There's no easy way for me to write this out without going into every detail, because this was THE most incredible day of my life.
So here we go...
July 29, 2017
The day was spent with both our parents but ended with just us. We sent everyone home to have a night to ourselves. Ordered thai takeout and watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the couch. When we got in bed that night I noticed I was having cyclical Braxton Hicks, ones I could count to come every 15 minutes or so.
This is from my pregnancy journal that night:
I tried my hardest to resist cleaning up the house, but alas I gave in. But I'm happy it's done and now I feel like I can lie down and sleep.
It really feels like labor is starting (slowly and painlessly, but the Braxton Hicks contractions are coming in cycles for sure). I'm expecting to wake up tonight to stronger contractions - we'll see!
Okay, going to bed
July 30, 2017
I woke up after a completely uninterrupted night of sleep (an amazing feat for a 40 week pregnant lady), but I didn't care, I was too bummed that I hadn't gone into labor yet. I was so hoping G would be born in July. I thought about my friend who's water broke and how her baby was born within the next 24 hours. I wished that would happen so I could be reassured. I laid in bed praying and receiving peace for possibly a longer wait and an August babe...
I turned on my side and snuggled David which is when I started feeling some different crampy feelings in my lower back and lower abdomen. I felt it about 3 times and wondered if these were real-deal contractions. I was on my side so I couldn't feel or see my stomach harden like I normally did when I had a Braxton Hick, so I wasn't sure.
My journal entries from that morning:
I woke up at 7:30 this morning feeling a little sad that I hadn't gone into labor yet. I got up, brushed my teeth, went to the bathroom, then laid back down and prayed. Prayed for peace. Prayed to enjoy this time and not get anxious, but to be patient and trust the Lord.
Around 9 I started noticing a more uncomfortable feeling in my lower back and pelvic area. I was lying on my right side in bed so I couldn't really tell if my stomach was contracting during the sensation. But it happened again and again. Not for very long.
Once I got up around 9:30 am it had happened again and I could see that my stomach was indeed contracting and I felt the uncomfortable tightening down lower.
I'm trying not to get too excited but this is definitely a different contraction than the ones I was feeling last night. They are shorter and not very close together. But they are definitely sharper and feel more like a stretch in my pelvic area.
After writing the above notes I walked out to the living room (9:45 am) to let Gus out of his crate. I squatted down to say good morning to him and felt a small gush of water go into my underwear. I said "woah!" (with a big grin), grabbed under, and waddled to the bathroom. My underwear was completely wet and my hand was soaked. I took off my underwear, stepped over the toilet, and a small stream of liquid came out. David walked in and I said "I think my water just broke." – oh how I wish you could have seen the look on his face!
He went and grabbed the sheet our midwives had given us that said what to do if your water breaks. I wiped to look for color and smelled my underwear, searching for anything the paper said to check for. When I wiped there was more of my mucus plug (which I had been slowly loosing since the 28th) and some pinkish blood. So we dialed the on-call number to let them know that we thought my water had just broken. Leslie answered. She was so calm, said "it's very possible" but that "it could just be a pee leak" and to "keep her posted".
I stood up off the toilet over our white rug and another stream of liquid came out. On the carpet it looked slightly pink. "I'm pretty sure my water did break", I said.
I put on one of those ridiculously thick maxi pads and changed into some "granny panties" (thus beginning the glamour of labor). I went about things normally and continued to leak from then on, especially when I moved about.
I sent David down to the clubhouse to pick up a package that was waiting for me (what can I say, I'm still the same Natalie, even in labor). While he was gone I made ant traps to set up in our kitchen (I love these funny details about pre-labor) which is when I noticed those same contractions I felt in bed that morning, but they were definitely coming in cycles now – far apart and not long-lasting, but still, they were following somewhat of a pattern.
David came back with a big box (it was my beautiful bassinet – what perfect timing!). He then made us a hardy egg, sausage, and toast breakfast and I notified a few people about my water breaking. David was a tiny bit concerned that I was getting my hopes up about it (he's always trying to cushion the fall for me- such a sweetheart), but I was still like 99.9% sure that my water had broken. When I called to tell my mom, she shared her experience of her water breaking and that made me feel more sure about it too.
This is when I started getting really excited. Knowing that active labor should start within 24 hours of your water breaking, I was able to have hope once again for a July baby!
