This is the birth story of Owen Alan Atkinson, March 25, 2013. It has taken nearly three months for me to find the time to finish writing this. It's not perfect, there are a lot of details and many run on sentences. But the end of this story is our beautiful baby boy.
I can’t even start writing this without my eyes filling with tears. I know mommy’s can tend to be particularly emotional after birthing, but these tears are just tears of absolute joy and thankfulness. Thankful for a healthy baby boy, an amazing husband to lean on through the intense pain of bringing a child into the world, and most of all, thankful to the grace of our great God who gave peace and comfort to us through the whole process. I am overwhelmed with His goodness towards us in giving us this beautiful, healthy, precious baby boy. Owen Alan Atkinson, you are loved more than mommy and daddy’s hearts can contain, it is just spilling out of us, every day.
Because I am horribly forgetful, I want to be incredibly detailed so I can read this and be flooded with memories of the day and days leading to your birth. So here it goes.
On Saturday evening, March 23 things felt a little different but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I had been having serious Braxton Hicks contractions for well over a week. Jonny would constantly feel my belly and say, “Whoa it’s never been that hard! Feel that!” So, with those happening quite regularly, I wasn’t surprised by the crampy feeling that became more and more constant throughout the evening. These cramps felt pretty much like light menstrual cramps that didn’t go away. The funny thing is, I had been so wrapped up in wondering when he would come, until that day. In a whirlwind of events, we found out that we would likely be moving from the second floor apartment (where we’ve lived since being married, bar the first two months) to the first floor apartment in the same house. It is much bigger and we would even get our own washer and dryer inside it! That is all it took to get my mind off of going into labor. Jonny was at work that evening and I sat drawing out a floor plan of the apartment, thinking of where we would put furniture! It was a definite grace of God to distract me like that. Because we were planning on showing our apartment to possible renters the next day, I started cleaning which doubled as nesting…I just didn’t know it would need to be done so soon!
Jonny came home from work and did the dishes as he promised. I knew he was tired after a long day at work. He laid in bed but for some reason I sat in the rocking chair blabbing on and on about the first floor apartment. Jonny knows this, but I’m typically not too chatty at the end of a day. He normally gets a “fine” when he asks about my day. Well not this night, I felt like I had so much to tell him. Just another sign that I was clearly distracted from the signs of early labor, and another grace of God.
Sure enough, Jonny was right. At exactly four in the morning, I woke up with really painful cramps. I went to the bathroom and something made me turn the light on this time. Typically I just leave it off, the toilet is right by a window and the moonlight is usually enough to work with (and who likes light bulbs in the middle of the night?). Of course I had to pee, but afterwards I noticed a few drops of something that didn’t feel like pee. I looked and sure enough, it was blood. Jonny and I had educated ourselves well throughout pregnancy, though all women are different, I knew this was my “bloody show” another sign of early labor. I called Jonny into the bathroom and let him know. He encouraged me to lay down again, I tried, but the cramps, which were actually contractions by this stage, were incredibly uncomfortable to lay through. We sat with the lights off for another 30 minutes. During this time my stomach was growling really loudly, so Jonny was determined to make pancakes, whether I liked it or not…but I did like it. So 5:00 came and Jonny and I were just eating pancakes. We were taught to determine if the contractions you are experiencing are actually real labor to try eating, showering, drinking and walking. If the contractions stop with these activities, it is most likely not true labor. So I had eaten pancakes and was still having contractions. I then had to go to the bathroom. *Sorry if the following is too much, but like I said, wanting to be very detailed for my memory’s sake* Here I had a very loose bowel movement, which I knew was also a sign of early labor. If that was not enough to convince me this was the real thing, I also lost my mucus plug shortly after. At this point, we were both pretty sure we’d be meeting our baby boy soon. After all, it was just 5am Sunday morning, surely we would hold him before the night was over. With the excitement also came nervousness. I have a tendency to shake when I’m nervous, and shake I did. Jonny would look at me with this sweet face and try to calm my nerves with encouraging words, and that helped immensely. I decided to try the next test, a shower. This helped to calm me and stop the shaking, and though the contractions felt much better under the hot water, they by no means subsided. I stepped out of the shower knowing I was in labor. Something I hadn’t thought of too much throughout pregnancy. I read so many books, so many birth stories, we had been going to birthing class since the beginning of January, but finally being the one in labor, that was a surreal moment. I sat in the rocking chair next to our bed, drinking water and going through the motions of the contractions. Jonny lay in the bed sideways, with his hand holding mine. We knew we’d need to rest to get through the day. We sat in the dark with a candle flickering, just taking it contraction at a time. I never fell asleep but could relax between contractions, which was a relief. At 7am Jonny wanted to time the contractions for an hour to get an idea of where we were.
