There are those very few but momentous occasions in life that need to be remembered, celebrated and its story to be told. Those days or moments and events that have forever changed your course of life and that bring a smile to your face, and a warmth to your heart every time you think about it. For me, some of those moments have included, my first dates with my husband, our wedding day, finding out I was pregnant and of course, the day I went in to labor and had my son. Today’s post will be my complete birth story and I am so excited to share it.
Why did this take me so long to write down? Well to be honest, the timing never seemed right. I spoke to a birthing class and shared my story two weeks after he was born and I feel like my thoughts were a complete postpartum jumble. I have written down an abridged version to share on our midwife group’s website, but because I didn’t want to go on for pages, I cut down a lot of details. I want to tell the story full on. The timing is right now. And today is a very, very significant day to tell this story.
Today is 39 weeks and 3 days since I gave birth to John Fredrick. He was born at 39 weeks and 3 days so this is where his womb life and earthly life meet. My sweet angel boy, tomorrow will mark the fact that you have now been in the world longer than you were in Mama’s tummy. That makes me proud and extremely bittersweet at the same time. I had proudly accepted and embraced the responsibility of caring for you, protecting you, and providing all your needs for the past 9 months, knowing that your home since you were conceived was mostly in my womb, and that it would take time for you to feel comfortable in this strange and funny world world. It brings me to tears because I just want to hold you and say you are forever my baby, but you have been growing every day since the day you arrived and the world is your playground. Since he was born, I have (naturally) felt this overbearing sense of responsibility to protect my little baby from the world because he’s just so new to it. Some days, I have so much fear just knowing how the world can break our hearts and our will. I am every day determined that the care I gave you in my tummy will be matched now that you are out. But tomorrow, whether you know it or not, whether it shows in your development somehow, the world has been your home for longer than you floated, growing so beautifully in my belly. I never felt alone, you were always there kicking me at night, in the mornings as we listened to worship music, at the gym, at work…your presence has defined my life for the past 18 months. Ok, now I’m crying. But it’s true. I am so deeply in love with my son and if I could relive every single moment from the time I found out he was pregnant, I absolutely would. Time with my baby is so fleeting.
So today I share his birth story. It’s important to me. It’s a celebration. My whole existence was altered in just 13.5 hours of labor. All life is a miracle and a gift from God. I cannot give enough praise and glory to Him for the privilege and joy of becoming a mother. Today, I share the miracle of that story both for my readers, for new, soon to be and seasoned mothers alike, for myself and for John Fredrick who I hope will read this someday. Pictures from the first few hours are limited, but stay tuned for the conclusion tomorrow where more shots from the birth centre will be featured.
I made breakfast and a freshly pressed vegetable juice for John every morning and saw him out the door for work. My parents, who arrived just over a week ago, were still sleeping upstairs. As John was getting ready to pop out the door, I go to the bathroom to pee. My body is heavy and slow from the 40+ lbs I have gained throughout my pregnancy. As I sit down to pee, I hear and feel something a little bit different, just a little plop in the toilet. My exhausted state suddenly perks up and I check to see and confirm that I have officially lost my mucus plug this morning. My thoughts raced with pure excitement. In our birth classes, we learned that losing my mucus plug means that my body is starting to get ready for things to start moving. And while the reality is that some women lose their plug weeks before anything does happen, I just *knew* in my heart and in my mind that I was going to have my baby in my arms very soon. Like, really soon. It’s amazing how every fiber in my body just knew. I was so excited. I told John and his face was filled with excitement too. “He is coming” was the thought in my head but without any contractions or any real physical nuances, I went forward with my busy plans for the day.
When my parents got up, I told them, “I think I am going to start labor very soon” I didn’t share the mucus plug part, but they seemed happy that I was so confident. I was so happy that they were there. It’s so hard to have them live so far away while having a close relationship, that I just knew I had to have them there when I was in labor.
