The last 6 weeks lead up to David’s labor and birth should have given me a clue into how his labor would go. It was hard. Both mentally and physically. And after a truly beautiful and “easy” pregnancy it was a surprise how hard it all was. My whole pregnancy was different from the way the girls had been. But I thought this was largely due to the fact that my diet was very different because of food sensitivities, so I was not nearly as inflamed as I likely was with my two girls. I really didn’t think it had to do with this baby’s sex but I did get more of a boy feeling than girl. The whole pregnancy I felt like this baby was just like warm honey on a sunny day and I hoped that would lend to a blissful birth.
So the last 6 weeks came and I found myself quite uncomfortable physically and mentally I had to work tirelessly to stay present in the moment. I planned my days with the girls to be filled with fun crafts, delicious baking, and outings that would keep us occupied. I tried very hard to not rush the time away since my girls were obviously in front of me growing like weeds and I didn’t want to miss out on them. September was very busy and flew by and as we approached October I prayed constantly for the Lord's will to be done but if that could mean the baby came on time, I’d appreciate it. Ha. Ha.
My ”due date” came and went which wasn’t all that surprising because both girls went past 41 weeks. But since 38 weeks I had had multiple episodes of “prelabor” cramping and as I became more pregnant the episodes happened more frequently culminating in just feeling like I needed to be pushed over the edge into full labor. On top of the physical discomfort, which thankfully was not an everyday occurrence but some days were very very hard, the emotional roller coaster of waiting on a baby was overwhelming. I was much more teary this pregnancy and at the end found myself crying to process all the emotions of the wait. Something far different from the wait for the girls. I had to focus incredibly hard to stay present in the moment and enjoy what was right in front of me, which wasn’t a bad thing!! And truly a needed reminder.
At my 41 week appointment I gushed to my midwife about the emotional trials of the last week. I knew Baby was safe but my mental state was suffering, which I’m still not sure why. But I didn’t feel like a membrane sweep, which I had used to bring on Miriams labor, was called for at that point. So she discussed with me a homeopathic protocol that could push me into labor. She explained that it would only work if my body was ready, which being so close to 42 weeks I only needed the slightest push. She left it at my house with “if you think you want it, you have the option. There is no pressure, your baby will come when he’s ready!” I was so thankful for her support and prayed all night about a clear message one way or another.
The main reason I think I felt pressure was my own self proclaimed timeline. I had set so many different “it would be nice to have the baby before this point for this reason…” and the last one was my mom’s visit. I never imagined she would be present for the birth with us arranging her visit so far past my “guess date” but at this point 10/19, her visit was 3 days away 10/22. I woke up Wednesday morning, 10/20, wide awake at 5 am. I had been sleeping really well, well as good as one can expect at almost 42 weeks pregnant, and just felt ready for the day. For an hour I prayed more about the homeopathic regime and by 6am I felt like giving it a try. The protocol calls for taking one remedy, once an hour for 8 hours unless regular contractions have started then you continue with that remedy till active labor begins. If the first remedy doesn't do anything, you stop after 8 hours and then try the second remedy the next day.
By Wednesday afternoon, nothing out of the ordinary was happening and I was battling frustration and doubt once again. Which on this end is so illogical because all babies have to come out but i think it more had to do with control, once again. Thursday morning, 42 weeks, I started the second remedy, Colin took the girls to a fall outing, which gave me the morning alone. I went for a long walk and had a great conversation with my mom. She heard all of my woes and worries and just constantly affirmed how loved and supported I was and there was no reason to rush the Baby. He would come when he was ready whether she was present or not.
After my walk I talked with my younger sister, had a nice lunch, and then Colin came home with the girls. By mid afternoon, my usual Braxton Hicks had started to take on a pattern and we’re definitely more uncomfortable than before. I let my midwife know there had been a change and I was going to continue taking the second remedy. I talked with another sister and during that conversation the light contractions stayed and I even said “oh that one was uncomfortable!” Which was very encouraging!
By 4pm contractions were every 5-7 minutes and getting closer. Still not taking all my attention but I needed to move through them to distract me. By 5 I started to make dinner with contractions 4-5 minutes apart, all the while texting my midwife. By 530 contractions were 2.5 minutes apart and with each one I was hanging in the kitchen doorway swaying my hips but still smiling through because I was so happy labor was here! But everything looked like it was moving VERY fast so I asked my midwife to come and Colin to set up the birth pool. I was praying we weren’t rushing into it but with my pattern and reaction to contractions it made sense to call them out.
At 630 both midwives showed up while Colin filled the pool. The girls were going crazy! They were so excited it was finally baby time because they just wanted to swim in the birth pool. Contractions were still coming along really good and felt stronger. By 730, Colin decided to try to put the girls to bed but we both thought all of the excitement would prolong the process. Luckily, because of their super busy morning, they knocked out without a problem. An absolute answer to prayers!
By this point my contractions had noticeably slowed down but we all thought it was just because I was distracted with all the commotion. I walked around the house, knit while on the birth ball, and had great conversations with the midwives and Colin, all the while my contractions had spaced to every 5-8 minutes. Around 11pm I decided to go to my room and my midwife encouraged me to rest since it looked like that’s what my body was asking for with the spaced contractions.