They were averaging to be no more than 4 minutes apart, lasting an average of 46 seconds long. This didn’t mean much, yes they were quite frequent but not lasting the typical 60 seconds you hear of, so we just waited. Around 8am, we called our parents who live 10 hours away, thinking surely things will have progressed nicely in 10 hours and they would arrive to meet their first grandbaby. The contractions continued at that same rate and intensity for quite sometime. Our friend, Nishika came over to support us and pray with me. She brought a rice sock that you heat in the microwave and put on your lower back to relieve pain. Jonny took a shower and Nishika and I walked around our tiny apartment to get the contractions to pick up. It had been raining since we were up at 4 but finally around 9 it was starting to let up. So Jonny and I got dressed in rain gear and headed outside to walk up and down our street (which is situated on a hill). The contractions came quicker and stronger as we walked, but when we would stop walking they would slow down again. I wonder what the neighbors thought of us, me and my huge belly holding on to Jonny every 45 seconds walking up and down the street, in the rain. I didn’t care in the slightest, just wanted to get things moving. Once we had enough of walking, we took Nishika home and came back to our place. Jonny kept trying to get me to snack on cantaloupe, which we had determined would be my labor snack, that and red Gatorade, but I’m pretty positive Jonny ate and drank most of it because I just wasn’t interested. The afternoon is sort of a blur to me. It really was just more of the same kind of contractions, the pain intensified but they never got longer or closer than two and a half minutes apart. We had called Ashton, our Bradley Method teacher for support and advice a couple times throughout the day. She offered to come over and by late afternoon we were starting to wonder when we should go to the hospital since clearly my contractions weren’t like we had read about in any book. Ashton came and sweetly encouraged us through several contractions. She gave suggestions about positions and told us if things kept up like they were, we should head to the hospital in an hour or so. Before leaving she suggested I sit in a warm bath, so Jonny starting filling the tub. In the bathtub, the contractions were not as painful. I loved sitting in there, it brought much needed relief from the pain. As usual, Jonny was concerned about what we would eat. He knew we would both need energy to finish this task so he asked me what I would like to eat. I really didn’t care but it needed to be delivery and I certainly did not want pizza. So Jonny ordered us Jimmy John’s sandwiches and we ate them around 7pm. After that I spent the next two hours on the birthing ball (an exercise ball) with Jonny behind me, rubbing my back and encouraging me to breathe through each contraction, which had become more painful and averaged 2 minutes apart. At 8:30 I decided I was ready to go to the hospital. Not sure what emotion took over, but I just remember crying to Jonny that I wanted to go. I had been laboring at home for nearly 17 hours, I wanted to move on, I wanted it to be over.
I cannot say enough about how encouraging my husband was, he never left my side unless I asked him to grab something for me. He was full of encouraging words and I knew he truly would take the pain for me if he could. I don’t know how women can go through something so intense without any support at all. I certainly could not have done it without him.
