I woke up early on Wednesday morning to take Abram to his regular check up at the Doctor. The night before Thomas wasn’t feeling well and I urged him to stay in bed and to sleep in until I returned with Abram and to not worry about anything in the house as far as picking up after breakfast or cleaning anything. However, when I got home, I arrived to a spotless home with not a dirty dish in sight and everything in it’s little place. My quilt I had been making for our new baby was on the couch, along with my other hand quilting supplies, an iced glass of red raspberry leaf tea, and my favorite hymns were playing throughout the house. He urged me to sit down, relax, put my feet up, and finish the binding on the quilt so it would be ready when the baby decided to come. Abram took his morning nap and Riley went in the tractor with Thomas, so the house was all peace and quiet.
Abram slept longer than usual and around 12:45pm woke up and instantly showed me the sign for “I’m hungry.” A few minutes later Riley was dropped off and he came running inside asking what we were having for lunch. I hadn’t planned it out quite yet...but I knew there were some leftovers and stuff to make sandwiches. At 1pm, my back started to cramp and as I was walking around the kitchen, I was rubbing it...thinking it would go away soon. I finished my quilt and immediately put it in the washer and dryer.
By 2:30pm, my back had not stopped cramping, but it was mild...similar to early menstrual cramps. At 3:00pm, I started contracting...small and weak...but regular. Thomas was casually timing them and they were every 4-5 minutes. After 20 minutes of regular contractions, we looked at one another and said, “We have so much to get ready! What if this baby is coming today?” No one thinks their baby will arrive almost two weeks early. Every mother ripe in pregnancy would probably hope their baby comes early, but it can be foolish to EXPECT the baby to arrive early. I have been advised by wise midwives to expect to go late and that way, if the baby comes early, it is just an extra bonus. Our baby was due August 15th and so I had the date August 10th as the day in my mind when I would have everything ready by...the bassinet next to the bed, newborn clothes down from the attic (washed, dried, folded, and put away), receiving blankets clean and ready to swaddle a newborn, diapers ready (washed, folded, and ready to be used)...And then there were the other things like have extra food around the house for myself and the midwives during and after labor, have all of the home birth supplies out and ready for use...And then there was the plan to get my hair cut on August 10th, knowing it would be a while before I would be able to do that after the baby arrived. We thought five days early was plenty of time to have this check list complete! Also, we were intentional about packing in as many social activities as possible at the end of July. All of Thomas’ free time from work was taken up by bridal showers, parties, church activities, and dinner with friends.
So...when we recognized these contractions were coming regularly, we thought we should get in gear and in gear we GOT! Thomas got up in the attic and got down the infant car seat to wash and install in the van. He also brought down the clothes and other newborn items like slings, breastfeeding materials, baby blankets, etc. I started sorting laundry and we went to work getting everything clean, set up, and ready for a new one. (Now, let me say that NONE of these things HAD TO BE DONE in order to welcome a newborn into the world...but there’s this concept called “nesting” which comes on really strong in a mother where she would prefer everything to be ready and in place before bringing her baby into this world. It’s really not worth much more than peace of mind...but when the check list is complete, a mother’s mind can be free.) As we were flittering about the house, the contractions spaced out to about every 10 minutes. It was a sign to me that things were slowing down and that I was most likely just experiencing a “warm up” and that real labor was probably far away.
By 4:30, I had the thought that a walk might tell me something. I know that a good walk will either stop early labor or really bring it on and I wanted to see which way my body was going. Despite it being over 100 degrees outside, Thomas and Riley and I went on a short walk around our barns, while Abram was taking his afternoon nap. Less than 5 minutes into the walk, I started contracting hard, every 2-3 minutes. I needed to pause, bend over, and breathe. They were short, though, only lasting about 30 seconds long. But they were intense...just as one would expect a real labor contraction to me...something far serious than those warm up ones! The walk only lasted about 15 minutes because it was so hot outside and we thought we better contact our midwife.
Our midwife has her own home birth practice and she owns the San Antonio Birth Center. When we called her, she was at the Birth Center with two women who were in labor. (Her first commitment is to her home birth clients so when this happens she always gives priority to her home birth client and the Birth Center is staffed with other midwives.) She advised that I not go for any more walks until she could be free to head in our direction (about 50 minutes away). I laid down on the bed to see what would happen and the contractions spaced out again to about 10 minutes apart. At 5pm, I wasn’t sure if active labor was going to start or if my body really was just practicing. Our midwife called around 5:30pm to say that she was going to leave the Birth Center and come our direction. I told her that I would not like for her to get here and just sit around if this wasn’t real labor...that would just make me feel bad. She said knowing my labor history with Riley (4.5 hours) and Abram (2.5 hours), she thought she should just come anyway to give me an exam and see what was going on.
