This birth would be different. I knew it. I told myself, I prepared myself, I prayed. A lot. I trusted my body. I wanted to bring this baby into the world naturally, after being told with my first that I couldn’t even deliver my babies vaginally. My pelvis was too flat, blah, blah, blah. With Porter, I trusted those danged doctors and had an uneventful elective c-section. It was fine, but I felt guilty for not giving my body a chance. The recovery was difficult. I knew deep down that I could have a baby the conventional way. With my second pregnancy I had a very supportive midwife who thought I would be an ideal candidate for a VBAC because she thought my previous doctors were full of hooey. They were. I had a successful vaginal birth with Paisley, and it was a wonderful experience. My only goal was to push her out, and for that I was SO grateful. However, I ended up being augmented with Pitocin and I elected for an epidural, which wasn't my ideal plan. I pushed for 37 minutes and out she came. I learned a lot during my labor and delivery with her. This time I knew I could do it again, and it would be an even better experience. I wanted a natural birth. I wanted to feel what my body was capable of doing all along, what I was told I couldn’t do. Why would I ever listen to anyone tell me what my body can and cannot do? This time I was calling the shots. I would be as prepared as any pregnant lady could be. I hired a doula and a birth photographer. I visited the chiropractor once a week. I took special vitamins and had a labor-prep massage. I read a fantastic book on natural birth and I took copious notes. This was my last baby and this labor and delivery were going to be epic. I hoped. And I was a little bit scared. Scared that I wouldn’t go into labor. Scared that I would have to have another c-section. Scared that my water would break and then nothing would happen, like last time. Scared that I wouldn’t dilate without an epidural. Scared that I couldn’t do it. Scared that I would get exactly what I wanted and it would hurt like heck.
My due date was Tuesday, May 20th, 2014. I went in for my scheduled 39 week visit with my midwife on Monday the 12th, the day after Mother’s Day. I wanted to be checked, hoping to high heaven that something would be going on down there, but I had never dilated or effaced with Porter, and with Paisley I only did after about 5 hours of Pitocin, so I didn’t expect much. Also, since my water broke spontaneously with Paisley and I didn’t go into labor, I didn’t want her to accidentally get things started if my body wasn’t ready. I was a little scared of having her check me. Curiosity got the better of me, and when she checked I was ONE centimeter and 40% effaced! I wanted to kiss her face. Then she easily stretched me to a TWO and I wanted to name my baby after her (a baby name? That’s an ENTIRE different story). I was so happy that my body was actually making progress all by itself this time! I had been praying for this all along. She tried not to make any promises, but she told me she didn’t think she’d see me at my 40 week appointment. YES. I was so excited!
Thursday morning, May 15th, I woke up at about 6:30 a.m. and went to the bathroom. I had some bloody show, and you’d think it had been a new car. I was so excited because my body was playing along and getting ready for a baby! Thinking back, I remembered that I had two contractions in the night that woke me up and sent me to the bathroom, because I didn’t want to lay down through them. I didn’t think anything of it and went straight back to sleep. Craig was playing in a golf tournament that day and he was concerned about going, but I assured him that I would be fine, and I wanted things to be as normal as possible so I didn’t drive myself crazy waiting for labor to begin. I started having real contractions immediately, but they were not too painful and pretty unorganized, coming about 5-10 minutes apart. I also had tons of Braxton Hicks contractions mixed in with the real ones, but I could definitely tell the difference between the two. I knew I was in early labor. I also knew it could stop any time, but I had a sneaking feeling that this was it! Porter went off to school, and I cleaned all morning and hung out with Paisley. Craig’s mom and sister offered to take her, but I felt so connected to her that day. I knew it would be the last day that she would be the baby, and I wanted her with me. My friend Dawnelle came over to keep me company and she helped me with the last-minute cleaning projects that I was hoping to get done before the baby came. The sun was shining (another thing I prayed for) and I was in such a good mood. I was in labor! And I didn’t need drugs to get me there!
Around 1:00 my contractions intensified. They were coming every 6-8 minutes and lasting for about a minute each time. I put Paisley down for a nap, and then I ate a PB & J and a piece of cheddar cheese around 1:15. Craig said he would be home around 2, so I called him to make sure he would be coming home soon. I felt myself longing for his company. I was so happy that he was on his way when I called, and he was very surprised when he asked me if I was in labor and I said yes! I felt relieved enough to lay down for a nap. He came home while I was trying to sleep, but by 2:00 I was too uncomfortable to lay down during contractions, so I got up. We chatted for a few minutes and he was so sweet, so genuinely happy for me that my body was cooperating and that things were going the way that I really hoped they would.
