“Just don’t be stupid,” the midwife joked as I sat on the examination table at my 37-week appointment, explaining how fast and hectic my first labor had been. “Get to the hospital with plenty of time to spare. I’ve literally seen women running into the birthing center with babies coming out between their legs. Make sure that’s not you!”
With such a short first labor, that scenario was exactly what I’d feared for most of my pregnancy. I had visions of myself giving birth on the side of the road, in the toothpaste aisle at Walmart, on the kitchen floor while my husband made his 40-minute commute home from work and my 17 month old was put in charge of cutting the cord. I vowed that, this time, I would get to the hospital with more than enough time to settle in. The problem was, with seemingly endless false labor in the weeks and days leading up to Sam’s birth, it was hard to differentiate between early labor and Braxton Hicks. The last thing I wanted (besides birthing my son in the car on the way to the hospital) was to drive all the way there only to be told to turn around and go home.
So, after a full day and night of off and on Braxton Hicks, I wasn’t quite sure if the contractions would turn into the real thing or end up petering out like they had for the past couple weeks. We decided to just treat it as a normal day: we went for a walk with Chase, stocked up on groceries for the coming week, invited friends over for a cookout. Around 5:30 PM, with our friends due to arrive at the house shortly, a stronger-than-usual contraction ripped through me. It wasn’t unbearably painful yet, but definitely made me stop and take notice. I texted my girlfriend and called off the dinner, then immediately fired up my contraction timer app. They were holding strong at about a half hour apart, as they had been all day, but slowly started to get closer together over the next couple hours as we ate dinner, played in the backyard and put Chase to bed for the night.
My parents were due to visit the next day anyway, so I called and asked if they could make the drive that night just in case I was truly in labor. They happily obliged and, minutes later, were on the road with their go-bags already in the car (I’m almost positive my mom’s go-bag was packed before mine.) The contractions got stronger and closer together as we waited for them to arrive; Adam got more and more anxious when I kept telling him it wasn’t time to go yet.
Then, standing in our bathroom packing some last minute toiletries and trying to convince Adam to fold the one remaining load of laundry (nesting at its finest), I was rocked by a particularly hard-hitting contraction; it was the first one I couldn’t talk through and was only six minutes from the previous one. “Call your cousin,” he said firmly. She was our backup in case we needed someone to watch Chase before my parents could make the two-hour trip. I called her and asked if she could come; she arrived ten minutes later and we were out the door to the hospital shortly after. I texted my parents who sent their own versions of well wishes. From my dad, “You got this, champ. Love you!!” and from my mom, “Tell Adam that I’ll take care of his firstborn as long as he takes care of mine.” (I can’t even type that without tearing up.)
In the car, however, the contractions that had been six minutes apart before we left completely stalled. I only experienced one for the entire 20-minute car ride. I felt like the boy who cried wolf as we sat in the intake room at the hospital, with the nurses monitoring contractions that had, magically, stopped coming. “It’s fine,” they kindly assured me. “You’re 5 centimeters dilated, so we’re going to admit you and you can labor as long as you need to.”
It was such an immense relief to be treated that way this time around. When I was in labor with Chase (different hospital in a different state) we almost gave birth in the admitting room since no one believed I was in true labor until I said I needed to push and they finally checked to realize I was 10 centimeters dilated. (As you can imagine, this made for a very hectic situation when I had to be rushed down the hall to a delivery room just in time for Chase to make his appearance.)
The stalled contractions turned out to be such a blessing in disguise. I was able to get situated in our hospital room, have the nurses go over our birth plan with us and explain all the procedures for giving birth there. It was calm and orderly; the total opposite of the experience at the hospital where Chase was born. The nurse and midwife were unbelievably patient and accommodating; they asked repeatedly what I’d like to do, as opposed to telling me how I should proceed.
I told them that the contractions had seemed to get stronger as I’d walked around the house when I was laboring at home, so they suggested doing some laps around the floor to see if they picked up again. Over the next couple hours, we walked lap after lap around the women’s wing, with Adam pushing my IV pole (I had Group B Strep so I needed antibiotics to protect Sam from contracting it during labor) and me chatting and trying to come up with games to play in between slowly-building contractions. Eventually, I got to the point where they became strong enough that I had to stop each time one ripped through me; they were now 5 minutes apart, over a minute long and absolutely kicking my ass. I tried to be strong, but the pain was reducing me to tears.
