We were ready (I use that term loosely because, as it turns out, everyone is correct in saying that you are NEVER really ready to have children). We “pulled the goalie” and as much as I wanted to be casual about the whole thing, obsession took over. It took 8 long months from the moment I stopped taking birth control to get pregnant. It was a nerve wracking time and, like many women, I feared something was wrong. My obsession with ovulation, periods and all things reproduction related started around month three and I began to research extensively how the process worked. I know far too much about the processes and amazingly, when I finally did get pregnant I was still shocked. All of the talking, planning, researching I had done STILL didn’t prepare me for the real life moment of seeing those two, little, pink lines.
Anyway, those two lines gave me permission to finally dive into researching the brand new world of pregnancy. I went way beyond the “your baby is the size of a (insert fruit/vegetable here)” app and started digging into how I wanted to deliver, what I should expect during every phase of pregnancy, how much exercise I should be doing… every waking moment, it seemed, was spent looking up answers to questions I had. I had known for a long time that I wanted to have a natural, vaginal birth and that I would love to have help with that from a doula. But, a friend of mine went through a midwife for the birth of her son and after talking with her, I decided that was the route that I wanted to take. I just needed to get Jesse on board. After breaking down many of the fears he had about birthing out of the hospital and touring a birthing center, we both agreed that this is what we wanted and off we went to our first appointment.
Our midwives were amazing (Linda and Ruth from Special Delivery Midwifery). They took time to get to know me and Jesse and our baby, personally. We never felt like just another patient in a sea of patients, but felt like they truly cared about us and what we wanted. Along with normal procedures (measuring belly, taking blood, etc.), both ladies squashed fears, answered questions ad nauseam, and allowed appointments to take as long as needed. It was very comforting.
Now, during my research I had discovered that the 40 week deadline was really just an average and that MANY women actually go longer than that. I also knew that my mom had gone past her due date with both my sister and so I tried to prepare myself, mentally, for the long haul. I was only slightly successful. As a teacher and a control freak, the convenience of making it to spring break seemed perfect. I could get my lesson plans and copies ready in advance, and wouldn’t have to worry about the “oh my gosh! Is this it?” moment happening during school or in the middle of the week. But, at 41 weeks, I was beginning to lose my cool. I grew very tired of people asking, “how long will your midwife let you go?” or “isn’t it dangerous to leave them in so long?” or “why not get induced?” Plus, I wanted to hold my baby. I wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. I wanted to know if they had hair or were bald. I wanted to know if they were red headed. I wanted to know if baby was big or little. Not to mention the actual anticipation of labor and all it might bring.
So spring break had finally arrived; I said goodbye to my kids knowing that the next time I saw them I would be a mom. And then, I waited. And waited. And WAITED. In my mental preparations I had not considered how much my job distracted me from every slight movement, bump, or contraction. Not having anything to do but wait was MISERABLE! And then, Monday, when there was no sign of labor and Jesse left for work I about lost my mind. The house was clean: laundry was done (except what was actually on our bodies), the floors sparkled (I had cleaned them on my hands and knees over the weekend), the windows were spotless, the sheets on the beds were fresh, the birthing tub was at temperature (just waiting for an occupant), the dogs were walked, the dog sitters were on call, there was NOTHING left for me to do. It was at this point that I began to obsess over every movement within my belly… was this it? No. How about now?! No. (I’ll spare the gruesome details, but things like mucus plug and bowel movements became my new obsession… ew.)
After one day of this, I finally decided I needed a project, a distraction. Tuesday morning, St. Patrick’s Day, I woke up and decided to finally tackle the paintings Jesse’s mom had commissioned me to do. I went to Hobby Lobby and wandered around for a while collecting painting supplies and purchasing canvases. I went home, made lunch, ate, and then started my work preparing my painting space and getting the canvases ready. After one coat of base color, I decided to lie down while it dried. It was at this point that I realized that the tightenings I had been having all day weren’t going away during my rest. But, I had been over analyzing everything so I convinced myself this wasn’t it and proceeded to ignore them as best I could. I napped and waited for Jesse to get home. When he got there there, we fed the pups and then loaded all four of them into the car to take them to the dog park to get out some energy, as per our usual routine. On the way to the park, Jesse kept looking at me funny. Then, he interrupted me and asked if I was in labor. I said, “no, don’t be silly” and continued whatever it was I was talking about. A few minutes later he interrupted again, asking me if I was sure. I replied with a snippy “YES!” and then asked, “why do you keep asking me?!” It was then that he explained that I kept pausing, mid-sentence. It was at that moment that I knew I was in early labor.
We knew it would be a while so we walked around the dog park and played with the pups. Contractions were still 8 minutes or more apart and were, by no means, unbearable so we knew we had plenty of time. On the way back home, we called his mom and worked out our plan for dropping off two of the dogs for her to take care of since we didn’t want all 4 at home during the birth. When we got home, I cleaned up the painting mess I had made while Jesse took the heelers to his mom’s house. I don’t recall eating dinner, I think we were too excited. And then we settled onto the couch to relax a bit before things really got going (neither of us watched the show we had turned on and neither of us got any rest. HA!). Around 9:00pm we finally admitted that this was the real deal and made the call to the midwife on call, Linda, – “This was it!!!” She told us to keep timing contractions and to call her again when they were 5 minutes apart.
