It was Saturday morning. I was 39 weeks along, and I started having contractions. My BH contractions had been strong and getting stronger for weeks, but this particular Saturday morning they started to feel a little different, a little more REAL. But they weren't regular: they would stop altogether for hours at a time.
Both of my previous labors had started in the morning, and from the first faintest contraction I pretty much knew it was real, and then went on to have a baby by supper time. Not this time. This time I had no idea what to think.
I hadn't really expected this baby to come before his due date, and I still didn't think he would, but I decided to fish some onesies from the unpacked boxes and toss them in the washer just in case.
Some of my Houston cronies had organized a pedicure date, so I went to get my toes done and wondered if a little ankle massaging would send me over the edge. It didn't. The contractions just kept on going nowhere for the entire day. I fell asleep that night wondering if they would pick up, but the sun greeted me and my still pregnant belly seven hours later.
All day Sunday I had spotty contractions. We went to Mass. 2 contractions. We got donuts afterwards. 1 contraction. We got some soccer gear for Jake and picked up a Craigslist find. 2 contractions. I got home and took a little nap. 0 contractions. Went to a birthday party. 3 contractions. By this point I was gearing up for a week of this kind of thing.
My brother and his girlfriend were coming over for dinner, and as we made dinner that night the contractions started to get a little stronger, so Jacob made me lie down. And no surprise: they stopped almost completely. I got up to have dinner and had a couple more contractions during the meal. They were stronger, but I could still sit and talk through them with relative ease. Jacob and I had enough sense to put my brother on call in case I actually went into labor that night.
We went to bed at 9:30, and I fully expected to wake up the next morning still pregnant. These fizzly every fifteen minute contractions just didn't have me convinced that I was truly in labor. I fell asleep and fifteen minutes later woke up with a contraction - it's rather jarring to have a contraction while half asleep with drool all over your face. A few minutes after the contraction I convinced myself I was not in labor, and a few minutes after that I fell asleep again, and a few minutes after that I was lurched awake by another contraction. This repeated itself about six times before I couldn't get back to sleep and thought maybe I should call my midwife.
I called in around 11pm, and as warm and maternal as the midwife image is, I could hear over the phone that she was not very excited about her middle of the night patient. I told her that I'd been having contractions for two days and while they were still fifteen minutes apart they were getting stronger and my last labor had escalated rather quickly and I just really really wanted this baby to be born where we'd planned for it to be born: in a hospital and not in Jacob's work truck or the hospital lobby or something. She gave me a very inviting: "Well, it's your third baby, so if you think you're in labor then you should probably come in. How far apart are your contractions again?" "15 minutes" Silence "Well...it's your call." Second guessing second guessing second guessing. RESOLVE "I think I should come in."
So we called my brother and packed up the hospital bag, and by 11:30 we were on our way to the hospital.
I'd never been in labor at night; I'd never wanted to be in labor at night. But the traffic-free, one-contraction drive to the hospital was nice. Jacob and I chatted and I fretted about not really being in labor and making my midwife come in in the middle of the night just to turn me away. The contractions still weren't picking up at all, and I was nervous they would peter out altogether. We self-parked and took the elevator up to the main floor of the hospital. The woman at the welcome desk smiled big and asked us if we were coming in for an induction. At this I almost turned around and went right back down the elevator: one harmless question had convinced me I wasn't in labor. But onward we trudged to triage, and soon I was in a gown waiting for my midwife who showed up about 1 contraction or ~10 minutes later.
Verdict: 4cm, 90% effaced. "Well you're definitely staying."
And so it was. We were actually about to have a baby. These noncommittal contractions seemed to be doing something. We were here in plenty of time to settle in before labor got too intense. I was very pleased.
And then the poking began. The veins in my left arm weren't cooperating, so they switched to my right. There was a billing issue that I had to sort out. Medical history questions, an interview with anesthesia, and a slow ride up to labor and delivery where I was able to sit on a ball while lucky Strep B me got a round of penicillin and an IV bag until PLEASE GOD CAN I JUST GET IN THE TUB ALREADY.
I've had all three babies in hospitals, but with the first two I was pretty hazy by the time I arrived - Lucy June was practically born in the hallway - so this was the first time I was very aware of just how many annoying little things had to happen before I could just hunker down and labor. FINALLY all the pokes and questions were done, and the midwife had guessed correctly that Jacob and I just wanted to be left alone, and the OB nurse was drawing me a bath, and things were looking up.
Contractions sped up a little during all the checking-in part and were around 45 seconds long and five minutes apart. They were getting more intense, but Jacob was helping me get through them, and things still felt pretty chill.
I'm gonna get a little sidetracked now, but hang in there and I promise I'll get back to the riveting birth story soon or you can just scroll down and pick it up (spoiler: a baby comes out of a mother's bottom area - that's the version Jakeboy heard anyway).
During my first labor, Jacob was not very helpful. Early labor was all nerves and making last minute preparations. I wanted to manage my own contractions while they were still easy with the hope that when they got more intense Mr. Husband Childbirth Coach would swoop in with some sweet relief, but this was stupid. You see, by the time the contractions became more intense there was no teaching people how to help me. I was a mad mess of "STOP TOUCHING ME WHY AREN'T YOU TOUCHING ME!?!?!?"
