My “due date” was scheduled for September 25. Getting towards the tail end of a very smooth, healthy, uneventful pregnancy, I still hadn’t felt what I’d consider to be any sort of Braxton- Hicks, or “practice” contractions. I’d stopped running once I was about 38 weeks pregnant but still kept active, getting a daily walk in by Pine Lake and continuing to work in my physical job as a chiropractor up until the day prior to going into labor. On the evening of the 23rd, a Saturday, I was mostly by myself as my husband and in-laws were working across town from our apartment on getting our recently purchased home ready to move into. I attended evening mass and picked up a spaghetti dinner to go from the youth group fundraiser. After eating about half of the meal I found myself to be exhausted and laid down to take a very deep 1-2 hour nap. I woke up feeling out of it but well rested. Later that night while talking to my in laws before bed around 11 pm, I felt uncomfortable in my GI area. Not thinking much of it, I got ready for bed and went to sleep. Around 3:30 am I woke up to use the bathroom, nothing out of the ordinary for me in my third trimester of pregnancy. However, I was feeling uncomfortable in my GI region again with mild cramping. My little sister, who was out with her friends that night and had sent me a late night text, was the first one I filled in on the fact that I may be in the early stages of labor.
I continued to get up every 20-30 minutes to use the bathroom and began to realize that I was having the cramping feelings for more sustained periods and at more regular intervals. Could this be it?! I was expecting to have our baby well after the due date with first pregnancies tending to be longer on average and the lack of Braxton Hicks up until this point, but began to think I may be in labor since it was the day before my due date. I waited until 5 am to wake up my sleeping and unaware to this point husband. His parents and brother were staying at our apartment for the weekend as they were helping work on our recently purchased home. My husband suggested they go to put our car seat in the car as it may need to be used soon. After installing it in the car they headed to our house to work more and leave us alone. Zak suggested we go for a walk, so mid-morning we headed to the lake to go for a walk. It was short, as contractions periodically made it quite uncomfortable. We turned around after a half mile or so and came back home. My contractions were coming on at somewhat regular intervals but then would have larger gaps of 12-20 minutes. This continued off and on until mid-afternoon. I showered and we watched football while I spent time during contractions on my hands and knees leaning on the exercise ball. I attempted to nap several times but found lying on my side strengthened contractions. I ate some oatmeal to give myself some energy but otherwise was not too hungry. When contractions got to be about 4-5 minutes apart for a consistent span, we first called our Bradley teacher, Erin. We did not reach her so I left a message and called Covenant, where I was planning to deliver our baby with the midwives there in the hospital. They suggested we come in with our impending 50 minute drive and if I was not far enough along I could walk to speed things up. I was apprehensive, as I was nervous about what could come up with traveling to Waterloo and transferring from the comfort of our home to the hospital. We packed and left, headed to Waterloo around 4 pm. Erin called back on the way and suggested I follow my gut. Zak and I arrived in Waterloo and decided to head to a nearby park and walk a bit more before heading in to triage. We walked for about 10-15 minutes, again finding myself to be too uncomfortable during contractions to go much further. Crouching down seemed to help when they came on.
We then went to the hospital and checked in to triage. They checked me for the first time during my pregnancy and determined me to be about 7 cm dilated. We were there to stay. Mine and the baby’s vitals were found to be good, and we were escorted to our room that we would not leave for the next few days. Upon entering the room, I was hooked up to IV antibiotics via a heplock as I’d been tested to be GBS positive around 37 weeks. It did not limit me or bother me physically as I’d imagined it would, but mentally I was apprehensive, concerned about my first time being administered them while in labor. Again, I found myself to be least uncomfortable when kneeling and supporting myself while leaning forward onto the exercise ball. We first watched the Packers beat the Bengals in overtime. : ) I then continued to labor on the ball. My legs and feet were sore from maintaining the same position for so long, and my lower back muscles were growing sore from tensing up in a flexed position. Luckily, my chiropractor husband was able to apply proper counter pressure to my lower back to help me feel more comfortable. My midwife and nurses suggested I get into the tub, as my water had not yet broken. They started the bath for me and I got in. Upon getting in, my contractions were getting much more intense, so I was not able to relax and enjoy it as much as I’d imagined. The more I tried to “relax”, the more intense and more quickly the contractions seemed to come on. Kim, my midwife, “set the mood” to make things more relaxing, turning the lights down and setting up tea lights. How romantic! ; ) Eventually while in the tub my water “broke”, feeling much different than I’d anticipated and more uncomfortable. It felt like an intense pop, happening quickly and very obviously. Shortly after, I got out of the tub to go back to the room to see if I would be able to start pushing soon. I was run on another round of antibiotics as it’d been long enough since my last round. I was cold getting up and out of bed, so they wrapped me up in numerous blankets. I then got quite hot as I later began pushing. I was lying on my back, angled 30-45 degrees to my left. It was not the position that I would have chosen or envisioned, but I did not want to move once settled as I was nervous I’d lose the progress I’d made. Pushing was a lot more work than I’d expected it to be and took longer, at least an hour or so. With the encouragement of Zak, my midwife, and the nurses, I was able to eventually muster up the strength to deliver our perfect little boy at 11:58 pm on September 24th, 2 minutes before his official due date. Everett John weighed 7 lbs, 13.4 oz and was 19 ¾ inches long. The placenta was delivered very shortly after, within several minutes. I am not sure about the cord pulsation and timing of cutting it with the quick delivery of the placenta. It was suggested I get Pitocin to slow the bleeding after delivery. We asked for time to wait if it wasn’t too threatening, and ended up not needing it after all. Zak was able to catch baby Everett and to cut the cord. I did not need an episiotomy, as our midwife applied a warm compress while delivering our little boy. I ended up needing about 5 stitches that required local anesthetic, otherwise successfully completing our goal of a natural childbirth without pain medication. I really enjoyed working with Kim and the nurses on staff during delivery, as they respected our birth plan and me as much as I could’ve hoped. I highly recommend working with her and her team.
Looking back on Everett’s birth, I remember feeling exhausted, worn out, and overwhelmed, not sure I wanted to add a sibling for him any time soon. I also remember feeling more accomplished than ever before and proud of myself for enduring such a challenge, starting off motherhood in a state of empowerment, in awe and excited to begin this next stage of life with our new baby cuddled in my arms.
“There is a secret in our culture and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm