Sitting down to write this while it’s all still fresh in my head. Tate’s birth was quick, intense, and so perfectly timed I couldn’t make it up even if I tried.
Let’s start quickly by backing up. Tate is baby number three, and I labored fairly quickly with my other two babies. I got an epidural (at the last possible moment) with Miles. And with Finley, I was in the process of getting it when I told them, “I need to push now!” and couldn’t complete the epidural. So, going into this labor, I was planning for an unmedicated birth. I knew the chances of getting an epidural in time were slim. And after having a delivery without one with Finley, I really preferred it. I found I was much more present, the last bit of labor progressed more naturally, and I recovered much quicker.
Read Miles’ birth story here – first baby, with an epidural.
Read Finley’s birth story here – second baby, too fast of labor for an epidural.
I began looking into resources for an unmedicated birth around 20 weeks. I read The Bradley Method book and Ina May’s Childbirth book. I liked both and leaned on things I read in both during my labor. Overall, I’d say Ina May’s was my favorite, though. I also listened to many birth stories of other moms having unmedicated births (mainly on The Birth Hour podcast.)
Now, when I found out I was pregnant with baby three and was given the due date, I realized an interesting pattern. Both Miles and Finley were born at 39w+1d. And their birthdays fall on the 19th and 20th of the month. I realized if this baby happened to come at 39w+1d it would be born on the 21st. Making my babies born on the 19th, 20th, and 21st. It would also make them all cusp Zodiac signs. Just a lot of coincidences pointed to April 21st. So, in my mind, I always had April 21 as the day the baby would come. I wasn’t exactly married to that date. I know part of labor is definitely a mind game, so I always try to stay open-minded about when I’ll go into labor so as not to psych myself up one way or the other -if that makes sense.
Around 36 weeks, I started getting some Braxton Hicks contractions. Nothing crazy, but every 4-5 days, they would increase in amount and timing. But every time, I could tell it definitely wasn’t labor yet. I knew with labor, the contractions would increase in not just their frequency but their intensity. These contractions remained very sporadic and never built up on each other.
During the week leading up to 39 weeks, I definitely felt like labor was getting closer. But I also wasn’t in this big rush. My kids had been on vacation the week prior, and I was enjoying having a few school days to check some extra stuff off my list. Each night that week, I’d get some contractions around dinner time, but they’d always fade off by bedtime. Each time they’d start, I’d always run through my head what we would do IF it was labor. We had a nanny that was going to come watch the older kids when I went into labor but she had night school some nights, so the plan was to call a neighbor if she was unavailable. (Like I mentioned, I labored fast, and my OB told me to come in after only 30 minutes of labor contractions, so we had a tight timeline.) The plan was then that Michael would come home after the baby was born to relieve our nanny. However, my mom was able to come down to help with the older kids after April 20th, so there was definitely this part of me hoping I could hold off until then because then Michael could just stay at the hospital with me and the baby. (And, of course, the strange coincidence that mom just so happened to be available not until the April 21st date I’d always had on my brain).
So, once April 20th arrived, I think I had this sigh of relief. And I truly think that’s part of what allowed this labor to kick off. Every person and every labor is different, but with all three of mine there has been a mental part on my end. My brain literally needs to be mentally ready. That day I took a LONG power walk alone when the kids were at school.
Around dinner time, my contractions started, as usual, and I didn’t think anything of it. Michael was working a little late, so I fed the kids dinner and planned to eat with him after they were in bed. As we put them down for bed, it felt like the contractions were maybe increasing, but I wasn’t too sure yet. Michael finished putting Miles down, and I was downstairs and started cleaning up and warming up dinner for us. The contractions continued enough that I started to time them on a contraction timer app. By the time Michael came down for dinner, it was maybe 8:00, and I was having contractions of 30-40 seconds every 4-8 minutes. It was a night our nanny was in night school, so I texted our neighbor to make sure she was around, which she was. I told her I wasn’t sure if it was labor just yet. Luckily, she is actually a doula, and I remember her saying, “Don’t wait too long!” That was probably just the little reminder I needed. I didn’t want to “alert the presses” too early, but I didn’t want to wait too long at home. Within the next 20 minutes, I knew it was definitely labor, and the contraction app even said, “It’s time to start getting ready to go to the hospital,” based on the timing of my contractions. So, I texted the neighbor, my mom, and the nanny, and everything was on its way!
