(the line is VERY faint, but it's there!)
On April 27th, 2012, we found out we were expecting our 4th child. I had hoped that maybe, this time, the birth wouldn't require us to be at the hospital and that we would be able to have this baby at home. I had the same hopes for Dallin's birth, but chose the hospital route with a midwife, and of course laboring at home because it felt right. After a lot of prayers, interviewing providers and pondering about our options, we felt that a home birth would be safe and good for both the baby and I. Even though the laws in Arizona limited me to two providers to choose from (because of my previous c-section), and our insurance refused to help pay for it, we made the commitment and our preparations began.
Charting put my guess date at January 8th, 2013. Dallin was also due on the 8th, but came 4 days later, so I figured there was a good chance something similar could happen. Even so, I went about preparing for this little girl to make her entrance. There were times when the possibility of her coming early ran across my mind, but I usually dismissed it, as I didn't want to psyche myself out. I did buy her a Christmas stocking with her name embroidered on it, so it could hang with the rest of our family's. It didn't feel right for her not have one, as I considered her very much a part of our family already.
Christmas Day had me at 38 weeks on the dot.Three days later, on Friday, December 28th, I had noticed some good practice contractions throughout the day. Nothing uncomfortable, just more consistent than before. I stopped drinking red raspberry leaf tea as my uterus seemed to be toning itself fine without it. I found myself in a nesting frenzy cleaning our house, and even vacuuming late into the night. The day to day messes and dust bunnies were suddenly my worst enemies, and I was determined to come off conqueror. The next morning was Saturday, and I had that same urge to get things done, as well as cross everything off my to-do list.
After getting ready for the day, I walked into the kitchen and noticed that my "spotless masterpiece" no longer existed. It was still "clean", but there were cereal boxes strewn across the counter, bowls half filled with milk and breakfast remnants, and random cabinet doors left open. The clutter wasn't much, but it existed, and that was enough to make me lose my marbles. I was FURIOUS. With less than two weeks before my guess date,I wanted...needed the house to be kept clean. How was I supposed to invite my providers and our new baby into a messy home? At that moment I felt so alone in my goal. I tried to keep calm, but it was no use. I promptly removed myself from the house, sat on our back porch, and cried like my dog had just died.
Kevin found me about 10 minutes later, confused and not sure how to handle my over-hormonal state. He just draped his sweater across my short sleeve shirt and skirt clad body, and walked back into the house. Eventually, I came to and apologized to Kevin for my overreaction. I blotted the black streaks from under my eyes, and we made our way to IKEA to find something to store Josie's clothes in. It was one of the last things on my list.
After deciding on a storage option, we made the 10-mile hike through downtown IKEA with our three kids in tow. I got through the checkout line fairly quickly, but not before the cashier could remark how she didn't think my baby had dropped yet. After we got home, we had lunch and I set out to run my final errands solo. A birthday gift to a friend’s house, a few items dropped off at my in-laws, some returns and grocery shopping at Target, and a last minute trip to a nearby thrift store just for fun. After being gone for a few hours, I realized I had forgotten to bring water with me and was getting dehydrated. I bought a Vitamin Water and drank it every few minutes as I browsed around the thrift store, which was my final stop. It had been a long time since I had treated myself to some thrift store shopping, and it was the perfect way to relax and de-stress.
As I strolled around the store, I noticed a subtle tightness in my back with each contraction. I questioned whether I was really feeling it or not, as it was easy to ignore, but the light sensation continued over and over again. I was also feeling a tiny bit of cramping with each contraction, the same kind that I felt 44 hours before Dallin was born. As I walked through each aisle, I would stop for each contraction and then glance at my phone to check the time. It was about 3:45pm, and the contractions were coming 6 minutes apart. Now the thought of this being "anything" just seemed so silly, especially being 10 days away from my guess date. I don't have a history of pre-40 week babies, and neither do any of the women in my family. Josie was coming in January, or so we thought.
I left the thrift store happy with all that I had accomplished and made my way home. Kevin met me in the garage as I began bringing in groceries, and I mentioned that I was feeling the contractions in my back a little. He asked what that meant. Unfortunately, I could not answer him without the help of a magic crystal ball. Kevin told me that I needed to call someone, but to me, it sounded a little premature. I could understand his urge to be on top of things, if "things" were really happening, but I wanted to try drinking some water and laying down for a while to see if they slowed down. I was dehydrated, and I knew that could effect contractions.
