As the final weeks of my pregnancy were approaching, I began to get a non-stop nervous feeling in my stomach that wouldn’t go away. The time that my life would change forever was almost here. Earlier on, I had plenty of worries about whether I would miscarry again, but that those worries had switched to my labor and delivery. I would lie in bed pondering what it would be like and when it would happen. That last week is the wait of all waits! I read and watched around 50 birth stories, and marveled at how this miracle of birthing a baby could be so incredibly unique; no two stories were alike.
Would I be able to handle it?
Would we get to the hospital in time? What if it snowed and we got stuck?
Had I done enough squats, pelvic tilts, and inversions to get him in the best position? (Maybe I’m the only one who had this thought… haha)
How in the world could a human being possibly come out of my body?
What if I had complications and had to go from my choice of unmediated to a C-section? Would we have breastfeeding problems?
Question after question flooded my mind, until about a week before my due date; I heard in my heart, “do you trust me to be Lord over your labor?”
“Yes, Lord,” I responded. “Walk with me through this. Please guide me. However he comes, please bring this baby to us safely.”
I started walking up and down the stairs in our apartment complex the few days before my calculated due date based on the sympto-thermal method, January 6th. (The doctors told me January 2nd based on a typical 28-day cycle, but my stubborn self kept telling them that was wrong :P) I was listening to my workout playlist to pump me up. Every step up and down I would pray for our little one to come. Peace washed over my concerns and somehow by the first week in January, I felt really ready, strengthened, and excited. I had to finally accept all of the unknowns that I could not control and trust God in this area of my life too.
On January 5th, I ate my couple of dates, finished off the rest of the pineapple, and did my normal stair routine (all of these things are somehow supposed to bring on labor). I reflected on the arrival of baby Jesus and how awesome the process was of His coming into the world. I felt calm thinking of how much we had prayed for and wanted this baby, and trying to relate to the myriad of emotions that Mary must have felt. The angel reassured her “Fear not,” and I prayed for the same humility she had on the news that she would be a mother. I also thought of the baby we lost in 2015 and how grateful I was to hopefully be bringing this baby into our arms.
My husband’s co-worker had joked with him earlier in the week that his mother AND his wife’s last meals before labor were Pizza Hut. If we got desperate we should try it. Well, that night, January 5th, we had nothing in the fridge, and decided it would be funny to order Pizza Hut (we usually get Dominos).
After we both downed a full deep dish greasy medium pizza each, we both weren’t feeling too great. My husband joked that he might have been having contractions. I went to bed with an upset stomach—maybe it was the grease, or maybe it was the start of something?
At 11pm I awakened to a pop and my water breaking– classic movie style. I remembered from our birth class that if this happens in the middle of the night, to try to go back to sleep and get all the rest you can before you’re in active labor. I texted my doula to let her know, and laid back down, but of course could not sleep. I felt what I knew was a REAL contraction. I remembered that I wasn’t in control of how my body would work through this. I tried to get out of my head and once again, let go.
At this point I was feeling contractions maybe every 5-15 minutes. An hour later, they were every 6, then another hour they were every 5 minutes, and by 3am, they were 4 minutes apart. I was on the phone with my doula on and off, who was such a calming source of support and was listening to me on the phone to see how I was managing and breathing through each one. (I highly recommend a doula no matter what kind of birth you’re hoping for!)
I was mostly lying on the bathroom floor on and off the toilet, and Ryan was packing his bag—yes he hadn’t packed yet!– loading the car with my bag, and checking on me occasionally. He kept offering unappetizing food to me that he found in the fridge, like sausage and yogurt. Oh, husbands…He started to fuel up with this early breakfast because I would need him a lot physically and emotionally!
okay. THIS WAS IT. IT WAS HAPPENING.
At 3:30am, once my contractions were at 3-4 minutes apart, we called the doctor and headed in to the hospital, where we checked in to triage and met up with our doula.
(SIDE NOTE: When I first got pregnant and saw my due date would be beginning of January, I decided to move practices to one that would deliver closer to our home so we didn’t have to drive an hour to the hospital in the snow. I HATE snow and I just KNEW there would be snow when our little guy decided to come. Lo and behold, that was the ONE day in January that we got snow, but it hadn’t started coming down much yet thank goodness, but the trek to the car in the freezing cold was brutal.)
My husband left our car down by the front door of the hospital with the flashers on and intended to go back down to move the car once we got settled in; but almost immediately I needed his support and the car had to wait. I was 5cm and 100% effaced when we arrived.
