Shanna Leigh Images » Blog

The Birth of My Sweet Son, Rhett

It’s 1:00am on April 10th. One year ago right this minute, my water broke. This whole month has had me so nostalgic for that time a year ago when the sweetest little red haired baby came into my life! His birth was the most amazing day of my life and I am forever changed because of it. I wanted to share the story of his birth, and the photos from his birth taken by the ever so talented Keri Duckett, that I treasure more than my own wedding photos! So, if that’s not your thing, feel free to scroll past this entry. You might learn more about me than you were bargaining for 😉

I’ll start off by saying that I had the easiest pregnancy ever! No morning sickness, no blood pressure problems, no aches or pains that my chiropractor or a warm bath couldn’t fix, and I didn’t even start to swell until the last week! Once I hit 36 weeks, I practically begged (okay I totally begged) my midwife, Ann, to check me. All of my friends that were seeing doctors were getting checked at 36 weeks and darn it, I was anxious and wanted to be checked, too! After my pleading, and Ann telling me it was totally pointless to check me ever, much less this early, she did as I asked. I was 75% effaced and dilated 1cm. I was SO excited to hear that! I thought for sure that I’d be holding my baby in a week or two. HA! Two weeks later I was fully effaced and dilated 2 cm…and two weeks after that I was still pregnant. Still not “overdue”, but still pregnant. Incase you don’t know, I’m the most impatient person in the world when it comes to surprises. If I had to go past my due date it was going to eat me alive wondering what my sweet boy was going to look like!

So, April 9th, 2012: My best friend (since we were 8 years old) April flew in from New York. Her husband does tall-building-lawyering and got a job in what I’m sure is a tall building with lots of suits all the way in upstate New York while I was pregnant. I was heartbroken at the thought of her not being there for my birth, but as luck would have it she was able to take two whole weeks off work to fly down and wait for the arrival of my baby. Now THAT’S a friend, right? So, April arrived on Texas soil and 8 hours later my water broke. Coincidence? Not a chance, man!

I always imagined my water breaking being some big dramatic thing that would surely happen in public and then it would be followed by lots of hurrying and excitement and a few hours later, a baby. Wrong! At 1am on April 10th I woke for one of my 900 pee trips and as I was rolling from my left side to my right side to heave my giant round body out of the bed, I felt it. But then it stopped once I stood up. I wrote it off as being 9 million years pregnant and maybe not so in control of my bladder. Then again around 3:00am when I woke up for yet another pee trip, it was unmistakable when I rolled over. I was STOKED! I called my midwife and she told me to get some sleep and call her if anything happened. Get some sleep? But my water broke! I’m having a baby today! That’s way too much excitement for sleep! And on my due date, too! I texted my mom to tell her my water broke and I texted April who was sleeping in the other room. Then I went and laid in my bed wide awake wondering if I would know when contractions were happening. HA! I shook my husband, Bailey, awake and told him my water broke. I don’t think he believed me at first! He was able to go back to sleep but I laid awake all night like a kid waiting for Christmas morning to hurry up and get here so I could see my presents. Once morning came, April and I went for a walk around the neighborhood hoping to get things moving along, and then to my regularly scheduled midwife appointment. I was soooo excited that it was “baby day!” but I could tell everyone was being cautious not to get my hopes up. My midwife let me know that it could be “a while”, and boy was she right! Since I wasn’t giving birth in a hospital, there was no clock ticking on my water being broken. Instead, my midwife smartly instructed me to go home where my body is familiar with the germs and how to be extra careful and clean in the bathroom to avoid introducing foreign bacteria that could lead to an infection. April and I sat around watching the murder channel (Discovery ID…I’m addicted) while Bailey caught up on some work and each time I felt a tiny braxton hicks contraction I declared that “yup! this will happen soon. I’m having a baby today!”. Pretty soon it was dark outside, and I was still pregnant. And even worse, not in labor. You have no idea how hard it was to stay away from Dr. Google at this time. SO hard! Finally around 10pm I started to get some contractions that were definitely not braxton hicks contractions. I went into my room, turned off the light, lit a candle, and put in my headphones with the birth playlist I’d spent 9 months perfecting. I sat on my big yoga ball between contractions and then when they would come I would either lean over onto the bed and breath through them, or stand up and breath through them depending on the contraction. Eventually I opened my eyes and realized that Bailey and April had joined me in the bedroom and so I had them start timing the contractions for me and occasionally I would have Bailey squeeze my hips the way they taught us to do in our childbirth classes. We called Ann and she listened to me through a few contractions and told me that once they got to two-three minutes apart I could get in the tub to see if that helped with the pain. About 1:00am we filled up my tub and the first contraction I felt in the water was glorious. I declared that this was so awesome for my pain and that I would never experience another contraction on dry land ever again! Well, it turns out that it was so glorious that the contractions finally just fizzled out. No more pattern, no more pain, just random and only slightly uncomfortable. We all went to bed and I think I layed awake all night worried and scared that my body just wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing, and worried that my 45 minutes in the tub while my water was broken could bring on infection.

