You arrived on the day that Winter Storm Braden was blowing through and two days before a full moon. Daddy had his alarm set for 4:30am and he was packed and ready to head out of town for the week for work. Thankfully, you decided to announce your little arrival at 4:17am with the subtle, yet sure, “pop!” of my water breaking. I had been having a few minor contractions earlier in the night, but nothing that I thought would be heralding impending labor, so I am extremely grateful for the very obvious sign that Daddy should stay put.
Daddy and I got up and got the bed and birth supplies ready, he notified his boss, and then we sat and strategized how we were going to manage the day: would we send your brothers and sisters off to school? Would we just send them with Grandma? Not knowing how long things were going to take, we decided that treating it like any other day would be our best bet. So after a brief rest, we got up and started getting the big kids off to school. They didn’t know that you were working on making your appearance and they couldn’t tell that as I helped Daddy get bowls and glasses for breakfast, I would lean against the counter top and gently sway through the contractions that had begun to come about every 7 minutes.
After we got the big kids onto their buses, we called Grandma to let her know that you were coming so she could come and take your brother, C. It was about 8:15 when she arrived. The contractions were coming about every 5 minutes now, but they were still very mild. While I preferred not to talk through them, I could if I needed to, and then as soon as one was over, I was back to just going about the day. Because of this, I assumed we had quite a ways to go yet, so it was decided that Grandma would just pick the big kids up from school. Daddy finished packing some clothes for everybody and we sent C and Grandma on their way.
It was now about 8:30 and I decided I better get in the shower and get cleaned up. The warm water was really nice and we had a little chat, you and I. I still couldn’t believe that you were really coming! As a mama who’s never had a baby come early, I still figured I had at least a week of being pregnant with you yet. It took me a little while to do my hair and brush my teeth because I would stop during each contraction and just close my eyes and focus on getting to see your sweet face. Eventually, because I was taking so long, Daddy came in to check on me and I told him that everything was just fine. I could still talk normally between contractions and just gently swayed back and forth during them. I clearly was in denial about how far along I was.
I finished getting ready and went to lay down on the bed to rest a bit. The second contraction on the bed made me get up on my hands and knees and as I heard a small grunt pass my lips and my body give just the slightest push, I thought “Oh crap! This is for real now!” All it took was that one contraction for me to realize that I had quite suddenly entered active labor and I needed my midwife to come. Now! Daddy called her at 9:12 and because we had called her earlier in the morning to let her know my water had broken, she was ready to come and immediately headed out the door. Our midwife is very wise, K, and she had a feeling that you would come in a hurry and that I would wait until the last minute to call her. Add the blizzard conditions outside into the mixture, and I am once again so grateful for her wisdom and preparation.
The whole time throughout labor, I kept comparing benchmarks I had had during C’s birth. When I got that first urge to push, I figured I was about 6-7cm dilated since that seems to be when I get that sensation. I made my way to the bathroom and as another contraction hit, it brought me to my knees and once again, I felt my body pushing just the slightest bit. At this point, Daddy brought me some towels to kneel over and said a prayer for both of us, and as contraction after contraction hit in rapid succession, I quite literally just held on for the ride. I would lean over the toilet seat in between contractions because it was so nice and cool on my face and then I would grip the seat cover as hard as I could during a contraction while I squatted over the towel. And noisy! Oh K, your mama was filling the bathroom with quite the guttural sounds that I’m not sure I could replicate outside of being in labor.
At this point, Daddy began to fill up the birth pool. I’m not sure he realized how quickly things were progressing either. It was only halfway full when I decided I absolutely needed to be in the water despite it not being quite ready yet. Because the contractions were coming so close together, I couldn’t stand up in between them so I crawled the short 3 foot distance between the bathroom and the birth pool. Just as I reached the edge of the pool, another contraction hit and I leaned over the edge, just grateful for my arms to be in the warm water.
It was then that I felt that the water pouring out of the hose into the pool was ice cold!! My instincts made me grab the hose out of the pool and shout at Daddy, “It’s cold water!!” I think he was not happy with me for just whipping a running hose onto the floor of our bedroom, but I didn’t have time to be rational at this point. So your daddy went to work filling pots of water to be heated on the stove so we could fill the pool the rest of the way.
When that next contraction was over, I climbed my way over the edge of the pool and sunk as low as I could in the half-deep water. But as the next contraction came over me, and I got up on my knees to lean over the edge of the pool, I felt overwhelmed and out of control and I cried into a towel. It was then that it dawned on me in some far-away place in my brain that these contractions I had been feeling were transition. It was another benchmark that I had been watching for: the time during labor where I feel that I am absolutely out of control and contractions come one on top of the other; when it seems that I just can’t possibly do this for one second longer.
And then just as quickly as I made that realization, the next contraction came with a new purpose: I could feel that you had dropped into the birth canal and it was time to push for real. It was another familiar benchmark along the way. Pushing contractions come with such a relief for me since they space out a bit and don’t carry with them the incredible loss of control that their previous counterparts do. I remember acknowledging the “rest and be thankful” phase in between the last “transition” contraction and the first “pushing” one. I remember in that moment understanding intellectually really how far we had progressed, but still being in denial that it could be happening this fast.
I believe I had pushed in earnest maybe 3 or 4 times when I told Daddy that I could feel your head. I couldn’t believe it! There you were just ready to come out! And then I started bugging him about when our midwife was going to arrive. It felt like it couldn’t possibly be taking her this long, given the miles you and I had covered. Because we had traveled so quickly, so far, time took on a very skewed perspective. But he got up and looked out the window, and there she was, just pulling in.
Our dear midwife arrived at 10:03 after battling the wintry roads. I remember proudly telling her that I could feel your head and she said “Well, OK then! Let’s have a baby!” and she sat down on the floor in front of me. I think there was about 2 pushes where I would push and then feel your head move back up and then swivel from side to side like you were shaking your head “no”. Instinctually, I just felt that you and I needed to work out our positioning a bit. I had been leaning over the edge of the pool and it seemed to me that your head was hitting the front of my pubic bone. I asked our midwife about that and she said that sometimes women find it easier to lean back just a bit and let baby come out forward. I was also trying to not push too hard and quickly and just “breathe” you out, but we decided to go ahead and “just push a baby out”. So during the next contraction, I leaned back ever so slightly and pushed your little head out all at once. With just one more push, I felt your front shoulder come out and then just like that, you swam up to meet me and I grabbed you into my hands and up to my chest! You were here!!! You arrived at 10:13am – just 10 minutes after our midwife arrived and almost exactly one hour from the moment I decided I was in labor for real!
We didn’t look right away to see if you were a boy or a girl – we were so busy loving you just for the wonderful, new little person you are. But when we took a peak and discovered you were a girl – the third girl to even out the score against three boys – tears filled our eyes.
Just like your brother before you, you didn’t cry right away when you were born and our midwife asked me to give you a few breaths to get you going and let you know you were born. You still didn’t let out a lusty cry, but you assured us that all was well as you pinked up and we watched the gentle rise and fall of your chest.
You have continued to be so quiet and peaceful… a total contrast not only to the weather you arrived in, but to the rate at which you arrived. You open your beautiful eyes and look around the room and at all of us around you and just quietly take it all in. We are so, so, so in love with you, sweetheart. I can’t wait to someday share this story – your story – with you and let you know how you reminded me of the beauty of losing complete control and just surrendering and trusting and believing.
All my love,