our first birth story

We're due with Obie basically any day now, and by March 31st at the latest. Since getting married and starting to read all these great blogs from great women, I've stumbled upon birth story after birth story. And while they are so very different considering we're all basically going through the same thing, I am moved and encouraged to reflect, appreciate.

So before Obie arrives, I thought now would be as good a time as any to record the story of our firstborn's birth.
excuse the unusually large size of our watermark; 
I just get a wee bit paranoid about pictures of my kid

I'm the sort of person who thrives on understanding all the options. I read what I can, ask what I can, listen whenever I can, and learn what my options are and what possible outcomes might evolve from each of them. I'm not a planner, surprise!, but I thrive on this approach because when I understand how an even terrible result arises, I'm not dismayed, depressed, or discouraged by it. If I know why something happens, then I can take it as it comes and deal with it accordingly. This is how I approached my college and grad degrees, dating and discerning marriage, waiting for our honeymoon for my first big schabang, becoming a homeowner, family planning, my career, and labor & delivery. And more. But you get the idea.

So after reading a ton, talking to my mother who is a retired labor-and-delivery nurse, discussing a number of things with medical professional friends, and hearing L&D story after another, I knew I wanted as natural a birth as possible. I've heard the you get drugs for a tooth removal, why suffer unnecessarily in labor? I get it, but I don't agree. My body was made for this, so I wanted to see what I could do. (And there are a plethora of other reasons, all of which are outlined in the books I highlight in this post.)

So we studied up on the Bradley Method, which is really a way of working with your body's know-how instead of getting in its way. It's pretty awesome. And we liked all the naked 70's photos. Good laughs, those photos.

But remember, I said I wanted to understand the options, so while I wanted a natural birth, I also knew (from reading a great Babycenter commenter) that the biggest thing was a sense of satisfaction in the birth of a healthy baby. If I needed an epidural or a c-section, I just wanted it to be for the right reasons.

Ace was due November 28th, 2010. I'd read that firstborns are on average 8 days late, so I made my mind up that he would be late as well and not to get to hopeful for an early arrival. I worked a ton because my job didn't allow for paid maternity leave and my boss, being very generous and supportive, worked it out through my vacation, comp time, and sick days so that I could expect 8 weeks off. My job was not the sort that could easily be covered by another person, so I did everything I could in the preceding months to make sure my absence wasn't felt.

We didn't and don't plan to learn our babies' sex prior to their births. We figure it's an always good news surprise and other than getting unimportant, material objects, I have never seen any advantage to learning who's in there. I know many disagree. That's just where I'm coming from.

So we had 2 girls and 2 boys names chosen, one being Cormac Xavier. We're Roman Catholic, so we chose a middle name after one of our favorite Jesuits. Cormac turned out to be a saint as well, ha. Xavier's feast day is December 3rd, so Hawk kept saying, I want the baby to be born on December 3rd. God agrees.

I wanted to shoot his kneecap.

On December 2nd around 9:00pm, we went for a long walk in very cold Wisconsin weather and talked about the impending changes in our hunky-dorey life together. By the end of the walk, I was having a really hard time keeping the pace. We snuggled up on the couch with molten hot chocolate and 10 minutes after returning home I felt a POP! inside. I ran for cover and sure enough, my water broke! We were SO excited. Finally we were going to get to meet this little person whom I already felt was our buddy, our best friend, our secret comrad.

We called our pediatrician who told us to get to the hospital in the next 30 minutes. We were disappointed because we had planned on laboring as long as possible at home. Think movies, food, feet up, hot shower, etc. He laughed and said, Yeah, I think you'll appreciate being in the hospital before the hour is up.

He was right. The Bradley Method clearly distinguishes the stages and phases of labor as an encouraging tool for the mother to remember as the labor intensifies. You know, this is happening because...and it's normal. Generally, the first phase in which the contractions are shorter in length and farther apart and the woman is able to smile for a photo. Hence, movies, food, our plan. But I don't remember that phase at all. Hawk said my contractions were pretty severe pretty fast. I couldn't joke around or smile. I was in serious business.

Our delivery room was great. I was wearing my own, planned outfit of jersey skirt and shelf-bra tank, but quickly after arriving in the room, I jumped in the hot shower and from that point on I was nekked. You know those moms who tell you that you won't care? BOY were they right. Obama could have walked in and I wouldn't have covered up. And I ain't talking Michelle.

I tried the Bradley Method's suggested in-bed posture, but it sped up the contractions so quickly that I couldn't take it so I kept walking and showering and leaning physically and mentally on Hawk. Let me talk a bit about Hawk.

I don't know how teenage moms or unmarried women do it. After delivering Ace, my heart goes out with admiration for any woman who goes through labor & delivery without the glory of a devoted and committed husband. DEAR GOD how do they do it? I bow to your bravery ladies, and though I hope one day you'll have a supportive husband, I just can't say enough for how much I respect a woman who perseveres in the birth of her child without that man.

Hawk was my saving grace. Everything he did was perfect. If it annoyed me, it ceased immediately and with permanence. We discovered, among other needs, that I just needed his voice directed at me through every contraction. He told me later that he thought he was doing a terrible job, just repeating himself and saying t-ball-coach-like things like, you can do it, keep going, you're doing great. I didn't care. Whatever he said was what I needed.

