“How many hours were you in labor?”
I still can’t figure out what my answer is going to be.
For my first two, labor was much more defined: 13 hours, 5 hours.
Much like with number two, however, my body was preparing for this number three for many days before the birth-day. I remember wondering “is today the day?” for almost two weeks before Leah’s birth in 2008, with a contraction here, a contraction there, some discomfort, etc. I would guess that she “dropped” at the beginning of that time.
Because of that, actual labor was pretty short: we decided it was “the real thing” around 11 or 12 at night, called the grandparents to get big brother Paul around 2:00, sent an email to prayer warrior mommy friends, took a shower, and left for the hospital shortly before 4 a.m.
Upon check-in at the labor and delivery unit, I had to insist that we skip triage because, “I need a room!” and I was right: 39 minutes after checking in, Leah was born, and I was still in my own darn shirt.
My OB seemed very concerned about this “fast labor” and kept reminding me to tell them that when I checked in. I figured we might leave for the hospital a little earlier than planned to play it safe, but I never really imagined Baby Jonathan’s birth story playing out the way it did!
The Long, Confusing Labor (Labor?)
Although I started having a pain here, a pain there, last weekend, I wouldn’t really say I was “in labor” for a week. I recognized the signs as my body simply preparing and expected it to take a week or two.
I also had a ton I wanted to do and a fun playdate Thursday, so I wouldn’t commit and call them “contractions” only “tightness” or “discomfort”. Ha!
I had my weekly doctor’s appointment on Thursday morning, at which time the good doc wanted me to have a cervical check (which I didn’t wish) and schedule both a non-stress test and an ultrasound to see if baby was big enough because I was measuring at smaller than expected fundal height (size of the uterus vertically).
I spent time Thursday hunting down answers and discerning “should we?” instead of playing with my kids.
After getting wonderful encouragement from the community here at KS and looking up the fact that I had the same “fetal growth” questions with both the last two Kimball kids, I felt pretty confident in what I had already suspected: baby was fine, not even overdue, and I didn’t need any more tests. I cancelled the appointment.
On Friday morning the pains woke me up early, and I thought surely it wouldn’t be long before they were regular and we could deem it “real labor.”
Although we weren’t charting on paper last fall, I had a pretty good idea of a week span when conception should have occurred, and “the wheel” had calculated in the spring that the due date would be between the 12th and the 19th of August. When the ultrasound told us “August 8th” I just kind of dismissed that date and never expected Jonathan until the 12th, which was Friday. I wasn’t surprised at all that I was having more contractions that morning!
I had purchased 10 pounds of Michigan blueberries at the Farmers’ Market the day before, so I set about washing and freezing them before the rest of the household awoke. I had to pause every so often for a quick tightening, and I have always preferred to bend over and let my belly hang down so gravity can do its job during contractions.
If I only remember one thing from our Bradley birth classes, it has been this: contractions are the muscles of the uterus squeezing together and down, and when you hold your own tummy muscles tightly, you work against them.
I want each contraction to do its job, so my only goal is to be completely relaxed and get out of their way. I breathe with my belly, rest my arms or shoulders on something (like a kitchen counter for this labor!), and relax.
I was surprised that my husband didn’t come down to see where his wife was when his alarm went off at 6 a.m. to work out. Turns out, providentially I’m sure, his alarm didn’t go off. I think the Lord knew he needed 2 more hours of sleep!
By the time he was leaving for work at 8:30, I wasn’t feeling like things were going anywhere, and if anything, they were slowing down. I told him, “Keep your phone close,” and kissed him goodbye.
A Normal Day
Since nothing seemed to be happening, I called my husband around noon to ask permission to go to the Farmer’s Market. We were in a house with zero eggs – ZERO! – and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself!
So I drove myself to the market and bought enough produce that people could have healthy food while I was gone, I expected. I even was tempted by the sign saying “fresh chickens!” and couldn’t resist buying one that had been running around the day before. I’m just like that!
I tossed the chicken in the slow cooker when I got home (my mother-in-law wondered what in the world I was doing) and made a huge batch of fresh salsa with my 6-year-old helper who loves to run the food processor.
