10 Days of Pre-Labor: The Rollercoaster Ride to Birth
The 10 days leading up to birth were pretty exhausting emotionally and physically. I had been so prepared mentally to go past my due date, until I started getting regular, strong contractions in the days leading up to birth. 10 days before Arrow actually came, I had contractions every 3-5 minutes lasting over a minute for over 5 hours. They were strong, they hurt, and I was SO sure it was the real deal, until they spaced out and I eventually fell asleep. I had more days like that, sprinkled in with some good days too those last 10 days. It really does just prove to me that we can’t control this thing called labor, and “being in labor” is also such a misunderstood concept. I think I was in labor and out of labor during those 10 days and I also think that’s completely normal if we leave it alone and let it do it’s thing. I attribute the ease and speed of my active laboring time to all this hard and exhausting work before hand.
Tuesday night, had a few contractions while taking a bath but didn’t really think anything of them anymore since that’s been the norm for many many nights. I did wonder enough though to see what I could feel and tried to check my cervix. I had done so a few other times but I could never reach it. This time I still couldn’t reach my cervix but I did feel something slightly different and wondered if maybe it was my bag of waters bulging.
Wednesday March 21st, 39.6 weeks
Waters have opened!
Woke up to waters opening at 2:15am, I felt a pop and warm liquid. I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom.
I didn’t believe it at first because 5 days earlier, at the same time at night, I woke up to the same feeling of my waters opening and ran to the bathroom only to realize nothing was wet and it was a dream. This time however, everything was soak, bed, pillow, floor. There was a ton of water! I woke Tim up to help me change sheets feeling a bit nervous and panicked. I had been dreading going into labor this entire pregnancy. I just really didn’t want to go through the pain at all.
Once I realized my waters opened and I was starting to get some short crampy contractions, I was also feeling sad realizing my best friend and doula, Dani, was out of town at her grandmas funeral until the next day. We both knew it was a possibility for her to miss it, but it felt even more sad realizing it was happening.
Early Labor: Contractions and Concerns
Contractions started about 20 minutes after my water broke and were exactly 2 minutes apart and lasted about 30 seconds. They were strong but I felt it was odd they were so short. I decided to call my midwife Julie at 2:45am just to let her know. I told her they weren’t long but were close, I had to stop and breathe through 3 of them during our 5 minute phone call. She said they could stay short and to just listen to my body and let her know when I’d like her to come.
I realized we weren’t going to go back to bed and asked Tim to start inflating the birth tub while I made my way to the kitchen to eat a few cashews and yogurt to be sure I had some protein in me. I came back in our bedroom and told Tim I was scared and nervous. I wasn’t ever worried about something going wrong, I was just feeling dread about having to go through the pain of labor and specifically the last 30 minutes of transition which for me is typically very panicky and very painful. Tim stopped filling the tub and came over and prayed over me. I felt such peace after that.
By 3:15am, 1 hour After waters opening, Contractions were still every 2 minutes and around 30-40 seconds but very strong. I told Tim I was going to make it through the next contraction and then call our friend Nikki to come to be an extra set of hands, take some pictures and help with any kids who might wake up and I texted Julie she didn’t need to rush but should head over.
Nikki arrived about 3:45am and Julie shortly after. Tim set up the video camera while I swayed to worship music. I told him I needed him now during contractions. I asked Julie to listen to Arrow’s heart rate and it sounded good so I jumped in the tub around 4:30am.
Time for the Birth Tub
The water felt nice, but I started feeling more pain in my lower back. I kept saying out loud things like “this is normal”, “I am okay”, “God will sustain me through the next contraction”. The contractions stayed around every 3-4 minutes and still only lasted about 45 seconds.
Around 5am I told Tim to remember to wake up Gracelyn once I’m close. I also commented during a contraction how cute Arrow will be. I talked ALOT out loud, mostly to myself, about different thoughts and things I was feeling. I’m not sure anyone else even had a clue what I was talking about. I felt the contractions deeper and moaned much lower.
Prayer, Peppermint Oil & Scripture Reading
Tim and Julie prayed out loud during this time and it was so encouraging to my heart. I had been praying/talking to God out loud myself throughout as well. Tim also spent a lot of time reading scriptures out loud to me. My back was hurting more and more as I felt him move down. I got into this habit of needing to smell peppermint oil after every contraction. It helped the burping and overall to let go of the contraction.
Around 6am I was telling Arrow it’s okay to move down. I reach down and could feel his head about 2-3 knuckles in. I was grunting with contractions but wasn’t bearing down. It felt so nice to allow my body to lead what I did, and not feel like I needed to fit a certain mold or get permission from someone to do something like grunting.
At 6:30am I beared down enough that prompted Tim to go wake up Gracelyn. I told Tim between a contraction to go get the muffins out of the freezer. I laughed and said “I don’t know why this matters right now but it does”. We all giggled. I began to give myself pep talks about how I was stretching and opening and that it was okay. I also told Gracelyn that I’d be making noises and she could leave if she wanted to at point. She sat snuggled up on my bed watching and smiling.
6:45am and the back pain was really bad as Arrow moved lower. I had been feeling every few contractions and every so slowly could feel him move down. I told Tim I needed him to push on my back, and the only way for him to reach my back was to get into the tub. He hopped right in and the counter-pressure helped some.
Melissa came down to get the kids to take them back to her house and some were still sleep so she was able to come in and be another support. I remember looking up at her smiling and feeling so grateful God worked the timing perfectly for her to be at my birth when just weeks ago I was at hers!
Bearing Down and Finding Strength
I began to bear down, and this is usually when I really panic. I continued to tell myself out loud that I was okay, I could do this, and that God would get me through each one. After really pushing through one contraction I had a moment of panic and looked at Julie and she reassured me and immediately the panic and fear left.
I reached in and could feel his head right there. I beared down through another contraction and could feel the top of his head all squished up. The next contraction I pushed and held his head as it came out. I kept saying “I’m stretching” and “it’s okay”. I also said “head out” and I waited for the next contraction. The next one came and I felt him turn and come out, posterior, just like his brother, into my hands. I felt him in the water and for a moment collected myself and then reached down and started to pull him out. The umbilical cord was wrapped 3 times around his neck so I unwrapped that and pulled him up to me.
He started crying quickly after. I was shocked. I could not believe at what a gift this baby was, but also what a gift the labor was. It was so much better than my others and God truly sustained me through it all. About 15 minutes later I pushed the placenta out and then got out of the tub and onto my bed.
The few hours after birth were filled with such joy, care and love by those around me. Nikki went and cleaned my floors, while Julie started herbs to make me a bath, Melissa took my kids to her house to feed them breakfast, my mom came and started laundry and cut Arrow’s umbilical cord and Tim worked on taking down the tub. Such joy and love and a time I’ll never forget.
Arrow Jay Schweitzer born at home in the water at 7:16am weighing 8.3 lbs and 21.5 inches long. A total of 5 hours after my water breaking to him being born, 4 hours of active labor contractions, weeks of contractions ahead of time.