It was a Thursday night, and despite the fact that I wasn't due for another week, I just knew labor was imminent. Jared and I were in DC on a last chance date night to see Langhorne Slim and the Law play, and I was using the stage clock to time my ever increasing pre-labor contractions. As excited as I was to meet our little guy, I'm very thankful that a front row delivery wasn't in the cards. We were able to dance the night away and at one point while he was singing, Sean (aka. Langhorne) even put his hand on my belly. It was a funny moment that definitely helped to take my mind off my contractions. My pre-labor calmed down soon after we got home, and held off until Saturday night when I woke up with contractions that were 7 minutes apart. Things felt pretty real, but I wanted to be certain so I waited a couple of hours before calling my mom who was on deck to stay with Emma once we left for the hospital. She had been sick all week and by the time I called very early Sunday morning she was running a fever and unable to get out of bed. Crap. My mom rarely ever gets sick, and never gets that sick, so at that point I pretty much went into panic mode. Of the relatively few fears I had about this birth, not having anyone to take care of Emma was pretty high on the list.
The sun was rising, and so were my stress levels. So much so that my labor started to slow down. It was almost as if my body knew we needed more time to get things sorted out. I continued to have contractions every half an hour or so, but we went about our Sunday as normal... a trip to the local animal farm with Emma then back home for a much needed nap. I was nearly certain I'd be having this baby within the next 24 hours so I wanted to get as much rest as possible.
Got my 39 week photo done that afternoon... not a moment too late!
As I was waking up, I got the call from my sister that I'd been waiting for... she and my mom had worked out a plan and no matter when I needed to go to the hospital, Emma would be taken care of. Phew! And wouldn't you know it, not an hour later my labor picked back up. It was around 3:30pm, my contractions were 10 minutes apart, and I knew this time was it... our little boy was on his way!
My contractions continued to get closer and stronger over the next few hours. I'd been listening to my hypnobirthing tracks off and on since Saturday night, and things were feeling pretty manageable. We ate some dinner, got Emma to bed, and decided it was time to call my mom to have her come up. I touched base with the midwife on call at the hospital and she was ready for us whenever we felt ready to come in. But our readiness was so hard to gauge - Emma was asleep, my contractions were 6 minutes apart and getting closer by the hour, my mom and stepdad had arrived and were all settled in... by all accounts, we should be hospital bound, but I was really struggling with actually saying those words, "It's time to go." My labor with Emma had been soooo long. What if this labor was going to be just as long and we went to the hospital too early? Months of going to the chiropractor, doing inversions, stretches and yoga, but I still couldn't let myself believe that this labor was going to be different. Finally, after my mom said for the hundredth time, "you don't want to have this baby on the side of the road!," we left for the hospital.
Once we were at the hospital, I was relieved to find out that there wasn't a triage room. We got to go straight to the room where I'd have my baby and got settled in. When you go to a midwife practice, it's a bit of a crap shoot who you'll get as your midwife on D-Day, so I was relieved when the midwife on call, Tara, came in. I knew within two seconds of meeting her that she was going to be a great fit for us.
My initial fetal monitoring was almost done, I'd successfully avoided the IV line and was ready to be checked. I laid there doing a mental drumroll, hoping I was more than 5 centimeters. Psychologically, I needed to be more than 5.
I was 5 centimeters.
I couldn't help but think about how it took another 15 hours to birth Emma once I was 6-7 centimeters, so I mentally prepared myself for another several hours of contractions. It was 11pm. We got some tunes going, our birth photographer was snapping away, and I was happily swaying my hips on the birthing ball. In a funny way, it felt so us. Just hanging out, listening to music, laughing with each other. Okay, so every few minutes I'd have increasingly painful contractions. But other than that, it was just like normal.
Around midnight I decided to lay down for a bit and listen to a hypnobirthing track. (I like to keep moving when I'm in labor, but I learned the hard way with Emma that it's also important to rest!) About 15 minutes into the track I started getting the chills and shaking to the point that it was impossible to maintain my deep relaxation. I never went through a classic transition phase with Emma, so I didn't realize that this meant we were getting down to business. I scrapped the rest of the track and went back to standing/sitting/swaying. With every contraction I would stand behind Jared, hold on to his shoulders, and bury my forehead into his back while I breathed my baby down. I'd been doing that all day and it felt so good to connect with Jared during those moments of intensity.
