I left work on Friday afternoon excited for the weekend and ready to knock out our giant to -do list of baby preparation. Our due date was July 1, so we thought we had the whole month of June left for baby watch. I had a prenatal massage scheduled for Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. and a long list that included packing our hospital bags. (Ha!) Friday night, Allen and I walked to dinner and stopped for ice cream for dessert. I felt great and saw no signs that labor was just a few hours away …
I woke up around 1:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom (which was totally normal), and as I slid back into bed, I felt a rush of fluid. It felt like I wet my pants, which made no sense. I went back to the bathroom and small rushes of fluid kept coming as I moved around. I was very confused and kept walking back and forth from the bed to the bathroom, which woke Allen up. He asked me if everything was OK, and I honestly didn’t know how to answer him. I told him what happened and could hardly believe I was saying the words, “What if my water broke?”
We thought, there was no way; it must be something else. Even if it was my water breaking, it would surely be a while before anything else happened. We attempted to rest a little. We even tried watching a Jimmy Fallon episode, but it didn’t work. I felt off and uncomfortable … I couldn’t define it—not pain but not nothing either.
About an hour or so later, I started feeling funny cramping pains that quickly became serious cramping pains. I was bracing myself against the bed and needing to focus each time. I could still talk to Allen at this point, so we were analyzing everything. Luckily, Allen had already downloaded an app to time contractions, and we joked about how it might be time to take whatever was happening in my body seriously. We couldn’t believe it.
Allen started timing contractions around 4 a.m. and was shocked to see on the screen that I was contracting for 1 minute at about 3 and a half minutes apart. The surprise on his face was great. Things were moving fast. Pretty quickly, I was doubled over in pain and not able to talk. Allen was right there by my side, supporting me exactly the way I needed him to through each contraction. I was frightened by the suddenness of it all but totally comforted by him.
Then, I threw up three times around 5 a.m. Allen rubbed my back and stayed right with me. We both knew nausea was a sign of transition and still could not believe what was happening. I was pretty constantly in a squat position, so I was crawling around on the floor back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom. We decided to call our midwife to check in. That seems like the obvious next step now, but at the time it still felt premature. I fully expected to be in labor for a long time, so we couldn’t believe we were already calling the hospital.
When the midwife on-call finally called back (30 minutes later), Allen handed me the phone. I immediately had a contraction and wasn’t able to speak. She listened to me moan through a one-minute contraction, and when I hopped back on the phone to struggle through our account of the past five hours, she said “Yeah, we’d like for you to come on in to the hospital.” Say what?! It’s really happening, we thought. We hadn’t packed our hospital bag yet, so Allen threw some random stuff in a bag. He was back and forth supporting me through a contraction and trying to pack. Classic!
The trip to the hospital, which was only a mile away, went like this: One contraction bent over the bench by our backdoor. Walk to the car. One contraction in the car. One contraction leaning onto the car. One contraction squatting in the middle of the parking lot. One contraction holding on to the curb by the Labor & Delivery entrance. When I wasn’t contracting, I was holding on to Allen’s arm for dear life.
As the elevator doors opened to Labor & Delivery, a very nice lady greeted us, and I fell into a squat position with a contraction. The timing was too funny. I wasn’t able to speak, so Allen told her whatever she needed to know. As we walked into the triage area, it happened again. The nice nurses greeted us, and I fell into a squat on the floor to greet them. They giggled, and I was thankful they seemed to think from my appearance that I was in serious labor. We were thrilled to hear I was already 5 centimeters dilated and fully effaced. At this point, it became real. We were having this baby, and we were having her that day!
It was 6:30 a.m., and we were headed to a delivery room. Allen called our parents to let them know. It was real—and it was fast and furious.
As we got set up in the delivery room, we met our sweet nurse and told her our plan: all natural, save my placenta, and I want a mirror. It was hard to come into reality to talk, but I knew it was important—so I perked up for those conversations. I started out in a funny position on the bed with one leg on and one leg dangling off, but I quickly moved to standing, leaning over the bed, holding on to a pillow. My favorite midwife was coming on at 7 a.m., and I was thrilled that she’d be the one to deliver our baby.
I labored in the standing position for about three hours. Contractions were intense. I was finally in the zone. I felt safe, fully connected to Allen and fully believed that our baby was coming. We were able to lean on the knowledge we gained in our amazing birthing class with Emerge Atlanta. (I totally recommend them if you’re in Atlanta!)