I rested and maybe slept for about an hour and was woken up by contractions a few times but spaced even further. I was so disappointed. I was beating myself up for calling everyone to my house only for it to all but stop. But I was trying to once again stay present and try not to control the situation, but that’s just so much harder said than done! After walking around the house and working through more spaced contractions I laid down again. The whole house was quiet and I slept for about 2 hours. I woke up at 430, went to the bathroom and decided to try checking myself. I knew it wasn’t going to change anything but I needed to know if the weird contractions had done anything. With my assessment, I was about 6cm dilated. I was happy with that but immediately my nurse brain kicked in and said “you’re not even in active labor yet!? What the heck is happening!?”
I went and talked with my main midwife and told her my assessment but immediately doubted my decision to check myself, as I thought it put me into too much of my medical brain, not my surrender brain. She kindly listened to me but affirmed that a cervical check at this point made perfect sense just to give us information. She said she trusted me 100% and knew that I knew my body. Although it didn’t take away my frustration I felt heard and supported and that was encouraging. I asked if I should “do” anything to help labor along and she said we can always try something with homeopathy but maybe I should just listen to my body and respect it’s desire for rest, since my contractions were every 15-20 minutes at best.
I was woken up at 630a to my oldest daughter asking if the baby had come yet, to which I had to fight back tears and say “No. Baby isn’t quite ready yet. Maybe later today”. At 7 my second daughter woke up and I nursed her, as we did every morning, and I prayed it would bring the contractions back, good and strong. It did! The contractions definitely changed to a stronger feeling but stayed 6-10 minutes apart for the next couple hours. In that time, the girls finally got to play in the birth pool, which they loved! But Colin was taking care of them and we ultimately decided to ask a friend to come take the girls to lunch, hoping getting them out of the house would help things along. It didn’t. By 12 I was so tired of walking around my house, bouncing on the birth ball, or leaning over the counter, I asked if someone wanted to take a walk with me. Colin was napping so my main midwife joined me.
We have a great park just down the street, it was a warmish fall day and the sun was shining. A perfect time to be outside. My contractions picked up a bit, 5-6 minutes apart while walking, and we just talked and walked for about 30 minutes. A few people stopped us with labor jokes having no idea how close I was and a cop even drove by while I was hunched over in a contraction and my midwife just gave him a thumbs up and a smile, all was well.
I told her I felt so bad to have called both midwives out with no sign of delivery but she told me of how many 3rd time moms had the weirdest labor patterns and babies can be born even with contractions spaced 10 minutes apart. She was happy to be with me and had nowhere else to go, so stop worrying!
When we got home, I had an overwhelming urge for a chiropractic adjustment because my back and hips were so sore. My midwives thought that was a great idea so into the car we went. I NEVER thought I would leave my house in the middle of labor but it really felt like what my body needed. The girls came home just as we were leaving and with hugs and tears from my oldest I said I’d be back and this was to help me have the baby.
Contractions were present the whole drive every 8ish minutes, but after the adjustment I got a whopper contraction that made me vocalize and want to cry! We were all so encouraged we hopped back in the car and I texted Colin to fill the pool the rest of the way. Contractions were coming closer and had leveled up in intensity once again. By the time we got home, contractions were 3-4 minutes apart again and I needed the pool desperately. It was hot and ready but ended up being too hot so I had to stand in between contractions and sink into the water to find relief during the contractions.
Once again, my contractions spaced out. I couldn’t believe it!! They were intense and consistent but after getting in the pool they spaced back out to 6-10 minutes apart. I checked myself again and was about 8cms and felt my bag of waters, so we all took it as a great sign that we were close!
The girls left the house again with our friend to pick my mom up from the airport, around 2 pm. All the while I’m calculating in my head how much time I had left till my mom would be back with the girls and I had to have a baby by 430! Good grief, I just couldn’t get out of my thinking brain. Trying to control everything, once again.
Once they left I tried so desperately to release my worries of others, I even said to my midwives, “I’m not going to care about you anymore!” Joking of course but they both emphatically supported me getting out of my head and not worrying about anything.
As the afternoon ticked on, and nothing seemed to be changing apart from my back labor getting more intense, my midwife suggested we try one reposition technique to take the pain out of my back. I had had to do something similar in labor with Miriam so with the contraction pattern and feeling of the baby's legs rather than back with palpation, we all thought the baby might need some help getting into a better position.
With one midwife in front of me sitting on a stool the other behind supporting my back and Colin on my right side, she gently but firmly pushed my belly up and in during a contraction so the baby would stop aiming for my back and hopefully land onto my cervix. It was intense!! But it immediately changed the feeling of contractions taking away the back labor and putting it all onto my cervix. We did that for about 30 minutes and then decided to rest. It worked well enough to get my contractions close together again and so incredibly intense. But as soon as they stopped doing the “apron lift”, the name of the repositioning technique, the pain went all into my back and thighs again.
