We’re going on six weeks now since baby Noah’s birth. I had every intention of sharing our story sooner, but we’re on baby time. :)
His birth story is one that I replay over and over in my mind because it still seems like a dream - an intense and exhilarating and miraculous dream. Fair warning: it’s a
, detailed story, more like a novel (that I want to remember every single moment of), so read on at your own discretion.
Baby Noah's birth day story...
My last day of work was on Thursday. I had planned on working right up until my due date, but my doctor convinced me that I should take at least a week of time to myself. I was convinced that baby boy would come late (average gestation time is 41 weeks and 1 day for baby #1), so I figured I’d have at least a week of nesting time. Friday morning, I had what turned out to be my last prenatal visit. My OB told me that my cervix was ripe and that baby boy’s head was really low, but that I wasn’t dilated yet. She told us that she and her husband were heading to Hawaii that weekend for a wedding, but not to worry because I still had plenty of time.
Saturday, the day I turned 39 weeks (full term), Dave made a nice big dinner with a ton of protein, which we ate outside on our balcony. We joked later that that big hunk of chicken I ate was just what baby boy needed to get his trip down the birth canal started. Dave still had his bet against me that Noah would come on September 7 (Grandparents’ day), and I said, maybe, but then my labor would probably have to start tonight.
I slept fitfully that night, waking up what seemed like every half an hour to go pee. Early in the morning, I stopped trying to sleep because I started getting these low and painful cramps. I had read that sometimes labor pains feel like menstrual cramping, but I had period cramps so infrequently that I didn’t even know what those felt like really. Finally, at 4:30 am, I looked at the clock and woke Dave up to tell him what I was feeling. “Those sound like gas pains,” he told me, “I’ve been having those too — must have been something we ate last night."
Around 7:30 am, I texted Erica, my good friend from college was going to be our doula and who also happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at UCLA. At this point, I was timing my cramps, and I told her that I was experiencing pretty regular and painful “surges.” I was trying to sleep, but couldn’t because they were painful. I still wasn’t convinced that I was having contractions because I couldn’t see or feel my abdomen tightening at all (the visible abdominal tightening didn’t happen for me until
I gave birth). Erica reminded me to go about my day as normal. I had thought that when labor started my contractions would be mild enough for me to go on a walk outside, run some last minute errands, or do some baking, but when they happened, I couldn’t imagine actually
My “surges” continued pretty regularly throughout the morning, I ate breakfast and tried to nap when my contractions stopped for a little while, but when the contractions started back up again, having them laying down was too painful. Dave was watching the creepy show on Netflix starring Gillian Anderson in bed, and I was standing at the side of the bed, dancing and bouncing my way through contractions. Rhythmic motion was the best way of coping with the pain for me. I snacked on some eggs and mashed potatoes, read some inspiring natural birth stories (
), and watched TV with Dave in the living room. We had plans to go to the 6 pm service at Saddleback that night and dinner afterwards with friends, but around 2 pm, I told Dave to cancel because I couldn’t imagine myself dancing and bouncing myself through church and dinner. I didn’t even want to change out of my pajamas.
I wrote down: “It’s now 6:17 pm, and I have no idea how far I’ve ‘progressed.’ I think that my contractions are pretty regular, even regular enough to go the hospital, but they’re still manageable for me, and I don’t want to go to the hospital until I just can’t take it anymore. It feels so good to be on the balance ball, moving my hips around. I have goosebumps, but I get warm when I’m going through a contraction. And yet, my belly isn’t tightening at all. The contractions have been painful from the very beginning, but now they are more frequent. I have no idea if my bag of waters is leaking, but my mucus plug has come out in a few different surges of mucus. My biggest fear is that I’ll get to the hospital and that they’ll check on me and I’ll only be a couple centimeters dilated when I feel like I should be almost in the transition period. I feel ok right now, calm and so happy to be on my ball. I hope that I can rest for a little bit. I’m planning on drinking a glass of wine and then trying to sleep for a little while in the glider."
I knew that I should be eating light, easily digestible food for energy so around 6:30 pm, Dave went to Corner Bakery and brought home chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle soup had never tasted better! I savored every spoonful while sitting on my ball and watching the creepy murder show. I sat on that ball, big fuzzy blanket wrapped around my shoulders because I was cold and clammy, with Winston curled up on the end of it for the next few contractions. I had been handling them on my own, occasionally telling Dave, “wow, that one really hurt!,” but at that point I laid my head in his lap and asked him to rub my back. Another contraction was starting when at 8:05 pm, my water broke in a big gush as I was sitting on the birthing ball. Honestly, I thought I just had an uncontrolled bowel movement and was surprised when I saw the clear fluid. We knew it was time to go. At that point, I had been having contractions for over 15 hours.
