The morning of Monday, January 23rd (when I was 40 weeks, 5 days), I sent my mom and sister a text that read, “Who wants to distract me today?” to which my sister promptly responded and said that she and her girls would come over to play. I was relieved to have visitors, a bit of distraction was going to do a great deal of good for my spirit. Soon after I hung up the phone with her, I went to the restroom and was surprised and thrilled to see some bloody show. I knew that meant labor could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days away, but I was encouraged to see something going on!
Jill, Emma and Cora visited for a couple of hours and left just after lunch. My children (Tucker and Chloe) and I all took a short afternoon nap and then continued with a nice, quiet afternoon at home. I was talking to my mom on the phone around 3:15pm when I had a fairly strong contraction and I felt a gush during it. I was sitting down at the time so I think my water must have broken. I am still very unsure of when that actually happened since I never felt a pop. I didn’t say anything to her, but quickly got off of the phone to see if I was going to have another.
Several minutes later, I had another contraction that was somewhat intense for early labor. I decided to call my mother-in-law to come pick up Tucker and Chloe, as I knew solitude was my best bet to getting into a good labor pattern. I was pretty sure “this was it” and needed time to get the house ready for the birth. When my mother-in-law picked the kids up, she warned me not to wait too long to go to the hospital since third babies can come quickly. I had to giggle at that: Oh, if she only knew what was about to happen! I also called Ryan and Jill and told them that I thought tonight was finally the night.
Once alone, I did some light cleaning and started setting up the birth tub and other supplies. There was quite a bit of set up since there was really no way to predict where I would be most comfortable giving birth. I was planning a water birth with an inflatable birth pool, but I needed to set up other areas just in case the water didn’t feel right in the moment.
I layered our bed with a set of clean sheets, followed by a shower curtain, followed by another set of sheets so clean-up would be quick and easy. I also put a layer of Chux pads (absorbent sheets often used for incontinent adults) on the bed. Jill was bringing a space heater to make my room nice and toasty warm. I also put some Chux pads on the bathroom floor; for Chloe’s labor I was most comfortable laboring on the toilet so it was quite possible that baby could have been born in the bathroom. I started inflating the birth pool and threw some clean towels and blankets in the dryer (for warm towels after the birth), all the while having regular and increasingly intense contractions.
It was about 4:30pm when Ryan made it home from work, which is also about the time I called Jill and told her to plan on coming over around 7pm unless she heard from me again. Ryan needed to take a shower and wanted to run to Subway to get some dinner. I have a history of fairly long labors so I can’t really blame him for wanting to eat but I told him to hurry as I had a feeling this labor was going to be fast. I just could not wrap my head around how intense things already were, only an hour into the labor! Ryan got home from Subway around 5:30 and brought me a bowl of soup, which I sat down and ate between contractions. Ryan ate his dinner and started filling the birth pool.
The contractions were picking up in intensity and I could no longer walk or talk during them. At this point, around 6pm, I called Jill and told her to go ahead and come over as soon as she could instead of waiting until 7pm. This baby was coming! I continued to labor, leaning onto Ryan during contractions. It was amazing to me how intense the contractions were when they started and how quickly they were coming. I was also so much more aware of the baby’s movements for this labor. Perhaps it was because nobody was monitoring me so it was up to me to pay attention to him to make sure he was okay and tolerating labor. He was very active during labor, kicking me sharply in the ribs, taking my breath away several times.
Jill arrived around 7pm when I was ready to get into the water. I was recognizing that I was in transition, as my mood was very focused and serious. I told her to go ahead and call my mom, which was a surprise to my mom. Prior to labor, I was unsure of how I was going to feel about adding another person to the mix so I had not shared with her that she might be invited, it was a total surprise to her that she was going to see the birth of her grandson. I just didn’t want to tell her ahead of time in case I changed my mind… I figured it was better to be surprised than to be disappointed.
I got into the pool and the contractions really picked up, lasting about two and a half minutes each and often coming back to back. I was honestly a little disappointed that the water did not help with the pain of the contractions like I had hoped, but it did feel good to be in the water. I was listening intently to my birth playlist, which was playing carefully selected songs that brought me calm, peace, and encouragement. I was nearly silent during labor, breathing in and breathing out. Breathing my baby down, focusing on bringing him into the perfect position to meet his Mommy and Daddy.
Ryan told me at one point that he couldn’t tell when I was having a contraction and when I wasn’t; I was calm, I was quiet, I was focused. I whispered that he just needed to listen to my breath, that when I was breathing hard, I was contracting and when I was breathing slowly, I wasn’t. I know it was hard for him, but I did not want to be touched during this labor. I truly did want to just be left alone to do what I needed to do without any distraction. I felt the contractions change from dilating contractions to pushing contractions and I knew it was time to push.
I am not a big believer in pushing hard to get baby out so I just listened to my body and gave gentle pushes only when I felt an urge for several minutes. I was secretly wondering if I was indeed fully dilated…it was such a weird feeling to not have someone tell me it was okay to push. I decided to reach down to see if I could feel the baby’s head. I could feel his head and continued to gently breathe him down, giving short, gentle pushes when needed. I started to feel him crowning and reached down and felt his head come out. The crowning did not hurt nearly as bad as it did with Chloe, I think due to the water which was a nice benefit I didn’t expect!
I very calmly told Ryan, “his head is out,” but Ryan thought I was asking if his head was out and tried to lean down to see. When he told me, “I don’t know hon, I can’t see” I calmly corrected him and said, “no, I’m telling you, his head is out.” I was touching his face and rubbing his head and ran my fingers around his neck to see if there was a nuchal cord (there wasn’t). It was an amazing feeling to feel his features before he was born! At this point, I took a small break to catch my breath and mentally prepare to push his shoulders out.
The next contraction came and I pushed and waited for his shoulders to release. I reached under his arms, turned my body to the sitting position (I had been on my knees with my upper body leaning into the side of the birth pool) and pulled my beautiful son onto my chest. Once he was out and in my arms, Ryan grabbed a warm towel out of the dryer and Austen gave one solid cry. Then he just looked at me as I stared at him, he was so calm and alert and was just perfect! He looked just like Chloe, which was a huge surprise because according to one of our sonogram pictures, I was expecting a Tucker clone. I looked at Ryan and Jill and through emotional tears I said, “I did it!”
Austen Grey McMillen was born into my arms on January 23rd, 2012 at 8:03 pm, just a few hours after my first contraction. The labor was fast, it was intense, it was calm, it was everything I had dreamed it would be. He was born during the first verse of Amazing Grace, which happens to be my favorite hymn and the initials of his name. Poetic, don’t you think?