On Sunday, December 13 I spent the entire day feeling sorry for myself. Actually, I had spent the past 12 days feeling sorry for myself. I loved every minute of this pregnancy up until 39 weeks, but from that point on I felt like I was waiting for Joey to be born at any time. Then when the 40 week mark came and went, I started to avoid coming out of the house, not wanting to have any conversations with neighbors about how I was still pregnant. I did not like being asked when my midwife would induce me (she would not), what's the latest I can still be pregnant and still have a homebirth (so discouraging! And it's 42 weeks.), if the midwife had swept my membranes (no, she doesn't do that and I don't believe in it either). I knew that they all meant well and were just curious, but those kind of conversations were not helping me. Physically I was so exhausted. Everything I did took maximum effort. I did a lot of cleaning around the house, but I felt so wiped out afterward. It wasn't a happy nesting, more like angry, impatient nesting.
So on that day I woke up, as I had so many mornings before, in disbelief. I was still pregnant and not feeling a twinge. In fact I felt rested with nary an ache anywhere in my body. My mother-in-law Carolyn would be leaving the next day at noon. I would be going to church again still pregnant. I was 40 weeks and 4 days with no end in sight.
That night at around 8 I got a text from my friend Kim down the street. "Mind if I stop over for a bit?" It was just Carolyn and I in the living room at that point. Tim had gone back to our room to wind down with the iPad, and the kids were in bed. I said, "Sure." A few minutes later she came to the door accompanied by our other friend Jesse. To my complete surprise, Kim told me she wanted to pray over me, and had been meaning to since the day of my shower. She told me she wanted to pray for this baby to come soon, in fact to get here tomorrow before Carolyn left. She had been staying with us since the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and we'd all expected Joey to arrive long before now. She could not stay here any longer this close to Christmas. Kim said, "Let's go big (with our prayers)! God is big, right?" I had to agree. I sat down in the recliner, and Kim and Jesse perched on either side of me and each placed a hand on my belly.
Kim began to pray. Carolyn, nonplussed I'm sure, turned down the TV. Kim started with "Dear Heavenly Father," and then I don't even remember the words. I just remember her voice and their hands, and feeling loved.
By the time they left I felt comforted but I didn't have any expectation of having the baby in the next 16 hours. It's not that I lacked faith. It's just I knew that whatever was God's will was what was going to happen. He had to come out eventually. I felt more at peace about it than I had in a long time.
Buut.. just in case it would work, and as I had been doing for weeks, I/we had tried just about every natural labor-inducing technique we had at our disposal. I had walked that day, sat on the exercise ball, practiced yoga, taken my evening primrose oil a few times, drunk my red raspberry leaf tea, and done the thing that had gotten me in this trouble in the first place. As a last resort I had decided to try castor oil first thing in the morning, and that little bottle was waiting for me on the kitchen counter. I did not want to have another prenatal appointment with my far-away midwife. I wanted to have a baby.
I headed back to bed soon after, and Tim and I watched an episode of Breaking Bad before going to sleep. I drifted off easily enough, but I found myself waking up suddenly at times, not knowing what had caused me to. A strange feeling? A dream? I remember the wind blowing through our open window and one of the annoyingly bright spotlights on the little access road behind our house winking at me through the swaying tree branches.
2:00 a.m. or thereabouts
I became aware that I was having contractions, and that I could no longer sleep. They were not painful, just a little achey. They made me feel excited and hopeful. I wanted to get out of bed, but I had read that when a woman wakes up in early labor in the middle of the night, she needs to keep resting instead of jumping out of bed. Otherwise, she can interrupt her body's labor process. The dark quiet hours of early labor are important. Or something like that. But I started timing the contractions anyway, and they were consistently five to seven minutes apart.
I was wide awake, my mind racing. What to do? When to call Joanne? When to wake up Tim? Joanne had an hour-and-forty-minute drive and I wanted Tim to sleep, especially since I could end up being in labor all day. But at the same time I was worried about being late to notify Joanne, with my history of quick labors. Or slow labors that suddenly pick up. When Tim got up to use the bathroom I couldn't help but tell him. He said, "Are you serious?" No, I joke about these things all the time! He asked me what he should do and I told him that we should try to go back to sleep. But neither of us could because I was becoming increasingly restless and the contractions were now about four minutes apart.