Kevin agreed and began timing my contractions as I relaxed on our bed. After 4 or 5, we found them to be 6-8 minutes apart and lasting about 30-45 seconds, although they didn't seem that long to me. I went ahead and called Kimberly (my doula) at around 5pm, and told her what was happening. I felt kind of silly doing it because there was a chance that this was nothing. Kimberly asked me to try eating and drinking something, and then taking a bath to see if there were any changes. She told me to keep her updated. Kevin took over entertaining the kids while I soaked in an Epsom salt bath and timed contractions with his phone.
5:12, 5:20, 5:26, 5:31,5:34, 5:37, 5:40.....My contractions seemed to pick up while relaxing in the tub, coming every 3 minutes, but still very subtle and manageable. A few good long breaths were all that I needed to relax through them.I got out of the tub and let Kevin know that the contractions were closer together. Without another word, he began rearranging our bedroom furniture to make space for the birth pool.
I thought he was nuts. I wanted to laugh seeing him so convinced that I may be in labor, but at the same time, I wanted to respect his feelings. After all, worse case scenario we could just move the bed back. It was at this point, (around 6pm) that I decided to call my midwife Anne Marie to tell her that something *might* be happening. She would need 30-45 minutes notice to get to our house as she lives in Queen Creek, and she asks all of her clients to let her know if anything labor-like was happening as soon as it starts. Once again, I felt a little unsure as I explained to her that I was feeling some contractions, but she was very kind. She asked if my water had broken, or if I had any bloody show. I told her that I had not experienced either. Anne Marie told me to drink plenty of fluids, eat a good dinner, and try to get a bath or shower in to relax. She said to let her know as soon as anything changed or picked up.
We threw a makeshift dinner together which meant eggs and toast for me, and sandwiches for the kids. Kevin texted his mom to tell her that she may need to take the kids overnight. She responded saying that they were planning on going to a movie and wondered if they shouldn't go. I laughed, and said, "Of course they can go!" "We can text or call them if anything changes, but they are good." It was about 6:45pm.
As we were eating dinner, I brought up the option to Brenna and Brooke of being at the birth. I had spoken with them several times before about it, and what to expect if they decided to stay for it. I knew that birth was still very foreign to them, even after them seeing the video of Dallin being born, and all of our discussions. The last thing I wanted to do was scare them, or make them do anything they didn't want to do. At the same time, I wanted them to have the option, as it could be something really neat for them to experience. A birth versus a sleepover at Grammy's house did not seem like a fair battle, but I was still going to ask. Brooke said she thought it would be too scary for her, and opted for the sleepover at Grandmas, and seeing Josie after she was born. I expected the same from Brenna, but much to my surprise she decided that she was going to stay and be here for the birth. I explained that Josie might not end up coming that night, that there was a chance that she would miss out on a sleepover, and I didn't want her to regret her decision. Even so, she didn't budge and even went to the great lengths of praying right there in front of me that Josie would be born that night. No pressure, right?
After dinner, Kim called me to get an update and offered to come over. She said she could just set up the birth pool and leave if we felt it was too early to have her over. I told her that we were good and that the contractions were super easy to manage. At this point, I decided to take some time to practice taking pictures in our bedroom. We had just gotten a new DSLR camera and weren't very familiar with how to use it in different lighting. I figured why not cross that off my to-do list while I had the time.
It was 7:45pm, and my contractions had stayed consistent, but there were no other signs of true labor. Kevin and I decided to take Kim up on her offer to set up the birth pool. I liked having it in our home and ready when I was pregnant with Dallin, and thought it would be nice to have it up and ready this time as well. Kim said she would be here soon, and planned to stay with me, at least until I knew I could go to sleep for the night. I thought it was a little early for her to stay, but I wasn't going to argue. If someone wanted to come hang out with me and these boring contractions on a Saturday night, then I wasn't going to stand in their way. I was still trying not to psyche myself out that Josie could be coming soon because it can turn into such an ugly mind game. But for some reason others seemed to be convinced that this was labor, or would be soon, and I still wasn't there yet.
With my in-laws at the movies, we let the kids stay up past their bedtime, thinking that they would be picked up fairly soon. We got them in their pajamas, and I began packing overnight bags with church outfits for all three. Somehow, our brood was suddenly gunning with energy and resembled crazy rabid animals running wild around my house. Suddenly there was a lot of falling, crying, and screaming all at once, and it was driving me crazy. What a blessing it was when Kim arrived to set up the birth pool. The kids surrounded her as she brought all the supplies into our bedroom and began pumping air into the tub.
