(Warning: This is a lengthy post. Brandon and I wanted to detail William’s birth story while it was still fresh in our minds. This is both of our takes on that day.)
The Birth of Our Son, William
On Saturday, July 14th Mom had the grand idea for us to go to the Williamsburg outlets and “walk this baby out.” I was terrified of going past my due date and being induced (the last thing I wanted was medical intervention) so I was determined to get things moving on my own. We walked for a good five hours and enjoyed a great meal together. I was feeling low cramps but no contractions at this point. Brandon and my Dad met up with us at the Colonial Downs horse races later in the evening. While walking around looking at the horses I started having some very mild contractions. I got excited but I also didn’t want to jinx anything by believing them to be real. I think we all knew that something was happening and it would likely be the next day.
We got home around 10:30 and were in bed by midnight. Once we got home the contractions had stopped and I was feeling a little disappointed that nothing was going to happen. Within a half hour of lying down, I started feeling a new kind of contraction. One took my breath away. I decided to wait and see if they continued for a couple hours before I woke Brandon and got him excited. Two hours later, I was having to get up and walk to manage the discomfort. At 2 am I finally gave in and shook Brandon awake. I told him I was certain this was the real thing and I needed his help.
I had a feeling when we left the track that this would be our last night as a duo. I think everyone had that feeling, even people we didn’t know. As we were getting up to leave, a woman jokingly yelled to us, “Good luck tonight!” I turned and said, “thanks, we’re hoping tonight’s when we”ll need it.” She asked when we were actually due and everyone at the table went wide eyed when I said Monday.
Lying in bed that evening, I was feeling waves of nervous excitement. In an effort to not add any worry to Kendall’s concerns I attempted to play it cool and reassure her that the contractions would come soon enough and we’re going to be fine. Because they had stopped for a couple hours at this point, it was possible that these contractions were similar to the intense Braxton Hicks contractions she’d had the week before. (I like to call them Toni Braxton contractions). I knew this was the night though. It seemed as though my eyes had been closed for one minute when I opened them to see her silhouette in the doorway saying, “Get up. This just got real.”
Brandon stepped up to his role as labor coach immediately. Earlier in the week, we had purchased a set of essential oils for the four stages of labor. Brandon put the early stage scent on a washcloth for me and I breathed it in. He also put on one of my favorite Ani Difranco albums – Repreive. The music provided me something familiar and easy to focus on. We rotated between the birth ball, all fours and the dance position (me holding on to Brandon’s neck and swinging back and forth). Brandon timed contractions and by 4:30am we were at 4 minutes apart lasting a minute for an hour. The pain was very real at this point but tolerable. I was feeling really apprehensive about still being at home and was ready to confirm that this was really happening. Brandon called the doctor’s line and we were informed that the doctor on call was a doctor I had never met or even heard of. I tried not to panic. They told us to go ahead and come in to the hospital.
Once we arrived at the hospital we were quickly escorted into a triage room where we were met with a most unpleasant nurse. I started feeling like this was going to go horribly awry. She barked at me to put on the gown and quickly strapped me to the monitors. She was asking question after question and I was feeling completely out of control. She finally checked me and said I was only 3cm. I had been 3cm on Thursday at my doctor’s appointment. I felt deflated. I really believed I had made progress at home and now I was feeling like I should have waited longer to come in.
I didn’t understand why in the world I had to go fill out insurance papers that second. I even asked her, “why in the world do I have to go fill out insurance papers this second?” Nurse Ratched said I had to go now and before I could protest further she started rattling off directions to the ER front desk while Kendall is moaning in pain. This cannot be happening.
So off I run down the hall, to the left, around the corner, down an elevator, around the corner to the right, down the hall…wait, left? Where am I? Oh, I’ve been here before. No. This isn’t it. Okay, now I’m in a construction zone. It’s 5 in the morning. I haven’t slept. Kendall is having contractions. This cannot be happening.
I found a phone and called the operator. Luckily I wasn’t too far from where I needed to be, but once I was seated in front of the receptionist, we soon realized that the insurance card I presented was a dental card. Not that it mattered much, the printer was out of toner and she apparently didn’t know how to replace it. This cannot be happening.
After what seemed like an hour, I asked (calmly but with desperation), “can we just do this later?” I ran back to the Triage as fast as I could.
