The Sweetest Surprise – A Ft. Worth Birthing & Wellness Center Birth Story

Natural Birth story, birth tub, post birth herbal bath

I rolled out of bed at 3:45 the morning of Tuesday, February 9th to pee for the umpteenth time. I was half asleep, but I noticed my back cramping as I crawled back in bed.

As I tried to fall back asleep, the cramping returned. Still feeling pretty unsure, I whipped out my phone and started to time the cramping. I laid in bed, scrolling through Instagram and timing the waves as they continued to come and go. They were definitely minor, but they were coming about every 8 minutes and lasting around 45 seconds.

Somewhere around 4:15am, Taylor (my husband) rolled over to find me on my phone. He was scheduled to go into work that morning, and when I told him that I may be having contractions, he immediately perked up and started to time them with me. We both knew that labor for a first time mom could potentially last more than 24 hours, so we laid in bed together talking as they continued to come and go, doing our best to rest but at the same time full of excitement.

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For the past few days, there had been a few signs that labor might *possibly* be near, but because I was just one day shy of 39 weeks pregnant, I was still convinced it would be at least another couple of weeks before the baby decided to come. So even as the contractions arrived in a steady pattern, I continued to think there was no way this could be the real deal. 

Around 6am, Taylor mentioned that maybe he should call into work for the day. Because I wasn’t actually in pain (I’m going to just go ahead and call it very minor discomfort) I was still incredibly reluctant for him to take the day off. Luckily, he ignored my intuition and made the executive decision to stay home.

Around this time I decided to text my doula, Candace, to give her the heads up that I might possibly be in early labor. I still didn’t feel like I was anywhere close to needing extra support yet, but since she lives about an hour away, I wanted to make sure to keep her in the loop. She confirmed that my cramping definitely sounded like contractions and echoed what we already knew about relaxing, eating a good breakfast and resting up, since we had no idea how long labor would last.

The contractions kept on coming, and Taylor brought me breakfast in bed. I chowed down on breakfast taquitos and guzzled down a Dr. Pepper (#birthfuel) and we continued to lay in bed, watching TV and timing contractions. Somewhere between 7 and 9am, the contractions began coming closer together, and went from “mild discomfort” to a bit more “hold on I need a second to deal with this. Even still, they were nothing like I’d expected them to be, so I was even hesitant to call the birth center claiming to be in labor. But as they continued to get closer and closer, Taylor insisted that I call.

I felt ridiculous as I dialed, but the midwife on call said it sounded like I was making good progress, and to continue resting and check back in when things began to pick up in intensity. For the last few weeks of my pregnancy, baby was hanging out sunny side up, so she also suggested that if I was feeling good it may be a good idea to go to the chiropractor, just to help labor along.

At this point I was feeling pretty good. The intensity of labor was starting to pick up, but contractions were still more of a nuisance than painful. I’d been having regular chiropractic visits since I was about 20 weeks along, and they’d helped tremendously to keep me comfortable, so I made a quick call to their office. I was in luck, and they were able to squeeze me in at 11:45.

Around 10am, I decided it was probably time to start getting “ready.” I’d been laying around in bed since my very first contraction, so as soon as I was up and moving around I could feel labor start to pick up. I hopped in the shower and yelled at Taylor to start the timer with each contraction. The hot water seemed to dull the intensity, but they were still coming every 4-5 minutes.

I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, so we planned on coming home after the chiropractor. I had even called my doula to ask her to meet us back at our house around 12:30 when we were done. But as I started blowdrying my hair, Taylor suggested maybe we should throw our bags into the car, just in case for some reason we needed to go straight from the chiropractor to the birth center. We both agreed it couldn’t hurt, and he began loading up the car as I finished “getting ready.” (Getting ready is in quotes because it is literally LAUGHABLE that I felt the need to blow-dry and straighten my hair at this point. L to the O to the L.)

