Category Archives: Birth Story

Honor’s Birth Story {Part 2}

So, where were we?

Oh yeah. The making out.

Turns out my husband must be a really good kisser (but I already knew that) because mere minutes after he gleefully followed my midwife’s parting instructions, I experienced a 4 minute long, intense contraction. Like, as he was timing it, he kept looking at me expectantly and saying, “Done, right?” And I was all: “Um, yeah…oh! Nope! There it goes again.”

Thanks a lot, Husband.

Anyhoo, once that one finally released its vice grip, I went right back to matching socks. We had turned Fixer Upper off, since I can only do so many competing distractions in labor, but the sock folding was just the ticket to give me something that occupied my hands and at least a little of my mind.

In fact, assuming there’s a next time, I think I’ll keep a basket of unmatched socks around for labor. In fact, I think I’ll start now just to make sure I’ve got enough to work with. #sigh

There was now no doubt in my mind that, unless these suckers just stalled out for no good reason (entirely possible), I really was in labor. After the 4 minute whopper, my contractions kept coming, only instead of 10 minutes apart, as they’d consistently been for the previous hour and 1/2, they suddenly dropped to 6 minutes, and–after only a few of those–to 3 minutes.

The intensity had also ramped up at a rather alarming rate.

It certainly seemed that the safety brake on my slow body had been suddenly released, and we were careening down a rather steep hill toward an inevitable crash (car wreck as a metaphor for delivery? not too far-fetched, I say).

I mentioned that I might need to text Melena to hurry, but Shaun said, “She’s bound to be headed back our way soon, and you’ve got to do this for hours before it does any good.”

Thing is, normally he’d be right, but these were different, and I was certainly hoping he wasn’t.

Just like the contractions had felt different/sharper than usual earlier in the day, these felt even more so now. And not just sharper than earlier but sharper than I’d ever felt. I had described them as feeling like a knife being stuck inside me to Shaun earlier, and the comparison grew even more apt as they progressed.

I’ve heard that contractions after your water has broken are worse, and I can now personally attest that it’s true. As Melena put it, there’s just no cushion from the water bag to act as a buffer between the baby’s head and your bones.

By the time Melena got back around 11:30 PM, they were down to 2 1/2 minutes apart, and I was breathing and plie squatting through them. I know that sounds like the pits since squatting seems like it would put more pressure on the cervix as you go down. But, even though that’s somewhat true, there’s a certain point near the bottom of the squat at which the pressure is relieved almost entirely, and the act of moving/doing something during the swell/peak/release tends to distract, at least my mind, from the pain.

In between contractions, Melena set up the antibiotic drip and hooked me up via IV. I wasn’t thrilled about my decreased mobility, but I could still reach the socks, so I kept the dread of each new contraction at bay by returning to folding–almost compulsively–as soon as the last one was done.

labor

{I laughed out loud when I saw this picture; that was the biggest/most genuine smile I could muster at this point}

Tangent: By this point, with 6 natural labors under my belt, I’d say that I’m decent at pain management. But the thing that I find most interesting is that–had I had these kind of contractions this close together with hours to go 4 labors ago–I think I would have been panicked. I can remember literally being loopy and hazy with pain during transition with Simon. My midwife was snapping her fingers in front of my face and trying to get my eyes uncrossed, I was that out of it. But even though I’ve experienced that kind of pain since, I’ve never reached that level of grogginess again. It’s fascinating to me how our mental expectations of pain can literally determine our physical ability to handle it because this time (and with the last two), until the very end when it became one blur of constant pain, I was completely present and lucid between each contraction, conversing and doing everything possible to distract myself from worry about “the end.” God really has given us amazing physical resources, and I am never more aware of that than when I am in labor.

ANYhoo, once the antibiotic drip finished, Melena released me from the line, and I began doing laps around the kitchen and living room, fighting to walk through the worst of the contractions, which had bumped up in intensity yet again.

Melena, who was an assistant at the twins’ birth and the primary midwife at Theo’s, had never seen this version of active labor for me, since the twins’ labor progressed steadily but very calmly (once it finally kicked in after 4 days of stop-start nonsense), and Theo’s was all over the place, to put it mildly.

I don’t tend to make too much noise during labor, but when my breathing took on a wheezing sound during some of the contractions, she definitely started watching me more closely.

On my part, I had lost all track of time, mostly because of intense focus, but also because our power had flickered at some point, and the oven clock was just blinking instead of displaying the accurate time.

But I knew one thing: these couldn’t go on too much longer, and I wanted to at least try laboring in the water. I had assumed, since the water had killed my hiccupy contractions with Theo’s labor, that I wouldn’t be able to labor there during this one.

Given the level of contractions I was experiencing, though, I wasn’t worried about that anymore, and, when Melena gave me the go-ahead, I had Shaun start prepping the water.

By this point, I could feel my legs turning to Jell-o, and even as painful as the contractions were, knew it was time to let them do their dirty work.

So I slogged upstairs and did the last thing in the world I wanted to do: straddled the toilet. I don’t know why this position is so effective in letting the baby descend, but it’s worked its “magic” (kind of feels like the “black” variety at the time) every time I’ve been willing to do it.