We rushed around the house. I hadn’t packed my toiletries or snacks yet because I thought we would still have some time. Dave pretty much swept everything on the bathroom counter into a bag and ran downstairs to load up everything in the car. I remember actually contemplating whether we had enough time to walk Winston, but Dave insisted that he would be fine and that we should go. I called my parents, who came to the house that night to take care of him and texted Erica, who told us that she was on her way.
One of my favorite moments of being in labor was, surprisingly enough, the car ride on the way to the hospital. I thought it would be awful — jerky driving compounded with painful contractions, but it was nothing like that for me. I had a painful, stop-in-your-tracks contraction on the walk to the car, but as soon as I got in the car, I felt so much excitement. It didn’t really hit me that I was in active labor until my water broke, and until the car ride. I have never felt more relaxed and at peace than during that time in the car. As we pulled out, the sky was lit up by moonlight, everything was quiet, and time felt like it had slowed down. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital, and I wished that it lasted longer. I wanted to enjoy, as much as possible, every moment of my labor because I knew I would never again have this exact experience. The mindfulness practices I had been doing were absolutely instrumental in bringing me back to the present moment. I kept telling Dave, “I can’t believe this is really happening. I’m so excited!” The freeway was empty and the buildings lit up, and I felt so serene. We were going to meet our baby!
We arrived at the hospital, parked, and I had to stop a few times on the walk to triage. We checked in at the desk, and I had another contraction as I was filling out paperwork. I remember thinking, seriously, this paperwork! I’m in labor, people! Dave told me later that he overheard one of the nurses say, as we were walking to our triage room, “She’s probably not even 4 centimeters.” Good thing I didn’t hear that!
We waited in the triage room, and I kept on my own clothes, mostly because we couldn’t figure out the snaps on the hospital gown. The nurse checked me and told me that I was almost 6 cm dilated. Music to my ears! The nurse asked us about our birth plan, which I had printed and which was still sitting in the car, so Dave just told her that we wanted a natural birth, no epidural and minimal interventions. She told us that the doctor on duty might recommend Pitocin, but I could refuse it. She also told us that she would ask if I could have a hep lock and intermittent monitoring. She left the room and came back with the bad news (what it felt like to me), that because I was in active labor (and because the nurse herself was “worried”), the my OB’s partner was requiring continuous fetal monitoring. I was bummed because I knew that meant that my movement would be constricted, but I trusted that despite whatever the monitor was picking up, my baby boy was doing just fine. We asked about the telemetry devices we had heard about on the hospital tour, and she told us they were being repaired. Go figure.
The nurse hooked me up to an IV bag for dehydration. I had been drinking water and coconut water all day and didn’t think I was dehydrated, but I didn’t fight it. I had to lie down in the hospital bed so that the monitoring belts wouldn’t fall off, which was the worst position for me. I wanted to be moving! But then Erica arrived, and she and Dave rubbed my legs and reminded me to take deep, slow breaths. I was so soothed by David’s presence and Erica’s amazingly calming voice. I told Dave earlier in the day that my code word for an epidural would be “McDonalds’ (it’s not healthy, but it’s better than nothing when you’re starving!), but I felt so relaxed, supported, and focused, that it didn’t even cross my mind to ask for one. I didn’t play the “birthing mix” on my iPhone like I had planned, but the whole time, I kept thinking back on one of the meditations in particular that reminded me to welcome strong surges because they were bringing me closer to my baby and to smile after each contraction and enjoy the time of rest. Enjoying the rest between contractions was so key for me! And so was realizing that the peak of pain was actually only a few seconds long at a time. Dave can tell you that I was
in between contractions (thank you, endorphins!). Erica reminded me to enjoy the process, and I actually did!
At one point, I told the nurse that I had to pee, so I was unhooked from the machine (amazing!), and I labored on the toilet. Things were really getting intense at this point, and being reminded to breathe was so helpful. I had to get back into bed and back onto the machine, but I was so desperate to be moving, that for one contraction, I got on my hands and knees on the hospital bed. When I laid back down, I noticed that my legs were shaking. I looked at the clock, and it was after 10 pm. After two back-to-back contractions, I was wondering when I would get a break and whether I was in the transition period yet. I remember asking how long I would stay in triage (because the birthing balls and showers were in the labor and delivery rooms) and when my baby would come. I was so relieved when the Labor and Delivery nurse finally came to escort us to our room. I walked, bounced, and swayed down that hallway, so thankful that I would finally have access to a birthing ball.
Well, we got the birthing ball, but the nurse basically told us I couldn’t use it because the movement would cause the monitoring belt to fall off. The rocker was on the other side of the room and couldn’t be moved, so that was off limits too. She said that we could get internal fetal monitoring instead, but I declined. At this point, my contractions were so strong that I felt the urge to bear down, but I was only 7 cm. To keep my cervix from swelling, the nurse said that I had to resist the urge to push. I desperately wanted to go in the shower, so Erica talked to the nurse and got me the OK to be in the shower for 10 minutes. Gosh, those 10 minutes in that hot shower were bliss! Dave put on his swim trunks and got in with me and was rubbing my back in circular motions. The rests in between contractions felt like heaven, but the contractions themselves were getting more and more intense. Erica had me “blowing out candles” — I was gripping her hand and blowing out candles like my life depended on it.
