Three days after giving birth, I realized I had started writing this story in text messages, so I copied and pasted them into a note. I use my notes app often (see how in my post 10 Productivity Tips You Have to Try) but typically just to jot down ideas on my phone and then ultimately draft a post on my MacBook. As a new mom, I’m finding that drafting this on my phone while my baby girl naps on my chest is more convenient for everyone.
I know there’s no pressure or time table to write this story, but I’m excited to write it because I’m very proud of myself. There are people and resources that helped me have the birth I wanted, and I want to be humble, but I fought so hard to get such an incredible birth experience, and ultimately, I give all the glory to God.
I wrote it in my pregnancy story posts (read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5) and I’ll write it again now, I didn’t love being pregnant and I was led to believe I was high risk and would therefore have no choice but to submit to medical interventions when I got to the end of my pregnancy. I also joined a mom Facebook group where it seemed every member was having their baby early for one reason or another, so I began to believe that that would be my story too. Because of this, I did all I could in my power to prepare my life for an early birth. My sub plans were ready at work. My nursery was ready at home. I even did silly little side projects to pass the time, but no signs of labor happened.
The first day of back to school teacher meetings was a week and two days before my due date. When I first found out I was pregnant, my cycle tracking app actually said this was my due date, and at the end of my pregnancy, part of me hoped that would be the truth. I wanted to be at work for back to school meetings to not only help my long term sub transition but also so that I didn’t start my maternity leave on “easy” days. After that Tuesday, I set the intention to make it to at least Friday because that was freshman transition day, and since I teach freshman English, I would get to at least meet the majority of my students before maternity leave. As intended, I made it to work that day, still with no signs of labor.
For three appointments since the beginning of August, I was 0.5 centimeter dilated. When I thought I’d have to be induced in week 39, I scheduled an acupressure massage for the Saturday when I was 39 weeks, two days pregnant. My massage therapist was confident this would put me into labor, and I wanted to believe in it too. While I definitely felt some sensations during the massage, any slight contractions it had induced died off that evening and I was able to fall asleep.
On Sunday, I was so over being pregnant, and I really started to worry that I just might make it to the first day of school and then some. I always said I WANTED to make it to the first day of school, but now that it was so close and I was SO pregnant, I was at peace with not being there. Monday was the last teacher work day, and I had my sub prepped and my own first day of school plans prepped, so I actually spent most of the day helping a friend organize a cabinet in her room.
My last OBGYN appointment was that afternoon, and I was 1.5 centimeters dilated. I asked my doctor to do a membrane sweep, which was only slightly more uncomfortable than a cervix check in my opinion. She told me to expect some bleeding, and she advised my husband and I go home and have sex. That’s what we did, and I maybe had a few contractions that evening, but again, I fell asleep and woke up to the first day of school.
After my husband had left for his second day of school that morning (he’s a teacher too; read our love story here), I went to the bathroom just before heading out for work myself, and finally, I saw some bloody show. It was nothing major, but that was progress and I was thrilled.
I don’t remember much of how my classes were or how my day was on the first day of school; I was equally shocked and happy that I made it that day 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I do remember sweating all day, which is pretty normal for me during the early fall and late spring months; my students always complain that my classroom is cold.
The first day of school, however, not only was I sweating, but I also remember feeling some intense cramping every so often. In fact, during my plan period sixth hour, I had walked down the hall to tell one of my friends something and use the restroom, and I ended up standing in the hall talking to her and another friend for 20 or so minutes. In retrospect, I had several contractions while standing there, but I didn’t say anything and just talked through it. I do remember just wanting to sit down and rest.
While yes, I did make it to the first day of school, I technically didn’t make it the whole day. My last high risk doctor’s appointment was scheduled for 2:00 and my school day ended at 2:18, so I left early during my plan period. Some of my other friends happened to be in the hall outside my classroom when I left, and one of them asked, “Are you okay? Is it happening?” and I responded, “No, this was planned. See you tomorrow!”
The week leading up to the first day of school, I said goodbye to everyone unknowing, saying things like “Will you see me tomorrow? I don’t know!”, but by the first day of school, I was confidently telling my colleagues and students, “See you tomorrow!” And so I headed to my appointment, and once again, everything looked good. The ultrasound technician was actually able to capture some images of my daughter’s face for the first time the entire pregnancy, which was exciting but didn’t mean much knowing that we’d really get to see her face soon; we just didn’t know how soon.
When I got home, I felt something close to miserable. I still didn’t think I was in labor, but I was coming to terms with probably going to school the next day and maybe the rest of the week. While I waited for my husband to get home, I did some birth ball bouncing and tried to pump to induce labor, but nothing progressed and I didn’t get any milk out. I actually don’t remember having very many contractions that afternoon compared to what I was feeling at work.