I didn’t feel a sudden huge shift in pressure like I did right before the twins came, but the contractions ratcheted up yet another notch, and I was relieved, to put it mildly, when Shaun came and told me the tub water was ready.

I climbed in on wobbly legs, but, unfortunately, because we had had to run the hot water through the pipes until it was cold to eliminate any lingering sediment or other ickiness, the water was barely up to my belly, even after Shaun boiled two big pots of water on the stove (and no, the irony of having “boiling water” on hand for a modern home birth is not lost on me…there were clean towels too, believe it or not).

So, the first “tub contraction” wasn’t nearly as much of a relief as I’d hoped. In fact, by this point, the contractions were coming so close together that I barely had time to catch my breath before the next one started. And since I was on my tailbone in the tub, without enough water to offset gravity nearly as much as it needed to to really help, the back labor that I’d been experiencing the whole time but managing to mostly ignore because the front labor was so intense, became acutely more noticeable.

Thankfully, Shaun had another round of water ready before too many contractions went by, and he came and replenished the tub, adding cold water to balance it out until I could slide down into it.

Again, I had no sense of time by this point. I just knew that these were the most intense contractions of my life, and that, if I hadn’t been in the water, I might have been a bit out of my mind with the pain.

Lindsay, who had been checking in with me via text for days as this whole in labor/not in labor situation progressed, had sent me a list of verses to pray, and I’d been cobbling together fragments of them in my mind for hours.

“Lord you are the stronghold of my life, an ever present help in times of trouble.”

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”

“You are my strength and my salvation. Let me not be put to shame.”

“Whom shall I fear, for you are with me.”

As the contractions progressed in the water, and the pressure built, I added this to my prayers: “Lord, this next one is yours. It’s not mine. I can’t do it. Only you can.”

And you know what? He did. Every time I thought: no more, NO more…I realized that the last one had ended, and I had a few seconds to start over again on my jumbled up prayers.

Finally, there was a shift. Not nearly as noticeable as it would have been out of the water, but undeniable nonetheless.

Melena heard the change in my breathing and volume levels and came running upstairs to check on me (up to this point, I hadn’t been making any noise that could be heard downstairs, and she was trying to give me and Shaun space; not too surprisingly, she hadn’t expected me to progress so rapidly).

I was in so much pain that I just wanted the baby out, regardless of how much MORE pain that entailed. I kept asking the Lord for the courage to relax my body when everything in me wanted to tense my muscles up to control the pain.

By this point, the contractions were so close together that I couldn’t really tell when one started and ended, so when Melena–who needed to grab her oxygen machine for the baby, just in case–asked me whether I had a break yet or not, I just shook my head and clenched my eyes shut even tighter.

I have a distinct impression of my body simply taking over like it never had before. I wasn’t pushing so much as surrendering. To that end, I sank lower and lower in the water until my mouth and nose were covered. Because who needs to breath when you’re pushing?
I remember Shaun’s grasping my arm and trying to lift me up a bit. I’m sure the poor man thought his wife was drowning herself, but all I could think was, “Leave me alone! I am far from fine, but neither one of us is going to be fine if you don’t stop touching me!!” (P.S. Shaun is ah-mazing during labor; I wouldn’t trade him for anyone, even if he does do silly things like try to save his wife from drowning durng labor ; )).

When I finally got a tiny break, Melena ran for her car, but as soon as she was gone, a strong pushing contraction started, and I felt the baby crowning. His head came out with that push, and I heard Shaun shouting, “Head! His head’s out. We have a head!”

She was back in no time, but I hadn’t had another contraction yet. Again, though, I was just so ready for this to be over that I started pushing anyway.

I could feel his shoulders coming and Melena’s helping guide him, until–suddenly–he was out!

She lifted him out of the water and placed him on my chest, and he immediately began squawling like–well–like a big, healthy newborn.

birth

{Just FYI: the grayish streaks on my face are mascara–aka: what I get for laboring in the water without taking my makeup off from the day before…wasn’t exactly high on my priority list}

And you know what I did?

I went from being in agonizing pain to sitting up straight as an arrow in the tub, clutching my baby to my chest and gasping: “He’s out! He’s here! Praise Jesus, I’m not pregnant anymore!”

Which…is pretty much what I say every time.

But seriously. The shift was that sudden.

When all was said and done, I’d been in “real” labor for 6 1/2 hours–4 1/2 of that at rather intense levels and almost 2 hours of that at super-intense levels in the tub (if you’d asked me how long I was in there, I probably would have said 45 minutes; it all ran together).

I think that might be a record for speed for me…if you discount all of the lead up mess. Which…I sort of do and sort of don’t.

And, of course, Honor was perfect, and I felt so much better immediately afterwards that the words “worth it” don’t even begin to describe it.

new honor

 

{Honor, having a contemplative moment after getting run through all of the usual newborn rigmarole. P.S. I’ve got lots more photos from my big girl camera that are considerably better quality, but considering how long it’s taken me to get this posted with fuzzy pictures, I figured you wouldn’t want to wait for the crisper ones; I’ll post them later…maybe…no promises}

Funny side note: we’d been telling ourselves all along to completely ignore my January 2 “due date” and use the 15th instead.  Surely, he’d be out by then. Anything before that was a bonus.