Several hours went by, eyes closed tightly, breathing deeply, hanging on for dear life with my arms around my husbands neck while my doula pushed deeply on my lower back. I’m pretty sure someone snuck knives in and was stabbing me back there. I alternated from squats, to stability ball hip circles, to swaying, to sitting on the toilet.
At this point, Ryan went down to move our car from in front of the hospital to the parking garage. But unbeknownst to me, it wouldn’t start. He wrote a sign saying, “Car won’t start. Wife in labor. Be back later.” He got back to the hospital room acting as if everything was fine, but inside was worried that we wouldn’t have a vehicle to take our baby home in.
One of the sweetest moments was having my labor playlist playing and singing along a little bit with “It is Well with My Soul” with Ryan… I even managed to squeak out a little harmony. I don’t remember what I was really thinking about the entire time, mostly just praying silently for strength, and when I did talk, thanking Ryan and our doula profusely for their help.
By 11am I was 8cm, fully effaced. My doula remarked that we would have this baby by lunchtime! Things were progressing really well and fairly quickly! I knew I must’ve been in “transition” as they say, when I told my husband to “shhh” and his singing became annoying. I was in the ZONE… I was going to get to meet our boy soon!
When the nurse came for a check around Noon, I was 10cm. However, I couldn’t start pushing yet because James was having trouble descending past a little ridge on the cervix.
Fast forward to about 3pm. I was getting tired and felt ready to push so I asked for another check to get the clear to see if he was making his way.
He was still stuck.
My doula suggested some squats and getting up off the ball to see if we could encourage him to make progress. My husband was holding me, helping me squat up and down through the horrible pain. My contractions picked up quite a bit doing this, but I got tired very easily. Still, our boy wasn’t quite ready to be pushed out.
Fast forward to around 7pm. I was mentally TOAST. I decided to take a break and lay on my side with the peanut ball between my legs for an hour or so and was dozing in and out of sleep in the short time between contractions. It was at this point that I realized that I did not have the energy left to let my body relax to get him past the ridge, and push him out unmedicated.
Although I was a total zombie, I was thinking clearly and not out of pain. I had a flash back to our birth class when we did an activity ranking our priorities in our birth plan. My number one preference was to have a vaginal birth, over all of the other interventions that I did not want. I had now been at 10cm for around 7 hours and James was still chillin’ in the canal. My contractions had started to slow and stall out. I had a horrible feeling that if he stayed squashed in there too long, that his heart rate would start to fluctuate and they would try to convince me to have a C-section. At that point, I didn’t feel like I could get my body to relax enough to release James past the ridge, nor did I feel like I had the energy to push.
To make a long story short, I finally decided to get a dose of an epidural around 9pm and soon after, pushing started! The nurse (who actually attends our church), instructed Ryan to hold a leg! Ryan stepped into his coaching role, giving me feedback on my breathing and pushing techniques haha! I chose not to be annoyed and it actually really helped! We met our baby boy at 12:58am on January 7th.
8lbs, 6oz of pure love! A 95th percentile head could’ve been part of the reason he was having some trouble moving down…
We looked at our little boy and were in awe of the result of our self-giving, life-giving love. He was beautiful! He let out a wail, and was calm immediately after being laid on my chest. James was so alert and already studying our faces. My husband and I sang a little song to him “We love you so much, we love you so much, we can’t even tell you how much we love you.”
Once we got settled into our recovery room around 4am the next day from when this all started, Ryan told me about the car and went down to find a security guard to jump it. Thank goodness we did not get towed!
I know there are many people who feel so strongly about their plan and the ideal birth for them personally, that if it doesn’t happen that way, they struggle with all kinds of regret and resentment. My main goal going into my birth was simply that I would feel comfortable with how it unfolded, and that I would gave consent to any decisions made. I did just that. I proved to myself that I could handle the pain, I could offer it up in prayer, remain flexible, and the birthing process could be beautiful, not scary.
Did it go exactly according to my plan? No. Do I wish I had gotten the epidural earlier and not had to go through the entire struggle? No. It unfolded how it was meant to and I have many memories of the beauty in the process. I do think getting the epidural earlier would’ve restricted my movement too soon and it would’ve taken even longer, or he wouldn’t have budged.
Our little James is still stubborn and still very alert, but just as sweet as the day he was born. We love him so much and can’t believe one year has passed since this 26-hour crazy birthing marathon!