My due date came and went. This left me feeling quite anxious considering my first was a 38-weeker. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions on and off since about 36 weeks, usually stronger in the evenings, but fading as I went to sleep each night. The week leading up to my due date I started doing all those things that gently encourage labor: an adjustment, a massage, more walking, spicy foods, and some quality time with my husband, Ross. In the early hours of my due date, a Saturday, I found myself unable to sleep, so I made a spring cleaning list. Ross and I spent the day deep cleaning the entire house. Must have been that pre-labor burst of energy!
That Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful with a promise of temps near 60! We finished up some laundry and after my 21-month old daughter Linnea’s nap we headed out to Wood Lake Nature Center to enjoy the warmest day of the year so far. We walked the marsh loop and I noticed more Braxton Hicks as we ventured on. While out on the boardwalk I paused in goddess pose or in squats as they came to encourage labor, and laughed as my daughter struck the poses as well. Towards the end of the trail she started to get fussy so we headed back home, and it turned out she had spiked a fever. We spent the rest of the evening cuddling and watching Juno, which my virtual doula Ashley had told me would be good to get the oxytocin flowing. The cuddling, not the movie.
I went to bed early with Linnea since she wasn’t feeling too well, and we snuggled and fell asleep together. Around 2am I woke up to a strong crampy feeling, but was able to fall right back to sleep. About 10 minutes later I woke to it again and decided to start timing them. They continued to come 10-11 minutes apart, and I really had to start breathing through them. Around 4am I decided I would have to get out of bed or I would wake up Linnea. I told Ross that I thought things were starting, and I was going to go out into the living room and let him know if I needed him. As soon as I got up and went to the bathroom things picked up. Contractions went from 10 minutes apart to 5 almost instantly, and by 4:30am I went to wake up Ross. He didn’t seem to want to get up though, and I found myself having to convince him. “Hey Ross, you have to come see this!”
When he joined me we turned on Pandora to my relaxation station and lit a candle. Ross helped me through contractions with a rebozo while I breathed through them on my hands and knees, moaning “Oooooooooooo” for open. I soon realized that things were definitely moving along, and I had Ross call his mom to come stay with Linnea. When she answered Ross asked, “Hey mom, are you busy?” Then I decided it was time to call our midwife and let her know what had been going on, though I had wanted to wait as long as possible so as not to wake anyone too early.
When Kaitlin answered I told her where I was at and she suggested we meet at the birth center at 6:00am. I thought it might be too soon, but that we would call her back in half an hour once Grandma arrived. I decided to call our doula, Marla, as well, to let her know the tentative plan. As the next 30 minutes went by my contractions certainly grew in intensity, and while Ross loaded up the car I worked through a few on my own on a yoga ball. Soon Grandma arrived and I called Kaitlin back, and the only thing I recall telling her was that “6:00 sounds great! We’re on our way.”
Ross wondered if I needed anything to eat, so I ate a few spoonfuls of Nutella while we finished grabbing everything. I recall telling Grandma that Linnea had her big sister t-shirt hanging in the closet as we were leaving. As we were driving down the street Ross wondered which route we should take, and I definitely preferred Mississippi River Blvd, deciding I had more patience for stop signs than red lights. I only had to work through three contractions in the car, and the early hour saw only a few other cars and a handful of dedicated joggers along the river. We laughed, however, that I was working harder right now.
We arrived right before 6:00am, Marla pulling in behind us moments later. As I walked into the birth center and slipped off my shoes I immediately leaned on the counter in the hallway to work through another. Kaitlin greeted me with a gentle hand on my back and the kindly whispered “nice job.” As I walked into the birthing suite I wondered why on earth there was a vacuum running, only to realize it was the tub. The tub was filling up for me, for the birth of my baby.
As we settled in and turned on some music Marla and Ross helped me through a few more contractions on hands and knees with the rebozo. Then I took off my clothes and lay on the bed so that Kaitlin could check my progress, and found that I was at 5cm, nearly 6cm! After that she asked if I wanted to get in the tub, to which I replied “yes, but I’m going to the bathroom first!” (You see, funny story, when I was in labor with Linnea and finally got to get in the tub I immediately had to pee when I entered the warm water. I ended up peeing in a bag and promptly handing it to Ross.)