At 2:15 I got in the shower, and it brought me so much relief. My contractions slowed in time and intensity. At 3:00 I sat down to relax and watch a bit of tv with Craig, and they immediately picked back up and were coming 6 minutes apart. By 3:30 I noticed that the contractions were spreading to my back. Oh, the joy of back labor. I got up to sit on the birth ball. I texted my friend Erin because she never fails to make me laugh, and a good laugh sounded so nice. I knew that laughing can help you relax and dilate, and I was in need of some distraction from the pain. She’s pretty much the funniest person alive, and BOY did she make me laugh. Something about an elephant and a mattress that I laughed out loud over for about 10 minutes. Oh, and a picture of a hideous body builder woman with a goofy grin that she said she pictured me looking like during contractions.
I called my doula, Leah, and asked her if she would come at 4:30. I knew that Granny would bring Porter home from school and that she would have taken him and Paisley with her to her house by that time. I was happy to see my kids for those few minutes, but happy to have them well taken care of as well. I did not worry about them for one minute while I was laboring, and that was such a blessing. I noted in my journal at 4:45 that contractions were more painful, but not getting closer together. Leah arrived and we all left at about 5:00 to walk around the outlet mall. I was tired of being at home and I needed a change of scenery at that point. I wanted to walk to get things moving, too. We needed a sleeping bag for Porter’s upcoming school trip, so I thought it would be a good time to go pick one up. Labor and run errands. I love multi-tasking. I remember the man checking us out at the Coleman outlet. He asked me when the baby was coming and I said “Hopefully tonight!” and he totally thought I was kidding. I had a big, fat contraction right as we walked out the door of his store. We stopped in a couple of children’s stores and picked up a few little things for the new baby. Leah was very sweet and reassuring during the painful times. I really felt most comfortable holding onto Craig during contractions, and walking and holding his hand in between. I felt hungry, so we decided on a place to eat. Something healthy sounded good to me. I chose Panera and no one argued, since there is an obvious rule that the one in labor gets to pick the place to eat.
We stopped by Granny and Grandpa’s house to drop off Porter's sleeping bag on our way to Panera at about 6:45. I got hugs from my kids out on the sidewalk and I freaked Grandpa out by being in labor near him, so we headed out. Craig preferred 5 Guys, which was right next door, so he ran there to grab his dinner and bring it back to eat with us while Leah and I ordered our food. I had to step out of line to have a contraction (don’t worry, I wasn’t yelling yet) and a lady asked Leah of I was ok. She said that I was fine, and that I was just in labor, and the woman practically panicked and asked very loudly if I needed a chair. By then the contraction was done and I thanked her with a smile and jumped back in line. A chair sounded like the worst thing ever, anyway! We ate in an emptier part of the restaurant so I could stand up during contractions. Sitting with back labor was awful. I was eager to take my first bite of food but I immediately had to jump up to have a contraction. It was torture to be sitting during one, so I had to get up quickly each time one came. I was swaying and breathing deeply during the rushes and smiling and eating in between. I had broccoli cheese soup and a strawberry chicken salad and it may have been the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.
We got home around 8:00. My contractions were still 5-6 minutes apart. I texted Anna, the photographer, and told her she could come anytime. I was pretty sure it was the real deal by this point, but I was still cautious. I sat on the birth ball and used the heating pad under my belly and on my back. Craig turned on a movie, but within minutes I wasn't even aware it was on. Anna came quickly, at about 8:15, and started taking pictures of us in the living room. At 8:45 I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, and I needed a minute to myself, so I headed up to the baby’s room. I wanted to see all the tiny pink things that were waiting for her. I wanted to tell her that I was ready for her. That I couldn’t wait to meet her. I wanted to sit in my favorite rocking chair and just be. I was in labor. For real. And I loved it.
Leah asked if she could join me and I said yes. Anna followed and took some of my favorite pictures while I was in the baby’s room. I remember being so uncomfortable that I didn’t stay in one place for more than one contraction. I moved around a lot. I noticed two contractions really close together. Then the next one came very quickly, too. I said to Leah and Anna “Did those seem really close, or is it just me?” They agreed, so I timed them on my cell phone. 2 ½ minutes apart. I filled the tub and got in at 9:15 seeking some relief, and wondering if they would space back out. It felt so good. Leah was trying to offer me chap-stik and water, but I didn’t want anything. I asked her to get Craig. He is the only thing I wanted. He sat by me and we smiled and talked for a few minutes. I couldn’t get comfortable, and the contractions were still steady at 2-3 minutes apart. I kept smiling in between, though, so I thought we still had lots of time. Leah was taking notes and she wrote “9:30-Crushing it like a rock star. Contractions lasting longer and getting stronger.” Anna left to go make sure her kids were in bed around 9:40. I told her I would text her when we were on the way to the hospital so she could come there when things got more serious.
