Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 will always be such a special, meaningful day for me. It’s the day our sweet baby girl graced us with her presence. The day before I woke up with period-like cramps off and on. By the time Nate left for work (8:30 am) they were consistent enough that I decided to time them. They were only mildly uncomfortable, but each one had a definite start and stop, so it felt like something was going on (I was 38 weeks and 6 days, and up to this point I hadn’t experienced any cramping/Braxton Hicks), although I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Nate got all excited before he left, so he made sure the car seat was installed in the car we’d take to the hospital. He left for work, but not before he made me promise to keep him updated, assuring me I could call/text him at any point in the day.
I kept timing them, and after a good 3 hours, I decided to call the Midwives. Jonie answered, and when I explained the situation she said this very well could be labor, but since it was my first it could be anywhere from 24-48 hours of this. She told me to try and get some rest, but that I could also do squats and lunges during the contractions to get baby to move down. I excitedly began squatting, lunging, bouncing on the exercise ball, and walking up and down the stairs in our apartment building. I wanted to move things along. I so badly wanted this to be real, but I was kind of in denial too, not wanting to get my hopes up.
Contractions stayed steady and gradually got more intense, no matter if I laid down, walked, or got in the bath. I still hadn’t spotted any, or lost my mucus plug, but these cramps wouldn’t let up. I wished my water would just break, so I could know for sure I was in labor. I kept texting my Mom and sister back and forth, speculating with them if this was the real thing. On the one hand I was so excited and wanted it to be real, but on the other hand I wasn’t sure if I was ready, and I really wanted my Mom to be there (she lives across the world, and she was scheduled to fly in on my due date. This is my first baby after all…firsts usually come late. Well, not this baby. 😀 Although I missed her in the delivery room, I was so thankful that my Mom had extra time with all of us. She was a HUGE help in my recovery process, and it was the sweetest seeing her bond with Glory. Oh, how I long for the day when we can live down the road from each other! If you live in the same town with your Mom, never take that for granted, and go hug her right now. Okay, back to the story).
By 2:30 I called Nate and told him to come home from work. He was so excited that he later told me he didn’t even listen to his audio book on the way home (if you know Nate and how much he loves listening to audio books, then you know this is a big deal ;D).
When he got home we ate lunch and then went for a walk. It was snowing a lot, but I loved the fresh air, and the walk up and down the hills around our apartment helped to intensify the contractions. We came inside and warmed up, and then laid on our bed. Over the next few hours I began to lose my mucus plug.
By 5, the contractions were intense enough that I had to focus on breathing correctly, and stop whatever I was doing in order to get through them. This was it. Time to go to the hospital. We packed up the bags, then headed for the car. As I got in I felt a rush of emotion, and got so teary. I knew that this was real, and that we were going to meet our little girl soon. I fervently hoped that my cervix was dilated enough, and that we wouldn’t be heading to the hospital only to be sent home.
The car ride hurt! For some reason the position I was in made the contractions on the way hurt more, so I was so relieved when we arrived at the hospital. We went inside and almost got stuck in a service elevator on the way to Labor & Delivery (Praise the Lord for the kind employee who pointed us in the right direction!).
We arrived on the ward and went to the front desk. Nate explained the situation and I focused on getting through a contraction. The midwife on call wasn’t there yet, so a nurse got us into triage and began all the prep work. Jonie, our midwife arrived and she checked me. She said I was at a 5, almost 6 cm dilated, and I was so happy! Yes, I know it’s crazy to be happy that I was almost more than halfway to being dilated enough for pushing a baby out, but I was afraid that I’d be only a 1 or 2 and sent home, so this was happy news for me.
We got settled into our room and met our nurse who had just come on shift. She exuded kindness and calm, which made me so thankful that she was assigned to us. After she saw our birth plan, she explained that she’d had both of her children naturally, which made me even more happy to have her caring for us, because she wasn’t going to pressure me to get an epidural or anything. I signed SO MUCH PAPERWORK in between contractions, then was able to settle in and focus on getting the baby out. I enjoyed being able to sit on an exercise ball wherever I wanted, including the shower, which was nice and calming. Nate sweetly sat by my side wherever I was, encouraging me and helping me focus on breathing through each contraction. With him by my side I knew I could do it.
After a few hours, Jonie came in to check on me and began to get the inflatable tub set up (the hospital didn’t allow pushing in the tub, but I was able to labor in it, which was SO nice). I’ve always loved water, and during the last few weeks of my pregnancy I took a bath every day because it was the only thing that felt good.
The tub was lovely, but it did slow down my progress. After 2 more hours, I had only gotten to a 7 and my water hadn’t broken, which was so aggravating! Jonie suggested that I get out and walk for a while, or she could break my water. I opted for walking the halls and squatting, hoping my water would break on its own.