I needed to use the bathroom at that point and it turned out I wasn't going to need castor oil that day. (Don't say I didn't warn you about TMI.) When I saw bloody show on the toilet paper, I knew it was time to at least give Joanne a heads-up. I was hesitant and apologetic when she answered on about the fifth ring. She didn't sound sleepy, though. It must be a gift that doctors and midwives have, not sounding sleepy in the middle of the night. "I don't really know if it's time to call you, but.." I told her what had been going on. Then I told her I didn't know if she ought to come yet. I was handling the contractions so easily even though they were keeping me awake. I said that maybe I really ought to try just going back to sleep. She said to just call her when I needed her.
The contractions continued to be about four minutes apart, and I needed the bathroom two more times in the next hour. More bloody show.
I called Joanne again and told her that I'd had no luck getting back to sleep and I thought she should start heading here. She could always find something else to do around here or take a nap if labor slowed down. I really hoped that would not happen. I did not want to be wasting her time and making her do the long drive in the wee hours, but I knew that if I waited longer I risked her not making it in time. I had known all along this would be a tricky call to make with her being so far away! But now I'd made the call and she and her apprentice Stephanie were on the way.
I don't remember why I went to the kitchen then -- maybe to get water? -- but I suddenly felt so cold while I was walking to the kitchen and back. I shivered and my teeth chattered. That had happened when I had woken up in labor with Annie too, and I had been fully dilated when I got to the hospital a little while later. I thought it was a good thing Joanne was on the way. I have no idea what I spent the next several minutes doing, just probably flitting around our room, going to the bathroom now and then, and talking with Tim.
I sat in the glider rocker and prayed a rosary as I rocked back and forth. The Joyful Mysteries, how perfect. Tim began setting up the birth pool. The noise must have woken Carolyn up, as the guest room is right next to ours. I heard Tim's quiet murmurs in the hallway as he must have been updating her. I sat there for a long time after I was done with the rosary, and just closed my eyes and kept rocking. Tim started to fill the pool once he was done setting it up because the instructions said it could take three hours to fill. He had some trouble with the attachment to the faucet, and I remember him saying it was leaking under the sink.
I decided to try again to rest on the bed. This could be a really long day with me up since 2. Tim joined me once he was done filling the pool. It was only partly filled because all the hot water was gone. I didn't need it yet anyway. I remember hearing my 5:30 alarm go off while I lay there. Soon it would be time to get the kids up for school, and the midwives would be getting here any minute. I figured it was taking an extra-long time because Joanne had known there had been no need to rush based on the way I sounded on the phone. Tim called the gate at some point to notify them that we would be having visitors.
Joanne and Stephanie arrived and I was so embarrassed to be answering the door myself, realizing that I was walking and talking like a person NOT in active labor. I told them I thought maybe things had slowed down. I no longer felt shivery and the contractions seemed to be spacing out too. I worried that I was wasting their time, but they did not seem concerned. They just brought their stuff in and sat down at the kitchen table. I felt ridiculous as I cooked my breakfast of three eggs-over-medium. I guessed I'd better eat. I was apologetic and they were like, "Don't worry about it."
Meanwhile, Tim and Carolyn oversaw the kids getting ready for school. When they all came out for breakfast Joanne and Stephanie moved to the living room so as not to be in the way. I felt like a bad hostess. When I was done eating I went to the living room and told them I'd like them to check me, and then if they wanted to go somewhere else or take a nap they could do that. We had talked about this scenario many times during prenatal visits since it was a big concern of mine. I felt bad that, despite my best efforts, I had gotten them all the way over here for nothing.
