It’s been sixteen weeks since Juniper was born and I’ve finally gotten around to writing down her birth story. Apologies now, it is not the most poetic rendition, but I’ve tried to jot down the facts before they slipped my mind (you think you’ll remember forever but so much has already become mush in my new-mom brain). If reading about childbirth is not your thang (and I don’t blame you) here is your warning. For everyone else, and especially for Miss Juniper, here is the story of the day you were born.
I went to bed on 9/22/15 hugely pregnant and hopeful that it would be the night that I’d finally go into labor. My due date had passed 9 days before, but there were still no signs that my daughter was on her way.
Holy belly! This is two days before my due date and 12 days before Juniper was actually born.
But I woke up at 3 a.m. with contractions. I lay in bed and timed them. They were five minutes apart and almost one minute long. I woke Brian up. “I’m in labor,” I told him. We sat in the dark, excited. We were going to meet our baby.
The contractions grew stronger. At 6:30 a.m. I sent a text to my doula and I called my doctor. He told me to head to the hospital but I was hesitant. I wanted to have an unmedicated birth and part of that plan was to labor at home as long as possible. But by 8:30 a.m. the contractions felt quite strong (clearly I had no idea what active childbirth felt like) and Brian and I headed to the hospital.
I was ushered into a room to be monitored. The nurse hooked me up to a heart rate monitor and an external heart rate monitor for the baby. I was 4 cm. dilated. I was having regular contractions and they felt fairly strong (again, no idea).
I told the nurse that if I wasn’t progressing I’d happily go home to labor and come back when I needed to. But she informed me that my doctor did not want me to leave the hospital because he considered me high risk since my baby was 10 days overdue.
I wanted to get out of bed to move around because I thought it would speed up labor. But then the nurse told me that my doctor wanted me to be continuously monitored, which meant I’d be trapped in bed. This was directly against my wishes. I was mad and stressed and I knew that the stress was causing my labor to stall.
I also knew that the excessive monitoring was completely unnecessary. I felt strong. My baby was healthy. So I told the nurse that if I was going to be strapped to the bed I was leaving. Since I was leaving against medical advice I had to sign a form. “No problem,” I said. I signed it and left.
I was hungry and I thought maybe Brian and I could go out to breakfast. But the second I walked out of the hospital my contractions became much stronger. I told him to just take me home- and hurry.
At home I sat on the couch and Brian made me french toast. As soon as I was done with the meal my contractions picked up again, this time very strongly. I went up to the bedroom to get comfortable but could no longer sit down without pain so I got on my hands and knees on the bedroom floor and rocked back and forth. I couldn’t talk or walk during the contractions and they were coming pretty quickly now, every 3 to 4 minutes. Between them I’d just try to relax or, if I had to go to the bathroom, scramble to the bathroom before the next contraction kicked in.
In a matter of no time I was in serious labor. I realized I needed to get to the hospital when I sat down on the toilet and felt the urge to push. Brian had called our doula and asked her to come to our house. I yelled out from the bathroom that I needed to get to the hospital NOW and that he should call her back and have her meet us there.
Between contractions I made my way to the car. I put the front seat as far back as it would go to try to get comfortable as Brian white-knuckled our 12-minute drive to the hospital. Contractions in the car were excruciating. At one point we were stopped at a red light and a city work crew truck pulled up next to us. I had a contraction and yelled very loudly and when I opened my eyes they were all staring down at me. I gave them something to talk about!
I was half afraid that the baby was going to come in the car. So when we finally reached the hospital Brian pulled directly up to the doors and left the car in a no-parking zone. We took the elevator up to the labor and delivery unit and between contractions, which were now coming every minute or so, I waddled/ran to the intake desk.
At the desk they asked the standard questions. I was having a hard time talking and finally said, “I feel like I need to push!” The nurse’s eyes got wide and she called for a wheelchair.
It was the autumn equinox and the moon was working her juju so all of the babies had decided to come at the same time. There were no free delivery rooms. I sat in a wheelchair in the hall making the loudest sounds you’ve ever heard, probably scaring the crap out of all of the other women giving birth, while they cleaned a room for me.
After what felt like an eternity but was probably only a few minutes the delivery room was clean and they wheeled me in. I stood up out of the wheelchair, pulled on a gown, climbed into bed and shouted WHERE IS THE DOCTOR? I wanted to have this baby NOW. The nurses ignored my question because the doctor clearly wasn’t there and they didn’t want me to push without him. They tried to ask the intake questions but I couldn’t talk so Brian answered them for me. They checked and I was “9 centimeters plus” which of course means 10 which of course means that the baby was coming whether the doctor was there or not.
I want to describe the pain but I’m not sure I even have the words to. The feeling, really, was beyond pain. It was the most intense physical experience of my life. I had a feeling of existing outside of my body. I felt only half in this world.
My doula leaned in and said, “If you need to push, push. Listen to your body.” And so I allowed myself to do it. Brian and my doula were getting me cool washcloths and holding a cup up to my mouth so I could take sips of water. It was very hot in the room and I kept yelling WHERE IS THE DOCTOR?
The doctor finally arrived and announced that it was time to push (no kidding!). But I suddenly felt like I didn’t know how and I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to do it. My doula, who was a radiant being of calm, leaned down and told me to just bear down and so I began pushing. I pushed three times through the first contraction. On the second contraction I pushed again and I heard the doctor say to Brian, “Dad, can you see her head?” and I knew it was close. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
My doula asked if I wanted a mirror to see her head and I said NO! On the next contraction I pushed again and she was born.
I could hear my doula telling me to open my eyes and see my daughter, but I couldn’t do it. I knew that when I opened my eyes my life would never be the same again. So I kept them closed, just for a moment. When I opened them they were bringing the baby up to my chest. I looked down at her and said, “Oh my God, she’s perfect.”
I was in shock. Two hours ago I’d been sitting on my couch eating breakfast and now I was holding a baby in my arms. My brain just could not catch up with reality. My strongest feeling in those moments after delivery was pride. I felt proud that I’d made it through pregnancy and labor and delivered this perfect baby into the world.
Everyone cleared out of the room except for me and Brian and the baby and the doula. I felt energized and wanted to jump out of bed and go home. Brian remembered that the car was still parked in the no parking zone and he went to move it. He called family and friends to let them know the baby was here. An hour later we were wheeled into a recovery room. The whole thing felt like an out of body experience.
That night, in the wee hours of the morning I pulled Juniper to my chest to feed her. She looked up at me with these clear, deep eyes and that was when I finally cried. I kept thinking that for all of the transformation I’d just gone through her trip had been much, much wilder. I whispered to her over and over again, “Welcome to the world baby girl.”
We named her Juniper, after the trees that grow in the mountains and Ruth because it is a family name.
She is the love of our lives.
Juniper, one hour old.