I spent most of the pregnancy with you feeling like I needed “more time.” More time to get stuff done, more time for work projects, more time for one last shoot, more time to get the house in order, more time to wrap my head around having two kids, more time to be READY. This had nothing to do with you…really. I wanted you and was excited for you to be in my arms but from previous experience I knew that certain things would be easier to get done with you chillin’ in your hot tub a little bit longer. What I had kind of forgotten was one of the most miraculous lessons that childbirth has taught me: trust. Trusting the whole process. Trusting that timing happens for a reason. Trusting you to communicate with me and me to communicate with you. Giving up control and trusting in the basics. Not very much matters once you go into labor. Once I felt that first rising contraction, I remembered. All that mattered was healthy baby and healthy me.
I had an uncomplicated pregnancy with you (similar to Nova’s). Everything happened when it should. You grew and so did I. Towards the end I had a few days with a little bit of high blood pressure but I am starting to think that just happens to me a couple weeks before I deliver. I never got swollen with you and didn’t have any tailbone pain like I did with your sister. I did have some sciatica pain during the first part of the third trimester, which was pretty icky but thankfully didn’t last. But honestly what I cared more than anything about was trying everything that was in my control NOT to have a posterior birth. I leaned forward for months. I tired to only sleep on my left side. I crawled around on my hands and knees whenever I could manage. I loved Nova’s birth story but I wasn’t going to complain if your’s was a lot shorter and maybe less painful. But there I was thinking too much about something that in the end I knew was out of my control.
For months I had Braxton hicks contractions. I would be walking or standing or doing nothing and my stomach would get hard as a rock. One time we were walking into Disneyland and it happened. I had to stop walking for minute and catch my breath. It would feel like I had no room for my lungs. I wondered if all these little tightening’s were helping prep my body for real labor…was I dilating? After having one baby it is hard not to compare what you have already experienced with all the new experiences. I never really had Braxton hicks contractions with Nova and subsequently ended up doing all of my dilating and laboring with her over a two day period. Intense and long. So these little contractions you were giving me were tiny seeds of hope. Maybe this time would be shorter? I had to keep reminding myself that it might not mean anything and to stop trying to guess. If your birth involved 24hrs of active labor like your sister’s, so be it. I had done it once. I could do it again.
Starting Thursday night on March 28th, I had what felt like pretty bad period cramps that lasted for a couple hours. Peculiar since your due date was still a week away. Nova was 5 days late and so I really didn’t expect you to come any earlier than your due date, April 3rd. Besides, I still had things to wash and buy and do. We spent the couple hours before sunset at Newport Beach. We ate Café Rio and splashed in the water with Nova. It was a bit chilly and I wrapped your sister and myself up in blankets. Passersby looked at my belly and I felt proud. I was super pregnant and that only meant one thing, I had one of my all time favorite humans on his way.
As an interesting side note: when I was experiencing a little high blood pressure, I was quite stressed out about numerous things. I tried not to be but I just had so much whirling around in my mind. And knowing that I had high blood pressure didn’t help because I was stressed wondering about all the “ifs” and really wanted our homebirth. Your sweet midwife, Lindsay Meehleis, pretty much ordered me to stop working and to take it easy. She said I could be productive 1hr a day and then the rest of the day I could only relax and do enjoyable non-stressful activities. When you run your own business you don’t really get orders like this very often. A load was lifted. She prescribed a massage and I obliged. I changed my mindset after that and gave my worrying a break. I think it was only once I did that that I became ready for you to be here. I needed to make some space and once I did early labor started.
Friday, March 29th, at 1:30pm I felt the first “wave” contraction. I told your dad and his eyes got wide, I smiled. I laid on the couch and started paying attention and timing them for fun. After about an hour, I stopped timing but they were growing and feeling more intense. My excitement was building. I called your midwife just to tell her early labor was happening and that I think my mucus plug was starting to come out. Then I left to get a pedicure. I know this sounds weird but I needed to take my mind off the contractions. I actually went a few hours not really having any, which is typical in early labor and when I did have contractions they were mild. I could talk through them and even walk through them. Still pretty easy going.
We got Cortina’s takeout for dinner and the contractions kept coming. I think your dad and I both thought there was a chance stuff could really get going this night so we kind of kicked it into high gear. Finishing baby wash, getting out supplies, turning up the water heater.