It seemed like two contractions later when I realized that I was having a much harder time relaxing my body during contractions. I stood up and said, “This is it! We’re going to the hospital!” I still felt like I was coping pretty well, I was just nervous about dealing with the pain in the car with the contractions any closer than two minutes. I am so glad I followed my instinct to leave then. I went to my room to get dressed and grab a few things, and Craig was there with me. I think it all sunk in at that moment, and I hugged him and cried for a minute. It felt so good to just let it out. It hurt, and I just needed to cry. I needed a break from being strong and I felt vulnerable and scared. With the next contraction I was reminded of the urgency that I had felt to get going, so we headed for the car. I texted Anna from the garage at 9:51 and told her we were headed out. She replied and said to let her know how dilated I was when we got there and that she would leave her house in 5-10 minutes. My first contraction in the car was at a red light, and I was so thankful. Craig asked me if I should call my midwife and I thought “DUH!” Why didn’t I think of that?!” I called the on-call midwife, and she said that she would call Nancy. I had a contraction while I was on the phone with her, and I assume when she heard my deep moaning, she decided to put a rush on that. She said she would tell her to hurry. I still thought I had hours more of labor ahead of me. While we were pulling up to the ER, I said to Craig how I was bummed that the baby’s birthday would be the next day since I had labored that whole day but it was already 10:00. I never dreamed she would be born within the hour!
We got into the hospital ER and I stood at the counter through about a million contractions while Craig checked me in. It took forever. The nurse came downstairs with a wheelchair to wheel me up and I politely declined. Okay, maybe not so politely. There was NO way I could sit down. I remember having a contraction and then booking it down the hall to see how far I could get before another one came. I made it to the elevator, and when the nurse saw me have a contraction I guess I passed her ‘Is she in labor?’ test, and she called up and said we were skipping triage and going straight to room 303. I made sure it was a room with a tub. I couldn’t wait to get in the water. Ha.
We got to the room around 10:15 and they started hooking me up to the monitors. I was standing by the bed and holding on through contractions. They talked about starting an IV, which I had previously discussed with my midwife that I could decline, but the nurse was pressuring me. I told her to take it up with my midwife and that I didn’t want to discuss it any more. I had work to do! She had me lay down and she checked my cervix at 10:25. 4 centimeters, 80% effaced, and 0 station. I was SO upset! I really thought I would have been at least 7 cm. I had been going for so long! I hopped back up out of the bed and the contractions started coming like a freight train. At some point my midwife, Nancy, came in, as well as Anna, the photographer. My other doula, Mary arrived around 10:40. I felt a connection with Mary from the beginning and I felt relief when she got there. I was scared because I thought I had hours worth of dilating to do, and I felt my control slipping, no… running, away from me. There was no break any more. No time to take a breath, to reassure myself, to relax my body. I thought I was regressing because I was so tense. Everyone was rushing around trying to think of ways to bring me relief. The tub was being filled, the birth ball was being inflated. I swayed, tense, and cried. I yelled, I pleaded for help. I started bleeding and I told Nancy that I thought maybe my water had broken. They took my pants off and I saw that it was blood, but not as much as I thought it felt like. She said it was likely my cervix dilating quickly. Not quickly enough, as far as I was concerned! She checked me again, I’m not sure of the time, but I was 7 cm. I could not get back out of that bed fast enough. I was screaming, begging for relief. I yelled my code word for the epidural to my husband “The duck flies at midnight, THE DUCK FLIES AT MIDNIGHT!” I knew I couldn’t have it, but it made me feel better knowing how silly I sounded yelling that! I knew I couldn’t be still enough to get that injection, and strangely, I still didn’t want it, but I wanted that pain to STOP, and it felt good to succumb to the pain a bit and ask for it. It felt better just to yell anything. It hurt so badly from my belly down to my knees I couldn’t tell what part of my body was what. People were helping me stand up, and I only know that Leah was pushing on my back from the pictures. I squeezed Mary and I told her I was not coping. At all. And I needed her to help me cope. Now. I had no idea what was really going on. I was having a baby really, really soon! I still thought I had some time to endure, so I was hugely concerned with finding a way to cope until the end, which was unknowingly only moments away.
My water broke in an explosion on the floor. There was a towel under my feet to catch the blood from a few minutes before, and I was glad it was there when my water broke. I felt immediately terrified because I knew that when your water breaks the contractions usually intensify, and I had NO power to endure one more ounce of pain. Almost immediately I felt the strongest reflex I have ever felt. It was not a choice. My body was doing its job no matter what I did. I was pushing! She was coming! I screamed “I’M PUSHING, SOMEONE CATCH HER!” I was making noises I didn’t even know I was capable of making! My midwife suggested that I get up on the bed on my hands and knees, with my arms up on the back of the bed. Miraculously, I somehow did this and gave one gigantic push. I felt her head come out, and with a breath and another deep groan and a “CUT HER OUT, JUST CUT HER OUT!” she slid into this world at 10:50 p.m. Craig was right by my face and I whispered to him “Oh, thank God” …and it was over.
