Here’s the natural birth story of my first baby, our son. He gave us quite a surprise when he arrived 3 weeks early!
My Birth Story
It was a Friday when I hit my 37-week mark, and it felt like any other day. I wasn’t having an uncomfortable pregnancy, and I was showing absolutely no signs of labor up to this point.
I didn’t even know what a Braxton Hicks contraction felt like. (Though, my doctor did confirm that when I felt like my baby was sticking his rump out out of my tummy, that was most likely just my uterus tightening– they just never felt uncomfortable or like my entire stomach was tight.)
My Water Breaking
Imagine my surprise when late that Friday night, I got up from sitting in my bed and found myself sitting in a large wet spot. My water had broken, and I didn’t even feel it! I looked at Austin, and told him I was pretty sure my water had broken, since I could still feel warm liquid dribbling down my leg. It was either that, or I had peed myself. (And I was hoping it was the latter– we weren’t ready for labor yet!)
We were both oddly calm about the whole situation, and after texting my doula to let her know what had happened, we decided to go to sleep to see if contractions would start on their own during the night.
When I woke up in the morning, I still wasn’t feeling any contractions, so I decided to keep my Saturday morning breakfast date with one of my girlfriends and ended up chatting over a large egg breakfast for a few hours. I figured if I was going to go into labor that day, I might as well relax and eat up!
When I got home, it was time for us to be productive. Austin and I hadn’t installed the car seat yet, or the baby monitor above the crib. Luckily, both didn’t take too long to install, and we were able to relax by the afternoon. I even decided to work on a few pre-scheduled blog posts for the upcoming week, knowing that the blog would be the last thing on my mind once the baby arrived.
I sat on my exercise ball while working, which I used regularly during this last trimester, and that’s when I started to feel some cramping start, around 2pm.
What Contractions Feel Like
The funny thing about contractions is, no one can tell you what they’re going to feel like. I didn’t believe I was having “real” contractions, because they only felt like menstrual cramps to me. I thought they were supposed to feel distinctively painful, not just cramp-like. But, because they started to become more regular, I started timing them using a free app I downloaded to my phone.
My doula kept in touch with me all afternoon, and by 7:30 I was pretty sure these “cramps” were really contractions— though they still weren’t very consistent. At that point, they were anywhere from 3-7 minutes apart and about 60 seconds in duration.
In hindsight, I think the fact that I wasn’t sure about these contractions helped keep me calm and relaxed about the whole situation. If I had been positive that I was in labor, or if I had been getting cervical exams to monitor my progress, I’d probably have been more anxious– and possibly in more pain.
Time to Go To the Hospital
By 10:30 pm, my contractions started to become REALLY uncomfortable. I still hesitate to use the word painful, because they weren’t the kind of pain I was expecting, but I wasn’t able to talk or walk through them anymore.
Talking to my doula, she still thought I sounded cheerful enough to be in “early labor,” but I told her if this is what early labor felt like, I was going to need an epidural! So, at the urging of Austin, we headed to the hospital, praying that I was progressing enough that I wouldn’t need any medical interventions.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, I needed to moan and vocalize while breathing through the contractions– they were pretty intense! They gave me a wheel chair when I arrived at the hospital, and during my next contraction, I experienced the “bloody show” that I had heard about. They checked me in quickly, made me walk to the bathroom to pee in a cup, and then got me to triage to determine how far along I was. They put a monitor on my stomach to check on the baby’s heartbeat, and did a cervical exam to check my progress.
When I heard the doctor say “I don’t feel anything,” I got nervous. Could I have really made no progress? She had another doctor check, for a second opinion, and he confirmed that he felt nothing.
As it turns out, “nothing” meant I was completely dilated and effaced; ready to start pushing! Thank goodness.
In fact, I was so far along, there wasn’t any time to treat me with antibiotics, which is their standard treatment for mothers who haven’t been tested for Group Strep B. (I actually had been tested the day before, but the results weren’t back yet.) They did manage to put a Hep-Lock in my hand, just in case of emergency.
I was transferred to a delivery room, accompanied by my husband and my doula, and things progressed quickly. I felt the urge to push almost instantly, but I had no idea what I was doing, so I was grateful for all of the support in the room.
The baby was positioned at “zero station” which meant the baby was in the middle of my pelvis– halfway there! I remember hearing a nurse say that I should be able to meet my baby in about an hour, and I thought to myself, “I don’t want to push for a whole hour!” So, I felt an extra burst of motivation to meet our baby faster, and pushed with all my might.
After about 6-7 pushes, with some nice, relaxing breaks in between, our baby was out with just 17 minutes of pushing. I remember being surprised that the “ring of fire” everyone talks about lasts for so long (I thought it would be brief, like ripping off a band-aid), but feeling immediate relief when our little guy’s body emerged. What an amazing feeling!
Almost instantly, the entire labor experience felt like no big deal. My baby was here!
Delivering the Placenta
He was immediately placed on my chest, and we were allowed to bond for about an hour while I delivered the placenta and was stitched up after experiencing a small tear.
The hospital normally attaches the mother to an IV bag of pitocin after delivery, to help the uterus contract and prevent too much bleeding, but as it turned out, I knocked the Hep-Lock out of my hand while pushing. Instead of making me go through that process again, we all decided to just skip the pitocin. So, I truly managed to avoid every medical intervention I could have imagined. Lucky me!
My doula helped us establish a good latch for our little boy’s first breast feeding experience, and then we were eventually transferred to a different room for the rest of our stay.
The nurses swaddled him like a little burrito, and he slept as long as he will probably ever sleep in the next few months. Austin and I quickly discovered how much we will NOT be sleeping– we couldn’t take our eyes off of him!
Other than a slight case of jaundice, our baby is perfectly healthy, weighing in at 6 lbs. 11 oz. As it turns out, my Strep B results came back the next day, and I was actually positive for it!
So, our son managed to avoid a dose of antibiotics that he surely would have gotten had they known that result the night before. Because they didn’t administer the antibiotics immediately after birth, the staff decided to simply monitor him for 24 hours, after which he got the “all clear” diagnosis from our doctors. Whew!
I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have my labor and delivery go almost exactly how I wanted it to go, as I know it is often not the case– especially with hospital births. Of course, no matter how our little boy arrived in the world, we would have been ecstatic! We’re so happy that he’s here, and are loving every minute of being his parents so far.
Sleep deprivation and all.