For the last 1-2 months of my pregnancy, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t make it to my due date. My certainty of this only grew toward the end. My company gave us Friday and Monday off for Labor Day, and as I left work on Thursday afternoon I tidied up my desk a bit and took several things home with me—just in case.
The beginning of the long weekend was uneventful. I had lunch with my husband, had an ice cream date with my girl, and rested a lot. Over night on Friday and into the morning on Saturday, I began having contractions. They weren’t anything major, but they were still contractions and were fairly regular. At 36 weeks pregnant, I tested positive for Group B Strep and my midwife told me that meant I needed to come in once my contractions were regular so I could get plenty of antibiotics during labor.
When my contractions reached about 5 minutes apart on Saturday morning, we collected our bags, took our daughter to her grandparents’, and headed to the hospital. My contractions continued, but didn’t worsen.
They checked us into labor & delivery triage. There, the nurse checked me for dilation—I was 1 1/2 centimeters, but effacement wasn’t good. We stayed for an hour so they could monitor contractions, and after that hour she checked me again. No progress. We were sent home, feeling very silly and discouraged. My contractions calmed down & eventually stopped.
We had already told our daughter that she would probably be spending the night with her grandparents, so we asked them if they would just keep her that day and overnight so we could relax just in case it wasn’t false labor. They agreed, and my husband & I got the day all to ourselves. We napped, we had dinner, we watched movies… We missed our girl, but the time we got to spend together was rare and wonderful.
The next morning, we retrieved our daughter and headed home. We spent early Sunday just chilling out at home. Later we went to the park, and then the zoo. I secretly hoped that all the walking would trigger some real labor contractions, but didn’t get my hopes up too much. I rode the little zoo train with Nellie and we walked around some. After we got home we all just relaxed and didn’t do much of anything.
After we got Nellie to bed for the evening, Josh and I stayed up watching movies. I was sitting on my yoga ball while we were watching “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” when I began feeling slightly crampy. Throughout the entire movie, the cramps came and went—nothing regular. I went to the restroom a few times and noticed each time there was bloody discharge, and I wondered if I was slowly losing some of my mucous plug. After the false labor the day before, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so I didn’t think much of it. But the further we got into the movie, the more regular the cramps became. These were definitely different than the ones I had felt the day before, but I was still hesitant. Once the movie ended, we headed upstairs to bed when things started getting more regular and painful. I began timing my contractions, noticed that they were coming between 4-7 minutes apart, and I was having a hard time talking through them. Our daughter had been asleep for a while at this point, and we didn’t want to drag her out of bed and to the grandparents’ for another false alarm, so we just waited for a while. A little after 11:00, I finally threw in the towel and said we should probably go. We dropped Nellie off, and were on our way back to the hospital.
The contractions kept on, steady and strong. I breathed through each one without a big problem, but I definitely had a hard time talking or focusing on anything but breathing. Once we got to L&D triage again, we were put through the same thing: Cervical check, monitor, wait an hour. When they checked me around midnight, I was still at 1 1/2 centimeters but had thinned out—I was disappointed. Things weren’t looking good for staying. During the hour of monitoring, my contractions continued and got a little stronger. When the nurse came back around 1 AM, she checked my cervix and to everyone’s shock, I was 5 centimeters dilated! If I hadn’t been in a bed, I would have hit the floor. Josh & I exchanged excited looks, and the nurse went off to call my midwife. Due to my Group B Strep status, I needed to get antibiotics in immediately so we were shown a room and everything got started!
I had my mind set on a med-free birth this time around, and luckily the nurses and my midwife were completely supportive of that. I had to be hooked up to the IV for an hour for the first round of antibiotics, but after that they cut me loose and agreed to intermittent fetal monitoring. On the monitor for 20 minutes, off for 40. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I didn’t get the chance to get up & walk around at all with Nellie, and being able to do so made all the difference in the world. Once I was off the IV, I was able to walk the halls, labor on a ball, squat, and move in ways that made working through the growing contractions easier. Once my midwife arrived, she suggested leaning over the bed and having Josh apply counter-pressure to my lower back to relieve some of the pain I was feeling. That ended up being the best thing, and I spent most of my laboring swaying and wandering around the room between contractions and moving to the bed to bend over while I breathed through each one. The 20-minute spans where I was stuck to the bed for monitoring were the worst! I began feeling fatigued, and started wondering aloud if I should have an epidural so I could rest. I had been up since 6 that morning, and knew that there was still a ways to go. Josh said he supported whatever I needed to do, but reassured me that he knew I could go all the way med-free. Through my entire labor, he was there—he didn’t even leave my side to go to the bathroom once. His hand was my anchor while the waves of contractions came; he was there to lean on and to apply the pressure to my back through each and every one. I never would have made it without him.
Around 5 AM (or close to it), they checked me again and I was at 8 centimeters—but Jude was still pretty high. They discovered that my water was still intact and was actually blocking him from coming down, so the nurse suggested the midwife break it. She said that would really get things rolling and would allow him to come down. After hearing that I was only 2 centimeters away from being fully dilated, I looked at my husband and said, “I can do this.” She broke my water, and I asked Josh to start up the playlist I had made for Jude’s big day to help me focus. I had hand-chosen each song on the list, and it was a mixture of songs that made me think of him—songs like “Beautiful Boy” and “Hey Jude” (of course), and also songs that got me through my half-marathons and kept me motivated and focused through the whole 13.1 miles. The music worked like a charm and helped me focus.
