41 weeks and 3 days...
Waiting "patiently" up until this point has been challenging. I had sciatic pain for the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, so I was quite ready to meet this little baby. Jill our midwife was the most amazing support as we approached 40 weeks with no signs of labor beginning. She did an extended listen to baby's heart rate. There were no decelerations after movement, and baby's heart rate never went below her baseline. Jill reassured us that everything was normal with baby and I, so we just continued to wait until baby decided it was time. Waiting was not easy, but I knew it was the safest choice for both of us. We had no medical reason to induce labor, so we continued to try and be patient. Jill said she has caught many babies past the 41 week mark, it was not uncommon in the world of midwifery. That gave me another reason to be grateful we had chosen homebirth. I had no pressure from her to rush things along. Babies are born in their own perfect time. I did a lot of meditation in these last few weeks, just reminding myself that my body knows exactly what to do. And "Baby is right on time" not late at all. This helped me to mentally stay present and not worry about that silly (and crazy making) due date!
Whew, labor finally begins! Wednesday, January 8th began as another normal day. We did not have much going on. Adam was off of work for another stretch of a week (again.) He had 2 weeks off in anticipation of baby's arrival. No baby, back to work, no baby. Back to work again. No baby. Tonight he was home with Wesley and I. Adam made crab cakes for dinner and I put together a homemade mac-n-cheese. It made a ton! Little did we know, this extra food would be enjoyed the next day by our midwives and ourselves! During dinner I thought I sensed some wave like contractions. Now, I've had quite a few "signs" up until this point. Each time I'd think, "Is labor going to kick into gear soon?" Then, nope, we keep waiting. Nothing major, just little signs, or changes in my body. So these very subtle, wave like contractions didn't grab my attention right away. Once we put Wesley to bed, I mentioned what I was feeling to Adam. He asked me, as he always did, "Is this new? Does it feel really different?" Because we had had so many false alarms, I was skeptical, but he was anxious that this was actually something. Thankfully he was right. He suggested I call Jill and give her a heads up that we were noticing a pattern.
It was around 9:30pm when I called to tell her I felt very subtle contractions about every 30 minutes, lasting for about 30-45 seconds. Jill suggested I try to rest. I went to bed and tried to lay down. I was tired, so I slept in between contractions. Some were stronger than others, and those woke me up. I was able to manage the pain and remained laying down, waking up intermittently until 2 a.m. At that point I was a little hungry, but also bored with the sleep disruptions, so I got up. I ate a piece of toast and watched some TV. My contractions during this time did not intensify, they would come, feel a bit uncomfortable then pass. They were never challenging enough where I had to use any sort of relaxation techniques. By 4 a.m. I realized I should probably try and go back to bed, hoping to get some more rest.
Again, the same pattern of sleeping and waking throughout contractions lasted until 6 a.m. I woke up once more feeling hungry and bored. Before going to the kitchen, I went to use the bathroom and saw the first sign of bloody mucus. Hooray! I whispered a little "Yes!!" to myself because I knew that things were progressing! It's funny the bodily functions that you celebrate as you await baby's arrival. After this discovery I went to the kitchen and ate an apple. It was early, but I wanted to wake Adam up and tell him about the mucus and that I hadn't really slept much through the night. He suggested that I call Jill again to share the update of how labor was progressing. She was awake already and enjoying coffee, a book and a fire at her house. It was shaping up to be a great day for all of us.
Jill said she'd get showered and dressed and would head over by 8:30. She called Lynn, her assistant who lives an hour away in Grove City, PA. It was a beautifully sunny and crisp winter day, so Lynn had a great drive over. We've had so many snow storms this winter, I was glad she had nice weather to drive in. Wesley woke up by 8:00 and as we snuggled, I knew this was the last time it would be just he, daddy and I. It was bittersweet, but I was more excited to meet this little baby than anything! Our lives were changing, all for the better. We had our usual morning routine of "cece" (cereal) with Wes. Adam showered and got ready for the day.
