I can’t believe it’s been a week.
A week since my heart grew more than I thought it ever could.
A week since mine and Isaac’s world changed forever.
A week since I went through the most painful but exhilarating event of my life.
A week since James Richard was born.
I went back and forth for a while on if I wanted to share his birth story here. And obviously I ended up deciding to do so. My doula, Dana, told me to write everything down because in a few weeks and months I won’t remember every detail like I do now. “Birth amnesia” is what she called it. So to remember this amazing day for years and years to come, I’m sharing our story here.
So it all began around 1 AM the morning of Thursday, August 16th. After feeling pretty run down all week, I woke up to lots of annoying cramping that wouldn’t go away. I remember tossing and turning all night thinking “ugh this is gonna be a long night” and sure enough it was. I slept on and off until my alarm went off at 5:30 and I decided to give up on sleep and just get on with my day. Isaac found me in the living room bouncing on my pregnancy ball and sipping on my water bottle.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah. Just crampy.” That was a common phrase those last few weeks. He smiled, kissed me on the forehead and went to get his lunch together for work.
Around that same time I started noticing some small contractions starting. They felt just like the Braxton Hicks ones I had been experiencing for months and I thought nothing of them. I was too tired to care. Isaac noticed how tired I looked and pulled me over to the couch to lay down next to him. He knew I needed to rest, and I know he secretly wanted a few more minutes of shuteye before heading off to work for the day. We laid there for about 20 minutes, and I noticed the contractions kept happening. They weren’t painful, just uncomfortable, so I ignored them as much as I could.
I finally conceded that rest was not in my near future and sat up. I asked Isaac if we could go on a walk, so we did a quick walk around our neighborhood like we had been doing most mornings and still the contractions kept coming. I wrote them off as bad Braxton Hicks and just walked through them as much as I could. But at the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe this was the real deal. I mean, the general rule of thumb was if your contractions continued no matter what you were doing, then they probably weren’t false labor.
However, I decided to not take it too seriously, because let’s be real. Most first time moms have a very long labor, so I sent Isaac off to work around 7:30.
“If it’s not real labor, you just won’t hear from me.” Was what I told him as he walked out. I don’t know why I said that, but at the time it made sense. I was tired of getting my hopes up.
I decided to start timing my contractions to see if there was any rhyme or reason to them. While they weren’t necessarily painful, they were starting to bother me a bit more, and after about an hour I realized they were around 30-40 seconds long and were about 7 minutes apart. That scared me. I thought that early labor contractions were supposed to be 30 minutes apart, and here I was experiencing them less than 10 minutes apart. If this is what the next 24-48 hours were going to be like, I was not ready for it.
So to distract myself I decided to clean. If this WAS really labor, I knew we’d have lots of people coming over to see James so I might as well pick things up and get stuff cleaned while I could! While sweeping, dusting and picking things up my contractions kept coming, and I kept recording. They were staying steady at about 6-8 minutes apart and lasting 30-40 seconds. I decided to text Dana and tell her what was going on. She told me to try laying down since I hadn’t slept well, taking a bath to relax and to eat a good breakfast.
“You’re going to need it later,” she said.
Those words made my heart skip a beat. It looked like this was really it. I was going to have a baby.
Over the next couple of hours I took a bath, tried lying down on the couch (that position didn’t last long because the contractions were getting worse), and went from position to position, trying to find one that helped the most. From knees on the floor and arms rocking on top of my pregnancy ball to in the shower, letting the water run down my back and (sorry for the visual) straddling the toilet in an attempt to relax and find some sort of relief from the building pain. At this point I had stopped timing contractions and just focused on relaxing through them as best as I could, and keep my doula and midwives updated.
Around 11 (yes, only about 3 1/2 hours since labor had really started getting real) I had my bloody show and that’s when everything changed. Suddenly my contractions were stronger, and I found myself not just breathing through them, but moaning as well. I am not one to moan or grunt or anything for that matter, but I just couldn’t stop it, and I know it helped me relax better through the contractions. I heard all the tips and advice we learned during our Birth Boot Camp classes and from my doula running through my head, and did my best to follow them.
“The more you relax into your contractions, the more effective they will be.”
“Sway your hips to help get through the pain.”
“The contractions are not going to be stronger than I can handle.”
“Take them one at a time.”
I called Isaac and told him I needed him to come soon. This was real. I was in labor. And I wanted him there to help me through it. He said he would be on his way soon and hung up.
