The following is the birth story of my little girl, Laurel May, a story that I will love and cherish forever.
As Memorial Day Monday rolled around, I started to feel increasingly anticipatory, as the baby’s due date was on Friday, June 03. Because Everett had arrived three and a half weeks early we never had any chance to anticipate his birth, so every moment of the final three weeks of pregnancy was new and unknown territory for me. As my belly and ankles swelled to previously unseen levels, I felt antsy and restless, tired of being so large that rolling over in the night or getting out of bed to pee was a major and uncomfortable undertaking. All throughout the last month of my pregnancy I had been having frequent and intense Braxton Hicks contractions, with a few actual contractions thrown in here or there, but no additional real signs that labor was nearing.
On Memorial Day, Monday, however, I started to feel that labor might be underway soon. I was very tired, getting more irritable and swollen by the day, but mostly I was starting to have more period-like cramping in my low abdomen, on top of the constant and long lasting (think 2-3 minutes) Braxton Hicks contractions. In the morning we went to Oakland Park Nursery to buy flowers, and one rogue contraction was intense enough that I had to sit down and want to rest. Monday afternoon and evening continued uneventfully, but Tuesday morning, I again felt the twinges in my stomach. Nothing consistent or timetable, and nothing to make me think “Aha, this is it!” but enough to make me think “Oh, any time now.” I spent the day resting and conserving my energy. By the afternoon and evening, I was back to feeling just cranky and irritable, but wasn’t feeling any more tightening in my abdomen. In the evening, we ate dinner on the front porch, I soaked my extremely swollen feet in cool water while Everett and Chad rode bikes up and down the street, and later Chad and I watched an episode of Call the Midwife before retiring to bed around 11:00.
|Our last appointment with the CHOICE midwives, |
about 6 hours before I went into labor.
|Chad and Everett zoom while I watch from the porch...|
about 4 and a half hours before I go into labor!
We laid down and Chad was out cold in minutes, but I lay there thinking for a bit, and sometime around 11:30 I felt a tightening in my abdomen, which I commonly felt at some point in the night. Usually when it happened, my first thought would be “Ugh. Whatever, if I’m woken up by another one in 10 minutes, then I’ll know something is up, but otherwise, I’m chalking this up to pre-labor.” But for some reason, this time when I felt the small wave, my heart quickened and I also felt a wave of adrenaline with the thought of “Oh my god! Is this it!?” I lay there wired as hell, waiting. Sure enough, I felt another wave a few minutes later. My suspicions aroused, I lay there, waiting, still. And again, I felt another small wave. By this point I thought that I had better download a contraction timer app on my phone. Around 12:15, I started timing the contractions and they were coming every two minutes or so for about a minute to a minute and thirty seconds, fast and consistent but still weak enough. I kept debating in my head over whether or not to try to get some rest, knowing that if things were rolling, they might pick up quickly. I got out of bed and sat on the birth ball, walked the hallway, went and admired my full stomach for what might be the last time in our full length mirror, and went downstairs to grab a Kind bar. All the while, I was timing contractions at a consistent rate of every two minutes for about a minute to a minute and a half each. A little before 1:00 AM, I tried to lay down and rest, but laying down made the otherwise manageable contractions quite painful. Armed with all the evidence, I decided that I was indeed in labor and went and woke Chad up around 1:00 AM.
|Just around 12:50 am before I had awoken Chad. |
I'm saying "Is this it? Last pregnant photo?"
Moving from the bedroom into the media room, Chad and I assessed the situation and discussed what to do. We decided to call our midwife, Mandy around 1:30 AM. She suggested that I hop in the shower and see if the contractions got any more intense or not, the warm water may help create stronger contractions, and then call her back and let her know how things were going. I dawdled and put off getting in the shower, walking around and pacing. Chad started to get Everett’s diapers and clothes ready for a possible trip to Nonna’s while I continued timing contractions. Probably around 2:45, I got in the shower for a few minutes, and got back out, not really sure if anything was moving forward or not. At some point Everett woke up and we tried several times to put him back to sleep, but he was restless and awake and Chad was spending time in bed with him trying to get him to rest. I hadn’t bothered to call the midwife back yet, thinking that I didn’t want to bother her if nothing was progressing. In fact, just around 3:00 AM I was starting to have visions of a long drawn out 40-hour labor, ending in an exhausted trip to the hospital.
