I went into labor in the middle of the night with H, and fully expected the same thing with J. But after waking up for several nights in a row with cramps at 2:30am and getting to my due date, I was more annoyed than excited when I woke up with cramps again at 2:35am on Sunday morning. That night I had been especially tired and had actually gone to sleep at 8:30pm. I’d woken up at 11:15pm and had only slept fitfully. I was restless, so instead of getting back in bed, I roamed the house a bit and got a glass of juice because I was starving and didn’t feel like eating in the middle of the night.
Then I had a contraction that was more than just cramps. I’d been having an hour here and an hour there of contractions for a couple of weeks. Every time I’d get all excited and every time they’d go away. I tried not to get too hopeful. I took my juice into the office and got down my copy of Spiritual Midwifery. I wanted to read some birth stories and decided to wait and see if anything was going to happen or if I could go back to bed. I read and tracked my contractions on the handy-dandy contraction timer app I’d downloaded to my phone a few days earlier. This time I had to stop reading and breathe through the contractions, sitting on my desk chair and leaning my head on the foot of the bed. After an hour the contractions were 40 seconds long and 4-5 minutes apart.
At that point, I woke Josh up and told him I was having real contractions. He is not a fast waker, so it took a little while for him to get on the same page. When I told him that the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart he said, “Is that it?” I thought he meant, “Big deal,” because the contractions with H were much closer together. What he really meant was, “That’s all?! We need to go!”
I was still somewhat in denial. I didn’t want to wake people up in the middle of the night if it wasn’t the real thing. After a short labor with H, we wanted to leave for the midwife’s office in St. Louis quickly, so we didn’t have time to sit around and discuss it. I called my midwife, Linsey, and told her our status. I was very ambivalent about leaving and said that we might leave in half an hour if things kept up. When I got off the phone I had a contraction in front of Josh. He saw me dealing with it and declared, “Call Carlin. We’re leaving.” He’s a good husband.
Our friend, Carlin, came over with her pillow to spend the rest of the night in our guest room, and we packed some food and the camera and got in the car. It was cold and dark—3:45am. The last place I wanted to be was in the chilly car, but that was the deal. As we pulled out of the driveway I called my parents in Virginia to tell them what was going on. They started their drive out to Illinois later that morning.
For months we had worried about the traffic into St. Louis. Turns out, there is very little traffic at 4am on a Sunday morning. The trip was quick and uneventful. I was able to manage the contractions pretty well in the car and also managed not to puke. I had made the drive more often than Josh; between contractions I gave him extra directions and landmarks to look for. I was so thankful when we finally arrived at Linsey’s office.
Both Linsey and her apprentice, Barbara, were waiting for us. I went straight upstairs to the birthing room. They were filling the tub, but it was still really cold. Josh brought in our things and we got settled in and put sheets on the bed. It was nice and warm up there and I was so glad to be there and be with people who were calm and knowledgeable and ready to help me deliver this baby.
Shortly after getting settled, the contractions got more intense. I asked them to check my dilation. I don’t like to know before I’m in labor, but during labor it’s nice to have an idea of where I’m at. I was 6-7cm with not a ton of cervix. I was thrilled because I went from 7-8cm to 10cm in about 15 minutes with H, so I thought, “Sweet. We’ll be through in no time.” Already the midwives were pretty sure the birth tub was a lost cause. Their set up just didn’t allow them to fill it and warm it quickly enough for me.
As the contractions continued to get more intense, I cannot properly express my extreme sadness that the tub didn’t work out. I felt the contractions a lot in my lower back and the thought of the warm water was so tantalizing. Josh put warm washcloths on my back and rubbed it and that helped. I also spent a lot of time leaning on the bed or over the birth ball.
Things were progressing, but a bit slower than expected. Linsey was keeping an eye on J’s heart rate. It was a little bit lower than she liked. I had also started bleeding on every contraction, so we decided to try breaking my water to see if that would bring him down more.
Lying on my back to have my water broken was fairly excruciating. It was the absolute worst position to deal with the contractions. I felt like a wild animal thrashing about, and I’m sure I nearly broke Josh’s hand. Breaking the water did help, and J came down more. I progressed to about 9cm with a lip of cervix and an urge to push, but couldn’t seem to get any further. This was a really hard part of the labor for me. I wanted to push and the midwives felt like it would probably be ok to push, but I kept remembering that pushing too soon can swell the cervix and then it’s game over. It also wasn’t the overwhelming desire to push that I remembered from H, which made me hesitate. Finally Linsey suggested that she try holding my cervix out of the way for a few contractions while I pushed. She was hoping to get his head far enough down to get past the blockage.
This was also not the most comfortable part of labor. After a few contractions though, he came down. At that point we got down to the serious pushing, which is my favorite part of labor (if one can have a favorite part). With H I wanted one position, half-reclined, knees up. This time I favored hands and knees a lot more. I also pulled against a towel that Barbara was holding for a few contractions. It was interesting how much that actually helped me to focus the push. It was hard to keep up though, and my arms got tired.
After a while of pushing they gave me some oxygen because his heart rate was slightly low. I could reach down and feel his head during the contractions. That gave me a lot of incentive as I started to get tired. Josh stayed right with me, giving me encouragement and water. I squeezed his hand during the push and managed not to break any bones. When J was really low Josh came around and supported me in a squat. I think on the very first push in that position his head was born. I could feel his head come out and looked down and saw him, which was both wonderful and weird. It felt like the longest pause in the world before the next contraction. I was so excited and so nervous that I’d slip from my position and crush him. Josh was strong behind me holding me up and on the next contraction he was born. It was such a relief and release that I was momentarily stunned and just kind of stared at him—wet and kind of purple in the face on the bed—as I started to cry. Then Linsey said, “You can pick him up,” and I had him in my arms, warm and wet. He was born at 7:44am, 5 hours and 9 minutes after labor had started.
We held him and talked to him and he very quickly calmed down and was quiet and alert as he looked around and met his parents for the first time. I, of course, double checked that he was in fact a boy. His cord pulsed a long time, and we let it go until it had pretty much stopped. Then Josh cut the cord.
It took 45 minutes again for my placenta to arrive. It was so nice when it was done and I felt truly like the labor was over. Then I got J to latch for a few minutes and started contracting all over again.
We rested a while and Linsey and Barbara measured and weighed J. I thought he’d be around 8lbs. He was 8lbs, 7oz—almost an entire pound bigger than his sister. He was also three-quarters of an inch longer, at 20in. I found him to be perfect with his bull dog cheeks and sincere eyes.