May was born in the water in September 2012. I wrote this when she was three days old.
That morning, my two-year-old John woke up at 5:30 am. I was not a happy camper. But I took the morning shift, then took a nap from 8 to 10:30, so I was feeling better after that. I started the day as usual. As normal as any day can be, being eight and a half months pregnant. We ate pancakes as a family. We played some games with him at the table and I played with him outside for a bit. During John’s nap, Marshall and I napped in bed together.
At 6 o’clock, I gave John his dinner. While running around the kitchen, washing and putting away dishes, I began noticing some cramping, particularly in my back. This was different from the weeks of cervical pains that I’d been feeling over the past weeks. Those had been momentarily sharp, but went as fast as they came. These lingered for a while. I didn’t want to startle Marshall, since he was looking forward to going to a friend’s house to watch the Michigan-Nortre Dame game. I was still twelve days to my due date (though John was just about two weeks early), so I just told him I had light cramping. He was worried and began to put the birth-pool supplies together. He realized that the hose he had bought couldn’t connect to the kitchen sink, so I told him to try to find one at the hardware store and just go to his friend’s because surely this was false labor!
I decided to make some dinner for myself; John had eaten some ground beef, so I made myself a hamburger with tomatoes with potato chips (my favorite) and a bowl of my homemade pudding that I made the day before. I knew I’d need my strength if this was the real thing, but knew I might be seeing this food again, too….
Marshall left around 7:30, (and he did find another hose, with the proper adapter at 7:55, minutes before they closed!) and I began quieting John down for bed. The pains were every 10 minutes, but lasted about 30 seconds. I knew something was up, but concentrated on spending time with John and giving him a normal evening. I took pictures with him, just in case, to have a couple last belly shots with my precious only-child-two-year-old. He went down around 8:20, after too many kisses and hugs and I love yous. During these two hours, I couldn’t stop running to the toilet, as my bowels began to empty and prepare. This is how I really knew I was in labor, because that is how my labor began with John. I couldn’t stop going on the toilet, until nothing was left to come out.
Marshall called to check in around 8:45, and I had to tell him that this was the real thing, but I was still guessing at this point. Contractions were still mild, thankfully not in my back, but they were about ten minutes apart, and only lasting about 30 seconds. He called his mom to explain the night’s events and that she should probably plan on getting John. She had her other two grandchildren over, so she left as soon as they were down.
Marshall arrived back home around 9:15, and I think that is when my body was telling me it was beginning to be “go time”. The contractions started to be 5-6 minutes apart, but still mild, controllable, and only about 30-40 seconds long. Marshall began preparing our kitchen for the birthing area. He blew up the pool, set the birth supplies out, and made sure I had enough juice and I was comfortable. I spent my time in our bed upstairs, on my side, or in the living room (catching the last of the horrible Michigan game) rolling around on the ball.
Cathy, my mother in law, came at 10:30. I was well enough to come give her a hug, but I had about three contraction sets while she came (closer than five minutes apart at this point). I hid in the bathroom, so John wouldn’t see me, which broke my heart, but I knew he had to get in the car with as little drama as possible (we later found out that he didn’t fall asleep at Grandma’s until two in the morning)!
After they left, my body was really ready to do its job. I could be uninhibited, groan as loud as I needed, and let my body loose. My contractions became so intense. Every couple minutes, and lasting at least 45 seconds to a minute. Marshall squeezed my hips and rubbed my back through every one. He was very sweet, telling me what a great job I was doing and kissing my head. He was on and off the phone with the midwives, but we kept thinking that they should hold off coming by. John’s labor was through the night, lasting until 5:29 the next morning, so I figured this labor would take at least that long. My waves of pain were progressing quickly enough, unstifled by any movement other than my husband and I trying to get through them. I enjoyed this time him and I had together. We had a closeness that I can’t describe. He kept giving me my juice with a straw, and at one point I wanted an apple, but I ate one slice and felt sick. I had a bowl close, but none of my food ever came up, which was a relief for me.
I spent my time kneeling on the ground, with my arms on the couch or on the big birthing ball. This was the best position for me. Marshall played the “birth play list” that I created a couple weeks earlier, just a compilation of soft praise songs and love songs that I knew would be comforting. I kept asking him to replay “I Need Thee Every Hour,” an old hymn, redone by Jars of Clay. This song gave me strength, as I was reminded of my weakness in God’s Strength and Glory and Wisdom.
I also spent some contractions on my side on the couch. This is how I spent a lot of my time during my first labor, and again, the contractions became so intense in this position. I couldn’t stay there for long, because though I kept trying to breathe and low groan my way through, I sometimes began to lose the battle to screaming. I told Nathan, around 12:30 that the midwives should probably come. He called again (though he had been updating them every hour), and they said they were on their way. Contractions were sometimes 3 minutes apart, sometimes 1 minute and sometimes 30 seconds long and sometimes a minute long. I was a bit frustrated with this inconsistency because I saw it as a sign that I wasn’t in Active Labor yet, that my body still had a long way to go. I didn’t let it get me down, but I was mentally preparing myself for at least 4-5 more hours of intense contractions.
