God blessed us in all circumstances with Peter’s birth!
At my 37 week appointment, my midwife told me I was 2 cm dilated and 75% effaced. She told me to stop taking evening primrose oil, which I had been taking orally. She encouraged me to continue perineal massage with my husband, which we had started at around 30 weeks. I also always took a prenatal vitamin and magnesium drink before bed.
I was working full time during my pregnancy. There are many details surrounding this season of my life, but ultimately I didn’t consider full time child care a healthy option for our family, so I gave notice at my job. As part of the arrangement with my employers, I worked through the end of July, giving myself at least 1-2 weeks at home before I expected to give birth.
I packed up my office and left my job on a Thursday afternoon. All weekend I felt great and was looking forward to a few weeks of rest and quiet as I prepared to be a mother. I planned to finish my online birth class while I waited. I was at 39 weeks.
That Sunday night, August 1st, we had a worship night and Bible study at our house. We built a bonfire and sang worship songs and prayed together in our backyard. We all chatted for a while afterwards, then said goodnight to everyone at about 9:00pm.
Later that night, at 10:30pm, I was getting ready for bed. I stood up from the couch and felt something release, so I went to check. I had lost my mucus plug. I knew this wasn’t an indicator of how soon Peter would come, so I tried not to get too excited. I also started to feel some slight cramping. I didn’t think this was a good indicator either. My sister in law, who had given birth a couple months before, had been in prodromal labor for two weeks before my niece was born. I knew I could have a similar experience, especially as a first time mom.
I told Andy, and we both decided it was a good sign but we wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. Afterward we both laid down to try to sleep. As soon as I laid down on my side, I began to feel more cramping. It felt like period cramps to me, but more powerful. Again, I assumed this was the start of a very long process, perhaps even just prodromal, but at the same I could not sleep through the surges. I told Andy he could go to sleep but I felt like walking around. He wanted to stay awake with me. He joked that it would be so convenient if I were to go into labor that night, because he had enjoyed an entire weekend, plus would be taking a full two weeks off whenever I went into labor.
I paced back and forth in our hallway and living room. I wanted to be moving. I decided to give in to whatever my body wanted to do. After a while I felt like leaning forward against the back of the couch. I tried to watch some cooking shows, because those are always relaxing and would maybe help me feel more ready to go to sleep. I could not concentrate on the show. Squats felt good, and leaning forward felt good. The surges were coming pretty consistently now, and I decided to start timing them. At 12:00 midnight my contractions were about 4 minutes apart, and 20-40 seconds long. Andy texted our doula April, then called the midwife. But I had fully convinced myself that I was still not yet in active labor!
Our midwife was not on call, instead it was the OBGYN. I was starting to suspect that possibly I was actually in labor (I was in denial for a long time, haha). I had known that would be a possibility. I felt disappointed that I would be giving birth with the OBGYN instead of my midwife. I knew that we would have differences of opinions on some things. But I also knew it wasn’t any use to be upset, and that whatever happened it would be okay.
I had already decided I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible before going to the hospital. The OB agreed, and didn’t seem too concerned. When I spoke with her, I was not able to talk during contractions. I was also starting to vocalize through the surges a bit. She listened to how I sounded. She told us to try to rest and to call again in a couple hours.
I labored in the bathtub to try to get more comfortable. I only wanted to lean forward. Sitting and laying down were extremely uncomfortable. I sat back in the bath for one contraction but it was so intense I had to move to my hands and knees. That was much more comfortable. Andy put a fold up chair in the bath for me to lean forward on. The water felt good, but I kept feeling like I wanted to move around. We went to the living room and I knelt and leaned forward onto a bench that Andy pulled out for me. I asked him to turn on my worship playlist that I made for laboring.
I started to feel like I wanted Andy to be close by me. He texted my doula at 1:00am, telling her my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, and about 45 seconds long. I was still unsure if this was the real thing, I kept remembering my sister in law being in prodromal labor for so many days. I didn’t want to get disappointed if things slowed down.