Of course, when the contractions started seeming real–ON the 15th–we rolled our eyes at each other for speaking this date into existence.

But then, true to its pokey nature, my uterus STILL missed our “outside due date” by…2 1/2 hours. Go figure.

Not that any of our speculation mattered one bit. As is always the case, our sweet baby came in the Lord’s perfect timing, and we are just beyond thrilled that he’s here.

brand new

 

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Honor’s Birth Story {Part 1}

If you read my latest update before Honor’s birth, then you’ll know that I had been contracting for daaaayyyzz…which is nothing new for me. Prodromal labor–the oh-so-official title for mild pregnancy torture–is my close and constant friend when I’m waiting for a baby to come.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s not unusual for prodromal (or false) labor to establish strong, steady rhythms for long periods. It can feel very much like labor…except that–ultimately–the contractions never get stronger, longer, and closer enough together to get a baby out.

It’s fuuuuun.

Fortunately, after 5 other similar rodeos, I was not the least bit fooled by this particular bucking bronco (forgive my weird metaphors; I’m mildly sleep-deprived).

Sure, there were a few times that I thought, “All right, this could go somewhere.” But not enough to actually change anything about what I was normally doing.

And then Saturday rolled around, and the 4 youngest and I decided (code for: mama decided, and they obediently piled in the car) to do a little thrifting. We visited a few stores in a local small town, ate lunch at Dairy Queen (where a man who was leaving at the same time we were asked when I was being christened for sainthood…presumably because I had 4 kids 6 and under with me and was hugely pregnant?? I assured him that “Never” was a pretty sure bet), and then headed home where I wrote a blog post while the kids napped…and I contracted.

While we were out “on the town,” I’d had a few contractions that felt…different. Sharper. Less meaningless. I didn’t think much of it, but they just kept popping up every 1/2 hour or so, and by 5 PM, when Shaun and the boys got home from working on the new house (which is what they do every Saturday, pretty much), I was starting to pay the squeezes at least a sliver of my attention.

We ate dinner, did a little clean-up, and by that point, I was getting a decent contraction every 15-20 minutes. This had happened several times before, but not with this level of sharpness, so we put the kids to bed early and started casually timing them while picking up around the house, flipping the laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc.

My midwife, Melena, had done her absolute best to strip my membranes the Tuesday before, but ever since Ezra, my cervix has always been super-posterior and hard to reach until the very end of labor, so–while she managed to ascertain that I was dilated to a 3 and about 50% effaced (encouraging but not exactly meaningful, considering some people walk around dilated to a 5 for months)–I wasn’t expecting much in the way of results.

Sure enough, another 4 days had gone by with little to no noticeable change in my state. On that same Tuesday, she had also given me a tincture of herbs to help move labor along once it seemed a bit more real, so Saturday night, I started dosing myself with that in between loads of laundry.

And you know what happened?

My contractions stopped. Just…fizzled out completely.

Truth be told, I wasn’t even that disappointed (or surprised). By that point, it was almost 11 PM, and I wasn’t that interested in starting real labor at midnight (never mind that I’ve never NOT labored through at least one full night before).

I finished up my last chore around midnight and lay down, feeling sure I wouldn’t be up again before morning.

Throughout the night, I woke up with the keener contractions but managed to go back to sleep. Around 5 AM, though, I had several strong ones in a row and couldn’t fall asleep again. Right before I got up, though, I had the distinct impression of peeing a little on myself without any actual effort on my part and thought, “Uh oh. That’s not good.”

My water has only broken before delivery one other time–with Della–and then, it was only a small high leak that sealed itself immediately and never produced anything else until she came. Even so, it created a lot of anxiety, since it put my midwife on guard for more leakage and put me on a deadline for having her (she gave me 24 hours before we considered going to the hospital). When Della’s labor stalled after I dilated to a 6, I spent the next 18 hours frustrated and worried I would end up with a hospital birth despite my best efforts to the contrary. My labor finally did kick back in at 7 PM, and I had her by 1 in the morning, but it was still a bad association with waters breaking that has lingered with me for the 6 years since.

I shuffled to the bathroom, hoping against hope that I had just become suddenly incontinent (only time I’ve ever wished for that), but it became clear very quickly that my waters had, indeed, broken–at least to an extent.

I took a shower and blow-dried my hair (something I almost never do) and then went to tell Shaun that my water had broken. He has the same association I do, so he looked a little concerned, but we both decided to just wait and see if the contractions would keep coming regularly, at which point we would take the kids to my mom’s.

frizz

{Anybody else resemble an electrocuted poodle after they blow-dry?}

The one thing I felt a tiny twinge of excitement about was the concept of possibly/maybe/Please Lord delivering during the day. That’s happened twice (Ezra and Theo), but only because I was up the entire night(s) before laboring.

