Disclaimer: I’m sharing this story with the hopes that it doesn’t scare anyone away from the idea of birth or natural birth. Every birth is different! This is just my story of this specific birth. If you’re not at the place where you wish to read about a hard birth story, I suggest skipping this blog post.

My little man is 5 months old, and I’ve finally decided to put his birth story in writing! When all of this happened, I never knew if I’d actually share it because it was so intense and long. However, now that I’ve given myself space and time, I’ve decided that even though it’s a really hard story to share, it’s beautiful in the sense that it’s how my little guy came into the world, and how we both fought like crazy to meet each other.

A quick note that some things here will be vague… I honestly don’t remember everything. It took place over several days, it was high stress, and I barely slept throughout the whole thing.

First… being 9 months pregnant and giving birth during March & April 2020

We all know what happened in March and April of 2020. Everyone will have a different relationship to what happened with the nationwide lockdowns. But we can’t ever discount the scary and emotional experience that pregnant moms and new parents had during this time.

I’m incredibly blessed that my entire pregnancy was a healthy one (read my first and second-trimester recap for more)! Things were all going according to plan to deliver naturally (which means no pain relief) at the birthing center around my due date of April 16th… and then March 13th happened, and everything changed. All of a sudden, the comfortable, familiar world that we were bringing a baby into turned upside down. We were scared for our health, we were watching mothers separated from their babies at birth and separated from their partners during labor. My fun and easy midwife visits turned into televisits with just going in for quick vital checks. Our birth and postpartum plan of being able to have my family come and visit totally changed.

We were in our final days of pregnancy and completely physically isolated from everything. I remember sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery and just crying over how uncertain everything was. Crying over the loss of having a “normal” experience. Crying over fear for my son’s wellbeing.

I was extremely edgy in the final weeks of my pregnancy. I didn’t go anywhere or see anyone except for Daniel and our midwives. And though I’ll never know for certain what caused my labor to go the way that it did, I’ll always feel like my mental state during lockdown definitely didn’t do me any favors.

The Start of my Prodromal Labor

My due date was April 16th. It was a Thursday. I made it with baby boy still inside, healthy, and happy! I was super pregnant looking (and feeling) by the time I hit 40 weeks, and extremely antsy to meet our little boy.

I had been having Braxton hicks contractions for weeks, but the night of my due date, they were hitting harder. Was I going into labor? I texted the midwives to let them know, told Daniel that we should probably go to bed early, and started getting even more antsy and excited!

By Friday morning, I started actually having contractions and had signs of losing my mucus plug.  The contractions were a minute long and started at about 10 minutes apart. I texted my doula and the midwives and it really looked like it was early labor! It felt like I was going to have the baby that day! Then they spread out during the day… and picked back up to 10 minutes again by Friday night. Okay, maybe Friday night was going to be real, active labor?

By 3 am I was having contracts that were a minute long and 4 minutes apart, which is the real deal…if it lasts… and it didn’t. It spread back out again to 10-12 minutes. Just enough to not be active labor, but also enough to not really let me sleep.

Then by Saturday morning, they were really picking up again. I was so confused. I had no idea if this was actually it and texted the midwife. She told me that she’d be fine having me come in to get checked. The baby’s head was already super low, I was almost totally effaced, but I was only at 2 centimeters. And my contractions were spreading out again.

It definitely looked like prodromal labor, or “false labor”. Essentially, it felt like labor, but rather than progressing as actual labor should, it kept picking up and backing off again.

That night I texted my doula to update her and wound up doing a full circuit of exercises and stretches to try and get things moving. Bouncing on the birth bath, curb walking, drinking lots of raspberry leaf tea… all while having my contractions pick up again. I just wanted it to be the real thing so badly and was getting sick of going through days of having contractions averaging 10 minutes apart. I spent the last two days tracking my contractions constantly and was going crazy that they just wouldn’t stay consistent.

Again, I had another rough night on Saturday where my contractions picked up in intensity making it harder and harder to sleep. I was groaning in pain at 3 am making it hard for Daniel to sleep too. The contractions were stronger, and getting closer together, but just not consistent enough.

By Sunday morning, it was picking up yet again. I went back to the birth center where I was checked by another midwife. I had progressed with effacement and dilation, but barely enough. I was exhausted and frustrated. My midwife told me that this was definitely prodromal labor and that I needed to do everything I could to try and relax and rest before real, active labor hit. Eat a nice meal, chill out, actually sleep, and stop doing everything I was doing to speed up labor.

It honestly felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders hearing that. I could go home, stop tracking my contractions like crazy (especially since they were spreading out yet again), just relax, and finally get a good night’s sleep before real labor started.

