It was January of 2006 and I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of my first baby. I had experienced two miscarriages before this pregnancy and had spent much of the time I was pregnant worried. Now, though, I was just excited. I was excited to meet this little person who had been kicking me in the ribs and excited to start my journey as a mother.
I was working ten hour days in an attempt to log as many hours as possible in an internship I needed to complete by April. My belly was huge and I was exhausted. One Monday night when I got home I noticed that I was beginning to lose my mucous plug. My estimated due date wasn’t for two weeks so while I was excited about this development I really didn’t think much of it.
The next day at my internship, though, I could tell something was different. I was having more Braxton Hicks contractions and the baby seemed to be sitting lower. I had a prenatal appointment that afternoon and my midwife told me that I was two centimeters dilated. She said that the baby would probably be coming sometime soon. That night as I had dinner with a friend I was experiencing increasing amounts of Braxton Hicks. I went to bed late that night trying not to expect much.
At midnight I woke up to what I thought was a strong Braxton Hicks contraction. As I lay in bed sleepily I noticed that these contractions were coming somewhat regularly. I kept an eye on the clock and discovered they were coming every five minutes. I couldn’t believe it! Was I really in labor? I tried to rest and relax but my mind was racing. Throughout my pregnancy I had heard stories of people who weren’t sure they were in labor. I remember thinking, “How could you not know?” but here I was hauling my big belly out of bed to Google “Signs you are really in labor”.
An hour passed and the contractions were getting closer together. By 4:00 am they were three minutes apart and I decided to wake up my husband Dan. “I think I’m in labor”, I whispered to him. He was exceptionally calm and got up to pack a bag for the hospital and drove to the store to get snacks. We were ridiculously unprepared. Since my due date wasn’t for another two weeks we thought we had plenty of time to get things together, but this baby obviously had other plans!
Dan left for the store and set me up in bed with a bowl of oatmeal. He encouraged me to eat like we had learned in our Bradley classes but the contractions were now taking so much of my concentration that I couldn’t take more than a few bites.
By 6:00 am the contractions were two minutes apart and we decided to call our midwife. We had wanted to labor at home for as long as possible but with this being our first baby we weren’t sure how quickly things would go. She told us to go to the hospital and she would meet us there.
The ride over was excruciating! The roads seemed full of potholes and every bump intensified the contractions. As we pulled up to the hospital I was overwhelmed by the thought that we were coming as two but would be leaving as three.
We entered triage in labor and delivery where the nurse on staff checked my progress. I was two centimeters dilated. Only two! The same that I was the afternoon before! I wanted to cry. I felt like my body had been doing a good amount of work over the past few hours and there was no progress. They hooked me up to monitors to check the baby’s heart rate and time my contractions. They were still coming every two minutes like clockwork. Since I was only two centimeters they typically would have sent me home but seeing that my contractions were so close together they decided to admit me. Dan called my mom to tell her to come to the hospital.
Dan and I had taken Bradley classes to prepare for this birth. I was set on having a natural, drug free birth. The benefits to my baby were very important to me. Our classes had prepared us well, or so I hoped. We worked on things we had learned in class to help get labor going and to allow my body to do the job it needed to do.
We decided to start walking around the maternity ward to help progress labor. Our pace was very slow. Between the nausea I was feeling and the squeezing of the contractions I was having a hard time moving. As each contraction hit I would lean onto the bar that was bolted to the wall and try to relax and breathe though it. We made one lap around the ward in about 45 minutes and by that time the intensity of the contractions had greatly increased.
The strong squeezing contractions that I had been feeling were now an intense pressure that I felt throughout my belly and back. The pain radiated down the front of my legs. I sat on the birthing ball, leaned over the bed, rocked on the balls of my feet, and hung from Dan’s neck. The Bradley classes were really coming in handy as Dan and I used techniques we had learned to help me stay relaxed.
When I tensed up or fought the pain, is when the pain would actually increase. I focused all my energy on blocking out everybody in the room and concentrating on my breathing and relaxation. Although I was trying to stay as relaxed as possible, not once did I lay down in bed. It felt so much better to be up and moving. I knew from my reading that my movements would help the baby get into position easier.
After a few hours I decided I wanted to get into the tub. Each labor and delivery room had it’s own recently installed tub. It was great! It was deep enough so the water completely covered my belly and there were jets that felt great. Dan sat on the edge as I floated in the water. He stimulated acupressure points that would help to increase the strength of contractions.
The pain was much more manageable in the water. The time I spent in the tub became a blur. I had no idea what time it was or how long I had been in there. My entire focus was on what my body was doing. My midwife suggested that she check my progress and we found that I was nearly completely dilated. I got back in the tub hoping that I would be ready to push soon.
Soon I was at ten centimeters but I had no urge to push. By this point I just wanted to be done with labor, so I told my midwife that I wanted to push. Looking back, I know now that I created much more work for myself by pushing before my body was telling me it needed to, but at that point I wasn’t thinking clearly. I got out of the tub to begin pushing. I tried pushing in a semi-reclined position and then on my hands and knees. I wasn’t making any progress until they brought in the squatting bar and I tried pushing while squatting. Whoa! I could feel the baby descend almost immediately down the birth canal.
The midwife began putting on her gloves and other gear. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I was going to meet my baby soon. Even though the squatting position was so effective my legs were exhausted and I couldn’t hold myself up anymore so I returned to a semi-reclined position. This position really impeded the progress again and it took a long time for the baby to descend more.
Eventually the baby was crowning. They asked me to reach down and touch the head. It felt huge! I was amazed at how much hair this baby had. Each time I pushed the baby would come down a little more only to slide right back in when I was done pushing. The pain was so intense at this point that I felt completely delirious. I was exhausted from being up all night and not eating much. My energy levels had just about hit bottom at this point.
Soon my heart rate was so elevated from exertion and exhaustion that they couldn’t tell the difference between my heart rate and the baby’s so they placed an internal monitor on the baby’s head. After about 25 minutes of the baby crowning the midwife decided to do an episiotomy. I had adamantly not wanted an episiotomy before, but at this point I would have done anything to get this baby out! After she made the cut I pushed again and the baby’s head came out. The exhilaration in the room was amazing. One more push and the rest of the baby slid out.
The midwife immediately put the baby on my chest. I was so exhausted that they had to tell me to look at the baby. It took about ten seconds before I remembered that we didn’t even know the sex. We looked and saw that we had a little boy! It was 4:19 pm. I had been in labor for sixteen hours and pushed for three of those hours.
Seeing my son’s face looking up at me was the most incredible moment of my life. His little face was swollen from being stuck in the birth canal but he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was completely blown away to be finally meeting the baby that I had wanted so much and felt kicking me for all those months. He was soon nursing with a little help from the nurse. I couldn’t stop looking at him. We decided to name him Jakson.
Three years have passed since Jakson’s birth. In that time I have learned so much more about birth. When I look back, I see things about his birth that I would have changed.
I believe that pushing before I had the urge to push resulted in a much more difficult birth. Also, staying in a squat position to continue pushing would have been much more beneficial, no matter how tired my legs were. I think the episiotomy could have been avoided if I had stayed in that position.
Despite these things, his birth was beautiful to me because it brought me my little boy. I brought him into the world without any pain medication and that changed my view of myself. I felt strong and capable. I realized that this would be the first of many times that I went through a challenge to benefit my boy. This sacrifice was my first step towards being a mother.