Thank you for all of your congratulations and well wishes on my post announcing Luke’s birth. It’s been an amazing, life-changing time since the day he was born, and I’m excited to finally get the chance to sit down and share the story of how he came into the world.
We started Sunday, December 18th like we do every Sunday, attending church services. I’d had a few contractions in the middle of the night, but nothing different than what I’d been experiencing for weeks. Immediately after church I rushed to meet friends at a local garden center for a potting class where we were going to make some outdoor winter plant arrangements It was a fun afternoon with the girls and I had no reason to think anything was going to be happening in just a few hours.
The day didn’t slow down, as right after the potting class, I got home and Tim, my father-in-law, and I left to go look at a few open houses. Nana was designated babysitter and stayed with Meghan. Side note: We’re not seriously house-hunting right now, but we enjoy keeping up with the housing trends and looking at open houses so we’re ready when the time comes.
Real contractions started when we were walking around the open houses. I knew right away that they were different than the Braxton Hicks I’d been having before. As we drove away from one of the houses I asked Tim how long we’d been in that particular house. He said about 20 minutes. I told him we should probably head home because I’d had three contractions during that time span.
I started timing my contractions using a labor contraction timer ap I had on my iphone. It was 3:30 and my contractions were spanning between six and ten minutes apart and were lasting between 45 seconds to a minute. They were moderately painful.
We got home and I tried to go about my business, thinking I had time before the hard work of labor would begin. I ate some barley-vegetable stew and spent a little time with Meghan, but I soon realized I’d need to head to the bedroom because the intensity of the contractions was increasing quickly.
In the bedroom I got set up on the bed and tried to use the Bradley methods I read about. The book I read suggested the best position for laboring was laying on your side, so that’s what I tried. I’d practiced it a few times, although probably not as much as I should have. The idea is to have your body completely relaxed through the contraction so your body is working with the contraction rather than tensing up and working against it.
Easier said than done.
At one point I remember saying “I don’t know how to relax through a contraction! How can anyone relax through a contraction? I don’t get it!”
Tim was right by my side, coaching me through each contraction, massaging my back and trying to help me stay relaxed.
One relaxation method the Bradley book suggested was visualization. It said to picture the riding of a wave, with the peak of the contraction being the top of the wave. Your coach is supposed to walk you through the visualization process during contractions.
As I read about this technique I thought I’d rather picture the race I ran in my high school and college track days, the 400 meter dash. It’s grueling and it takes a similar amount of time to run it as a contraction lasts. I thought picturing getting through the race might help me get through some contractions easier. I told Tim to walk me through each turn of the track instead of riding a wave like the book suggested.
I think it was the third time Tim tried this technique that I said, “No more race thing. I don’t like the race thing.” Nothing seemed to help me get through those contractions easier.
I did have my light labor playlist on, although I don’t think I noticed it during contractions. Between 4:30 and 6:00, my contractions ranged from being five minutes, 40 seconds apart to being eight minutes apart. They were intense, lasting between 50 seconds and one minute, 22 seconds.
Around 6 o’clock or so, I thought I would try taking a bath. Lying on the bed was just not working for me as I couldn’t fight my natural instinct to tense up during the contractions. I tried using my exercise ball and that didn’t help, either. So Tim ran a tub for me and I got in.
Not the best idea. Again I tensed up during the contractions and found myself slipping down and needing to use my muscles to hold myself above water. Of course this made everything worse.
It was while I was in the tub that the contractions suddenly started coming two minutes apart. They jumped from being five to eight minutes apart to two minutes without much warning.
I got out of the tub and got dressed, and had a few more contractions that were only two minutes apart. These contractions were painful. Really painful.
I told Tim I thought it was time to go to the hospital. It had only been three hours into labor, so I couldn’t believe I was saying that. The last thing I wanted was to get to the hospital too early and be told I had to walk around the halls. (This happened to me with Meghan’s birth after I’d already labored at home for 9 hours.)
Tim thought we should wait for a few more contractions to make sure these close-together ones weren’t just a fluke and start spreading out again. After a few more, I said, “I really think we need to call the doctor. It never hurt this bad with Meghan. I don’t think I ever made it this far with her.”
At this point I wondered how I would make it through the rest of the birth naturally because it was so painful. With Meghan’s birth, I had an epidural before I ever experienced such pain, so this was all new to me.
I was full of doubt as we headed to the hospital.