It was the end of December, and my husband and I made a discovery - he hadn't earned his 2022 companion pass through Southwest yet! He flies so much that we have had no problem earning it the past couple years, but with the pandemic he has been flying less. But the pass was super close in reach, less than 1000 points away!
We have a Southwest credit card that also earns us points towards the companion pass, but unfortunately for us the last statement had already closed so we couldn't make any more purchases that would count towards this year. So, we did what any other sane person would do - we bought a $300 ticket for Bjorn to fly up to Oakland and then fly directly back home so we could earn enough points. He didn't check a bag or leave the airport - he didn't even leave the terminal. It was a pain in the butt but it will only take one roundtrip flight with the companion pass to pay off.
What is the companion pass?
The companion pass allows you to travel with one designated person every time you fly for free (aside from fees which are around $12 bucks). You can even switch the designated person a couple times throughout the year. There are no limits or black out dates, no locations that Southwest flies you can't go. You still get two free checked bags, and the check in process is the exact same. If you are familiar with how Southwest does their ticket tiers, there are three different levels of tickets you can buy depending on what kind of refund you want, and if you want to board earlier. There are only a certain number of each type of ticket. "Wanna Get Away" is the cheapest ticket type, but you can still book a ticket with your companion pass even if the "Wanna Get Away" tickets are all booked out. You have to earn 125,000 points in one calendar year to qualify for the companion pass, but there are other ways to get it which I will take about more down below.
My Experience With Companion Pass
I've been flying with the companion pass for years, and honestly it hasn't been any different than flying with a ticket you paid for. I've never been denied a flight, or taken off a flight to allow for a paying customer. When I check in for my flight 24 hours ahead of time (if you are not familiar with Southwest, this is how you get your boarding position since you don't pick a seat ahead of time) I still get great numbers with my husband. Now that we have a baby, I can even add Stella as a lap child with my companion pass ticket. It is such an amazing perk that we have totally taken advantage of, so that is why it was so important for us to get it again in 2022!
How To Get The Companion Pass
Earn 125,000 Points In One Calendar Year By Flying
When you are a part of Southwest's rewards program, you get points for each flight you book directly through Southwest. The amount of points you earn depends on the price, so if you book a more expensive ticket tier you will get more points for the same flight.
Fly 100 One Way Flights In One Calendar Year
Pretty self explanatory - for every one way flight you book you can work your way up to 100 and get your companion pass.
Earn Points Through Purchases On The Southwest Credit Card
If you link a Southwest Chase credit card to your rewards account, you earn points with your purchases that go directly to your rewards points amount. You get 1 point for most purchases, but for special purchases, like Southwest tickets, you get bonus points.
Southwest Credit Card Promotions
One of the years we had the companion pass, we weren't going to earn it through points or flights. At the time, when you open a Southwest credit card and spend a certain amount of money within a certain time frame, you will automatically earn the companion pass for the year. We used the credit card to pay for things we already needed anyway so it worked out great!
Southwest Rapid Rewards Promotions
Keep an eye on promotions available on your account! Once we received a promotion where if we flew 5 one way flights (2.5 round trips) through the rest of the year we would earn the companion pass for the next year. I believe at the time we received this promotion it was October so it was pretty easy for my husband to earn it through flying for work. 5 is a lot less flights than 100! More recently, last year Southwest had a promotion where if you booked a flight and flew before mid November, you would earn the companion pass for two months.
Oh boy. I wasn't sure if I ever really wanted to think or talk about what birth was like for me. But as time passes and evolution makes me forget the pain of it all, I have found it actually helps to talk about it, especially if sharing our story can actually help someone else to be better prepared for however your child decides to enter this world.
Back at my anatomy scan around 22 weeks, baby looked great but my placenta was super low, only about 1cm away from the cervix. Most of the time the placenta moves up on its own, but another scan at 32 weeks showed my placenta in the exact same place. My doctor told me the odds of the placenta moving at this point are very low. Its dangerous to give birth with such a low placenta because of bleeding and the possibility of the placenta detaching before the baby is born, so we scheduled a c-section for 11/8 at 39 weeks on the dot. For over six weeks I was mentally preparing myself for a c-section birth and recovery, and I felt ready for it. Most first time moms go well past 40 weeks before they go into labor so I never thought Stella would come before our c-section date.
