When I finally went into labor I didn’t actually believe I was in labor. Until the moment the midwife said “5 cm” I was expecting them to say “false labor” and send me home.
It started on thursday May 1st. I had cramping the days before and was showing some early signs that my body was getting things ready, when the midwife told me I was 1 cm dilated. Doesn’t sound like much, but to a woman who never has ANY signs of labor before the big event it meant something. The next day we did a giant house cleaning and I packed the kids bags and started getting things ready for the baby. Over the weekend the contractions and other signs continued, but didn’t intensify until 3am Monday morning. I woke up having strong and painful contractions. I tried to keep sleeping but each contraction would wake me up again, so I finally went downstairs to watch tv and sit on the exercise ball. I was contracting every 10 minutes and had other significant signs of labor (don’t want to get too graphic, lol). And then suddenly around 8:30am the contractions just stopped. For the rest of the day my contractions were only about 1-2 per hour.
Tuesday morning around 3am once again I woke up to intense contractions. They were every 5 minutes apart and very painful. I stayed in bed as long as I could and then decided to take a bath. I had been told that often a bath could stop or slow false labor, and I really wanted to find out sooner than later if this was another false alarm. Instead of slowing, the contractions got even more regular and intense. I got out and started quietly packing my hospital bag so that everything would be ready when the kids woke up and we could head in to the hospital. As the family started getting up around 7am my contractions suddenly became irregular. First closer together and shorter, then a bit farther apart but longer (2-2 1/2 minutes long each).
We stood around trying to decide what to do. It seemed like it was a repeat of the morning before, except the contractions were so painful and long and we worried that if Jon went in to work I would actually go into labor and it would take too long for him to drive home to get us and get back to London to the hospital in time. So we decided I would go in and stay at my parents house for the day. On the way to London the contractions slowed right down and from that time they continued throughout the day at about 1 every half hour.
At mom’s I had a nap, went for a walk with the kids, we met Jon for the Pizza Hut lunch buffet (a final craving I had been dying for). By 5pm I was still only having 1 contraction a half hour. They were strong and painful, but didn’t seem to be going anywhere. My friend Lisa told me she didn’t think I should leave London, that when labor hit it could be fast and strong, but by that point I felt like it was never going to happen. It’s amazing how when you are actually the closest, emotionally it feels like the farthest and like labor will never ever happen. So we went home.
At 6:30pm I was on Facebook reassuring friends I wasn’t in labor (I had missed Bible study that morning, and being so close to my due date that makes everyone suspicious). At about 6:40 I had a strong contraction. Then at 6:45 I had another. At 6:50 another. They just kept coming and coming, every 5 minutes, lasting between 1-2 minutes in length and taking my breath away each time. I tried to get the kids some dinner, put some laundry in and then we got the kids in bed. At 8:30 I finally admitted it might be time to call the midwife and she suggested we leave immediately for the hospital and she would meet us there. We had to drop the kids off at my parents, so we didn’t arrive at the hospital until 9:30pm. I was in agony, but still couldn’t allow myself to believe that this was really it and my contractions weren’t just going to stop again like they had twice before.
Jon took great joy taking pictures of me trying to get my bag out of the trunk to head into the hospital. When I was moving the contractions came faster and harder.
(trying hard to smile, but OUCH!!!)
We made it upstairs and headed into a room where I heard those words “5 cm”. WHAT?! I couldn’t believe I was so far already. With both the other kids I could never make it past 3 cm without an epidural. I seem to fight progress in my attempts to manage the pain, so until I relax with the epidural I get stuck.
The midwife didn’t say much and just sent us out to walk the halls and climb stairs. I was still afraid things were going to stall, so even though I hated moving and climbing I felt like I had to or they might send me home.
