Two weeks ago on September 18th I was 40 weeks 1 day. It was a beautiful Tuesday. It had been raining nearly nonstop for three days prior and I knew they were calling for clear cool skies that day. So I had planned to get us all out of the house and go to the zoo with my sweet munchkins. The house was ready for baby, my mind was beyond ready for baby, and we were going out on the town to enjoy the day.
At the zoo my Middlest said of this sign, “Look, Mama, it’s you!” Maybe it’s that the baby is “in” the mama’s belly. But don’t think the thought didn’t cross my mind that he meant I might be waddling a bit like a penguin.
And the reason for the waddle was, of course, this gargantuan belly. I snapped this photo while sitting down watching the kiddos play at the zoo playground. The belly, my sitting down legs, and the face on my t-shirt cracked me up.
Little did I know that would be the last belly pic I would take before she made her appearance.
We walked the zoo that day for 2 1/2 hours. I texted to Matt at one point that the zoo trip was the best idea I’d had in weeks. It was gorgeous, the kids ran their energy out, and I wasn’t totally miserable.
We went home, I started a crockpot of chili for our home group, rested for a few minutes, then rushed off to my prenatal with my midwife. At that point I was a bit overwhelmed. I had the kids alone in the appointment and they were really restless. They were loud as we tried to talk about all the whatifs of going another week over my due date. We discussed where the OB would fit into that equation and her requirements for biophysical profiles plus another GBS test. Not to mention my sweet baby’s perfect positioning of the week before had turned back to posterior (baby’s back to my back – which can lead to longer and more painful labors). The main encouragement of that prenatal was that her heart rate sounded great and she was engaged.
We went home, I filled Matt in on the appointment, I grabbed the pot of chili and ran off to home group. It was a busy day and I was glad for the distraction. I remember texting Matt as we drove up to the driveway that I would need his assistance to get children to bed because I was just nearly done by the 9 o’clock hour. I did manage to do quite a few of the spinning baby exercises before going to bed.
The next morning began typically. I saw Matt off to work and fed kiddos. I sat down to watch tv with them because I was really tired and kind of full body hurting, which I chalked up to overdoing it the day before. At about 8am Matt texted me from work and asked, “Baby yet?” I told him nope, but that I really needed some rest and Tylenol because I was hurting. He told me to “double down” and go hike Pinnacle Mountain with the kiddos. Ha! He’s ohsofunny.
At 8:30am I went to the bathroom and realized I had lost my mucus plug. I’ve never been aware of losing it before and had always wondered if you would really know when you did. Um, yes. You most certainly do know. And that’s all I will say about that. I texted my midwife to tell her and confirmed that yes, it means things are happening (the cervix has to be opening for that to happen), but that it could be anywhere from that afternoon to 2 weeks later. I still wasn’t really getting my hopes up. I texted Matt and told him to not get too excited, but hey, this is just what was going on.
A few minutes later I realized that I was having contractions, but they felt like the typical Braxton-Hicks that I’d been feeling for weeks. I did take note that with each one in the first hour that I was having a bit of a bowel movement. I also started writing them down, just to be sure they weren’t the real things, but I was still in denial that it was the real deal. They were kinda regular at about 10-12 minutes apart. But again, this pattern was not entirely unusual for me and with water and lying down in the past had made them mostly stop. Knowing that, didn’t stop me from doing the things I needed to do though. I am, after all, a mom to 5 other children. I fixed breakfast, changed tv shows, broke up squabbles, wiped bottoms, and did dishes. At one point I did get a shower, fix my hair, put on makeup, and joked on fb that I needed to be prettified if this was it since I had a professional photographer coming to take labor pics.
At that point it was about 9:30am and the contractions were still going (since I was still running around) and I decided to text my midwife and Matt again to let them know that I was going to lie down, drink a bunch of water, and chill. I didn’t call Matt home at this point because I wasn’t convinced this was it yet and he had some pretty big presentations at work that he needed to oversee. I didn’t want to pull him home from that for another false alarm. Matt, at this point said, “Are you SURE you don’t want me to come home? I don’t want you to have a baby at home with 5 kids alone.” I joked with him about making the news for that. He obliged, but stayed in constant contact with me. My midwife suggested I continue to track the contractions (that at this point had dropped to between 7 and 9 minutes apart) and that I prepare to take a nap with my 2 year old at his regular naptime (which was going to be around 11am).
