Baby #3 was due December 5th so on December 6th I was anxious to get this party started. After we came home from church the contractions started. They were VERY mild and about 20 minutes apart. Nothing to call the babysitter about. I went about normal business all day baking cookies with Ainsley and Ashden and cleaning, but I DIDN’T take a nap! I regret this now. As we were watching the football on tv, we were very aware that the first blizzard of December was due to hit the area that night. As the night went on the contractions continued coming closer together but they didn’t grow in intensity at all. At my last prenatal visit, I was 1 cm dilated and had a “squishy” cervix.
I didn’t want to head to the hospital too quickly for 2 reasons– I didn’t want to get sent home, and I didn’t want any interventions and knew staying home as long as possible was the key to this.
My sweet, caring, thoughtful hubby on the other hand wanted to go to the hospital right away because of 2 reasons– the weather (slick road conditions) and he was sure I would have a fast labor at home and was scared he would have to deliver the baby. So we debated and I won, (every laboring mother does!) and went downstairs to sleep through the night and the mild contractions. After about an hour in bed, I was falling asleep and awakening with each contraction. I realized they were 8 minutes apart. I came upstairs to tell Jesse and he said people had been telling him the roads were awful and that we should leave now if we were going at all. So we called Angie and told her we were going to drop off the kids. We knew that we could gauge the roads on our way to her house and if the contractions let up we could pick them up in the morning and brush it off as a dress rehersal.
So as we were packing the car, Jesse tells me to get blankets and water. I say, what? He explains this scenario playing in his head featuring us getting stuck in a ditch somewhere and delivering this kid in the van. Not the story to tell a woman in labor! My heart starts racing and I’m thinking- NO WAY- just get me to the hospital. (I must interject here that a planned home birth for many reasons would have been very convenient given these obstacles.) My adrenaline started surging on the drive over to Angie’s house and by the time we reached the hospital my contractions had dies down. Not awesome.
So after an hour in the van we get to the hospital, and we meet nurse Laura. The first thing she says to me is, “Do you have a birth plan because I’d like to read it.” Just those few words really put me at ease and I didn’t feel like I was going to have to battle her in any way. She also asked whether or not I wanted her to ask me questions during contractions and whether or not she should bring up pain medication. WONDERFUL communication on her part. I joke that she was the doula I never had. At arrival I was, 3cm, 90% effaced and technically she wasn’t suppose to admit me, but she told us to walk the halls and after an hour she would check again. No one was going to send home in the blizzard. The walking helped, I was at 4-5 cm and we were officially admitted and having a baby on December 7th.
Since the walking was helping, we were told to keep walking so we walked, and walked and walked. Probably 2 miles total through the halls, but we were the only ones there so it was nice alone time. I knew the gravity was on my side and I had been walking on a treadmill for the last month or so training for this marathon. Jesse kept making jokes and distracting me in between contractions so that I wouldn’t fear the next one coming. He instinctively knew exactly what I needed emotionally. When a contraction hit, I leaned on the wall and swayed back and forth.
The lesson I learned during this birth process is that when pain comes, it is for our benefit to lean into it.
At 2 am my midwife shows up and gives great directions to “saddle walk” and squat during contractions. MORE WALKING. Taking her advice, I started having more intense contractions and she could tell I was in transition. I was oblivious, (aren’t we all) and kept waiting for it. She decides to start the jacuzzi tub and I welcome the warm water and the break from walking.
I had progressed to an 8 and she wanted to break my water. I knew that this would increase the pressure, but that it would also speed up the process and with the comfort of the warm jacuzzi water I agreed. I had about 4 super intense contractions in the tub and the last one I was involuntarily pushing. I looked up and said, “I’m pushing and I need to get out or else I will have this baby in the tub.” She says very calmly, “great, that’s what we were waiting for and I don’t mind if you have it in the tub but it might ruin my reputation.” (Water birth was illegal in the hospital setting.)
So I quickly get on the bed and I’m super indecisive about which position I want to push with so she takes control which is exactly what I needed and tells me to lay on my side. The baby was descending quickly and the midwife needed time to get some gloves on! As a doula, we advocate for the laboring woman to find her voice, but I learned from this labor that sometimes a woman may need someone to make the decision for her. I’m indecisive by nature and it was just easier to take that emotional burden off. I appreciated someone telling me what to do in that moment.
I bury my head in Jesse’s sweatshirt and grip his hands and start pushing. This is the point where I think to myself, OK I WANT DRUGS, and then I think, nope it’s too late and if I want this pain to stop I need to push with everything that I have. Three long pushes later, Balin’s head is out, and then -ouch- his shoulders. The midwife and nurse were trying so hard to be sentimental and gooshy about the moment. They asked Jesse if he wanted to “catch him” and Jesse looked at them like, “my wife will kill me if I let go of her hands right now.” In the momentary pause of this interaction I yell, “just get it out,” because we didn’t know the sex of the baby yet. This is hilarious to me as I look back but I was dead serious in the moment. They pull his legs out and slowly open them to say, “it’s a boy!” I was of course surprised but also hugely relieved he was out. They let the cord pulse for a few minutes before Jesse cut it and we all marveled at what an odd thing the placenta is.
The nurse let me hold Balin for awhile before the measurements were taken and we were stunned at his weight. My midwife thought he would be on the small side because my fundus was measuring so small towards the end.
The entire process bonded Jesse and I because it was so intense towards the end and I think we are still in awe of how God designed the birth process. I have to give some credit to the super supportive nurse, Laura and of course my midwife, Cece and Jesse who endured the 2 mile walk with me. This was the best birth experience of the three and I truly believe it’s because I allowed my body to do the hard work of birthing naturally. After we were transferred to the recovery room, I was very surprised at how amazing I felt. I wasn’t tired at all, actually quite the opposite. I had an adrenaline rush and the oxytocin was flowing. My muscles felt like I had just run a marathon and I was ravishingly hungry but that’s to be expected. I skipped dinner and breakfast and had walked a marathon!
My postpartum recovery at home was also easier and I credit the natural birth process for this as well. If I could give a newbie some advice on birth, it would be to trust your body. God designed the female anatomy to do this very thing- give birth.
Under the gentle care of a skilled midwife, there are very few reasons to be afraid. The body will do what it’s meant to do. Read as many birth stories of natural labors and deliveries because every birth is unique. You will likely learn a lot and not be caught off guard by the many components of the birth process. Transition is the mental super bowl, meaning, prepare your mind to push through transition. It’s the tell tale sign that a woman is nearing the end of labor. You go through a range of emotions during transition and it’s when most of us are least rational. Everyone around you will recognize transition for what it is, but you will be oblivious. Trust your birthing supporters to coach you through it. And of course, lean into the pain. Accept it and allow it to move a baby out of your body. There is a purpose for every contraction, for every burning sensation. Work with the pain, don’t fight it because at the end of the process will be a baby.