Arthur Thomas Jackson is here!!
He was born on July 13, 2021 at 7:44am weighing 7lbs 7oz and measuring 20.5 inches long.
I can’t even believe it. Pregnancy is this long waiting game of now and not yet. My baby guy lived in my belly and I bonded with him and felt his kicks and talked to him… yet he didn’t seem fully real either. Over the past week I’ve had so many moments of being completely in awe at this little boy – a real person – that is alive and on the outside now! It’s SO wild. The birthing process is incredible.
I struggled with a good amount of anxiety throughout the pregnancy. Even though everything with him and me was completely fine, I constantly worried about his number of movements and whether I would go into early labor with all the Braxton Hicks I felt. I loved pregnancy and didn’t want it to end, but I couldn’t wait to be done with the worry. As soon as he was born I felt the biggest RELIEF. He was here, crying wildly, and completely perfect! It brings me to tears how thankful I am.
We are completely in love with him – me especially, due to the wonderful maternal hormones! I’m so thankful we bonded immediately upon meeting and all I feel for him is immense gratitude, wonder, and love. Whit adores him as well and has stepped into the role of daddy so easily and whole-heartedly.
So now, the story of his birth…
[Here’s your warning for blunt/TMI birth language! Also this is mega long – it’s two parts and still way too many details. So sorry for that but I really want to remember every detail for myself in the future, so that’s how it’s going to be!]
My hope was for an intervention-free, unmedicated (“natural”) childbirth. I had heard of the benefits of the surge of oxytocin your body releases during delivery, and wanted to experience that to hopefully bond quickly with my baby. In general I prefer natural, holistic medicine and think there are many things in the medical world that aren’t necessary and add extra risks with little benefit. I also have many friends who have given birth without medication and love a good challenge – if they can do it, I can do it!
After hearing from a lot of others and knowing how Whit and I work together, we decided that Whit would be my primary coach/support person and we also hired a virtual doula. I thought about hiring someone locally, but didn’t feel confident I would find someone who I would feel comfortable with. When a friend who is becoming certified offered to coach from Virginia, it sounded like the perfect choice! I loved having someone who already knew me a little bit and who I trusted. We also really liked having a woman in addition to just Whit, who was comfortable with birth and had experienced it herself. Even though she was never physically in the room with us, she was able to offer more empathy, reassurance, and confidence than Whit could provide.
When my cervix already showed signs of ripening at my 37 week appointment, I felt confident that I would go into labor on my own and not need an induction. We didn’t want to go into labor early (before 39 weeks is considered early term), however, so I didn’t try super hard to take lots of walks or do other things in hopes of getting things moving. I had this suspicion that because everything with my baby had been pretty textbook so far, that he would be like his dad and come promptly on his due date, which was July 4/5 (depending on how you count).
My instincts and wishes led me to think I would go into labor the night of the 4th (Sunday) due to the commotion with all the fireworks, and he would be born the next day. Whit had one last big meeting at work on the 6th, so he was hoping the baby would stay put until at least Tuesday afternoon. So I felt kind of torn between trying all the things to get labor started versus respecting Whit’s desires and not trying or hoping too hard.
I really loved being pregnant, even though it was hard and I didn’t feel great at times. Overall I felt very thankful – and I always love special occasions and seasons. I didn’t ever want to rush it! But those last couple weeks, man, they tested my patience! I stressed and stressed over getting my baby to-do list done before 39 weeks in case he came early, but then after that I pretty much had nothing to do but wait. I started my maternity leave and my goal every day was to keep my body rested, do a few things to prepare for labor/delivery (spinning babies positioning exercises, squats, eating dates, etc.), and just be ready for him to come at any moment!
It was fun and vacation-y at first but then every day felt like a million years long. Physically, I felt great! I enjoyed napping and even got in a swim at 40 weeks and 5 days. That felt pretty bucket list/huge accomplishment for this swimmer! I got everything done on my to-do list and pre-baby wish list, including finally going to our neighborhood pool that had been closed since we moved here due to Covid.
Of course, I was so slow, walking hurt (I developed plantar fasciitis the last few weeks), and it took me forever to do anything. On Thursday night (40 weeks + 3 days), we went and got spicy Thai food with my parents to try to convince little guy to come out. My mom made the connection that ALL of us (both my parents, me, my brother, and Whit) were all born on Fridays – so THAT was why he hadn’t come yet! When I woke up the next day and felt nothing, I was really discouraged for the first time that he would never come on his own. I hadn’t felt like that at all yet, just patiently waiting. I joked that maybe you aren’t allowed to have your baby until you get through that “I’m so over it!! Is this ever going to happen??” phase.
On Friday I also had several hours of Braxton Hicks in a row where there didn’t seem to be a break between contractions. It was really confusing and made me discouraged and fearful that when I was really in labor, there would be no break between contractions. All of the Braxton Hicks I had in this pregnancy were about a minute long, and would often come 5-8 minutes apart, so I was really worried that actual labor contractions would be unbearable.