So, around 6am Wednesday morning Ann texted, shocked that she woke up in her bed and not at the birthing center and assured me that things were okay and to try and get some sleep and to call her when I woke up because she had some ideas to get things going. I semi-dosed off until about 8am and then called my mom to cry it out over how disappointed and discouraged I was feeling. At that point my water had been broken for going on 32 hours and I still wasn’t in active labor. Awful thoughts of infection, c-sections, and hospitals where filling my head and it was more than I could take. I was in full-on ugly cry mode for a few minutes and then felt much better. Funny how that works! That morning is a bit blurry for me. I ate a piece of toast, and took a shower, and gradually the contractions were coming again, but still nothing with a pattern. These contractions were so different than the night before, though. The night before it would feel like they started in my back and wrapped around the front to my belly. But that morning, they started in my back and stayed there until I felt like my spine and pelvis were on fire from my tailbone to my bra strap. They ended up hurting so bad in my back that I didn’t feel a THING in my belly. Anything and everything you’ve ever heard about how awful “back labor” feels is true. And that’s all I’ll say about that because if I elaborated to just exactly what the contractions felt like for the rest of my labor, I’m worried I will scare people into never having children. It was that bad. I called Ann who then called my awesome chiropractor, Dr. Pray. About 45 minutes later I got a text from Dr. Pray letting me know that she was at the Keller birthing center location and to come see her. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to read a text message! Dr. Pray had already saved me from extreme back and pelvic pain in my pregnancy so to have her adjust me today was surely going to save my life. I was sure of it! Dr. Pray adjusted me and showed Bailey ways to help me through contractions. She also told me that I was having back spasms all the way up to my bra strap. I know this sounds silly, but it felt good to have a professional confirm that “Yup! Your back SHOULD feel like it’s on fire right now, you poor thing! Sucks to be you!” She rubbed some Biofreeze on my back and that helped a ton so she sent us home with packets of it. This was around 12:30 or 1:00 pm. We got home and my contractions immediately picked up to a more regular pattern. I had Bailey put some more Biofreeze on my back only this time it didn’t help at all. This time was so much different than the night before and I certainly didn’t want anyone to time the contractions this time because I was so worried I was just going to get my hopes up again. The pain was EXCRUCIATING in my back. There was no position that helped, and I certainly didn’t want anyone touching me while I was having a contraction so rubbing my back or squeezing my hips was out of the question. By about 2:30 I was on the couch doing the ugly cry again between contractions because I felt so tired and defeated and so worried that my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing. I decided to get in the shower to see if the hot water on my back would bring any relief and I think that was the point that things got REAL. I was begging Bailey to just DO SOMETHING (sorry about that, B) and might have even begged/demanded to just go to the hospital and have them “knock me the f*ck out and just cut the baby out”. I told Bailey to call Ann and after hearing me scream at my poor husband and cry in the shower like a wimp she decided it was time for us to head to the birth center. She told us that Michele, her awesome assistant midwife would meet us there. We already had bags packed but of course at this point we probably packed two more full of crap we didn’t need especially considering we weren’t even staying the night. Bailey hopped into my car since it had the carseat in the back and I immediately decided I wanted to ride with April in his Touareg so that I could writhe around in the backseat and die in peace…ha! Bailey took the back way and April, unfamiliar with our neighborhood took the long way a different way. Bailey later told me that when he saw us leave first, but then he beat us to the birthing center that the first thought that entered his head was that I had talked April into just driving me to the hospital for drugs…haha!

