A few weeks ago was my son’s first birthday! Noah Jackson Oetjen II is ONE, and this is his birth story. I cannot believe my baby is a year old! But I really can’t believe this labor & delivery was just last year – it feels like it happened ages ago. His birth story is very special to me, because it’s nothing that I had expected, with so many hard and intimate moments. I have grown up around birth and babies my whole entire life. My Momma has given birth to 10 children, and I have witnessed 6 of them enter the world! From the time I was small, I have been fascinated with birth and newborns and all of the beautiful messy details. I was the 12 year old asking the new mom in our life, how her labor went, how was transition, what position was baby in, is nursing going well, etc. This sacred space has always been a passion of mine, driving me to learn all I could. By the time I entered into my own pregnancy, I knew that I wanted a natural home birth (having watched my mom do this twice!), and I hired a midwife – the same woman who had delivered my sisters, 12 & 14 years earlier!
Leading up to birth:
My Momma went to 42 weeks with each of her babies, even the twins…so in my head, I knew my due date was no real indicator of when baby would be arriving. I spent that Thursday eating good food, drinking bone broth, hiking in the park, taking maternity pictures, and made a target run for Christmas decor. These days leading up to labor were full of all of the sweet anticipation that only a time such as this can bring. Just Noah and I still, no little human to hold yet, watching movies and taking walks and tidying the house each day, and soaking it all in. I slept as much as possible, and sewed little baby things, and snuggled my puppy.
I had been having Braxton hicks for weeks, which were no big deal. But in the next few days, every once in awhile, there would be a real contraction, that was full of power and productivity. They weren’t painful, and they weren’t regular at all yet. Sunday night I started to lose my mucus plug, which had me SO excited. The next day I drove up to my mom’s, so we could hang out and shop, sip coffee and giggle with all of my sisters.
Noah and I were supposed to go to his parents’ house that evening for a big family dinner. But as the day rolled on, several of them tested positive for Covid. This was hard and sad all around, because there are 13 people living in that house, and we knew it would be several weeks of waiting before they would be well enough to meet a newborn, or to not get this freshly postpartum mama sick! So, we went home and tucked in, waiting for more signs of labor, and prepping all of the last-minute things, like getting the birth pool set up, folding diapers, and putting more food in the freezer.
Tuesday night around 11pm, I had a contraction that was definitely a real one, and it was immediately followed up by another, and then another…I went to the bathroom, and bloody show had begun! I quickly got ready for bed and tucked in, with a snack and water and my rice heating pad. The contractions weren’t very painful, but I needed to stop and breathe through them now. And they began 3 minutes apart from the get-go. I slept for a few hours, vaguely aware of these contractions, until 2:30 am, when they started to spread out around my back, and I couldn’t sleep anymore. I got in the bath tub and started timing them, just to be sure they were actually still about three minutes apart. The tracking app kept telling me to pack up and head to the hospital, because the contractions were so close together!
I eventually woke Noah up and had him start filling the birth pool with a round of hot water. Our midwife provides a pool with a small heating retainer and a foam cover, so the temperature stays pretty consistent. I texted with my mom, ate a snack, and called my Midwife around 5 to let her know what was up, and to clarify that I was still good to keep going by myself, even though my contractions were coming so quickly. It worried me a bit that my natural measure of progression- timing contractions- wasn’t being very normal! But she was reassuring, and I laid back down, trying to sleep between contractions.
Wednesday was spent staying as busy as I could between the waves, sitting on the birthing ball, doing yoga, eating and drinking what I could and taking three-minute naps. I was still able to function just fine in between contractions, and they weren’t very painful yet or hard to manage. Noah and I had decided that we would put up the Christmas tree when I was in the early stage of labor, so that’s what we did! It was so fun, listening to Christmas music and decorating the tree, while I laid on the birthing ball, breathing through each contraction.
Slowly ramping up:
Later in the day, things shifted. The contractions moved to my back even more, and I couldn’t talk through them anymore. I started to feel nervous as things got more difficult, and we decided to check in with our midwife, and she came with her team. She asked if I wanted a cervical check, and by this point, I figured I’d feel better if I knew where things stood, even if I still had a long way to go. I was dilated to a 2, and the midwife encouraged us to rest as much as possible and tuck in for the long haul, and maybe call for a fresh face to come, to bring some relief. So that’s what we did! We called my Momma, and she came that evening with Chick-Fil-A (I think I ate most of the chicken breast off of a sandwich, and a frosted lemonade). It was a sweet change to have a new face and voice there, as I kept working through the contractions. By now, they had moved to almost entirely in my lower back, which was way harder to manage for me.
