The days before our baby B arrived, I woke up every morning thinking to myself, "Maybe today is the day!" and I would climb into bed every night thinking, "Well, maybe tomorrow." I knew my baby would come when he/she was ready (we didn't know the babe's gender) so I tried to distract myself as much as possible while waiting. I cleaned the house, organized the nursery, went to the gym, watched every episode of New Girl on Netflix, soaked in the bath while reading Ina May, bounced on my birth ball, drank lots of red raspberry leaf tea, baked the baby a birthday cake (lemon bundt cake to be specific--thank you, Pinterest!). I tried remaining positive, knowing this was a special time between my husband, J, and I. It would only be just the two of us for a little while longer, and soon we would be a family of three. It was a surreal concept that I couldn't quite wrap my head around, and despite it being unknown territory I was very excited.
We planned to birth our babe at home with the help of a certified professional midwife. We also hired an amazing doula, who is also a close friend, to assist us at the birth. We rented a birth pool and did a couple of test runs to make sure we knew how to use it. I made birth affirmations and placed them on the wall behind the pool, knowing that these positive mantras would help carry me through labor. I made a playlist and day dreamed of bringing my baby earth side while the sweet and slow music played in the background. Our home birth supplies were neatly stacked in the co-sleeper that sat in our bedroom. I thought, "Any day now, baby. We're ready for you!"
On the morning of January 16 around 1am, I woke up to mild contractions. At the time, I wasn't calling them contractions as I didn't really know what 'contractions' felt like. Basically, I was really crampy. I would get up about every hour until 8am or so to pee and work through the crampiness. The cramps were mild enough that I was able to doze off once I climbed into bed. I continued on throughout the day with all of the activities that kept me busy throughout the week before (exercising, baking, Netflix binging, etc.) My contractions were spaced out but present throughout the day and into the evening. I had lost part of my mucus plug the day before so I knew something was happening.
Did the same damn things I did on Friday. Woke up frequently throughout the night due to crampiness and having to pee often. Cleaned the house and ran some errands. In the afternoon, J and I went to Gandolfo's for lunch. The seats were incredibly uncomfortable and hard. I was having consistent contractions and I'm sure people were starting to stare (No one else was deep breathing during their lunch!) J said I pulled it off like a champ, but I didn't believe him. We went downtown and walked up and down Kirkwood and stopped by Hartzell's for ice cream. Still very crampy, I thought to myself, "YES! It's happening. This baby is coming." By the way, there are a lot of cool celebrities born on January 17 so, naturally, I had an inkling today would be the day.
I'm still pregnant. I, again, woke up right around 1am on Sunday morning with those annoying contractions. I knew these contractions were helping my body prepare for baby but I was so over it. Up every hour but this time, it only felt good to sit on the toilet. I didn't want to move! I tried to stay in bed until 8am or so but I don't think I got much sleep. Is this cramping helping my cervix move forward? Helping it to thin and shorten? Am I dilating? My childbirth educator/doula brain would take over and I couldn't turn it off. I reminded myself that even if I couldn't sleep, it was important to rest as much as possible. I was hoping I was in early labor but didn't want to get my hopes up.
J came home from training clients at the gym and brought me Cresent donuts for breakfast (yep, my husband/ personal trainer brought me donuts. That's love.) I continued to cramp throughout the morning, and later on, we decided to go back to Gandolfo's for lunch (the food there is good but you know, we had coupons to use up). Those seats!! They were so hard and uncomfortable. I had only taken a few bites out of my sandwich before realizing I no longer wanted to be at Gandolfo's. J offered to wrap up my sandwich while I went to the bathroom. I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and they were lasting around 40 seconds each. I was also losing more of my mucus plug. Of course, I was all like, "Is this early labor? Active labor?!" I continuously had to remind myself to get out of my head and focus on the now. We drove over to the east side of town and walked around the mall for an hour or so. My contractions were still very close together, so we left the mall and went to Kroger to get some last-minute groceries. I felt so uncomfortable that I didn't want to go in and decided to sit in the car. Soon after my husband got out of the car I realized I could not sit still. I got out and leaned on the car, swayed my hips, and was squatting in the parking lot. Keep in mind this is the new, swanky Kroger that's always hoppin'. The waiting felt like forever and I was extremely eager to get home. I started to vocalize through my contractions and texted our doula once we pulled in the driveway. She recommended we both sleep as we would probably be up most of the night.
