…a pinhole look into the life of one not-so-ordinary girl.
Blaise was born at 39wks and 1day gestation. He was born after 16 hours of labor.
Posie was born at 39wks and 3days gestation. She was born after 1 hour and 17 minutes of labor. (I also had a “false alarm” three days before that lasted 3 hours, but I don’t believe in false alarms. It’s all part of the process.)
I just want this out there for anyone who will read this and doesn’t personally know me: I have no judgment for women who choose to labor/deliver differently than I have chosen to do it. If you had a completely medicated labor/delivery; had a c-section; whatever you had, I hope it was your choice. If it wasn’t, I am sorry and I hope you get to choose the next time around should you choose to have another child. These were my choices, my husband’s choices, and were based on what fit our beliefs and opinions on labor and delivery. We were also fortunate enough to have planned on a certain way and nothing went awry to cause that not to happen.
Hesper’s Birth Story
From the get-go I was hoping I would not have as fast a labor with Hesper as I did with Posie. Although it made for an easy recovery, I didn’t like feeling stressed out that the midwife wasn’t going to make it. My midwife arrived just as Posie’s head was being delivered. My mom caught Posie with the next contraction. I never pushed once (I was standing up in my bedroom, gravity is magical!). For two contractions I was trying to hold Posie in without much success. I finally told my mom, “I can’t hold her in anymore!” and my mom, who hadn’t realized what I was trying to do, said, “Don’t try… just relax.” With that, and two more contractions, Posie was born into this world completely enclosed in her water sac.
For almost half a minute, we watched the bubbles swirl around her head while the umbilical cord was still much alive, feeding her the oxygen that her lungs were not yet giving her. We all were amazed.
My mom was holding her. Her legs were curled up on her belly. She turned her head. Her nose caught and broke the bag open, splashing water onto the floor. It was the strangest, most amazing thing I’ve ever beheld and heard. Posie didn’t scream. She opened her eyes to the dry air for the first time, took a breath, and gave such a slight whimper it was almost a sigh.
Tears filled my eyes. I giggled. Derrick couldn’t stop smiling. What a beautiful birth. After a few hours, Blaise woke up and walked into our room just as Posie was finished being weighed and the midwives (there were two by now) wrapped her up. The first thing his four year old, groggy brain came up with was spot-on: “Is my sister here?!!!” He quickly ran to the bed and asked to hold her. We were relieved. It was the most natural progression of a family of three to a family of four I’ve been witness to. And it was my life.
So, back to Hesper. Although it was a beautiful, encouraging experience, I felt stressed and not-quite-ready the whole time I was in labor with Posie. I wanted to savor the experience. I wanted to be able to think in the moment, “I’m doing this right now. I’m about to have another baby and she is mine and Derrick is here with me and I’m ready.”
At 35 weeks I started having contractions for hours at a time. Although I had my house basically ready, I was not ready emotionally or mentally. I wasn’t “there” yet. With both of the others, I was miserable and done with being pregnant and prepared to do anything to birth that baby. I didn’t feel that yet with Hesper, so I determined in my heart not to let her go yet. 🙂
At 36 weeks the contractions kept starting up every night around bedtime and I would fall asleep some. I would wake up in the middle of the night for a few hours with them but other than one time (that one time I called the midwife and after a few questions I decided I probably wasn’t in labor though contractions were strong and regular), I knew my body was just preparing.
At 37 weeks, I was able to start not preventing labor. If I went into labor before 37wks I wouldn’t be allowed to birth at the birth center. I began walking regularly (more consistently and intently than I already did just keeping up with two other kids) and drinking a tea to help tone my uterus. I was beginning to feel full and had hope I’d make it until I was ready to give birth.
Nothing much changed until my mom came to town at 39weeks. All the babies wait for Mima! That night I began having some contractions (I hadn’t had many for a few days) so I went to bed. I had some strong ones throughout the night but nothing consistent. I got up the next morning and was still having consistent ones.
My mom, Posie, and I decided to take a walk. I had my 39wk appointment that day and was hoping to get the contractions stronger before we got there if it was the real thing. We passed about four houses and when we got to the fifth house’s fence, all of a sudden their big dog (which I’d never come into contact with) started barking aggressively at us. It put it’s front paws up on the fence that was no taller than my shoulders and it looked as if it was trying to come over. It ran to the back of the yard, turned around, and started running full-force back to the front. I picked up Posie and all of three of us started running away.
We got back in front of our house almost and realized the dog hadn’t jumped over and we were safe. My breathing began to slow and my heartbeat and I just suggested we go around the block the other way. After a couple blocks I realized my contractions had stopped. I told my mom I bet it scared me out of labor.
