I was 42 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and still no baby. It was Sunday, but I had opted not to go to church. I didn’t feel up to facing everyone’s questions and comments, however well intentioned. I spent the day walking up and down the driveway, drinking buckets of red raspberry leaf tea, working on a puzzle, writing a blog post with the truths I was holding on to, and carrying on a constant conversation with God about the baby coming. I think some of the reassurances and conclusions I came to throughout the day helped me to truly be ready for my baby to come. I needed to get to the place where I was at peace with the choices we had made. I had a nagging concern that there was something I needed to do since the baby was “so late” in coming. That day I was finally at peace with doing nothing and simply waiting – trusting God, my body, and my baby for the right timing.
My son Miles had been born at 41w 2d at a whopping 10lbs 5oz. Somehow I never expected to be pregnant longer with my second baby. I was totally fine with going past my due date, but in our state a midwife cannot do a home birth after 42 weeks. As that date approached I started to feel nervous. I had ended up having to transfer to the hospital for Miles’ birth because of too much meconium in my water when it broke, and I desperately wanted to have my home water birth this time. At my 40 and 41 week appointments my midwife had tried to strip my membranes but my cervix had been too far back to reach. I tried a regimen of black and blue cohash with no results. Neither of us were comfortable with the idea of caster oil because I had done that with Miles and we think that might have been the cause of the excessive meconium that resulted in the hospital transfer. We were leaving that as a last option. The day I was 42 weeks Lisa (my midwife) and Tatia (her assistant) came over and we did two enemas, hoping it would have the same effect as the caster oil but in a gentler fashion. Besides some awkward moments, lots of good laughs, and general ickiness they did absolutely nothing. I was feeling that my body just wasn’t ready. We hashed through my dates again and decided that they really did seem to be correct, especially based on the (presumed) ovulation bleeding I had had. The next day Lisa had me go to an acupuncturist. I felt like acupuncture was a nice thing to do for my body, instead of the icky things we had been trying. I felt so good the rest of the day, almost not even pregnant. It was Saturday and we went to my brother’s birthday party that evening and enjoyed seeing all the family. I timed my contractions through the party at 5-7 minutes apart, but they went away before I went to bed.
Lisa said she would give me through the weekend to have the baby and come Monday she would send me in for some tests and we would decide what to do from there. We had multiple conversations about it and we both felt that we had done what we needed to do and there were no warning signs or reasons to take any more drastic measures to make the baby come.
When Sunday morning came I spent the day praying I would have the baby before the next morning. I didn’t want to reach the point where I would have to go to the hospital and fight for the birth I wanted. My poor husband was starting to be worn down by the stress of waiting too. Our lives had been on hold for the last month waiting for this baby and not being able to have any solid plans. He kept asking “Anything yet?” and I’d tell him I’d let him know if there was anything worth telling. When my contractions picked up through the day I didn’t want to get his hopes up. Later in the afternoon I asked Lisa to come over and check me, just because I was curious if anything was changing. It was such an amazing moment watching the grin spread across her face as she was finally able to reach my cervix, did a stretch and sweep, and said I was at a good 4cm. We were all so excited! Lisa kept saying “Oh praise God!” She said she hoped to get a call from me that evening! I said that when I was finally in labor I probably wouldn’t be able to stop smiling because I was FINALLY in labor.
By 8pm my contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart, but not strong enough for me to feel like I needed to get everyone’s hopes up. A little after 9 I finished the puzzle I’d been working on for a few days and we headed upstairs to curl up in bed and watch something. Part way through the episode of Psych (ironically that was what we were watching the night I went into labor with Miles, too) Chris told me I was groaning a bit through contractions. I didn’t even realize. He decided to text the midwife while I went downstairs to the bathroom. I told him I wasn’t sure she needed to come just yet but she said she was headed over. I loved that she was almost as anxious as I was for this baby to be born.
