Johannah & Newborn Baby MicahMicah Frederick Knox Shinkle was born Saturday, February 13 2016 at 4:57 pm.

It’s hard to know where exactly to begin the story, I’ll start with the week leading up to his birth. I was 39 weeks pregnant and more ready every day to have a baby instead of a prego body. We had expected an early baby, (who doesn’t ?) but with a few days until my due date of Feb 12, I was still pregnant.

Thursday morning, the 11th, I began having what felt like menstrual cramps every ten minutes or so. Cramps continued that day, and were not just a “tightening” like Braxton Hicks, but actually uncomfortable, like period cramps. I knew it wasn’t labor, but I bounced on the birth ball and used the opportunity to practice breathing and relaxing. I felt cramps become stronger when I moved around. That night the cramps became so bad I couldn’t sleep. They were getting closer together for over two hours, and as close as 6 or 7 minutes sometimes. After taking a bath at 3am, they slowed down and I knew it was false labor. A couple more painful ones here and there, but by morning they had stopped. I was exhausted from not sleeping and hoped birth would be close, but hold off until I was more rested and ready. Now it was my due date, Friday Feb 12. No more cramps during the day, but by evening I began having the same cramps at around the same time as the previous night. By then I had learned about prodromal labor and knew how to handle it. I stretched, sat on a birth ball, watched a movie. When I went to sleep they were getting worse, but I was determined to sleep. I didn’t pay much attention to the cramps and was able to sleep through them, only waking up to breathe through it a few times. That morning I woke up at 7:30am feeling wide awake and refreshed.

It was Saturday, Jon was home, and I was rested. It was the day after the due date and we wanted baby to come! We made plans to go walk at the mall and then come home to use the breast pump and try get labor going. But that morning I had woken up with the same cramps I went to bed with, and they hadn’t gone away like they the day before. It frustrated me because it was becoming painful and if it went on for days I was afraid I’d be exhausted by the time I went into labor. But then I remembered the night before I had a dream that it was my baby’s birthday. I was afraid it was too good to be true, but I decided to believe it and reevaluate later if it hadn’t happened! That really helped me to not be discouraged, and instead of complaining over the pain, I told Jon I think today is the day. (I personally wasn’t totally convinced, but saying it like I believed it was enough for me to relax and not be upset!) By then we had decided to not go to the mall because when a cramp came I had to stop walking and relax. I didn’t want to be at the mall like that. We watched “Planet Earth”, Jon played a video game and I walked around the house calling to him when a “cramp” started so he could time them. They were between 4 and 6 minutes apart, lasting 30-60 seconds. I couldn’t even fold laundry or sit down, it would make the pain worse. But I knew that labor is unpredictable and could stop at anytime so I still didn’t get my hopes up! I kept saying “It can’t be real labor yet because it just feels like strong period cramps, it isn’t making me cry or anything.” I did try to eat enough in case it was real. I went to the kitchen to make a sandwich, and as I was calling to Jon that another cramp was starting, my water broke!

After my water broke, Jon started packing his bags and I changed and texted Lizzi, my doula. It was 12:30pm. I had been messaging her all day about the cramps, and she thought it may be labor, but now we were all mostly sure. (I still could hardly believe it, as the pain was still totally manageable. All I’d ever heard is that it is unbearable!) Jon asked me if I’d texted my parents to start driving (they are two hours away), and I told him I was hesitant in case it wasn’t real. But since my water had just broke, I texted them, almost in a surprised daze.

It only took a few minutes for me to accept the fact that I was in labor. Contractions were only 2 minutes apart by this time, and after a few, I told Jon we needed to leave for the hospital now. They were becoming more intense and I was ready to get there before it got worse. Lizzi arrived right away and we headed to the hospital! I didn’t have time to eat any more, but I was thirsty and Lizzi brought “labor-aid” which was my lifesaver. Thank God it was only five minutes away and I only had to go through one contraction in the car! I called my ob on the way and she told me that she was out of town but the dr on call would deliver the baby. That happened to be a male ob (an idea which has always made me uncomfortable), but I didn’t have time to be worried.

I was most comfortable standing up, and rocking, swaying, or bending over to breathe through contractions. At this point it wasn’t hard to stay calm and remind myself to relax. I wasn’t loud and didn’t feel terribly uncomfortable being around people as we walked into the hospital. I was so overjoyed to be so close to meeting my baby; I remember tearing up on the way into the hospital just thinking of it.

We checked into triage around 1pm and I was five centimeters dilated. I was glad to hear that I was definitely moving along and this was the real thing! It was so uncomfortable to sit or lay down, I had felt like the baby’s head was already between my hips all day. The heart rate monitor was even more uncomfortable though as it was squeezing my belly right where the contractions were tightening. As soon as the nurses would leave, I’d stand up and walk around. But I was intentionally very pleasant with all the hospital staff and just kept telling myself that if I make it through this birth healthy, than I can have the rest at home where it’s more comfortable. (Home birth was my preference, but we chose to have the first in a hospital in case of any complications. My mother has a history of very complicated births.)