Then came the nausea.
After a particularly intense contraction, I immediately felt like I was going to be sick. Tara handed me a little plastic tray, but I remember telling her that I wanted to go puke in the toilet like a lady. Ha! Thankfully, it was just some (slightly less unpleasant) dry heaving and then it subsided. Until the next contraction. More shaking, more chills, more nausea. This part wasn't much fun. We were still listening to music, and at one point during the craziness Tara was using the portable monitor to check my baby's heartbeat... "Angel From Montgomery" by John Prine was on (one of my all time favorite songs), and me, Jared, and Tara were all singing along while my baby's heartbeat thumped in the background. "Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery. Make me a poster of an old rodeo..." I knew the hardest part was soon to come, and this moment was a sweet little reminder that everything was happening exactly how it was supposed to.
Tara had the ideal personality for calming my nerves about having a long labor. She just never said anything about it... no time estimates, no pressure to be checked. She simply slowly started getting things in order when she sensed I was getting close to pushing. I could see this happening around me and while I was still too stubborn to get my hopes up, this unspoken vote of confidence was all I needed to surrender through the last of transition and start allowing myself to accept that this was about to happen - that a "mere" 11 hours after my labor picked back up the afternoon before, my baby was ready to be birthed.
I stuck with my contractions as long as I could... they were all consuming and the pressure was so intense I felt like my baby would just fall right out. If only it was that easy! I got up on the bed in a kneeling position and rested my arms over the raised top of the bed. With the next contraction, I started my pushes. I only lasted a few pushes in that position... you have to listen to your body when it comes to pushing and while no position feels good, some feel more right than others. So I sat on the bed and Jared and another nurse acted like human stirrups. (How's that visual for ya?!) We pushed against each other with each contraction, and I could already tell pushing was going to take longer than I'd hoped. I'm just not destined to be one of those 3 pushes and baby's out kinda gals.
Time was dragging. I felt like I wasn't making any progress. It hurt. It hurt BAD. Some women prefer the pushing, but not me. I could do (and did) days of labor just fine, but 20 minutes into pushing I was really regretting not getting any drugs. All those months I'd spent getting physically prepared for another natural birth, and I'd forgotten to firm up my mental resolve. I knew it was the safest and gentlest way for my baby to be born, I knew I'd done it once before, I knew it was what I truly wanted, but dang... in that moment, if it hadn't been too late, I would have given just about anything for a little pain relief. They always say that when you start wanting the drugs it means you're really close. Well I could have stood to be just a little closer.
My water still hadn't broken, so to move things along I asked Tara to go ahead and break my water. I immediately missed having that little buffer between my baby's head and my pelvis. Did I mention it hurt? Because it did. A lot. But I knew the only way out was through. I rested for a couple of contractions, and then decided that it was time. I was going to give it every last thing I had. Sounds came out of me that I've never heard before... guttural... primal.
He was crowning.
Two more pushes...
Hello, my sweet boy.
Tara handed him to me and he was just so tiny and perfect. I wanted to hold him forever. I can't adequately put into words the instant bond I felt with my son. From that moment on, he was my little guy and I was his mama and so it would always be.
We stared at him in all his newborn goodness, taking in every tiny wrinkle on his body, his firm little fists, his sparse blonde hair. Jared held his son for the first time, and I overflowed with love.
I barely noticed that, as with Emma, I was having too much bleeding and that the IV I'd been avoiding went in along with some Pitocin to try to get my uterus to contract a little faster. Such is the after part of of birth no one really talks about... you're so busy obsessing over your new baby, but you also just did this pretty crazy physical thing and your body needs tending to. So I got a little TLC while Jonah got his vitals taken.
It was nearly 3am by the time Jonah was born and we were bone tired. We were quite eager to move out of recovery and settle into our room to love on our little boy, and hopefully take a nice long family nap. Our wish was granted, and after a long feeding, Jonah fell asleep in my arms, I fell asleep in the bed, and Jared fell asleep on that terrible couch thing they try to pass off as a bed. I once again found myself blessed beyond belief... surrounded by more love than I ever thought possible... so fortunate to get to experience the miracle of motherhood.