I had been having contractions on and off for about a week and a half. It was driving me crazy! I kept thinking and hoping I was in labor, but nothing would came of the contractions. Prodromal labor can be so frustrating. I had my last visit with my midwife, Paula on Monday, February 22nd. She checked to see if I was dialating, and I was at 3 cms.
I was in a rough place emotionally. It had been a hard year, and because of our vehicle situation I was stuck at home most of the time. I felt like my life was stuck too and I was just waiting to have the baby. And I just felt like I was missing something. I was nervous about going into labor with that feeling.
Saturday the 27th, Thad and I went to a young adults' service at church. It was just what I was missing. It was a small service, nothing special. But I felt like I really connected with the Lord for the first time in a long time. I could feel him loving me. I felt his peace, that everything was going to be ok. I felt refreshed. I knew as I went home that I had been waiting for that experience before labor started. I needed that first.
Sure enough, I started having contractions at 4 AM Sunday morning. Thad had brought Hayden in to sleep on the bed with me, and I got up to go to the bathroom. As I was walking back to the bed, I had that first contraction. I didn’t think much of it, because I had been having contractions off and on for so long. I just laid back in bed. But when another one came 10 minutes later, and then another one 10 minutes after that, I started to take notice. Natural childbirth books sometimes refer to contractions as waves, and that’s exactly what it felt like. I pictured each contraction as a wave, each one bringing my baby closer to me. They were painful, but when they started hurting I pictured a wave, and it wasn’t so bad, and then it was over.
I stayed in bed until about 6AM. I didn’t want to wake Thad up or get too excited until I had been having regular contractions for a while, even though I was pretty sure that this was the real thing. So at 6, I got up and woke Thad up (he was asleep on the couch) and told him that I thought I was actually in labor. I got on the computer and hung out on there for about an hour. Then I decided to take a shower. The contractions got even closer together while I was in the shower- it felt like they were coming every 3-4 minutes. I knew that was a good sign- they say water usually either helps real labor along or stops the contractions of false labor.
I got out of the shower and fixed my hair and put on a little makeup. I woke Thad up again and told him that he should let them know that he wasn’t going to be able to teach Sunday school that morning- he wasn’t going anywhere! We did some cleaning and made sure the house was in tip top shape. Around 11 we decided to go for a walk. We took Hayden to the little playground around the corner from our house. It was such a beautiful day for a walk. The weather was perfect. It was the perfect temperature, and the wind was blowing just a little bit. We were enjoying watching Hayden have a fun time. She was at such a cute age. The whole way back she would step onto the grass in someone’s yard, and then jump off onto the sidewalk like she was jumping off a curb. So cute.
|Last photo as a family of three- just before our walk. .|
My contractions definitely picked up while we were out. We had only been at the playground for about 10 minutes when I started feeling a little nervous because they were coming so close together and I wasn’t at home. I told Thad that we needed to leave, and we headed home.
I sat down to rest a little when we got home, and the contractions slowed way down. I was getting frustrated at that point. I was pretty tired too. I was having a hard time deciding if I should stay active and try to keep labor moving along, or if I should lay down and get some rest since I was tired. I was sure that if I laid down that the contractions would stop.
I decided to lay down anyway because I was pretty tired. Paula called to check on me about 10 minutes after I had laid down. I had a contraction just as she was calling. She told me later that when she called and I was napping she didn’t think I’d be having the baby that day. She was wrong!
I stayed in bed for about an hour. I’m pretty sure I was able to get a little bit of sleep. It was weird because I only had 4 contractions in that hour I was in bed, but they were the longest, most painful contractions I’d had yet. By the time I had the last one, there was no way I was able to just lay in bed when they were that painful. I got up and came out into the living room.
We have a glider and ottoman in the living room, and the ottoman was my best friend there for a while. I would lean over it and moan during a contraction. It was a great position. I ate some grapes and some Cheez-its.(This was before I cut out gluten!) I kept timing the contractions, and they still weren’t regular. I was planning on calling the midwife when they were 5 minutes apart. Some were 5 minutes apart, and some were closer to 10. But they were starting to get pretty intense, and I could sense that things were moving along, so I told Thad to go ahead and call Paula. She must have asked what I was doing, because he said, “Bending over and moaning a lot.” She said she’d be on her way. Thad also called my friend who was coming to take pictures, and another friend who was coming to help take care of Hayden.
