Emily – Birth Center


The weeks leading up to Jude’s birth, I told everyone I was convinced I was going to begin labor on March 19. This is because meteorologists were predicting a “supermoon” described as this:

On March 19, Earth’s satellite will be at its closest point to our planet in 18 years — a mere 356,577 kilometers away. The event — also called a lunar perigee — was dubbed a “supermoon” by astrologer Richard Nolle back in the 1970s. The term is used to describe a new or full moon at 90% or more of its closest orbit to Earth.

Next week, it will be at 100%.

Now, I do not typically believe in the pull of the moon as having the ability to create natural disasters or even send women into labor for that matter. But, my due date was on March 21 and I hoped that I could will the moon to make my waters break on that Saturday. I was ready to meet my boy.

On Thursday, March 17, I became faint at work. A clammy, dizzy feeling lead me to call my midwife for fear that my blood pressure was out of control. She immediately ordered me into the office for a blood pressure check and to monitor the baby’s heart rate. Luckily, Tim was not working that day and was able to drive me to the birth center.

Thankfully my blood pressure was within normal range, although slightly elevated. The baby’s heart rate looked good but my midwife encouraged me to stop working

and stay home. Although it is not common practice, the midwife offered to do a vaginal exam to see how far along I may (or may not) be. After debating whether or not I wanted to be checked, I opted in. I knew that despite any progress I’d made up to that point, an exam would still not tell us when our boy was coming. She checked me, which was quite uncomfortable, and announced that I was already 60% effaced and dilated to a 3. She then stated that she was the midwife on call over the weekend and that she was sure she would see us soon. T and I were ecstatic and, on our drive home, called our parents letting them know our progress.

I did not return to teaching the next day and so began my maternity leave. I spent all day Friday on the couch, reading, watching television, and sleeping. I felt wonderful. That evening, T and I took a very long walk to Whole Foods where we bought strawberries, sandwiches, and root beer (a constant favorite for me during pregnancy!). We walked to a local park where we took pictures of my belly and enjoyed each other’s company.

Lo and behold, Saturday, March 19 rolled around and I had no signs or symptoms of impending labor. I sighed but did not lose faith in that “supermoon.” I went to the grocery store to walk up and down aisles to encourage the boy to move lower in my pelvis. After returning home, I made multiple trips up the stairs bringing in heavy groceries and staying as active as possible. But, at 39 weeks 5 days, that can only last so long. Before heading to the couch for a nap, I went to the restroom. Upon standing, I felt the slightest trickle down my leg. I sat down, performed a kegel, and stood once more. Yes! Finally, my waters were breaking.

Being that Tim works nights, he was sleeping in the bedroom reversing his schedule for his upcoming shift. I gently awoke him, and told him he would have to call out that evening as I was pretty sure I was in labor. At that moment, I proceeded to burst into tears. Confused, he comforted me and asked why I was upset. I was emotional for many reasons: thrilled that meeting our baby was imminent, scared for impending labor and delivery, and nostalgic for my own childhood as this means I was really growing up. I was going to become a mother.

Much to our surprise, I did not have a single contraction for 11 hours after my water broke.

Despite my waters breaking at 12:30 on Saturday, March 19, I had no surges or any other signs of labor. We called my midwife, the same woman who had checked us that Thursday evening, and she congratulated me and told me to call her when the contractions began.

At that point, we set to work preparing. Tim did the dishes, made food, and completed the laundry. We were going to give birth at the birth center in DC and, as it is their policy, you leave the center and return home 6 hours after birth. Therefore, being that we were committed to co-sleeping, we needed our sheets to be clean for our little man!

I showered and then took a nap on the couch. At this point I was thrilled, but did not want to become overly excited, as I know adrenaline can stall labor. Napping did not work very well, but I did get a bit of rest. At this point, I called my parents and proceeded to cry once more. It was their plan to come visit us and our newborn one week later, but the excitement of the moment and the fact that I was not yet surging sent my mother into a mad dash to pack, fly across the country, and make it in time to see the birth of her first grandchild.

We called our doula, who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital, and informed her of our situation. She was headed in to work the night shift that evening, but told us to call when labor progressed and she would leave work to attend to us.

At around 6:00 pm, I was trying to enjoy a dinner of pasta that we had made. I did not have much of an appetite but I tried to eat as much as possible for energy reserve. Upon standing, my waters broke completely as they had only been trickling up to this point. Just as I had seen in the movies, I ran to the bathroom and stood in the bathtub. Tim stood there and watched in disbelief. If we weren’t sure we were in labor, at this point it was a done deal!

By 9:00 pm, and still no surges, my mother arrived and we went to pick her up. The “supermoon” that I so desperately wanted to begin my labor shone brightly as it lead us on our way to the airport. Upon returning home, Tim climbed to the roof of our building to document it.

