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Archive for the ‘birth stories’ Category

(Started Friday 7/29/16)

He’s here! Our sweet, cherished, much-loved, and hard-earned son Sayer Augustus arrived on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 6:03 a.m after over 30 hours of labor. He weighed 7 lbs., 13.2 oz., was 20.5″ long, and has a head full of brown hair. (So much hair!) We think his eyes are blue, but it’s really hard to tell yet. He looks a whole lot like his brother Silas did at birth, which is a first for us – his six older siblings all look very different from one another. It’s fun to compare Silas & Sayer’s pictures and see how much they look alike. Sayer’s hair is darker and fuller, and his eyes are lighter – but otherwise, they are carbon copies so far!

He is currently two days old and doing very well. My mother-in-law has been taking care of my family since Tuesday evening and has been an enormous blessing (as she always is). She is leaving tomorrow (sniff). My older daughters have also been indispensable and more helpful than I ever imagined. They are wonderful kids! This morning was hard, as Sayer was just plain hungry. So he cried and cried and refused to latch after a while. But by this afternoon, I finally coaxed him to nurse again, and he realized the good stuff is coming. And how he’s sleeping and eating peacefully again. I am loving and soaking up these first precious days with him – oh, how quickly it’s over. He will be enormous before I can blink, and life will be a blur of family and homeschooling and homekeeping, and I will long for these days. So I’m trying my best to sit back and just stare at him as I recover from his marathon birth.

I am still processing many details of his birth. I think I’m going to try to give a basic overview, and perhaps I will add to it as time goes on. Some details are very difficult/personal and may never be shared here, but if you are a loved one, feel free to engage me in conversation. I love each one of my birth stories and am an advocate for informed birth, and as such, I enjoy talking with people about it. I have had two hospital births, one freestanding birth center birth, and four homebirths, and each has taught me something. Writing them down helps me sort, file, & remember. But this birth was very hard, and I don’t think I’m even ready to write some things down yet.

Last Wednesday, at 38 weeks even, I was barely 2 cm dilated, 70% effaced, and cervix posterior. This was discouraging news for me, as I am always more progressed at 38 weeks. Like many grand multiparas, I had been having prodromal labor, regular & irregular contractions, etc. for a couple of weeks. Usually, this progresses me far enough that when labor actually decides to go full force, it’s not too long before the baby’s here. This time, I was concerned that labor would be either a long way off, or a very long one, as it seemed like my body was working but things weren’t progressing. My instincts were correct.

Labor began Monday night (38 weeks, 5 days). I started having regular contractions that felt like early labor in the evening, and when I went to bed, I would barely drift off to sleep before a contraction would wake me up. By 2 a.m., I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep, so I started tracking labor on my phone. Contractions were regular and timeable (10-12 min apart, 60-90 sec long) and lasted all night. I woke my husband up at some point (I think around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning?) and told him what was going on. I was starting to deal with some serious anxiety about this labor – it wasn’t picking up and I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid that once things finally got serious, I’d have no energy left to push. Sleep deprivation makes things so much harder. Anxiety feeds the fear-pain-tension cycle. As someone who has had five beautiful, unmedicated, out-of-hospital births, I knew that this anxiety was not normal for me and was very much working against me. I talked with our midwife, Hannah, and she was very encouraging and had some great advice. I told her we’d let her know when we needed her, but I knew things were going very slowly and it would be a while.

We tried several things throughout the day Tuesday (38 weeks, 6 days). Labor paused a couple of times for an hour or so, but always picked back up. I tried lavender epsom salt baths, a glass of wine, napping, etc – but the labor persisted. I wanted labor to pause so I could rest and finish with the energy and strength I knew I’d need, but it was not to be. Eventually, the contractions got closer together. By midnight Tuesday (which I guess is actually Wednesday?) they were 5-7 min apart and feeling slightly stronger. I had been in labor over 24 hours and was looking at a second night without any sleep – and I was completely spent. I tried very hard to get some sleep, but labor just kept on coming. Persistent, hard work, but not getting stronger. I was completely and utterly exhausted. My body and mind were spent, and my spirit was having trouble dragging them along.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we decided to go to the hospital for an epidural. I knew that I needed labor to either pick up and finish or stop – I needed rest. There was no way I was going to be able to push out the baby after essentially being awake since Monday morning. I knew that an epidural would give me a chance to rest. I hoped that labor would then progress, as well. We prayed and talked for many hours and had complete peace over this decision. Hannah was very supportive of whatever we decided.