Shortly after climbing into bed for a nap, my husband was out. Me, on the other hand...I couldn't get comfortable one bit. I was having a hard time coping but didn't want to wake him up so I ventured off to the opposite end of the house. I desperately wanted to get in our bath tub but knew that water would not help speed up labor until I was in the thick of it. Being immersed in warm water in early labor can slow down or stop your contractions. I decided it was more important that I try to catch up on rest than focus on making contractions more progressive. Our doula arranged to be over by 7pm. I was very emotional and cried to J when he woke up. He calmed me down, reminded me that I was doing a great job, and that our doula would be there soon.
When our doula arrived, I was in our dimly lit bedroom moaning and swaying. She encouraged me to do some lunges and offered me sips of water. I moved to the toilet where she propped me up with pillows and rubbed my back. It was starting to hurt but in an unusual way-- like it was pulling from underneath my ribs. I soon realized I had pulled a muscle and thought it may have happened while in the tub. Soon after, I began throwing up. I thought, "Yes. Bring it on! I'm sure this puking is helping me open up." Our doula contacted the midwife and updated her on what was happening--she said she would be over soon.
It was around 1 or 2am when my midwife suggested I whip out my hand pump. My contractions were still very strong but had spaced out immensely. I remember feeling so drowsy in between surges-- I would wake up at the peak of them and barely be pumping, the pump itself almost falling out of my hands. Dude, I am so tired. I hadn't had a great night's sleep since Thursday and looking back, I think I am sleeping better with my newborn than I did the weekend I went into labor..I was *that* tired. My midwife told me that I was doing a great job and that I should go get in my birth pool. Oh, I was so happy to hear that. My doula went into the back bedroom to catch up on sleep and my midwife stayed in the living room while J and I ventured into the bedroom where the birth pool sat. He sprawled out on the bed as I sat at the edge of the pool, my top half draped over the side. Soon, the whole house was sleeping. With every contraction, I whispered things like, "C'mon, baby" and "Ooooopen." This really helped, as cheesy as it sounds. Still, my contractions were very spaced out. The water really took the edge off of my back pain and the pressure I was feeling down low. I stood up a couple of times in the pool just to make sure the intensity of the contractions was still there. Oh boy, was it ever. I think I had been in the pool for an hour or so before I climbed out, wrapped a towel around me, and walked back into the living room. My midwife, as sweet as ever, asked, "What's up, darlin?" I told her I wanted to be checked and I wanted to know the number. I *needed* to know if I had made any progress.
She told me I was at 5 cm. (hooray!)...but I was 5 cm. when she first checked me (noooo!). I felt so discouraged. I didn't feel as if I was suffering, but I honestly didn't know how much longer I could keep at it. I was so tired and more often than not, my back hurt worse than the contractions. I was having a hard time coping and hated the thought of being checked again, hours later, to find my cervix hadn't changed. I couldn't understand why my contractions were so far apart--I couldn't relax enough to fully sleep and yet everything we had tried to bring contractions closer together was not cutting it. And then, like word vomit, I remember blurting out, "I want an epidural. I think I want to go to the hospital." I never thought I would say that. I dreamed of birthing our baby at home. She agreed that my body may benefit from some pitocin and that she would support me, whatever choice I made. It was reassuring to hear that, just like I was thinking to myself, this is not characteristic of a straightforward labor. My baby had been LOA for the past couple of months but maybe something else was going on. I woke up my husband and told him that I wanted to go to the hospital. I apologized over and over again. He consoled me and helped my doula and me pack a bag. My midwife called into my back-up physician to let him know we were coming in.
