Just over three months ago our baby girl was born. The time has flown by faster than I ever imagined, probably because I’ve spent most of it in a spit-up covered stupor – a fog of exhaustion, emotion, frustration, and indescribable, heart-bursting joy. I finally understand what people mean when they say “I hardly remember my life before my kids.” After giving me the most perfect pregnancy and labor imaginable, our darling girl was born at 7:47 on a rainy Wednesday morning. Seriously, the entire experience was so pleasant, I feel like I should have written her a Thank You note for her hospitality.
A few weeks before my due date my body was progressing nicely. By my 39-week appointment, my doctor said she wouldn’t be surprised if I’d deliver that weekend. I tried to send telepathic messages to my baby – urging her to stay put until at least that night because my husband was away on business. The next day, while working from home, I thought I was in labor! I our amazing amazing doula, Kate, and my mom to alert them of my state, and then started keeping track of “contractions” on my iPhone Contraction Tracker app. I even went so far as paging my husband who was in surgery at the time, which is something I never do. He has never returned a call so quickly! Aaaaannnd then… the contractions came to a shrieking halt. Nada. No dice. Nothing. Dear Uterus ~ You’re a punk!
Five hours before I went into labor
The weekend came and went and by the following Tuesday something had changed. I felt different. I wasn’t feeling labor-y, but knew that something was brewing. The cramps and stitches I had been experiencing were picking up speed and intensity that day. I knew Baby Girl Williams was coming. I rushed to tie up loose ends with work, tidied the house, and made sure my hospital bags were all in order. That evening, my husband and I went for a hilly walk in the neighborhood to intentionally stir things up in my nether region, and went out for our last meal as a family of two, where I had the best damn cheeseburger of my life. (From Hubbard Avenue Diner ~ for you Madison folk) It was amazeballs!
Later that night as we were going to sleep, I went into labor. It was 11 pm. Like a flip of a switch, I felt my body kick into gear and it never slowed down. I suspected it was labor when I had two really strong cramps come and go within a few minutes. Lying in bed didn’t feel great so I kissed my husband, told him to sleep and that I’d wake him if/when I needed him.
I immediately started tracking the contractions. My contractions felt weird and they confused me so much that, naturally, I resorted to Facebook to solve this great uterine mystery. You see, they felt like really strong menstrual cramps, but lasted between 2 and 6 minutes and came at varying intervals. This was like nothing for which I had mentally prepared. I was expecting shorter contractions coming at consistent intervals. So, over the course of a couple of hours, it took my doula, three gals from Facebook, and me to conclude that I was indeed in labor. It DOES take a village after all!
Since I planned to have a natural birth and wanted to labor at home as long as possible, I passed the time by finding distractions to help me cope with the discomfort in the wee hours of May 25th. I watched Oprah’s final show on the DVR, “rested” on the couch with a hot pad, prepared a several peanut butter sandwiches for the hospital, talked to my mom and little brother on the phone, bounced on an exercise ball, and took a bath to ease the pain. The bath felt nice, but it didn’t ease the discomfort that much. I kept my doula in the loop with frequent text updates. She begged to come over to help me, but with the type of contractions I was having, there was really nothing anyone could do to help me feel better. I told her to stay home for the time being. I eventually called the doctor on-call to tell her I suspected I was in labor. Then, I took a shower, shaved my legs and blow-dried my hair, knowing it would be the last time I’d do that for a while.
At 2 a.m. I tried to rest, which was hilarious. It’s nearly impossible to rest when you are having intense contractions every few minutes. At 2:36 a.m. I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had bloody show… or so I thought. I was equal parts excited and baffled because it was more underwhelming than I expected it to be. All you have to go by is the list of labor signs you learn in baby class. Contractions. Bloody show. Water breaks. Baby pops out. The end. I decided to wake Dan. Sitting still was not an option for me, so I just paced around the house breathing deep breaths. At 3:25 a.m. I went to the bathroom and saw that I was bleeding quite a lot. This made me really nervous. It just didn’t feel right. I never read anything about having a lot of blood. I had Dan call Kate and then the doctor to let them know we’re going to the hospital. In a whirlwind, we gathered our carload of stuff and high-tailed out the door into the pouring rain.
The car ride sucked!! I remember posting from my phone on Facebook “Let the games begin!” as a way to document the adventure. I was so uncomfortable – sitting was absolutely the worst position for me. My contractions were between 1 and 2 minutes apart at that point. Our doula texted me and begged…”Can I PLEASE meet you at the hospital?!” She so badly wanted to be there for us, and I told her to absolutely meet us there. Dan alerted the hospital we were on our way. Once at the hospital, the walk from the car to the entrance was a struggle since contractions were coming so frequently. We had to stop and sit on the bench at the entrance, which caught the attention of the night guard. We were undoubtedly that couple in labor – a wincing woman accompanied by a man carrying 28 bags and a pillow, sporting a deer-in-headlights look on his face. He greeted us with a wheel chair, offered me a lift, and we made the ridiculously long journey to the labor and delivery floor. I was quietly cursing the old tile floor as I felt every bump under the hard wheels of my chariot.
