birth story

The birth of my firstborn || Judah Wesley (part I)

2:38 PM


"In the autumn on the ground,
between the traffic and the ordianry sounds
I am thinking signs and seasons while a north wind blows through
I watch as lovers pass me by
walking stories--who's and how's and why's
musing lazily on love
pondering you."



Pre-baby days
September 1st was my due date according to my midwives.  I personally thought it was more like August 27th, but since we all know that’s just an estimate I didn’t really care what exact date they thought I was due, and was glad their date was later because it meant if I did go late (like I expected) they would wait longer to induce me. 

August 27th and September 1st came and went and still no sign of baby Judah.  I honestly wasn’t worried about it.  I think that since I was still feeling good, and knew that one way or the other he would be here sometime in the next 2 weeks made it all easier to deal with.  Of course I wanted him there, and I wanted him right! then! but there was very little I could actually DO to make that happen, so I waited and I walked and I did 100 squats and then did 100 more, drank gallons of red raspberry tea, took EP supplements like they were candy, went to the playground and swung on the swings, and then walked a few more miles.  It was fun to wake up every morning wondering if today was “the day!” that he would come.  I felt torn between being to ready to hold him in my arms and wanting to hold on to the days of it just being us (me and Josh) for just a little bit longer.   I stopped at Target one day about two weeks before he was born just to kill some time, and nearly lost it as I stood in the candle aisle.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with how my life was about to change, how just running in places and walking around aimlessly whenever I wanted wasn’t going to be as easy anymore.  I don’t know why that in particular was what set me off (pregnancy hormones are strange little beasts) but I stood there choking back tears and wondering why people didn’t have “bachelorette” parties for women about to become mommies.  I’m still working on what they should be called… “pre-mommy” party isn’t very catchy.


So we savored those last few days together, going on walks, going out to dinner, watching tv on the couch,  basically doing all the things we normally did but enjoying them a little bit more than normal, knowing that life was going to be very different soon.  Don't get me wrong, we were SO excited about this little one joining us in the outside world, so anxious to hold the tiny one that had been growing quietly inside me for the past nine months.  But it was still overwhelming at times.  Huge life changes always make me feel nostalgic and pensive and this felt like the biggest thing that had ever happened to me.  Bigger than marriage even.  Marrying Josh felt so natural whereas becoming a mom seemed full of the unknown and I wanted so much to be ready for it but there were days when I wasn't quite sure that I was.  (As a side note: probably the most annoying question I got from people those last few days/weeks was “When are you going to have that baby?” or “Have you tried walking/squatting/spicy food/pineapple/__________?”  as if I was just being lazy and needed some encouragement to get a move on.  Fact: every pregnant woman who is 38+ weeks wants that baby out of her and she wants that a whole lot more than you do.  So asking her if she can just go ahead and have the baby is really …. Not helpful.  We can’t do anything about it, and it’s kind of a bother when you keep reminding us of that fact.)

Josh’s family planned to come in town from Indiana and Houston to meet the little guy, and we told them to schedule their trip for a week after my due date because we didn’t want them to come too early and miss him completely.  Some people could only come for the weekend because of school and work so 5 days after my due date they all showed up—and still no Judah.  3 days later half of them had to leave and I still wasn’t showing any signs of labor.  At this point I was getting frustrated.  Not so much because I was tired of waiting, but I was definitely upset that several family members had come and gone and weren’t going to be able to meet him and if he didn’t come soon they were all going to miss him and I would feel horrible.


September 9th
(9 days over-due at this point) It was a Monday.  I had 2 doctors appointments that morning, one with my midwives and the other with a sonogram technician.  My midwives wanted to check me and see if I was dilated at all, and I was also going to have them sweep my membranes for the second time.  I’d already had it done once the Thursday before and it hadn’t done anything, but I knew it sometimes took more than one try for it to work.  They also wanted ordered the sonogram to make sure everything looked ok, that there was still enough fluid in there, and that he looked healthy.  When I got to my first appointment with my midwife, the nurse who took me back and checked my vitals asked me what I was having done that day.  When I told her that I wanted to be swept again she said “Oh you’re lucky!  Kathleen is the midwife on duty, she has magic fingers.  Every time she sweeps someone they go into labor within 12 hours.”  When Kathleen came in I told her I wanted to be swept I think I said something like “Do whatever you need to do, I really want to have this baby.”  She warned me that she did it harder than most of the other midwives did it and hoooooly moly she wasn’t kidding.  Outside of labor itself it was the most unpleasant part of my pregnancy.  She also checked me and said I was super soft, but still only dilated to 1.5 or 2 (and I’d been dilated that much for a couple of weeks now).  As I was leaving she told me “I’m on call until mid-night, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see you before then… but if not I’m sure you’ll be here tomorrow!”