I happily removed myself from my bedroom and went to lay on our couch in the living room, but I could still hear them babbling on and on to Kimberly. The girls were asking her questions left and right, and Dallin was trying to explain in his 2-year-old mumbling how his pillow pet light worked.Finally, I had a little peaceful space around me so I could relax through contractions. "Let's get off that, so I can finish blowing it up please" I could hear Kimberly say. "Girls stop doing that!" Kevin said. I knew my quiet haven would be breached very soon, and I was not looking forward to it. My mind immediately recalled a talk given at church the previous Sunday. It was about a pioneer woman that had to deliver her baby unassisted as she lived in a secluded area and her husband was away. She told her oldest child to take all the children away to play in some caves, and not to come back until she came to get them. I found those instructions kind of harsh at the time, but at that moment I was right there with her. I wanted some peace and quiet, and it wasn't going to happen until the kids were gone.
Soon enough the pool was prepped, and everyone made their way back into the living room. We gave our camera to Kim so she could become familiar with how it functioned, as she would be taking pictures for us. The kids began posing and were still just as full of energy as hours before.
I asked Kevin what time his parents should be out of their movie, and he thought it would be soon. With each contraction, Kim would sit by me and apply pressure on my back. She would remind me to do nice deep breaths until the pressure subsided and the contraction was over. I opened my eyes after a contraction only to see Brooke stomach down on the coffee table a foot in front of me, spinning herself in circles. Dallin took note, and suddenly both children were spinning in circles on our coffee table right before my eyes. At about 9:30pm, and Kevin came up with the great idea of taking the kids to his parent's house and waiting for them there. Genius! He left with Brooke and Dallin, and I put Brenna to bed in her room. It was just Kim and me in our living room, chatting and doing counter pressure during contractions. Kim brought out her doppler and checked Josie's heart rate, which sounded perfect. She also started using an app on her phone to time the contractions. The house was so quiet, a little too quiet, so I turned on America's Funniest Home Videos on Netflix and we laughed in between contractions.
I could hear Brenna coughing from our living room, as she along with our other two children were getting over a cold. I went to her room to check on her, and rub some vapor rub on her chest. She was asleep, but once I touched her, her eyes popped open and she said: "Is she ready to come now?" I smiled, told her "not yet", and tucked her back into bed. At 10pm contractions were still 6 minutes apart, although we noticed that they got much closer together (every 3 minutes) when I walked around or used the restroom. They were still around 45 seconds long. I was having to empty my bladder pretty often, and every time I hoped to see some bloody show like I did with Dallin, but there was none. Kim and I talked about walking the neighborhood to see if things progressed, but it didn't sound that tempting at the moment.
Kevin returned from dropping the kids off and grabbing a soda for him and Kimberly from the gas station. It was 10:20 pm on Saturday, December 29th, and after 7 hours of the same consistent contractions, I wasn't sure how to feel or what to expect. Kevin and I began asking Kimberly questions, hoping to figure out what if anything might come. "Do you think this could be it?" I asked. "Is this just from being dehydrated?" "How do we know when this is turning into something?" I was so unsure. Kevin asked if these sort of contractions can come and then just stop, or if they always lead into labor. Kimberly told us that with how consistent my contractions were that she thought the baby was coming in the near future, but not before midnight. I thought about asking Kimberly to check my cervix (she is an RN and able to do so), but I was afraid that the result would disappoint me. I had declined any cervical checks at prenatal appointments as I did with Dallin, so I had not starting point when it came to dilation.
After checking Josie’s heart rate during a contraction, Kim mentioned that I had 18 contractions in the last hour. She thought it would be a good idea to call Anne Marie and have her head over. I texted Anne Marie and informed her that my contractions were 2.5-4 minutes apart, but that I wasn't vocalizing through them. I vocalized through contractions for hours with Dallin, and I figured that was one sign of true active labor, and when I should have my midwives come over. Anne Marie texted back "sounds like I should head over, what do you think?" I wasn't sure. Kevin said to call her, and Kimberly offered to do it for me as I didn't want to be trying to have a conversation during contractions. Kim called Anne Marie and gave her an update. She mentioned that Josie's heart rate was a little high and that I was probably still dehydrated from walking around and not drinking enough earlier in the day. Anne Marie asked Kimberly to get me a drink with electrolytes and said that it would take 45 minutes for her to get here. It was 10:45pm and she was on her way. Calling this real "active" labor, felt a little premature. Little did we know that the tides would change, and they would change very quickly.