Fast forward to the morning of 11/6 (two days before the scheduled c-section). At 4am my eyes shot open. I was having contractions. I had Braxton hicks before, but this was nothing like that. These were painful and radiating into my back. I tried to sleep but the contractions were coming every 10-30 minutes. By the time I decided to get out of bed around 9am, they were more consistently every 7-10 minutes. I called the doctor on call, but she assured me it was false labor and I felt better. But as time went on the contractions were getting longer and closer together. Around 3pm I told my husband he needs to come home from work, and by the time we were ready to go to the hospital around 5pm my contractions were every 4-5 minutes and I couldn't talk through them. The app I used to track my contractions is called Contraction Timer (it’s green) and it makes it super easy to time everything. It also tells you when it’s time to go to the hospital. The app told me multiple times at home it was time to go to the hospital, but I was a bit in denial. I did my hair and make up, and we left for the hospital.
Once we were in the hospital I was still expecting to have a c-section because of my placenta. I told the doctor at the hospital about it and they ordered an ultrasound. I was so shocked when the tech told me the placenta is actually now far from my cervix and it is safe to deliver. Because I wasn't yet 39 weeks, I couldn't have an elective c-section. Panic starting set in. I hadn't prepared for this what so ever. The next shock came when I asked for an epidural. Even though it was so early, I was in so much pain. Due to back surgery I had as a teenager, the anesthesiologist did not feel comfortable giving me an epidural without an X-ray of my back. I couldn't have a new x-ray because I was pregnant, and the nurse could not get a copy of any of my old X-rays from previous hospitals because it was a Saturday evening and all the offices were closed. My regular doctor had told me it was possible I could not have an epidural and would need to be completely knocked out for the c-section, which was another reason I was grateful we were scheduling a c-section.
I went from thinking I was having a completely anesthetized c-section, to having an unmedicated vaginal birth within the course of a couple minutes.
I started to lose it. The pain was starting to really get strong. I was crying and panicking. This was the last possible birth plan I would've chosen for myself. I was able to have one dose of pain killers (too much would affect the baby) that lasted about an hour. At this point I was only at 1 cm in early labor. The hope was that the pain killers would slow down labor and I would make it to my c-section. The pain killers helped a bit but I was still in pain, and when the nurse came back to check how dilated I was, I had progressed to 3cm. We were having a baby soon.
At this point I had accepted my fate, and adrenaline was kicking in. I started to find a way to manage the contractions. I discovered by the time I took three deep breaths once a contraction started, the contraction pain was going away and I felt better. I started to find the contractions more manageable than I did in the beginning when I was less dilated. Luckily for me, I had an angel L&D nurse. She was so kind and motivating, I don’t know if I would’ve made it without her. According to her, I was dilating very quickly for a first time mom. At around 7pm when I was admitted I was 1 cm, and by 2am I was fully dilated. The contraction pain was so bad for me, I was begging to push around 8cm. I had no idea, but when you get to this point in labor, your body is *forcing* you to push. Sometimes the nurse would tell me to try not to push with the next contraction to give baby a break, and it was so incredibly hard to fight my body!
Once the doctor and whole team arrived and it was time to really start pushing, I was so ready. I had heard scary terms like "ring of fire" but it was nothing compared to what I had been feeling from contractions the past couple hours. Apparently I pushed for 2 hours, but it was all such a blur. At 5:15am it was all worth it when sweet Stella was born. It is true, as soon as your baby comes out all the pain immediately stops and you feel so awake and in the moment.
Looking back, if I could change it I would have gotten an epidural if I could. The shock of not getting the birth I was expecting + the pain made me so out of it was hard to enjoy the process. I'm sure it was scary for my husband too. I had never felt I needed to prove to myself I could have an unmedicated birth. I was expecting a "cute" birth you see on social media with lots of pretty photos with my hair done nice and make up in place, being happy and excited with my husband as we got closer and closer to meeting our baby. Unfortunately that is just not how it happened and that is ok. I am proud of what I was able to overcome and I know I am capable of so much more than I ever thought. But if I could give someone advice, I would say educate yourself and prepare for anything. If you are expecting a c-section, still take that lamaze class. If you are expecting a vaginal birth, prepare yourself for the recovery of a c-section. If you are planning to have an epidural, look into pain management techniques in case it isn't possible. Birth is so unpredictable, but I would do it again in a heartbeat for my baby.
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