On a clear, beautiful, starry morning, we were admitted to labor & delivery. I was now 39 weeks even. After over 24 hours of labor, I was still only 4-5 cm, 90% effaced, and cervix still somewhat posterior! (This from the woman who has had two labors start-to-finish in 1.5 hrs or less!) Baby’s head was high. I just needed to rest. I had an epidural at 3 a.m., and rested until I was ready to push.

I felt the urge to push after a couple of hours. I didn’t know how pushing would go with an epidural – the last one I had was 13 years ago, and it was my first birth. A lifetime ago. Turns out, whether because of the epidural or because of his position or because I was totally exhausted, pushing was much harder this time. I worked really hard.  It was still only 10 minutes, but my last five babies were pushed out in 5 minutes or less. I started on hands and knees, but it wasn’t working for me, so I asked for the squatting bar. Even with the epidural, I was able to use the bar with the end of the bed dropped and push in a squat (with nurses helping me get there!). Sayer was born at 6:03 a.m. – after 30 hours of labor over three days – with a lump on his head from bad presentation –  AND a nuchal hand (hand by his face). No wonder it took so long. No wonder things never progressed. His head was poorly positioned and labor was working against me until the very end.

The nurses and staff at the hospital were largely wonderful, helpful, and encouraging. Many were fascinated by my birth history and asked me lots of questions. I was treated well, with respect, and the post-birth care was exactly how I wanted it – the baby was not taken from me without my consent, ever. The cord was left alone until it was done pulsing. We had an hour of skin-to-skin before a nurse came to weight & measure him – and she didn’t do any of the things I declined (no bath, no shots or eye ointment). We were able to leave after 24 hours to come home to our family.

There are things that were hard, and things that I regret. I was so completely exhausted that I was not able to be my own best advocate, and in dealing with the hospital midwife I was given, I consented to choices I regret. Overall, the choice to go to the hospital was one I would make again in a heartbeat. But I would make sure to have a clear-headed, well-rested advocate with me! If I ever were to plan a hospital birth, I would make sure to have a doula. Obviously, this hospital birth was not planned, so things went differently. In the end, Sayer is healthy, and I was able to push him out, and those things are priceless to me.

I think this is the type of birth that will take months, if not years, to truly process. I keep remembering things – facts, emotions, hazy memories – and piecing it all together. I second guess decisions we made, mourn the homebirth I didn’t get to have, and deal with huge feelings that I didn’t know were there. Simultaneously, I’m filled with gratefulness, joy at a healthy baby, confirmation and peace at most decisions we made. Throw in post partum hormones and I’m bit of a gigantic roller coaster mess right now. And that’s okay. I have a great family – truly the best husband & children a woman could ever want – and my sweet baby is like a healing balm all by himself.

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Just a quick mini-photo dump to let you know I’m still alive. I do realize I owe you a birth story, and I’ve been thinking a lot about writing it. That’s something, isn’t it? I think I set high expectation for myself with birth stories, so when things get tough (like with Cal’s birth), I just don’t write them down. Silas’ wasn’t as tough as Cal’s, so maybe I’ll get it written down soon?

Silas with his Grandma (7 weeks old)

Ellery (age 7) showing off the hole where her third lost tooth used to be

Jason had his second (and hopefully final) eye surgery on Monday to remove his cataracts / insert a new lens. We are so happy it is finally done. Another week and he can lift his kids again for hugs.

Silas looking at Grandma (who visited to help out with the family during the surgery)

More Silas (7 weeks; he turned 8 weeks on Tuesday) who is getting lusciously fatter by the second

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Here it is, finally! The story of Asher’s pregnancy and birth. (Some details may be too much information for some, so be forewarned.) He’s a chubby four weeks old today, and we already can’t remember what life was like without him. He’s a blessing from God.

If you already know all the preface stuff and want to skip to the birth, it’s down around paragraph nine.

Short and easy version: On Monday, October 29, I started having some bloody show around 7 p.m. I decided to go to my knitting group anyway, as my contractions were still practice-like and the knitting group was meeting at a home closer to the birth center than our house. After returning home around 9:30 and lounging on the couch with Jason a while, I started to notice the contractions were regular (again). The labor-like contractions began around a quarter past eleven, and after writing them down for a while and sensing they were actually getting more intense (and two minutes apart), we decided to hit the road. We arrived at the birth center around 12:05 a.m. My water broke with one monumental contraction, and Asher was born very shortly thereafter at 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday October 30–just over an hour after labor began!

Those who prefer the short version, please scroll to the bottom to read the stats and blessings. Now, for the real deal:

The Pregnancy and Birth of Asher Jase

On February 25, 2007, Jason and I found out that we were expecting our third baby! It was rather early by typical home pregnancy test standards (only 10 days past ovulation–I was charting), but a definite positive. We were both thrilled. My due date was either November 3 (based on last menstrual period) or November 8 (based on the more accurate measure of my ovulation date). We chose to go by the later date.

