Before we get to the details of our story, these were my expectations going in -- I would be overdue...at least 8 days. I would experience false labor AT LEAST once. I would have a long labor...at least 20 hours. I would go into labor at night and be incredibly tired. I would know when I was having contractions. Things might not go the way I wanted. I might not be able to do this (anyone else go from thinking “newborns are so tiny!” to “Their heads are so HUGE!” as they neared the due date?). When we met with our doula, Bobbie, at 38 weeks, she told us that she wanted us to be able to look back on our experience and have it be everything we had hoped. When she said that I instantly thought, “well, I don’t want to expect THAT much.” I know things don’t always go as planned with labor, and I wanted to be realistic. But I can honestly say we had an incredible experience. This is our story…
On Tuesday, February 4, I had my 39 week appointment but opted not to get checked because I didn’t want to be disappointed or have false hope. My doctor was fine with waiting until 40 weeks to check me again. At 10:15 that night, I emailed our doula, Bobbie, an update about our appointment and to tell her I’d had an unusual discharge earlier that day that was “all clear and kind of snotty consistency” but with some light pink at the end (I’m pretty sure it WAS my mucus plug). I also told her my back had been achy pretty consistently that evening, but in a more constant way (not getting worse or going away). As I tried to sleep, I remember looking at the clock around 11pm and thinking that I really didn't feel good.
We had asked my friend, Rachel, to attend our birth to help keep our families and friends updated, take pictures, and provide extra support for me and my husband as needed. At 6:20am on February 5, I texted Rachel to let her know I was having bad back cramps since the night before, but that it was probably nothing. Rachel is a nurse, so I asked for her work schedule because I wanted to know how much of a heads up she might need when we thought we were in labor...in a couple days. She responded that she was working 7am-3pm that day and that she’d keep her phone with her.
At 7:30am, I texted Bobbie to let her know I was still having “bad period cramps” but that I couldn’t distinguish a start/peak/stop or a pattern. The more intense cramping only lasted about 30 seconds, and I was still achy/crampy in between. At that point, I was really not feeling well and decided to take a nap and then call the chiropractor to see if I could go that morning. Laying down and being in the dark made me feel worse, but I was so tired it was worth it. My husband was going to get out of class at 10:40am, so I was hoping he could drive me. Unfortunately, when I woke up from my nap and called the chiropractor at 9:40am, their last appointment was at 10:30am. So I decided to try to make it myself for a 10am appointment….I just put on sweats, brushed my teeth, and left. When our chiropractor, Dr. John, asked me how I was doing (I wasn’t looking too good at that point!), I couldn’t help crying. I was just tired, didn’t feel well, and was dreading the thought of feeling like that for the next two weeks. In reality, I was just emotional, because I was definitely in early labor!
When I got home, I really didn’t feel like being by myself, so I called Kyle and asked him to come home right after his class before he had to work in the office from 12-3pm (the office is in the dorm right across the hall from our apartment). I just wanted the presence of another person. He came home and got some food for me to try to eat, and I drank a glass of red raspberry leaf “iced” tea which I’d been drinking faithfully several times a day for weeks. By 11:15am I texted Rachel and Bobbie that there was nothing new.
My husband left for work at noon, and I texted my friend, Kristie, to see if she was able to hang out. It didn’t work out, but she encouraged me to time my contractions. At 12:48pm, I texted Kristie back: “So the first two I timed sitting were about 1 min long and 9 min apart. But then I got up and it’s 20-40 seconds 2-6 min apart. So confusing cuz it seems so much more situational. Like always right after I go to the bathroom. And I can feel it really tight in my back but I don’t feel like my stomach is really hard. It’s not quite making sense to me.
By 2pm, I decided I needed to rest, so I found a movie on Netflix and laid down in bed to watch. At that point, things were getting more intense, and I had to pause the movie three times and only made it through the first 5 minutes of the movie before shutting it off. When a contraction hit, I paused the movie, clenched my pillow, and rocked back and forth on the bed groaning. That was not how I was supposed to (or wanting to) handle contractions, but I couldn’t do it by myself. I called Kyle and asked if he could come home. At 2:44pm I texted Rachel that I thought I was having consistent contractions and that we might want her to come when she got off work at 3..
I kept going back and forth about whether I thought my cramping was contractions. I had talked to Bobbie at 2:50pm, and I think she could tell that I was in active labor because shortly after our conversation she asked for a contraction update. At 3:15pm, I responded: “We haven’t been able to track 100% but mostly 45-50 seconds and 2-5 minutes apart. It seems to be getting closer. They’re not each the same intensity but they all hurt. I’ve been handling it better since Kyle got here. And I’m still in denial (at least in between).”
