We headed for home anxious, excited, tired, and hungry. Because it was 10:30 now and we still had not eaten, we decided to stop at Sonic. Although it wasn’t the healthiest course of action, it was right off the interstate. We live in the country, it was honestly the last option before the boonies. I distinctly remember the contractions strengthening and getting closer together while we waited on our food. Maybe it was just my stomach, but you couldn’t convince me of that. What I did know was that I wanted OUT of that car. I ordered a hamburger. No fries. No drink, I had my water.
I told Eli the second after he placed the order, “I’m going to regret this choice in a few hours.” I just KNEW that I was right. We finished our food and headed home. The car ride from here on was much more quiet. Eva was tired, it had been past her normal bedtime for quite a while now. I honestly still have no clue what was running through Eli’s head. I was too scared to ask. If it was anything like what was going through mine, I didn’t want to discuss it. Could I really do this? Did I even want to? Would I only make it part of the way through like last time? What if my baby wasn’t ok? What if I wasn’t? Why had I not prepared better? Was Eli going to be disappointed in me? Could I count on him? What if we got into an argument during this? Does he really love me? Would he still love Eva after Rufus arrived? Would he love the baby?
By the time we got home I had pushed my questions and doubts aside and was in make it happen mode. Eli got a bag for me together and one for the baby. I distinctly remember telling him to be sure and get the BBC book, the camera, phone chargers, and boy and girl coming home outfits, and a Bible, I didn’t really care too much about the rest. I could overlook some of the other cleaning that I had wanted to get done, but I really did want clean sheets and bathrooms. I was already tired and it was late, so I decided to get Eva and I in the shower and get clean and let the hubs take care of whatever chores he could while we cleaned up.
The contractions continued but not to the point I couldn’t talk or stand through them. Rufus had been a very active baby and remained active-which Mary had told us to monitor, and Eva enjoyed watching while we washed up. I was just finishing up helping her get clean when I inevitably dropped the soap. As she giggled watching me awkwardly maneuver down to get it, I felt and heard a sudden ‘POP’. I knew my water had just broken. I attempted to explain what was happening to Eva while calling Eli, who was calling Mary. Even in the shower I could see the water flowing out of me was tinged an amberish green. Meconium. Eli held the phone at the shower curtain and Mary and I talked. I was calm and finally feeling ready for labor and so excited to meet our sweet baby. I finished showering and shaved my legs. I had not cared about shaving for a good 3 weeks now, but for whatever reason I decided that this child could NOT come into the world with a hairy-legged momma.
We all decided that it would be best to head on up to the birthing center to get checked out. We called my mom to come get Eva and excitedly said our goodnights. Off we went, like 2 scared children off on an adventure from one of our storybooks. Something we had always wanted to experience, but a little more overwhelming in real life than it had been on the pages of our book. The car ride was uncomfortable, but not nearly as horrid as I had imagined it to be for the previous nine months. Around midnight we were greeted with a warm smile and hug at the birthing center. We stood downstairs and chatted like it was any old regular check up. Mary took my temp and blood pressure. I weighed myself and tried to check my urine, but the urge to pee had inexplicitly disappeared.
Mary checked me, I was dilated about 4 centimeters and 80% effaced, everything looked good. She said we could stay there or head home. Because we lived out a little way, and I didn’t like riding in the car, we decided it was best to stay. We huddled together in the hallway upstairs between the birthing room and the exam room where I had been so many times before, surrounded by hundreds of sweet babies footprints, names and birthdates to pray for what lay ahead.
Mary prayed for us, for strength, for comfort, for peace and wisdom. And silently I prayed for her too. I prayed for her to have stealthy hands, a level head, to guide us through this night and thanked God for blessing us with her friendship and knowledge and for bringing us together. Eli headed to Wal-Mart to grab some snacks for him and the only type of juice I would even consider-cranberry-for me.
I was starting to feel a lot of pressure now, and I could not bear the thought of sitting down, much less the action of doing it. Mary and I happily conversed about family, church, friends, life as I walked the stairs and the hallway, squatting and breathing through each contraction. She let me chatter on mindlessly not being a very good listener. The lights were on and I felt hot. After about an hour of the walking and squatting routine Eli returned. My legs had begun to tire already, and I was using the bedpost to aid me through the squats now.
