Took me a month to get this together…and I feel pretty stinking proud about that considering I have been living off of granola bars and baby snuggles. Pro tip: get the chewy granola bars so you have fewer crumbs to pick out of your baby’s hair. You’re welcome.
On April 12, 2019, we (finally!) welcomed our baby boy to the world. We joked about how stubborn he was once his due date, April 6, came and went. And when our hot water heater broke on the 6th, we made more jokes about how that was the only water breaking in the Lowe house that day. (That joke is courtesy of Betsy Jenkins – she is quite witty, and her humor was much appreciated in that moment.) The next few days were filled with fewer jokes as my patience and resolve wore thin. They say that you get tired of being pregnant toward the end. It is your mind’s way of preparing you for what is about to happen…for bringing your baby home. If that is case, my mind thought I needed lots of prep because I was FREAKING OVER BEING PREGNANT. My doctor told me on April 9 that he was confident I would go into labor on my own. I was still 3 cm dilated, my cervix was “soft” (whatever that means), I had lost my mucous plug, and my membranes were all swept. It took all I had not to make him sign a contract guaranteeing that my baby would be here soon. But, instead, I put on a cheery face and silently cursed the bucketfuls of raspberry leaf tea that I had been drinking for not working their voodoo magic on me.
What I didn’t know – what I couldn’t know – was that my patience would continue to be tested even once labor started.
At 1:15 am on April 11, my water broke. I woke up to go to the bathroom (a very typical occurrence at that point in my life) and noticed that even when I was done going to the restroom, there was still fluid coming out. I shrugged my shoulders, wrote it off as another weird pregnancy symptom, and crawled back into bed. Thirty minutes later, a gush of liquid came out, and I got the memo that my water had broken. I went to take a shower (because I foolishly thought that your water breaks all at once and then stops…more on that later), started noticing some mild cramping, and attempted to prepare myself mentally for what was about to go down. I showered for quite a bit before getting out and letting Bradley know what had happened. I’m not sure I have ever seen him hop out of bed so quickly. I told him to take his time, grab a shower, and double check the suitcase while I rocked out my contractions at home. They were very mild, about 5-6 minutes apart, and I had wanted to labor at home for as long as I felt comfortable.
While he showered, I looked at the bridge lift schedule for the James River Bridge. Throughout this entire pregnancy, I joked that we would be the ones to get stuck on the bridge while I was in labor. Since my body had given me a wonderful head’s up that baby was on the way, I had the time to look up the schedule and see that a life was planned for 3:30 am. Perfect! We will just stay home until the lift was finished and then be on our merry way. By the time Bradley got out of the shower, my contractions were a little stronger, and I was learning that your water doesn’t break all at once and then magically stop. Oh no. I was a two-legged leaky faucet. Rather than have my husband follow me around the house with a towel (which we did for about an hour after I almost ruined the new rug we bought for the living room), I got back in the shower while Bradley and the dogs anxiously waited in the next room. The hot water felt amazing, I didn’t have to worry about making a mess, and I was giving the bridge plenty of time to wrap up the lift. Once the water started to turn cold, I decided it was time to head to the hospital.
Having contractions in the car was not like having contractions in my home. I could move around at home. During the drive, however, I was literally strapped in place with very little room for movement. (I drive a Nissan Sentra…not exactly the most spacious of vehicles.) And, despite my best efforts, the bridge lift was NOT on schedule, and we still got stuck on the bridge for about 20 minutes. That being said, my contractions were still fairly mild and I remained in positive spirits once we (finally) made it to the hospital. We got to the hospital around 5 am. I think. My concept of time was really distorted once contractions started.
Once at the hospital, I went to triage. This is an infuriating process no matter how much everyone smiles and is nice. You hear things like “We need to make sure we are going to admit you” and “We need to check and make sure your water actually broke.” I know this is a necessary process but, when you are in it, you just want to be admitted as validation that you are actually in labor and that you are actually about to have a baby. So I go through the checklist, find out that I am 4 cm dilated (What?!?! You sure I’m not farther along than that?!), and that my water really did break. My contractions were about 4 minutes apart, and I finally got the green light to be admitted. I’m not sure my fragile patience could have handled being told we needed to leave. I envision a full blown come apart would have taken place. But we were quickly moved to a gigantic room – with a tub! – and outfitted with wristbands. You know you are legit when they give you wristbands.
