year story took place in. 2014.
country birth took place in. united states.
My due date was December 13th. Ben was scheduled to be out of town December 10-12th for residency interviews. I was so scared he was going to miss the birth. So as we approached the due date, I became more and more anxious. I kept hoping our baby would come early to ensure that Ben would be there. So every little twinge and cramp gave me hope that I was going into labor. I would get so excited, add items to my hospital bag, only to have things fizzle out. “Come on, baby,” I would think to myself, “You have to come while Daddy is still in town!” Each day I would wake up and tell him, “Today would be a good day for your birthday!” But it wasn’t his time yet. Meanwhile, I was doing everything to bring on labor: eating a whole pineapple in one sitting, eating 6 dates a day, doing squats, walking, etc. But as we got closer to the due date I realized I needed to put all that on hold! Now I told him, “Don’t come yet, you have to wait for Daddy to get back in town!”
We met with our doula and she suggested we think of it more as a “due month” rather than a due date. She suggested that we not obsess over when he was going to come because it was out of our control. After talking to her, I realized I needed to surrender this to God. I couldn’t keep being so anxious every day and wondering if Ben would be there or not. I needed to trust God in his timing. I wrote in my prayer journal, “this short but somewhat frustrating time has reminded me that You are in control. No matter how much I may want something and think that I know best, it is really You, Father, that knows best. I pray that we will have a safe delivery and that through this wonderful miracle we can draw closer to you.” I don’t think it is any coincidence that after I finally surrendered my desire to control the situation, my labor began the following evening.
We went home and Ben was preparing for his upcoming interview. I had him snap a few pictures of my belly because I hadn’t taken any of just my belly. As we were sitting on the couch around 11:00 PM, I noticed that I was having contractions. But I had been having contractions for the past couple weeks and they did not seem any different. I remember the one contraction that got my attention. It was stronger than what I had been having and I felt it in my back. Was this it? When I went to bathroom, I noticed some blood. Was this bloody show?! That was supposed to mean labor was on the way! I then remembered that it could have been the cervical exam from the midwife earlier in the evening that caused me to bleed. But the contractions kept coming. I started timing them. 15-20 minutes apart. Ben started packing his bag. I still wasn’t convinced that it was the real thing. But I started to add things to my bag nevertheless. The contractions seemed to be getting a little stronger now. They were lasting around 30-45 seconds. At first I was able to talk through them. Ben was making jokes and I was laughing. But as the contractions started getting stronger, his jokes weren’t so funny anymore. For some reason, I started to get a little panicky. My back was hurting so bad with each contraction. I was trying to time each one but it was hard to pinpoint when one contraction ended and another one started. When I was timing them, I found they were 2-3 minutes apart. That was so close together! I was told to go to the hospital when they were 4 minutes apart. I was confused because it seemed like everything was happening so fast. It was around 1:00 AM at this point. I was walking around the house in between contractions. At one point, I got on the bed on all fours because my back was hurting so bad with each contraction. The book on natural labor I had read suggested laboring at home for as long as possible so I was trying to wait before going to the hospital. But part of me also wanted to just get there and get settled in. A little before 2:00 AM I got in touch with our doula and let her know we were going to the hospital. Ben packed our bags in the car and off we went!
We headed down the road in our little corolla. It was dark and quiet and no cars were on the road. I had one contraction in the car and it was so uncomfortable. I tried to lean the seat back but that did not help too much. We pulled into the parking deck and tried to get as close to the 3rd floor where Labor and Delivery was located. We walked across the covered bridge to the hospital. It felt surreal that I was actually in labor because it seemed like I had been waiting forever for it. Now I was walking in to the hospital as a patient instead of as a student. As we got close to the end of the bridge, I stopped to breathe through the next contraction. I was glad it was so late so that we wouldn’t run into anyone that we knew. We went to OB assessment for the second time that night. “Back again?,” the tech asked us. “We think it’s the real thing this time,” Ben told her.
We got checked in and I changed into a hospital gown. The nurse was ready to start an IV and I told her I did not want one at this point because I was having a natural birth. She asked me if I had a birth plan. I realized then that I had forgotten to bring it! All I was able to tell her was that I had a doula. She seemed slightly annoyed at this response and asked what other specifications I had besides having a doula. It was really hard to think about this during the middle of the contractions. The answer seemed obvious. I told her I just did not want any drugs that I did not need including pain medications. This seemed to be enough for the time being. I was put on the monitor and she told me they would watch me for a while. She left and Mandy, our doula, met us in the room.
This room was tiny but we would only be there temporarily. Now that I was settled in, I was able to focus more on breathing through my contractions. I now felt more in control and less panicky. We turned the lights down and started playing some calm music. I visualized the contraction as a wave and worked on breathing through it as it got more intense. Once they finished monitoring me, I was allowed to walk around the little room. I tried sitting on the ball but it was so uncomfortable. The contractions seemed to be intensifying so we let the nurse know that I wanted to be checked again. She told me that I was 3.5 centimeters. I was disappointed because it felt like I had been doing a lot of work and I was 3 centimeters earlier that night. I started to get a little frustrated because I wanted to be in the Labor and Delivery room, not this tiny assessment room. Around 4 am, the nurse came in to let me know that I would be moving to labor and delivery. Finally, I thought. Walking down the hall to the new room was a bit of a struggle as I had to stop a couple times because of the contractions.