Joanne and Stephanie followed me back to the bedroom for the requested cervical check. Stephanie did it. She felt around with a very thoughtful look on her face and it was a long time before she said anything. Please say something, I thought. "Well, you're 80% effaced, and ...." What? The longest time went by before she said anything else. "You're not going to believe this, Rachael, but.." Ohmygosh, spit it out, lady! "..You're 8 cm and very stretchy." She looked up at Joanne and said, "I could easily stretch her to 9." Looking at me again, she said, "Once this baby decides to come, it's probably going to be very quick." Joanne asked her what station she thought the baby's head was at. She thought and said, "I could feel the ischial spines, so I guess +1?" They decided not to go anywhere.
I went out to the kitchen and announced to Tim who was talking with his mom at the table, "8 cm." He asked what that means. "Two to go!" I felt so much better, not like I was wasting everybody's time after all. There would be a baby soon!
Tim and Carolyn and the kids left for the bus stop. I hugged each of the kids on their way out. It seemed like a big deal, sending them to school for the last time before their baby brother was born. Besides being a little more wound up and rambunctious than usual, they did not seem affected.
I received a text from Kim a few minutes later, once all the kids had left. She asked me if I'd like her to come over and take pictures of the birth, or if I'd rather just have her take newborn pictures. I replied that she could come now and hang out, but nothing much was happening yet. I would want her there when things did start to happen, right?
Kim arrived and remarked that she did not expect to see me looking so normal, as she'd been updated at the bus stop that her prayers last night had been answered. But here I sat at the table with a cup of coffee. Joanne joked, "OK, the whole team is in place. You can have a baby now!" I laughed but inwardly I felt like a watched pot. No one but me could even tell I was having contractions. I texted my mom an update: "In labor. 8 cm but contractions are still mild. Strangest labor ever. Midwives are just hanging around and I've been drinking coffee." The photo below, along with all the black-and-white ones, were taken by Kim.
Everyone sat around the table talking about this and that, and it was very pleasant, but it felt like I was entertaining. Only there was a twist -- everyone was waiting on me to have a baby. Joanne threw out the suggestion at some point that I might want to take a walk. A little while later I thought to myself that that was a great idea.
Tim and I stepped outside and into the fresh morning air and I immediately felt better. The best part of that walk was that the two of us were alone again, and I no longer felt self-conscious. Joanne would later mark in her notes the start of active labor being when we came in the door after the walk. Tim told me he thinks that active labor started as soon as we walked out of the house. Right away, he said I started to breathe loudly during contractions. I remember him asking me how far apart my contractions had been, and me telling him, "Four minutes." He said, "That was two minutes. Math is not your strong suit." We walked up to the corner, turned and walked two streets over, and then I said, "I'm going to have to cut this walk short." He said, "I'm surprised we've gone this far." We turned and started working our way back, talking and laughing and me mouth-breathing through contractions as we went. I remember saying after some of them, "That was a good one." This walk was just what I needed.
As we headed back toward home, I said, "If I want to have this baby anytime soon, I'd better have some alone time when I get home. As soon as I sit back down at that table, this comes to a grinding halt." He said something like, "I'll need some alone time too. This is my day. It's all about me." It was so nice to relax and laugh. I don't even think Tim ate much of anything for breakfast because he had felt so awkward. When we were in sight of our house, I had a couple contractions that I could feel radiating into my thighs. I remembered from the other times that when I start feeling it in my thighs, I'm getting close.
8:00 a.m. or thereabouts
Back at home we updated Joanne and she noted the start of active labor. I got a laborade popsicle out of the freezer and headed back to our room, telling everyone I needed quiet time. I bounced and rolled on the ball and ate the popsicle, which dripped on me. I looked up and noticed Kim lurking in the doorway with the camera. She started to back away but then I talked to her and she talked to me. We chatted for a little bit and I enjoyed her company. I felt a little bit less like I was in labor. Then she said she'd leave me alone now. She hadn't meant to bother me in the first place.
Very soon after she left the room -- within minutes -- my lighthearted mood changed. I cried for a little while. The contractions began to hurt. The tears and the intensifying contractions let me know I was in transition. Joanne and Stephanie must have come back because there's a record of the baby's heartrate at around 8:15. That would also be the reason my top was pushed up too. And Kim must have come back because there's a picture.
