I gave birth to Owen exactly two weeks early on Monday June 27th. The day before Owen was born my husband, Andy, and I took maternity photos and my work threw me a surprise baby shower. Talk about good timing!
My first contraction came at 5:45 Monday morning. I woke up feeling what I thought was a slightly more intense Braxton Hicks contraction. I had to focus on breathing and relaxing through it which made me wonder if was actually a real contraction. I couldn’t get myself to fall back to sleep afterwards, and I really wanted to wake up Andy but decided not to so he could get some sleep before going into work. I had a few less painful contractions and was able to fall back to sleep; but then at 7:30 I had another intense contraction that woke me up again. I woke up Andy and told him I thought I was going into labor. At that point we both thought it might just be early labor or false labor, so he decided to go to work and told me to call if anything changed. I got out of bed at that time and started keeping track of my contractions on a contraction counter. They were not very painful but were coming about 5 minutes apart. I had a ton of nervous energy and I spent the day cleaning my house; vacuuming, doing dishes and laundry, packing my hospital bag etc. Every time I had a contraction I would pace around the house and practice deep breathing. My contractions really weren’t that painful, and it surprised me that I could move through them so easily.
At about 10:00am I woke up my parents, who were staying with us at the time. I told my mom I thought I was in labor, but she didn’t think I was because I wasn’t in much pain. However, I had a feeling it was real so I called my midwife around noon. I chose to give birth at a free standing birth center called Charleston Birth Place which is a little over two hours away from my house. The midwife on call also didn’t think I was in active labor since I was walking and talking easily through my contractions. Nonetheless, because I lived so far away, she suggested I come in and get checked just to be on the safe side. So I packed up my things and my parents drove me down to the birth center at about 2:00pm. Still not knowing if I was truly in labor, I decided to not have Andy leave work and drive down with us. I figured that if I got to the birth center and labor was progressing he could leave at that point. I was expecting to have a long labor since it was my first.
During the drive my contractions got progressively worse. An hour into the drive I was starting to feel a lot of pain and it was starting to feel like real labor. I got out of my seat belt, knelt against the back seat and swayed through the contractions. From time to time my mom would have me focus on her eyes and breathe with her during the contractions. She was so great and really helped a lot! By this time I was starting to get panicky that Andy wasn’t going to make it for the birth so I called Andy at work and told him to head down to the birth center ASAP! Later he told me that he was driving 75mph on Hwy 17 the whole way! Another fun fact, we were pulled over on the way to the birth center for speeding. Luckily the police officer was understanding when he saw me In the back seat about to pop!
We arrived at the birth center around 4:00 pm. As soon as I arrived they walked me back to a room and checked to see how dilated I was. Laurie, one of my midwives, asked me how far dilated I thought I was and I told that I thought I was probably at 4cm. However, to everyone’s surprise I was already dilated to 7cm! Laurie warned me that I was getting into the hardest part of labor. She was not kidding! It got really intense from there on out. Soon after, I got into my birthing suite, but then I had to wait about 30 minutes while they filled up the birth tub before I could get in. In the meantime I worked through my contractions by leaning over a birth ball. My nurse, also named Shannon, showed my mom how to put pressure on my hips and massage by back because my hips and back were killing me!
By the time I was in the birth tub my contractions were so intense I could barely breathe through them. I was feeling exhausted, emotional and scared. I spent most of my time on my knees leaning over the side of the tub while my mom massaged my back and Shannon, Laurie and Julie (the other midwife present at the birth) talked me through the contractions. I was totally shocked at how painful and intense the contractions were. It was like nothing I would have ever expected. The feeling reminded me of when you vomit and your body spasms intensely without any control. The saving grace to birth is that each contraction comes to an end and I was able to rest and recuperate before the next one came. The birthing tub was a lifesaver because I could move around so easily to get comfortable when the next contraction came. My midwives were very attentive and kept is spritzing me with cold water to keep me from overheating since I was working up a sweat. At this point I was totally in my own little world. It was a very strange feeling being so spacy and out of it. I couldn’t even put together sentences, let alone remember any of my coping strategies or breathing techniques. Lucking I had a great team to coach me though.
An hour after being in the birth tub I started to feel like I needed to push so Julie checked me to see if I was fully dilated. It turned out that I was dilated to a 9 1/2 with just a little lip of the cervix in the way. I was so happy I was so close because I was beginning to feel like I couldn’t go on any longer. While she was checking me, in my head I was thinking “I better be dilated to a 10 or else!” She told me I could start to bare down if I felt the urge. On the next contraction I started getting the urge to push again so I pushed a couple of short pushes. I thought pushing would make the contractions less painful, mostly because my mom had kept telling me that was how it was for her, but it didn’t work like that for me at all! I found it really uncomfortable to push and I felt like my body was going to split open from all the intense pressure! I leaned against my mom, who had gotten in the birth tub with me, and pushed while she held my knees and supported my weight.With each contraction I was screaming a lot while pushing, so Laurie told me to put my energy from screaming into the pushing instead. Once I did that, my pushes were super effective!
After about four more contractions Julie told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head! Just a little sliver of Owen’s head was poking out and it actually kind of scary to feel his squishy little head! There was no turning back at that point, and I was still wondering how in the world his head was going to fit out. But I just kept pushing and about two contractions later his head was out! I tore upward along my right labia because Owen just came out so fast that my skin didn’t have time to stretch. I think my midwives were actually surprised that he was born so quickly. I had only pushed for maybe 15 minutes.
As soon as Owen was born they lifted him out of the water and put him on my chest. All I could do was say “OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH!” between my tears of relief. About a minute later Andy finally made it and he came running in! I couldn’t believe he missed the birth by only a minute, but at least he was there for the first few moments of our baby’s life! He cut Owen’s umbilical cord a few minutes later. I then got out of the birthing tub to deliver the placenta on the bed. Meanwhile Andy held on to little Owen’s hand while my nurse, Shannon got him cleaned up and weighed him. Owen was very healthy and adorable! He weighed 6lbs. 10oz. and was 19 inches long.
All in all, I pushed Owen out in less than 15 minutes and my labor was a total of 12 hours long from start to finish. I was only at the birthing center for about two hours before Owen was born. We spent the next six hours recovering at the birth center while we snuggled and I nursed my little son for the first time. He was such a good little nursling right off the bat! We then spent the next night at a hotel down the street from the birth center which the midwives recommended just in case anything was to go wrong. It wasn’t the ideal place to spend the first night with a newborn, so we were thrilled to get to go home the next day.
I truly loved my birth experience. It was painful and intense; but it was also incredibly empowering and life changing. I have so much gratitude for my incredible midwives and my mom who coached me through, and showed me so much love and support during such a challenging experience. Having a good support system in place was so important for me, especially after the birth. I had difficulty breastfeeding those first few weeks, but luckily I also had a supportive husband and mom and dad who kept encouraging me to not give up. Owen ended up breastfeeding for 18 months! I also wish I had been better informed of and prepared for the difficulties of the postpartum period. I suffered from very bad postpartum depression and anxiety that I ended up needing professional help for. Once again, it was a blessing that I had a supportive family around during those rough first months.