In the weeks leading up to my estimated due date, we anticipated that I would likely deliver sometime during or around week 38. That is the week that both of my previous deliveries had taken place in, so we were prepared for the same sort of pattern. However, my primary midwife, M, was scheduled to be out of town, so we hoped that baby would wait for her, even though we had a backup that each of us fully trusted. Soon, M came home and week 39 began. Everyone was poised and ready for the show to begin. I began having prodromal labor, which was exhausting and just plain frustrating. A couple of times I began to wonder if it was true labor, then it would stop. Such is the frustrating nature of prodromal labor. Week 39 drew to a close and I entered week 40. How exhilarating to meet my edd! I had never done that before! Wow! A full day past! Two...three...this wasn't so fun anymore. I found myself vacillating between exhilaration and the desire to just have my baby. It was a strange place to be. On Wednesday morning, at 40+5, I woke up to large amounts of bloody show, which continued all day. I called T, our backup midwife. See...M was out of town again. The second of two trips that she warned us about when we hired her. But we never expected that I would reach or surpass my edd! All day Wednesday and nothing happened. So much for that.
At one am on Thursday the 26th, I woke up to a contraction. Hmm...that kind of hurt. I decided that it was probably just a Braxton Hicks contraction and went back to sleep. Ouch. Another one. Hmm...that's just been ten minutes. Okay. On and on it went, contractions every ten minutes. I had to breathe through them, vocalizing through some. I sent my friend Sara a text. She was my long distance doula. Together, we decided that this definitely sounded like early labor, so I kept trying to rest. Oddly, the contractions only happened whenI was laying down. Very unusual. Around eight am, I knew that Ryan could not go to work that day. Nope. He sent his boss a text and we mentally prepared for labor...my contractions stopped. Stopped. We wondered if he should go on to work, but I was afraid that labor would kick in hard and I would be alone with the girls until he got back from work. I was so confused and frustrated. I called my chiropractor and rescheduled my usual Friday appointment for just after lunch, hoping that being adjusted would help start things back up again. No one in my chiropractor's office could believe that I had come during labor, stalled or not, but I assured them that it should help. Ryan and I took the girls to Burger King afterward to let them run off some energy in the play place, which was nice and empty. I waited and waited for contractions to begin. Nothing. Ryan cracked a joke that I had better go into labor since he had called into work. I was so emotional that I began to cry...for the fourth time that day. The poor guy felt so bad! We stopped and got the girls a movie at the RedBox, anything to keep our minds off of labor. We sat down to watch it and I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up around six and started having contractions again! Ten minutes apart, increasing in intensity. I decided to take a bath to calm my emotions and relax my body. At some point during my bath, I began to vocalize through the contractions, so I alerted Sara. We texted back and forth a bit, she was ever encouraging. I heard noises from the living area...Ryan was telling the girls to help him clean some because the baby was coming soon. Oh wow...this was it! I began to text with T, our backup midwife. She felt like my physical and emotional changes were enough for her to come, even though I still felt like it would be a while. She had a two hour drive ahead of her, so she wanted to leave with plenty of time. Kirsten began to get nervous because I was so vocal, so we sent the girls on to my parents' house. They were sleepy and a little anxious. Our friend and birth attendant Amanda arrived before the girls left, much to their delight. T arrived about 9:30...but the bath had slowed my contractions. My dad left with the girls, Norah having already fallen asleep on Amanda's lap, and Ryan made me some beef Ramen noodle. Healthy, huh? Haha! I ate and laid down on the couch, hoping to relax enough for contractions to kick back in. Amanda rubbed my legs and feet...and they sure did kick back in! An almost instant pattern of contractions spaced ten minutes apart. Everyone would laugh because whenever a particularly intense one was over, I would brightly announce that it was a good one. The intensity was growing and it wasn't long before the only way I could manage was to quickly stand up as one began and slump into Ryan's chest. He swayed with me and rubbed my back as I labored. The entire time, he just knew instinctively what I needed. I am still amazed by this incredible man that God has blessed me with. He is the most perfect birth partner, in addition to being the most perfect life partner. Our marriage is so blessed! I think around 3:30 or 4:00 am, the intensity was such that I said I would like to get into the pool soon, but that I was afraid to get in too soon. I had another contraction and announced that I would be getting in soon. Another contraction about four minutes after that and declared that I wanted the pool NOW. It was already inflated, so Ryan hooked up the hose to the shower head and drained the hot water heater while Amanda put water on the stove to heat. I changed into my swimsuit bottoms and climbed in as soon as there were a few inches of water in the pool. It felt amazing on my perenium! As the water level climbed, I could feel a difference in my pain level. After a while, I could tell that the baby's head was working its way down the birth canal, but I wasn't sure how long that would take. I also couldn't tell you what time this was to save my life. Between contractions, I was still fun-loving and smiling. Soon after that, I could tell that I was nearing transition. I became more withdrawn, less aware of my surroundings.