On with my very eventful and exhausting day. Of all days, I felt the urgency to get done some important tasks I had been putting off for MONTHS, that actually had to be done preferably before I had a newborn in tow: 1) import my Canadian car at the inland port offices 2) register my car at the DMV 3) get my SC drivers license so I can drive insured once I had my baby. This was obviously very important. Well, my parents and I spent 2 hours driving around trying to find the inland port in my non-air conditioned car in the South Carolina August heat. We literally went everywhere, and even ended up at a BMW customs container facility where they had no idea what I was talking about. It was a headache. The whole time at the back of my mind I kept thinking, “I’m doing this for you, my baby! Gotta get this done.” I was exhausted and was also ideally hoping to get to a prenatal yoga class later that day but all the delays made that impossible. Finally after 2 hours of driving around, we found the office (which was evidently in the same office block we had originally gone to, just down the lane) and had my car inspected and officially imported. We then headed over to the DMV where I proudly got my SC Driver’s license and my first US license plate! I had put this off for five whole months that I couldn’t believe I finally got it done. We were starving at that point so I took my parents to my favourite Thai restaurant, Kannika’s Thai Kitchen. I ordered my pad Thai wayyyy too spicy that it was uncomfortable to eat and I thought, “If this doesn’t make me go in to labor I have no idea what will!!”
Finally we got home after that busy morning. The smart thing to do would have been to take a nice long nap or just put my feet up after driving around so much but I had another urgent thought. “I’m going to have my baby soon and I have no vegetables in my fridge for any juices next week!! I need groceries! I’m going to Whole Foods” My mom looked at me like I was crazy, but came with me to the grocery store anyway. I love her!! [in hindsight, although I had no contractions…the oxytocin and labor hormones were definitely kicking in by the afternoon]
The rest of the evening when John came home was spent telling him about our crazy morning with all the random customs and import people we met and everyone telling me how ridiculous it was that I procrastinated up to 4 days before my due date. It was a fun, light-hearted evening full of laughs. I was so elated. I remember doing the dishes and just being so happy to have my parents in the next room and giving John lots of hugs and kisses. As we learned in our Lamaze classes, this was DEFINITELY the giddy, happy, oxytocin induced pre-labor state but I didn’t know it because I hadn’t felt a single contraction, not even a Braxton Hicks. At around 11PM, John and I said good night to my parents and I vowed to spend the next day doing nothing to regain my energy from today’s events. I had been up since 6am!
In our room that night, I remember being in such a happy mood, definitely giddy. So peaceful and happy and warm inside. John rubbed my belly with the cocoa’s butter we used every single night throughout the pregnancy and he read “Oh the places you’ll go!” To our baby Poppy, which had become a nightly ritual. I was so happy. It was so late and I was so exhausted from the day but my joyful mood actually got me trying to put the moves on my husband! But we were both tired and decided to wait until tomorrow since he had work the next day. My thoughts were, we are definitely going to be low on husband-wifey private time once the baby was born.
At about 12:30AM, off the lights went, and we snuggled and just as I was in a very light sleep, I felt what could be described as a gentle pop, comparable to a water balloon bursting and then an uncontrollable flow. It happened very quickly and I gave out a very vocal gasp and when John asked what happened, I responded, “My water is breaking…right now!” And I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. John commented, “Oh yeah! Whoa you are all wet!”
I sat on the toilet, which little did I know, would be a very comfortable place for me to labor just hours later. My waters just flowed out literally like a bursting pipe, and my whole body was trembling. I could just feel the adrenaline, and the oxytocin blazing through my body. I was excited and absolutely terrified. This was actually happening. John stood in front of me, so ready to support me, but not quite sure how at that very moment. “What do we do now?” He asked, and I almost wanted to laugh because we had reviewed our labor practices every night for the past few weeks, and now that the time came so suddenly, we felt clueless! First of all, I absolutely thought I would feel some contractions before my water broke, unlike how it is depicted on TV and movies. But up to that moment, I had no idea what a contraction felt like. But I knew that now since my water broke, there was no doubt that labor was starting (as opposed to having contractions and being unsure if it was the real thing) I also knew that there would be a time constraint on how long my labor should be now that the amniotic fluid was draining, and my baby would have to be born within 24 hours or so. So even without contractions, I knew it was wise to call the midwives to let them know that my water broke and that things were starting. We spoke to the midwife on call and we were on the same page with the 4-1-1 protocol – contractions 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for at least 1 hour, and then we hop over to the birthing center. We were well-versed on what to do, now it was just applying it!
