The birth of my rainbow was an emotional one. It was exhausting for me, mentally and physically. The end of the pregnancy was full of many mixed feelings. I was terrified of becoming a mom of three. I was sad to be thinking of Nadia’s (3.5) turn being the baby coming to an end. I wondered how I could handle the demands of more children, not to mention how I could love them all.
I also worried about labor and birth. I felt so prepared for Nadia’s birth. I took classes, read tons of books, just totally absorbed myself in the birth world and felt extremely empowered and ready. This pregnancy flew by, as I’m sure most third pregnancies do, and I didn’t feel quite as ready as I quickly approached my due date. I was nervous about the baby’s position, if the house was clean enough, if we had all that we needed, if the big girls were prepared to gain a new sibling.
I knew my body was ready and confident; my mind just wasn’t so sure. I was in no hurry to go into labor. I was enjoying this baby on the inside, and to be very honest, wasn’t sure I could handle it on the outside. I was very happy and excited to meet this new person, I just didn’t have the confidence in me to believe that I was capable. I’m not sure where this lack of confidence stemmed from. I wonder if I started to question my body when I lost a baby last August. I also lost my dad last year, and wonder if knowing he wouldn’t meet this baby earthside was something I was struggling with. Whatever my holdup was, I knew this sweet baby was coming, ready or not.
My “due date” was May 7, 2014. I had been having warm-up contractions for awhile before the real thing hit. I woke up on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 around 2:00 AM with a wave that I couldn’t sleep through. After it was over, I drifted back to sleep. About 10 minutes later, the same thing happened.
That continued the rest of the early morning hours. I knew this would probably be the day. I spent time in the darkness with my Blessingway candles lit, thinking of the day to come. My sweet daughters were so excited to have a brother or sister joining us. Tessa (8) begged me every day to “please have the baby today!” She made a checklist of everything she needed to do once I went into labor, and was SO helpful during it all.
My doula, Hilary, asked me previously to let her know once I thought things might be happening, so she could arrange childcare for her children and make plans for the day. I sent her a text message around 5 AM to let her know that I would most likely need her at some point that day. She arrived here around 10:00 AM after I told her the waves were uncomfortable. I definitely couldn’t talk through them at that point and wanted her with me. She is such a source of peace, calm and strength to me during labor and I just needed her there. All that morning, before she arrived, we all got cleaned up and ready for the day ahead. When Hilary arrived, Bryan went out to mow the grass. The girls both were showered and put on their Big Sister shirts.
It was a beautiful, windy but sunny, balmy day, and lilacs (my favorite flower) were in full bloom. Hilary and I decided to head outside with the girls and pick some lilacs while I labored. That was by far one of my favorite memories of the day. The lilacs smelled so sweet, and watching my beautiful girls run through the grass made me so joyful. I pushed Nadia on her swing for awhile and chatted with my wonderful doula while the sun was warming us. At this point, my contractions were still not very regular, but very intense when they did come, about every 5, 7, or 10 minutes. We decided to go back inside and see how things did if I sat down and rested for awhile.
By this point, I had called Amanda (the photographer) and Brande (my midwife), to let them know this would probably be the day baby was born. My mom had also come over around 12:00 to help with the girls. Brande let me know to give her an update in awhile and Amanda was going to head over to get some shots while I was still in early labor. Before Amanda arrived, I decided to hop in the bathtub and be alone for awhile, as I was feeling discouraged about the irregularity of things. I put bubbles in the tub, lit my Blessingway candles, and put on my labor music. Then I cried. I was so tired and disheartened. I wondered why this labor was so inconsistent. I worried about the birth team and was mad at myself for calling them over so soon. I thought I may labor until the next day, and the thought was overwhelming. I talked to my very encouraging friend, Beth, on the phone, and she talked through a few of my fears with me. She is someone who knows the right words to say, and it always makes me feel better to talk to her. I truly believe this baby was staying inside because I wouldn’t let it out. I was too afraid of the next part of labor and of life. Literally at the same moment, Brande, the midwife called. She told me that she had another mom in labor, and she was headed to that birth in Bloomington (about an hour away). This also shook my confidence, but I knew she had a back up midwife that was very capable. I had to process that Brande may not be with me when I gave birth, but I quickly realized I would be in good hands and worrying would accomplish nothing.
I emerged from the bathtub around 1:00 PM with a tear stained face, but wearing my birthing necklace and outfit. I said hello to Amanda, the photographer and chatted with everyone. I was really an emotional roller coaster. Crying, then laughing, then moaning through waves. My contractions had spaced back out at this point and I was getting more discouraged as time went on. I mostly felt terrible for everyone sitting around when the actual birth could be hours and hours away. They were all so kind and assured me that they didn’t mind and they were so happy to be with me on this special day. Still, I was struggling.
We decided to go back outside and take some pictures. Hilary, Amanda, the girls and I all headed to the backyard. I leaned against the trees during contractions and chatted with my friends and daughters between them. It really was a beautiful time. I will forever look back with happiness on those last moments of being a mom of two girls and spending time with two of my wonderful friends.