As the contractions gained in strength and intensity, we turned off the lights throughout the house, got the nursery (where the birthing tub was) ready with the camera and tea lights, turned on some relaxing music and began to dance and sway. Jesse held me when I was having contractions and made sure to watch the time so they wouldn’t catch me off guard. He would warn me when another was coming and reminded me to stay loose and relax during them. I kept my eyes closed through most of this early labor and attempted to let me body do what it needed to do. At some point, Jesse called Linda and reported, and at about 11pm she showed up. I was nervous for her to check me; I just knew I’d only be at a 3 or something and I worried that she’d think we jumped the gun. Luckily, however, I was already at a 6 with a “bulging bag” but, sadly, it wasn’t time for the tub as labor can stall-out due to the relaxation the water can provide.
She went to the guest room to rest and to give us our privacy. Again, Jesse and I swayed and slow danced through the contractions. I very much loved my early labor; there was a closeness that I felt with Jesse and even though we weren’t talking, there was a silent communication between us. Eventually, it was too difficult to stand through the contractions, so I knelt in front of the sofa and laid my head in Jesse’s lap, allowing my hips to move back and forth and focusing on staying loose and relaxed, especially at the height of the contraction. While a lot of this time is fuzzy, I remember very clearly focusing on my hands and fingers. If I could keep my hands relaxed it helped keep my whole body that way. So I breathed slowly and focused on my hands and fingers.
Linda came in again, I have no idea how much time was passing between her visits, but she would get the baby’s heart rate, inform us to carry on, and then disappear again to allow Jesse and I to labor the way we wanted. She trusted my body which allowed me to do the same.
I was beginning to shiver uncontrollably, and felt the urge to moan gutturally with each contraction, knowing that I needed to keep it deep for it to be productive (screaming and crying would get me nowhere). Eventually it felt better to be on my hands and knees to keep rocking, forward and backward as well as side to side. Continuous movement helped make the waves bearable. Jesse stroked my back and silently kept time; by this point, the contractions were rhythmic and closer together, he didn’t need to tell me when they were coming. The next time Linda came in, she decided to check my progress (apparently, uncontrollable shivering is a sign of transition). I was at a 9 and it was time for the tub.
As soon as my ankles hit the water the intensity of the contractions seemed to melt away. I was able to drape my upper body over the lip of the tub and allow my belly, back, and legs to feel weightless. Again, I moved, swayed, groaned deeply, and focused on my hands. Linda, at this point, was getting baby’s heart rate more frequently, though I don’t recall just how often and I had no clue what time it was. I was very comfortable (well, as much as one can be considering the circumstances) and, even though the contractions seemed to be back to back, the water helped relax me entirely during the small time in between. This is when I retreated completely into myself- no longer aware of other people in the room.
Linda, at one point, struggled to get the baby’s heart rate due to my position in the water, so she requested that I get out so she could find the baby. She kept finding my heart rate (considerably slower than the baby’s should be), so, to be on the safe side she requested that I move to the guest bed, lie on my left side, and put on the oxygen mask. Very quickly, she found baby and all was well but she didn’t want me to get back in the water, just in case. I found out afterward that all this was very stressful and anxiety producing for Jesse, but at the time I was in “the zone” and would like to think that instinctively was not worried; everything was fine.
I was too “in the moment” to care that my dreams of a water birth were dashed because the next thing I recall was being asked if I felt like pushing (it was 7:00am and I remember thinking I would be holding my baby so soon! HA, yeah right). Looking back, I realize that the fact that she had to ask me if I was ready to push was a clear sign that I was NOT, but, I didn’t know so I tried a few pushes. I was still lying on the bed on my side and I could tell that my pushes weren’t effective. Impulsively, I got up and went to sit on the toilet, much, I’m sure, to Jesse’s dismay (he did not want our baby born in the toilet, understandably). It was a lot easier to hunch over to push during contractions from my position on the there and occasionally I could feel the baby’s head move down, but I still wasn’t able to push effectively continuously and could tell I was only wearing myself out. I was beginning to feel discouraged and tired. A full night of laboring was wearing on me.
Linda summoned me back to the bed and checked me. My premature pushing had created a lip on my cervix that was preventing the baby’s decent and she offered to break my waters to help move things along. As she prepared the bed and got the tiny hooked glove on her hand, she warned me that things would move quickly once this happened and things would be a lot more intense. I felt the gush, and learned that there was meconium present. I didn’t really care what that meant (I figured the midwives would let me know if I needed to be concerned); I was ready for baby to be out and was having to focus really hard not to scream with each contraction- and instead moan.
