Birth is always surprising, no matter how it happens. The birth of my first son, Jordan Casey, surprised me very much because it snuck up on me. The many bouts of painful Braxton-Hicks felt so much like labor, that I didn’t recognize the ‘real thing’ until it had been there awhile. My mother, who lives about 2.5 hours away, missed that birth by 30 minutes.
I knew William’s birth would be different. I didn’t know how. My biggest concern was that my mother would again be too late, since I experienced the same type of confusing and painful pre-labor all through the last two months. I very much wanted her to be there this time, and prayed daily that we would know the exact right time to make the phone call, so that she could make it on time.
The last weeks of pregnancy were difficult. I had no idea heartburn could reach such a level of pain as mine did, keeping me up – or waking me up – for hours every night, and making every meal a chore. I struggled to keep eating at all, let alone be eating healthy, and began subsisting on cereal, bread and milk for the most part.
Another struggle was fear. Although I am not afraid of the process of birth, or my body’s abilities, and never have been, each round of Braxton-Hicks brought back memories of what REAL labor is like, and I was scared of the pain. I really wish I could be one of those strong women who don’t fear labor pain, and don’t even believe it exists, but…I’m not. My first labor had moments that were really difficult – for a multitude of reasons – and I was afraid of going through it again. This was something I prayed about a lot.
As much as I feared the pain of labor, I knew it would have to happen sooner or later, and I was so severely uncomfortable in those last weeks that I began making all kinds of ‘bargains’ with God, if only He would let me have this baby early – or at the very least, not go a week late like I did the my first baby.
Well, I don’t remember what I promised God if He would grant that favor, but… I definitely owe Him. At 38 weeks, 6 days I woke up to a pop and a gush of warm liquid all over. I looked at the clock as another spurt soaked me. 6:22 a.m. I tried to sit up but that produced a torrent so I (not so gently) punched my husband and said, “JORDAN. I’m pretty sure my water just broke.” He later confessed that he thought I was just having a crazy dream, but he obliged me by getting out of bed and turning on the light. Apparently to see is to believe, because he became wide awake pretty quick. “WOW. It really did! Wow, that’s awesome! That’s amazing!” Meanwhile, the fluid gushed all over our mattress. “Um, could you get me a towel?” I asked. “Oh, yeah.”
By 6:25, I was stuffing one of our nicest towels between my legs (oh well…it all washes out, right?) while Jordan talked to the midwife. “She said just go back to bed and try to get some sleep before labor really starts,” he told me. I was having the same Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been having for days, but nothing more serious, so I knew it was smart to just relax and get as much rest as possible, but after such an intense awakening…it wasn’t happening. Jordan ordered me to bed, however, and I sat and watched him run around the house, getting things ready like a mad man. Finally, he came in the bedroom and said, “Hey, I think I’ll take one last dip in the hot tub…is that ok?” Um, sure. Why not?!
The bed thing only lasted for about 45 minutes. I was tired of watching my husband enjoy a nice hot bath; I was hungry, and Jordan was driving me a little bit nuts by asking every few minutes, “Are you having real contractions yet? You’ll tell me when the get serious, right?” So, we headed to the kitchen to make breakfast. In between bites of peanut butter toast, I was experiencing very frequent, extremely mild contractions that had a tiny little peak that was almost painful. This was different than the BH had been, so I told Jordan they were feeling a little different, but, “Don’t call the midwife yet. They are so short, they can’t be the real thing.” He ignored me, and called anyway. She said an assistant was on the way. It was about 7:45.
From there, the contractions quickly increased in intensity, although still rather short and not super-painful. We woke up our first-born, Lil Jordan, and put on some cartoons to take our minds off of labor. I don’t know how successful that was, as every couple of minutes I would lay across the birthing ball and become oblivious to the real world for a moment, while in between these times, Jordan paced from our front door to our back door, gazing up and down the street for the midwife. At about this time, two assistants showed up – Gretchen and Tamhra – and the contractions became serious enough that we suddenly wanted a babysitter for Lil J. The babysitter we had planned on using was unavailable (since this birth was a week earlier than we had thought it would be), so Jordan began calling around, trying to find a last-minute solution, while keeping our toddler out of the interesting bags of supplies Gretchen had brought.
I was GBS+, so Gretchen started an IV of antibiotics. I am a needle freak, and made this extremely difficult for her, groaning dramatically the whole time and making everybody nervous (unintentionally!). I was so jumpy that it took about three tries before we got the IV going, and even then, I kept complaining about how miserable it was. It’s a little embarrassing to remember, but labor was really picking up, and I was a bit out of my head. All I could think was, “I wish they would take out this stupid IV, and Jordan would come back!” I knew he was taking Lil J to a babysitter, but I was still irritated that he couldn’t be there with me. I was really needing to lean on someone and make some noise during the contractions.