Everyone left the room again (I think because I'm pretty sure I was alone again for a little while), but they all came in a short time later when I said I was ready for the pool. They would need to drain out cold water and add buckets of hot. I didn't care what they were doing. I had turned a corner and was now deep in Laborland. I no longer wanted to be alone. I needed support and encouragement. I felt overwhelmed and I told Tim, "I don't know if I can do this." (Those words sound familiar. I think I use the same script every time I'm going through the hardest part of labor.) The task ahead of me just felt impossible.
I changed into my bathing suit top and skirt and got into the pool. The water felt so good. I knelt and hung onto the side.
The contractions got harder. I started to make "sad sounds, loud sounds," like in the book . Tim rubbed my neck and told me I was doing awesome. I looked at him and said, "It really hurts!" Stephanie was close by, reminding me sometimes after a contraction, "Let that one go. That one's over." There must have been panic in my face after them, because as soon as one was over, I'd wonder how I could possibly handle another. Joanne watched from the glider rocker, taking notes and sometimes reminding me to keep my face loose or giving me some other encouragement.
I tried moving around and changing positions. I remember trying a contraction while floating on my back. I didn't like it. I moved around a bit and said, "I don't know what to do with myself in here." I was told to just do whatever felt best. I ended up on my knees hanging onto the side. I rocked back and forth and swayed from side to side. I also decided to take off the skirt at some point, saying I didn't think it was serving any purpose. Joanne readily agreed and added that the umbilical cord would get tangled in it anyway.
I had a couple(?) of rock-my-world contractions -- the kind that peak more than once. I distinctly felt his head descending in my pelvis. I remember crying out, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help me!" Then as the contraction wound down I half-sighed, half-moaned, "I can't do this alone." "You're not," Tim said.
I also said things between contractions like, "I'm crazy. I can't handle pain," and "I don't like pushing." Joanne chuckled and said, "I like pushing." I think by then I was just bearing down, not really pushing. I really do hate pushing. I probably could have had this baby out by now if I didn't hate pushing so much. Words don't describe the agony that is pushing. To push means to feel the pain, and then to push right into the pain and make it worse. But to push also means to have a baby born sometime today..
I began to push in earnest. There was no getting around this. Every push felt like eternity. It was shocking to look at Joanne's notes and see that what happened next took place only in a matter of minutes. It felt like hours.
I complained that I wished my water would break (again, same script!). Joanne told me that if I wanted to I could reach in and feel it and break it on my own if I wanted. What? She urged me to at least try to feel it during a contraction. I did, and felt the bulging bag of waters right there, not even a knuckle deep. How did she know that it would be right there? I later wondered. She couldn't see it. I halfheartedly poked at it but nothing happened. "I can't break it," I said. Stephanie explained that the amniotic sac is like a cushion for my pelvis, which was a good thing. They both assured me that this baby would be coming out soon no matter what.
My water broke and I told them although they probably already knew. Everybody cheered and Joanne said, "The water's clear."
I kept my hand there to feel what was happening because I knew he'd be coming soon. It helped me stay focused. But again, it felt like an eternity of pushing. If I didn't have Joanne's notes, this story would just read, "This happened for FOREVER, and then this other thing happened FOREVER." I held onto Tim's hand for those last pushes, pulling on it as if he were helping me out of the pool. I felt Joey's head crowning, and it burned. Then his head came out and just stuck out of me. I felt relief at first, and I touched his face and ears. Then I freaked out. It seems that I forgot in that moment that it's normal for a baby's head to come out first, and then for there to be a pause before the next contraction comes and the rest of the baby comes out. I called out, "He needs to come out now! Someone help me get him out!" Stephanie, smiling into my eyes, said, "It's OK, Rachael. He's just rotating into the perfect position and he's going to come out on the next contraction." I calmed down and waited for it.