After what felt like an hour long car ride in school zone/construction traffic (but was only three miles), we got to the birthing center at 3:30pm. Dr. Pray let us in and Michele was right behind us. Michele checked my cervix and told me I was fully effaced and at 4cm and asked if I wanted to get in the birthing pool. I told her I was scared to get in the water because I was afraid things would fizzle out again. She calmed me down and told me that if things fizzled out, I could get out of the water. Looking back now, I know that she knew this was the real deal and that I wouldn’t be getting out of that water because things were not fizzling out this time! The water was warm and felt SO good between contractions! I had these grand plans of giving birth with blown out perfect hair and makeup on with anybody and everybody that wanted to be in the room there. HA! Five minutes after I got into that water I was in full on survival mode and ended up looking like a drowned sewer rat and I didn’t care one bit! There was no more crying like at home. It was business time. I didn’t want to be touched, or spoken to. I didn’t want encouragement because when some one would tell me how “great” I was doing, all I could do was look up at the three childless people in the room with me and think  “HOW DO YOOOOU KNOW HOW I’M DOING?!?!?!” Somehow, I was able to keep that to myself, though…haha! The only way I could get any relief at all through contractions was to reach around to my lower back and put as much downward pressure as I could on my pelvis and to let out a long “haaaaaaa” sound until the contraction was over. Letting out the “ha” sound was easier than breathing at this point and kept me from breathing too fast and wasting energy. It turns out that I was putting so much downward pressure on my pelvis that the next day my hips were bruised and my arms and hands were more sore than my ladybits that had a baby squeezed out of them! Ugh. Between the contractions the water and my music playing in the background really helped me to completely relax to prepare for the next contraction. At about 5:00pm I started feeling like I needed to poop and NOW (hey…I warned you that you might learn more about me than you ever cared to) so Michele asked if I wanted to get out and sit on the toilet. After shivering on the toilet for about 20 minutes through contractions and still nothing happening, (turns out a baby head lodged in your pelvis gives you the same feeling as needing to #2) I was feeling really, REALLY “pushy” with my contractions. I could no longer make the relaxed “ha” sound through them without pushing and I knew that if I was pushing before I was fully dilated it could make my cervix swell and slow things down. So, instead of moaning I had to make this really strong “SHHHHHHHHHHHH” sound as I breathed in and out through my teeth with each contraction so that I wouldn’t push. Looking back I think it’s pretty cool that my body just knew to change my breathing. Ann later told me that the breathing I was doing was something that a doula usually coaches mamas to do when it’s getting close. Even though I wasn’t trying to push, it’s weird how my body would automatically bare down a little with each contraction. I couldn’t help it one bit, it would just happen! I decided to get back in the water, but not before Michele could check me. Looking at my chart it says I was 6 cm at 5:20pm, but I distinctly remember Michele telling me I was at 7, which meant transition, which meant there was a light at the end of the tunnel! I don’t know if she told me 7 cm so that I wouldn’t get discouraged (if you did this Michele, THANK YOU!!!) or if I just refused to hear 6 and heard it as 7, haha! I had been sipping on juice since I hadn’t eaten anything but toast in the past 24 hours and when I stood up from getting checked on the bed to get back in the pool, the few sips of juice I’d had came right back up and thankfully into a trashcan. I’d always heard women talk about the strange things that happen to your body during transition like shaking, vomiting, and all that fun stuff and for me that tiny bit of juice coming up was a good sign that I would meet my son soon!

By now my mom and sisters were here but only my mom was in the room with us. I was in so much pain earlier that I had told myself that we would just call everyone when he was here because I didn’t want an audience other than Bailey and April and my midwives while I felt like I was dying. April had texted my mom without me knowing and I’m so glad she did. I couldn’t imagine my mom not being there, even if I didn’t want to be spoken to, or touched…haha. Ann and Keri arrived sometime around now, too, and by 6:50 I was fully dilated and was told I could start pushing. HOORAY!!

relaxing between contractions during my water birth at gentle beginnings birth center.pintopinterest

