I have to start this birth story with the events of the weeks before his actual birth. During each of the last three weeks of my pregnancy, I had at least 2 bouts of prodromal (“false”) labor, and this number increased to almost every day by the end. The contractions would come strong and frequent for hours at a time, rendering me unable to do much around the house or parent Kaelyn well. Every time, I would wonder, “is this it?!”, only to have the contractions slow down and fizzle out. It was exhausting. The waiting and wondering were almost unbearable.
On Friday night, March 28th, after a quiet day with only a few contractions here and there, I was lying in bed wondering (as I did every night) if I would go into labor that night. I just had this feeling that he was coming soon. I tried to tell myself that it was just wishful thinking, not wanting to set myself up for disappointment again. But I knew it. I knew he would be coming that weekend. I told my husband that, but no one else. Maybe because I didn’t want to jinx it, maybe because I didn’t want to be let down if I was wrong. But deep down, I knew I’d be meeting my baby very soon. With that, I was able to sleep well that night.
The next morning, March 29th, we got up and had a slow breakfast with Kaelyn, drinking our coffee as we watched Robin Hood together. I was having some contractions and wanted to walk, but it was a rainy day, so we decided to go to Walmart to get a handful of things that we needed. I kept having very noticeable contractions that I had to focus through; however, this was par for the course, so I didn’t get my hopes up. Shopping and walking around really did pick them up. A few times I had to stop walking during a contraction. After about an hour of walking around, we decided to head home, we needed to get Kaelyn lunch and down for a nap before our midwife, Debi, stopped by for our prenatal appointment.
We got home and I went immediately to the shower — I needed a little relief before taking on lunch and naptime. Around 1:30, right when Kaelyn went down for her nap, Debi arrived. She checked on me and the baby and asked if I wanted a cervical check. YES. I’d been having so much prodromal labor that I just had to know if I’d made any progress. She asked if I wanted her to do a membrane sweep to see if we could get things kick-started, and again, YES. I was ready to have this baby today — today would be perfect! Turns out that I was already at least a “stretchy” 4 cm — even close to a 5 when I had a contraction during the check (I actually had a couple, THAT was uncomfortable, let me tell you!). I was already halfway there!! Who knows how long I had been walking around at 4 cm dilated! It was a relief to know that all that “false” labor had done a lot of work. I knew that it would be fast once it hit. Debi had another prenatal appointment to do while she was in town, but she said that she was NOT going to leave town for a least a couple hours, as she figured that labor was going to start soon. Oh boy, was she RIGHT. Not long after she left, I started having stronger contractions that came just a few minutes apart. Debi had told me that the baby was somewhat posterior, so I leaned over the birth ball for a while and swayed (to try to get him to a better position) while Ike and I watched some TV to pass the time. Before long, I couldn’t even focus on what we were watching and I started timing the contractions. They were 2 minutes and 40 seconds apart consistently. I told Ike that he needed to call into work and say he wasn’t coming, this was probably it. We texted Debi to let her know to come straight back here after her appointment and we started to call everyone. We called a few people we had lined up to watch Kaelyn and Hannah was able to come. We called Miriam, my sister-in-law and doula, and we called Rachael, our photographer. Kaelyn woke up from her nap and I couldn’t have her around me (as sweet as she is, I just couldn’t focus with her all in my space), so we gave her my Kindle to watch some Netflix on in her bedroom until Hannah got there. Ike started running all around, trying to get things ready; at this point, I was okay with that, I was doing fine with the contractions on my own. Hannah arrived and I was still in good spirits. It was muddy and cloudy, but it wasn’t raining, so she took Kaelyn outside to play.
The contractions were getting stronger, so I needed Ike to come rub my lower back. He put a folded up blanket under my knees that were starting to get sore, which is really good thing, because it wasn’t long before my water broke! I felt the baby move, there was a loud and somewhat painful POP, and amniotic fluid kind of exploded out of me. I FREAKED. The next contraction was awful. For some reason, my water breaking like that really scared me and the contractions went from manageable to really quite painful. Ike called Debi to let her know my water broke (she was stuck in traffic on the interstate! Ugh!) and he led me to the bathroom, reassuring me that it didn’t matter that I was dripping fluid all over the carpet. I sat on the toilet and he got the shower running for me. He was still running around between contractions, trying to figure out the birth tub. While in the shower, I was really struggling. I couldn’t mentally get on top of these stronger contractions, and the water wasn’t helping, maybe because of my position or because I couldn’t get comfortable. I stayed in there for a while, ending up on my hands and knees, crying, because they hurt so bad and I just *couldn’t* *keep* *going*. Eventually, Ike got me out of the shower. By the time I got out and Ike got my bathing suit for me, Debi and Miriam were there, they had set up the tub, and were starting to fill it.
