Three days past her due date, we were filled with joy and excitement to welcome our daughter, Mae Elizabeth Woodcock, on October 30.
Fox came early, so reaching and surpassing my due date and knowing the “baby could come any day” was new territory for me. Everyone kept asking if I was so ready for her to come, and honestly, I was patient. I was excited to meet her for sure and ready to have some of my pregnancy discomforts subside, but I knew she was coming soon, and I felt patient for the right timing. Honestly, I was mostly concerned about what her actual birth day would be. Expecting an October baby for months, I was hoping she would be born in October, but not on Halloween. I had a feeling she would be born in the 20’s (and actually had guessed the 26th), but she came just out of the 20’s and just before Halloween, with a perfectly round numbered 10/30 birth date. It was perfect.
With my Dad hanging with Fox, Woody and I went to what would be my final pre-baby appointment at 40 weeks, 2 days, on Monday, October 29. I was 3 cm dilated, and we made a plan for me to come in for a stress test November 1 if she hadn’t made her appearance yet. In addition to Halloween, I was also hoping she wouldn’t be born on our anniversary (November 3), but both were certainly possibilities at this point. I went to sleep that night and woke up at 3:55am, repositioned in bed, pulled my knees up to get cozy, and there came the gush. About three to four gushes to be exact. I turned on the light and sat up, went to the bathroom, and confirmed that my water had broken.
With the breaking of my water, my adrenaline quickly kicked into gear. I felt excited and energized that this moment we had waited for was here! I woke Woody up in the process, and after we talked about what was happening, he asked if he could go back to bed. Ha! I think he was remembering the lengthy labor process with Fox (about 30 hours total) so it was an understandable question. With Fox, we had both slept after my water partially broke in the middle of the night, but this time my body was moving along much faster. I could already tell a slow morning to labor at home was not in the cards, and going back to sleep certainly wasn’t for either of us.
Contractions picked up quickly, already averaging about five minutes apart by 4:30am. My excitement turned to focus as labor was intensifying and I was trying to breath through it. I told Woody to go ahead and call my Dad so he could be at the house with Fox. Then he called the doctor on call who told us to head to labor and delivery. My plan had been to labor at home as long as possible, but as my labor quickly progressed and I got more uncomfortable, I was ready to be settled wherever I was going to be to give birth to our girl.
It felt like it took forever to gather my few remaining hospital items between contractions. It was hard to focus on anything but labor, and I kept having to stop to breathe through a contraction. My Dad arrived at some point in this process, and at 6am, we left for the hospital.
Upon arrival, they sent me to the OB Emergency Department to examine me and confirm that I was in labor (a fact I very easily could’ve confirmed for them, but I know, I know, it’s part of the process). Once the doctor checked, it was confirmed that my water had definitely broken and I was 6 cm dilated. Yay! Finally my nurse, Amber, came to get me and take us to our room where I would labor and deliver sweet Mae.
As I had with Fox, my hope was to have a “natural birth” (no epidural) with Mae as long as my body and my baby would cooperate. Having done it before wasn’t as comforting as I thought it would be, and instead I felt intimidated and unsure. It was hard to focus on getting through the moment because I was thinking about what was to come and fear crept in. Also, with this labor moving more quickly, it got intense faster, which was a new experience. There were times I looked at Amber and Woody and said, “I can’t do this,” but they were so supportive and encouraging to help me push through.
I also took advantage of some medicine they offered to help dull some of the pain. I could still feel it all, but kind of like laughing gas at the dentist, it helped calm me and ease me through the contractions. It only lasts about an hour and half, but it provided some very welcome relief.
I’ve learned that when I am in labor, I do not like to move around. I like to get in one position and stay there. I was most comfortable with my legs stretched out and my back leaned against the elevated bed. There were times I tried to stand or walk, but that it made it more painful. I even labored on the heated toilet seat, but overall couldn’t stay there long. One time they rolled my bed over to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to walk across the room, and that was wonderful.
The hospital had a doula on staff, and she came to help with my labor, too, and I was so grateful for her experience and guidance. She suggested different positions and breathing that I did my best to try, but I just wanted to sit in my same position. With the sitting position I preferred, she helped me tilt my hips to better open up the path for Mae to come, and I feel like it made a difference.
The contractions started to really be one on top of the other with little to no break in between. I can remember the nurses and doctor trying to ask me things or talk to me, but it was difficult to do anything but focus with eyes closed as I breathed through each wave, the intensity signaling that my baby was coming soon. I finally got enough of a break for my doctor to check my dilation, and she said “I can’t feel any cervix at all, she is fully at a 10.” I was glad, but the pushing was one of the hardest parts for me with Fox, so I knew there was still some work ahead of me to get baby girl here.
I did not want to deliver on my back if possible because that position was challenging for me when I delivered Fox. The process of turning from my back though was one of the hardest parts of labor. Being on my side was excruciating and I just kept crying “Help me” to everyone in the room. I could feel the pressure of her coming and it was the most desperate I felt throughout the entire process.
I finally gathered my strength and hoisted myself up on my knees, gripping the sides of the hospital bed. From here, I pushed as my team encouraged me. I remember thinking surely her head was almost out, but they said to keep going because they could see a little of her head. I think I audibly asked, “Just a little?!?”
At this point, I was very vocal as I used all my strength to push. They were having trouble getting the monitor to read her heartbeat because she was so low in the birth canal. At one point I knew it was getting serious and time sensitive when they put an oxygen mask on me and said that if she didn’t come soon, we were going to have to try another way because her heart rate was dropping (which was due to her umbilical chord being wrapped around her neck, which they saw once she arrived). My sweet doctor even asked if I could turn over and I remember emphatically saying, “NO!” (Those are the things that after the intensity of labor is over you think, “Oh my, did I really talk to my doctor like that?!”)
Knowing this was my final chance to get my little girl here without medical intervention, I dug as deep inside as I possibly could, mustered every bit of will and physical strength and pushed a few more times and delivered Mae. I so clearly remember the mix of pain and relief as I felt the smooth, but stretching sensation of her head coming out and then the wobbly feeling of her shoulders and body to follow. It was a miracle, and she and I had worked together to do this. She was here!
It was a delicate turn to get me from my knees to my back since the umbilical chord was still attached, but we did it, and within seconds, I laid my eyes on my daughter for the first time. The first thing I thought was, “you’re so beautiful!” She was feminine in her features and sounds, and meeting her is still one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever experienced.
I feel like I want to give a speech like an award winner and thank all the people that helped me. But first, I want to honor and thank Woody. He was incredible throughout the entire labor and delivery. I know that what I did was hard, but I think his job is hard too. He stayed by my side, helped communicate on my behalf, and kindly coached me as I labored. He felt so close to me, and him by my side is one of my most vivid memories from that day.
I also am so grateful for my nurse, Amber, the doula, and my doctor as well. I know they experience babies being born all the time, but as a Momma, there is something about the people who help you bring your child into the world that makes them extra special people in your life and memory forever. From the beginning, it truly does take a village.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! And, if you’re an expecting mom, let me just encourage you—you can do it. Birthing a baby is both one of the hardest and most cherished things I’ve ever done and probably ever will do. There are so many ways to safely bring a baby into the world, and as you read other people’s stories, remember to make your choices based on what matters to you and what is best for your family. There is no prize for delivering a baby this way or that, and every story—every mom, every baby, every pregnancy, every birth—is unique. You can read more about how I made decisions for birth in this post, but most of all, do what is right for you and your baby. As always, I’m cheering you on!
Do you have a birth story you’ve shared somewhere? If so, I’d love to read it, so share in the comments!
Photos by Rachel Coffey