Now just to let you know, I’m a freak about brushing my teeth. I HAVE to brush them after every time I eat. Well I had eaten the Cheez-its and grapes, so I really needed to brush my teeth. But the contractions were getting so intense, and pretty close together, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and make it back to the ottoman in between contractions. So I had Thad bring me my toothbrush and toothpaste, and a bowl to spit in. It was pretty funny looking.
Both friends showed up pretty quickly- around 1 or 1:30. I was still laboring over the ottoman when Paula, and her assistant/daughter showed up. Paula started filling out the labor chart and keeping an eye on me. I was having to really focus through the contractions at this point. They were getting tougher and tougher. I had to have Thad come over and put his hand on my back through each one. I didn’t want him to leave my side. I tried leaning back into him through a couple of contractions, but that seemed to be more painful. I leaned forward over the ottoman again, and realized that it wasn’t necessarily the position that was more painful, but that the contractions were getting more intense. I started to feel a little panicked. The pain was getting pretty bad, and the contractions were getting longer. I looked at Paula and said, “Is it supposed to hurt this bad?” She just smiled at me. I spent a few more contractions on the ottoman, and noticed that if I pushed a little during a contraction it made it a LOT more bearable, like I was working with my body. I asked Paula if that was ok(should have just trusted my body!), and she said she’d like to check and see how dialated I was before I started doing much pushing. She reminded me that if I pushed too much before I was completely dialated that my cervix would just swell and that would cause problems.
So we decided that I would move to the bed so she could check me. I was 7-8 cm dialated! That was when my labor really took a turn. My mood instantly lifted when she told me that. I went from panicky and scared because it was getting so hard and I was sure I had a very long time left to go, to excited that I had made it so far with so “little” effort. I knew that the end was close, and that I was going to be able to make it. Paula was surprised too- she hadn’t expected me to be that far along already.
The atmosphere in the room was great. I love it when a room has lots of light- it helps to put me in a good mood. We have three big windows that take up the whole wall behind our bed, and earlier in the morning while we were cleaning I had opened up all the blinds. There was all this light pouring in the room, and it was just beautiful.
I had several contractions leaning back on the pillows on the bed. I asked Paula if she thought it was ok that I was laying nearly on my back- I know that’s not really the best position for birthing. She said that as long as I was comfortable that it was fine, and that we were just waiting for me to feel the urge to push. We had talked about that a few weeks earlier- that I wanted to be able to experience the urge to push this time. With my first birth, I had just been told by the midwife that it was time to push. I wanted to get that signal from my body this time and not from another person.
I felt very aware, very much in the situation during this part of labor. That was really different from my first labor too. The first time I was so scared- so out of it. It was like I wasn’t really experiencing it, even though I was the one in labor. But this time I made a point to really be present, to really be there, experiencing labor, feeling the sensations, listening to what my body was telling me. Not being afraid, but trusting my body to know what it was doing. It was a very empowering feeling.
There was such a relaxed feeling in the room. Between contractions, I was able to just lean back and relax. I felt totally at peace. I was excited to meet my baby. I could feel the light that was streaming through the windows energizing me.
|Look how relaxed I look- this is well into active labor at 8 cm dialated- just 45 minutes before he was born!|
At the same time though, the contractions were getting very intense. It was strange, because even this far into labor, they still weren’t completely regular. I remember at one point, I almost asked, “What happened to the contractions?” because there was a large gap in between two. They were very intense though. I had to moan during each one to make it through the pain. At some point I moved onto the birth stool beside the bed. Paula reminded me to keep my voice low as I was moaning. Someone pointed out that there was a lawnmower outside making the same noise as I was. My mind focused on that sound, and I moaned along with the lawnmower for several contractions. The lawnmower was my little labor pal- it was so great to have something to focus on.
Even with the great atmosphere in the room, I was starting to feel like I couldn’t make it. (Transition, anyone?) The contractions were so strong, starting to feel like more than I could endure. I knew that I had to rely on the Lord. I had picked the name Ezekiel for the baby’s middle name. It means “The Lord will strengthen”. I reminded myself that I had to trust in Him, that I could make it through anything through His strength. After one particularly strong contraction, I looked up to heaven and prayed, “Lord, please help me. Help me to trust You. Help me to trust You.” It helped. I knew He would sustain me. I knew I needed just a little extra something to focus on, to encourage me. It dawned on me to ask someone to turn the radio on, and the music was just what I needed to focus on during contractions. (Note to self: if you have another baby create a birth playlist, even if you think you won't need it.) Each song that came on seemed to have some theme of encouragement and strength that I needed.