I was far from hopeful, though.

The contractions were still there 30 minutes later when I finished straightening my hair (also something I pretty much never do), and the kids were all set to get in the van.

So, off we went on our merry way–skeptical but a little optimistic.

I had 3-4 decent contractions on the 30 minute drive, but almost the moment we pulled in my mom’s driveway…they stopped.

We were at my parents’ house for about an hour, and I didn’t have one real contraction.

It was the first time I felt genuinely discouraged by the whole stop-start business this pregnancy. I mean, I’ve come to fully expect it, but at 41 weeks and 5 days, I was getting a little weary of it, and I really didn’t want to waste my mom’s time (she loves her grandchildren more self-sacrificially than any other woman I’ve ever seen and never complains about keeping them, but I prefer not to dump all 6 on her doorstep without good reason).

So, right there in her living room, my mom and Shaun stopped and prayed over me–for peace, for perseverance, for progress (i.e. pain…you can’t have a baby without that, in my experience).

We decided to go ahead and leave the kids there, trusting the contractions to return and be real, and left. I kind of figured we would go home and wait for labor, but Shaun had a better idea (pretty sure he knew that my “watched pot never boils” body wouldn’t do well with just sitting around waiting for the next contraction).

So, we went to get Thai food for lunch (yes, I went all stereotypical and ordered it spicier than I normally do, even though I know it doesn’t actually work like that). And on our way, my contractions kicked back in.

They were different this time. Sharper still. They were the kind of contractions I would classify as a 5 (dilation) but still too sporadic to be doing much.

After lunch, we headed to Lowe’s to figure out some house details. At Lowe’s I had at least two contractions that had me stopping to breathe and grab the closest shelving. Honestly, I was a bit baffled, since each intense contraction was usually followed up by either nothing for a good 15 minutes or something so piddly it was barely noticeable.

Mostly, I just rolled my eyes and kept waddling along, determined to ignore them until they really, really hurt and were really, really close.

On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store for essentials like salt, toilet paper, Hershey’s Nuggets (with almonds and toffee, of course), and…wine? Yup. Hilarious because I pretty much never drink anything–much less while pregnant–but two separate friends had suggested buying a bottle of Moscato for labor, since they know how slow/tight my body tends to be and thought a) it might help me loosen up a bit and b) would be fruity enough for my alcohol-averse taste buds.

It took us a laughably long time to even find the Moscato and even longer to figure out if there was an advantage to one bottle over another, but we prevailed in the end.

And all the while I continued to contract at random intervals and levels of intensity.

My midwife–whom I had informed of the water leakage and contraction situation that morning–had been checking in via text all day and suggested that, when we got home, I lie down.

28-year-old Abbie would have been all: “Uh uh. No way. That will kill the contractions for sure.”

But 34-year-old Abbie thought a midwife-prescribed nap sounded just dandy, and if the contractions died, well, all the better because then they weren’t real anyway.

I lay down for over an hour, awakened by a grand total of 4 strong contractions. At this point, I’d been in sort of labor for 24 hours and was pretty sure it was all just a big hoax.

As soon as I got up, though, they kicked back in a bit, so I took some more of the herb tincture and ate some dinner. 15 minutes later, they stopped…and stayed gone.

After 45 minutes of not even one contraction, I felt my old frustration at my pokey body returning, so I texted Melena something like: “What the what is my dumb body doing??” To which she replied: “I dunno. Can I come visit?”

Of course, I said yes, though I assured her it was probably a waste of her time, and she said she didn’t care and was coming anyway.

Then, I asked Shaun to get the Bible and read to me from the Psalms while I lay on the couch.

This method had “worked” twice before when I got too anxious for my own good, so–while I wasn’t really expecting anything miraculous to happen–I was still hopeful that it would banish unnecessary stress before it settled in my already tense muscles.

He read for a good 1/2 hour, and I just listened with my eyes closed, soaking in the promises, enjoying the peace, and not contracting one single bit.

Then, I got up, went to the laundry room, and hauled 2 giant baskets of unmatched socks into the laundry room (my three oldest kids fold 99% of our laundry, but they are notorious for finding only the most obvious sock matches and throwing the rest in a basket, so there was puh-lenty to keep me busy).

We put on an episode of Fixer Upper and started matching. And matching.

By the time Melena showed up around 8:30, I’d had two contractions (after an hour and 1/2 of diddly squat) 10 minutes apart, but other than noting their existence, I thought absolutely nothing of them.

Melena had a theory that, with the somewhat slow leakage I’d experienced, there was a chance that the leak had sealed itself, and the bulging water bag near his head was still intact, in which case the risk of infection was moot, and this baby could just come when he felt like it (pretty sure that was what was going on anyway, but whatever).

When she checked me, though–no small or enjoyable feat for either of us since my cervix was still very posterior–she could feel his hair.

My heart sank a bit. I mean, obviously, he would come when he needed to, but being on any sort of deadline has never done anything but slow my already turtle-paced body down, and I felt the old dread that I would end up in a hospital on Pitocin after 9 months of midwifery care.

