This pregnancy wasn’t always easy for me, in that it followed my miscarriage and left me nervous. I worked through these emotions during the pregnancy in order to enjoy it and prepare myself for labor via therapy, acupuncture, yoga and prayer. Once I passed the 20 week mark and had a normal and healthy ultrasound, I felt so much relief, but it didn’t quite absolve all my fears.
As time drew nearer to delivery, I became excited and curious: who would this baby be? Would it be a boy or a girl? Simultaneously I became nervous about my earlier decision with my husband Erick that he could attend a work meeting in California when I was 38 weeks pregnant. At the beginning of my pregnancy it hadn’t seemed like such a big deal, but with my due date closing in, I became apprehensive. Our logic had been that my son was born at 40 weeks 1 day and it seemed unlikely that I would go early. So away Erick went to San Diego at 38 1/2 weeks and I abstained from anything and everything I could think of that would promote labor: no caffeine, no acupuncture, no eating dates, no pregnancy tea.
It didn’t really matter, though, because the baby had it’s own schedule. I skyped my sister in law, who was 3 weeks behind me in pregnancy, to catch up on our pregnancies and possible upcoming deliveries. As we were chatting I felt such intense pressure on my pelvis, but assumed it was that the baby had dropped and was pushing on my bladder. I went to the bathroom, but the pressure remained. “I’m just feeling so much pressure on my pelvis” I told her before logging off, but since Erick wasn’t due home for another 48 hours, I pushed those thoughts of labor away.
We were expecting a snow storm that night, and my brother was also away for a work trip, so my other sister in law had invited me and Jeffy to sleep over their house so that the kids could play the next day in the snow. Still feeling the pressure, I packed my hospital bag, Jeff’s overnight bag and even the baby’s car seat and off we went. I wasn’t 100% certain it was a great idea considering they live 15 minutes further from the hospital than I do, and they basically live on the side of a mountain on a rural dirt road, but I weighed my options and realized that even IF I were to go into labor at least I wouldn’t be home alone with Jeff. So off I drove, stopping by my parents house on the way to let them know I was sleeping there (see, I thought I might need my dad to get me off the mountain) and also grab a name book since I was still undecided on names at that point.
That evening, after the kids had gone to bed, I began to notice discharge with pinkish streaks in it after using the restroom. I became nervous, but a quick google search informed me that it could be hours, days or even a week before the baby came: it was just the sign of the body preparing for labor as the cervix began to thin. I tried to push any thoughts of labor away, but deep down I was concerned: my firstborn had come quite quickly and I worried once my body began the process there would be no hindering it. I contacted my mother and a good friend of mine, but we all remained hopeful that it would be a day of two, as Erick was scheduled to fly home Thursday and it was late Tuesday night.
I woke up to some contractions, only mildly stronger than braxton hicks and thought ok, they’re building, what time is it? I was disheartened when I saw that it was only 2:00am. I texted my sister, Sharon, who lives in L.A as I realized it was her birthday. Strangely enough, I noticed that I texted her at 2:13 exactly, the date of her birth. We had a good laugh and then I got quite serious with her, telling her I thought I might have a baby on her birthday. I went back to bed, only to wake again at 3:30 and again around 4:30. The contractions were getting a bit stronger, and I found myself in disbelief. I was exactly 39 weeks that day, it was snowing like crazy and my husband wasn’t home.
Upon waking up the hustle and bustle of the kids at 7am, I went downstairs and told my sister in law that I thought the baby was coming. She was shocked, but told me to contact Erick immediately. I knew he would still be asleep, so I left him a text message for when he got up. My dad showed up and cleared the driveway with my brother’s snowblower, preparing for if I needed to leave. I said I wasn’t ready yet and went upstairs to shower. I felt the contractions building in the shower, sometimes to the point of doubling over, but mostly I felt sorry for myself that my husband might not be there. I tried to get any feelings of self pity out of my system, because I knew I’d need the mental stamina to get through labor.
My mom called me after my shower and we made a game plan. I had my 39 week appointment at 1:40pm that day, and we decided that she would drive me there and plan to stay if I were truly in labor. Erick called me upon getting my texts and was rushing out of his meeting to the airport to catch the earliest flight that he could. He said he was in a 7am meeting when I texted him a screenshot of my contraction timer, and knew he had to leave. After getting approval from his boss, he jumped up and shouted: I’m gonna have a baby! and ran out of the ballroom while being high fived by his colleagues.
