When I woke up Friday, October 17th, I knew somewhere deep inside myself that I needed to rest. I went on a short walk, skipped my high cardio workout, took a long shower and decided to lie down in bed with a book. After reading for half an hour, I felt my stomach tighten alongside a painful cramp that felt similar to when I had debilitating PMS in high school. I glanced at my phone and returned to reading, willing myself not to get excited. Less than five minutes later it happened again. I quickly decided I’d try to let it play out for an hour and then go downstairs to get a glass of water. I replayed everything I had learned in our Bradley Method class, convincing myself I could probably make them stop and it wasn’t the real thing. I was four days past my due date, and first time mothers often stayed pregnant longer.
An hour full of contractions four to five minutes apart passed. I turned my book upside down, picked up my phone, and rolled from one side to the other and swung my leg off the bed to stand up.
It sounded like someone snapped their fingers across the room.
And then WHOOSH, the sound of water smacking the wood floor.
My next contraction came instantly and was much more intense. I held my belly, waited for it to pass, and then touched my face to feel the grin covering it. I was going to meet my baby.
But, I was Group B Strep positive, so instead of laboring at home until I just couldn’t anymore, it was time to go to the birth center for IV antibiotics. I waddled to the bathroom for a towel, leaking the entire way, and walked back to the bed on top of it to wipe up the mess I felt so proud to make before dialing my husband. It was just before four in the afternoon, and he was still at work 45 minutes away.
He answered after the first ring.
”My water broke!”
”Okay, I’m on my way!”
I piled all of our things together, including all of the camera equipment we would never end up using. Daniel arrived just under an hour later, told me he had called the midwife and she would be there waiting. helped me up into the car where I immediately shoved my pillow beneath my bottom and leaned way forward to have a contraction. No position felt comfortable, but as we drove down the highway during rush hour traffic and talked excitedly about meeting our baby that night, my contractions spaced out. By the time we arrived to the birth center, I hadn’t had one in almost twenty minutes.
We walked in the front door laughing, and I know the midwife on call didn’t mean to discourage me when she greeted us with, “I assume you are still in very early labor. You wouldn’t be acting this way if you were close.”
I thought back to my hundreds of squats a day plus all of the other work I’d done to prepare and really believed I was about to meet my baby. “No, I’ve been having strong contractions.” I felt the need to defend myself.
She led us back to room one. We dropped our bags around the room and I sat down for my first round of antibiotics.
”You guys just need to be back in four hours for the next round,” the midwife said as she removed the tube from my hand.
”We are supposed to leave?” I said, secretly fearing this woman had no idea what she was talking about—I was still having contractions, even if they were far apart—and that my baby might fall out in a parking lot.
”You guys go see a movie, get dinner. Does that sound fun? Do you think you could relax for a movie?”
”Definitely not,” I said, looking down at my amniotic fluid-soaked pants.
”Oh, right That might be a mess. Go walk around, eat something. Have you heard of castor oil? Grab some of that at Walgreen’s on your way back. I don’t want to wait until we are closing in on the 24 hour mark to try to get things moving. I’m not going to check you until you get back.”
So to Target we went, where I waddled around squishing water in my shoes and not caring at all because I WAS IN LABOR and I WAS ABOUT TO MEET MY BABY. Daniel didn’t care either—he was far too busy filling out cart out of anxiety.
”Do you like these towels? Okay let’s get like eight!”
”Do we need new coffee cups? We can always take them back later.”
”What about books? Do you need something to read?”
”She said we could watch a movie in the lobby later. Let’s get three or four just in case.”
We paid for our things and filled a bunch of bags that would end up staying on the floor of my car for the next three months as I stayed home with my newborn.
My contractions had picked up in intensity as we walked, so I ended up walking circles around our car in the Chipotle parking lot while Daniel ordered our food. We half-watched Moonrise Kingdom in the lobby of the birth center as I forced myself to take bites and bounced on a yoga ball.
After my second dose of antibiotics, the midwife checked me for the first time. I was at four centimeters. She gently suggested we try to get some rest for a few hours because she thought we might have "a long day ahead of us." At this point the idea of a long labor actually hit me, and I prayed she was wrong. She mixed my bottle of castor oil into some orange juice, and I chugged it before I could think twice. We took a hot shower and Daniel rubbed my back so I could try to relax.