Mandy texted at 3:15 and said “Still up? Any change?” to which I responded “Contractions are still every 2-4 minutes and lasting about 1:30 minutes and fairly intense…Not really sure if things are progressing or not.” She responded “Have they gotten any more intense since they began?” And I started to text a response to her, but at that moment I realized that the contractions were getting stronger, stronger to the point where I grimaced and wanted to lean on Chad who was in the other room with Everett. I thought to myself “Why am I sitting here texting my midwife at 3:15 in the morning when I’m having regularly intense contractions!? I’m going to call her to let her know it’s time to come over and at least check my progress.” Which is exactly what I did. Then I went in to get Chad and said “We need to call your mom to come take care of Everett because things are getting more intense and I need you!” Chad got out of bed, threw Everett into a sling on his back, and called his mom at 3:30 AM. He finished getting Everett’s bags ready and waited for Mandy and Marilyn to show up, as I continued pacing and timing my contractions.
|4:00 am on the dot and waiting for Nonna to arrive. |
Everett is saying "Seriously guys!?"
Mandy showed up around 3:45 and even though it’s not necessarily their standard of care, I asked her to check my cervix to see how far I was dilated. I hadn’t felt the need for a vaginal exam in the weeks or days up to this point, but now that labor was firmly under way, I needed a way marker. She checked me, found that I was 7 centimeters dilated, and said “I thought you might be pulling something like this!” Uh yeah, so I guess it was a good thing I called her after all! Marilyn showed up around 4:00 AM, I went downstairs to say hello and see off Everett, carefully timing my descent down the stairs in between contractions, which were coming fast, steady, and strong at this point. Mandy brought in all of her stuff for the birth and our media room was magically transformed from an office/living room area into a (very comfortable) birthing room. She called our other midwife Tanya, who probably showed up around 4:15. They sat in the hallway and talked in very low tones, staying out of our way as my labor continued to progress.
By 4:30, the contractions were starting to become unbearable. I sat on the bed and rested in between and stood and leaned against Chad during each forceful tightening of my lower stomach. I had made a decision early on to focus on my breathing and work quietly though the contractions, and I had been doing great with this, but it was becoming more and more difficult to keep the breaths deep and mindful. The midwives sat and waited while I intermittently sat and then stood and clung to Chad in pain. I remember seeing Mandy sitting at our desk going over notes from our file and Tanya pulling a Foxfire book off our bookshelf and thumbing through it while she sat on the birthing ball. There was a feeling of waiting and passing time in the air. I was working hard at this point, but there wasn’t a lot anyone else could do except wait and offer encouragement when necessary. I remember once I joked to Tanya “Where is my orgasmic birth experience!?” (Which Ina May Gaskin talks about in her books) and she laughed and said “Ha! You’ve been cheated!” At another point I remember clinging on to Chad and looking at Mandy with a look of desperation in my eyes, to which she responded that I was doing great, to relax my shoulders, and breath through it. Then she suggested that I get in the shower to see if that would help ease my contractions at all. I did get in the shower, but right around that time I started feeling the urge to push, so she made me get out so she could check whether I was fully dilated before I started pushing. She checked and said I was fully effaced and could push at any time. She also suggested that my waters might break soon and that I go sit on the toilet since it would be a good place to get my body in position for pushing anyways. I went and sat on the toilet and with Chad standing in the doorway of the bathroom watching me, my bowels forcefully extracted themselves at the same moment that my water forcefully broke. It was a moment that was equal parts gross, impressive, and eternally memorable. About this time, I remember thinking thoughts such as “Goodbye Dignity, goodbye, it was nice knowing you! Bye….”