We found a wonderful freestanding birth center in town that our insurance covered, and decided to pursue prenatal care there. It was a good compromise, as the homebirth we wanted was out of reach this time. Homebirth is a hot issue in the legal system around here, and the closest homebirth midwife who could attend our birth was 1 hour 15 minutes away (in good traffic). While my first baby arrived 6.5 hours after my water broke, my second baby had made her entrance only 1.5 hours after my first contraction (and just over two hours after my water broke). The birth was beautiful and unassisted, as our homebirth midwives at the time were stuck in traffic and didn’t make it! This gave us pause as we considered a homebirth midwife who was so far away for this third birth. Adding financial issues to the list, the freestanding birth center with insurance coverage and good client recommendations became the obvious choice.

I was morning sick for all of the first trimester and part of the second, but not horribly. I never vomited, though I did have trouble eating much and lost a little weight. I couldn’t even think about ingesting healthy things like salad, but enjoyed my daily dose of dark chocolate. The pregnancy was healthy and, blessedly, relatively uneventful.

I did have some unexplained second trimester bleeding around 17 weeks. It was heavy enough and sustained enough to warrant further investigation, so we elected to have a routine ultrasound (which we had previously decided to decline). Despite our sadness in having to make the difficult choice to have an ultrasound, we were delighted to see our healthy baby, find that there was no discernible reason for concern in regards to the bleeding, and discover that we were having a boy! Our first son. Our daughters, who were both with us, were so excited! Maya must have exclaimed at least twenty times in the sonogram room: “I can’t believe I’m going to have a baby brother!” Of course, Ellery provided the needed echo.

Toward the end of the pregnancy, especially from 30 weeks on, I had regular Braxton-Hicks (a.k.a “practice”) contractions. These were generally super tight, but painless. Around 37 weeks, the contractions started to come more frequently and regularly – regular enough that at 37 weeks 3 days, I could even time them. For four hours that evening (Sunday 10/21 – the day after my 28th birthday), I timed contractions that were consistently 4 – 7 minutes apart at 45 – 60 seconds long. They were tight, consistent, and took my breath away, but they were also relatively painless.

The next day (Monday 10/22) at 37 weeks 4 days, I had a midwife appointment. I requested that the midwife (Laura) check my cervix, as I was curious as to whether or not all of my Braxton-Hicks contractions were doing anything. As she examined me, her eyes widened, and she proclaimed me 5 cm dilated, 75% effaced, with a bulging bag of waters. (Click here to read the whole crazy story of that day.) Long story short, Laura (the office midwife) and Kathy (the midwife on call) both suggested that I have someone pick up my children, get my husband there, and see about having a baby. We did so, and our girls got so excited about their brother potentially being born that night! A few hours later, we were home again–baby still in utero. The midwives, in their excitement, hadn’t fully ingested the fact that I was only 37.5 weeks and not yet 39. They will not help labor along until 39 weeks. The apologized profusely and sent us home. (We had been planning to try a breast pump and/or castor oil to avoid a car birth.) Not only were we disappointed, but our girls were also disappointed. So we tried to get some rest and played the waiting game.

The waiting game ended up lasting for eight long days.

In those eight days, I felt as though I was on house arrest. Since we were all (midwives included) concerned about having the baby in the car, I really couldn’t travel anywhere. At 5 cm dilated, should my water break, the baby’s birth would certainly be quick. (The midwives were actually most concerned about me having an unassisted birth in the car; I was totally unphased by this aspect of it, as we’d been through one fast unassisted birth before just fine. I was more worried about experiencing transition labor in the car – soooooo difficult!) My husband didn’t want to leave me home, even though he had to work. I had difficulty focusing on homeschooling the kids, so we took a school break. We missed the last week of our CSA farm pickup, because the farm is 25 minutes away. By Monday 10/29, I was starting to feel very down and very cranky.

That Monday, my parents left around 1 p.m. after visiting for the weekend. My mother was disappointed that her grandson did not make his entrance while she was here. As the afternoon wore on, I was starting to wonder if labor might be just around the corner. I started feeling distinct cervical twinges and pain, very different from anything else I’d felt before. My bowels were emptying continually throughout the day. And around 7 p.m., I started having light bloody show.

I was scheduled to go to my Christmas knitting group that evening at 7:30 p.m., and consulted with Jason as to whether or not I should go. I was having some somewhat regular contractions, but they felt the same as they had all week–like Braxton Hicks. Since the knitting group was meeting at a house that was actually more convenient to The Midwife Center than our own house, I decided to just go to the group. Before going, I called our backup childcare helper (Timmy from church, wonderful woman) and alerted her that tonight *might* be the night.