At 4:15 a.m. we pulled up to the triage room where a nurse, aka “the gatekeeper”, would check me to determine if I got to stay at the hospital or go home. I remember the staff didn’t seem too sensitive to my condition and felt no need to rush while I quietly whimpered in the hallway. The nurse finally checked me and I was 4-5 cm dilated to which I exclaimed…”That’s it?!?!” I was disappointed because I thought I would have been more dilated considering I was 3 cm dilated 5 days earlier. Now I realize how lucky I was to be so far along at that stage. They had me stand up so I could move to my room and I felt a leak. I said… “Oh no, I’m sorry…I’m leaking all over the place.” I thought it was pee. Then, a huge gush and splatter of fluid crashed down and Dan and the nurse laughed at me. My water broke and it didn’t even occur to me. Good job, Linds.
They moved me into a spacious labor and delivery room where I changed into the beautiful mesh underpants they provide and fumbled for my labor dress. Yes, I just said labor dress. I found this cute dress online intended to wear during labor that’s made of super soft t-shirt material and ties in the front for easy access to…you know…your private parts. I hate hospital gowns – they make me sweat. Well, I couldn’t figure out the damn dress – it was crazy complicated, so I just wore the maternity camisole I already had on and the mesh underpants. And you know what? It was the perfect thing to wear. In fact, I’m wearing the same outfit right now.
While Nicole, our amazing nurse reviewed our birth plan and listened for our baby’s heart rate, Dan brought in the rest of our 28 bags and set up the laptop for music. I actually spent a lot of time working on two labor mixes: Labor Mix – Fun and Labor Mix – Slow. I wanted to be sure I had fun music in case I wanted to dance around during labor. Isn’t that cute? Yeah – that didn’t happen. In the end we just labored in a dimly lit room in the peace and quiet (minus the guttural, primal sounds that came out of my mouth during contractions…but we’ll get to that in a minute). Our doula arrived and immediately got to work hydrating and feeding me. She was amazing. Her peaceful yet encouraging demeanor was the perfect complement to Dan’s attentive and tender presence. I was in good hands.
Laboring position #1. Our doula offered her shoulders for support – not a massage.
After reading about and practicing all sorts of laboring positions, it turned out I could only tolerate two positions: kneeling in bed and sitting on my heels, or on the toilet. The only reason I would change positions is because my feet or bottom kept falling asleep. With each contraction, I would take a deep breath and then exhale with a low, yogic, vibrating breath, very similar to a monk chanting or an animal growling. It was bizarre yet so natural for me to do this, and it felt so much better than just breathing.
I was enveloped with love and support throughout the whole experience. Dan sat by my side the entire time and held my hand through every contraction. Kate continued to give me loving support and guidance and fed me water and Gatorade. The nurse offered encouragement and kept an eye on the baby’s progress. It was surprisingly serene.
Laboring position #2: In the zone… on the toilet.
At 6:00 a.m. the doctor checked me and I was 9½ cm dilated. Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Things were happening! I was so happy and so grateful that I progressed as quickly as I did. I went back to laboring to achieve that golden number all pregnant women hold near and dear: TEN CENTIMETERS!
At 6:45 a.m. I entered what I assumed was transition. The contractions became noticeably more intense and it was the one time where I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was unintentionally pushing at the end of each exhale, and the nurse told me to try to not do that, but Kate reassuringly told me that I should allow it to happen if it felt right. On a few occasions I thought I was going to vomit but luckily I didn’t. The nurse set-up a bright spotlight from outside the bathroom and shone it on my lady parts to see if I was bulging. Yep, bulging. Attractive, huh? And eureka – I was!!! It was a glorious moment, just because it sounded like an important change.
At 7:00 a.m. the doctor checked me. I was complete (10 cm dilated and fully effaced)! This meant one thing: time to push! The best words I have ever heard. I was like… “Hell yes. Bring it on, Baby!” Suddenly, the room filled with nurses scrambling to set up for delivery. It was suggested I lie on my left side. I totally assumed I would do some sort of squat or handstand to deliver this kiddo – so when I rolled to my side and it felt good, I was pleasantly surprised.
