Guest Post from Jennifer R.
About 1:30am on Friday, December 12th I woke up and knew I was in labor. I had previously had contractions that seemed like labor, but this was different. I was feeling pain in my back in addition to my abdomen, and I was spotting. I got out of bed because I was uncomfortable. I came out to the living room to try to sleep on the couch, as I often did in pregnancy. I decided I should let my husband Jared sleep as long as possible, since it would likely be a long process. The contractions weren’t too intense yet.
I woke Jared up around 5:30am. By that point, the pain in my back during contractions was getting stronger. They were about ten minutes apart.
For most of the morning, Jared and I did things around the house. We made breakfast, tidied things up, did laundry. I was answering work emails and trying to finish up a project. We still had some returns to make to Amazon. I started printing shipping labels and Jared boxed up the items. By this point, I needed counter pressure on my back during contractions.
Around the middle of the day, contractions went from being ten minutes apart to five minutes apart within the hour. They were much stronger, more intense and closer together. I had been texting our doula, Bonnie, throughout the morning so that she was aware that I would be going into labor imminently. Around 1pm my friend Kayla offered to come over and be with me. Jared liked the sound of that – it’d give him a break! I thought it’d be good too, because she could distract me. We talked about different labor positions; I remember sitting on the labor ball while we talked.
By approximately 3pm, contractions were much closer together, two to three minutes apart. I began to panic, thinking we waited too long to leave for the hospital. I texted Bonnie to come now!
Jared and I were in the bathroom alone while Kayla was fixing me something to eat when I got really emotional. I was thinking about labor became very fearful. I started to cry. Jared held me. I said over and over, “I’m so scared. I’m so scared.” I went and laid down on the couch while Jared and Kayla prayed over me and read Scripture over me, still crying occasionally, until Bonnie arrived. We left for the hospital almost immediately.
Jared had put together this genius contraption – a tube sock full of tennis balls, to help when his hands got tired from applying pressure to my back. Well, this thing also worked fantastically in the car to help me get through contractions. I had it wedged between my back and the seat. I would roll up and down when contractions hit. Picture a bear scratching his back against a tree. That’s basically how it worked!
Jared pulled up to valet the car at Good Sam just before 5pm. Bonnie met me at the car where I had a contraction. We then headed up into the lobby, where I had another contraction, and another in the elevator and another in the hallway of Labor & Delivery. It was the contraction in the hallway, in full view of the nurses’ station, which made them decide that I did not need to go to triage. They needed to get me into a room, since clearly, I was in labor. While Bonnie helped me up to L&D, Jared filled out all the paperwork in Admitting.
In the delivery room, I was hooked up to a fetal monitor while sitting on a labor ball. That was a pretty comfortable position. When they checked me I was 4-5 cm dialated and 90% effaced with contractions every two minutes. Bonnie and I talked while we waited for the water tub to be set up. Jared helped the folks from Orchid’s Nest get it ready. Without him it would have taken them much longer, and I was anxious to get in!
Once in the water, labor felt different. It didn’t completely alleviate pain but it was a welcome distraction. I moved around to try different positions but wound up mostly leaned forward, resting my arms on the rim of the tub. I labored like this for a while. Bonnie kept a washcloth with essential oils close to my head so I could smell the oils and enjoy the calming effect. She also rubbed warming gel on my tailbone – probably of the most amazing pain relief techniques – I loved it! Jared and I would pop kiss a lot during labor since we knew that kissing releases oxytocin, a hormone that would help me manage pain.
I was still talking and laughing at this point. I asked Bonnie half jokingly, “Why am I doing this natural? Why aren’t I just getting an epidural?” I don’t think I really wanted one, I just needed a pep talk. Bonnie said lovingly, “Because you want to be able to move around freely. You don’t want to be stuck in the bed. Remember? You’re doing great. You’ve got this.”
After a while in the tub I got out so they could check me. I was nine and a half centimeters and my water still had not broken. I had initially wanted everything to happen spontaneously, but at this point, I just wanted labor to move along! I requested that the doctor come quickly to break my water. Dr. Lazo came in to break my water and watched me labor for a while after that. I began to feel the need to push even though I wasn’t ten centimeters yet.
I wanted to labor standing up. I had seen a video from Ina May Gaskin about a particular position and wanted to try it. I draped my arms around Jared’s neck and every time I had a contraction I dropped my body weight. The poor man! Of course, contractions were very close together now so he was holding me like a dead weight every two minutes. Bonnie continued applying counter pressure to my back and hips. After about an hour or more of laboring like this we decided to try laboring on the toilet at Dr. Lazo’s suggestion.
I sat facing the back of the toilet, with my arms resting on the basin. I pushed like this for about an hour, with Bonnie encouraging me the whole time. I was beginning to get tired.
Jared said that Dr. Lazo just watched the whole scene in a curious manner, with a “we’ll see how this goes” attitude. It’s not every day that their practice sees a woman attempt to birth naturally. It’s more of a rarity.
We labored the final stretch in the bed with the back in a sitting position. By this point, I had been in labor for nearly twenty four hours and was getting fatigued. The team had to really encourage me. Our nurse, Annie, was amazing. She was very supportive of natural birth. She and Bonnie and Dr. Lazo all kept telling me how good I was doing and cheering me on through each contraction. They brought a mirror out so I could see Lincoln’s head. They actually had me feel his hair, he was right there! I think feeling the top of his head helped me keep going as I was beyond exhausted and longing to sleep.
At one push I finally felt his head move past the lip. It was almost like it locked into place and I could hear it move past the bone. It did increase the pressure but I was mostly relieved that this would soon be over! The doctor, nurses and Bonnie all were really excited and were exclaiming that just one more push and he would be here!
Sure enough, I pushed one more time and he came! What a glorious moment! Labor was over!
He began to cry loudly. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. Jared and I looked at each other and stared at him in wonder. What an amazing sight! Our son!
He continued to cry. I joked he sounded like a little t-rex, “Raaaar! Raaaar!” Only later did I notice that he had a wound on the back of his head that scabbed over. That may have been one reason he cried so long. Jared cut the cord after it stopped pulsing.
Annie told me a few seconds after delivering, “Jen, you’re hemorrhaging. We have to stop the bleeding.” She stuck pitocin in my arm. I didn’t mind, now that Lincoln was here, they could give me whatever medicines were needed.
Bonnie stayed for a few hours after he was born. Around 3am I told her to go home!
I held him for a long time on my chest, skin to skin. Jared had to ask me if he could hold him. Of course, I said yes! Then Jared held him skin to skin. I kept him on my chest all night, much to the consternation of the baby’s nurse. She told me it would be best to let him sleep in the bassinet. I told her it would be best for him to sleep with me, and if the hospital policy had issue with that, she could bring me a waiver of liability and I’d sign it. That was the last I heard about the bassinet. We snuggled and nursed until morning.
There’s a board book called “On the Night You Were Born”. The first time I read it, my eyes welled up with tears. “Never before in story or rhyme (not even once upon a time) has there ever been anyone like you, my friend. And there never will be, not ever again. Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.” Words never rang so true.