My husband, Brandon, and I started trying to conceive 1 year after being married. My mom had tried for 11 years to have me, so when I didn’t get pregnant I began to worry that conceiving was going to be a struggle for me, also. My OBGYN diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome six months into our trying to conceive journey.

I was devastated. She told me that conceiving would be challenging, and there was little chance of being able to get pregnant on my own. I then suffered through 5 rounds of fertility medication, all to no avail.

My OBGYN then referred me to a fertility specialist, where I was told I actually did NOT have PCOS. Instead, “unexplained infertility.” My head was full of confusion, and in that moment I realized I had not been trusting God at all. The specialist told me we could move forward with Artificial Insemination, or wait. Artificial Insemination was expensive, and it was not a sure thing. We decided we would take the next 6 months or so to stop trying, and pray about what we should do.

A week or so later my husband and I were at a friend’s wedding shower when one of our pastors at the time told us that he had a dream about me. We rarely saw this pastor, and he had no idea we were trying to have a baby, so this was a surprise to us both. He told us that in his dream God had his hand in my stomach, and he asked him, “What are you doing?” God’s response was, “I’m healing her.” My husband and I told him that was definitely from the Lord, and we received it. Although, we still didn’t tell him our situation.

About 3 weeks later, I could tell something was different, but I was no longer thinking about getting pregnant. I waited an entire week after I should have started my period, when I told my husband, “I think I should take a pregnancy test.” He wasn’t hopeful, and neither was I. On a Sunday morning before church we pick up a box of tests at a convenience store, and returned home for a minute. My husband waited in the car while I ran in to take it. Everything in me was trying not to get my hopes up, because every test I had taken before left me in tears.

I took the test and put it on the side of the toilet, and went about getting myself ready to meet Brandon back in the car to head to church. I glanced at the test after a couple of minutes, and sure enough, there were two pink lines, albeit the one line was very faint. I was in shock and awe, and my husband couldn’t believe it!

Everything from that moment was a dream come true, even the constant vomiting for the better part of 22 weeks. My pregnancy was smooth, and the little boy growing inside me was healthy. I went through my pregnancy in hopes of having a natural childbirth in the hospital with the OBGYN I had been with throughout this whole journey. I took Birth Boot Camp classes, and I learned so much. I was confident and empowered.

When I was 35 weeks pregnant, my whole plan turned upside down. My OBGYN told me I should prepare myself for a cesarean, because my baby was going to be huge. There had been some red flags that I ignored up to this point, but enough was enough. I knew a big baby was not a good reason for a cesarean. That was the last time I ever saw that OB. I went home and knew things had to change. I spent the next week firing my current care provider, and interviewing several midwives. I was not going to have my baby in the hospital after all.

I started care with Amanda Prouty (CPM) and her team at 36 weeks pregnant. It was a whirlwind situation, but I was at peace and excited to give birth.

I woke up at 8 am on February 3rd. I got ready for the day, and drove out to meet Brandon on his lunch break. I spent the rest of the day working on homework for my college classes. Since I quit my job the week before, I spent the majority of my time trying to get as ahead as I could so I wouldn’t be stressed out when Zealous arrived. That evening I drug myself to church. It had gotten to where I dreaded the Tuesday night service, because I was always so exhausted.

After church I came home, ate a snack, and hung out around my home. As tired as I was, I had been suffering from “pregnancy insomnia” and had a very hard time sleeping. I finally went to bed around 12:30 am, but I knew I would wake up soon. Sure enough, I woke up at 1:45 am, and had to pee. I pushed myself out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. When I plopped down back in bed I felt a huge gush of liquid rush out of me. I had no doubt about what had happened. “Oh, no,” I said. I knew that my water breaking was not how I wanted to go into labor, and I was not excited about it being the middle of the night.

At the same time, my heart started racing, and I got very excited and nervous. I knew labor was eminent. The moment that had tarried for what felt like forever was right around the corner! I woke Brandon up, told him my water broke, and he was clearly startled. I’m pretty sure he thought he was dreaming. I called Amanda, my midwife, and she told me to put on a Depends, and go back to sleep. She would check on me in the morning. I called my mom, my best friend Elizabeth, and texted my doula Hillary to let them know to be prepared!