I had begun to feel too cool inside and asked if we could go outside and walk around in the night air for a bit. Elyse, the student midwife had arrived from another birth and was resting on the couch. I didn’t want to disturb her, so we quietly crept past and out the back door. I will always cherish those outside minutes with my husband. We fell into a routine. Walk around the back yard area, up to the sign, contraction, around the tree, contraction, up the sidewalk to the other big tree, contraction, back to the back yard, contraction. We held hands and enjoyed the relatively cool weather for a Texas summer night.
I remember talking about our fears for what lay ahead in the coming hours, what we would name the baby, music we loved and disliked, when we could have sex again and just generally enjoying each other’s company. We held hands and Eli became my bedpost, allowing me to lean on him as I breathed through the contractions that were coming stronger and more frequently now, and helping me rise after each squat.
After a few rounds, I think it was only 5 or 7, of our little walking path, he wanted to go back in, and so I relented. I felt like I needed to pee. I tried downstairs, I tried upstairs, but I could not pee. I was so tired and really wanted to try and rest, but my contractions were pretty strong now, and I had not even been able to sit down, much less lay down. Eli was exhausted and I knew he needed some rest too. We decided to go up to the birthing room and attempt to get a nap in. Eli slept but I really could not get comfortable.
Tired as I was I just did NOT want to do anything but walk. We may have lay there for an hour. Time started to blur but the contractions did not. Mary came in and needed to check my vitals and listen to the baby on the Doppler. All seemed well and she suggested we try to get in the tub now. I was feeling hot and cold at the same time. And really nauseous. No one told me about the nausea. I still really wanted to pee, but I just could not. The tub was taking forever to fill up. Sitting still didn’t sound fun, but I was willing to try anything if it would help me get through these contractions.
Mary asked Eli if I liked candles as she lit some around the birthing tub. I sat on the toilet and felt the chunks coming. “Maaaaarrrryyyyy I need a bucket!” She rushed in and handed me the bucket. I vomited like it was nobody’s business. I had to brush my teeth. That was the only thing I could think about right then. I brushed my teeth and I think the tub was finally full. Eli and Mary helped me in. I remember feeling a bit eased. The warm water felt good. I tried a few different positions but sitting on my heels with my knees splayed seemed to be the most comfortable. I could lean my head over the side of the tub and feel the cool while submerging my body in the warm water.
Eli kept coming and going, why couldn’t he just stay with me? Didn’t he know I needed him now? I called for him. He came. I remember the 3 of us making idle chitchat between contractions. I had to really breathe and would give a low “OOOOoooooOOOOOooooooOOOOoooo” moan through each one. Although they were tough, I was finally feeling confident in my abilities. I was hurting but proud of how strong I was being and that I was maintaining my breathing. I was much quieter than I had been and certainly than what was typical of me now.
I had been asking friends for prayer and Bible verses for our friends in BBC the previous week, and one specific verse kept running through my mind. John 16:21, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” I had only read it a couple times, but I could recite it through each contraction, and did. It was like I needed it. The contractions got stronger and more frequent, there was no rest in between. I could not say the verse now but I remember mumbling the words John 16:21 over and over between “OOOOoooooooOOOOOooooooooOOOOOooo’s”.
I asked Eli to read to me from different books of the Bible. I remember that I was torn between needing to hold his hand and wanting him reading so he turned on the audio reader. Somehow we had switched over from New International Version to King James Version and a man pretending to be James Lipton acting like Henry the V began reading. That just annoyed me. I think I asked for some verse out of Samuel, one of the boy names we had chosen. It wasn’t soothing me. He went and got the BBC manual and read one of the relaxation affirmations. It did help change my focus some temporarily.
Why had we doubted taking that class? It was seriously the best thing we did during our pregnancy, maybe our whole marriage, and we were both leaning on what we learned throughout our weeks of class. Although I was getting exhausted from the near constant contractions, I was feeling pretty proud of my breathing and determination to do this. I just knew that I had to be nearing the end and started expecting to feel pushy soon. HA! Eli must have been feeling the same way because I think it was around this time that he asked Mary to check me again. I didn’t mind getting out of the tub for a bit, but I wasn’t looking forward to the laying down and I definitely had NO interest in my progression, and asked Mary to keep it between her and Eli for fear I would be discouraged by what she said.