By the time my 40 week appointment came (at 40 weeks and 2 days), I was still set on as few interventions as possible and was hoping the baby would come on his own very soon. I was disappointed that my cervical check revealed little progress. The nurses and doctor stressed me out making a big deal that I was still pregnant. I was indignant! Full term is from 39 to 41 weeks – anytime in there is perfect for baby to come. I hate that my practice pushed the mindset that you should have your baby early (my doctor commented at 38 weeks that I should just go ahead and have the baby! Like, what? He’s not completely developed yet!). In these moments our doula was so helpful and encouraging to remind me that I was right on track and not to get discouraged or annoyed by my practitioners.
The nurse also scheduled an induction for me (for Sunday afternoon – only 40 weeks 6 days) and just handed me the papers to sign off before I ever even saw my doctor. I pushed back strongly and was able to get a later induction date for Wednesday night (41 weeks + 2 days). Given that on their own, the average first-time mom gives birth at 41 weeks and 1 day, I was glad for a few extra days to give baby time to come on his own.
Unfortunately, I have to include that while checking my cervix at the 40 week appointment, my doctor started performing a membrane sweep without discussing it first or getting my consent. I had debated for days whether or not I wanted to request one at that appointment, but ultimately decided against it. It upset me that the doctor I trusted could no longer be trusted. In Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, she mentions several cases of women who were making progress and very dilated until encountering a doctor or person in the room that felt threatened, which caused them to close up again. Now I had this fear that the same thing would happen to me, so I really started hoping I wouldn’t make it to the next appointment and have to see my doctor again.
On Sunday morning (40 weeks 6 days), I woke up feeling crampy. The mild period cramps would start and then I would feel my belly tighten in a Braxton Hicks contraction. They came every 15 minutes apart, then every 10. They were like clockwork. We contacted our doula and tried to distract me and rest as much as possible. We gathered up everything for the hospital bag, I made some last-minute protein bars, we took a walk, I took a nap, and we settled down for a long game of the most consuming game ever – Civ 5 (a Settlers-type of video game we both have on our computers). The contractions kept coming closer together, eventually every 5 and then every 2-3 minutes. They were impossible to time in length as it was difficult to tell when they ended. They got a little bit stronger – the tightening felt the same but the menstrual cramp feeling intensified to more of a moderate period pain. Supposedly prodromal labor is not painful, but it definitely felt like pain to me. If it had been a constant cramping like with a period (instead of having a break in between), I would have wanted to stay in bed all day with a heating pad, occasionally groaning. My parents came over for a little bit and then we got in bed to try to get some rest thinking things would pick up.
As soon as I laid down (after 12 hours of contractions), they began to space out to about every 10 or 15 minutes. I worried a little but figured they would pick back up overnight. No such luck – I woke up a few times and didn’t really feel anything happening. Eventually I woke up around 9am and they weren’t coming consistently at all – every 15 or 20 minutes. The intensity was about the same as before. My 41 week appointment and ultrasound were scheduled in the next couple of hours, and we had to make the decision of whether or not to go or keep waiting it out at home. Like I said, I REALLY didn’t want to see my doctor (or the nurses) again and lose any progress I had made, but our doula recommended it would be a great way to check to see where I was at.
Thankfully, my practice was able to shift things around and switch my appointment to a nurse practitioner who I really liked. I told them I thought I had been in early labor for 24 hours (looking back, it was prodromal labor – what a bummer of a false alarm!). We went in at 11 for the non-stress test (NST), which I hated. The nurse told me to press a button every time I felt the baby move while she measured my contractions. It seemed like a totally random practice. I wasn’t sure what kind of feelings I should count as movements (does feeling him push a limb against my belly count, or only a big shift??), and the machine measured some contractions as I felt them, plus others I didn’t feel, but not every one that I could feel. It seemed super inconsistent to me. Plus, I was feeling some pain with the contractions, but the nurse totally wrote them off as not a big deal. It made me worried about how much worse the pain would get and I was afraid I would never actually go into labor on my own. I did NOT want the induction that was scheduled for Wednesday night.
We passed the NST (and the ultrasound! I had read somewhere that the amount of amniotic fluid is key for them to let you continue with the pregnancy and not have to get induced. Fortunately I just barely remembered to drink a ton of water before coming in and chugged 64oz haha. The amount of fluid I had was 7 and needed to be 6 or higher – thank goodness!). We had some time in between the appointments so we walked around Target (trying to boost my oxytocin levels in my happy place to bring on contractions!) and got lunch. The doctor okayed everything and did a membrane sweep upon my request. Fortunately, my cervix was ripening (70%, 0 station, 2-3cm dilated, anterior, soft) – an overall score of 8 on the Bishop score. Even if I ended up needing the induction, I could skip the early ripening stage (cervadil or the foley bulb).
THEN finally things started picking up for real!
Part II to follow!