Every child arrives into this world with a story—the story of how she was born. The birth story is one that is 100% completely unique as every child enters in his own special way. At our house, the birth stories are favorites for our girls, and Mikha’s “Gotcha Day” story is a favorite as well. Since today (technically yesterday as it is now after Midnight) is Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to share the story that first made me “mom” nearly nine years ago.
It was June 9, 2009 and it was already steamy in central Missouri. Shea and I were living on base at Whiteman Air Force Base where he was working as an Air Traffic Controller. We were just 10 days shy of our first wedding anniversary, and I was 37 weeks pregnant. Now (nearly a decade into marriage), I realize that having a baby in the first year of marriage wasn’t necessarily the wisest thing to do. Admittedly, we (by we I mean I) planned the pregnancy. I just couldn’t wait to have a baby after getting married. It seemed the appropriate next step. And, if I’m being really honest, I was bored being a stay-home military wife with no kids.
My pregnancy was quite eventless, and for the most part pleasant. I remember feeling very confident about giving birth and becoming a mom. I assumed I’d just wait out the 40 weeks, have some contractions (whatever those were), go to the hospital, wait for my water to break, and shortly after I’d put my feet up in stirrups (as seen on TV of course), grunt a bit, and out would come a baby who would be perfectly content to snuggle, nurse and sleep all day and night for at least 3 months. However, I should mention that a couple months prior to June 9th we had been notified that Shea received a prestigious honor as Airman of the Year and was given choice of assignment at another duty location. Since we were young and adventurous (and very, very clueless) we decided to PCS (military lingo for move) to Ramstein Germany Air Base. The move was scheduled for the end of July with a couple of events to attend on the way.
When the month of June began, and I started to do the math from my due date to the date we were supposed to board a plane to a foreign country, I started to panic. How was I going to take a 7 week old baby to Germany with no family nearby to help and a husband who would be gone much of the day and many nights for work? Well, those stress hormones must have put that baby arrival timer in super speed because the morning of June 9th I woke up feeling “weird.” Throughout the day I continued to feel “weird” and even wondered if I might have eaten something bad because it felt like a mild case of food poisoning. I remember I spent nearly the entire day chain-reading the Twilight Series books on the couch. I didn’t want to bother Shea or worry him because he was busy studying for his Staff Sergeant Promotion Test (scheduled for June 10). For those of you who don’t know, that test is not a test you miss. Your career in the military depends on passing that test the first time and getting promoted from Airman.
I didn’t really eat all day and by supper time had decided I must have caught a flu bug. I definitely didn’t want to get Shea sick, so I just stayed out on the couch when he went to bed around 9. By 10PM, fear was starting to creep in. I called my mom and she suggested calling the nurse line. We were scheduled for a Birthing Class June 14th, which obviously had not yet happened. I was clueless. I called the Warrensburg OB nurse line and told her about my stomach pain and she assured me it was Braxton Hicks contractions and that I’d likely feel them in the weeks leading up to delivery. I thought she was a lunatic. There was no way I was going to deal with that stomach pain for 3 more weeks. I called my friend Beckie (who was a nurse and a fellow military wife) and relayed the same info to her. Imagine this being said in a Mississippi accent, “Oh no girl, you go get yourself a watch. Lay down on the bed and time how many minutes between those stomach pains, ya hear?”
I got a watch. Laid down on the guest room bed. The pain started. Then, I heard an audible “Pop” sound and felt something like I was peeing my pants. Immediately I knew what had happened. I wasn’t ready though. Shea couldn’t miss his test. I didn’t have a bag packed yet. I needed to take a shower. It was a disaster. Nothing like I had imagined. After contemplating for a minute, I decided I had to wake Shea up. I can’t imagine what went through his head, being woken up from a deep sleep just before midnight to your wife saying “I’m having a baby right now.” I remember I took a shower and put on clean clothes and we got into the car to head to the hospital. Shea called Beckie (the Mississippi nurse friend) and asked her to come as I was begging for her by that point. I have no idea how fast he drove. All I remember is the blur of trees and lights on the narrow, winding road that led from the base into Warrensburg.
We checked into the hospital around Midnight and the midwife measured me, telling us I was just 4 cm and it could be awhile yet. I remember being so afraid and in so much pain. I wanted to have a completely natural birth, but had done no birth planning and had no clue what was happening to my body (remember our birth class wasn’t for another couple days). After trying a hot tub, throwing up multiple times and crying “Oweeee it hurts” over and over (at least that’s what Shea tells me), I took the nurse up on her offer to take something to help take the edge off the pain. No clue what it was, but it made me feel worse despite being the smallest dose that can be given. I don’t do well with pain meds and it made me feel so out of it and dizzy.
By 4AM the pain was unbearable. I literally thought I was dying laying on my back with back labor. I didn’t have a doula or coach there to tell me another position might be more comfortable. I begged for an epidural. It was too late. Apparently I was in transition and they wanted me to get ready to push.
Again, I had no idea what was going on. Nor did I know what exactly I was to be pushing. All I remember is saying “I think I pooped on your bed” during that last stretch. I can’t remember how many times I pushed. Honestly I don’t remember anything really from when they said push to when we left the hospital. I was a mess. My baby, Lauryn Marjorie, had arrived. She was just 5lb 13oz and I didn’t even want to touch her. I was terrified I would break her. I didn’t know how to feed her, and breastfeeding didn’t come easily for me. I just wanted someone else to care for her. Certainly anyone could do a better job than me. I remember thinking why did I get myself into this. And poor Shea he wanted to help me, to fix it, and take care of us, but he also felt so overwhelmed and unsure. Thank God for a special nurse who was working the night I delivered. She came in multiple times while we were there (even after her shift) to help me with breastfeeding and to answer my questions. A day later, my parents came, and having my mom there helped tremendously. But it was as if I was stuck in a dark cloud. My hormones were (obviously) bonkers, but I also felt extreme guilt because I didn’t want to be with my baby those first few days, maybe even weeks. It did get better, but it really was weeks before I truly felt attached to my baby, and breastfeeding was something I struggled with for all 9 months that I nursed Lauryn.
Fast forward to 2012 (3 years later). By this point, we had moved back to the States and were actually living in Clear Lake. I was pregnant again and on October 23rd Gabriella Darcy was born (also at 37 weeks). But this time was different. The birth experience was entirely different. I had learned so much about pregnancy and birthing prior to delivering. I had a midwife/doula and homeopath to support me. I moved around during labor and used birthing positions that supported easier delivery. Gabby was born at home, 100% naturally and our bond was immediate. I still had trouble nursing, but immediately got help from a lactation consultant and ended up nursing successfully until Gabby was 27 months old. I loved breastfeeding the second time around.
Some might say that it was simply because it was my second baby. However, I know that is not the main reason my experience was so enjoyable the second time. It was because I wasn’t afraid. I had a support team. I had a birth plan. I understood what my body was doing. I had complimentary care (homeopathy) to manage the pain and assist the process. I was educated about birthing and breastfeeding, and knowledge truly is power. I cannot recommend it highly enough to pregnant women to take advantage of childbirth education opportunities, to hire a doula if possible, to write a birth plan and to get breastfeeding help from a lactation consultant. Having a team to support you through pregnancy, birth and post-partum is truly life-changing. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience birthing and breastfeeding in a positive way. My second experience was the perfect salve to heal the wounds from my first experience.
If you (or someone you know) is looking for a local connection for childbirth education, doula services, and/or lactation consulting, please contact us and we will get you connected to local resources. We are blessed to be part of a wonderful team bringing wellness within reach here in North Iowa.