After sharing all the ins + outs, tips + tricks of my pregnancy in this post, this post, and this post, I figured it was only appropriate to introduce you to our sweet little miss and also to share my birth story as well. Lovely internet family, meet our sweet baby girl, Sloane Lennon...
Sloane made her grand entrance into the world on December 3, 2017 at 4:04pm. Yes, that's 12-3 at 4:04pm. Just before the sun set and the supermoon rose into the evening sky.
Even before I got pregnant, I felt a strong spiritual connection to this little one. What I'm about to say will likely sound a bit woo woo and crazy, but bear with me. Six months before I got pregnant, I had a vision about her in a meditation and then one week before finding out I was pregnant, I had a lucid dream where I briefly felt another soul enter my body and heard a voice say aloud, "this is your baby". All this to say that I couldn't help but think that the numbers of Sloane's birth date and time along with the coinciding supermoon were more than mere happenstance. Sweet signs from the universe, indeed.
In the days and weeks leading up to Sloane's birth, I found myself somewhat enamored, infatuated even, with other women's birth stories. I read them. I listened to podcasts. I watched Youtube vlogs. One of the things I found so fascinating was just how varied and unique each and every birth story was—like snowflakes, each story was entirely sacred, special, and different.
One of the things I found most helpful was hearing what the days and moments leading up to the big event were like. Almost every woman had signs that, in retrospect, suggested that birth was impending, even if they didn't understand or acknowledge them until hindsight was on their side.
Let’s start with November 30. Looking back, I’m certain this was when the very early signs of labor began. All day, I’d been feeling significantly more pelvic pressure than I had been just the day before. My pelvis felt heavy, and I was hoping that meant the baby had officially dropped. I was also having some crampy lower back pains throughout the day. Although I’d felt these pains on and off throughout the second half of the third trimester, these were more consistent.
Beyond the physical symptoms, one of the biggest indicators that labor was drawing nearer was my overall sense of restlessness that evening. Throughout pregnancy, I’d been much calmer and more even keel than I’d expected given both stereotypes and stories I’d heard from friends and family. Sure, I had my emotional ups and downs and was extra sappy and even a bit weepy at times, but for the most part, I was my usual self.
But not that night.
After finishing up work for the day, I attempted to ease into my usual evening routine—listen to my Hypnobabies audio track in preparation for birth, squeeze in a 20-minute prenatal workout, make dinner, etc. Well, I only made it through the Hypnobabies track and part of my workout before an intense restlessness took hold. It was around 6:30pm by that point. Dan was still chipping away at work, and I burst into the office and declared, “I need to get out of here. I can’t stand being in this place one more second. Let’s go to dinner.”
Completely caught off guard by my emotional change of tune, Dan asked if everything was alright. “I don’t know! I don’t know if this is an early sign of labor but I just can’t sit still, and I need to get out of this house with you right now.” With a confused and worried look on his face, Dan said, “Alright, let’s go out to dinner then. Let me just wrap up these contract edits, and then we’ll head out.”
I left the office and paced around our condo for several minutes before bursting into tears and plopping myself on the couch. Jack, our sweet orange tabby, immediately hopped up next to me and extended a paw outward as if to say, “It'll be okay.” Dan must have heard me weeping because he came into the room and consoled me too. “Come on sweetie. Let’s get your coat on and get out of here for a bit.”
We headed out to dinner, and I felt so much better out of the house. Whether it was the fresh air or the reassuring conversation with Dan, something about getting out of our usual habitat soothed me. I joked to Dan at dinner that my restlessness was either due to the impending supermoon or the arrival of our little one. With hindsight on my side, I’m thinking it was probably a little bit of both.
Friday, December 1. Since December 1st was my estimated due date (EDD), I filled the day with lots of self-care and “me” time. I had a hunch I’d go past my EDD and figured it would be best to keep myself busy with fun things so that I didn’t have much time to sit around wondering when I’d go into labor.
I had a midwife appointment at 11:30am that morning. During the appointment, my midwife offered to check me (they don’t offer cervical checks until that point). I went back and forth on it but ultimately ended up declining the check. I knew that knowing whether or not I was dilated would have no effect on when I would go into labor. I also worried that it would mess with my head if I got checked and wasn’t dilated at all. My midwife was completely in support of the decision and we agreed that if I was still pregnant come Monday, I’d need to come in for a Non Stress Test (NST) and that I could always get checked then should I change my mind. She also said that the baby’s head was very low in my pelvis, much lower than it had been the previous week. I took that as enough of a sign that labor was on its way.
