It was the evening of Friday, June 13th, and my husband and I had just received a positive result from our home pregnancy test. The shock and excitement made sleep impossible, so instead of our usual bedtime rituals we opted for a late night run to Dick's for burgers and fries. The 20 minute car drive was just what we needed: space and time to talk and plan and bask in the joy.
I had already calculated my due date, February 22nd, and upon inspection of a calendar my husband decisively stated, "He will come on February 27th. Yep." "A boy, huh?" I replied with a smirk, amused by my husband's certainty. Little did I know at the time he would be proven right all those months later.
Fast forward to Tuesday, February 24th and we're at the birth center chatting with the midwives. The past week had been especially difficult for me. The physical discomfort compounded by increasing emotional distress created a unique state that I described it as "cabin fever, except wherever you go the cabin goes with you." Thankfully the midwife and student midwife spent extra time with us and reassured me that the physical and emotional symptoms I described were all good indicators that my body was preparing for labor.
Though I hadn't been able to relax for over a week, the comforting appointment with the midwives helped me approach that Wednesday with a fresh attitude. I was still anxious and uncomfortable but I was able to release the tension and embrace the unknown, accepting that labor would start exactly when it needed to begin.
That night, my husband and I focused on enjoying each others' company-and enjoyed each other's company a little vigorously, I might add, before deciding that night would be a good night to do another Dick's run to "bookend" the pregnancy. It was a risky endeavor staying out so late and getting to bed around midnight, but it suited our "let it be" mood and for all we knew it might be our last chance.
We had no idea how right we were.
The morning of February 26th I awoke at with labor pains. The contractions came stronger and closer together than I expected and I wasn't able to sleep. I rested as best I could between contractions while sitting up on the couch, watching early morning news and of course, “The Golden Girls.”
By Kevin had been up for a few hours doing errands and helping make sure I ate. I decided to take a shower and my walk to the bathroom was perfectly timed for a surprise-attack barf. We called the birth center but I was coping well and my contractions weren't too fast and furious, so we ended up playing phone tag for the rest of the day waiting for "something to feel different."
Around 5:30 PM things were more frustrating, though my contractions hadn't seemed to change much. Not wanting to labor into the night without any idea how far along I was, we called the midwife again and made plans to come in to the birth center for an exam. Just before we let the apartment I lost my mucous plug and barfed-both good signs and definitely something different but I was still concerned about my progress.
I was feeling discouraged and skeptical as we got to the birth center, even thinking that I might have to transfer to hospital for medication if I wasn't progressing: doubt and discouragement had entered my mind and my confidence was buckling. As it turned out, I was further along than anyone suspected. The midwife examined me at 6:55 PM and revealed that I was 6 cm dilated and ready to labor at the birth center.
The news of such progress was a lift to my spirits but the confidence boost only lasted so long. Eventually I labored on fumes and stubborn spirit, my confidence silenced long before the Vance Joy album we listened to for at least 7 hours straight. Somehow I kept on going and at 1:45 AM another exam showed I was fully dilated. We decided to rupture my bag of waters to try and speed up the labor.
By 4:00 AM the hubby and I were both barely conscious between contractions and I was finally feeling pushy. I alternated between pushing in the tub, on the toilet, on the birth stool, and on the bed; my husband following me around with the water bottle and electrolyte gels. I knew that the pushing would be difficult for me but I found a technique that worked, including a rather memorable type of vocalization that my husband swears sounded exactly like a 2-stroke mower engine (I described it as a weed whacker noise).
For nearly three hours it felt like I wasn't making any progress. I'd read birth stories where women described feeling baby descending as they pushed but I had no sense of baby moving down; that paired with the exertion of pushing left me feeling hopeless. All I could do was succumb to the pushing urge and take one contraction at a time. Around 7:45 AM the midwives asked if I wanted to change from pushing on my back in bed to pushing on the birth stool and I said yes.
In less than 15 minutes I was crowning. The midwife told me to feel for baby and I could hardly believe that I had actually made it that far; the exhaustion and hormones had left me entirely too loopy to make sense of it all. I blew out short puffs of air when she prompted me to slow down and not push while my tissues stretched. I remember thinking, "Am I really crowning? I can't be, this isn't that bad!" I felt the tingling sensations, some stinging, a heaviness, and an overwhelming sense of anticipation but not pain, not burning, not fear or panic-it didn't seem "bad enough" to be the dreaded crowning stage.
The next contraction wasn't about to be ignored. I looked at my midwife in mild panic, "I gotta go for it!." Completely calm she nodded and told me to listen to my body. I did and pushed with short nudges until I felt the head emerge into my hands followed by a gush of fluid. A few heavy breaths and I was compelled to push again, the rest of baby's body slipping into the world. The midwife aided my efforts while I grappled with the slimy, purple form and pulled my baby up to my lap. It was 8:02 AM on February 27th, exactly two weeks after my 26th birthday and exactly the date my husband had predicted all those months ago!
Baby was big and purple and quiet. I rubbed his feet and back and talked to him, trying to get him to cry but he only snorted. Eventually the midwives helped me stand up and get into the bed, which was a feat considering baby and I were still attached by the umbilical cord. The midwife suctioned his mouth and nose and Baby cried, starting to pink up.
Baby was strong and despite the quiet entrance had no issues whatsoever-and neither did I! No complications throughout the labor and birth, not even a single tear and I got to catch my 10 lbs 1 oz baby even after 29 hours of labor.
It may have taken about twice as long as expected but overall I got the birth I had hoped for. There were countless moments when I thought that I wouldn’t make it through. Reflecting on the labor I’m struck by how long I was discouraged and amazed by my perseverance. I’m so glad I stuck it out. It wasn’t easy, but I’ll always cherish my birth experience and I’m so proud!