As we celebrate our son’s first birthday, and reflect on the joy and happiness he has brought into our lives, I decided to share the story of his birth! As I remissness, I am reminded of how much I enjoy hearing other women’s birth stories – showcasing how ever circumstance of bringing life into the world is uniquely special, and vastly different.
Our son came into the world on Oct. 31, 2012 (a Halloween baby)! The labor was a quick and intense 8 hours, and nothing like I had expected. There was no time to prepare, no textbook slowly progressing contractions, no time to ease into a rhythm with the pain – not with this kid! My contractions started at about midnight, and hit so fast and furious that I literally jumped out of bed. I ran to the bathroom and began throwing up at every contraction.
My husband was just as shocked as I. This was labor? But this looked nothing like what the books and classes had taught us. Instead he stood staring at me – unable to peel myself off the bathroom floor.
Suddenly all my best made birth plans had changed. My natural home birth seemed to fly right out the window as I begged him to take me to the hospital for an immediate epidural of the strongest stuff they could find! He called the midwife hoping she would know what to do and tell him this was normal. She was on her way to the birth center and would be ready and waiting for us. Her only instruction for him was to try to keep me calm.
Calm? That could not have been more of a ridiculous task as I flopped around like a jellyfish! I’m not sure how 4 hours went by, but that’s how long it actually took him to get me out of our townhouse and into the car – only then to try desperately to convince me to go to the birth center.
The car ride was a treacherous 20 minutes. Every turn and bump in the road was magnified, and when we finally arrived at the birth center I made a b-line to the bathroom to throw up again. My husband nervously filled our midwife in on the details of the past few hours.
They both agreed it wasn’t a good sign that I was in so much pain this early on in the labor. All of us had assumed I was only about 2-3 cm at this point. What would the many more hours bring if I couldn’t handle this? But, when the midwife checked me, she was shocked to find I had already dilated about 7-8 cm and was in transition to birth this baby!
As crazy as it might sound, this information actually gave all three of us the assurance and confirmation we needed to know that I could make it the rest of the way through this labor. Knowing I was so close to the end, I was able to calm down and even enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the birth center.
Over the course of the next few hours, I fell into a groove with the pain. I went into my own world in my mind, and it was then I remembered a Bradley technique, imagining each contraction washing over me like a wave upon the sand. I allowed myself to be on that metaphorical beach, digging my toes into the sand as each wave hit me, and then washed away. I melted into the sheets of the bed with each wave.
Finally, I felt the natural urge to push. But as I began to push again and again, our midwife listened to our son’s heartbeat, and each time his heart tones dropped. She knew he was in distress.
The mood in the room turned at that point. Filled with a combination of exhaustion, adrenaline, and panic – the following moments were equally stressful as they were painful. Time was of the essence, and we were all morbidly aware that we had to act fast.
I guess ours was one of those nightmare situations every woman considers when planing her birth. Suddenly the choices we made in selecting our midwife made all the difference – her certification and many years working as a labor and delivery nurse, her many years experience as a midwife, and her maternal instincts as a mother of 8 children. She was confident and amazingly prepared – helping our son gently out, unwrapping the cord from around his neck, and immediately working with his little blue body to get the mucus out of his lungs and life back into him.
As soon as he started breathing, relief washed over the room, and we all sprang back to life. I praised God with every fiber of my being! Never had I known such exhaustion and such relief – all in one moment.
As my son was laid on my stomach, I finally understood that surreal and indescribable encounter of meeting my first-born child. I just kept staring down in awe at his little head. I truly couldn’t believe he was real, and beyond that, he was really ours! It was a moment too big for words.
Part II: Afterbirth
A few moments of revelry left me shocked to discover that the struggle of my labor was not yet over. My son’s umbilical cord had been extremely thin, and after the stress of birth, it had broken, leaving the placenta still attached inside. The last thing I wanted to hear at this point, or ever again, was “PUSH!” But there I was again. Thankfully, it only took about 15-20 minutes to get the placenta to release, and no stitches were necessary.
Our son’s birth was a beautiful, and scary, and miraculous event. I am so thankful he was delivered safely, naturally, and without additional stressful interventions.
As we put our tiny little baby into what seemed like a massive car seat, only a few hours after his birth, it seemed strange to be taking him home. We had come to the birth center as just the two of us, and now we were leaving as three. Nothing could quite prepare us for this reality. It was truly unfathomable.
My husband and I just stood there on the curb next to our car, both realizing that we weren’t really sure what to do next. Our baby seemed so fragile, wide-eyed and staring at us, engulfed in his car seat. Where was the manual for care of this kid? If parenthood was going to go anything like our surprise labor and delivery, we honestly weren’t prepared.
I sat in the back seat, right next to this small being, cradling his head in my hand as my husband slowly and carefully navigated our car homeward. It wasn’t until we made it into our living room and sat on the couch that we realized we hadn’t slept in 24 hours. Should we eat? Should we sleep? Should we shower?
We were so over-exhausted and excited that neither of us could close our eyes. But the stress and lack of sleep would certainly take its toll in the days to come. I developed mastitis (a breast infection that is like having the flu and elephantiasis at the same time). My body was saying, “slow down and sleep woman!” It was a tough lesson to learn the hard way.
Despite all the physical pain, I knew I had been part of a great miracle, especially every time I looked into my sweet little one’s face. A new definition of strength had been introduced to me, and I drew often from the storehouse of mercy attained by the saints through it all.
We were in uncharted territory, moving forward together as a family of three, with friends and family for support, and my husband as my greatest comfort.
Writer, Podcaster, Mother, & Catholic Apologist. Meet Kimberly