The night before James was born, I had hit my breaking point. In the middle of the night, I told God, and Max I couldn’t do it one more day.
I was physically miserable, having been in early labor for days, emotionally spent as my mental health starting declining with each day, and I was barely sleeping at all.
While I am beyond grateful that my body has brought two amazing babies into this world, pregnancy is not easy for it and I had very little left physically or emotionally.
About halfway through my pregnancy, after careful monitoring, the doctors put in a cervical cerclage to prevent my body from going into labor too early. It worked. We made it to 36 weeks and got it removed, not knowing when labor would start naturally, if it even would. Most people still go about 2 weeks after the removal before going into labor; some even go overdue, so there wasn’t a clear answer as to what to expect.
At 37 weeks exactly, things started happening and we knew it would be soon. James was born on a Saturday, and Thursday and Friday were full of back pain and on and off contractions and physical misery and a slew of labor-y things. I think caring for a toddler while in the early stages of labor might have been harder than actually giving birth- there was a lot of screen time and SOS texts to my sister, who came over with her husband and built forts with Mila so I could rest in bed.
We had plans that Friday night and I told our friends they could still come over, but I was kind of in labor. Classic Jenna text. Pizza and conversation was going to be good for me mentally so as long as they were good with my house being a bit messier and potentially assisting in a home birth, let’s still plan on it.
I tried to stay comfortable at the kitchen table, but it was getting increasingly harder, so we all moved to the living room and played a game. By the second game, I tapped out and lay on the couch, casually having contractions, and watched them play. The next day when I texted her the baby was here, she said she wasn’t expecting that, so I must have been very discreet and not dramatic at all, which are my main personality characteristics, so that’s not surprising.
Contractions were pretty consistent before bed, but slowed down overnight. Max texted my parents in the morning that I was feeling much better after a rough night. And I was. I barely felt any contractions and thought we were good to go. I had felt just like this for almost an entire week before Mila was born, so I felt like I was totally fine to get a pedicure. Spoiler alert, I was not.
At the salon, things started feeling really uncomfortable. I was starting to sweat, contractions were getting more painful and I realized I needed to get out of there. I asked Kiana for some water, chugged it, and hightailed/waddled to the front to pay. Looking back, driving was a questionable decision, but I was still somewhat confident if I laid down, drank some water and rested then contractions would slow down. I left the salon and headed home, then turned around and headed back to the salon where I had left my phone. Classic.
When I got home, I immediately got into a hot shower for both relief and to help me relax. My contractions had been inconsistent up until that point, but Max and I started timing them. They were about 7 minutes apart, so again, I was thinking there was still a good amount of time. I got into bed to rest, but they were getting closer and closer, quickly, lasting longer and getting more and more painful.
Things happened quickly at this point. The contractions went from manageable to incredibly painful and 2 minutes apart, and we knew we needed to go and we needed to go now. Since my sisters needed to “get ready”, one of my best friends lives just minutes away was on call – I think I called her 5 times giving her a different direction every time. Come! Wait, no, my sister is almost here! Wait no, come NOW! She told me recently she loaded up her kids and they were driving circles around the block. Laboring me is very confusing and indecisive. My friends are awesome.
Saying goodbye to Mila was one of the most emotional points of the whole day for me. She was in her own world watching TV on the couch. I just wanted to scoop her up and smell her and snuggle her and hold her tight. I knew that life would never be the same for either of us, as she sat, totally oblivious in Doc McStuffins world. I told her baby brother might be coming today and it was time for Mommy and Daddy to go to the hospital. We had prepped her in advance for what this day would likely look like.
I could barely get the words out. I was absolutely weeping.
I was terrified of having the baby in the car.
I knew it would never just be the two of us again.
Our little life together was about to be turned upside down.
I was in so much pain.
Despite everything, I wanted desperately to have a few special moments with my first baby before I went to go have my second.