I asked my husband to pick up something “spicy” for dinner, which for me was Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets because I’m not a big fan of spicy food. Earlier that week, my friend at work who had her first baby a year ago gave me the advice to pick a last meal before labor and delivery that was both something I would enjoy and something that wouldn’t be horrible coming out the other end. Luck wasn’t in our favor; the Wendy’s drive thru was blocked by a delivery truck. My husband remembered I also liked the buffalo chicken bites from QuikTrip, so that’s what he picked up instead… four of them. I completely ignored my friend’s advice, and I would pay for it throughout labor.
We ate dinner around 6:30 PM, and afterwards we went on a walk with our dog Daisy (read the story of how we rescued her here). Up to that point, I’d been walking 30 minutes every single day and trying to curb walk when I could in our neighborhood. Just like I had during the day, I felt contractions here and there on our walk, but they were nothing major.
We got home at a quarter til 8:00 PM, and I did my usual nighttime routine: shower, brush my teeth, put on pajamas, and climb in bed. Just as they had the previous three nights, my contractions subsided enough for me to fall asleep.
I was able to sleep from about 10:30 to midnight, and then my contractions woke me up. I woke up my husband and did more birth ball bouncing, still not convinced I was in labor. If my contractions were five minutes apart lasting a minute long for the next hour, we decided we would go to the hospital, which is exactly what happened. Still though, we were convinced this was false labor and we’d get sent home.
When we got to the hospital around 1:00 AM, we paused to pray outside, still not believing this was it. We checked in at the ER and walked up to the labor and delivery floor. It wasn’t busy and everything was quiet. We got checked into our room, and a nurse got me hooked up to monitors and checked my cervix. I was only 3 centimeters dilated and 70% effaced with a -2 station. She said they’d monitor me for progress the next two hours and then reevaluate.
My husband tried to get some sleep on the couch, and I scrolled social media. I was definitely having contractions, but I was feeling good. We were certain we’d get sent home in two hours.
Around 3:30 AM, the nurse came back to check me again. Initially, she thought I was six centimeters dilated but doubted herself, so she had a second nurse come in to confirm. They decided I was four and a half centimeters dilated and I’d be staying to have a baby!
My husband and I were both shocked. The first people we notified were our respective principals and for me, my long term sub. Next we told our moms since they would be in the delivery room with us.
While we waited, my husband was able to get a little bit more sleep, but I was wide awake. At 5:30 AM, my mother in law arrived, and she took the duty of tastefully capturing all of the moments in the following hours so seriously. I am so grateful for the photos and videos we have from that day, and I especially love watching the video of me pushing and my daughter coming into the world.
By 6:00 AM, I was up bouncing on the birth ball because I just couldn’t sit or lay down any longer. My contractions were the most manageable when I was up and while my husband, mom, or mother in law applied counter pressure with the heal of their hand on my lower back. At this point, however, I was still relaxed enough to be on my phone and carrying on conversations.
Around 6:30 AM, the doctor on call (unfortunately my OBGYN was off spending the day with her kids) came in and suggested that the one intervention I do be breaking my water because I was already dilated to six centimeters. I was uncertain because of how it might feel and also because my mom still hadn’t arrived, so I didn’t want things to progress so quick that she wouldn’t make it. The doctor assured me that there would still be plenty of time and also that this was the best course of action so that I wouldn’t labor for hours and hours on end waiting for it to break on its own.
I consented to having her break my water and braced myself for what I was certain would be at least as painful as a cervix check. My mother in law looked it up, and they use something like a plastic crochet needle to break it. Contrary to what I believed, I didn’t feel a thing besides a warm gush, which to be honest, felt good.
A little after 8:00 AM, both of my parents arrived. My dad wanted to check on me before he went to my house to let out and feed Daisy. The nurses had helped me flip over on all fours to labor, and the pain of each contraction was significantly increasing, but I was still able to talk and even smile for a picture with my parents just before 9:00 AM, but that would be the last picture I’d smile in until my daughter was born.
Though being on all fours relieved my back pain, I began shaking during each contraction, which made it very uncomfortable to hold myself up. We tried the peanut ball between my legs as well as putting one of my legs up in the stirrup when I was laying on my side, but those positions became more uncomfortable with shaking too. Before experiencing them, I remember wondering what contractions felt like, and now that I have, I can’t quite describe them. They’re incredibly painful and horrible, but there’s nothing quite like them.