|4:15 am - about an hour and a half before birth!|
|Husband and wife laboring together.|
So grateful for this image...
|Chad supporting me through a contraction around 5:15 am - only 30 minutes to go!|
At this point it was probably around 5:00 AM and we were in fever pitch, the most difficult and painful part of labor, with a few contractions that were almost unbearable. Time seemed to be dragging on painfully slow, but I knew that when you get to the point where you think you can’t stand it or carry on any longer, you’re really almost there, and so I was. Those few unbearable contractions passed and I began to feel the urge to really push. I stood in the middle of the room, leaning against Chad, and pushing, with the midwives saying “Move to the bed and get on your knees!” I remember not 100% understanding the meaning of the words they were saying even though I could hear them, and also not 100% believing IN the words they were saying. But they persisted, saying “Get on the bed! Kneel on your knees! It’s a better position for pushing and you will have more of your weight supported!” Warily, I fumbled through what they told me and ended up on the bed, on my knees, with my arms around Chad’s shoulders. At that moment I didn’t care about blowing out candles across the room, tiny pushes, or even perineal tears. With great intense and terrible pressure pushing down in my pelvis, I bore down and pushed as hard as I could. I could tell that the head was born and waited for confirmation and approval to push again from the midwives. This was the climax to a night’s worth of work, we were almost there, and no one was sitting idle waiting now. The midwives gave me the go ahead and I pushed again, birthing the body this time. A great gush of fluids came out and so did the baby, with Tanya catching it. The gush was so overwhelming and I called out saying “Is this normal!?” They assured me that it was and with that at 5:47 in the morning of June 1st the newest addition to our family had officially been born! But the story wasn’t quite over yet…
Tanya then said something about how the cord was very short. I was still kneeling on my knees, hanging on to Chad, and hadn’t yet really seen the baby yet, but the midwives were doing something below, I started to get anxious and asked if everything was okay. They said that it was, but they just needed to figure out what we were going to do with the baby and me while waiting for the placenta to be delivered. I asked if it was a boy or a girl and no one knew yet! I think in the end I might have been the one to exclaim that it was a girl, but I really can’t remember. Tanya somehow transferred the baby through my knees and handed her to Chad, while they instructed me how to put my legs and lay back, all the while taking care of the baby not to pull the cord. I remember at one point Chad started to pull the baby up and I said “Don’t move her! The cord is short, leave her where she is!” Finally, I was situated in a laying down position and sweet little Laurel May was placed on my stomach while we waited for the placenta to be delivered. I did so wish to hold her though and after 15 or so minutes they said that they thought the cord had stopped pulsing and that we could go ahead and cut it even though the placenta hadn’t been delivered yet. Yes!! FINALLY I got to hold my baby to my chest! A few minutes later the placenta was delivered, and we checked it out. It was kind of gross looking, but impressive, I suppose. After a bit, I nursed Laurel, the midwives went downstairs to do some paper work, get us some food and juice, and then leave Chad, Laurel, and I to our golden hour.
|The baby with the short cord |
patiently waits on mamma's stomach!
|First nursing session about 30 minutes post-birth|
|8 lbs 4 oz!|
After an hour or so, they came back up and asked if I wanted a shower. I was covered in sweat, blood, meconium, vernix, amniotic fluids, and who knows what all other bodily fluids, so I took full use of the opportunity to get cleaned up. The midwives checked me and Laurel over, tucked us into bed, and after having determined that all was well, left around 9:00 AM. Chad and I were free to cuddle with our new little lady for the rest of the day! Though we were absolutely wracked with exhaustion and we had challenging days and nights ahead of us, we were so thrilled both by how our story unfolded but of course especially by the addition of our new little girl.
|Exhausted Dad takes a moment to rest with his new daughter|
|Mamma baby snuggles|