When I was exactly 37 weeks, while talking to my husband after our son had gone to bed, I started having intense contractions.
I actually had to ask JD to stop talking to me so that I could concentrate because the contractions were that intense. They came about every 7-10 minutes, and after nearly an hour, just stopped.
That was the first night of prodromal labor.
Luckily, that next morning I could tell my baby had dropped a little and changed into a more anterior position. So I didn’t feel too disheartened – my body had been doing good work, even if it wasn’t the “birth day”.
For the next week, I had contractions in the evening as soon as my husband would come home from work.
Sometimes they would last until bedtime, and sometimes they would go into the early morning hours – around 2 a.m. But they were never bothersome. As much as I wanted to time them, because I was so excited to have this baby, I didn’t. I knew that if I began timing too early, my mind could play tricks with me and I’d start over-analyzing the arrival time of our little pumpkin.
At our 38-week appointment, our midwife let us know that she had another client who was expecting and seemed to be ready to have her baby any day now.
That also happened to be the week of my son’s birthday. So I knew, emotionally, that I was not ready to have the baby yet. Even if my body was doing prep-work, I didn’t want her to come on my son’s birthday or when this other client would be in labor. (I had built up so much trust in the relationship with this midwife, that I couldn’t think of anyone else being there for the birth.)
The day after my son’s birthday, I texted our midwife: “Now that Eli has had his birthday, all I need is for your client to have her baby. Then I’ll be ready to have mine!”
She texted back saying her client was laboring and expecting her baby that day. I couldn’t have been more excited! And strangely enough, contractions started. They were in my lower back and somewhat in my lower abdomen, but they weren’t unmanageable. Still, I couldn’t help but time them this time. They were about every 10 minutes apart.
I texted my husband saying that I figured the baby would come that night.
He was very, very excited and we started making plans to turn up the hot water heater, do a couple last minute clean-ups around the house, and get snacks ready for us and the birth team.
But then, that afternoon, around 2 p.m., the contractions stopped.
This time, I was so discouraged. Not only had I really thought labor was kicking in, but I had notified my husband and midwife to be at the ready. So when nothing happened, I immediately felt like a watched pot – even if that’s not how my husband and midwife were treating me.
The prodromal labor continued the rest of that week.
Every night, once JD came home from work, the contractions would start. They’d continue til about 2 a.m. And I was exhausted. I wasn’t sleeping well at night because of the labor. (Again, it wasn’t unmanageable, just enough to wake me up a lot.) Eli had recently stopped napping, so I wasn’t getting afternoon naps like I had been.
Physically I was drained, and I was starting to feel emotionally drained too.
Everyone we knew, and several people I had never met before in my life, were asking about when the baby was coming. “Still pregnant?” “When are you due again? Oh, you’ve got that long!” “I didn’t think I’d see you again – I figured you’d have that baby!” All very well-meant comments…. But being bone-tired and tired of waiting, I was having difficulty (again) not feeling like a watched pot.
The 39-week appointment, I felt disappointed. I thought for sure I wouldn’t make it this far.
Our midwife, Amy, was sweet and reassuring. She left the calendar open, saying we would set up an appointment if we needed to and she would drive to us this time.
The next day, Sunday, I felt… different.
I didn’t want to cook or eat or do anything really. (Which, if you know me, you know I love love love food. Not wanting to eat is a big deal.)
We went about our day as normally as possible.
We went to worship, came home and ate lunch, and spent some time outside. It was gorgeous out, sunny and warm. So I figured we should soak up the weather while we could. Our family went for an hour-long walk.
I took some magnesium that a friend had given me. She had prodromal labor with her second and her midwife had recommended magnesium to help her relax. I had picked up what was left of her magnesium Saturday and taken some that night – I’d slept better than I had in two weeks. So that next day I figured I’d take just a little more to help get really good sleep.
Between the walk and the magnesium, I was ready to go to bed by three in the afternoon.
Not wanting to cook or eat, JD asked what sounded good. Q’Doba seemed like a good, healthy option, and actually seemed appetizing, so we picked up a couple burrito bowls for dinner.
Knowing how tired I was, JD insisted I go to bed early.
He encouraged me to take a bath, enjoy some dessert (delicious cookies made by my mother-in-law), and head to bed right away. I took a little more magnesium after my cookie, plus I had put Epsom Salts in my bath. I was planning on a good, long sleep!
When I started to try to do stuff around the house, JD began to get irritated and told me to head to bed. I think he knew something was up. So I crawled into bed at about 8:30.
That night, I woke up suddenly at 11:30 when I felt a giant movement from the baby.
