A friend reminded me of Delaney’s Fourth of July due date at a gathering yesterday. I felt a little bit shocked actually. Wait a second she’s already here and in my arms. On one hand it’s like she has always been here with us, a part of our little family. On the other hand I still have trouble wrapping my mind around her being here and not still in my round pregnant belly. At 5:18 in the morning, June 19,2012 the most miraculous thing happened. In a pre-dawn moment I transformed into mother of two. One sweet girl sleeping soundly cuddled deep into the fuchsia colored sheets covering her bed in her room across the hall. The other laid across my bare chest peering out at the world through one slightly opened eye and making her presence well known to the people in the room with her healthy cries.
Last fall when Luke and I made the decision to leap into the world of two children we also made the choice to have a different sort of birth experience than we experienced with Madeline. We set about researching home birth midwives in our area, looking into our insurance coverage, hospital stats and more. After researching the right choice for us was obvious. A home birth with a qualified midwife was exactly what we were looking for. We know our choice may not be the same as yours but it was right for us.
Delaney’s due date was July 4th. Throughout my pregnancy I honestly did not think we would have a July baby. I thought we would have a late June baby. All our birth classes and popular wisdom told us a prior early birth was no guarantee and the average pregnancy is 41 weeks long. As we approached the 37 week full term marker we joked that of course we would have our baby on June 18th, our anniversary. Wouldn’t it be just our luck to have a baby on our anniversary. A surefire way to never get to celebrate our anniversary again. The celebration of your children’s birth outweighs previous holidays or celebrations.
Our Anniversary was a Monday and wouldn’t you know late Sunday night, the eve of our our anniversary, I woke up with some very early signs of the labor that was to come. The following morning I called our midwife to notify her of the signs I was experiencing to which I heard “Great! Those are signs that things are moving along nicely and you could have a baby in the next day or two or in a couple of weeks. Let me know if anything else changes!” I knew from all of the reading, classes and discussions I’d had this pregnancy to not pay attention too soon. Our midwife was right, while these were signs that labor was in my future they were not signs that labor was in my near future for sure. So I went about my day cooking and cleaning and all the other things that I do on a Monday around the Evolving Mommy Household and Luke worked as normal. I had contractions here and there, but while they were stronger than a typical braxton-hicks contraction they were still pretty mild and only happening once every 20 to 30 minutes. In the afternoon I felt like I might have a small leak in my bag of waters. It wasn’t constant but enough to warrant the use of panty liners and multiple wardrobe changes. So I called my midwife again just to let her know. We made a plan to head to her office that evening just to check things out.
Once at her office I could tell she was skeptical and did not think I was going to have the baby any time soon. I don’t blame her. I was skeptical too. After the usual pee in a cup, blood pressure, pulse and check of Delaney we checked to see if my bag of waters was in fact broken or leaking. Tests said no so my little family of three packed up and headed for home promising to call if anything changed. Our anniversary was safe from future birthday parties. After an anniversary dinner shared with our overly tired 4 year old at a local Mexican restaurant we headed for home and I headed for bed. Something told me I would need every second of sleep I could get. Although I was still keeping myself from thinking anything other than this was most likely not happening soon.
At about 1:15 am I woke Luke up to let him know that the contractions were still sporadic but were closer together and now ranging 5-15 minutes apart. He thanked me for the update and we both went back to sleep. Or at least he went back to sleep and I drifted somewhere between sleep and the deep breathing and relaxation we had practiced throughout pregnancy during contractions. I tried to sleep for about 45 minutes but at 2:00am I just needed to get up and move. I woke Luke to let him know I was going to go sit in the rocking chairs on the porch. He was instantly up and alert suggesting that we walk around our cul-de-sac a bit. We walked around the circle stopping for contractions, talking and joking. After 3 or 4 laps I could feel my energy levels dipping so we headed for the front porch and the rocking chairs where we talked and ate grapes and laughed some more. One of my goals was to keep labor light-hearted and calm. At this point I still wasn’t letting myself believe that this was actually the real deal, I was prepared for those contractions to stop at any moment and to make my way back to bed.
