My 16-Minute Birth Story
Every birth story is different. My pregnancy was not without its challenges, (read about my fertility battle here) and it would be accurate to say that I handled those nine-plus months like I was going to battle. By the time baby arrived, I was done. Done, done, DONE. My labor and delivery was much faster than we anticipated–much faster as in I almost didn’t make it to the hospital. Here is an excerpt from my pregnancy story regarding my 16-minute birth story.
My 16-Minute Birth Story
Wednesday, June 13th.
It was a full two weeks before my forty-week due date. But I knew. I was done. Baby was done.
That day I trekked through the store one last time, and though I felt like I was hustling, I know I was going at a tortoise’s pace. I saw the looks of other shoppers as they watched me in concern. They could see as well as I could that I was at the end of my pregnancy.
I went to church that night and I even managed to wear my little, two-inch heels. They were roomy sandals and were one of the only pairs of shoes I had that were still comfortable.
The music started and I was moving. I was not going to just stand there in discomfort, and I certainly was not going to sit in my pew and let the church service pass me by. It was a great service and we all lingered afterward, talking with friends and church family.
Adam, my mother and I were some of the last to leave. I felt tightening in my tummy, but I’d been getting Braxton Hicks for the last two months off and on. While they were becoming more frequent, I wasn’t really worried about it.
This was my first pregnancy.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to contractions. I had spent some time researching things like “what do contractions feel like?” and “what is the difference between Braxton Hicks and actual labor?” After searching for some clear answers, I had to just accept that it wasn’t going to be perfectly clear this first time. I was determined not to worry about it, either. I felt in my core that I would just know.
That night, standing and chatting after the church service, my tummy became particularly tight. I looked down and watched the tightening through my dress and figured I was having a contraction. However, I was not going to get wrapped up in the “is this a contraction? Is this it?” questions. I had seen and read enough to know that can drive a mama crazy if you let it.
I was craving hot, fast food. I’d tried to curb my unhealthy cravings throughout my pregnancy and was mediocrely successful. But tonight, I was ravenous. We stopped on the way home and I ate enough to feed two grown men. I chuckle now to remember my husband’s sideways glances and my mom’s “hmm” as I downed the food.
On the way home, I had more tightening. It wasn’t painful, but it was tight enough to get my attention. I still wasn’t concerned. I had heard so many women talk about their labor experiences, and pain had been a prevalent part of it all. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it was supposed to hurt—a lot.
We made it home and I got out of the car. More tightening. It was enough that I was unable to walk and was uncomfortable. That was a contraction, I supposed. I hobbled into the house and prepared for bed. I fell fast asleep.
I awoke at 3:00 am on the dot.
Something had jolted me out of sleep. I must tell you that I am a very heavy sleeper. I once slept through a Northern California thunder storm—with my windows open. It’s a story my family still teases me about to this day.
But this particular night, whatever woke me had me wide awake and perfectly alert. I hadn’t felt anything, but instinctively I was completely aware something was happening in my body.
That’s when I felt it. A little popping feeling, sort of like a water balloon gently breaking. I stood up, and it was clear my water had broken. I wasn’t sure of what to expect in this area, either. I hurried to the restroom and it was again very, very obvious.
My mother was sleeping on her foldaway bed in the nursery,
and the door was closed. I hobbled precariously to the door and knocked.
“Yes?” Came a muffled, sleepy voice.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes, just open the door.”
Our home is a bungalow built in the 1950’s. The doors are still original, and it can require some mild force to twist the knob and open them. As I exerted force to try to open the door, my water continued to break.
If this is your first time being pregnant, just be aware that your water breaking isn’t always a famous, single gush. It can happen in spurts. Well, I
learned this while trying to open my mother’s door.
“Um, I kind of can’t,” I finally ended up saying softly through the door.
I heard a frantic ruffle of blankets and the banging of the foldaway bed’s legs against our refurbished, hardwood floor. My mom was up and to the door in seconds. The door flew open and she found me standing there, knees together, trying to figure out what to do next.
“My water just broke.”
She clasped her hands. “Oh. Oh! Oooooh!”
The reality of the moment came over us both in that instant. The emotion is indescribable. You will feel it when the certainty of birth finally arrives. It’s beautiful, and something beyond words.
“Are you timing your contractions?”
Well, that was just it.
I was having tightening, but not any serious pain. I walked into the restroom to tend to my business, and that’s when a contraction—an undeniable contraction—hit. It wasn’t painful—certainly uncomfortable and I definitely couldn’t walk while it lasted.
Looking back, if I had properly identified my contractions, they were about three minutes apart. However, there wasn’t serious pain. I kept expecting that ferocious “nothing more painful than contractions” pain to grip me.
I need to stop and say here that I was not afraid. I was a little nervous. There was no helping that, but more than nerves, I felt excitement and anticipation. Fear, however, had been defeated long ago.
