One of our summer birthing mamas has written her birth story and has graciously shared it with us and the world. Her beautiful story involves lots of preparation and support, grappling with the unknowable nature of childbirth, a gentle and ample pre-labor, a swift active labor and pushing stage, a sibling at birth and a bit of an unexpected urgency at the end.
Anticipation, Surprise, Swift, Emotional, Beautiful, Blessed. There are so many more words, but these are the most prominent that come to mind when I reflect on our birth time Miles Hartley. You took us on an amazing ride and I will forever be grateful that we walked this journey together.
As much as I wanted you to come into this world much before your due date, I tried to remind myself that it was not up to me, but that YOU would choose the perfect time to come meet everyone that was waiting for you. My pregnancy with you was filled with so much anticipation and I found it harder to control as your guess date drew near. I felt anticipation about whether you were going to be a boy or a girl; anticipation about how it would feel to meet you for the first time since I had not had nearly the amount of time to spiritually connect with you during this pregnancy; anticipation about the connection you and Averee have had and will have in your life together as siblings; most of all, there was anticipation about what our birth time would be like, knowing that it was undoubtedly going to be so much different from Averee’s birth but unsure of what that meant. My anticipation was so strong that I decided on Tuesday morning I needed to go for a long walk with Cece and the girls around Lake Harriet to try to encourage gravity to get you moving to the outside world! Contractions came along but nothing that made me think you were on your way anytime soon. Little did I know…
I was slightly surprised to wake up in the wee hours of the morning on June 8th 2016 (around 1:00am) to a tiny hint of what seemed to be “pre-labor” contractions. The tightening feeling of the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had felt during most of the pregnancy now had a little bit of a sting to them. All I had to do was concentrate a little harder on breathing through them. That part was a familiar feeling to what I experienced before but the only place on my belly that I felt the pressure of the contraction was in the lower part of my uterus, not my entire belly. The duration and frequency of the contractions was very irregular (ranging anywhere from 3-12 min, and lasting 30-60 seconds) which is why I knew that true labor had not begun, but I was still a little surprised to think that maybe you could actually be a “due date baby”. I told Papa what I was feeling but that I thought he should go to work and I would touch base with him later in the morning after I had the chance to speak with the midwives. The minute he left the house at 5:30, Averee woke up but wasn’t ready to get out of bed. I went to her room to lay down with her so that we could both get a little more rest. It seemed as though you knew that I needed to focus my attention on your sister and you politely waited your turn, sweet boy. At that time my contractions slowed drastically coming every 30-60 min instead of every couple and the intensity of them decreased as well. Even though I wanted to kick things into gear, the gentle break to let my body and mind process everything that was about to change, was a welcomed gesture. Thank you little man!
It is hard to explain what I felt as the rest of the day went on because it went by so quickly. Chloe came over with Eden to play with Averee and take my mind off of everything I was feeling. Contractions stayed mild and infrequent for the rest of the morning and afternoon, however right before Chloe showed up at 10:00 I had some bloody show when I went to the bathroom. When they left, I decided to take a nap with Averee. After Papa got home from work and Averee woke up from nap, I continued to rest on the couch. Papa decided to take Averee to the park and give me some more time to relax. Yaya and Farfar brought dinner over so that I didn’t have to cook. Starting around 4:30 things picked back up. The intensity of the contractions got stronger again and from here on out they were 4-6 min apart. At about 5:30 I let me midwives know that frequency of the contractions seemed to pick up again but no change in the intensity or anything else that I was feeling. They told me they were all set to come over, and to keep them posted with the next change I felt. I had more bloody show and mucous discharge right before 6:00. My conversation with Sarah basically ended with any other change I feel to let them know right away and they would be over. We made it through dinner with Yaya and Farfar and over the next couple of hours things stayed regular. I could continue carry on conversation and move about between contractions, but I did not have much of an appetite. As soon as Yaya and Farfar left around 8:00pm, Papa started getting Averee ready for bed. We could tell that labor was definitely in motion so as Papa finished putting Averee to bed, I started getting the house ready for birth. We needed to get our bed ready with plastic sheets, get all the birth supplies out, get the birth tub set up, etc. Then I decided it was necessary to take a shower since I may not get another one for a little while. I got in the shower about 9:00pm, and that was the key to getting things in motion. From there on out, things moved so swiftly that I never had the time to process the physical sensations I felt, the emotions within me, or the fact that I was SO close to meeting you. When I got out of the shower I was feeling a lot more pressure in my bottom. I had a brief moment of “I got this, I don’t need to call the midwives yet.” Then you must have spoken to me and with the next contraction my mindset changed. I called Sarah at 9:24pm, and at the end of our 2:30 min conversation and listening through two contractions, she said, “I’m on my way!”