I spent the evening quite pleasantly knitting with Bonnie and Kelly, mostly helping Kelly get started on her little wool Christmas slipper since I had forgotten my copy of the pattern at home. I didn’t notice any more show during my time at Kelly’s. Shortly after 9 p.m., I decided to drive home.

After arriving home, Jason and I lazed about in the living room and watched TV. I noticed more show on my next trip to the bathroom. I continued having painless contractions now and then.

Sometime after 11 p.m., I started to having noticeable contractions. Still not difficult, but a bit more attention-grabbing. During the teens of the hour (11:14 reaches out and grabs me–I don’t remember the exact time, though), I felt a weird contraction that made me decide to start writing contraction times down. It was as if I could feel my cervix stretching open, and if I had been able to hear it, I could imagine it was actually creaking and squeaking–it was a very vivid sensation that I will never forget. After writing down about five contractions, it appeared that they were about 4 – 6 minutes apart. Nothing new, considering the past eight days, but combined with the bloody show and the one weird creaky contraction, I took notice. I decided to call Timmy over while Jason readied our things. While we waited for her to come, I made the calls to our parents alerting them that baby boy was on his way out. As soon as Timmy arrived, Jason quickly showed her the guest room and the typed up sheet that had details about the girls’ care on it. The contractions were 2 – 4 minutes apart at this time (probably no more than 30-40 minutes after I began writing down contractions) and I was starting to consciously relax through them. (Timmy later commented that I was so relaxed and chatty that she couldn’t believe that I’d end up having a baby within mere minutes.)

We got in the car and began our 20-minute trek to The Midwife Center. I sat on a 24″ x 36″ disposable waterproof pad that we’d kept in the car for just such an occasion. Mid-way, I took note of the time on the dash as I had another contraction: 11:56 p.m. Traffic was easy, and the city was lit and beautiful. I had the passenger seat reclined, but as there is no way to comfortably relax in a Mazda Protege, I endured the contraction semi-sideways, neither on my back nor on my side. Between our house and the Midwife center are many Pittsburgh potholes, brick streets, and curvy hills. Jason recalls that this was probably the fastest he can remember getting from home to anywhere near downtown. The timing for this trip was excellent. I felt my weight of my heavy, surging uterus quite acutely through all of the car contractions. They were getting more intense and taking me to the edge, but I could handle them easily. I found myself willing my bag of waters to stay intact during each contraction, and I could almost feel it bulging. I knew that once my waters broke, it would be over–I would be pushing the baby out. The contractions were about two minutes apart at this point–scarcely 40 minutes from when labor contractions began–and I was thinking, “Okay, we’re less than 10 minutes away–so only three more car contractions until we get there. Not too bad.” That’s all I focused on during the ride there–that soon I would be there, in my labor den, the room where I would give birth to my baby. It’s where I wanted to be. I was handling labor very calmly.

When we pulled into the special “30 minute” parking spot in front of the Center, I hurried my way in before another one hit. Kathy, the midwife on call, let me in. Vanessa, our RN birth attendant, was in our birthing room (The Forest Room) readying everything. Jason noticed that it was 12:05 a.m. on the birthing room clock when we arrived. Sometime shortly thereafter, a young woman (whose name was Sam, I would later find out) arrived. She was the student midwife.

I asked Kathy if she would fill up the tub, as I really wanted the relief and comfort of water during labor. She got the faucet started, then listened to the baby’s heart with the Doppler for a few minutes. Jason got this moment on video; it was our last chance to hear the steady and healthy beat of Baby’s heart before his birth. Things were getting more intense for me. I had to focus on relaxing, and at the peak of contractions, things were starting to feel familiarly out of control. But then they would let up.

I never got to use that big, beautiful tub.

Sam said that she wanted to check my dilation, so after a contraction ended, I stripped pronto and got right on my back to get it over with. I knew that another contraction would come soon, and I didn’t want to be on my back during it. She pronounced me 9 cm with a bulging bag of waters that was “right there.” As soon as her fingers were out of me, I flipped onto my side again, trying to politely pay attention to the young girl in front of me proudly proclaiming me 9 cm (I don’t think Sam could possibly be any older than 25) while focusing on the contraction I felt coming on. It was a strong one, and at its peak, I let loose a guttural scream as my bag of waters broke and similarly let loose all over the bed. Sam yelled with me, only hers was directed out the door and down the hall: “Kathy!” I felt intense pressure immediately, and I grabbed my top leg and lifted it up as I felt myself begin to push the baby out. I shifted onto my back and continued pushing with all of my might.