We took the wet sheets off the bed, laid down some towels, and I tried to do exactly what Amanda said. Well, sleep didn’t happen. About 15 minutes after I called Amanda, I experienced my first contraction, and then another, and another. I was immediately contracting every 3-7 minutes and they were lasting about 30 to 45 seconds. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep and laying down was extremely uncomfortable, but I felt confident that I could do what needed to be done to have my baby.

I decided to let Brandon rest, and I got up and started to cope with labor and get some last minute things done around the house in between contractions. I started my laboring playlist, and let labor overtake me in the best way. Around 3:30 am, the contractions were still just as strong and getting stronger. I decided to call my birth team to tell them to head on over. I knew this was real deal, and I needed support.

They all arrived at 5:30 am, and my contractions were still coming on strong, but I felt great in between them. I spent the majority of the next couple of hours praying, rocking on the birthing ball with my doula doing counter pressure on my back, and using the toilet. I had been diligently drinking water because I knew I needed to replenish the amniotic fluid I was losing. At 7:30 am, the contractions started to become very intense, and I threw up every bit of what was in my stomach. I believed I was in transition. It was time to head to the birth center. It took some time to get out the door, since the contractions were back to back, and they kept me from walking very far.

The 30 minute car ride to the birthing center was surprisingly fine. I had heard horror stories about laboring in the car, but I felt okay, all things considered. I held on tightly to the back of the driver’s seat, and leaned into every contraction while my mom drove carefully. I was practically squatting in the floor board of the back seat. My husband did what he could to comfort me during each contraction. They were happening every minute or so at this point.

Once we arrived at the birth center, the first thing I wanted to do was relax in the big birthing tub. When people refer to water as “the midwife’s epidural”, it is no joke! The water felt amazing, and helped ease my back labor. I had a herniated disc before I got pregnant, and my son’s little head was causing my spine to hurt during contractions.

Not long after I got into the tub, my midwife told me I seemed to be almost fully dilated by looking at the “Purple Line” that appears on the lower back during labor. This was very exciting to me, but little did I know the crazy journey that was still ahead.

Around 10:30 am, still laboring in the tub, I started pushing. I didn’t work too hard at it, but there was so much relief from the contractions when I pushed. Laboring, and the fact that I had only gotten 1 hour of sleep in the last 27 hours, had officially caught up with me. I was beyond exhausted and ready to be done with this amazing experience. After a couple of hours of pushing, I started to get upset. I didn’t understand why my baby wasn’t here yet. Was it normal to push this long? Amanda told me I could check myself to see if I could feel Zealous’s head. I could, but I also felt something strange. After I expressed what I felt, my midwife decided to check me herself. I had a cervical lip; a small “lip” of cervix left that was keeping my baby from being born. I had no idea what this was, or that pushing through it was only making it worse. I was told it would be better for me to get out of the tub, and try some other laboring positions to get the lip of cervix to move.

I spent the next couple of hours still feeling the urge to push, but moving from the birth stool, the bed, the side of the tub, and toilet. Hillary followed me diligently, and helped me through every contraction. She was amazing, and the reason I now desire to become a doula myself.

My husband was exhausted, and I wanted him to rest so he would be awake enough to enjoy our new baby.

At 3 in the afternoon, it became clear to me that my cervix was not moving any time soon, which I later realized was probably because of my pushing. Amanda asked me if she could move my cervix manually with her finger. I was warned that it would be excruciating, but I was ready to meet my baby.

I laid on my back in the bed, and held on tight to the rebozo, my doula and one of the student midwives holding each side of it. My husband held one leg, and my best friend held the other. I pushed with all my might while Amanda moved my cervix. The pain was nothing compared to the exhaustion I was feeling. As I laid on the bed, and relaxed between contractions, I started to dream, and somewhat hallucinate. Then, I pushed with all my might as my legs were held to my ears, and I pulled up on the rebozo as hard as I could. My herniated disc pain was worse than any pain associated with labor. Being on my back wasn’t helping.