It seemed that labor had slowed down a bit. I think it was because now I was occupied with caring for Wes, my body decided to put labor on hold. Jill and Lynn arrived around 8:30 and took my blood pressure, listened to baby during and after a contraction. Everything sounded great. Jill asked if I wanted her to check and see how far dilated I was. I didn't have a preference, but was kind of curious since I was experiencing contractions from the night before. We went into Wesley's room, laid towels on the bed and she checked me. I was 4 centimeters. I try not to get stuck on a number because I know there can be many fluctuations as labor progresses at whatever speed it needs to.
Since I was feeling ok, Jill and Lynn decided to give us some time as a family before things kicked into gear. They went out to get some breakfast nearby. Jill told me to call at any point if I needed them for support or if something changed. I felt very comfortable having it just be Adam, Wesley and I for a bit. I called my mom to give her the heads up that labor had actually begun. To say she was excited to hear this news was an understatement! I asked her what her day looked like and if she could come pick up Wesley and hang with him until baby arrived. She happily obliged. I still wasn't sure if I wanted Wes there for the birth or not. Part of me really did want him to experience it with us, but I just didn't know how I would feel in that moment. In the end, I needed all of my energy to focus on pushing out baby! So it was very helpful to have my mom take him for the day.
By the time we got Wesley ready, and my mom arrived it was around 11:30. We chatted for a bit, and got his things together and they got ready to head out. Once mom and Wes left and Jill and Lynn returned, it was about noon. I was ready for some quiet so that I could focus on contractions. Things had picked up again and I was beginning to get irritated with Wesley needing my attention and energy. Sorry buddy, mommy has an important job ahead of her today!
I got in the tub to help me relax. Actually, our water heater was on the fritz so Adam was boiling pots of water to help warm up the tub. It was funny, I felt very "old fashioned." I put on my "Labor List," the playlist I created for labor. Lot's of meditative music, with Enya of course. It really made a difference in my labor with Wes, and I already enjoyed the calming music to help me focus and move further inward. We also lit candles in the bathroom. It really did help to set the mood and encouraged me to fully relax. I'm honestly not sure how long I labored in the tub. Jill asked if I wanted her or Adam in there but I was enjoying the solitude and opportunity to relax with my breathing and positive mantras. I encouraged my body to "Let go" and "Open." I checked in regularly on my points of tension, face, jaw and shoulders. I made sure I was staying relaxed in those parts of my body. Jill and Lynn would come in every so often to check on baby's heart rate. They had a doppler that can be submerged in the water, so I didn't have to get out of the tub.
After a few hours contractions began to get a bit more intense. I wanted Adam to be in the bathroom with me now. Just to have his presence there. I rested my hands in his while a wave like contraction came and went. It was reassuring just having him by my side now. I even tried smiling when I felt a contraction begin. As crazy as it sounds to make yourself do this, it actually did help. It seemed to allow me to shift my perspective. It reminded me that each contraction is good, it is necessary, it brings baby one step closer each time. I would have never thought a simple smile could make you feel so much better, even in the midst of labor.
I ended up getting a little bored in the tub. I just wanted a change of scenery., so we moved to the bedroom. Since I was up through most of the night, I was getting a little tired now. I could see that it was still a beautifully sunny day outside, but I still wanted to bedroom curtains closed. I was enjoying the dimly lit room to help me keep my focus on the task at hand. I lay down in our bed with Adam laying next to me. I tried to just let my body completely relax in between contraction, almost taking a mini nap, I wasn't saying much, just conserving my energy. I was coughing off and on from the irritating chest cold I had. For the most part I was able to wait until a contraction would end, then I'd have a small coughing fit. It was oh, so much fun. I stood for a little while and hung on Adam with my arms around his neck. I swayed side to side, letting the movement and gravity help baby to descend. All the while, Jill and Lynn continued to check on baby's heart rate and everything was still sounding great. I loved hearing their words of encouragement saying, "What a strong little baby!" "That is a perfect heartbeat." I knew baby was just fine, making the journey to my arms little by little. We were a team, doing this together.