As I drove home from the midwife appointment, I started having intense Braxton Hicks contractions that were spaced exactly 10 minutes apart. This lasted for a little over an hour and then they faded away. I got a manicure and pedicure that afternoon (my first in nearly two years). Then, I went home and chipped away at an online course to earn continuing education credit hours for my psychology licensure.
Later that night, I had an intense urge to bake chocolate chip cookies. I’d been wanting to bake a few batches to freeze so that we could bring a couple dozen into the hospital with us to offer to the nurses on call. I made a double batch of these chocolate chip cookies and reserved a hunk of the dough for on-demand snacking that evening.
Saturday, December 2. Dan and I slept in until nearly 10am. Looking back, I think this was another sign that labor was nearing because it ended up being our last night of uninterrupted sleep before her arrival. Correction: Our last night of uninterrupted sleep. Period.
We had tickets to see the Disaster Artist at noon, so we each took a quick shower and scurried out the door to make it to the theater on time. During the movie, I was having mild to moderate lower back cramps. They felt like period cramps but a bit more persistent and irritating. After the movie, we walked around one of our favorite neighborhoods in Chicago (Southport Corridor) and stopped for a light bite to eat. We arrived home around 4pm and both felt an intense nesting urge, so we tidied up and took care of a few last-minute to-do’s that had been lingering on our list.
At 6:03pm, I started having what I initially assumed were intense Braxton Hicks contractions. I had a few and timed them at anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes apart.
After a few hours of nesting, Dan, Jack, and I plopped on our bed and snapped this family photo:
Little did we know it’d be our last family photo before Sloane’s arrival.
As we were lying there, Dan said, “What can we do to get this labor started?” I reminded him that she’d arrive when she was ready but mentioned that massage has been known to give impending labor a nudge in the right direction. Dan massaged my back and offered plenty of smooches, too.
Not sure if it was mere coincidence or that massage really did get the oxytocin flowing, but around 7:30pm, things really started to pickup. I started having mildly painful contractions lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute, and they were coming 3 to 9 minutes apart (with most coming around every 4 minutes).
Around 9:30pm, I stopped timing the contractions because they seemed to be quieting down some, and I knew I should try to get some rest. Around this time, I went to the bathroom and noticed that I’d started to lose my mucous plug. I took that as a good sign but kept my excitement in check because some women can lose their plug days or even weeks before real labor begins.
Dan and I hopped in bed around 11pm and were on our phones until around midnight or so. I drifted off into a light sleep somewhere around 12:30am but was awoken around 1:30am by intensifying contractions.
I hopped out of bed, careful not to wake Dan (I wanted him to have his sleep if it was in fact the big day), and went to our living room. I started timing the contractions around 1:50am and they were anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes apart lasting about 45 seconds each. To work through the contractions, I sat on my knees on the floor and rested my forehead on the couch. At some point during the contractions, our sweet orange Tabby cat, Jack, hopped up and plopped himself down near my head and extended his paw outward toward me as if to show his support.
I texted our doula at 2:24am to let her know I’d been having mild contractions the night before, that I’d lost part of my plug, and that the contractions had become more consistent and frequent. She suggested I experiment to see if I could find a restful position to get myself back to sleep and to use a heating pack on my back (I’d been feeling the pain solely in my lower back and was worried about having back labor).
According to the contraction application I used, I rated the contraction pain as mild until 3:18am at which point I bumped it up to a Moderate pain level. Around the same time, the contractions began lengthening out to about one minute in duration and about 3 to 4 minutes apart.
By 3:50am, I was rating the contraction pain as Strong and the contractions were consistently lasting 1 minute or more in duration but had spaced out to about 8 minutes apart.
I texted our doula, Audrey, again at 4:26am to give her an update and said, “So they’re a little more spaced out now but much more intense and very difficult to talk through and longer. Very intense in my lower back.” She replied, “Okay, it sounds like things are progressing,” and then gave me a few spinning babies exercises to try to help shift the pain from my lower back. I let her know that I’d give the exercises a try and then also said, “I’m also very shaky all the sudden. Could just be nerves but I feel calm.” She said, “Shaking is normal, from the hormones,” and suggested I put a call in to my midwives to let them know what was going on.