I should mention as we got ready to get in the car, around 9:00 or so, Michael goes, “I really don’t want a 4/20 birthday for this baby.” (4/20 being a day typically associated with smoking pot if you don’t know.) I remember saying, “Michael…you can’t put that on me right now.” But I also told him I didn’t think there was any way the baby would come that quickly. With both previous labors, my contractions stalled for about an hour when I got to the hospital (this is typical for many people as the lights and changes in location can slow things down briefly).
We got to the hospital, and my contractions were pretty sizeable at this point. I remember when we parked, I had to stop getting out of the car and wait for one to end before I could walk into the ER. When we checked in they told us we could head right up (I had called my OB in the car that we were on our way). For both my other labors I remembered someone had walked us up, so it was weird that they just sent us up by ourselves…and of course, we got lost on the way. I also had to pee SO bad, and the contractions made it really hard to hold it. So, lost somewhere in the hospital, I found a random bathroom THANK GOODNESS, before I almost peed on the floor. We finally found our way to Labor and Delivery, and they brought us right into a delivery room, which was nice to skip triage.
They did the normal check-in process. Paperwork, changing into a gown, vitals, etc. My contractions continued probably every 5 minutes or so, and with enough intensity at this point, I couldn’t walk or talk during them. My contractions had not slowed as I thought they might when I arrived. At about 10:30, my OB came in and checked me and confirmed I was 5cm dilated and 75% effaced. She said, “Let’s just see what your body does over the next 3-4 hours, and then we can discuss breaking your water if you’d like.” They asked me about pain management, and I said I was planning for no epidural. I asked if the nitrous gas was available (it wasn’t for my second pregnancy because of Covid.) They said it was and said they’d bring it in.
In my previous labors, I really liked laboring on my feet and kept trying that this time but it just didn’t feel right. I ended up in the bed, lying on my side, a somewhat modified position that I had learned from The Bradley Method book. They brought in the gas, and I used it during the height of contractions. I can’t say how much it helped, but I feel it took a little edge off.
After about 30 minutes of listening to my Labor Playlist and using the gas, the contractions were so intense that I couldn’t even get the mask to my face. I was starting to feel a little nervous about the pain level. It was my first moment of “can I really do this unmedicated??” There was a clock directly in front of my bed (honestly, a stupid place to put one…I don’t think a laboring woman needs to see a clock lol.) I had this moment where I was like “I don’t know how long I can do this. Then I remembered something I had heard in many birth stories from The Birth Hour podcast: to focus on ONE contraction at a time. Don’t think about the whole length of labor in front of you; just focus on each one as it comes. That mindset helped a lot, so I decided to put on a birth affirmations track I found just that morning on Spotify to help me stay in the right frame of mind. In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time finding a good birth affirmations track because it helped me A LOT, and I ended up playing it at least 2 times since it was only 30 minutes. She simply read off birth affirmation lines like “my body was made for this” and “each contraction is bringing me closer to my baby.” It really helped me concentrate and not tense up or stress out. I just reminded myself that my body was doing exactly what it should. That the contractions were moving my baby down and bringing them closer to being born. Somewhere in my reading about unmedicated births, I heard the sentence, “The pain of labor is created by me, and thus it’s not stronger than me.” And, for some reason, that really stuck with me. Just knowing that it was just MY body doing this, and so it couldn’t be stronger than me, helped keep any fear of pain at bay.