And he never complained. He never chided me. He never talked down to me. I don't recall him ever leaving my side.

In short, (too late), we arrived at the hospital around 10:30pm and were in our own room shortly thereafter. By midnight, I was losing all track of time. I spent hours in the shower or physically hanging from Hawk's waste. By 1am I was only 2 cm. 

And that's when I felt the urge to push. Oh yes, friends. Two centimeters. Eight to go. And all of them with the urge to push. I started off at every third contraction, but by 3am I was puking, crying, and stressing through every contraction because my body would push regardless of what my mind said, and all the nurses were telling me don't push! hold back. I knew that pushing too early could put the baby in distress, cause excessive bleeding, exhaust me too early...So I was really struggling to keep Bradley going. I knew I wasn't relaxed between or during contractions because I was so afraid to push and then my body would push and my fear would increase.

Finally at 4 cm and at around 5am, I told Hawk that it was time to bring my mother in. She was great. She gave him the encouragement he appreciated hearing, gave him someone to talk to through my incoherence, and talked me through half of the contractions.

By 8am I was still only 5 cm and the urge to push was almost uncontrollable. I was being led through breathing exercises and started hyperventilating. Looking back, I realize that controlled breathing isn't the Bradley way and it didn't help me out at the time, so I'm going to avoid it this round. Before long, I was SO afraid about my fight with pushing and I said, I need help, Hawk. My mom and the nurse ran through our options and we decided on the least severe narcotic at the lowest dose, just enough to help me calm down during contractions so that they could accomplish more.

It worked. I was totally aware, totally in control, but like a good brewsky, it just took the edge off. I advanced to 9.5 cm in the next 2 hours and after an examination it was determined I could soon start pushing for "real."

And then they told me to wait. For our doctor. Whom I adore. Who is delivering this baby and hopefully all the others. And I said, Where the F@$# is Dr. L___? I'm going to kill him. What's taking him so long? And oh yes, at that time he was already in the room. Ugh. ugh.

Who knew that after all that when it finally came down to the end I would think I don't want to do this. This is really going to hurt. I'm going to tear. I hate the ring of fire. Maybe I just won't push. And so I didn't. I faked it through 4, yes FOUR real pushing contractions. How dumb is that?! And finally Hawk said, Baby, you're doing great. After this you're going to finally meet your baby.

So I pushed for real through one set of contractions, then a second set, and Ace arrived late in the morning after 13 hours of labor. I had asked Dr. L___ to let Hawk announce, so the first words I heard were Honey, you have a little baby boy. And then, would you like to hold him? I'd forgotten that Dr. L___ supported immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. I couldn't believe I'd get to hold him already! They placed him on my chest and I felt my arms wrap around him, my breathing slowed, and my whole being became instantly calm. I kissed him, let him settle for a bit and find the breast himself, which he did, and within 15 minutes he was nursing. I've never felt so normal in my whole life. He looked at me, he smelled like my son. His skin seemed new and familiar all at the same time.

Meanwhile, Hawk cut the cord and they put everything of me back into some semblance of order (turns out I had a pretty severe tear). Let's just say that I'm glad all the nurses said, Dr. L___ is the best surgeon we've ever seen. They showed us the placenta. It was weird. Sorry, but there's a reason that I'm the only non-medical person in my family.

After a good hour of skin-to-skin, they took him to clean and weigh him. Apparently, we have big babies. Eight pounds eleven ounces. Twenty-two inches. I hated having him away from me even that long. The next day was a blur. All I remember is a brief time in the wheelchair moving to our mother-baby room, holding Ace, leaning against Hawk, eating Einstein Bagel's egg sandwiches, and having that terrible, gut wrenching pressing-on-the-abdomen to expel blood and contract my lady parts. Thankfully, my friend Stacy had warned me about this or there's no way I would prepared. That shiznit is nuts.

So there's our long story. Really, I had a relatively easy labor and delivery. I'm VERY satisfied even though it wasn't as fully natural as I'd intended. But I knew what and why when we made decisions, and our baby boy arrived in perfect health. I can't ever relay how grateful I am that our son was healthy. I know too many who are not. I could have lost a leg and cared less---having a healthy baby is the greatest gift.

I'm amazed at what I do and do not remember about the day. I'll talk about our hospital stay in another post because I just don't think there's enough said about that time, but for today, thank you, friends, for joining me in this nostalgic post. I truly enjoy this time with you.



  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Jen! It was fun to compare your birth story with our own. Quite a few similarities!

  2. So glad I finally got to hear the whole story! You did AMAZING!!! Wow, that is impressive. I am not sure I could have handled the urge to push for that many hours. Love your first pic. Glad Stacy forewared you...just be warned that the conractions while nursing and the pushing hurts worse the second time. Way worse. Nurse cheered me up by saying it gets worse with each delivery. Great. :)

  3. *I am talking about the contractions you have after you deliver while you're nursing the baby and they're pushing on your abdomen...for me, L&D got easier the second time*

  4. oh dear Lord. I'm so glad you told me, Jen. I'm more nervous about the nurses pushing on the abdomen for days after than the actual L&D. But it also encouraging to hear that L&D was easier. This part of a woman's life is nuts!


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