At 3:14pm, Rachel called about what we needed her to get for us before she came. I couldn’t make it through a conversation with her at that point, and I kept apologizing for always needing to pause while giving her a list of snacks I wanted from the grocery store. I was also getting texts from people, but I couldn’t respond back. (These should have been clues to me that THIS WAS IT...but again, my expectations told me it was all just going to end, and we’d have weeks left).
That afternoon, Bobbie was actually at her own OB appointment to find out the gender of their little one. Since I was in denial that I was in labor, and I didn’t want her to miss her appointment, we told her we were fine. Between 3 and 4pm things picked up and at 3:51pm I texted Bobbie that contractions were about 30 seconds long and 2 minutes apart, but I didn’t think they were intense enough to be super close to having the baby. Shortly after that when her appointment ended, my husband asked her to come. By the time we called, I just kept hoping she would get here soon.
Labor started getting really intense very quickly. Kyle could only leave me for a moment before I would call out “I need help,” and he’d run back and press on my back. My whole labor was back labor, and I spent all of labor in our bedroom (since we live in a dorm, we had planned to go to a nearby hotel to labor, but that never happened). The most comfortable position for me was to lean over a tall stack of pillows at the edge of our bed with Kyle pressing on my back. Unfortunately, my legs got tired, so I had to mix it up by sitting on a chair or exercise ball occasionally. I had to go the the bathroom frequently during labor, and I always dreaded it because I knew a strong contraction would hit right after. And EVERY time my husband would have to meet me at the sink for support before I made it back to the bed.
Rachel arrived about 4:45pm and Bobbie arrived around 5:15pm. I was so happy when they got there. We had not finished packing for the hospital yet (I had thrown a few things together “just in case” earlier that day), so they were trying to get our things together in between contractions. Thankfully I had written a detailed list =) Bobbie asked if she could check my purple line. I just remember her saying something like, “Ok, good.” I thought her reaction meant I wasn’t very far into labor, but she had motioned to my husband and Rachel that she thought I was 5cm. At some point I asked Bobbie if this was going to just go away (still thinking it could be false labor), and she responded with “you are DEFINITELY in labor.”
We started talking about going to the hospital, but I just wasn’t sure what the right decision was (you know...since I was STILL in denial about how far into labor I was). We made the decision and everyone starting hurrying to get everything ready to go. That was especially hard for my husband because I kept calling him back to press on my back. Bobbie timed contractions between 6:02pm and 6:49pm -- and I had SIXTEEN contractions between that time that were a minute to almost two minutes long and just about two and a half minutes apart. My breaks were only a minute! At some point in there I threw up. After the fact, Bobbie told me that by the time we left, she was very glad we had decided to go to the hospital because she knew we were getting so close to having the baby.
I don’t remember having contractions in the car, but I do remember repeatedly telling my husband, “It’s ok. We’re fine. Just be safe.” during the drive. Although most of labor went smoothly and like we had hoped, getting to the hospital did not. The trip included going up an on ramp (the wrong way), not finding a parking spot, going to the wrong floor, and having many contractions on the way to our room. Once we FINALLY made it where we were supposed to be, our awesome nurse decided we could go straight to a room instead of heading to triage to see if I was really in labor -- that much was clear.
Once we made it to our room (about 7pm), they checked me and said I was 6-7 cm. I wanted to labor in the tub, but that room was taken and they couldn’t get the blow up tub (apparently a necessary part was missing). They strapped on the monitor to check baby’s heart rate and said I’d have to be on for 30 minutes, but it ended up being much longer than that. Although I didn’t know it, they apparently kept losing his heart beat, and they needed a consistent strip before letting me go. Thankfully, they let me kneel and lean against the propped up head of the bed which was much better than lying down. At some point right after I got into that position my water broke. And shortly after that I threw up again. They had ice chips for me which I really enjoyed being able to chew between contractions. Getting the hep lock set was difficult because my contractions were so frequent and intense, but they eventually got it on the second attempt.
Dr. Radbill was on call that night and came by and prayed for us. As I was experiencing intense contractions, I overheard him cheerfully say “I’ll be back in a few hours” and I thought “You’ve got to be kidding me….it couldn’t be that much longer still.”