I think we were gone about an hour, and by the time we came back to the room I felt like I was at my max of what I could handle pain-wise. I wanted to get an epidural and curl up in bed. Once back in the room the midwife and her student just kind of looked at me. I wasn’t sure what they wanted me to do, and they seemed to be waiting on me like I was in charge. That’s like the worst thing in the world to me, I hate to be stared at and was feeling confused and vulnerable. By this point with both the others I was hooked up to pain meds and stuck in bed. I had expected this birth to be the same, so I had no plan for what was happening. I couldn’t take the staring, so we went back out to climb the stairs again. We made it to the stairwell, but I just sat on the bottom step. I didn’t want to climb anymore stairs. Everything hurt so much. I just wanted relief. So we made our way back to the room. Jon was ready to help me ask for an epidural, but I felt like the midwife would be disappointed, like I still had things I needed to try before I “gave up”.
So into the tub I went. I asked them if I could be alone so they wouldn’t keep looking at me. I turned off the bathroom light and quietly sat in that tub and just shook from the pain. I think I stayed in the tub for another hour… and my teeth chattered uncontrollably the whole time from the tension and pain. The midwife’s student kept poking her head in; encouraging me to relax, trying to be helpful by reassuring me the pain was good, that it was my body doing what it should. All I can say is, PUNCH! But seriously, darling single girl in your early twenties… don’t patronize a woman in the throes of labor agony!
After about an hour the midwife came in to check my progress, was somewhere around 5-6 cm. In tears I told her I was done. Please call the anesthesiologist while I get out of the tub. I don’t know what it is about medical personnel, but I am at my most vulnerable with them. I felt waves of perceived disappointment wash over me. I love my midwife and she never said one unsupportive thing, so it’s quite possible I simply assume those feelings regardless of their truth. Maybe it’s my inner voice pretending to be her. Either way, in those moments I was absolutely terrified of the pain I was feeling, and ashamed of feeling terrified all at once.
As soon as I stood to move out of the tub the contractions came non-stop. I was shaking and chattering and feeling so out of control it really was frightening me. My midwife suggested that I would probably deliver shortly, and I did believe her. She told me I was coping so well, and I didn’t believe her. The fear was new and overwhelming and I decided to get the epidural anyway. It was at least a devil I knew.
A resident came in to give me the epidural. Alarm bells sort of went off in my head when she said “resident”. But instead of asking for the full blown anesthesiologist I just assumed the position and braced against the contractions. The freezing went fine, and then the trouble started. I was feeling shocks in my nerves down one leg. “But that’s not possible” I was told. If anything it should have been the other leg. She moved it around a lot and mumbled. Time ticked on and I grew more and more uneasy. She pulled it out and decided to try again. I wanted to yell at her to stop, that I changed my mind. Those side effect waivers you sign so thoughtlessly flashed through my mind… My midwife sat in front of me and took my hands. Even though the contractions were at their most intense yet, my entire body finally stilled and even my chattering teeth stopped. I sat for what felt like a very very long time perfectly still. I finally felt them taping the tubing on my back. I could feel one side going numb while the other felt relatively normal. I rolled to that side to help it flow that way, and then we upped the meds a number of times to try and get it even.
The extra nurses cleared the room and I was able to sit up again and suddenly I felt like myself. The wild, terrifying pain was over and I could think and smile and talk. I was myself again. Apparently being out of control is not my style.
And then, probably only a half hour later I began throwing up. I think I moved quickly (within minutes!) through transition and when they checked I had dilated to 10. I didn’t feel the slightest urge to push and the baby seemed happy, so my midwife told me to relax and we could wait awhile. I’m not actually sure how long we waited, maybe another half hour or even an hour? My second midwife arrived (who had also been the second at Juno’s birth! I quite liked that connection.), and everyone just kind of hung around chatting while we waited. Eventually I asked if I should start pushing? They very casually said I could if I wanted. We pulled my legs up and I began trying to push. In my other labors despite having epidurals I felt transition, pressure, and crowning. This time I could feel nothing, so I just tried my best to remember what muscles to contract from those births. It all felt so bizarrely casual that I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. They didn’t provide a ton of feedback, and there was no urgency to the pushing process. After only 2 or 3 pushes they said my waters were bulging (I had wanted to wait and see how close to birth they would stay intact before breaking on their own), and then with an audible pop they went and the next push (3:18am, May 7) my baby slid out. I say slid out because that’s exactly how it felt (or didn’t feel!). With my first 2 I got a little panicky at crowning and had to be sternly told to push the baby out. This time I felt only a slight release of pressure and everyone was so calm and casual that I was startled when they told me to reach down and pull my baby up!