We got out and I tried to settle into a position I could tolerate, but contractions were coming every two minutes at this point and nothing I did felt relaxing. Lying down was the worst possible thing I could do, so I ended up sitting up cross-legged and rocking back and forth through each contraction. At some point I added in a low hum. About an hour after crawling into bed I had to get up to empty my bowels from the castor oil before making my way back to my seated position on the bed. Daniel was in and out of sleep and I felt a strong, quiet connection to my baby. It was only us in those overnight hours, and I felt at peace with what my body was doing.
The midwife came back once in the middle of the night for more antibiotics, and then again at dawn to tell me her shift was ending an another midwife was coming in to be with me and she would probably check me shortly after arriving. She listened to me through a contraction and suggested I get in the tub while I waited, and I had no idea baths could be as hot as she ran it. I alternated between lying back and rocking back and forth on all fours, but the water didn’t soothe me the way I had read it did for so many other mothers.
The new midwife came in as I was getting out of the tub and we filled her in on how things were going. She sat on the bed with me through a few contractions and suggested we take a short walk by the lake out behind the building before she checked me. I didn’t think I had it in me, but I was willing to do anything to meet baby. Daniel helped me get dressed and we went outside, where we made it maybe all of twenty feet in what felt like three hours. My contractions were on top of each other at this point, and I couldn’t take two steps before stopping to lean on Daniel. We got back to our room just after seven in the morning and Teresa checked me. I was dilated to seven centimeters and incredibly relieved to hear I was definitely in active labor. I asked her how long she thought it'd be before I hit transition and was ready to push, and she said something about thinking we could have a baby by 9:30 because the process of getting from seven to ten was generally pretty quick.
I dropped onto the floor and began crawling around the birth center on all fours. Eventually a class started out in the lobby and I only found that out because I crawled into the room humming and met the eyes of a dozen or so women. I didn’t care. Transition hit me like a brick wall and I found myself back in our room paralyzed on all fours on the bed. I was crying and couldn’t keep myself from shaking, but I didn’t feel cold.. My hums had transformed into Tarzan-like noises, and Teresa came running in with Alice Ann, the midwifery student we'd had the privilege of getting to know a little at our last few prenatal appointments. The held back my hair and rubbed my back and promised me this was transition and that meant we were getting close to meeting baby girl. It was right at ten in the morning.
"I bet we have a baby by noon!" Teresa said as Alice Ann filled the tub again and Daniel helped me undress and lift my thousand pound tree stump of a leg over the edge.. Teresa told me to try hands and knees because discomfort probably meant Edie was moving down and putting pressure on my bottom. I stayed in the tub as long as I could stand the heat while Daniel wiped cold towels along my neck and rubbed my back with lavender oil. I thought I felt the urge to poop, which was what we were waiting on. My team helped me out of the tub and onto the toilet, where nothing came out.
I told Teresa I had planned to try squatting, so she brought me a birth stool to sit on. I began pushing through each contraction. I asked Teresa how I could know if I was doing it right, and she told me to use the same muscles I would during a bowel movement. Alice Ann placed a hand mirror under me so I could see my progress. I stayed on the stool for a while, and my contractions started to space out. We talked a lot in between them until I realized things were stalling. I asked what I could do to "get her out faster," and Teresa told me to walk around the room to see if that helped like it did earlier that morning. I took two steps and a contraction came on strong, so I hurried back into my squat on the stool and pushed. I ended up doing this little get up, take two steps and sit back down to push dance for the next hour. Nothing was changing, so Alice Ann suggested I remain standing and slow dance with Daniel through the pain. He supported me through contractions as I stood in a wide-legged squat and leaned into him.
At this point I started to feel discouraged, like I wasn't doing it right. Teresa offered to check baby's position. I got on the bed and she waited for a contraction to feel for Edie's head. This is when we found out she was stuck behind my pubic bone, which wasn't moving at all when I pushed. My pelvic floor was too tight. Teresa told me to turn on my side and push for two contractions and then roll over and push for two more to see if we could wiggle her down. Side lying made me feel I would die right then and there, and I remember asking if they could just pull her out. They kept telling me I was going to bring her down and each push moved muscles and made progress. I asked if they could see her head, and they told me they couldn’t.