My eyes remained closed; I was still focusing on keeping my hands relaxed and my mouth loose, but now I tried to bear down grabbing my own leg for leverage. It was useless… I wasn’t able to push and I was beginning to think I was going to be stuck in this torture forever. Linda advised me to breathe through 3 contractions. As the next contraction ramped up, I suddenly realized that the pushing was the only thing that was making that intensity tolerable. NOT pushing was sheer hell. I would like to be able to report that I handled this pain effortlessly and with some dignity. That, however is NOT the case. I uttered the longest, loudest “Ffffffffuuuuuuccccccccckkkkkk” I believe the world has ever heard and it was at this point that I could no longer stand being on my side, let alone laying down at all; I wanted to crawl up the wall- go anywhere but where I was and do anything but what I was doing. I turned to face the headboard on my knees and tried to prepare for another wave of pain. As it approached, I looked into Jesse’s eyes and he stroked my hand and reassured me silently. I think he knew that there was absolutely NOTHING he could say that would make what was about to happen any easier. I survived the second wave and in the calm before the storm of the third contraction I promised myself I would exhale slowly and stay calm through it. With eyes locked on my husband’s, that is exactly what I was able to do, but I knew I was done laboring laying down. I asked for the birthing chair and squatted on the floor next to the bed while someone retrieved it.
As I sat on the u-shaped contraption, I was so thankful! It had hand holds which allowed me to pull forward with each contraction, keeping my spine in the c-shape I had read about. I was able to use my upper body strength to help pull forward and push efficiently. With the first contraction I felt baby’s head move down. With the second, it moved even more. On the third, I felt the infamous “ring of fire” I had read so much about and it was in this moment that I decided that I wasn’t going to do it. I was not going to have a baby any more. I was just going to let it stay inside because surely that was a better alternative than what I knew was about to happen. I didn’t want to feel that pain and was so afraid of the next contraction. My body naturally began to push, but I didn’t put my whole strength into it out of fear. I believe I started crying and I believe people in the room started coaching me and saying a bunch of stuff to try and get me motivated, but I’m pretty stubborn and chose to ignore them.
After another half-assed push, all the while feeling the burn, I recognized that leaving the baby inside wasn’t actually an option. So, as the saying goes: when you’re going through hell, keep going – I decided to give it my all. The next wave ramped up. I put my chin on my chest, grabbed the handles with all the strength left in my body, pulled forward, gritted my teeth, groaned from deep within, and pushed. With a gush, the whole baby, head, shoulders, bottom and all fell into the waiting hands of the widwife. At 10:37, after 3 hours of pushing, our baby was here.
We had planned to have Jesse catch and announce gender, but as I snapped out of my internal focus I was able to comprehend that Jesse had been behind me, supporting me, rubbing my back, and silently giving me strength. I could hear him crying and petting me, telling me how proud and amazed he was. This was only the second time in our relationship I had ever seen him cry and the power of the moment hit me- we were parents.
Jesse, quickly moved around to my front to hold our baby and announce the sex. Our little BOY was perfect! Ten beautiful fingers, ten beautiful toes, two beautiful eyes, and a head full of beautiful, dark hair. I was exhausted, exhilarated, proud, overwhelmed, and probably a little in shock. Jesse, had started rolling through our short list of boy names and kept saying “he isn’t any of these names, baby!” (we had narrowed it down to three possible names, but apparently, Jesse wasn’t feeling any of them as he gazed lovingly at the child I was holding) I was still in a stupor and explained to Jesse that I didn’t care what we named him (which is not exactly true, but I was tired and not thinking clearly). I explained that I trusted him to pick a good one as long as the middle name was Orion (the same as his daddy) and I promised I wouldn’t be mad at whatever he picked.
While Jesse struggled with the name situation, I stayed on the birthing chair to deliver the placenta which came very quickly after the baby. I remember giving Linda a “do what?!?!” look when she suggested that I push one more time. I was DONE pushing. She changed her wording to “cough” and that seemed like something I could manage. While she looked it over to make sure it was intact, the student midwife, who I only vaguely recall entering the scene, helped me get situated on the bed so I could nurse the baby.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the little boy in my arms. There is no other moment to which this could possibly compare. It was awe and amazement… laced with a touch of fear (what I now know is “a mother’s worry”). I waited my whole life to be a mom and the moment that I dreamed of was here… my boy was in my arms. In my exhausted, sleep deprived state I was only vaguely aware of the midwife pressing on my stomach encouraging my uterus to contract. I was only vaguely aware of the midwife announcing that I would only need two stitches. I was only vaguely aware of them helping me get cleaned up and in fresh clothes and sheets.
Jesse disappeared for a few moments to help get the room cleaned up and sign some paper work. I nursed the baby and dozed, relaxing into my new role of motherhood.
After a short while, Jesse came back in with Linda and announced that our son would be called Tucker Orion Whitsett, which was the very first name we had ever agreed on. It was so fitting; Jesse had done a great job. He handed me a plate with some food and joined me on the bed while Linda finished cleaning Tucker off and looking him over. He was 21 inches long, 8 lbs 4oz, and perfect. After we ate and Jesse walked the midwives to the door, we all three settled in for a nice long nap as a family of three.