When I got out of the shower, Erica asked if I wanted anything from the hospital bag that I put so much thought into. I had looked forward to the ice chips and popsicles that our OB had promised me during labor. But everything else seemed like a distraction, and I didn’t even want to put on a new shirt, so I spent the rest of my labor naked (tmi?). I stood by the machine, bouncing up and down during contractions while Dave held the monitoring belt to my belly. I needed to be holding (gripping) Erica’s hand. I was so focused on her face as she would blow with me, that I felt like my eyes were popping out of my head. David confirmed later that yes, my eyes were bulging. The contractions weren’t “painful” anymore, but they were INTENSE. It felt like my body was possessed, and it took everything in me to fight the urge to bear down and to blow out instead. I kept saying to Erica, “I feel like I’m pooping!” and she would reply, “yes, that’s your baby!” It was reassuring to me to have someone acknowledging what I was feeling and also reminding me to relax my face and breathe down to my baby. In between contractions, I draped my arms around Dave’s neck and let my body go limp. He held me up with one arm and kept his other hand on the monitoring belt. He would kiss me, and I felt so much love and peace in those moments. The pressure started to build up even more, and it was getting harder and harder to fight the urge to push, so Erica asked the nurse to check me again. I got into the hospital bed and was so focused on relaxing that I didn’t hear the nurse say that I was 10 cm at first. She repeated, “You’re fully dilated. You can push!” As she left the room to get the doctor, I had a powerful contraction. There wasn’t enough time to get out of the bed, so I turned onto my side, and let it take over my body. That’s when Erica said, “Feel your baby’s head! That’s your baby!” I couldn’t believe his little (actually, not so little it turns out — the nurse told me later that they normally see that sized head with C-sections… a couple centimeters less would have been more “vagina-friendly") head was getting ready to come out. All I could say was, “Really?” I had a rush of energy feeling his velvety baby hair. The nurse came back in, and things got a little fuzzy for me at that point, but I think that Erica told her that the baby’s head was coming out. The nurse told me to close my legs and stop pushing before she rushed out of the room.
Thankfully, right before the next contraction hit, the laborist on duty, Dr. White, came in. I heard the nurse ask him if he wanted my legs in the stirrups, but he said I was fine on my side. I was so relieved because I did not want to push on my back. He was wonderful and put me right at ease. The next few moments happened so quickly. I felt a brief moment of burning, which I don’t remember if I vocalized or if I just thought it. I knew then that I was tearing or going to tear, but I couldn’t slow down the contraction. I groaned, and then baby boy’s head was out. I didn’t realize it at first — all I knew was that I felt a little bit of relief and that there was more excitement in the room. Dave saw the little guy, with just his head sticking out, open his eyes. The doctor then told me to give him a “small push,” and I was thinking, a small push?! These contractions have a mind of their own! At the next contraction, the rest of his body slid out, and then he was on my chest. It was incredible. In those few minutes, my baby boy was born. I couldn’t believe that I was holding my precious baby. This warm, squinty-eyed, gummy creature screaming his lungs out was mine. His cries were so strong and so loud, but I didn’t want them to stop. It was 11:45 pm.
Sometime in the next minutes, he started nursing. It was a blur of picture-taking and sutures (for my second-degree tear) and nurses coming in and out to get things cleaned up and to check out baby Noah’s dimples ;). My OB’s partner finally arrived as I was getting sutured — so thankfully Dr. White, was there to deliver him! Baby boy was not going to wait. At some point Dr. White asked if this was our third baby, and we said, no, he’s our first! I’m totally convinced that all the protein I ate throughout my pregnancy made for a strong baby boy who really helped his momma out during labor! We didn’t even have to ask for delayed cord clamping because Dr. White asked us if we wanted to wait, which we did. A few minutes later, before I delivered the placenta, Dave cut the umbilical cord. I lost track of time, and for some moments after the birth, my legs were still shaking, and I was generally pretty uncomfortable. As the room quieted down, the amazement and elation really sunk in.
We moved into the recovery room. I downed the turkey sandwich and cranberry spritzer that they gave me (all that work in labor makes you hungry!), and Dave headed to the cafeteria for some food (thankfully, the cafeteria stays open until 3 am). I knew that David was exhausted, but all I wanted to do was talk about our beautiful baby and his amazing birth — It was the ultimate high! The next few days were especially exhausting, but I was exhilarated. All I could feel was pure joy. I feel so lucky, and so incredibly grateful that our birth story unfolded the way it did. If I could relive the experience of baby Noah’s birth all over again, I absolutely would, every single moment of it.