Although my mother-in-law didn’t initially understand why anyone would make salsa when it’s so easily purchased, I think our taco meal convinced her that when fresh tomatoes are in season, there’s a good reason to put them in salsa! Yummy!
Going to the Hospital?
Friday about midnight, after putting the kids down and telling them that Baby John was getting ready to come, we started timing the contractions. They were so irregular! I had everything from 3 minutes to 9 minutes to 20 minutes – every time I sat down at the computer, I had a 20-minute break, causing me to tweet “Fact: blogging about labor slows labor down.”
Still, I thought surely we were going in that night. I picked the chicken (a great labor project) and put the bones back in the slow cooker to make homemade chicken stock. I figured it could just sit “on” until I returned if necessary. I made ranch so the kids would eat their veggies. I couldn’t even think of anything else in the kitchen I could do (a first!), so it was time. We started putting the cold food I wanted at the hospital in the cooler. (I’ll write a post about eating in the hospital sometime, too!)
I even made a note for the kids so they could be super excited about coming to visit Jonathan in the morning.
I was certain that by 4 or 5:00 in the morning, it would all be over. It had already been a day full of questions, and I was ready for everything to come to completion.
I kept saying that the labor pains didn’t feel very productive because they were so short and didn’t really hurt that much. Leave it to me to think of something to complain about when I don’t have pain, right?!
I finally tried to go to sleep about 2 a.m. or so, and slept for an hour and a half on the couch. I knew that meant things weren’t really kicking along well. I tweeted my frustration, because that’s what bloggers do (!), and finally went to join my husband in my regular bed and was awakened between 5 and 6 with pains, but still nothing that seemed productive. All the contractions were very short and passing, maybe 15-30 seconds in length and easy to get through.
Another Morning, Déjà vu
I still thought we might be going somewhere Saturday morning, and I even decided to publish my “Offering Up Labor” post that I had ready to go, partly in case things picked up quickly and partly to ask folks to pray for me. As every hour passed, the contractions got fewer and farther between. It was more or less just like Friday, but I had already thought we were heading out. Eventually, I gave up and unpacked the cooler.
This was frustrating!
For a planner like me, it’s already hard to not know when something’s going to happen. But when it starts and you adjust to the idea and then it all changes back to a question mark again, the frustration definitely sets in.
One of the safety nets that kept me going was surely the web of prayers formed by women (and men) literally all over the world. I teared up thinking about how many people, some of whom I know in real life, some of whom I feel like I know, and many of whom simply read my work here at Kitchen Stewardship, were keeping me in thought and prayer for the healthy birth of Baby John.
Thank you, thank you all. From the bottom of my heart.
I am glad that people didn’t pray any harder for a speedy birth, though…ahem.
We had another fairly normal day. We went for a walk as a family, futzed around, added veggies to the stock, decided I’d be around for dinner and made the stock (thank goodness it was there!) into chicken rice soup, and went to Saturday evening Mass.
I had maybe six or seven contractions during Mass, but I bet hardly anyone even questioned what was going on if I rested my arms on the pew in front of me or knelt down and hunched over while others were sitting.
I was so happy to be able to receive the Eucharist to fuel me through labor with the grace of the Sacrament. I had been hoping to attend Confession that afternoon if I was still around, but somehow it slipped my mind. Phooey on that!
I was really trying to enter into the Mass and was concentrating at the consecration when a good labor pain hit. How appropriate, I thought, that as I meditate on Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, I can truly experience suffering to bring love into the world myself. I teared up for the second time that day.
At dinner, I had to excuse myself to lean over at the counter a couple times, but I still didn’t feel like I was in heavy labor or that things were really “productive”. As with the fuel of the Eucharist, I admit I was thrilled to have nutrient-dense chicken stock as a labor food and hoped it was sending me to the hospital to have a baby!
Finally, A Change
It wasn’t until nearly 8 p.m. that I said, “These contractions are impressing me a little more.” The intensity had picked up, but my husband was working on bedtime routine with the kiddos and nobody was really timing duration. They didn’t feel like a whole minute…but they might have been. Something had definitely changed, and I found that I also liked breathing through them on all fours or even in a modified sort of “child’s pose” on the floor.