I paged the midwives around 4:30am and received a call back at 4:45am. The midwife on call suggested I try a few different positions/exercises to get the baby to shift into a better position to alleviate the back pain I was feeling and to then call back once the contractions were a bit more intense. I did one of the exercises the midwife suggested (got on all fours and arched my back upward like a cat and held the position), and it immediately alleviated the back pain. From then on, the contractions started in my back but radiated around to the front in waves. This made the pain feel much more manageable.
Shortly after I spoke with the midwife, I woke Dan up to let him know that I was pretty sure it was the big day. He hopped in the shower, got dressed, and made some coffee. During this time (from about 5am to 6am), the contractions came anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes apart and lasted 1 minute in duration. I even had a few double-peak contractions, where I could tell that one contraction rolled immediately into the next without a break in between. Those were intense. Throughout that time, I rated the intensity as Strong. I had one contraction at 6am that I rated as Intense, although looking back, I wouldn’t officially know the definition of an “Intense” contraction until I was in Transition several hours later.
I texted our doula again at 6:38am and said, “Had about an hour of contractions consistently between 3–4 minutes apart and over a minute long, but last several have been 5–6 minutes apart and longer—about 90 seconds. I did some of the exercises and the pain is now moving from lower back to front consistently in a wave.” She suggested I stop timing for a bit and just focus on resting and coping with the discomfort and checked in on how I was feeling mentally. I replied, “Feel confident in between and staying calm during each contraction, although the intensity is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever felt. But just going inward and breathing through it and appreciating the rests in between.”
Side note: Contractions are a strange sort of discomfort because their intensity is followed by the most peaceful relief. Just when I thought I couldn’t handle another second of the discomfort, the intensity would let up and then ultimately make way for a feeling of complete and utter relief.
At that point, I stopped timing the contractions and curled up next to Dan on the bed. I drifted in and out of sleep until 8:00am at which point I texted our doula and said: “Took a little rest and was able to drift in and out of sleep in between waves (i.e., contractions). Now that I’m up and about again they’re feeling more intense. Haven’t been timing but they also seem to be getting closer together again. I’m not able to walk or talk through them.” At this point, I was having to brace myself on the bed, counter, or Dan whenever a contraction would set in. I was also dropping f-bombs here and there.
Dan, remembering a tip they’d given us during the hospital tour, suggested that I take a warm shower to help relieve some of the discomfort. I immediately obliged and was so glad I did. Something about the warm water running over my back lessened the intensity of the contractions. I had Dan start and stop the contraction timer while I was in the shower, and he was amazed at their consistency in both duration and spacing. He kept saying, "Exactly three minutes apart. The body is an amazing thing!"
After about thirty minutes, I hopped out of the shower to go to the bathroom and had a bit of bloody show. I quickly called our doula back (she’d called and talked to Dan while I was in the shower) to let her know and to see if we should go to the hospital. She said I sounded as if I could probably labor at home a bit longer but to give the midwife another call to see what she thought.
I paged the midwife on call. She quickly called back and said that I sounded “a little too calm” to be in active labor but because we had a 40-minute drive to the hospital and she was going in to make rounds anyway, she suggested we head in so that I could get checked.
Despite the midwife's uncertainty, something told me not to delay any longer, so we headed to the hospital at 10:40am. The midwife warned me that things could either slow down or pick up on the ride over. Although my contractions spaced back out to 8 minutes apart, they came on with much greater intensity. Every bump in the road made me wince.
We arrived at the hospital at 11:30am, and a nurse escorted us to Triage. I could tell the nurse was doubting I was really, truly in labor (you have to be 4 centimeters dilated before they’ll admit you), and for a second I wondered if I should let on to the intensity of my contractions a bit more openly.
I’m a very quiet coper and have a high pain tolerance, but even I was starting to doubt whether or not I was really in active labor based off everyone's reactions to me. So much so that I became fearful they were going to check me, I’d be 2 centimeters dilated (or not dilated at all), and they’d send me home. I told Dan that if that was the case, I would probably be rethinking my ability to make it through labor without pain medication or an epidural. The Triage nurse put the contraction and heart rate monitor on my belly and the machine immediately began registering contractions. The first one that occurred was a double-peak contraction, and it was intense.
We waited in Triage for 45 minutes before the midwife arrived. By that point, I’d convinced myself that I would be checked and then immediately be sent home due to not being dilated. However, when the midwife checked me she said, “You’re a six and 90% effaced. Let’s get you to a room!” I was thrilled. Knowing I was 6 centimeters dilated and in the peak of active labor was a huge confidence boost.
