My Son’s Birth Story

Last month, I shared my daughter’s birth story. This month, I’m sharing my son’s birth story, which is fitting because it’s also his birthday month!

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Birth Story – Act I

The night before I went into labor, I kept wondering if I was going into labor.   I was going to the bathroom a lot (more), and my Braxton Hicks had revved up.  Nothing painful, yet they were occurring regularly and close together.  As I got into bed, I downloaded a contraction tracker app.  Two came about ten minutes apart, and I said to myself, okay, if a third one comes, I’ll start timing them.  Then I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning and clearly had not gone into labor nor miraculously delivered a baby in my sleep.  My first Braxton Hicks of the day, around 8am, felt more like a contraction. Extra crampy. I let my husband know I “might” be having contractions.  After the third one, I started timing them.  They were coming sporadically between 10 and 20 minutes apart.  Since our plan was to take our daughter to school and then drive to my 39-week midwife appointment in the city, we decided to stick with our plan.

As we drove into Manhattan, the contractions continued, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  Braxton Hicks can be more intense for second time moms to the point where they experience false labor.  It even happened to my midwife Barbara with her second, and then she didn’t have her baby for another week! 

We got to Barbara’s office early for our 11am appointment, and I went straight to pee (obviously).  However, after peeing and no longer being on the bumpy city roads, my contractions had slowed down.  I’m not even sure whether I had one the whole time I was there, 20 minutes or so.  

She checked me and said if this was labor, it’s early, I wasn’t fully effaced and was at a 1.  Still, she called the birth center to give them a heads up. Being a second time mom, there was the possibility I’d progress quickly, and she advised us not to go back home but to our apartment in the city (which was fortunately in between renters at the time) to hang out for the day.  Barbara said to call her when my contractions were consistently 7 minutes apart for an hour.

My husband and I drove to Hu Kitchen (RIP) to pick up food plus treats for the hospital staff.  We got to the apartment, did some work and ate lunch.  After lunch, we decided to take a walk.  Since my first baby was posterior, I wanted to keep moving to help the baby’s positioning.

The first stop on our walk was the liquor store where we selected a lovely organic wine.  Barbara recommends a glass of wine during early labor, advice I didn’t take with my first but wished I had. Next, we headed to the health food store and then Juice Press for my hospital fuel. After another stop at Starbucks for my husband’s favorite iced tea, we headed back to the apartment. 

In the midst of our errands, around 1:30pm, I’d texted Barbara that my contractions were 7 minutes apart, but it still felt early.  She offered to come check me at the apartment after office hours.

Birth Story – Act II

Back at the apartment, I pulled out my Hypnobabies advice for flipping a posterior baby.  I wasn’t positive if he was, but I wanted to avoid it at all costs.  With every contraction, I tried one of their recommended methods.  I also drank my glass of wine – it was delicious!

By 4pm, I wasn’t wondering whether or not this was the real deal.  I knew.  Around 4:45pm, I texted Barbara to let her know my contractions were 4 minutes apart, and I quote, “they suck”.  However, I was happy to feel them more in my front than in my back.  Sometimes, I’d have my husband push into my sacrum or do the Abdominal Lift maneuver.  Other times, I couldn’t bear to be touched.  If I laid on my left side, the contractions slowed down so I did that whenever I needed a break.  Otherwise, I’d squat or lean over the couch or whatever was near me.  I did deep, open mouth breathing, knowing 6 full breaths were about a minute, as long as each contraction.  Breaths 3 and 4 were hardest, but with breaths 5 and 6, I knew the contraction would ease, and it did.  

Barbara came over sometime between 5:30 and 6pm.  She’d offered to meet us at the hospital, but after being sent home during my first labor, I didn’t want to risk history repeating itself. At this point, I was laying on my left side on the couch.    My husband put a towel down, and she checked me right there on the couch.  Immediately, she said, “Okay, we can go.  You’re at a 5.”

Music to my ears.  I was doubting my ability to do this without an epidural, but my husband was an incredible cheerleader.  He kept telling me how amazing it was that I was already at a 5, halfway there. I started to believe I could do it.