Knowing that my dilation would be checked once we got to the hospital was both exciting and nerve-racking. I did not want to be disappointed by little dilation so we planned to have the nurse tell Jonny and not me. Jonny would know how to break the news to me, whether good or bad. Driving to the hospital was surreal. I hadn’t thought much about the actual labor, because you can never know how that will go, but I did often think about driving to the hospital. It was a cold and wet night, we had always imagined we would drive to the hospital at night. Funny thinking of that now because when labor started at 4am, we thought we'd be driving during the day. On the way there, Jonny got a text from my mom saying they were at the hospital. I couldn’t help but laugh. My parents, who had driven for nearly 11 hours because of bad weather, made it to the hospital before we did. When we got there, Jonny and I couldn’t find labor triage and were wandering around until someone thought to offer some assistance! (Maybe we should have done the hospital tour after all!) Once we found triage I was immediately hooked up to the EFM and soon after checked for dilation. The nurse took Jonny outside the room to tell him the news. Jonny came back in smiling. I was dilated to 5cm and her words to him were “her cervix is really thin.” Five centimeters in 17 hours. We had learned that getting to 5cm took the longest time, so we were hopeful! We were taken to our room by our first nurse, Joyce. We had a corner room, usually reserved for those wishing to do natural childbirth. It was big and spacious, the lights were dim and there was a huge tub in the bathroom for hydrotherapy. The contractions certainly became more painful at the hospital. I was nervous again, and I’m sure that had something to do with it. Relaxation has never been something I’m great at, but the breathing techniques we learned in the Bradley class, once again proved helpful. Jonny could tell when a contraction was beginning because I would tense slightly, but he would quickly remind me to breathe. After coming to the hospital I lost all track of time, which was probably a good thing since we were in that room for another 18 hours. I remember hearing laboring on the toilet is sometimes helpful, that couldn’t be further from the truth in my case. Every time I sat on the toilet (which was often, because I still needed to pee frequently) the pain intensified, causing me to shake and get tense, consequently causing me to be on the toilet longer until I could relax enough to pee. Jonny and I walked around the labor floor to get things moving. The rooms of the other laboring mothers were completely dark and they were watching TV, I didn’t understand how they could be watching TV! Walking was most painful; my back was exhausted by this point and felt incredibly weak, like it might snap in two at any moment. When I had enough of walking, we would go in the room and labor on the ball or a chair. I did utilize the hydrotherapy tub, which was comforting, but I love hot water, and because of safety precautions, they aren’t allowed to have the water reach the kind of temperature I would have liked. The warm water just made me cold, and I shivered for a long while after I was out. Jonny frequently made runs to the ice machine. You are not allowed to eat or drink while in the hospital, for the rare chance you might throw up while under anesthesia, in case a cesarean is necessary. But you are allowed ice chips. And how I love ice chips! I was checked a few times between 9pm and 7:30am, each time I had dilated no more than a centimeter. After 24 hours of labor, we both found ourselves falling asleep between contractions. One of the doctors from my practice came in around 3:00am, she was impressed that I had been able to sleep between my contractions, but she must not have realized how long we’d been going at it. The same doctor came in at 7:30, with little progress since her last visit she suggested that my bag of water be broken. They had reason to believe the slow progression of dilation was because the Owen’s head wasn’t descending. Breaking the water is one way to speed things up. This was something I will never forget. The doctor broke my water and immediately I felt a huge release and heard the words, “we have dirty water.” Sure enough, our little guy had a bowel movement inside the womb and my water was stained with meconium. When this happens, babies are at risk for infection if they ingest it at delivery. To make this less likely, I received a catheter that ran water into my uterus to flush the stained water out with clear water. Now, this was where I was the most discouraged in the whole process. The same release I felt when the water was burst, continually happened for the next few hours. I was having to sit up, with gushes of dirty water pouring out, and pooling at my feet. The nurse was putting giant adult size diapers under me and they were soaked in seconds. All the while, having even more painful contractions as a result of my water being broke. This went on for what seemed like forever. This was the lowest point of the 36 hour labor.
An hour and half later at 9am, after 29 hours, our nurse sweetly came to us with some advice that was hard to hear. I had not dilated any more after my water had broke, and the doctor and her believed that if I wanted a real shot at a vaginal delivery I needed to consider labor augmentation with Pitocin. Those words cut like a knife. I knew with Pitocin would come a waterfall of interventions, the chief of those being an epidural. 41 weeks of thinking about the beauty of natural childbirth without being medicated met the reality of nearly 30 hours of labor. I was drained, very much so physically and since having the catheter, I was drained emotionally. I wanted so badly to continue without the pain medicine, but even more so did not want a cesarean. A whole flood of emotions came over me. Jonny was so strong. He responded to me with love. He wanted just as much as I did to get through it all without intervention. He pleaded with me to give it thirty more minutes, not to give up now, that pushing could be right around the corner. I loved how strong he was, but knew my body had been through enough and I couldn’t muster another ounce of energy. Now on top of being emotionally and physically drained, I was feeling disappointed. We had spent the last nine months preparing for natural childbirth and it was slipping away from me. I wrongly began to feel like I was letting Jonny down by feeling a need for the Pitocin/epidural. The decision was made and by 9:30am the anesthesiologist was in the room. Your husband has to leave when they give you the epidural; I hated that. Our sweet nurse held me by the shoulders as I sobbed. After it was over, the anesthesiologist said, “Oh sweetie, are you disappointed?” I couldn’t get any words out but nodded my head. She tried comforting me by telling me the stories of her two births, and how if she labored as long as I had been laboring she would without a doubt have the epidural. It neither encouraged nor discouraged me. My head was just buzzing from exhaustion.