All throughout my pregnancy, I heard that some of the women who most often wound up doing hospital transfers from a natural, birth center birth were the ones that were too exhausted to continue laboring naturally. I had in my head the whole pregnancy that I was going to make myself get some sleep in early labor. I knew that if I didn’t rest, I was putting myself at risk for a really rough time. So I stopped… I stopped trying to push myself out of prodromal labor and just let it happen.

I needed to sleep that Sunday night.

Moving into active labor

I sat on the couch watching Top Chef and eating soup on Sunday evening when I started to wince at the pain of my contractions. They were coming harder, and faster than they were before.

I tried to go to bed at about 7 PM. I tried to will it away. I needed that sleep. I just spent the last 2 nights not really sleeping after being up with contractions, and I needed this night to at least try to sleep.

But it was too late.

I was going into active labor with contractions coming hard and fast in bed with Daniel squeezing my hips through the contractions when he said we needed to call the doula. Call the doula? No. I couldn’t. I needed to sleep.

But before I knew it the doula was at my side telling me that we needed to get in the car now. It was a mix of excitement and “oh crap, I’m going into natural labor at 10 PM at night with no sleep. I have to labor through the night and pray that he comes tonight”.

Laboring at the Birthing Center

By the time I got to the birth center and got checked, I was 100% effaced, babies head at -2 station, but I was only 3 cm dilated. At first, the midwife told me that maybe it would be best to go and labor at home for a little longer. Then another contraction hit and I was in tears. I was in pain, I was so exhausted, and I just wanted it to progress as quickly as possible. I wound up staying at the birth center.

I started laboring in the tub and went that way for most of the night. The contractions were hard and fast and I was so drained already, but I felt like I was making tons of progress.  It was around 2-3 am when I started throwing up and assumed I was moving into transition.

I was checked again and was still only at 5 cm. Only halfway there on technically Monday in the very early morning after I had been having contractions since Friday. The midwife suggested we break my water, and I agreed. After that, the contractions only got more painful and I completely crashed from the exhaustion… the rest of the early morning was a bit of a blur.

I remember somewhat coming to being more aware on Monday morning around 7 am or so when the new midwife came for her shift. I remember desperately pleading with her and asking if she thought I would have this baby today… I couldn’t do this for a whole day. That was my basically my whole demeanor through most of my labor. Desperate and pleading for it to progress.

She went ahead and checked me early in the morning and I was 7 cm! Okay… I made progress from 3 to 7 throughout the night… only 3 to go. I was exhausted and in pain, but I could do this. I could work to get there, and she was going to work just as hard to help me.

She suggested I get an IV to get some fluids in me, and for my chiropractor to come to adjust me. I labored for a few hours until my chiropractor came, which did really feel like it was a relief.

That day, I labored in every way possible. In the tub, the shower, on the birth ball, in bed… at one point I was lunging up the stairs in labor trying to get things moving. I remember praying and crying on the stairs in complete exhaustion and desperation. I was in a full lunge with the baby’s head super low, trying to will him out. Lunge up the stairs when I’m not pregnant is hard… it’s even harder 40+ weeks pregnant, and in labor.

I was laboring in bed when they checked me again. That entire day, I did not dilate at any further at all. The uterus a muscle, and it can get exhausted just like any other. I was so exhausted that my body was just done. I was starting at the window watching the light fade, moving into yet another night with my baby still struggling to make his entrance, and with my water broken for the entire day.

The midwives and my doula did everything they could. They worked so hard… Daniel and I worked so hard… but my body was just exhausted.

I was so worried about him. My poor baby who just wanted peace and quiet and here I was in labor for days. He felt the contractions too. How was he feeling? Was he as distressed and exhausted as I was? I couldn’t put either of us through another night without things progressing. I just wanted my baby to be safe and in my arms.

I said I was done. I couldn’t do this without the epidural anymore. I couldn’t keep going with my water broken. I couldn’t do another night. We couldn’t do another night.

It was a hard decision. I had no idea what the state of the hospital was where we were going. What were their policies? Was I going to labor in a mask? Was I going to get separated from my baby? I had no idea.

But I felt deep down that Jett and I needed to go. So we did.

Transferring to the hospital

By the time I got to the hospital, I was beyond exhausted. It was late Monday night, I had been in prodromal labor since Friday morning, and I really hadn’t slept since Saturday night (and even then I was up with contractions most of that night).

I had literally no idea what to expect from a hospital birth. I didn’t prepare for a hospital birth, an epidural, or any of this. I was prepared for natural labor. But I needed that epidural to finally relax enough so I could progress again. I was so scared of the prospect of an epidural, but honestly… it felt amazing to stop feeling the contractions after feeling them without an ounce of pain relief for days.

Then it was time to get us all situated. We were told that Daniel and I both had to wear masks. They got Jett and I hooked up to monitors, they took my blood, and my temperature… and it wasn’t what we wanted to hear. My contractions had spread out so much from the fatigue that there just wasn’t progress anymore, my WBC count was super high, I had a 100.4 F fever, and Jett’s heart rate was decelerating with contractions.  I remember my heart dropping when I heard that his heartrate was struggling. And that I had a fever… did they think I was sick? Were they going to take my baby away? Luckily, they thought I was getting an infection from my water being broken for so long, which was what made the most sense. My body was super done with it and that Jett wasn’t having it either.