At 8:30 I was saying night prayers with the kids after reading stories with them, and we were getting a contraction maybe every 8-10 minutes or so. I was hoping that by midnight, maybe we’d be heading somewhere.
While my husband finished up the bedtime routine, I went downstairs and – I kid you not – starting working on my computer. I had a task that I knew should be done by Sunday night and figured I might be occupied the next day!
I was glancing at the clock for my own contractions and mentally marked them down at 8:37 (when I was still praying with the kids), 8:47, and 8:57. In the middle of the 9:07 contraction, my husband came downstairs. My mother-in-law had been nervous all day and kept saying, “You guys are still here? Why are you still here? Go away!”
We joke a lot around here, so believe me, even though that might sound harsh, it was just her way of saying, “I’m worrying about you. I really think you should go to the hospital. (And, I don’t want to deliver this baby in the bathtub!)”
Particularly since she had been saying this all day long, we didn’t really pay her much mind. My husband said something about the contractions still being 10 minutes apart and that we probably still had some time to wait.
Seriously. 10 minutes! Nobody thinks they need to go to the hospital when contractions are still regularly TEN minutes apart. (For those non-moms among you, 4-5 minutes for a whole hour is a general rule.)
I credit mother’s intuition, of which I usually have approximately zero, for getting us to the hospital in time for Leah’s birth, and again, something told me it was time to go. Maybe it was that when I went to the bathroom, I had a quick contraction about 2 minutes after the last one and thought that was a little close.
I can’t tell you what did it, but I said, “Let’s get the food in the cooler and get ready to go.”
My husband, who thought I was nicely playing it safe, starting ambling around getting everything organized.
According to my last tweet at 9:22 p.m., my computer was still on half an hour before the little one’s official birth time:
All right…hoping I’m right tonight…heading out to the hospital! Pls pray for wisdom for the team and good communication.
Once it went in the bag, however, I quickly amped things up and got a little pushy – “Get the bags in the car!”
I remember changing my shoes from my favorite sandals to plain old flip flops, thinking that I might not want to get my favs wet if my water broke.
I really hate laboring sitting down, so being in the car on the way to the hospital is usually the worst experience for me. I wanted to get one last contraction in before climbing in the front seat, and as I bent over and breathed through it, I was glad I was wearing those flip flops!
My Water Broke
To give some insight into my immediate emotional reaction, you need some background. I know lots of women experience their water breaking at home, and sometimes that’s even the sign of the onset of labor, but two for two, mine has never broken until I’m pushing.
Now it was time for me to freak out a little bit.
The fun ladies who attended my Twitter baby shower hosted by Renee of MadeOn Lotion probably thought I was joking when I answered the “what is your ideal birth experience” question with “not in the car.” I wasn’t. And I was starting to worry about that actually happening at this point!
We needed to get going, stat, but I made one big mistake at this point and thought I should change my pants because they were all wet. Since my water hadn’t broken at home before, I didn’t realize that the new pants would get all wet again anyway in the car. (Thankfully the Bradley coaching book had “waterproof pad for the car” on their list or we would have been in messy trouble!)
I was still able to talk normally in the van and was just praying and hoping that I wouldn’t have many contractions. In the first minute of driving en route ten minutes to the hospital, we got behind a truck full of stuff going 20 mph in a 35 mph zone.
My husband passed him in the left turn lane. He rocks.
As we were approaching the hospital I was praising Jesus for not giving me many contractions in the vehicle, but I had one big one that I fought by pushing straight up on the seat and door handle and tightening against it – I didn’t really want them to do their job for a while until I was in the right place!
My husband said that we would drop me off at the ER entrance and then park the car and carry in the bags, but that mother’s intuition told me that I didn’t want to be apart from him for that long. (He probably would have missed the birth and/or I would have had no one to get anyone’s attention and I would have birthed John in the lobby on accident.)
We thanked God that there was an empty spot two rows away from the entrance and parked, hustling toward the doors. I had to stop in the middle of the road to get through another big contraction. I don’t even remember if I breathed through it, tightened, whimpered, or what. I was just hoping no cars would hit us!
Once we made it to the sidewalk and I was hobbling along I told my husband to get in there and tell them what we needed. I could feel another contraction coming as I approached the sliding doors and told myself I had to get through them to have something to hold onto.