After the sonogram appointment (where we saw the little guy squirming around and the technician told us “oh look! He has hair!”) Josh and I + his family that was still in town spent the afternoon at an outdoor mall with the goal of me getting as much walking in as I could and giving everyone else something to do at the same time.  I was pretty emotionally spent at this point.  I was done, so done with all the waiting and walking and squatting and I just wanted it to be over.  A friend told me that she felt like during pregnancy you go through some of the same “stages” that you go through during labor, and that at the end of pregnancy every woman reaches a point where she just. can’t. do. it. anymore. And just like transition during labor, when most women say “I can’t do it!” and feel like giving up, that’s usually right before it’s over.  Well I was officially in the “transition” stage of pregnancy and I wasn’t sure how many more days of waiting I could take.

The sky Monday evening as we drove home from dinner 

September 9th | 9:30
I went to bed early Monday night, discouraged and exhausted both physically and emotionally.  I still wasn’t feeling any signs of labor even after being swept that morning and thought that meant it probably wasn’t going to work.  I slept hard for a few hours then woke up feeling uncomfortable around 3:30.  It didn’t take me more than a few minutes to wake up enough to realize that I was having contractions and that they were fairly consistent.  I laid there for a few minutes allowing myself to hope that this was really it (It’s strange how you get to the point where you LONG for labor to start, knowing full well that it’s going to be the absolute hardest most painful experience of your life and you just don’t even care anymore) and then got up and got in the bath to see if that stopped them.  It didn’t and actually made me super uncomfortable pretty quickly so I got out and got back in bed.  I started timing the contractions and they were about 7-8 minutes apart and about 1 minute long.  I woke Josh up and he started rubbing my back because the contractions were already painful enough to make me grunt or make noise with each one.  I’m just really glad I didn’t know what I was in for at that point, haha, because those “painful” contractions were like a hug from a teddy bear compared to what was to come.  But ignorance is sweet bliss and I was just so excited that something was happening!

I don’t have a lot of things about the way my birth “experience” went that looking back I wish I could change.  But the one thing that I would definitely go back and do differently at this point is this: do whatever I could to get sleep.  As much sleep as possible.  Take a Benadryl, take a hot shower, whatever.  I had so much adrenaline running through me at that point I didn’t feel tired at all, and I just wanted to be awake because I was afraid that if I fell asleep it would make my labor stall.


September 10th | 7AM
By about 7AM my contractions had shortened to 5-6 min a part so I decided to call my midwife and see what she thought.  She told me that it sounded like I still had a while to go and she didn’t want me to come in just yet, which was of course totally disappointing to me.  She told me to rest as much as I could, and to call back once the contractions got stronger and closer together.  I decided to get up and get ready to go to the hospital, because I was sure we’d be headed there in a few hours, and I didn’t want to feel rushed.  I showered, got ready, put on a black tank top and stretchy skirt (I wore that + slippers through most of my labor and loved it.  Especially my slippers—I did so much walking at home and at the hospital it was nice to have something comfortable on my feet.) and ate a popsicle which was the only thing that sounded good at the moment.  I spent the morning pacing and swaying through our tiny apartment and I think Josh turned on the TV or a movie for me to watch every time I walked through the living room.  Those next few hours seemed like forever.  My contractions weren’t getting any closer together, they almost seemed to be slowing a little and I finally laid down to rest for a little bit around noon.  I wasn’t able to fall asleep very deeply, and ended up dozing for about 45 minutes.  As soon as I woke up I realized that something had changed--my contractions were almost non-existent.  At this point I was mad that I had laid down, I knew that’s what had allowed my body to relax enough to slow things down and I was afraid they wouldn’t start back up.


I needed a distraction and to get out of the house so we went to chipotle for lunch and I think I had about 3 contractions the whole time we were there.  We went to the park after that, I walked and swung as high as I could on the swings, hoping that gravity would lend a hand in hurrying things along.  But nothing was working.  At this point I was having a contraction about every 30 minutes.

