We had already gone in for that first exciting ultrasound and everything was measuring perfectly, but a few weeks passed, and one random morning I went to the bathroom and I was spotting. A lot. My heart sank. This isn’t normal, I thought, am I losing the baby?
I called the doctor to see if I could come in, they scheduled an ultrasound for later that day.
It was foggy out, but Porter wanted to go outside. She blew bubbles and I sat on the step, completely distracted. How are we going to explain this to her? I kept thinking. Please, baby, please be okay. I was so sad that even though I wasn’t crying, my eyes were physically heavy.
The day dragged by and then the time finally came. We left Porter with my parents and drove a long and quiet hour to the doctor. We waited in the waiting room. And waited. And waited. We finally got called back, and while the tech was putting the gel on my belly, I don’t remember if I was breathing quickly or not at all. She touched the wand to my skin and almost immediately said, “There’s my heartbeat, Mama!” It was loud and strong and I have never cried from relief like that in my life.
Our baby was okay! But that fear of losing her continued past the first trimester. And the second. I couldn’t shake the fear that something would be wrong when she was born, that she might not be okay, that we could lose her like I thought we had before. I tried so hard not to think those thoughts, but I did, and they numbed me every time.
I was able to have Porter naturally. Admittedly, partly to prove to myself that I could. Since I did it for my first, I wanted to do it for my second, but this time it was honestly more out of fear. What if I didn’t and something happened? I would always wonder if I could’ve done something differently, so I wanted to try everything I could to get her here as healthy as possible. In a way, it felt like the first act of selfless love I could give to my daughter.
9 months passed; 37 weeks and 4 days to be exact; and at 7:00 PM on June 11th, my contractions started. False labor was common for me, but they were consistent this time. And after they were consistent, they started getting stronger. Around 9:00 PM, I told Kurt that we should go ahead and start packing our last-minute things just in case. I called my midwife around 10:00 and she said whenever I felt like they were real (since they were already consistent) to come on in. We called my parents and they came to stay with Porter that night, we carried our bags to the car, and we started driving to the hospital around 11:00, putting us there right around midnight. Closing my eyes and breathing through each one, I had contractions the whole way there.
We went to triage for them to monitor the contractions and check for dilation; they were coming every 5 minutes and I was dilated to a 2. Kurt and I walked the halls for about an hour and they checked me again, dilated to a 3. It was real labor, but it was the beginning, and it was slow. They gave us the choice of heading home to labor there until I was more progressed or to stay in triage, but since we live an hour from the hospital and I knew it was real labor, we opted to stay. We walked and walked and walked the halls. We tried to rest but didn’t. The contractions kept coming. They were bearable, but they were real. An hour later they came back in to check, and I had progressed to a 4. “We’re going to admit you! This is real labor.. But it’s the very beginning. You may be here for a while.”
So we happily gathered our things and followed them to our room, it was 7:00 AM. Kurt grabbed our bags from the car, they hooked up to my first IV dose of penicillin (for being group B strep positive), and I hopped into a warm bath.
12 hours of bearable labor. I thought, I can do this. I can do this.
The bath water felt so good during my contractions. We were both nodding off between them.
“Do you remember why I told you I want to do this naturally?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I need you to remind me when this gets hard, why I’m doing it. If there comes a point where I don’t think I can do it, remind me of my reason why. Can you do that for me?”
“Of course I can! You can do this, Ginny.”
The bath was good. Too good. My contractions slowed and I fell asleep when I got into my bed. Over the course of the next hour, I only woke up 2 times with contractions and fell right back asleep after each one. I woke up to the nurses coming in; the one I had was leaving her shift and a new one was starting hers.
My contractions were still coming, but they were far apart, not very painful, and when they checked, I was still only 4 cm dilated. The doctor told us that some labor stops for days at a time, even at 4 cm dilated, and that if things stopped completely, we may have to go home. So I started bouncing on my ball and we walked what felt like miles around that circle hallway, I can still hear the shuffle of my slippers on that cold, white tile floor.
Around 9:00 AM, they finally picked back up. Stronger, much stronger, and closer together. They were hurting. With each one, I swayed back and forth while Kurt applied counter pressure on my lower back with a tennis ball. And with each one, he reminded me that, that contraction was almost over; I’m not sure which one helped more.
At 12:00 PM, I was checked and only at a 5. 17 hours into labor and only halfway there, but the pain wasn’t unbearable yet, so I still kept telling myself I could do it. The doctor said that I was progressing very slowly, and respecting my birth plan, wanted to give me a few more hours to see if I’d progress more quickly. She asked me if I would be comfortable with pitocin or having my water broken if they came back in two hours and I wasn’t progressed farther than a 6. I told her I wasn’t comfortable with pitocin, but that since water breaking was natural, I would be okay with that.
She left and I walked harder. Bounced more. I knew that after my water broke, it would triple in intensity, so I did everything I could to progress quickly and naturally. They hooked me up to monitor my contractions, and goodness they were strong, but they were still 5 minutes apart. Two hours of strong labor passed and they came back in to check me.
