Each week I am posting encouraging and inspiring birth stories from friends and readers. If you have a birth story you would like to include please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s birth story is from my friend Martha at A Softer Side of Strong.
“That’s it, I give up.” I thought to myself after 8 days of bouncing on an exercise ball, dousing everything in Chalula, taking long walks, doing squats, dancing, eating 858 pineapples, and drinking raspberry tea. Oh, and lets not forget having my membranes stripped. I woke up that Friday morning with a peace that this baby was not going to be willed out by me. He has going to come when he and the good Lord were ready.
When I got up that morning, I decided to have a self-indulgent day. I walked up to Starbucks and got a Grande Decaf Caramel Frappuccino. I had been good all 9 months and decided to hell with it, I was going to eat like I was 9 months pregnant. So I did what any rational 9 month pregnant woman would do, I ordered a cinnamon roll to go with my Grande Decaf Caramel Frappuccino. Then I went next door to the nail salon and asked for a deluxe pedicure. You see, these amazing women give a deluxe pedicure where they massage your feet and legs for an hour… even using hot stones! The best part is, it’s 22 bucks. Everyone in there stared at me in disbelief and finally one yelled, “Ok fine! I’ll be the one to ask… WHEN ARE YOU DUE?!” I laughed and answered, “8 days ago.”
The women then talked to each other in a language I didn’t understand but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “Holy s#$&! I’m not responsible for cleaning up this lady’s water if it breaks.”
I sat down in the giant massage chair (after looking like an 18 wheeler backing into a compact car parking spot), grabbed the cheesiest People magazine I could find, and sipped and slurped my frappuccino. It was heaven.
Afterwards I walked back to my house and got ready to pick my dad up from the airport. We picked him up around 1 and got back to the house around 3 thanks to I-5 traffic. We all decided to seize the sunny day (they are few and far between around here) and take them on our favorite hike. It was full of gorgeous views of the Puget Sound and wildflowers. It took us all the way through what seemed like a rain forest and led us down to the sound where we sat on and took in “cocktail hour” because Sam had snuck some beers in his hiking pack. Of course my cocktail of choice was a refreshing bottled water… I hear it’s all the rage in New York.
We hiked back and got ready for supper. We decided to eat at our new favorite restaurant in Steilacoom, Jake’s. We headed that way and on the drive I felt strange.I didn’t say anything because I had felt some tightness in the previous week only to be disappointed it was probably indigestion. We dropped my parents off and Sam and I parked the car. I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to get our hopes up, but I think I’m having contractions.” Of course, not knowing that contractions can last a very long time, Sam immediately went into protective mode. “What?! Why are we here? We should go home! Are you ok!?” I told him there was no need to get hot water and a tarp and that we should enjoy a nice supper… which would be our last calm supper in awhile. So we walked to the restaurant holding hands, knowing that our world would be changed forever in a matter of 24 hours.
We decided not to say anything to my parents because we wanted things to remain calm and I still had doubts that I was truly in labor. So we ate supper, laughing at the fact that we’d spent so much time worrying that I’d go into labor early and Sam would miss it… only to be 8 days late. Through each minor contraction, I’d squeeze Sam’s hand under the table. They weren’t painful, they were just exciting reminders that our baby was making his way out into the world. We talked about the weather, family, and politics, all the while Sam and I would steal glances at each other and smile because we knew tonight would be an adventure.
When we got back to the house we changed into our PJs and watched television. Around 10pm, we all made our way to the bed. At 11:15, the contractions were no longer little reminders, they were flipping sirens going off inside of my body telling me to take cover. I told Sam that we needed to start timing. He grabbed the iPod touch and started timing each one. Then I wanted him to get some sleep so with some serious reluctance from him, I took over. I tried to rest but the contractions were about 5 minutes apart so I would catch 5 minute cat naps. Around 3am, I told Sam that I wanted to take a bath and that he should tell my parents I was in labor.
