I had been 70% effaced and 1 cm dilated at my 38-week checkup, so I declined being examined at my 39-week appointment. Up until 39 weeks, I really hadn’t felt ready to have another baby yet—I still had too much to do! But once I hit 39 weeks, I finally started to get anxious to meet our new little person. I was ready to really know who our Jelly Bean was, boy or girl. Plus, that week the weather got back up into the 100s after having been in the 90s for several weeks, and 100 degree weather while 9 months pregnant is nothing short of miserable! Also, ever since I’d been around 6 months pregnant, I felt like our pregnancy would go a little early this time, not late like the first time. So I was anxious!
I was hoping to have another holiday baby so I was shooting for Labor Day…but it came and went and no baby. Wednesday night, I was up a bit late (as had been usual lately b/c sleeping at 9 months pregnant is so…difficult) and I felt like labor might be imminent. I had had lots of Braxton Hicks contractions the previous few days, and I felt crampy, too. I had a few contractions before finally going to bed around 2am, but wasn’t sure if they were real. They weren’t coming regularly at all, so finally, I decided that I should try to get some sleep and if they were real, they would wake me up.
I dozed lightly, and woke up just before 6am on Thursday with contractions coming frequently enough that I opened up my contraction timer app on my iphone and started timing them. They were coming pretty regularly at 30 seconds long every 3 minutes, but weren’t very strong. After lying in bed for 30 minutes, I decided to go to the bathroom. When I got up, I felt a tiny trickle of water down my leg, which could have been my water leaking, but definitely wasn’t it breaking. I was disappointed, since that meant I couldn’t take a bath (my first pain relief method of choice), because of the risk of infection.
Around 6:45, my contractions had been regular enough that I knew labor was for real. I called my mom, who sounded excited when she said, “hello?” and I asked her if she felt like coming to Tulsa today. I told her to look for plane tickets but call me before she booked anything so I could let her know that labor was still progressing and hadn’t stalled. I kept timing my contractions, got out a new book I hadn’t read before, and sat in the living room on my birthing ball, reading and timing for a couple of hours until Naomi (21-months old) woke up around 7:30.
My mom called me back just before Naomi woke, and said she could be on a flight leaving around 11 and arriving in Tulsa at 3:50. I said that contractions hadn’t slowed down any, so she should book it! Daniel had had a late night working until around 2am, so I decided to let him sleep in a bit while I tended to Naomi, knowing that I could handle these early contractions without a problem and I would need him more later on for labor support as things got more intense. I tried to spend some good time with Naomi first thing as I knew the next few weeks would be hard to get good time with her, so we read several books together and cuddled on the couch. I washed all the dishes in the kitchen while I gave her a banana, and she was proud of the fact that she peeled it herself!
I heard Daniel’s phone ring around 9am, so we went in to tell him that I was in labor and we would likely be having a baby that day. He said “Really? Why didn’t you tell me?” and I explained that I wanted him to be rested up because I would need him more later! I also called and cancelled my 10am appointment since I knew I wouldn’t want to be there, and also called Kathy, my doula, to let her know that I was in early labor and would let her know how things progressed.
I was so determined that this birth would be different from Naomi’s 41 hours of labor, with its multiple visits to the hospital only to be told to go home again and come back when I was further along, that I had decided to labor at home as long as possible. I also wanted to try more things to get labor moving instead of just help me cope through the pain. Early labor wasn’t bad at all, and that worried me that I wasn’t progressing fast enough.
I knew that walking during early labor had been proven to shorten labor time, so once Daniel was up, we took a family walk down to the park, around 9:30 am. I kept walking through the contractions. They picked up some in intensity, especially on the walk back home, but still stayed pretty close to 30 seconds long every 3 minutes. To help me cope with the stronger intensity of the contractions, every time I had one I would say out loud, “Open, open, open. Down, down, down.” I would picture my cervix opening and my baby dropping further down. It helped me to realize that each contraction had a purpose, helped me dilate further, and helped my baby drop further into place for delivery.
When we got back from the park, I rested on the birthing ball for a few minutes. My contractions slowed a little to every 4 minutes, so after about 20 minutes, I decided to do more around the house to help keep things progressing. I finished packing my hospital bag, grabbing phone chargers, ipod speakers and other last-minute items. I put away the clean dishes and rotated the laundry. I asked Daniel to cook us some scrambled eggs as I was really craving some with cheese on top. I got out a gluten-free bun to put mine on since he had an English muffin with his, and we sat down as a family around 10:30 or 11 to eat. I ate about 2/3 of my breakfast sandwich, and Naomi ate the rest. After breakfast, I kept cleaning around the house. I also asked Daniel to finish getting the guest room ready for my mom, and to help me clean off the table so the house wouldn’t be such a mess.
