Our Saturdays have a particular routine. Gym together. Errands together. Home together. They used to include a hike or an outing but in the last few weeks, my feet and belly couldn’t keep up. This particular Saturday had the same agenda. I woke up earlier than normal. On Saturdays, I usually partook in the luxury of sleeping in ‘til 8 but my hands were acting up – I had been dealing with numbness and pregnancy induced carpal tunnel for over a month. At night, they got worse and kept me awake. So 6:30 a.m. was my body’s choice for this weekend. I cleaned both our bathrooms before I made a protein drink and headed to the gym for my 9:00 class. Deadlifts, cleans and push jerks greeted me and I modified weight to accommodate my rounded frame. After a good sweat, I stuck around to get my baby fix from my friend’s baby, Maple. She’s probably what got our baby fever started last year! Justin coached my class and stayed to work out 10-11. Maple and I were content to to watch and cheer on her mama, daddy and Justin from the sidelines. CrossFit is entertaining if nothing else! All our gym friends couldn’t help themselves from asking how close we were to the due date, if I felt like it was going to be sooner and commenting on the size of my larger-than-ever, barely-fitting-into-my-shirts belly. They’ve seen me from the beginning of the journey so it was long for them, too!
I wasn’t impatient but I was eager to meet our baby and I was ready for the swelling in my feet to go down. Working out with shoelaces untied is probably not recommended for too long! I felt good but did not feel that that Benton was very near to making his appearance. I hadn’t even had a single Braxton Hicks. There was no indication that my body was priming to deliver a baby but I kept my attitude positive and was excited at the prospect that at 38+5, it truly could be any day. I had been eating my 6 dates a day, was using Evening Primrose Oil, exercising as much as possible, started acupuncture, got adjusted at the chiropractor several times a week for the last 2 weeks and more all in an effort to jumpstart labor. All to no avail, it seemed.
Justin and I left the gym at 11 a.m. and did our weekly grocery run. We hit a few stores and made it home by 1:00 for lunch. I told Justin I was going to try to avoid a nap and go to bed early that night. As an avid napper, the irony of that decision is not lost on me. I had 7/8 of an Amy’s pizza as I vacuumed and dusted the house. It would have been 8/8 but my husband helped himself to a slice. I’m just going to say my body knew it was going to need fuel. No shame.
I was getting the dust bunnies from out of underneath our bed (cause who knows how long ’til I’ll get around to it again, right?) and as I stood up I heard an audible pop. I thought it was a joint cracking and didn’t think much of it. As I walked to our kitchen, I suddenly felt a rush as I stood near our table. Justin was sitting a foot away from me as I watched in awe as my pants turned dark with water. My water broke in classic Hollywood fashion at 3:10 p.m. I danced around, trying to shed my pants as Justin exclaimed the tub would be a better place for that.
I lost the rest of my water and mucus plug and immediately placed a call to our midwife. Once water breaks, a 24 hour timer starts and we need to deliver the baby within that time. With no contractions on the horizon, the race was on. But I can be competitive so that was OK with me!
I was instructed to down 2 tablespoons of castor oil and start a 10 minutes on/10 minutes off routine with the breast pump. No matter what happened, we needed to be at the birth center at 7 pm and settle in for the night. As I got in bed to get the pump started, Justin went to the store to collect the remaining items on our birth list and the infamous castor oil.
At 4:15, I had my first contraction and first small peek into the window of birth. It was mild and I started tracking duration, frequency and strength in a hastily downloaded app. No pattern was emerging so I didn’t think we were quite on the fast track to meeting Benton.
By the time Justin got home, I had several contractions that required my full attention. He packed our dinner, snacks and birth bag and we got in the car for the last time as a family of 2.
It was exactly 7 pm when we walked into the birth center doors. Our midwife confirmed that water had broken and noted that I was 4 cm progressed. That check was the most painful thing I had experienced up until this point and I didn’t hold back letting the world know. She predicted an early morning baby so she held off calling in her nurses. As a first time mom, it would not be unusual to labor past the 12-hour mark so we were hunkering down for the long haul.