I started filling up the bath tub and I heard him knock on the door to our guest room (I’m sure praying that the queen bed my parents were sleeping in had somehow turned into twin beds and he wouldn’t have to see his in-laws cuddling). “Hey Janice and Graham? Martha is in labor.” I heard some shuffling and my mom came into the bathroom. We laughed, she checked on me, and I’m sure there was squealing involved. A little while later the contractions were 3 minutes apart so Sam decided to call the doctor and see what their thoughts were. We all walked downstairs and as Sam described the time and length of contractions, I’d breathe through each one, remembering all of the Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, and Ina May techniques I’d read the previous 9 months. I expected him to say, “Ok sweet girl, they said come on!” but instead he looked at me and said, “They said to go back to bed and come in when they are a minute or two apart and lasting 90 seconds.”
It was going to be a long night.
I got back into the tub and continued to labor while everyone tried to sleep. Sam kept coming in and checking on me but I told him to try and get rest while he could. He would sweetly rub my head and head back to bed. At 7am, it was getting intense. I knew I wanted to labor at home as long as possible but it was getting a bit tough. I heard my parents up downstairs so Sam and I joined them. They were watching I love Lucy and laughing together. I remember thinking how nice it was that they were enjoying some time laughing together before they became grandparents. When I got downstairs, I could barely walk through the contractions. I was having horrible back labor. Most of the pain would start in my lower back and wrap around the front. Sam, Mom, and Daddy all took turns during contractions pushing on my lower back.
The counter pressure was the only relief that would work. I’d continue breathing through and flapping my lips like a horse in order to relieve some pressure in my lady garden. I had read about that technique in Ina May’s book. I don’t know if it helped much but I was determined to keep doing it.
The next couple of hours were spent in different positions in the living room. I’d lean against the pillar in the living room, I’d be on all fours, I’d lean back into child’s pose, I’d be on my left side… I’m sure I looked like a disastrous “Yoga for beginners” video. Those hours downstairs were a bit of a blur but there are two things I remember. I remember my dad trying to distract me and make me laugh by showing me a magic video on his iPad… it wasn’t working. And I remember Roy coming and laying beside of me during my contractions. There was worry on his face and I remember feeling strangely comforted by the fact that my dog was picking up on my pain and wanted to comfort me.
At 9am, the contractions were over a minute long and 2 minutes apart. Sam called Labor and Delivery and they gave us the green light to come on in. I texted my doula and told her to meet us at the hospital. We grabbed our “go bags” and made our way to the car. We drove the 3 exits down to the hospital and when we got to the gate to show our IDs (gotta love giving birth on an army base) Sam started to hand all 4 IDs over and told the guard, “My wife is in labor!” and without blinking the guard asked Sam for some word and they had some sort of exchange that I can’t remember and we drove through the gate without having to go through the entire ID check. I remember feeling a little badass but that feeling was interrupted by my child trying to break his way through my nether-regions. Sam dropped us off and parked the car. It took forever to get to the front door because I had to keep stopping for my contractions. I remember a soldier walking by and wishing us luck. I remember wanting to say thank you but my body wouldn’t stand up right.
I hoped Emily Post wouldn’t be too angry at my bad manners.
** Warning: Photos of a pregnant lady in a sports bra in this post. If that makes you feel weird, don’t read this or watch women’s soccer.
**Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by Adidas. Although, I am sponsored by Willy Wonka Candy Company.
We got on the elevator and went to Labor and Delivery. We checked in and I asked if they had any midwives available. They did! I made my way to the tiny room for assessment. I was expecting them to tell me I was at least seven centimeters dilated. I was four. “WHAT?! Are you sure?” I squeaked in between contractions. They were sure. Sam handed them my birth plan and stared each of them in the eye and told them how important it was for us to abide by that birth plan as much as possible. I wouldn’t have argued with him. That is one of the first things that made me fall in love with my husband. No matter the situation, he has a confidence and sense of leadership without being arrogant. It still makes me swoon.