I don’t remember having breaks in between pushing contractions. I was just pushing all of the time. The pressure was great. After a couple of pushes, probably less than a minute after my water broke, Sam asked if I wanted to try another position. Before she was even done asking the question, I was on my hands and knees. I realized I already knew that I wanted to change positions, but the pushing was getting the best of me, and it only took her question to remind me that pushing on my back was not what I wanted to do. I really wanted to squat, like I had with Ellery, but the pressure and pain were so intense that I got into the only other position I could get to at that point. I could not will myself to squat, no matter how much I wanted to. Too much pain.

I was yelling nearly continually at this point. (A stark contrast to the very controlled labor I had up until then. I hadn’t even needed to vocalize, hum, groan, or anything until my water broke and I began pushing with that one incredible scream. I was hoarse for days afterward.) I took probably five good pushes to get his head out–longer than I expected. I remember thinking, “Why isn’t his head OUT yet?” I was verbalizing these same thoughts:

“I just want him out!”
“Why isn’t his head out yet?”
“I can’t do this! I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”

Jason was saying encouraging things to me, but I can’t remember what. He was to my right on the bed, and I’m pretty sure all three nurses (RN, midwife, and student) were behind me, with Sam in the middle. As I was on my hands and knees, facing the headboard, I was in my own world. I was resting my upper body on a couple of pillows I had haphazardly grabbed as I flipped over, and I was pushing my head into the pillows as I screamed and pushed. At one point, I got very annoyed with Sam, who was trying to say encouraging things, but whose youth and obvious inexperience was just annoying me. I didn’t say anything. I heard her say, “Keep those sounds low, Serina” and “Don’t just push all the time–wait for a contraction.” These were the two most helpful things she said. I still thought they were annoying. I tried to relax after one of my pushes, but it was hard. He was just RIGHT THERE.

After his head was out, I heard them ask me to stop pushing. Jason said they were checking for a cord around his neck (there was none). Then I resumed pushing, and a monstrous push or two later, I felt immediate and immense relief. His body was out, and it was followed by what seemed like gallons of fluid. I collapsed onto the pillows, sobbing, as I heard Sam remind me, “Turn around!” I shook myself, flipped over, and beheld my son for the first time.

He was lying on the bed, wailing. I picked him up, saying, “Oh, oh, oh, I can’t believe it! I can’t believe he’s here! Look at him!” over and over and over. I sat, wide-legged, clutching my newest miracle in my arms. Jason and I exchanged delighted and heavy glances. I was totally focused on this crying baby. He felt perfect in my arms. His dark hair, his pinkening skin, his wet little body. I remember a voice from far away (Kathy, the midwife) instructing Vanessa (the nurse) to give me a shot of Pitocin. I don’t remember consenting to it, and I do remember wondering why she ordered it, but I was too lost in my post-birth ecstasy with my new baby to say anything. I watched the shot go in, but I didn’t really feel it. They were trying to prevent hemorrhaging after such a fast birth.

As I sat on the bed, cradling my newborn son, with Jason at my side, I looked up. I realized I didn’t really know two of the women who were around me. I pointed to the one on the left and guessed, “Nurse?” She nodded with a laugh. I pointed to the one on my right and guessed, “Student?” And she nodded and laughed, as well. They introduced themselves (I’m not sure if they had a chance prior to birth) and busied themselves with cleaning up.

I asked when he had been born, and they told me 12:30 a.m. Just over an hour after labor began, and 25 minutes after walking in the doors!

The placenta was born very quickly afterwards. It was huge and beautiful. We waited until the blood stopped pulsing through his umbilical cord before Jason cut it. Jason recalls the baby making some good noises in the first minute of his post-natal life, eventually letting out some good cries a few minutes later. It had all happened so fast. We also noticed his body seemed long. And his hair was quite dark – a lot like Maya’s looked when she was born, but darker.

We named him Asher Jase. “Asher,” besides being one of the twelve tribes, means “happy” or “blessed.” “Jase” means “healer” and is a derivation of his father’s name. He weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. and was 22 inches long, with a 37 cm (14.6″) head circumference! (That’s why it took a few more pushes to get his head out!)

We stayed at the birth center the required four hours post-birth. We spent the time admiring, holding, and videoing Asher – in between frequent check-ups by the nurse. I was definitely too keyed up to get any rest, but I made Jason try to take a nap so he could function in the morning when he’d need to take care of Maya and Ellery. Then we returned home to introduce our new boy to his sisters.