The ride to the hospital was the absolute pits. We parked in the emergency parking garage and I waddled up to the labor and delivery floor. The nurses asked the annoying, but necessary, questions upon admittance as I sat on a birth ball and leaned over the side of the hospital bed. My back still aching, I asked J to use some counter pressure and hold a warm rice sock against my lower back. Lab came in to draw my blood and I was hooked up to IV fluids. I was informed that the anesthesiologist was at home (I knew that was coming!) and I waited around two hours for him to get there and administer the epidural. Once it was in place, we all rested for a few hours. The epidural brought so much relief-- even the pain from my pulled muscle was gone. It was incredible! My doula went home and we told her we'd call when things started to progress. I found out that one of my friends would be working day shift and requested for her to be my nurse at shift change.
The nurse and nurse midwife started to set up the room for birth, and I got into a side-lying position. My midwife supported one of my legs while my husband stood by my head, offering sips of water between pushes. My doula quietly snapped pictures of the whole experience. As he crowned, I reached down and touched the top of his head. He's really coming out! Finally! The nurse midwife asked if I wanted to bring him up onto my chest and I happily said, "Yes!" In less than an hour, he was here. I reached down to bring him up to my chest as "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin was playing...it was a moment I will never forget. B was born with a nuchal hand (left hand up by his face), which is what probably caused my terrible back pain. 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 21 inches long...born at 1:34pm on MLK, Jr. Day. I'm not quite sure how he ever fit inside me--the things a woman's body is capable of are truly amazing.
Despite our transport to the hospital, I had a wonderful birth experience. I felt fully supported the entire time and had the dream team by my side during delivery. I was able to advocate for myself. I was listened to and treated with respect. I am thankful for the tools the hospital offers that are not available in the home setting-- they can work wonders when you need them. Maybe next time we'll birth our baby at home, but right now, I am content focusing on our new, amazing son. I'm grateful that both my baby and I are healthy, that there were no major complications, and that I've had a smooth postpartum recovery. Birth is an unpredictable life event that you will remember forever, but it's only the beginning of something much, much bigger. My heart is whole as I sit here typing our story and nursing my little guy. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us.
It was a cold and gray Sunday afternoon. I lit a couple of candles (Crossroads Caramel Apple makes the whole place smell divine), tidied up a bit, and hopped on Spotify for some mellow music. Two friends, Amy and Leah, arrived at my house early with flowers, food, and beautiful fabrics and decorative pillows.
It was the day of my mother blessing.
Mother blessings are customized, sincere, and full of love. Don't get me wrong-- baby showers are fun. Showers involve silly games, tons of baby products, and most importantly…cake. But baby showers and mother blessings are very different from one another.
It's at a mother blessing that we celebrate a woman becoming a parent. Close friends (primarily women) of the mother gather around to help mama prepare herself for birth and motherhood. At this gathering, we do not lose focus on this new being that will soon be earth side, but we take the time to recognize how this little human will change the woman as a person. Although mama may be given birth and postpartum gifts, it's not about consumerism and products and all that fluff that's typically paired with baby's arrival.
This ceremony is about sisterhood and community. Feeling connected and supported as a new mom greatly affects the postpartum period. How could it not? The mother blessing ceremony includes activities that acknowledge this time of growth and the new role the expectant mother will soon take on. Every gathering is sacred and will look different depending on the mama's needs and desires. I believe we should celebrate every mama and parent this way as they enter into this exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, stage of life.
At the end of the day, I felt full. Full of gratitude, acceptance, and intuition. These women remind me to trust my body and my baby. They encourage me and tell me that I am enough--that whoever this little being is, he/she will love me through and through. No matter how new or lost we feel in parenting, we all have innate abilities and characteristics that guide us in our experience. And when we have a hard time believing in ourselves, our village of people will be there to lean on. To acknowledge the struggles, the triumphs, and the "holy shit, we made it through" moments.
I'm so very thankful for my village.
If you are interested in putting together a blessing ceremony for a friend or would like more information, please contact Leah Rose Hagen of Birth Journey Doula Services. She is sure to help you have the best experience possible!