On Monday, June 24th, I went to our OB with my mom to take yet another non-stress test. My doctor was watching our baby, Lucy, closely, as I was five days overdue. I had several Braxton Hicks contractions during the test and thankfully Lucy responded exactly like they wanted. We were given the green light to go home and wait for labor to (hopefully) start on its own. My mom and I stopped at Starbucks to pick up water (I actually hate their coffee) and then headed to Hobby Lobby to buy a few picture frames. Can you tell I was doing anything and everything to keep my mind distracted?
As we walked around the store, my Braxton Hicks contractions began to change. I started to feel period-like cramps along with a tightening of my abdomen. I told my mom, and we both smiled. On the drive home, my contractions continued. I called, my husband, Ryan and sent my doula a text message. I didn’t want to get anyone too excited, but I felt like something was finally happening.
I spent the rest of the afternoon with my mom and sister. The contractions came every 7-10 minutes but they were mild at best. I could shop, I could make dinner, I could talk on the phone. As the sun began to set, my contractions also died down. By the time Ryan and I went to bed, they were gone. I felt disappointed and discouraged. Even embarrassed. Would this baby ever come?
The next morning I woke up. Ryan and I talked softly in bed and then I went to make breakfast. There were no contractions. No cramps. Nothing. I called my mom and told her that despite our hopes yesterday, we wouldn’t be having a baby anytime soon. But just after I got off the phone and set the timer for my hard boiled eggs, another contraction hit. And I knew immediately that this was for real. I called my doula and my mom. I told them we still had plenty of time but to get ready to go to the hospital later that morning. After a good night's sleep, I felt calm and energized, completely ready for the journey ahead.
I'm an avid baker, and I ate my share of gluten during pregnancy. So I asked Ryan if we could go and pick up a few of my favorite muffins from a bakery in Manitou Springs. I figured I would need all the energy I could muster. But as I got dressed, the contractions continued…and intensified. By the time I was ready to slip on my shoes to leave, I could no longer walk or talk through a contraction. I leaned up against the wall, my eyes closed, and I focused on my breath. When the wave passed, I told Ryan, “Scratch the muffins. Call my mom and Sarah (our doula). Tell them to get here NOW.”
By the time my mom and Sarah arrived, we had our hospital bags at the front door. Ryan ran outside and began loading them in my mom’s car. I stood on the front porch as another contraction hit. I leaned over the metal railing and tried to focus my energy on regulating my breath.
We arrived at the hospital a little after nine. In triage, our nurse checked me: I was 5 ½ centimeters, 90% effaced, and the baby was in 0 position. We were good to stay.
As we waited to get settled into our room, my contractions grew closer and closer together. I buried my head into the side of the bed, visualizing a calm beach and water rushing up and over my legs, my hips, and my belly. The brief breaks from pain were precious. Ryan and I would talk, hold hands, and I would attempt to regain my strength. Right before we left triage, I had to sit through a particularly painful contraction as the nurse inserted a saline lock into my wrist (I needed to take a round of antibiotics because I had tested positive for Group B Strep). She admired my ability to stay still while she poked my arm. I wanted to hit her.
We were finally allowed to go to our room almost an hour after arriving at the hospital. Lucy had picked a popular day to be born…ten babies came during the day time shift! My sister, mom, and Ryan’s mom were waiting for us in the lobby. Seeing everyone’s excited faces made me even more eager to bring my little one into the world.
Marjorie, our nurse, had dimmed the lights in my delivery room, just as we requested. I wanted to give birth in a calm, “cave-like” environment, which isn’t necessarily easy to do at the hospital. But the staff made every effort to meet my requests. The room stayed dark, quiet and calm throughout my labor and delivery.
My contractions grew more intense each minute. I spent most of the time in bed, facing away from my family (not because I didn’t want them there…but because each contraction required so much inner focus). This went on for about twenty to thirty minutes as Marjorie listened to Lucy’s fetal heartbeat. After the read was complete, she asked me if I wanted to go to the labor tub. I had an intense contraction that almost took my breath away, and after coming down from it, I told her yes.