I still had to pee, but couldn’t. Walking was not as easy as it had been before so we waddled back to the tub. My bangs were in my face, why had I forgotten a headband? I never wear headbands. I could not quit sweating on my face but oddly the warm of the bathtub felt ok. We fell into a new pattern, “ooooooo” through contraction, wipe face with cold water, drink. It was a good pattern. I remember talking a little more between each, even if I don’t remember what I was saying, I think the conversation was good.
At one point I looked up and saw the sunny and familiar smile of our BBC instructor. Yay! She cared enough about us to come. Warm fuzzies. I felt special! Even better, I felt like if SHE is here the end must be near! Woohoo. I was totally reinvigorated. Eli was so relieved, and I was so glad to see him breath and the tension to leave his face if even for a moment. As much as I enjoyed the ladies, there was absolutely no one that I wanted or needed more than my husband. How could I have been so mean to him? Why did I always nag at him? He had always loved and supported me more than anyone. He was an incredible father to Eva already. He went out of his way to make me comfortable and feel special and beautiful. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. There was no one else I wanted to hold my hand through those contractions, rub my back, or tell me how amazing I was doing.
In the tub I could hear the whispers of the midwives and my hubs in the hall or at least that’s where I thought they were. I knew they were talking about me and I did not care. What I did care about was that the stupid duck thermometer floating in the tub kept creeping up to my bottom and bobbing around back there. I don’t normally have any aversion to ducks, rubber or feathered. But the last thing I needed at this point was a chipper little sunshine colored duckling bobbing around happy as a lark around my backside. Did that silly duck not know the pain I was in? How could it have the audacity to treat me this way? We all had a laugh about the duck. One of the midwives asked if I might want the chiropractor to come, it might speed things along. God yes! Anyone could come if it would speed this along. I think we might have also decided to call my friend, the one that had originally suggested the birth center and BBC to us, that had offered to take some pictures for us.
I stayed in the tub a while longer, it seemed like an eternity longer, and tried to change to some new positions while we waited on the chiropractor to arrive. She had adjusted me a couple times in the previous few weeks, so we had met before but never really gotten to know one another. Eli had said all along he wasn’t getting in the water. He had a bad rash on the back of his leg or he probably would have. He climbed up on the side in a really uncomfortable position to help soothe me and rub my back. Finally, the chiropractor arrived and I got out of the tub, which was fine, but when they suggested I get on the bed so we could do some positional changes I was a bit reluctant. I did not want to lie down. They bargained with me, I lay down for the next few contractions so I could be adjusted and attempt to get the baby into a better position, then I could get back up. I hesitantly agreed and slowly and awkwardly ooched up onto the bed.
Almost immediately a new contraction ripped through me, there was no breathing through this one, nothing but pain. I may have screamed. If I did not do it out loud I was screaming in my head. Where did that confident girl go? The one that thought this was a good idea? This was a BAD idea. I did not want to do this anymore. Not one bit. Who cared how this baby got out, I just wanted it out! I got adjusted and let them maneuver me through what seemed like a billion hard contractions then got back up. I still really wanted to pee or poop or something. I went back to the bathroom. I remember trying to sit and squat on the toilet with no success. I remember the sun had started to come up, and the fear and doubt start to creep in my head with the morning light.
They brought me some peppermint oil to smell and said it may help me relieve myself, and told me to try to hold my belly up. I couldn’t believe this, 9 months of non-stop peeing and nine hours of not being able to at all. The waves of nausea had returned though and before I knew it I was calling for the bucket again and threw up for what seemed like a full minute. I knew I was going to regret that hamburger. I didn’t even care about brushing my teeth this time. I just swished with water and rinsed my mouth. I think I went back to the birth room now, it starts getting hazy, and paced when I could.