I had avoided the birth pool thus far, because I was afraid of slowing down my progression. But Momma encouraged me to give it a try, so I could have some relief, and try to catch some sleep in between contractions. The water did a lot for pain management and felt wonderful! I really relaxed and dozed, and stretched out in the warm water. We hung out this way for several hours, until I felt like I could maybe lay down in bed and try to sleep. It was a couple hours of rest in between contractions, around 3am, before the pain was hard to manage again, and I had to get up. Showered, ate a snack, and got back in the birth pool with Momma sitting beside me.
A few hours passed by, and again, things shifted. Around 6:30 am on Thursday morning, I started feeling a pressure down below. It slowly built up with each contraction, that were now coming one on top of another, just a couple of minutes apart. I asked Momma to wake Noah up, and they both felt like we should get another check, since that feeling of pressure was new and intensifying. The Midwife, her student, and the birth assistant all came and settled in. She checked me and I was at a 7, with a bag of waters bulging and ready to pop! This was very exciting to all of us, because we knew how fast you can move from a 7 with pressure, to a 10 and pushing. We were at 32 hours of labor at this point, and it was sweet to see an end in sight!
The need to push:
The next few hours were spent in and out of the tub, changing positions, sitting with Noah and Mom while they applied counter pressure on my back. The feeling of pressure slowly increased to a real urge to push with each wave. But I was still dilating very slowly, not even to an 8 yet. My Midwife asked me to hold off on pushing, until I was more open, to avoid a cervical lip. Around noon my sister Ava arrived, and so did Noah’s sister, Madison. I was getting discouraged and I was VERY tired, so these sweet fresh faces were a joy to see! Madison is such a calming presence in my life, and she is also a licensed massage therapist…This is a wonderful combination to have at your birth scene! Madison brought a lot of relief with her well-trained hands, and I was able to doze on and off in between contractions for most of the afternoon, while she massaged me the whole time.
Around five or six that evening (Thursday still), I started to get very discouraged and worn out. The battle of not pushing with each contraction like my body was wanting to, was exhausting – and causing me to clinch up, which of course adds to the pain. I remember Noah taking me to the shower several times to wash away my tears and help me get my head on straight. He is a go-getter, positive-thinking, full of endurance and ambition kind of guy – which is exactly the coaching and encouragement that I needed.
At this point, I remember Momma giving me a loving, but firm talking to, realizing just how much I was tensing up my body with having to resist this urge to push. She stressed the importance of relaxing my body, shoulders, jaw, tummy and bottom. I needed to get a grip and find a way to stay soft and open, despite feeling the need to bear down. Back to the tub I went, trying to focus on relaxing, while also distracting myself from this pressing pushing feeling. We turned on a Hallmark Christmas movie, then the Colts game, then The Office…This felt like it was taking forever, but everyone did their best to bring me relief and help pass the time.
I’d like to stop and say, that during these hours, I was so thankful to be birthing at home, with a midwife team. If I had been in a hospital, nurses and doctors would have for sure been rushing me along, and pushing for interventions. I wouldn’t have eaten anything all this time, whereas at home, I had my Midwife team monitoring how long it had been since I had eaten or drank, with my sister constantly making me snacks. Everyone in my home for this birth-Noah, Momma, Ava, Madison, and my Midwife, her Student Midwife, and Birth Assistant – they were all calm, patient, loving, and soft-spoken – sweetly cheering me on. It was an environment where I was really free to do what I needed to, with total support from those around me – all in the comfort and convenience of my own cozy home. I know that this birth story would have looked very different in a hospital setting, and I absolutely felt best being at home.
The hours ticked by, and at some point my Midwife actually left to go and deliver another baby, who was a fourth time mom with a speedy delivery! Another Midwife came to sit with me during those couple of hours, and she checked me after hearing how much I felt like pushing with each wave. At this point she saw that I was dilating unevenly – I was an 8 1\2 on one side, but a definite 9 or so on the other, still with that sack of waters right there waiting to bust. She encouraged me to move around for a bit, try sitting on the toilet, try side stepping on the stairs. There were several more shower breaks where Noah had to calm me down and help me get my head on straight, as I was getting upset and worn out and tense again. I got back in tub again sometime around 2am, over 50 hours now into labor.