As my cervix was moved, I asked Amanda if I could try getting back into the tub to push my baby out. I tried pushing in several different positions for about an hour, only to realize the bed was what was working the best. I was back on the bed, so I pushed with all my might, again! I yelled at everyone in the room, and accused them all of being liars when they said my son was almost here. I started thinking I needed to just go get the epidural at the hospital so I could sleep, when my husband told me he could see our son. His head was a couple of pushes from emerging, so I pushed on. I put all of my thoughts into meeting my son and being able to sleep once this was over. I finally felt the “ring of fire”, and my midwife told me to stop pushing. I told her “I can’t.” Everything in me just wanted to push. Finally, his 14 centimeter head was out, and his little hand was up by his face holding the umbilical cord. His head had also been cocked to the side. All of this explained why I had been pushing for so long.

Because of the sciatic nerve pain I was experiencing due to the herniated disc, I couldn’t reach down and touch him. Shortly after his head emerged, his body followed, and he was immediately laid on my chest. His hair was dark! Brandon has platinum blond hair and I have red hair, so this was a shock to me. I couldn’t believe it. After all of this work, and 8 hours of pushing, my beautiful boy was here. Every contraction and every pain was 100% worth it. The first thing he did was poop and pee all over me, but I didn’t care at all. I was just happy to have him in my arms, and to be able to study his gorgeous face.

I laid in the bed staring at my son until it was time to push the placenta out, about 20 minutes later. That took one push, and I barely felt it. I needed 2 stitches, which was numbed with a local anesthetic. Zealous was measured and weighed: 22.5 inches long and 9 lbs 3 oz. We then soaked together in an herbal bath, where I was able to wash off all of the meconium (poop) and pee that was all over the both of us. Once we were out, I breastfed him for the first time. It was a beautiful, magical, and surreal experience. He latched perfectly; although, we did have a few struggles once we were home.

It took me some time to be able to use the restroom, but once I did we were ready to leave. We had to drop Elizabeth at home first, but I sat next to my son with my hand on his chest the whole hour home. My mom was staying with us for a few days, which I was very grateful for. My sister-in-law came over for a little while. I was especially excited for her to meet him, because I had been there to meet her two boys when they were born, and I had special bond with them.

Zealous slept in our bed between me and my husband, and he slept amazing. As tired as I had been, I had a hard time sleeping because I wanted to soak in every moment, but I did manage to sleep about 5 hours. I was thankful to be spending this time at home in my bed.

That day had been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I suffered with regret over screaming, and being what I felt was mean birth team at times, but I’ve come to realize that it is actually okay, and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am so glad I chose to switch care providers at 36 weeks pregnant. Amanda Prouty was the perfect midwife for my birth, and never wavered or acted uncertain. I’ve recommended every pregnant friend I’ve had to her since. Her student midwives encouraged me, and prayed for me during my extensive pushing, which brought me so much peace during an otherwise discouraging situation. I honestly do not believe I could have gotten through those 16.5 hours without my doula, Hillary Stillwell. In hindsight, I asked a lot of her, and she went above and beyond her job description for me. I am thankful that my best friend since childhood, and the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister was there to share that day with me. Also, for my mom who is a rock for me in every situation. Also, despite being almost as exhausted as me, my husband was my greatest advocate and supporter throughout my entire pregnancy and labor, and I can’t wait to do it all with him again.

I became a natural childbirth educator because I believe every woman has a right to experience the greatest high that could ever be, and feel empowered the way I did. I felt like the strongest woman alive that day, and still do any time I tell my story. My son and I have a deep connection that I completely believe is because of his birth story, and our extended breastfeeding journey. He is my dream come true, and everything I’ve ever wanted in life. A lot of moms say they lose themselves for a time after having their babies, but for me Zealous and his birth showed me God’s calling for life, being a mom, empowering, and educating other women to have a victorious birth. My name, Nicole, means victory, and I hope after reading this story, you let me help you to have a Victorious Birth, too.