Yesterday, we shared Amy’s beautiful letter to her unborn baby, where she describes the kind of birth she hopes to have: “I want to bring you into this world as peacefully and as gently as I possibly can….I trust my body to do what it was designed for and what it is capable of.”
Here’s how it happened!
“A little after 10pm on Sunday night, I went to bed. I started having medium contractions and after an hour or so of not being able to sleep decided to time them – they were seven minutes apart. Around 1am I realized that fighting sleep was useless and went down to the family room. I put the TV on and kneeled on pillows on the floor while laying my upper body on my body pillow on the couch. This felt great! By about 1:50 contractions were suddenly 2-3 minutes apart but only lasting 30-40 seconds. I was on my phone on Facebook talking to friends in my mom’s group. At some point I realized this was really happening because I called Melissa my midwife just after 2:15 to ask her when she thought I should come in. She felt I probably had a few more hours and suggested I wait at home unless the pain became unbearable. I don’t remember feeling pain, just an intensity during the peak of each contraction that helped me know this was real!
Around 3am they started spacing out to 4-5 minutes apart and only 30 seconds, but super strong and intense. No pain! I was rotating my hips in circles and giving my knees a break when I could because they hurt. Time passed so quickly this night! I was letting Joe sleep so he’d be alert when I really needed him at the end. I also was still in disbelief that this was actually happening and didn’t want him just hanging around me unnecessarily, and it felt okay to be alone in this experience that belonged to me. It was so peaceful in my dark family room. I was listening to a few songs on my phone and reading my birth affirmations, while taking deep breaths in and out my mouth. It was sort of euphoric to just be alone with my baby and my thoughts, and I really think that prepared me to go through with my natural childbirth plans.
Around 3:45, 12 minutes passed between contractions and I worried that labor was going to stall. I tried to lay on my side and get a little rest just in case that was what was going on. Around 4:30, I woke Joe to be with me. My back hurt and I wanted my heated rice sock. It felt good but then seemed to REALLY bring on contractions, so I flung it across the room during one! My belly was starting to feel very sore during contractions but I was mostly able to breathe through them once I figured out how strong but short the peak of each one was. Joe was resting on the couch and when I told him to start putting the final things in my bag and to grab some drinks and snacks for us, he mentioned he wanted to shower and shave before we left (!!!!) – I suggested he do it NOW! I kept thinking if I could just make it to 6am, Brody’s daycare would be open and we could take him there instead of waking a neighbor or waiting and hour for his sister to get to our house.
After 5am I got in the shower which felt great on my back. Joe got Brody up around 6:00 and seemed to take FOREVER to get him ready. They were watching cartoons and eating toast when I came downstairs and I again had to “suggest” he get a move on! Contractions were getting super intense and I had two in front of Brody. I told him I needed to make a silly noise when the baby moved and I did horse lips to keep him from hearing me moan. That worked surprisingly well. Finally around 7:00 Joe took Brody to daycare. I was a little nervous to be alone, and even more nervous that we were going to get to the hospital to find I was only three centimeters dilated or something. While I was alone I yelled through my contractions. FINALLY Joe was back to get me.
The cool, still-dark air shocked my senses and paused my contractions for a couple of blissful minutes. Getting into the car was not fun. I kneeled on the front seat leaning my head into the backseat holding onto two carseats. I had two bad contractions which I again had to yell through. Luckily we are five minutes from the hospital, though I think Joe made it there in record time. I did not want to be dropped off, I wanted to park and walk. I started to get delirious at this point, grabbing onto a truck’s bumper and then a concrete post near the door during each surge. For some reason they did not have my registration paperwork, so we had to stand at the lobby desk and re-do all of that. I had three strong surges there, including one that made me drop to my hands and knees on the floor, at which moment a lady and little boy got off the elevator and I think I scarred him for life with my yelling.
At 7:30 we were FINALLY in triage. I hated that room. Nothing looked comfortable and I refused to put the gown on until the nurse came in. I just ripped my sweatpants off and climbed on the table telling her to hurry up and check me before the next contraction. I nearly cried when she said six centimeters! This was going to happen TODAY! I was doing it on my own! I refused a wheelchair and walked to my labor room – thankfully the stars aligned and their one room with a labor tub was available. They had to do bloodwork and I agreed to a hep lock. I was on all fours, ass in the air, modesty be damned. Poor Joe kept trying to help cover my butt with the gown.
They were monitoring the baby to get a “quick read” which seemed to take forever and ever. The monitors hurt like hell and I felt like slapping anyone who pushed them into my belly. Three nurses were coming and going and bustling around. I thought something was wrong with the baby, but later realized it was because my midwife was still on her way and they could tell my labor was progressing FAST. At one point I heard the charge nurse say she might be delivering me! They didn’t want me to get in the tub until Melissa got there because baby’s heartbeat kept dropping into the 90’s. I tried to tell them Brody’s did that too and he was fine.