At this point, I was still sitting on the toilet. Our childbirth educator had told us that a very common place to labor for a lot of women was in fact on the toilet, because the squat position was just a comforting position and it relieved some rectal pressure. My waters were also continuing to flow and I thought, “I think I have already lost 10 lbs just in fluids!!” John asked me what I wanted to do now. My body was still shaking uncontrollably and at this point, I was absolutely freezing so I told him, “I’m going to take a hot shower to warm up and relax my body. Then I am going to get some sleep before contractions start. Please go downstairs and tell my parents my water broke…and then please go install the car seat in the car!!” (Procrastinated again haha!)
Once out of the shower, I got comfy and warm and hopped back in to bed and got my contractions timer ready. I turned on my hypnobirthing rainbow relaxation audio, and started in to my deep yoga breathing. I love yoga and have never loved it more than while I was laboring, because breathing through the pain of contractions took every bit of concentration I had. We were not practitioners of hypnobirthing, and I truly loved our Lamaze classes and was 1000% happy with our natural birthing method choice, since I wanted John to be a huge part of getting me through labor, but I had listened to the breathing meditation throughout pregnancy so any relaxing techniques at that point was good. I still hadn’t had a contraction but I wanted to start my deep breathing right away to get in the rhythm. My midwife had said that labor was like running a marathon and she wasn’t lying (as I would find out shortly!).
I had my first recorded contraction at 1:09AM, almost 45 minutes after my water broke. I honestly don’t remember much about it, but I think during labor, your female instinct just takes over and knows exactly what is going on. Yes, it definitely felt comparable to strong menstrual cramps, but one of the major differences is that even those early contractions take your breath away. For the next little while, I held strong to my breathing and deep relaxation, my bumblebee breath I learned in prenatal yoga and just a constant state of prayer. I was vocal with my breathing and through the contractions early on. I was in a zone where I was trying to stay relaxed and open to encourage dilation of my cervix. I controlled my nerves so that the adrenaline wouldn’t kick in and slow labor. I don’t think I talked much to John throughout this time, because I was so focused, and I also wanted him to sleep and rest because I was definitely going to need him when things got more intense. I know that I actually did manage to sleep between contractions so I got some rest in.
Around 2:30-2:45AM, I was very vocal with my contractions, meaning my moaning level was on point (ha!) That was one of the indications that the midwives told us to look out for, that once we had trouble talking through a contraction, that is a point where we should call in with the midwife and we might be ready to get moving to the birthing center. So John called again and since our midwife could hear me in the background groaning, she told us to come in. I know that staying home as long as possible was ideal, and part of me wasn’t “sure” that now was the time to go, but I think part of me wanted to find out if I was in active labor yet. So we packed my bag and the giant snack bag and got ready to go.
We all got in the car, John and my dad in the front seat, and me and my mom in the back. The drive was fast and took about 15 minutes in the middle of the night, my contractions slowed on the way there and because of that, I was pretty certain that it wasn’t time but I knew it would be comforting to see our midwives. We got to the birthing center at about 3AM and the night air felt so refreshing and cool. Bethany and Susan were there to help me and they held the Doppler to my belly and there was John Fredrick’s big ol heartbeat thumping away like a train. When they checked me, I was only 2cm dilated. I wasn’t happy or disappointed at that information, I think it actually really helped me to refocus my energy and focus. I knew another 8cm was going to be a lot more work and discomfort, so a lot more effort than the last 3 hours. I was happy to be sent home so I could labor in our bath and in our bed where I just wanted to crawl in to. We did however, leave all my bags there because I was definitely going to be back soon!