I called the nurse advice line connected with my health group. Of course, they advised that since my water had broken, I needed to go to the hospital. They would keep me there until the baby was born.
I hung up and, after tossing ideas back and forth with my mom, I decided I would stay home for just a little while longer to monitor my contractions. I wasn’t in any serious pain, after all, and I didn’t want to be in the hospital for hours and hours, waiting.
I called my good friend, Kay, who was planning on helping me through my labor. It was now 3:20 am. She, naturally, didn’t answer. I left her a voicemail and sent her a text. I figured she would get it soon and would return my call.
I also called my dad in Northern California to alert him of my labor, knowing he would pack up and drive down right away. I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer, either.
Contractions were coming, but they were obscure, not clear enough to time.
At 3:30 I woke Adam.
“It’s time. My water broke.”
He looked at me calmly, then got up, got dressed, and turned on the soft music I had requested. He also called his mother to let her know of my labor. She was at our house in twenty minutes.
I was determined to take time to shower before going to the hospital.
Contractions, more noticeable now, came during the shower. Again, not as
painful as I had anticipated. It was uncomfortable and incredibly tight
feeling, but nothing alarming.
I dressed and braided my hair, experiencing more contractions along the way. Now, I leaned across my birthing ball, letting the rolling motion soothe the tightness. I listened to the soft music playing and just breathed,
concentrating on relaxing.
My mom-in-law stepped quietly into the room, watching me. After a few minutes, she nodded and said, “you’re going to do just fine, Mama. This is going to be quick.”
And with that, she peacefully went into the living room to wait. That soft-spoken affirmation was so empowering.
Things were growing more uncomfortable every few minutes. I went from the birthing ball to the bed where I lay on my side for a while. My mom stood at the side of the bed, massaging my back, offering a quiet presence of support. Adam made himself comfortable on the bed, his feet propped on the birthing ball, and dozed off.
The entire room was calm, dimly lit (which I feel is so important during labor), and completely void of stress or fear.
Then, at 5:30 am, something changed considerably. There was now an incredible pressure in my lower back and pelvic area. No position I laid in was comfortable, and I couldn’t find any method that offered relief. Finally, standing on the side of the bed, leaning over it, breathing, I felt an alarming awareness.
“We need to go to the hospital. Now.”
The room went from quiet and peaceful to a bustle of activity. Adam was up and out, getting the car started. My mom-in-law grabbed the birthing ball and headed out, while my mom stayed with me as I monitored what was being taken to the car, remembering the list of things (my type-A ever-present) I wanted to take to the hospital.
Kay had responded by now and was on her way from a nearby town to my house. I spoke with her on the phone as I sat in the car in our driveway. She encouraged that though I was feeling pressure, I was able to talk through my contractions and that was usually unlikely during advanced labor. However, going to the hospital was a good idea and we could always change course depending on how I felt.
I felt we needed to go. She changed direction and headed on to meet us at the hospital. The hospital ride…that got interesting. It dawned on me on the way to the hospital that I had probably waited too long. It was time to push. The instinct was incredible. It took over.
“Don’t get in an accident,” I panted, “but get us there, quickly.”
Now, fear crashed in. I had waited too long, and now it was time to push. I was in the car, belted into the passenger seat, arching to try and stall the natural instinct to push.
With the fear came a hot, angry adrenaline that completely altered the natural rhythm of my labor. The hurt changed from something natural, smooth and bearable to a choppy, staccato pain that felt angry and disjointed. This new type of pain was jolting. I tensed against it and held my breath.
From the back seat, my mom coached me. “Breathe. Just roll through it. Do not hold your breath.”
It was fantastic advice.
The only problem was that when I followed her advice, the urge to push was nearly too strong. I did not want to have my baby in the car when the hospital was mere minutes away.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot. I slipped out of the car and stood, leaning over the passenger seat. The fear was beginning to subside, but I was still fighting the natural rhythm of my body.
My good friend appeared. “You’re doing great,” she said. Her voice was calm.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I whispered. The idea of waiting to get to the third floor of the hospital and being put in a room before delivering my son seemed like an eternity.
“Yes, you can,” she said firmly. “I’m going to apply some counterpressure on your back. You just tell me immediately if you want me to stop or do something else.”
Her thumbs expertly pressed against my lower back.
I lost all fight. Down I went, hovering over the pavement. “I have to push,” I groaned.
The urgency of the situation became apparent to my friend. Her hands were under my elbows and she tugged me back upright. “Not yet!” she instructed firmly.
“I have to!”
A wheelchair appeared under me. “Get in the wheelchair, Mama,” my mother-in-law directed. “We are not having this baby in parking lot!” My friend guided me to the wheelchair. I demanded that I had to push.