I was leaning heavy on Eli now and he was starting to tire out mentally and physically. The contractions were fierce and I had to bear down to get through each one. I clenched my teeth and felt progress about every 5 contractions. The end of each one brought both relief and dread because I knew the next one was just around the corner. They rolled the birth ball out and asked if I wanted to try that. I knew I did not want to sit or lay. I bargained with them. I would drink cranberry juice, I would let them Doppler me, take my vitals, I would find a way to pee, but I was NOT lying down again.
Someone suggested that I lean over the ball on hands and knees on the bed. I agreed to try. The sun was fully up now. I really felt like I may never have this baby. Sure I had some rest between each contraction, but each one still hurt and the bearing down with no progress was miserable. We prayed together. All of us. John 16:21 ran through my mind over and over, but I could not focus on the words. Truth be told I refused to focus on anything but the pain. I was scared and I was beginning to lose this battle. I lay on the ball and the chiropractor, which had stayed, got on eye level with me. She told me to picture my baby coming down, to breathe, that she promised I would not be stuck like this permanently, and that I could do this!
As much as I love my husband and my midwives I needed her right then. She was my saving grace. In that moment I loved looking in her big brown eyes and could see my pain and frustration reflected back in them, she understood exactly where I was, and knew exactly what I needed in that moment. I began to calm down. I started breathing again. I started talking to my baby and for what seemed like the next hour or so there was no one else in that room but me, Rufus, and Dr. K. Was it still hard? Yes! But I started believing in myself again. I started feeling like no matter how much I did not want to do this, I was going to, I had to. I made those contractions count. I still wasn’t progressing like I should have been though. I could hear the whispers again, and I knew, I KNEW that they were getting concerned.
At some point my friend that was taking pictures had arrived. I honestly didn’t think I wanted her there, but was so happy to see her. Even then, I was beyond honored that she would come and support me. I needed her presence and reassurance. Mary explained to me that all my pushing before I should have been pushing had caused my cervix to swell and it may have been slowing my progress. They wanted to do more positional changes. I was game as long as they did not make me lay down. It was not happening.
I mean I wanted to lay down more than anything. To lie down and go to sleep. I was so exhausted. My body ached for rest. But it just seemed like a cruel joke to lie down and not be able to sleep and have those contractions hit me harder than when I was standing. Oh no, there would be no lying down for this girl. What about getting back in the tub? I may have tried and knew immediately I did not want that, or I may have said no right away.
Either way, when someone suggested getting in the shower and letting the warm water run down my back I felt like we may have had a winner. For one it was something we had not tried yet. For another thing it combined all the elements that had worked for me so far-standing and warm water. The shower felt great and the combination of warm water with the ability to squat and really bear down through the contractions was just what I needed. I finally felt like we were getting somewhere. That stubborn Rufus was NOT winning this battle. I could feel the baby moving down with each contraction and each push. Everything in my body was willing him out of me.
After several contractions in the shower, we got out. It felt good but it was getting harder and harder for me to stand. My legs were shaky and I really needed and wanted Eli. They offered me a robe because I had already soaked 2 pairs of clothes in the tub, and then back to the birthing room again. I was having bloody show at each push now. I think we tried a few contractions on the bed with Eli sitting behind me, but that was not comfortable.
Mary suggested we give the birth stool a go. I had never sat on one before but why not. It was uncomfortable and awkward at first, but I didn’t have any better options at this point. Eli got behind me to hold my hands and hold me up. He was just as exhausted and shaky as I was. I outweighed him by at least 70 lbs and he was doing such a great job of taking care of me mentally and physically. I think they got a small mirror and set it down where we could see as the baby began to come. I looked and looked but saw nothing. At this point I was so sick of contracting and pushing, there was no way I was not making every contraction worth my effort.
Mary thought I might have a cervical lip, which was confirmed upon further inspection. She asked if she could “lift” it through the next couple contractions, and warned me that it may be painful, but should help us get the baby out sooner. I was willing to suffer through the contractions if it would make this end. It did hurt. A lot. But after 2 contractions I looked up at Mary and she smiled and said, “It’s gone.”
I knew that it wouldn’t be long now. I was getting more rest between each contraction. Eli stayed strong behind me as these amazing ladies who had supported us, encouraged us, prayed with us, and cleaned up after me huddled around my front in a semi circle. All of us anxiously anticipating the next few moments.
