As told by Jessica:
My husband Spencer and I learned we were expecting our first child in the Spring of 2013. We had been trying off and on for years, and had nearly given up hope. I managed to keep my pregnancy a secret from Spencer for over a week. Over a nice dinner out, I finally alerted him that, “Our love has a life of its own now!”
The next several months passed quickly and our anticipation steadily grew. In the summer, on our routine 20 week ultrasound, we found out we were expecting a boy–which my husband had already proclaimed with conviction from the moment I broke the news. We had already been referring to my growing bump as “he”!
It was an uneventful, naturally progressing pregnancy. As both a glutton for knowledge and at times a somewhat anxious person, I read everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and labor and delivery. I talked to everyone I knew who was “in the know”. I wanted to be mentally prepared for anything. I also wanted to know the “right” things to do to give my baby the best start.
There was never any question that I wanted a natural, vaginal birth with as little intervention as possible, though I’ve always felt most comfortable with the hospital setting, just in case. I made a birth plan to make sure my wishes were known and followed when possible—everything flexible of course for the health of me and baby. I also obtained the service of a birth doula, Natalie, who was an invaluable resource both prenatally and for the birth.
My original due date was December 12, 2013. Two days earlier, I had contractions that I though for sure would progress since I hadn’t had any false contractions and they lasted all night into mid-morning. But then they stopped dead. The same thing happened every couple days or so for the next several days, so I stopped getting excited about it. By this time I was very ready to get the baby out!
I was getting more and more nervous as the days went by, as the hospital and obstetric practice I used has a policy of inducing labor at 41 weeks. I knew inducing increased your likelihood of a Cesarean section—which was my biggest fear. I was scheduled for a fetal stress test and ultrasound to make sure everything was still alright on December 23.
Fortunately, on December 18th at 8:53pm, my water broke in a gush in my driveway as I got home from a local church function. As someone who likes to have expectations, I was not expecting that at all! I called my healthcare provider and my doula, and then sent a text to my husband to come straight home from taking his last law school final of the semester (which he amazingly finished also at 8:53pm). The plan was to head to the hospital to ensure my membranes had ruptured and to put me on a monitor to see if I was having contractions—if so, they would then admit me and our doula would meet us there.
I felt no contractions, so I was surprised when they hooked me up and alerted me that I was indeed having contractions, and that they were already 3-4 minutes apart. What I felt at that point had been going on for at least 3 weeks and wasn’t even as intense as menstrual cramps! I was only 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced however, and 4 weeks prior I had already been 1 ½ cm dilated. I was very disappointed, thinking that this meant I’d have a long labor.
Our doula, Natalie, arrived shortly after. She and my husband and I walked the halls of the hospital labor and delivery ward till about 2:30am on December 19, interrupted only briefly by a deceleration on the baby’s intermittent monitoring at 1:00am. I was given two bags of IV fluids and monitored while side-lying for 15 minutes while they made sure the baby was ok; and gratefully he was.
My contractions had ramped up quickly and steadily since I was admitted shortly after 11:00pm. By 2:30am, I didn’t really want to swap stories with Spencer and Natalie anymore, and walking was no longer pleasant. I switched to laboring on the birth ball until about 3:30am. I had been avoiding getting rechecked because I was afraid with how little dilated I was at admittance that I would be progressing slowly; I didn’t want to be disheartened by the information. So I was thrilled to find I had from 11:00pm to 3:30am progressed to 7 cm and 75% effaced, -2 station! The time I spent from 7 to 9 cm dilation was only 29 minutes, but it was definitely the most intense. I spent this time in the hospital’s shower, with Natalie using the handheld shower head to direct the hot water over my pelvis where the contractions were most intense. All the while she recited Catholic prayers, which served to bring me comfort and ground me even more, though I was so overtaken with the contractions that I couldn’t participate in reciting them myself. I felt I had to mentally and spiritually pull into myself to get through it—it was all I could do to even barely open my eyes, the pain was so intense.
During this time of transition, I became very vocal, and stayed such for the rest of my labor. The nurses rushed in concerned I was pushing in the shower. When they asked me if I felt like pushing, the best I could answer was, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” They compelled me to get out of the shower, into the bed, and they rechecked me—9 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and +1 station! The obstetrician then came in and alerted us I was actually at full dilation except for a small section of the right side of my cervix. Until that last bit thinned, she told me I had to delay pushing or else risk rupturing my cervix. I spent 40 grueling minutes at this stage—the period of rest that some people have between transition and pushing did not happen for me. I had to pant through contraction after contraction, and I locked all my attention and energy on my doula and her instructions. The doctor had left temporarily and came back when I finally had had enough. I rarely use profanity, but I shouted in simultaneous anger and desperation to the nurses to, “Go get the damn doctor—I need to push!”
That inner lip was still there when the doctor came in a minute or so later, but thankfully she was able to manually move it out of the baby’s way. Finally I could push! As I had heard, pushing wasn’t nearly as intense as transition; I’m sure part of it is knowing the crowning glory (pun intended) of labor is near! It was at that time 4:57am.
Spencer and I’s son, Aaron Matthias, came quickly after that, and was born only 48 minutes later at 5:45am. I did end up getting an episiotomy, because his head was larger than we expected. I hear it never goes completely as expected though, so it’s ok! I did get to have my desired natural vaginal birth, my rite of passage into motherhood. Not to mention a beautiful new baby, who was a very healthy 8lb 7oz at 20 inches long!
I got to hold Aaron immediately skin to skin. I was so happy I was crying tears of joy and laughing at the same time! Spencer was as proud as I’ve ever seen him. We both spent that first hour just enamored with our son–the new soul God allowed and entrusted us to bring into the world. I’m so grateful for the support that I had throughout the pregnancy and labor and delivery from all the healthcare providers involved and especially from my husband, family, friends, and my doula. I strongly believe they all were vital for the positive birth experience I had, and for setting the tone for Spencer and I to have the best beginning possible with our son.
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