When people say that birthing a child is the hardest thing they’ve ever done I will now whole heartedly agree. Physically and emotionally, the experience was something I am proud to say I had, and grateful to say I don’t have to do every day. Before his birth I read (and listened) to as many birth stories as I could. Medicated, unmedicated, c-section etc. I wanted to be prepared for anything. So, for the sake of any other “first timers” needing to be rest assured that they too will one day say it was all worth it in the end, and also for the sake of holding on to every detail… here is our birth story.
On Tuesday, November 20th, I woke up at about 5:30am with what I assumed were Braxton Hicks contractions but they felt more like PMS cramps. I had just been to my 38 week appointment on Monday (the day before) and thought there was no way “this” was happening. I also started spotting which I hadn’t done once the entire pregnancy which again, I noted but thought “it’s way too soon”. By the time my husband left for work I was definitely cramping consistently (about 5 minutes apart) so I assured him I would keep him updated if I needed to.
I had already scheduled to walk with a friend in the morning and thought about canceling it but didn’t. She and her two girls came over at 10:00am and we headed out for 3 miles. I told her I was having some Braxton Hicks but walked and talked through them. It was a probably the best distraction to allow them to keep on without “fighting” them which is hard not to do. When she left at noon I was pretty sure something was happening so I jumped in the shower and French braided my hair (it’s what I do for hard workouts and marathons so I figured it was appropriate).
I started tracking the contractions again which were 3-5 minutes apart and almost a minute long. Bill was already scheduled to come home at 3pm but I ended up texting him about 2pm to come home ASAP. 15 minutes later I was calling him asking where he was! Haha I was needing help! He hadn’t packed a bag yet so I told him to do that and put things in the car.
We got to labor and delivery about 3pm (with a few stops for contractions along the way). They checked and I was 3cm, significantly effaced and baby was at “0” station. Thankfully I knew what those terms meant or I would have been discouraged by being only 3cm. I knew the other information meant he was ready to go whenever things picked up just a bit. They decided to send me out to “walk”. Haha no thanks. We headed home (about 1.5 miles from the hospital).
When we got home I instantly threw up. Looking back I’m pretty sure this was a point of transition. Things had been hard but they got harder and much closer together. I had Bill help me lay down in the bath and after a few contractions my water broke (at which point I was grateful I wasn’t walking the hospital hallways), it was about 4:45pm. I struggled out of the bathtub, back into clothes and eventually to the back seat of our car where I kept my eyes shut tight until we arrived at the hospital.
Bill had to drop me off and park the car. I prayed no one would be in the elevator with me and the Lord answered. I arrived at the fourth floor, walked up to the front desk then got down on all fours for a contraction. Someone asked for my military ID and thankfully the lady at the desk remembered me from earlier. It was about 5:15pm.
Back to the room to be checked. My eyes stayed closed almost the whole time. I started to feel out of control. I couldn’t help but rock on all fours even on the hospital bed and I don’t remember being checked at all. I was 6cm dilated so they admitted me to a labor room. It’s funny they make you initial paperwork once you get there. I’m assuming most people have a little longer to do this but I remember it seeming ridiculous trying to answer questions during 30 second of rest between contractions.
I was definitely starting to doubt myself. I already felt the need to push because he was sitting so low already. The nurse offered to help me to the bathroom since that’s what was going to come before the baby. Back on the hospital bed I remember sitting up between contractions and telling Bill I can’t do this. Only to be interrupted by the sheer force of a contraction sending my face back into a pillow to moan. It honestly scared me a bit. It was hard for Bill to watch and be be able to do so little besides touch and verbal reinforcement. I couldn’t have done it without him. I had not thought I would have such little control of how I felt. I asked for iv pain meds so they brought in the doctor and had me answer more questions. I could hardly answer them.
6:30pm. Thankfully at this point a familiar face walked in. A midwife I had seen multiple times (even though they don’t get “assigned” to you like in a traditional hospital). She seemed calm and made it known that her presence meant I was close. She was also pretty directive… which I didn’t know I would need. “How long have you been on the bed?” she asked then proceeded to make me stand up and start squatting through contractions. “Dad, do you want to catch this baby?” she asked Bill. This all seems like a blur now. After a few contractions squating next to the bed she had me get back on it. I asked where the pain meds were and she told me there wasn’t time. She was putting on her coat… the ones they wear to keep them dry. She ordered Bill to take his shoes off and sit behind me in the bed which helped a lot as I used his legs for leverage while I pushed. Not to mention the physical closeness was comforting.
“This baby is coming with or without your help. If you bear down each contraction he’ll be here sooner,” she told me. Under normal circumstances I would have probably been offended at her tone but it was genuinely what I needed to hear. I needed to be told what to do. They could see his head. He had hair, they told me. So I pushed as hard as I could 2 more times, once for his head then for his shoulders. And he came at 7:06pm.
They instantly handed him up to us. It was surreal. All the pain instantly washed away. The rush of emotions and hormones was overwhelming. Bill asked if it was for sure a boy… haha we had forgotten to check. Dark hair, 7lbs 5oz. We laid like that for a good while and when they were ready to cut the umbilical cord they asked Bill if he wanted to do the honor. They also asked if we wanted to pray for him first and offered to take pictures and a video for us. It was one of the most special moments of my life.
After spending our golden hour together, getting stitched up for just as long, a few rounds of the painful but necessary pressing on the abdomin/ uterus to clear extra fluids, and receiving my first iv injection of the night- a round of some sort of Motrin for the pain, the nurse took me to the bathroom to help me clean up.
I will never look at nurses the same. There I was, shaky knees from exhaustion and caloric deficiency, naked except for my own body fluids, and her job was to gently and professionally bathe me from head to toe with a wash clothe and tub of soapy water. Her gentleness and care, in one of my most vulnerable moments, I will never forget.
We moved to the mother-baby unit and while sitting in the hallway I heard another mother laboring. I simultaneously had two emotions: disbelief that we had just done that and extreme thankfulness it was over.
We settled in with a new nurse while hearing tons of instructions (funny how much faith they have in you to remember things given to you in the middle of the night while exhausted). Bill ran home to let Scout out and we settled into our sleep / vital checks rhythm for the rest of the night and following day.
They required a 48 stay so Thanksgiving morning we watched the parade, FaceTimed family & friends, had visitors from church and community group (which included leftover Thanksgiving meals that I promptly inhaled), and were more then ready to be home by our 7:00pm check out.
It’s still surreal to me that he’s here. That we know each other. That he looks like his dad ♥️. I’m overwhelmed by the Lords goodness. In His kindness and common grace that gives women the strength and provision to bear children. And also in His saving grace and the Holy Spirit who has sustained us these past 10 days of sleeplessness, breastfeeding learning curves, physical healing and emotional highs and lows. We are so grateful for such a gift.
“Someone is with you as you get up, already exhausted as usual, before the sun rises. The one who called you to this very important job is with you and because he is, there’s hope. Sure there will be times when you’ll find yourself at the end of your rope, but fight fear and discouragement with expectancy; your Savior’s rope never ends, and He will never leave you alone.”
Paul David Tripp
One thought on “Freeland James – A birth story”
Thanks for sharing your story! The swiftness and intensity (and earliness) reminded me of my own first birth!
I especially loved how your midwife invited Bill to experience the birth right alongside you! Must have been such an amazing thing to share together.
He is beautiful! And looks so much like Bill I think. 🙂
I hope you are doing well in the healing process.