And so I did! I reached down and grasped that slippery little lady and brought her up to my chest. What a surreal moment!
And then… well she seemed very purple to me. My second midwife helped me rub her skin to encourage her to cry and pink up, but she stayed quiet and purple. Almost right away I began wishing they would take her and get her warmed. Everything was wet and slippery and a little awkward, so I felt like I couldn’t quite give her the rubdown she needed. Time slows in moments like that, so it felt like forever of watching the midwife’s face for concern then watching my baby lay still and purple on my chest. Jon was recording all this and you can see my face change and the worry build. I haven’t been able to watch the whole recording because the anxiety comes rushing back so intensely.
Finally (after a very short time in reality), they took her to their station by the bed to give her a touch of oxygen. They just passed the mask back and forth over her face (never held it to her face) and very quickly she began to cry and turn pink. Oh the relief I felt. There really are no words for those moments when your worst fears thunder through you and then are just as quickly abolished.
She was brought back to me and immediately latched for a very long first nursing session. That’s when I finally got to stare at this creature that had been growing inside me.
We announced her name: Adelaide Roslyn Charis Sodeman.
I thought it was Adelaide for the city Jon is from in Australia, but then I heard him tell someone it was Adelaide for the city where we met. And then I fell just a little more in love with him and decided that was a much better way to describe our name choice. Roslyn is for Jon’s mom, just like Juno has Cynthia as a middle name for my mom. And Charis means grace in Greek. I know it’s a mouthful, but Juno got the same treatment. She is Juno Cynthia Eden Sodeman. They each got a first name we loved, a middle name for our moms, and a special third name for the significant spiritual meaning. Everyone was waiting for a third J name, like it was a rule that the next name had to “go” with the previous 2. But we decided that using a name we loved trumped having 3 that went together. However, I did like that Adelaide shares the same naming pattern we used for Juno.
When I decided to take a break from nursing, they weighed and measured Adelaide. 7 pounds, 12 ounces, 20.5 inches long. She was bigger than she looked, but smaller than I had expected her to be before birth. And she was so darling. She looked so so so much like Justus did at birth, other than her dark hair (he was born with a tiny amount of white blond hair).
For some reason I had sort of expected a girl version of Justus, so her looks felt right to me. Though I have to say, Adelaide seemed more a stranger to me in those moments than the other 2 had. When Justus was born he stopped crying and turned to look for me immediately upon hearing my voice, and in that instant he felt like mine. With Juno I felt like even though I was just seeing her for the first time, she belonged to me. Holding Adelaide in those first moments, even with the strong resemblance to Justus, just felt so incredibly other worldly. Even her name felt awkward in my mouth when I tried to say it. I think Jon felt it too. We just stared down at this little girl and it was kind of like, “what the heck? is this even real?” Maybe we were just in shock that all our ideas and dreams was now a living-breathing-flesh and blood-in our hands-being.
I think I’ve used the word surreal far too many times to be able to even imagine this narrative has any literary good-ness, but I really couldn’t say it enough to truly convey just how surreal the whole birth was for me. I experienced massive levels of fear and uncertainty through my labor, and then the birth itself was on the very opposite end of the spectrum- so calm and casual that it didn’t seem possible that it was actually BIRTH. All in all it was nothing like what I had expected, but exactly as it was ordained to be.
Welcome to the world, my darling!