Julie here. Alex and I are pleased to announce the arrival of our daughter, Josephine, born at 3:49am last Sunday. She weighed 7 lb, 11 oz. And thanks to Mary Esther’s class, we were able to bring her into the world entirely without intervention, aside from our midwife breaking the bag of waters at 8cm to help intensify things (and boy, did it ever).
Here is our story, as told by Alex:
After an appointment on the 7th when our midwife told us Julie’s cervix was thin and about a finger’s-width dilated, we both thought the baby might come sooner than her due date on the 14th. Our hunch was right. For the next two days Julie was up during the night with mild contractions and general discomfort (pressure on her bladder, causing extremely sharp pangs in the bladder and urethra), and on the afternoon of the 10th we took a slow, careful walk to the grocery store and on the way home we had to stop multiple times because she felt great pressure down low, like she was “sitting on a bowling ball.” At around 4:00pm on the 10th, early labor began. Julie got into bed and breathed into some pretty good 50-second contractions, while I rubbed and messaged her back, feeding her grapes and water during the rests. Things picked up pretty fast, with the contractions averaging 3.5 minutes apart, and lasting slightly over a minute, so I called our midwife at 8:00pm and she was immediately skeptical of my labor data, saying how “extremely rare” it would be for a first-time mother to be so far along so quickly. She said she’d call me back at 11:00. I called her back an hour later, let her listen on speaker phone to Julie breath and moan through a 1.5 minute contraction, and said we were going to leave shortly for the hospital because Julie was 3-1-1. She said “OK, but it might be too early.” I called the car service, and the whole way down our five-floor walk-up Julie and I talked about whether it was too soon to leave. She had two contractions between our apartment door and the car, but she was still able to hold a conversation between contractions, which made me wonder whether it was still too early…
As we rode along, Julie had several very uncomfortable contractions in the car as we bumped along to the West Side, but we got the hospital in one piece and checked into triage at St. Luke’s Roosevelt. At 10:30, Julie was having contractions 2 minutes apart and was 5cm dilated—and the best news of all was there was a birth center room available. Our midwife arrived and led us down to the birth center (Julie stopped to breathe through a couple of contractions in the elevator and hallways). Once in the room, it felt like a resort spa, with the nurse filling the tub with warm water. Julie almost cried she was so happy—happy to be in the quiet, spacious room and happy to be out of the bustle of triage. She carefully lowered herself into the tub and I sat beside her as her contractions got stronger. The thing that really surprised me was that Julie still wasn’t “getting serious.” She was obviously doing a lot of work, but during the breaks she was still able to laugh and enjoy the tub. At around 1am, Julie finally got serious and the contractions got much stronger. She was laboring much more loudly and was forced to use the breaks to close her eyes and relax. I counted for her as she worked through each deep breath. Then, the first note of doubt crept in: Julie said, “I’m scared,” but I reassured her that she was doing so great. When contractions strengthened to a certain point, the midwife and nurse helped her out of the tub and onto the bed to check her dilation. After a lot of hard work I was disturbed to learn she was only 8cm. Our midwife offered to break the bag of waters, saying it might help to progress labor, and while our birth plan requested that the water not be broken, I agreed that it was a good idea. After the waters were broken, Julie stood through intense contractions, with her hands planted on the bed and moved through the hardest part of the labor. There is absolutely no way I could’ve managed to see her go through those long, shattering contractions without Mary Esther’s class. It was around 2:45AM when she started pushing in a side-lying position, and it was amazing to see how she followed her body and listened to instruction and learned how to push the baby out. 45 minutes later the midwife asked Julie to feel her baby’s head and she reached down and feeling the hair she said “It’s so soft!” This was all the encouragement she needed, and Josephine was born at 3:49AM, weighing in at 7lbs. 11oz, spending the first half hour of her life resting on top of her tired and tearfully joyous mom.
Julie, here, again! Thanks for reading, friends. Congrats to the McCormicks, and we look ever forward to reading more birth stories (with a box of tissue nearby). I do want to add that if anyone ever wants to talk about the pushing phase, I’d love to brainstorm about just how to articulate that sensation. I still can’t wrap my mind around it, and I also know that no reading or preparation could have articulated just what that would feel like to have my mind shut down ENTIRELY, and feel my body take over in a way it hadn’t through earlier stretches of labor. It was utterly amazing.
All the best to you guys!
I’ve since shared with a few of the mommies this recollection about pushing specifically:
With the pushing, I kept waiting for a conscious “urge to push” as people talk about. But, it never came…consciously anyway. Somehow, though, the midwife knew to pull me out of the tub and check me at 8cm, right before I felt like–as best I can describe–I had to poop. I said, “I have to go to the bathroom!” and tried to get up off the bed, but the nurse said, “You don’t have to go to the bathroom. That’s the baby,” or something like that. My midwife broke my water at 8cm which ramped up the intensity of each contraction. I’m not sure of the chronology of things at this point, but some time after my water was broken, I heard my midwife say, “You can push if you feel like it.” And I heard Alex say, “She just did.” And I realized THAT was pushing. Whatever I’d just done–again impossible to describe–but I FELT it. 🙂 Still, I was pushing too much “in my face” and ended up with a bloody nose. I remember opening my eyes at one point to find my pillow splattered with blood and the nurse was swabbing off my nose and face. I must have burst a blood vessel. And I heard the midwife coaching me from a million miles away, “You’re pushing high up in your face. Push low. Push like a bowel movement.” And I started to work with that. Alex would tell me, “Low. Low. Low.” as I pushed. Slowly but surely the pushing became more effective. My midwife wanted me to push for longer through each contraction–to “use” the contractions. And with each contraction, just as I thought I had ZERO push left and I have to take a breath, there was more… there was some sudden, new depth with which I could bear down and push more. It was awesome! Then, came the ring of fire. It was certainly fiery. My mind began to envision what was happening to the area (e.g., perineum, vagina, etc.)–my thinking brain was threatening to take over from the primitive. “I can’t do this!” I said. But as Alex said, the midwife and nurse sang together, “YES YOU CAN, JULIE!” And that’s the last thing I remember before the sensations, the fire, the pressure just disappeared completely, and I was holding this beautiful, warm little creature in my arms. All I could say was “Oh my God” on repeat, weeping over her. I hope never to forget a single second.