The rest of the evening was a blur… I was discouraged and exhausted after being up since 3:30 so we watched some tv and went to bed early, hoping to get some sleep before my labor picked back up again.  Before I was able to fall asleep, around 10:30, I could feel the contractions getting harder and closer together again.  Within an hour they were 7-8 min apart and getting stronger pain wise.  I never fell asleep that night.  The contractions continued, getting stronger and closer over the next few hours, and were painful and close enough together that I wasn’t able to fall asleep in between each one.  Josh was awake the whole time as well, rubbing my back and encouraging me through each contraction.  I was about 24 hours in to labor and I was starting to feel those first twinges of real fear.  I was starting to realize just how hard this was probably going to be and I wasn’t sure I could do it.

[slight diversion]  In those last few weeks of pregnancy I heard a lot of “birth plans.”  From my midwife, from friends, and in books.  Apparently you were supposed to write out how you hoped and expected your birth to go, with a list of which interventions you were or were not ok with and at what point you would want those things to happen if needed.  I remember sitting down one day to attempt to write mine, and ended up giving up about ten minutes in to it.  I’d never had a baby before, I didn’t know how my body would respond to certain things,  so how could I possibly plan something that I was so unfamiliar with?

I was confident in my husband and his support, I trusted my midwives, and while there were certain parameters that I had talked through with both of them I was more than happy to just take things one step at a time and see what needed to happen next.  I knew I wanted to try to do it without an epidural, I wanted to try to labor in the tub and was totally open to having a water birth if that's what my body seemed to respond well to, I knew I absolutely did not want a c-section and was willing to labor as long as needed to, provided neither Judah nor I were in danger, and I really didn’t want to have to be induced.  But I didn’t want to be so set on wanting/not wanting those things that I wasn’t able to respond with grace and without fear if one or more of them became necessary.

But most of all, when I thought about my birth “plan” all I could think was that I wanted to glorify God in the way I handled each step of the process.  I’m a wimp.  I do not handle pain well and I knew the opportunity would be there for me to say things, or have attitudes that I would later regret because they didn’t reflect the grace and power of my God.  So Colossians 3:17 became my birth plan.  The only thing that I was positive I wanted was this: “…whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Epidural or natural, c-section or vaginal, induced or spontaneous, early or twelve stinking days late—to God be the glory! [end diversion]


September 11th | 4AM
I decided it was time to call my midwife.  I was pretty sure she would tell me it wasn’t time to come in yet, but I wanted to get a feel from her as to how far along she thought I was because it already felt like I’d been doing this forever and I just wanted to move on to the next step.  I know everyone tells you to labor at home, where you’re most comfortable for as long as you can, but I just wanted to go to the hospital.  In my mind, staying home was making things take longer because Judah wasn’t going to be born at home, he was going to be born at the hospital, and I needed to get there in order for that to happen.  At first my midwife said I could probably stay home for a few more hours before coming in.  I think I must have sounded a little bit tearful and desperate because after talking to me for a few more minutes and listening to me breath through a contraction she told me to come on in.

It’s funny how you can plan in your head how certain things will go (I was determined to have a shower, put on make-up, and look presentable before heading to the hospital.)  and the day before when I thought we were going to the hospital I was totally put together, exactly how I’d imagined.  But that morning after talking to the midwife Josh showered while I got dressed  (in between leaning over the bed with each contraction) and then we were headed out the door within 20 minutes—me not looking anything like I’d imagined and not even caring.  I think that’s when you know you’re really in labor?  When all things superficial don’t matter because you suddenly have only one thought “It’s my job to get this baby out of me!”

They checked me as soon as I got to the hospital and thank you Jesus I was dilated to a 4!  In my midwife’s words “Oh, you’re at a 4!  You’re definitely in labor and can get settled in!”  My first question was “When can I get in the tub?!” because that sounded like the only thing that would feel good at the moment.  They told me that I couldn’t be moved to a tub room for two reasons: one, because they were both occupied at the moment, and two, because I wasn’t dilated enough.  They usually wanted until at least 5cm and contractions that were 4-5 min apart to let women get in the tub because they didn’t want to risk stalling labor with the warm water. 

