The morning of Sunday, September 11, I hoisted my 40 week pregnant self out of bed and tip toed down to the kitchen for some time to myself, a rarity if you can imagine. I gathered my cup of coffee and sunk into my favorite chair. The sound of a steady rainfall clamored against the house filling me with joy and warmth. Coffee and rain – who doesn’t love it? And soon the pitter patter of little feet could be heard on the stairwell. Reagan popped her head around the corner greeting me with a sweet “good morning.” Fulton joined us soon after, and we decided it was the perfect morning to light up the lanterns and sit on the screened-in-porch.
Though Blair would not be born until the next day, this almost dreamy morning is forever burned in my memory as the starting point. There were no contractions to tell of, nor was there any dramatic “this is it moment,” only a distinctive and quiet peace that occupied my mind and heart. I just knew that everything soon would change.
The day went on as usual: Mass and brunch, a Sunday afternoon movie for the older kids while Fulton napped, and a little outing with my parents and sister to Bath and Body Works because the fall scented candles were on sale! It was after this outing that I began to feel things change, but I wasn’t positive this was it because of the length between contractions and the unpredictability of their occurrence. I tried to help things a long by lots of walking and raspberry leaf tea drinking.
As the evening wore on I became less and less convinced that this was “real” labor. Discouragement and frustration began to settle in as I sat down on the couch and contractions stopped all together. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, and I decided the best thing to do was to simply go to bed. With high hopes for a good nights sleep I settled into my cozy bed only to be awakened an hour later to mild contractions. And so began my first night labor!
I wasn’t quite sure how to handle laboring in the middle of the night. I found myself alternating between laying in bed and scavenging the kitchen for food. Between these two activities I somehow made it to a seemingly acceptable hour to be up and moving around.
At 4am I cleaned our family room.
At 5am I tried to go back to sleep.
At 6am I stared at the coffee machine wondering if having a cup was a good idea.
At 7am I got the kids ready for their Religious Education class before sending them off with my mom around 8.
At 8:30am I called the hospital wondering if I should come in even though my contractions were still sporadic – though there was a notable increase in intensity.
Ryan and my mom were convinced it was time for us to go, but I still had my doubts! This labor was so different from my previous two in which I woke to steady contractions that slowly increased in intensity throughout the day leaving me with no doubt. I was afraid if we went to the hospital we would be sent home – my fragile spirit could not handle that at this point!
After calling the nurse we all decided it was time to head in. It’s important to note here that I was positive for Group B strep – a common bacteria that comes and goes in about 30% of women (it is not herpes which I had to explain to someone the other day, so I thought I would clarify that for you all.) It simply means I had to get an antibiotic to ensure the bacteria would not be passed on to baby girl as she made her entrance into the world. It was important to get to the hospital with enough time to receive a couple doses of the antibiotic before baby was born.
Ryan and I moseyed around as we packed our bags and got ready for our great adventure. After arriving at the hospital around 9am we headed up to triage for the moment of truth…. I was 6cm dilated! They took us to our room where I quickly realized that I was starving. My kind nurse gave me a pack of crackers and apple juice, but I spent the rest of my labor wishing I had eaten a bigger breakfast – pregnant women take note!
Now, there were a few downright miserable aspects of this birth and it was not the natural birthing process itself, it was all the interventions. The first horrible part was the IV of Penicillin I had to receive. It honestly made me feel like Bella in the first Twilight movie when she was bit by a vampire and the venom was racing through her veins (or how I imagine such a thing would feel.)
After I survived that and did not in fact turn into a vampire, I walked in circles around the hospital room listening to Luke Combs (a favorite of my husbands and therefore a favorite of mine.) The contractions were still slow and had a tendency to stop completely if I sat down.
Eventually, my doctor came in to check me and found me to be 8cm dilated. She went ahead and broke my water to encourage further progress. In my previous births, after my water broke, things moved incredibly fast. I was anticipating the same here but it was not so. This labor seemed to invite me to a slowness and intentionality that I had not experienced the same way in my other births. It’s not lost on me that these two themes keep reoccurring lately!
I sat in the hospital bed, rosary in hand, praying through each contraction. I felt them intensely and fully. Each surge passed through my body opening the way for baby girl. I knew that it was going to get worse before it got better, but I also knew how to walk through them, how to lean into them, and how to trust them. It was surreal being so aware and in tune with my body as it accomplished this great work.
The contractions picked up in intensity, one on top of the other, a sure sign I was in transition. We let my doctor know and she stuck close by assuming it would soon be time to push. Unfortunately, at this time I also had to receive my second dose of Penicillin. Nothing like the pains of transition AND the burning intensity of antibiotics coursing through my veins!
This time of transition was marked by Ryan’s laugh. I don’t know all that was going on but as I was working through some intense contractions I could hear him chuckling. I was surprised to find myself enjoying the laughter and the lightheartedness it brought. There was a lot of playful banter happening in the room (at least in my memory!) and one maybe shocking word we’ve both used to describe this labor was fun. I’m very happy to have had him by my side through it all!
At a break in contractions my doctor took a phone call from the corner of my room. She was supposed to be in surgery at this time, but she calmly told them she was delivering a baby and would be there when she was done. Knowing she was supposed to be in surgery has helped me understand and process a few things that happened that I wish didn’t. More on that later.
As the urge to push came upon me they broke down the hospital bed and got me in “optimal” position. (Optimal for the doctor maybe.)
I had a nurse on my left holding back my leg and Ryan on my right doing the same. They kept instructing me to hold my own legs and I insisted that I could do no such thing. Then they told me to push. One thing about an unmedicated labor is that no one should tell you when to push except your own body! I was very sassy during this time, as Ryan will tell you, and I let them know that.
But they kept insisting, “hold your legs back, push! Push! The baby’s right there!” To which I responded, “I know she is right there! I can’t push right now. I need a break.”
As Blair was crowning, I felt like my doctor was trying to grab her out (maybe trying to help things along so she could get to that surgery?) The discomfort from her hands was intense and I told her (I’m sure very politely and respectfully) to not put her fingers in there! Laughter broke out but I assure you I did not find it funny! Finally, at 1:50pm, after just about 15 minutes of the pushing stage, Blair was out and on my chest! The most beautiful little princess, crying and rooting around.
The second worst part about this labor was the delivery of the placenta. After delivering Fulton naturally I knew to expect intense discomfort during this phase, but this exceeded discomfort. My doctor decided to reach in and detach the placenta herself. This was really unpleasant and frustrating because I knew my body just needed time to deliver it on it’s on. In hindsight, I realize she probably did this because she was supposed to be in surgery. The joy of meeting Blair for the first time was accompanied by agonizing pain as I waited for her to be done.
Finally, she was able to get the placenta to detach and with one swift push out it came. I do wish this part would have gone differently but it was out of my control and everything worked out.
Ultimately, we are so thankful for our healthy baby girl and an almost perfectly ideal birth! Welcome to the world sweet Blair Avila Marie, we love you so much!
*Pictures by the talented Jess Bishop!