I knew I was getting louder and louder during contractions, but I didn’t really care. We joked that hopefully the downstairs renters wouldn’t hear us (they had just moved in that day - it was their first night staying there). I felt happy and peaceful, and the surges felt very manageable. It helped a lot to focus on timing them on the app on my phone. I finally asked April to come to the house, she arrived at 1:45am. I felt bad for getting her up in the middle of the night. I still could not talk through contractions, but we chatted and laughed in between them. I called the OB around 2:00. I was having 45 second long surges, about 3-4 minutes apart still. She listened to me through some contractions, and said it could still be a while. She said she could meet us at the hospital whenever we were ready but otherwise to call again in a couple hours.
April suggested I try to eat something with protein. Andy cooked me some eggs, which I always like. I took one bite and threw up. We all laughed a little but it made me feel like this might be more serious.
I felt myself starting to go into a bit of a labor fog. At 2:45 I had the thought that I would like to labor at the hospital. So we packed up our bags and put all the pieces of the car seat in the car (another story). I gave our dog Boofy a hug and kiss. April followed us to the hospital.
I still could not bear to sit or lean back. I had to lean forward. I decided to get in the front seat and face backwards on my knees, with my arms resting on the back of the seat. The ride to the hospital was so incredibly uncomfortable, even though it was only ten minutes away it felt like forever. I told Andy that I wondered if we should have gone earlier. I felt nauseous. I knew I was going to throw up again, so I turned around, picked my shoes up, and made sure I threw up on the car mat so we could clean it later.
We were just pulling up to the ER entrance, and some paramedics came rushing out with a gurney. Something about the throwing up and the way I was sitting made them think I was seriously injured. I laughed and told them I was just having a baby, but I really appreciated their efficiency. A younger guy helped us get to Labor and Delivery. The building had some construction and the elevators weren’t working. He offered to push me in a wheelchair but again, sitting down sounded terrible. I said I would walk. We walked so slowly, and I had to pause so often to breathe through contractions. I was also vocalizing quite loudly. I wondered if the young man was learning anything useful about women in labor.
I checked in at the desk, and was annoyed that they kept asking so many questions. I wanted Andy to answer the questions, but apparently I had to. It seemed like things were moving in slow motion. I think my body was sinking into "labor land" at this point. We finally got settled in our room at 3:15am. The OB checked me at arrival. I was 8 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Peter was at -2 station. My water still had not broken. I asked for Andy to turn my worship playlist back on.
It felt like there were so many nurses in my room messing with me. I had originally intended to labor in the big tub that is available. I looked at it and thought about it, but at that point I couldn’t imagine the effort of getting inside. I stood at the side of the bed and the nurses took my blood pressure and tried to get an IV inserted “just in case”. I dislike needles, and the nurse inserting it could not hit a blood vessel. She kept trying, even as I went through several contractions. I kept my eyes closed but I could feel her digging around under my skin trying to hit a vein. She tried in several different places, in both arms, and kept saying “If you could please just hold still.” This was definitely the most painful part of my entire labor - I was in tears. Andy got upset and asked for a new nurse. Someone new came in and also missed the first time but finally got it on her second try. I was starting to feel overwhelmed and frustrated with that experience, and had to fight to get my emotions under control so I could continue to labor productively. I could tell my OB was annoyed at Andy, and I felt disappointed that it seemed we would have to push back on some things, instead of just enjoying the process of labor.
The room cleared out. I felt hot and wanted to take all my clothes off. April helped me pee in the toilet and I labored through a few contractions there. Then I labored against the bed, leaning forward, swaying and rocking back and forth, for quite a while. I went with whatever movements felt natural and needed. April and Andy continually encouraged me and helped me feel more comfortable.
It helped me a lot to concentrate on the types of vocalizations I was having. If I breathed fast and was high-pitched I felt like things weren’t going well and I was losing control. But April kept encouraging me to take deep breaths, and to keep my sounds low and deep. When I was able to control my sounds in this way, I could surrender my whole body to the contractions. When I was tense the surges were more painful, but when I willed myself to relax it was so much more manageable. Everything felt better when I let myself stay loose, open, and low. It was an odd combination of being controlled and surrendered all at the same time.
I wanted Andy close by. It was like I needed him to be touching me the whole time, in some way. He held my hands and helped April with hip squeezes. My eyes were closed most of the time, but once I looked up and didn’t see him. I asked, “Where is Andy?” He had moved behind me and was right there by my side when I wanted him.
I’m not sure where April got them, but she kept putting cool damp washcloths on my back. It was so relieving. She made sure I had sips of water if I wanted, to keep me hydrated.
