Brooks Thomas: A Birth Story

To read Emory Catherine’s birth story, click here. To read about my postpartum experience with her, click here.

Brooks Thomas Redinger // Born Saturday June 15th, 2019 12:04pm // 7lb 12 oz // 19.5″

Our sweet Brooks has been here for over a week. I just adore birth stories, and treasure writing out my own to look back on when all of the beautiful, hard, painful, wild details have gotten a bit fuzzy. Here’s Brooks’ birth story!

Prodromal Labor & Early Labor

Almost a week before Brooks actually made his arrival, I experienced the hell that is prodromal labor. Seriously, this could be used as a torture device. Since I have an “irritable uterus,” I’d been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions for over a week–but they were never timeable or regular, just very uncomfortable.

On Sunday evening, Matt, Emmy and I were sitting eating dinner and I had a very strong contraction that actually made me laugh because of the intensity. And then came another. And another. Four minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds – 1 minute long. And this went on for over an hour. We decided to text our midwives and have my parents go ahead and head this way (a 2.5 hour drive) so that they could be here with Emmy when we decided to head to the birth center.

But about an hour later, they abruptly stopped. I tried bouncing on the ball, walking, telling baby it was okay to come–but nothing. Done. Enter the emotional rollercoaster of prodromal labor.

The next Friday I was woken up at 5am with similar contractions. Every five minutes, lasting a minute, for over 2.5 hours. These were even MORE uncomfortable. It was so hard to make the decision to ask my parents to come again, since my mind knew these could fizzle out. But I was nervous about who would take care of Emmy (I think ultimately this anxiety is what contributed to my labor taking a few days to really kick start), so we asked them to come. Sure enough, an hour or so later, they fizzled out. I went on a long walk, and they kind of picked back up to the point where I needed to breathe through them. And on we went through the day with very uncomfortable, borderline painful contractions that were simply inconsistent.

After chatting with our midwife, we decided to come in later that morning for a membrane sweep. It’s here that I’ll start the swooning over our birth team, since I want them to know just how amazing and supportive they are. I was at 2cm and about 50% effaced, and the sweep went fine. Cindy encouraged us (since my parents were in town) to go on a date, so that we did. We headed out for a lunch date, bought Emmy some new shoes at Nike, and I got an ice cream cone from Kilwins.

On and on these annoying contractions went until they fizzled around 10pm that night.

Labor & Delivery

As frustrated as I was that these contractions weren’t the “real” thing, I was able to get some rest until at about 12:30am I was woken with a VERY strong contraction. Definitely had to close my eyes and breathe through it. And then, about seven minutes later, another one. Strong. Intense. But definitely not getting my hopes up. And then they came. Seven minutes apart, 1:10 long, for about two hours. I got in the shower to see if that would help, and that’s when Matt woke up and came to check on me. He suggested I text our midwives just in case, and Cindy asked if I wanted to head to the birth center. I replied, “Probably home for just a bit more, but if they keep up like this it won’t be long.” And not as soon as I could hit send, WHAM came a brutal contraction that I had to moan through. I immediately texted Cindy back, “Never mind think it’s time to go.”

We arrived at the birth center around 3am and I was checked and only at 4cm, 50-60% effaced and at a -2/-3 station. I should’ve probably been encouraged since I’d clearly made progress from 2cm earlier in the day, but these contractions were so painful that I thought surely I’d be at least a six. I hopped on the birth ball with my head resting on the bed and worked through contraction after contraction as we waited to see what my body was doing. My vitals and baby’s were checked and we were both doing great. I decided to get in the shower, which was surprising since during Emmy’s labor getting in the shower was actually my breaking point where I decided to transfer to the hospital, but thankfully this time the shower was heaven.

At this point I was VERY tired. I’d had about two hours of sleep in 24 hours, and these contractions were killer. Unfortunately, even with their intensity, they were still oddly far apart and not lasting as long as we wanted them to. I kept falling asleep in between each contraction only to be woken up moaning through the next one. (I’m SUPER primally vocal during labor.)

At some point I asked if I could get in the tub, and Cindy recommended I be checked so that I wouldn’t get in the tub too early and stall labor. When she checked me I was at 6cm, which again was disappointing since I felt that I should be at a 7/8 based on the intensity alone. But, Cindy, being as amazing as she is, celebrated the 6cm and said it was the perfect point to get in the tub.

The tub was amazing. Felt so good. But it also made me insanely sleepy, and I dozed in and out which made my contractions become even further apart–the opposite of what we wanted. So Cindy suggested I get out of the tub and walk around to try and really get things going.

The birth center was quiet (we were the only ones there) and dawn was breaking–along with my mental strength. The contractions were SO PAINFUL and I was losing it. I started sobbing, saying I couldn’t do it anymore, saying how tired I was, saying how much I missed Emmy, and just crying in general. (A good doula would probably note here that this is generally a great sign! When mom starts to say she can’t do it anymore it means the end is often nearing!) I sat in the rocking chair in one of the rooms, watching the sun rise, and cried through a few more contractions. Matt gave me an incredible pep talk, and told me that physically my strength was NOT failing, but that mentally it was and I needed to keep my head in the game. I knew he was right–my body was strong and still had the reserves to see this through, but I had to mentally fight just as hard. We had a verse that we kept praying over me throughout labor, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, for God goes with you.” (Deut 31:6 & Joshua 1:9) and we both would repeat it out loud.