Around this time, my contractions were becoming some powerful. I had prepared myself for pain but I did not expect the amount of force that I would feel with each contraction. I was able to breathe through some of them but with most I had to let out a long moan at the end as the force shook my body. The book that I had read to prepare me for natural labor said that there were no sharp pains during labor. I remember thinking during my labor that the author didn’t know what she was talking about because I was definitely having a lot of sharp pains! For most of the contractions, I was standing over the bed bracing myself on my elbows. Sometimes, I would feel as if I was going to throw up. Ben was on one side and Mandy was on the other. Both were encouraging me and telling me I was doing a good job. Sometimes, I was walking around. Mandy encouraged me to rock back and forth. I was telling myself I could do it. My eyes were closed the whole time. I knew who was in the room and heard what they were saying but at the same time I felt disconnected from everything. I had music playing. I could hear it but I can’t remember what songs were played. I felt intoxicated. I wasn’t looking at the clock. I was just trying to get through each contraction.
They wanted to check my dilation again. I prepared myself to hear that I had not progressed that far so as not to be disappointed. The midwife, Ashley, told me I was at 7 cm! I couldn’t believe it. Mandy and Ben cheered for me. I felt relieved because at least all the pain was doing something. I was getting closer! At the end of one of the contractions, my water broke while I was leaning over the bed. I was wearing socks at the time and they got soaked! Gross! But at least we were getting somewhere. I finally threw up and that felt better. The midwife told me to let her know when I felt like I had to have a bowel movement. When I finally got to that point I told them and they checked me again. I was 10 cm! I felt like I had achieved so much! This was around 6 am. I was starting to get tired of standing. I was shaking. I asked to get in a different position and they helped me to get into the bed. I tried to push some with their coaching, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.
The midwife checked my cervix again and told me my cervix was in the way. I didn’t know what they meant but she suggested I lay on my side to help move it out of the way. I started throwing up a lot. I was pushing some but it still didn’t feel like I was doing anything. This was probably the hardest part of my labor. The nurse checked me again and said the cervix was still in the way. I started getting worried that he wasn’t going to come and I would need a C-section. I asked Ben to pray that he would come. Nobody was telling me anything to do. I was lying in the bed, getting sick, and wondering what was going on. It felt like I had hit a roadblock. The midwife offered some Fentanyl to help me relax and make the pushing easier. I thought about it and asked if it would go to the baby. She said it would but it had a short half-life and would be out of his system quickly. I told her I would wait. I had made it this far without anything so I didn’t want any drugs if I didn’t need them. Everything seemed to be at a standstill. I tried pushing again. Finally after what seemed like forever, I felt like I was pushing in sync with my contractions. I had read that the pushing was a strong urge that could feel really good. This was not the case for me. It was painful and very difficult! And it felt like I was constipated times a million. I’m not a particularly expressive person, but I was grunting so loud with each push. I felt like I had no energy to finish. “Come on, baaabbbyyyyy!!!!,” I would grunt with each push. The midwife asked me what his name was going to be. “Tatum,” I told her. “Come on, Tatum!!!” I said with the next pushes. They were all cheering me on. I was drenched in sweat. I have never worked so hard in my life. How much longer would I have to do this, I thought. The midwife told me she could see his head. After a few more pushes, I felt his head myself. It felt squishy and slimy! I was so close to having my baby!
As his head came further out, it started to burn. The midwife explained that my perineal tissue was stretching. No one prepared me for that! I screamed, “It hurts!!!” Everyone kept encouraging me. They told me to keep pushing. “He’s almost here. This is it!!” Well, it actually took a few more pushes. His head was out and and now I had to push to get the shoulders out. I pushed with all the strength I had left in me. And he was out!! Coldplay’s “Yellow” was the song playing when he was finally born at 8:13 am on December 9th.
I heard his crying and he was put right on my chest. Here he was!! I can’t put into words what I felt when I first got to hold him. I was finally getting to meet the little one that had been kicking me from the inside for the past few months! It was surreal. He was mine! I didn’t care that he was slimy and wet. I felt such elation having him skin to skin on my chest. He was crying his little lungs out. I was too focused on him to notice but apparently he had pooped all over my stomach. Poop was everywhere! And that was his entry into the world! I didn’t care. I was so happy to have him.
Ben cut the umbilical cord and after they got me cleaned up, I put him on my breast and he started feeding right away. Ben climbed in the bed with me. There we all were, together as a family for the first time. What a sweet reward after all that hard work. I spent the next few hours just holding and stroking him, welcoming my sweet Baby Tatum to the world.