"Ugh, here we go again," I thought, “more Braxton Hicks contractions.” I was sitting down to eat dinner with my three-year-old. We had just gotten home from the neighborhood wading pool, where I unabashedly stuffed my gigantic belly into a swim suit and floated on my hands and knees among all the small children in the pee-laden pool water. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions through the second half of my pregnancy, but in the last few weeks they had really picked up momentum. They had become intense, and I was certain I would have to endure them for another week, at which point my midwives would tell me my time was up and I had to schedule a c-section. I was trying for a VBAC, so I was on a much tighter time schedule. My first was born at 42 weeks and six days via beautiful c-section, after 45 grueling hours of labor. Even though I was really hoping for a VBAC, I was unconvinced it was something my body was going to do. My care providers told me, "Trust your body," and that was a really nice idea, but I was having a hard time getting there.
So there we were, Arthur and I, still in our swimsuits, eating dinner. My husband, Mike, was at work. He wasn't scheduled to work that evening, and even though it was my due date, he was also unconvinced that this baby was coming any time soon. So, he picked up an extra shift. About ten minutes into dinner, I realized the contractions were happening pretty regularly. "Huh," I thought, "maybe I should download one of those contraction-tracking apps." So I did, and I immediately realized I was having contractions that were one minute long and five minutes apart. "Hmm," I thought again, "maybe I should pay attention to this."
The contractions kept coming at regular intervals, and I took Arthur in the backyard to play with the neighbor boys. After 30 minutes it seemed like things might be getting more intense, but I was in full denial that this was actually labor. “Mommy, are you ok?” asked my sensitive, perceptive little guy. “Yeah, mommy’s ok. I just have a tummy ache.” I was sure this would pass and we would continue on with our night as usual. But I was feeling pretty uncomfortable, so I called my mother-in-law, Susie, and asked if she would come over. She got so excited and asked if she should take Arthur to her house for the night. "No," I said, "I'm sure this is nothing. Will you just come play with him for a while and help me with beditme? I'm sure this will go away." Well, in ten minutes, it most definitely was not going away, it was getting stronger. I called over the fence to the neighbors, "I think something might be happening. Can you watch Arthur until Susie gets here?" I went inside and frantically started picking up the house, and before I even realized it, I was bracing myself and breathing through contractions. Time to text the doula.
Me: Something's happening.
Nicole (one of my amazing doulas): Oh yeah?
Me: But I'm sure it's nothing.
Nicole: Do you want me to come over?
Me: No, I don't think so.
Nicole: Are you having contractions?
Me: Yeah, they're a minute long and five minutes apart.
Nicole: Well, that's something! Is Mike there?
Me: No, he's at work.
Nicole: Maybe you should have him come home.
Me: I don't think so. I'm sure it's nothing.
But, I went ahead and texted him…
Me: Hey babe, I'm feeling some intense stuff here.
Mike: Great! Ignore it.
Me: I know, right? I'm sure it's nothing.
Mike: Keep me informed. I love you!
I continued to brace myself and breathe through the contractions. "Maybe I should take this seriously," I thought. "Nah, I'll just get in the bath." But first I called Nicole. We talked through two contractions, and she said she was coming over. "You're in labor!" she announced. "You think so?" I asked. I was still unconvinced. "I'm going to take a bath," I told her, “and it will probably go away. Door’s open – come on in when you get here."
I called Mike and told him he should think about coming home. "Ok, should I keep taking tables? Or just finish out what I have?" I told him he should probably finish his tables and head home. "Do you think this is it?" he asked. "I don't know. I think so. I don't know," I said.
I sat in the bath for exactly 30 seconds and said aloud to myself, "Get me the hell out of here." I was so uncomfortable.
I think that's when I finally accepted that I was in labor. I started frantically throwing Arthur's overnight things in a bag. "He can't see me have a contraction," I thought, "he'll be so freaked out." Susie came bursting through the door then, and I shoved the overnight bag at her, and asked her to get Arthur out of there as soon as possible. She watched me have a few contractions and joked that I might have a home birth after all (which is what I had wanted with the first one). She was very concerned to leave me alone. I knew Nicole would be there soon. I couldn't get Susie and Arthur out of there fast enough. I knew I couldn't let my body do its thing until Arthur was out of my care. For months I had been in tears every time I thought about this moment - letting go of Arthur as my baby and turning my attention to a new baby. I had envisioned this would be a heartfelt moment, with prolonged hugs and kisses, as I said goodbye to my little boy who would be a big brother the next time I saw him. But there was no time for that. In between contractions I gave him a quick kiss and shoved him and his grandma out the door.
A few contractions later Nicole arrived. "Is Mike on his way home?" she asked. I wasn't even sure. Did I tell him to come right home? Things were getting so intense that I couldn't really remember or bother with my phone. Thank god for doulas. The details get a little blurry from here, as I instinctively moved to my hands and knees and started making that all-too-familiar moaning sound I had made three years earlier. I was kneeling on the floor with my head on the couch, thinking, "I can do this. I got this. I can do this for ten hours." I had prepared myself to last 12 hours; that was my max. I knew I could labor that long. Past that, I was giving myself permission to wave the white flag. I was determined not to have a repeat of the marathon labor I had with my son. I was left traumatized by that birth. Deep down, I didn't really care how this baby came out - via VBAC or via c-section. What I did care about was having a different birth than the first - one that didn't last for 45 hours. I was already one hour in. I could do this for quite a while longer. And hey, I could get an epidural at the hospital. Yep, I got this.
