Third Time’s the Charm: Judah’s Birth Story

Judah’s Birth Story

Mama: Christina D.

Type of Birth: Vaginal, unmedicated

Birth Location: Hospital

Primary Care: Midwife

It has been just over a week since the birth of my third child. Things have been pretty hectic at my house, so I haven’t had time to post many photos or updates to share with friends and family. Today I took a minute to share a photo in a breastfeeding support group – a picture of me nursing my son for the first time, with a big, glowing, genuine smile on my face. I shared this photo with the ladies who have helped and supported me through my first two nursing relationships because I knew they would understand how happy it makes me. This was my third birth, but it was my first unmedicated birth, and the fact that I had the energy for a real smile, the energy to sing to my baby to quiet his first cries, the energy to really enjoy that first magical hour with him, makes me so very thankful.

Judah’s birth was so much more relaxed and more peaceful than my first two births, even though it took place at one of the most stressful times in my life so far. The timing of his conception was totally not our idea! It perfectly disrupted our family’s plans and I was nervous about how my body would handle pregnancy and birth after a year-long struggle with digestive illness. But my husband and I believe that our third baby is a priceless gift from God, and we chose to welcome his birth with joy and thanksgiving.

In my last two months of pregnancy, we went through an international move, we were separated from my husband for a month, transitioned out of the U.S. Army into “terminal leave,” had our insurance completely cancelled by accident and got it re-instated, and moved into a house that my parents are still in the process of moving OUT of. Life has been utter chaos and the temptation to be overwhelmed with anxiety has been a constant for me! Stress and tension are the natural enemies of healthy childbirth, and they are probably the factors that made my first two births so difficult and led to the numerous interventions I had. So in preparation for this birth, my focus was on relaxation!

From the start, I knew this birth would be different from my first two. It was my first time delivering somewhere other than a military hospital. I got to choose my own prenatal and birth care team, and I chose the care of a midwifery practice and a doula (who happens to be one of my very best friends). Due to insurance difficulties I wasn’t able to give birth at the local birth centre like I wanted, but I chose a very mother- and baby-friendly hospital where my midwives would be able to accompany me and deliver my baby. I was thrilled with the care I received from the midwives – I felt so empowered and cared-for on a personal level (why yes, I CAN take my own GBS culture instead of having a doctor do it for me, thank you!). My favorite thing about the midwives was that they were all so relaxed about everything, and that put me at ease.

My first labor lasted more than 70 hours, and my second lasted 21 hours (and this was after being induced via Pitocin because my waters had broken, but I was not in active labor), so I knew how exhausting birth could be. I was praying continually for a shorter labor. But this time I had a new, very frustrating experience: prodromal labor. If you’ve never heard of prodromal labor, it basically means you’re having contractions that feel like real labor but are not progressing into actual labor – they start and stop and never become regular. These contractions were painful enough that I would have to get down on all fours and breathe through them, but they rarely got closer together than 10 minutes apart and eventually petered out altogether for an hour or two at a time. I chose to do my best to rest as much as possible through these contractions, and even took an antihistamine a couple of nights in order to help me get longer stretches of sleep so that I could stay rested.

After a week of everyone sitting on pins and needles waiting for labor to start in earnest, I was pretty tired, but still in good spirits. My husband got the kids ready that morning and took them to the park so that I could stay home and concentrate on completing some online tests for the job I’m currently pursuing. I finished all the tests, stopping every 15-20 minutes to breathe through contractions and bouncing on a birthing ball all the while. At some point during that morning, I felt a subtle shift and I was pretty sure that I was moving into early labor. When my husband came home, we talked about it and agreed that since I already had my 39 week checkup scheduled for that afternoon, I should just keep my appointment and they could assess me there and decide whether or not it was time to head to the hospital.

I sat outside with my daughter and watched her play and ride her bike around, sipping a drink and breathing through my contractions and almost drifting off to sleep in between them. I think it was the rest and relaxation that helped kick my labor into gear, because my body really took over and the contractions started to get stronger and stronger. I never really successfully timed them because I was too distracted, but I could feel things moving along and was sure I was in active labor this time. By early afternoon I decided to call the midwife-on-call and ask to be checked at the birth centre right away, about 20 minutes ahead of my appointment time. The whole drive there I was gripping the door handle and telling my husband that I should have asked her to meet me at the hospital, because I was shaking during contractions and saying “I can’t do this, I’m too tired!” I knew what that meant from experience – transition!

Sure enough, when my midwife checked me, she calmly confirmed that we should go over to the hospital and offered to call ahead so they could have a tub ready for me to labor in. She didn’t tell me at the time what my progress was because she didn’t want us to panic – later I found out that at that check I was already 8cm dilated and fully effaced! We headed over to the hospital, where I couldn’t even walk to the elevators. My husband just grabbed a wheelchair and helped me into it. When we got to the labor and delivery floor, they took me to triage and said they were going to check me to make sure I was in active labor – apparently some wires had gotten crossed with their communication – but my water broke and I was clearly in transition, and they figured things out pretty quickly and whisked us away to our room. They had a tub all ready and I was able to get in and relax right away. At first, it might have slowed my progress down a bit because I relaxed so much, and the contractions were much, much easier to handle in the warm water.

By the time my doula arrived, things were starting to get real in a hurry! She applied counter-pressure for me as I groaned through contractions in the tub and tried different positions. Soon I was telling them I thought I would need to push soon and we decided I should get out and push on the bed. I chose the position I thought would be best for me – on my knees, leaning against the back of the bed – and my husband held my hands as my birth team coached me through those last few contractions and into the pushing stage.

This was my first time pushing with no epidural. Neither one of my epidurals was 100% effective, so I thought I had a good idea what to expect this time. I was so surprised by how my body just took over! I felt like I had no control whatsoever over pushing – my body just did what it needed to do and I tried to hold on and keep breathing. I won’t lie, it was incredibly painful – but I only had to push through 4 contractions and sweet Judah came out into the world. I have never felt such an immense sense of relief. I turned around, laid back, and held my sweet baby and my husband and I sang to him together as we looked each other over for the first time.

Later, when they had transferred us to the recovery room and we were sitting peacefully with our baby, I looked at the clock and realized something amazing: we had checked in around 2:30pm and Judah was born at 4:35pm. I had been in the hospital only two hours before his birth, and let me tell you, that’s the way to do an unmedicated birth! All those nights of prodromal labor were worth it if they are the reason active labor moved so quickly.

I am so incredibly grateful for the way things turned out this time. I had a beautiful birth experience and I will always cherish my memories of the first couple days of Judah’s life – we had so much more energy to enjoy him and to take care of him, and it made a tremendous difference in how my husband and I felt. If I have a fourth baby, my three essential elements will be: midwifery care, a doula, and laboring in a tub.

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