The contractions never came back. We went to my appointment and told the midwife what happened. She said adrenaline will override oxytocin (what your body produces to make contractions) and that is why my contractions stopped. I knew I was in labor and that dog had stopped it! I was sooo mad at that dumb dog. Mama bear was about to come out. My midwife told me it would take hours for the adrenaline to burn off in my system.
They measured my cervix and I was 2-3cm dilated, 65% effaced, and the baby was +1 position. At least I’d made progress!
The rest of the day and the next I barely had any contractions and I was beginning to feel miserable. I was so happy I began to feel miserable! I knew I would keep my head during labor now. Nothing could stop me if I was determined that I didn’t want this baby inside anymore. I began to tell my mom a list of things I wanted my labor day to look like: I wanted to wake up in the morning in labor, I wanted to send Blaise off to school and Posie to a friend’s to play, to get to the birth center with at least a couple hours to spare, to have baby in the water if I liked it, make it home by dinner time, tuck our own kids into their own beds, and last but not least, I wanted a certain midwife to be on call that day.
We picked Blaise up from school and went close-by to a pedestrian bridge to walk and walk and walk. While my mom looked after and entertained Blaise and Posie, I walked myself silly. For over an hour I just walked circles on the bridge; large circles, that is. I walked a mile (39 weeks, don’t judge!) and was ready to sit down a while.
We left the bridge and went to eat an early dinner with Derrick. I felt like the walking had really progressed me and was eager to walk more. I was feeling things change in my belly and I told Mom and Derrick. They suggested my mom and I walking home from the restaurant. It’s about a mile and a half. So after much persuasion, I agreed.
We arrived home and I was feeling rejuvenated. I had two full bellies (dinner and a baby!) and had exercised twice! My body loved it. I hadn’t been sleeping soundly because of the contractions so I was quite ready for bed that night. Other than a few random contractions there was nothing to report. My belly felt different, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. That was at 39wks 2days.
The next morning, around 4am I woke up with some contractions. They were fairly strong but nothing they hadn’t been before and weren’t much of a pattern. I fell back asleep and woke up at 6:45. Derrick asked if I was able to take Blaise to school and I told him I didn’t think so because I’d been having contractions and they were still going. With a twinkle in his eye he took Blaise.
I waited until 7:30 to get out of bed and when I did, to my surprise, they kept coming! I was so used to them stopping when I shifted positions that I hardly expected this day to be any different.
I made my mom and I some coffee ad ate breakfast. I went to my mom’s room and told her I was having contractions about every 10 minutes and that I was getting in the shower to see if they’d stop. I told her her coffee was ready.
Derrick got back from taking Blaise and I told him I was still contracting. He told me to give him ample time to get things sorted out at work before he needed to leave if I could.
I got in the bathroom and sat down to go pee before my shower and saw that I was spotting. I was SO excited! I knew right away it was baby day. I rushed back into my mom’s room and told her about the spotting. She told me to let Derrick know. I called him and said he didn’t need to come home this second but needs to be home within 45 minutes so we can leave and be at the birth center before labor got super active.
During this time, my mom took a shower, Posie got dressed and she and I packed her a bag for hanging out with her friends for the day. She asked if she could come with me and I told her she was going to play with a friend so Mama could focus on having the baby. She was so excited that she was going to get to meet our baby she didn’t even fuss!
Derrick got home, our friends picked Posie up, and we headed out the door for the birth center. On the drive to the birth center I had one tiny contraction the entire 20mins. I kept second-guessing my body’s signals and telling myself I wasn’t in labor. My mom would chuckle and reassure me. Derrick would get disappointed and then be reassured by my mom.
We arrived at 9:30 and I told mom and Derrick to wait a minute and see if I’d have another contraction. I was determined to tell them I had two, not one! Nothing happened. I decided we were silly looking just sitting in the car and I opened the door to get out. BOOM! the strongest contraction yet hit me. I was so pleased. I was smiling and breathing heavy and delighted I wasn’t crazy.
The midwives monitored the contractions and the baby’s heartbeat. They checked my cervix and I was almost 5cm, over 80% effaced and baby’s head was -1. I was laying down but no contractions came, even after 15mins so I stood up. Then they started again. I had a couple good ones and they were satisfied with the baby’s heart rate. They took me to the birthing room and started the water for the tub.
I began to have very strong contractions by this point. I began to get very very quiet and started putting my forehead on the wall, in corners, on cabinets, on whatever is head-level an cold. That’s my thing. I barely make a sound while I’m in labor. It keeps me focused and keeps my headspace ready for another contraction. It’s not me trying to be tough. It’s my coping mechanism. Don’t expect much out of me and just do other things. I don’t like people staring either. My mom and Derrick just talk and tend to themselves during this stage.