We made our way to the hydrotherapy room. I changed into my sports bra and climbed into the tub. It felt nice but not warm enough. Sam always thought I liked my water too hot, he called my baths “human soup”. But they made it a little hotter and I was finally comfortable in between contractions. Sam and my doula, Sarah kept it warm throughout the whole ordeal. It was around 10:30 when I made my way into the tub.
The next two hours were filled with painful contractions, Sam giving me gatorade, constantly giving me encouragement, rubbing my back and nurses frequently checking on me and the baby. My mom and doula were also in the room. My poor dad was waiting in the waiting room trying to occupy himself. After 2 hours, it was lunch time. I told Sam to go grab some lunch since I thought it might be awhile. I’m pretty sure that was the quickest lunch he’d ever eaten. While he was gone, I felt an extremely painful POP and some blood and other liquid came out. I had been silent through my labor, just breathing and funny horse mouth sounds. But that pop made me yelp. I looked at my mom and doula and told them I thought my water broke and it hurt like a mother licker. So my doula went and told the nurses.
After my water broke, things got real. The contractions seemed to last forever and there was no break in between. Sam was incredible support. He was encouraging me, praying for me, and rubbing my head. There was one weak moment when I looked at him and told him I didn’t think I could do it anymore. But we had made a pact that unless I said the code word for an epidural, “I want waffles” then he had to ignore me. I didn’t say the extremely mature code word so he just told me to take a breath and just focus on getting through the next contraction. He kept telling me how much he loved me, how proud he was, and that he knew I could do this. I remember standing up through one of the toughest contractions and hanging from a bar in the room. Sam told me later that my belly looked almost like a complete 90 degree point it was so contracted. I don’t remember saying much but after a really hard contraction Sam asked me how I was feeling and I said, “I feel like this kid is a pain in my ass.” That’s all I remember saying during my labor… is that bad? The good news is, for a brief second it made us all laugh.
I had worked up quite a sweat so my mom was putting cold compresses on my back and shoulders. This felt like a tiny piece of heaven. I don’t know how she knew to do that but it felt amazing. After a couple of contractions I found myself grunting at the end of it.
“What was that?” my doula looked at me concerned. Sam asked if I was pushing.
All I could muster was, “I think so.”
I asked my doula to go tell the nurses that I was ready to push and to grab my mom. I looked at Sam with a determined but scared look. I was not planning on a water birth and I had told Sam in the prior week to pull me out of the tub with his giant muscles and put me in the bed. So, he asked me if I wanted to move. I looked at him and told him that I couldn’t move and we were just going to have to stay put. I was afraid if I moved I’d lose momentum and I had the eye of the tiger to start pushing. I smiled at my husband, we were about to start pushing our child into the world. He helped me make my way to the back of the tub.
The next thing I know the midwives and the nurses along with my doula, my mom and Sam were all crowded in this small tub room. The next hour and a half were filled with encouraging words, a lot of grunts, and determined pushing. I remember feeling very determined to push our boy out and wanted to do it quickly. My midwife Amber checked me and I was fully dilated. She told me to push through the contractions but honestly, that’s all my body wanted to do. The pushing contractions were totally different than the labor contractions. My body would just push through them but when they were done, I could rest completely in between each one. I felt like he crowned for F.O.R.E.V.E.R! Amber kept telling me to push through because he was almost there. Sam was rubbing my head and holding my hand, just telling me how proud he was. When Amber told me part of his head was out, I reached down and felt him… something I thought I’d never do. But I think I instinctually did it because I thought they were all liars because if I heard “he’s almost here” one more time I was going to have to go Jersey Shore on all of them. I had been pretty silent through labor but there were a few pushing contractions that made me grunt. Later on, Sam said my red face looked like Chris Farley as the bus driver on Billy Madison and sounded like the woman who fell on stomping the grapes in that old viral YouTube video. For some reason, picturing myself still makes me laugh.
