I apologize in advance, this is incredibly long, but then again, so was my labor.
I woke up at 2am on Sunday morning, starting to feel more Braxton-Hicks. I had been feeling them on and off for a week or two but knew they were normal. I tried going back to sleep but these ones felt stronger than the ones I was used to feeling. They lasted longer and weren’t going away. I couldn’t ignore them this time. I had a group text going with a few of my girlfriends; two were brand new moms and the other nearly five months pregnant. After laying in bed trying to ward off these strange cramps for an hour, I texted the group to let them know what was going on. One of them (most likely up with her new babe for a feeding) answered almost immediately saying, “Uhh I don’t think those are Braxton-Hicks anymore. Those are contractions.”
She was probably right. After all, I was a few days late from my due date. Maybe little Levi decided he was ready. I had a terrible end to my pregnancy with the worst itching I’ve ever experienced with PUPPs, so everyday I wished he would come early. Finally, an end to my misery! (Right...)
I called my midwife, Galyn, to let her know that these were most likely contractions that had been ten minutes apart, lasting a minute, and had been going on for an hour. She was excited for me and told me to just ride them out and to let her know when they got to 5:1:1 (contractions that were five minutes apart, lasting a full minute, and going on for an hour). I attempted to go back to sleep. My parents would be getting up in another five hours to start getting ready to go to church. I knew I wouldn’t be joining them this time.
I think we woke up again around 8am or 9am. I finally let Sean know I had been having contractions all night. He had a look on his face that could tell a story; surprised, scared, excited, clueless as to what to do next, ya know. New dad stuff. We had no idea what to expect. Except, maybe we’d get to meet our baby that night. He had a long to-do list of chores that had been put off, but he immediately jumped into busy mode while I relaxed. That boy was on fire: straightening up things here and there, re-caulking the tub, vacuuming, taking inventory of our birthing kit supplies. While my parents were still out, I let my mom know that contractions had started the night before. Reading my mind, they brought home breakfast tacos. I was famished! We went about our day as normal around the house but that’s also when I realized the contractions had stopped. Galyn said I could trying bouncing on my birth ball and using the breast pump for stimulation. After about an hour, things started moving again, this time a little more intense. I bounced on my ball and attempted to manage these on my own, meanwhile Sean went about his chores and frequently checked up on me. Our little dog, Buddy, stayed glued to me, bless his little heart. We knew when it came time for Galyn to come over to the house, that we would have to take Buddy over to Sean’s parent’s house so he wouldn’t be in the way. It wasn’t until later that afternoon we finally reached 5:1:1. Things were very hard by then, the contractions had moved from my front to my back. I stayed on the ball while Sean called Galyn to let her know where we were at. I thought, ok she should be on her way soon then! She asked Sean how I was doing and if I could still feel the baby moving. She then wanted to be notified once I made it to 4:1:1. I thought, you’re kidding! I have to wait longer?! (Looking back on it now, I wanted her there to help, but I know there wouldn’t have been anything else for her to do. I feel silly about it now for being upset about it then.)
I don’t remember what time in the day/evening I reached 4:1:1. By that time, I had to have been crying for it to be over. We had candles burning, lights dimmed, and soft Enya music playing to try and relax me but things were unbearable then. That night is a blur, but I remember us laying in bed. I would cringe suddenly when a contraction would hit and Sean would help breathe me through it while rubbing the tender part of my lower back. Then there was a knock at the door. Galyn had arrived to my rescue! It was maybe about 10pm then. Almost forgetting where I was and what I was doing, I tried getting up to greet her, but she laid me back down. She spoke calmly to me, almost as if to whisper. Her touch was as soothing as her voice. She never had a heavy hand as she stroked my arms, head, and back. She checked the baby’s heartbeat and everything looked good. She helped me through the next few contractions before checking my dilation. I thought, I had to have been really close like 8 or 9cm.
I was devastated. She suggested putting me in a warm shower to sit and relax my body. My contractions were too intense for my body to keep up with or have any kind of progression at all. We put a step stool in there so I could sit and just let the warm water massage the tension away. It gave my body a chance to relax and catch up. After sitting there for about an hour and even dozing off a couple times, the contractions stopped. Sean sat with me the whole time and then helped me out of the tub and back into bed. Since the contractions had slowed back down, it gave me a chance to actually sleep. I think by then, it was around 4am and Sean took back over and Galyn had left it to us. When they started up again, it was late into the night and we basically started all over from the beginning and they were just as intense. I remember crying through them while Sean got my focus back to breathing. It was the longest night of my life.
That was day 1.
I feel like the next day was about the same as the night before and we were again instructed by Galyn to let her know once the contractions got closer together. She also said any vomiting was a good sign. That meant we were getting closer. I began to think I wouldn’t survive another night like last night. Poor Sean had about as much sleep as I had. He was putting everything into this, just as much as I was. We went on again managing but once the contractions got too intense, we would get back in the shower. Galyn even sent a doula over to help me with my labor. I felt bad, I never used her. By the time she got there, I was making my way to the bathroom for another shower and then the contractions started to subside. I remember after one of my showers later into the night , I had to go to the bathroom. While I was sitting on the toilet and talking to Sean, I began to feel nauseous. Right then, I quickly leaned over and vomited into the tub. As embarrassed as I was and grossed out as we should’ve been, we both got a little excited: we were getting closer!