We went back inside after awhile and again, the contractions had spaced out. Throughout the day, although inconsistent, they were contractions that I moaned, swayed and leaned through. Some of them felt like two contractions in one. One would peak, then start to subside, then peak again a few seconds later. Hilary often squeezed my hips, which felt good. By this point around 2:00 PM, I knew birth would happen, but I had convinced myself it wouldn’t be for many hours, maybe even the next day. I made the big decision to send Hilary and Amanda home. It was very hard for me to make this choice, as both of them had such a calming and caring presence. However, I couldn’t stop worrying that I was putting them out in some way, so I asked them to leave for awhile. They were both eager to stay with me, but I promised I would call them if things picked up. I was going to try and rest. I was going on no food (nothing was appetizing) or sleep and was feeling pretty gloomy.
Around 3:00 PM, my mom took the girls to a park down the street, just to get them out of the house for awhile. With just Bryan and I at the house, I felt a little worry leave me, and I rested on our bed. The contractions still came, and I would hop quickly out of bed and try to breathe through them and stay loose and open. They were still coming every 5-10 minutes. This went on until about 4:00 PM, when things started getting more intense. My mom returned with the girls and I no longer could lie down. The contractions were a bit more regular now, and getting much more powerful. I decided to get back into the bathtub, as water always helped the waves feel more comfortable.
Before getting into the tub, I called Amie, the back-up midwife and the birth assistant, Marcia. I tearfully asked them to come over. They assured me they were on their way. Bryan could tell things were getting serious and he and my mom started trying to fill the birth pool with warmer water. I was in the bathtub alone and could hear them frantically boiling and dumping water. With the two baths I had taken in the previous hours, there wasn’t much hot water left. He also texted Hilary (doula) and I texted Amanda (photographer) to let them know to come back. This was around 4:30. Amanda asked through text how I was feeling and I told her I was feeling a little crazy. She assured me I was not, and was getting ready to have a beautiful birth.
While in the bathtub, I remember entering “labor land”. I was having a hard time responding to questions when Bryan asked, and I honestly didn’t care. I knew that in just a moment, another contraction was coming, and I needed everything within me to get through it. I felt alone, and was praying someone from my birth team would get there soon. I kicked myself for not calling sooner and sending everyone home. I had visions of delivering the baby in the bathtub all by myself. A bit before 5:00 PM, the midwife Amie arrived and I was so happy to see her. Although I had never met her, she gave off a radiant vibe that calmed me intensely. I felt very, very safe in her care. I asked her at once to Doppler the baby, as it hadn’t been checked all day. The heartbeat was 120 and strong. I could feel the baby squirming all around inside of me, lowering itself down further. Marcia (birth assistant) arrived soon after, then Amanda and Hilary also returned. Marcia was so helpful and stayed right with me in the bathtub. She talked to me calmly and happily, which made me feel good. She also felt my belly and assured me that baby was quickly coming. That’s the first moment I truly believed that very soon, I would meet my baby, and it was music to my ears.
It was a relief that everyone was back. I was in a strange place and was very somber between contractions. I felt like I was looking through people, and I couldn’t respond when they talked to me. I was very tired and going on no food, so Hilary made me a chocolate milk shake, which was delicious. I decided to head into the living room and attempt to get into the birth pool around 5:30 PM.
Bryan and my mom were still finishing putting hot water into the pool, so I labored next to it, on the rug for a few contractions. By this point, I was feeling very pushy, and was grunting and bearing down. I had a bloody show, but my water bag was still intact. I could feel it bulging and then decided to get into the pool, warm or not. It was lukewarm and felt great! I remember glancing at the girls, and seeing them wide-eyed with excitement. I accidentally said the “S word” during one wave and apologized to everyone.
Every contraction was a pushy one now, and they were coming quickly. I knew it wouldn’t be long and with each contraction, I pushed and grunted with all of my might. I felt very primal, like a wild animal growling. I thought some part of me may explode.
My bag of waters popped and during the next contraction, I could feel my baby’s head. It was moving up and down in the birth canal. I decided with the next contraction, I would push with everything I had, and get baby out. And I did! Baby’s head crowned and came out. I held her head with my hand under the water and felt all of the bones molding and the soft hair. It was magical. I gave one more monstrous push and baby slid the rest of the way out into the water. It was 6:08 PM on May 6, 2014. I was elated and so glad it was over. I pulled my baby to my chest and heard those first beautiful cries. After a few moments, someone asked what baby was… A girl! We had our third beautiful daughter. How blessed we were!
She quickly calmed and lay skin to skin with me. Brande, my midwife, arrived 5 minutes after she was born. I felt so safe and loved by her and the whole birth team! I eventually stood and delivered the placenta, splash, into the pool. Bryan held her skin to skin for the few moments that it took me to walk to the bedroom. She was so beautiful and covered in vernix. We were all so elated! She started nursing immediately and continued for a good three hours. The midwives checked me and baby and we were both very healthy! Her big sisters got a good look and were over the moon (and still are!). More family came to meet this new life and everyone dined on Mexican food that I had prepared previously. I ate tons and couldn’t get full. There was wine and laughter and love. My worry was gone and peace was in its place. Sybil Anne, all 7lbs 6oz of her, was here, perfect, and safe in my arms.
By 9:00 PM everyone had gone, and we were heading to bed for the first time as a family of five. As the girls slept, Bryan and I sat up and talked about the day, remembering all that happened from our individual perspectives. It wasn’t the short, easy, birth I’d had with Nadia. It challenged me in ways I never knew possible, mentally and physically. It was an intense, emotional, but beautiful birth, we both agreed. God’s perfect timing was at work, from the moment of her conception to the moment she was in my arms. We were both so joyful as we settled down to sleep with our three marvelous daughters between us.
Kara Sylvester, IBCLC