After the next few contractions, Mary said she could see the head. Our baby had lots of hair, which was super exciting to me because Eva was a baldy until she was almost 3. She also said that I was doing great. I needed to hear that. I kept pushing with all I had. Before long, I could see the head. I was expecting this part to breeze right by. I had only had to push 3 times with Eva, the whole thing took less than 5 minutes. In all the stories and videos I had watched preparing, the birth seemed so quick from here. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. Even before I could see the baby’s head I felt like my body was being ripped in half from the inside out. Why was this taking so long?
I wanted to push through the pain, contraction of not. Eli was letting me squeeze his hand and thighs to oblivion, and everyone was cheering me on. I was truly excited to meet this baby, and to lie down in a bed and enjoy it. I started to see the baby’s head now. As Rufus started to crown, the midwives told me to slow down, breathe through the contractions. I could see the baby’s head, bluish with black hair and covered in vernix. It hurt and burned like nothing I have ever experienced. I just kept saying, “it hurts, it hurts” over and over.
They all acknowledged that it hurt, and encouraged me that I can do this, just breathe. Eli squeezed my hand and told me he loved me the whole time. I could feel his excitement, and my pain. I pushed. It didn’t appear that anything was happening. They told me to breathe. I whined about the pain. I begged them just to pull it out of me, please. I pushed again the head was out! “My baby, my baby!” I kept exclaiming. Feeling both a sense of relief that it was almost over and confusion because although the pain wasn’t as great, it didn’t subside. Why wasn’t this over? Why wouldn’t they just pull the baby out?
I reached down as Mary helped deliver the shoulders and felt my baby wriggle out. Rufus was finally here. It was long and slimy and covered in me and hair and vernix and I loved Rufus instantly. The baby, my baby, OUR baby was a little blue, so one of the midwives kissed it with a breath as I held her on my chest and they continued to check her. Finally I saw a pair of big beautiful eyes and heard the most precious and healthy cry in the world.
I think Eli was still behind me, I remember us kissing and telling each other we loved each other so much. The baby was wrapped in a towel now and in the flurry or activity neither of us had thought to even see what the sex of our baby was. One of our midwives suggested we pull back the towel and see what we had. We folded the towel back, fully expecting to confirm what we had known in our hearts for months, only to see that Rufus lacked some equipment. A GIRL! We had another big, beautiful, healthy girl!
I was in shock, Eli was in shock, and we were both in complete awe of our baby. I wanted to drink in every detail of this moment before it passed me by. The love and relief on Eli’s face, the pride and buzz of excitement from our midwives and friends humming around the room, the color of the sun pouring in on the walls, the feel of the towel swaddling my infant daughter and the cool air hitting my bare skin. I could not take my eyes off our beautiful baby.
After a few precious moments, I handed Eli his baby girl to hold for the first time as we maneuvered around the cord to get the robe off (it didn’t fit me anyway) and onto the bed to deliver the placenta. Finally, I could rest. It was a completely different feeling than I had with my first, more calm, more serene, but still overwhelmingly joyful. The only words that I have to describe it come from Psalm 23:5, “. . . .my cup runneth over”.
I’m not really certain what happened next. Phone calls to our mothers were made. I was crying tears of joy. We realized that we didn’t have a girl name. Eli started the laundry for the cute girl outfit we had bought to bring the baby home in. I asked for juice. The whole world around me could go as crazy as it wanted, I had the world in my arms. Mary was pushing around on my belly trying to help me deliver the placenta. They had given me a shot of pitocin to help with the bleeding and speed the placenta delivery along. I was so relieved that the baby was delivered but the thought of even having to push the slightest amount was not appealing in any way. Did these people not know how tired and sore I was?
I had just brought a life into the world. Thankfully the placenta came squishing out with very little effort on my end. They asked Eli if he wanted to cut the cord. He first said yes, and then decided not to. It just didn’t seem right for one of us not to do it, so I handed off the baby and I did it. Eli gave me the baby back to try and nurse and went with Mary to check out the placenta.
