It started with 3 weeks of contractions that would build then die down. There were many nights where I thought I might go into labor, but didn’t.
Two huge, painful contractions made my eyes shoot open in the middle of the night. Before I could start timing them I fell back asleep and woke up the next morning. Still pregnant.
In the afternoon I received an appointment reminder phone call from See Baby, my OB practice. When she said she’d see me in the morning I laughed and said, “I’d be surprised if I make it!”
I joked to Kevin at dinner at Taco Mac that night that I felt like a narcoleptic. I could barely keep my eyes open. I was overcome with exhaustion. I told him, “I think my body is putting me to sleep to wake me up for labor.”
3:30a: I started having contractions but I could sleep through them. I dreamed I was looking for my doula’s back-up partner, Sherri, in a department store where she was shopping.
4:00a: I couldn’t sleep through the contractions anymore. I climbed into the bath to see if the contractions would die down or get stronger.
My two best friends, Katie and Melanie, were going to come to the hospital and help me labor. I was deathly afraid of labor and my friends were going to help me through; a last minute decision I am so happy I made. I was with a practice who offered water births at the hospital. I wanted to be present for the entirety of this birth. It was a challenge to myself and I had been studying for the big test for months.
I sent a Facebook message to Melanie and Katie from the bath saying I was having contractions. To my surprise Mel responded and shortly after Katie joined the conversation. Mel later joked that they had heard my “Bat Call.”
Mel was up nursing her 7 week old newborn. I told her I was having strong contractions. I told her, “here comes another” .. “and another.” They were about 5 mins apart and rapidly becoming 4 mins apart. I called my doula, Margaret. She listened to my contractions over the phone and said because of traffic and our distance from the hospital that I may want to go ahead and get ready to leave. She told me to call her when we were about to leave the house.
In her calm voice—the voice that solidified the decision to hire her, the relaxed voice that I knew could get me through labor—she said, “You told me the other day that you are scared of labor. If you are scared, it will make it hurt worse.”
Out in the bedroom Noelle had woken. I put her back in her bed. I climbed back into the bath. She came into our bedroom again and I heard Kevin tell her I was in the bath.
I went to Kevin’s bedside and woke him. “I’m in labor.” We got dressed and Noelle reemerged in our room. She just knew. She was in an unusually chipper mood for 5am.
By the time we got downstairs the contractions were painful enough that I had to sit on the couch when they came. I needed total silence. Noelle and I had read a kid’s book about this and I reminded her, “quiet as a mouse.” Kevin was on the phone with his mom and then the doula. Noelle turned to him and said, “Shh, mommy’s having a tric-traction!” By the time Kevin’s mom arrived to care for Noelle the contractions were about three mins apart. She said goodbye to me and I had to sit on our front step in the early morning darkness and breathe.
The car ride was very difficult. It hurts to be having contractions and be fighting the push and pull of the car at the same time.
By the time we were 10 mins away from the hospital the contractions were super painful and only 2 minutes apart. I remember Kevin saying “ten minutes.” That’s 5 more contractions.
I just breathed through the most painful part of the contractions—the peak—and reminded myself I just had to get through *this* contraction. I rested between contractions. Kevin was hauling ass on the highway.
We pulled up to the hospital and I got out of the van but couldn’t walk in. I had to stop and breathe through another contraction. We got inside and the pain got really intense. Margaret came walking down the hall just as I was trying to leave my body and the pain and thinking I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so glad to see her. I stared her down and when she got to me I made eye contact and said, “help.” I think. She stepped into action.
I was hurting. I wanted a bed or the tub I was promised! I asked Margaret if I could lay on the lobby floor to ease the pain. She helped me to the floor but it didn’t ease the discomfort. I was moaning through the pain. Apparently at this point Antoinette, a mid-wife from See Baby, arrived and asked why the heck I was on the floor.
They got me into triage. A hospital staff member tried to hand me a paper to sign. I looked at her, moaned through a contraction, and when I looked back up she was gone. A nurse removed my underwear. I was in my own world. In my contractions. I remember them checking me and saying, “She’s 10cm. She’s complete.” This surprised me and I was afraid to believe it. I thought I had a ton more work to do. Margaret was trying to get a hold of Kevin who was parking the van. She was trying to tell him to hurry. They wheeled me away and a nurse told me, “Don’t push!”
We barely got into a room before I was baring down and pushing. Kevin helped pull my dress off me.
Up in the hospital lobby I was telling my baby, “move down, move down, baby.”
In the bed I remember the nurse telling me to open my leg and thinking, “but that’ll make it hurt!”
Kevin held one hand and the doula held the other. I bared down and pushed knowing relief was coming soon. Antoinette punctured the sac which hadn’t broken. I would have preferred she not do that and still wonder if my baby would’ve been born in the sac if she hadn’t.
