Updated: May 5
I had given birth twice in two different states already and it was actually when I was pregnant with my second while living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that I first read Made for This. My daughter was born two weeks early so I didn’t have time to implement much of what I had just read. (Note: Don’t read a birth book for the first time when 36 weeks pregnant.) But it did change the way I looked at birth, so much so that I decided to become a birth doula. So when we found out we were expecting number 3 and after I had become a doula, I knew I was going to do things differently this time around, starting with my mindset.
Fast forward several months and throw in a move from PA to VA while 8 months pregnant (don’t recommend).
I always had a feeling that he would be born early, which was the exact same feeling I had when I was pregnant with Rose, so I knew to be prepared prior to 40 weeks. By about 38 weeks I was started to feel cramping, which to me feels exactly like period cramps. Based on how my last two labors had gone, I knew these weren't Braxton Hicks but were very, very early labor. But I also knew they could last weeks, as they have in the past. My 38 weeks appointment with my midwife was just before Memorial Day weekend, and we were both convinced, based on my constant cramping, that I would be having a baby that weekend. I decided early on that I didn't want to be checked at all at any of my appointments, so while I had been cramping, I had no idea if they were actually causing dilation at all. I went home and went into the weekend prepared to have a baby.
Memorial Day weekend came and went, and with it came what is called prodromal labor. This is when contractions are real and can sometimes cause effacement and dilation, but they start and will slowly get into a small pattern for a couple of hours only to taper off and life will continue as normal. They aren't painful, but do cause a difficult mental game. Since I have had the pleasure of having prodromal labor with all my kiddos, I knew not to time them right away, although that didn't make it any less frustrating.
I was really hoping he would be born on Monday, May 31st since that is the amazing feast of the Visitation, which is the inspiration behind the name of my business. There was a lot of prodromal labor that morning to make me think it would happen, but after going shopping with the family to take my mind off the on and off contractions happening, things again stopped.
Throughout the week, the off and on prodromal labor continued. I went about my normal routine, trying not to think too much about things to come. I tried to go to the chiropractic appointment I had scheduled, however, on my way there, I became so nauseated in the car ride to drop the kiddos with my mom that I had to lie down at their house and cancel my appointment. I was also starting to get immensely annoyed with everyone, a rise in hormones that can happen prior to giving birth. I knew everything was going in the right direction.
After my 39 week appointment on Thursday, contractions began once again, but these ones were slowly beginning to get stronger and stronger. I was blessed to have an amazing doula, Julie, whom I trained with and who is also a good friend. I was able to constantly vent to her throughout the day about how these would never turn into real contractions and I would just have prodromal labor for the rest of my life.
Saturday the contractions were beginning to pick up in intensity, but never hit anything consistent. I didn't pay much attention to them since I was so done with them by now. That evening, I tried different things to launch me into actual labor: massage, Spinning Babies 3 Sisters of Balance, birth ball, relaxation, and even pressure points with acupressure (which was a first for me).
It must have worked because at 4 a.m. on June 6th I was woken up by the strongest contraction I had yet. My contractions were lasting about 45-60 seconds each, getting stronger, but would vary between 6-9 minutes apart. This lasted for 4 hours then finally I fell asleep around 8:30 a.m. Occasionally I would be woken by a strong one but then would just fall back asleep. I knew that he would be born either today or Monday at this point since these were different. So that morning I made the call to have Nick take the girls to my parent's house, about 40 minutes away. He was nervous about leaving me alone for a little over an hour, but nothing was consistent, so I knew I would be fine. I knew by having the girls out of the house, I could focus on trying to relax and get them to be regular. Before he left, I had him apply my TENS Unit to my back, then I settled onto my birth ball with the Christian Hypnobirthing soundtrack in the background and I tried to relax.
When he got back around noon nothing was regular. By about 1 p.m. I was still having contractions that were strong and lasting a minute, but nothing consistent enough to time in between. I decided to hop into a nice warm shower, not so much for pain relief but to help me relax to hopefully get things moving. At this point, we had tried the side-lying release from Spinning Babies, birth ball, positioning, but nothing was helping them to be consistent. I stayed in the shower about 30 minutes, having a few strong contractions, but nothing more. So I journeyed downstairs where Nick had lovingly brought me coffee and some donuts (our Sunday after Mass tradition) and I tried relaxing by watching some cooking videos with him to take my mind off of the frustration of nothing moving along.
It was around 4 p.m. when something shifted. I didn't want the T.V. on anymore and didn't want Nick talking to me. I kept bouncing on my birth ball in the living room, contractions still not getting any more consistent, but they were getting to the point where I couldn't talk through them or ignore them anymore.
The biggest thing we had to think about was getting to the birth center, which was an hour away from our house. I knew I wanted and needed to labor at home for as long as possible, but I also knew that with this being my third baby, labor would probably go rather quickly. It was so hard to tell when to leave because the contractions weren't coming every 4-5 minutes apart. About 5 p.m., Nick went upstairs to start getting ready for the 5:30 p.m. Mass since I didn't seem to be making much progress. As he came back down, I went to use the bathroom and had two major contractions lasting one minute long back to back, where I was very audibly moaning through them. At that, Nick decided it was time to leave and called our midwife, Megan. I got the bag together, called Julie to meet us there, and mentally prepared for the car ride out. We left our house at around 5:45 p.m., and while I was preparing for a rough car ride of having to sit through some heavy contractions, praise God I only had 2 the entire ride.