The OB and the nurses came in again, and tried to strap on a continuous monitor to my belly. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Again, the nurses had trouble getting a good blood pressure reading between contractions, because my contractions were so close together. I was annoyed they seemed incompetent, and requested to have the monitor removed. They didn’t seem happy about this but complied. At 4:45am the OB checked me again - I was 9cm, 100% effaced, Peter was at -1 station. She told me my waters still hadn’t broken. Would I like her to break them for me? I said no, I wanted it to happen on its own. She said okay, but that it could be a very long labor in that case. The room cleared out again. Five minutes after she left the room, my waters broke on their own. April and I both laughed a little. I realized now that the cushion of my amniotic sac was gone, things might feel more intense.
I was settled into a hands and knees position. The nurses had kindly adjusted the bed to accommodate this position, and I was leaned forward onto a pile of pillows. I could labor through surges, then rest comfortably between them. Somehow I felt like this position had to be permanent - there was absolutely no way I could move my body to any other position.
I was very deep in labor land at this point. I lost all sense of time, it could have been a few minutes or a few hours, I couldn’t tell. At some point I pooped, but I didn’t care. I remember Andy saying he would clean it up, but April insisted. I think I apologized while they helped me, but didn’t really feel that bad about it. I also threw up one more time, and I realized my body was getting rid of any extra things, preparing and making room for my baby to come out. I vividly remember one of the songs playing, it was “Endless Years” by Will Reagan. This was also the song I walked down the aisle to the day I married Andy. It seemed doubly significant while I labored. Andy and I looked in each other’s eyes and I tried to say how special it all felt, but all I could say was, “I like this song.”
April would ask me if I felt any “pressure”. I didn’t really know what she meant, so I kept saying I didn’t think so. At some point, her strong hip squeezes stopped feeling good, they didn’t feel quite right. I couldn’t say it out loud, so I waved her hands away. I knew she wouldn’t be offended. And she knew exactly what I wanted and switched to pressing on my lower back. That felt good.
Around 5:15am, I thought my contractions had slowed quite a bit and wondered if I was in transition. It felt like I had a lot more time to rest between surges. April helped me to completely relax and rest limply. If I tried very hard, I could almost drift off between contractions, in a foggy kind of way.
I think around this time I also got this sense of Peter’s being there. It was like he stopped being “the baby in my belly”, and I could tell he was there in the room with Andy and me. We connected in a new way. I was sure he could hear me now, so I said, “Peter, come out. It’s time, buddy.”
After the foggy labor land I had been in for so long, suddenly everything came rushing back into focus. I felt zeroed in and completely cognizant. And I felt the pressure April had been asking about. Like a heavy weight pushing down and out of my canal. I sat up straight on my knees and held my bottom, because I thought Peter was going to fall out. I was nervous about the intensity of pushing. I said, “I’m kind of scared of this part.” April told me that I could do it, even if it was hard. This was at 5:30am. She and Andy called the OB in. Suddenly the room was filled with nurses again, and someone switched on the world’s brightest spotlight, aimed right at my butt. I had a deep dislike for that light, but I decided to just keep my eyes closed and try to ignore what was happening around me. I knew I needed to concentrate like I had never concentrated before.
The OB never asked me to move. She checked me and said I was complete, and Peter was +1 station. I felt the urge to push. It was the most wild feeling I have ever felt in my life. It is very hard to explain, but it is so deeply primal and undeniable. In the middle of this, the nurse came back and pushed the monitor into my belly. I tried so hard to be okay with it, but I could not stand to have that pushing into me. I asked to take it off. The nurse said I could technically decline it if I wanted but that they couldn’t monitor Peter’s heartbeat if I did. She couldn’t get a good read because he was too low, so she strapped it to me for continuous monitoring. Again I tried to just ignore it, but I couldn’t handle it. I knew Peter was perfectly okay. Even though I could tell the OB disapproved, I tore it off and threw it on the bed. Then I felt like I could really get down to business.
I pushed every time I felt a surge. It was like catching a wave. I’d feel it coming, and I could bear down into it right at the peak of the contraction. I growled and roared. It felt right. Then I would wait. I wanted to be patient. I liked the feeling of pushing at the top of the wave, and I knew my body had the right timing.
