On Tuesday morning, at 41 weeks pregnant, I woke up with contractions. As I’d had weeks of increasingly intense pre-labor this was not a huge warning sign. Although I’d warned my birth team several times over the weeks about changes in the contractions that seemed indicative of labor coming soon, I’d never actually called anyone over. That morning both of our older girls came and snuggled in bed with me, a bit of a rarity with DD1, and a nice start to the day. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I stayed in there to maintain some space. DH stayed home and I took some solo quiet time, showering and lying down alone hoping things would fully kick into gear, but they were widely spaced, often 15-20 minutes apart, and completely without pattern, so after awhile of timing them I gave up. The contractions felt stronger and sharper than the day before. The most intense ones had me gritting my teeth and cursing in my head, where the day before my intense contractions only stopped me and required breathing through them. Although I said to DH several times that day, “If these aren’t labor contractions, then we’re in trouble” I did not feel like I was in labor at all. Between contractions I felt ridiculous that DH was home from work yet again. I got dressed, ate normally, did laundry, and even seriously considered taking my children to the library. Then a contraction would hit and I’d wonder why on earth we hadn’t called the birth team yet.
I had a midwife appointment late that afternoon and figured I’d discuss it with her then, but at 2:40pm I called S to give her a warning (yet again). She did all of our prenatal appointments at my house, and she had a pretty long drive. She said that at 41 weeks we didn’t want to risk this stalling out, and suggested I brew parsley tea, but not drink it until she was on the road. I certainly didn’t want to risk it stalling out yet again either. I contacted my doula D and my photographer N to give them a warning, since it sounded like S thought things may progress quickly. D was teaching a class at 7 and N had a meeting from 6:30-8:30. I assured them both I didn’t need anything then, and I’d let them know if/when things changed.
The four of us pulled together and got in the van to get coffee, get DD2 down for her nap, and run into the grocery store for parsley and a few other things. Our plan was to have the appointment with S while the kids had a short quiet time, then to do an early (for us) dinner, one last family walk as a family of 4, and to put the girls to bed. I was guessing that things would start to progress once the girls were asleep. I even talked to N about taking pictures of us on our family walk after her meeting. During the drive DH and I discussed support for the kids during the birth as my first person on call had just emailed that she was unexpectedly unavailable, but we had backups, and nothing felt too urgent.
We got home a bit after 4. DH put down a sleeping DD2. I read a book with DD1. DH put away groceries, started the parsley tea, and headed up to shower while I did some laundry and other housework. S arrived around 5:30 and we sat down on the couch for a pre-natal visit. I sipped maybe half a cup of the parsley tea while we did the regular appointment discussions, blood pressure tests, etc. She suggested a cervical exam to see if the contractions had made any changes. At 6:30pm I was shocked to hear I was at 6cm with a low baby and bulging bag of waters. The contractions were still highly irregular and roughly 9 minutes apart.
We went back downstairs and sat down at the kitchen table with DH and the girls to do “tea time”. S suggested pulling in her birth supplies before she left in case things moved quickly. The girls excitedly helped. I texted D and N again, and took a few pictures of the kids helping set up birth supplies. DH called SB to give her a warning about supporting the girls during the birth. We were still planning to do dinner and a walk.
Somewhere in the 7-7:15 time frame I was in the bedroom with DH while S was in our bathroom, and I remember telling him that things couldn’t be moving too quickly because I was still fully dressed (jewelry, shoes, bra, and all). At a few minutes after 7 I was texting with N. I told her to definitely come straight to our house after the meeting that ended at 8:30pm, we did a bit of chatting about timing and I told her not to worry about us, saying the right after the birth pictures were the ones I wanted most anyway. I couldn’t imagine she’d miss the actual birth, just some of the labor. I’d been nervous that as everyone showed up I’d stall out anyway, so I wasn’t feeling any huge rush to have everyone arrive.
Meanwhile I texted DH that things were getting stronger and he should call SB to come over (from about 25 minutes away) so he would have some time to show her around and settle the kids with her. Then I suggested S stay. When he didn’t respond, I started calling for him. I was in the bathroom getting increasingly into labor land, and I think by then I’d mostly undressed, but I’d put everything neatly away where it belonged as I did so. He came back inside (apparently he’d gone outside with the kids to tell S goodbye, though she planned to hang out in her car in our driveway), and went back out to get S. He called SB and D.
