckets to trade the hot water for cooler water. At this point, I felt like I was going to pass out from the pain. I was begging them to let me get back into the pool. After about 15 minutes, once the water was a good temperature for baby and me, I got back in.
At this point, it was surge after surge after surge. There were no breaks. I was trying to breathe and my support team and husband were so good about reminding me to. But I started saying things like “I can’t do this” and “I feel like I’m going to pass out”. The pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Monday, July 20
I asked my midwife to check and see if I had made any progress. She told me I was doing great and making great progress and about 8cm. I started crying because I felt like I had been there for 12+ hours and was making such slow progress. I cried, “I can’t keep doing this for hours and hours.”⠀
I had no concept of time. To me it had been five minutes and it had been five years. All I can remember from the moments leading up, was that the surges were all-encompassing. I could feel them EVERYWHERE.⠀
All of a sudden, something primal took over my body. I can’t even explain it. My position changed and I was leaning against the edge of the pool. I yelled out “the girls! wake up the girls!!” through a surge that felt like it lasted ten years. I was no longer breathing through surges, I was screaming. It was a sound I had never heard come out of my body. My doula and midwife told me to lean into that! ⠀
As I was screaming, they told me that she was so close. All of a sudden, I could feel her head in every area of my vagina. I’ve never felt something so intense and so excruciating. I felt like I needed to push, but as that urge came, a surge began and I started screaming. She fell into Anthony’s hands and he guided her through my legs to me. ⠀
I raised her up to my chest and bawled my eyes out. All I could get out was, “I did it. I did it.”
Ellis Meli Garcia arrived at 2:27am on Monday, July 20 after 3 hours of labor and 10 seconds of “pushing”. Born in the comfort of our bedroom as our daughters and mothers sat beside us. She was 7lbs 3oz and 21 inches long. No intervention. No waiting on someone to tell me what to do. No needles or meds or rules. Just my body and my instincts bringing our beautiful baby girl into the world.
The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And by far, the most rewarding. ⠀
My mama holding my hand.
Anthony’s first time holding his baby girl.
WATCH THE BIRTH VIDEO HERE: