It was August 9 and I was 39 weeks and 1 day (my due date can now be revealed and was August 15). The morning started out like any other for me. Around 10am, I started feeling some mild, but strong than my usual contractions/Braxton Hicks that I was also feeling in my back. Midwife note: Braxon Hicks is just a fancy name for contractions that don’t lead to labor and aren’t painful. They are still the uterus contracting, just much milder than labor. Many don’t even realize what they are. They often feel like the baby is “curling in a ball” or just feel like the belly gets tight.
I was thinking that “this is different” but also didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that it could be labor. I was supposed to go to the beach that day (about an hour away) and I really wanted to go. I first messaged Fred to see if he could talk. He called me back immediately (I guess this is what happens when you’re at the end of pregnancy). I told him what was happening, but also told him it was probably nothing. We agreed that I would go to the car wash first (the car desperately needed cleaning) and decide from there if I would go to the beach.
I felt contractions every ten minutes. They were noticeable but very mild. I got the car washed and then vacuumed it myself. I called Fred, declared I was fine and I decided to go.
When I arrived to my sister’s house, I didn’t say anything about what I was feeling. We went to the beach and enjoyed ourselves. We swam and played in the ocean. I continued to feel the contractions, but nothing about them changed. As we were leaving, we took a selfie and made sure to get Embers in the picture. My SIL told my niece that this would probably be the last time they saw me before I had the baby!
On the way home, I stopped for some donuts from a local place we like. The traffic was really bad. About 30 minutes into the drive (and not very far in distance), I started to feel the contractions and they were more painful. They were still every ten minutes, but definitely stronger. I kept calling Fred with updates. As I was getting closer to home, they were worse, but not enough to affect my driving or concentration. Fred was getting dinner ready (bratwurst and corn on the cob) to have it ready when I got home.
I got home around 5:30pm and we ate dinner. I started to breathe with the contractions just a little bit. Then I went up to shower and things started to be more intense. I started to breathe through them and concentrate more.
I came down around 7 and decided to call Jo, the midwife, and update our doula, Maya. The contractions were still ten to fifteen minutes. I was able to converse with Jo without having one. I said “this is possibly early labor and could stop” to both of them. Fred was thinking we should take a nap, and also got our guest room ready in case Maya wanted to come and stay over. We decided to lie on the couch to watch Parks and Rec.
We watched one episode before I said we needed to turn it off. I couldn’t concentrate. We went into the bathroom. I started to get cranky. It was about 8:15pm.
Every time something happened that I felt was important, I’d tell Fred, “tell them (Maya and Jo) that” and he was keeping in contact with them. I started to get contractions much more frequently and I was starting to get really vocal. We started the tub and I also tried getting in the shower. Nothing was helping.
Jo wanted to speak to me and I managed a quick conversation. She recommended I try to examine myself. This is technically difficult, but I managed to get on the floor and do it around 9pm. I was only able to estimate, but it felt about 4-5 centimeters, 80% effaced and I could feel the water bag bulging. For a person having her first baby, this really is considered “early labor” and things could go on much longer. Even though my contractions were only 3 minutes apart and very strong, I started to doubt myself, tell Fred I was “being a wimp” and that I couldn't do it. I got into the tub.
We have a large bathtub with jacuzzi jets, which was going to be great for labor. Not so. I couldn’t get comfortable. I moved in all positions. I asked Fred to spray me with the shower hose and it sprayed cold water. I yelled at him and he felt so bad. I ended up getting out after 5-10 minutes.
Fred had told Maya to come and she was on her way. At 9:30, I told Fred to tell Jo to come over too. I was thinking that I needed her to come to tell me to stop being a baby. I think that in my head, I knew I could be progressing fast, but I didn’t want to get into that mindset in case it wasn’t true.
Maya arrived at 9:50pm. At first, she said she wanted to just observe us before she helped. Then I got a contraction, screamed my head off and she was helping me right away. Fred was pretty stressed at this point too because I kept insisting it was still early and I was a wimp. I left the bathroom to come out and lie on the floor. I had him lay out a blanket and I laid down to try to die. It didn’t work. I also needed to get up and move when I got a contraction. Needless to say, lying down was short lived.
Jo arrived at 10pm. She wanted to examine me and then told me I was 7-8cm and bulging water bag. I said “let’s just go” (to the hospital). She agreed and told Fred to call the car. It was 10:15pm.
Fred realized he didn’t ask for a large car. He had ordered a regular sized car for the four of us. We got outside, I saw the sedan and got really annoyed. How were we all going to fit? We did, somehow. Fred sat in the front and moved his seat all the way up. Maya sat to my left and Jo to my right, but she was on the floor mostly. I faced the back on my hands and knees. We got less than a block away and I remembered we forgot my glasses. I wanted to go back. Everyone said no.
The car ride was about 45 minutes. I was screaming and mostly on my hands and knees the whole time. When we finally got to Manhattan, I watched every avenue and counted down until we got there. At 6th Avenue, my water broke. I started to push a little bit with contractions (uncontrollably).
When we arrived around 11pm, I was so happy to be there. Jo checked again and said I was fully dilated (10cm) and ready to push. I really wanted my dose of antibiotics because I was GBS positive, so I asked Lisa, the nurse, to give me my IV even though I was ready to push.
Midwife note: Group beta strep (GBS) is a bacteria that about 30% of pregnant people have and it does not cause any harm, except potentially when giving birth. In rare cases, it can pass to baby and cause a serious infection. The way to prevent this is for the mother to get antibiotics when she’s in labor. This is usually at least two doses, four hours apart. If not adequately treated, the baby is monitored for signs of infection. Infection is rare, but because of the potential, it’s recommended to get the antibiotics to protect the baby.
After the antibiotics, Jo and Lisa left for a few minutes. I started to push. It felt much better to push and I was able to focus on pushing and speak normally in between. When Jo and Lisa came back, I was getting closer to having the baby. Everyone was really encouraging.
The baby was born on August 10 at 12:10am. When Jo baby up and handed her to me, I immediately looked at her to see she was a girl. I exclaimed “It’s a girl!” and Fred and I were so happy. I held her close and we shared our joy. When I saw her I was surprised about how small she was because we expected her to be at least 8 pounds. She was a perfect 6 pounds, 8 ounces and a healthy baby.
We were beyond thrilled and happy about the experience and so happy to meet her. A huge thanks to my amazing team - I couldn't have done it without you all!
Today was my last birth and last time at the hospital while pregnant. I was originally thinking I would be scheduled this week in the office, but we had a mama need a scheduled cesarean birth and I said I wanted to go to that instead of the office. Jo was happy to work in the office instead so I could go to the birth (Chloe is away). It was also meaningful for me to go since I’d been through two other hospital visits (to try to flip their baby with an external cephalic version) with this couple.
Midwife note: An external cephalic version (ECV or version) is when a doctor tries to flip a baby from breech or transverse position to cephalic (head down). This is done at the hospital, under ultrasound guidance, by a trained doctor. In our practice, we like to try to attend these if we can to help support our client.
We also always attend the scheduled cesareans, even though we aren’t medically part of the birth. Generally the midwife on call will attend as a support person and familiar face for the family. We help support the person while getting set up in the operating room like with the anesthesia, getting prepped, etc (because the partner can’t be there for that part) and we help to be sure the parents to hold the baby as soon as possible and also take pictures, etc. Afterwards, we try to help with breastfeeding and skin to skin.
I woke up in the morning and decided to do a cardio workout. I chose a 45 minute TurboFire workout. This is a kind of dance and martial arts combo and can be low impact. I’ll admit that I’m not so great at it (my dance skills are subpar) but it’s fun and definitely gets the heart rate up and feels good to move. At one point, I thought I might look pretty funny dancing around with my 39 week belly, so I decided to video a portion of the workout. Little did I know, this would be my last major workout and last cardio before baby was born! (A clip of this video is available on my Instagram for those who follow).
