It was 3:45 am on a Saturday in July. I had just woken up from a dream in which I had just found out I was pregnant. I had been suspecting I might be pregnant so after this dream I just couldn’t go back to sleep without knowing for sure. I had dug out a pregnancy test that I had bought in anticipation of this and, with my heart pounding and my husband and 18 month old son sleeping soundly downstairs, waited for the results.
I waited the required three minutes and slowly crept over to where the test was sitting. Negative. I reached to throw it in the trash and looked again. Wait, were those two lines? Positive! My tired eyes must have been playing tricks on me because the two lines were as dark as can be. My mind was racing. We hadn’t planned on this pregnancy - my son Jakson was only 18 months old and I had just recently started my own chiropractic practice. A new baby was not something that we had considered at this time.
I decided I wanted a fun way to tell my husband and family about this new baby. I ordered a shirt online that said “Big Brother 2008” and had Jakson wear it. Days went by before the shirt came in the mail. I was going crazy not being able to tell my secret to anybody! When it arrived I put it on Jakson and had him greet his dad when he came home from work.
The look on my husband’s face mirrored my own emotions when I first found out I was pregnant - excitement, happiness, shock, and fear! Our family reacted with immense happiness and excitement. I shared these feelings but was also still very nervous as to how this baby would affect my relationship with Jakson.
I soon got used to the idea of being a mom to two. I savored every minute of my pregnancy. My round belly, kicks from the baby, discussions about names. Everything was amazing to me. I met with my midwives for my prenatal exams, hired a doula, and planned for a natural, drug-free birth. My son was born without any medications and I wanted the same for my second baby. My son’s birth was wonderful but I had also learned some lessons from it. I had educated myself more about birth and would use my knowledge to craft a birth plan for my baby.
Before I knew it April, the month the baby was due, was here. I was impatient to finally meet our baby and to introduce Jakson to his new brother or sister. Every morning I would wake up and wonder if today was the day that the baby would come. Finally, on a Sunday morning I got what I knew was my first “real” contraction. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, but this contraction was different.
My husband Dan and I had planned to labor at home for as long as possible. We had decided ahead of time that we would spend the time in early labor doing things around the house, playing with Jakson, and just keeping our minds off the events to come in general. Dan ironed clothes, Jakson and I read books, my mom and I cooked. My contractions got progressively closer together as the day went on. We called Maggie (our doula) and kept her updated.
Jakson was born in January and so we were confined to the house when I was in labor with him. Since this baby was coming in April I envisioned spending time outside while I was in labor, so that’s what we did. Dan and I took a walk around our neighborhood. It was beautiful April day - the crocuses were peeking through the ground, the birds were singing, and kids were outside playing. As we walked my contractions got much more intense. Each time I had a contraction we stopped and I hung from Dan’s neck. When we got back I took a shower and Dan called Maggie. She decided to come over at that point.
Laboring at home was so comforting. I was in a familiar place surrounded by Dan, my mom, and Maggie. We had the lights low and music on. I had chosen music ahead of time that I thought I would want to listen to. I was surprised by how much my tastes changed when I was in labor! The slow, peaceful music I thought I would like just annoyed me. We ended up listening to Bruce Springsteen and Mexican music - the energy of the music helped me get through each contraction.
My memories of that time are so wonderful - my mom brushed my hair, Maggie gave me a massage, and Dan talked softly to me when I needed it. Each contraction built slowly and crested like a wave through my lower back and abdomen. I changed positions as I needed to - rocking on hands and knees, kneeling against the couch, standing, laying on my side. Each position felt good for a few contractions and then I would have to try something new.
Although my contractions were regular they seemed to be staying about the same in timing and intensity. In the last weeks of my pregnancy my midwives felt that the baby had an arm up by it’s head. Jakson was born this way and so it concerned me. Maggie thought that if the baby was positioned this way it was possible that it was hindering the progress of labor so she suggested I relax in a knee chest position for while. The theory was that this would allow the baby to move up out of the pelvis a bit and settle back in a better position. What a difference that made! After about ten minutes in this position my contractions greatly increased in intensity.
Even with the good progress, labor was taking longer than I had expected. I had experienced that first contraction around 10:30 in the morning and it was already 10:00 at night. Being that this was my second baby I expected it to go much faster this time (Jakson was born 16 hours after I felt my first “real” contraction). I was feeling a bit frustrated and also self-conscious. I felt as if I wasn’t making enough progress and that everyone was waiting around for something to happen. Being such a great doula, Maggie recognized this “performance anxiety” and suggested Dan and I go into our room to try to rest.