I felt Shiloh crown. I didn’t want to tear badly. I had just known this whole pregnancy that Shiloh would be over 9lbs so I pushed and then retracted her so I would stretch. I pushed again. It felt like her body was out. This was a bizarre feeling, having a baby hanging out of me. I looked at Margaret and very calmly said, “Get her out.” I pushed again and she was out.
Instant relief. No more contractions. My baby was in my arms.
The cord was still attached. Another bizarre feeling. Something on the outside of me that was pulling from the inside. We were letting the cord finish pulsating before cutting. I was shaking like a leaf. I was shaking so hard I thought I might drop Shiloh. I asked Margaret why I was shaking and she said it might just be the birth energy moving through me.
Two and a half hour labor and delivery. I am so proud, it makes me cry tears of gratefulness. Shiloh, we worked together beautifully. I am so proud of us.
The labor and birth were so perfect. That’s what I want to focus on. Even Margaret said I was extraordinarily calm and told my friends I was “born to birth babies.”
An hour after you were born, they took you to the NICU. I couldn’t believe it was happening. The neonatologist report said you had tachynpea—rapid breathing. When they checked your oxygenation saturation levels, they were lower than they liked.
Still laying in the hospital bed as they wheeled you away I looked at daddy and mouthed to him, “Don’t take your eyes off of her.” I didn’t want you out of his sight at any time.
Around this time Margaret asked if I needed to go to the bathroom. And this is what really stands out to me about a natural birth vs the epidural birth I had with my first. I just got up and walked to the bathroom. Like I didn’t just push a 9lb 8oz baby out of me.
Margaret was very attentive and helped clean me up and she helped me step into underwear and change into a hospital gown. A hospital gown *after* the birth. Ha!
Either daddy or I sat with you in NICU the whole time, Shiloh. I stared at those oxygenation saturation levels on the machine and willed them to go up.
They said your blood sugar was low (you were just born! Sheesh.) Mel gave me some of her breastmilk and I syringed you some. Your blood sugar went up.
There were two times a day that we weren’t allowed in the NICU—6:30a – 8a & 6:30p – 8:00p. It was during shift change and they said they needed to talk about the babies in private to the nurses coming on shift.
That was the *only* time I left.
During that time I’d go to sleep for an hour, stuff my mouth with food and drinks, and rush back to you. My nurse figured out I was not going to stick around the room and started anticipating me coming back so she could meet me there and get my vitals.
The first day Mel and Katie and my mom took turns sitting with me in NICU.
I gave birth and basically didn’t sleep for 42 hours.
I watched other moms come and go in the NICU. I stayed the whole time. I held you the whole time. I jimmied a rocking chair into that small space and held you and nursed you.
Uncle Aubrey came and stayed from about 10pm to 1 or 2am. He brought me donuts and coffee.
I watched the clock, willing myself to stay awake. I’d say to myself “just 6 more hours … 5 more hours … 4 more hours” (till shift change and I could sleep for an hour).
After my brother left the NICU I felt lonely. The NICU is a cold, isolating, unfeeling place.
I overheard a nurse named Pam telling one of the tiny, crying babies to “shut up” and that she “can’t stand this kid.” I was absolutely stunned. It confirmed my decision to stay by your side. I told the head of the department what I had heard after you were discharged.
All I wanted was to get out of that hospital. It felt like a jail. It felt like I was trapped there. It felt like I’d never be able to leave. Your oxygen levels were up. You were completely healthy otherwise. I was contemplating taking you and leaving “AMA.” I didn’t think my spirit could take this place anymore. I wanted to be with my family. I missed my husband and my other little girl. I felt we had been torn apart by this NICU stay.
The 2nd night I finally had you in my hospital room. I was overjoyed. There was hope of leaving. I held you close and tried to sleep. But the night turned into hell. For 50 mins of every hour, you cried. You screamed. I’d get ten mins of sleep and then you’d wake, screaming. I called several people in the room asking for help—the nurse, the lactation consultant, the next nurse at the next shift. At one point, in a dark place mentally, I asked the nurse if she could come just keep me company. Apparently that’s not in the nurse’s job description. :/
In hindsight, you were hungry. My milk hadn’t finished coming in. I wished I’d saved some of Mel’s milk to give to you. I was exhausted. I had this marathon birth. I sprinted back and forth from my hospital room to the NICU (why aren’t they closer together??) for 36 hrs. I hadn’t really slept in almost two days. I was physically unable to stay awake any longer. The only time you stopped crying is when I started sobbing. I was breaking down. I needed sleep.
I almost brought you to the nurses station for them to watch you while I slept. I walked there and turned back around. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave you. Miraculously, when we got back to the room you fell asleep and I got two or three hours of sleep. The next morning, daddy and Noelle came to get us. Finally, we could take you home.
The tub in this picture is the same one I labored in with you.