Fortunately, Melena is just the chillest human being on the planet and a very relaxing presence, and she assured me that a hospital visit was unlikely but that she would prefer that–since I refuse Group B Strep testing and my status was unknown–we start a round of antibiotics, just to be safe.

I’m not a fan of antibiotics as a rule, but when it comes to keeping my babies safe, I’m all for ‘em.

Melena stuck around for another 45 minutes, working me through some Spinning Babies positions (basically gentle posture/stretching exercises to help the baby get into the optimal position for making the contractions effective), and I noted–almost subconsciously–that I was still having contractions every 10 minutes or so and that they miiiiight possibly be getting a bit stronger with each one.

After that, she left for the birth center to grab everything she needed to administer the antibiotics, giving Shaun and me strict instructions to…

Make out.

Oh, yes, she did.  Because, boys and girls, this kind of monkey business releases Oxytocin, which cause uterine contractions. Aren’t our bodies weird and wonderful things?

Not too surprisingly, Shaun thought this was an excellent notion and assured Melena of our absolute compliance. #men

So, off she went to the birth center, leaving us alone, one of us still hugely pregnant and contracting every 10 minutes and the other grinning like a mouse who got locked in a cookie jar.

And then…but wait. I just looked and saw that this post is over 2,000 words long already, and all I’ve only covered the part where I wasn’t really in labor, so let’s just take a break for a moment and reconvene for Part 2 soon, okay?

Okay.

Honor, who has been doing this pretty much the entire time I typed this…

honor

is starting to wake up and tell me about all of his hopes and dreams (aka: milk).

Until Part 2!

 

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Theo’s Birth Story {Part 2}

So, I realize that, on Tuesday, I did a pretty spectacular job of leaving y’all hanging by a very thin thread (although, as one reader pointed out: “Even with a cliffhanger, we all know the baby did come out!”). But it wasn’t all in the name of cheap theatrics.

Because, as much as I would have loved to have been very close to the end at 7 AM when I was dilated to almost a 10 and had been laboring for weeks over 12 hours already…the finish line was still miles away. And that post was already getting loooooong.

ANYhoo, once I found out how far along I was, I was more determined than ever to do whatever it took to get my contractions to do their job. To that end, I stomped down the stairs and started doing laps around the circle that makes up our living room, kitchen, dining room, and entryway. More than with any other labor, my contractions had seemed to be strangely regulated by a change in activity/condition (case in point: before I got in the tub, I stuck my toe in the water, which was way too hot, and immediately experienced a contraction so painful and intense that I could barely pull my foot back).

If I stood up, I had a contraction. If I sat down, same thing. If I went to the bathroom, contraction. Coughed, contraction. Thought about contractions, contraction. They never completely stopped, but if I did any one thing for too long, they invariably slowed down, so I was constantly changing my activities–babying them along, if you’ll pardon the bad pun–to make sure they progressed.

With each lap I made around the downstairs, I prayed for the Lord to bring this baby in His time and His way and thanked Him for getting me this far. I had been in awe of just how manageable (if ridiculously slow) the process had been so far and had been breathing prayers of praise for His grace and provision for such an easy labor. But now, it was time for pain. As I marched and prayed, I immediately felt my contractions strengthen. I would feel one coming and speed up to make it to the stair newel so I could hang on for dear life and squat deep into the contraction in hopes of forcing his head low enough to trigger the urge to push.

Pretty soon, I was having contractions every 3 minutes or so (the closest they had come for the entirety of the labor), and they were the kind that make your eyes cross and your lower back want to secede from the Union. The don’t-talk-to-me-or-once-I-regain-the-use-of-my-limbs-I-will-deck-you kind.

I still didn’t quite feel like I was about to die, but I wasn’t exactly loving life either. When my midwife okayed trying the water again, I hobbled gratefully upstairs, hoping the water would once again work its magic. I never really got the chance to find out, though, because, the minute I got back in the tub, the contractions just…stopped.

I felt physically better and was able to carry on a conversation again, but I was pretty fed up with the my weird, sputtery labor. No matter how nonsensical the sentiment, there is a point during long labors in which you become convinced that your baby’s never ever coming out.  (My first-contraction-to-last-push labor times include: 44 hours, 28 hours, 32 hours, 4 days of stop/start labor + 8 hours of the real stuff, and then this one…so I know whereof I speak).

After about 8 minutes of sitting in the tub, chatting with my midwife, birth assistant, and husband as if hanging out in the bathroom in a ridiculous state of undress with other (clothed) adults is a totes normal thing for me, I felt the hint of a contraction approaching and started to change position so I wouldn’t have to endure it flat on my tailbone. The best I can tell, my sudden movement triggered a major contraction and, with it, the undeniable urge to push. This was at 8:30 AM.

Yeeeeeehaw! The finish line was in sight! My pushing periods are traditionally quite short, with 47 minutes having been my longest (and that was my Simon, my 9 lb. 2 oz. 23 1/2″ man-child).

But after my first initial pushing contraction…nothing happened. (Sensing a theme?)

