Category Archives: Birth Story

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.

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{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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