I started to feel some pressure of the baby coming down- like I needed to have a bowel movement. I started to push a little with each contraction. Paula decided to check again and see how dialated I was. I was at a 9, with just a little lip of cervix around the back of the baby’s head. She helped to push it back with her finger as I had a couple more contractions. It hurt, but I knew that lip of cervix had to move back before the baby could come.
As I was sitting there on the birthing stool and pushing, my water broke! It just popped, and burst right out! That was another thing I had discussed earlier with Paula- that I wanted my water to break on my own this time instead of her breaking it for me. So it excited me when the water broke on it’s own. It was a nice little surprise, and a burst of energy knowing that things were going as I had planned.
I was pushing with each contraction at this point. Paula was using her fingers to show me the right place to push, and that was helping me a lot. She had me pull my knees back with each contraction. It was kindof a hard position. If I pulled my knees back far enough to be able to get a good push, my feet came all the way off the ground, and it was taking a lot of energy to be able to hold that position and push. Paula suggested that I get up onto the bed again. I was a little confused by that- I knew I didn’t want to be pushing on my back. But I trusted her and jumped up there.
As I was climbing onto the bed, Paula told me to lay on my side. I remember thinking, “Duh- there’s other ways to lay besides on your back!” So I laid on my side and kept on with the pushing. Thad held my top leg and Paula's daughter held the bottom one to help give me a little leverage.
The first contraction I had on the bed was a huge one. It seemed that any time I changed positions my body had to take a couple of minutes to adjust. I don’t even know how to describe the sound that came out of me during that contraction- it was like a yell/scream/grunt/moan all mixed together. I didn’t hold any of it back at all- I was actually surprised to hear something like that come out of me! It felt so good to just let go like that. Completely uninhibited. When the contraction was over, I looked up and said, “What was that?” Paula's daughter reminded me that I should focus my energy on pushing instead of making noise, and I knew she was right. I was pretty quiet for the rest of the contractions- not because I felt like I had to be, but because I was focusing 100% on pushing.
I pushed with maybe 2 more contractions, and I felt him start to crown! I was totally shocked- it didn’t seem like I had been pushing for very long. That “ring of fire” feeling is unmistakable though- I knew it couldn’t be anything other than him crowning. Boy did it hurt though! I started to hold back because of the pain. But then I reminded myself that crowning meant it was almost over- he was about to come out! I knew that I had to push through it if he was going to come out, and the wimpier I pushed the longer it would take. I ignored the pain and just pushed as hard as I could. Paula had me reach down and feel his head. It was right there- I could feel his skin wrinkling up as his head was being squeezed out. Amazing!
It must have been only 1 or 2 more pushing contractions, and I felt his head pop out! I couldn’t believe he was already here! I didn’t know it at the time, because I couldn’t see down there, but the cord was wrapped around his neck once, so Paula pulled it off. I think I was in shock that he was out already, because the midwife had to say, “Anna- reach down and take your baby!” I reached down and she handed him to me, and I laid back on the bed. I said, “That’s it? It’s over? That was nothing!!!”
It was so wonderful. I was so in the moment. I wasn’t so worn out that I couldn’t enjoy my baby. I was completely 100% there, just taking it all in. Holding my new baby for the first time. I felt amazing.
I don’t know how it happened, but he was almost completely clean already when he came out! He wasn’t covered in blood or anything. He was so beautiful.
This birth was such an empowering experience for me. This birth was honestly everything I was hoping for. Everything. I wanted to give birth in the comfort of my own home, and I did. I wanted to have my water break on its own, and it did. I wanted to feel the urge to push- to have my body dictate how and when I would push out my baby, and it did. I wanted to be mentally present at the birth- to not be so afraid that I wasn't really experiencing the birth. I wanted to soak in every bit of it- the pain, the effort, the work, the struggle, the joy. There is such a strength that comes on the other side of a struggle, and I wanted to experience that. And I did. Tristan's birth was the struggle of the year before, wrapped into a day, and I conquered. I gave birth to my baby, and to a new, confident me all at the same time.
He was born at 5:54 PM, and weighed 8’11″. And on top of it all- a 15in head- over 90th percentile! And I pushed that sucker out with no meds, in my own home, in 30 minutes- and only needed 1 stitch!
Daddy cut the cord. (In hindsight, I do wish we had waited a little longer to do this, even though it had stopped pulsing.)
He’s on his own!
We took an herbal bath. It was very relaxing.
Such a proud big sister! I'm so glad that we chose to have her there as her brother was born. She did so wonderfully and I think it was so good for her to be a part of it.
The happy family!
You can read the other version of Tristan's birth story here.