On Thursday, October 16, 2014, I hit my estimated due date for the first time ever. My third pregnancy had been a little tougher on this slightly older body, but nothing this mama couldn’t handle with a little yoga and occasional visits with an awesome chiropractor. The massage at 38 weeks was pretty awesome, too. I was feeling fine on my due date, so I took Andrew to a play group. Everyone there and Michael’s school drop-off and pick-up was surprised to still see me coming around. My response was that I had to keep doing things other than sit at home and take note of how I wasn’t in labor.
Well, I’d been having contractions for pretty much the entirety of my third trimester, some even seemed regular and a little more “real” during this last week. They’d pick up in the evenings, but by the time I would get into bed, I would pass out just fine until whenever the bladder woke me. Thursday night, however, it was more than the bladder. I woke with the occasional surge, noticing that there were even a few times when it happened and I didn’t also have to get up to pee. But I slept fine around it all, and by Friday morning, again, nothing too intense or regular.
James didn’t work on Friday, so we ran some errands in the morning and did some household chores in the afternoon. I baked brownies. Contractions were happening, and every few squeezes, one would come on that was a little more crampy, a little more intense, a little more real. Before dinner, they were coming on stronger, and I felt the urge to, get this… color something. So I poked around online for something small and complicated to color in with my gel pens. I printed two copies, and Michael colored one, too. I told him I was doing it because of baby, so he also made his a gift for baby. He even taped a dime on the back, so excited to give baby his first money.
My father-in-law and his girlfriend grabbed a fish fry for everyone for dinner, and as we ate and afterward, the squeezes kind of slowed down, but still felt like actual labor was actually happening. So I called my midwife to let her know we may be seeing her soon and continued to color my picture as James took the big boys to bed, explaining how the other grownups would be around in case Mom and Dad had to go have a baby while they slept.
After I finished my coloring, about 9:30pm, I went to bed to try and get some sleep. I woke fairly regularly, about every hour or so, and then about 1 or 2am, couldn’t really doze at all anymore. I breathed through as best as I could, trying not to wake James or Andrew, sleeping beside me by that point in bed. Just before 3am, I got up to go to the bathroom and had a few contractions during that process, difference was, I couldn’t just breathe through them anymore, my voice needed to carry me.
So at about 3:00, I told James we should probably get dressed and head over to the birth center. I had hoped to make it at home until morning enough to hug the other boys goodbye, but I really needed space to move and moan as well as the extra support from my birth team at that point. So I called the midwife again, and we agreed to meet up at the birth center and prepare “The Nest,” one of my preferred birthing suites.
It felt like it took forever to dress myself in between contractions, but between James and I, we managed to gather what I had packed and prepared, and we finally made it out the door. I had a few contractions in the car, and we even managed to beat our midwife to the birth center, where the parking lot seemed pretty packed for nearly 4am. Turns out, there was another family there with the other midwife. Later into my labor at the birth center, I felt a sisterhood connection to this other mother, who I never saw, but heard moaning through her pains as I did mine. I learned later that her baby boy was born just an hour after ours.
We brought in our things and settled in. My midwives took my vitals, and they set us up with some water to drink and filled up the tub. My pains were strong and persistent as I sat on my birth ball, used the bathroom, rocked with James, ate a little snack. Between contractions, James and I complained to each other about how early in the morning it was, how nice it would be to have a baby before breakfast, stuff like that. Then I got in the tub for awhile. Contractions spaced out again in the water, but the intensity continued. It felt so good to float.
After awhile, I got sick of the tub, so I got out and did a lot of laboring between the toilet and the bed. As glamorous as it was absolutely not, it felt pretty good just to sit in the bathroom. When I would lie on the bed, again, things would kind of space out. After another couple of hours of moving around between bed, bathroom, ball and James and back again, some heavy sobbing and some wise cracks and jokes, I decided that I needed to go back in the tub. So the midwives came in and warmed it back up. I stripped nude (instead of getting back into my wet bathing suit), which they all said was a good sign of the progress being made.
My water still hadn’t broken, and I hadn’t been checked for dilation at all, by my own preference. I thought about asking to have the water bag broken because I figured that would help baby move down faster, but I ultimately decided to trust my body, thinking it could also be kind of amazing if it didn’t. So I got back in the tub and labored some more. The contractions were rough and really, really crampy. Between surges, I would shift positions. At one point, I said to the baby, “Alright, show yourself!” I was starting to feel like things were taking forever. I think we checked the clock and it was not even 8am, so not so much forever as a couple of hours, really. But with how much the contractions were making me rock and moan, I really wanted them to be doing more than I felt like they were.
But again, as I got comfortable in the tub, they spaced out a little bit. However, they must have actually gotten even more intense during this time because after a little while in the tub, one of my moans must have sounded rather pushy, because without us even paging anyone, all three midwives came into the room with their gloves and various towels and tools ready to greet a newborn. This was surprising to me because I knew I wasn’t that close, though I kind of did try a little bearing down during that contraction they must’ve heard. That baby’s head still felt nowhere near the door where I knew he needed to be. At least not in my mind or from what I could tell, physically, down lower.