When we got home, we showed Timmy to Asher and then tried to rush him to our room before his cries could wake his sisters. When Jason checked on Maya and Ellery, Maya appeared to have been awakened by the new commotion in the house. The girls weren’t aware of Timmy’s presence in the house, but it seemed like Maya suspected her brother had been born. Jason recalls that she had a sort of knowing grin as she asked, “Who’s in our house, Daddy?” It being around 5:30 in the morning, Jason just said, “We can talk about it in the morning. Just go back to sleep, Maya.” (We later discovered that she was too excited to fall back asleep and just stayed awake in bed!)

Once 7:00 rolled around and Jason and I had gotten little or no sleep, Jason went and got the girls up. There was great joy as the girls came into the room and saw Asher. They held him, talked to him, and fawned over him for a long time. “He’s so cute!” was the phrase of the day, for sure. Though most days it is hard to get a natural smile out of the girls when a camera is around, Asher provided the perfect stimulus for great smiles in our pictures of that morning.

I have nothing but good things to say about Asher’s birth. In this birth, God answered affirmatively three specific prayers that we had been praying throughout my pregnancy:

  1. Timing: Labor began when Jason was around and when child care was quickly available. Jason didn’t have to come home from work or even farther. The girls didn’t have to go to bed at someone else’s house, nor did they have to be awakened in the middle of the night. Also, it was night time, when traffic was slow.
  2. Waters: My bag of waters didn’t break until I was at the birth center and complete! Both of my other labors began with my water breaking.
  3. Arrival: We got to the birth center before he was born! No front page news headlines or evening news for this birth, thankfully!

God be praised for the blessing of our third child and first son!

Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
Gen 30:13

Most blessed of sons is Asher, let him be favored by his brothers…
Deuteronomy 33:24

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(Long, and maybe a bit descriptive for some. Has not been edited for spelling and grammar, and was written by a tired mom to a newborn and toddler. Beware.)

Pictures

On Monday February 21, I had my first vaginal exam (37 weeks–I requested one) and was 50% effaced, 1 cm dilated, and -1 station. On Saturday March 5, I woke up to two hours of very light contractions, 10 minutes apart. Then they stopped. On Monday March 7 (39 weeks 1 day), I was 75% effaced, 3-4 cm, and lower than -1. During that exam, I had Linda strip my membranes, and she said she stretched me easily to 5 cm. Bloody show came out on her glove, and continued to discharge from me for the next few days. I was getting excited! On the morning of Tuesday March 8, I again had a couple of hours of regular, light contractions–crampy, like menstrual pains, and about 7 minutes apart. They stopped as I drove home from my mom’s group at church.

On Wednesday, March 9, 2005, I woke up feeling disappointed and depressed. I had been experiencing those small signs of labor for days, but it seemed like things had really slowed down. I took Maya to the “Pony Store” (a.k.a. Meijer, where the pony rides are a penny) just to avoid sitting on the couch and pouting. After lunch, as Maya napped, I called Jason and unloaded on him. (See my entry for March 9 to get a picture of how I was feeling.) He was patient and supportive, as always, and said he was anxious for the baby to come, too. I hung up the phone, feeling bad for giving him reason to worry about me while at work.

I watched soap operas on television, not willing to get up and do anything productive. After I heard the mail truck go by, I brought in the mail, hoping for something distracting to read. The best I got was Parents magazine. Halfway through, I felt a big *pop,* as if someone had taken a crochet hook to my bag of waters. Or like the baby had punched her hand through. It was odd. Nothing happened. Was the baby okay? Did my water break? Nah. I glanced at the clock–3 p.m. on the nose. Maya was stirring. I thought I’d go use the bathroom before getting her out of bed. As I got up, I felt a gush of fluid. I rushed to the bathroom, grabbing a clean dust rag in the laundry room on the way there, and stuffed it between my legs. As I sat down, more fluid gushed out. As became the case throughout my labor, I knew in my head exactly what was happening–my water had broken–but my heart didn’t believe it. I smelled the fluid–sweet. I finally was convinced enought to call Jason.

“Hello, this is Jason.”
“Hi. My water broke.”
(I said this surprisingly calmly, in the same way one would say, “I’m making a turkey sandwich.”)
“Really? How did you do that?”

He said he’d get right home and hung up. I became charged with energy, excited (but half incredulous) to meet my new baby. I went upstairs and got Maya, telling her, “Our baby may be coming today!” She wasn’t excited, but neither was she bored with the news. It was like a satisfied “Oh!” As I changed Maya’s diaper, I thought about the night ahead of me. I hoped the baby would be born that day, and that the labor wouldn’t stretch into tomorrow. I called Linda (our midwife) and she said that she’d head home and get her car stocked, then she would go to the store and to an exercise class. I was to call her when contractions started. Then she changed her mind–she’d call me after she got home and the car was ready to go. We’d assess from there.