When we got back home, I told John to go to sleep. I knew he was exhausted, and that I would need him in a few hours more than I needed him right at that moment. He fell right asleep and I tried to do the same but as I had strongly suspected would happen, as labor progressed, deep breathing and pain management became much more challenging. My mind raced between contractions and I am not afraid or ashamed to say that I had a lot of fear. Fear of the growing pain, fear of the next contraction, fear because I didn’t know what was going on with my body, and fear because I did not yet have the confidence or conviction or belief that my body was fully capable and designed with intent to give birth to a baby without any medical intervention whatsoever. There is so much fear attached to childbirth ingrained in our society, and I was not immune to that. I woke John up as the sun was rising in a panic telling him that I didn’t think I was going to be able to go through our plans to have a natural childbirth experience. He listened and asked me why not. I told him, “This is painful. It really hurts. And I know I am doing a good job of breathing and trying to relax…but it just occurred to me that this is all just pain….management! There is no pain relief! I don’t think I can do this, if it hurts this much already.” I had convinced myself that we would end up at the hospital and I would definitely be getting an epidural. But John said, “Well we are still going to see the midwife, and I support you in whatever decision you make. But we will talk to her first, ok?”
I’m going to take a break here in our birth story for a second and talk about how important it is to have a strong, supportive, and loving birth partner. (Or team as I did!) John excelled at being that. He was my advocate from beginning to end and to this day, never fails at being our son’s advocate for what is best for him. Aside from being the most amazing father to our son, I have never been more proud and in awe of his very hands-on role during my labor and the birth of our baby. He got “down and dirty” we me the entire way through, there was nothing that he wouldn’t have done and I know that. My coping method during contractions was that I absolutely needed physical and most importantly EYE CONTACT through a contraction. If he broke eye contact I would holler at him! He breathed deeply with me. He massaged my lower back on the birthing ball at home. He fed me cantaloupe while I labored in our bathtub. He got in the shower with me and massaged me at the birthing center. Cumulatively, he must have massaged me for hours. He got in the tub with me at the birthing center. He was LITERALLY my back support as I laid on him in the bed where I pushed our baby out, and he saw everything. I was covered in blood and he was covered in blood. He held me and our baby when he was still attached to me and the umbellical cord was still pulsing. He cut the cord. He held our baby skin to skin. John prayed for me and with me. He was everything to me throughout labor and that brings me to tears. It is hard work being a birth partner and it’s not for everyone, and he did it all. In my heart, I never felt the need to look in to having a doula, because I always knew he would be able to do it and be my every pillar of earthly support that I needed (everyone else was spectacular but just added bonus) – because throughout life in general, John has always been and will always be my #1 supporter. We went through this pregnancy together and I knew how much effort and energy he was putting in to trying to carry the pain for me throughout labor. He knew my fears and his faith and trust didn’t waiver for one moment. He didn’t leave my side even for a second.
I feel like on that note, I need to conclude this part of the birth story for today. It’s a lot of details, and as I think more on it, the more memories are coming back, and even if no one reads this to the end, this is really for me to remember. Because it all goes so fast. So tomorrow, which will mark the day that John Fredrick has been in the world for longer than in Mama’s belly, I will conclude our birthing story. Life is so full of adventure, joy, but there is a lot of sadness and despair too. For those of you who know me well, I have had my share of deep depression and rock bottoms. But giving birth was like a renewed sense of belief knowing that life is precious and that those moments of pure joy have the power to trump out those dark places I had been to in life. By God’s grace, He transformed me from who I was into who I am now, and He was about to transform me once again.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part of John Fredrick’s birth story. I feel deeply blessed to be able to share it.