Well, all the midwives came in and took their seats around the tub. As a contraction ended and I began to wait (a super long time) for the next one to come, I looked up at these expectant faces, feeling very exposed and awkward. I said to them, “So… how’s it going?” in my most casual conversational tone. And hey, at least it broke the ice, and we all had a good laugh as someone said, “We’re doing good, how’s it going with you?”
Again, the pains spread out, and I felt like the panda bear at the zoo. I tried to fill the space with talk of breakfast and how nice it would be to have a baby soon, and my water cup got a couple of refills. But I was also very aware of how naked I was and how many contractions I wasn’t having while on display. Luckily, I had a very intuitive and considerate birth team, who quietly slipped back out of the room when it must have become apparent to them that six extra eyes on me weren’t exactly helping to move things along.
I kept shifting position in the tub. Kept returnting to hands and knees or just kneeling. I cried. I cried and laughed at the same time. I cried again. I let my body and emotions lead me. I rode along. I tried to surrender. It didn’t take too many more contractions during this stage for me to get to a point where my change in vocal tones was obvious even to my husband during an extra long and intense contraction. He paged the midwives back before that one even ended, knowing that they would probably be needed for real very soon.
I knew I was pushing a little by that point. But there was something preventing me from giving it my all. I was holding back. I knew it. I was hesitating. I think I was waiting to feel like I felt with Andrew. I was waiting for my body just to take over. I didn’t realize (or want to admit) that this baby needed more active participation. I didn’t like the feeling in my bottom when I tried bearing down. It felt, for lack of any better terms, too much in my butt. And the crazy part is that by this point, it wasn’t even painful to push or ride the contractions, I just didn’t like how it felt. It felt wrong. It felt strange. It felt impossible, like there was no way that pushing to my butt was ever going to get that baby to emerge properly.
They had me try a reclining position in the tub, with my feet against the sides, completely spread open. They reminded me how to breathe and hold my breath to bear down and push through to my bottom. My midwife asked if I wanted her to check and make sure that I was fully dilated and all was a go, and I agreed. It was very painful in a way I don’t know that I want to remember or can really even describe. She invited me to feel for myself. And when I tried, I couldn’t really feel much of anything. Just that the baby’s head was too far away. “It’s too far away,” I said.
I changed positions because I didn’t like how I was feeling on my back with my knees spread so far apart. I got to my knees, leaning over the side where James sat cheering me on. I said many words about how strange it felt to push, how much I didn’t want to, begging for it to be over, for me to be done. Someone said, “Your baby will be in your arms before you know it,” and my response was, “Before I know it was too long ago already.”
Then there was the push. The strangest sensation I have ever felt in my life. It felt like birthing a baby, a head or a body or whatever. Something big and significant came out of me. But as it came out, there was a pop and a release. I’m sure my face was a mixture of confusion and horror, and I asked what just happened. Of course, it was the water finally breaking. Finally.
I’m not sure how fast it went then. I don’t know how many more contractions before I was feeling anxious and wrong again and needing something to change. Someone asked if I wanted to get out of the tub. That suggestion was easily the very best idea I had ever heard in my whole entire life, maybe even the history of the world. Yes. I absolutely needed to get out of the tub.
As I stood to get out of the tub, I had a huge contraction. I leaned over, pushed and squatted a little. The midwives moved around to the other side of the tub behind me, and in another contraction or two, I pushed out the most massive head that’s ever lived inside my body. They announced the head was out, and I said, “That was a big head.” Someone said that it wasn’t too big, just the perfect size. With the next push, the body burned its way out of me, too. And I reached down and lifted my baby up from the midwives’ hands. They helped me sit back on the bench in the tub, and I looked into that perfect little face. I touched his tiny hands and feet, made sure he was actually the boy I was told to expect.
I stood up again to get out of the tub for real, and everyone helped me get settled into the bed. I delivered the placenta, and my nether regions were assessed for damage. I decided to wait and see if I wanted a couple of stitches to repair a tear, got an ice pack to lie on, and we were left alone to rest and bond.
We named him Daniel Reece, and called to tell our parents about him. He hadn’t been weighed or measured yet, but the midwives had a hunch he would be heavier than he looked based on how “sturdy” he felt. He was born at 8:51am. We had some cuddle time, he nursed a little bit, James took some picures and a call from work, and then the midwives came back in to measure him and check him over. I passed on the stitches. My bottom had been through quite enough for the time being.
His head was huge at 36cm around. (“See, I knew that was a big head!”) He weighed 8lbs 14oz, way bigger than my other babies (Michael was 7lbs 15oz and Andrew was 7lbs 2oz). He was 21 inches long. And perfect in every way.
Mike and Linda picked up a couple of omelettes for us on their way to bring the big brothers and meet the newest addition to our family. Those boys absolutely adore their little baby brother. They are helpful and empathetic, and Andrew is especially fascinated and so curious about that little brother. (“That his belly button penis?” he asked when he noticed the still fresh umbilical cord.)
I am so proud of myself, my strong, supportive husband and my super big boys. I couldn’t be more grateful to my birth team and my family. This little guy was hard work, and I am truly blessed that my boys and I have been so cared for as I rest and heal and snuggle our new little miracle. As tough as this birth was, it was beautiful in its way, and I wouldn’t have changed a moment.