I didn’t have another contraction for a good (bad, awful) 7 minutes. And then another, maybe 8 minutes after that. After 3-4 bizarre rounds of pushing followed by casual conversation, my midwife said she’d feel more comfortable if I could get out of the water and try to get the contractions down to–oh, you know–a reasonably normal amount of time apart for labor.

Theo’s heart rate was steady and strong, so fetal distress wasn’t a concern, but I think we were all pretty ready to get this show on the road.

I moved to the bed and pushed through several more rounds of contractions, starting to feel a little bewildered about this kid’s refusal to budge. My girls, especially, had pretty much come out on their own, so the burning sensation of crowning and then receding was pretty foreign to me.

After a particularly intense session that still produced no baby, my midwife checked my dilation one more time and discovered a tiny lip of cervix hanging around to complicate things. She looked at me seriously and said the words no laboring woman wants to hear: “I want you to stop pushing.”

I don’t think I gave her the nicest look ever.

“In fact, I want you to try to rest through the next several contractions, eat something, drink some water, let that lip of cervix go away completely so it doesn’t swell and block the baby’s head, and build up your strength for the end.”

The end??! 

You mean, this wasn’t it? Everything in me was rebelling against the concept of “taking a break” when we were this close, but I totally trust Melena, and I could already tell the pushing wasn’t terribly effective.

So, I took a “break,” muscles quivering and back spasming as I–well, there’s really no other word for it–survived multiple pushing contractions without actually pushing. My saving grace was that the contractions were still 5 minutes apart, which gave me time to gather a little bit of nerve and resolve for the next one (by this point, though, the contractions were 90 seconds long).

I’m not going to lie: that half hour was one of my least favorite labor memories to date. I could feel my body doing its job, though, working his head lower (who knew it were possible without his falling out??!)

When I finally said, “Melena, I don’t think I can fight this off any longer,” she said, “If you have the urge to push so strongly that your body’s doing it on its own, I’m fine with that.”

So, push I did. Melena assured me I was making progress, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

I know that lots of women deliver babies in all kinds of crazy positions, but I have always balked at the idea of pushing while on my feet. Fear of the unknown, I suppose. So, I was accepting but none-too-excited when Melena had me stand up so that we could elevate Theo’s (still strong but slightly lowered) heartbeat.

Which is how we arrive at, quite possibly, my least favorite labor memory to date. I don’t know if I was just doing it all wrong or subconsciously fighting the process or…what. But pushing while standing/squatting was miserable. At one point, everything felt stuck in a sadistic merry-go-round of pain. If I stood, it was excruciating. If I squatted, it was agony. Everything was shaking and the room was swimming. I could hear myself gasping (I’m not a screamer, and my breathing is usually pretty controlled, so hearing myself dragging in wheezing puffs of air was a bit disconcerting). All I remember is fire and pressure and Melena and Kathryn chanting, “Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.” I had finally reached my, “I’m going to die,” moment, but it was quite different than I was used to.

Thankfully, I was able to get back on the bed quickly, and everything immediately felt better. Not great, mind you. But less like a panic attack on a constant loop. Which is kind of funny since she asked me what I was feeling (the word PAIN came to mind), and I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Well, you seemed like maybe you were having an anxiety attack.” Out loud, I said, “Maybe…I’ve never had one before,” but I think my brain was going, “Uh uh. That sounds right.”

The next half hour or so is a blur of pushing that felt like it might-actually-but-not-quite be working until the moment when, in the middle of what I was sure was going to be yet another fruitless contraction, I felt a sharp, searing shift in pressure.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that this kid did not slide out as his siblings had. He made me work for every bit of his 21″ body.

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{Theo, only moments after they handed him to me; he had a few battle scars from his reluctant entrance into the world}

(After it was all done, we discovered the reasons for his reluctance to come out: 1) the chord was woven all around his body and kept pulling him back up like a bungee rope each time a pushing contraction ended and 2) his head was off-center, which meant a wider section of skull for me to get out).

I remember being so in itthat I couldn’t think about anything else while at the same time having a strangely out-of-body experience of marveling at the sounds I was capable of producing and the fact that my body could actually survive this much stretching without shattering into a million little shards of pain.

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{This is Melena, my awesome midwife! She was a birth assistant at the twins’ birth, and she has such a chill, gentle way about her that is really reassuring and relaxing and the same time. She and Kathryn both were so amazing as they patiently worked with me to get my obstinate body to give us a baby!}

The moment he was out, the relief came flooding in. They placed him on my chest, and I just kept staring at him and saying, “I can’t believe he’s actually here. It’s over. He’s actuallyhere.”

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{Theo’s feet and hands are HUGE! His feet especially are, hilariously, too long for any of his newborn footie pajamas}

It never ceases to amaze me how it can go from being so, so bad to so, so good in the space of a mere second or two.

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{This man…goodness, I am blessed to have him. He stays by my side through every long hour of every one of my labors, never wavering or complaining, always helpful without hovering. Gee, I sure do love him}

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{Tired, but oh-so-happy!}

Praise God for his goodness and mercy in allowing me to have another healthy, precious baby.