I also called my sisters, my mother, and my mother-in-law. All would be heading over as soon as possible. My sisters and mother would take at least 1.5 hours; my mother-in-law, probably 2.5, as she wasn’t home when I called, but would be home directly.

Maya and I settled down into the “purple couch” (which is really burgundy) downstairs and began to read some books. Jason arrived home around 3:30 p.m. I still had not experienced contractions. After exchanging excited grins, Jason went upstairs to put the plastic drop cloth and extra sheets on the bed. My first contraction came at 3:41. It wasn’t bad. I walked through it with purpose, grabbing a note pad by the phone to write down contraction times. I found Maya’s blue plastic digital watch and put it on. “Maya wear Maya’s watch? No mommy wear it?” I explained that I needed to borrow the watch today, and she’d get it back directly. She calmed down and seemed to accept this answer.

Jason came down and took over reading with Maya. I went upstairs to tidy up the bedroom and feel out the contractions. I had another one at 3:50. 3:58. 4:02. They were all very long (45 – 120 seconds) and getting progressively stronger. During the first couple, I didn’t stop cleaning through them. The next few I took on the bed, relaxing. Jason and Maya brought up the birth ball, and I tried a couple on there, on hands and knees, leaning my upper body on the ball. After only 4-6 contractions, I was already having trouble relaxing! I began to get very serious, and inwardly questioned my ability to handle a long labor like this. I tried to relax every bone and muscle, allowing my body to do its work. At some point I decided to try making some noise through the contractions–I moaned, a very low and constant “uhhhhhhhhhhhh” with a loose mouth. I wasn’t sure if it helped, but I didn’t stop doing it. It felt right. Jason asked if he should rub my back, and gave it a shot. I quietly told him to stop, as I don’t like being touched during contractions. I recall this same inward focus during Maya’s labor. No touching, please. As I moaned through a contraction, sometime shortly after 4 p.m., Linda called back. Jason answered, and Linda later told me that she heard Maya excitedly talking and me moaning productively in the background. It sounded good, she said. She and Kim had already decided to head over, and were meeting at the mall in Battle Creek to carpool.

I stayed on the birth ball. 4:11. Two more small ones. Then 4:23–a two-minute contraction. 4:29. 4:33. 4:38. During these contractions, Maya stayed with me in the bedroom as Jason started filling the bathtub. Maya was playing with toys in our room, sometimes paying attention to me. She seemed interested and slightly scared. Though we had explained to her beforehand that Mommy might have to make some noise and feel some pain, it was hard for her to understand. She didn’t like it that I was moaning, and asked me to stop. Jason explained that it made me feel better, and helped to get the baby out. 4:43 (the last contraction recorded on my notepad). Jason and Maya had gone downstairs together to fetch duct tape (to plug the overflow hole on the tub) and were finishing up the tape job upstairs as I lumbered into the bathroom as quickly as possible, stark naked. I needed to get into the water before the next contraction–they were intense now, and I barely knew how I got my clothes off. Necessity does amazing things! I heard Jason say something about the tub not being full enough yet, and he was still taping it up, but I just shook him off and mumbled something half-coherent about needing to get in the water NOW. Blessedly, though the tub was low, the water level was perfect once I was in. I immediately felt another contraction come on. I stretched half on my side, half on my belly, sort of floating in the water (as best as possible in a small, standard-sized tub) and gripped the back lip.

Moaning continued, but I felt myself whimpering and feeling very, very doubtful. I started hoping I would pass out from the pain, as it was intense. I felt another contraction, and I could hardly bear it. Jason and Maya left the bathroom again (I don’t remember why) and I just moaned and groaned through it. When I got a small break, I called out to God in utter brokenness to please give me an easy contraction next time. “Please God, help me. I can’t do this without You. I can’t handle another contraction like that.” The next contraction came…and it was lighter. Instead of moaning, I breathed out “Thank you, God” over and over. Jason and Maya returned during this contraction and quietly watched me.

I had spent most of the labor alone at this point, and that was okay with me. Jason had to care for Maya, and I wasn’t sure I wanted assistance. But the next contraction made me yell, and I actually verbalized my doubts: “I can’t do this, Jason! I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. Oh God, help me. I can’t do it.” Over and over again, my fears and doubt spilled out of my mouth as the contraction took over. Jason assured me that I could do it, and these emotions meant the baby was coming soon. I knew, intellectually, that he was right. But all I could feel was pain and doubt. Every part of my body was tense and taken over by the contraction. I had several like this, and found myself needing to change positions, or something, anything, to make the contraction better. I got up on my knees and wrapped my arms around Jason’s neck, clutching him with every ounce of birth power coursing through me and screaming through the peaks. He asked if I was pushing, and I realized that I just had. Relief!

