It was Friday: a rainy, gloomy day as it had been for the past week. I was 41 weeks + 2 days pregnant, Jesse was furloughed due to the government shut down and we were very ready to meet our baby. Turner had been with my parents for a few days, so Jesse and I went to my check up alone. I had been having contractions since the night before, but nothing very regular. At my appointment I passed the non stress test and my amniotic fluid levels looked great. I was 4 cm dilated, so my doctor did another membrane sweep (for the 3rd week) and we scheduled an induction date for the following Wednesday when I would hit week 42.
Earlier in my pregnancy I hadn’t thought much about how this baby would come into the world. I figured this birth story would be pretty similar to Turner’s (water breaking, pitocin, epidural) and that is as far as it ever went in my mind. While spending our summer in Portland, Oregon, my views and opinions of childbirth began to broaden and change. I grew very interested in having an unmedicated natural birth and began watching documentaries, reading books, and reading positive birth stories. Jesse was so sweet to me while I struggled through my fears and doubts, encouraging me that I could do it. I changed to a new doctor in DC at George Washington University Hospital, hired a doula, wrote my birth plan, and waited.
So when we left the doctor that day, we felt anxious and frustrated. I was crampy from the sweep and contractions were starting to become more regular. When we got home, my parents and Turner were there with lunch ready. As we ate, the contractions continued to come, lasting about a minute and coming every four minutes. I loved being home though, able to move around freely as I wanted through the contractions. Around 3:00 pm we called Tara, my doula, and decided we’d better head to the hospital.
This was it! I was very excited to be having regular contractions and very thankful that we only had a 15 minute drive. My Dad dropped us off at the front door of George Washington University Hospital and Jesse and I made our way up to the 3rd floor to Labor and Delivery! I hadn’t pre-registered and had quite a bit of paperwork to fill out. Before admitting me to a room, they checked me (5 cm) and hooked me up to monitor my contractions. All I wanted to do was get up and move through the pain. Finally the doctors came in. We discussed my birth plan and they were supportive of all of it and very encouraging.
We had just been admitted into a room when Tara arrived. As the nurse was setting everything up, we found out that the birthing tub in the room didn’t work. I wasn’t set on getting in the tub, but I was interested in trying it, so thankfully the nurse agreed to having me moved to another room. I didn’t know it at the time, but having a working tub in the room ended up being a big deal for my labor. We moved right next door to a much smaller, but more intimate room. Tara totally took charge - turned the lights off, hung christmas lights, placed flameless candles around the room, and got me a yoga ball. Jesse turned on some relaxing music. I was able to have a hep lock for an IV as well as wireless telemetry. It was so awesome to be able to have freedom of movement during labor without being stuck in bed hooked up to a machine, but we were still able to monitor everything!
The doctors and nursing staff pretty much left us for me to labor on my own, which I really appreciated. Of course they came in to check on things every little while, but I was able to focus my thoughts and energy on helping my body and my baby do the work they were both made to do. In Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth”, she talks a lot about our primal instincts in childbirth, and most animals go away to a private place to give birth. I know this sounds crazy (a lot of this story may sound that way), but that hospital room really became my birth cave.
I started out laboring on a yoga ball. It felt so good to be able to move on the ball. During each contraction, I would lead forward into Jesse, while Tara applied a hot rice sock and pressure to my lower back. They both were so encouraging while reminding me to focus on breathing. I got sick and Tara rubbed something peppermint scented on my wrist to help with the nausea. At this point, the pain was getting worse, but was still bearable. Contractions were like a wave, and the pain came as the wave was building, it was at its worst at the crest, and while still painful, it lessened as the wave descended. Each contraction I thought, “if I can get to the crest, I’ll be good.” After the worst of each contraction, Tara kept reminding me to “blow it away” and that the contraction was gone forever. Once it was gone, my body was able to completely relax and prepare for the next one. So cool.
I continued to labor for a while on the bed before moving to the shower. My contractions were getting more intense and the heat on my lower back really helped. The lights were off in the bathroom and Tara brought some of the candles in for light. I sat on the bench in the shower while Jesse stood in front of me and held the shower head on my lower back. As the pain grew more intense, I closed my eyes, fully leaned into Jesse, and instead of just breathing through the pain, I started moaning through the pain. As weird as it sounds, focusing on opening my mouth and moaning really helped me get through each contraction. Tara knew by the sounds that I was making that labor was definitely progressing, so she prepared the tub.
This was amazing. The soothing water helped to relax tense muscles and provided relief from the pain which completely wrapped around from my front to my back. I loved that I couldn’t feel my weight in the water, so I was able to fully give in to each contraction. I was leaning forward over the side of the tub where Jesse was supporting me, with Tara applying counter pressure on my lower back. After a while, my water finally broke and the pain was getting to be pretty unbearable. I started wondering why in the world I had decided I wanted to do this. The contractions started coming on so intensely without much of a break between each one. I felt another one coming on seconds after one had just ended.
Somehow I worked through the incredibly intense pain. The low moans that I made in the shower grew in intensity and at this point were deep, (very) loud grunts, as I instinctively started bearing down and wanting to push. My doctor came in to check me; although I knew it was time, she confirmed that I was 10 cm dilated and ready to push. At that point, she told me I had to get out of the tub to deliver my baby. I didn’t want to get out of that water. My baby was coming and I didn’t want to move.
The nurses wheeled the bed close to the tub, we waited for a contraction to end, and then with the help of Jesse and Tara, I somehow managed to climb onto the bed to start pushing. This was at 9:04 pm. I was on my knees leaning over the top of the bed where Jesse was standing. He held my hands as I squeezed his, and I leaned into him through the pain. It was time. After a few pushes, everyone encouraged me to lay on my right side to push and shortly after the baby was crowning. They told me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. The pain and pressure were both so intense I really didn’t think I could do this, but feeling this reminded me that I was almost there! Once again, they asked me to move, this time onto my back. As soon as I did, our baby was born. 9:15 pm. Instant relief. A sweet, sweet cry. A BOY! I did it! I did it, and my baby did it! I knew that my baby boy played a big part in his own birth, because I felt his efforts and movements. And with encouragement and guidance, I had done the rest.
They immediately placed him on my chest for skin to skin contact. He was so alert. We stared into his eyes as the nurses cleaned him up. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing for delayed cord clamping. We had chosen to delay some of the routine procedures so we could have prolonged immediate bonding/breastfeeding, so once Jesse cut the cord, we were left alone to be able to snuggle with our son and had a successful first go at nursing.
We couldn’t believe that we had another beautiful baby boy. We were so happy he was finally here! We named him Samuel Cato English. We have always liked the name Sam and Cato is my mom’s maiden name.
Because he was born at night after Turner was asleep, my parents came the next morning to meet their new grandson and for Turner to meet his little brother. They let Turner in the room first when they got there to give us a moment. Jesse and I both teared up when Turner walked in. I was holding Sam and Turner ran to Jesse. Our first moments as a family of 4 were so sweet.
Sam’s birth was SUCH an amazing experience! I am so thankful that everything went smoothly and that we were able to have the birth experience that we had hoped for. I gained a great appreciation for the magnificent capabilities the human body possesses. I loved playing such an active role in his birth, but I could not have gotten through it without 2 people: Jesse, my rock and strength and Tara, my coach and encourager. Yes, it was painful, but the pain was temporary. Yes, it was hard work, but it was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced! I felt amazing afterwards. I feel very blessed to have had this experience and so thankful to the Lord for my two little boys.