By around 11:00 pm, we phoned our midwife to tell her that I had yet to begin contracting – in fact, I was feeling fantastically calm. No pain. No uncomfortable feelings. We were in pure bliss. She then suggested nipple stimulation to begin surges. She said if that did not work, to go to bed and get some rest. In the morning we would try castor oil if my body did not begin on its own. Not wanting to wait for castor oil, I humbly covered myself with a blanket and Tim repeatedly brought me warm washcloths to start stimulation. Within 30 minutes, my surges started to roll in, but nothing too strong and they were completely painless.

We all decided to go to bed at this point to get some rest so we were prepared for what was to come next.

Tim and I climbed into bed and he fell asleep very quickly. My mother slept on the bed we set up in the living room, and the house was silent. My surges started to become regular but far apart, so I attempted to sleep but awoke to breath through each surge. They were coming every 5 to 7 minutes and lasting anywhere from 45 seconds to a minute and a half.

Weeks before, we finished our course on Hypnobirthing. In this birth training, I learned to welcome each surge and visualize the opening of my body and the downward descent of my baby. I learned mantras that I repeated to keep calm and steady as labor progressed. I was committed to remaining patient and trusting in my body to know what to do. In retrospect, I am so thankful I had these techniques to help me birth Jude.

At around 4:00 am on Sunday, March 20, after only a little rest, I had 3 really intense surges while sitting on the toilet. At that point, I texted my doula and told her I could not do it alone anymore and I needed her to come over. She left work immediately, stopping home only to change and grab a bite to eat. I went into the bedroom, woke Tim and my mother so they could begin collecting our belongings.

Our doula arrived at 5:00 am, and talked me through a few more surges. She had me sit upon the birth ball for a while, and observed my behavior to determine how far along she suspected me to be. Knowing the birth center was about a 20-minute drive from our home, I opted to go sooner rather than later. Having surges in the car sounded less than desirable to me, so we all agreed to leave around 5:30.

Alice, our doula, drove and stopped the car in the middle of the road so I could surge silently and completely still. Tim sat in the back and held my head. Thankfully, it was in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, so the streets were almost completely empty – a rare sight in our bustling city.

Upon arriving at the birth center, we were greeted by 2 midwives and a student midwife. I was taken back to the exam room where I was checked to see how much progress I had made overnight. The surges started to come in stronger at this point, and the exam would stimulate another. I had progressed to 5 cm dilated and about 75% effaced. I was excited about this progress and was ready to jump in the birthing tub, but the midwives wanted me to walk around for at least an hour. I was frustrated at hearing this and all but told them.

So we walked. My mother, Tim, Alice and I walked the halls of the birth center. With each contraction, I reached for Tim, held on to his shoulders, and swayed gently.

The midwives were wonderful and left us alone. With each contraction, I tried to breath calmly and continue my visualizations of opening and progressing.

About an hour later at 8:00 am, I was anxious to be checked again and allowed to go to the birthing room and climb in the tub. I desperately wanted the calmness of the water I had heard so much about. As we headed back to the exam room, I leaned over the birthing ball for support to make it through a powerful surge. I turned around to see the smiling faces of my doula and the midwives. Quite confused, I asked for clarification. They told my behavior was a great sign that labor was progressing and that I was in transition.

My midwife checked me and confirmed that I was now at 7 cm and 90% effaced. I was allowed to go back to the room and get in the birthing tub. I was thrilled! While I waited for the tub to be filled, the baby’s heart rate was monitored on the Doppler and approved. I sat on the birth ball for a while longer and then climbed into the tub with Tim.

At this point, my memory becomes foggy as I was thrown into the throes of labor. I chanted in my mind my mantras, I visualized my baby, and I slept through every break between surges. I changed positions from the tub, to the birthing ball, to the bed and back again. I held eye contact with T through each surge and I breathed with the breaths of my doula. I did not want to be moved or to speak during a contraction so I sat as still and as calm as I possible. Tim said that I was stoic throughout my entire labor – almost having a silent birth. I attribute this to my ability to focus and rest as taught by Hypnobirthing. Even as my breathing would panic on the upswing of a surge, I was able to calm down once more with the help of Tim’s encouragement and Alice’s guidance.

At around 12:45 pm, I was mentally finished with labor. I demanded my midwife check me, and she confirmed that I was dilated to a 10 and 100% effaced. While not having the strong urge to push, she invited me to try a few to see if anything would happen. Pretty quickly, Jude’s head moved down the birth canal and everyone in the room happily acknowledged seeing little bits of hair.

Pushing was a struggle for me, but I managed to push 3 times for every contraction. As I completed each J push, I chanted to myself that I was pushing for my J – a Jude push. I pushed for some time and was exhausted when my midwife suggested watching through a mirror the progress I was making with each push. During the next surge, I kept my eyes open and breathed down. I saw Jude’s head move down, and was frustrated to watch it go back at the end of the surge. Two steps forward, one step back. However, just seeing his head was enough motivation to give it my all so I could meet my son.

Moments later, he was here. I had a son. His name is Jude.

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