When they finally let me get off the monitor, I went to use the restroom. Since I knew I’d be having contractions, I sat on the toilet backwards so my husband and Bobbie would have access to my back to apply pressure. Labor got even more intense at that point. Bobbie kept trying to have me moan/groan low, but it was so hard. Throughout labor, I kept thinking “I know I should relax through this, but I just can’t.” When I was able to get control and deeply moan, it helped. I always thought I’d be very internal and quiet during labor -- that was definitely NOT the case. Keeping my eyes closed pretty much the entirety of labor was the only thing “quiet and internal” about my laboring. I needed to be very verbal to make it through each contraction, so that’s what happened. I don’t think I ever quite made it to a scream, but there was some loud grunting and groaning happening (for those who know me, that is not characteristic of my personality...but once labor takes over, personality doesn’t have much say).
While I was on the toilet, I had my “I can’t do this” moment. Although I didn’t express that verbally or even fully register it mentally, Bobbie later told me I started shaking my head (a sign that I was nearing giving up). She knew I needed to change it up. We decided to get an exercise ball and get in the shower. Once I got in the shower, I sat on the world’s smallest exercise ball. No seriously...it was so small and half deflated. So that wasn’t going to work -- it was extremely uncomfortable for me to sit on. I wedged the ball in the corner of the shower so I could lean against it, and Bobbie ran hot water over my back. That water felt SO good and finally got to all areas of my back that were hurting. Labor quickly intensified in the shower, and my body started bearing down with contractions. Bobbie knew I was complete, but waited until I felt pressure to have me go back to the bed. Everything was so intense at that moment, and with the last contraction I had in the shower, my body started curling in on itself with my heels raised off the floor -- my body was pushing!
I don’t even remember walking from the bathroom back to the bed (around 8:30/8:45pm), but I somehow ended up back on the bed leaning against the back of it. They checked me and said I was complete and ready to push. At that point I was just relieved we were getting to the end, and I think my mind started to clear a little bit. Excitement started to take over the room. Dr, Radbill came by, confirmed I was complete, said first time moms usually push 1-3 hours, and left (I don’t remember that part). Shortly after, I overheard the nurse calling the doctor again to tell him we were complete, pushing, and crowning and pretty much that he should run. He hadn’t even made it back to his office. The pushing stage of labor was such a relief. It’s almost like I didn’t feel the pain anymore. My husband and Bobbie just rubbed my back gently, and my body took over. Though I didn’t fully register the words, I have vague memories of Bobbie repeatedly telling me, “Good job. You’re doing this. Keep going. You’re doing this.” Her encouraging words were so helpful during our whole labor.
I honestly never even really tried to push. My body just instinctively (and intensely) did it on its own with each contraction. Once the doctor got there and set up, they told me they could see the head. My husband responded with “He’s so cute!” And I laughed because that was just ridiculous (turns out he hadn’t even seen anything). They told me I could reach down and feel his head which was awesome and gave me the extra boost I needed. Although contractions didn’t feel as intense, I was feeling pressure and stretching that was painful, but not as distinct as the “ring of fire” I’ve heard about. Dr. Radbill did an excellent job of coaching me through pushing and slowed me down at the end to minimize tearing. His head was born and then the rest of him slid out with the next contraction. Our little boy was born at 9:14pm on February 5 (5 days early!).
They handed him to me for immediate skin to skin. Our little guy was here! He weighed 8lb11oz, was 22 inches long and his head was 14.5 inches. And the first thing he did was poop all over me and himself. I needed stitches in three spots, but I didn’t tear too badly. We attempted breastfeeding, and he had a hard time latching at first. That was a surprise to me because I’ve heard stories of babies easily and quickly figuring it out especially if they were immediately given to the mother for skin to skin. Thankfully we have not had many problems since.
The scariest part of our whole experience was later that evening when I almost passed out in the bathroom. I was barely responsive for a while leaning against the rail by the toilet as they kept asking me “are you with me?” I had bled a lot right before that, and the bathroom (including the heated toilet seat) was hot. The nurse called in another nurse, and they got a wheelchair to take me back to bed. I felt better once I got back to the cooler air of the room and had a drink. They started setting up pitocin, but my husband stood up for me and double checked whether it was necessary. They decided they could let me wait a while and check my bleeding one more time before giving it to me. Thankfully, I didn’t end up needing it, and I’m so thankful!
Our Bradley class was very helpful in helping us feel prepared for labor, and I think it especially helped my husband feel prepared to support me during labor. He was THE BEST support I could have asked for. Bobbie was an incredible doula, and I’m so thankful for her support, guidance, and encouragement throughout our labor. And Rachel kept our families and friends updated, took pictures, talked to nurses, moved our car, got us dinner, and was in general just wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without any of them.
We are so thankful for our birth experience and understand we were very blessed with a relatively quick, complication-free first labor. Even the timing of our son's birth was perfect so that my husband did not miss much school and both sets of our parents were able to visit from up north shortly after our son's birth. We are so incredibly blessed to be his parents! He is such a sweet baby.