Even after Sarah said she was coming over, I was still in denial that things were actually moving quickly. Her urgency made me think that I should at least let the rest of my birth team know that things “seemed” to be picking up if they wanted to head over. Thank goodness I put those calls in right away. Everyone was at our place by 10:30. I continued to labor walking around the house and leaning on various surfaces while someone helped me through the contraction. EVERYONE was still helping getting things set up. There wasn’t much laughing or conversation or music. We were all just focused. I guess everyone could sense the urgency. At about 11:00 Chloe suggested we change up the position. She grabbed Averee’s step stool and suggested I get a leg up and lunge into each contraction to try to get my pelvis open. This was another game changer! I think after two contractions like this Sarah suggested we get a chux pad under me because she was sure my water was going to break. No sooner did they get that settled that my next contraction broke my water (about 11:10pm). Surprise! Things keep moving in the direction of birth yet I was still reluctant to believe that it would happen so quickly. The midwives suggested that I get into the tub, but I was apprehensive remembering how much it slowed me down during Averee’s birth time. I did however want to get in the shower to rinse off the two drops of amniotic fluid from my water breaking. I think everyone was laughing at me in their heads because they all knew how imminent birth was. But they let me do as I wish. Into the shower I went to wash my legs off and have another couple contractions.
The next thing I knew, I was standing at the bathroom sink. I glanced at the clock in the living room taking note of the time (11:15pm) and trying to figure out what my next move was. While I continued to labor in the bathroom, Sarah and Erin were getting set with birth supplies in the bathtub. My next contraction came and I could feel a ton of pressure in my bottom and felt like I kind of pushed with it. I turned around and saw all the supplies in the bathroom and said something along the lines of “I feel like I’m pushing.” Their response was, “Yep, you’re having a baby.” I replied, “I’m not doing that here. I need to get in the tub and someone needs to get Averee up.”
Getting to the tub was a difficult task feeling so much pressure in my bottom, so it was good I made the move then. As soon as I got into the tub, I sunk down into the water, closed my eyes and began to focus on every contraction and opening further for you to come out. I heard Papa bring Averee into the room a few minutes later. I asked her to give me a hug and kiss, and I know you felt that love too. She was so calm and continued to repeat encouraging words. She stood with Papa and kept careful watch through the next couple contractions, then the midwives asked, “who is catching this baby?” Papa wanted to catch if Averee would let him so she sat and cuddled with Grandma, and Papa moved behind the tub. Sarah checked heart tones during the next contraction and said that they were a bit low and I needed to give every ounce of energy on my next contraction to get your head out.
At that moment, I opened my eyes and felt the beauty of the moment. I saw Lisa in front of me holding my hands. She gave me a smile and said “you’re doing it mama, you’re going to meet your baby.” I had a beautiful flashback to 6 months ago when we were opposite each other in the very same moment before she gathered all her strength to birth MacKenzie. I continued to look about the room and saw Averee cuddling with Grandma (who seemed to have the slightest tear in her eye) and felt blessed that my mother and daughter were going to witness your birth. Then my focus went to the wall that had our family pictures hanging and a bunch of the birth art I had made with positive imagery. I had another flashback to my blessing way when many of my friends gathered in this exact space to provide their energy, support and prayers for our birth time. I could feel their energy and the energy of everyone in the room at that time and I took that beautiful feeling, retreated inward, closed my eyes, and with the next contraction pushed with every ounce of energy I had.
Your birth was so much more intense than I remember it being with Averee. I think it was due to the fact that it was happening so quickly so there was so much more sensation and emotion to process at every moment. As I felt that one last contraction, I pushed with all my might. I could feel your head come out and I didn’t stop there. I wanted to meet you. I continued to send my energy to you and could feel your body slip out and into the water. Papa caught you and fed you through my legs and I brought you out of the water. I saw and announced immediately that you were a boy and lifted myself up off my bottom and showed you to Averee and Grandma. Averee said, “Mama, there’s the baby! You push it out of your belly!” She totally got it and it was such a beautiful feeling for her to witness your entrance into the world. Our family is complete, and I feel blessed.
As much as I wanted that to be the end of our birth story, you had one more surprise up your sleeve. Moments after you came out, Erin noticed that your umbilical cord was not intact but had severed on the way out. You were losing blood and looked quite ashy gray. Erin grabbed the end of the cord and tried to pinch it off while Sarah grabbed the clamp. Despite this scare, all the other measures of health on the APGAR rating were high, and your vitals were great. They got you out of the water and skin to skin with Papa while Sarah helped me out of the water to try to deliver my placenta before I started to hemorrhage. Thankfully she was able to find the end of the cord and help me get the placenta out. As soon as I delivered it they got me comfortably in bed so we could snuggle, keep you warm and monitor your color coming back. You pinked up rather quickly considering what the outcome could have been. Your oxygen levels were perfect too. After that kind of scare, we were all thankful that you handled it so well, took right to the breast and have continued to be a perfect little addition to our family. We are so in love with you Miles Hartley! Welcome to the world, sweet boy.