But, by about 11:15 or so, my contractions became very intense. I remembered reading about using low vowel sounds to breathe out during contractions. So I started to breathe out with a deep low vowel sound. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t loud during any of my past labors, but I didn’t hold back at all this time going into it totally unmedicated. The contractions became extremely intense over the next 30 minutes, and I found the only way to balance their intensity was to be louder with my vowel sounds. The louder I was the more it helped the pain. I was told later that I was the only one who delivered that night…. which is good; I’m glad no other laboring moms had to listen to me.
At 11:45, my water broke in a huge gush, and I almost instantly felt the urge to push. I told Michael to go get a nurse. She came in, and at this point, I was quite clearly close to having the baby. I was “breathing” (aka very loudly moaning) through each contraction. I immediately told the nurse I was feeling the urge to push. I knew I was very close. She asked if I could lay on my back so she could check me (I was still side-lying), and I was like “I don’t think I can.” She checked me side-laying as the OB came in, and I heard the nurse say, “I think she’s 8 or 9cm, but she has the urge to push,” and in the moments after that, I heard someone say, “The baby is coming” as a flurry of nurses came in to prep for delivery.
The beds at our hospital do this transformer move where with like two buttons, the bottoms fall out, and they become delivery beds. I was so concentrated on my contractions and bearing down on their urge to push I didn’t even realize that they had transformed the bed and gotten me lying on my back. I know many unmedicated childbirth books/methods suggest not laying on your back for pushing, but I was quite comfortable with it. I had delivered both my previous babies on my back, so this felt totally OK to me. I was also VERY, VERY ready to push at this point and just glad it was time. I don’t think I even waited for them to tell me I could push once I had my legs up, I started pushing with my next contraction. Honestly, your body really takes over at this point; I couldn’t have not pushed even if I wanted to. I forgot to breathe deeply at this point and was grateful for the nurse reminding me to slow my breathing and take deep breaths, which I did, and it helped. The first contraction of pushing ended, and no baby. All I remember was how intense it felt. I remember thinking I need to get this baby out NOW. In one of the birth stories I had heard, the woman talked about her first round of pushing and how she gave it a 10 out of 10. And when the baby didn’t come, she said to herself, “Well, I guess I gotta give it a 15.” That stuck with me for some reason, and I said to myself, “I guess I gotta give it a 15.” Having done it both ways, I will say it is much easier to feel where and how to push unmedicated (which was one of the many reasons I hoped to do it this way). And as soon as the next contraction hit, I pushed with everything I had. Tate’s head was born first, I took a short break to breathe and delivered the rest of him at 12:04 am, April 21st.
They lifted him immediately to my chest, and it was a completely euphoric moment. I just couldn’t stop kissing his little head. The utter relief of labor being over and complete and pure happiness of holding him in my arms. My first words were “holy shit,” in the true class act that I am. But honestly, it was just a holy shit kinda moment. They told us it was a boy and checked to just “confirm” it definitely was. I don’t remember being surprised or anything about the gender announcement. I didn’t really have a feeling about gender, but it seemed like he was a boy, and that’s exactly what it was supposed to be.
The placenta was delivered maybe 10 minutes later, I don’t even really remember feeling it happen. I also had a tear that had to be stitched up, and I did feel that… It felt like it took an actual eternity for her to finish up. But it is much more manageable when you have an adorable little baby to focus on. My hospital honors the golden hour, so the baby stays right on your chest for the first hour at least. After I was stitched up, all the nurses just left, and it was just Michael, Tate, and I. Tate breastfed in his first hour and it was honestly just perfect. You can’t really explain that feeling in words when you’re finally holding your baby, and everything feels right and well in the world. Each of my labors and deliveries were quite different, but I always remember the feeling and exhaustion of everything always melting away within moments of holding my baby. It’s a true high that can’t be described or replicated.
Looking back, I am still kinda in awe of how perfectly Tate’s birth went. How he was born on the 21st by 4 minutes. How my labor happened almost as if exactly when I needed it. And how I was able to have the unmedicated birth as I had planned.
Tate Harty Branciforte was 7lbs 15oz and 20 inches long, and has made our family feel complete from the moment he joined us.