Nancy put the baby up on my back so she could get organized and it was the closest skin-to-skin available at the time. Then they put her up under my raised left knee and I held her for the first time. She was perfect. Purple and bruised, but perfect. She let out one good scream and they started rubbing her. They told me not to pull her up to me because the cord was short. I turned over somehow, and they gave her another minute to pink up. They said she wasn’t breathing well and that they needed to take her to the warmer. Craig cut her cord and they took her. I was disappointed for a half second because I wanted to delay the cord being clamped, and I wanted to snuggle her without any interventions. When your baby is in distress, though, all those thoughts go out the window. I watched her in the warmer from the bed, and I easily delivered the placenta. They soon took her to the NICU because she had so much fluid in her lungs from coming out so quickly. Craig and Anna went with her. She stayed there for 2 hours before I could see her again.
There I was, lying in the bed, in no pain. None. What a difference from five minutes earlier. I was totally overwhelmed. No pain, but no baby in my arms either. Nancy said I needed to be stitched and I wanted to cry. I did not want anyone to touch me. My senses were so heightened that even the nurse’s touch with a washcloth felt like a thousand razors. I whimpered through the shots and stitches and begged over and over for her to be done. I was so glad Mary was there to hold my hand through this part. It felt like I needed her more afterward than while I was in labor! I shook intensely and prayed for it to be over. I just wanted everyone to stop touching me. We talked and I tried to process what just happened. I felt like my eyes were as big as saucers. I was so happy that I gave birth naturally, but the pain had been so intense that I almost regretted it in those moments afterward…almost.
I found out while the doulas, the midwife, and I were talking that she was born with her hand up over her face, and I knew immediately that it is what I felt. It wasn’t a separate head and shoulders experience like I expected, but more continual. She also had her cord around her neck. Nancy told me that she thought the baby turned from a posterior position when my water broke, because she did come out the right way, but that was probably when her hand slipped up. Everyone kept telling me what an amazing job I did and I honestly felt like an imposter. I labored beautifully, but those last few minutes were pure torture. I would have done ANYthing to stop that crazy pain. 4 cm to birth in 25 minutes is just not supposed to happen, I’m convinced. I felt so strange. Like I had been given everything I hoped for, but I would never do it again. Ever. I feel differently about that now because I know what to expect, and I've had time to process and appreciate what happened.
The NICU nurse came in to give me an update on the baby and I asked if they had weighed her. She said “No, but she’s a big girl.” I laughed and wondered what she meant by that, and she said “probably 8 ½ or 9 lbs.!” My other two were 7 lbs. 3 oz. and 7 lbs. 4 oz., so I was shocked to hear that! She also asked me if they could give her a pacifier because she was trying to eat everything in sight. I told them yes, but I felt guilty that I wasn’t with her to nurse her.
At around 1:00 a.m., after lots and lots of asking, the nurse finally let me go to the NICU to visit my precious baby. I saw on her bed that she weighed 8 lbs. 4 oz. and I couldn't believe it. A full pound bigger than Porter! I was so excited to hold her. I nursed her immediately and she knew just what to do.
After nursing her, they took us both back to the room and encouraged me to hold her skin-to-skin to get her temperature up, and there is nothing more I wanted. Craig drifted off to sleep as I held my tiny new baby on my chest for hours. Thinking and processing. Kissing her and smelling her. She smelled like heaven. I’ll never forget that smell and how healing and calming it felt to just breathe her in. I was completely in love with this new person. I just inhaled her for hours. Nothing else in the world mattered to me in those few hours. She was here. She was safe. She was mine.
We finally chose a name for our sweet baby as we were packing to leave the hospital on Saturday morning. We went through a list of names we liked, and then an all-inclusive list just to be sure. Craig would call out names, and I would say no to most of them, but every once in a while we would both go over to the bassinet where she was sleeping to see if she looked like that name. She definitely wasn’t any of the other names. She was a Holland, we decided. Sweet Holland Paige.
Holland has brought more joy to our family than we could have ever predicted. Porter and Paisley absolutely adore her, and they never leave her side. She is a happy, smiley, calm, snuggly baby, and an amazing sleeper. I have said many times since her birth that she feels like a little bit of heaven right in our home. She brings peace to my soul and makes my heart burst with love. We are so thankful that we listened to inspiration from our Father in Heaven and His gentle encouragement to bring her to this earth, and we are so thankful to Him for her safe and magnificent arrival.