The next thing I know everyone in the room is getting excited and telling me he’s almost here and to just keep pushing. I had a new determination. I remember talking to my son the whole time. “We can do this together bud”, I kept saying.
Apparently my dad had been outside the curtain since I started pushing and when he heard the excitement I don’t think he could take it anymore. Have you ever seen Knocked Up? Well, remember when his friend pops his head into the delivery room as Katherine Heigl is pushing… yeah, my poor father did that and I don’t think he’ll ever be the same.
You see, the thing about natural labor is…. you feel everything. I mean everything. I felt the head and then I felt his face and then I felt his shoulders and the next thing I know, that little bundle of purple baby was being put on my chest. It was the most incredible mix of pure joy and relief that exists. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I was weeping and could only muster the words, “Love explosion”. The nurses cracked up and congratulated me on my natural birth. I winked and told them I was one stubborn broad… (ok, I didn’t use the word broad).
I held onto the baby and felt such an overwhelming love. But the most love I felt was towards Sam. I fell in love with him all over again. I looked at him and smooched him and my heart has never been so full for him. He was my rock and I could not have birthed our son without him.
I tried nursing and he latched on for a little bit. Once the cord stopped pulsating, Sam cut it. Then I looked at him and told him to get me the hell out of that tub. I stood up and they wrapped towels around me as I made my way to the other room. They checked me and the baby and praise the Lord, everyone was healthy. I nursed for a little bit and everyone held Bud. I was covered in blankets because I got the shakes from all the adrenaline and hormones. Then I wanted a shower, a cheese burger, and a milkshake like nobody’s business. And yes, in that order. So they took Bud to do some tests and I made my way to de-tub myself.
I remember taking the best shower and even used fancy body wash. When I came out I put on the awesome hospital giant granny panties and ordered room service. I nursed some more while Sam shoved food into my mouth… I told you I was hungry. Then the next thing I know they’re telling me that I have to move into the recovery room. I was bummed I didn’t get to enjoy the nice birthing suite. I thought flashing my boobs to the nurse would persuade her to let me stay in the suite a little longer but apparently they see those all the time around there. The recovery rooms at Madigan are double occupancy so it felt strange to be in there with another new family and all I could think of was the episode in The Office when Pam nursed the wrong baby. Don’t worry, it didn’t happen.
Luckily, the family was discharged and I had the room to myself the next two days. The other crappy thing is that they made Sam leave each night at 9 and he couldn’t come back until 9am the next morning. The nights were filled with nursing what seemed like every two minutes, trying to soothe a crying baby getting used to the world, changing diapers, getting checked every hour, and oh yeah…not sleeping. After the first night of not sleeping, I had enough. I finally grabbed Bud and pulled him into bed with me and we both slept for two hours. It was the sweetest feeling experiencing that connection with this sweet little pink baby that I loved so much.
We begged for them to let us go early but they wouldn’t budge. I had to stay for 48 long hours but when we finally left, I wasn’t scared. I just wanted to get home and welcome our son to our family. We named him Samuel Daughtry Metzler, Jr. but we didn’t have his nickname yet. Turns out we wouldn’t decide until we were eating supper later that week.
Welcome home our son, welcome home Bud.
On a final note, we debated on having pictures taken of the birth but decided to in order to capture the moments that we would normally forget. Never would I have thought I would treasure the pictures so much for the fact that they capture moments like the one below of pure joy as the midwife laid Bud on my chest for the first time that I will never be able to put into words. And yes, it was hard work but beyond worth it. I would do it again and again in a heart beat.
Martha Metzler is a counselor, mama to one adorable hurricane of a toddler named Bud, and wife to a hottie lawyer named Sam who is currently serving in the US Army JAG Corp in Afghanistan. She loves the adventure she is living and thrives in it with a lot of laughter, off color jokes, and handfuls of candy. She loves writing, playing outside, and hearing from yall! Check out her blog, Softer Side of Strong.