We went down to the garage and got in the car, with some not-so-fun contractions along the way.  My husband drove, Barbara sat in the front, and I kneeled on the floor and bent over the backseat.  The drive uptown took 14 minutes, which for rush hour on a Monday is a miracle.  As soon as we got out, I had a strong contraction, and then again when we were on the elevator heading to the birth center.  I’d squat down wherever it happened and pop back up when it was over. People kept wishing me luck, and everyone was so excited, I almost cried.

The hospital admitted me into the birthing center at 6:30pm, and I crawled onto the bed on my left side.  As policy, they first had to monitor me for twenty minutes. The nurse filled the labor tub while we waited, and my husband gave me coconut water to keep me hydrated.  The nurse questioned the intensity of my contractions (my exact thought: I will murder you lady), but it was probably because I was trying to stay calm and not lose my sh*t, like I did with my first.  Also, the pain still wasn’t at the same level as with my first.

When the 20 minutes were up, I leapt into the tub (more or less). The contraction-doubting nurse tried the jets, which I didn’t like.  I tried to focus on the tub easing 80% of the pain, which I’d read somewhere (lies).  I kept trying to find a comfortable position, but once a contraction came on, it was impossible to move.  

At this point, I was super nauseated and shaking during my contractions.  I didn’t know at the time, but this is normal for “transition”, the period right before it’s time to push.  I told my husband I wanted an epidural.  He went outside the room to “tell the midwife”. Later, I found out he asked Barbara to check me and reassure me I could do this.  If I wasn’t progressing, then he’d support me getting an epidural.  (Note: Before anyone comments on my husband not carrying out my exact orders, he knows me better than anyone and knew I needed encouragement more than an epidural.)

Birth Story – Act III

Barbara managed to check me in the tub.  I was at a 9, and she told me it was too late to get the epidural. I was torn between elation from being so close and despair at not having the choice anymore.

Either way, I wanted out of the tub, so I got back onto the bed.  I was tired of being in labor and asked Barbara to push down on my belly and shoot the baby out.  Instead, she checked me one last time and told me I could push.  They got a wedge, and I pushed on the bed, but it felt like nothing was happening.  Everyone was being encouraging, but I didn’t feel like I was doing anything except possibly giving myself hemorrhoids.  Then during one push, my water broke, and there was meconium.  I believe my words were, “Sh*t!”, and Barbara said, “Literally”.  

According to the birth center’s policy, I’d have to transfer to the Labor & Delivery floor of the hospital.  The nursing staff gave me one more contraction to push, but I couldn’t get him close enough.  I’d have to transfer and wasn’t happy about it.

The Grand Finale

During both of my children’s births, I experienced miraculous moments, ones I believe were major turning points.  Some might say these moments were divine intervention, and others might attribute them to a woman’s will (witchcraft, will, what’s the difference?).  Regardless, this moment in my son’s birth story was one of those moments.  From my perspective, everyone was taking their sweet time getting me a wheelchair.  I didn’t want to be transferred, so I decided to get up and use this time (and gravity) to take matters into my own hands. As it turns out, they couldn’t locate a wheelchair, and the person from L&D who needed to admit me was missing.  As they looked for her, I leaned over the bed, and with my next contraction, I pushed.  With.  All.  My.  Might.

My body bore down in a way I can only describe as primal.  As soon as I completed the contraction, Barbara said the words I needed to keep going: “She’s not going anywhere now.”  Barbara had me get back on the bed with the wedge to help my baby get under my pelvic bone.  After maybe one or two more pushes, I heard them say, “Okay, there’s the head, now the shoulders,” and I knew I was about to meet my son.  I pushed with everything I had to make sure they wouldn’t take it back and decide to transfer me after all.  I was ready for this to be done.  The “ring of fire” wasn’t a picnic, but I knew I was about to have my baby boy, and it was enough to get me through.  Once the shoulders were out, the rest was a breeze.

My son was born at 8:33pm and scored a 9/9 on his Apgar.  Unlike with my first, I couldn’t pull him out myself or delay cord cutting because of the meconium so they took him to suction him and get the gook off of him.  It felt like forever, but it wasn’t more than a couple of minutes before he was settled on my chest.

Afterwards, Barbara and the nurses congratulated me on my determination. One of the nurses told me she was in awe of my ability to squat down to the ground during a contraction and get straight back up, without assistance.  All those yoga and barre classes paid off!

As I said to my midwife, I’m grateful to have experienced an unmedicated birth, but I’m also grateful I never have to do it again! 

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