As promised, a birth story... (If you don't wanna know, don't read it. ;)
Just like with my last two babies, I started having very regular Braxton Hicks contractions starting at 36 weeks. It wasn’t unusual for me to have them at regular intervals, sometimes 6 or more per hour. At first we wondered if I would go into labor early (it’s never happened before, but hey, one can hope! ;) We soon got into a routine of about 24 hours of contractions that would completely wear me out, since I could hardly move without having to stop for a contraction, and then they would take a day or two “off” and I wouldn’t have many at all. Though I know it might creep some people out, I was actually checking myself for dilation every several days (it’s not rocket science, and I’m actually surprised more people don’t learn how to do this. Sure gave me peace of mind!) At 37 weeks I was about 3cm, confirmed by my midwife, Jessica. That was the only time this pregnancy that Jessica checked me! I still can hardly believe that. It was the way I wanted it.
My due date, Tuesday 1/17, came and went, and all that week, I was feeling good and fully expecting to go into labor any minute. I had dilated a bit more, all on one side of my cervix – one side was completely soft and effaced, and the other was still pretty hard. But I didn’t feel ready for labor. I didn’t even feel full term. I still had energy, my back didn’t hurt, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable. But I was emotionally tired, not sleeping very well, and not at all sure I could “do” labor. The circumstances with our housing situation have been very exhausting for the past 3-4 months, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around having a baby. By Sunday though, I was frustrated. Frustrated that we were in that situation with the house. Frustrated that I was still pregnant after almost 5 weeks of contractions. Frustrated that I didn’t get to be in control of my circumstances, and therefore have enough strength to do what I had to do, honestly. Ha. Sounds like a God thing, doesn’t it?
Slowly, over the next few days, I began to wrap my mind around labor, and actually started feeling like I WANTED to go into labor, for the first time. I went for acupuncture on Tuesday night, when I was 41 weeks. My naturopathic doctor does this for his clients for free, particularly if they are past their due date and need to go into labor and avoid transport to the hospital for induction at 42 weeks. I’ve had acupuncture a lot, but he put the needles pretty deep that night and it hurt! I figured that would do the trick. It usually takes 48 hours for that to kick up the contractions. Sure enough, Thursday morning I woke with bloody show! I had infrequent but strong contractions most of the day Thursday, and saw more bloody show that afternoon. By the kids’ bedtime I was moaning through contractions, but they were still only 10-15 minutes apart.
Nick and I went to bed and tried to sleep. I kept getting up to use the bathroom, and spent lots of time sitting on the toilet. While I was up the contractions were closer together, but I really did not want to rush this labor or make it more intense than it needed to be. We called Jessica at around 1 to tell her what was up, and she said to call when they were 5 minutes apart. I decided to try getting in the bathtub, just to see if it felt good. I have hated being in the tub for both of my other natural births, but so many people love it that it always seems like such a good idea! Nope. Still hated it. Too hard. Couldn’t get the temperature right. Didn’t want to sit in my own bodily fluids. Ew. ;) Contractions had been getting closer together, around 6-7 minutes, but in the tub they went back to 10 minutes. So, we went to bed and slept between contractions. Nick was timing them for me, except for the ones he slept through. ;) I had put together a playlist for labor, a mix of worship music from Bethel, Hillsong, New Life, and Matt Redman. I drew so much strength from the truth in those songs, reassuring me of God’s faithfulness, of His power, of my ability to overcome as His child. I did get tired and panicky a few times, but with Nick’s reassurance and repeatedly pulling myself back to an attitude of worship, it passed quickly.
At about 6am I was up again, sitting on the toilet. The baby had been moving nearly nonstop early in labor, but I hadn’t felt her in about two hours, and wanted to know she was ok. I asked Nick to call Jessica, even though contractions were still closer to 6 minutes apart. She said me wanting the baby checked was a sign of heading into active labor, and that she would get ready and come. She arrived around 7am, and checked the baby’s heart. Baby was doing great! About that time our other kids started waking up so we called my parents to come pick them up. That hour between 7 and 8am was intense. I was lying on the bed, feeling nauseous and hoping that meant I was in transition, but that seemed too good to be true. Then I had a very long contraction that peaked about three times and I tearfully said, “I can’t do any more of those!” Jessica quietly responded, “You won’t have to do very many of those.” At that point, Nick suggested I try getting in the shower, something that has worked well for me in transition before. I cried as they got the water ready for me. Nick was fully clothed, but put his whole arm and shoulder into the shower for me to hang onto during each contraction. After just a couple of contractions in the shower, I actually felt my cervix open completely, and the baby drop a bit. And then, for the first time in all 4 births, I spontaneously started pushing. I’ve never had that urge before! The fact that I didn’t know how dilated I was, was a blessing. Before, I’ve been told to push because I was fully dilated and pushing was very difficult – breaking blood vessels in my eyes, etc. Just Nick and I were in the bathroom, and though I’m sure Jessica could hear that I was pushing, she was very calm. She stood outside the bathroom door for the first several pushes, and then quietly came in with her hands full of chux pads. She would have caught the baby in the shower if I had wanted to stay there. In the middle of all this, my dad arrived downstairs to pick up the kids. Nick held me through a contraction, and then RAN downstairs, showed Dad where the keys to our van and the kids’ stuff were, and RAN back upstairs just in time to hold me for the next one. Suddenly, the water didn’t feel good anymore, and I said I wanted to get out. They turned off the water, and I had one more contraction that hurt like crazy (the moaning was…ahem…much higher pitched by this point, but not until this point) and my water broke, standing there in the shower.
Then the contractions hurt more than I could stand. Jessica had the bed all ready, with a waterproof liner, clean sheets, and chux pads. I climbed on the bed on all fours and hung on till it was over, basically. After about three contractions I felt the baby crowning and Jessica said she had lots of hair. I reached down to touch my baby’s head. Another contraction or two and the head was out. Her hand was up by her face (just like Tessa's. Guess I'm just lucky that way. ;), clutching her cord (thus the reason for the intense pain, and also the weird dilation I had noticed last week). Another contraction and the shoulders were out, and then Jessica caught her (Nick said “It’s a girl!!” To which I laughed, “It IS??”), and laid her underneath me on the bed. They helped me pick her up and turn around and sit down. It was 8:13am. I had been pushing for 18 minutes, total. Jessica wiped her off while I held baby Josie Arlene on my chest. She was all purple, and wide-eyed, and then she took a big breath and cried. She quickly started to turn pink. Jessica covered us with the blanket my Gramma Arlene sent me for Christmas a few years ago – she had my name embroidered on it. Jessica didn’t even know that blanket had significance for me, but it was very touching that she grabbed THAT blanket at that moment. After 30 minutes or so Josie nursed a bit, though it took her a few hours to really catch on to the idea. The placenta came easily and I didn’t bleed much at all. I had a long, shallow tear from her hand that did not need stitches. After awhile, Jessica showed Nick how to cut the cord, and did Josie’s exam. She weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces, 20 ¼ inches long. She was neurologically advanced, definitely 41 weeks +. Jessica brought me some food and then after I ate, helped me bathe. Then Josie and I took a nap in our own bed.
I couldn’t be happier with this birth. I loved the relaxed, quiet presence that Jessica brought as our midwife, and Nick is pretty much an expert birth coach at this point.
Josie Arlene means “a promise that God will increase.” This season we have been in has been the most unstable-feeling, roller-coaster time we’ve experienced in our lives thus far. And yet, in the midst of that, I was able to have this peaceful, relatively easy, quick birth that reminded me of God’s faithfulness during hard times. This one is a precious memory for me!