I stopped at the nurses’ station during one of our laps around. “Can you hook me up to the monitor again so we can see what’s going on?” I asked our nurse, Erin. She brought me into our room, hooked me up to the monitor and, once again, the contractions stalled. Not a single one for 15 minutes. I looked at the clock: it was just after midnight on Sunday and we’d been awake since 7:00 the morning before. Adam was clearly losing steam and I, too, felt unbelievably exhausted. I was also discouraged and fearful, having no idea how long this would continue. I’d banked on an even faster birth than the first, but this one was shaping up to be longer and more painful. The walking and the contractions had taken their toll on me—I was wiped out. I suddenly found myself asking for an epidural, which hadn’t been part of the plan. Chase was delivered naturally and I’d planned to do the same with Sam. The nurse said she would get our midwife, Christine, and have her come in to discuss our options.
Just as she turned to leave, the strongest and longest contraction I’d experienced yet tore through me; I crushed Adam’s hand and cried out, feeling desperate and weak. “I can’t do this anymore,” I whimpered, “It hurts so much. There’s just so much pressure.”
Christine had entered during this time and suggested that we check to see how dilated I was. She expressed surprise at my request for an epidural, but would honor my wishes if I chose to take that route. After Sam’s birth, I read an article from a doula who said that, almost always, when a woman thinks she can’t do it anymore, she is at the end. “Nine centimeters,” the midwife pronounced after checking me. “You’re ready to have this baby, my dear.” Another nurse appeared. A light went on above me. A cart with everything needed for the delivery was pulled up next to the bed. It was calm, organized, methodical. Exactly how I’d hoped it would be this time.
Upon hearing her words, I suddenly felt an immense relief: the light at the end of the tunnel. I still wished some magical drug would take this unbelievable, earth-shattering pain away, but I knew I was close. Adam whispered words of encouragement in my ear, telling me how great I was doing and that we were going to meet our baby so soon. His words were exactly what I needed to center and focus me.
Where the midwife attending Chase’s birth had been completely silent during my delivery, Christine was sweet and encouraging, telling me with each contraction to put it behind me. The thought of literally leaving the pain behind and focusing on what was ahead was the perfect visual. I was so grateful for her coaching.
“I feel like I need to push,” I gritted out, as another long, powerful contraction ended. “Her water still hasn’t broken,” I heard the nurse say to Christine. Literally seconds later, my membranes ruptured, as if her words had spurred them on. “Go ahead,” Christine told me. “You can push as soon as you’re ready.”
I was more than ready. I summoned all the strength I had left in my body and bore down. During both births, I felt not only immense relief during the pushing phase, but incredible strength that the contractions had robbed me of. I felt powerful and strong, like the warrior woman my husband would later call me. This time, I pushed with my eyes wide open; I wanted to experience it all. “If you put your hand down, you can feel his head,” Christine told me. I hadn’t gotten that opportunity with Chase and I was so humbled by that moment, of the unbelievable gift of actually feeling my baby coming into the world. “You have to move your hand so the rest of him can come out,” she told me shortly after. Out came the shoulders, then his warm slippery body was pulled from me as his howl filled the room and Adam whispered, “He’s here baby,” with tears in his voice. They placed him directly on my chest and I cried, kissing his beautiful face, the face that at one point, I never thought I’d get the chance to see.
Samuel Irving Mowry, 6 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 inches of healthy baby boy; the most miraculous sight I’ve been lucky enough to behold in my lifetime. The boy I wished and prayed for, stressed and cried over, wanted more than any earthly thing. He had finally arrived; my true miracle.
I want to take a minute to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the nurses, midwives, doctors and lactation consultants at South County Hospital in Wakefield, Rhode Island. I was so anxious going into this birth, worried that it would be another hectic, frenzied experience where my wishes weren’t honored and I was told what to do rather than asked. Instead, it was as close to a perfect birth story as I can imagine. Every single person we interacted with during our hospital stay was kind, personable and hospitable; our experience was truly a testament to the quality of the staff in the Women’s Wing. If we ever have a third child, I know I will have zero fears heading into his/her birth after such a beautiful birth experience with Sam. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful story to start our son’s life.
Local moms who book a Fresh 48 session (photo session at the hospital within the first 48 hours of the baby’s life) with Amy Kristin Photography by October 15 and mention One Mother to Another will receive a free 16×20 mounted print ($155 value.) Sessions do not need to be completed by October 15, just booked. (All sessions booked will need to be completed by 12/31/15, however.) Visit www.amykristin.com for more info and to check out more of her beautiful photography.