UPDATE: After posting there were some things I forgot to include, of course, which are now inserted in blue text.
After a big race I like to write a recap. It helps me hold on to the good moments and remember what I learned. With Baby J’s birth story, I definitely want to remember the good, so a “Birth Recap” is only natural. Of course, you’re welcome to skip the details and just enjoy the photos of our baby boy. Or, if you want the full details, my full notes are compiled here.
Born On His Due Date
“Bubba” (my current favorite nickname for Baby J) was due on April 11. We never actually expected him to be born on April 11. However, as it turns out, our baby is punctual (gets it from his dad). He appeared with a head full of hair and weighed in at 7.07 and 19 inches tall.
The week before, at my 39 week check-up, I was 3cm dilated. I could go into labor anytime… or not. Apparently there is a very wide range of normal when it comes to how long you can be 3cm dilated before you actually go into labor. Days. Weeks even.
Knowing that my body seemed to be warming up for the big event, I finally felt ready to face child birth, come what may. Which was big for me. Previously, I had thought I’d rather run an ultra marathon than face the unknown of child birth. Because you can train for an ultra but you can’t train for child birth. Not really. You can educate yourself, but you can’t build your birthing muscles up with weekly long runs.
On the morning of April 10th,
I felt a lot more pressure down there. It seemed baby was leaning against the exit door, just waiting for it to open. In my heart I felt like I’d be going into labor soon, but I kept saying no…it could be another week still. I squirmed through some Braxton Hicks contractions during church and talked with another mother about how babies never come on their due date.
That afternoon there were no more contractions. Still, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do some things people say help get labor going. I bounced on my yoga ball. I did one of every exercise on my baby countdown workout calendar. We walked the hills in the neighborhood after dinner. I took an Epsom Salt bath. J gave me a foot massage. We looked up acupressure points they say trigger contractions. And yes, we even had sex because, why not?!
Finally, having done what we could, we went to bed relaxed, knowing baby would come when baby was ready. We talked about how we felt ready. We’d done all the prep we’d planned on doing. I had my 40 week check up the next morning at 7:30 AM and joked that if the baby didn’t come before then, we’d at least find out if we were getting any closer.
Let The Race Begin
We’d been in bed less than 10 minutes when I had a labor contraction.
How did I know it was a labor contraction?
I wasn’t sure that it was, but it felt different than BH.
More intense. It kind of burned. I noted the time, but then tried to sleep. About 12 minutes later I had another one. Then 18 minutes later another.
Having had a few contractions, I decided to get out of bed for the next one.
A deep ache in my hips would radiate down the top of my thighs.
If I moved, would it go away? Nope.
J noticed I was up and got his watch to help me time them.
12 minutes apart about 40 seconds in length.
Midnight – April 11th
Contraction timing was not going like we were told it would.
They went from 10 minutes apart to 8 to 7, just boom. Boom. BOOM!
Then there was the “aftershocks”. Mini contractions about halfway between the big contractions that were less intense and didn’t last as long. Should we count those? We didn’t know. So we didn’t.
I could not sit down or be still. I paced my room, the hallway, Moxie following me around wondering what we were doing up. During a contraction I’d lean over the counter, the bed, swaying my hips from side to side, digging my fists into the tops of my legs. I put on my worship music playlist I’d made for the hospital. For a while I tried signing through contractions but that turned into deep, groaning – kind of like a cow mooing.
Up until this point I was SURE that I was just in early labor. First babies take a long time to show up, right? It had only been 3 hours. But my contractions were more like 5 minutes apart and getting more and more intense.
Our hospital is about a 40 minute drive away. We didn’t want to show up and get turned away because I wasn’t far enough long yet. So J called the hospital and spoke to an ER nurse. She said a doctor would call us back within 20 minutes and we could get his or her opinion on whether or not we should come in.
While we waited for the call, I had a contraction that put me on my hands and knees. J started packing the car. It was maybe only 5 minutes before we got the call and J explained our timeline. The doc said it sounded reasonable to drive in and get checked.
The drive to the hospital was quick, but the 6 or so contractions I had in the car on the way were not pleasant. Restricted to being in a seat belt, I groaned and writhed. J was definitely driving fast, but I got a bit annoyed when, ironically, we got stuck behind an ambulance going the speed limit because they were just cruising around waiting for a call.
I told J if we got there and I was only 6cm dilated, I was getting an epidural. No way I could handle this for several more hours. The thought of it was overwhelming. They say in marathons to just run the mile you’re in. Well, in labor I think it’s also helpful to just focus on the current contraction and don’t think about the next one.
As we pulled up to the ER door, I had another contraction and my water broke. I thought, “Ha! At least they won’t send me home now!”
Still thinking it would be hours before the baby was born, I walked myself in while J parked the car. I waited for my contraction to finish, grabbed my purse, and was thankful I was wearing black tights.
Someone got me a wheelchair. I had a couple more contractions, now gushing a bit of fluid each time, while they got me checked in and rolled into the birthing center. We called my mom (who lives about 7 hrs away) when we got to the hospital. She was ready to jump in the car the moment she heard from us. All along we figured she’d have time to get there before the baby was born.