Around 12:30pm, we moved from Triage to an Alternative Birthing Center (ABC) room. The hospital we delivered at has two ABC rooms and there are certain requirements you have to meet in order to be admitted into one of these rooms versus the standard birthing rooms. As soon as we got to the room, Dan ran back out to the car to get our luggage. I was feeling antsy to change out of the hospital gown they gave me and into my “birthing outfit” (i.e., a black nursing bra and black athletic shorts). As the doula and I waited for Dan to return, a nurse came in to draw my blood and insert an IV picc line. I asked the midwife if it would be alright if I declined the picc line—I really didn’t want anything stuck in me while laboring. She said that was totally fine, so we declined it.
Shortly after the nurse left, Dan arrived with the suitcases. I quickly changed into my birthing outfit in between contractions.
Then, our doula placed a bean bag cushion (wrapped in a sheet) on the bed with a pillow on top of it so that I could lean over the pillow and sway my hips back and forth to alleviate the intensity of the contractions.
This felt wonderful… for all of about 10 minutes.
At some point while I was doing this, our doula asked if I’d like to get into the tub. I nodded frantically, and the nurse began to fill the tub with warm water. While they filled up the tub, Dan encouraged me to eat something. I wasn’t at all hungry but I managed to scarf down about half of a Clif Builder Bar and a few Clif Shot Bloks (these are great for labor, by the way). My mom also joined us in the room around this time.
Once the tub was full, I hopped in and immediately felt a sense of relief. Something about the buoyancy of my belly in the warm water relieved some of the pressure and intensity of the contractions.
My memory gets a bit hazy at this point and I’m almost certain that’s because this was when I started going through transition (dilating from 8 to 10 centimeters).
I have no idea how much time passed while I was in the tub. This was absolutely the most intense part of the labor. As I worked through the contractions, our doula reminded me to relax my forehead and shoulders and to breathe slowly and evenly. I was surprised how much less the contractions hurt when I relaxed my forehead and upper body and gave into them. The more I allowed the contractions to happen and the less I resisted them, the more my body was able to work with them. Throughout this time, our doula offered me ice water, and I gulped it down by the cupful. I must have drank a gallon of water just during transition alone.
The contractions continued to come and they became increasingly more intense until they began to reach a peak point. It's so hard to describe (and to remember—labor brain) what this felt like, but I remember thinking that my belly might actually detach itself from my body. It was a slightly scary feeling but mostly I was in awe of the power and strength of my own body. I never could have imagined anything that strong or powerful before feeling it myself. And I don't say this to scare anyone—please don't allow it to frighten you—but to acknowledge just how amazing the female body is. It intuitively and instinctively knows exactly what to do.
At the start of the peak of the contractions' intensity, my eyes filled with tears. Dan immediately ran over and grasped my face in his hands, looked me in the eyes, and told me how strong he thought I was. His eyes welled with tears, too, and he kept repeating how proud and thankful he was. At a point when I’d been doubting my ability to make it through, that moment renewed my confidence and touched my heart more deeply than it’s ever been touched. The love in his eyes was palpable in that moment, and it made me feel safe. So very, very safe.
Shortly after, Dan got on one side of the tub and my doula got on the other and they each took one of my hands. During the contractions, I would squeeze their hands and do my best to breathe long and steady breaths. At one point when our doula ran out to get more water, my mom came over and placed her hands over mine as Dan placed his hands on my shoulders. For some reason, Dan's hands on my shoulders felt suffocating, and I asked (okay, I told) him to please get them off of me.
During transition, I remember thinking that it was becoming more and more difficult to find my breath. The first breath during each contraction was right there but when I’d go to take a second breath, I’d stutter and become fearful that I wouldn’t be able to find my breath again. So much so that I worried I might hyperventilate or stop breathing altogether.
Around this point, our doula suggested I start moaning along with the contractions to help control my breathing and manage the intensity. I remember feeling sort of silly doing it but the moaning did seem to help.
Throughout the entire time in the tub, I’d barely opened my eyes. Something about closing my eyes brought on a sense of peace, probably because it lessened the amount of sensory input entering my mind.
After moaning along with several contractions, I remember very softly saying, “I feel like I want to push.” Dan later said that he thought the way I said this was adorable. I guess because I’d been moaning so intensely and then so very quietly (like a mouse) noted that I wanted to push. My midwife promptly said, “Good! Let’s keep going with these. And feel free to start pushing gently if it feels right.”