I remember when a friend of mine had her sixth baby, and I wondered whether the process ever got ho-hum.

It doesn’t. At least not for me. I’m still just as awestruck at childbirth and just as smitten with each new baby. It’s just all too miraculous not to be.

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Theo’s Birth Story {Part 1}

I know not everyone loves a birth story. Some women eat them up like a plate full of freshly fried placenta (and everybody said, “Eeeeew, Aaaabbie!” But seriously, apparently this is becoming a major trend, y’all). Others find them a turn off (like the group of you who shuddered and slammed your laptops shut the second you read the word, “placenta”).

I’m somewhere in between–thriving on the drama and feeling of camaraderie and yet easily turned away by too much gore or unnecessary (but really, that’s pretty subjective) detail.

And so I find myself in a quandary–wondering how much to include, while still keeping the integrity of the story intact.

Still, at the risk of this getting really (and I mean, really) long, I feel like this story isn’t complete unless I rewind about 7 weeks to the moment when, at a mere 36 weeks pregnant, I suddenly started having regular, crampy contractions at my mom’s house one night for no apparent reason. Within ten minutes, my muscles started to spasm uncontrollably as my teeth chattered in my head (the result, I’m sure, of a surge of adrenaline at the prospect of delivering a preemie).

I lay down, gulped a few glasses of water, and practiced Lamaze breathing (hilariously enough, my mom chose that moment to introduce me to the tv series, Call the Midwife, so I could “take my mind off of the contractions.” It totally worked. Watching other people push babies out of their bodies was perversely calming).  And sure enough, the contractions eventually eased up, the muscle cramp in my lower back gradually released its death grip, and, within an hour, I felt as normal as an 8-month-pregnant girl can expect.

Honestly, it gave me a bit of a scare, but the most lasting effect was to trick my mind into something I had been refusing to even consider: that I might have an early baby, even though all of my common sense told me that this little guy would surely stay put as long as possible, just like 4 off my other 5 had done (Ezra, my first, was, quite surprisingly, 6 days early; I’m starting to suspect that it was because I was in much inferior physical shape to my current state; and, yes, that is an annoying thought).

Fast-forward to 38ish weeks pregnant and the Wednesday when my Braxton Hicks contractions just wouldn’t let up, for the love. I mentioned them to my midwife at my appointment that day, and she raised her eyebrows significantly and said, “Hmmm…maybe I’ll be seeing you later on tonight.”

I rolled my eyes and poo-pooed her suggestion with my usual, “Yeah right. He’ll show up 3 weeks from now.” (Just call me a prophet).

But then I went to teach Combat, and smack in the middle of a punching track, I had the sharp, twinging sensation that if I twisted too much, my water would break. His head felt that low. I continued contracting throughout the class, grateful for the fact that I tend to grimace while teaching Combat anyway, which meant that probably nobody thought too much of the, “Ow, that hurt,” faces I kept making in the middle of a roundhouse kick. In fact, I remember being distinctly relieved when a fellow instructor came in about halfway through the class because I thought, “Well, if my water breaks, at least Peggy can teach something for the rest of the class time.” (Side note: this specific instructor has been known to joke about her nightmare being that one of our pregnant instructors’ waters would break on stage. I’m so glad I wasn’t the one to bring it to life).

By the time I got home, the contractions hadn’t lessened a bit–were, in fact, increasing in intensity and duration. I even said to Shaun, “If these stick, I think we’re in business.”

In FACT, I drove to Walmart that night for various home birth necessities because I hadn’t bothered to order my birth kit yet. (For those who don’t know, a birth kit is a box of home-birthing items like sterilized cord clamps, blue pads, and such).

I’ve mentioned before that I’m really familiar with Braxton Hicks contractions and how deceptively painful/intense they can be. But these were different. When they just vanished after several hours of steady work, I knew they weren’t real, but I remember thinking/saying, “Any other time, those contractions would have meant that I was going into labor. Weird.”

I proceeded to say some version of those words for the next 3 weeks. Sometimes, I woke up all night long with intense, burning contractions, only to have them vanish the moment I put my feet on the ground in the morning. Sometimes, they showed up around 3 in the afternoon and lasted a good 6 hours. But they never decided to stick around and develop a strong, regular pattern.

At my 39 week appointment, my cervix was completely posterior (tilted toward my back), which meant that the contractions weren’t even doing a bit of good. I wasn’t dilated or effaced. No progress had been made. Huzzah for pointless pain!

As best I could, I ignored them, grateful that there was plenty to keep me busy (hello, Christmastime) and always slightly relieved after the fact when I got to tick one more fun thing off my “might-get-to-it-before-the-baby-comes” list (my baby shower, a Mama’s-day-out of childcare at my gym, Christmas day, etc.). My “due date” (the 20th) came and went, and I wasn’t too surprised.

But once all that was done, it started feeling a bit silly to still be contracting all the time…to still be pregnant.

If you’ve read the twins’ birth story, then you know that I had a somewhat similar experience that lasted a mere 4 days (but included multiple bouts of uncontrollable shakes and feeling crummy to make it extra-special).