It was two or three o'clock in the afternoon by this point, and I was really starting to doubt their encouragement. I was mostly starting to doubt myself, and I began saying things like, "I can't do this." I had never felt so exhausted, and we still couldn't see baby’s head. I was losing focus. I asked if I could just go to sleep and start over tomorrow, but I knew that wasn't possible with the pain I was in. I begged them to let me take a break and get in the shower so Daniel could rub my back.
We stood in the shower for an hour or two and I squatted and tried to push with each contraction. I was crying again and Alice Ann brought me the birth stool to sit on under the water. I told her I couldn't do it. "And I'm not just saying that--ask Daniel, I'm an incredibly determined person but I really have nothing left. I can't push anymore--my body is done." She kept telling me to say, "I can do this" out loud, but I wouldn't. I crawled off the stool and onto the floor, where I stayed in the hands and knees position for a few minutes before collapsing against the wall. I couldn't see. "I'm going to pass out. I'm passing out," I told them, and Alice Ann asked me if I would drink tea if she made me some. I said, "I don't know," and Daniel started forcing me to take sips of water.
I asked if this is what it felt like to be dehydrated because I didn’t recall ever feeling this way before. I realized I'd had less water in the past 24 hours than I usually drink over the course of an hour any given day, and I'd been up all night having diarrhea. "I have nothing left," I told them again. By this point it was past six in the evening. Teresa suggested I get back on the bed and push on my side again and she'd check to see if I was using the right muscles. Daniel helped me across the room and I got on the bed, but I couldn't get myself to really push. "I know we're doing this all naturally, but would you be up for an IV of sugar water? It's not a medical intervention--you just need some energy." Teresa asked. I told her I didn't care at this point and I would be up for riding over to the hospital and getting cut open.
"It's been over 24 hours, isn't my time up?" I asked, wondering if she had forgotten the rules. She told me I could do it.
Alice Ann hooked me up to an IV while Daniel rubbed my back, and I soon found myself starting to talk and joke around again. I asked Daniel to take my top leg and hold it, and I began pushing on my own. Alice Ann said, "Yes, Jordan! Good!" and Teresa said she was going to use her fingers to push against the muscles I should be using. The feeling infuriated me, so I pushed back with everything I had. She said I was moving the muscles around my pubic bone so it could move out of baby girl's way. I alternated sides and pushed again, but her head still wasn't coming down. I moved to all fours. My contractions started to space out again, and after a while they were over ten minutes apart. I had more energy, but my body was over it.
"Why are they slowing down?" I asked. Teresa said my uterus was tired--I had been pushing for almost twelve hours at this point and contracting since yesterday. After a long stretch of very few contractions, she brought in a tincture to put under my tongue and an electric breast pump. My mind had come back around, because I remember asking if it was sanitary. They assured me it had just been boiled.
Twenty minutes into pumping, my contractions were back even stronger than before, one on top of the other. I began pushing again and asked at what point we would give up and transfer. Teresa said we would evaluate in an hour, but we could have a baby by then.
Alice Ann had been checking Edie's heart rate every fifteen minutes, and baby girl wasn't phased at all by the long labor or crazy contractions. Teresa encouraged me it was probably due to my rigorous exercise routine throughout my pregnancy, and Alice Ann told me most women would have been transferred for a c section hours ago due to the baby getting stressed out. As the night went on, they would laugh each time they listened to her heart beat. "She's just hanging out in there," Teresa said.
Sometime around nine, she said, "Okay, I hate even suggesting this and you're going to hate it, too. But this is our last resort. We're going to do hospital position for a couple of contractions--just a couple, okay? Get on your back and pull your legs wide."
I did as I was told. I pushed and made all kinds of crazy noises. It was uncomfortable. Teresa asked me if I could hold my breath while pushing, and I tried it. Daniel was rubbing my arms and shoulders when she yelled, "Yes--a full head of dark hair!" And he immediately jumped up to stand behind her. I pushed again, and he exclaimed, "I see her, babe! She has a full head of hair! I see her!" I asked him if he was telling the truth and he was so excited, I had to believe him. That was all I needed--the reminder that she really existed--I had to get her out so we could meet her.