“Blow candles,” she instructed.
“What’s that?” I asked.
She demonstrated by blowing small, quick breaths out as though blowing out candles in quick succession. I followed her instructions, and the urge to push became controllable.
You’re Reading My 16-Minute Birth Story, an Excerpt from Simply Mama Fearless
My mother-in-law, pushing the wheelchair, barreled through the front doors and to the elevator. She punched the buttons determinedly while my friend leaned over my shoulder, quietly coaching me.
I arched up from the wheelchair to keep from pushing. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in a matter of minutes, my baby was going to be here.
My husband was a quiet presence behind me, watching and determined to get us to the maternity wing of the hospital. In a later conversation, he admitted that he was pondering how he was going to “catch” to keep the baby from falling on the elevator floor. My poor mother later told her side of things, which was falling to a puddle of tears as she parked the car, quite certain she was missing the birth.
We pulled up to the desk where nurses awaited us. Some questions were exchanged back and forth—I can’t remember exactly what—and I groaned out that my water had broken at 3:00 am, I couldn’t time my contractions, and I needed to push—now.
They bypassed the triage room and a nurse took me straight into a delivery room across from the nurse’s station. Two other nurses were prepping the room. It was apparent that they did not take me seriously once they found out I was having my first child. All work slowed down considerably. They laid me on the bed, and I twisted over to grip one of the side rails with both hands—it was the only thing I could think to do to not push.
“He’s being born,” I gritted out.
One of the nurses who stood next to me, typing in information, looked into my face and told me I needed to stay in control. I’ve never truly wanted to punch someone until that moment. I somehow
resisted the urge.
Another nurse examined me, and with widened eyes said, “she’s full. She’s at a ten.”
From seemingly out of nowhere, nurses were now buzzing all about me. Where two had been nonchalantly prepping the room, there were now at least seven or eight quickly preparing this and that—I honestly
don’t know what.
All I cared about was the question, “can I push now?”
The nurse who’d examined me said, “yes, if you need to push, we will have this baby.”
I remember looking down and seeing no one at the end of the bed. Who would catch my baby? I figured if I had to, I would.
The hot, painful fear I felt on the drive was gone. I was back into a normal rhythm of labor. I had regained my confidence. I was in a place where I could have my baby this minute and it would be fine.
My husband, I later learned, had the presence of mind to text my moms and inform them I was at a “ten.” They had been asked to stay out of the room while I was readied for delivery. Upon receiving his text, they insisted upon coming into the delivery room. Had it not been for that text and their determined “we’re going in there”, they’d have missed it all.
Someone asked me about Pitocin, and I said I didn’t want any. I heard “Declines Pit!” over the mayhem.
Things are blurry, but sometime within the next minute, the doctor appeared and was scrubbing up, my moms were walking in, and I was in a hospital gown.
I felt uncomfortable lying flat on my back and asked, “can you please angle the bed up? I don’t want to be flat.”
Without a word of complaint, the nurses angled my bed up. I could now see over my large, very hard tummy to the doctor’s face. I felt relief and much more in control. He calmly gave me brief instructions on how to push.
Upon reflection, I realize now how calm the nurses were when pushing time came. No one was touching me. One nurse came close enough to have me look into her eyes as she repeated the doctor’s instructions on pushing, letting me know she was there if I needed help.
I tucked my chin, held my breath, and gave what I thought was all I had.
“Is this right?” I grunted.
“No.” The doctor’s voice was calm and direct. “If you can speak, you’re not pushing correctly. Don’t talk. Just push.”
Including that practice push, my son was born in a total of three pushes.
To put this all into perspective, I arrived at the hospital at somewhere close to 6:10 am, I was checked in at the nurse’s desk at 6:20 am, and our son was born at 6:36 am.
Now, I know I told my own birth experience. But there is so much that I gleaned from it, so much that was proven by what happened.
I distinctly remember the change in my labor when I grew truly afraid. And then, I remember the change back to my rhythm of labor when I was in the hospital and knew I could push and my baby wouldn’t land on the floor.
The absence of fear left room for other things. It made room for focus, determination, and excitement. Even though Kai was born so quickly after our arrival and much of the experience is a blur, there was just enough time for me to literally feel the difference between being afraid and letting it go.
No, not every birth experience goes this way. Yes, there will be things I will do differently next time. But I owned my birth experience. I stayed in control of it, while releasing control at the same time. It sounds contradictory, but it’s not. I stayed in control by being completely in charge of where I gave in. I gave in to my body, to the rhythm, to the discomfort. It was painful, but it was not that hot, angry pain that I felt in the car. Birth plan, out the window.
Preconceived ideas, out the window.
I held our beautiful son in my arms and felt the most beautiful, powerful emotion in existence. There will never be words to describe it this side of Heaven.