Leslie suggested we try and get outside for a walk before it got too hot (it was supposed to reach 100 that day - yeesh!) and to make sure to eat and drink a lot of water. At this point, it seemed like we had a long day ahead of us. The contractions I'd been having were so spread apart and SO mild, I assumed we would just stay home and chill all day till the real contractions began later than night. Everyone says, "Your first baby comes slowly", "Labor can last up to two days (or more)", "Don't get your hopes up at the first few signs of labor." So David ran over to the library to pick up some DVDs to keep us occupied through what we thought would be a lengthy day of "pre-labor" symptoms (we seriously had no idea what was coming).
By the time David got back from the library, I had started tracking contractions which had begun to get much more noticeable after my water started to break. (What I felt in bed in my lower back that morning were definitely the real thing.) David looked up some lamaze breathing exercises on youtube – we had opted out of take a birthing class because "why spend $200 when you can learn everything you need to know online?" haha (I don't regret this decision, but I'd recommend to first time parents to just take the class anyway. I realized after the fact, that there are a lot of things they go over in those classes that we hadn't thought about haha) Anyway, he quickly learned the techniques and showed me how it was done and I started practicing them through the contractions.
It was 1:30pm and the day was heating up fast, so we walked over to George Rogers Park – putting my feet in the river sounded nice. I wished I could jump in, but that's a no-no once your water breaks. I had a contraction down by the boat ramp and realized I did not want to be in public anymore. Hearing strangers' voices while feeling crampy was not comforting at all. Not to mention, the constant leakage going on in my underpants wasn't ideal for walking about in the heat.
We got back home as quickly as possible (2:40pm) and I told David that I didn't think I was going to be able to sit through a movie, undistracted by the contractions (go figure haha). At 3:40pm, I notified Leslie that I was having a contraction every 3-4 minutes, lasting 45-60 seconds each, for the past hour.
Things were quickly picking up in pace. I put worship music on loud and placed our fan in the window sill.above the changing table and leaned on it for support. I stretched my body upwards, elevating my chest as I breathed in, and then squatted down deep and exhaled. I did this through each contraction, trying to put into action the Lamaze breathing that we had learned that morning.
I knew the contractions were getting more serious when I couldn't focus enough to time them myself anymore and when I didn't want David to talk during them. I needed to focus to bear them well.
Things were feeling more uncomfortable (particularly in my lower back, butt, and thighs) but still totally bearable. I didn't want to go to the birth center until I knew I was close. I was curious about my dilation (just to know how close I actually was), but the only way to find that out would be to go in, and I really wanted to stick it out at home for as long as possible. Leslie said "whatever I wanted". I told David he could make the call if I couldn't.
She told us to change positions after every 5 contractions. (Again, David googled haha.) It was hard to find positions I liked better than standing and squatting down as I inhaled at the top and exhaled at the bottom, keeping my eyes closed – which helped me feel more at peace. The toilet was okay, and I actually pooped between one (which I was thankful for later that night). My lower back was hurting so David iced it with some frozen corn (haha) it felt great.
I was getting nervous about the car ride. I didn't want to let fear in, but it was so hard not to be anxious about what that would feel like. I was moving so much through each contraction and being stuck sitting for 25-30 minutes sounded awful. Finally, after a few more intense contractions, David said "okay, let's go" and I agreed. He grabbed all our things and I did one more contraction and then quickly walked down to the car, hoping I wouldn't have another before I got in. It was 5:15pm (I was having contractions every minute at this point, each lasting over a minute)
I spent the car ride praying loudly and proclaiming "no pain in Jesus' name", with the windows rolled down and worship music blasting. I prayed for less contractions, shorter contractions, painless contractions.
(I only ended up having about 4 contractions the whole way there and they were so much more bearable. God is good!)
It seemed like we got to the birth center so quickly! David drove fast but really safe. We only caught like 2 or 3 red lights and they didn't last long. I felt bad for the people in the lane next to me - they probably thought I was going crazy. (I love that I was still having thoughts like this - Classic Nat)
When we got to the birth center we went straight downstairs. Someone had gone in a few hours before me and got in the big room, but it was perfect, because the smaller room with the big window was the perfect room for me.
I ripped off my dress and underwear and changed into the black sleep, nursing bra I wanted to wear (signs that though intense, the contractions had not overtaken me, I was in control). David opened my "Birth Songs" playlist on Spotify and worship music filled the room.