As soon as we got into our birthing suite, Justin dimmed the lights and turned on Benton’s playlist. I put him in charge of compiling it and he brought together a soothing combination of instrumental and lyrically meaningful worship songs. “Color” by Bethel was by far my favorite…that’s exactly what Benton was about to bring into our world! It set the tone for the room as I labored – we utilized techniques we learned in our Bradley Method class to help me through some of the stronger contractions. Ultimately, there was walking, sitting, swaying, mantras and finally the tub. For some reason I avoided the bed like the plague. It was the last thing my body wanted. I began to alter the peaceful mood of the room as the contractions got stronger. My birth song (the universal moaning of a laboring woman) increased in volume as the depth and duration of the pressure increased. In tune with the fact that my body was quickly doing its job, my midwife checked me again just one hour after we arrived.
I was 7 cm and her surprise wasn’t hidden. She noted the unusual quickness of my progression as she called in her nurses. It wasn’t going to be that long after all. Justin helped me count through my contractions as I labored in the tub, doing my best to relax through each wave. He counted me through many of the hardest parts and the mantras I had prepared were particularly encouraging coming from him. He quoted scripture and declared strength over me as I focused on each breath. He stayed by my side as protector, helper, encourager and birth partner.
The nurses arrived at some point and began charting my progress. I was to the point where I needed some help. Justin and I were at the birth center because we wanted an all natural, limited intervention, independent birth experience but all women get to the point where they believe the pressure to be more than they can handle. At 8:30 p.m., I was there. The option the birth center offers is nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and after several breaths, I wasn’t laughing but the edge of the pain was a little more distant. I could still feel the strength of each contraction but around 9 pm the feeling changed. I needed to push.
Intermittent monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat indicated he had dropped and was continuing to drop. I had a small front cervical lip and was told some hands and knees positioning would put me in the right condition for my body to push. Moving from my sitting position to hands and knees in the tub was difficult but necessary. 15 minutes of hands and knees had Justin helping me count through double and triple peaks. This was the point where I said aloud “I can’t do this!” And I felt it was true. Nobody agreed with me, though! Justin and my midwives continued to affirm my efforts and my progress.
9 pm, just 5 hours after my first contraction, I was fully dilated and I leaned into my first involuntary push. There was a sense of relief that accompanied. Still on my hands and knees, it wasn’t long before I was back in a reclined position. Justin held me up under my arms so I could push without sliding. Each contraction brought an opportunity to push two or three good times. Soon, Benton’s head began to crown. I could feel the sensation and willed his head to emerge with every push. I envisioned him coming earthside. I envisioned my body opening up to allow him to enter this world. I talked to him, encouraging his descent.
After 45 minutes of pushing I was exhausted. My midwife kept me abreast of his progress and with the next push I felt it – the ring of fire. It wasn’t pleasant but it wasn’t unbearable and it gave me something to focus on other than the contraction. If I could push through this, Benton would be here. Another 10 minutes passed as I dug deep and continued to push. I roared his head into the world just after 10 pm. The tub proved too narrow for the rest of his body to emerge so, much to my dismay, I needed to stand up into what they call a runner’s lunge. As soon as I stood, the rest of this precious boy fell into the hands of my midwife – midair. Our half water baby, half air baby was here at 10:04 p.m. Less than 7 hours after my water broke.
Benton Oakes was placed on my chest, covered in his birthday frosting and we made our way to the bed. They covered him in warm blankets and he nestled in. I could barely see him as my eyes were swollen from being closed and tense for so long but it was enough! His dark head of hair with a perfect swirl pressed into me. Total euphoria.
Justin cut the cord after it had stopped pulsing and my baby was no longer physically connected to me. He was his own person now.
We enjoyed the warmth and bonding of skin-to-skin for 2 hours straight as the nurses checked our vitals and made sure all was well.
By 2 a.m., we were discharged and ready to begin recovery in the comfort of our own home. At 3:15 a.m. we arrived back at the place where labor first began – but this time as a family of 3.
He came fast. He came furious. The human body is amazing. I’m so thankful that Justin and I entered this experience armed with knowledge, options, and a sense of what to do. Relaxing through those types of sensations is no small feat but I trusted my body and the One who created it.
Although I truly achieved the birth I wanted, there are so many variables between mom and baby that can dictate how a birth goes. There are no guarantees, there is no controlling it, there is only trusting the process.
Birth is hard. Birth is beautiful. My, oh my, mamas….isn’t it worth it?