[*Zak here. Bek asked me to read over her post before publishing. I couldn’t help but add my own memories to this story. In order to keep the integrity of Bek’s original post, I have marked my additions in a similar format as this note.]
41 weeks 2 days. We thought that he would have been here by now [*I did, at least – Bek continually tapered my expectations by telling me she would be late], but on par for the year 2020, nothing was going as planned. We went to our midwife for a routine stress test and ultrasound in the morning, just to make sure everyone was still healthy. I was feeling pretty miserable, but hesitant to try any self induction methods. My midwife recommended a recipe for “caster eggs. I was very skeptical, but picked up the castor oil on our way home.
Around 11:30am, I was choking down two scrambled eggs and a piece of toast – all smothered in castor oil. Imagine a delicious brunch meal, but covered in a thick, tasteless oil – a similar consistency to motor oil (insert gagging noises). It was a warm, sunny day, so the boys and I went outside and to lounge in the hammock. Almost immediately, I started noticing cramping in my low abdomen. No contractions at this point, but I became increasingly uncomfortable. Being exhausted from not sleeping the night before, I migrated back inside to lie in bed. Collin joined me and we both fell asleep.
Around noon, I started feeling more regular contractions. By 1:00pm, contractions were strong and regular enough that I started tracking them on an app. At first, I was able to fall back asleep between contractions, but things progressed to the point where I was unable to sleep. I remember feeling confused – perhaps it was just bad stomach cramps in reaction to the oil and they’ll go away. Meanwhile, Zak was in the next room over on a video call for work, completely ignorant to how quickly things were unfolding. [*completely accurate – I had no clue what was happening]
Once the app started alerting me that it was time to go to the hospital, I text Zak. [*Counter to what one would expect to receive from a laboring wife, this text had zero sense of urgency. I believe it was something along the lines of ‘Can you come here when you have a moment?’] At this point, I was in tears from the intensity of the contractions. I called my midwife and received the go-ahead to transition to the birthing center. Zak quickly gathered our things and I made arrangements for the older boys, as they would not be allowed to be at the birth due to COVID-19 safety precautions. The ride to the birth center was miserable, as I continued with near back-to-back contractions.
We arrived at the birth center around 2pm, at which point the midwife checked me around 4 cm dilated. The midwife ran a bath and, at our request, left the room to allow Zak and I to labor on our own. [*With a London Grammar station playing softly in the background,] I made home in the tub to continue laboring. Contractions were INTENSE from the beginning and never stopped. The tub helped, but I struggled to get comfortable. At one point, I got out of the tub to lay in bed while Zak gave counter pressure on my back. Still not comfortable, I made my way back to the tub. [*Repeat this cycle 4-5 more times, but who’s counting?] About every half hour or so, the midwife would come in the test vitals and make sure we were doing okay. [*Our midwives were amazing! Being my first birth experience, I loved the balance of privacy and coaching they provided. It was a very special and safe experience being able to labor on our own, but always know the midwife was on the other side of the door should we need any assistance. Thank you, TOL!]
Hours later, I was feeling extremely fatigued. I moved to the bed once again, what would end up being the last time. I remember wanting so badly to just lie down and sleep. Luckily, transition finally came and the contractions spaced out to where I was able to have brief moments of rest. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I would lift myself off the bed during contractions, letting my legs and torso dangle, then collapse back onto the bed and fall asleep until the next one came. [*This was the most intense part of labor to witness. Up until this point, we could hold intermittent conversation and my honest (though often poorly executed) efforts to help were kindly received. But once Bek hit this stage, she flew solo. The midwives and I were simply an audience at this point, captivated by the beautiful miracle unfolding before us.] During this time, I was quiet until I got the urge to push, at which time I would vocalize my pain. After several cycles of this, my midwife encouraged me to lie down to create room for baby to come. I pushed for just under an hour – the most intense hour of my life, I might add. [*Never have I felt so scared, yet so powerless. I think I may have (re)found God in this exact moment.] I had hoped that with each of my births, labor would become progressively easier – but my body had a different plan. I can honestly say this was the hardest and most intense birth experience I have experienced. [*Before getting pregnant, Bek would tell me how much she loved pregnancy and everything it encompassed. I remember thinking, almost daily, ‘WHY!? You seem miserable!’ It is helpful to put this birth in perspective with her prior births, to know that Bek isn’t (too) crazy, and that it was just a very difficult birth. But even more, being on the other side, I now understand how one’s mind so easily overlooks the hardships of the process and focuses solely on the overwhelming joy and beauty of the outcome.]
Our perfect little bear was born at 8:41pm. I pulled him straight to my chest and we cried our happy tears. [*I am an intensely emotional person, yet often struggle to find comfort in the expression of said emotions. I was highly curious as to how I would respond to the birth of my first child. That night, I learned that my default emotional response to extreme joy is uncontrollable sobbing. Lovely.] He nursed and Zak cut his cord. All vitals were great. Weighing in at 11lbs 10oz [*we had to weigh him twice because the midwives didn’t believe the first reading], we welcomed our big boy Zion Woolery Appel, named in honor of Zak’s late grandfather, Woolery Haynes. Less than 12 hours after arriving at the birth center, once we all had adequate food and rest, we packed up and headed home – the beginning of a beautiful new chapter in our life.