Around 12:30 or 1, Daniel said he needed to go to the bank really quick, if that was ok. My contractions were definitely stronger, to the point where I couldn’t do things while having a contraction, but needed to focus just to get through them. But I knew he’d only be gone 15 or 20 minutes, so I told him to go. Naomi was sitting in her booster seat eating lunch, and she was watching me stand nearby at our tall file cabinet. I tried to make it a game for her, so she wouldn’t be scared. Every time I had a contraction, I’d put my head down on my arms and say “night night!” This is a game she and I would play sometimes anyway, pretending to go to sleep and then a minute later popping up your head and saying “wake up!” but my contractions were getting closer to 45 seconds long, so she kept asking me to “wake up!” before I was ready to, and she didn’t like that I wouldn’t “wake up!” sooner.
It was time for Naomi to go down for her nap, so I took her upstairs. Thankfully I didn’t have a contraction on the stairs, though I did have one right after. I got her into her naptime diaper, managed a contraction while she lay on the changing table, and got her into her crib before another one hit. After I got back downstairs, I got a text from Kathy checking up on me. I told her that they were getting more intense and painful, 45 secs every 3 minutes. She asked if I wanted her to come to our house or just meet at the hospital? I told her Daniel was at the bank and I’d check with him when he got back.
Things started picking up in intensity. I should say at this point, I had decided not to go by numbers, since that was what I’d done with labor the first time around, and that was when I’d had to go home twice after being checked twice. This time, I knew I’d be doing well if I went by how I was feeling more than by how frequent/long my contractions were. I knew that with my first labor, when I had HAD to start vocalizing through my contractions (low moaning), then I was near transition. This time, I was determined to wait until I was vocalizing to head out.
After getting back downstairs, I was tired so I decided to try to labor in the side-lying position on the bed. Though I didn’t yet feel like I “had” to, it just felt good to vocalize, so I started some low-key moaning. Daniel got home from the bank, and rubbed my back a little. I asked him to go ahead and call Norine to come over and stay with Naomi, and asked him if we should have Kathy come over, so that she could help us know when we should go to the hospital. He agreed that we should, so I called Kathy while he called Norine.
Kathy asked me why I was waiting to go to the hospital, since second-time moms typically head out when their contractions are 4 minutes apart. I told her that my contractions had been consistently 3 minutes apart since I’d started having them at 6 am, so I was just waiting for them to get a bit longer. I also asked her to come to our house, as we were getting to the point where we would really appreciate having her support. After I hung up, the contractions really started picking up in intensity, and after Daniel told me Norine was on her way, I had a few really strong contractions and started feeling more downward pressure. Daniel loaded the car with our hospital bags.
Norine arrived and I decided that I wanted to go ahead to the hospital now and just have Kathy meet us there. I called Kathy, and she turned around and headed to the hospital. Daniel and I had a brief conversation about which vehicle to take, that resulted in us having to switch all the bags over from the Pathfinder to the truck. I just wanted to get in the car and go! Finally, we headed out.
My contractions in the truck were so strong that I was finding it difficult to relax through them, and found myself clutching the door handle, the armrest, the seatbelt or anything I could get a hold of. Daniel was trying to drive gently but as we pulled up to the left turn arrow slowly and I watched it fade from green to yellow to red, I asked him, “Can’t you drive faster?? We just missed it!! We need to go faster!” He promised to drive faster, and told me he’d just been trying to be gentle for me. I said, “I don’t need you to drive gently, I need you to drive fast!” I kept timing my contractions this whole time; I think it gave me a focal point and also helped Daniel know when one of my contractions was starting. Instead of me having to say anything, he just saw me hit a button on my iphone, and he knew it was time to help me relax as much as possible. I know I told him around 5 different ways that I wanted him to stroke or not stroke my arm or leg while we were driving to the hospital, and I’m pretty sure I yelled the directions at him (which I apologized for later)! Kathy texted while we were in the car and said she had arrived at the hospital and asked if we wanted her to park our car. In between contractions, I typed the reply “yes, please. We are pulling in now” and I waited to hit “send” until we actually were pulling in.