Pushing was an incredible feeling. Having to NOT push for two hours felt so unnatural that having the chance to actually do what my body was meant to do was truly blissful. It wasn’t painful. In fact, it brought me tremendous relief. Dan said my face turned a deep shade of purple with every push, as I tried to achieve three pushes with each contraction. At one point, my doctor had me stop pushing and just breathe through a contraction. That was hard but I understood why it was necessary. I had to give my body time to adjust and bend with the pressure of the canned ham trying to escape my body.
Pushing was almost a serene and peaceful process…minus the part where my head almost exploded with each push. Dan stood behind me and held my leg, and Kate was nearby offering encouragement and warm compresses. In between pushes I fell into a euphoric, trance-like state. I would rest and recover from the grueling physical demands of pushing and just relax on my side, sometimes having small conversations with the people around me. I felt so good in between pushes that I asked for my cell phone so I could text my parents, who were en route to Madison, to tell them that I was indeed pushing. It was a momentous occasion.
As soon as the baby’s head made an appearance, they handed me a mirror so I could see her. It was so cool (aka gross) and encouraging. I pushed for what felt like ten minutes, but all told, it was only 47 minutes. With one big push her head popped out and I could hear the excitement in Dan’s voice. With another big push, our darling girl was born. I strained to listen for her first cries. The doctor noticed there was meconium (her first poop) in the fluid that came out with her. Still no cries. I said, “Why isn’t she crying? I didn’t hear her cry!” My heart began to pound.
The nurses put the baby on my chest and vigorously rubbed her to warm her up and get her to cry. She didn’t. It was pretty clear that she had ingested meconium in the womb. She was a cloudy blue color which I knew is normal at first, but she wasn’t turning pink. She wiggled a bit on my chest and I remember saying out loud that she was the softest thing I had ever felt. The nurses kept saying…”C’mon baby girl. C’mon!” And I was thinking…”Please breathe, baby. Please!” I held her squirmy body tight and willed her to breathe. And then with panic in my voice, I said, “She isn’t crying. Take her. Please! Do whatever you have to do!” The nurses swept her away and began working on her at the other end of the room, clearing her airway and bagging her with oxygen. I told Dan to go with her and Kate stayed by my side, holding my hand. I was so scared. Dan was so scared. Our beautiful baby girl wasn’t breathing. I kept asking out loud…”What’s happening?! Dan! What’s going on?!!” He didn’t answer. He was in shock as he stood there watching his newborn baby girl struggle to breathe. Calmly, the nurses said they were just trying to get her to breathe – that she just needed a little help – that everything was okay. But I didn’t believe them. Kate squeezed my hand in reassurance.
They paged the NICU team and within minutes the troops arrived and began working on our girl. Finally, a little screech escaped from across the room and it was the best sound I ever heard. While I expected a wild scream, I relished every little bit of that little peep that came from our struggling baby. The team continued to give her oxygen and monitor her vitals. They were amazing.
Finally getting to hold her
After 30 minutes I was able to finally hold my baby girl for more than a few seconds. She was still the softest thing I had ever felt in my life and I fell deeply in love with her. Dan and I just gazed into her dark eyes and marveled at how she batted at the oxygen tube dangling in front of her face. She was already a tough cookie! Sadly, due to her dramatic entrance into the world, we were unable to attempt breastfeeding right away. Not long after we got to hold her, they took her away to the NICU because her heart and oxygen rates were not stable. Dan and I agreed that he should go with her. Kate stayed by my side and fed me fresh cut strawberries as we waited for my mom and dad to arrive.
Suddenly, I was a new mom without her baby. It was surreal. I had just gone through hours of labor and delivered a beautiful baby girl, and then, POOF, our baby wasn’t by my side. I spent nearly ten months attached to her, and now we were separated. It felt so strange to carry on in conversation with nurses and my family, munching on strawberries, as if nothing had happened. But there was a hole in my heart. I desperately wanted to hold her sweet body against mine, and sink into that newborn bliss. It would be hours before I saw her again, with an IV in her bandaged arm, oxygen cannulas tied to her nose and face, and beeping monitors filling the space around our tiny baby. I knew how lucky we were that she made it through the rough patch. But seeing her in the NICU like that took my breath away and for the first time that day, I sobbed. I couldn’t bear the sight of my little girl in this state. It broke my heart.
Our little family spent four days in the NICU while our baby girl recovered. The nursing staff was unbelievable. They took amazing care of both me and our baby. Those four days were a blur of exhaustion, worry, and emotion, and we were cut off from the outside world. It did, however, take us FOUR days to name our little Peanut Face. Even though I had made baby name lists since I was 12 years old, Dan and I couldn’t settle on a name for four days. But on the fourth day, we knew we had the right name. For a variety of reasons I’ll share another time, we chose the most perfect name of all…
Amelia Josephine Williams.
Our baby girl the day we left the hospital
Welcome to the world, Amelia. You bring us so much joy. We adore you.