I experienced Braxton Hicks contractions throughout both of my pregnancies. They just felt like a hardening and tightening of my stomach (uterus) and would last about 30 seconds and then slowly relax. Sometimes they would cause me to catch my breath. In the evenings, I would often have 3-5 in a row. During this pregnancy with Tristan, they started probably somewhere around the 12th week. As long as I drank a lot of water, they would not happen very often or become more intense.
As I was getting closer to my due date, which was Christmas Day, 2013, the contractions were a little more intense in the evening, but really not painful at all, and they would always be gone by morning. Other than mild contractions, my pregnancy had been great. No morning sickness, I wasn’t extremely tired, and I just felt really good and happy in general. Until that last week. Not having anything to do with the pregnancy, I felt miserable because I caught a cold. It was just a sore throat at first, but then turned into a sore throat, headache, clogged sinuses and nose, plugged ears and earache, and mucousy lungs sort of lovely deal. I had been sleeping fine up until that point, but no more. I could hardly sleep at all and I was so miserable, not able to breathe, taste, or smell.
Before I became pregnant the first time, I had read many birth stories and done lots of research about pregnancy and birth. The subject fascinates me. I decided the best thing for my family would be to have a home birth with a midwife. I knew I would not be able to relax properly at a hospital. There are no home birth midwifes in Emporia, so I searched and one of the closest ones was Amber in Merriam. She is an hour and a half away, but since most labors last at least a few hours, I thought there would be plenty of time for her to drive here. Although my first labor and birth with Jonah was a quick 6 or so hours, I figured it was just fast because he was so tiny. I assume I wasn’t dilated all the way, but don’t know for sure. (We lost our first baby at 20 weeks in February 2013. Don’t know why, just went into labor early.)
Christmas came and went, and was lovely (other than my sickness) with my parents and one brother being at our house. I was surprised, since I really expected to go into labor early after having a preterm labor. But I didn’t have to wait long. That Friday, December 27th, my family and I drove to Topeka to have a last shopping trip before the baby came. It was the first time in my pregnancies I can remember being really tired. I figured it was just because of the cold plus so much walking. That night around midnight my 5 friends from Iowa were supposed to arrive (the plan was for them to visit after the baby was born, but I’m glad they got to be here for the birth as well!). Andrew stayed up to wait for them, and I fell asleep, exhausted. I think I could breathe better by then. Saturday morning we talked quite a bit, and the girls made us an amazing breakfast (closer to lunch time). I was feeling kind of giddy and excited, and the girls kept saying “Oooo that’s one of the signs of labor!” I just attributed it to my good friends being there, haha. However, I was having some slightly stronger contractions that morning, when I didn’t usually have them in the morning. Andrew forced me to walk around in circles in the house, and during breakfast I bounced on a ball. I really didn’t think it was labor yet though, because I could still easily walk and talk through contractions, even though they hurt some. So I was like, if I am going to have the baby soon, I should take a nap. I was trying to take daily naps anyway. Andrew and I went to sleep sometime around noon or 1 and I slept quite soundly.
At 2 I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. As I was walking to the bathroom, I felt a small warm gush and thought I had peed a little. As I was on the toilet I smelled it and it didn’t smell like pee, so I was like, “MY WATER JUST BROKE AHHH!” I could hear my friends cheering downstairs. I wanted to have just my hubby and mom with me during labor and delivery, and at the time my water broke my mom was heading to Walmart with my dad and brother. At that time Andrew called my mom and Amber to tell them my water had broken. Amber was with another laboring mother who was 2 weeks overdue and this was her second child, so she thought that mama would definitely deliver before me, especially since she had already been in labor for a while. However, maybe 5 minutes after my water had broken I started having very strong contractions! I felt like I couldn’t move and was completely focused on breathing, relaxing, picturing my cervix dilating, and singing “Lord I need you, oh I need you” over and over again in my head. I would kind of groan and say “No no nooooo” when a contraction was coming, haha. It was a constant battle to stay relaxed during a contraction because the body automatically tenses quickly and strongly.
After about 20 minutes of horrible contractions, I suddenly had the wonderful urge to push! Like everyone says, it feels good to do something during a contraction instead of just trying to make it through without freaking out. When I realized I was actually pushing, I was surprised, thinking, “Already??” I think I tried to tell Andrew and my mom I was pushing. She had just gotten back from Walmart and was encouraging me and putting a wet washcloth on my face and neck which felt AMAZING. Andrew was calling Amber again telling her to come right away because I had started pushing. Then my mom and Andrew were trying to get me to get off the toilet (yes I was still on the toilet; it is a nice place to labor, although I’ve heard it can make you go TOO fast and tear sometimes, maybe that’s one reason I went so fast, idk) and get into the birth pool. Andrew had been trying to fill it, but once it got maybe halfway our hot water ran out so it got some cold mixed in and was kind of coolish warm.
I didn’t want to get off the toilet, but somehow I managed to between contractions with their help. I yanked off my shirt and got in with just a bra. The water felt kinda good, but I would have liked it to be warmer. I continued to push during each contraction on my knees, or on one knee, leaning forward against the side of the inflatable pool. I have to say at this point I was kind of immune to the pain in a way, and I remember it being awesome that I could feel the baby’s head slowly moving down. I thought I might be getting toward the end, so my mom asked me to lean back so she could see if she could see the head. I leaned back against Andrew (he had gotten in when I did) so I was kind of sitting up tilted back. My mom said she could see the head! After a few more pushes I felt the “ring of fire” which definitely hurt a lot, but not as bad as those intense contractions toward the beginning. Almost the worst part, however, was that right then I kind of felt like his head was stuck! I felt like I was pushing as hard as I could, but his head wouldn’t get past the edge. I thought I was going to rip a lot. Finally I became more determined to get his head out, and pushed a little harder and a little longer and I did kind of feel a pop and his head was out. After that I felt SO much relief! My mom and Andrew had me stand up because they didn’t want his head in the water (it was kinda chilly by then). After a few more pushes his body was out and Andrew had caught him!! After a minute he started crying, and his grayish skin started to turn pink. Andrew handed him to me and helped me out of the pool into our bed. They covered us with towels. My mom was on the phone with Amber (who was driving to Emporia) asking what to do. Tristan Daniel Coltrane was born at 3:18pm. My active labor and pushing was 1 hour and 20 minutes long! It was completely unexpected.
We just sat on the bed and snuggled our baby while we waited for Amber to get to our house. She arrived about 20 minutes after Tristan was born and delivered the placenta right away. Then Andrew cut the umbilical cord and Amber weighed and checked Tristan. She stayed for a while, cleaning up and making sure everything was going well, and giving us instructions. I had a small tear but it didn’t need stitches. One thing I was surprised about was how much it hurt to stand and walk those first couple days! And the burn when I sprayed down there with water after going to the bathroom…ughh. But, it was all definitely worth it!
One thing I wish I had were pictures during the labor and/or a video! We had borrowed a video camera but never got it set up in time. I would also advise new moms to look up videos and do research on breastfeeding. I had read books but not actually watched videos or real women breastfeeding. My newborn would not latch well at all, and it hurt so much! Turns out he had a tongue tie and lip tie that were both very hard to diagnose; impossible to see the tongue tie, could only be felt. Anyway, we had a very rough first 2 1/2 months nursing, but now at 4 months we are exclusively breastfeeding and doing well! Praise God for a great birth and for helping us through a horrible first few months! (Well, it wasn’t horrible ALL the time!)