It was like a huge kick. Looking back, I’m wondering if it was the baby dropping down and engaging in my pelvis.
Within 30 minutes, I needed to go to the shower to cope with the contractions. They had immediately started at every 5 minutes, and by the time I was in the shower, JD timed them at 2 minutes apart. We called our midwife – today was definitely “birth day”. Amy talked to me briefly on the phone, to gauge where I was at in labor, but I had to give the phone back to JD because I felt another contraction coming. JD also called my mother-in-law to come get Eli, and our doula and birth photographer.
With Eli’s birth, I had made a lot of noise to cope – so we had prepped Eli for that beforehand.
“Mommy will probably sound like a cow,” I had told him, when we were doing his Sibling Birth Prep Class. And then we had made sounds together, giggled about it, and watched a couple birth videos to show the more serious side of it all.
I’m so glad I had done that preparation with Eli, because once I was in the shower, I was already sounding out my contractions.
Eli woke up and went to our room – probably because he was scared of the noises – but didn’t find us there. JD went to him and brought him to the bathroom. By this point, I was getting out of the shower. “Momma’s making noises to help the baby come,” I told him. “Remember, we talked about how Mommy would sound like a cow? Now I’m working really hard so the baby can come.”
That was all he needed to hear – he began running around, shouting, “The baby’s coming! The baby’s coming!”
I don’t remember this part, but JD said he began talking about everything he and the baby were going to do together: “We’re going to go on walks, go to the park….” All the while, JD was setting up the birthing pool and having Eli “help”.
I kept laboring around the house, trying to get stuff ready between contractions.
When a contraction would come, I’d lean over the nearest piece of furniture and sound it out. I needed JD to help me a couple times: massage, or pressure, or words of encouragement. Eli watched him help me through a contraction once – JD was applying lower back pressure. The next time I needed JD, I didn’t call for him loud enough for him to hear, but Eli was there. He immediately went to my back and started pushing on it. It was one of the sweetest moments of labor for me.
Sheryl, my mother-in-law, arrived at about 12:30 a.m. to pick up Eli.
She was so excited – smiling from ear-to-ear. She gave me a big hug and grabbed Eli’s overnight bag. He couldn’t wait to get to her house with the bag we had prepped a few weeks earlier. He had helped me pack snacks, movies, and chocolate in it, and had been eagerly waiting to get to dive in to all the goodies.
Once Eli left, I felt labor pick up even more.
I needed JD to help me through the contractions almost every time now. He was still trying to set up the birth pool and struggling to take care of me as well as prep for the rest of the labor, as my contractions were still about 2 minutes apart.
Thankfully, our doula, Fabiana, arrived.
Having a doula is like having “all hands on deck”. I’m so grateful she came when she did – at about 1 a.m. She and JD were able to get the birth pool set up and help me through contractions. JD was able to focus completely on me, while she ran back and forth to help take care of the both of us.
The contractions became so intense that I was struggling to find a way to cope.
Sounding out had worked well earlier, but I needed something else. I had remembered hearing about a lady who would pound the wall through contractions, and for some reason, that seemed like it would feel nice. Sure enough, I started banging the walls, or furniture, or whatever was close by, one slow beat at a time, until the contraction had passed. I wanted to get into the birth tub, but it was only filled about seven inches and the water heater was still heating up more water.
There were other things that I started to do to mentally get through it.
I started reminding myself that I had no control over what was happening. My body was going to do it’s thing, and I was along for the ride. That helped me to stop fighting, and to relax into, the process.
Of course, this whole time, JD was assuring me and encouraging me.
He kept telling me what a good job I was doing, that he was proud of me. He was trying hip squeezes, back pressure, the rebozo, and anything else that might help. Sometimes it did help and sometimes it didn’t – it changed often what I needed.
At one point, I realized my noises were changing. And then I sat upright.
Pushing was coming. When I began to grunt and I realized I was more on my knees, than on my hands and knees, I knew we were to that phase. I loved pushing with Eli – but when this started it was totally different. With Eli, pushing felt like I finally got to do something – like I wasn’t just riding the train anymore but, in a way, conducting it.
With this one, pushing was completely out of my control.
My body began to push and there was no stopping it – none. I realized that I was peeing because my body was pushing so hard. I made my way to the bathroom after that contraction, which was somewhat of a relief because it was so dark. The living room had been dimly lit with candles by JD, but even that seemed like too much light at this point. In the bathroom, I made it as far as the bathroom rug and then was down on my hands and knees.
Again, I started to push, without ever trying or even necessarily wanting to.