At 11:30am we hopped in the car and headed to the chiropractor. On the 15 minute drive to the chiropractor’s office, I had 4 contractions in the front seat. That blew. Like, if you need to extract information from a terrorist, make his uterus contract and strap him in down in a seat belt because having to sit still when you’re in labor is cruel and unusual punishment. They were undoubtedly getting closer together, and in the back of my mind I began wondering if we’d be going back home at all.

We arrived at the chiropractor right on time, and though the visit is kind of a blur, I do remember having lots of contractions in her office. Labor had really picked up, and I couldn’t even make it through the adjustment (around 3 minutes) without having to jump off the table to work through it. We checked out quickly, and as we walked back to the car, I told Taylor there was no way in hell I was getting back in that front seat, and instead, I hopped in the backseat on all fours.

At this point, contractions were starting to feel almost constant. I don’t know if it was the chiropractor, the natural progress of my labor, or just a combination of the two – but it felt like they were coming one after the other when I was in that backseat. I’d stopped talking and was full on labor moaning when Taylor asked me if we should just go straight to the birth center. I have no memory of actually responding to him, but Taylor sped to the birth center as my contractions continued to get closer together. At this point they were about 2 minutes apart, and talking was totally out of the question. You know how you see videos of women in labor moaning? There’s a reason for that. It was almost like it was physically impossible for me to have a contraction without that low moan. As he drove, Taylor called my mom, his parents, and our doula and told them all that labor was in full swing and we were headed straight to the birth center.

We arrived at the birth center around 12:30pm, and man it felt SO good to get out of the car. It seemed like for most of my labor, the best way to deal with the contractions was to be standing bent over a surface (a bed, countertop, whatever) swaying back and forth, and not being able to fully do that in the car absolutely sucked. So the relief I felt just from being out of the car and up and moving was amazing.

In the exam room, Meagan, our midwife, checked my progress to find that I was at 5 cm. Even though 5cm doesn’t sound like a lot, at the time I was in such a fog that I really didn’t think anything of the number. I just knew that things were moving fast.

From this point on, my memory of everything feels a little foggy. It’s almost as if my brain checked out so my body could do the work, and it didn’t check back in until I heard that baby’s cry. As we headed upstairs to the birthing suite, our midwife suggested that maybe we go for a walk to help things progress, but as soon as I walked into that room, I was hit with an intense contraction and I knew we wouldn’t be leaving that room without a baby. They were now coming about every minute, and after laboring through a few more, our midwife checked me again. And sure enough, I’d gone from 5cm to 8cm in less than half an hour.

I didn’t have any set birth “plans,” but I knew I was interested in at least trying a water birth. As they began filling up the birthing tub, I went from active labor to transition, and I was in desperate need of some relief. Someone suggested I try getting in the shower while we waited. Most of my labor seemed to be concentrated in my lower back, so letting the hot water wash over me felt amazing. Both Candace and Taylor were right there with me the entire time, rubbing my back and cheering me on through every contraction.

A little after 2pm, the tub was ready, and as soon as I sunk in to that warm water I felt relief. Even though contractions were coming hard and fast, I was able to relax and breathe better in between, making everything feel more manageable.

I labored in the tub for what felt like ten minutes, but was actually over an hour. My water broke naturally while I was in the birthing tub. Pretty soon I started feeling the urge to push. The “urge” to push was the weirdest sensation. I’ll admit that I was scared, and each time the urge came, I didn’t know whether to fight it or just lean in to it. After some words of encouragement and some good labor coaching, I eventually figured out how work with the contractions instead of against them, and I began pushing in the tub. At this point, the midwife and nurse were checking baby with the doppler after each contraction (which is standard). With the last few contractions in the tub, the baby’s heart rate began to fall, and our midwife made the call that it was time to get out of the tub and move to the bed. Even though the water felt great and provided me with some much needed relief, it was relaxing me a little too much and making my pushes less effective than they needed to be, and the declining heart rate told us that this baby needed to be born sooner rather than later.