At one point I started shaking badly and no one answered when I asked why I was shaking, so I whispered to Joe to ask them for me. When I asked if I was in transition they said yes. Several times I felt panicked like I didn’t know if I would live through that contraction. I was so vocal and my breathing was frantic. I tried so hard to calm down, but I felt like I had to pee and all I wanted was to get in that tub!
At 8:35, a sweet, sweet nurse agreed to let me get in the tub. The two other meanie nurses had stepped out of the room. She said she hoped Melissa wouldn’t be mad, but the heartbeat had stabilized a little and she thought I’d calm down in the tub since it was so important to me. She looked me in the eyes and said she needed me to be absolutely sure I didn’t want an epidural because I was eight centimeters dilated and getting in the tub, and things were going to happen soon.
Joe said “she doesn’t want it!” before I could reply! Love that man. The labor tub was a sweet relief for a little bit and mostly helped me clear my head and focus. Joe used a shower head to put water pressure on my back which felt great. Contractions picked up with such intensity, I felt like I was being ripped in half by my hips. Up to this point only my belly hurt, but now I could feel it in my vagina and knew my baby was coming soon. I got excited when I remembered we’d soon know the gender!
Melissa arrived and her presence was so soothing. I held her hand during contractions and she and Joe were so supportive when I said I didn’t think I could do this anymore. She said, “You ARE doing this.” And that was all I needed to hear. She dimmed the lights and brought me ice chips – she knew my needs better than I did! I trusted her so much. I was afraid when she told me to start taking a deep breath and to give a short push while saying “uh” in a low voice on the next contraction, but I did it and really felt the baby moving down! This hurt like crazy and I really had to focus and breathe to keep my body from tensing up and resisting it. I was totally in an out-of-body trance now.
I had to stand up for a quick Doppler check and apologized for some mucus-like stuff coming out of me. My water had broken in the tub unbeknownst to me! Melissa told me it was time to get to the bed and I begged to wait for one more contraction. Tub births are not allowed, though she later told me she’s had many accidental ones and that I almost delivered in the tub. Had I known that I would have stayed put! I waddled, bent in half, to the bed. How the heck was I going to get ON it?
She told me crawl up on my hands and knees and try pushing that way. It never occurred to me to push differently than on my back like last time. These contractions meant business. I remember thinking I couldn’t make it if this went on much longer. As I felt the baby move, I just sort of pushed along to help it, not planned, it just felt right. I was leaning forward holding Joe’s hand and the side of the bed. I gave three really, really intense pushes while screaming at the top of my lungs. I felt no ring of fire, but I was certain I had torn all the way up to where I pee – that’s the spot that hurt most.
All of a sudden, at 9:11am I felt a huge release, looked down and my baby was there! Melissa said, “Here’s your baby!” and passed him up to me. Joe was saying, “It’s a boy!!!!” almost in disbelief. I burst into tears saying “I did it??” I DID it!!!” and then, “Hi honey, it’s mommy! Oh my gosh, we have a BOY?”. I kissed his sweet sticky little head and held him to me while a nurse helped me turn around and sit up in the bed. I was kissing Joe, and someone helped me take my wet bra off so the baby wouldn’t get cold. It was a blur. I delivered the placenta and was so excited to hear I had no tears. I think I started crying again because I was so happy that I did it natural like I had hoped, and still in shock that he came within two hours of getting to the hospital!
We had to talk about his name and quickly decided he was definitely Rafe Bradley. All 6lbs 9oz of him. He had some trouble breathing, likely from such a short stint in the birth canal. His whole body was sucking in on each breath and there was a ton of mucus in his belly and lungs. He sounded like a puppy whimpering through the oxygen mask, but I didn’t realize how serious it was at first. I kept wondering when I could nurse him and asked for a snack and was generally acted like a drunk person who isn’t quite sure where she is. When they said he needed to go to the nursery, it sort of clicked.
He pinked up and was able to come back within 30 minutes, but really wouldn’t nurse much. I was on cloud nine, so elated and bragging to all the nurses and our family about what a rock star I felt like! I think I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the pain, but because of my quiet peaceful home laboring, was able to avoid being in the hospital long enough to second guess my plan. An anesthesiologist never would have made it there in time for an epidural to work.
I know this is the most long-winded birth story ever and you should be glad my labor wasn’t any longer. I just feel my labors and births are an important legacy to document for my children, and as the most powerful, empowering, memorable hours and moments of my entire life, I felt the need to record every detail so I could savor that day forever. Brody might have made me a mom, but Rafe strengthened me in a way I had only dreamed of experiencing, and I’m so full of love.”