I joked all through my pregnancy about how punctual my baby was because of how she would kick, punch, jab, rotate, and hiccup at the same times every day. And the start of her labor was equally punctual – I went into labor on her due date! I know some people don’t care to hear birth stories but I personally love them – birth is just such an incredible and magical thing and now after having experienced it firsthand, I’m even more in awe of how breathtaking it is.
Anyway, after editing this story for well over two hours, it’s still reeeeally long. But I guess that’s just how it is when labor lasts 36 hours. Since this is my time capsule I didn’t want to lose too much detail, so I reveal some my feelings about the birth went – from our doula ditching us to my unplanned epidural. Please know that I mean no offense to how others birth their babies. We can only mother our own babies and we are all doing the best we can, so to each their own. Mamas, whether you’re all about a scheduled c-section or water birth… I support you. Regarding my personal feelings about our birth story, this article says it best: “…while all birth is amazing, not all women feel amazing about their births. So when I tell you my birth story, please hold your judgement.” It’s an important read no matter who you are.
I’ve added a lot of photos (nothing graphic, keeping it PG around here) and one especially adorable photo at the very end for those of you who make it through the whole thing. The photos are mostly unedited snapshots captured with our phones. I felt this left the story of Amelie’s birth more truthful and uncensored.
And so, the story of how our little jellybean was born:
June 2nd, 8pm
She was due June 2nd and since only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date, I didn’t expect anything that day (though I was of course hopeful!). Brandon and our extended family kept asking how I felt and my response was the same as always: “normal.”
We spent the day lounging under the pergola in our back yard. We took the dog for a walk. We soaked up the beautiful day. This next photo is the last one I took before labor began – I was laying on our patio sofa basking in the perfect weather while Brandon walked around the yard, picking weeds and checking on our recently planted garden. We had been bickering (because #pregnantlady) but I remember feeling like I could explode with how much I love this man and decided to snap a quick picture, no matter the quality, because I just wanted to remember the moment.
June 2nd, 10pm
After taking a shower, I began feeling aches and mild cramping through my low back and pelvis. I didn’t think anything of it though since I had been weeding the garden and planting hostas all that week (because that’s what people do the week of their due date, right?). I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if this is the start of labor? No way, think of the odds, I can’t be in labor on the due date!”
June 3rd, 3am
I woke up to the feeling of my water breaking (you know that water gush you see in the movies? like that, but far far less extreme). As soon as I stood up, water ran down my legs, so I went and cleaned up and upon returning to bed I realized the cramps were substantially stronger. Feeling confident that this was indeed the beginning of our daughter’s entrance into the world, I shook Brandon’s shoulder and whispered to him with a smile, “I think I’m in labor.” He quickly went from sound asleep to wide awake almost instantly and his response was a surprised, “really?!”
I texted my doula a heads-up that I was pretty sure I was in labor and then called the hospital.
Some background: I had Group B strep at the time of my delivery (roughly 25% of women have group B strep at any given time without noticing and it’s generally not even worth addressing), but when giving birth it does pose a risk to the newborn baby if antibiotic isn’t administered after the water breaks but at least four hours before the baby is born. Since there’s no way of knowing how fast labor might progress, I was told to go to the hospital right away to ensure the IV of antibiotic was administered in time.
June 3rd, 4am
Our hospital bags were ready and waiting so we hauled into the car and zipped across town to the hospital in about 10 minutes (thank you, Iowa City). I was excited and nervous and doing my best to remember every sight, smell, and emotion. Contractions were uncomfortable but not terrible. I had a very upbeat “let’s do this!” attitude at this point.
The hospital was eerily quiet. We rode the elevator with three nurses working the night shift, and they immediately recognized the looks in our faces (and likely, my very pregnant belly). They wished us luck and pointed us in the right direction.
We were part of the Midwife Clinic at the University of Iowa Hospital, but the midwives were kept on call through the night hours so we were seen by a doctor once set up in the triage room. He checked to see if my water had indeed ruptured, but after running the “ferning” test twice they said that it had not (to my complete shock and disbelief). The doctor speculated that part of the mucus plug may have dislodged but hung out long enough that my body broke it down into a more watery state (eww, I know). Nonetheless, it was such a letdown since this meant I wasn’t as far along as I had hoped (but they did confirm that I was in labor… insert eye roll here). On the up side, I was safe to continue laboring from home.
June 3rd, 9am-6pm
Thinking we’d be having the baby sometime late that night, I spent the day trying to progress the labor. I tried everything: walking up and down our stairs, a half-hour walk in the nearby forest reserve, a very short run (which to be honest was really just for me to be able to say that I went for a run while in labor… because apparently having a baby isn’t badass enough), deep breathing, and yoga poses with my essential oils. The most surprising part of labor at this point was how the pressure of contractions would turn on and off as if someone was flipping a switch.
These next few photos are from that walk (and my very very brief jog) around the nearby forest reserve:
Brandon helped me time my contractions using this app (after trying several apps, it was our favorite) and I texted back and forth with my doula – I kept her updated and she provided suggestions for progressing the labor. I felt I was doing the right combination of movement and rest, yet my contraction frequency wasn’t progressing.
June 3rd, 8pm
I’d read every book and online article there is to read about the progression of labor and delivery, so knowing that the average labor for a first-time mom is 18 hours, I didn’t think I’d still be stuck in early labor at the 10 hour mark. But the contractions were at least getting closer together and stronger – I now had to stop what I was doing to work through contractions. At this point I texted my doula, telling her I was ready for her to join us at our house to help me through contractions and to help me progress the labor. While waiting, I laid in bed to try and nap between contractions.
Some background: leading up to the due date, we had been working with two doulas from a local doula practice. We had met with them in our home, discussing our birth wishes and practicing natural pain management techniques. Unfortunately, our on-call doula was called out of town due to a tragedy in the family and our backup doula was out of town for vacation. So, we were directed towards a third doula within the practice – a doula we had not met or spoken to. It was unfortunate news but we remained optimistic that the newly appointed doula would still be great.
June 3rd, 10pm
It was now pretty clear that the labor was “in my back” so I continued with my stretching and yoga poses in hopes of moving baby’s head off my spine. I was feeling rested again and walking was really the only thing that brought relief to my back labor, so we walked.
In retrospect, I have to laugh at how we must have looked to the neighbors: me (looking as pregnant as I was), Brandon, and the doula… all walking laps around the neighborhood… at 10pm on a Saturday night… stopping frequently so the pregnant lady could bend over and breathe her way through another contraction. Me? Having a baby? How’d you guess?