I can’t believe that Charlie is one year old today and I’m just now posting his birth story. I wrote it all out a long time ago but until recently, hadn’t gone back through to edit it. Of course, if ever there’s a good day to share it, it would be his first birthday. Warning — it’s long. So it you’re into birth stories, then march on ahead.
Monday, December 10th, was a normal day, except for one thing — I had an insane amount of energy. I actually posted on Facebook that I’d felt like I drank a triple espresso. It was bordering on ridiculous. I cleaned, ran a ton of errands, went to the thrift store. The weather was pretty dreary but I was completely wired.
That night I had a really vivid dream about various early labor signs happening to me. I also woke up a number of times feeling a little discomfort, like I might be having a contraction. They mostly felt like Braxton-Hicks, but just seemed a little bit different. Tuesday morning (the 11th), I woke up around 8am and felt enough of a difference in what I thought were Braxton-Hicks to download a contraction app and start timing them. I laid in bed for about an hour, timing the start and end. They were pretty far apart, but seemed to be consistent. With my due date still two weeks away (and this being my first baby), I knew that it was very likely just false labor. I went about my morning as usual, including my 38 week appointment with my midwife, Tara. We talked about the contractions and she told me not to get my hopes up but to try and get a little rest that day, just in case.
I ran a few errands, including a trip to Target to buy some diapers (just in case, since we didn’t have any!). I stopped by our church’s office to see Caleb–I had mentioned that something might be up, but he was also convinced it was way too early for anything to be happening. Some of our friends were having a holiday potluck lunch at their flower shop, so I ate with them — all while continuing to feel consistant contractions. I had a haircut scheduled for later that week, but decided to move it up to the afternoon (I even told them I thought I might be in labor, which I think made my stylist somewhat nervous). After a nice new haircut, I stopped by the Hyppo Cafe to see Caleb and get some dinner, then went over to a friend’s house to watch New Girl. At this point, I’d also alerted my doula, Cee, because not only were the contractions continuing, but they were getting a bit more uncomfortable. I actually had to stop and breathe through some of them, and to me that was the biggest sign that this was probably it.
Caleb had planned to go out that night with some of his friends as a last little “hurrah” before being home early each night (or, as he called it, “babywatch”). I told him to go ahead, but to keep his phone close. Around 11:00, I gave him a call and decided to take a bath. Things definitely started amping up at that point, and he helped me relax until about 2am, when they seemed to be getting much closer together. I told him to go ahead and call both Tara and Cee, since I had no idea how quickly things would progress (hah, little did I know). They arrived and Tara started getting everything set up. They both suggested that I try and labor in bed as long as I could, sleeping in between contractions (or at least trying to) so that my body could get some rest. I’m so glad I was able to do that and store up energy–Caleb and I laid in bed and I don’t think I slept much, but I was able to conserve quite a bit of energy (and Caleb did sleep).
Around six am, I felt like I needed to start moving around, because the contractions were getting a bit longer and had more pressure. Caleb was still sleeping, so Cee suggested that I walk around the house a bit. Things felt like they were spacing out, which discouraged me a little. I feel like this was the first mental block I had to get past: without much sleep, and feeling like I’d reached a little bit of a plateau, I really had to push myself not to feel bummed out and worry that it was going to get really hard (and long).
Thankfully, after another hour or so, I decided to have Tara check me to see how dilated I was. This was actually the first time I’d been checked since I was pregnant, so I was a little apprehensive about how my progress would be. I think Cee and Tara were too, and it felt like we were all holding our breaths. When she told me I was between 6 and 7 cm, I felt like dancing! I knew I still had a ways to go, but that was definitely progress! I felt like I had renewed energy after that, and Caleb woke up shortly after. I used the birthing ball to rock back and forth and had him pressing on my hips to relieve the pressure, which was really helpful. I feel like we tried most of the positions we’d learned in our Bradley Class, but that one was my favorite.
Around 11:00, I told Tara that I thought my water was going to break, and less than 30 seconds later, it did! After that, things definitely picked up. Contractions intensified even more and became longer. Caleb and Tara started filling up the birth pool, which took quite some time because our sink had some sort of funky connection and the water was coming out really slowly. Tara checked me again and I was between 8 and 9 cm! When the tub was filled and I finally got in, it felt amazing. I felt so good and the contractions seemed to become much more dull. I relaxed for a while, just floating in the water while Caleb would squeeze my neck. I waited for the urge to push, but nothing seemed to be happening. After about an hour, I got out and Tara checked me once more. My water had resealed (apparently the result of having a really healthy sac/eating healthy during pregnancy). She gave me the option to wait for it to break again, but I decided to have her go ahead and break it, since it had already broken naturally and I was starting to get pretty tired.
After that, I got in the shower so I was upright for a bit, and wow. The next contraction that hit was the only one where I felt like I was completely out of my body. Or like I had gotten hit by a cement truck. I think it had been the combination of my water breaking again and being out of the tub after having so many contractions in the water. I yelled for Caleb and he helped me get to the tub quickly, where I felt much more comfortable. I finally felt the urge to push, and I was so excited because it seemed like we had almost reached the end. Hah! If only. Pushing was tough. I think part of it was that I had expected the pushing to be fairly short — because for most people, it is. But the actual pushing, during a contraction…well, it’s not fun. For the first two hours, I was progressing (that is, Charlie was moving down). Then, for the next two hours, things were staying the same. Yes, that’s four hours of pushing, half of which wasn’t actually doing anything. We left the tub about halfway through to try some different positions in the hopes that it would help move things along. After being awake (and in labor) for 36 hours, I was starting to run out of energy.