We both gave Nova a bath and I helped dress her in her jammies. I laid her down in her crib with little tears in my eyes reminding her that at anytime her baby brother might come. We kissed her goodnight with my heart beating out of my chest.
That night I was probably awake every hour a few times. Contractions were coming every 30 minutes or so. I would try to sleep in between…but it was hard. I know I did get some sleep though. And as intense as they were starting to feel I could still lay down through most of them, which meant they were still pretty mild.
At about 6am I woke up your dad a little teary eyed and told him I was feeling lonely and didn’t want to labor alone anymore. He immediately was awake and comforting me. I was feeling so many emotions. I think more than anything I was realizing for the 2nd time what the hardest part of labor is, the unknown. As hard as the contractions may feel or even the life altering experience of going through transition and pushing, the unknown is what always gets me. It didn’t matter that I had done it before. I still had no idea how long it would last, how intense it would get….my mind was way over-analyzing it and to be honest I think I was really starting to remember being in labor with Nova and how challenging it was (challenging is a dumb word to describe it). You were getting close and I was purging.
For me labor always consists of so much purging. Letting go of things. Creating space. And that is what I was doing. Cleaning out so we could both have a fresh start for our birth tub beginning.
Contractions were getting stronger but were still sporadic. Your midwife called and she suggested getting on my hands and knees, sticking my hips up high and rocking them back and forth for 45mins, even through contractions. Apparently this could help intensify the contractions and get stuff going faster. After doing this I was suppose to lie on my left side. It definitely was an uncomfortable position to be in during contractions and they felt so much stronger and more intense in this position…painful I would say. Nova was playing along side me during this excersie and even climbed on my back a couple of times. Why else would I be on my hands and knees on the floor if I didn’t want to play and wrestle?
After we were done with that we decided to go for a walk. I was kind of nervous to be out in public contracting…what if I started acting like a crazy person? Would I make our neighbors feel uncomfortable? Grant reminded me it didn’t matter at all and not to worry about it. So out we went. It was around 9:30am. I did have a few contractions but with long breaks in between. What gives? I thought walking would speed things up not slow them down. The sun was out and there was a cool breeze. It felt really good to feel the sunshine on my face and arms. It smelled like spring flowers and cut grass. It was a Saturday and felt like it. People were out doing yard work and it was seriously gorgeous outside…which I think always happens on Saturdays. It really just felt like a happy, exciting day.
Lindsay showed up around 10am. I wanted to impress her with strong contraction, which is ridiculous, because really “trying” to do anything during labor generally just slows things down. So much of it is a mind game, which only proves how connected our minds and our bodies are and how much our thoughts affect us physically.
Stuff just felt slow moving and we were trying to decide if she should check me. Both of us knew checking was a little bit pointless. I could be any range of numbers dilated and it could change in a flash OR maybe not for hours, days even. But, there was a possibility of her trying to help strip my membranes to speed things up if she did check me. I decided to go ahead and be checked. We both agreed I was probably a 3 or 4 so I wasn’t getting my hopes up too much. Besides it was a lot more painful as I neared active labor with Nova and I just assumed the contractions I was feeling couldn’t be close to active labor. I thought they were still too mild and sporadic.
I lay on the couch and she checked me. Her eyes got wide as she said, “You are a 6 almost a 7…and 90% effaced”. What?! This was amazing news. I knew it meant the more difficult part was coming but it also meant I was nearing the end and would probably not be doing this for another day. I felt serious relief at that point since my mind to that point had been so fixated on NOT having a super long labor.
Lindsay thought she would maybe head to the Target nearby to let things speed up without her staring at me, but just as we started the discussion, contractions started coming and coming and coming. And they were more intense. “I am not going anywhere. Time to set up the tub.” This was around 11am, minutes after she checked me.
Melissa, her assistant, showed up and the house was in a bustle. Hoses were being attached, supplies were being organized. Beach towels were being carried into the family room where the tub was going to be.
I sat next to Nova in her highchair as she ate lunch and bounced on the yoga ball. I knew I was in active labor but it felt SO different than last time. I was still able to focus on Nova and walk around and make jokes. Was I really in active labor? I even helped put Nova down for her nap. By this point tears were in my eyes as I hoped Nova could be around once he was born AND that it would be positive for her. I didn’t want her to be bothered at all by what I was going through.