Ryan and I went to the tub room together. My doula had set up candles and turned off all the lights. The minute my body hit the warm water, I felt like I had been transported. “I’m in heaven!” I told Ryan as he gently stroked my arm. But just when I had begun to get settled, another contraction came and this time I felt a distinct urge to push. We pulled the red nurse rope and Marjorie came right in. She asked if she could check me, and we found out I was already 8 ½ centimeters dilated. At this point, it was time to call my doctor and get me back into the delivery room.
Unlike most women, I knew who'd be delivering my baby. My OB was a close family friend, and had promised to leave her house or her office when I went into labor, even if she wasn't on-call.
So despite having an office-full of patients, she came into my hospital room a little after noon. She checked me and told me the long-awaited news: I was officially ten centimeters dilated. She also said that first time moms typically take about 2 hours to push. She had patients she needed to see at her office, so she asked Marjorie to monitor my pushing and call her when I got closer.
TWO HOURS. I felt like I might pass out. By this point, I was vocalizing loudly, humming in a low and then high octave during each contraction. I couldn't imagine doing this for another ten minutes, let along two hours. But at this point, there wasn't another option.
My first few attempts at pushing were nothing less than terrifying. The urge to push was intense but I couldn’t muster the strength to bear down. I felt completely lost and confused. I was worried they’d have to cut the baby out of me…exhaustion had never seen like the more apt word.
At this point, my strength was nearly exhausted. I had gotten the okay to push, but after a few pathetic attempts, I felt like there was no way I would ever be able to get this baby out of my body. I had found a way to cope with the pain, but I didn’t know how to harness my strength to get her out. My whole body began to tense up with fear. I knew that I was letting my mind take over, which was preventing my body from doing the work it was created to do. And so, like I had in times past, I turned to prayer. My oldest sister, one of the strongest and most faithful women I know, was standing in the corner of the hospital room, tears streaming down her face as she watched me labor. I asked her to come over and pray over me. The room went quiet and she stretched her hands over my exhausted body. I don’t remember the exact words she said, but I do remember how fear was so quickly replaced with an overwhelming peace. I remembered that God had designed my body to birth this baby and I remembered how He promised to never leave me. With the next contraction, I attempted to push again, and this time I felt my body open and my baby begin to come out.
What exactly changed I don’t know, but I found that the next time I pushed true progress was made. It was almost as if my spine curled around the contraction and then my body was able to focus on the exact right spot to push…such a bizarre but satisfying feeling. Everyone in the room cheered. They could see the baby’s head.
The next fifteen minutes was exhilarating. I was able to bear down and push through each contraction, bringing my baby closer and closer to me. Ryan exclaimed, “She has so much hair!” after a particularly successful round of pushing. It was just what I needed to hear to get me across the finish line.
After I pushed through another contraction, my nurse ran out of the room and told someone to call Dr. Brinkman. I was about to have this baby…with or without her. Two hours had turned into fifteen minutes. The pain was present but bearable. I knew that I was so close to holding her, which was the best pain medicine I could have asked for.
Dr. Brinkman ran into the room within the next ten minutes. She tried to get me to slow down to prevent tearing, but I couldn’t control myself. At this point, I just wanted it to be over....I just wanted to hold my daughter. So after one more strong push, out she came. Seeing her—so alive and tangible—had to be one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I broke out in tears, or sobs, and I reached down to hold her hand as they let the umbilical cord pulse for a few more seconds. As I brought her up to my chest, I kept saying, “My baby, my baby” all while laughing and crying. All while thanking God for this incredible gift. Ryan and I held each other as we gazed into our baby’s eyes. Ryan was able to cut the cord–the life force between me and my daughter. I wouldn’t have trusted that sacred transition to anyone but him. It was a beautiful beginning to our life as a family and one that I’ll never forget. Our family rushed into the room moments later, and I clung to my mother as I held my new daughter on my chest.