Holden’s Birth Story
It’s surreal for me to think about the way Holden’s birth unfolded now that he’s here and almost a year old. One of my favorite stories from the day is that over text message, Mitchell told my mom we were “leaving the hospital, no baby today.” Not long after, he sent her another message that said, “He’s coming.” She responded “How soon?” hoping she could get to the hospital in time. He responded about ten minutes later, “This soon.” With a photo of our sweet boy.
. . . . .
The morning of February 14th I noticed I wasn’t feeling my typically very active baby moving. I have a fetal doppler at home and knew his little heart was beating, but also knew that wasn’t an indication of wellness. One of the greatest risk factors with women using a fetal doppler at home is the sense of false security it provides in moments like these. If your baby isn’t moving, call your OB!
I called the OB nurse and she requested that I go to labor and delivery to be evaluated. After a couple hours of monitoring at the hospital, it was determined that our little man was absolutely fine, moving and sounding healthy. I wasn’t having any frequent, steady, or strong contractions, so they indicated that we would be released. While we waited for the doctor to come discharge us Mitchell and I made plans to go out to lunch after we left. I was 100% certain I wasn’t having a baby that day! Or so I thought...
As we sat there talking, I got hit hard with a massive contraction out of no where. It was so painful I couldn’t catch my breath, and seemed like it would never end. When it finally subsided I told Mitchell something was happening, and before I could finish my sentence another contraction rolled in, even more painful than the first. They were coming fast, in waves, one after the other with little to no time in between. At this point I was fighting back tears, and that’s when the nurse came in to tell us we could go home.
I told her I was having contractions and they were significant, and that I was sure I shouldn’t be leaving. She assured me I wasn’t in labor (after all, they’d been monitoring me for several hours and absolutely nothing had happened) but said she would send the doctor in to talk to me. The few minutes we waited for the doctor felt like an eternity. I remember saying to Mitchell through tears and broken breaths that they should be calling the anesthesiologist to order an epidural. He half laughed, but I wasn’t joking.
When the doctor came in she echoed the nurses statements, that I wasn’t in labor and should go home. I was clenching the bed at this point, tears streaming down my face, and said to her “if this were happening at home I would be coming to labor and delivery immediately.” She encouraged me to perhaps go walk around at the mall or another nearby location and said, “even if you are in labor, at the very least it will be a few hours before you’re ready.”
It had been less than ten minutes since the first contraction by the time she left the room so I could get dressed and go home. As soon as she left I looked at Mitchell and said, “this baby is coming.”
I was in so much pain I couldn’t sit up by myself to try to get dressed, so Mitchell helped me. That was when my water broke. I was confused and unsure if it really was my water breaking, as I didn’t experience that with Lincoln’s labor.
Mitchell went into the hall to grab the nurse, and she came in and confirmed that my water had in fact broken and said she was going to go speak to the doctor. Before she left the room I told her I was in a lot of pain and that if I was having a baby I wanted an epidural - or something along those lines, I really don’t remember.
By this time tears were streaming down my face. I was in tons of pain, and I was panicking. I knew things were happening very quickly and didn’t feel like the world around me was moving fast enough to keep up. A week or two prior to this I had expressed to my mother-in-law that I had this irrational fear that my labor would happen quickly; that Mitchell might not get home from work in time, that I might not make it to the hospital in time, (we live about 40 minutes away) or that I might not get an epidural. I should take a moment to explain why the epidural was so important to me. During Lincoln’s birth, I experienced some unexpected and terrifying complications, that led to me hemorrhaging on the birthing table. Had I not been given an epidural, I would have likely been rushed to the OR and put under, meaning I wouldn’t have been awake when he was born or with him in those first moments. I knew my labor could be high risk again, and wanted to do everything I could do be able to witness Holden’s birth like I had Lincoln’s.
At some point soon after, the nurse came to get us and the three of us walked to the delivery room. The nurse assured me that she had called for an anesthesiologist. Then she checked my cervix… she quietly picked up her phone and called someone. I couldn’t hear what she said over the sound of my own voice. Women who have given birth naturally before will know what I’m talking about when I say that I wasn’t intentionally moaning, but the cries were coming and they were out of my control. Within a minute my doctor came in. He said to me, “I’m due to be upstairs for surgery in 10 minutes, so unless you’re still in labor when I finish so-and-so may deliver for you.” The nurse who had checked my cervix calmly but firmly said to him, “she has gone from 5cm to 9cm in less than 10 minutes.” When I heard her say this I knew. I knew I was going to have my baby very soon, and I knew I would be doing it naturally. I looked at Mitchell and shook my head involuntarily, as if my brain thought if I said, “no thanks, this isn’t what I planned for” it would somehow change. My poor husband was in just as much shock as I was at this point, but he never left my side and whispered into my ear over and over, “you can do this.”
