I’m going to start by saying that this story is very personal to me and has many emotions mixed in with it. I’m going to share what I feel is appropriate to and keep the rest for myself or for face-to-face conversation.
Also, I want to include from the outright that two of my best friends, Sarah and Carly, got to be there in the same building while it all happened (though unfortunately both of them missed the actual birth – Sarah by just minutes! Motherhood duties called). Some of it they were in the room with me, and then as things got more intense they ended up in the room next to me, really just feet away and separated by a wall. Their presence especially in the beginning stages meant a lot to me–they helped keep me relaxed, talking amongst themselves and with me as a distraction, making me laugh and praying for me. And toward the end it really helped to know that they were just feet away–they could hear everything!– and they were praying for me then too. I include this now so that way I can have them a part of the story but for the rest of this I will focus on just what was happening with me, and between me and Joey. Most of my memory on when everything happened is a little blurry anyway so I want to keep it as simple as possible :).
**Warning: I won’t give every single detail but I will give ones that are necessary to the story. If reading about blood, cervical dilation, stitches, etc. makes you uncomfortable, read no further :).
So the story really started the weekend before Jane was born. I had been having many early-labor contractions/practice contractions/whatever you want to call them the days leading up to her birth. Not nearly as many as I had with Arden, which was nice, but enough to make me uncomfortable. Saturday, December 13th, ((TMI)) I lost my mucous plug, which is a sign of impending labor. Over the next couple days I passed more and more blood-tinged mucous, or “bloody show”. My lower back started aching more and I was feeling increasing pressure in my pelvic region. All signs that baby was wanting to come soon! I was excited but tried not to dwell on it too much. I knew how long the whole process could take and didn’t want to read too much into every little sensation.
Monday, December 15th, I kind of hit a low of my pregnancy. I was just SO DONE. I honestly thought I would have had the baby by then so I was pretty disappointed. Joey was pretty free work-wise so he, Arden and I went to a park to let Arden play and then we took a long walk. It was a beautiful day–getting out in the sunshine was real nice. Later in the afternoon I went over to Sarah’s to sit and sulk a little bit :). But it was nice to be around a friend and just relax. I painted my nails!
We had gotten in the habit as a family of watching Wheel of Fortune while eating dinner together. So, Wheel of Fortune was on and I asked Joey to give me a back rub. He rubbed my back for a good while while Arden ran around and jumped on the couches. It must have been about 6:45 or 6:50 (because we hadn’t gotten to the bonus round yet) when I stood up to go to the bathroom and I had this “sensation”. I don’t remember whether it was then or in the bathroom when I noticed a wet spot on a weird place of my pants. I still don’t know how it got to that spot. But it looked like I peed my pants a little bit on my thigh.
Much happened between 7 and 9:30. Apparently my bag of waters ruptured a bit (though it had not completely broken so I only leaked a little bit here and there), and I pretty quickly felt my contractions get slowly more intense and pretty consistent. My contractions start out pretty close together, under four minutes apart. I texted Joycelyn (my midwife) back and forth to first confirm that it was amniotic fluid that was leaking through this little indicator stick she gave me and then to figure out the pattern of the contractions. In hindsight I definitely should have gone in at least a few hours later than I did but since they were so close together to begin with we didn’t know if I’d be progressing much quicker this time with my second (at least that was my hope!). In any case, around 9:30pm we made our way to the birthing center in Salado, about fifteen minutes away.
Once we got there we got settled in and filled out the necessary paperwork. The contractions were relatively mild compared to what they would become but I began needing Joey’s assistance to get through them. I quickly noticed that anytime I sat or laid down the contractions slowed down. So I spent most of my time standing. I would out my arms around Joey and kind of just sway with him while he rubbed my back.
The contractions felt much different than with Arden. Part of this is probably because my water was still mostly intact so it provided a “cushion”, as opposed to my water being broken from the get-go with Arden (and as a result the contractions felt very harsh and more painful). Jane’s were more ache-y all over my back and hips and pelvic region. Joey remarked and I noticed as well that I was much more relaxed than with Arden. With him I felt completely out of control the whole time, like I was holding on for dear life. This time I knew more what to expect and I tried to embrace the pain more and stay as relaxed as possible because I knew how important that was.
When it came time that I wanted to get in the tub Joycelyn checked me. I was only 4.5-5 cm. yikes! I thought I was farther along. So, I labored in the shower for a while. I sat on a stool while Joey aimed nice and hot water from a hand-held shower head right on my back. This was nice but it got a little old after a while.
Somewhere in here is when active labor REALLY started. I just looked at my notes and apparently the shift happened around 1:30am.
After a little while Joycelyn felt it was ok to let me in the tub. Oh, that was nice! There was overall relief. After a while, though, I was getting a little overheated because they have to keep the water at a certain temperature for the baby’s sake. In addition, contractions had of course slowed down because I was sitting. So, out of the tub I went.
Joycelyn checked me again. I was 5.5-6cm. More standing, and some laboring on my side on the bed. This was REALLY nice because the contractions slowed down so I kind of got more of a break in between.
I was TIRED. oh my goodness. I was almost falling asleep in between. It was the middle of the night and I wasn’t sure how much longer it would be. This is when it really started becoming a mental battle. The pain was intensifying and I started getting into that “zone” where I’m pretty much unaware of anything else and all my focus is on having the baby. Joey of course was by my side constantly and he kept reminding me that I CAN do it and that it WOULD end eventually.
That major shift happened around 3:30am. I started feeling a LOT of pressure in my bottom. Like, it hurt to sit, presumably because the baby’s head was descending lower and lower. Joycelyn said that was a good sign and the baby could come real soon.