They started the Pitocin drip and turned down the lights. The room was a completely different place. I now knew why all the other rooms were dark, only lit up by the TV; Everyone gets an epidural! Jonny came back with more ice chips, which helped to calm me down. Here I was with all these cords and contraptions on me. The epidural was starting to set in, and my body was starting to sink heavy into the hospital bed. Jonny laid down on the squeaky plastic couch and went right to sleep. For the next six hours I had Pitocin contractions to dilate the last two centimeters. I had a patient-controlled epidural, which allowed me to control the amount of medicine I was getting with a little button. I kept it at a level in which I was able to feel the contractions, but the pain had gone for the most part. I still felt pain in my upper abdomen with each contraction, just enough to make me uncomfortable. I didn’t sleep. I should have slept. But I don’t know what kept me awake. Anticipation perhaps? Afterall all, I should be having a baby soon! After such a long labor, I was beginning to wonder what the outcome would be. I know it sounds silly, but by this point it felt like it was never going to end. I know that sounds dramatic, but its how I really felt. The nurse came in and I took her by the hand and said, “Tell me, do you think I will have this baby today?” She laughed and said of course. She must have thought I was joking, but I was dead serious. I had lost all track of time, not knowing the time, let alone the day.
Our families came in to see us, it was the first time I had seen them since 9pm the night before. I have no idea what we talked about, but it was good to see their faces. Next thing I knew, the nurse came in and sent everyone out of the room to see how I had progressed. I honestly was expecting bad news, but instead she said, “Are you ready to have this baby?” I just sat there completely unfazed. I had convinced myself it was never actually going to happen.
This was it. It was time to push! Everything had been so slow up to this point, but here is where the action finally started. My doctor was on her way but still not at the hospital, so another doctor from the practice came in. I was prepped and the neonatal team was in the room getting ready for the delivery. Because there was a meconium stain in my water, Owen would have to be deep suctioned immediately after birth to prevent any infection from ingestion of the fluid.
I remember the doctor had the sweetest smile, which really calmed my nerves. She gave me instruction to push “like you have to go to the bathroom” for as long as I could, then take a quick breath and push some more. Jonny was there holding my hand and ready with a wet rag to put on my forehead. And with the next contraction I began to push. After two pushes the doctor was saying she could see Owen’s head. I knew the pushing stage could last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours and if my labor was any indication, I was prepared to be doing this for 2 hours. But there was such anticipation in the voice of the doctor, and then she said, “Sweetie, I’ll be delivering your baby, Dr. Evans is not going to make it in time.” This gave me such hope! The end was in sight. With just a few more pushes Owen’s head was delivered and with the next he was completely out and everyone in the room was commenting on his size. It was 2:31 pm, the doctor raised him up and I was in disbelief. “Is this real?” “Did that really just happen?” From the look on Jonny’s face I could tell he was thinking the same thing. Since he needed to be deep suctioned, we were not able to delay cord clamping and Jonny cut the cord soon after Owen was delivered. He then followed him just a few feet away where they would suction and clean him. It really was one of those moments where I didn’t hear anything that was going on and everything looked as if it were moving in slow motion.
Then they put Owen on the scale, everyone was saying,“Oh he’s a ten pounder for sure!” But the number kept growing, until it stopped and everyone’s eyes got really big. But the number was in kgs so I had no idea what it meant. Jonny looked at me and said “11.1 lbs Janaye.” All I can say is, I am so glad I had no idea he was so big. The nurses kept hinting they thought he was a big baby during labor but the reality did not set in until he sat on that scale. He was measured at 21 inches long. About this time my doctor came in the room. The doctor who had delivered said, “This girl just pushed out an 11 pound baby in 25 minutes.” Owen was placed on my chest and I was in love. He was immediately lifting his head up and looking around. It was such a sweet moment, one I will never forget.
I ended up with a second degree tear, which is actually really good considering Owen’s size. The doctor told me she herself had second degree tears with her children who were 6 pounders. I had not wanted an episiotomy and the doctor knew that and did a wonderful job to avoid one, as well as additional tearing. After the doctor had finished with the stitches and everything was cleaned up, we were left alone as a family of three for the very first time. Jonny and I just stared at him. His tiny nose, beady eyes, the hairs on his ears, all of him. He latched on immediately, which was a relief; he’s been a good eater from the very beginning. After about 45 minutes, our family came in to meet the newest addition, Owen Alan Atkinson. Our precious gift.