For one of our FMD families, Valentine's Day looked VERY different this year. There were candles and kisses... but they were around a labor tub with a new baby. Jess's birth story is inspiring and was a joy to support. She is funny, and sweet, and has more mental strength than I think she even knew. These excerpts from her birth story tell just what our motto embodies: strong moms. strong babies. strong families.
After laboring throughout the morning, Jess and her husband Kevin went to their care providers office to be checked...
I still wasn’t sure if this was real labor, and I remember asking Kevin, “am I making a mistake? Should we be going to get checked?” and he said he didn't know. I said that we might as well take our bags with us in case we didn’t come back and he agreed. Little did I know I was only six hours from pushing out a baby!
We grabbed some last minute things and left around 2:45 PM. I remember thinking that if I had gone into work, I would be just about at the end of my shift right then. The contractions in the car on the way were super painful. In between, I could talk and laugh, but during them I would close my eyes and breathe out slowly and try to relax.
When we got to the office, I had to lean on Kevin multiple times as we walked in and then hold onto the counter while I got checked in. The receptionist laughed and said "what are YOU doing here?" when she saw me because I had just been there the day before. I laughed but I was in too much pain to think of anything funny to say right then.
We got taken back to a room pretty quickly, and the nurse Heidi came in to check. She waited while I had another contraction, and then she reached in to check me and immediately said “You need to go to the hospital!” She said I was 5 cm dilated with a bulging sack of waters and she went to get us a chux pad to put down on my seat in case it broke on the way. Fortunately, the hospital was only 6 minutes away. As we were leaving, the receptionists at MCA said they could hardly believe I was at 5 cm and in active labor. They said based on my face, they would have guessed it was false labor because I was so calm. Inside, I didn’t feel calm at all but I was just super focused on breathing and making it to the hospital. On the way (3:40 PM), I messaged the birth group to let everyone know that this was happening and Sarah said she was already on her way. She had guessed correctly that this wasn’t false labor and I’m glad she left when she did.
Sarah came in and started rubbing my legs (I remember apologizing that I hadn’t shaved them!) Karen came in and told us that she had two other women in labor, one who was about to start pushing, so she would be in and out. I was glad to have Sarah there. Actually Karen told me later that she would have stayed with me the whole time if she hadn’t had two other patients, so even she was glad I had a doula.
After monitoring my contractions for a while, I was allowed to go to the tub room (around 5:15 PM). Kevin and Sarah walked with me, following the nurse who had been cleaning it and filling it with water. It was down the hall from our room. I just remember it felt so weird to be walking around with no underwear, just the gown and socks and a blanket to cover my back. The tub room was dark and quiet. Sarah and Kevin sat on the floor next to the tub. Kevin played music on his phone from Pandora. The water felt good, but the contractions were still very intense. We didn’t talk much. Sarah told me that I was doing everything right—she had nothing to tell me because I was already doing it! That was really encouraging.
I asked her if this was really happening, if there was any way this would all reverse and I would be going to work the next day and she laughed and said no, this is happening and we can’t go back now! Kevin messaged the group to say: "Chillin in the tub at FMH now. They even dimmed the lights and put little battery candles around. Happy Valentine's Day!"
After about a half hour, I needed to pee and there was no toilet in that room (major design flaw) so I had to get out, dry off (at this point I was just wearing my black sports nursing bra), and put the gown back on to walk back to the room. I had every intention of going back to that tub, but it never happened.
While we waited to be checked, I decided to try the shower. I stood in the warm water, holding onto the bar on the side while Kevin stood outside and applied counter pressure by squeezing my hips together every time I told him a contraction was starting. Toward the end, I could feel his arms shaking from the effort so I would tell him I was okay before it was actually over because I felt bad for him. This was around the time that my legs started shaking and I started feeling nauseated. Sarah noticed that my legs were shaking and she suggested that they bring the yoga ball into the shower so I could sit down but stay in the water. I wasn’t sure, but it ended up being a good idea.
At 7:16 PM, she checked me and I was at 9 cm. Karen had me flip over on my hands and knees on the bed for a couple contractions so that I could dilate the rest of the way. This was the worst part of the whole birth. I wasn’t getting any relief from water, and at this point I was moaning quietly through the contractions. I told Kevin I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this and Sarah reminded me that this was transition, the hardest part. I never really felt a strong urge to push, but I really wanted to be done, so I told them I felt kind of pushy and Karen said she wanted me to have two more contractions first without pushing.
Almost instantly, the whole room changed. The lights dimmed, a nurse picked up a phone and said “we’re pushing in room [number]” and I thought “that’s MY room! Oh wait, I’m pushing?!” and Karen started putting on her blue surgical type gown and more nurses appeared and there was a table with instruments down at my feet.
I was dreading contractions and wishing I could just ignore one and not tell anyone so I wouldn’t have to push. But I kept trying because I just wanted it to be over with. Sarah had told me to try to mentally go to a happy place, so I tried picturing myself running outside in the field behind my parents’ house and I also tried imagining that this was all happening to someone else, not me. The main thing was just to focus on one contraction at a time and to relax every muscle as much as possible.
Suddenly, while I was in the middle of pushing, I felt the unmistakable burning of the ring of fire and realized that he was coming out. I had no idea we were almost there! I just kept pushing and pushing even when the contraction was over and he came out, screaming.
Jack’s APGAR score was 8. He was born at 8:41 PM, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 20 ½ inches long. They put him on my chest right away and he screamed and I just couldn’t believe it was all over. Kevin was smiling and rubbing my arm. After awhile, they asked who wanted to cut the cord and we let Sarah do it since neither of us wanted to. She was excited because she never had before!
Overall, it all went much smoother than I expected (I had expected to yell expletives and demand an epidural) and I was so grateful for the supportive team I had. It’s still hard to imagine going through it again, but it was more than worth it. Jack will always be the best Valentine I’ve ever had.