At about 3:00am we headed inside. I took up residence in a chair in the living room and Luke worked to unload the dishwasher and pack Maddy’s lunch for school. I think he had some nervous energy to burn coupled with some last minute nesting instincts. At about 3:30 – with contractions about 5 minutes apart – I was finally letting myself believe that this was really happening. We decided that it was time to move into the relaxation pose we had practiced for weeks. After all the effort we put into getting me into that position – propping my arms and legs with pillows in just the right way – I only spent about a half hour laying there breathing through contractions. By this point though I was having trouble staying and relaxing my body. Each contraction was a little more intense than the last. At 4:00am with contracts between 3-5 minutes Luke called our midwife to get the ball rolling. He let her know that we were doing good and I was going to get in the tub. They decided that he would call back and let her know when we needed to her to come. During his conversation with her I began to feel nauseous and cold. The contractions were getting intense and while I was still trying to not get excited too soon there was still a part of my brain that knew things were happening fast and transition was upon us. So less than 20 minutes after his first phone call Luke was again calling our midwife to let her know I was ready for her to come over.
I sat in the tub and Luke calmly sat next to me reminding me to breath through contractions, stroking my hair and repeatedly telling me how good I was doing and how proud he was. Our midwife quietly arrived and started setting things up, and checking on me and Delaney at a few minutes before 5:00 am. Hearing Delaney’s strong heartbeat on the Doppler gave me the emotional boost I needed to keep going. I let our midwife know I had felt the need to bear down during the contraction just prior to her arrival but I had held off. She said that we probably had a while to go but if I felt the need to bear down to go ahead and listen to my body. No one thought we were as close as we really were. In my dedication to the rule to not pay attention too soon I didn’t even truly realize how close we were.
In the following contractions I listened to my body and turned off my brain. For the next 18 minutes I rode contractions like waves and pushed when I felt the need. There was no counting or awkward leg holding. There was no doctor telling me I was not pushing correctly. There was only me in my bathtub, with my husband at my side encouraging me, our midwife crouched at the side of the tub offering reassuring looks and calm words when I looked to her and her assistant quietly working to prepare for our daughters birth. Transition and pushing happened so quickly that the birth of our daughter caught us slightly off guard. Labor was supposed to take a long time. Hours and hours or even days in some cases. Not 3 and a half hours. I could feel Delaney’s descent and with each push I knew we were getting closer.
Between contractions it was all I could do to regain my breath and stay calm. I had pushed for 45 minutes while in labor with Maddy so Luke was still of the mindset that we had some more time to go. One word changed his outlook: Crowning. The moment he heard our midwife say it he knew this birth would not be anything like our last. One more little push and my sweet 7 pound 5 ounce baby girl was on my chest. In my exhaustion I couldn’t quite make sense of it all. There was a baby on my chest. My baby. I could see her dark hair and ample cheeks. I could hear her strong cry and feel her little limbs kick and move and when I looked up at Luke I could see the mix of emotions all over his face.
Elation. Love. Surprise.
“You did it Babe, you did it! She looks like her mama.”
I will never forget that moment.
Somehow we had managed to have Delaney with Madeline sleeping across the hall. We didn’t have to call anyone to come get her and Luke didn’t have to be distracted with caring for and entertaining a 4-year-old while coaching and supporting me. At about 6:30 am Luke walked from our bedroom across the hall to Madeline’s room. He woke her and asked if she would like to meet her baby sister. By this time the shock and exhaustion had worn off and the moment Maddy walked in the room and climbed onto the bed next to me the tears were streaming down my face. What a perfect moment. My sweet big girl meeting my sweet little girl for the first time, in a peaceful and calm moment in our own home.
In the time after Delaney’s birth, while Luke and Maddy and I cuddled our newest family member in our bed our midwife and her assistant tended to me and Delaney, cleaned up the bathroom, did laundry, and made a delicious breakfast for the three of us. We got to eat breakfast in bed and marvel at our family of four.
Our home birth was amazing. Being at home able to move about and make myself comfortable in my own surroundings was perfect. Being able to really set the mood for my daughters birth and surround myself with people I chose and trusted was invaluable. Having Maddy with us so soon after Delaney’s birth was just as I had wished for. Things could not have been more perfect. Calm, light-hearted, and relaxed. We couldn’t have planned this experience any better even if it were possible to actually plan labor.
Now when I think about those moments spent with Luke laughing and joking on our front porch surrounded by the quite darkness, or Luke’s calm, unwavering support, or Madeline sleepy-eyed in her pajamas excitedly coming to meet her little sister my eyes fill with tears and my heart feels like it could burst with love. I am the luckiest.