Amanda and I are now at home with our beautiful baby boy who arrived early last Saturday, February 2nd. He took us by surprise, arriving 23 days ahead of his due date, but not a moment too soon. We are still on cloud nine, so I wanted to share our birth story with the class. Here’s how it all unfolded…
Around 2pm on Friday afternoon (2/1), Amanda called me at work to say that she was having contractions that were more substantial than the ones she had been having over the last few days. In class, I remember being presented with this exact same scenario in one of our small group break-out sessions. My initial reaction was to flip out, but I remembered some of the ideas shared by the other dads-to-be: keep calm and stop by the store to pick up provisions on the way home.
Of course, I started packing up my stuff and left work as quickly as possible, but given that we hadn’t even hit 37 weeks, I was trying not to get myself or my co-workers too excited. I told a few people causally that “Amanda was having contractions, but who knows…” which spread quickly across the office as “Luke’s having a baby!” They were applauding/cheering as I left totally embarrassed.
Our apartment was totally unprepared for our labor, so on the way home I picked up labor-friendly foods, gatorade, and of course: BENDY STRAWS! 🙂
I came home to find Amanda relaxing and watching some TV. She filled me in on the details of the last few hours. Her contractions were long and irregular so it was hard to get a handle on how or if things were progressing toward active labor. I started to pack for the hospital, and then the two of agreed that was too early to start thinking like that.
Though unusually timed, the contractions were pretty intense. We could still talk in between so we patiently took them one at a time. We touched base with our doula and as the afternoon wore on, we ate some food, listened to music, busied ourselves with projects, and used different positions on birth ball to stay relaxed through contractions. They calmed down after a nice massage or a distraction, so we took that as a sign that this wasn’t the real deal. 36 Weeks? No way… At 9pm Amanda took a bath and they stopped all together. We thought it was just a crazy day, some good practice for the real thing. I had an early morning, so we went to bed…
Around 12:30 am Amanda woke up to another contraction and dealt with it by walking around our apartment. While relaxing between contractions on the couch, her water broke, which soaked through her clothing and left a little spot! She woke me up to let me know but was very calm. After hearing the story about the couple who didn’t deliver for 2 weeks after their water broke, I tried to keep things in perspective. After all, we weren’t even at 37 weeks. The contractions were quiet again, so Amanda insisted I go back to sleep…
– Active Labor –
About an hour or so later, things shifted gears. Amanda woke me up and said “I think we should start packing.” We started assembling the things we needed and paused to deal with contractions together. They were becoming more regular hovering around 3-4 minutes apart. Bradley Method classes really helped me observe other signposts of progressing labor. For example, Amanda started moaning with her contractions around 3am, which I took as a positive sign that we were really getting into active labor. We called the Doula to come over, and then our Midwife, who after listening to Amanda for a contraction over the phone, wanted us to come in ASAP.
It occurred to me at this point that maybe the Bradley classes had desensitized me to the progression of labor. Amanda was handling things so well throughout that I thought we still had a good amount of time, despite all of the other signals. On the other hand, a birth partner with less exposure to what the stages of labor would look like, might have gone to the hospital too soon. I’m glad it was a team decision, and I’m also glad we spent as much of our labor at home as possible.
When the doula arrived it was time to go to St. Luke’s Roosevelt. It was great: she helped Amanda through the contractions while I finished packing our bag. Weeks before, I was a little unclear about exactly how to partner with the doula, and how she would fit into the situation. We found a nice balance in which I focused emotional support & encouragement and the doula helped Amanda with technical and physical reminders to help her through each wave. Many times, she reminded Amanda to “stay with her breath,” which helped her regain control when things started spiraling outward.
With everything packed, we were ready to go. The walk from our door to the elevator is a few hundred feet. Jessie and I helped Amanda make it there step-by-step and stopping for three contractions along the way. After the third, Amanda announced that she had to go to the bathroom and she would rather “do it in the hallway” than walk all the way back to the apartment. Talk about slipping into the “animal brain.” 🙂 I was thinking through the logistics how it would work when Jessie stepped in and convinced her to go back. Crisis averted! When we got there, Amanda had to throw up as well. Unfazed, she just kept on.
The drive to the hospital in active labor was pretty rough, but Amanda handled it so well. We had a town car waiting for us down stair. Jessie and I sat on either side of Amanda and coached her through the drive. I’m sure that we hit every bump and pothole between Brooklyn and Hell’s Kitchen, and each one broke my heart as it added to Amanda’s discomfort. On the bright side there’s very little traffic at 4:45am. I was in total awe of how well she managed. I kept telling her how much I loved her, and how proud of her I was.
We finally arrived at the hospital around 5am. We had to go to Labor & Delivery rather than the Birth Center, because our little guy was two days shy of full-term. Nevertheless, the triage process was fast and painless. The midwife’s exam around 5:15 revealed that Amanda’s cervix was four centimeters dilated with 100% effacement. This confirmation of our progress, was a huge emotional milestone for me. For the first time that night I let myself believe that we were really on our way to meet the baby. I learned later that Amanda was slightly discouraged by the low number.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter! About an hour and half later she started telling everyone that she was feeling the urge to push. The nurses brushed her off, explaining that it was very unlikely and it wasn’t advised to do another vaginal exam since her water had already broken. But Amanda insisted that she really had to push so our doula rushed out to get the midwife. Dubious, our midwife came back for an exam and sure enough, Amanda was fully dilated and ready to go.
From the car ride onward, I was getting ready for Amanda’s “Transition” moment, when I would have to step in and help her though the most challenging moments. No such luck! She just kept going with superhuman resolve, and I was so proud of her!
– Pushing & Birth –
Pushing is hard work, but Amanda and I were fueled on by the thought that we were about to meet our baby. Until then, everything was happening so fast and unexpectedly that this was the first time we were able to let the reality and joy of the situation sink in. Because the baby was pre-term, a pediatrician was in the room to cut the cord ASAP and conduct a newborn exam immediately after the birth. During the pushing stage, there was a dip in the baby’s heart rate which made the Midwife decide that he had to come out now. During this time the Midwife insisted on an episiotomy, which was an intervention we were not expecting nor one we wanted but in the whirlwind of events was done.
Amanda pushed like a total pro (about 25 minutes total) and at 7:23am our baby boy Miles, came out active with a loud and lusty cry — 7 lbs. 8 oz. The pediatrician let the exam slide and we were able to let the cord keep pulsing and have immediate skin to skin contact between mom and baby. No one could believe that this was a 36 week 5 day baby at 7lbs 8oz!!
The three of us held each other tight as Amanda and I kissed each other, and shared this amazing moment. Everything felt so surreal – the experience of giving birth as well as reality of giving birth 23 days before our due date. And there was our beautiful little boy, alert and peaceful, relaxing on Amanda’s chest.
A short while later Amanda birthed the placenta and it was absolutely beautiful. I have a great video of our Midwife showing it to us and explaining how it all works, and about a dozen pictures. We were both totally in awe.
Mary Esther, thanks so much for your help bringing our little guy into this world. It wasn’t in the Birth Center, but nevertheless it was the birth of our dreams: laboring at home, medication-free, and a happy healthy baby. Amanda and I wouldn’t have been prepared to follow through and adapt our birth plan, without the valuable lessons learned in your class.
We’ve been home for about a week, and everything has been great. Mr. Miles gets cuter every day, and our hearts just melt pretty much anytime he does anything. Here are some pictures from the little guy’s first few days.
Thank you all again for everything!
Lots of Love,
Luke, Amanda, & Baby Miles