I was crying so hard I couldn’t speak, and I didn’t want to scare Mila, so I went to the back bedroom and pulled myself together.
At that point, Megan still wasn’t there and I needed to leave. We thought we were going to have to take Mila to the hospital and have my sister get her there, so Max grabbed Mila and started putting her in the carseat, when my sister said she was almost there, so Max put Mila back in the house. That poor girl.
As she pulled in, we pulled out and began the longest drive ever. We got to the hospital and for some unknown reason, I decided I didn’t need a wheelchair and rode the elevator and walked to the Labor and Delivery floor. The receptionist didn’t show much urgency until I started bending over in pain. She made a call essentially saying “WE HAVE A SQUATTER!” and apparently those are the magic words on the L & D floor because I was VIP after that.
Nurses and Doctors ran to me with a wheelchair, asking if I felt like I needed to push, and wheeled me into a delivery room. It was just like a movie, which even in my compromised state I still appreciated and the special attention was nice. They got me in a gown and nurses started prepping the room for a baby, not knowing how close I was to having him.
Things settled down when they saw I was only 4 cm dilated. They got me all hooked up to the monitors to see what my contractions were doing and to monitor the baby, and one of the first questions the nurse asked was, “Do you want an Epidural?”
For my entire pregnancy, I was loosely committed to giving birth without an Epidural. Two of my friends had just done it and for a variety of reasons, I wanted to as well.
I had been there 10 minutes, and I told her “yes” very quickly.
Turns out those friends are crazy. Just kidding. Mad, mad respect to everyone who does that without pain relief. I’m still glad I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – very informative – however I changed my mind. Thank you modern medicine.
After I got the epidural, things obviously were a lot different. I was able to relax and talk to Max and felt great. Once things physically were more comfortable, emotionally I began to take in everything that was happening.
That’s around the time my doctor mentioned it was the same delivery room where Mila was born .
When I looked around and saw that familiar view, both Max and I began to struggle emotionally as flashbacks and memories from Mila’s traumatic birth flooded us. We had to fight for peace as fear tried to take over. We were both so scared, remembering the moments Mila was taken and we didn’t know if she was okay.
We prayed together, as tears flowed, and listened to a sermon, since I wasn’t dilating super fast and we had a good amount of alone time together. My contractions were still very close together and strong, but my dilation was slow.
After a bit, we decided to have my doctor break my water to move along my dilation. She did, and things moved very quickly after that.
I wasn’t afraid of the physical act of giving birth. My fear was around the safety of the baby. It also all felt very surreal. I spent a lot of my third trimester with debilitating anxiety, and very rarely even pictured bringing a baby home. It was too scary. Now that it was happening, I didn’t feel prepared. Would I feel connected to him? Would he even feel like mine?
When I was completely dilated, my doctor and amazing nurse began preparing the room for his birth. He had descended and it was go time.
With Mila, I pushed for 2 solid hours, so we were hopeful this would be shorter.
It was. I pushed for 3 contractions and he was there. My doctor had prepared me that it could take 30 seconds for the baby to cry (Mila was silent and we didn’t hear her cry until the day after she was born) because I had so much fear that he wouldn’t be breathing.
That baby boy screamed. Loudly. And still does.
They placed him on my chest and everything else disappeared. Max dropped down to his knees in emotion seeing him, seeing me with him, so happy for me and so grateful he was here.
I never had those moments with Mila. A baby just seconds old, burrowing into me, relaxing into me as our bodies regulate. It was magic.
That baby, born in the same room as his sister, is a gift I do not take for granted, even in the hardest of moments as I adjust to raising and caring for 2 kids.
James. My sweet, baby boy. February 18, 8 lbs 1 oz, 21 inches long at 5:43 pm.
The day before he was born, I knew I couldn’t do one more day.
I didn’t have to.
The loudest lungs, shortest little sausage fingers.
Perfectly kissable lips. Delicious cheeks.
Soft, feathery hair. A dimpled chin.