He called me from his uber telling me the earliest flight still wouldn’t get him in until 8:30pm due to a connection at LAX. I said maybe he’d make it. He said “don’t hold it in Deb” and tried to be encouraging by being excited that the baby was on it’s way. I said I was scared and he said “today is the day we get to meet our baby girl”. It was the first time he had said he thought it would be a girl, and I was hopeful that he was right.
I spent the rest of the morning distracting myself from my somewhat regular contractions by chatting with the children and watching them play. By the time my parents came to pick me up, I was packed and ready to go to the hospital. We left the house and my sister in law solo with 5 kids under the age of 7—she’s a champion for getting through those 48 hours solo!
On the way to my appointment I felt moments of pain, wondering when the contractions would build and become so painful that I would really be in labor. At this point, they hurt, but I felt I could still function and communicate in between them. When I was in labor with my son, Jeff, they had progressively become so strong that at a certain point I was unable to communicate at all and felt so inwardly focused.
I was relieved to discover that I was, in fact, in labor: I was 4cm dilated and 80% effaced at my appointment at 2pm. I knew that meant I would have the baby that day, as with my son my labor progressed quickly. They walked me from the midwifery office down to labor and delivery where I got settled in. Everything felt surreal. The midwife told me that my labor might slow down from being in the hospital, and it did. My mother and I walked the hallways for about an hour or so, during which we chatted and I had to stop every so often for a contraction. I returned to my room where I sat on an exercise ball. The strange thing about using the exercise ball was that it seemed to absolve all the pain of my contractions. If I got off the ball and stood up or rested on all fours, my pain doubled. My mother and I chatted about this: was it the position of the ball that helped?
The nurse returned and said the midwife wanted to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heart rate. I asked if I needed to get off the ball and she said no. “oh, she said, the baby’s heartbeat is irregular.” My mother asked “do you think it has anything to do with the ball?” to which the nurse replied “no, the ball is fine!” but I heard my mother and something clicked for me. I got off the ball immediately, as the irregular heart beat answered our earlier questions as to if the ball was helping or hurting me in labor.
As soon as I got onto the bed in all fours, I felt more contractions and the heart rate leveled out. I sensed that the midwives were not totally relaxed, as they did not leave the room from this point on. I thought to myself “time to get serious, Deb” and I began to breath heavily and focus on the birthing process. It felt a bit strange, this labor, as the contractions were not as painful as they had been with my son, Jeff. With his birth, I felt I had no choice but to moan and move and get through labor. With this labor, everything seemed to be a bit more mental, as if my mind was holding labor off at bay. After a while my midwife checked me and deemed that the baby’s head was still quite high in the canal. She asked me to “bear down” on the next contraction to try to move things down. At my next (and seemingly mild contraction) I pushed down on my pelvic area as my midwife gently pushed on my lower back—and my water broke! After that, they told me to begin pushing the baby out.
I felt so anxious at this point, it was if I could not visualize a baby in the birth canal, much less being born from me. All my anxieties about losing the baby during pregnancy seemed to manifest in my mind at this point and I began to cry while on all fours. “I’m too scared!” I told the midwife who was at my head, holding my hand. She told me I could do it, that I was strong and I could birth the baby successfully. I began to hyperventilate because I was so anxious, and the nurse and midwife at my head talked me through some different ways to slow my breathing down and relax. I was so worried, but I knew I had to listen to them. I remember thinking “You have to push the baby out, or they’re going to take it out!”
I worked on slowing my breathing and pushing when they encouraged me to do so. I felt as if I would never have the baby, and if I did, it wouldn’t be alive. I know that’s dark and awful, but after the fact that the last labor experience I had was a miscarriage, it haunted me.
I pushed and screamed and squeezed my midwives forearm. They told me to continue pushing like that and I continued my cycle of pushing and screaming and squeezing. They told me the head was coming out, and my midwife asked me if I could try a new position, to which I said sure. They turned me onto my side, almost in a sideways bridge position with both feet on the bed with my torso on it’s side and asked me to push again. The baby was out! I felt so relieved, but the baby was blue and sleepy, and they told me it was simply stunned, for it hadn’t spent much time in the birth canal. It had been only 9 minutes since my water had broken! And 45 minutes since they said the heartbeat was irregular! Time is so aloof in labor, it felt like hours.
As they woke the baby, I couldn’t believe it was over. I had had a healthy baby. They held her up to me and I saw that it was a girl. A GIRL! I was so shocked and happy and felt so proud of myself for overcoming a strange labor with mild contractions, a fearful mind, and a husband on an airplane.Read more