We lay together on our bed with the lights out and a candle burning. I had picked this candle out specifically to burn during labor. The lemongrass eucalyptus scent surrounded us and created a peaceful environment. Within about 15 minutes my contractions picked up in intensity. By now the only way I could handle them was on my hands and knees. I was laying on my side to rest and when I felt the slow rise of a contraction I’d move quickly to my hands and knees to rock and moan my way through it. The contractions seemed to be getting closer together and continuing to increase in intensity so I had Dan go out to tell my mom and Maggie that it was time to go to the hospital.
It was a slow process to get ready to go. Taking breaks for contractions I got dressed, we gathered up our bags and supplies, and made our way out the door. It was around midnight and the neighborhood was dark and silent. I felt like I was on my way to a huge adventure. I made my way to the car, leaning against the fence each time a contraction came. As our caravan of cars left, Dan called our midwife to let her know we were leaving for the hospital. She would meet us there.
The drive to the hospital was charged with emotion. We were both excited for what was to come. The music played softly as we alternated between laughing and me breathing through the contractions. I was nervous that we had left too soon for the hospital. I had expected labor to be much more intense, even more than my first labor, and I still was smiling and talking.
After a bumpy ride to the hospital we were greeted by locked door after locked door. It was after midnight and every entrance we tried was bolted up for the night. Taking breaks to manage my contractions, and eat - I was starving, we managed to find our way in. My midwife Ali met us inside the labor and delivery unit.
Because I was obviously well into labor we were able to bypass triage and go directly into my room. I changed into the gown I had brought (I wanted something personal to wear) and began answering questions from the nurses as they took my blood pressure and monitored some contractions. After about twenty minutes I was able to get into the tub which is what I was looking forward to. Sinking into the warm water was such a relief. The lights were turned down and I was able to concentrate on relaxing my body to allow it to do the job of getting the baby out. My eyes were closed; I could hear whispered voices of encouragement every so often. The contractions quickly became incredibly intense. I was no longer able to float and relax. I moved into a squatting position in the tub and held onto my husband’s hand as he sat on the edge of the tub. Ali wanted to check my progress and informed me I was 9+ centimeters. Almost there!
I could feel my baby moving lower and lower as the force of each contraction grinded through me. It was getting more difficult to stay on top of each contraction, and I began to make a guttural sound in my throat to deal with them. The relief I felt as a contraction subsided lasted only briefly until I felt the next one power its way down through me.
At this point holding my husband’s hand wasn’t enough. I began to bite his thigh as I felt the pain go through my body. Just when I started to feel like I wouldn’t be able to handle much more, Ali suggested she check the baby’s heart rate. I tried to move into a position so she could use her Doppler to find the baby. It was painful to move into different positions so she could try to find the baby. I moved back into a semi-squat position and felt the baby drop. There was nothing I could do to let everyone know how close the baby was except say “Baby! Baby!”.
Ali asked me to flip over onto my hands and knees. The baby’s head was crowning! She quickly called for gloves and gently asked me to slow down my pushes. The pain was excruciating and I was hoping that this baby would come out quickly - I had pushed for three hours with Jakson! Two quick pushes later I felt the baby squeeze out.
Immediately I felt for my new baby. I was almost panicked at the thought of having my baby out but not being able to immediately hold him or her. Ali helped me maneuver over and handed a tiny, wet baby with a head full of black hair. Immediately I looked to see if I had a new son or daughter. It was a boy! I cried with happiness as he lay on my chest and calmly looked at me with peaceful dark brown eyes.
The feelings of happiness and amazement were overwhelming. For months I had imagined what this little person would be like, what he would look like, and how I would feel when I finally met him. That moment was here and it was by far one of the best moments of my life. I was laughing and crying at the same time.
We had requested that the measurements, footprints, and other tests be put off until we had at least an hour to bond with the baby skin to skin. I was helped into the bed with my new son and he quickly began to nurse. What a blissful moment. Our little Jonah was here.
We spent two days at the hospital with lots of visitors and hours spent staring at our new baby. Coming home was a challenge - I was exhausted and now had a two year old and newborn. I suffered with postpartum depression and had to deal with essentially being a single parent as my husband went out of town for 3 months for work.
This was a dark time and I feel like I missed out on enjoying his first few months. I felt like a failure, was crying all the time, and felt like I was damaging my kids. At the advice of my doula I started seeing a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression. Seeing her and taking the medication that was eventually prescribed by my midwife really turned things around. A wonderful family and support system helped get me through this time.
Looking back on Jonah’s birth I am still amazed at how perfectly it went. I was surrounded by love and managed to dig deep into myself to bring my second boy into the world in the most natural, peaceful way I could.