I think Lisa and Tatia showed up about 10:30. Just after Chris said they were coming my contractions completely stopped for 10 minutes, making me super frustrated, but by the time they got to the house they had picked back up considerably and were 2-3 minutes apart and surprisingly strong. That was when I started to get the feeling that this labor might go a lot faster than my 14hr labor with Miles. With him I hadn’t had contractions this strong til at least 8 hours in. I sat on the exercise ball in the living room while Chris set up the birth pool and Lisa and Tatia moved around getting things ready.
My birth photographer, Kira, had conflicts with her work schedule and wasn’t sure if she would be able to make it when the time came so we had also talked to my sister in law Alice and asked her to be available to cover if Kira couldn’t be there. I called Kira and she said she had to leave for work at 1:30am but could come until then. I was disappointed because I didn’t think the baby would come before then, but I told her to come on over anyway. We also called Alice and told her to come around 12:30 so she could take over when Kira left.
Lisa had me move to the bed so she could check me. I was completely effaced and dilated to 6, and she said I could get in the pool whenever I wanted. Chris and Tatia worked to fill the pool. Chris was rubbing my back and giving me counter pressure with contractions for the back labor. I didn’t even have to ask. I felt like I might throw up so I asked Chris to bring me a bucket or something. The feeling passed, and I decided to go to the bathroom before I got in the pool. I had a couple really intense contractions on the toilet. I was starting to worry that if this labor didn’t go a LOT faster than the last one there was no way I could handle it the whole way through. I changed into my tankini top and Chris helped me into the pool. The water felt amazing and took the edge off the intensity. I love birth pools!
The other midwife I had wanted couldn’t be there so Lisa called Judy, a really sweet older lady who Lisa had trained under. I had never met Judy but I loved her right away. Lisa, Tatia, and Judy were hanging out in the kitchen catching up, and Kira and Alice were in the livingroom. Chris stayed right behind me and rubbed my neck and shoulders while I leaned back against the edge of the pool. I found it helpful to rub my finger gently back and forth against my leg during contractions to give me something else to focus on. As with my previous labor, I didn’t make a sound and my best coping mechanism was to breathe as deeply as possible and relax completely. I knew Chris wanted to know what was going on with me so I tried to give some sign when a contraction was starting – leaning back or forward or something. He eventually picked up on my finger rubbing trick too. I also attempted to give periodic verbal updates – more than I had managed last time! They usually consisted of “They are getting stronger…” “I think things are going a little faster this time…” or something to that effect. I was happy with how much I was still able to engage with people around me between contractions at times earlier on at least.
I tried changing positions a couple times as things got a little harder to handle. I thought leaning forward over the edge might feel good, but it was actually so much worse. I seemed to do better leaning back instead of forward. I don’t know if that was because of my back labor or not. With Miles’ birth I hardly felt my stomach contracting because my back labor was so bad. It was still really bad this time, but I could certainly still feel my stomach. These contractions were just much more intense than the last time.
By 1:00 they were starting to be too much. I was freaking out inside that I couldn’t handle them, though I was still totally calm on the outside. I would have a couple really awful ones, and then one that wasn’t quite so bad. Finally the thought hit me that I didn’t have to handle them, I didn’t have to DO anything, I needed to NOT do, to let go. That got me through those last few contractions. I remember telling Chris “These are REALLY intense.” Suddenly I knew I was going to throw up and grabbed the pitcher Chris had brought me earlier. The contents of my stomach emptied with a power that shocked me. I was shaking and hardly able to hold myself up when it was done. Lisa nodded and said something about transition. I was pretty oblivious to anything done or said around me at that point.
Chris got in the pool to try and help support me better. He stood for a minute, trying to figure out how he could best help me and was kinda bouncing on the inflated bottom of the pool. It was just enough to distract me and make me think about balancing to counteract the jiggling. I snapped “Either sit down or get out!” Just a couple minutes later I had a contraction and realized I was involuntarily pushing with it. I could watch my stomach push down. It was such a weird feeling. Once it was over I said “Um, Lisa, I’m pushing and I didn’t mean to.” She said ok and came to check me. She said I was complete and could push whenever I wanted. I said “Oh good, because I’m not sure I could do this much longer.” There was a quiet moment as I rested and she leaned over the edge and told me I would meet my baby soon. I was so glad she was there, so glad I was surrounded by people who loved me and my baby. I couldn’t believe I was so close to finally getting the birth I had hoped and prayed for. And then it started.