I went to the edge of the bed and began doing the same squatting I had been doing at home. Leslie asked if I wanted her to check me. The option made me question if it would be encouraging or not to know. I asked if people normally got checked when they came in and she said yes. She just didn't want to make me physically uncomfortable, unnecessarily. (I'm so thankful for midwives!)
She checked me and I was 7 centimeters (I think we were both surprised at how far along I was.) and said she could feel his head and that it was hairy! I was relieved to hear the words "hairy" haha. She said she was happy that I came in and that made me feel really good.
They listened to baby's heartbeat with a doppler through one whole contraction and then told me they would keep checking but that it wouldn't take so long after that first initial listen. There were three training midwives there to help. This was a really full staff because the woman before me had her baby so quickly. (It was neat having such a large support team!) They asked me if I was planning to use the tub, I said yes and they began to fill it up. They offered me something to eat or drink. I didn't feel like eating, so I opted for an electrolyte drink called "Recharge" and water of course.
I then moved to the toilet, faced backwards, with a pillow to lean on, and held on tightly to a bar on the wall. I was trying to practice the Lamaze breathing and even attempted the focusing technique on the contrasting line between the two different shades of paint in the bathroom. David encouraged me that "Each contraction you get through is one step closer to meeting our son." He was so right. It was so empowering to know that these "contractions", "rushes", "labor pains", whatever you want to call them, were each so important for bringing this baby into the world.
Leslie came in and encouraged me that the noises I was making and my breathing sounded really good. She offered to help me get in the tub but I was a little wary. The icing and fan were helping me so much - I wasn't sure what warm would feel like - but I really wanted to try laboring in the water, so I got up.
The water actually felt really, really nice, but it did warm me up quick and I wanted the fan again. (I think the reverberating humming sound and the feel of harsh air against my face was a good distraction also.) I wanted to lie back in the water, because between contractions it felt nice to be surrounded by the comforting warmth of the full tub, but contractions didn't feel good lying on my back. I decided to lean on the side, propped up on my knees, still slightly squatting and lifting with each one. They got me suction handles to hang on to. Sometimes I would lean back to relax, but when the next contraction came, I would jolt back up on my knees.
(My butt was aching so bad the whole time. It felt like my baby was going to come out of my butt haha. They encouraged me that, that was a good sign. "That baby was low, pressed against my buttox." Later, I laughed, knowing why my mom always described having a baby as "pooping out a watermelon". Also, I learned that there are a lot of nerves in the lower back as the baby pushes against your sacrum - which is what causes a lot of those aches.)
My legs were starting to cramp up a bit from kneeling on them too long so I got out of the tub and sat back on the toilet. I don't think I was there too long before Leslie came back in to ask how I was doing and encourage me to keep changing laboring positions. Lying down on the bed still didn't sound good so I decided to get back into the tub, but this time I tried laying back in the water to keep my legs from cramping up again. It didn't take long for me to relax into this position and I was actually able to fall asleep for short spurts (like 30 seconds) in between contractions. I had read about other women experiencing this, but it was crazy going through it myself. Our bodies are amazing.
Somehow during this last stretch of laboring I had the brain capacity to do something special for David. If you know him well, you'll know about his relaxation, breathing techniques. He loves to make me do them when I'm getting worked up about something or when he thinks I'm stressed out. I had been thinking, weeks earlier, that it would be really funny to implement one during labor – but I had no idea I would actually remember to do it. I was relaxing in the tub after a contraction and his voice echoed through my mind, so I did what every good wife would do and breathed in, breathed out, and said "I'm on summer vacation". I looked up at David and his smile was priceless, "I love you." he said. This is when it hit me that I really wanted pictures taken of not just me, but of both of us! I had David ask one of the training midwives if she could get some shots of us together. The first time she tried to take a picture I was in the middle of a contraction. I heard the shutter noise and could see the flash flicker, but I knew it hadn't taken a picture. So I said through gritted teeth, "You have to hold the button down." Once the contraction was over I laughed so hard. The fact that I could mentally break from the contraction and tell someone how to use my camera, showed that I was doing just fine.
Not too long after, I thought I felt the urge to push. I remember feeling/noticing air (like a fart) leave my anus and float up to the surface of the water a few times. I had thoughts like "I think I want to push? Do I want to push? I'm not quite sure what that's supposed to feel like."