Then she checked me. And I heard the words I had dreaded. 8.5cm with a cervical lip. This was devastating to me. That’s the same thing that happened with Arden, and for him it was like 5 or 6 hours of laboring and trying to push and laboring more and pushing until he finally came. So I prepared myself for the mental battle of however long it was going to take.
I got in the tub for a while. It was not progressing like it should so they made me get out, which was so sad because it felt so good to be in the tub. I got on the bed and labored in all kinds of weird and sometimes painful positions they were telling me to do. The only comfort in all this was knowing that the more painful it felt, the closer I was to meeting Jane. Some of the positions were really uncomfortable, but they assured me that it would help open up my pelvis so she could descend further.
Around 5 or 5:30 in the morning I was checked again and they broke the rest of my water. Contractions became almost unbearable after this. The pressure on my tailbone and in my bottom was unbelievable. Joey was RIGHT THERE next to me the whole time, and I am so thankful for this!
Around 6:20am I was a full 10cm and they said I could push. This was such wonderful news to me! This is also when the main midwife Sandra said, “it’s up to you now. This could either take 20 minutes or 2 hours. You have to push even though it’s painful.” And yall, it was SO much more painful than I remember with Arden. I have no idea why. I felt like I was crowning (the “ring of fire”) pretty much the whole time. I kept saying IT HURTS SO BAD!! And they were like, “yes, having a baby hurts.” Ain’t. That. The. Truth.
But in the midst of the pain I kept remembering what Sandra said and I resolved to keep pushing because I really wanted the 20 minute option instead of the 2 hour option. I can still remember the feeling. Lord have mercy. Like knives.
The song “Draw Near” by Bethel came on…
Draw near to me for I have drawn near to you…
I’ve made a place for you here, so come on, come on…
I listened to the song and secretly sang those words to Jane. And sure enough…
…sooner than I thought I would (because of my 2.5hour pushing experience with Arden), I heard, “I can see her eyes!” So I gave it all I had. Then they said her head was out. Then her shoulders. Then she slipped out and I felt that blessed relief. They handed her immediately to me with a towel on top and I heard her sweet cries. She cried hard for probably a minute or so then she calmed down and just looked at me. I was crying and kept saying, “I can’t believe it!!” I was so overcome with emotion and joy. 22 minutes of pushing.
(Fun fact: my mom heard the moment that Jane was born. She happened to be in the room next door for a bathroom break then as she was about to leave she heard Jane cry. So special. I believe that was a gift from God to her!)
Pretty quickly after that the placenta was delivered and they let Joey cut the cord. I was still in pain in the pelvic region, Because, as I now know, I had torn pretty bad. I’ll spare the details but let’s just say the midwife said “it’s like an explosion went off.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear. It was about this time I wished I was in the hospital for the beloved Fentanyl so I didn’t have to feel any more pain.
Jane was on me for at least an hour before they even really touched her. I got to feed her and just stare at her forever. It was AMAZING! So worth all the pain. She was so beautiful.
Then, after they wiped her down and weighed and measured her and all that I finally got up and cleaned up. Sheesh…I was hurting so bad. I could barely walk or stand. BUT I felt overall better than after Arden because the whole thing took half the time (right about 12 hours from start to finish) and I had stayed hydrated throughout the process. It felt good to get cleaned up while they cleaned the bed (birth is so incredibly messy. Oh my goodness.) and then be in clean clothes and have brushed teeth and get to cuddle my swaddled baby in the clean bed next to Joey. Then, one of my absolute favorite parts about having a baby–the family came in to meet her!! This was so sweet. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.
People have asked how this experience compared to the hospital. I would say that it’s hard to compare because it’s so different. There are honestly so many pros and cons for both. My favorite aspects of the birthing center experience are hands down the prenatal and postnatal care. I loved being able to text Joycelyn with any question I had at any time of day. She was so available and treated me like a daughter. The hardest aspect was the recovery. I honestly was not expecting to tear so I was pretty disappointed. They didn’t have the meds that the hospital can give during the stitching process and to send home with me so that was really hard. But at the end of the day, I got a really healthy baby and had a complication-free pregnancy and delivery. I couldn’t have asked for much more.
I WILL say that as of now I’m pretty sure that will be my last birthing center experience. I’m really glad I did it and ultimately have no regrets, despite declaring after Jane was born that I would just schedule a c-section next time ;). The tearing and my recoveries have just been so hard that I think next time it will be worth the epidural and the medication that the hospital can provide. I will definitely miss the super personal care and the relaxing, no-pressure environment the birthing center provided, but I also look forward to experiencing an epidural :).
I’m proud of making it through this experience with Jane but if I’m honest I still have a hard time looking back on the laboring experience fondly. (Of course I look back on meeting her for the first time with much fondness.) I think things just were not like I was expecting or hoping they would be. I expected it to go quicker than it did, for it to hurt less, and for the recovery to be easier. It’s easy to feel disappointed at times. BUT as with other circumstances in my life the last six months I’ve learned that sometimes life is just hard and there is no way around that. The only way through is through. God has taught me so much that His grace doesn’t mean everything will be easy, but that He will carry me through the harder things. And I’ve come out stronger on the other side, not because I feel like I’ve overcome anything but because I have become more in touch with my weakness. I’ve realized how little strength I have in myself and it has caused me to lean on and call upon the Rock that is higher than I. And at the end of the day, that is a blessing.
And Jane is a blessing because she is a daily reminder that sometimes the most beautiful things come out of the hardest, least glamorous circumstances. This truth is a gift that I hope I keep receiving every day of my life as the Father continues to draw my heart to him and make my heart to long for eternity.