Stella’s birth story really starts 16 months prior, at the birth of her next oldest sister. I planned a homebirth, but needed to transfer late in active labor to the military hospital due to bleeding a little more than my midwife was comfortable with. A short 30 minutes after we walked into the hospital, Lucy was born without complications. My husband Rob left to go back on deployment 12 hours after the birth.
I was disappointed that I needed to transfer and was now stuck in the postpartum ward for 3 days where a Corpsman would come in every hour on the hour, day and night, to ensure that my perfectly healthy baby was in fact, healthy. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. I swore the next time I had a baby I was going to do everything in my power to stay home.
Rob got a short period of R&R in the middle of his deployment, and although we weren’t trying to have another baby, we were open to it. I seriously didn’t think that anything would happen with my 7 month old baby still nursing. But there I was, two weeks later, with my husband back on deployment, and me with my head in the toilet, sick as a dog! Baby #3 was on his or her way!
I really struggled with morning sickness. I was teaching as a military contractor, starting to take doula clients again, and taking care of my older two children. More nights than I would care to admit, dinner was a frozen pizza, and the babysitter was Nick Jr. on the T.V.
Rob was due to return from deployment sometime during my 38-39th week of pregnancy. I wasn’t really concerned about him missing the birth. Pre-term labor just ain’t my thing.
Rob’s Change of Command was 4 days after my due date. I really wanted to be there for the ceremony. I told the baby, “Look kiddo, you can come any time after that day, not before.” Baby listened, and stayed put, and my oldest daughter and I were there, on a rainy San Diego day, attending Rob’s ceremony where he took Command of USS CHIEF, a Minesweeping ship.
Once the ceremony was complete, the pictures taken, and the cake eaten, Rob went back to work, and I spent the day with my oldest daughter. We grabbed lunch, got pedicures, and watched a movie. Later that evening, Rob and I left the kids with a sitter, and went out to dinner with my Dad and brother to celebrate his assumption of Command. I was having contractions every 7-10 minutes, but didn’t say anything during dinner.
Once we got home, things started to pick up. I did what I would have told any of my doula clients to do: I went to bed. The contractions increased in intensity. Rob called my doula, my midwife, and my birth photographer. My doula, Cinda, was down hard with the flu, so the backup, Abby, was on-call. Abby and I regularly backed each other as two of the very few doulas in town who were trained in the Hypnobabies childbirth techniques. (I used Hypnobabies for Lucy’s birth 16 months prior as well).
Around 11pm, I yelled out, “I want Abby!” This baby was on her way. Everyone showed up around midnight. We had a pretty good time; I cooked and labored and my midwife got all of her equipment set up.
A few hours after that, I had not made much change. My midwife, Marla, sent everyone, including me, to bed. My photographer and doula crashed out on the couches, my Midwife in an upstairs bedroom, and my husband hung out with me in the Master bedroom. I slept fitfully. A made a well worn path over the next few hours between my bed and the toilet. Back and forth, back and forth.
By the following morning, Marla said that if I hadn’t made any change, she was going to send everyone home. She checked me, and I had progressed to 5cm! My older girls were starting to wake up, so I went upstairs to get them ready for day care and school. The original plan was for them to stay home and be present for the birth, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to focus with them around. As the sun rose, my labor further intensified, and Rob took the girls into school.
Once Rob returned home, I was still managing the contractions just fine, but they were definitely coming more frequently. I hurried my way through making the baby’s birthday cake because I knew it wouldn’t be long before she was born. As soon as the cake was in the oven, I turned to the sink, threw up, and my water broke. I was convinced that I had peed myself, but my midwife confirmed that the water was in fact, amniotic fluid.
I started to bear down. My midwife called in her assistant at this point. I have no memory of this. I was told after the fact by my husband’s Commodore’s wife, who lived seven houses down from us in military housing that a car with the license plate “Womb2Move” tore into the neighborhood, and a woman in scrubs ran into my house. So the whole neighborhood was abuzz at that point about the impending birth.
My 2nd daughter was born in one push after my water broke, so I assumed this 2nd stage of labor was going to be just as straightforward. Alas, it was not to be. I pushed standing next to the bed. I pushed on the toilet. Nothing was working. The midwives checked my dilation, and I was found to be complete, but with an anterior lip of cervix remaining. Son of a bitch. I hate those things.
At that point, I was told to climb stairs, two at a time. A rebozo was tied around my middle to have a constant abdominal lift and tuck and hopefully, engage the baby’s head more flush onto my cervix. I was exhausted. I fell asleep on my feet a couple of times. I ranted to anyone would listen about how defeated and frustrated I felt. Why the hell was this taking so long? Why wasn’t I holding my baby already? I had already had two vaginal births with rather large babies…..this long pushing stage shouldn’t be happening!!
Marla gently suggested at this point that I needed to get this done. I was getting exhausted, and so we moved back to the bed. My midwives found at that point that I had a substantial rectocele and cystocele forward of the baby’s head. Marla’s assistant held back the tissues with her fingers, and I pushed like hell.
Finally, finally! I felt the familiar fullness of the baby’s head moving down. I pushed into it and welcomed the stretching as the baby’s head was very slowly born. The Midwives encouraged me to slow it down, slow it down. Marla told me reach down and take my baby. As she was born, I was the first one to touch her, and as I lifted her to my chest, I could see that she was a girl. (We didn’t find out the gender ahead of time). My 9lb 14oz baby was born into my hands, and I didn’t even have a skid mark. Amazing.
The placenta took its sweet time coming and I was bleeding pretty substantially. Instinctually, I knew I needed to get vertical to deliver the placenta. I handed off my baby to my husband, who then handed her off to the doula between my legs (the baby was still attached to the cord) so he could help me up. I sat in the Midwife’s apprentices’ lap (the poor lady was pregnant herself!) and pushed out the placenta.
The few hours after that were just wonderful. We eventually cut the cord, and Stella had her newborn exam done. I ate soup that my doula made for me, and then was tucked into bed with my baby for a long sleep. My Dad and brother came over in the evening with dinner and we all marveled over how perfect my newest baby was. It was the postpartum experience that I wanted all along.
Video and Stills slideshow of Stella’s birth, you can see the Birth Without Fear necklace that I’m wearing during the birth!
Birth Photography credit for first photo: https://www.facebook.com/vuefinderphotography