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Jesse's Birth Story

Written by Hattiesburg Midwifery Mama, KateLin James

Hold your horses and get ready. If you’re a weirdo and can’t handle the truth about women’s bodies and childbirth, then this is not the post for you. This is my birth story, so it will be alllll about the birth of my child — the good, bad, gooey, bloody birth of Jesse James. Very little will be left out, aside from the photos of Jesse’s head crowning. If all that is not for you, then here’s your warning.

I’ll begin with a brief summary of my pregnancy: Jordan and I thought it would be quite a few more years before we tried for a baby. We knew we wanted one but just thought it was a far-future plan. I had an IUD. Well, I had a false positive — before I knew it was false, the excitement I felt was unreal. When I found out it was false, I cried. Just a little. I was sitting in the passenger seat of the car. Jordan and I were in some parking lot, who knows why. That letdown was real, and I decided right then at that moment that my IUD had to come out. I kid you not — I called clinic after clinic to see who could get me in that same day. Finally, I found a clinic about an hour away that could get me in that evening. We got in the car and went. IUD out.

(Fill in the blank.)

I found out I was pregnant in August of 2022. Then came the struggle. Some women love pregnancy, but I am NOT one of those women. I was sick for the entire nine months. I can’t tell you how many times I opened the car door at a stoplight to throw up. Sleep didn’t exist. My pelvic floor, Lordy Jesus. I peed my pants more times than I could count. It is the honest-to-goodness truth when I say that I thought I’d be pregnant forever. Praise the gods I wasn’t.

On the night of April 5th, 2023 I started to feel contractions. They were small and not painful at all, but they came and went, and I remember thinking that this was exactly what my sister-in-law described when she went into labor. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, though, so I didn’t say anything. I just waited. At some point that night I lost my mucus plug, and the contractions continued.

I went to work Thursday morning, contractions coming every 5–8 minutes. By then, I had decided that this was actually labor. I contacted my midwife, the amazing Amanda Smith of Hattiesburg Midwifery, and she told me that it sounded like labor and to keep her updated. Once I had finished teaching my classes for the day, I told my principal that I thought I was in labor. She said, “Get off my campus. I don’t deliver babies.”

Home I went, and I just waited — rested and waited. Because I had no intention of going to the hospital for my labor and delivery, I knew that there was a possibility that I would be in labor for a little while. I was so excited, though; I’d been eagerly waiting for this for quite a while. If you REALLY know me, then you know I have a thing for pain — I like to push the bounds of what my body can handle and survive. It has to do with being tough and able to withstand. So, I just waited. When my husband got off work, we continued to wait. The contractions had gotten stronger, and Amanda offered to come out and check on me. She told me that it could be quite a while. I asked her to check my cervix for dilation (I consider this intervention. I do think it’s unnecessary, but I wanted to have some sort of idea concerning where I might be in the stages of labor). I think we were all surprised when she told me I was dilated to a six. I had expected it to be much less. Because I was dilated to a greater extent than Amanda expected, she and her assistants decided to stay for a while to see if my contractions might become more intense. There was a good chance I’d have my baby that night.

Alas, no. Amanda and her team ended up leaving. Before they left, she told me to keep her updated and call if I felt like it was progressing further.

I slept okay that night considering my contractions continued to come every few minutes. I didn’t think they were very painful. Friday morning came — still no baby. Jordan and I went on a walk, we had sex, we went on a walk, we had more sex, and I tried to do the miles circuit (I was so big, so it was really painful for me to try to get into those positions, and I won’t lie, I really just wanted to curl into a ball on the couch. The contractions were picking up in intensity). Amanda and her team came back out. Again, I asked Amanda to check my dilation. Eight. My baby would come tonight. He just had to — I was too close to being fully dilated for him to not. A few hours passed, and I asked Amanda to check my dilation again. Nine. I would have my baby tonight.

Alas, no. However, Amanda and her team stayed the night. I was (obviously) too close to active labor for them to leave. They set up the birthing pool in my room and I even got in it at one point to see if it would help the contractions. Eventually, I got hot and decided to get out. I was tired. Even though I didn’t find the contractions to be all that painful, they still had me worn out. I was doing my best to stay relaxed during them because I knew from research that doing that would help the whole process.

Having been a college athlete and also just a crazy person who had an obsession with working out, I knew I had both physical and mental stamina. Even now I can say that the lead-up to active labor, although long and exhausting, wasn’t a match for college swim practices. I knew going into this that there was a good possibility it would take a while, and I was prepared to hold on for the ride.

First-time mothers are usually guaranteed to have a longer labor. It makes sense. The body, despite being completely capable of birthing a baby, still hasn’t done it before. My body was moving and stretching and relaxing and tightening in a way that it had yet to experience before. Of course, it might take longer. But here’s the deal: this is the design. God made this to work, and it had worked, for years and years it had worked. Before modern medicine, women birthed babies on their own.

Pause. Can we just take a moment to be in awe of the creation that is the female body?

