I was 37 weeks on the 4th. Just after midnight, I had a few surges that woke me up from my sleep. By 6:30am, I noticed there might just be a pattern. My excitement meant any more sleep was out of the question for me; so there I sat in bed, next to my sleeping husband, with my sleeping toddler down the hall. I had a silly grin as I was laughing to myself about making it just far enough to be able to have our home birth, all the while being extremely thankful that it wasn't any sooner.
The surges stuck around and soon we were having breakfast before running our errands for the day. We hit Costco, Michael's, and Natural Grocers, all while riding my surges out. I ran into a mama friend at Costco who had the same midwife with both of her little ones. We had our small talk and she remarked about how close I was getting. Laughing, I told her I was fairly certain I was in early labor. She gave me a hug and some encouragement and I felt even more excited.
By 1pm, I thought I should give my midwife (Jessica Nipp - Holistic Home Birth) and photographer (Monet Moutrie) a head's up that we could be giving them "that" call sooner than later. My midwife was at another birth - and ironically it was her last mama "due" in 2014 (so we were due 5 weeks apart). I didn't let it discourage me, and I truly didn't think it'd progress much more until after Sabryn was in bed for the night, if not the next day. Our photographer (and friend) was on stand by, ready whenever we wanted her.
Our day continued and so did the surges. It was nap time for Sabryn, which resulted in nap time for Brad. I couldn't rest. I had some store credit to Kohl's, so I decided I'd go try to find a nursing bra or two since I only had one. My drive to Kohl's was a surreal one. I had Pandora playing a favorite station and each song was hitting me in ways that I can't articulate. My labor high had arrived and I knew this was going to be the real deal. I got to Kohl's and even got to the bra section. But that's as far as I got with my goal. I was pacing around the racks completely unfocused on finding a bra. I was only focused on my surges, which couldn't be ignored if I tried. I left the store with no bra and headed home.
Soon enough, the surges were between 3'ish minutes apart, lasting a minute or so. They started requiring more work and I took a liking to our exercise ball. At this point, we contacted our midwife and photographer again. Jessica was still at her other birth, and was planning on being there for a long haul. We agreed it would be best for her to give her back up (Tara Stephen - Beautiful Births) a call and let her know she might be needed. Thankfully, her back up was the assistant midwife at our daughter's birth and had completed much of her training under our midwife. I also trust my midwife with mine and my children's lives, so needless to say, I would've been comfortable with whoever she sent our way, but was especially happy to know it was Tara.
We left things at that, hoping the next time we talked, it'd be her checking in after leaving the other birth. Around 6pm, our photographer was on her way. I was worried it might still be early on, but she didn't mind if it was, and working through the surges was getting more and more difficult. Once she arrived, they started coming slammed one on top of another. By 7pm, Tara was on her way - Jessica was still with her other mama. Sabryn was starting to get a little fussy (very likely from all the excitement), so we decided to go get her down for bed a little early. I was feeling sentimental, realizing it could very well be my last time tucking her in as my only child. The surges were intense as I was trying to read and snuggle with her but I wanted to love on her as much as I could. By the time we got her tucked in, Tara had arrived. And surges started to die down - the complete opposite of what we expected to happen after getting our toddler to bed.
From about 8:30pm and onward, surges did continue but were also continuing to die down. Monet and Tara were working hard to get the pool to temperature. Our hot water supply made it just a bit of a pain, not to mention the pool being upstairs and the stove (to heat pots of water) was downstairs. Once it was finally up to temp, I asked Tara to check me. I didn't have expectations, or even hopes, I just wanted to have an idea of where I was at. Not everyone's cup of tea in the home birthing community, but it's what I wanted. I was at 5cm and 50% effaced. This meant the water might slow things down, but it might not. I was tired but could not comfortably stay lying down to rest and wanted to try different things, so I got into the water. Well, it felt amazing, but definitely slowed my surges waaay down. Shortly after 11pm, we all discussed and decided it might be best for Monet and Tara to leave and for Brad and I to get some sleep.
Tara left all of her gear and they planned on hearing from us within a few hours. They left around 11:30pm. We went to bed. I made it maybe 20 minutes before my surges were unbearable to sleep, let alone lay through. Still 10 or so minutes apart, I kept trying to rest/sleep in between them until shortly after 1am when they started to really pick back up. By 1:15, I woke Brad up (who was sleeping oh so peacefully) and he called Tara and Monet back over while I got in a hot shower. They arrived around 2am, with the wonderful surprise of our midwife, Jessica, coming shortly after, straight from her other birth. I knew I was missing Jessica, but had no idea how much until she was there. I don't necessarily think her not being there was placing a mental "block" or anything on the process, but the best way to articulate it is that my birth experience was meant to have her there and I think everything happened the way it did for that reason. I was confident throughout my labor, but she gave me the boost I needed (we really love our midwife).
She offered to check me again and I agreed, still not holding any expectations or high hopes. This time I was 100% effaced, still at 5cm, and she told me I had another tough, bulging sack. (I had the same with Sabryn and it was keeping me right around 4 1/2cm.) She told me we could break my water, and if my last experience could be any indication, we could anticipate that we'd meet baby soon after. Or we could just keep going. Truthfully, I did not want to be much more tired than I already was when pushing, birthing, and meeting my baby came. Prior to labor, Brad and I decided we were going to try to avoid this intervention this time around, so even though it was my body, and at this point I was totally on board for Jessica breaking my water, I waited for Brad to make the final decision. He was putting Sabryn back to bed (she had a hard time sleeping through all the excitement) and I continued to labor. Surges were staying about the same, and I was really coming to peace with the idea of having my water broken, accepting that it would facilitate things and trusting my midwife to avoid the risks that can sometimes be involved. Brad returned, I filled him in, and he respected what I wanted to do, only questioning me to make sure I was completely sure. I was. And as I rode a few more surges out, I tried to mentally prepare myself for things to really take off.