As I tried to breathe through the current contraction I saw the nurse turn the warmer on the baby bed, and then the anesthesiologist walked in. I was so thankful, but not comforted by his presence just yet. He asked me to sit up on the side of the bed and for Mitchell to help support me.
I wasn’t sure I could even sit, but I tried. The moment I was upright I knew - my baby was coming and he was coming right now. I said to the nurse, (she and the anesthesiologist were the only ones there at this moment) “I can feel him coming down, he’s coming right now.” It was the most insane and surreal sensation. I could literally feel him moving down and I knew exactly what was happening.
This was all very overwhelming and new for me, as Lincoln’s birth has been a completely difference experience as I couldn’t even feel my contractions due to the epidural.
The anesthesiologist said to the nurse with a clearly panicked voice, maybe you should check her, then he literally sprinted out of the room. Looking back, Mitchell and I laugh about this moment. Mitchell said if I could only have seen the look on that mans face as he ripped his gloves off and headed for the door!
By the time I laid down on the bed (literally seconds after telling the nurse he was coming) Holden’s head was nearly fully born. Without really being aware of the words coming out of my mouth, I called, “please help me!” I’m not sure what I wanted help with, but I was just terrified!
35 minutes prior to this moment I was making plans with Mitchell to go to Red Robin for lunch. I was supposed to be ordering my fish and chips right now. I had never intended to have a natural birth, and therefore took no birthing classes, and prepared in absolutely no way to walk myself though the process. I was scared.
My doctor (the one heading upstairs to perform surgery) had only left the room a few minutes prior to this and he heard my cry for help from down the hallway. Apparently I was loud.
He ran in, followed by a team of nurses. He saw the panic on my face (and that my baby was pretty much here) and calmly said, “Janet, just take one deep breath and push.”
It took two. Two deep breaths. Two pushes. And Holden was here.
From the time I felt the first contraction (while I was being discharged from the hospital) to the moment he was placed on my chest was less than 40 minutes.
Had I not been at the hospital when I went into labor, my baby would have been born in the car. Or in my living room. Or Red Robin. Everything happened so fast and so unexpectedly.
When people hear how fast my labor was they immediately say, wow you’re lucky! I was in active labor for 28 hours with Lincoln and got an epidural at 8.5 cm. I know how hard a long labor can be! But I can promise you Lincoln’s labor was a drop in the bucket compared to this experience. Of course, every woman’s experience is different, and there is no “holier than thou” way to deliver a baby. I think you are a superhuman for growing a life and bringing it into this world, regardless of how you do it.
What I experienced is called precipitous birth; labor that is less than three hours. It occurs in less than 3% of pregnant women and mine was an extreme case, having been less than one hour from start to finish.
There was no warm up for my body. No timing contractions as they grew closer together. No break between contractions to rest or catch my breath. The only way I can describe it was that I felt like I was drowning (unable to breathe) and set on fire (if you’ve birthed naturally, you know) at the same time. There are a gamut of risks with a labor like this because our bodies are designed to do this work over a certain period of time, and moving so quickly has implications for both mom and baby. Thankfully, neither Holden or I were seriously impacted by any of those potential issues.
My advice to expectant mothers is this: take the birthing class! Whether or not you intend to have pain relief during your birth, take the birthing class so that you are prepared in the event that things don’t go the way you planned. Even if you do have an epidural or other form of pain relief, birthing classes can help you prepare to handle labor and understand what is happening to your body at each stage. I definitely wish I could have been more prepared for my natural birth. Yes, I did it. But instead of understanding what was happening and knowing how to follow my body’s cues, I was shocked, scared, and completely panicked.
I’d planned for Mitchell to document much of the birthing process. We’d packed my camera gear and talked about moments to capture. I had a written birthing plan, with my hopes and dreams recorded for the nursing staff and my doctor. Music on a playlist, a cute little robe and undergarments to wear. My hospital bag perfectly packed and prepared. This is all laughable now, because none of those items even made it out of the car! Like always, God laughed at the plan I’d made for myself, and revealed His perfect plan instead. He taught me that I was capable of far more than I ever imagined. He made my husband think I am superwoman, and showed me once again that Mitchell is the greatest support person and spouse that I could ever hope and dream for. He reminded me in the most blatant of ways that the material things we think we need; the photos, the music, the pain killers and accessories… they are nothing. His love and sovereignty, His protection and mercy; those are the only things we need.
Our precious Holden Wade was born February 14th, 2018 at 2:28pm. He weighed 7 lbs 1 ounce, was 18.5 inches long, and has continued to surprise and keep us on our toes every single day since then. We are so, incredibly grateful for this boy and the way he has made our family whole.