And I must admit to feelings of déjà vu after I had Shaun take the kids to my mom’s on Saturday, December 27th, somewhat convinced that “this really is it,” only to have to shake my head and shrug when he got back an hour later because–yet again–”they just stopped.”

When nothing much changed on Sunday morning, we decided to pretend like I wasn’t pregnant, and even if I were, he wasn’t coming out ever anytime soon…which translated into finally finishing up Della’s big-girl room (just so we could rip it apart again a day later…more on that very, very soon) and a trip to “town” for a date day of errands (he ended running the errands while I got a pedicure with a friend; I wouldn’t complain if this became a habit) and Asian food (because, when you’re ticking foot massage and all other potential labor starters off the list, spicy Kung Pao Chicken sounds like a good idea). We even stopped by some friends’ house on the way home and spent the evening chatting, while I tried not to grimace too hard when a particularly nasty contraction hit.

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{Dressed in comfy layers, happy to have Della’s room finished, but wishing I were in serious pain}

The kids were still at my mom’s on Monday morning when…nothing was happening. I had a midwife appointment that afternoon, but I didn’t really expect good news.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when my midwife told me I was dilated to almost a 4 and 50% effaced. Progress! I’d forgotten what that beautiful word meant. My birth assistant was there for that appointment as well, and she gave me a list of exercises to do whenever I had a contraction to hopefully speed the process along and loosen up my stubbornly tight ligaments.

I was still having occasional contractions, so I headed to the mall (since it was cold and wet outside), stuffed some ear-buds in, and proceeded to march around the perimeter of the stores, listening to a book on Audible and ignoring the squeeeeeeeeze in my belly, even when it was hard to walk through it. I’m sure I looked ridiculous–a mountainously pregnant lady stomping around and around the mall with an expression of extreme focus on her face.

I stopped into a few stores here and there, but mostly, I marched. For two hours. And then I went to World Market. Because that totally makes sense when you’re trying to go into labor.

When I finally made it home, Shaun raised an eyebrow at me, and I just shrugged. The contractions were still coming, and they felt a bit stronger…maybe. But I knew they weren’t anywhere close to producing a baby. So, we watched an episode of Downton Abbey while folding three loads of laundry. And all the while, I guzzled Red Raspberry Leaf tea and faithfully performed my “labor exercises” every time a contraction hit.

After several hours of this, apparently I screwed up my face enough that Shaun got his phone out and started timing the contractions. 45 seconds long. T-W-E-L-V-E minutes apart. (After 3 weeks of this nonsense, people; if you didn’t believe that my body is stubborn before, I hope you do now).

Around 11:30, the contractions were more like 9 minutes apart and considerably stronger. But I still wasn’t too hopeful. I was pretty sure I couldn’t sleep through them, though, so we decided to stay up, Shaun fiddling on his phone in between timing them and me straddling an ottoman beside the bed while I alternated between burying my head in the mattress and breathing through a contraction and editing pictures of Della’s room. Within an hour and 1/2, the contractions were down to 5-6 minutes apart and more like a minute long.

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{Editing pictures while contracting;  hence, the intense expression}

By 1 AM, I was finally convinced that I might possibly, actually, maybe, sort of be in labor.

Still, it was strange because, although the contractions were pretty intense, they were still 5 minutes apart. I literally had time to edit pictures and carry on a conversation between each one. Considering that the pattern was tending toward longer, stronger, and (a little) closer together, though, I decided to call my midwife–she lives an hour away–and at least get her headed in the right direction.

By the time she showed up at 3 AM, my muscles were starting to shake (thank you, lack of sleep + adrenaline). BUT! I was dilated to almost an 8! It couldn’t be too much longer now.

The thing is, despite the shaking and the contractions, I felt too normal to be that close to the end. I’ve heard-tell of such magical occurrences as virtually painless labor, but the magic has yet to visit me. In my experience, unless I feel like I’m going to die, my baby’s staying put.

Sure the contractions hurt. A lot. But they weren’t unbearable. Especially after I got in our tub. I looked up at my midwife and said, “What? Are these the same contractions?? They’re like a third of the pain!”

She just smiled and said, “They’re the same.” (Big thumbs up to water-labor!)

Sadly, I only got to enjoy that little miracle for about an hour. My contractions just weren’t progressing. So, sometime around 4:30 in the morning, I climbed out, dried off, and proceeded to spend the next 2 1/2 hours doing everything from lunging the stairs two at a time over and over to lying flat on the bed, falling asleep from sheer exhaustion between contractions to–well–everything in between. Anything to get the contractions revved up enough get this little boy out.

Finally, my midwife checked me again, and I was pretty well fully dilated.

So, I texted my prayer girls–who had been riding the weeks-long roller-coaster of “maybe tonight” with me–and said, “I’m dilated to a 9. I just need the urge to push!”

That was somewhere around 7 AM, a good 13 hours after I experienced the first contraction that I’d dared to let myself think might possibly by the start of something real.

Of course, I definitely didn’t expect what came next…

But you’ll have to wait for Part 2 to hear about that. :)

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