After 20 mins, the water was ready. I put my bathing suit top on and got in. The water felt so soothing. I had started having very strong contractions, they were getting closer together, and I needed a change. I sat down and had a strong contraction. After a little over 5 mins I still hadn’t had another one. I thought again, “Oh no… labor has stopped. I’m not having this baby today.” How silly!
I decided to take it upon myself to get another one to start. I stood up and within a minute another one started. after it began to peak, I sat down in the water to soothe my pain. I did this over an over and over. I had done that probably 10 times when a midwife came in. She asked how I was doing. I told her the water was slowing my labor down and I still had a lot of work to do. Derrick, my mom, and even the midwife didn’t believe me. I tried to convince Derrick to go get lunch for he and Mom. His reply was so very himself, “Are you kidding? I’m not going anywhere. I’m not some rookie, Maeve. I know the second I leave here you’ll have that baby!”
The midwife laughed and said he was right. I asked her if she wanted to check me and see my progress. She said, “You’ve done this two other times. You know when you’re close.” My mom said, “No she doesn’t….”
I always am in disbelief that my baby is close! I always think I have a lot more time than I really do to have the baby and a lot more labor to go through and a lot more pain. I always think I haven’t worked hard enough. It’s kind of amazing because then when I have the baby I think, “Really?! It’s over?! How can this be???”
That midwife left and about 10mins later, at around 12pm, my midwife came in. She asked if I wanted her to check me. I said yes!
I got out of the tub and laid down on the bed. She giggled and told me I was 9cm, 100% effaced, and baby’s head was -2. I could not believe it. I covered my face with my towel and told her it was not possible. She said, “You were made for this, Maeve.” I got teary-eyed. Derrick and my mom were laughing over in the corner… “Yeah Derrick, just go get some lunch…” 🙂
My midwife told me to push on the next contraction. Of course because I was laying down, I didn’t contract for almost 7 minutes (that doesn’t seem very long, but in the laboring world when you’re almost fully dilated, that’s an eternity)! I told her the water tricked me! That even when I thought I wasn’t contracting underneath the water, I was! But I just couldn’t feel it.
On the next contraction, I pushed and she helped my cervix stretch the rest of the way to 10cm. She said, “Ok! You ready to get back in the water and have this baby?!” I said, “No! Yes!” We all laughed at that. Me a little less than everyone else.
In the water, with the next few contractions, they were the hardest, strongest contractions of my entire life but the water soothed them so much. It wasn’t pain-free (not even close) but it helped relieve the pain and I didn’t feel like I was going to lose my mind.
The midwife told me Hesper, like her older sister, was still in her caul; her water sac. I couldn’t believe it! How sweet! I was so excited we would see another baby inside her first home.
I began pushing after about 3 contractions and wasn’t getting much of anywhere. Hesper would almost crown and then go back up. I was beginning to get discouraged. I changed positions from sitting back on my legs, to sitting up on my knees and with the next contraction Hesper almost crowned. The next two contractions I pushed and her head was out. I felt under the water and could feel the fluid inside her bag swirling around her head. I brought my hand back up to brace for the next contraction and pushed her shoulders out. The midwife caught her underneath the water and after we looked at her, she tore the bag off of Hesper. It was 12:21pm.
Then we could really see her. She was underneath the water another 20secs and then was brought up to the surface into my arms. I sat there staring at her, disbelieving she was already here and wondering what was on top of her head. I realized, after a moment of staring, it was her hair! I started laughing and said, “Her hair!!!!” None of us could believe how much she had!
We waited about 20mins in the water just watching her and letting her learn to breathe. She was so beautiful. I took my eyes off of her only once to look at Derrick watching us, beaming with love. Her cord was cut and she was wrapped up while I got out of the water and was checked. I didn’t tear nor did I even have skid marks. I delivered the placenta and all was well.
With the birth of my third, I got exactly what I wanted. She was born during the day after 5hrs of active labor. We got home at 5:30 that night for dinner, and tucked our own kids into bed. The midwife on call was the one I wanted. Derrick was with me and I was ready to have the baby when I did.
They say being born in the caul is a sacred thing; a magical thing. It means you’re special. I believe it.
I will forever recommend water birth. It not only gives you support for your tired and straining muscles and joints, but it soothes the contractions. For any of you considering having an unmedicated, natural childbirth, try the water.
What was your experience?
Hesper at 1 day old.
Derrick and I
Hesper at 2weeks