I had pretty much camped out in the living room, so Gretchen and Tamhra had set up all their supplies in that area. Suddenly, I got up and walked to the bedroom. No idea why I did this, but I just HAD to be in the bedroom for some reason, and so they cheerfully re-arranged all of their supplies around our bedroom. Jordan came back, and the contractions became pretty intense. I kept asking to get in the tub, but Penny was still en-route, and they told me to wait until she got there, or she might miss the birth. That made sense, but I kept asking anyway, just in case they changed their minds
I knew I needed to relax, but couldn’t seem to make my body do it. I was kneeling, facing the bed, gripping Jordan’s hands and making a lot of noise during each contraction when Tamhra knelt beside me and helped me breathe nice, calm, shallow breaths. It was incredible to me how significantly the breathing helped me deal with the sensations. By now, each contraction was long and strong, but still not super close, so I made a mental note that I wasn’t in transition yet, and needed to hold it all together a little longer. My mom arrived at around this time. I was so, so glad but also very focused and I don’t think I even acknowledged her arrival except by a grim smile.
Jordan did all my talking for me at this point. He seemed to read my mind in a way that was almost freaky! He knew when the position of my robe, or a piece of hair across my face were bothering me, and knew when I wanted my back rubbed and when I didn’t – which was good, as I was completely unable to articulate these things, and yet felt very particular about them. I vaguely heard a rustling in the kitchen, then Penny came in and said, “Hey, let’s get in the tub now!” Best words I’ve ever heard in my LIFE!
I was in that tub quicker than I had moved all day! The next contraction came and went, and I remember looking at Penny and saying, “It’s amazing how much easier that is in the water!” I was on my knees, leaning against the side of the tub, holding Jordan’s hands and resting my head on the edge, when suddenly I felt the most incredible, indescribable feeling. My head shot up, and I stared at my mom in absolute astonishment. It was the pushing urge – only, more like a pushing imperative. I had never felt anything like it, even in my previous birth. Actually, with Lil J, aside from that very last push when his head came out, I had really enjoyed pushing, and I had expected to feel the same way this time around. But, no. Entirely different. I felt the head slam down into the birth canal with such force it shocked me. There was no controlling the pushes, or working with them. My body was pushing and it was my job to get used to it.
I got really panicky at this point, saying repeatedly, “Oh no! It’s too big! Oh my goodness!” I fought to pant the way the books tell you, to slow things down. Didn’t work. I asked several times, “Is this normal? Are you sure this is normal?” And I kept looking at mom the whole time, because her calm expression was tremendously reassuring. Once, I looked Penny straight in her eye and asked, “Do they ever come out the wrong hole?” Don’t laugh, I was serious. My bottom felt like it was being torn apart. She assured me that never happens, and then suggested I reach down and feel his head. I didn’t really want to, as I had a death-grip on Jordan’s hands at the time, but I reluctantly reached down to feel, and was amazed by how instantly calming it was. I could feel his wrinkled scalp barreling down, could feel my own skin, stretched but not broken, and suddenly had a sense for how to ‘breathe out’ in such a way as to slow things down. I succeeded in preventing the head from crowning, in that way, for which I was very grateful. I’m pretty sure he could have been born in that contraction, had I not fought really hard to prevent it, and I’m also pretty sure, based on the stinging sensations, that I would have torn.
However, the next contraction began and was really huge. I knew there was no stopping it this time. The head literally popped out, with a searing sensation. Then Penny tried to direct me on how to help his shoulders deliver, but my arms were too tired to even try, so she did a little maneuvering, and with one more push – equally painful – the rest of the baby slid into the water, and Penny brought him to the surface. I think my first words to my baby were, “That did NOT feel good!” But he was there, all purple and squirmy, and spitting mucus the way newborn babies do. And then he was crying his teeny little cry, and everything was all right. He was there. He was so perfectly HIMSELF and he amazed me by the intensity of his presence.
Time of birth – 11:16. At 11:17, he took his first breath. We were out of the tub, and cleaned up in time for a nice lunch and a relaxing afternoon. Really, it could not have been a more perfect birth! Although, I have learned not to envy women who birth their babies in three pushes, as a longer pushing phase is definitely more comfortable (within reason)! Penny and the team seemed to know the perfect balance between giving us our privacy and being there to rejoice with us and make sure we were comfortable. And when they left, my mom took excellent care of us and Lil Jordan, and we were able to spend the day enjoying our baby and becoming a family of four. I am so thankful for the good midwife we have found, as well as the incredible assistants she has, and also for the good birth experiences. God has really been very good to our family, and we are SO grateful!