But 30 minutes passed and he still wasn’t home. I looked up his location and saw he was still at work and I found myself getting anxious and scared. I was alone at home. I was in more pain than I had ever felt before. My body was shaking and I had cold sweat all over me. I could barely move anymore from one position to the next. I was nauseous and even the thought of drinking water made my stomach turn. The contractions were getting so intense. And Isaac wasn’t even on his way home yet. So I called him again.
“Where. Are. You?”
“I’m leaving right now.”
“Babe. I need you. It hurts so bad.”
“I’m on my way! I’ll be there soon.”
My goal after that was to make it till Isaac got home. I knew I could do that. So I took each contraction at a time, and prayed that I could do it. At one point I remember yelling “God I can’t! It hurts” but followed that up with “Yes I can. I can do this.” And so I kept on. My doula called me after I dramatically texted her “I need you to come. It hurts too much” and during our maybe five minute conversation she helped coach me through three contractions. That’s how I knew things were getting serious. They were so close together and all I could do was moan through them. I couldn’t open my eyes between contractions and just kept my head low, waiting for the next one to hit.
“Becca. You’re gonna have a baby today.”
Those words got me through it. I was going to finally get to meet my son. I could do it. I HAD to do it.
Finally around 12:30 Isaac got home. He found me straddling the toilet, on the phone with Dana, moaning through a contraction. I’m sure it was quite a sight. After hanging up he took over the phone (thank GOODNESS. I accidentally kept leaving it in other rooms when I changed positions and have never wished so hard that Lillie knew how to fetch my phone). The next 45 minutes or so Isaac helped me through the contractions. They were getting more and more intense and as much as I tried to relax through them, I found my body tensing as I felt it come on, my hands clutching at the pillows or quilt that were close by, praying I could make it through that one.
The midwife called again. My contractions were about 2-2 1/2 minutes apart and still only lasting 40 seconds. This entire time my contractions had never increased in length and I found myself crying in desperation. They were wanting contractions a minute or longer before coming in. I didn’t know how much longer I could continue laboring with how painful and close together the contractions had become. I had reached the point where the pain never really went away. Between the waves was a dull cramping ache that made it to where I felt like I could never relax.
After Isaac hung up I looked at him and just cried. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know what position would help. Nothing sounded good. All I could think of was the pain and the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. Isaac went to refill my water bottle and I sat on the toilet to try to relieve any pressure from my bladder. Then suddenly a contraction came and my abs started clenching and my body began to push. I cried out. No. Not here. I was NOT having my baby at home.
“ISAAC. MY BODY IS PUSHING.”
It was like a movie.
He came running in and took one look at me before grabbing my phone and calling the doula. She said to get our stuff together, put a towel down in the car and to go to the birthing center, she would meet us there. Isaac started running like a madman through the house as I slowly made my way to our bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed, trying to keep calm. He grabbed our *mostly* packed birth bags (I didn’t have time to pack some of the items we use every day since labor was so sudden and intense!). Then he helped me get dressed, find my shoes and make my way to the car.
I sat down, breathed through a contraction and Isaac ran around to the other side of the car. He felt for the keys then sprinted back into the house. If I hadn’t been in so much pain I probably would have laughed. It was a classic movie scene.
The drive to the birthing center was a blur. I had about five or six contractions during the 15 minute drive there, and kept my legs clenched together when the urge to push overcame me. All I could think was “I’m not having it in the car. I’m not having it in the car. I’m not having it in the car.” When we pulled up I breathed a sigh of relief. We made it! Isaac ran around to my door and I gathered up my energy to get out of the car. One of the student midwives, Debbie, pulled up with us and she helped us to the back door to the center. When she opened the door, I looked up and sighed.
The bottom floor of the birthing center is where all the offices are and the second floor is where the birthing rooms are. If I was going to have my baby, I had to make it up those stairs. I could do it. A few steps up I had a contraction and I heard my midwife, Danielle say “Lean into it. You can do it.” So I did. I wasn’t scared or anxious anymore. I was where my baby was going to be born. It was almost time! When the contraction was over I quickly went up the rest of the stairs and into the room. I saw Dana, Danielle and Debbie waiting for me. I smiled. It was go time!