The only thing that helped me get through the next four contractions was pushing. It felt like I was being split in two, but not where I thought I’d feel it–I thought I was pushing wrong, and that my bottom would rip. It felt like the largest bowel movement in history was moving through my system, and I wondered if I was pushing against an incomplete cervix. What if I shouldn’t be pushing? I tried to stop, but when I did, the pain was more intense than anything I’d felt yet. I asked Jason if he felt the baby’s head, and he didn’t. I tried quickly feeling myself, but I couldn’t feel anything. My body took over, and I was grabbing Jason without abandon, yelling and screaming with intensity. I could see or feel nothing but the sensation of the baby moving down and out. I was saying, “I can’t do this!” repeatedly, and Jason told me I could. Maya was very scared, and in between his reassurances to me, Jason was looking over his shoulder and tearfully telling Maya that it would be okay; we needed to work hard to push the baby out. His voice was heavy with emotion, and though I was lost in another world, Maya’s fear cut through my haze like a knife. I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t, and suddenly I was pushing again and all else was lost. Jason asked me a couple times if I should move to the bed, and I simply moaned, “I can’t.” Maya thought this meant that I would stop hurting if I would just get out of the water, so she began to plead with a quivering lip, “Mommy get out of the water? Mommy get out of the water!”

During the last contraction, Jason said he saw a head. When I asked him if the baby was crowning, he said it was already sticking out an inch or two. I somehow shifted from knees to squatting. A final push, and our baby was out! A daughter born naturally at home, caught by her father, witnessed by her sister. I’ve never felt such relief. It was over, and she was here. Jason put our baby on my lap, and I grabbed her. “She’s here! I did it! I can’t believe I did it!” We were all crying, including the baby, which reassured me. I flipped her onto her belly and rubbed her spine, as she was still sputtering. Jason suctioned her mouth a bit. She was purple, covered in thick vernix, and her umbilical cord was wrapped around her shoulder across her body. She seemed so small to me–was she big enough? Did I grow a small baby? She continued to sputter and cry, and her color pinkened. Jason hugged Maya, and I hugged our new girl. “The baby came out!” Maya exclaimed, and suddenly we were able to again focus on comforting our firstborn.

I realized that the water was cool. We needed to warm the baby. Jason made a path of towels between the bathroom and our bed (a distance of only 10-15 feet). We wrapped the slippery baby in a receiving blanket and I carefully walked from the tub to the bed, clutching our new miracle. Once settled, I realized that we didn’t have a birth time. We glanced at the clock: 5:18 p.m. We decided that she was born at 5:15. (1.5 hours after my first contraction!) Our midwives arrived within minutes. Jason greeted them, and as they came up the stairs, he asked, “Wanna meet our baby?” They gasped and joyfully ran in, finding us happily wrapped in flannel sheets.

The next few hours passed in a daze. I had so much adrenaline from the birth that I thought I might never sleep again! My sisters, mother, and mother-in-law arrived, and Maya’s emotional day ended with a couple of hours of total hyper excitement. I was told that she ran around the living room screaming and talking as they’d never witnessed before. She had been through a lot–who could blame her?

The baby was checked over. More vernix than they’d ever seen on a baby! 14″ head. 20.5″ long. Her long body ended in short legs, and our guesses for her weight were all around 7 pounds. “Seven pounds, 10 ounces!” Kim exclaimed. All in the room were delighted. She wasn’t small at all–it had just been a very long time since I’d seen a naked newborn! She was perfect, and I had birthed her. After a disappointing hospital birth with our firstborn, resulting in an epidural at 9 cm, this was an empowering and healing birth. I gave birth to two beautiful girls, and each birth taught me something new. I now have amazing experiences to share with my childbirth students.

We announced her name: Ellery Maeve. It suited her perfectly.

——————-

Epilogue: Ellery had a long first night. After her birth, she nursed like a pro for 30 minutes! What an answer to prayer! She eventually fell into a deep sleep. After an hour or so, she woke up and remained alert until 5 a.m.! After a desperate late night call to the midwife, we stripped her down and massaged her belly and bottom, helping her to pass some meconium. Whew! Relief! We slept for a few hours before dawn signaled a new day.

In the early morning hours, we realized a large lump was forming on the left side of Ellery’s head. A call to the midwife Kim (who had done her newborn exam) confirmed that this had not been there immediately after birth. After some research and a trip to the doctor with our not-even-one-day-old bundle, we discovered that Ellery has a cephalohematoma–a result of her fast and furious birth. It should subside in a couple of months. Until then, our poor girl has what seems to be a tender lump on her head.

We love her to pieces. Thanks be to God for this blessing!

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