A Natural Birth
My old running coaches had us define 3 goals for race day. Goal #1 was to just finish the race, even if you had to crawl to get there. Goal #2 was to finish strong, feeling like you really gave it your best. Goal #3 is the big win, finishing under a certain time. So, for Delivery Day, I had set three goals.
- To just have the baby, even if we needed all the interventions.
- To have a healthy baby and healthy me, no complications.
- To have the baby with minimal damage down there. I was really concerned about the tearing thing for some reason. I also thought a natural birth, no pain meds, would be neat, but was never committed to that.
2:40 AM ish?
The nurse, seeing my pain, wheeled me in to the very first room where two other nurses were getting things set up. Nurse Janet, a super calm and wonderful lady, checked to see how far along I was.
“So, you’re about 8 to 9. That’s good. The baby will probably come within the next hour. You might start pushing before the doctor gets here.”
I think J and I must’ve looked at each other while our jaws hit the floor. He was thinking that we’d cut it really close and probably should’ve come to the hospital sooner.
I was thinking two things. First, I felt vindicated that the pain I’d been having was the real deal. I wasn’t just being a wuss. Second, I felt disappointed because I realized this meant no pain meds. I still asked though. The nurses said there was nothing they could give me now that wouldn’t effect the baby. J reminded me that we’d gotten this far and the end was in sight.
So J called my mom again. She was already on the road, but we let her know she didn’t need to rush. There was no way she’d make it before the baby came anyway. Hearing me moaning in the background she must’ve asked how I was doing and I heard J stumble through an “as good as can be expected?” and an “I’ve gotta go. We’ll let you know when the baby comes.”
I squeezed J’s hand and groaned through the contractions, knowing it would be over soon. In between contractions, Nurse Janet calmly got our a signatures for this form or that, and put an IV in just in case.
At one point I believe the nurses glanced at the birth plan we’d brought and giggled. Most of the bullet points were no longer relevant by the time we got to the hospital. We had no time to use the pain management strategies we’d discussed. Which was just as well as we’d left half of our supplies in the car because we thought we’d have time to get them.
What did help, though, was J holding my hand. He prepped a bottle of Nuun for me and gave me sips in between contractions. He reminded me to groan deeper, because making a lower moaning sound felt better than a higher pitched one.
When the doctor arrived, she said I was close. She said after 3 more contractions I could start pushing. She said to just do what felt natural and I thought, “none of this feels natural!”
Baby J was born at 3:37 AM. I think I only pushed through about 6 contractions. Nurse Janet, again the hero, gave me a bit of coaching on what seemed to be the most effective push – holding my breathe through it as she and J counted to 10, taking a quick breathe and going again two or three more times before the contraction ended. Then I’d relax my entire body and rest until I felt the next one coming on.
Without getting too graphic, I’ll say the worst part of the whole ordeal was when they told me to STOP pushing. Baby had crowned but Doc said this would help minimize the damage down there, so I found the strength to resist pushing. Later Nurse Janet told me that’s what saved me from tearing. I met all three of my goals!Read about @CoachHenness' positive and natural birth story! Click To Tweet
If it weren’t for Nurse Janet telling me to look, I’d have missed the moment Baby J came into view, all shiny and gooey. Holding him was the moment I’d been waiting for. I didn’t cry or get all gushy about it. Probably because it all happened so fast!
What happens after the baby comes out is a bit disturbing. I tried to ignore most of it as I focused my attention on holding our “womb fresh” baby. They asked if we wanted to see the placenta. We abruptly said no thank you. I heard the doctor ask J if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord and I heard him agree to do it, much to my surprise. I felt the two nurses pressing down on my gut and talking about the blood loss. With my body convulsing from the adrenaline, I barely acknowledged the nurse when she told me they were going to prep some blood in case I needed it but I probably wouldn’t.
We loved the care we got at Providence hospital in Newberg, OR. I don’t want to have babies anywhere else. While my birth plan said I wanted to go home as soon as it was safe to do so, one nurse informed me that my insurance would cover us through Wednesday morning. We were happy to stay longer. I felt like a guest being pampered, not a patient being treated. The nurses gave us so many compliments, ooing over Baby J’s hair, congratulating me on my strong and fast delivery, and remarking on J’s attentiveness as a new dad. They brought us the “good coffee” from the nurses station. I could order tasty food anytime from their patient menu. Even the “cafeteria” food for J and my mom tasted good and homemade and it was super cheap.
God has blessed us!
So all in all, labor was about 5 hours and 40 minutes ish. Looking back now, it seems silly we didn’t realize how far along I was, but I’m glad our ignorance kept us from going to the hospital any sooner and the timing kept me from having to decide if I wanted any pain meds or not.
I can’t take any credit for how Baby J’s birth turned out. It’s not something anyone has any real control over. I can only take credit for how I handled myself in the midst of it all and I think I did pretty good – even managed not to curse up a storm.
We feel undeservedly blessed and thank God we get to be parents to this awesome little guy.
Want to know something funny? I finished my first marathon, RNR San Diego 2008, in 5:39:33. I know people compare giving birth to running a marathon, but I didn’t think my first child birth and my first marathon would take the same amount of time.Birth Story: When child birth and running a marathon take the same amount of time. Click To Tweet