Thirty minutes later Mike came through the front door, saw me on hands and knees, and heard the familiar moaning, and he knew it was real. “That’s a noise you don’t really forget,” I remember him later telling the doulas when the birth was over. "Ok guys, I'm going to pee, then we need to go," I announced. This most definitely WAS happening.
On the short walk from the house to the car, things got ugly. I crawled into the backseat and turned circles like a dog trying to find a comfortable spot. This was really happening. Like REALLY happening. In the next five minutes I had five contractions. I was panicking and climbing the walls of the backseat - I was no longer in control. I let the pain come out of my mouth and screamed through each contraction. They were coming one on top of another. "I'm losing it!" I cried. "I need a fucking break! They're coming so fast!" We weren't even on the freeway yet. We still had 20 minutes in the car. "Mike, I need an epidural as soon as we get there! Ok?" "Of course, baby. Of course," he calmly reassured me. Poor guy. I’m sure the last way he felt was calm.
Nicole was following us to the hospital. Our other amazing doula, Liz, was meeting us there. Nicole was a labor and delivery nurse at Methodist at the time, and she was scheduled to work that night. Our plan was working perfectly. She was going to be my nurse that night, while Liz was going to be our doula. At our last clinic appointment, we had joked with Vida (our favorite midwife) that we would see her on Friday night, which was her on-call shift at the hospital. And here it was, Friday night. My dream team was all in order. And it was my due date. Was this really happening?
It was, and very quickly at that. Somewhere on Hwy 100, I started to feel pressure. Liz's all-knowing doula powers kicked in and she called Mike right at that moment. "Tell her to pant like a dog," she instructed. Thank god for that. I crawled and screamed and swore and panted the rest of the way to the hospital. What a ride!
Liz opened the car door and I fell into her arms. I clung to her all the way to triage, and I clamped my eyes shut, firmly telling anyone around me who could hear that I wanted an epidural. They checked me. I was already at a seven. Holy mary mother of god! "I want an epidural! I want an epidural! I want an epidural!" As I screamed and grunted my way to the delivery room, everyone reassured me the epidural was on its way. Before I got into bed, I leaned over through a contraction, and my water exploded onto the floor. Vida appeared, and I calmed down long enough to say hi to her. I asked yet again for an epidural. I got up onto the bed and she checked me. "Becca, you're at a ten. Look at me." When Vida tells you to do something, you do it. I opened my eyes for the first time since arriving at the hospital. "Becca, you're complete. You can push." WHAT?! I didn’t think those were words I’d ever hear. Those were words reserved for women who had vaginal births. Was I going to join that club?
I was in agony, but I felt amazing. And I also realized I wasn't getting an epidural. But what I didn't realize was how good it would feel to push. I mean, not good, but at least now I felt like I could do something with the pain. Pushing was hard. Really fucking hard. After 20 minutes I thought to myself, "Shit, some women push for hours. I don't think I can do this for hours." But lucky for me, Liz is a master at describing how to push. If it wasn't for her, I think I would have pushed for much longer. "Becca, push that baby across the room!" Every time Liz said that, I pushed in a different way. And every time I pushed like that, everyone who was looking at the business end of things started cheering. I guess pushing isn't just pushing - there is a specific way to push that creates a lot more progress. "I want this baby out!" I screamed. It was time. Two more hard rounds of pushing, and someone was saying, "Becca, reach down and grab your baby! You're having your baby. Open your eyes! Reach down and grab your baby!" I couldn't reach down and grab my baby – all I could do was keep pushing. A few seconds later, a warm, wet baby was placed on my tummy, and Mike paused, looked, and announced, "You have a baby ... GIRL!" Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! "Mike, I did it!” I cried. “Mike, I did it! Mike! I DID IT!"
I'll never forget that moment. Maybe one day I'll think of it without tears welling in my eyes, but not today. It was the most profound feeling of accomplishment that I've ever felt and will ever feel. And it was over. Thank god, it was over. In only four hours, our family of three was transformed into a family of four.
Everyone who knows about Arthur's birth asks me if Francesca's birth was healing. No, no it was not. I did need to heal from Arthur's birth, but I needed to do that by honoring his birth, not by replacing it. All I wanted was for this birth to be different that my first, and it couldn't have been any more different. The births of my babies are both beautiful in their own ways. Birth is such a mystery until it happens. You never know what kind of birth you will get, and I am lucky to have birthed my babies in completely different ways. I may not have yelled "I did it!" after Arthur was born, but I should have.
Francesca Felice was born on her due date, 7/7/17, and she weighed 7lb 7oz. Lying there with my new baby girl on my chest was the best feeling I think I'll ever feel. It was over. I didn't have to labor anymore. And look what I had to show for it! A baby girl! I did it. I did it. I DID IT!
Written by Becca, Assistant Manager at Blooma Minneapolis, Prenatal Yoga Teacher, and Mama of two.