The next eight hours are a blur of contractions and various attempts at working through the discomfort. I used the birthing ball, went for walks, soaked in the tub (huge fan of this – I highly recommend if you are able!), and bent over the bed. I moaned through the toughest parts of the contractions and rested my head on Bradley’s shoulders whenever I felt hopeless and weak. Because baby and I were doing well, I wasn’t on any monitors during this time. I am so so so grateful for that. It gave me the freedom to move without having to maneuver around cords or setting off alarms. It also gave Bradley and I privacy to experience this process without a constant medical presence. Around 1 pm – 12 hours into my labor – I experience three hard contractions with just 30 seconds or so between them. I was exhausted, I was unsure, and I wanted to know what my options were. When the nurse told me that I was 7 cm dilated and the baby was still fairly high, I decided to get an epidural.
You hear/read all kinds of horror stories about epidurals. I experienced none of that. I didn’t have pain when it was put in but, to be fair, I was focused on breathing through my contracts and not moving while the giant needle was in my spine. I felt some pressure but, again, it was nothing compared to what was happening in my uterus. Once the epidural was in and flowing, I could no longer feel the contractions. I maintained enough feeling in my legs that I could still change positions in bed without help. Once all of the monitors were in place, I settled down for a nap. Now, this wasn’t the greatest nap of my life. I was hooked to a blood pressure cuff that went off every 15 minutes. So I would wake up feeling like my arm was briefly being attacked by an anaconda trying to squeeze it off of my body. In between that, I grabbed quick little naps until around midnight.
At midnight we decided to give me a little pitocin to nudge me along since I had been sitting at 9 cm for four hours. To all of the mothers out there that are induced and given pitocin to start contractions, you are freaking rock stars. Even with the epidural and not feeling the actual discomfort of the contractions, my body shook like I was in a California earthquake. Bradley could see the monitor during those contractions and will testify in court that those contractions were not anything like my natural contractions. They were peaking off the scale, lasted longer, and there were fewer breaks between. Thank goodness I already had the epidural. And thank goodness I avoided that previously scheduled induction.
Around 1 am, the nurses told me to let them know once I started to feel pressure. You think you know what this means, and maybe you do. I felt a little confused about what pressure meant. They say it feels like a bowel movement. Not sure I would describe it that way…I felt more of my pressure up front. So when I thought I was feeling pressure, I waited. And I waited. And after the pressure hung around for a bit, I finally decided to call the nurse in. She checked me and said the most magical words: “Oh! Your baby is right there! Let me get the midwife.”
PRAISE THE LORD ALMIGHTY!
Once the midwife came in, things moved quickly. It felt like a scene out of Transformers with the bed being lifted, halfway taken apart, and reassembled. Shortly after the midwife walked in, I was encouraged to start pushing. I didn’t really know what it meant to push, but they kept encouraging me and telling me I was doing great…so I just kept “pushing.” I would push for 10 seconds, take a quick breath, and push again for a series of three pushes. Then I took a few breaths, gathered my strength, and started the process over. Pushing felt good…there was a feeling of relief about it. I could only rest a few minutes between pushes before I wanted to start again. The pressure would start to build up again, and I wanted that feeling of relief. After about twenty minutes of pushing, the pressure was gone. And Jefferson was here.
They immediately put him on my chest, and he took his first breaths a few seconds later. There he was. This child that we had (impatiently) waited for. The son that we had worried about and celebrated over. Our beautiful baby boy was here. I cried. Bradley cried. We laughed over his head full of dark curls. The fastest hour of my life was that first hour of his as he laid on my chest. They say that the discomfort of labor disappears once they place your baby on your chest. For me, that was true. The past 24 hours didn’t matter. The past 40 (plus) weeks didn’t matter. In some ways, the past 32 years didn’t matter. All that mattered was this precious baby that my husband and I had created.
In those first moments, I felt such pride. I was proud of myself and my body for going through almost 25 hours of labor (half of that unmedicated), for creating such a perfect child, and for getting me and my baby safely through labor. I was proud of Bradley for the incredible support he gave me throughout labor. Not once did he mess around on his phone or take a nap. He was right by my side offering words of encouragement and endless back rubs. And when the exhaustion and uncertainty of pushing overwhelmed me, his endless whispers of “I love you,” “I am proud of you,” and “You are doing amazing,” were exactly what I needed to keep going. Finally, I was proud of Jefferson for entering the world on his own time and in his own way. Despite doctors telling me I couldn’t deliver my baby because he would be “too big,” despite unnecessary ultrasounds and attempted inductions, and despite a diagnosis of gestational diabetes…despite all of that…we had a safe and uncomplicated labor and delivery.
We did it our way, the Lowe class way. And I have a feeling that is how we will get through most of life together.
Pictures were taken by Emily Whited of Sharon Elizabeth Photography. Hair by Kara Edwards of Parlor 39. Make-up by the (probably expired) stash I found in my bathroom drawer.