After my water was broken, things got real. Like, really, REALLY real. The contractions that started coming made all the ones before it feel like bug bites—these were intense, hard, long, painful contractions and breathing through them became more difficult. I managed, but I could feel my resolve slipping. Through it all, all I heard from anyone (both Josh AND the nurses) was how I could do it. I took each contraction one at a time, and tried to just succumb and lose myself in the pain thinking thoughts like, “This doesn’t matter. This doesn’t count. Pain isn’t real.” I also tried to embrace the pain as something that was needed to bring my boy into the world. During the songs I’d listen to while running, I visualized each contraction as just one more mile—I can handle one more mile, I’d tell myself.
After a while I was checked again, and my cervix was still at a stubborn 8 centimeters. The nurse suggested that I roll onto my side for a while to try and bring the baby down—she said that doing this almost always encouraged them downward and that by the time we were done with this, I would almost definitely be at 10 and we could start prepping to push. I did as she said, and the pain became the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Each contraction was worst than the last. I felt it through my entire body, and it felt like someone was slowly tearing my lower back apart—inch by inch. The pain and the pressure became too much and instead of just breathing through the contractions, I began humming, moaning, and making various noises. As we worked through each one in that position, I felt the control I once had over the pain slip. I began to sob and cry out; it was the absolute worst thing I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
After what seemed like forever, they rolled me back over and checked me again.
I was still only 8 centimeters (“A stretchy 8, I can stretch to 9 if I try,” the midwife said.). I started sobbing again, because the pain had become so intense I began to feel desperate and afraid. “I can’t do this,” I said over and over. They reassured me I could. They suggested I roll to the other side to try and bring him down and I adamantly said no. I cried that I should have gotten an epidural, and the nurse said I still could, if I really wanted to. I emphatically said yes, please, I can’t do it anymore. I cannot do that again. They called the anesthesiologist and bless her, she came quickly and we were able to get the epidural in after about 3 more horrible contractions. After the epidural was in, my relief was palpable and I relaxed back into the bed. I wasn’t even a little disappointed; I had worked my ass off and had gotten incredibly far, but I had no desire to feel those horrible contractions again.
With the epidural in, I was able to rest for about 30 minutes before my next cervical check. Once they checked, I was met with a smile and told it was time to begin pushing. I looked excitedly up at my husband—we were going to meet our little boy soon! The nurse talked me through how I was going to push—some hard pushes, some half-pushes, to try and avoid tearing. She told me the midwife would coach me through, and tell me what I needed to do and when.
Soon everything was in place, and they got me into position. I pushed a few times, and everything was going great. Jude was face-down (unlike his sister), and things were moving beautifully. My midwife asked if I wanted a mirror so I could see what my pushing was doing (since I couldn’t feel it) and I said yes. They brought the mirror around, and after pushing about 3 times through 3 sets of contractions, on September 5th at 10:09 AM, I was able to see my tiny guy come into the world.
As they pulled him from me, he let out a huge cry—which we were hoping he would not do, as there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. It wasn’t a huge deal, but after Josh cut the cord they whisked him away to get suctioned out as best they could. Once they had done that, they placed him on my chest for skin-to-skin—this is something that they did not do with Nellie. I was able to cuddle and snuggle my guy and attempt to nurse while the midwife delivered my placenta and worked on stitching up the tear I ended up with despite the gradual pushing.
I stared down at that boy and held him close, in absolute awe at how different my experience was this time than with his sister. With his sister I felt like I had no say in my birth experience; like everything I originally wanted didn’t matter and the doctor just did what she thought was best through the whole thing. I didn’t get to move around. I was hooked to the IV the entire time. I wasn’t encouraged to get off the bed to labor. I didn’t get to hold her until she had already been cleaned & swaddled. I didn’t get to try and nurse her within moments of her birth.
The pain medication I chose with Nellie clouded my whole labor and the moments after, but I remember everything with Jude. I didn’t make it 100% med-free with him, but I feel like I got the best of both worlds and don’t regret the decision to have the last-minute epidural for a second.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a birth team that supports your goals, especially if it’s your desire to go med-free. It’s absolutely essential that everyone involved in getting you to the finish line supports you and lifts you up. Like I said earlier, I never would have made it as far as I did without the support of my husband. He was amazing and did not leave my side for a single moment—he didn’t make any phone calls to alert family, he didn’t go to the bathroom, he stood by me and supported me the entire time. The nurses we had were also supportive, and I cannot sing the praises of my midwife enough. The whole experience was so much more positive and calm than the last time.
Jude is already almost a week old now. The last week has been a beautiful haze of getting to know our little guy. Josh has been off the entire week (also something that didn’t happen after Nellie was born), and has to go back to work tomorrow. I know that adjusting to life with 2 is going to have its ups and downs, but luckily Nellie is old enough to have a lot of independence and that helps immensely. She’s getting used to her role as big sister, and is slowly beginning to accept that the little guy is here to stay! The change from 1 child to 2 has been way smoother than the change from 0 children to 1—but more about that later. Here are some photos from my new little family of 4.