Day 3: We expected to see Galyn next around 1am. Sean had fallen asleep for a couple hours while I labored on my own sitting in my rocking chair. I counted down the minutes until 1am. Finally came a knock at the front door! Of course the timing was horrible since I was in the middle of contractions and couldn’t get up, so I started yelling at Sean and throwing things at him to wake him up. (The man could sleep through an earthquake.) The third thing I threw at him (I don’t remember what it was) worked, and he ran downstairs to let Galyn in. She came over to me as I gripped onto the seat of the chair. Her appearance was always so soothing and comforting. I remember complaining to her about my back. It felt like it was on fire. Like bone scraping against each other. She had me get on the floor on my knees and hug my birth ball while she would try and massage my lower back. The baby was in a position to where his head was putting a lot of pressure on my spine, so getting out of the sitting position would help. I don’t think I ever told her that her putting counter-pressure on that spot during each contraction actually made it feel worse! I’m not actually sure what it was supposed to do for me, but I remember crying harder. During all this, Sean fell back to sleep and Galyn had brought in another midwife to assist; Amanda. I don’t remember meeting her before. She was kind and gentle. The two of them never spoke above a whisper. Next they had me sit on this wooden stool with a hole cut out in the seat. Amanda sat in front of me and helped me support my balance every time a contraction would hit. She let me grip onto her knees as I would buckle over in pain. After a while of this, Galyn would continue to check my dilation while sitting on the stool. During a check, a sudden gush splashed onto the floor below me. My water broke! It surprised us and made all of us jump! They helped me back into bed and I believe it was around 3am or 4am by then. Sean woke up and helped me through labor again. I couldn’t take it any longer so they started to set up the birthing pool. I had hoped the warm water would bring me comfort and ease my back pain. Once the pool was inflated, Sean connected the hose to the shower and started filling it up. He couldn’t fill it up fast enough for me, it felt like an eternity. I couldn’t wait anymore and asked if it was ready yet. They asked if I wanted to get in. YES!!! I slowly shuffled my way over with Amanda’s help and got in. The warm water was like a blanket, and the inflated bottom like a pillow for my knees. Like before, when I would feel a contraction, Galyn would put counter-pressure on my back to try and get the baby off my spine as I clung to the edge of the pool. I would try and rest in between with my face against the cool sides. I felt so beat down and weak that I wanted to just let myself fall into the water and not resurface. By this time, my mom and mother-in-law had entered the room and took a backseat to watch the process. Since we were getting closer, I now had a new task: try and push during every contraction. After about 30 minutes of trying this in the pool, I felt like I was making zero progress. There was no position I could get into that would make the pain any less. It was so unbearable, that I faced Sean, regrettably crying to him that I just couldn’t do it anymore. He and Galyn both pleaded, “Yes you can!”. Galyn told me there was a way to get the baby out quickly, but I would have to get back in bed. My heart dropped since I knew laying down made me feel worse like before. I reached behind me and cried, “But my back...” She said, the only way to get him off my back was to get him out now. I gathered myself and got up to climb out of the pool. Galyn helped me get out while Amanda layered the bed with what looked like giant, super absorbent puppy pads. Probably sized for a Great Dane puppy. I climbed up into bed and settled in laying down. Galyn climbed up as well, but at the foot of the bed. Amanda instructed me in what was gonna happen and what I needed to do. She would hold my right leg up and out and Sean would hold my left. Galyn would help guide the baby out, while using olive oil. She would keep me from tearing and would stop me from pushing if I needed to slow down. I tucked my chin to my chest and started pushing. Right away they were impressed with my efforts. “You’re not pushing like a first time mom!”, they would cheer. This made me feel amazing and we were actually getting somewhere. I felt very confident. Galyn even grabbed my hand so I could reach and feel all the hair on my baby’s head as he began to crown.
After about 30 minutes of pushing, 38 hours of active labor, and 52 hours of total labor, at 6:12am on Tuesday morning my sweet babe, Levi Case, made his way into the world right into Sean’s hands! The proud daddy lifted him up onto my stomach as I burst into tears. He kissed and hugged me. We waited for the cord to finish pulsing before I delivered the placenta and we clamped it. I got to hold him while everything got cleaned up. His little cries were like music. His eyes were so beautiful. He had the sweetest little nose. When it was time for me to get cleaned up and dressed, with Galyn and Amanda’s help, Sean took him in the other room for our parents to see. Soon after, Galyn gave Levi his first exam. Results: perfect. Once she finished, Levi latched like a pro so he could start eating immediately. Then it was my turn to eat, so Amanda did a breakfast taco run!!!
Levi is almost 3 months old now and about to have his first Christmas. It’s been the best time having him make our little family whole. I’m so in love with this precious little thing. I could not have had this wonderful experience without the dedication and love of such a committed husband and birthing partner. Thank you, Sean. As terrifying and exhausting as it was, you did an amazing job of sticking by my side and helping me through the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Thank you, Galyn and Amanda. I don’t regret one thing about choosing a midwife to take care of us. It’s everything I could have wanted and more. You two were so incredible and are so passionate about your work. This is my birth story (to the best of my recollection) and it is my Christmas gift to you.