As I laid back down on the bed, the contractions started to get more intense. They were quite uncomfortable and I really needed Adam there to support me. I almost felt as if I was supposed to push, but it wasn't' a true pushing feeling. I held on to Adam's hands, a little more tightly now. I was laying on my side and my back really ached. In between contractions, Lynn offered to massage my low back. This felt absolutely amazing. I was so grateful for her strong supportive touch helping me to feel so much better. After laboring this way for quite awhile, I felt exhausted. Those contractions were very intense and I was praying that it was transition I just went through. I asked Jill to check my progress and she said I had about ½ a centimeter to go. Wow, I was so relieved to hear that. I think transition would have been much better if I was in the tub, but I really needed to be lying on the bed to rest in between.
So now, I knew, pushing was coming soon. It was surprising how different this stage of labor felt compared to Wesley's. I wasn't feeling direct urges to push, I couldn't discern the clear rush of adrenaline that I felt during Wesley's birth. I was still having some strange and very uncomfortable contractions. I was vocalizing quite a bit now, saying "Open" in very low tones. Telling my body to "Open" gave me something else to do while I was trying to figure out exactly what to do. Jill said it was physiological pushing urges. In between contractions, Lynn would massage my lower back with the olive oil we had on hand. It felt amazing!!! It was just what I needed for some comfort and rest in between these tough contractions.
Finally the shift happened and I recognized that I needed to bear down to begin moving my baby down. My body told me it was really time to push. Once I felt this shift, I stood up and leaned on a stack of pillows propped up on the bed, holding Adam's hands. This was the position I birthed Wesley in and it was familiar to me. I worked here for quite awhile. Jill held warm compresses on my perineum and checked on baby's heart rate regularly. Everything sounded good and that continued to reassure me. After awhile, I began to feel tired standing, so I tried laying down again. I laid on my left side, held on to Adam's hands and Lynn held and supported my right leg when I needed to bear down and push. It gave me moments of rest in between, but after remaining here for awhile, I felt like I needed gravity to help me again.
Jill asked if I wanted to try the birth stool that she brought. I was beginning to feel a little frustrated and very tired at this point. I was frustrated, because I felt like I was working so hard at pushing, vocalizing, and doing my best to "let go" and baby had still not crowned. Not even a glimpse of that little head yet. I told her I'm willing to try anything. The birth stool is a low stool with handles on the side and the front part is open for baby to descend and it gives the midwife access to apply warm compresses and monitor baby's descent. I sat down on it and Woah, Momma! it was intense!!! When a contraction came on and the urge to push arrived, I felt so much pressure in my bottom. Intense is the only word for me to describe it. I held on to the handles and had no other choice than to step out of the way and let my body take over. That is exactly what it did. This was not comfortable, it was not easy, it was painful at times. I felt the burning sensation as my tissues stretched. Jill continued to apply the warm compress, and we patiently allowed my body to stretch as baby finally started to crown. Jill asked if I wanted to feel baby's head. At first I said, "No" but then realized it would make this moment even more real and give me the reassurance baby will arrive…. at some point… Soon! It felt like a very long journey at this point. I was so tired. This crazy birth stool was not comfortable, but wow, it get's the job done! I had to stay with it for as long as I could take it. At one point, I let my back arch and threw my head back. This felt so out of my body, like it had been taken over by some other force (Labor!) Maybe I read this somewhere in a book or I wanted to imagine this, but in that moment where I had surrendered any control over this process, I felt like I had this strong female presence around me. As if there were women from all walks of life, from past lives that were there for me in that moment. It is crazy to write about this, but I felt as if I had moved through some rite of passage. I gained Woman Warrior status! When everyone could tell I was losing steam and feeling defeated, Lynn quietly said, "You have all the strength you need." I might not have believed her in that moment, but I didn't have any other choice. I needed to hear those words, that I had all the strength I needed. It was within me, even if I didn't feel like I could do it.
