Is there anything more magical than that second when a baby moves from the womb to the outside world? Sure, there’s some pain involved. But there is also relief and joy and an overwhelming euphoria. It’s one of those feelings that you just have to experience to understand. I’ve been blessed to experience that feeling twice now. The births of my sons are the best two moments of my life.
I was due February 9th. For most of my pregnancy I felt like he might come a little early. I was sort of hoping for Groundhog’s Day. Jon said all along that he wanted a Super Bowl baby, even though it might be terribly inconvenient for us and family traveling to the hospital since we live in Indy. I joked that at the very least we wouldn’t make it past the full moon on the 7th. But as we got closer to our due date, I started feeling like he was going to stay put until we forced him out.
On February 3rd I had a checkup with my OB. I was 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Though I was encouraged that something was happening, I tried not to get my hopes up too much. I kept reminding Jon that some women stay dilated a few centimeters for weeks before going into labor. I spent Friday and Saturday eating spicy foods, taking long walks and hot baths, and bouncing around on my exercise ball.
And on Sunday, February 5th–Super Bowl Sunday–Jon got his wish.
I woke up to what I thought was a contraction at 3:52am. I lay still and watched the clock. Another at 3:58. And another at 4:04. I let myself get excited. Regularity! And only six minutes apart. This might just be the real thing. I got out of bed and had a glass of water. I was too anxious to lay back down, and the contractions were still coming. Jon got up with me. We took a shower and had some breakfast and wondered if today could really be the day.
Jon made a quick trip to the grocery store, and I went through my checklist of things to be done and packed before we headed to the hospital. When Jon returned we started timing my contractions again. I rolled around on my exercise ball, and we watched the previous night’s Saturday Night Live. By the time the episode was over I was laying on the couch closing my eyes and breathing through the contractions. They were about three and a half minutes apart and lasting between 45 seconds and one minute for more than an hour.
We made the call. My doctor asked us to come on in and get checked. We grabbed our things and took off. We arrived at the hospital about 8:30am, and I was at 3 centimeters. The nurse stepped out to see if my doctor wanted to admit me or not. I figured we were probably going to head home to labor there for awhile longer. At that point I was pretty convinced that Marshall would be born that day, but I assumed we still had a very long journey ahead of us. I was wrong.
While we were waiting for the nurse to return, my water broke! And then everything started moving really fast. I was admitted and we moved to a labor and delivery room. The contractions became much more intense then. I sat on a ball while they monitored Marshall for a little while. I made it clear to my nurse that I wanted as few interventions as possible–including pain medicine. I was able to get just a hep-lock, which allowed me to move around the room easier. She and Jon were both great at suggesting positions and reminding me to breathe. She respected my decision to labor naturally and never asked if I wanted an epidural or other pain medicine.
In what seemed like no time at all, I was noticing major changes in the contractions. I started feeling incapable of walking and talking through them. All I could do was lean over the ball on the bed and sway back and forth. I was moaning my way through the contractions. Jon stood behind me and lightly stroked my back. It was just what I needed to keep me grounded. My nurse noticed the changes too and suggested that she check me again. I was 7 centimeters!
We had requested and been given a tub room, and I was hoping to labor in the water. I briefly considered it after that check, but before I could act on it I was having contractions back to back with no break. I figured I would be fully dilated before we could even fill the tub. Before long I was feeling the urge to push. The nurse checked me again, and I was complete. Just like that. The next phase was beginning.
Still hanging over the side of the bed hugging the ball, I started pushing. It was 10:40am. I had been laboring for less than 7 hours, and only a couple of those–at the most–were difficult. I think we were all in a bit of disbelief. At some point I ended up in the bed laying on my side. The pushing seemed much more productive in that position, so I stayed there. I hadn’t planned on pushing in the bed, but you just have to go with what feels right at the time. I had also planned to use a handful of relaxation tools and techniques to help get me through labor–music, massage oil, lavender room spray, dim lights, the tub and shower. We had prepared for a natural birth by reading and attending classes and talking about what I might need from Jon along the way. You know what they say–when you pack and umbrella, it doesn’t rain.
When my doctor arrived and checked me she discovered that Marshall was coming face up. She said most of the time babies turn during labor, but it didn’t seem like he was going to. It wasn’t a cause for concern, but the pushing would be a bit more challenging. It certainly felt like it! She and my nurse and Jon were amazing, though. They coached me through pushing but without all the yelling. It was the perfect balance between direction and encouragement. One of the most comforting things through the pushing stage was having a cold cloth on my forehead and eyes. It really helped me just focus on what I needed to do to get him here.
After what seemed like a ridiculously long time, I could feel Marshall getting close. As painful as it was, it was helpful to feel that I was making progress. I reached down and touched his head full of hair. After a bit more pushing, he was finally here. I looked down just in time to see the last bit of him emerging from me into the doctor’s arms. Marshall Birch was born at 12:19pm. Instant love. He was so beautiful. We did it! I remember telling him happy birthday and that I love him. I kissed his daddy. We cried.
They laid him on my chest right away–skin to skin. What an incredible feeling. They cleaned him up a bit and made sure his breathing was okay. Jon cut his cord. We counted fingers and toes. At some point they took his measurements, did his footprints, and gave him his first bath. 7 pounds, 9 ounces. 21 inches long. A little bundle of perfection. Every moment with him since has been just incredible. I couldn’t imagine being happier.
And what a great birth experience! I couldn’t have wished for more.