Okay. Here we go! I am two weeks postpartum and I still think of the day Jack was born every time I close my eyes to go to sleep (which isn’t very often… but still). I want to remember that day for the rest of my life, so this post is more for me than it is for the world. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I prepared mentally just as much as I did physically. I completely believe that this mental preparation played a major role in feeling strong and empowered throughout Jack’s birth! I will share as many pregnancy and birth resources as I can in this post. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. 🙂
February 7th, 2018. That was the “guess date” for our babe. At 39 weeks, there were no signs of labor at all. I had had the typical Braxton Hicks contractions my entire 3rd trimester, but none of the other things that the midwives were telling me to look for (Joseph and I chose to use midwives at a birthing center in Fort Worth and it was the best decision!). I was not too discouraged by the lack of labor symptoms. I had been told by many people that first time moms usually go past their due dates. Since the beginning, Valentine’s Day was my finish line. I think that setting this late goal completely saved my sanity. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing everything I could think of to put myself into labor. I began taking Evening Primrose Oil twice a day at 37 weeks. I was drinking gallons of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. I was walking on the treadmill down in the gym as much as I could. And, well, some fun marital stuff too. But still, at 39 weeks, there were no signs of labor at all.
On Thursday, February 1st, I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I woke up that morning with a crazy amount of energy and a very sore hand from burning the absolute crap out of it the night before on the oven. I wrapped up my hand in beautiful white gauze and got ready for the day. My sister-in-law Rebecca is a doula (birth coach) and was going to come over with a professional photographer to take some photos for her website. She needed a pregnant person to pretend to be a client and I was happy to oblige! I cleaned our entire apartment from top to bottom before they arrived. At the end of our photo session, the photographer grabbed some candid shots of just me. I will forever cherish these photos as they are the last ones that I have of my pregnant belly before going into labor!
I said goodbye to Rebecca and the photographer and then left our apartment around 11:00 am to head into the office in Arlington for my last day of work. I was planning on working up until my due date, but for some reason I felt like I needed to get everything wrapped up that day and then just rest at home until the baby came. I am so glad that I made that decision! With all that energy, I had a very productive day at work. People came into my office throughout the day and made casual small talk about pregnancy, birth, and having a new baby. Funny enough, three people came in that day and told me the birth stories of their children. I loved each of the stories, but by around 1:30 I was emotionally drained. Valentine’s Day was still two weeks away, and I so badly wanted to meet our little one. Around that time, my good friend Erin texted and asked our group of coffee buddies if anyone wanted Starbucks. I eagerly replied “yes yes yes”, excited for a distraction.
She arrived in my office around 2:00 pm with a Mocha Frappuccino for me in hand. Man, I love that woman. Erin is a nurse and had the day off, so she was able to hang out on the couch in my office for a few hours while I got some more work done. My coworker, Ryan, came into my office with his laptop during that time as well to hang out. Around 4:00, I had a strange cramp and excused myself to go to the bathroom. I came back a few minutes later worried that I was starting to get a stomach bug or something. As soon as I sat back down at my desk, that same cramp returned. I looked at Erin and just said “Um. OW.” I think she was more excited than I was that the cramp might be a contraction. After the third “cramp”, I pulled up my pregnancy app and began timing them.
4 minutes apart.
At 4:45, I called Joseph and told him what was going on. He was still at school in Dallas but was finishing up for the day. He asked me to call Shannon (our beloved midwife!) and then call him right back. I agreed and immediately called her. I told her that I had been having what I was pretty sure were contractions for about an hour and that they were about 3 minutes apart at that point. I failed to mention that the pain nearly brought me to my knees every time. In hindsight, I definitely should’ve mentioned this important detail. She told me that it was probably the beginning of labor and that I should go home and try to eat something and get some rest. If my water broke or I started having bloody show (TMI, sorry), I would call her back. The problem was, I couldn’t wrap my head around driving home to Dallas during rush hour. The pain was already so intense. I paced my office for about 20 minutes and sent a text to my mom. “Hey I’ve been having contractions for a little over an hour. I’ll keep you updated.” She replied something along the lines of, “If it’s labor, you’ll know. Something will feel different.” Everything in my body felt different, but honestly I thought I just wasn’t handling the pain well. It had only been an hour and a half since the very first contraction, after all.
I called Joseph back a little after 5:00 and told him what Shannon and my mom had said. I remember telling him that I was confused because it shouldn’t be this painful already. Wasn’t labor for first time moms supposed to take like a really long time? I asked him to get Dell, our lovable Mutt, and meet me at my office. If it was just false labor, we could go home. But if this was actually happening, he needed to get there. Soon. It worked out very well that I happened to be with my coworker, Ryan. He had volunteered months prior to that day to take Dell for a few days when the baby came. For this reason, I asked him not to go home because he might need to take the dog when Joseph arrived. The hour that it took for Joseph to get there seemed to last forever. Around 5:45, the contractions were about 2 minutes apart and so bad that I was only comfortable on my hands and knees. It’s safe to say that Ryan and Erin were pretty uneasy at this point. They were so helpful, but neither of them knew how to handle me during that time.
Joseph walked into my office at 6:00. Ryan almost immediately left with Dell. Erin ran to grab us some dinner. I walked around the lobby of the office building wondering what to do next. Joseph made the decision that it was time to call the midwife. I was completely incapable of speaking, so he communicated to Shannon what was going on. Surprised with how fast everything was happening, she instructed us to get to the birth center. Another midwife would be there waiting for us until Shannon could get there. We waited a few minutes for Erin to get back with food (Joseph was starving and I really wanted to eat in case it was a long night).