By 6pm, I called her to ask where she was because my contractions were getting really intense now and I was hoping she wasn’t too far away. Sure enough, she was only ten minutes away and she could hear it in my voice that I was truly in labor. She arrived at 6:15pm and saw me on the bed, breathing through a long contraction. She offered to examen me and see my progress. I told her that she could but I was just afraid that she would say I’m only 2 cm dilated. She said, “I just saw you breathe through that last contraction. With some degree of “midwife certainty”, I can assure you you’re not at 2 cm.” She guessed I was in transition. Sure enough, she said I was 9cm and that “it wouldn’t be long before I was holding my baby.” I was in disbelief! 9cm???? How could it be? Thirty minutes before I was telling her not to come yet. I had one more strong contraction on the bed and she suggested I move to the birth tub (which Thomas was frantically filling with hot water...not realizing I was almost complete.)
One more contraction in the birth tub and then I began to experience really long breaks. It almost seemed like labor was stopping. However, our midwife assured us that it was simply a sign that I was complete and that my body would switch gears from opening to pushing. I sat in the birth tub and waited for a contraction to come. When it did, my whole body began to push the baby down. I had really intense back pain and Thomas was trying his best to apply counter pressure during the contraction. He was afraid he was hurting me. BUT, it was as if he couldn’t press hard enough. His strong force against my spine was so relieving! The baby seemed really high and with each contraction, I truly had to push with all of my might to get the baby lower and lower. (This is the first baby that I have had to physically push out and work with every contraction. I know that this is what is most common and I’ve read about it in many labor books. However, with both Riley and Abram, I did not have to physically push. Both of those babies were barrelling down the canal and it was all I could do to hold them in. Pushing in this labor was by far the hardest work I’ve done.)
Our midwife said she could see the bag of waters and suggested that we leave it in tact. Her opinion was that it would be a gentler passage for both mama and baby. We trusted her and said that was fine. She said the baby was so close that with one more contraction I could push him out or I could just take it really slow. I decided I was ready to meet this little miracle and didn’t want to prolong labor anymore. So, 5 contractions and 20 minutes later after getting in the tub, I pushed with all of my might and out came a slithery, sweet, little baby IN THE CAUL! That is simply a fancy way to say that he was born in the amniotic sac. (We have since been told that the chances of this happening are about 1 in 800,000).
At 7:11pm, a perfect baby BOY was born into my arms.
I kept saying, “Really? It’s over? Really? I feel like I was just getting started!” I couldn’t believe he was in my arms and that it really was over. What relief!!! Holding him in my arms, he looked up at me and with wide eyes stared at me. With perfect peace and love, he just wanted to see me. And I couldn’t believe I was holding the very being who kicked and punched for so many months. I felt the roundness of his bottom and the sharpness of his knees and they were so familiar to me...”So, YOU are the one whom I’ve known and loved but have never seen until now...”
The boys had been across the driveway at Grandpa’s and Gigi’s house since 6pm. Thomas called and sent for Riley to come over and meet his little brother. He was so excited for another little boy!!! Abram didn’t come over until much later and when he first saw the baby, he looked a little confused, and then had a sweet giggle. He pointed to him and smiled. By then it was time for him to be in bed so Thomas quickly got him in his pajamas and laid him down for the night.
Without a problem or concern, our newest son passed his newborn exam with perfection! He nursed right away and was so peaceful...and two days later...has yet to cry! He weighed 8lbs. and 4 oz and was 22” long. He is our smallest baby so far, with Riley at 8lbs. 14 oz, 22” and Abram at 8lbs. 6 oz, 21”.
So...how long was my labor? I am not sure. I don’t really know when active labor started. All I know is that my first back cramp was at 1pm, and by 4:30pm I was having sporadic contractions that were some times intense and painful and most of the time not. I did not go through the emotional signposts of early labor being excited, active labor being serious and focused on what my body was doing, and transition being the “I can’t do this anymore” phase. What I do know is by 6:15pm I was experiencing strong contractions...with enough power and force to make me wonder...but I honestly thought the midwife’s exam would show I was hardly dilated. So...it is hard to say. What I know is this...at 5:30pm, I wasn’t sure our midwife should come just yet, by 6:15pm I was 9 cm and by 7:11pm he was born.
The Lord was kind and merciful to us! It was a gentle labor and a joyful experience. I couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else, but at home, with my loving husband supporting my laboring body and our midwife calmly assuring us of everything.
Three sons! We can hardly believe it and feel utterly grateful to God for trusting us to raise these young boys into strong men who will, we desperately pray, live lives in honor and for the glory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!