We got to the birth center, which is attached to the hospital, around 6:45 p.m. We first had to go through L&D because unfortunately, I had to get a COVID test before I could go down to the birth center. Honestly, I tried to avoid this big time by not going ahead of time to get it. I was going to finally go in the next day but well, clearly God had other plans…
We went into a small room where I waited to see Megan. She was helping another mom out so it took a little while before she could see me. It was after 7 p.m. when she walked in the room and I was smiling and chatting with her like a normal day, pausing maybe once for a contraction. Before I could be in the birth center they had to check to make sure I was actually in active labor, especially since my contractions were just so darn weird. Sure enough, I was 90% effaced and 6-7cm. Not gonna lie, I was super relieved that I wasn't crazy and was in fact in active labor. Next they did the swab and told us it would be about 40 minutes, so I would have to just chill out there. I was not a huge fan of this, since I really wanted to labor in the tub, but there we waited.
After they left, it was like a switch flipped and contractions started to pick up and man, were they strong! Luckily Julie made her way up and found us. She got me a peanut ball to help baby boy drop down to engage and help me dilate the rest of the way. It was then that things got intense. Every contraction was pushing me down toward the ground. I would want to stand up and throw my entire body weight at Nick and just hang onto him. Julie saved the day by rubbing my back with some of my favorite smelling essential oil which was AMAZING and really helped me relax in between contractions. One of my favorite things that Nick grabbed from our house last minute when we left was our San Damiano crucifix for me to fixate on during labor. He kept it right on the small, triage bed for me to look at and focus on in between each contraction. I had talked with Nick and Julie prior to going into labor that I really wanted to be reminded that I was made for this, that I could do this. They would whisper those words as I would hang onto Nick during each surge.
I started to feel extremely nauseated (and regretting the two donuts I had earlier that day), so I figured mentally I was near transition, if not already in it.
I had no idea how long had passed, but finally my nurse (bless her heart, I don't think I ever asked her name) came in to say my test was negative and Megan arrived shortly after. She had been down the hall assisting at a birth and just finished. As she walked in the room, she knew instantly that something had drastically changed. She didn't bother to check me but knew that I was darn close and needed to get me to the birth center ASAP. I was not in the mindset to walk so the nurse got a wheelchair and we sped down the hall to the birth center.
I don't think I can adequately explain how much I hated that short wheelchair ride. The whole ride I honestly was just screaming to stop moving because I wanted to get out of the chair. At the time I was so mad they didn't stop, but it was because they were all worried I would give birth right there in the middle of the hallway.
We got to the center finally and I just collapsed out of the wheelchair and onto the floor since everything was just pushing me down. Looking back on it now, I realize this was my body's fetal ejection reflex, where my body was pushing my baby out on its own. I was staring at the tub and wanted to get in so badly, but I needed to get checked before I got in because they don't do water births at that center. So I managed to get on the bed and sure enough I was already 10 cm and he was right there.
I didn't plan on pushing on my side on the bed but man did it feel great to actively push! I had thought I would want to catch him, but in the moment I was so focused on letting my body get him out that I didn't want to move! There was a moment in between the first and second push where I didn't think I could do it, but between Julie and Megan I locked eyes with both of them and they kept reassuring me that not only could I do it, I was doing it! One more push and he was born. I kept saying, "I can't believe I did this!" and man, I still can't believe I did do it, even a couple months later!
Total time of active labor starting was an hour and a half.
My contractions never were regular, not even in transition.
Damian Champion was born on June 6th at 8:21 p.m. weighing 7 lbs. 1 oz.
This was my first natural birth and wow what a rush! I felt so empowered having labored with the support of Nick and Julie and that I pushed him out without any medication! I felt so in control, listened to, and respected and was so incredibly grateful for my entire birth team.
One of my favorite memories is right after I gave birth, looking right at the tub and saying, "Dang. So close, yet so far." Nick just lost it because of how much pain I was in just moments before. "You can't joke like that!" he kept saying. Then Megan prepared me a fresh plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, of which I ate every single one, except for the one that Nick had.
There are many things I wish I could change, but having had time to process, I don't even think I would have had time to get in and labor in the tub even if I didn't have to have that stinking test. Everything went so fast, that if we had left any later from our house, I very well may not have made it into the birth center at all. Not everything always goes according to plan, but I am still happy with my birth, happy with the uninterrupted time I got in the birth center to recover with Nick and Damian in the big king sized bed, and so happy we got home 24 hours later to rest and recover in our own bed the next day.
Maggie is a birth doula living in the good ole state of Virginia. She is married to Nick and has 3 beautiful children, all of whom were born in different states. After living in 3 different states in the midwest in the past 5 years as her husband worked with FOCUS college campus ministry, they are finally settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. You can connect with Maggie on Instagram through @visitationbirthdoula and check out her Catholic doula practice at visitationbirthdoula.com.