Once I got warm, dry, and in my bedroom, the contractions got significantly easier to deal with. I sat on the edge of the bed and leaned on Ike. I was even able to talk to Debi and Miriam in between, and I didn’t feel the need to moan quite so loud during the contractions. I was actually able to relax the rest of my body much better. My back was hurting, but I couldn’t figure out any position that would have been more comfortable, because my hands and knees were already so sore from being on them so much already. I just kept looking at the birth tub filling with water, desperately wanting to get in, but knowing I couldn’t yet. At this point it was 4:30 and I couldn’t believe it. I’d only been in labor for about two hours and I was already doubting if I could do this, praying to God for help, and needing constant reassurance from my birth team.
Finally, around 5 or maybe a little after, the tub was ready for me. I got in and a smile came to my face! The water, oh it was so heavenly. There’s a reason they call it “the midwife’s epidural”! My back, my knees, my hands and feet, they could all relax. Gravity and positioning didn’t hurt all of the rest of me, so I was finally able to really relax during contractions and let them do the work they needed to. Ike got in with me and sat behind me so I could lean against him. I’m convinced that labor would have gone on a lot longer if I hadn’t been able to be in the tub.
Not long after I got in, I began to feel my body starting to push. I didn’t push with it. With Kaelyn’s birth, I started pushing before my body did, and I ended up pushing for two hours. I did not want to push that long again, so I wanted to wait as long as I could – preferably until I didn’t have a choice, to start pushing. Debi asked me a few times if I was feeling pushy and I kept saying, “maybe, I don’t know.” She told me just to listen to my body. After a few more contractions, she checked me and said I was complete and I could push whenever I wanted to! I remember hearing her say, “listen to your body, let your baby press down, don’t fight it, he’s coming.”
Finally, I started pushing with my body, when I really didn’t have a choice anymore. This is when Rachael came in and started taking photos. I think I remember shouting a few obscenities as Rachael walked in, lol! Debi reminded me to hold my knees back, take a big breath, and hold it while pushing, take another breath, and push again. I was able to get a good three pushes with each contraction. It hurt, I yelled, I cussed, I prayed, I begged for it to be over. But it was GOOD. He was coming down with each push. Debi told me just to melt into the water, into Ike, while resting between contractions, so I did. Ike and I had become one when we got married, but this was a different kind of unity, a completion of that unity.
Before long I started to feel that familiar sting, the stretch, the fire. At this point, I got terrified. I thought he would rip me in two. Debi and Miriam reassured me that he wouldn’t, that my body was meant to do this, and that I could put some pressure with my hand where it hurt the most as I was pushing for relief — that really helped. I kept looking at Miriam, remembering that she had just done this a few months prior, and that if she could do it, so could I. Before long, I could feel his head, it was full of hair! I was ready to get him OUT, so the next push, I pressed on past my fear and PUSHED. His head come out!! The contraction stopped before I could push again, so there we were, my baby was halfway earthside. It was an amazing moment for me, resting before the next big push, but he was halfway out. I knew I’d be holding him soon, that my life was about to change. I was so aware of the intensity and the weight that that moment held. The tension and the in between. I held onto his head (it was smaller than it had felt a few moments earlier!), and I was amazed. Amazed at this turning point, he was no longer safely inside, my body taking care of his every need, he was about to be separated and I would care for him so differently than I had been for the last nine months. Soon I would start watching him grow, nurturing and mothering him, learning to be the mom of two tiny, precious people. I will never forget those moments, knowing I was almost done, knowing that it would be worth it, knowing my baby was so close.
The next contraction started and Debi said, “PUSH!” and I did! Here he came, up into my arms! My sweet boy came out of the water, covered in sweet and somewhat slimy vernix. It was over! He was here! My sweet boy who I had been dreaming of, waiting for, praying for — he was in my arms! Oh and he was beautiful, I tell you. He hardly cried, we were warm in the water, he was against my chest, he was breathing, but so content. Debi said, “hey, have you checked to make sure it’s a boy?” — it hadn’t occurred to me! So I did and sure enough, this was our boy! Søren Avery was here, whole, and perfect.
March 29, 2014 at 6:04pm. 7lbs 7oz and 20-1/4 in long.