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The fast lane: The birth of Magnus


One month ago our lives changed forever when Mike and I welcomed our sweet baby boy, Magnus Michael, into the world. These last few weeks have seen lots of ups and downs (and we haven’t seen a whole lot of sleep), but whenever I look at Magnus’ cute little face and chubby little cheeks, all the tears and frustration melt away, and all I see is this tiny little boy who I already love more than I ever thought possible. It’s crazy how much he has already changed in just a month, and I’m already wishing I could slow down time to soak up just a little bit more of his perfect newborn-ness.

While it seems crazy that he’s already a month old, his actual birth seems like it was very long ago. I planned to have a natural birth from the very beginning, even before I found out that I was pregnant. I knew that it would be painful, but I also knew there was no way for me to imagine what the pain would feel like, so I wasn’t afraid and really just wanted to let me body do its thing. We took a birthing class through Chicago Family Picnic, I read lots of books (especially those by Ina May Gaskin), I had my doula lined up and I kept thinking positive birthing thoughts throughout my pregnancy. By the time my due date finally arrived, I was ready—and apparently, so was Magnus.

I woke up at 2 a.m. on Friday, September 30. After my usual bathroom break, I got back into bed and felt my first contraction. It was definitely different than anything I had felt before, but I knew that didn’t necessarily mean anything—although something in the back of my mind told me that this little guy might enjoy being punctual like his mom and show up on his due date. For the last week Mike had been sleeping in the guest bedroom, (since I was taking up more than half of the bed) so I let him sleep and figured I’d wait and see if these contractions were going to go anywhere.

After getting back in bed, I felt this crazy hunger come on. All I could think about was pizza, and I was even Googling if Chicago Pizza was still open. I was jonesin’ hard. Sadly, it was not, but I proceeded to dig a frozen pizza out and eat the entire thing. Good thing I did, because that’s about the only real sustenance I had until around 11 p.m. that night. After my pizza binge, I got back into bed and started timing the contractions (there’s an app for that). They were averaging 15 minutes apart and about a minute long. I tried going back to sleep, but I was so excited and nervous at the thought that we might end up meeting Magnus that day, (and focused on timing my contractions) that I was awake for the long haul.

A few hours later, Mike woke up to let him know I was having contractions, but I didn’t know if or when they would pick up. Luckily, he was working from home that day and was able to keep me hydrated and check in on me throughout the day. I texted my mom and doula to let them know the same information and then continued to work through the contractions lying in bed for the next few hours. We were in the home stretch of our latest round of home renovations, and our house was filled with workers that day. The sounds of a nail gun make up the soundtrack of my labor, along with the smells of fresh paint wafting up from the first floor.

Around noon, some of my contractions started to become a little more intense. I tried squatting and bouncing or leaning over the medicine ball while Mike squeezed my hips to get through them, but I ended up being most comfortable sitting on the end of the bed (Magnus just felt too heavy in any other position). Even though the contractions seemed to be picking up in intensity, they were becoming more spaced out. Some of them were 25-35 minutes apart, so I really didn’t know what to make of them. At that point, I decided we needed to get out and take a walk, so Mike, Ruby, and me headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood while I worked through a few more contractions. Because I was aiming for a natural labor and my water hadn’t broken yet, the magic combination we were looking for  was 3-1-1. We weren’t supposed to head to the hospital until I was having contractions that were 1 minute long and 3 minutes apart for 1 hour.

Things started to pick up after our walk. Even though I still wasn’t sure the main event was going to happen that day, I texted my doula, Kathryn, to head over because I was having much more trouble getting through each contraction. She arrived at 5 p.m. and immediately jumped in by giving me acupuncture (she’s also my acupuncturist), busting out the essential oils, rubbing my back like crazy through contractions and getting me to stand and walk up and down the hall when I really didn’t want to. Mike took over the contraction timing while Kathryn handled pain relief, and I texted my mom that even though I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready to head to the hospital, she might want to start heading downtown. Throughout the day, I was worried about getting to the hospital. If things picked up and we had to get from the northwest side to Prentice during rush hour, it was going to take at least 45 minutes to an hour, and I was not looking forward to that.

After Kathryn arrived it didn’t take long for things to escalate quickly. I threw up after one of my most painful contractions I threw up. There was definitely a desperate scream for Mike to get a trash can, and we decided to call the midwives around 7 p.m. The midwife on call told us to call back in about an hour (or if my water broke), because my contractions still hadn’t reached the regularity where they would usually tell me to head in. Maybe 15 minutes after Mike got off the phone with her, I had this feeling come over me that we needed to leave for the hospital. I told Mike and Kathryn, and at first they said to just wait a little longer and call Meredith (the midwife) when she told us to. Well, then I told them I felt like I needed to push, (which is usually a sign you’re very close to giving birth) and that was all they needed to hear. The thought of getting myself from the bedroom upstairs to the car in the garage seemed nearly impossible, but with Mike’s help, we made it and were off.

Luckily the express lanes on the highway had just opened, so we were able to make it downtown very quickly—although not without some serious struggling on my part. I was moaning probably the entire ride, and Chicago’s pothole situation did not make it much easier. Side note on the moaning/labor noises—for months prior to the birth, I was so worried about being self conscious about any noises I was going to have to make during labor. Let me tell you, that insecurity went out the window very quickly when the first difficult contractions came on. You do what you gotta do!

We pulled up in front of Prentice. I got into a wheelchair and into triage very quickly, although still giving me enough time in the lobby for the woman at the front desk to tell my mom that she was sure I was going to have the baby right there. They hurried us into triage when I told them I felt like pushing, and after an extremely painful cervix check by the nurse, she said I was 10 centimeters (fully dilated) and ready to go.

They shuttled me up the the delivery room, and I was pushing as soon as they had me set up. I thought the contractions leading up to this were bad, (and was swearing at myself for deciding on a natural birth) but they were nothing compared to the pushing. I was screaming movie-style and thought there was no way I would ever be able to do this. Who are these women talking about a “beautiful” natural birth? Not me! I had a death grip and then some on Mike’s hand as he stood next to me letting me know when my next contraction was coming and telling me how great I was doing. My doula was rubbing my shoulders and also reassuring me that I was doing great, and the midwife was getting me to stop screaming and hold my breath to push during each contraction. Luckily, with everyone’s support, I was able to focus and was only pushing for maybe 10-15 minutes before Magnus arrived less than 40 minutes after our arrival to the hospital! Immediately he was on my chest, and it was, as everyone says, love at first sight. Relief, excitement, accomplishment and love for Magnus and for Mike were just a few of the emotions washing over me at that moment. It was surreal that this little baby I had been carrying for 9 long months was now here with us, and he was perfect!

Even with the pain, I still felt/feel like I wouldn’t change a thing about Magnus’ birth. (Although in the days that followed, I definitely contemplated whether or not I would consider going the natural route again if we have a second child.) Slowly but surely, my mind has been pushing out the most painful memories, and I’m already to the point of thinking I’d do the exact same thing again. I guess that’s nature’s way of ensuring you keep procreating! My recovery seemed quick and easy. Magnus had no issues, and my body did its thing just like it was supposed to (painful as it was). There’s not much more I could ask for! After this whole first baby experience, I now truly understand how much of a miracle creating, carrying, and birthing a baby is (however you do it), and I feel incredibly lucky to have Magnus here with us now!

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!

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