We ate tamales that Wednesday night. Eddie’s grandma loves to bring us food and she had brought homemade tamales over, so we decided to have those - and as usual they were delicious. Eddie and I had tried to make every day perfect those last couple weeks before our babe was born. Our goal was to be able to say, “man, Jude was born on the perfect day!” Almost every afternoon we would take a swim in the pool and then maybe a little nap after, we’d cook a really good dinner together or go to one of our favorite restaurants, then we’d take an evening walk or just sit down to read or watch a good movie. We had already gotten the nursery ready, had the birth kit and all our home birth supplies ready, packed for the hospital just in case and pretty much had everything else in order. Those last days when it was still just the two of us were beautiful, we’d made sure to make the most of them!
After dinner that night, I enjoyed a hot shower then sat down in the rocking chair to read one of my birthing books (for the second or third time) while Eddie was relaxing on the couch. We were enjoying our usual evening ritual when I felt something…was that my waters breaking? Or maybe just the plug?...I went to the bathroom and then text our midwife, Lucinda, letting her know something seemed to be getting started!
Lucinda and Brooke came over about an hour later and we were all excited that our little one may be making his appearance soon! I had definitely had a “bloody show”. After chatting for a while, us ladies decided to take an evening stroll while Eddie rested – he’d had an extra long day of work. It was a warm summer night around 9pm. We walked the whole canal near our house while talking of birth, children, family and the like. Lots of fun girl stuff, you know? I was having small contractions but nothing that I couldn’t walk or talk through. Once we got back home, the ladies decided to head to their homes to get some rest and told me to try and do the same.
Eddie was snoozing, so I laid down in bed next to him, but couldn’t get comfortable! I finally just decided to do some stretches and bounce on the birthing ball. After maybe an hour, the rushes started to pick up. I started timing them on my handy dandy app (there’s literally an app for everything now!). Eventually I got to the point where I felt I needed some extra support through each rush and I woke Eddie up to let him know things were picking up pace. He had gotten a few hours sleep, so I didn’t feel too bad waking him up. The waves were now coming about 3 to 5 minutes apart and lasting almost a minute. This was the “sign” we were waiting for, to let our midwives know to head back over! At this point I got excited thinking, Jude will come today for sure! This was about 2 am on Thursday morning.
Eddie helped me beautifully through each wave and rush as I was leaning over my birthing ball or standing and swaying. The midwives arrived and got all their stuff set up. I had my birth playlist going and some candles burning. It was a beautiful and exciting time, but I was trying to stay focused because I knew this was just the beginning. Since Jude still seemed to be sitting pretty high in my belly, I started to do some positions to try and help him move down farther. I did 30 minutes of one position, switch to the next for 30, then walked around for 30. We did that cycle twice and it wasn’t easy. Staying in one position without being in labor is hard enough, but enduring those strong rushes while keeping those positions isn’t too pleasant! Eddie stayed next to me the whole time and I just tried to stay positive and rest between. Sometimes I had to wake him up to let him know I needed him- he was laying right behind me and was obviously able to fall asleep a little easier between rushes….
Around 5am Thursday morning, I think, I called my mom and sister to let them know what was happening and they started to get ready to head over. They came bearing coffee and treats, and my dad. It felt so lovely to be in our home, knowing I was safe and well taken care and had my family around me, while knowing our baby would be born soon! Everyone was grateful for the coffee and food. I was sipping water or my “laboraide” and snacking on oatmeal.
After the sun came up, Eddie and I took a walk in the park behind our house. I was still able to walk pretty well through the waves, but did have to stop to really breathe through them a few times. Lucinda and Brooke were taking turns napping in the baby’s room. One would nap and one would be checking vitals on Jude and I every once in a while; while also giving me support and encouragement and tips on what to try to help things along. I was pretty impressed with these ladies’ ability to power nap. They said it was a learned skill - a necessary skill!
More swaying, more leaning over the birthing ball while moaning low and slow, pressure on my hips, pressure on my palms, sweet words of encouragement and love whispered in my ears, and reading my posted verses and birth affirmations to me. My dad and mom helped out a lot with the pressure on my palms, that was an acupressure point we learned from our childbirth classes. I’m so glad we did those!