Please be more than a 6, please be more than a 6.
“We’re only at a 6, Ginny. Are you comfortable with me breaking your water?”
“Yes, I am.” I said out loud, but my first thought was:
My water broke at 8 cm with Porter, and that’s when labor began to feel nearly impossible, so I knew what was coming.. and only at a 6.
So at 4:00 PM, the doctor broke my water.
It was immediate. They were faster. They were so. much. more. painful. I was switching positions, I was starting to sweat, I was trying to breathe through each one, but my breathing was turning more into loud moans. Kurt was talking me through each one, telling me how great I was doing. At the end of each one, I focused on the 2 minute break, and at the beginning of each one, I focused on the next break that would follow it.
They went on that way for two hours. My God they hurt. The nurse returned to check me. Surely it’s almost time to push after two hours of contractions THAT strong.
21 hours into labor.
“You’re at a 7.”
“That’s it? Are you serious?”
“You’re doing great, Ginny!”
When I heard the door close, I looked up at Kurt. My hair was wet from the sweat, tears welled up in my eyes, and I had a lump in my throat.
I finally admitted out loud what I’d been feeling for the last 2 hours, feeling completely defeated.
“I don’t think I can do this.” I felt tears roll down my cheeks. That wasn’t even true; I knew I couldn’t.
“Yes you can, Ginny!”
“Kurt, I really don’t think I can handle this for much longer. I’m only at a 7.”
And then he did exactly what I asked him to do.
“Ginny, remember why you’re doing this. You’re not doing this for you. You’re doing this for Blakely. SHE is the one who reaps the reward.”
And I was right, that was all I needed to hear.
I swallowed over the lump, he wiped away my tears, and I looked at him and slowly nodded my head. I didn’t feel like I could do it, but I was going to anyway. I closed my eyes and repeated the end of that sentence to myself through every single contraction that came: SHE is the one who reaps the reward.
Our second nurse left her shift and our third came on.
The contractions came faster. And harder. Each time I thought there was no way they could hurt worse, and each time I was wrong. I felt them over my entire body. No bath or position change or breathing techniques helped. Eventually as they came, I could feel her head pressing down. I rolled around and at the height of each contraction, I was screaming. It felt completely involuntary, almost like my body was holding in so much pain that it had to come out some other way.
The pain was blinding. It felt like torture.
8:00 PM. 25 hours into labor.
“You’re at a 9. It could be minutes or it could be another hour.”
“AN HOUR?! I cannot do this for another hour.”
“Hang in there, Ginny. I think it’ll be sooner rather than later with how intense these contractions are. You’re doing great.”
They were coming and lasting longer than the breaks between them. I looked over at Kurt at one point; I don’t even know how long my eyes had been closed focusing; and he was crying, hard. He looked scared.
“I’m okay,” I reassured him, but I was scared, too.
SHE is the one who reaps the reward. I repeated it over. and over. and over.
The nurses were touching my legs to let me know that they were there. My eyes were closed, but I could feel their reassurance.
About 4 impossible contractions later, I felt my body bear down. My eyes opened wide, “I have to push. I feel like I have to push.”
They checked and it was time. They sped to get everything prepped. I felt a contraction coming on.
“Can I push?”
“Let it build to the height of the contraction, and then push!”
My body started pushing by itself, so I went with it. I closed my eyes, curled my head up, pulled my legs back, and pushed with everything in me, and it felt…
Good, almost. Like I finally had a place to put the pain.
The contractions had been so bad that pushing my baby out felt… good.
Every time, I could feel exactly where she was. Her head, her neck, her shoulders.
“One more push! She’s almost out!”
I pushed for 5 minutes total, and then suddenly the pain was gone.
I opened my eyes and before she started crying, before I even had time to worry about her being okay, I saw her.
The doctor was holding her up and her eyes were wide open, she was staring right at me.
25.5 hours of labor, 4 rounds of penicillin, 3 nurse’s shifts, 2 different days, 9 months of worry, and the most impossible thing I’d ever done, that I didn’t think I could do at all… they were all finally over. And they were all worth it.
I felt so relieved, physically and emotionally. Freaking empowered. In love with my second little girl, my last baby. In love with my husband who was crying his eyes out looking at our baby; in love with him for how he empowered me and always does. Thankful for every person in that room and every one whose shift had ended, who helped get our baby here healthy. Hungry, very hungry. Ready to kiss her tiny, sweet little face. Ready to nurse her and fill her little belly. Ready to take her home to meet my other beautiful, healthy girl. I cried happy tears and I thanked God.
Our daughter was outside of me for the very first time, laying on my chest.
My Blakely Ames.
June 12th. 8:23 PM. 7 lbs 3 oz. 20 inches long.
She was here. She was healthy.
And she may have reapt the reward for those 25.5 hours.. But at the end of it, I got her. And now I get to reap the reward for the rest of my life.