I felt like I was trying not to and also trying not to put anymore pushing pressure on my butt, maybe so i wouldn't poop haha idk. But it also felt like I was forcing the focus to my butt so I wouldn't push out my vagina on accident. So I told whoever was in the room that I thought I wanted to push. She went and got Leslie and when they came back Leslie said, "You feel like you want to push."
"Yes." I expected her to make me get out of the tub and check my dilation, but instead she just said, "Then, go ahead and push." It was great! From then on Leslie was there with me, along with the rest of the team behind her.
(This must have been around 8:45 or so – from what I can tell from the time the pictures were taken – and from then on I pushed.)
That was kind of a surreal moment, going from just enduring the contractions to using them to move (force) him lower. Pushing really did feel great (like everyone says). I could feel when a contraction was coming, but when I pushed during them, I couldn't feel the lower back intensity anymore. I was now feeling every ounce of power I could muster to move my baby down and around my pelvic bone.
I was on my back in the water at this point, with hands gripping the suction handles that had been moved to the sides of the tub for me to pull against. I bent my legs up as far as they could go to really open up the birth canal for pushing.
Pushing came naturally, but it was sometimes hard to know how to push in the right way, because theres a difference between a push and a push that counts.. Sometimes it felt like I was giving it my all but at the same time felt like I wasn't moving him very much. Leslie showed me where I needed to push him with her hand – that helped a lot. The team kept encouraging me that everything looked and sounded really good. I was so thankful for such amazing support.
(A funny – slightly gross – detail to add was the little floater poops that came with pushing in the tub. My midwife laughed because she said she'd never seen such tiny poops, "They're like little tic-tacs!" They used a small net to fish them out and I thought that was hilarious!) Anyway...
It didn't take long for me to realize that the tub wasn't going to work for me. I felt like I couldn't get my legs wide enough to push with intent to get him out. They mentioned getting me on the bed, but the minute I got to my feet I knew I wanted to squat. I asked if that was okay, and Leslie enthusiastically said "yes, do whatever feels right to you!".
It's pretty amazing how in tune you can be with your body. It just came over me so strong and clear that squatting would feel best. And it did!
They placed big disposable pads under me and I stood on the edges so I didn't slip. I grabbed onto to David for support and just let my body do its thing. I didn't really think it through; I just went for it. When a contraction came I did what I had been doing when I was first moving through them at home – breathe in up top and breathe out at the bottom, but this time coupled with a deep, throaty grunt and a big push at the end. I bent down low and pushed deep into the floor. David began to squat down with me. In between pushing, I would lean on and hug David and we swayed back and forth together waiting for the next contraction. (They told us later what a strong and beautiful team we were.)
These pushes felt so much stronger, so much more powerful, and the right kind of force I needed to push my baby out.
I pushed this way until Leslie thought we needed a break. She said baby's heart rate was a little high and she didn't want me to wear myself out. We moved to the bed for some more restful pushes. I didn't know how long I'd last there. We tried a contraction on my side with one leg up in the air, but I really didn't like that position. I laid on my back and pushed a few times. They said if I reached in I could feel his head for motivation. I tried to feel inside and touched something squishy that felt like two pieces of thick skin squeezed together. I was expecting his head to be hard and hairy feeling so I thought that I was just feeling the inside of my vagina, which seemed weird because of the position, but I just didn't think there was any way that what I felt could be his head. (Sure enough it was the head, I just wouldn't know till later.)
After a bit, I told them I felt like I couldn't push as powerfully here, and they let me get back up to squat.
When my feet touched the floor this time, I knew I meant business. I didn't feel tired. I was ready to push my baby out. I got in position with David and did my thing. I could feel his head getting lower with each push, but could also feel it retract when I stopped. I wanted him to stay down so I pushed harder. That was the first time I had the thought "I don't want to tear." but I didn't voice it.
He was low enough at this point that they had brought out a phone with the hour and minutes showing clearly on it to catch the time of birth. I looked over and saw that it was 9:30 pm. I didn't want to spend the whole night trying to have him. I wanted him born before the day was over. I wanted to spend the night cuddling my son. I decided I wanted him born by 9:45 and from that moment forward every push was with the intent of meeting my son. Every push I would think "This is the one!" no matter how many times I pushed.
They must have known I was really close, because again they suggested I get on the bed before I got too tired to finish the job. I hadn't decided I wanted to have him on the floor squatting, so I was okay moving to the bed as long as I could find a comfortable position. Thankfully, I did.
I was almost completely on my back with my legs up in the air in a squatting position, with my arms linked under my knees and holding tightly around my thighs.
One more lady had come into the room – that made 4 helpers AND Leslie! Two of them each grabbed a foot, bracing my legs for pushing support (but I mostly was using my arms to pull my legs back to help me push in the right way), one was charting, and another was solely taking pictures.
(I have to pause real quick and tell you how amazing it was that we ended up having so many people in the room. I was REALLY hoping for a picture of the baby coming out and one right after when he was on my chest, but was told by my midwives that, that might not/probably wouldn't happen because everyone on the team would have a job and I wouldn't want David to be trying to take pictures while his son was being born. So, the fact that there was an extra person who could just take photos during those moments was seriously a HUGE gift from God.) Now back to the story...
I asked David to pray out loud through a few of these last pushes. It was amazing bringing God into the final stretch like that. I felt like it was me, David, the baby, and God working together to get this thing done!
I was doing a kind of opposite/upside-down squat thing – it felt so good. There was so much power in this position. I had to use my arms a lot, but I still had enough energy to do the hard work. Leslie asked, "Are you Russian? This is how Russians give birth." I laughed so hard, "No." David laughed too, "But she is Eastern European." (I loved being able to laugh in such a moment of intensity.)
Not long after that funny moment, our baby's head began to crown. "Woah, I can see his head. It's half way out!", David said, trying to encourage me. Leslie smirked, "Not quite half way." From the moment he crowned, I took it slow. I would push him a little further out and then let his head stretch me so I wouldn't tear.
Leslie rubbed oil around the thinning skin. We did this for about 5-10 minutes and then she looked at me and said so calmly, "Okay, let's get this baby out."
I looked up at David who was leaned over behind me on the bed,
"Tell me I can do this baby."
"You can do this"
"I can do this."
And then I pushed a few more strong, long, hard pushes and his head was born!
I remember looking down and seeing his head and then giving another hard, long push and watching the rest of his body come out as Leslie helped pull him along. Then just like that, my little Gideon was on my chest. (10:20 pm)
He seemed so big – I couldn't believe it! I can't tell you how many thoughts whizzed through my mind at that moment, "I'm the luckiest girl in the whole world. Oh my gosh, I'm having that oh my gosh moment like every other mama has had. He's gigantic. How is he so big?! My son! My son! love him so much. I can't believe how much I love him!"
And hearing him cry for the first time was seriously, "music to my ears" (I'm not sure I've ever used that phrase more accurately.). The sound of your baby's voice for the first time. Wow. I can't explain how beautiful that moment was.
(I can't forget to add that when Leslie lifted him up to place him on my chest, Gideon raised his head and looked around. It was incredible. I'm pretty sure everyone in the room said "oh my gosh!" Little did we know that this was the first bits of his determined personality shining through. He was out and wanted to see the world!)
After the umbilical chord stopped pulsing, David cut it, and it hit me that this was it, Gideon and I would be physically separated forever. His whole life, up until that point, he was just as much a part of me, and this was just the beginning of him.
Gideon was such a champ right from the beginning. He made the cutest little snorty sounds as he searched for my nipple and then latched on right away. Everybody laughed, thinking it was "so cute!" It really was adorable.
After a long, tear-filled first snuggle and a shot of pitocin to help deliver the placenta, they weighed and measured him.
He was 8 lbs 14 ounces and 21.5 inches long – they were surprised at his weight because he looked so petite even for being so lengthy. I wasn't though; I was still in shock that he was so big! (Like, how the heck did he fit in there!?) Haha I was guessing at least 9 pounds.
(They also told me he had a big meconium poop on his way out. I guess he was working hard too!)
I took a quick shower while they examined Gideon and then eagerly hopped into bed to nurse him again. He fell asleep nursing and I passed him off to David for the first time. He spent most of that night sleeping on David's chest; it was so special for them to have that bonding time right away!
Everyone left the room and we laid there together on the bed just absolutely mesmerized that he was ours. Then it hit us how ravenously hungry we were – well, at least I was. We hadn't eaten anything since breakfast that morning. Pizza sounded so good! Unfortunately, nobody delivered at midnight, so our overnight midwife made us breakfast for dinner (that's all they had in the kitchen), but, seriously, breakfast never tasted so good. By 2 am we were finally asleep – our new, beautiful family of three. <3