Yes, you read that correctly. The man who could not even stand to HEAR the word placenta, much less say it, the guy that was VERY clear he was there to be a cheerleader from the waist up, the man that had become my rock and active partner in delivering our child, was now going to look at my placenta. Was I in an alternate universe? Moments later he came bounding back in the room talking about how amazing that was! My husband was a different man. He had always been a wonderful father figure to Eva, but he was truly a dad to her and Caroline now. We had done something together that not even we screwed up, and that no one could ever take away from us.
I wanted Eva there. She was the only component missing that would make this perfect. And just like magic I looked toward the doorway and her beautiful little angel face was peeking curiously and anxiously around the corner. We welcomed her in and told her she had a sister. A SISTER! She was beyond thrilled and fell in love with her the very moment she laid eyes on her. She held her sister as we sat on that bed, the four of us, a family. It was truly the most precious moment of my life.
I felt my grandparent’s presence smiling down on us from heaven. I knew they would have been proud. I had called on both my grandmothers in my head throughout the hardest parts of labor. Something about “talking” to them, even if it wasn’t out loud, gave me strength and courage, and the knowledge they were there with me to comfort and guide in the quiet way only grandmothers can. I began to wish they were here in the flesh, and then I felt that quiet spirit come over me and the room.
In fact at that moment I truly felt as if all the company and hosts of heaven, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit had their eyes, hearts, hands, and spirit enveloping that little bed. For that moment the world stopped just for us. Although it was fleeting, that moment was enough to last me a lifetime. I will never forget it.
We began discussing what we should name this sweet little one. There was quite a list of girl names and we had not agreed on a single one of them. After some back and forth we settled on Caroline Lilly Strange. Eva was not sold, I wasn’t sure, but Eli loved it, so that is what it was, and is. My mom came in. I was so excited and relieved to see her. She had been with me during Eva’s birth, the whole time. Although I missed her through Caroline’s I am so glad it was something Eli and I did as a team. Some other family members came and went.
I asked when we could take our herb bath. The apprentice midwife was downstairs preparing the herbs, but I really wanted to be clean, so we went ahead and got into a fresh tub. Caroline was bright eyed, happy and beautiful. She immediately loved the water. While we were in the tub the midwife from the hospital came by. I was so honored at the outpouring of love and friendship. Caroline and I enjoyed the herb bath, while Eva kept us company and Eli entertained the growing legion of family and friends.
After we had cleaned up a bit from the herbal bath, one of the midwives asked me if I wanted to guess how much she weighed. I quickly threw out what I thought was a good estimate of 8.2 lbs. She laughed at me, and informed me of her actual weight-9 lbs. 9 oz. and 20 inches long. Whoa! I had birthed a big baby! Without drugs! I was so proud of me. It was the most empowering and rewarding thing I have EVER done.
My placenta was proportionally as large as our baby, weighing in at an impressive 2.5 lbs. Everyone seemed amazed at that placenta.
Meanwhile, I had become ravenously hungry for an omelet and pancakes during all the activity following the birth. Someone brought me both from a restaurant that was close by. Although they didn’t taste as good as I had envisioned them to be, I ate every bite because I was starving, while the midwives finished the newborn exam and prepared us to go home.
About 3 hours after our daughter was born the necessary paperwork completed and pictures taken we were loading up the car with gifts and leftover snacks, dirty laundry and postpartum instructions to head home. Home sounded like heaven. We descended the stairs, those stairs that seemed so impossible just a few hours before. Not only were they not impossible, I relished and delighted in walking down them, shoulders back, my still floppy belly sucked in, standing proud and tall.
When we got in the car, both girls buckled and ready to head off for our new life, my mom and mother-in-law asked how I felt, and if I would do it again. I felt exhilarated, tired, sore, proud, joyous, accomplished. I told them that at that very moment, hell no I wouldn’t do it again, anyone that did that was crazy, I needed some rest first. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I had done it, I could do it, and not only would I do it again, I would be lucky to get to experience something so wonderful again in my life.
With that I rolled up my window, squeezed Eli’s hand, and sharing a knowing look that only those that had been through the battle together like we had and come out on the other side better for it can share, and off we went out in to the world forever changed.