My sisters came in the room now, too. By 7:08 I could reach down and feel his head with each push, but as soon as I would stop pushing, his head would go back up a little bit. I remember reading and hearing about the “ring of fire” that I would feel when his head would finally come out so when I started to feel a burning sensation I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and THAT felt great! I think that finally feeling confident that my body was doing what it was made to do helped take away the pain of that so called “ring of fire” because it was far less fire-like than any of those contractions in my back! And being able to finally push, felt SO relieving for my back. The midwifes encouraged Bailey to come closer to the edge of the pool, and he said “no, I don’t want to get in the way, I’m fine back here” and then I might have yelled at him that he’d better get over here because I’m only doing this once! So he moved closer and at 7:17 I pushed out his head. Seeing on paper that his head was pushed out only one minute before the rest of his body is so odd. I remember reaching down to feel his head (I’ll spare you of the photos of this, but I promise you, they’re beautiful) and his face and just really taking in that moment and what it all felt like and when I look back on it, it feels like it lasted for a good five minutes. I felt hair on his head and was so surprised! And his face felt so soft!

my husband waiting nervously for the birth of our first son.pintopinterest

my husband nervously watching as I give birthpintopinterest

Ann told me to give a few more good pushes and my baby would be out, so I took a deep breath and pushed harder than I had in my entire life, reached down, and guided my baby’s body out of my own and pulled him up out of the water. It was hands down, the greatest moment of my entire life. Michele suctioned his mouth and nose while I held him and then he let out the sweetest cry ever!

catching my own baby during my water birth at gentle beginnings birth centerpintopinterest

Moments after catching my own baby during my water birth at Gentle Beginnings Birthing Center.pintopinterest

Moments after giving birth naturally to my son in a water birth at Gentle Beginnings Birth Center.pintopinterest

water birth at gentle beginnings birthing centerpintopinterest

moments after my water birth at gentle beginnings birthing centerpintopinterest

moments after my water birth at gentle beginnings birthing centerpintopinterest

my newborn baby boy moments after our water birth at gentle beginnings birthing centerpintopinterest

my newborn baby boy moments after our water birth at gentle beginnings birthing centerpintopinterest

moments after my incredible water birth at gentle beginnings birth centerpintopinterest

my beautiful newborn baby boy with his perfect little almond shaped eyespintopinterest

I was so amazed at how cute he was and how very “non-alien” looking he was right away! We stayed in the birth pool for a few more minutes and then they helped me out of the water and onto the bed. I carried my son with me, still attached to my body and nobody took him from me (now I realize why my birthing center is named “Gentle Beginnings”). We were both wrapped in warm towels and left to bond with each other and start breastfeeding while Ann and Michele checked me out and prepared for the delivery of the placenta. My sister Kristin cut the cord since Bailey is a tad bit squeamish, and still nobody took our baby from us until we offered to let them hold him. I was losing a lot of blood so I got a shot of pitocin in my thigh to help my uterus cramp down and a dose of cytotec to help as well. After the placenta was out and I wasn’t losing blood, Bailey and I laid on the bed with our son eating breakfast for dinner from IHOP while the midwifes made Rhett and me the most amazing herbal bath EVER!

my beautiful newborn son enjoying a wonderful herbal bath with mommy after our water birth at gentle beginnings birthing center.pintopinterest

my beautiful newborn son enjoying a wonderful herbal bath with mommy after our water birth at gentle beginnings birthing center.pintopinterest

Rhett and I both loved the bath and he was so alert and cute for the whole thing. Around 10:30pm we invited our families to come in my room for the newborn exam and everyone got to watch as he was weighed, measured, and checked out from head to toe. Bailey’s sister Allie guessed the right weight at 6lbs 6oz and he was 19 inches long. I couldn’t believe how tiny he was!

baby getting weighed in a sling scale pintopinterest

baby rhett getting measured during his newborn exampintopinterest

daddy and sonpintopinterest


Eventually everyone said their goodbyes and our new little family of three cuddled up for a little nap and finally ended up going home that night around 2am. April was so sweet! We came home to a spotless house and our bed made with the sheets turned down. Rhett slept on my chest that night but I don’t think I slept a bit. I just couldn’t stop staring at him!

I want to thank my midwife Ann Crowell, and her apprentice at the time, Michele Massey. Without your calmness and confidence in my body’s ability to labor on its own terms and for me to give birth quietly on my own terms, with nobody telling me when to push or shouting out counts of ten, I can’t imagine how differently this story would have gone. Thank you both for taking such wonderful care of Rhett and me for so long. I also have to thank Keri Duckett for the gorgeous, priceless photos of the birth of my son. I treasure these photos more than I can accurately put into words.

Send Mea Message Share onFacebook Tweet toTwitter Pin topinterest subscribeby email
  • Melissa Thomas

    Astoundingly beautiful photos, story and birth. Thanks for sharing :)ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *