‘My baby’s birth will be easy because I am so relaxed and confident.’
Leading up to Coen’s birth, I just knew that affirmation would hold true…spoiler alert: it did.
My due date, May 9th, came and went and I was growing impatient. The following day I had an appointment and got to see Blair; I was hoping she would be the one to help me deliver Coen. She checked me and said I was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced. I always feel heard and supported after seeing her; she has a way of making everything feel positive.
That evening I was feeling some practice contractions that were coming regularly but far apart. I started timing them on my phone and settled in to watch some Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix. They stopped coming but I was feeling like I should go to bed early and rest up because labor would be starting soon.
At 3:15am a contraction woke me up. That’s the same time of day things got started with my first labor. I got up to go to the bathroom and saw the light of the full moon through the window. I got back in bed and had a few more contractions but then they stopped again.
When I got up at 6:30am, contractions had returned. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was more practice or the real deal. Then I noticed a contraction would come any time I changed position - something that happened the last time I was in labor. So I told Travis he should stay home from work. I went to the kitchen and started making breakfast. Initially I could talk and work through each contraction but quickly it became clear that I needed to devote more attention to each surge. I started timing them on my phone again; they were still varying a lot, coming every 5-8 minutes.
I helped get Audrey ready to go to her grandma’s for the day. Sometimes I would blow raspberries and sway during the contractions and she would buzz her lips with me. That felt so sweet. I felt most comfortable leaning forward, placing my hands on my knees and resting my forehead on something.
After Travis and Audrey left I got to work tidying the house and changing the sheets on the bed. I knew I wouldn’t have time or energy for housework upon returning home from the hospital so I wanted to leave the house feeling really good. I also set out some new activities for Audrey.
During this time contractions got closer together, 4 minutes apart and about a minute to a minute and a half in length. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and in the middle of a contraction heard water gushing from somewhere. Either I didn’t notice the contraction finishing or it stopped because I snapped into action! The cloth diaper sprayer attached to our toilet started leaking water from its handle. I quickly turned off the water to that hose, threw down some towels, and continued getting ready. I got dressed then laid down in bed to rest up and continued timing contractions. Shortly after that Travis got home and I told him it was time to finish packing the hospital bags. I called the midwife and let them know we would be coming soon.
We got in the car and made it down the street when Travis realized he forgot his camera. So we went around the block and came back home. The first contraction in the car was a doozy; I held on to the ‘oh shit’ handle and braced against the dashboard. After that, they were all pretty manageable. We got the camera, stopped for gas, and went on our way. Travis put his hand on my leg and said, ‘Aw, it’s like we’re on a date because it’s just the two of us.’ I put on my birth affirmations and rested. My contractions got closer together, about every three minutes.
As I got out of the car at the hospital around noon, I felt a really strong contraction and had to stand on the sidewalk with my hands on my knees while a grandma and a toddler walked by. I hoped that I didn’t scare the boy! Two nurses met me inside with a wheel chair and took me up to triage. Coincidentally, a friend of my sister-in-law, Avery, was working that day as well and she brought Travis up to triage to meet me. Once I got changed and situated in the bed, my nurse, Beth, checked me. I was 8cm! I had fully expected to only be at 5 or 6 so I was really excited. Things were going smoothly.
I couldn’t figure out how to get that dang gown to tie in back (there was a knot and they eventually had to cut it off me). So I walked down the hall holding it and had to stop for a contraction. It was really hard to hold the gown closed and do hands on my knees. Shortly after I got to my room, Blair came in. I was so happy to have her there. I got a cherry popsicle and we all just chatted in between contractions. Blair and Beth stayed with me for the majority of my labor. It felt really good just knowing they were there hanging with me. We would all laugh because nearly every contraction was followed by a yawn. I don't know if it was an oxygen thing or if my body was helping me keep my jaw relaxed (I didn't feel tired).
At some point, I felt a shift and turned more inward. I could feel Coen moving down and I focused on using my breath to help. Blair suggested a few position changes during this time, which were helpful. I spent time on the birth ball, sitting on my heels in bed while leaning forward on the peanut, and lying on my left side.
After a while, Blair asked to check me. I was complete with a slight anterior lip and my bag of waters was still intact. Blair pushed on the lip and I pushed against her on the next contraction and my water bag popped. Then I felt the urge to push more strongly.
I had a lot of trouble pushing with Audrey. It took me 1.5-2 hours. I couldn’t quite figure out how to push and I also didn’t really know how to relax my pelvic floor muscles, allowing them to bulge. In addition, she was born with her hands up at her face so there was some extra real estate involved.
Throughout this pregnancy, I worked with a pelvic floor therapist to create more stability in my pelvis and I also developed a greater awareness of those muscles. That was a life saver. I pushed for 30 minutes with Coen. As he moved to crowning, I could feel my bottom stretching so I would relax and allow the bulge to happen. There were times the sensation was really intense and the sounds I was making crept higher. When this happened I felt that I was pushing more with my abs and had to drop down to a lower register to keep things going in my bottom. I was grateful when Blair told me to reach down and feel Coen’s full head of hair! Audrey was bald so that was really cool. It also encouraged me that I was close to being done.
With his head born, I pushed once more for his shoulders and there he was at 3:30pm! Blair laid him on my chest. He let out a kind of half-assed cry of protest then just settled on me and started to calmly look around. He was incredibly calm and aware. Travis cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. I gave another push for the placenta. I never got to see it with Audrey so Blair brought it around and we got to check it out.
Blair checked me and found a first degree tear towards the back and a tiny tear towards the front. Coen weighed in at 8lbs 9oz, 22.5 inches long, with a 14 inch head; Blair said I had amazing pelvic floor control and that the damage could have been much worse. I felt proud of all the hard work and attention I put in.
We stayed skin to skin for about an hour and toward the end of that time Coen started his crawl to the breast. He latched easily, nursed, and fell asleep. Everyone remarked at how calm and chill he was. As far as births go, it really was easy. I’m thankful for my care team and all the warm and caring nurses we worked with at the hospital. I’m also thankful for my husband who did whatever I asked him to do during labor from hugs and kisses, to pressing on my legs, to handing me my popsicle.
I choose to share my birth story because there are enough birth ‘war stories’ out there. I birthed without fear and want other women to know they can too.