Dec. 29, 2017
After a totally normal pregnancy, we were scheduled for an ultrasound at our 39 week appointment, as I had been measuring small for the last several weeks.
My husband joined me for the appointment to see our little girl on the ultrasound once more, as we waited for her arrival. The ultrasound showed that our baby was happy and healthy (and sitting very low, right on my dang bladder. Ask me how I know).
When my OB checked my cervix, I was 2cm dilated and partly effaced. I was elated. Surely, this child will be here any day now...right?
“Do you want to meet your baby tomorrow?”
My stomach did a roller coaster flip at my doctor’s words, and this time, it wasn’t the active little girl in my womb. Ben and I looked at each other, wide eyed and a bit panicky––staring down with a-now sudden clarity the fact that our lives would (very) soon change forever.
I wanted so badly to meet our daughter, but I hadn’t thought it would be that soon.
Our doctor (bless him) saw the uncertainty and nervousness in our faces, and clarified: “I wouldn’t offer an induction if I didn’t think your body would react well to it. But, in an ideal world, how would your birth go?”
“I...would go into labor on my own and labor at home.”
“Then, we’re not scheduling an induction,” he said decidedly. “It’s not necessary and if you’re not comfortable with it, it’s not worth it.”
(Side note, Having a provider you trust is of major importance and my doctor proved himself to us time and again. After my first appointment with my doctor, before I was even pregnant, my husband and I were confident that he would be the right doctor to take care of me and our future pregnancies, and this moment only solidified our confidence in our decision).
Jan. 5, 2018
A week passed but still no baby. At my 40 week appointment, on my due date, not much had changed except my willingness to consider an induction.
When I first got pregnant, I didn’t even know a birth plan was a thing you could create. I just thought the plan was simple: HAVE THE DANG BABY.
Sitting down to create my birth plan, I felt locked into making certain decisions, like no induction or epidural, because they are often raised up as the “best” way to give birth. Anything else, I had come to believe, was an emergency plan B.
Giving myself permission to make the choices I believed were best for me and my family, even in changing my “ideal birth plan,” was incredibly freeing as a new mother.
So, we scheduled an induction for Tuesday, giving us the weekend to finish preparing (and my baby a little more time to make her appearance on her own accord).
Jan. 8, 2018
I could say that the night before my induction, I was calm, cool, and collected. I was confident, I was super mom, the very picture of pregnant poise and feminine grace.
But then, I’d be a big, fat liar.
The night before the induction, I freaked out. Like panicked and hardcore, ugly cried into my husband’s shoulder. Not because I was having second thoughts about the induction or because I wasn’t excited about becoming a mom, but because I feared the uncertainty around labor.
All I really knew about L&D came from my birth class and television (which, needless to say, is not the most accurate source of information).
I didn’t know what a contraction would feel like, or what it would feel like when my water broke. And I was expecting pain...lots of pain.
This not knowing scared the living ish out of me.
I let myself cry for a bit, I chatted with two girlfriends, and my husband went out and bought me flowers. The freezer was stocked with frozen meals, the hospital bags were packed, and our alarms were set for our early morning wake up.
We were as ready as we possibly could have been to bring our baby home.
Jan. 9, 2018
That next day, we drove down the empty Birmingham streets at 4:45am toward the hospital, listening to soothing music and breathing deeply in the stillness of the usually bustling city.
Today (hopefully), we would meet our daughter. The fear from the night before was still present, but it had given way to joy and grace.
Our nurse brought us into our birth suite, our home for the next few days, and handed me a hospital gown. She then went about preparing the room and me for the __ ahead before beginning the pitocin.
The nurse wrapped the fetal heart monitor and the Tocodynometer around my tightly stretched belly to keep an eye on my daughter’s vitals and measure my contractions, and readied an IV.
After the panic last night, I felt nothing but calm waiting to begin the process. And apparently, my body recognized that I was truly (finally) relaxed and ready, because I started to feel a strange, new sensation pulling my stomach.
“You just had a contraction,” my nurse said in surprise, pointing to the monitor where there was a noticeable curve. “I haven’t even started the pitocin yet; you’re ready, sister.”
She began the pitocin, and began to feel that strange sensation come more steadily and a bit more intensely.
I hadn’t prepared for a natural-birth during my pregnancy, but knew that I didn’t want an epidural right away. I had heard epidurals could slow down labor a bit, and I didn’t want that. So I asked for a ball to labor on a bit.
As I bounced, I chatted with our nurse (light, friendly conversation and even being able to verbally process some of my emotions and feelings really helped me mental and physically relax, something necessary for your body to progress in labor).
I held the ultrasound picture from the 20-week appointment, when we named our daughter. I looked at the little button-nose so clear in the picture of my little one’s profile and reminded myself that soon, I’d be able to kiss that sweet nose.
Ben rubbed my shoulders in between contractions, and then let me grip his hand as hard as I could during them. (I was surprised how much I did not want to be touched when I was having contractions).
When my doctor arrived at the hospital for the morning, he stopped into my room.
“You ready to meet your baby?” he said, smiling widely and reassuringly.
I inhaled deeply, exhaled, and nodded firmly. I was ready.
My doctor broke my water (which was one of the strangest feelings–like a water balloon popping), and very soon, the contractions began to intensify.
“You got this, sister” my nurse would say confidently, and I fully believed her.
I really didn’t expect my nurse to play a huge support role in my labor and delivery (and my experience with the birth of my second-child was underwhelming to say the least). In fact, I didn’t think I would need (or want) someone other than my husband involved in that aspect of my labor, but her comforting and affirming words meant so much to me throughout the process.
Finally, I had had enough of the intensity of the contractions. I really didn't feel like I could do it anymore and I asked to have an epidural readied.
My biggest fear of having an epidural (and the main reason for not initially wanting one) was not being able to feel when it was time to push. The loss of control over that part of the process was not what I wanted...and thankfully, not what I experienced.
For those who choose to get them, experiences with epidurals can vastly differ, and for me, it only slightly numbed the intense pain of the contractions instead of completely eliminating it. I was still able to feel almost every sensation of the remainder of the process, while also feeling as though the pain was a bit more manageable.
(Looking back, I supposed I could have asked for more medication, but for me, it was the best of both worlds.)
So I was able to feel when it was time to push. And boy, was it TIME.
Dear reader, if you’ve never given birth and find yourself asking “How will I know when it’s time to push?” Trust me when I say, you will know.
As a first time mom, I was not prepared for the overwhelming sense of urgency that accompanies that stage of labor and delivery.
The nurses helped me get my legs in the stirrups and we got to work; and amazingly, it didn’t take long. (The nurse actually had me hold for a moment because the doctor wasn’t there yet).
At 12:33pm, I felt the exhilarating rush of my little girl entering into the world, heard her cries pierce the air, and felt her small warm body snuggle into my chest––7lbs, 9oz of the most precious human being I’ve ever seen (“Larger than I would have expected, looking at you,” my doctor said, after stitching my minor tears).
Giving birth to my little Magdalene Regina left me a completely different woman. I felt more powerful and feminine than I ever had before, and I couldn’t help but look at my body, stretch marks and all, in awe and reverence.
Cooperating with God in creating an immortal soul and bringing new life into the world through birth is an incredible, life-changing gift.