If someone would have given me a "free pass," I would have tagged out for an hour to rest. I was exhausted, but little by little, baby would arrive. I kept reminding myself to focus on the contraction I was in, to stay in the moment. Not worrying about how many I had been through, or how many more were to come. I continued to repeat, "Open" "I can do this" "It's OK." "It's OK" was something that I could hear Wesley saying to me. I repeated it over and over and heard his sweet voice saying it. I decided that I had enough of the birth stool and wanted to stand again. More vocalizing, more mantra, more support and sweat. I thought many times in my head "I can't do this" but I never allowed myself to actually say it. I knew if I said it, it would defeat me.
When I returned to standing, everyone assumed their positions again. I'm not sure how much longer I pushed, but finally baby's head really started to come through. I felt my body stretching. I worked with each contraction, giving it all I had as I pushed. Jill continued to encourage me that I was doing an amazing job and baby was so close to being in my arms. We were almost there! At long last, I felt baby's head finally come through! Thank the lord!!! I asked Jill if I should wait for another contraction before pushing again to birth baby's body. She said that yes, I should wait until I feel another urge to push come on, just wait until my body tells me it's ready to push again. It is a very odd thing, standing there with your baby's head out of your body and nothing else yet! But I waited. Very quickly I felt another pushing urge, I gave it one final go. Feeling baby slip slide out is the most amazing and crazy feeling ever! I stood there in amazement at what my body had just done, and in absolute relief. I was so glad baby had finally arrived! I asked Adam what the gender was, and he proudly announced, "It's a GIRL!" Oh my goodness, I couldn't believe we had a little girl! I was so excited! I thought I wanted a little brother for Wesley, but I was thrilled to have a baby girl.
Jill brought our little squirming, screaming baby up onto the bed so I could see her. She was crying and everything in that moment was absolutely perfect. I just looked at her, welcomed her to the world and snuggled our sweet babe. After a few minutes, Jill and Lynn helped me onto the bed so that I could hold her skin to skin. They covered us with a blanket. As we were laying there together, Adam and I officially decided on her name, Clara Tormey. Clara was here and mommy was so relieved! Whew, that little lady made me wait and work, but it was worth every single second. I would not have changed a thing.
The placenta came not too long after Clara did. I had to give a little push, but thankfully, it was not difficult. Jill checked on Clara, and myself and noted that I didn't tear. My body took its time stretching, and with her warm compresses, I did not tear even though Clara had a very large noggin! Once they weighed her, we learned that I was carrying and birthed a solid 8 lb. 15 oz. baby! Adam held the scale and Lynn was helping him. I heard someone say, "9??" I thought No Way, did I just birth a 9 lb. baby? But she was pretty close!
After taking care of the normal procedure after birth, making sure Clara and I were fine, Jill and Lynn went out to the kitchen and made everyone some dinner. Clara arrived at 6:51 pm. After about 7 hours of active labor, 2 hours of pushing, I was hungry!!! Thankfully we had a good amount of the macaroni and cheese we made the night before and even some crab cakes left over. We ate dinner in bed with our little baby and started to call everyone. We called my mom first. She had been out with Wesley all day, and was over the moon to hear we had a girl! I would have loved to have Wes there for the birth, but I needed to focus all my energy on labor. They didn't come back to the house until about 9:00 pm. When Wes walked in, he was all smiles and could sense that something exciting was happening. He came right over to the bed and met his little sister. It was one of the sweetest moments that I'll always remember. Mom told me they had been to the library, Romolos, Casablanca for lunch and Wegmans for dinner. They had a busy day! She bought him a Big Bro shirt as well. When he walked into the bedroom, he looked instantly older and more mature, Big Brother Wes. Mom held her newest grandbaby and she was instantly in love. We all toasted with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries from Romolo's!
Jill has now been there for the birth of both of our children. I will be forever grateful for her knowledge, dedication but most importantly, her passion for what she does. She is an angel who is here to bring more love and joy into the world with each family she works with. She has become a part of our family and I will always hold a special place in my heart for her. Clara's birth was powerful, and positive because of the support and love I felt from Jill and Lynn. Midwives allow women to become the warriors they are capable of in birth. They support us as we transform into mothers. Now I get to mother and nurture two incredible children, and I could not be happier.
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