It’s been 40 weeks + 6 days. I stay up working on emails until around 9 pm, and noticing a few Braxton Hicks contractions that are more crampy than usual. I try not to get excited. I’ve been hoping to go into labor for more than a week and don’t want to be disappointed.
My husband and I watch some TV and the contractions go away completely by the time I fall asleep around 11 pm.
The day ahead of me is busy with an ultrasound to check fluid levels and a Non Stress Test. I plan to discuss with the midwives the option of sweeping membranes or other ways to get things moving.
At 1 am, I wake up with a contraction that is not too painful, but it’s much longer than a Braxton Hicks. I go back to sleep only to wake back up at 1:15, 1:30, and 1:45. It’s more comfortable to get out of bed and stand/sway than to stay lying down and I’m starting to get excited that our baby girl could finally be coming!
When I’m awake again at 2 am on the dot, I jostle James and tell him what’s been going on. We start timing them together and contractions stay around 12-15 minutes. We “slow dance” through them, me hanging on his taller and stronger frame. Now that I’m sure this is labor, we text the doula and the birth photographer and I make him call the birth center though it is way too early.
Our doula Erika talks to us on speakerphone as I get positioned backward on the toilet, James doing the hip squeeze move he’s been taught. She reminds me to keep my mouth and face open, my voice and tones low. She’s on her way to our house and tells James to get me a banana and my water bottle.
Contractions are now 5 minutes apart and intense so we decide to try another of Erika’s suggestions from our prenatal visit. I get into the shower with the water hitting my low back, my hands high up on the tiles, trying to open up my tailbone and pelvis. I march out my feet during contractions, and rock my hips. The water feels amazing.
James is right outside the shower curtain, with the Contraction app marking our progress. He reminds me we’re going to meet our baby. He tells me I’m strong. He calls my mom to come over and be with our daughter. He doesn’t question me when I say it’s time to go. He packs the car, calls Erika and tells her that there’s a change of plans. We will meet her at the birth center.
I climb into the front seat and am on my knees facing and gripping the head rest. On the 15 minute drive, I have three contractions. James distracts me with some ‘booty shaking’ music and I’m so relieved to pull into the parking lot and to see Erika and the midwife waiting on us.
I can’t get in to the building before another contraction hits. Except this time, we are where we are supposed to be and our team is all around us. Erika expertly takes over the hip squeeze and coaches my breathing.
When I can walk, the midwife Erin helps us inside and we are met with the most soothing environment. Candles are lit, the birth tub is filling up, the stage is set. She wants to check my cervix, see how far I’m dilated, and asks if I have to go to the bathroom first.
When so much is happening in your pelvis, you forget about peeing, so I sit on the toilet as another contraction hits. When Erin sees my face she asks, “do you feel pushy?” I honestly respond, “I don’t know what I feel.” But that was exactly what was happening and when I do push, my water breaks into the toilet. We give up on peeing. There’s a baby in the way!
I lay on the bed and Erin confirms that I’m complete. Fully dilated. Ready to go! I savor a moment of feeling so supported by the women in the room and my husband at my side. I even quickly pray aloud so thankful to have knowledge and skills and experience around me, when my body is moving faster than I can mentally process.
I am indecisive about where I want to go next. The bed doesn’t feel right, and someone guides me to the tub. I half squat, half kneel in the water and Erin listens to the baby’s heart tones once before a contraction comes and I’m able to do what my body tells me to do and push. Erin tells me she can already feel the baby’s head and it feels so fast. I hear my voice panicky and Erika helps me slow my breathing and focus so that the next contraction, the baby’s head is out!
And then that hard moment, in between contractions, where you have to hold still when stillness feels impossible and frankly, stillness hurts because a baby’s head is partially out!
But quickly another contraction comes and with it, all the momentum that I need to push her head out. I am in shock when Erin says just one more push for her body and then, there she is, beautiful Mabel Grace, in my arms.
Four pushes to go from pregnant to mother.
Four pushes to go from frenzy to calm.
We stay in the tub and James kisses us, cries, tells me how proud he is. I know he cried because I can hear it in the audio of an iPhone video that was recording and got dropped on the floor.
I am helped on to the bed as our birth photographer Jessica arrives. I’m unconcerned about the lack of professional documentation. Our baby girl is here.
Her story is her story, even if it’s pieced together through amateur photos and her parents’ recollection.
Jessica stays with us all morning, watching through her lens as we admire Mabel’s neck rolls, her dark hair, her full lips. She sucks on her hand and eventually finds my breast. The midwife and doula go home or on to other mamas in labor. Emily, our cranio sacral therapist, arrives and works on both of us. I’m relaxed, enjoying this time while the world is still dark and we are nestled in this bed, totally cared for. We plan to hang out at the birth center and rest for a while this morning, take advantage of quiet that doesn’t often happen around a toddler.
When it’s a reasonable hour to wake up Lillian to meet her sister, she arrives with my mom. The baby brought her big sister presents! Lily makes note of Mabel’s long fingernails (41 weeks after all) and is thoroughly grossed out when some meconium gets on her pajama pants. Jessica takes amazing photos of our new family of four and then says goodbye to us.
This should be where we get discharged and we all pack up to go home. I’ve had a relaxing bath and Tracy, the midwife in charge, has given me the slew of discharge instructions: I’m to go from their bed to my own bed. They’ll be at our house on Saturday for our two day check but of course call if anything comes up before then. She gives advice for how to handle sibling rivalry. She should know. She has six of her own!
However we aren’t headed home just yet. I start feeling dizzy. My blood pressure has fallen and I’m dehydrated. I faint and James sends my mom to find Tracy. I get oxygen and a Methergine shot used to control postpartum hemorrhage. Tracy does more uterine massage and a mass of clots come out. She asks what I’ve had to eat or drink and James realizes I haven’t come close to replacing lost fluids. I chug coconut water and regular water and every fifteen minutes, Tracy is back checking blood pressure and bleeding. Ultimately she runs an IV with fluids and more Pitocin so my uterus will continue to contract and stop bleeding.
Having so many contractions hurts, but I’m able to fall asleep and at the next check, the bleeding has slowed. I’m still not sure if I should have worried about losing so much blood. What I know is that my care providers were handling the situation in a way that I didn’t have to worry. Tracy has a number of catchy phrases she has clearly used for years catching babies. One is “tools and drugs when we need them.” I’m lucky I was in a place with tools, drugs and midwives who exude confidence.
Finally, I can stand and shower and we pack up to go home, with our discharge instructions once again. Now it’s after 1 pm and the buzz of the birth center is in full swing. On our way out, we see so many friendly faces and are congratulated on Mabel’s birth. It feels like so long since she was born already!
Today Mabel is thirteen days old. We nurse for hours a day. She loves to sleep on me, which is why it’s taken me five days to get this written down and another week to post.
She doesn’t protest when the dog licks her feet or sniffs her cord, or when her big sister is a little too exuberant a little too close.
I marvel at her unaffected and mellow demeanor. Granted we can use some mellow in our family that goes and goes sometimes too much and too often.
Mellow is the last word I would use when I think about her entrance into the world. It was so fast I could barely keep up. So fast her head stayed round. “Like a cannonball,” someone said.
Time will tell if she’ll be a mellow mountain girl (she was conceived in Vail after all) or if she will live her life bursting onto the scene just like she burst into our lives.
What a blessing and calling to guide her and witness all that she is and will become.