We took another walk a little before noon and it was starting to really warm up outside. August in Turlock is just grossly hot. I definitely had to stop when the rushes would come. I’d lean on Eddie and moan and sway and then we’d keep walking. We didn’t stay out there too long that last time.
This whole time, the midwives were pretty sure I’d been releasing some meconium. So that meant little Jude was “pooping” inside of me. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s the mucus plug or meconium because of all the different colors, but it wasn’t really enough to worry. So we weren’t worried, just keeping a good eye.
I got into the tub finally and it felt really good! I had been so excited to use it during the birth (pretty much since we moved in), and here I was, in it and in labor! Eddie was gently pouring water over my belly and I was trying to stay relaxed and just keep my breathing smooth. My sis, Kala, was by my side in there the whole time too. She always made sure I had what I needed. Then all of sudden my waters broke! You couldn’t really tell since I was in the tub, but I felt the gush! There were some meconium particles too, but again not enough to really worry. After that happened, I got this whole new wave of energy and excitement! I thought, now things are gonna pick up even more and he’ll be here before we know it! Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened.
After maybe an hour of being in the tub I decided to get out since I wasn’t that comfortable anymore. As I was changing into my dry clothes I felt another gush and thought ok, it’s just more water, that’s great. But when we looked at the cloth it was very dark brown. Definitely meconium and definitely not what any of us wanted to see. I remember looking at Lucinda with questioning eyes and just knowing before she even said it, what she was going to say, “I think we need to go to the hospital Nicole.”
Now we weren’t all going crazy, we weren’t all freaking out, we didn’t have to call an ambulance. We just decided that it’d probably be safest and best for baby and me if we could be monitored more closely in the hospital and be there if something did go wrong all of a sudden. Luckily, I had packed a bag for the hospital so that was ready. Mom, dad and Kala did an amazing job of helping me get changed, turn off the stove, lock up the house, and get anything else Eddie or I needed (including handing me a bucket in case I barfed on the car ride, I had started to get nauseas earlier). And our little caravan was off! I was disappointed and upset about having to transfer, but didn’t really think about it at that time, I just wanted to make sure my baby was safe and ok!
The oldest woman in the hospital just happened to be the one helping us check in. I’m sure she was very sweet, but we were all getting pretty frustrated and annoyed when she just kept asking me “is it a boy or girl?” and “do you have a name picked out?” while I was trying to breathe through these very strong rushes and get checked in at the same time! We all laughed about that later. Eventually someone with a clue brought over a wheelchair and we got all checked in, changed, hooked up and settled into the labor and delivery room.
A couple hours in, my 7/8 cm dilation hadn’t progressed even though contractions were really powerful. Baby hadn’t moved down into the birth canal, but was still doing just fine. They suggested Pitocin and an epidural. Ok, I thought, check 2 more things off that I didn’t want to happen, but this baby needed to get moving and I was getting really tired. It was like 6pm on Thursday night at this time (almost 24 hours of active labor). After a couple hours of that, they upped the Pitocin. I’m not gonna lie, that epidural felt amazing. I was scared to get it, but the anesthesiologist did a great job. I finally got some rest and didn’t have to feel anything anymore. It was a pretty crazy feeling.
After doubling the Pitocin and having the epidural, things still hadn’t progressed. I was feeling loopy and just really confused and frustrated why my little guy didn’t want to come down! Eddie was still by my side - exhausted; my mom, who’d also been helping me get through those first couple non-epidural hours at the hospital, was exhausted; Lucinda was tired I’m sure but didn’t show it at all! And our wonderful photographer was still there, sticking by our side, tired as hell too I’m sure!
One of the lovely nurses that was helping us came in to check again around 10:30 or 11pm and said “I’m sorry honey, still hasn’t changed.” She was really hoping to give me better news. I didn’t have the urge to push at all, but we tried a few anyways to see if that might help get this little guy moving. But, to no avail.
