My labor began two weeks before she was born. Many Braxton-Hicks contractions during the night, timed and strong. This alarmed me because I never experienced this early, false contractions with my other two children. Expectations and differences. It can rock your world and play tricks on your mind.
These contractions lasted from 4am to 7am for many nights — sometimes they skipped a night, but it was almost every night. It became discouraging. The second week, they became stronger, and in my back, so they became almost painful. I thought it was go time on one Monday morning, and I told my son so. Big mistake. They stopped. They continued the next morning. I thought the baby would never come.
I had psyched myself out that this baby would be early. My other two children were about two weeks early, and each came out a healthy 8+ pounds, so I thought my third child would be the same. Days passed, the baby would decide to remain in her cozy little corner of the world.
Even though I advocate for normalizing birth, fear can overcome you in this waiting game. What if the baby dies? (Truly, a time to trust in God.) Each day and each movement, I praised God for the life I still felt kicking inside. I’d pray, “God please let me feel him/her.” And a moment later, He would answer my prayer — I’d feel stinging pain on my cervix, or tiny kicks in my abdomen. God was determined to bring this child into the world, and hopefully, to a mother without fear.
7:30pm, Sunday night, the day before Memorial Day, I began feeling stronger contractions than ever. We were eating a later dinner, so I looked at the clock. It was 30 seconds long. Then it happened again five minutes later. Then five minutes after that. I looked at Nathan. This is the real thing I thought. But oh I didn’t want to be wrong like I had been all those times before!
We finished dinner up and put the kids down. I didn’t want to call my mom to pick them up until I was absolutely sure. I gave them so many kisses, and we took a few selfies as a family of four.
They were down and my 9pm I called my mom. She didn’t pick up.
I called my midwife at 9:30pm and let her know that I was having consistent 30 second contractions every 5-6 minutes. This was positive. They weren’t stronger, but they were something. I had to pause for each one. I sat on my borrowed blue birthing ball and thanked God for this new life. I prayed this was the real thing and that I’d meet my baby soon.
My mom picked up around 10pm and said she’d be there soon. I was packing a few more things for the kids — swimsuits so they could swim the next day at the family thing on Memorial Day.
My mom was there by 10:30 and contractions were still consistent. They weren’t getting stronger and I’d had them for three hours. More expectations. My birth with our second was six hours and at this rate, I definitely wasn’t having this baby that night — the birthday would be after midnight.
I helped my mom take the kids, giving them kisses. My son was upset by having to leave because he had been in a deep sleep. That made me sad — am I doing the right thing? Should I have let them stay sleeping? Is this birth thing even happening tonight?
After they left, I called the midwife again to let her know that the kids had gone. She expected things to go faster once they were out of the house. The contractions were getting a bit stronger and she decided to be there within the hour. She arrived at around 11:45.
Contractions were still regular, but weren’t more intense. This disappointed me. I wanted things to progress. We were about on the same timeline as my second child’s birth. Things really picked up after midnight, and she was born at 1:49am. That’s okay, I knew that every birth is different, but I couldn’t help but think about it.
Amanda, my midwife, checked my blood pressure, the baby’s heartbeat, and the baby’s position. All seem well and normal. She left Nathan and I on our bed, resting together.
I got up from the bed to pee during the contractions, squatting always feels good during contractions. Then I would come lay back down on my side which made the contractions more intense. “Uhhhh”. Remembering to breath with each one, with relaxed hands and mouth.
Around 12:30, I felt water coming out, I jumped from the bed and it came onto the floor. I was excited until I looked down. There was a small tinge of brown in the water. This terrified me. I knew what it meant — meconium and the health of the baby may be at risk. Amanda assessed the water and determined that this water was probably in this condition for a bit, not a recent uterine poop because the color was not strong. I knew I had the option of going to a hospital — but what would they do differently? Want me to deliver? Of course. I felt that I could do that faster in the comfortable, safe environment of home.
I wanted to go into the pool that Nathan had been filling while I was upstairs either on the ball, the bed, or the toilet. He worked so hard at getting the birth supplies together on the table, getting the birth herbal bath ready, setting up the tarp, blowing up the pool, and filling it with a large 5gal bucket because our hose wouldn’t come off our washing machine. I was in awe of him and his support this time around. “We’re old hats at this” he’d say. He was very supportive and loving throughout the whole process and I’m so grateful for the bond this created in us.