By 10:00 AM, I was in labor land, and I remember rolling to the side while my mom held my hand and telling her that I was scared. In my head, I also remember praying to God asking Him to either get me through it or kill me now and I wouldn’t be mad, which is horrible, I know, but labor is pretty horrible too. Luckily, my husband and my mother in law both prayed over us out loud as well, and I don’t know exactly what they said, but their prayers were much nicer than mine!
By 10:30 AM, I knew it was time. My mother in law ran out to tell the nurses, and then I had the absolute most painful cervix check of my entire pregnancy and labor. Sure enough, I was 10 centimeters. At 10:40, nurses began setting up all kinds of medical equipment at the foot of my bed, and I reminded myself that I so deeply wanted to give birth without any of it, exactly as I had done up to that point.
At 10:53 AM, the doctor arrived and everyone was ready. It’s true what they say about knowing it’s time and you’re ready to push — you’ll feel like you can’t go on and like you want to push and/or poop. I pushed about 28 times, two to three per contraction.
Pushing was really, really hard, and I think I did more than I really needed to because it was hard to understand what to do at first. With contractions, you want to breathe out through them, which I was really good at, but in pushing, you breathe in and out at the start of a contraction, then you breathe in and hold it while basically telling your body to poop for 10 seconds and pushing down with all you got. I was torn what to do when pushing too because it helped to close my eyes but I also didn’t want to miss seeing her once she was born. I feel like I was doing one eye closed and one eye open through most of my pushing.
The doctor also ran her fingers around my perineum while I pushed, which wasn’t too bad comparatively, perhaps because at 34 weeks, my husband gave me perineum massages for a few minutes once a week. I think I was feeling the ring of fire through my last two or three sets of pushes, but even that was nothing like those unmedicated, regular contractions at the very end right before I started pushing.
I didn’t think I wanted to reach down to feel her head, but when the doctor asked as she crowned, I did it, which was super weird because I could feel how smooshed her head was and her hair. After what felt like forever but was really 20 minutes of pushing, my daughter came into the world, completely healthy, and her proud daddy helped deliver her.
There is nothing like the pain of labor, and I definitely had immediate relief after, but I didn’t get that feeling of “so in love with my baby that I totally forgot how much birth hurt and want to do it again.” I for sure felt them sliding out her cord, which felt like a snake coming out of me, and I actually didn’t even realize when the placenta was delivered. I did have to get two internal stitches for a super minor first degree tear up inside my vagina, and I didn’t feel the numbing shot at all, but I could feel the doctor tugging as she was making the stitches. It was also pretty uncomfortable when nurses pushed on my tummy to get all of the fluid out during our hospital stay.
Almost six weeks postpartum, the only thing that still hurts is my tailbone; I guess I had what they call back labor, but I’m not entirely sure. I gave birth the way I always wanted to, but I am still in shock that I made it through.
All the nurses and the doctor asked me how I was able to do it unmedicated and remain so calm and peaceful, so I said I had it in my mind I could do it, I knew how to breathe, counter pressure on my back when they got super intense was EVERYTHING, and God. I should’ve added them to that list too; we seriously had the sweetest, most helpful nurses during our entire experience at the hospital. The day shift nurse who coached me through all of my pushing was incredible, and she made me feel so empowered and strong until the very end.
I do have to say though, as stoic as I remained on the outside (never cussed, wasn’t mean to my husband, only kind of moaned and screamed at the very, very end), I also remember that horrible prayer I prayed because those contractions seven centimeters and on were the worst thing I ever felt in my life and I was done. God absolutely answered my prayer though; He got me through it.
I am absolutely in love with my daughter, and I’ve had the best postpartum recovery. I was never on bed rest, my two stitches never bothered me, my bleeding wasn’t unbearable, and I started going on walks around the neighborhood again just 10 days after giving birth. I’m still taking ibuprofen for my sore tailbone, and I developed mastitis this week, but I’m on antibiotics and getting through it. The worst part of mastitis isn’t even the pain in my breast; the flu-like symptoms that accompany it are awful and reminding me a little too much of what I felt like at the beginning of my pregnancy.
I’m so glad I never let anyone else’s opinions of how I should give birth influence my decisions when it was happening. All women who give birth in any way are incredibly strong, and I didn’t desire and choose an unmedicated, natural birth to prove anything to anyone. I did it because I knew I was built to birth, and I wanted the best recovery possible so I could be the mother I knew my daughter would need.
Now that I have given birth, I’m more of an advocate for an unmedicated, natural birth than I ever was before, and my prayer is that my story empowers just one woman to believe in herself, trust God, and rest in the fact that she was built to birth.