After calling the midwives, I announced I had to go into the pool. Nathan had been filling it up, but it was only about a third filled. I climbed in and felt relief with each wave of contractions. As the water filled, I felt more stable and more strength. The room was quiet, the lights were down low, my praise music was on in the background.
The midwives came in, but I couldn’t even greet them. My job was to lean against the edge, holding Marshall’s hands, and just try to keep breathing. I spent my time on my knees, but also sat down a few times. Over the next minutes, the contractions became increasingly intense. Unbearable. I could not take the pain that I was feeling. I couldn’t groan or breathe; I began to scream and I remember flailing around in the pool, water splashing. I started the contractions on my knees, but ended on my side, lying down for each one. I came back to Nathan who kept encouraging me, and Amanda and Anna kept telling me how great I was doing. I began to feel out of control. My body was doing this, not me. It was not up to me. Marshall grounded me, holding my hands, kissing my forehead. He later told me that I pushed him away. I began to feel so hot and cold wet cloths on my head felt wonderful. I kept sipping juice between the long intense pains. The midwives kept checking the heartbeat with a doppler. It was strong; at one point it was faster than normal, but I moved positions and it went back to normal. This was done in a way that didn’t panic me, but was explained that the baby’s head was being squeezed and I had to move to relieve it.
The last 4 or 5 contractions were the worst. I remember thinking, “I can’t do this”, but Marshall and the midwives assured me I could. I was just thinking in my head that I had hours to go. But after a brief break, which I now know was transition, I began to push. My body was releasing this baby through and I had to finish the job. I waited for the contractions and pushed slowly. I felt her head come with my hand, which was so amazing. Touching my baby for the first time. I kept pushing, and patiently waiting for contractions. Amanda massaged my perineum as I waited, and this also gave a bit of relief. I was happy to be active, not passively letting my body open for the baby, but having to work to bring my baby into the world. As I pushed, the ring of fire was intense and horrible, but I can still say I liked it better than that last round of contractions. I felt the head come. My baby was coming to greet me. The head came, then I felt the arms, then I felt the legs. Eight minutes of pushing brought you here at 1:49am.
“Take your baby, Amy,” Amanda said. I reached down and picked my baby up. I leaned back in the pool and stared at my baby. “You’re here, you’re here.” Gray and blue all over. There weren’t cries yet, but the midwives were rubbing while the baby was on me, and one got the oxygen tank ready. They kept reassuring me that the baby was fine, heartbeat was fine, and the lungs just needed time; still attached to me, through her lifeline, the cord, oxygenated blood was coming to the baby just fine.
Anna told me later, that some water-born babies don’t even realize that they are outside and it takes them some time to liven up. And after a minute or so, I began to hear gurgles, and I was so relieved. I lifted the baby up to see, “You’re a girl!” I couldn’t believe it! I was certain I was having another boy, so this was such a big, wonderful surprise. My baby girl. You are here. Welcome to the world. We love you more than anything.
I was guided up, out of the tub, and into our guest room. I laid on the bed with my precious girl in my arms. She and I had blankets and towels on, and the midwives took a look at my perineum and waited for another contraction to bring the placenta. With a couple small pushes, it came. Cramping came soon after, with more groans. But happy groans, my baby was in my arms. “Her name is May.” We said, “May.” We watched the placenta and the cord pulsing to our baby, bring the last of her blood to her body. I kept her close, skin to skin. She was alert, looking around, interested in the breast, but didn’t latch. Amanda and I tried to begin breastfeeding, but it seemed the she was too content to be here to try to nurse. She did latch a couple hours later, and though it has been a bit painful, I am so grateful for my tough little girl, rooting, latching, and nursing.
Next, Amanda looked at my tear to assess if she could repair at home or not. (With John, I had a significant tear, so I was prepared in knowing that my scar tissue would tear again.) Thankfully, the tear was much less, and Amanda felt very confident in repairing at home. She numbed me up and got to work. It did take her quite some time, and I am thankful for the care she took in repairing me. Next, Marshall held the baby, while I slowly walked to our bathtub, now filled with a healing, herbal bath. It was so wonderful to clean my body while the herbs worked. Marshall was in there with me, holding our baby. After getting out, our baby was weighed and measured. 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 inches long. She is perfect.
I am thankful that I could birth my baby in a safe place, a comforting place, with love surrounding us. I was never fearful. I knew I was safe. She was safe. I never feared someone violating my body with cervical exams. I felt protected. I felt strong. I am strong. May and I did it together.
John was brought over a couple of hours later. He met his little sister, “Baby!” and seems to be adjusting well and loving her and wondering where she is. Our parents and siblings came, but we held her tight, not letting anyone hold her – this won’t come until we’re ready in a couple of days. We were home and comfy and loving becoming a family of four.
And Thy rich promises, in me fulfill
I need Thee, I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee
I need Thee, I need Thee,
I need Thee every hour.
(Annie S. Hawks)