So, where were we? Friday night. Dilated to a nine. Just waiting, riding the waves of the contractions. Amanda told me to sleep as much as possible, knowing that the hardest part was still to come. She wanted to make sure I had the energy I would need to push this baby out of me. Of course, the keywords here are “as much as possible.” It was nearly impossible to sleep. Perhaps for a minute, a light sleep, before a contraction woke me up, and then once it passed I would try to fall asleep again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Saturday morning. No baby. Amanda and her assistants made me breakfast and then told me it was time to get to work. Jordan and I went on a walk, about a half mile, and when we got back to the house one of Amanda’s assistants put me in some positions and had me hanging upside down from the couch. They gave me these little herbal beads to suck on that were supposed to help intensify the contractions, then they massaged my feet, pushing on pressure points. My contractions did start to pick up. Still, my midwife wasn’t happy. She said she could barely tell I was having contractions, which she said was bizarre since I was dilated almost completely. I thought it was bizarre too; I was ready for things to get going. At this point, I had been having contractions for nearly 70 hours straight. Man, I was ready for them to stop. AND I was ready to meet my baby boy!!! LOL.

My water still hadn’t broken, and I knew there was a good chance that my labor would progress if it did. Amanda said I could try to break it myself, so I squatted down and put my pointer finger and thumb up in me. I couldn’t reach though, because I had to put my arm AROUND my huge-ass belly before I could even get my fingers up inside myself. So, I asked Amanda if she would break my water for me. She said she would, but warned me that if I didn’t deliver in 24 hours I’d have to go to the hospital due to the risk of infection. I truly believed that I’d have him within 24 hours, so I told her to go ahead.

I really wanted to have a completely intervention-free L&D aside from cervical checks, but I was ready to get my baby out. It hurt; or, at least, it wasn’t comfortable at all, but we got it done. Liquid gushed out of me and continued to do so for a bit. After Amanda broke my water I got into the birthing pool.

I rolled around in there for a while but eventually got out. The heat from the water just made me feel worse since I was already working so hard. Once I left the pool, I got onto a stool. I sat there for a while, riding the waves of the contractions. Amanda asked if I felt like I needed to push, and I said that I didn’t really but I could try.

My mom always told me that she couldn’t help but push, so I kept waiting for that feeling, but it never came. By that point, I was just exhausted and ready for my baby to be out of me, so I started pushing. The contractions were so intense that I felt sick and then actually got sick. Weird, but it honestly felt so good to throw up in that moment. I think it’s because all the pain was so consuming and when I was heaving I wasn’t thinking about it. My midwife also said that throwing up would help progress labor since my abdomen was constricting so forcefully.

So it continued like that for a while, me sitting on the stool and then leaning back into my husband when I felt the urge to push. My back started to hurt pretty badly, so Amanda suggested I get on my hands and knees. She said that would help relieve the pressure on my back. I listened to her and got into that position. My husband stayed where he was and just held me every time I pushed. Man. WHAT A WORKOUT. I just remember looking across the room at the wall and thinking that I never wanted a baby in the first place (even though I did) and why did I ever think this would be fun (looking back, it was the most fulfilling, awe-inspiring, wonderful, freaking perfect thing).

I pushed for 40 minutes. I pushed so hard. SO HARD. Amanda asked if I wanted to try to touch his head, that it was close, and I said that I didn’t. LOL. I was so ready to get him out that I didn’t even want to take a moment to try to feel. Amanda said she thought it would motivate me, but I just couldn’t. But then, once she said she could see the head, she told me to touch it. I did. Reached down and touched my baby for the very first time. His sweet, little, perfect head. Oh boy, and then — let me tell you — I PUSHED. I felt his head coming out of me, felt myself tear a little, a small burn, then one more hard push, the hardest push — all the oxygen out of my lungs, no more air — and then relief. The rest of his body slid out.

My Jesse James.

I remember just putting my head back down and hanging over the stool. When I looked up, my husband was laughing and crying. I couldn’t cry — don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic about my baby — because I was just so relieved. All of the tightness and cramping was immediately gone. Amanda put my baby in my arms, and I held him to my chest. I couldn’t stop smiling. After being helped up and into my bed, I began to notice small stinging pains around my vagina, but they weren’t bad enough to make me feel uncomfortable. Jesse was still attached to the umbilical cord, which was still attached to the placenta, which was still inside me. Suddenly I felt a gush of blood come out of me, and Amanda said that meant it was time to birth the placenta. She told me to push, and I remember thinking, “Seriously? I’m done pushing. I just pushed this freaking baby out of me.” But, still, I pushed, the last push, and I grunted a little — I recall thinking it was funny because I didn’t remember making any sort of noises when I pushed Jesse out, but I was just so exhausted at that point that the placenta almost felt just as difficult to get out as my 7 lbs. 9 oz. baby. Regardless, I got it out. Amanda’s assistant put the placenta in a ziplock bag and set it beside me so Jesse could stay attached until all the blood in the cord had passed back into him. It took about an hour and a half for that to happen, which is wild to me because in hospitals they cut the cord almost immediately. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that the cord not be clamped until a minute has passed (Budin WC 2017), which is not nearly long enough for the blood to move back into the baby. Hospitals call that delayed cord clamping. How wild is that? Are hospitals in such a hurry to get one woman in and out as fast as possible? But I’ll hush on that for now.