At 7:30pm D came up into the bathroom where I was laboring on the toilet, naked by then. I think I was starting to vocalize during contractions at this point. She said N was with her, which totally shocked me because I figured it’d been at most 15 minutes since I was texting with N in her meeting. Things were getting intense, and I was looking at the clock telling myself it would be over by midnight and her birthday really would be September 25th. DH and D were back and forth in the room with me. DH was making/getting phone calls and the kids were with various people, and sometimes solo. At some point I suggested someone needed to be sure DD2 went to the bathroom because she’s been having lots of potty accidents lately. DH took her, and I confirmed that she’d actually gone the next time he came in. I took all of that to mean I couldn’t really be moving too fast.
I was absolutely burning up, as with both of my previous labors. D told me she had a fan in her bag. I envisioned a small electric box fan when she first said it which sounded like it might be too much, but it was a simple folding fan, which was perfect. She stood there fanning me, and put a wet wash cloth on my neck. There was a discussion about ice water for the wash cloth, but by the time they had ice cold water for it, I thought that would be too cold. I was on the toilet still. I considered moving onto the cold tile on my hands and knees, or into the cold empty tub, but it wasn’t worth actually moving. I was telling myself that I’d move to the bed after my water broke. I was sure it would break pretty soon. With DD2 my water broke on the toilet, which seemed pretty perfect.
At 7:56 my water broke (S told me the next day that the water was perfect and clear). I confirmed the rupture with D and finished the sentence saying “and I’m pushing.” S was leaning against the wall beside the toilet at that point, and indicated that she suspected as much. DH came back in shortly after that, and I was standing in front of the toilet. Maybe I stood up as my water broke. I held onto DH as I was pushing. I don’t remember how I was standing at first (he tells me I was holding onto his forearms), but I remember moving my arms up around his neck a little bit into it. S told me the next day that Vella’s hand was up near her face, but that she was mostly able to hold it back because of the position I was in. I was vocalizing plenty and remember being reminded to use a low voice and to relax my shoulders. At some point I heard DD2’s voice and realized that my girls were both in the room too. At 8:03 someone announced that I was crowning, and Vella was born at 8:05pm and placed in my arms. She was perfect. I wanted to move to the bed right away.
We snuggled in the bed together for awhile. She wasn’t too interested in nursing yet, and I was saying that DD2 was the same way. She was beautiful and alert. It seemed like forever before I pushed out the placenta. It was out at 8:26, and I was very relieved. DH cut the cord, and Vella and I snuggled some more. I got pretty shaky for quite awhile, but I was otherwise doing well. There was a discussion about how little blood I’d lost, and S asked about my back hurting several times, which it wasn’t at all. Somewhere in here H showed up to assist S, and SB showed up to help with the kids. In the end, I’m glad there were less people there for the birth itself, and I’m glad we had the extra hands afterwards. The kids went back and forth between upstairs with us and down with SB, which worked out very well. Vella finally latched on and nursed around 9:30 or 9:35 while it was just the two of us on the bed. After awhile I asked N if she’d gotten any pictures of Vella nursing and everyone got excited. I guess no one else had noted she’d been nursing. SB fixed the dinner we’d expected to eat as a family of four, which I happily ate in bed. I was able to get up and pee without issues, and was shocked to learn that I had a few skid marks up (which I’d really felt during the birth) and a tiny tear on my perineum, none of which needed stitches.
S did the newborn exam, and Vella was 7lbs 14oz, and 21in long with a 13in head circumference.
We did the herbal bath at around 10:25pm. DD2 was so excited, bouncing around and taking off her clothes. She loves the pictures of DD1 in the herbal bath with me and her after her own birth, and had been anxiously waiting her turn to be the big sister in the herbal bath. She climbed in with us, and DD1 sat on the edge of the tub putting her hands in. After awhile the big girls got to be too much, and I got some solo time in the bath with Vella.