I love hearing birth stories, and since I photograph and share them and other really intimate times in people’s lives I feel like I should challenge myself to share with the Internet Mae’s entrance to the world. So here goes!
It started with an exciting visit to my midwife on Thursday evening when we found out I was about 3 or 4 cm dilated and 70% effaced. Steve and I celebrated this by taking a brisk walk up the avenue to see if I could get things moving a little bit more! We ran into friends on the street who encouraged us and suggested eating a Schmitter from McNally’s Tavern since that’s what helped send her into labor! No such luck for us though, and we went to bed that night feeling like it could happen any second.
I woke up Friday morning feeling totally normal (at least pregnant normal), which means I woke up feeling groggy and sore. Totally normal. I decided to do Suzanne Bowen’s Long & Lean Prenatal Workout DVD in an attempt to keep things moving. The early morning “workout” exhausted me so I went back to bed to try and sleep for another hour or so. Three hours later I woke up feeling really refreshed and very hungry so my dog, Chase, and I strolled (waddled) down to Baker Street to grab a fresh bagel and chocolate croissant.
After breakfast, my sister stopped by and I helped her assemble some marketing materials for her dog-walking business and then we dropped a few leaflets off in a neighborhood nearby. I started having some contractions while I was driving home so I decided I should probably get back in bed and rest as much as possible.
I woke up around 6pm that evening just as Steve was coming home from work and started feeling some definite, steady contractions. We started timing them using an App on his phone and in a weird way I felt so relieved every time another one started since it was reassurance that I wasn’t imagining this and labor was really happening! Around 8pm my parents stopped by to drop off some Gatorade and for about 30 minutes the contractions slowed down and weren’t nearly as intense as they had been, which frustrated me big time. Steve and I decided to get back in bed and watch Scandal to get our minds off what may or may not be happening. About five minutes into the show though, I had a major contraction that took all of my attention. Things were happening again!
They kept coming every 4 or 5 minutes but only lasted about 30-45 seconds. Time drifted by pretty quickly and in the minutes in between the contractions I *almost* had a runner’s high because it felt so good not to be in the middle of a contraction, but then the anxiety of the next one would set in and then sure enough it would come like a tidal wave.
My mom has always said that labor isn’t painful, it’s “hard work”. I never really believed her, but she was right about this part (sort of). I found it to be more mental than physical. As soon as you start thinking about how long you’re going to have to do this or how much more intense it’s going to get …. that’s when you feel so overwhelmed and the pain gets so much bigger. I found that focusing on simply getting through one contraction at a time made the labor part totally manageable for me. It was a really intense experience but one that made me feel completely present.
Around 10pm we decided to call our doula since things were definitely progressing. I briefly tried taking a bath to see if that slowed things down, and had two of the most painful contractions in the tub. I got back in bed and felt so much better. This was something about this labor that really surprised me. I always thought I’d labor by walking and moving around, doing cat/cow yoga poses, etc. The only thing I could do to make the contractions tolerable was lay in bed as relaxed as possible.
I don’t know what time it was, but eventually I remember being on the phone with my midwife so she could hear me having a contraction. I handed the phone back to Steve afterwards and he happily reported back that she said it was time to go to the hospital. This was a wonderful feeling since I knew she wouldn’t let me go if it was too early and that laboring at home for as long as possible was ideal for me.
Around midnight we started the 20 minute car ride to Einstein Medical Montgomery and the bumpy ride felt like one long, continuous contraction. Not fun! I couldn’t get comfortable and started getting a little scared. Steve was driving like a maniac. God bless him.
We had to enter the hospital through the ER because it was after hours so Steve rolled up to the door and I scurried to the check-in desk in between the tidal waves. I had three mother-of-all-contractions in the wheel chair on the way up to labor and delivery and got pretty terrified when the ER people were telling me not to push. I was like, what?! You think I would try pushing right now?!
Three beautiful nurses were waiting for us when we got up there and started getting me as settled as possible while the contractions kept coming longer and much, much stronger. Ronni, my midwife, checked me and I was NINE CENTIMETERS! Hallelujah! Except my Mom wasn’t there yet and everything was happening TOO FAST and I was feeling really scared now.
Ronni broke my bag of water, and at some point my Mom arrived, thank God. I remember tearing off my hospital gown, having two more crazy-primal contractions and then it being time to push already. Steve was hanging out up by my head, not passing out, so I was thrilled about that. Pushing was the worst part, for me. It was so much different than I anticipated. I thought it’d be so much easier. It was horrifying! But still, I only pushed for 20 minutes thank goodness and my Mom caught the baby and placed my Mae Magnolia right on my chest. Steve and I looked at each other and everything was so WONDERFUL!!! Mae was born at 1:14am, about an hour after we arrived at the hospital! 7 pounds, 11 ounces and 19.5 inches long.
In a nutshell, labor/pushing/having a baby is the most intense pain and intense joy that you can possibly feel all rolled up into one really intense experience. I highly recommend it! Giving birth wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. For this birth at least, the hippies were right, your body just knows what to do.
Special thanks to my “birth team”:
Steve (Way to keep it together, babe. I love you so much.)
My Mom (I can’t wait to explain to Mae that her Mamie caught her and cut the cord.)
Ronni Rothman, Woman’s Wise Midwifery
Nikki Graham, Well Born Baby