I continued to labor in the tub a little while longer until the urge to push was notable. At that point, the midwife suggested I get out of the tub to relieve my bladder and then she’d check me to see how far along I was. I strongly considered just peeing in the tub or asking the midwife if it was alright to pee in the tub, but then thought better of the idea and slowly climbed out of the tub with Dan’s assistance.
I waddled to the bathroom with Dan alongside me and barely managed to finish peeing before another contraction took hold. I remember quickly stripping off my bottoms and telling Dan to throw them away (not sure why) and was about to walk out in to the room butt naked before he quickly wrapped a towel around my waist. I'm normally super shy about this sort of thing, but labor really knocks the modesty out of you.
As I walked out of the bathroom, the peak of the contraction hit, and I nearly collapsed on the floor as it did. Thankfully, our doula was right there and grabbed me. I hugged/held onto her through the contraction and then made my way to the bed.
It was about 3:10pm at this point. My midwife checked me and said, “You’re a 10!”
I knew this meant push time, and for some reason I had a sudden and intense fear to push. Throughout pregnancy, I’d been afraid of tearing. I’d talked through this fear with our doula, with Dan, with my mom, with friends, but I still hadn’t completely shaken it.
Initially, I started pushing from a squatting position. Fear dominated through my first several pushes. The midwife could clearly tell I was afraid and she warmly but sternly said, “You don’t want to be pushing for 2 to 3 hours, do you?” I shook my head and asked her what to do instead. She suggested I switch to my back and bear down with the contractions for a few pushes and see how it felt. Throughout pregnancy, I’d been resistant to the idea of pushing on my back (didn’t want to work against gravity), but as soon as I lied down, I felt more comfortable.
During each contraction, Dan would grab one leg, our doula would grab the other, and I’d grab both. Then, I’d hold my breath and push.
The first several pushes on my back were still dominated by fear. I remember feeling like I was disappointing the midwife by not pushing with all my might. She kept saying that the baby just needed to get past my pelvis and then it would be so much easier. I would push and feel her move downward and then as soon as I’d stop, I’d feel her rock back. Around this point, Dan said, “She like’s a little inch worm. Inching her way forward and then backward.” Everyone laughed except me. I listlessly said, “That’s not funny right now.” For this brief moment in labor time, I had the slight urge to smack Dan.
After feeling a bit discouraged, a wave of fierce determination washed over me. I remember thinking, “This is her only way out. It's either this or she gets stuck and I end up needing interventions to get her out. Don’t want that.” Then, I began to recite an old favorite mantra in my mind: YES I CAN. YES I CAN. YES I CAN!!!
During the next contraction, I pushed with all my might. Dan, the nurse, the midwife, and our doula all said, “Yes! That’s it!” I had several more pushes like that and everyone was cheering me on.
I remember giving one long, extra strong push and the room exploded with excitement, “We can see her head!” The midwife said she’d now made it past my pelvis and that she could see that she had lots of dark hair. They offered me a mirror for encouragement, but I politely declined. I thought the sight might make me pass out. I had a few more pushes like this one and the midwife said, “You’re doing an amazing job!” to which I listlessly asked, “Do you say that to everyone?” She said, “No! You really are doing an amazing job!” I’m not sure why, but I felt a bit needy for positive praise at this point, especially from the midwife.
On the next push, I started to feel an intense burning, and I wondered if she’d started to crown. She had, but I got scared and released the push and felt her rock back. On the next push, I pushed with all my might and the room exploded with encouragement. “She’s crowning!” It was an intense burning sensation but not as bad as I’d anticipated based on birth stories I’d heard. At this point, Dan began to cry happy tears. On the next push, I felt her shoulders come through and then heard her cry. Apparently, she’d started crying with just half her body out of me!
The midwife then said, “You can reach down and grab her.” I didn't initially remember this, but Dan later told me that at this point I said, “I can?!!” with a huge smile on my face and then reached down and pulled her the rest of the way out like it was the most natural thing I’d ever done. I surprised even myself here as I’m quite squeamish and never imagined being brave enough to pull my own baby out of my body.
I hugged Sloane to my chest as she cried and began crying tears of joy myself. I remember saying, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay, baby. I love you. I love you so much.”
And just like that, our family—and our hearts—grew.