In a last burst of speed I shot through the doors and grabbed a folded up wheelchair. It seemed like it was one huge contraction from there on out…
What I Remember:
- Fighting the contraction – this made me much louder than I’m proud of, more like the movies when ladies are yelling in labor. That’s dumb. You don’t need to yell, but when you’re worried you’re going to have a baby on a hard tile floor with sliding doors opening and closing behind you, you get a little loud.
- I was saying, “Ow ow ow!” but I really meant, “Stay in! Stay in! Stay in!”
- I dropped my water bottles and they rolled beneath me, and with visions of amniotic fluid dripping on them I yelled, “Ew ew ew! Get them out of there!” Good husband was quick to act. I have no idea how he accomplished that AND getting me into the ER on time…
- I actually danced on tip toes in those flip flops fighting through one of the contractions.
- At the same time, some old man was walking by and made a snide comment about me being in labor. I have no idea what he said, but it made me angry!
- It seemed like there was no one else around except a bamboozled security guard.
My husband told me later that while he was getting help, starting with the security guard standing in the entryway (forget the admissions desk; we didn’t have time for that!) the conversation went quickly like this:
- Get a gurney and we’ll take her up to the OB floor.
- Call an OB doctor to come down here.
- Let’s get her into a room!
They brought a wheelchair and wanted me to sit in it. In the past I’ve refused this sort of thing, but by now I was already saying, “He’s coming! He’s coming!”
I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk wherever they needed me to go. I wasn’t sure I could get the five feet into the wheelchair. I told myself it was the only way to a bed and hurled my poor body across the space, falling sideways into the chair and curling up my legs into the footrests. My husband told me later he was worried I would fall out; I just didn’t want to be sitting…and I didn’t want to have a baby in a wheelchair!!
We flew down the hallway in a seemingly empty ER. I had reminded my husband to tell them that I had quick labors at least twice on the way to the hospital, and when the person pushing the chair said that to a doctor behind a desk, he pointed to a room.
Suddenly there were 500 people around.
Apparently every single person who wasn’t busy came to the room to help deliver this baby or watch the action. The activity in there was intense!
A nurse was telling me not to push, and I wasn’t sure how to answer her. It didn’t feel like it was my choice; my body was going to do this thing with or without me. I just kept warning them, “He’s coming!”
The nurse told me I’d have to get from the chair into the bed.
Did she know what superhuman effort it had taken to get into the chair? I was done with locomotor movement.
The doctor told her to check me in the chair, and there was the head!
I took control of the situation and said, “PLEASE MOVE ME NOW.” (This is according to my husband, as I had no idea how the decision was made to get me into the bed.)
Finally hands lifted me up, over and onto the bed – backwards. Luckily they didn’t ask me to turn myself around.
I had the presence of mind to kick off the flip flops while at the same time wondering how Jonathan was going to fit out the shorts I was still wearing.
Whether I liked it or not, I was pushing.
(Thankfully someone took my shorts off.)
The “don’t push” nurse finally changed her tune and told me I was doing great.
Thank you, nurse, much better to just go with the flow.
Again. The head was out.
I could tell that the job wasn’t quite finished so I pushed on my own to get the shoulders and body out.
I bet it was only 6 minutes from that point to when I getting out of the car.
By 9:55, a mere three minutes after the official time of birth, (I can remember seeing a clock on the wall) I was being wheeled into the hallway with an OB resident and nurse to head up to the appropriate floor.
Looking Back on the Birth
We realized later that we had no idea the name of the doctor who delivered the baby. I don’t know that I even saw his face! My husband said the man probably didn’t say two words to us.
I heard from my husband later that phrases were tossed around like, “Does anybody have any scissors?” and “Here are some cord scissors; give them to the dad.”
One poor nurse tried to start an IV for me, after the baby was already born. If you’ve read my birth plan you know I’m not really into IVs even during labor, but it seemed exceptionally ludicrous as this point.
I’m wanting my baby on my belly and yelling at her like the Soup Nazi, “No IV! No IV!” At the same time, my husband is trying to cut the cord with his trembling left hand and trying to rationally explain to the nurse, who looked thoroughly confused, why his wife might not want an IV hep lock in her arm.