The OB came in around midnight and said he gave me a 50/50 chance of having to get a cesarian, but he was going to give me the night to labor with Pitocin and try to and progress the final bit and turn the corner. At that point, I just wanted us to stay safe and healthy and was willing to do whatever it took to keep us safe. But, I was also committed to waiting out the night if the OB thought there was a chance we could make it.

I went from the expectation of having a natural birth to needing a penicillin IV, an epidural, Pitocin, artificial amniotic fluid for Jett, and internal fetal monitoring for Jett. Plus, again, I started throwing up not long into my time at the hospital.

All night, the nurses kept coming in and turning my limp body to try and get Jett’s vitals to settle since I couldn’t move with the epidural. They kept adjusting the Pitocin because he wasn’t having that either. That’s when they noticed meconium and told me that they had to have nurses from the NICU come in when I was pushing in case he inhaled it and needed to go to the NICU. I was gutted, terrified, and anxious all night.

I had no idea how to know when I was actually ready to give birth if I was so numb and exhausted with the epidural. But Tuesday morning I started to feel more and more pain and pressure again. I told the nurse, and she decided to check me again for the first time since coming to the hospital, and I said a little prayer that I would finally be at 10 centimeters.

She called Daniel over and said, “Hey dad? Are you squeamish? Come see the baby’s hair!” Hair?! She could see his head?

She looked at me and said, “we’re having this baby now“.

Finally giving birth…

It was around 7 am on Tuesday morning and it was finally happening.

The room started filling with people, and I had no idea what was going on. I wouldn’t stop asking questions. “What’s that?” “Who is that?” “How do I know when to push?”. My night nurses shift ended, but I had such a rough time all night that she stayed with me to see me through to the end. Seriously, she was an angel.

Everything was all set up, the OB was there, and the nurse told me how it was going to go. I started pushing, though I couldn’t feel much. I pushed for less than 10 minutes when they told me “look down, he’s almost there” and I said “nope”… I was too exhausted to move. With one last push, they told me to reach down and catch my baby. My baby? I was in shock. There he was. This screaming little baby was mine. The same one that was in my belly for the past 40 weeks and 5 days. And despite everything that happened, he was healthy and beautiful.

They put him on my chest and again, I couldn’t stop talking and asking questions again. I was so out of it, exhausted, and thrilled all at the same time.

He was born on April 21st, 7:38 AM and was 7 lbs 4 oz. He was so sweet, perfect, and beautiful.

I was cuddling with him, in total awe when I noticed the OB was stitching me up. I didn’t even want to know or ask since I was so numb and couldn’t feel it, but I overheard that I had a second-degree tear. I truly didn’t care about the tear and the stithces at the time at all. Give me all the stitches you want. All that mattered at the moment to me was that my baby was safe and healthy and we finally were together with him on the outside.

What was postpartum like?

I’m still in it, haha!

The time immediately afterward at the hospital was hard. We had to stay for two more nights so they could monitor us for infection since my water was broken for so long. I had nurses taking my blood at 2 AM, and a brand new baby wanting to nurse all night, so I just couldn’t sleep and recover from my crazy long labor.

Then the real work started when we got home. A home that was still in lockdown. We had family and friends drop off meals for us, but it wasn’t anything like what we expected postpartum would be. It was just the three of us. It was hard not having more support.

I had to recover from labor, let my stitches heal, try to figure out nursing, and make it through more sleepless nights with a newborn. Somewhere along the way, I had horribly burned my esophagus during labor (not sure if it was all of the vomiting or something to do with the labor pain relief and antibiotics for my water being broken), and even drinking water burned my throat. I would up having to take a prescription for my throat before it felt normal again.

Of course, it was hard having a baby during lockdown, but there wound up being so many positives too. I had so much bonding time with my sweet boy. We got to do skin to skin cuddle time every day, I had a great milk supply, and he gained back his birth weight and then some in record time! The circumstances were unexpected, but I’ll always treasure those early days with just Jett, mommy, and daddy.

Will I attempt another natural birth?

Daniel and I still aren’t 100% sure we’ll even have a second baby. We have to get through this first year before we seriously consider it. I have no idea what I’ll do the second time around but will cross that bridge if and when we get there.

Will I have prodromal labor again?

Not necessarily. My midwives and OB both told me that it could happen again, but every birth is so different!

And that’s it!

I totally believe that everything happens like it’s supposed to. God has a plan and is in control.

It’s a long, crazy, hard story… but it’s our story. It’s the story of how my little boy came into the world, and for that reason, it’s still a beautiful story.