My noises were escalating to high-pitched and JD was reminding me to make low sounds. I remember feeling for a head, because of the intensity of the pushing, but I couldn’t find one. Fabiana called Amy, our midwife, to give her an update.
It was at that point that I felt, very distinctly, the baby’s head drop down inside of me.
I felt again, and the head was there and starting to come out. Again, my body was pushing, and I was just along for the ride. I tried again to remind myself to let go and let it happen. I didn’t want to tear and so I started to pant and try to blow out to ease the pushing, but the baby was coming fast. “Ring of fire,” I said, and I heard Fabiana relay that to Amy over the phone.
Again, I tried to pant and blow to ease the baby out, hoping it would help since the baby was coming so fast.
I was on my hands and knees, and JD was behind me, ready to catch the baby. Very quickly, I felt her head come out. “Heads out!” I said, and again, Fabiana relayed the information to Amy over the phone. My body began to push again, hard, and then the baby’s body slid out into JD’s hands at 2:06 a.m.
Immediately, I felt intense joy and excitement. I completely forgot about all the sensations I’d just been experiencing.
I turned over to sit down, lifting my leg over the cord to see my new baby. JD placed the baby on my chest. The baby made a brief cry and then settled as I held and began to rock. “We did it!” I said, completely in awe that I had just birthed my baby at home. “I can’t believe that just happened!” And I was laughing.
Isn’t it amazing that moments after having a baby a woman can laugh?
It was a few moments before we realized we didn’t know what the sex was. We pulled our little baby away and both exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” We were laughing and smiling and filled with happiness.
She was soft, and so tiny, and serene.
Fabiana checked the bathroom rug and between my legs to make sure I wasn’t bleeding too much. I held our little girl, still amazed at what had happened – and how fast it had happened. JD was next to me still, soaking up her newness.
Within a couple minutes, Amy arrived.
She saw that everything was going well with the baby and I, and she was also smiling. “I even beat my record time over the mountain!” she said. She commented that when she had talked to me earlier, she could tell I was serious, but trying to be polite, so she knew she needed to hurry.
I was ready to get out of the bathroom and lay down in bed to deliver the placenta, as well as to soak up the preciousness of my baby girl.
JD and Fabiana helped me to my feet while I held our little girl. I made my way to our bedroom with their help and settled down in the softness of the bed – it felt so good. Her cord was short, but she was still able to reach my chest and was starting to try to nurse.
After about an hour, she began to nurse.
During that hour of skin-to-skin and bonding, Fabiana brought us food in bed, our birth photographer Braidyn and Allison the assistant-midwife arrived, and the birth team began to clean up our home. The placenta still wasn’t delivering, even though my afterpains were strong, so Amy gave me an herbal tincture to help it detach and be born. I had lost a very minimal amount of blood, and, minus the afterpains, felt very good.
Once the placenta was born, Amy clamped our little girl’s cord and JD cut it.
Then JD had skin-to-skin while Amy sutured my second-degree tear. Considering how fast she had come, I was surprised I didn’t tear more. It was very different from the first time I had torn and been sutured, which is why I even bring it up. It was totally relaxed. I was laying in bed, getting my sutures, while we had music playing in the background. (Brunch Cafe radio on Pandora, in case you’d like a great new station.) Music has always helped me to relax and be distracted. It hardly felt like getting stitched up – but like more time basking in the awesomeness of this baby’s entrance into the world.
I showered and put on clothes after that, while JD was still spending time with his daughter, who he was now affectionately referring to as “sweet pea, apple of my eye”.
Then Amy, Allison, and Fabiana helped us get comfortable in the living room. We got something to drink and eat, and snuggled in with our daughter. All of the birth supplies, and the mess, had been cleaned up. A load of laundry was going in the washing machine. Coffee was made and ready. And the sun was coming up, with birds chirping.
It really couldn’t have been any better.
It was not what I expected. I had anticipated at least 12 hours of intense back labor, because of how Eli’s labor went. But this was completely different. Our friends and family keep commenting on how “scary” it must have been to have her born before our midwife could get there. But it wasn’t scary for us – even in the moment.
I suppose at this point I should tell you what we named her – even though you already know because of the title of this post.
Our sweet baby girl we chose to name “Hazel Adelie”. My maiden name is Hazel, and we had talked for a long time about how sweet it would be to carry on the name. There are no more boys on my side of the family. Once a few more girls get married, the last name will be gone for us.
Hazel will get to carry on the name of a family that gave my sister and I a wonderful childhood, filled with love. She will have a family like that too. And, I hope, raise her own family like that someday.