Jennifer and I worked together, attended the same university, and met our husbands there. She is a practicing doula, and her passion for pregnancy and birth was one of the main motivators for me to pursue a certification as a doula. She is a walking testimony to the fact that all labors are unique - we can prepare and prepare and prepare, but ultimately, labor will bring it's own set of surprises. The story of Jethro's birth is beautiful - this mama served her boy so well in pregnancy and labor, and as his mama today! I know you will enjoy her beautiful words!
A few days earlier, I was dilated to 4cm and walking around with no sign of labor. I was HUGE and spent most of my time hoisting my enormous self up a flight of stairs 2 at a time, lunging into each step hoping the pressure and angle would let this kid just fall out. We walked and walked and walked, one foot in the gutter and one on the sidewalk. I looked ridiculous and I didn’t care.
Memorial day, May 28 of 2012. I looked at the clock in the car, 4:50pm. “That felt different.” A few minutes later, I felt it again, the clock said 4:55. I’d been having Braxton hicks for months, but these were different, not painful, just different. Every 5 minutes, Braxton hicks contractions that felt more meaningful came like clockwork. We continued to the grocery store, and I paused every few minutes with the contractions just to experience them. They weren't painful or captivating other than the fact that they might be the start of getting to meet our baby. I wanted to analyze every sensation, and try to figure out what it meant. I tried not to let myself get too excited, but we called our parents to update them; mine had to make a 14 hour drive so we wanted them to be ready.
After we got home, I took it easy, put the groceries away, made a snack and got comfortable. Contractions continued to increase their intensity and get closer together. We called our good friend and doula, and she joined us once the contractions took some work to get through. I was ready to get this show on the road, so I did what I could to help make progress. I did deep squats during contractions, walked, swayed my hips and did the “Captain Morgan” stretch. Contractions got to about two minutes apart but somehow I knew it wasn’t time. I kept saying “I don’t think this is it.” The contractions were hard work, even a little painful but it wasn’t time. We turned on the Oceans episode of Planet Earth, the soothing voice, the music and the sounds of the ocean was perfect for my labor. I ate cheese and crackers and drank water. The contractions started to space back out around 2am and I was able to sleep through most of them until around 8. When I woke up I was very frustrated. Contractions were 5-10 minutes apart and almost unnoticeable. Zach and I were going to head over to our favorite coffee shop together, but at the last minute I decided to stay home and rest. I laid down and Zach left. Thankfully he came back just seconds later, he’d forgotten his wallet. Out of nowhere I had a very strong contraction, a pop and a gush of water. My water broke and contractions were intense and right on top of each other, I was in transition almost instantly. Shaking, cold and hot, sweating. Zach made all of our calls and we waited the 45 minutes for our doula to arrive before heading to the birth center. The car ride was agonizing, Transition was ending as we got closer and I could feel my body wanting to push while we were still in the car.
We arrived at the birth center at about noon. It took all of my concentration but I managed to not throw up. That had been a goal of mine from the beginning: make it through all of pregnancy and labor without losing my lunch. It was Memorial day and no one was there except for another pregnant mama waiting for a test to be done. I yelled with every contraction and got so hot. I pulled my shirt off in the parking lot…I’m not sure where it went…the midwife was stuck in traffic. I somehow made it upstairs, trying to go as fast as I could in between contractions. I was leaning against a locked glass door pulling my clothes off and trying not to push. I could feel the pressure of the baby’s head and I couldn't fight the pushing sensation anymore. I remember saying, “The baby is coming NOW.” I heard the midwifes voice, it sounded so far away, I wanted to yell for her to hurry but I couldn’t make any words come out of my mouth. I heard someone say “She’s pushing.” and then things felt hurried. The door was opened and I wanted to go to the bathroom. I closed the door to the bathroom and the logical chunk of my brain turned back on and said “You don’t need to poop, you need to have a baby” instead of walking back out I started instinctively washing my hands, someone told me not to and in between contractions I hurried to the tub.
The water felt amazing. It was hot and every muscle relaxed. The tension under my big belly let go. I locked my arms over the edge of the tub and gave into the contractions. Pushing was not my favorite part of labor. For 2 hours I pushed, I could feel the stretch, burn and tear of my skin ripping but I just wanted to hold my baby, so I pushed harder. I alternated between holding on to Zach and holding ice cubes in my hands.
The midwife occasionally checked on the baby’s heart rate. She told me I needed to push harder. My body didn’t want to. I didn’t want to tear, but I knew that baby needed to come out. Eventually I could reach down into the water and touch his head. Just a few contractions later and he was out. Somehow I maneuvered around to be siting in the water, holding my baby as high as I could. He wasn’t breathing. The midwife started giving him little puffs of air. I just kept saying “breathe baby, breathe” That was too hard of work to not get to go home with a baby. I was upset that everyone wasn’t more frantic, more worried…but after about 8 little puffs and what seemed an eternity, he cried. The most beautiful and relieving sound I’ve ever heard. I held him close and after a moment we realized….we didn’t know if we had a boy or girl! Our sweet, precious boy pinked right up and I carried him, still attached to the placenta inside me, over to a beautiful log bed.
I laid with my baby belly to belly. He scootched his way up and latched immediately, almost on his own, and nursed well right away. I was amazed at the skill my baby already had, just minutes after birth. I was in love. We couldn’t take our eyes off of our boy. Getting stitched up was painful. I think I would have rather had a few more contractions. But I had my boy to hold and Zach right beside me. I made it through the stitches and got to go and sit in the most wonderfully soothing bath of my life. A dark room and hot herbal bath was the perfect thing.
Our little monster weighed in at 8lbs ½ oz, 20.5inches long with a 14.5in head. Four hours later we were at home snuggled in our own bed and being made dinner by family who loves us. I can’t think of a better way to welcome a new little person to the world.
A special thank you to the midwives and nurses and Mountain Midwifery Center. We had a wonderful experience from the orientation to our last postpartum visit and all of the classes, appointments and support in between.