Early labor started for me around 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I was only having one to two contractions an hour that were strong enough to wake me up. My husband, Neil, brought a futon into our bedroom so that I could wake up to manage the contractions on the floor and then go back to sleep.
I had read that it’s best to try to ignore early labor, so while we tried to get some rest, we still went about the regular tasks of our day on Sunday. Still anticipating that we might end up at the hospital that night, we decided to go out for what we thought might be our "last supper" before the baby arrived. However, things continued in about the same manner through to Monday, although my contractions were getting stronger and more frequent. I could no longer go out in public because I needed to deal with the contractions vocally.
By Monday night I was starting to get a little frustrated because I had been in early labor so long. I was starting to get restless and wondered when “real” labor would begin. That evening I was craving Indian food, so we ordered take out and again waited to see what the night would bring. By Monday night I started moving in the direction of active labor and was unable to sleep at all. Contractions were still intermittent but coming strong and about every 10 minutes.
Around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, I asked Neil to call our doula.
I wanted extra support to deal with the growing physical and emotional intensity of labor. When our doula arrived, along with another doula who was shadowing her (bonus!), my labor slowed a bit, so we decided to try to rest for a little while.
I continued to labor at home throughout the morning, trying my best to continue to stay in the moment. I was beginning my third morning of labor and feeling that it could go on indefinitely. Throughout the morning we used gentle touch and massage, heat compresses, verbal encouragement, the shower, a labor ball, and various laboring positions as comfort measures, all of which helped me to take one contraction at a time and not get discouraged. As things picked up further later Tuesday morning I started to have some contractions that made me start to bear down, which made me want to get to the hospital. I had always heard that first time moms think they are further along in labor than they are, so I had not wanted to rush to the hospital, but I knew it was finally time.
On the way to the hospital I cried a little bit, not because I was in pain, but just as an emotional release. I remember looking out the window at the other people in their cars heading to destinations unknown to me and thinking about how a single day can be both so ordinary and so extraordinary in our various lives. I also thought about all the other women around the world who were giving birth the very same day. Thinking about these women comforted me and made me feel like I could make it through whatever the rest of the day held for us.
Although my ride to the hospital was smooth, by the time we got to the hospital I started to have intense contractions that were causing me to bear down again. This alarmed all of us a little bit, so I was quickly whisked up to labor and delivery in a wheelchair.
Luckily the transition to the new labor space slowed things down. When we got to our room, the midwife examined me and told me I was 100% effaced and 7-8 centimeters dilated. I was extremely happy to hear I was so far along. This was the first time I allowed myself to believe that we would meet our daughter that day. In the meantime, our doula had drawn a bath for me (battery operated candles included) and I labored in the tub for a while, which provided a fair amount of mental and physical relief. After I got out, I briefly labored on the birth ball.
Finally, my doula asked me if I was interested in encouraging my water to break, which of course I was. She showed me a position to try by leaning against the bed and within 5 seconds of trying it, my water broke in a huge gush.
It was definitely a “doula magic” moment, and I would have laughed had I not been dealing with the intensity of labor!
After my water broke, I was fully dilated and went through transition, trying several pushing positions throughout this final stage of labor. The moment our daughter, Juliet, finally arrived, I saw the spontaneous tears of joy in my husband’s eyes. That's the moment I'll always remember.
The midwife placed our daughter on my chest for skin-to-skin and she nursed for about 25 minutes. Later, she enjoyed some skin-to-skin time on her dad’s chest as well. We were completely thrilled to meet our little girl and to see her bright alert eyes after she was born.
Our birth team, including midwife, nurses, and doulas were amazing. Juliet was born on a gorgeous, sunny fall day, and we are grateful to have so many wonderful moments to remember from our birth experience.
What thoughts and feelings came to you as your read Joanna and Neil's birth story? Did their birth have any similarities to your own? Share your thoughts and good wishes for them below.