This blog isn't really into advice giving, but if you're hoping to go natty and you're envisioning some kind of laboring-wife-loving-husband dance through the waves of childbirth, then consider trying this: have your husband help you through contractions in early labor, when they're still easy. Tell him what helps and doesn't help. By the time labor heats up, he'll have a good idea what to do. In my second labor, I had Jacob help me through contractions from the get go. When the contractions were easy, I had the patience to vocalize what was and wasn't helpful. By the time my contractions were intense and rationality was flying out the window, Jacob had kinda figured out how to help and could keep on being helpful. Like super helpful.
In this last labor, Jacob would put a lot of pressure on my lower back and kind of push my hips together, and it made my contractions very manageable. Sometimes his hands would slip a little and I would become a banchie woman and curse at him in my head until he'd repositioned his grip and marital harmony would be restored once again.
By the time the antibiotic was done and the tub was ready, my contractions were still a solid five minutes apart but they were strong and would peak two or three times before fully letting go. The nurse said the bath was ready, so I shuffled to the tub after a contraction, but the contraction wasn't done yet. It was a doozie. And while the nurse tried to cool the bathwater off a little, I stood next to the tub and lifted my belly up with my hands to get a little relief as the contraction peaked two more times.
Finally: the tub.
It was deep, and it was beautiful. I sank into that thing and went contraction-free for a solid twelve minutes. Twelve minutes of watery bliss, my thoughts were a litany of love for everything and everyone in the world.
I finally started into a contraction, and I didn't move. I didn't expect it to be too strong, and I was feeling so zen, I figured I would channel my best Ina Mae and just float right on through it. But it was intense. LOVE. More intense. MORE LOVE. But then my eyes popped open and the love bubble burst abruptly because: PRESSURE.
The contraction let go, and I sunk back into the tub in disbelief.
Probably not really.
On one hand I didn't even want to hope that we were almost at the end, and on the other I had only JUST gotten into the tub and I was not ready to get out. So I didn't mention it to anyone and settled back into my bath. After a nice watery ten minutes of no contractions I had positively convinced myself that no, that hadn't been pressure.
As the next contraction came along, I pulled myself to sitting in the tub and grabbed the interior rail so Jacob could put some pressure on my lower back. It was long and big and at the peak: more pressure. After the contraction I managed to convince myself again that it wasn't REAL pressure. After two more contractions like that I started to get a little...vocal...and had to admit to the inquiring husband that maybe?? I was feeling?? some pressure?? At which point he stood up, called the nurse, turned to me and ordered me out of the tub immediately.
He handed me a big towel and the nurse instructed me to dry off really well. So while I was dutifully drying off (??? because God forbid some residual tub water get on the bed where we're about to push out a baby???) and fussing with the hospital gown, I started into the MotherContraction.
I basically crawled across the room and onto the bed, the nurse checked me and her eyes widened. She told me I had a tiny bit of cervix and my bag of water was bulging, and then she said something else, but I could hardly understand her because she was frantically trying to get a hold of my midwife. My contractions weren't letting go and I was holding onto the bedrail and all of a sudden my midwife was there and checking me and the contraction let go. She asked if I wanted her to break my water. I said no. Then she said, "Well, you can push if you want."
I can't really describe my reaction to this. I liked how calm she was, but at some point I wanted my baby-catcher to do a little cheerleading, perhaps a resounding "you're complete" or maybe a "let's do this!" but she wasn't giving me that. So I said: "I'm feeling a lot of pressure." And she said "Uhuh" And I said: "So I'm gonna push." And she said: "OK."
And then I did.
That contraction saw the biggest push of my life, complete with the guttural female warrior repertoire. I'd convinced myself that the baby was pretty much out, but at the end of it the midwife chimed in: "He's crowning."
And I thought "CROWNING?!?" My first baby had "crowned" for something like twenty minutes while my second had been out in two pushes, so I was pretty sure I'd graduated out of this "crowning" business, and I was blaming everyone in the room that the baby wasn't out yet. If that push hadn't gotten the baby out, it certainly wasn't my fault.
The next contraction kicked in and after another huge push, the baby's head was out. My contraction let go, and I stopped pushing, and my midwife made her first definitive statement of the evening: "Katie, you've got to get this baby out." So I pushed and pushed, and another contraction kicked in, and the baby was out.
And there he was squirmy and swollen. A boy! One of his ears was folded down. He was very upset. And he was big.
And I was beat. I was meeting my son, and my foggy brain was searching for some kind of euphoria, but I was mostly just aware of how tired I was.
It was three o'clock in the morning. I was hungry. I hadn't eaten anything since six. I was begrudgingly enduring all the post-birth prodding. The baby was wailing, and I wasn't very successfully trying to get him to nurse. My midwife was talking to the nurse about how she'd been asleep and that's why she'd barely made it. Jacob was telling me how proud he was. I was grateful to be done, but I was totally exhausted.
I looked down at this new little stranger and thought: I'm sure I'll love you tomorrow.
And I did, one meal, a few hours of sleep, and 1800 milligrams of ibuprofen later.
My mother once told me that three kids really killed any illusion she had that she could "handle it." And, mom, if I was under any illusion that I could handle it before, consider me enlightened. And on that note I'm off to buy this because it's on sale today and because YES.
Jake's Birth Story
Lucy June's Birth Story
Knock yourself out.