It came, I pushed, and the rest of him slid out easily into my waiting hands. I brought him up to my chest and sat back against the other side of the pool. The time Joanne recorded is 9:41. 9:41, a mere nine minutes after I felt the bag of water, 13 minutes after I started pushing.
|I was saying, "It's Delaney Jr!" We thought he looked just like her when he first came out, but after a couple days we no longer thought he looked like anyone. No two of our kids look alike.|
I was full of wonder and gratitude as I held him and looked at him at long last. He started to cry right away. Joanne and Stephanie said he looked like a big baby. I would expect nothing less since I'd already had big babies and I'd carried this one for so much longer than the others.
A few minutes later I pushed the placenta out, which was followed by a gush of blood that had them a little concerned. Then they helped me out of the pool and into bed, and gave me some shepherd's purse tincture for the bleeding. Stephanie squeezed it out of a dropper and told me to hold it under my tongue for as long as I could before swallowing. She warned me that it would taste horrible but it wasn't too bad.
As I lay there with Joey on my chest underneath a towel, he had a massive meconium poo all over my belly. Tim took a picture, but I will not be sharing it (you're welcome). Joanne and Stephanie sponged us off, but it wasn't long before he did it again! A huge amount both times.
The next couple hours were a happy blur. I spent about an hour on the bed with Joey on my chest, and about the last 15 minutes of that I began to nurse him for the first time. Timmy got home from school and was brought in to see his baby brother.
|My little buddy -- a big brother!|
It was time for Tim to bring Joey out to meet his grandma, but first the cord needed to be cut. When they offered Tim to do the honors he was like, "Sure, I guess. The most climactic part of this has already happened as far as I'm concerned." He really doesn't get the whole 'dad cuts the cord' thing. Still, he dutifully severed Joey's connection to the placenta. Unfortunately, I can't share the picture of that momentous occasion because my boob is in it, but I don't think Tim will be disappointed. I think he was much happier once the cord was cut because he got to do this:
Oh, this reminds me -- at some point Joanne suggested that Tim take off his shirt and do skin-to-skin with the baby. I said, "Yeah, maybe he'd like that." But when Tim heard he said, "No. I'm not taking off my shirt." Going into this he'd already told me he wouldn't be getting into the pool. He'd seen the picture of the husband and wife in the birth pool together in the instruction manual and cringed. He was not going to do anything "weird" like get in the pool or take off any of his clothes.
Then he put on Joey's first diaper. To this day that has been the extent of his involvement with this kid's diapers. He put a clean diaper on his clean butt and he was done. It's a good thing we have a picture.
|I love this!|
Meanwhile I went to take a shower because the bleeding had slowed and I felt strong enough. Joanne was fine with me taking a shower but she had real reservations about me washing my hair. She asked me how long it had been since I washed my hair, and I told her it was due for a washing today. She warned me that if I took too long to wash it I would pass out. I assured her I wouldn't take too long, and I would sit down if I needed to. I literally only spent a couple seconds at a time with my hands in my hair. She called out to me about every 10 seconds, "You OK?" "Yes!" I enjoyed my shower, but I didn't want to spend too much time in there since I was making her a nervous wreck.
During this time the midwives also checked me for damage. I waited with bated breath to find out if I would be needing stitches again. I was so grateful when they told me that I had only the smallest of tears and it would not be needing a single stitch. Hooray! The fourth time was the charm.
Tim brought Joey back in for his weighing and newborn exam so that Kim could capture those moments too, before she had to take Carolyn and her parents to the airport. Yes, our birth photographer was also airport transportation that day.
|8 pounds 8 ounces. My guess was closest, only an ounce more! Annie remains my biggest baby at 9 pounds even.|
A little before noon, Kim and Carolyn came in to say goodbye. Carolyn seemed close to tears as she said, "Thank you." I said, "It wasn't my doing." Looking at Kim she said, "I think it was YOUR doing." Kim said, "It was His doing," pointing upward. Soon afterward they left. A half hour later Joanne and Stephanie left, and we were on our own. I had lunch in bed and just rested the next few hours. A few hours later I heard the pitter-patter of feet running down the hall as two little girls who'd just gotten home came to meet their new baby brother. What a day. Welcome to the world, Joseph Daniel. You came in your own good time and in the most perfect way.