They wanted me to sit on the edge of the bed to take my blood pressure and to measure James’s heart rate, but as I tried to get up, a contraction came and I just slid off the side. My legs were too short to reach the floor so I looked up and said “I need a chair!” I sat down and lost track of what was going on. With each contraction I let my body push without hesitation. I have no idea what kinds of sounds came out, but let’s just say my throat was sore for a couple days after! After a few really good contractions, during a push I felt a huge POP and gush as my water broke. I remember grunting out “WATER!” in between breaths as the contraction passed.
Now that the water was broken, I felt everything differently. He was lower, I could feel so much pressure on my pelvis, and it gave me the strength I needed to keep pushing. I labored on the chair for a while longer as Isaac and Dana did counter pressure on my hips. Hearing them tell me how strong I was, that I could do it, how close we were to the end, and that it was almost over got me through the pain. After a while they moved me to the bed where I really began pushing. I could feel each push move him farther down. I no longer noticed the pain of the contraction. All I could think was “PUSH”.
Then I was told to move from my left side to my right side. Then onto all fours. I heard them talking, but couldn’t make out what they said. I felt an oxygen mask being place over my mouth.
“Is my baby alright? Is he okay?”
“Everything is okay, Becca. Don’t worry!”
I was scared something was going wrong, but I knew I could trust my midwives.
They were moving the doppler all around, trying to find his heartbeat. They flipped me to my left side again. With every contraction I pushed. Then suddenly I felt a sharp pain. And another. Episiotomy.
(I later found out that I needed the episiotomy simply to speed up labor because his heart rate had dropped to 60 when they wanted to see it around 100-120. To avoid more distress on the baby, they chose to do the episiotomy and I am SO glad they did.)
“Push Becca. Push”
“But I’m not ready.”
“You have to push. He’s almost here!”
“Oh my gosh Becca. He’s almost here!” I heard Isaac’s voice behind me. It was almost over.
So I pushed. Once. Twice. Three times. I felt him slip out with the last big push. And I breathed a sigh of relief. It was over. I looked up at Isaac and grinned. He had tears in his eyes as he smiled at me. Our son was born!
At 2:21 on August 16, 2018 James Richard was born and changed our lives forever.
I’ve had so many moms tell me that the minute their babies are born they forget all the pain and it is so true. Even today I remember how my body reacted to the pain, but I don’t remember it. I know it was the worse pain I’ve ever experienced, but the minute they brought my son to my chest and I heard his first cries, I forgot all of it. I just stared in amazement at this precious baby my body had grown the past 9 months. I held him close and looked at his daddy.
The rest of the afternoon was so surreal. After such an intense and quick labor, I was just in shock. That morning I had woken up expecting to go another week before having James, but here he was a day early. And then I looked at Isaac.
“Oh my gosh. We didn’t tell our families!”
Y’all. That’s how quick it all was! We didn’t even let our parents know I was in labor, so the phone calls we made that afternoon were so much fun.
I was on an adrenaline rush. I had just completed the hardest thing I had ever done before. Not only were the 9 months of carrying my baby over, but the sprint to the end of the marathon was finished and I had done it. Pure elation. I felt like I could do anything now.
Over the next few hours I practiced breastfeeding and ate my victory Chick-fil-A meal. I got stitched up from the episiotomy, got up and walked to the bathroom, then did what I had been looking forward to the most after the birth: the herbal bath. The herbs in the bath are supposed to help with swelling and it’s a special time for mom and baby to spend together. I got in the bath, carefully held James in the water, and he just fell asleep. Isaac brushed his head and we just spent some time staring in awe at the tiny little human we had created.
One of my favorite parts about having our baby at the birthing center was knowing that we would get to go home once mom and baby are stable. Being able to spend our first night together as a family in our own bed in our house was exactly what I needed. The peace and comfort in familiar surroundings was so calming, and I know we wouldn’t have gotten that in a hospital setting.
The past week has been exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding and simply amazing. Being a first time mom is hard. But the love I have for this precious little boy is so ridiculous it hurts sometimes. And watching Isaac rock being a dad has been one of my favorite things about this week. I’ve never found him so attractive than in the middle of the night when he’s up getting me water while feeding James or watching him hold and kiss his son while they snuggle together on the couch. I may be tired and still processing the fact that I’m a mom, but being able to figure out parenting with my best friend has been worth every bit of it.
A HUGE thank you to midwife Danielle and student midwife Debbie, and to our sweet doula, Dana! We couldn’t have done this without you.