Around 6:45, we left Arlington and headed west towards Fort Worth. Throughout my pregnancy, I was dreading the long drive from Dallas to Fort Worth during contractions, so I was absolutely relieved we were in Arlington and already half-way there. Although the drive was only 30 minutes, it was the most intense part of my entire labor. Looking back on it, I’m certain that I went through transition in the car. I yelled every minute and a half and only found relief while biting the seat belt across my chest as hard as I could. In the car, I remembered a breathing technique that I had read about in Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. She encouraged blowing air through your lips during the contractions. Because it sounds just like a horse, the technique is called horse lips breathing. This did nothing for the pain, but it forced me to focus and slow my breathing down so that I wasn’t panicked.
At 7:15, we arrived at the birth center. I dropped to my knees in pain twice before even getting to the birthing suite and every muscle in me wanted to start pushing. The on-call midwife, Lissa, examined me as soon as I was able to get onto the bed. 7 centimeters, 100% effaced, and my bag of water was just one push away from breaking. Joseph picked up his phone as fast as he could to call our birth team: my mom, my best friend Sarah, and the birth photographer. He basically told everyone to get there ASAP because this was happening fast.
Soon after this, the birthing tub was done filling with warm water and I was able to get in. It had been a goal of mine since I was 16 to have a water birth. I was so excited for the relief that I knew would come with being submerged in warmth. As soon as I sat down into the tub, I felt a boost of strength and knew with my whole being that I could bring this child safely into the world. Joseph sat on the outside of the tub and kissed my forehead, cheeks, and shoulders. He held my hands and encouraged me and reminded me that our baby would be with us so soon. He had read Husband-Coached Childbirth while I was pregnant and was such a champ at the Bradley Method.
Lissa and two RNs moved silently around the room and occasionally checked baby’s heart rate with a handheld doppler. It stayed around 130 BPM throughout the entire birth. Pretty soon after getting into the tub, Shannon arrived. Seeing her face made me relax even more and a new calmness filled the room. At this point, I no longer had any sense of time. I just know that right before the photographer, Sarah, and my mom arrived, I felt a strong urge to push. Shannon told me to do whatever felt right and that my body knew exactly what to do. So I pushed! I felt my water break under the water. What a strange feeling that was. Pretty soon, the photographer and Sarah were in the room with us. The birthing suite was lit mainly by candles and everyone stayed pretty quiet. I, unfortunately, was not able to keep quiet and my yells and loud horse lips broke the silence every minute. The only comfortable position for me was still on my hands and knees, so that’s how I positioned myself in the tub for the entire birth. I can’t imagine being in a hospital where they force you to lay on your back in a bed. I wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes like that!
At 8:30, my mom walked into the room. I only know the time because it was about 30 minutes before our little one arrived. She took Joseph’s place at my head and Joseph moved behind me with Shannon. He was so excited to catch the baby and I’m glad he got the opportunity to do that. The urge to push during contractions was the only thing I could focus on and the only thing that helped with the pressure I was feeling. Joseph and Shannon used a mirror and flashlight to monitor my progress under the water and let me know that a head full of dark hair was crowning. I’ll never forget reaching down and feeling that little head. With a few more pushes so hard that I thought my eyes would surely explode, he was born. We didn’t know until that moment if it was a boy or a girl. I had asked Joseph to announce the gender by saying either the boy name or the girl name we had picked out. So at 9:07 pm, Joseph lifted him out of the water and said with so much pride, “Hey there, Jackson!” I sat back and as they laid that screaming baby on my chest, all the pain I was just feeling went away completely.
Joseph came over to my side and we just smiled down at our little boy (who was still screaming). That kid aced his Apgar test. After his cord stopped pulsating, Joseph made the cut and they wrapped Jack up in a warm towel. I must’ve delivered the placenta at some point but my memories get a little fuzzy after they took him from my chest. The next thing that I remember is being on the bed with him back on my chest and Joseph laying next to me. Shannon examined me and made just two small stitches. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t more damage with him coming so quickly. After that, my mom and Sarah helped me figure out nursing and I devoured the Panera grilled cheese from earlier that evening. All of us were so happy. The joy in the room was almost palpable.
While all of this was happening, the nurses drained the birth tub, cleaned it, and filled it again with warm water. This time, they added herbs. After I finished about 4 glasses of orange juice and regained my strength, I got back into the tub with Jackson. Luckily we had packed a swimsuit for Joseph in the birth bag so he was able to join us in the bath. The three of us sat in the tub at midnight and slowly started to get to know each other. The rest of our time at the Birth Center is a blur. We all got dressed and we were able to add Jackson’s little footprints to the wall with all those who had come before him. After about 10 more vital checks and the discharge instructions, we loaded up all our belongings and left to go home at 2:00 in the morning. The entire drive home I just kept saying, “That was so random.” Joseph laughed and nodded. My first contraction had only taken place 10 hours prior, and now we were almost home with our baby. I was in complete disbelief!
We got home early in the morning and climbed into bed with our son, completely exhausted. I fell asleep replaying the day over and over again in my head. It was the most beautiful day in all of my 22 years of life.
Special thanks to Birth Photographer: Paige Taylor