Finally, the doctor on call came in to meet us and instantly put me at ease. He had looked over our chart and understood I wanted a natural labor. He was completely on board and said he had no problem following my wishes. He told me I could have a few hours to walk around and get this labor moving or he could break my water. I elected to try on my own first. He said he would come check me in a few hours and then we would re-evaluate our next step.
Nurse Ratchett led us to our delivery room and the entire walk, I was trying to think of the nicest way to ask if we were going to be stuck with her. I’d heard that it’s no big deal to request a new nurse, but nobody wants to do that.
“So are you going to be our nurse today?”
“Nope. My shift is over and when I’m done with you, I’m out of here.”
Soon after a nurse named Laurie came to check on us. She immediately looked over our birth plan and asked to make copies for all the other nurses. She was clearly interested in helping us with our preferences as she made suggestions on positions and offered to get us the birth ball. The one thing I had been really excited about using was the birthing pool but it was out of commission on our delivery day. Laurie instructed us that we needed to get moving and I needed to drink tons of water if I wanted to make progress on my own. We were told we could walk anywhere we wanted in the hospital or outside so long as we came back within an hour for the fetal monitoring.
Brandon and I set off down the hall and walked around and around. We found out my parents were in the waiting room so we decided to go out and say hello. I think they were surprised to see us! We walked outside a little and would stop for each contraction and then keep on moving. An hour later we were back in the room and the baby was being checked. Laurie let me continue using the birthing ball and leaning over the bed while she monitored me.
A few hours in and the contractions started really picking up. We had a Bon Iver album playing in the background and the lights turned down. As soon as we would find a good position I was afraid to leave it. We spent a lot of time with the birthing ball on the bed with me laid over it rocking back and forth. Brandon would massage my back or offer me an essential oil to breathe.
We did this for hours. It wasn’t until 3:15 that the doctor actually came back to check me. By this time my moaning had increased. In our Bradley class when we watched birthing videos I would tell Brandon I didn’t see myself making noise. I imagined I would be really quiet. I couldn’t fathom moaning or humming through the pain. I was wrong. I was very vocal and loud throughout. Brandon kept me on a rhythm moaning with me. It truly did help me cope with the pain. In the hours before the doctor finally came we spent quite a bit of time in the shower. The hot water on my back was the one time I felt any true release from the pain. Brandon said I would actually doze off in the shower.
We were both exhausted at this point. She’d been laboring for 12 hours at this point. Any movement we wanted to make, whether I was going to warm a wash rag and pour oil on it, or change the music, it had to be done in a shortening window of time between contractions. Most of them we would work through with her arms around my neck, rocking back and forth doing our little moan thing. The nurses kept calling us “lamazers,” which was kind of freaking me out. We took a Bradley class and learned positions and to keep a rhythm. The breathing techniques and moaning were all by wingin’ it.
I know she was starting to doubt getting through this without intervention, and to be honest, I wanted some drugs for myself. I’d left the house in TOMS shoes, which are plenty comfortable for an afternoon running errands, but by hour ten, I felt like I was walking on my ankles.
Dr. Scheffler came in at 3:15 and performed an exam. I was at 7cm. It was progress but not fast enough for me at this point.
Hearing that she’d made it to 7 centimeters was like hearing that they’d just added an extra day to the weekend.
He offered again to break my water and get things moving. At this point I was having a difficult time coping with the pain so I didn’t think I could handle it if we moved things any faster. I told him to come back in an hour and I would make a decision then. For that hour I moved around constantly. Brandon would put a new album on and I would quickly say, “We need to change that.” My mood was getting negative and I was feeling exhausted. Brandon was a trooper. He continued to keep eye contact with me and repeat over and over, “You can do this. You can do this.” Or “This isn’t going to last forever. This isn’t going to last forever.” I don’t know how I would have made it through those last hours without Brandon repeating those positive affirmations to me. It kept me focused and allowed me to concentrate on my breathing and maintaining a rhythm to my humming.
At about 5:30 Brandon and I had been in the shower when I felt a heavy, unmanageable pressure. I told him the baby was coming as I started screaming very loudly. He called the nurse and within a few minutes 3 nurses and the doctor came running in. They started setting everything up and escorted me to the bed. The doctor came in and checked me again and I was still at 7cm. One of the nurses who had been checking in on us regularly and who had advised me to do what I wanted and not feel pressured to have my water broken looked at me and said, “Okay, I think you should do this now.” She could see that I was spent. I had been screaming for hours. I was crying. I felt powerless and I didn’t have much steam left in me. He assured me that it would pick things up pain-wise but it would also speed things up for these last few centimeters. I told him to go ahead.