The reason for the cesarean was for a baby who was breech and wouldn’t turn. In this case, we knew that she would be having a cesarean so we planned the date and time with the doctor and we also planned a more gentle approach.
Midwife note: Though some providers do vaginal breech delivery, it’s really uncommon to find a trained provider and not generally recommended. Cesarean is considered the safest mode of birth for breech babies.
Gentle cesarean is a relatively new concept in the birth world, which is gaining in popularity. This approach includes lowering the drape or using a clear drape to allow the parents to see the baby come out, delaying cord clamping and handing the baby to mom when baby comes out for immediate skin to skin. In our hospital, the staff is still getting used to this, but having an extra advocate for this (in this case, one of us midwives), it helps to achieve these goals.
Everything went well with the birth. At the time (since I’m writing this later), I was pretty sure this was going to be the last birth for me to attend before I had my own baby. While at the hospital, I had many people asking me about myself and my own upcoming birth. And in regard to how far along I was, as per usual, my answer was that I was due “soon” or “this month”.
As I was leaving the hospital, I started to get emotional about not returning as a midwife and coming back to have my own baby. It felt weird that I wouldn’t be going into my locker or get scrubs out of the machine for months. On my way down in the elevator, I saw a staff member that I knew. She asked me about myself and as I was telling her I didn’t think I’d be back before I had my own baby, I got emotional and started to tear up. Walking out the door, I took a look back at the lobby and entrance, and pictured myself coming back during my own labor. Little did I know that it would be the next night...
I have been doing a lot of preparation for the postpartum period. This is a great thing to do at the end of the pregnancy when all the labor and birth prep has been done. I’m constantly telling my clients to do this in the final weeks of their pregnancies. It’s a good way to spend some time (especially if you’re not working or working as much) and you’ll have some stuff done for after the baby when there’s zero time to think about it!
Today I made “padsicles”. I actually hate this name because it implies something like popsicles, which are edible, and these are not. They are frozen maxi pads with witch hazel and aloe (and other things if you choose). They are used for soothing a healing perineum. Here is the recipe I used, but there are SO many out there on the Internet. This project took about 10 minutes (I made 8 padsicles), but it is definitely something you won’t be thinking about after baby is born.
I have also been stocking up on food. I made some lactation cookies and frozen cookie dough. They were really yummy so I definitely ate some (so did Fred) and then froze the rest. Mostly though I rolled out a bunch of cookies in balls, then froze them. These can be popped in the oven whenever wanted and 10 minutes later, fresh cookies. Here is the recipe I used.
We have also stocked up on homemade frozen meals. My mother-in-law was SO amazing and cooked us at least 5 different meals for the freezer. We made one pasta dish and some frozen breakfast burritos too. The burritos were the suggestion of a pregnant friend and also super easy to make. We are fortunate to have a chest freezer, so we just piled it all in there, but even those with smaller freezers can make some of this stuff! Again, not something you’ll want to be doing after baby is born. Take out food gets old and not everyone has “meal trains” set up, so it’s a great way to have home cooked food after baby.
If you’re looking for a splurge or a great gift for your registry (or someone else’s), look into a postpartum chef like Alicia at Clover and Timothy. A friend of mine used this woman who she says was truly amazing. She will come to your house and cook. She provides meals that are healthy and support a healthy postpartum and breastfeeding. We are hoping to have her come as well!
Another great thing to do if you’re planning to breastfeed is to find a local La Leche League meeting and go to it (or at least figure out when and where it’s held). The meetings are held locally, usually once a month or so and are great support groups for nursing parents. They encourage people to attend even prior to having their babies. The groups are free. You can find your local group here.
Finally, read up on things like postpartum care, newborn care and breastfeeding! In my experience as a midwife, these are things that are often forgotten. There is usually a lot of focus on the birth itself, but then these areas get neglected. The labor and birth is such a small part of things and the postpartum, newborn and breastfeeding stages are so important! There are lots of great resources out there. I’ll admit, I haven’t read a ton yet, but am hoping to more in the next few weeks and will post them on the reading page.
A pregnant midwife living and working in New York City