It was crazy.
Totally and completely crazy.
Just thinking about the adrenaline in the room gets my heart racing now!
I did get to sort of have John on my belly while we were transporting upstairs, but the pressure the placenta was putting on my spinal cord was leaving me in more pain than labor. If I ever need a future reference, I’ll want to be on my side until the placenta comes out. It was killing me!
Clearly we didn’t get to discuss the old birth plan with those assisting at the birth, so the perfectly natural delivery I had hoped for – although it was certainly without intervention up until the baby arrived, ha! – was not exactly happening once John was in the world.
As thrilled as I am that I had no IV, no meds, no internal exams, and no triage or fancy monitors, I’m a little sad that I didn’t feel up to bonding with baby immediately. I was begging for him to get back to me once I moved to a different table in the actual delivery room (that was no fun, by the way, to be moving around before the placenta was delivered), and when I finally got him he was all wrapped up. I had to beg again for skin-to-skin contact.
It was impossible to try to nurse on my back with all the pain I was in. I knew that nursing the baby would help get the placenta out and avoid a shot of Pitocin, which I had received with both other children and was hoping to avoid this time.
There was a good deal of stress inside as I tried to nurse to help the pain go away while stuck on my back in pain and unable to nurse. Hmph.
Luckily the placenta did get out of there unassisted and all the pain went away immediately when the darn thing got off my back, literally. I was just disappointed that it was so hard to hold Jonathan at this point.
I was sitting with my legs in stirrups waiting for the OB on call from my doctor’s office for what seemed like plenty long enough for me not to have had to have my feet up the whole time. I would have rather snuggled my newborn while laying on my side, but at the time I was just worried about advocating for a comfortable (as much as possible) leg position.
It took 45 minutes to stitch me up after Leah (number two), and I was in pain for a week afterward every time I went from sitting to standing because my leg muscles were so over-exerted in the stirrups. I had to hold my own legs as they shook like Jello for that 45 minutes and promised myself that I would not let that happen again, that I would insist that someone hold my legs or find a different position for the stitches.
It took about 20 minutes to stitch up this time, and the whole time I was wondering when was the appropriate moment to share with the OB on call that I was his oldest daughter’s third grade teacher!
I think my husband was holding the baby while I was getting stitched up, and he had already texted his mom that John had arrived. How different from our first child when someone had to go out to the waiting room to share the news!
The doctors and I chatted about how crazy it was to give birth in the ER and how lucky we were to get there on time. I told them that in fact, we had just moved a month ago from the NE side of town, which would have been a 20-25 minute drive instead of the 10-minute one we had that night.
Doc’s eyebrows went way up and he said, “Wow, you guys would have made the Grand Rapids Press!” for our highway in-the-car delivery, I assume he meant. Zoikes.
When he asked the ages of my other other children, I told him 6 and 3 and then said, “You might remember your daughter’s 3rd grade teacher giving birth right near the end of the school year?” and I waved. “Hi.”
This was an odd moment, but it certainly gave us something else to talk about!
Homebirth Next Time?
I know many readers are readying their fingers to type a comment reminding me that they recommended I look into a homebirth, and see-weren’t-they-right-after-all.
And yes, you all probably were.
There are two reasons I’m seriously considering a homebirth if there is a Kimball number four (which hinges almost entirely on whether John is an angel baby…and toddler…or not. Angel baby = hope for a sibling, maybe; Trying toddler = husband will never go for it).
1. It would be great not to have to get into a car at all, clearly. As long as I can get the midwives to the house in time, a homebirth would have much less drama than this one!
2. I knew that I’d be awakened too early for silly things like checking vitals in the hospital, but at 1 a.m., 4 a.m., 5:30 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., I thought that it was really getting out of hand. Sleep is coveted enough without THAT many ridiculous interruptions. I actually told the poor phlebotomist who came to draw my blood, “Really? We have to do this at 5:30 in the morning?!?” She offered to come back, but I said I was already awake so we might as well knock it out.
I think I’m getting primed to get over my fear of “the mess” and strongly consider a homebirth, if there is a next time.
Otherwise, we’ll be tent camping in the hospital parking lot at the first sign of labor.
Birth-day photos of Jonathan and his siblings HERE.