Jessica came back into the room around 3:15am and asked what we were thinking - I told her I was ready for her to break my water. We proceeded and then I stood up to ride out my next surges. There was instantly much more pressure and their intensity grew rapidly. It was a matter of minutes before I was ready to get into the water again. I had one or two more manageable (but intense) surges before I was pushing. Brad was scrambling to set up our camera to record as Monet (so much more than a photographer!) held my hand in his place. Transition was hitting, and manifested in a beautiful way - I vocalized "I can do this. I can do this." There was no denial, no fighting. I was as prepared as I could be.
Brad got into the pool just in time to support me through the pushing. My pushing phase with this birth was much different than with my daughter. With her, I screamed through it. My mind was only focused on getting through the pain all together, not conquering a single surge at a time. This time, I focused on keeping my tones low and open, I focused on the actual act of bringing my baby down and out into the world. There would be moments I'd start to lose that focus, but with encouragement from my amazing birth team, I would quickly regain my focus and work through one surge at a time. I embraced my breaks and took on each surge as it came. I was feeling like I was pretty close when I finally asked my midwife, "Am I close?" She nearly laughed and responded "yes," seconds before my baby crowned. I was on all fours, so I couldn't see a thing, but felt everything! As soon as his head was born, I felt him squirming around. A lot. It was a break between surges, but between my excitement to meet my baby and the discomfort of him practically trying to birth the rest of himself, it wasn't as nice as the breaks that led up to it. It was also easily the longest break I had during the pushing phase (which was under 30 minutes). My midwife even made a remark about him just wiggling himself the rest of the way out... It sure felt like that was what was happening!
Finally, the last surge came, and out came my baby.
I turned around to be met with the hands of my husband and midwife, handing me my perfect little baby born at 3:57am, at 5 lbs. 11 oz. and 20.25" after only 20'ish minutes of pushing. I went from 5cm to holding my baby in my arms in the matter of a half hour! "Oh my baby!" I repeated a few times as he was placed into my arms before discovering and exclaiming "It's a boy!" I fell in love. With my new son, with my husband, with birth, with motherhood. Most of these were seasoned loves, just being relit by the amazing experience I just had; the only new, unknown love, was for my beautiful son, Cian. We stayed in the pool, bonding and taking it all in, while we waited for the placenta to be born.
Jessica went to get Sabryn who had woken up when she heard her mama working so hard. She came and definitely checked baby out, but at the time, was much more interested in splashing the water. I couldn't stop kissing the new man in my life. He was absolutely perfect. Once the placenta was born (and I may be biased but it was a seriously beautiful placenta!), we transitioned into our bed. Brad took Cian and the placenta into bed while Jessica and Tara helped me out of the pool to get cleaned up, dried off, and dressed. Once in bed, I was checked out to find only a very minor scratch (he had his hand by his face just like big sister did) and everything looked great. Our new family of four bonded in bed while Jessica and Tara cleaned everything up.
Soon, it was time for Cian to get checked out and for Brad to cut the cord. We all thought little guy was going to be smaller than his sister was, but he was just a tiny bit bigger! He checked out great for being as early and small as he was and Daddy put his first diaper on. Then on my chest he went, for the start of days and days of beautiful skin-to-skin. He wouldn't latch for a couple hours but once he did, I was very lucky for another easy start and great natural latch. By 6am, everyone was on their way and left us to rest. We tried to let Sabryn sleep in our bed, but she wasn't going to sleep if she was anywhere near *her* new baby. We ended up reading her a couple of books and got her to sleep for a bit in her bed. Brad and I slept as much as we could before beginning our first day as a family of 4, waking to a very excited big sister, eager to check on baby.
5 days later, I know we're still in that honeymoon phase, but I am optimistic for our future. I plan for my family to survive AND thrive. While pregnant, I heard many horror stories and more discouragement than anything else - how hard it was going to be and that I have no idea what I'm in for. And I don't. But what I do know is that it is 110% worth it. I thank the few voices that gave me encouragement during my pregnancy; the voices that lifted me up instead of feeding my fears and self-doubt. I KNOW there will be challenges, but life'a greatest joys and achievements can't exist without some challenging moments and I plan on embracing all of it. A big part of that starts with how I care for myself postpartum. It's been a night and day difference compared to after Sabryn was born (I ended up with postpartum depression and anxiety). I am resting, eating well, and welcoming the hormonal shift rather than fighting it. I'm taking placenta capsules again and aiding the process with herbal tinctures (ReBalance, Rescue Remedy, + Baby Blues if I end up needing it). My husband has been an incredible source of support, taking on literally every aspect of maintaining our home while I bond and recover. We've been extremely fortunate to have many friends generously prepare us meals and a friend who took care of Sabryn on our first day with Cian so we could get some much needed rest. This is the village every mama needs and deserves. This is the kind of love and support that I whole-heartedly believe should be the standard whether it's a mother's first baby or 6th (or more). I have another 10 days with my husband before he returns to work and I'm not afraid. If I need help, I'm going to ask for it and I know this amazing community I've blessed to become a part of will keep me afloat.