We went back to the birthing suite and I got back on the ball. At some point the intensity ramped up even more, and I tried the nitrous oxide (laughing gas). It was helpful for about 50% of the contractions, but it’s no epidural. It’s kind of like having a strong cocktail. It’d take the edge off the mild contractions, but do nothing for the intense ones.

At some point I got back into the tub, and started vomiting (thankfully Matt had grabbed a sickness bag). Classic transition signs! I hate that I vomit during labor (who wants to throw up on top of a contraction?!) but I try and accept that it’s just my body doing the work it needs to birth a baby.

Around 10:30pm I was checked again and I was at 8-9cm with a bulging bag of waters. Cindy said that she was confident that once my water broke, I’d progress to a 10 almost immediately and be ready to push. She said she’d like that to happen naturally, but that she could break my water for me if that’s what I wanted. I decided to wait and see if these super intense contractions would do the trick, but they wouldn’t. I asked Matt if he thought I should have her break my water, and he recommended I wait for 10 more contractions. TEN!!!! I didn’t even want to have ten more contractions PERIOD, let alone wait through them to make a decision! But I did. I kept breathing and moaning and yelling and after 10 or so contractions I asked Cindy to break my water. (Note: I think it’s around this point that the other midwives arrived, but I can’t be sure! All of sudden they were just all there!)

I knew that having my water broken would make the contractions even more intense and painful, but I needed progress to be made. So Cindy broke my water and immediately I felt his head move down into the birth canal. And, as predicted, immediately the contractions became almost unbearable. I tried nitrous again but it wasn’t even touching them. Cindy asked if I could sit on the toilet since it’s a great position to push in, but as soon as I sat down I threw up everywhere! (Side note that midwives/nurses are the absolute best since they get puked on and pooped on and literally all of the bodily fluids and are still so kind and like “omg no big deal!” when really you’re mortified.) I immediately wanted off the toilet and decided to get back in the tub.

The water felt good but the pressure in my back was excruciating. Two of the midwives were reaching underwater to try and provide counter pressure through the contractions, but it wasn’t enough. I literally wanted someone to take a sledgehammer to my back. They suggested I move to a hands and knees position, leaning over the tub wall. Honestly the thought of even moving made me want to scream, but somehow they got me in that position and were able to provide enough pressure to take the worst part off.

This is when it gets to be the worst pain of my entire life. (So sorry if you’re reading this preparing for a natural labor! You can do it! Promise!) I was screaming like a banshee through each contraction, gripping the side of the tub and pushing as if my life depended on it. Matt and the midwives kept encouraging me to control my pushing and blow my breath out, but I was on a kamikaze mission to push this pain out. The “ring of fire” is a very real thing, and doesn’t just last through one contraction.

I was told to get into a lunge position (LOLLLLLL) and in my head I think I cursed them out, but thankfully just said “no” out loud. But they were adamant, and so they picked my leg up to get me into position. Lots of screaming. Matt was at my head trying to get me to control my breathing. At one point Cindy said that once he was delivered, she’d pass him up through my legs for me to catch him. This was wildly encouraging because it meant the end was near.

With a few more screams his head was delivered. I reached down and felt it, and waited for the next contraction to come so I could push his body out. And then he was there. Up between my legs, and I grabbed him and brought him to my chest. The instant relief was mind blowing. I’d done it. He was here.

12 hours of “real” labor, 20 minutes of pushing. Welcome, sweet Brooks.

The midwives quickly moved because his cord was wrapped around his neck twice–which explains why labor took quite some time and contractions had a hard time getting closer together and longer: he couldn’t really drop down properly because the cord had been shortened by the wrapping. Thankfully he’s a strong little dude, and was never in distress at any point.

He opened his eyes immediately, and just looked around. It’s common for babies born in the water to not cry, and cry he did not. He just looked around and took in the world. Such an amazing moment to just sit and watch his first moments of life on the outside.

After he was born, Matt cut the cord and I handed Brooks to him so I could deliver the placenta (which took a few more very painful contractions–much different than my experience with Emmy), and then we moved back to the bed to snuggle up for the first hour. We ordered McAllisters for lunch, had his newborn exam done in the bed with us, and initiated breastfeeding. I took a shower. And magically, within four hours of him being born, we were headed home to rest and bond in our own space. (I get teary-eyed thinking about saying goodbye to Cindy as we loaded up the car, since she’s just the best and I absolutely couldn’t have done this without her.)

One of our sweet midwives Abby performing Brooks’ newborn exam

Brooks Thomas, you’re a chill little dude, and have been since the moment you arrived. We love you so stinking much, and remember to always be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you. (And mommy and daddy, too.)