I laid down at 9:30am. My sweet girl asked if she could write the time down for me for each contraction. I said sure and handed her my phone to keep track of the time. She was so excited. She pulled a chair up to my bedside, kept my phone with her, got me ice water, and doodled sweet notes to me. I alternated resting, sipping water, texting Matt, and doing the baby spinning exercises. The other kiddos at this point were watching TV and playing.
After about an hour at 10:30ish the contractions were holding steady between 7 and 9 minutes and were still not really that big of a deal. I was still cuddling kiddos, parenting from the bed, and chatting with my sweet girl. I still was not completely convinced this was it. Hence, me not calling Matt home immediately, not calling Melissa (who lives an hour and 15 minutes away), not calling the grandparents to retrieve the kiddos yet. Y’all, I’m not stupid, I promise. But hindsight is 20/20 and at the time the contractions didn’t feel any different than the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having for so long, they weren’t getting stronger, and I was still completely parenting and in control between contractions. Plus, compared to my hospital experiences this was a total cake walk. And the contractions were kind of back and forth in the time. I didn’t want to alarm everyone, get everybody to drop everything for me just to go, “Oh, wait, it’s yet another false alarm, go back about your business, please.” So, I waited.
Thankfully, my midwife did not, she was having meetings that morning not far from me and was sticking close even though I was downplaying the whole thing to her. And at about 10:30am Matt called me and I told him I was really beyond ready for him to come home. I still wasn’t positive, but I had not been actively parenting and entertaining the younger kiddos enough because they were bouncing off the walls and I knew lunchtime was looming, getting them food was more than I could think about at the time. Matt left work about 10:45 and got home about 11am. When he came in I went to try and lay down with my 2 year old for naptime and he began getting the kids to pick up the house and preparing the front room for the birthing pool. He watched me have a couple of contractions and suggested strongly that I call Amy, my midwife, and make it clear to her how I was feeling. I did, she listened through one of my contractions and suggested I go ahead and call grandparents to come, even if it ended up being a false alarm. I tried the nap, but by then I was having to focus too much on the contractions to get my 2 year old Little Buddy to settle. I gave it up and sent him to play with the other kids and Matt. I called Amy back and updated her. Yes, by this time, I thought we were in fact possibly having a baby that day. But I still had some doubts. What can I say, I was in total denial! Grandparents started our way, Matt vacuumed, and I paced the floor while reassuring kiddos that I was okay, just having a baby. ;)
Amy walked in about 11:50am to assess the situation and help with childcare until the grandparents got there. She said judging by my demeanor during the contractions that she guessed I was at about 4 centimeters, which she didn’t mention to me (in all fairness, she and I thought grandparents would walk in any second, take the kids, then we could proceed to fill up the birth pool and she would check me. And I didn’t think to tell her, oh, by the way, I’ve never seen any numbers between 4 centimeters and “push!” because there’s usually only about 20 minutes from there to here.)
I thought I still had plenty of time because I was still totally parenting between contractions and they seemed very scattered (the contractions as well as the kids!) What I didn’t realize or communicate was that they were clustering. What I thought was a contraction, then 2 minutes later another, then 7 minutes later another were actually 2 or 3 contractions on top of another. After less than 10 minutes of having Amy there (some time just before 12 noon, I think) I remember Matt going into the kitchen to hook up the hose for the birthing pool, Amy spread the tarp and pool out, the kids were running around the room and I had just looked at this sweet picture by my girl.