The Midwife came back to our home, prompting me to whine that she had had plenty of time to deliver a whole other baby, and I was still sitting in this birthing tub, restraining myself from pushing with each contraction, because I wasn’t dilating properly. She simply smiled at me, and told me that my baby was coming in his own time, and no one else’s, and that my job was to relax. Those last several hours are a blur for me. By now my body was so exhausted that I was falling asleep between waves, and waking up just in time to get on top of the next one, doing my best to keep everything below soft and loose. Momma kept saying to relax my shoulders, Madison kept counter pressure, Noah held my hand and kept giving me sips of water. My Midwife said to wait until I couldn’t feel that band of pressure that was running across my pubic bone- that was what was left of my cervix. With my birth playlist running, my family meeting my every need, and my body doing it’s work, those last hours ticked by.
Around 3:30am Friday morning, I felt that band of pressure lift. By now my body had been pushing of it’s own accord every few contractions, despite my efforts to resist. My Midwife said to go ahead and allow the pushing sensation to take over, and this was a huge relief to me! I had been holding back for 15+ hours, and now finally getting to push felt amazing and productive. Within a few minutes, I could reach up and feel him! Apparently, my sister-in-law heard me say, “He feels so squishy”…This should have been our first clue that something wasn’t quite right. Another twenty minutes, he was crowning, and I was working hard to slowly get past his head. After a while, I reached down and felt something else in the way, thinking it was his hand by his face. I voiced this to my midwife and tried several different positions in the tub…but the word “stuck” is how I was feeling. After a few contractions of this, the midwife felt like she needed to get eyes on the scene to see what was going on. I flipped over in the tub, crab-walk position with my husband holding me up from behind. She watched for a push or two, and then very calmly explained that this was a bum, not a head that was crowning. (The something extra I had felt in the way? His little balls!)
I will say, there was some level of panic from everyone in the room (besides, of course, my very skilled midwife). I swallowed a cuss word, my mom was crying, my husband was quiet but, steeling himself for whatever “breech” was about to mean for us. But the Lord is good and met my need. He had already calmed the fear of this moment for me, 14 years earlier. Remember how I said that we hired the same exact midwife who had delivered my sisters? I was 10 years old, watching this wonderful woman work, as my Momma pushed out frank breech twin “A”…She came out completely purple, and not breathing, but this midwife had her pink and crying in less than a minute. It was a miracle moment, that I would recall in my mind, looking into this same woman’s face, as she tells me my baby’s bum is coming first…and I know, that it will be okay, because my God has gone before me, so many years ago.
I said aloud, “I can do this, this is just like Andi…”(twin A), and got to work, listening to this trusted midwife’s instructions and encouragement. From the time that she announced him breech, to holding him in my arms is only seven minutes or so. Another mercy from God, is that I kept losing my contraction, and had to pause, waiting for my body to be ready again…this allowed for lots of great stretching, and in the end, I only had a minor scratch of a tear- no stitches. Tearing had been a great fear of mine, and I was so thankful for this slow pushing that protected me. On the last push, when all of him but his head was out, the midwife told me to stand up – to which I said nope! But my husband and sister stood me up, and with gravity’s help, out popped his head – finally earth-side!
After Birth Joy:
He was so beautiful! Open eyes, and messy birth all over him! A good back rub from our midwife and he pinked up, with a little cry…we latched right away to help cut through any meconium that might have gotten to his mouth. He was so used to being folded up, that one leg was stretched out, and the other was still tucked up by his ear! The relief was so intense and overwhelming, and the joy in the room was tangible. Noah cut the cord, we got cleaned up in an herbal bath, and after the newborn check, we tucked into bed. I was so ready to sleep! Momma helped me get all snuggled in, with my new little baby asleep on my chest, and that rest was the sweetest I’ve ever known.
I know that labor isn’t always this hard, with such slow and uneven progression, or such an early need to push that had to be suppressed. I would really like to not be in active labor for 54 hours ever again! But it taught me so much about endurance, and dependance on the help of others, and moment-by-moment sanctification. I know this surprise breech delivery could’ve gone other ways. But I am so thankful for the safety and skill that God provided for us so well. He truly goes before us in birth, and I see his hand all over this story.
Birth Story Photo Dump:
So many of these photos are a grainy or blurry mess…but oh, the joy they portray! My husband’s presence was so consistent and encouraging to me. So thankful.
My sweet Momma, giving me all of her help and attention through all of the labor…after I have watched her labor so well for many of her deliveries!
Love you to pieces, Noah Jackson!