Birth stories are a funny thing. So much emotion is felt during labor and immediately after birth, that it can be hard to even find the words to describe it. Giving birth is this amazing miracle that changes you in every way possible. Simple words just can’t do it justice.
April 20th was a Friday. I was 8 days from my due date and had been having prodromal labor off and on for a week. I woke up that morning feeling…different. I wasn’t in labor, but similar to the days before both girls were born, I felt like I was suddenly recovering from the flu. Joel was getting ready to leave for work that morning, took one look at me, and announced he would be staying home. We both just had a feeling that labor would be soon, but even if it wasn’t, a break at 39 weeks is always appreciated.
I decided to leave the kids with Joel and go out walking to try and get things moving along. Naturally I headed for Target, but not before stopping at Starbucks for a special pre-labor treat. I spent 2 hours walking around Target alone, and then called my close friend and doula, Mary Susan, to see if she and her kids would want to join me and the kids for a walk through the metro parks.
She graciously agreed to meet me at the park. We talked about the upcoming birth and wondered when labor would begin. We both thought it would be sooner rather than later.
By that evening I was having contractions but nothing that I would consider to be actual labor. Still, I knew things were beginning to happen, so I called both my midwife and my mom to give them a heads up that I thought we would be having a baby sometime over the weekend. Then I went to bed.
I woke up around 1 am on April 21 with contractions about 10 minutes apart. I was ready to have this baby. I started doing lunges and squats and anything else I could think of to get labor going. Two hours later contractions were closer together but still relatively painless. I called my mom so that she could make the 3 hour drive and be here in time when the kids woke up. Then I called my midwife and told her things were beginning to happen and that I would keep her posted on my progress. Finally, I called Mary Susan and asked her to come over. Physically I didn’t need anyone with me, but I knew I wanted her there for emotional support.
By 7 a.m. my mom was there, the kids were awake, contractions were coming every 5 minutes, and we had gotten donuts for breakfast. After eating a donut I decided walking felt best. Mary Susan and I headed out in the cool morning breeze and walked around the block two times, talking, laughing, and stopping every few minutes when contractions would wash over me.
That was really what got things going. After the walk I went upstairs to the bedroom. I alternated sitting on the birth ball and laying down in bed. At one point Joel asked me if I needed a drink and I exclaimed that I couldn’t possibly make a decision like that. He immediately called the midwife and told her it was time.
The midwife came around 10 a.m. and encouraged me to do what felt right. I was exhausted, but worried that if I relaxed my labor would stall. She just smiled and reminded me that no one has been in labor forever. It was clear I was in active labor and resting would be beneficial.
I laid down in bed and with Joel and Mary Susan taking turns rubbing my back I was able to take a little nap, despite contractions now coming every 2-3 minutes. After about 30 minutes I knew I needed to move again. I also needed to be alone. I decided to take a bath and continue relaxing. As soon as I entered the bath the contractions started coming stronger and faster than ever. I was moving from hands and knees, to a squat, to standing and couldn’t find a comfortable position. I got out and returned to my room. It was around 12 p.m. now and I asked my midwife to check my dilation. At this point I had not had any internal exams, and while I was planning on not having any internal exams, I was curious to know how far along I was. I was thrilled to hear that I was 8 cm dilated.
At this point I started to lose my focus. I started crying and saying that I couldn’t do it. My birth team immediately went to work helping me through each contraction. Joel did hip squeezes while Mary Susan read my birth affirmations, then Joel prayed over me.
I interrupted his prayer because I felt like I had to push. I turned on my side and with the first push my water broke. With 3 more pushes I guided my baby out and into his daddy’s capable hands, stopping only once so that the midwife could unwrap the cord from around his neck. Immediately he was placed on my chest and I felt my heart explode at the mere sight of him. A brand new life, the product of love and devotion, now laying perfectly content in my arms. He was perfect and his birth was perfect.
6 hours of early labor, 3 hours of active labor, and 20 minutes of transition. He was born just 2 minutes after my water broke. He was our biggest baby, weighing in at 7 lbs 10 oz.
Just a few minutes after his birth we called my mom and the kids in the room. It was amazing to see the love and excitement on the faces of my other children as they joined us in bed for hugs and kisses and to meet their little brother. It’s a moment I will treasure forever.
No matter how many births I witness I can’t get over the miracle of it all. To be able to bring life into this world is truly a blessing and I am forever grateful to have experienced it now four times over.
Rafe Daniel, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. We love you!