As we got towards the end of the last two hours, I could tell by Tara’s face that we were probably going to have to transfer. We were so close to having the homebirth that Caleb and I wanted (and had planned and worked for), but baby Charlie just didn’t seem to want to budge. Tara and Cee talked for a minute, then came back to let me know we had one last position we could try, but if that didn’t work then we would need to transfer. Legally, Florida midwives are required to transfer if a laboring mother has been pushing for more than two hours without progress, which is where we were at.
Caleb and I prayed together, and we all got into position for the last option. I think at that point I knew we’d probably be heading to the hospital. I put all the energy I could into those pushes, but he still wasn’t moving down. I was so ready to meet him, so ready for him to be out! My biggest fear at that point was that they’d have to use forceps or a vacuum. I wouldn’t even let myself think about the chance of a C-section. We’d cross that bridge if we came to it. Everyone started gathering things up, including the “just in case” bag I’d packed, and I put on a comfy dress. It was so cold and misty outside, and walking to the car was the last thing I wanted to be doing at that point. The ride to the hospital wasn’t fun, but it also wasn’t as bad as you might imagine. The contractions weren’t any stronger than they had been, but now I was trying not to push with as much effort (because once you start pushing, you can’t NOT push — you can only put less energy into it). I had two contractions during the short, five minute ride to the hospital, then one in the elevator and another when were filling out the registration form. Tara had called ahead, so thankfully we were able to go straight into L&D.
They had us go to the triage room, which is super tiny. I’m still not sure why they didn’t send us to a normal delivery room. As I was getting onto the bed, Tara saw Missy, one of the hospital’s nurse midwives in the hallway and pulled her in to help us. I’d actually visited Missy before for routine appointments, and she’s delivered a number of my friends’ babies, so I was really glad she was there. Missy and two of the nurses started directing my pushing, which was actually pretty helpful. Tara and Cee and Caleb were all cheering me on, and I knew we were almost there. I think the drive to the hospital and the walking helped move him down quite a bit. The pushing was painful, certainly, but there was never a point during the entire labor when I felt like I “couldn’t do it anymore” or that I was screaming for drugs.
As we were working through the pushes, the room seemed like it filled with people — I guess they were trying to be prepared if his heart rate changed, or if another procedure had to be done, but it was seriously chaotic. It was such a huge contrast to the quiet house we’d left, but at that point I was completely in the zone and focused on getting this baby out! The doctor who was on call arrived at the very end, during the second to last push.
We geared up for the last push, with everyone cheering, telling me to get angry, that this was it and I was going to push him out! The contraction started, I took a deep breath, let it out, took another and then shut my eyes tightly, and pushed with everything I had. Then wonderful, sweet relief and he was born! As the nurses checked him and wrapped him in a blanket, the doctor immediately started reaching to clamp and cut his cord, which we didn’t want (delayed cord clamping is much better for the baby). Missy tried to tell him, but he wasn’t listening, so Caleb yelled, “Doctor, do NOT cut his cord!” He put the clamp down. It might sound silly, but I was so proud of Caleb and the way he stood up for the things that were important to us. They put Charlie on my chest and he was crying away, pink and excited and a baby–our baby. It was completely surreal. It felt like I had waited so very long to meet him, but that I already knew him. We snuggled and he began to calm down as we looked at all of his sweet features. It was 8:46pm on 12/12/12 and he was born just twenty minutes after we arrived at the hospital.
It was kind of amazing how normal I felt immediately afterwards. Yes, I was a bit sore, but other than that I felt great. Not woozy or out of it, but full of adrenaline and happy hormones. We put a hat on Charlie and had great skin-to-skin contact. After we cuddled a bit, I started nursing him and he latched on immediately! I had been a bit worried about how that would be, but we’ve honestly had a really easy time of it. He was so alert and I think that was a great help. Tara went out and got us some food from Arby’s, and so I have an awesome picture that Caleb took of me holding a nursing Charlie with one hand and a roast beef sandwich with another!
We spent the next two days in the hospital, because they require any babies born there to stay for 48 hours of observation. It was actually pretty nice to have the nurses and the meals and the remote-controlled bed. Charlie was with us the entire time — he stayed in our room and Caleb went with him any time they needed to take him to the nursery to check his weight or check him over. The hospital was really great about our requests — the only shot he got was the Vitamin K (since we’d had such a long pushing stage), and they didn’t weigh him until we’d spent a few hours together (he was 6lbs, 8 oz). It’s taken me some time to fully come to terms with the fact that we weren’t able to have him at home, but I feel like 99% of his birth was a homebirth and while I wish we hadn’t had to go to the hospital, I’m so thankful that we still had a natural birth with minimal interventions. I definitely plan to birth at home with our next one, especially since this time the pushing stage should be much easier.
I know that birth is different for every person, and with every baby, but I can truly say there was never a point when I thought we couldn’t do it. It was hard work, and it took a lot of energy, but it wasn’t torture. It wasn’t impossible. And it was so very, incredibly rewarding. Our recovery was really fast and went so well, and I know that not having drugs in our systems was a huge part of that. I am so grateful for the support I had — especially from Caleb. He was so encouraging and such an incredible partner. I’m also grateful for the knowledge we had and the preparation we did. It was all very much worth it. Just knowing what to expect, even if it wasn’t exactly how we thought it would be, made a huge difference in getting through labor. I am in awe of the way that God designed our bodies, and the birth process. I’m so glad He delivered Charlie safely and kept me healthy, and that thanks to him, we are now a family of three.