After about 30 minutes of horrid hall walking, I was ready to have my water broken. Contractions were hurting pretty bad, and I was getting so tired. I didn’t know how long I could keep my energy up. Once we got back in the room I laid on the bed between contractions, which got so intense that I threw up. That’s when I knew transition had hit and I needed my water broken NOW. Jonie came in and broke it, and then I tried to lay on my side on the bed in order to dilate the last bit. Those were the most intense contractions yet, and I basically jumped back in the tub for relief.
A little while longer, I felt the urge to push. My body was taking over, and I started to feel that it was going to do it’s own thing to get this baby out and I was just along for the ride. I got out of the tub and onto the bed, focused.
A lot of people describe the pushing phase of labor as a big relief (I think because they know it’s almost over). While I was glad and relieved to be at this point in labor, it felt like I was climbing a mountain while holding my breath. With each contraction I would take a huge breath, then push with all my might, trying to fit in three pushes each time. Jonie was such an amazing coach, and she helped me get into the best position.
Nate stood by my side, encouraging me to keep going, and holding my hand. I kept looking into his face between pushes and his smiling eyes kept me going. It was HARD work, but the best kind of hard work. [I’d like to just pause here and give a shoutout to my amazing husband. He truly was my rock during labor, full of gentle words of encouragement and always ready to massage me or hold me or help with whatever needed done. He stayed so calm throughout it all, and I couldn’t have had a natural birth without him. So thankful for him, and even though I didn’t think it possible, I’m even deeper in love with him. Laboring to bring our child earth-side was one of the greatest adventures of my life, and made our marriage even sweeter.]
After a little while, I struggled to get a big enough breath at the beginning of each push, so they gave me some oxygen. I didn’t like the mask, but I did like the oxygen. 🙂 In between pushes I would look around the room. I began seeing extra nurses come in. When the room began getting crowded I started getting nervous. Something was up. I heard Jonie say something about the heart rate dropping, and her head not positioning correctly. In between contractions they had me switch sides, trying to get Glory to position correctly. Then a nurse came by my side and told me she was giving me an IV. I knew this wasn’t a good sign, because if they thought I needed an IV that meant they were prepping for an intervention if I couldn’t get this baby out. That needle in my arm gave me the last little gusto (praise the LORD) that I needed, and within the next couple of pushes Glory arrived. I expected her head to come out in one push, and then her body in the next. Not this girl. She literally SHOT OUT all together, her body flying out along with her head.
All at once I had a squishy little babe laying on the outside of my belly. I stared down at her beautiful face, taking in her little body and full head of hair. She was the loveliest little babe I have ever seen, and I was overjoyed that she had arrived. All at once the mountain climb was over and I felt the sweetest relief I’ve ever experienced. All the pain that led to this vanished as I held our sweet baby girl in my arms, the answer to so many prayers. John 6:21, which says “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world,” is so true!
After 20 hours of labor, our daughter Glory Kathryn was born at 3:43 am, 6.4 lbs and 19 inches of pure sweetness. A perfect, lovely testament to God’s grace and steadfast love in our lives.
Thinking through this moment beforehand, I had assumed that I would be bawling my eyes out, looking down at her. Nope, I was just staring, wide-eyed, full of adrenaline. I exclaimed, “She’s here! She’s here, thank you Jesus!”
I tore a tiny bit and had to get stitches, but I didn’t care or feel it at all, as I stared down into my sweet baby’s face. I remember thinking, I would happily do this again.
The next few hours of skin to skin and settling into being a family of three were magical. As we headed down to our postpartum room, we passed the nurse who had checked me in to triage in the hallway. I happily pointed to the bassinet, and she congratulated us. Oh, how wonderful it felt to be on the other side!
In those moments following her birth and now as I type this I am overwhelmed with thankfulness to God for allowing us to have a safe, natural, wonderful birth experience and a healthy baby. So much can go wrong so quickly in childbirth, and He was so kind to answer our prayers and give us the birth we had hoped for.
I’m excited to write more about my natural birth experience in some other posts, but for now I’ll just say that I highly recommend natural birth. The whole day of January 16th and the next day I was on such a high. When we got back to our postpartum room Nate was so exhausted and went to sleep right away. I was super tired as well, but so very excited and happy. I slept eventually, but for a long while I just laid on the bed, staring and smiling at her sleeping in her bassinet (haha I should’ve written down her birth story then, since it’s been so hard to find the time since!).
If you’ve read this far, you are amazing for getting through this book of a birth story. Can’t wait to share more of our sweet life and get back into the swing of blogging more often.