On February 26th, 2011, I was profoundly transformed by the birth of our son. The birth of any child is a miracle, but the birth of your first child almost 6 weeks before you expect him is truly humbling. The unexpected and beautiful birth of our son, Isaac Gary Holst Jones, reminded me that I am not in control of all things and that I have all I ever need within me to bring life into the world at any moment.
My due date was April 4th, so when I experienced some bleeding and small amount of fluid loss on Friday, February 25th, I thought perhaps I just needed to rest. My mom was here helping prep Isaac’s room and we were shopping. I came home and rested, called my CNM, and together we decided that since I had no cramping or contractions, I should just keep an eye on things.
1:00 am – still the same. The baby was moving a lot and I still felt nothing in the way of uterine surges.
6:00 am, February 26th – still the same. It had now been over 12 hours since the bleeding started and I told my husband we should just go to triage to get things looked over. I had a baby shower at 11:30am and my sister was flying in that day as well. Best to be reassured before a busy day started. Well, we had no idea how busy this day would be!
At triage, our wonderful and amazing midwife checked me over. Although the fetal monitor reported a number of contractions, I felt nothing. A look under the microscope revealed my water had broken. Our midwife came back to inform us that we were having a baby today. TODAY?! Okay. All right. Um. Okay then. She advised us to stay at the hospital because I would need to be put on pitocin since it had been so long since my water broke.
I called my mom and sister who were both thinking we were in for a weekend of baby shower, dinner out, and our annual Oscar Showdown party and informed them that instead of a baby shower, we were just going to have a baby.
So here we were at the hospital – no bags packed, no pediatrician picked, baby room only slightly prepared, had only been to one birth class with our doula, our breastfeeding class was set for March 6th…you get the picture. But all of a sudden, it was clear that all of those preparations that once seemed so vital didn’t matter – this baby was coming anyway.
We checked into our room and just spent the morning and early afternoon waiting and preparing ourselves mentally and emotionally. My mom and sister came by to visit and chat. Conveniently, our doula was already at the hospital with another client in labor. She was shocked to see us.
Apparently, I was having lots of contractions, but I felt nothing. Around 3 pm we decided to start the pitocin drip and get things moving. We had put a lot of thought into planning a natural labor where I would stay home as long as possible and try to avoid interventions as much as I could. Well, here I was hooked up to an IV with constant fetal monitoring and I was told that when I delivered we would have to be in the bright, cold operating room so that the baby was as close to NICU as possible. Earlier in the day, the NICU doctor came and told us all of the complications that Isaac could have at 34 weeks gestation and that we should be prepared for a baby no more than 4-5 lbs. They said he would most likely be in NICU for a number of weeks.
By 8:00 pm, I still wasn’t feeling any of the contractions, so the CNM told me to get some rest and if things weren’t progressing by midnight we would discuss the next intervention. I prayed that the pitocin would just work! They cranked it up and just as I was settling in to rest the contractions started hard and fast. From the get go I had no more than one minute rest between them. Whoa. This is intense.
After about an hour, when the contractions were getting more intense and my rest periods seemed even shorter, we called our doula. (Don’t give birth without a doula ladies – they are powerfully supportive in labor and beyond!) I kept wondering if I would ever get a break from the contractions, but the one thing that stuck with me from what I had planned for was the mantra, “Am I okay right now, in this moment?” And the answer was always yes – each moment was possible if I didn’t look ahead wondering how long it would go on or think about how this is not what I thought would happen for my birth. My doula and my husband were extremely supportive through almost three hours of hard contractions with only a minute break between them. Eventually, they turned the pitocin completely off and discovered that my body had gotten the message and was taking over labor on its own. Thank God! Yet, it was still at the same pace.
At some point, the midwife wanted to check my dilation, hoping that the grueling pace of labor was actually accomplishing something. To everyone’s joy I was 6-7 cm dilated! Rock on (literally – I was rocking intensely through the contractions). The next phase of labor seemed to last only minutes, but it was actually more like an hour. My body went into warp speed and before I knew it I was on my hands and knees, fully dilated, on the bed being rolled into the OR. I wasn’t aware of anything except the power of my body in each moment bringing my baby into the world. My doula and the midwife had me try 2 positions for pushing, side lying being most successful, and in less than 4 pushing phases, at 11:02 pm our beautiful, tiny boy was born kicking and screaming like a champion! I was screaming as well – not because it was so crazy painful, but because there is just something great about matching the intensity of labor with an equally intense sound. It helped me anyway.
Isaac was whisked away by the NICU team and as they worked quickly and gently, all I could think was “He’s okay. I did it. We did it”. It wasn’t anything like I planned, except for birthing without pain meds. I kept that part of the plan intact and am so glad I did. It was just as beautiful and powerful as I dreamed birth could be. I turned to my husband and doula and said “Well, that wasn’t so bad. I could totally do that again. I mean, not tomorrow.” And then the most beautiful and amazing event of my entire life got even better: they brought me my son to hold and I heard the best words a mother could hear, “He is doing great, Mom!”
Although Isaac had to be in NICU for about 2 hours and needed 36 hours of antibiotics just to be safe, his birth was just the beginning of his strong spirit. Not only did he defy every prediction the NICU doctors made (he was 5 lbs 12 oz), he also proceeded to feed like a rock star, latching immediately. From about 1:00 am on he was rooming in with us and we were immediately and completely in love with this tiny human who decided it was his time to come into the world.
We are all home now, creating a womb outside the womb for Isaac as he is still tiny and needs time to do the growing and fattening he didn’t do in the womb. Although he may still face some challenges ahead, he is doing quite well and I have no doubt that in a year when we celebrate his February birth we will look at him with love and be amazed by how much he has grown. Someday we will tell him this story of his birth and I hope it will empower him to believe in himself and the inner strength that was his from birth.
Mamas – no matter what birth brings to you and your babies, remember that you already have everything you need to be strong and powerful in labor. Life is so, so good.