It was 1pm. Nova was in her crib napping, the tub was full of water and I was ready to get in it. Right around this same time my parents arrived. They had been driving from Utah and my Dad was dropping my Mom off. They both came in for a minute and my Dad saw me draped over the tub. I pretty sure he heard a contraction as he was leaving and I remember thinking, “I hope he knows I am alright”. With my Mom there I could relax about Nova a bit. I knew once Nova woke up Grandma could help take care of her and distract her.
At some point during all of this when I was probably wondering out loud whether I was progressing, Lindsay told me to try and feel his head. I had never done this with Nova’s birth. With my pointer finger I could feel the top of his head! It was amazing. It felt like there was something slick covering his head…the water sac?
Don’t get me wrong, contractions were still super uncomfortable and even painful at times but I am telling you they were nothing like having back labor. I couldn’t help but keep exclaiming, “ This is not the same as back labor…this is still hard but…” Really. No one had to give me backpressure at all. The contractions instead of wrapping from my front to my back, like with back labor, stayed right in front. Early labor and active labor felt so much easier this time. Shorter and less painful.
Then transition happened.
I am guessing transition started happening around 2:45pm. Up until that point Grant and I had been in the tub and I had switched positions a couple of times. I either wanted to sit leaning back on your Dad a little or be on my knees leaning over the sides of the tub.
I don’t think transition felt different from Nova’s birth. I think transition is transition. You know you are in it when it feels like your body is splitting in two with every contraction. I say “you know” but when you are in transition you kind of don’t know. When you feel pain that intense you hope it means the end is near but in your mind you aren’t quite sure. I remember feeling a little bit of fear. Fear thinking that I would be stuck in that place forever. Fear that it would really never end. I kept asking how much longer..and I saw Melissa and Lindsay make eyes at each other that told me maybe we were close. They are smart and knew better than to ever tell a woman in transition how long anything would last but when I pleaded with them to tell me whether I would have to do this for the rest of the day, they both had an inkling that wouldn’t be the case.
This is generally the part of labor when women feel like they can’t do it. I don’t know about others but I am not the most quiet. At the peak of the transition I cry out and my whole body shakes. I remember feeling foggy and emotional. I remember crying out and whimpering for “help”. “Please help me, please help me”. Lindsay looked firmly into my eyes and said, “Rachel you are the only one who can do this and you are doing it!”. She kept reminding me not to be afraid of the contraction that was approaching but to welcome it, let it work for me. This has to be the ultimate challenge. Knowing the most painful thing you will ever feel is approaching and to welcome it. Want it. Truly know and believe it is for your benefit. This is the test of natural childbirth.
I tried changing my no thoughts to yes thoughts.
Nova woke from her nap in the middle of this right around 3pm. I cried and starting mumbling my worries for her. Lindsay had to gently remind me she was fine and was going to be taken care of. Grandma brought her out to the family room and Nova kept saying, “Mommy sad? Mommy sad”. I remember your Dad telling Nova to look at him so she could see his eyes weren’t worried and to tell her I was fine just working hard to get you here. Grandma took her out to the backyard. They could still hear me from out there and Nova was a bit worried but Grandma and her talked about all the animal noises I was making and they practiced making them together.
So I was inside growling like a lion and Nova was outside growling like a lion.
It was the middle of the day and the afternoon light was streaming through the family room windows. It felt calm but not the same as nighttime calm. It was energizing laboring during the day. I liked knowing that the rest of my world was there with me, whether they knew it or not. I felt like the energy of a Saturday gave me something.
With Nova’s birth I never felt the urge to push. I kept asking Lindsay if and when I should push and she kept telling me to listen to my body and push when it felt like I needed to. This was kind of frustrating. What if I didn’t know or never felt it? But to my surprise contractions started to bare down and sure enough my body naturally started pushing without any direction from anyone else.
Right around this point I turned around and was on my knees facing your Dad. I guess I was only pushing for about 15mins but it honestly felt so much longer while I was in it. I remember opening my eyes for a second during a pause and looking into the reflection of the water and at my hand gripping on to your Dad’s foot. Was it uncomfortable for him? He wasn’t saying if it was. I knew he wasn’t thinking of himself but was thinking of you and I. I felt so grateful he was there for me in that moment.
