September 21st, 2:30am – At home asleep in bed, I’m awoken by my first “real” contraction.
“Oh my gosh,” I thought “is this it? I think that was a real one!”
Thinking back to that exact moment, I get butterflies in my stomach. I was so genuinely and innocently excited. I say innocent because I now know the events that transpired following those first contractions and they were everything but what I had imagined.
I tracked those two-minute long contractions for two hours. I waited an hour until I woke up Chris and it honestly felt like Christmas morning as a child. Whispering very excitedly “I’m having contractions” was a pretty sweet moment! At 4am I texted my doula, Jess, and told her that it was really happening! She advised me that although this was exciting, I needed to go back to sleep and rest; I had a long day ahead of me. That sounded good but as badly as I wanted to follow her lead, I couldn’t sleep. Chris and I had already giddily threw together the most UNPREPARED baby bag EVER. Hahaha. Oh man. I mean, we really thought we were going to have this baby and be home within 6-hours. That was the plan.
The problem with me falling asleep was my contractions really bothered me if my feet weren’t planted on the ground. It was a weird tingly sensation I would get on-top of the contraction pressure that made me feel very “out of control” and I did not enjoy it. Sitting up sleeping while having very mild contractions wasn’t easy. Had I known what my contractions would feel like towards the end of my labor, oh, I would’ve been able to sleep through these first ones. Alas, here I was, totally naive and restless.
Fast forward to nearly noon (I think?) and Jess was at our house. Since Chris and I had been awake for so long, it felt like I’d been laboring forever! Of course once she showed up my contractions came to a screeching halt. I felt bad for having her over so early. I considered faking some, but how in the world would I do that? She made me feel a lot better when she told me this actually happened more often than not. While we waited for things to progress, we started to rewatch the entire series of The Office. The Office is always a good choice. Michael Scott and his antics were the humor I needed to get things moving again!
After trying to sleep on the couch when I could, eating peanut-butter and toast, getting in my second shower of the day, and taking a short walk down our driveway – it was time to head to the birth center! I remember being so terrified of how uncomfortable I’d be in the car during contractions. They had definitely started to pick up and I was already falling asleep in between them. By now, it was about 4:30pm and I’d been awake and laboring for 12+ hours (early labor, active labor, transition – it’s all labor, people)! Jess had been massaging my lower back through most all of my more intense contractions and I couldn’t imagine sitting in a crammed front-seat with no one to comfort me. It felt like I was in a movie during the ride. I was that main character having contractions in the vehicle on the way to have my baby! Before I knew it, we were there.
I waddled barefoot and braless impatiently into the birth center, up the stairs, and wanted to get in the bathtub immediately. My midwife, Kim, checked my dilation and I was 6 – nearly 7cm dilated! This was so exciting and we all cheered at the progress I made at home. I got in the bathtub and it was nice, but I must admit, it wasn’t for me. That being said, I am not a bath person any how. I absolutely prefer showers. So, it wasn’t all that surprising, but it did help suppress the pain/pressure of contractions and I stuck with it for awhile.
Now, let me save you a lot of time. We arrived at the birth center a little past 5pm. Time became my worst enemy pretty quickly. I labored in the bathtub, on the bed, on the birthing ball, on the toilet (very painful but also my favorite because I felt like it really made a difference), on my side, sitting up… sheesh, I felt like I’d tried just about everything! After what felt like forever we checked my dilation again and I fully expected to be 10cm and a few pushes away from meeting our son! That wasn’t the case. I don’t even remember how many centimeters I was, but I had hardly progressed! This was the first negative flush of emotions I had. I felt somewhat defeated. All of that work… for nothing?
My cervix had become swollen on one side and it wasn’t thinning out. This obviously wasn’t giving my son any room to make his way out. I then had to be in the most uncomfortable position of my entire life (not exaggerating) to help thin my cervix out. I had an inflated “peanut pillow” in between my legs as I laid on my side and the back pain I felt was truly excruciating. The unwavering strength of my support team was the only thing that got me through my entire labor, but especially this part. Chris literally never left my side other than once to eat a quick meal and to use the bathroom maybe twice. He coached my breathing and guttural sounds with every single contraction! I don’t know how Jess didn’t end up with blistered fingers from the time she spent applying counter-pressure and massaging my back. Kim and my nurse, Katie, were right alongside of us the entire time encouraging me, advising me, checking Lewis’ heartrate, and keeping track of my vitals.
I had no option of any epidural or pain medication of any sort here at the birth center. I didn’t need it, nor did I desire it, but I will admit – I thought of it during the contractions with this gigantic pillow shoved between my legs. I wondered how an epidural might relieve the stinging pain in my back. I wanted to jump out of my own skin. Finally, I had to give up this position. It was going to break me. Kim checked my cervix and thank God it had entirely thinned. Fast forward (I don’t even know how many minutes or hours) and she manually broke my water at my request and everyone’s agreement. The flush of warm fluid coming out actually felt so good. It just felt good to feel something, anything coming out of me at that point.
I’m not telling a fib when I say that I had absolutely no natural “urge” to push. Ever. I do have a high pain tolerance which was proven to be true during this process, so, maybe the “urge” just wasn’t what I expected… but… I had to really think about pushing. I had to plan when I was going to do it. I had to take my deep breaths and push as hard as I could. Some times I even missed the peak of my contraction and didn’t push at all because I just wasn’t focused enough. Maybe that’s how it is for everyone? I got back into the bathtub and we installed handle bars for squats. I’d stand up and wait for my contraction to come. Just as it was peaking, I would take a deep breath and perform a squat; I’d grab on to the handlebars and push as low as I could. Eventually I wanted to get out of the bathtub and labor back on the bed.
Every time I looked at the clock and it was another hour into the evening, then the night, and eventually the next morning – I absolutely wondered where God was. I was delirious at this point. I was falling asleep hard in between contractions. Waking up as they peaked was like a bad joke as it took all of the energy out of me again and again. Contractions alone were never that painful, it was just so exhausting. I was so tired of having them and the endorphins that hit me afterwards made me want to sleep. Jess had told me in the beginning of this journey “you can do anything for one day,” and I truly held onto that the entire time.
I remember being so delirious that I sometimes would wake up and forget what was happening. Everyone was speaking so softly and it really soothed me into a dreamlike state of mind. I absolutely said to God in one way or another “it’s time for You to show up, I’ve more than done my part.” I know He was there the entire time, but dang! Going into hour 24 of labor was not the most faithful time of my life.
As hour 27 of labor crept in we all agreed that I was going to manually push this baby out. With every peak of a contraction, I’m locking eyes with Jess beforehand and absorbing her coaching and encouragement. Her words were my focus and it was go-time. I have never been so determined! I’d hold my breath and push as hard and as low as I ever have in my entire life. You can ask anyone that was there – Lewis did not help a single bit. He was perfectly content staying put. I didn’t push for more than 15 minutes. With one final scream and a feeling that is absolutely indescribable – the feeling of my child’s body leaving my body – Christopher Lewis III was finally born.
September 22nd, 5:56am / 8lbs 10oz & 21 inches
He had his daddy’s nose and lips. He was beautiful. I was in total awe; my mind was completely blank. I can’t describe it. No thoughts were rushing through… I was immediately covered in an emotion that had no words or feelings. Even as Kim and Katie worked to get Lewis’ breathing stabilized, as the ambulance was called, as the ER team came in and left with my newborn and husband, and as I realized I was still there to deliver my placenta and recover without Chris or Lewis… my mind never went into a negative place.
God showed up and I was so relieved my labor was over, but Chris and Lewis were on their way to the hospital and our newest journey had only just begun.
To be continued… PART II