I had this feeling of wanting to reach down and feel if Peter’s head was there. But this is my one regret of my entire birth. I was afraid to, because I thought the OB would tell me I couldn’t do that. Of course I know now there was no reason in the world she would have said that, but the previous confrontations had gotten to me, and I didn’t reach down. I wish I would have.
The OB said because I had taken the monitor off, she was “going in blind” and had no idea if Peter was okay. We had planned for Andy to catch Peter, but because she was worried about the situation she did not let him step in. I understand she was very dependent on technology to tell her if we were okay. But I knew deep, deep down that Peter was happy and perfectly healthy. We were both working together, and he was as excited to meet me as I was to meet him.
I felt the “ring of fire”. It burned just like I had expected, but I was too excited that my baby was arriving to care! When I pushed, I could feel the shape of Peter’s face pressing against me and coming out. I pushed for 20 minutes, first his head, then his shoulders. I didn’t tear. Then his wet, wiggling body slid out and into the OB’s hands. I opened my eyes quickly and looked down between my legs, and she handed him to me right then and there. I didn’t see his face at first, I just wanted to hold him close. He was slimy and his head was fuzzy with wet hair and he was perfect - my baby that I had given birth to.
And so Peter was born at 6:05am on Monday, August 2nd, 2021.
Everyone helped me get settled laying back in the bed. Andy and I held Peter close, we cried and laughed. The OB started me on pitocin because she said I was at risk for too much bleeding because I’m a redhead. I was too happy and tired to question anything then. The pitocin helped me birth the placenta quickly and easily. The OB showed it to me, it had been Peter’s home and you could see the opening where he had safely grown for 9 months. I saw the “tree of life” where everything Peter had needed to keep him healthy had passed through.
I asked them to delay cord clamping. They waited ten minutes and I saw the cord was white and had stopped pulsing. Andy cut the cord. I also asked that Peter not be cleaned off much, I wanted the vernix to be left alone. They were very accommodating. A nurse put a little hat on him. I was shaking from adrenaline, so they covered us both in warmed blankets. April helped me nurse Peter for the first time. She showed me how to hold him and help him get his latch. One hour after he was born, he latched on the right side.
The OB checked me to see if I had torn, and I had not. She said I had a few “skid marks”, and that several could be stitched if I wanted but she didn’t think it was necessary. I agreed. A nurse helped to clean me up. April suggested I drink some apple juice to get my blood sugar up.
Peter was also examined on the other side of the room, and Andy stayed with him the entire time, holding his hand and touching him so he wouldn’t feel alone. He picked him up and comforted him one time because he started crying. The nurse said she’d never seen a dad step in immediately and pick their baby up during the exam.
Peter was 7 lbs 11 oz, and 19.75 inches long. He was perfectly healthy.
We were transferred to a recovery room for the rest of our hospital stay. April stayed with us until we were settled. A nurse made sure we were comfortable, showed me how to care for myself in the bathroom, then left us with our brand new baby boy.
We rested throughout the day. Someone would come in periodically for the fundal massage which I remember being uncomfortable but not unbearable. I knew I needed to eat something and finally started to feel really hungry about midday. Andy ordered us both pho from our favorite pho restaurant and they delivered it to the hospital. Best after-birth meal ever!
Peter continued to latch pretty well, although it felt sort of awkward for me to get the positioning just right. Several nurses would help me out, but that first day I ended up getting blisters on both my nipples. These were very painful until they healed, about one week later. Nursing was infinitely easier after my nipples healed!
I was amazed how good I felt that day. I was very tired physically, but felt so alert and happy.
Miraculously, the staff left us completely uninterrupted that night at the hospital! All three of us slept for about 8 hours straight. A nurse scolded us the next morning for allowing Peter to sleep so long without eating, but I felt like his body was already telling him what to prioritize and sleep had been more important that night.
Andy and I both wanted to go home as quickly as we possibly could. But hospitals have so many protocols, they didn't allow us to be discharged until the following morning. We felt so impatient, as person after person came into the room the second morning for tests, teaching me about breastfeeding, car seat inspections, more testing, etc. I knew we were too exhausted to retain any of the information we were being given, and I hated being there as the hours dragged on. We finally completed everything at about 10:00am and got to take our baby home.
Everything at home was quiet and peaceful, exactly what we had been needing. What a relief! And thus our parenting journey began.