During each contraction, I threw myself over the side of the pool and clung to Ryan as he applied counter pressure to my tailbone. It was the only way I felt that I could cope with my contractions at that point. I was very vocal (it seemed so loud to me) and several times I heard my vocalizations begin to take on a higher pitch, but was able to remember to bring them down to a low register. During a contraction, I thought that the baby was quite low, so I checked myself internally while I was still leaned over after the contraction had finished. The baby's head was low enough that I could feel it with ease. For several contractions, I had experienced relief while bearing down slightly, it was accomplishing much! I asked T to check me (I didn't tell them that I had checked myself, but I wanted confirmation that I had indeed felt what I thought I had. Everyone was shocked because I had not wanted to have any exams at all during pregnancy or labor. T got M on speakerphone, as this was her first solo birth and she wanted the security of being coached through checking me. We feel so honored to be her first solo birth!! It was great to hear M's voice all the way from Delaware! T confirmed exactly what I had felt, baby's head was almost a full finger deep. She didn't reveal how many cm she felt I was dilated, but her description to M sounded to me like I was nearly complete with a lip. Awesome! A few minutes later, I decided to get out and go to the bathroom. I felt like I needed to...lose something...but quickly realized that the change in my position was helping baby move further down, hence the sensation I was feeling. I bore down a little bit in that safe place in case something gross happened (haha!) before deciding to get back in the pool. I practically leapt into the pool at this point, the pain was suddenly too much without the water! My husband had put on some Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald at some point. It was so soothing! We also had ocean waves on. It created a wonderful ambiance. Soon after jumping back into the pool, I was pushing before I really realized what I was doing. After several pushes, I checked my progress again and felt baby's head two knuckles deep. After a few more (loud and powerful, might I add) pushes, I could feel the baby crowning. At this point, I began to support my perenium. I was still on my knees, leaning over the pool and into Ryan's chest. I wanted to say that I could not go on anymore and that they needed to pull the baby out. Then I remembered that that thought meant I was almost done and was thinking crazy. I buckled down and pushed again, the head was almost out and I was experiencing the ring of fire. For a moment I wondered if I would tear, then I decided that I did not care. I looked up and saw the sun brightening the misty gray sky and I drew strength from God's beautiful handiwork. I remember praying and calling on the name of Jesus with every contraction. It was such a holy time! Another mighty push and the head was out! I flipped over so T could check for a cord and we found that the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, too tightly to release, so I just gave a mighty push and the entire body came out. I caught my baby myself at 7:53 am! The cord was wrapped around the neck and back around the chest, but not ONCE did baby's heart rate decel. In fact, it did not drop below 136 the entire course of labor--nuchal cords are NORMAL, people! Forty percent of babies are born easily and healthfully with a nuchal cord of some kind. I brought baby to my chest after T unwrapped the cord and baby pinked up almost instantly. It took a few moments to get a cry and first breath, but we weren't worried, the cord was still intact and baby had no need for oxygen while the cord was still pumping. Baby was lifting its head to listen to mommy and daddy speaking, very alert. I reached between the legs for a second--girl! But in the bliss of the moment...I didn't think to say anything. I still had some intense contractions as the placenta began to release and I wanted to get out of the pool. Amanda put chux pads on the couch and Ryan and T helped me out and onto the couch to finish getting the sample of the cord blood, as I am rh- and we chose to test baby so I could receive the rhogam shot if baby was positive. The placenta took less than 20 minutes to appear after birth. T said it was the largest placenta she had ever personally examined. Baby nursed very well and Ryan stepped outside to call the girls. My mom had been out of the house, so someone called her on her cell phone and she called back immediately. I told her to wait a bit before bringing the girls over so I could be cleaned up. Almost immediately, my grandmother called to see how things were progressing (apparently my mother had told her the night before that I was in labor). Ryan told her that she had called just in time! She was so thrilled to hear the news. The girls and my mom arrived sooner than we hoped, I was still laying on the couch, not yet cleaned up. We had decided to burn the cord before I got up. It took around ten minutes and was a really incredible experience. (Baby's cord fell off on Monday morning! Wow!) Amanda took the big girls into their room to play for a few minutes while T examined me, finding minor bruising and two skid marks--I hadn't torn after all! I got up and got into the shower. At this point, Ryan and T remembered that no one had checked the gender and I told them that I had and forgot to tell them. We got a good laugh as we double checked. Ryan took the baby and snuggled her as T helped me in the shower. It felt soooo good! I dressed and laid back down, snacking and drinking some water as the newborn exam was performed. The girls loved watching their new sister be weighed and measured and all that the exam includes. Baby weighed 6.12 lbs and was 21 inches long! The same weight as Kirsten and more than 2 inches longer than both sisters! (18.5 and 18.75 inches) She had nursed well during our time on the couch and promptly fell asleep after her exhausting exam. It's so hard to be a bebè!
It took us until Sunday night to name her, we chose the name Grace Adele. Grace's meaning is obvious, but Adele means "noble". We feel that her name suits her perfectly!
This birth was truly different. It was empowering, it was holy, it was beautiful. It was a birth without fear. My God is so good!!!