With Anne Marie on her way, Kimberly began filling up the birth pool and I asked Kevin to give me a priesthood blessing. The blessing said that my body would do what it needed to and would work well to bring my baby to our home safely. Once that was done, I headed to the bathroom to empty my bladder and put on a sports bra and swim shorts for the pool. Once I was sitting on the toilet I was hit by a huge contraction that seemed to come out of nowhere. I immediately started vocalizing through it and Kevin and Kimberly rushed to the other side of the bathroom door, asking if I was ok. I was not sitting down again on ANYTHING and I quickly threw my clothes on and got out of the bathroom, hoping to get to the birth pool before another contraction hit. Just as I reached my bedroom another hard contraction hit me. DANG IT!
I braced myself by holding on to my bedroom dresser while Kim did counter pressure on my back. Kevin said, "Are you sure you want to wear those swim shorts?" I wasn't going to give him an answer in the middle of a contraction, and I was also a little annoyed that my choice to wear swim shorts was once again being questioned. They allow for shareable pictures, and are fairly easy to get off, so I didn’t see the problem. Plus, I figured I had plenty of time before they would need to come off. I got in the tub which had a few inches of warm water in it, and welcomed the relief it offered. I got on my knees and leaned over the back side of the tub with my head resting, and arms dangling over the sides. Another contraction came and I let Kim know so she could get my back. I tried really hard to relax, but they were so strong and I was having a hard time just getting on top of them.
The pressure came like high tidal waves overtaking my body, and having me race to top in an attempt to catch my breath. I had practiced Hypnobabies for weeks just like with Dallin's birth, but I couldn't seem to use the techniques because they were so strong and close together. I was thinking “How in the world am I going to get through hours of these contractions?” What had I gotten myself into? Kevin was kneeling in front of me outside of the birth pool, and I looked up at him and said: "this is REALLY REALLY hard, but I can do it." Although I was telling him, I was really trying to convince myself. I needed some reassurance that I could handle these crazy contractions, and I had begun praying in my mind at the peak of each one.“Please help me,” “Please help me,” I pleaded silently to my Heavenly Father. Just like with Dallin's birth, there came a moment when my heart really reached out to all the pro-epidural moms, and I once again understood why they didn't want to feel what I was feeling. I renewed my respect for them and their choices, and once again wondered if I was crazy for choosing to feel this.
It was likely in those short moments of doubt that I was in transition, and it came and went just like that. The following contraction came with an added urge to push. Kim noticed and asked if I thought my water had broken. I said no. She then called Anne Marie who was 15 minutes away at the time. She told Kim that the student midwife would be there soon as she lived closer to us. It was 11:22pm. The next contraction had amazing pressure traveling down my body, and suddenly I felt an "open" sensation. It was as if Josie's body had quickly dropped down onto my cervix causing it to dilate to a 10 all at once. "Something just opened!" I said out loud, wondering what the heck had just happened. I reached my hand down, and my fingers met a silky smooth water balloon like surface. I knew immediately it was the amniotic sac and started tugging my swim shorts off frantically. Kim and Kevin helped me, and then she sent Kevin to go open the front door for when the midwives arrived. After he opened the door, he went to go get one of the pots of boiling water from the stove so he could put it in the half-empty birth pool. Reality still had not hit him that this was it. He came back into the room, and Kim said: "Come here and catch your baby!" Then he dumped the water he had into the pool, ran back to the stove to turn it off, and came back into the room.
She had felt the bulging bag herself with Josie’s head behind it, and asked him to feel. Kevin was a little confused as he felt something soft and really squishy when he was expecting a firm head. “What is that coming out?” he asked aloud, which immediately set off an alarm in my mind. The fear of a cord or foot, or something that isn't supposed to be there washed over me and I immediately asked Kim if the baby was OK. She replied that everything was fine. On the very next contraction I felt the burning “ring of fire,” and Josie’s head emerged without any effort on my part. I was just there for the ride as my body was taken over by powerful surges that were bringing my baby to me. I was in such shock, going from “I don’t think I’m in labor yet,” to “my baby's head just came out.” I guess part of me figured that my body would continue to do the work and so I waited until Kim reminded me that I needed to push and get Josie’s shoulders out. Everything felt so tight, and the thought of pushing was a little intimidating. Kevin was up by my face at this point and cheered me on telling me to give a good push. I braced myself and began my first active push. I felt Josie’s body come down and out quickly and fluidly. It was yet another amazing sensation that I hope to never forget. It was as if she did a somersault out of my body and into the water. There was three pushes total, and Josie was born.
