I have been back and forth on whether to share Emerson’s birth story, not for any reason other than wanting the right words to capture it perfectly. I’ve sat down to write this multiple times, each time ultimately closing my browser, thinking I’m too tired or distracted to find eloquent enough words to share. But I’m realizing there may never be a time that I will be able to accurately express the beauty, pureness, and surprising miracle of the most meaningful moment of my life.
As my due date neared, my midwife shared the option of getting things started by a membrane sweep, but this would only be an option if I was at least dilated to a 1 by the next appointment. It wasn’t a guarantee that it would kickstart labor, but could help, especially considering this was my first baby. After discussing with Jody, we decided we might as well try, believing that baby would make his or her appearance when they were ready. On Wednesday, at my 39-week appointment, my midwife checked my progress and I was dilated enough to be able to be swept. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but I figured it probably wouldn’t compare to the discomfort of labor. As I left the doctor’s office, she told me I might experience some cramping which would either subside in the coming hours or would progress into full-blown contractions.
When I woke up on Thursday morning, the cramps hadn’t disappeared and I thought I might be having some early contractions. I was adamant that I didn’t want to go to the hospital to be sent home (we live about 30 minutes from where I was scheduled to deliver), and I knew I could have contractions for several days prior to giving birth, so I wasn’t too alarmed. It was the last day of school anyway, so I got ready, grabbed a picture on the porch, and headed to work.
I had wrapped up most of my work and packed up my office the previous day, so I spent the day finalizing some details for my maternity leave plans. As I sat, I realized my cramping was indeed contractions, and they were beginning to increase. I began to time them – about 30 seconds long and 15 minutes apart. I texted Jody to give him an update and continued to work, albeit, distracted.
As the day progressed, so did the contractions. Still not consistent enough to cause concern, I stopped at my mom’s school to see her empty classroom (you may remember that she was to retire from a 30-year teaching career, all in the same building!) before heading home. Jody typically plays in a tennis league on Thursday nights, so I spent most of the afternoon lounging on the couch, trying to distract myself while simultaneously monitoring my contractions. Around 7pm, Jody texted me to check in, where I told him they were still around 30 seconds, but coming every seven minutes, at which point he immediately hopped in the car and headed home.
It was at that point that it all got too real for me. While I was thrilled to meet my baby, all of the fears that I had came to a head, not long after Jody walked through the door. Once he realized what was happening, he immediately began to encourage and calm me down and suggested this may not be the time to start putting together the end table for the nursery that arrived earlier that day. I was a bit anxious, understandably, so he called the midwife-on-call to see if we should head in. She told us to stay put a while longer, or until my contractions were closer to 3-4 minutes apart. I showered and Jody finished packing his hospital bag before attempting to sleep.
After several hours of tossing and turning, the contractions had finally increased to about every 4-5 minutes. Terrified I’d progress too much to get an epidural, we headed to the hospital around 4am. I spent most of the drive focusing on breathing through the contractions, but grateful for the quiet and empty roads. Once we arrived, I was wheeled up to the maternity floor and was set up in triage to be monitored. At this point, the contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and the pain was intensifying, mostly in my lower back. I was still only dilated to a 2, so the nurse hooked me up to a morphine drip to help my body relax and hopefully allow the baby to descend down the birth canal.
After six hours, a bit of drug-induced sleep, the nurse, along with my midwife, Lauren, whom I had most of my appointments with, suggested I head home to continue to labor. I still hadn’t progressed much so they weren’t able to admit me. I was devastated – not only did I not want to go back home, but I was still in that hard-to-breathe kind of pain with each contraction. Lauren informed us that baby had flipped to what they referred to as “sunnyside up” and the back of their head was pressing against my spine, which is what was causing the contractions to be even more painful. She suggested a handful of positions to try when I got home to try to flip baby. They suspected that I would be back by the end of the day, but hoped that being in a familiar environment would help me transition into active labor.
Jody helped me back to the car, stopping every three minutes to breathe through the pain. We ran through the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru for something to eat, although my pain was too intense to even want a bite. I don’t remember much about the drive home – I clenched my eyes shut with each passing contraction, frustrated that the traffic was making this long ride home even slower.
Throughout the afternoon, I faded in and out of consciousness on the couch, trying out the various positions Lauren suggested to see if they helped alleviate the pain. In the back of my head, the fear of this turning into a c-section snuck up, but I wouldn’t let myself think too much about that until we knew if and when we had to cross that bridge. And to be honest, I didn’t have enough energy to even let that thought stay in my mind too long. The pain of the contractions was intensifying so much that I pretty much blacked out with each one – I barely even remembered my mom coming over, rubbing a tennis ball along my lower back for a few hours! Around 4pm, I do remember telling Jody that I was feeling a lot of pressure and we needed to head back to the hospital.
I’m not sure what I expected labor to be like, but this definitely wasn’t it. I imagined my water would break at home, and we would know when it was time to head to the hospital. I thought we’d pack up the car and leave our home, taking a moment to acknowledge the next time we’d return, our little addition would be in tow. I anticipated the car ride would be filled with a mix of a calming serenity and nervous jitters rather than white, hot pain and dreading the thirty-minute drive back to the hospital.
While at the moment, the seconds seemed to last an eternity, looking back, everything happened really fast once we made it back to the hospital. As they anticipated I’d be back, all of our check-in paperwork was ready to go so they did a quick check-in triage to see ensure I had progressed and sure enough, I was dilated to a six. They wheeled me to our room where they checked me again, and we were all shocked to see I had progressed to an 8 in just a matter of minutes. Knowing I wanted an epidural, Lauren immediately called the anesthesiologist up, which thankfully, only took a few minutes.
One of the worst parts of the entire experience was probably getting the epidural, only because I had to remain incredibly still was it was administered and at this point, my contractions were coming every 90 seconds. But I would sit through that one hundred times over; I felt almost immediate relief. Within minutes, I was a completely different person and happily chatted with the nurses as they came to check on me.
As a result of the epidural, my contractions did space themselves out a bit, so later in the evening, I was given Pitocin to try to get things moving. Our nurses encouraged us to rest while we could, so we watched a bit of tv and tried to nap. Around 10pm, it was go time. I giggle thinking back to that moment: Lauren had to wake Jody up, who is an incredibly deep sleeper, and it took him a moment to understand why – ha!
This is the BEST part of the whole story… the part where we meet our baby. After three hours of pushing, nervous chatter between each contraction, and taking bets on if our baby’s birthday would be June 17 or June 18, the energy in the room started to shift. Going from just me, Jody, Lauren, and our nurse, Brittany, a team of other nurses started to file in. The lights in the room dimmed. Our delivery playlist sang in the background and there was a quiet hurry among the nursing staff. Jody moved to hold my hand as I thought “I’m about to meet my son”. We didn’t know the gender, but in the days leading up to the birth, I had grown more and more convinced we were having a boy. The cheering grew louder and then I hear our baby’s fierce cry. I looked to Jody, who looked to Lauren as if to ensure he saw it right.
“It’s a girl.”
I was so surprised that I looked to Lauren just to make sure he was right. I couldn’t believe it and we both burst into tears as our little, full of hair, daughter was laid on my chest. It was such a surreal experience. Those tiny kicks I had felt for months was from this little human, who apparently, was our daughter. It was like meeting a stranger who I had known my whole life. I looked to Jody and we couldn’t stop smiling and staring. She was ours. Our daughter, Emerson Elisa Cox, was finally here.