(Sometime during all this, my sister-in-law got to my house and came back to the bedroom. She got on the bed with me and took pictures of me and my baby. It was so nice. I have two sisters and I wanted more than anything for them to be present at the birth, even though I knew it wasn’t possible. (Both of them live in Wyoming and weren’t able to make the trip down — my older sister had actually just had a baby a month before, making me a girl-aunt!) Having my sis-in-law there meant the world to me, especially since her pregnancy and birth were one of the largest reasons that I was so eager for a child. I mean, of course, I wanted a baby because it was what Jordan and I both hoped for at this point in our lives together, but there was something about seeing Jessica with her little boy that made me realize that being a mother was a title I wanted. I really hadn’t thought about it much until I saw her become a mom — in fact, I wasn’t even sure if I even wanted to have a child. Jessica makes motherhood look like the beautiful thing that it is.)

Jesse wasn’t breathing. Amanda asked me if I minded if she performed resuscitation on him, which I (obviously) had no problem with. She grabbed him and began to work. Oddly enough, I wasn’t worried at all. While it was still a potentially dangerous situation, I had spent so much time with Amanda and she had proven to me that she was more than capable of providing the necessary care to help my baby. Not to mention, she is a medically trained professional.

As she worked on Jesse, I started to feel a bit dizzy and my vision began to tunnel. I felt multiple gushes of blood leave my body, and then my hearing was gone. I felt surprisingly calm — I think the euphoria of getting my baby out of me was so strong that nothing could really phase me. I remember saying, “I think I’m passing out. I can’t hear anything.” Still, I was calm. LOL.

Ya’ll, my midwife is awesome. I’ll say it over and over again. One of her assistants took over with my baby, and she gave me a shot of pitocin to help my uterus contract and then also gave me an IV. Additionally, she gave me some herbal beads. I’m not sure what those were exactly, but I think it’s so awesome that she used a combination of synthetic medicine and natural remedies. To me that emphasizes what true midwifery represents: individuals acknowledging that birth is a natural event that doesn’t always need medical assistance — but sometimes does! When medicine is required it should be given, but if it’s not required then it can work to disrupt the natural process of birth. But I digress. Before the pitocin and IV kicked in, I also asked if I should try to latch Jesse (he was good at this point) because nipple stimulation helps the uterus contract as well. This was the first time that I tried to latch Jesse, and he was a pro! He got right to nursing.

All ended well. I held my baby to my chest for over an hour. For the duration of that time, he was still connected to the umbilical cord, which was still connected to the placenta. It wasn’t until the cord turned white, indicating there was no more blood left in it, that Amanda took Jesse, let Jordan cut the cord, and then proceeded to check him out. I say “check him out,” because she performed a series of tests — extensive tests — to make sure he was healthy. Her examination lasted for nearly thirty minutes, I want to say. After that, Jordan held him and had skin-to-skin time with him.

Amanda and her assistants cleaned up everything. They didn’t leave until Jesse had his first bowel movement and I had gone pee. After that, they went over the after-birth-care instructions. I had a second-degree tear that I opted to have closed with surgical glue rather than stitches — I was SO over having my vagina be messed with, and the LAST thing I wanted was another painful event to happen down there. Amanda’s assistants cleaned the house while Amanda was going over everything to know once they left. They left the refrigerator with a meal for us to eat that night (or whenever we wanted). Once they had finished going over the after-care instructions, they left.

And then it was me and my husband and our baby. Just us in our bed, on clean sheets.

I could say so much more about how awesome this experience was but I’ll limit it as much as possible. Prior to conceiving, growing, and birthing my baby, I was a big woman-fan. A feminist, one might say, but I think it goes beyond that. I’m obsessed with women. Women are the superior sex — I really believe that. But, listen, I AM a woman. Shouldn’t I think that? Since delivering my baby, my feelings concerning women have only grown. I think I was almost in shock for a whole week after I had Jesse — I just couldn’t believe what my body had done. BIRTH IS MAGICAL. It is a miracle. It is HARD. But it is so worth it. And I truly believe that natural birth is even more worth it. There is beauty in the struggle to bring life into the world. There is beauty in FEELING the struggle and still pushing through — literally.

I understand that it’s scary and it’s difficult, but shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t the creation of life be monumental? I firmly believe that every woman should have the choice to birth where and how she wishes — hospital, home, epidural, natural, cesarean, etc. Women should have complete agency when it comes to what happens to their bodies. BUT I do wish that more women would step out of their comfort zones and face the fear they feel. I wish the stigma of danger surrounding birth would be questioned. Birth CAN be dangerous, but it is inherently a safe, difficult, naturally occurring event. I want for a generation of women to push back against fear and do the research, learn for themselves, that they are more than capable. Women’s bodies are magic.

P.S. My placenta is still in my freezer. What do you think I should do with it?

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