Kim immediately guided Josie through my legs in the water, and I reached down and grabbed her. Our next movements were somehow perfectly choreographed as I pulled her up out of the water and turned to sit down,while Kim pulled the amniotic sac off of Josie’s head. She had been born in the caul, meaning my water had not broken until after she was born. I had heard of this when reading birth stories, but I didn’t know that it only happened in 1 out of every 1000 births. Some believe it to be a sign of good luck or a special blessing on the baby. Josie immediately took a breath and began crying loudly and pinking up. Josie May was here, she was perfect, and I couldn’t help but be in shock from what had just transpired. It was 11:29pm on Saturday, December 29th, 2012.
Brenna came in with tired eyes, but immediately perked up as she kneeled on our bed and gazed at me holding her tiny sister. She didn’t say a word but seemed entranced by it all. Minutes later Nikki (the student midwife) walked into our bedroom and immediately began checking us out. She checked to see if the placenta was ready to come out, but nothing came when I pushed. A few minutes later Anne Marie arrived and immediately began checking Josie’s heart rate and making sure all was well with the both of us.
Since the placenta had not been delivered yet, I was still experiencing some rough contractions. Anne Marie asked if she could cut the cord, which I was fine with as long as it had stopped pulsing. She had me feel the cord, which was completely limp and no longer pulsing, and so I agreed.
They offered to help me out of the pool, but I was happy to deliver it there. Within a few minutes, I started shaking, and figured I should probably get out of the cooling water and get warm. With Dallin, the placenta had already detached and was sitting right at my cervix after he was born. It took a tiny bit of traction from the midwife before it came out. This time was different. It had not detached, and I was having awful pains from all the cramps trying to bring it down. After about 55 minutes, some position changes, and drinking some herbal tea my midwife had brought, the placenta finally came out and I felt so much better. I found it funny how it took so much more time and effort to deliver the placenta then it did to push out Josie.
I rinsed off in the shower, got some clean clothes on, and was honestly feeling quite good minus the pesky after pains. They are definitely worse with each pregnancy. I had a minor 1st-degree tear that my midwife fused with some Derma-bond, and then I was ready to nurse Josie. Once she finished eating, she was measured and weighed.
At 7 pounds 14 ounces, and 18 inches long, she was my biggest baby yet. Anne Marie did a full newborn exam, while Kim made me a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and we sent Brenna back to bed. Poor Josie had pooped at some point and had meconium up her back and in her hair somehow. Other than that, she had a clean bill of health.
I noticed that the tops of her ears were flat, and not curled, which I was told showed that she was, in fact, a little early. Both midwives studied the creases on the bottoms of her feet and found the same thing. She was truly a 38-week baby. While we weren’t expecting her until January, she had plans of her own.
Kim started pumping the water out of the pool and into our shower drain and had it deflated and packed up in no time. She and the midwives cleaned up, took out all the trash from the birth, and threw any towels that were used in the washer. I had Kevin take a quick picture before they left. I wanted one with our awesome birth team in it, although Kevin (who was the best labor/birth partner I could have asked for) was the one behind the camera.
At about 2:30 am on Sunday, December 30th, my midwives and doula left, and it was just the three of us in our bedroom. It was a little odd as we looked at each other and thought, "That’s it?!" We don’t have to do anything else? The whole birth process was so quick, beautifully simple, and left us with a healthy mom and baby. I couldn’t have felt more blessed as we tucked ourselves in bed for the night. Our family of five was now a family of six.
In Conclusion: What a blessing to have 4 healthy children, and to have experienced 3 very different births! From an intervention filled c-section, to a drive through natural VBAC in the hospital, to an intervention free home birth, each one teaching me something new. Ever since I learned about natural birth and home birth, after my c-section, it became a dream that some day I might be able to experience one. I will admit that part of me expected it to be some romantic experience, although that was not the reason I chose it. Now that my dream has come true, I can say that our home birth was not the romantic experience I thought it would be. What made it great, though, wasn't necessarily that anything was added to the experience, but that nothing was taken away from it. Josie's birth was so simple, straightforward, and driven only by the nature of birth. There was no manipulation, and no requirements or expectations to be met. I didn't have to change environments abruptly or work with people I didn't know. I was on my own turf, and the only people present were those that I had a great relationship with and that supported me 100%. The most powerful person in the room wasn't a medical provider or hospital protocol, it was me. So I guess the best part for me, was that her birth was let alone to be whatever it needed to be. My body and her body were respected, and supported to do what they needed freely, and without criticism or fear, and that's what made it beautiful.
(Brenna's depiction of Josie's birth from her winter vacation book assignment that she did for her Kindergarten)