I went into another realm—totally in my body—and crawled off the bed without thinking. The fetal ejection reflex finally took over and it felt like baby girl was trying to fall out of my bottom. I squatted beside the bed and my body pushed and Alice Ann grabbed the mirror and put gloves on.
"I had planned on catching her, but babe, do you want to catch her? Can Daniel catch her?" I asked while trying to to catch my breath. Alice Ann said she would back him up but he could catch her. She showed him where to stand and put his hands.
Teresa told me to look down at the mirror with my next push if I could keep my eyes open.
"My baby! I see my baby!" The world stopped. I put my hand on her head and felt her wiggle under my palm.
”Is there anything I need to know about the ring of fire?” I asked.
Teresa said it was coming soon and to just listen to her instructions.
I asked what I needed to know and she said to let her crown and then let off--let her rock back so she could stretch me gradually, and then push her to crowning again and hold her there. Then I could do little grunt-pushes and ease her head out.
"But I can talk you through it when we get there," she said.
I wasn't up for waiting, because I held the next push as long as I could until she crowned, sucked in a big breath, and pushed again, then did as I was told with the little pushes.
I heard Alice Ann and Teresa both saying, "Good! Good, Jordan!" so I figured we were doing okay. But overall my body was just doing her thing without me.
Daniel asked if it burned and I said, "It burns, but it's not that bad." I felt more calm than I'd felt all day--I was working to bring my baby out.
And suddenly, her cone head was between my legs and I noticed how much bigger it was than I expected. I felt her sticky hair with my fingertips.
Alice Ann reminded us to let her turn her head and throw up and that she would be out with my next push. I could only see the back of her head but Daniel says he saw her do exactly as Alice Ann said. Teresa said I could bring her out whenever I was ready.
At 11:08 p.m., 31 hours after my water broke, I took a deep breath and held it. I don't remember what that last push felt like, the next few seconds overshadow almost all of the hard work in the hours before. I stood up, spun around, and my husband handed our first baby to me.
"It's a boy!" I yelled in shock. I felt between her legs before I could see her. Everyone burst out laughing as I realized it was just the umbilical cord.
Eden Faye scrunched up her face and cried, and I let the relief of everything we had done together wash over me. Alice Ann helped me lie back on the bed and began wiping blood from my thighs. I brought Edie to my breast for her first latch, and when the cord stopped pulsing, Daniel cut it. Teresa bent over to check babys latch and I felt an overwhelming flow of warm liquid between my legs.
”I think I am bleeding.”
Teresa called for a shot of pitocin but I continued to hemorrhage and they ended up giving me a second dose. She explained how tired my uterus must be after that labor. After the bleeding slowed, she checked me for tears. Nothing that warranted stitches.
Joy, the nurse who had joined us at some point before baby made her debut, checked our vitals and left us alone to bond for a few hours.
I sat up and tried to examine every inch of my baby. My vision was still barely there, but I knew she was beautiful. Daniel told me he was so proud of me. I told him I couldn't believe we did it after all of that--I really didn't think I was going to be able to. At some point he closed his eyes and left me alone for the first time with our new daughter.
Alice Ann and Joy came back to check our vitals again and to take Edie's measurements. She weighed seven pounds, four ounces and was nineteen inches long. Her head is was in the 99%.
They told me I had to pee before we left. I felt an overwhelming love for Joy as she held my hand on the walk to the toilet and gently wiped more blood from my legs and feet as I tried to push out a little pee. She walked me back to the bed, where I put a diaper and clothes on baby for the first time. She flailed her limbs and I felt terrified to break her. It probably took twenty minutes.
Joy sat down beside me on the bed and went over things we needed to know to go home. Daniel got the infant car seat out of our car and brought it in. We buckled Edie in hugged our team. Joy helped me up into the backseat to sit next to my baby, and Daniel drove thirty mph the whole way home while I stared at my girl in the early morning moonlight.