On Tuesday night, April 9th, Clark and I walked a half mile to dinner in Cleveland Park and then home again to Woodley Park. I knew something felt different, lower, heavier, in my belly. Clark and I talked about what our baby would be like, and did a mental run-through of labor, laughing about how we felt ready and just wanted her to come! When we got home, we watched an old episode of “Arrested Development”, and I went to bed around 10:30 pm. At 10:45 I woke up, and my water had just broken. At first it was just a little water – and I thought maybe it was pee – but then it gushed a bit more, and I knew it was not. The water was nice and clear.
Contractions began immediately. I had been feeling contractions over several hours on a couple of occasions over the previous 10 days or so. Those were the contractions that would make my belly hard, but nothing that really grabbed me forcefully. These new contractions were more intense, lower down, and more in my back/butt than before. From the get-go, they were coming 4 or so minutes apart (i.e. 4 minutes from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next). We let our birth team (doula + midwives) know my water had broken and that contractions had begun.
Our doula Nicole happened to have another birth in progress, so she connected us with her partner Alexa, who we spoke to on the phone. Not a problem…we flowed with it. Nicole, Alexa, and Laura (the mid-wife on duty, who we love) said the contractions may just be ramping up initially, but they would probably ease back, and then we would settle in to labor. All recommended trying to sleep through the night.
We were hanging out in bed. I was lying on my side and Clark was alternately lying next to me dozing off and then waking up and bashfully applying pressure on the muscles on either side of my spine. Mostly he was saying, “You’re doing great, babe,” and then dozing off. After an hour or so, the contractions were still coming 4 minutes apart.
Clark called Alexa and Laura back and said we’d kept up the 4-minute pace for an hour, that 5-1-1 had been the rule of thumb and we were safely inside of that, and shouldn’t (a) the doula come, or (b) we head to the hospital. Clark was very calm and to-the-point on the facts. Both Alexa and Laura spoke to me as well. I gave them the same update. They said I sounded pretty good, and that meant I probably had a long way still to go. It was now about midnight. Alexa told Clark that I sounded like I was in the 1 to 2 centimeters-dilated territory.
Clark and I tried some different positions to get comfortable. The contractions were increasing in frequency and intensity, and averaged about 3 minutes per contraction over the next hour. It became harder to speak during the contractions. I wasn’t losing modesty because I had none to begin with! I had been naked from the jump, so there was no stripping away of clothes.
At 1 o’clock, Clark called Alexa back and said that the intensity had increased and that he wanted her to come to our place (which would take an hour from Baltimore). She agreed, but cautioned him to caution me that we may still have a long way to go. At 1:30 or so, there was a good bit of blood and mucus that came out. Contractions were 2.5 minutes a part. I began to feel the baby trying to push her way out and/or to feel myself the urge to push. Clark recommended squatting and holding on to the bed during contractions, which did feel better. Clark called Laura back and said maybe we should come in before Alexa arrived. Laura recommended waiting till Alexa arrived so she could perform a vaginal exam.
Alexa arrived at 2:15 AM or so. Clark was just wearing his board shorts, and I was squatting naked by the bed. Nice to meet you, indeed! She did a vaginal exam, and said, “we should go the hospital now.” I was already 10 centimeters dilated, and our girl was +2 in station, or thereabouts. Alexa was very candid about how this surprised her, and this made Taylor and I feel like we weren’t crazy after all. Alexa texted Laura and told her the situation. Alexa told me to stop pushing and just breathe through the contractions. She sat in the back of the car with me in case the baby came on the car ride! Clark drove us carefully/cheerfully to the hospital. Clark and I felt vindicated that we had made more progress than Alexa and Laura thought. We knew it! I enjoyed the feeling of wind in my hair with the windows down, and just tried to breathe that in…it seemed fitting that we were rushing down Rock Creek Parkway, as I’d gone on a ton of walks with Pepper when she was in my belly down this very stretch of road. It brought me peace then, why not now?
We got to GW hospital at 2:45 or 3 o’clock. They wheeled me in a wheelchair up to my room. Laura arrived a few minutes after us. I got up on all fours on the bed, and then squatted back when contractions came. I beared down and pushed. I tried to use empowering words to motivate myself that I used when I was an athlete. I also talked to our baby, trying to connect with her and let her (and my body) know that I was ready. When Alexa or Laura would say, “blow the pain away,” I would! It took a little less than an hour of pushing (which went by fast). The babe came out at 3:46 AM. The midwife, doula and nurses were really helpful and wonderful. Clark got to catch our baby! He passed her to me. It was so surreal to have him hand me the baby. For a moment, I couldn’t believe it was our Pepper! She belted out a cry! Amazing. What an adventure. We let the cord pulse for 3-4 minutes, and Clark cut it. She was free in in our arms!
My advice to any woman is: You know more than you realize from all these weeks with your baby, and feeling out what it means to become a mom – inevitably, you will once you get started! So, just stay positive. Stay flexible. Trust your body. Trust the baby.
Taylor & Clark & Pepper