Allen was completely incredible. He never left my side. He and our nurse, Jordan, were a stellar team with everything I needed: cold rags, apple juice, pressure on my tailbone and rubbing my back. When I felt a contraction start with a tingling in my tailbone, I would put my hand up to ask for Allen’s hand. He was immediately there, encouraging me, rubbing my back and letting me squeeze the heck out of his hand. Jordan applied pressure to my tailbone and a cold rag to my neck. Between contractions, they alternated rubbing, applying pressure, refreshing the cold rag and offering me apple juice.
My mantra between contractions was: “I am thankful for the rest.” It was amazing how completely relieving and freeing it was to be truly aware of the rest and thankful for it. Allen was my rock. He was there for every contraction and every rest; he reminded me that I was resting, that the contraction was over and that we were one contraction closer to meeting our daughter.
At some point in the maze of contractions, I did ask about pain medication. I asked Jordan that if I wanted something, what would that look like? I think I was just curious. I’m the type of person who likes to know all of my options. I wasn’t asking for anything, but I wanted information. I don’t exactly remember what Jordan said but it was a combination of “Girl, you clearly don’t need it,” and, “There’s really no point now; you’re so close!”
It felt great to hear her confidence in me, and Allen swooped right in to remind me that I was doing it. I was laboring exactly the way I wanted to labor, and I was doing great. I immediately felt a boost of confidence and told myself I’d get through the next set of contractions. I never thought about pain medication again.
We checked my cervix a couple of times (once standing and once in the bed), and I was progressing really well, about a centimeter every hour. I was so, so happy.
Toward the end of about three hours of contracting, I started to feel a strong urge to push. I had felt it grow little by little, but all of a sudden it came on strong. As soon as a contraction peaked, my legs bent into a squat out of my control, and I lowered into the urge to push.
They’d told me earlier not to give in to the urge to push because my cervix was a tiny bit swollen. But at this point, I was getting close, so they said I could push into it a little bit in the standing position. Jordan called our midwife, Christy, to let her know I was feeling the urge to push, and it was getting serious. I was simultaneously in shock that it was already time and so incredibly thankful that everything was progressing so well. I repeated my thankful mantra again and again.
I moved into the bed and pushed for a few minutes leaning over the back of the bed. I didn’t love this position; there was nothing to hold on to, and Allen couldn’t get as close to me, so I asked for the squat bar and turned around. Pushing on the squat bar felt great. It was good to feel a change from the rush of a contraction, but the waves of pushes were less defined so it was harder for me to feel productive. The wave of a push didn’t have a clear beginning, middle and end for me the way a contraction did.
Allen was on my left side holding my hand and encouraging me non-stop. I could feel Allen’s presence and encouragement without effort, and it was so reassuring. I was wearing thin but aware and so glad to be nearing the end. I came into reality to hear Christy’s encouragement, too. “You’re so close. … You can see her head! … She has hair! … Deep breaths. … Low groans, not high pitched. … Let’s get to ears this time!” She reminded me of everything we learned in birthing class, and the familiarity was comforting. I was pushing as hard as I could. It was tough.
I loved having the mirror, so I could see what was happening. I closed my eyes during pushes (obviously), so I didn’t see her making progress coming out, which was hard. Christy and Allen assured me she was moving out as I pushed. I could feel Allen’s excitement as she got closer and closer. I could feel the anticipation building as the nurses helped me move my hospital gown so we could be skin-to-skin immediately after she was born. It was getting close. Christy warned me the ring of fire was coming. Everything hurt but it was more of an intense pressure than pain. I was exhausted but determined. I was scared but felt safe.
At this point, Christy calmly told me that because I am a very petite woman, my perineum was looking like it was going to tear pretty badly in order to get our daughter out. She wanted to cut an episiotomy. This was something I had really wanted to avoid, and Christy and I had talked about during my prenatal appointments. But I trusted Christy when she reassured me that she doesn’t perform episiotomies often—and that she was afraid my tear would be significant if she didn’t. I told Christy that I trusted her and to get our baby out. I repeated my mantra of thankfulness and took a deep breath.
I was quickly at peace with having an episiotomy. I just wanted to meet our daughter! A couple pushes later and our beautiful daughter was born. The feeling of our daughter being placed on my chest was simply indescribable. We cried. We kissed. It was a beautiful, indescribable moment. We left her umbilical cord attached until it stopped pulsating, and Allen, though he hesitated at first, gladly cut the cord. Our daughter was here.
From my water breaking at 1:30 a.m. to a beautiful baby girl entering the world at 11:04 a.m. (10 hours of fast and furious labor), we couldn’t believe it. My mantra of thankfulness has remained with me now that our daughter is here. Thankfulness is a constant thought and prayer. I am completely and utterly humbled and thankful for our daughter and for every moment with her.
We love you so much, Lucy Eleanor Curtis!
Read more about Whitney’s adventures as a new mom at thecurtiscasa.com.
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