I have never felt anything so powerful and intense as what followed. My body bore down and pushed all on its own and I just braced my hands on the bottom of the pool and tried to breathe. I don’t really remember pain, just the surprise and shock of the intensity of my body bringing my baby into the world all on its own. By the second push I could suddenly feel the head, by the third Lisa said it was crowning. Lisa told me to take it slow, and I did my best to slow it down as much as I could, but I didn’t really have much control. Chris was behind me cheering me on and sounded as excited as I remember him when Miles was born. Next the head was out and I remember thinking I never even felt the “ring of fire”. Lisa said the baby was still in the caul. My body took a break then, again, completely out of my control. Lisa said “Whenever you are ready.” I don’t really know how long it was, but I was able to kind of catch my breath before suddenly bearing down again, and out the baby came! The bag of waters broke just as the baby’s feet were born and Lisa put my baby in my arms. I had pushed for less than 5 minutes. It was 1:23am.
I’m not sure if I was more in shock from what my body had just been through or because that was THE moment I had been waiting for, praying for, hoping for, afraid I wouldn’t get, and what I had held on to in those long weeks of waiting – that moment of being handed my baby seconds after birth. When Miles was born the doctor had had Chris cut the cord and handed him to the nurses and I didn’t even see him for at least 10 minutes after he was born. That was the biggest thing I wanted to be different with my second birth.
I just sat there clinging to my baby and trying to breathe, taking in the moment. Chris was leaning over my shoulder trying to catch a glimpse of the baby. After a bit I did think I should check to see if it was a boy or girl, but I wasn’t sure if I could even move yet. We had been waiting so long and I knew everyone in the room was dying to know. (I’m not sure if Lisa had seen when she passed me the baby or not.) Lisa finally asked if I wanted to know and I said “of course!” and finally found the strength to sit up a bit more and Chris lifted the towel that was thrown over us. I’m not sure which one of us announced “It’s a girl!” but I was completely shocked. I laughed. I didn’t really think I had been set one way or another but that was when I realized how much I really did think it would be another boy. I think it took me a couple hours to get over the surprise. I couldn’t believe I had a daughter.
After a couple minutes Lisa said she wanted to get me out of the pool to deliver the placenta. With quite a bit of effort they got us out and onto the floor. The placenta came just a couple minutes later and then they spent quite a while trying to get my bleeding to stop. I also had a prolapsed cervix because of how fast the birth had been. I tried to get my baby girl to nurse but she wasn’t very interested and my back and hips were really hurting from the hard floor. Lisa went ahead and cut the cord and gave Chris the baby so they could focus on me. After a while they got the bleeding under control and my cervix did finally go back up where it was supposed to be. I finally got to move to the bed in the other room and Chris and I got a few moments to be together and cuddle our girl. We talked about her name. We had two girls names picked out and hadn’t been able to decide between them. We finally decided to go with Ella Meredith.
Lisa came back into the room and did a newborn check on Ella. 8lbs. 10oz., 21” long, and completely perfect. Everyone packed up and left us alone by 4:00. It was amazing to be in our own house with our new baby girl. Miles slept through the whole thing and got to meet his baby sister when he woke up in the morning. Kira had been able to stay for the birth after all. Both she and Alice took some amazing pictures. I was in labor for a total of 4 ½ hours.
Over the next few days I smiled every time I thought about Ella’s birth. It was so perfect, exactly what I had wanted. I was so blessed to have such amazing care and support and to have such a quick, perfect birth and to be able to be at home and in the water like I wanted. I am so blessed.