Once my water was broken and the doctor and nurses had left it was back to me and Brandon alone together again. The pain quickly intensified. I never expected to feel the kind of pain of that last hour and a half. Brandon kept telling me that it would be over soon and that we had made so much progress. I kept telling him that he had already said that and I was done! At this point there was no position that felt like it helped. I had no control over my body and the pressure was so intense that I was convinced the baby would be born without anyone in the room. I became the most vocal I have ever been and it’s still hard for me to believe that I was capable of that. I started praying for God to help me. I no longer felt like I could manage on my own. Brandon continued to repeat assuring positive statements to me. He told me how proud he was of me and how I was “really doing this”.
It was really a struggle to keep that moaning hum going with a confident voice. I’d never seen anyone suffer like that for so long, and watching Kendall go through that was horrendous. It was hard to keep the hum from shaking. I just wanted to cry with her, but it wasn’t going to do her any good. I wished I could just hurt for her. Maybe she sensed that because with the next contraction, she sunk her teeth right into my shoulder.
We continued to sway with me chanting, “hmmm, you can do this,” and her chanting, “hmmm, I crrnt drr frrss.” She still had my shoulder in her mouth.
We managed to make it closer to the bed, and I set the ball on top so she could stand and lean over it. I rubbed her lower back and squeezed her sides during the contractions. In a weak voice she started saying, “you don’t understand.”
“I know baby, but you’re doing this. You can do it.”
I don’t know who turned around and spoke to me out of Kendall’s face, but I think it was Viggo from Ghostbusters II. “You don’t understand,” she growled. I did not.
It was at this point that I stood up and told him “This baby is coming. Get a nurse now.” He called for the nurse and they quickly rushed in. Doctor Roberts, another doctor from our practice whom I had never met, introduced herself as the one who would deliver my baby. One of the nurses checked me and said I was fully dilated and ready. Relief swept over me. The pressure that I was feeling at this point was unimaginable.
I think this is around the time that she bit my arm.
The nurse also informed me that our baby was sunny side-up. Another nurse, Niccole (a God send who really made my experience amazing) grabbed my hand, made eye contact and said, “We are going to turn this baby, okay?” She had me get back on all fours. She showed Brandon how to rub my back a certain way and she rubbed my stomach. At the same time she had me bear all my weight down back and forth for about five minutes. She then had me flip back over and sure enough – our baby had flipped in the right position! She then told me how I was going to push and that I needed to focus on Brandon and keep his eyes locked on mine.
Pushing was complete relief and horrible pain. Relieving that pressure was so helpful but the pain associated with bearing down was another part of labor I could not have anticipated. I held onto Niccole’s hand and Brandon’s hand and would rotate who I made eye contact with. The doctor had to keep reminding me to “Breathe for you and the baby.” I was determined to get the baby out quickly. The doctor asked me if I wanted to feel his head. I reached down and felt his small head and it was all I needed to get him out. Fifteen minutes of pushing and William was pulled onto my belly and into my arms. I started sobbing immediately and felt like I was quickly swept up into a surreal space in time. I could see everyone moving around and feel the pressures of the after birth and Brandon standing over me crying, but it felt like time had really stopped. It was the craziest high.
The doctor waited for the cord to stop pulsating and then let Brandon cut it. Within ten minutes William was nursing with a very strong latch. We spent the first hour as a family of three. I am forever grateful that I made the choice to fully experience the birth of William. It was hard and painful and there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it through. But it was also powerful to be so connected and in tune with my own body. It was beautiful to experience what my body was made to do and to allow myself to feel all of it. And it was important for Brandon and me to work together through the most difficult experience of my life. We really saw what the other was capable of and I saw the partner and best friend that Brandon really is for me.
I’m still in awe. I was pretty amazed by Kendall before, but after this, I’ll never look at her the same again. She showed strength I could never possess and determination beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed. Seeing my son being born was the most awesome thing I’ve ever experienced, and sharing this with the love of my life is a feeling that now fuels my days, long after the bite marks have healed.
Here we are a week and a half later and I as look down at my sweet, sleeping boy I can’t imagine having done it any other way.