I went in the pool and felt a strong contraction. Good sign. But then, about twenty minutes passed and nothing. I felt exhausted but nothing was happening. My birth photographer came, a friend. The other midwife, Jamie, arrived. I wanted it to move. Water breaking is a sign of things moving, right? I felt one or two more contractions in the pool and realized that I needed to get out to walk around again. Amanda explained that sometimes there may be a break between water breaking and full blown labor. I asked them to cover all the clocks. I wanted to be on my own time. I became frustrated.
After a little walk around the house, my body still leaking a bit of water, I went back to the toilet. Amanda asked what I wanted to do. By now it was about 2am and an hour and a half since my water broke. More poopy water was coming out and I was afraid again. She asked if she could check my dilation to assess what we should do from here. This was new territory for me since I had never been checked for dilation with my other two children.
We went to the living room where a twin bed was set up for me to lie in. She checked me and massaged my cervix. She determined two things: I was only 3cm dilated and my baby’s head was posterior.
Oh defeat. I’d never felt more frustrated or exhausted in my life. I felt that I had already labored so much, how could I go on? I had to go on because this water is not safe. Should I go in and transfer? Oh the sadness washed over me. Dear God please let this baby come safely.
Amanda explained that by going on knees and elbows, I could try to turn the baby’s head. Perhaps the baby’s head is what has stopped labor form starting up.
And perhaps my fear at seeing that water break is what stopped labor all together.
I had to choose. I had to choose to have that baby. Every 10 or 15 minutes, they were checking the heartbeat and every time it remained in the 140s (the safe, good zone). There was no fluctuation and that reassured the midwives, Nathan, and me that the baby was not in distress.
I was so tired — we went ahead on elbows and knees for about 15 minutes, then having to go to the bathroom. Nathan went with me. I just sat there. Then all of the sudden the groaning began. This is my labor call — the low groan that Nathan likes to poke fun of years after births. It is my sound that keeps me grounded during the intense rushes.
They began. I asked Nathan back in and he held my hands through each one. I went from sitting on the toilet to standing at the sink, back and forth. After twenty or so very intense minutes, I wanted desperately to be back in the pool.
In the pool, the contractions became unbearable. I was holding on the Nathan’s hands for dear life. My knees on the pool floor, trying not to flail my body uncontrollably. Each contraction became more intense. How could I withstand more intensity? How could I go on? During each one, Nathan would tell me how good I was doing. Tell me how strong I am. Tell me our baby is coming. He grounded me. Between the rushes, I had small breaks I and think I literally fell asleep on the side of that pool several times.
The midwives checked the heartbeat frequently, I barely remember them putting the Doppler on my belly. 140s, healthy and strong.
The work that my body was doing had overcome me and I had to let it work. Get my mind off of it and let it work. The last 3 or 4 contractions were numbingly painful. I knew I couldn’t go on. Just when I was about to flail my body, I felt the urge to push. “I want to push!” I yelled. Amanda, in her soft voice said, “Listen to your body.”
Listen. And I pushed. I felt down but felt some obstruction and didn’t feel the baby’s head. Then I pushed. Amanda asked if I wanted to catch the baby and I knew I didn’t. I just wanted to push her out. I knew she was there, she delivered some counter-pressure on my perineum. And I pushed out the head. I knew I should have waited, that I was being asked to slow down, but I couldn’t. I wanted my baby here so, so badly. Next I pushed the body out. I felt the baby come.
I instinctively turned my body and flipped my leg over the cord. I saw the baby for the first time. Amanda was saying, “Four times, one, two , three, four.” I saw the cord wrapped around my baby’s neck four times. Then they handed her to me. She was fine. The cord was pulsing, she still had oxygen from me. No cries yet. I rubbed her and called, “Is he okay, is he okay.” Yes, the cord is pulsing. I hear a little gurgle and I laugh with joy. I look and kiss her sweet, wet head. I look up at Nathan in great joy and excitement.
Then I wonder, I lift her leg to see, “You’re a girl!” Our sweet baby girl is here.
I went from 3cm to 10cm in one hour. I pushed three times and she was out. Amanda said that my body knew she needed to get out of the birth canal because of the incredibly long cord wrapped around her neck. Four times was a record that Amanda and Jamie hadn’t seen. She’s breaking records as she comes into the world.
Love and joy as I walked the short distance to the living room bed again. I laid down to see my girl, Lin, still in my arms. She snuggled up to me and even wanted to suckle on my breast. My whole body was shaking after the birth. We took our time with birthing the placenta, taking pictures of, and cutting her cord, evaluating my tear, stitching up while holding her, cleaning her myself, weighing her and checking her out. It was how it was supposed to be. Even with the scares and the worry and the having to trust God with my life and hers, it was everything I’d hoped for. I got my baby girl. I have my longed for child. My complete family. She is our little light.