The doctor came in, and without being hurried, pushy or dramatic said that she recommended a cesarean section. She said I could keep trying and waiting but it would probably be best for the baby if we got him out sooner rather than later. Those past few hours, his heartbeat had been the soundtrack to my labor. I was just listening to the slow, rhythmic buh bump, buh bump of our little boy’s heart. When you’re in the hospital, the heart monitor is so loud. Anytime it would slow down just a bit, my heart would speed up getting worried, then it would go back to normal. Nothing seemed to be wrong with little Jude because of the meconium, he just wasn’t moving.
They got me prepped and ready for that c-section fast! The nurses were sad for me, but very encouraging. Lucinda gave me a hug and her well wishes. My mom gave me her love. Eddie gowned up and gave me a kiss, saying he’d meet me in there. Our photographer was ready to catch it all (finally)!
I couldn’t stop shaking and shivering. The anesthesiologist put warm blankets on my arms but that didn’t help. Once Eddie got there, his hand holding mine helped a little, but I just couldn’t really stop my shivers. The drugs mixed with my nerves, I guess? I’d never been cut open before!
I felt tugging and lots of pressure then all of a sudden a baby cry! Was that my baby? Our baby?! Our son?! I saw his profile as the nurse carried him over to his bed to check him. I thought he looked like me. I told Eddie to go, he was conflicted but went to our son. My arms were stretched out wide because of the surgery, and one of them was reaching directly towards Jude; reaching towards him but not able to touch him. I wanted to touch and hold him so bad. After maybe a minute, they made sure Jude was ok and none of the meconium had been inhaled and then Eddie was able to bring him to me! I nuzzled his face and kissed him and told him I loved him and he laid on my chest and suckled a bit. It was beautiful. He was beautiful. He had JUST been inside me and now I was touching him! I looked at my husband and he was so happy and in love with our son too. I loved seeing my husband like that. It was similar to the look he had when I walked down the aisle to him. Pure joy, happiness, overflowing love. I was so happy to have been able to give this gift of a child to him. Our photographer was able to capture it all. This wasn’t the way I envisioned (or wanted) our son to come into this world, but it was as beautiful as it could have been in those circumstances.
At 12:13 AM on Friday morning, Jude Eduardo was born. He was perfect. Almost a 10 APGAR score! His left eye was swollen shut, so we figured part of his head must’ve just been stuck on something and he wasn’t able to make his way down. Poor guy was probably really uncomfortable in there! He had a hard time, but he was a trooper. We told him over and over again how much we loved him as I held him to my chest and drank in his intoxicating newborn smell.
I’m so grateful to all the staff at the hospital that were very respectful of my wishes and our birth plan, for postpartum as well. They all knew what our original plan was and tried their best to keep to that as much as possible in a hospital. Lucinda and Brooke were amazing. I loved having them through this process, such wise and caring women. I felt completely safe and comfortable in their care. I literally could not have done any of it without my husband. He was my rock and always will be in all manners of life. My sister, mom and dad- I’m so glad they were a part of this journey into my first experience as a mother! It wouldn’t have felt right without them there.
Looking back almost 3 months after Jude was born, I still tear up thinking of what could have been. I still get sad when I see the untouched birth kit supplies in my closet or see the birth affirmations still hanging on my wall. Sometimes I imagine what it would have been like to feel the urge to push and have pushed Jude out and then see my husband catch him and bring him to my chest. To sit in a bathtub of warm water nuzzling my baby boy. But that’s not how it happened, and even though that’s not how it happened, the end result is still here. The end result is this beautiful, amazing, sweet, smiley, soft, cuddly son of ours.
“Baby and mom are safe and healthy,” that’s what some people say is all that matters?…obviously our son’s well-being was number one priority – but that wasn’t ALL that mattered- the PROCESS was very important to me. My dreaming and my preparation, my yoga and meditation, my prayers and visualizations, they got used during my labor, yes, but not to the full extent that I wanted to use them and not for the full purpose I wanted to use them for. But maybe I wouldn’t have handled all of the unexpected twists and turns so well if I wasn’t so emotionally and mentally prepared? Maybe I would have broken down or given up. Maybe I wouldn’t have healed as well. Maybe I would have gone into a deep state of depression. I fully believe all that preparation helped me turn Jude’s whole birthing journey into something that I can look back on and smile about and be proud of and want to share with others. It is Jude’s story to tell anyways, not mine.
Until next time. xoxo
*Photography by Emily Shores