It just kept feeling like I was going to do this for hours more and nothing was going to change. But I ended up back in the pool to relieve some pain and tried not to worry about things spacing out again. They did. Not quite as far apart so that was encouraging but at this point around 530pm I knew Mom and the girls were getting close and I was nowhere near pushing a baby out. Colin asked them to stay away until called but that made me feel bad because I was holding everyone up. Again, an illogical frustration but truly it was the fight I was facing. I had my midwife check me at this point and with her assessment she said, “You are completely dilated! If you want to, try a few pushes and see what happens!” I did, but after a few it just felt like I was pushing against a wall and there was nothing productive happening.
I was so desperate for help and feeling very afraid of the contraction pain in my back, I told my midwives as much. They immediately asked if I wanted to try a homeopathic remedy to help with fear and I said yes. It did seem to help for a few contractions but before long they suggested another remedy that might help encourage the baby into a more optimal position and decrease the back pain. It also had another side effect, emotional let down. And boy, did I then work through emotions of shame, guilt, total lack of control while sobbing through contractions. At one point I said “I didn’t know I felt these things!!” It was insane! Oddly, all of the guilt came back to my thoughts on interventions at birth and how they had led me down a cascade of interventions ending with a c/s at Olivia’s birth. I definitely thought I had worked through her birth story but here it was, declaring itself once again.
At this point I was contemplating having my midwife break my bag of waters. In part because with my second daughters birth, my water had broken and I immediately needed to push, which relieved the back labor and another reason, just a few weeks prior, my friend had had her baby and told me she wished she asked for her water to be broken because she thought it might have prevented her 3 hours of pushing… of course, both situations didn’t have anything to do with me but that was part of my inward battle and definitely contributing to my narrative about interventions during birth. My midwives and husband just sat with me and listened. They never told me I was crazy or shouldn’t feel a certain way.
Eventually I just sat and prayed, “God where is your peace? Lead me where I need to go.” And I felt an overwhelming freedom in choosing to have my waters broken. I NEVER would have thought I would choose that but in the moment, that’s where peace was. My midwife tried to break it with me still in the birth pool but couldn’t get a grip on it so after a few more contractions and prayer I got out of the birth pool and went to my bed. She was able to break my water but realized I was still about 9cms and she said, “if you want, you can push the rest of the cervix out of the way and have your baby right now” and I shouted, “oh no!!” And had a terrorizing moment of fear of more back pain, which doesn’t make sense to me now because pushing always takes away the back pain but it is what it is. In the moment of fear, my midwife said that I immediately closed my cervix and needed to relax and flopped like a fish. I don’t know why I went from terror to relaxed in a second but I did. And that’s just how this labor was. (After birth, my midwife told me that my cervix went from 9 cms to 4 cms!! What a lesson in how fear can control your cervical dilation!)
For the next 30 minutes, from 650ish to 720ish, I stood, did hands and knees, and squated, all by the birth pool so that I could get the rest of my cervix out of the way. I wanted to birth in the water but I knew I needed to stay out for now. Through that 30 minutes of insane contractions I was working through different prayers and phrases to keep myself grounded and it worked SO well. There were a few contractions that I didn’t need anyone else to support me because my brain was so intent on not being afraid of the pain. That was one of my chants, “I am not afraid.” Along with a few others that I can't remember now, weird. At one point Colin told me to say the Jesus prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” and I tried, truly, but it felt too big so instead I had him pray it over me through a few contractions and that felt so right and peaceful.
Then I felt called to the pool again and without saying anything I just slid into the water and my team all said, “Oh there she goes!” which was pretty funny to me. I had a few more absolutely powerful and painful contractions in which I reached out to anyone around me for support and felt like a wild woman. I had one contraction that felt so weird and I had no idea what to do but luckily my wise midwives knew what was happening and gently said, “it sounds like it's time to push!” How silly of me! I knew exactly what to do with Miriams pushing but this time just felt so weird but once I realized what needed to be done it took like 3 contractions to push my baby's head out and then one more for shoulders. I did feel a moment of “will the shoulders come??” again, from Miriam's birth, but I fought that thought and just said “Yes” and pushed him all the way out. 7:58 pm at 15 days past my “guess date”.
It was AMAZING to bring my own baby to my chest with no one else telling me what to do and just following my instinct. He was so quiet and a bit purple but I knew everything was ok. I just kept kissing and rubbing him, I didn’t know he was he yet… But Colin asked what baby’s sex was so I looked and said “we have a boy!! I knew it was you!” I then moved to the stool in the pool and just loved on my baby till I felt my placenta coming. I stood and said “I need a bowl.” then delivered my own placenta, SUPER COOL! Handed over the baby to daddy, got a shower, and climbed into bed. I felt like Super Woman!
Just in time for my mom and the girls to walk in the door. It was perfect. I could not have planned it better. And that certainly is my lesson in all this. I do not have to be in control, God is in control and I have to surrender to His will.
About The Author:
Cathryn Barker is a wife, mother of three, registered nurse and copywriter. She has a love and passion for women's health, especially for mothers and babies. She desires to connect families to support and information that offers a truly wonderful experience in pregnancy, birth and motherhood.