Then I asked someone to get me a cup of water. My 2 year old ran to help and brought an empty cup to me. Amy was sitting in my front window seat. I leaned over the couch arm in the dining room to have another contraction and the 2 year old was jumping up and down in front of me saying,”Here’s your cup, Mama!” over and over. And then my water broke. Everything went super crazy at that point. The feeling I’ve had before where all of my senses dull or become fuzzy – my hearing is kind of like everything is a room away, very dulled. My sight become almost like a tunnel – very focused right in front of me, nearly blocked in peripheral. I remember being aware of the 2 year old jumping directly in front of me and the urge to push being completely overwhelming. I looked around to find Amy, still sitting across the room from me, the kids running around the room. And I couldn’t speak. Literally could not speak above a whisper. And consequently I could not get Amy’s attention. I kept trying to whisper her name and my Middlest noticed it. He said to Amy, “Um, Ms. Amy, I think Mom thinks she’s in labor.” It makes me smile now. At that point I knew something had to give. As in, I had to PUSH! So I started pulling my pants down right where I stood because I could not move otherwise. Several thoughts at this point.. I needed to check to see that the fluid was clear and not meconiumed, I needed to get someone’s attention and I had no other way to do it, I can’t have the baby out here because it may traumatize my children, and most of all I AM HAVING THIS BABY NOW! It was at that point that Amy took note that, “Hey, Suzanne is getting naked. In the dining room!” She told the kids they could blow up the birthing pool (to keep them busy) and came over; I whispered it was time. Right now. If my children had not been there I have no doubt I would’ve had that baby girl right there in the dining room. But I was so concerned about the birth traumatizing them that I was determined to get to my bedroom. I started trying to walk, but couldn’t so Amy had me lean on her and we made it to the door of the kitchen. Where my poor husband was still working to get the hose hooked up. Amy calmly and quietly asked Matt to come with us to the bedroom. I couldn’t verbalize the fact that the baby was only seconds from being here and that I was working with all I had to keep her from coming until we got to the room. Amy thought that it was time or nearly time, but that we could get to the bedroom and she could check me and we could assess the situation. Matt had no idea just how close we were. That walk down my short hallway seemed about 10 miles long. I got to the bed with Amy very near me trying to check my progress. Matt was on the other side of the bed. I was pushing as soon as I got onto the bed. Amy saw that she was already crowning. Matt said, “What do we do?” To which Amy smiled and said, “We have a baby.” To me she whispered jokingly and smiling, “How do you feel about not having a water birth.” To Matt she said, “Lock the door.” She knew I did not want the kids walking in for the actual birth. One or two pushes and her head was out. Amy checked for her cord, I pushed again and out she came. She had turned into the perfect position with all the exercises I had done the night before and day of. She weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces (our largest baby) and was 20 1/2 inches long. It was 12:07pm. Not quite 20 minutes after Amy got here. Not quite 20 before my parents-in-law would be here for the kids. Not quite 4 hours after labor had started.
When she came out there were a couple of noteworthy things. Her cord was rather short so I couldn’t bring her all the way up to my chest. She was not taking the breath she needed so Amy gave her a couple of good breaths. The kids had been unattended for about 5 minutes. Matt stepped to the door to tell them they could have all of my labor snacks I had been saving and they could raid the Gatorade. I would not be needing them for labor it would seem. That bought us a few more minutes to get the cord cut, wipe her down, and hide the mess I had made. Then Matt stepped out to warn the kiddos that the baby’s color would look a little weird, but that she was okay. I had not prepared them for how she would look immediately after birth because I had not PLANNED on them being there!
My oldest had texted my m0ther-in-law when he knew she was born to say, “Mama had the baby.” My mother-in-law (who was only 15 minutes away at that point) said she didn’t believe the text because my husband tends to play jokes on people and tends to get our children involved in the jokes. She said to my father-in-law, “that is the meanest joke Matt’s ever played!” A few minutes later he texted her again and said, “I’ve seen my baby sister now.” When she received that text she said she cried and prayed and cried some more. Because she knew that one was truly from the Oldest’s heart. They cried and prayed thanking God the rest of the way here.
The kids saw their new baby sister and said she looked like an alien. They took note that she had hair. And they ran around excited that Nana and Papa were on their way to take them for an adventure day!
I nursed my new baby immediately, Matt lit candles, Amy cleaned up, and once the kiddos were gone she prepared to stitch up my first degree tear. Amy gave me a local and sutured me. My hate of needles and my desire to just have it all over with was the worst part of the whole experience. And it only lasted for a bit. All while I held my new baby.
Then Amy ran me an herbal bath, Matt went to get us some Jason’s Deli sandwiches and I spent time nursing and cuddling my new girl. Amy cleaned everything and chatted with me, bringing me drinks and snacks. I was pampered beyond belief and enjoyed the rest of my beautiful evening. After the bath, Matt got back, Amy, Matt and I ate sandwiches, chatted, and rehashed the day.
It was 3pm on September 19th by then and I was at peace. Amy checked and assessed everything one more time and left by about 4:30pm, I think. Then it was just Matt, our new bundle, and me in the setting sun of the day, in a clean house, with pumpkin spice candles burning, and gentle peace of the early evening.
This, this is how it was meant to be. I would do it again tomorrow if I could. The only regret of the entire day was that I didn’t get my friend and photographer, Melissa Stover, there. She did come last week, took a few photos, and even blogged about the missed opportunity. If you live in the central Arkansas area I definitely recommend Melissa Stover for your family and birth photography and of course, Amy Cefalo of Natural State Midwife Services for the best home birth experience ever. If I could go back and have the first 5 at home, I would in a heartbeat. Such a beautiful experience from beginning to end.