I had one last contraction in the car as we pulled up to the entry, and Kathy heard me vocalizing, and encouraged me, saying I sounded good as she took over Daniel’s position behind the wheel. As we walked in past the front desk I had a good, strong contraction, and another on the elevator up to the third floor. We walked up to the Labor & Delivery desk, and there was a man being helped in front of us, so the nurse said, “I’ll be with you in a minute!” I had a strong contraction during that “minute” and my water broke all over the floor. I immediately felt a strong urge to push. “My water just broke!” I shouted. The nurse was unhurried as she asked my first name, last name and midwife’s name. Then she said, “When you feel up to it, we’ll go into this room right over here.” “Which room?!” I shouted, because I knew I had to get to a room quickly. “Room #2,” she said. I waddled over there, postponing the urge to push as much as possible so I could get into the room.
Kathy came in to the room about the same time as we did, and I said to her and Daniel, “I HAVE. TO. PUSH.”, enunciating each word very clearly so that they would know how much I meant it! The nurse said, “Let’s get your clothes off and put this gown on…” and I said, “I don’t have time for the gown!” I was thinking, I hope I have time to get my clothes off because this baby is about to be born in my pants! The nurse walked out of the room. Somehow I got my pants and shirt off, and climbed up on the bed, backing up into a position where I could push and I knew the baby would be ok even if born on the bed with no assistance. Kathy took one look at me, her eyes got really big and she started calling into the hallway, “We need a nurse in here!!”
About 8 people rushed in, saw me pushing and knew that our baby was coming, and coming quickly! At one point, Kathy told me to look down, and I saw our baby’s head coming out. One of the people who had rushed in was Dr. Coleman, who had just finished delivering a baby across the hallway, and he quickly asked for a gown and gloves, and got them on just in time to direct my last push. He asked for one more “little” push, so I pushed and out came our baby!
The birth position was somewhat sideways so all I could see was umbilical cord and thighs. “What is it? Boy or girl?” I said. The doctor moved the cord so I could see and Daniel said, “It’s a girl!” “I knew it!” I said. “I knew it!” They handed her to me briefly, clamped the cord and asked Daniel if he wanted to cut it. I asked if we could delay the cord clamping and they said that there was meconium so they needed to suction her out right away. Daniel got to cut her cord, and then they took her over to the warmer where they suctioned her well and wiped her up a bit (she had a ton of vernix) while I delivered the placenta, which Kathy thankfully reminded them that I wanted to keep.
I got a first-degree tear, so Dr. Coleman worked on stitching me up. After about 3 or 4 minutes of them suctioning her, I finally couldn’t stand it any longer and asked several times, “Is she ok?” After they reassured me that she was fine I said, “Can I hold her?” No one really answered me the first time so I asked again. They said, “We need to take her vitals.” “Can’t you do that if she’s on me?” I asked. The nurses exchanged glances, but finally agreed I could hold her while they checked her, so I finally got some more serious cuddle time with our daughter. Holding her was the best anesthesia for being stitched. I had to get a shot of pitocin in my thigh to help my uterus clamp down, but since our baby was already born at that point, I didn’t care.
I was still in shock over how fast she had come. We didn’t need our birth plan. There had been no time for a hep-lock. No time for fetal monitoring. No time for a gown. I hadn’t had a single vaginal exam the entire time I was in labor! And of course no epidural or pain medications, but we hadn’t wanted those anyway. Kathy commented later, “That’s the way to have a baby!”
I am very grateful that I didn’t have to have those things. I was a bit disappointed my midwife was unable to be there, but it didn’t really matter because in the end all I really needed was someone to catch my baby. My midwife stopped by later to ask how we were, and ask if we had gotten the birth we wanted. I said that yes, we did! Though I wouldn’t have cut it so close if I had known.
The next day, one of the nurses who had been there when I had come in apologized to me. She said, “Nine out of ten times, when women come in and say that they’re having this baby now, there is still plenty of time for them to get a gown on, get checked, etc. You were that tenth time.” Kathy told me that the nurses were still talking about it later, out in the hallways. We got to leave the hospital the next night around 5:30pm. Her labor was so different from her big sister’s.
After we got home that night, we sat on the couch, looked at the clock, and Daniel said, “If this was Naomi’s labor, we would still have two hours of labor to go.” And that was not to mention the time in the hospital afterwards, yet we were already home with our darling, precious, tiny new daughter, able to enjoy our new family of four.
Phoebe Annelise was born a day early on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 at 2:58pm. Her APGARs were 8/9, and she weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz and was 21” long.