And so from about 5:30 AM until 11AM I walked and practiced breathing, and swayed through each contraction while holding on to my husband.  By about 9AM that morning my entire family including some of the grandparents had made it to the hospital so I would walk back and forth from my room to the waiting room and I loved having them there to break up the monotony of it all.  The contractions were growing in intensity and I was definitely starting to have to focus to breath through each one.  I quickly learned that I couldn’t move (other than rocking or swaying) during a contraction.  I tried changing positions in the middle of a contraction one time (I was sitting and leaning forward on Josh but didn’t like the way that felt so tried to stand up) and my body refused to cooperate.  It was as if my entire body had been gripped by a large vise, and all my muscles refused to do anything other than work to contract my belly.  Josh had to pull me all the way up in to a standing position because I couldn’t do it on my own.


I started to understand the rhythm of what my body was doing and was able to walk for a few minutes and then as I felt contraction building hold on to Josh or whatever else happened to be near as I bent/squatted and swayed.  It’s strange how through all of it I wasn’t trying to think back to what the books said I should be doing, or what they taught us in our birth class, but without thinking my body slowly began doing what it needed to do.  It felt like there was two of me.  The “me” that I knew, who was slightly scared, tired, and in already hating the pain, and this new “me” who had taken over my body and was being tough, working through the contractions, groaning and laboring this baby right out of my body.

I’d come prepared with tennis balls for Josh to use on my lower back and the first time he tried to push on my back at all during a contraction I quickly told him to stop because it was only making it worse.  That surprised me, because it seemed like everyone I had talked to said that having someone push as hard as they could on their back was the only thing that helped to relieve some of the pain.  I tried several more times during labor throughout the day to have Josh apply pressure and each time the result was the same, it made it hurt so so much worse.  I honestly couldn't really stand to have anyone touching me for most of the day, every now and the I would ask Josh to rub my shoulders and that was about all I could take.


September 11th | 11AM
At about 11AM I asked again about moving to a tub room and they said that one had just come available, they were cleaning it and that they wanted to see me progress just a little bit further before moving me.  They asked if I wanted to try using a breast pump for a few min to see if that sped things up a little bit and I definitely did.  Anything to speed up this process!  They hooked me up and sat me on a ball (a big round ball of soft wonderfulness!) and I started pumping.  The results were almost immediate.  The contractions were much stronger and coming much closer together.  Josh was sitting on the bed directly behind me so I could lean back against him and those contractions were the first few that he had to talk me through.  After the first contraction I started to turn down the machine so it wasn’t on as strong because the contraction came so fast and hard that it scared me and Josh had to calmly and quietly talk me off that ledge “It’s doing what it’s supposed to buddy, you’ve got to let it.  These contractions are a good thing.”  It was the first time that I felt like I might cry (my eyes definitely started watering) but I was determined not to let myself.  I knew that crying would be the beginning of the end for me as far and mental and physical capacity to handle the pain went, so that was going to be saved for transition, or pushing, or something actually painful and hard.  So I sat and bounced on that ball (I wish I could have stayed on that ball forever, it was the most comfortable position I’d been in all day) and pumped for dear life hoping that when the nurse came in 30 minutes later she’d let me go get in the tub.

And she did!  She asked how close my contractions were after 30 minutes of pumping (3-4 min. apart.) and said that I could move to the tub.  And I was so so ready.  In my head I thought I would sink into extremely warm water up to my shoulders and the contractions would become tiny little aches in my back every few minutes.  It’s cute how you can delude yourself sometimes, isn’t it?

So we packed up all of our stuff (and by we I mean Josh did while I was panting through contractions) and moved about 6 rooms down the hallway to the beautiful tub birthing room.  I'd been in this room once before when we toured the hospital and loved it now just as much as I did the first time (though slightly more distracted in my appreciation of it.)  Changing into the swim top that I'd bought exactly for this purpose as quickly as possible I headed straight for the tub.  Josh started our "birth playlist"--the same music that my mom had played through all of her deliveries and music that I'd grown up listening to--George Winston's "December".  It was the only music I could listen to over and over again without ever tiring of it and it seemed like the obvious pick for this setting.

I stepped into the mini-hot-tub while "Thanksgiving" played softly in the background, ready to sink into a relaxing bath and for all this silly pain to just become a memory in the back of my mind.  Like I said, ignorance is sweet bliss ;)