With every contraction and every push and every grunt the room was full of praise and positive words. “You’re doing it!” “Great job!” “That’s perfect!”. Even with all of the support I don’t think I was alone in my surprise when with one of the pushes your head popped out! I really didn’t know we were close to that (neither did dad). Once that happened I was a woman focused. There was what felt like a long break between your head coming out and the next contraction and I was worried for you. The next contraction came and I bore down and gave you everything I had. There is no motivation better than knowing you will hold your newborn child in a few seconds.
Whoosh! Your body came out and relief. Your Dad caught you with Lindsay helping. You came out with your water sac covering your head and body and Lindsay gently removed it as your Dad and her lifted you out of the water and into my arms.
I wish I could describe in any accuracy what that moment feels like. It is the perfect cocktail of joy and relief and love. Like fireworks and falling flower petals and laughter and the best kind of tears. In that moment I had never felt so full and complete. You were here.
You were pink almost right away and let out a big loud cry! Music to my ears. You looked almost identical to Nova when she was born. Dark hair, cheeks for days, cute button nose, 8 chins, arms rolls. You looked like one of my babies. You WERE one of my babies! I recognized your strong kicks in my arms. I have a feeling you weren’t so sure you were ready to come out of your hot tub. I held you close and kissed you to remind you I was still right there.
All of this happened in a matter of moments and I told someone to knock on the window so your Grandma and sister knew you were here and to run in. They did and your sister smiled and her eyes lit up. She had been waiting a long time for you. “Bath tub! Bath tub!” Having a pool full of water in the living room is torture for a toddler and of course we wanted her to jump in with us! Off came her clothes and in she came with us. All of us together. A family of four, at home, healthy, HAPPY. It was truly an amazing moment. I kissed your Dad and both of my babies. We sang you your song. I had never felt happier.
To make sure you were warm enough we needed to get out of the water. Out came Nova and Grandma took her to have a real bath. I held you and carefully stepped out of the tub and onto the couch covered in beach towels (beach towels are the hallmark of a homebirth). You were still connected to me via the umbilical cord which was super thick!! I was still having contractions which surprised me. I guess with subsequent births the after contractions while delivering the placenta and while your uterus contracts back down are more intense. No one told me this. Once I delivered the placenta there was some relief.
We waited to cut the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing almost 30mins after your were born. It is pretty awesome to feel the cord pulse.
I tore but Lindsay did a pro job of stitching me up. I could care less about tearing. Would it be nice not to tear? Sure but during transition and while I am pushing it is the last thing on my mind.
You latched on super quick and wanted to eat eat eat. I was a happy mom.
You were in my arms from the moment you were born and for hours afterward. We were bundled in towels staring at the blue sky and sunshine.
At one point I looked at my hand that had been wrapped around you and there was black stuff all over it. Poop!!! You had a massive meconium poop all over both of us. It was kind of adorable.
It was obvious you were a big boy and we all made guesses on your weight. Some were high 9’s others were over 10lbs. I think I guessed 10lbs exactly. You ended up weighing 9 lbs 15 ounces. I decided it was close enough and I was claiming 10lbs. You were such a bundle of love.
The next few hours were clean up and resting and holding and kissing. I moved into the bedroom. Lindsay helped me go to the bathroom and I put on a giant adult diaper and a frozen witch hazel pad.
I laid in bed, in shock. You were here. Active labor was really only 4hrs. The sun was still out. I felt really good. Not sleep deprived. I was a mother of two. Was I really not pregnant anymore?
Who can deny childbirth is a miracle?
I was so transformed by both of my children’s births. I have no choice but to have complete respect and honor for my body and what it can do. The love and attachment I felt for you the moment you were born is mind blowing. Immediately you are someone I felt such an intimate connection with. I am not sure why, despite all of my faults and shortcomings, I am blessed with the family I have. Fairbanks, despite any of my mistakes you were created and grew and were born and are perfect. It is impossible for you to be anything but perfect. And I wonder…why me? Why did you choose me? How am I worthy?
They say being born in the caul, as you were, is a sign of good fortune. Being born this way brings good luck and supposedly natural healing abilities. To me, my sweet boy, you are my good luck. My good fortune. You were meant to be part of our family…and now that you are I feel abundantly wealthy.
Sometimes, even now, two and a half weeks later, I am still in disbelief you are here. I have to look at us in the mirror with you balled up on my chest to remind myself it really did happen. I wonder if I will feel like that for the rest of my life…amazed that you are mine. I have a feeling I will.
(Eternal thanks to Lindsay, our midwife. We are all madly in love with her. I have a midwife post coming soon!)