Birth BarAt 2:30pm, we moved to the labor and delivery wing.  Lizzi told me I was moving into transition and I wondered what it would feel like on the other side of transition. I still felt as if I could handle it so far but from what I’d heard, at some point it was bound to become terribly unbearable. Contractions began to become very strong and came very close, almost right on top of each other. Now they were all consuming and Lizzi reminding me to breathe was most helpful at that point! I began huffing and puffing big exhales during the contraction and that was so helpful to get through them. Something about not being able to hear anything but my breathing helped me not think about the contraction somehow. It reminds me of how focusing on deep breaths helps during an intense workout. I remembered to squat during this time so that my hips would open up. (I felt totally aware and present during contractions. I was thinking clearly and calmly, pausing to focus during contractions.) I asked Lizzi and Jon to stand on either side of me and hold my hands up as I squatted. That position was perfect in some moments!

By around 3:15pm, I was in transition. Lizzi kept offering me food and water, but I felt like I was so close that I didn’t need food, just to focus. I told them often that I felt like I was almost ready to push. I was 7 centimeters dilated at this point, the second and last time they checked me. They set up the squat bar on the hospital bed and I kneeled, squatted and held the bar during contractions. The nurses seemed to be pleasantly entertained, telling me with big smiles and excitement that I could have done this at home. I hadn’t needed any pain medication or anything. Much of the time they left Lizzi, Jon, and I alone in the room and told us to call if I was ready to push.

During transition, contractions intensified but began to space out more. The time in between was truly some of the most deep rest I’ve ever had. It was easy for me to make it through contractions knowing that it would end shortly. I was focused and plugged my ears to not hear the conversations around me. It was so refreshing to close my eyes experience such deep and total relaxation in between. These breaks helped prepare me to finish strong physically, mentally and emotionally. I reminded myself to let my body push so I wouldn’t tear, and I said many prayers during this time that I would not tear, my biggest labor fear. I was kneeling with my head on the back of the hospital bed. When contractions came they were intense and I would moan deeply and grab onto the squat bar behind me. I felt so strong and powerful. I felt proud to be a woman and exhilarated with the whole experience, not overwhelmed or discouraged at all. Part of me was thanking God for an amazing birth while the other part was too in shock to believe it- I was almost waiting for the baby to be here before accepting that birthing a baby had gone so positively! I was almost weepy with excitement to finally meet the baby I knew I already loved so much.

Lizzi notified the nurses that I seemed ready to push, and they came to check on me. My very intuitive nurse suggested that she notify the certified midwife who was about to leave to catch the baby instead of the male ob whom was on call. She knew the midwife would be more accepting of my natural birth, which I was so grateful for since my ob was not able to be there.

Johannah and Baby Micah Brand NewOnce the midwife came in and asked how dilated I was, I had felt the baby’s head already. I was mesmerized and thrilled, I remember asking them to tell me what color hair the baby had.  With each contraction, my body tightened and pushed with me only breathing. I did not want to tear more than anything in the world, and was very cautious to not push before I felt my body was ready. I didn’t push at all until it was involuntary. (I also felt such burning as he crowned, that although I was leaning into contractions, I was not rushing that burn, I wanted it to all stretch with each contraction.)

Sometime during pushing and crowning, I noticed a middle aged man standing to my left behind my naked body and offering to “take over from here”. I realized it was the Dr on call, whom was supposed to be delivering the baby! I heard everyone politely offering to finish up without him but he was putting on his gloves and scrubs, decidedly there to do his job. I turned around in between pushes and asked the midwife to please stay because I was already comfortable with her. At that point, Dr on call kindly stepped out and I was greatly relieved.

I was being so patient although everyone in the room was brimming with excitement and encouragements of “You’re so close, just keep leaning into that burn, just a few more pushes like that and you can meet baby!” It wasn’t a bad thing, but I had to fight to not rush my body just because everyone was so charged with eager anticipation, especially my thrilled husband. At one point I felt baby’s hand move inside the birth canal, and I knew it was close. Finally after moving out and in and out, his head came all the way and his body slipped out easily behind. After pushing the head out, it felt so good to push out the comparably tiny, slippery body. Someone announced that we had a boy and I said I knew it!

Johannah and Newborn Baby MicahThey laid him on me and he was cleaner than I expected (probably due to the gush of water behind him), and so tiny and fragile that I didn’t know how to hold him. We had already picked a name, and I never believed people who said you have to see your baby to name it, but now I do. As soon as I saw him, I knew his middle name had to be Frederick. We had loved and hated that name in the process, but it fit him perfectly. Jon agreed and we gave him two middle names. My mom told me that night that Frederick had been my grandfathers middle name. He recently passed away and that made the name even more special.

Now that he was out, besides being so in love,  I wanted to know right away if I had torn at all. The midwife checked me and I almost couldn’t believe my ears when she said that I had pushed him out with no tearing. (Despite his massive 14.5 inch head!) He was born at 4:57, only 5 hours after I realized I really was in labor.

I’d been holding my breath the entire time, waiting for labor to get really awful, but finally I was able to let out a deep breath of relief; I really had done it, and it really hadn’t become incredibly terrible at any point! In fact, I was truly exhilarated much of the time. The lifelong question of “How will I ever manage to endure childbirth?” was finally answered, and it was nothing like I had been told. I was on such a high for the next couple days, of course in love with my sweet son, but also thrilled at what I had accomplished. Micah’s birth was amazing, and with it was born my love for childbirth.

Dad and Baby Micah