I honestly don’t remember getting out of the tub and walking back to the bed, the entire thing just feels like a blur. But I made it to the bed where I was hooked up to the fetal monitors and oxygen and the midwife told me it was time to meet my baby. With the last few contractions, I pushed with every last ounce of energy that I had, and not 5 minutes later, at 3:26pm our baby was born.

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She came out screaming, beautiful, and perfectly healthy in every way. That instant, post-labor euphoria they talk about? Y’all, it’s real. It is so, so real. I couldn’t believe how perfect this little one was. We marveled at that full head of hair and those teeny tiny fingers.

They tried to place her on my chest, but because the cord was short, placed her on my belly instead, and covered her with a towel to keep her warm. A few minutes later, once the cord was cut, they lifted the towel to move her to my chest, and that’s when the real surprise was revealed.

As she lifted the towel, our midwife said, “What were y’all having again?”

Taylor and I confusedly looked at each other and said, “Um, a boy…”

And as she handed me my perfect baby, she smiled and said, “Nope, this is a GIRL!” 

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A girl, y’all! A GIRL! I immediately started laughing. I couldn’t believe it – any of it! I couldn’t believe that I woke up that morning and less than 12 hours later, I not only had a baby, I had a girl! It had all happened so quickly and smoothly and beautifully, and I just felt – and still feel – so, so grateful.  I had/have hypothyroidism (have since high school), but it didn’t cause any complications during pregnancy or labor, I felt so lucky that I had zero interventions for birth, and it was really amazing to see how quickly and smoothly everything progressed on its own.

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The little boy we’d hoped and waited for, the little boy I’d spent 38 weeks and 6 days dreaming about, was actually a girl. A gorgeous, teeny tiny, feisty little girl. The sweetest surprise of my life.

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We spent awhile soaking in every ounce of her perfection before handing her off to Taylor for some skin-to-skin time while I got a few stitches.

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A lot of people have asked us how it’s possible to mistake a girl for a boy “in this day and age,” and I totally get it. Most couples opt for early bloodwork that can determine the gender, and then receive multiple sonograms throughout the pregnancy that also confirm the gender. But we opted to forgo the bloodwork, and only had two sonograms the entire pregnancy. One at 8 weeks to date the pregnancy, and another at 20 weeks to determine the gender. Even though the sonographer saw what certainly looked like boy parts on the screen, turns out she was wrong!

Even though we’d planned for a Walker, we’d actually had a little girl’s name picked out long before landing on a boy name. Zoey Lynn Zambreski, 6 lbs 4 oz, the biggest surprise of our lives, couldn’t have been a more perfect fit.

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After spending some time cuddling and introducing her to our families, the two of us hopped back in the birthing tub for a relaxing herbal bath. This time felt so precious to me. The warm water made this sweet girl think she was right back in my belly, and I soaked up every last second.

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After our bath, I ate a warm meal in bed as Taylor dressed Zoey and got her ready to go home.

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We grabbed a quick picture with the world’s most amazing birth team, and by 8pm we were headed home as a family of 3!

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Unlike most hospitals, as long as both mom and baby are healthy, the birth center sends you home anywhere from 4-6 hours post-delivery. I know a lot of people really enjoy their hospital stays, but I can’t tell you how great it was to be back home and in my own bed cuddling with Taylor and our perfect new baby.

It’s been over a month, but thinking back on little Zo’s birth stirs up so many emotions. I just feel so insanely lucky. I was lucky enough to have a quick, smooth, complication-free pregnancy and labor that didn’t require any medical interventions. I had an incredible and highly qualified birth team, and I loved having my baby naturally. Was it hard? Oh, so hard. But it was amazing and empowering in every way, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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I’m someone’s MOM now.

Read more about Natalie’s pregnancy and life at her blog Life Is Hard But Never Serious.

Art by 10101

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