As I entered the water it was gloriously hot, and immediately provided relief and calm. I was able to chat animatedly with Ross and Marla in-between contractions. The next few contractions were so calm that I wondered out-loud if the water had made them fizzle, but Kaitlin reassured me if things slowed down she would get me out and moving. Sure enough, however, the next contraction was a fierce one and had me eating my words.
Soon Martha, our second midwife, arrived as well, and baby got down to business. I couldn’t believe that within a couple more contractions I started feeling intense pressure, and quite frankly I started to feel a little afraid. I guess I had expected a little more time to labor, to get used to the intensity, to chat and think about baby coming down, but it seems like in an instant I had the urge to push. Marla worked on applying pressure to my hips and I grabbed Ross’ hands and nuzzled my head down into his chest and began to cry. I wasn’t able to keep my steady “Oooooo’s” during the next few contractions, I felt my voice getting higher pitched and started taking shallower breaths.
I’m not even sure who said it, but I heard a kind voice say to me “Jenn, you are exactly where you need to be to have your baby.”
At that moment I accepted that this was happening, and certainly knew I was close. I began to bear down during contractions, but my fear of tearing and, honestly, pooping, definitely held me back. I just didn’t want to poop! Martha, however, assured me that I needed to let it all go to make room for baby. I really needed that guidance and reassurance.
I switched from hands and knees in the tub to my back, and let every primal roar I could muster come out of my mouth. Ross continued to hold my hand while I grabbed the bar from the side of the tub and pushed as my midwives coached me. I finally felt like I was able to get a good bearing once Martha grabbed my knee and at 8:04am, a mere two hours after arriving, six hours from when I noticed the first true contraction, my baby boy was born.
He certainly came out a lot more calmly than I had been just moments before. Kaitlin gently raised him out of the water and laid him on my chest where he peacefully and calmly rested. Kaitlin confirmed that he was indeed a he, and we began to rub his back, eliciting his first glorious cry. He was here, welcomed earth side through the waters of birth and brought forth gently by the loving hands of midwives, a partner and a doula who together supported and trusted me and my body. And to make it even more special, Grandpa was there immediately after his birth to capture these moments.
After waiting a few minutes to let the cord finish pulsing Ross took him skin-to-fur while I got out of the tub to birth the placenta. I walked to the bed and lay down, taking in the next few contractions gladly knowing this part would have no bones when it came out! And despite all my fears I ended up with no tears at all. I looked over at Ross to find our baby boy, Reed, snuggled up with a death grip on Ross’ beard.
The next couple hours we spent recovering and cuddling, sharing the news with family and friends, and completing his newborn exam. We had a perfect, healthy little boy, 7#5oz, 20in long. We said goodbye to our amazing doula Marla, then began preparing to introduce baby Reed to his big sister.
When Grandma arrived with Linnea, I had Ross hold Reed as she walked over to the bed. I picked her up and kissed her, and said, “Look, it’s our baby.” Linnea was a little tentative at first, but after a minute or so she said “nose” and quickly poked it. She then found his mouth, and head, and elbows as well, and quickly dove in for a hug and a kiss. We had her sit in the middle of us and brought him into her arms so she could hold him for the first time. I think she took to him rather well.
The whole postpartum experience was just wonderful, almost luxurious. I have no idea how they do it in hospitals, but I think this really is what makes the birth center experience so incredible. We were able to enjoy a delicious breakfast from Maria’s Cafe that Jenna (my cousin-in-law and the kiddo’s godmom) brought us, relax in a large, comfy bed, and then we kicked everyone out so that our new family of four could relax and take an herbal bath together. It was so special to be able to include Linnea in this process.
After our bath, Linnea went home with Grandma to nap, I was able to take a shower, and we packed up and headed home for a much-needed nap around 1:30pm. Linnea and Grandma were there to welcome us in, and the big sister was certainly excited as she exclaimed, “Baby, baby!” as we walked in the door.
As I lay down to nap and snuggled with my new little baby I struggled to quiet my racing mind. What a wonderful and beautiful birth, and how great it was to be home already, in our own bed, ready to begin our lives as a family of four.
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