I spent most of my third trimester telling myself I was going to be late. Charlie is my first and I did not want to be impatient, I wanted this little girl to cook as long as she needed to! About two weeks before my due date I could feel some changes taking place and I then started to wonder if this little one would even make her January 22nd due date! Here is Charlie’s birth story.
What I remember…Phase 1: The flood of emotions
Around 5:30 pm on January 14th, I was in the kitchen on the phone with my mom, when I felt the completely uncontrollable stream of warm liquid running down my leg.
“Mom, I think my water just broke, I have to go!”
I called my midwife, Denise, right away and we had to laugh because there was a pretty good snowstorm going on and we had actually rescheduled a prenatal appointment that I would have been in at that exact time.
Once I got done making my phone calls, all that was left to do was wait. My husband, Kevin, wouldn’t be home for another hour or so and Denise had told me to try to rest. Yeah right. I moved from excitement, to fear, to anxiety, to tears…there had to be 20 emotions that passed through me in that hour before Kevin got home.
When he did get home he seemed more nervous than I was. He stirred around the house and kept asking me “what next?” His nerves helped me calm down, as he aired up the pool and picked up the house. I remember getting him to sit for a bit and say a prayer with me.
I started some very mild contractions not long after my water broke, but it wasn’t until around 1 am that they became too uncomfortable to stay in bed. I moved downstairs about the time my sister got to my house from her drive here to be with me. She sat with me for a bit and we timed some contractions together before she went to try to get some rest.
Slowly throughout the morning of the 15th the contractions got more intense. I remember my sister mentioning that I was pretty talkative between them. The pool situation wasn’t looking good, as it had slowly started to deflate overnight, but I wasn’t too worried. I stayed in touch with Denise and she stopped by several times throughout the day to check on us and see how things were progressing. This little one was going to be about a week early but otherwise seemed in no hurry to enter the world. I should have suspected as much, as I felt like I already had to learn a lot of patience though out the pregnancy.
We suspected (hoped!) that after the arrival of my mom that afternoon, labor would speed up a bit. I was so happy that it looked like she would make it here for the delivery! This was not something we had expected and things were working out beautifully in this matter. Her arrival came and went, and labor progression remained on a slow steady track.
Alison (midwife #2) arrived at the house late that night and by then the contractions were intense enough to require my attention. I was starting to loose track of time and just remained focused on my breathing. I had made up a little notecard flip book of quotes and scriptures to reflect on during my labor and there was one verse that I found myself reverting to, over and over again.
2nd Corinthians 12:9
And He said to me, “My grace is enough; it is all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” I just let Christ take over. And so the weaker I get the stronger I become.
Late into the night, Denise and Alison talked me into getting into bed and trying to get some sleep. My body was already exhausted and active labor has not even started. The house was so still and quiet. Time is still a bit of a blur but I can remember waking between more intense contractions and I swear I could hear everyone in the next room breathing.
What I remember…Phase 2: Time becomes lost
The morning of the 16th brought time for a change. Once everyone was up and moving, Denise and Alison decided it was time to move to the birth center in Westby; hoping that the new environment would help move things along. As much as I had wanted a home birth, I knew in my heart this was a good decision. I didn’t hesitate to agree, although the thought of sitting upright in a car for half an hour terrified me. The contractions were super intense by now and I had horrible visions of having my baby in the car one the way up. Fortunately this did not happen.
Somewhere along this drive is about when I began to loose track of time. I think my eyes were closed almost the whole trip as I tried to focus on breathing.
I remember really just wanting someone to hold my hand each time a contraction came on, and my mom and my sister took turns at this from the back seat.
I remember having to stop on the stairs up to the birth center for one of the strongest contractions yet.
I remember the relief of finally getting into the pool, and then some fear of not feeling grounded enough when a contraction came. I labored there for awhile, clinging to the edge of the pool and feeling the cool cloths being placed on my neck and back, until I got too hot and had to get out.
I remember the fleeting moments of panic I would get whenever Denise or Alison asked me to move or try to go to the bathroom.
I remember the sound of my moms voice and Alison encouraging me to make low sounds just like her…move the sound down, let the pain come, that is what is bringing your baby.
I remember looking at my mom, asking her in amazement, “you did this three times?!?!”
I remember my husbands touch, his bearded face somewhere between an encouraging smile and worry for me, for pain he couldn’t fix. He told me later, that when I looked at him, I would either tell him I loved him or look like I wanted to punch him.
I remember being on all fours and hearing my mom tell them about the tattoos on my back. I am not sure how much later it happened, but sometime after Denise and Alison began to sing,
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.”
These words are tattooed on my back for my father, Charlie. Words that were played at his funeral. If I had energy for tears, they would have come then.
I remember finding energy for tears at one point, coming back from the bathroom. I think it was because I knew it was almost time to meet my baby, but I am honestly not sure.
I remember sleeping in between the last of the contractions before the pushing came. After two nights of pretty much no sleep I had to be exhausted. I may have found labor land, but I am not sure. All I know is that I was ready to be done, but my baby had other plans. Again, a test of my patience. I wish I could say I embraced it but I feel like I fought it at times. Ran from the pain.
What I remember…Phase 3: The power of creation moves through you
The final check came and I was dilated to 10. It was time to think about pushing! I think I was honestly more scared than excited at this point. The biggest job, the hardest job yet, and I already felt like I had completed the worlds longest endurance race.
I remember the low relaxing light of the room and more of Alison’s words; It’s the hardest job you will ever do…All women find the strength. The urge to push did not come right away but the memory of that first push will never leave me. It was the most powerful and intense feeling I have ever had. There are no words to appropriately describe it.
I remember trying several different pushing positions…if the thought of moving before had scared me, it was downright terrifying now. I could tell my baby was getting lower and lower just by the position of the Dopplar each time Denise checked the heartbeat. Steady the whole time.
I remember only finding two positions that worked for me. One was seated backwards on a chair, bracing myself on Alison’s legs for a time, then switching to Kevin’s lap. I broke the top of that chair, fortunately not beyond repair. I was not be able to deliver in that position though, they couldn’t see the baby well enough. I found myself back in the other position that worked for me; lying on my side with one foot braced on someone’s shoulder and the other into someone’s knee. I am pretty sure almost everyone took a turn helping me here.
I remember when my husband finally came back into the room, as his voice stands out in my mind the most. I could feel the tears in his beard as he rubbed my back, held my hand and told me how great I was doing. I could almost hear the smile and anticipation in his voice.
I remember the might and power of my baby moving lower and lower as we worked together. I remember Alison telling me the sounds that worked the best when I would bear down and make the most progress. She told me when I could reach down and feel the baby’s head getting lower and lower as I pushed.
I remember getting scared again, running from the intensity. Even as the baby was crowning I remember feeling scared over excited. But I knew it was finally time to meet my baby! This unknown person who already owned my heart in ways I never though possible. I did find the strength, and the feeling of relief when I felt her head come out was insane. The next contraction brought my daughter into the world, complete with a set of lungs. The crying baby was placed on my chest and I think I may have asked about her little conehead before I even asked if it was a boy or a girl. She was perfect, my little Charlie JoAnn.
I believe it was around 12 hours of active labor and approximately 4 hours of pushing. I could not have asked for a better team of midwives or support. The whole pregnancy and on past the birth, Denise and Alison have surpassed all of my expectations and I am forever grateful. I will cherish these women for the rest of my life.