On Tuesday March 5th, I woke up early which was pretty uncommon for me but it was my “due date” and my anxiety to meet my baby was starting to take over. At this point, McKinley was already 5 weeks old! Still to that day, I had had ZERO signs of labor and I was so disappointed. I was not anxious to be done with pregnancy, I loved being pregnant and was pretty comfortable and that terrified me! Don’t women complain of getting uncomfortable the closer labor got?! I took this to mean I may be pregnant for even longer and I wanted to meet my baby so badly that as I sat on my birth ball that morning I began to sob. Slowly, tears began to flow. Tears for wanting to hold my baby on the outside. Tears for the lack of control I had over anything related to labor. Tears for how tired I was. Tears for how badly I wanted my husband home. As the tears came harder and the sobs stronger, I felt myself begin to release. Relief washed over me when my husband walked into our room as he came to my side to comfort me. The sobs came harder. I began to vocalize my fears to him and explain why I was crying. I felt foolish at my loss of control but at the same time, the release was so needed. I finally drew in a deep breath and sighed. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders, I no longer “knew” when my baby was coming and that was finally ok. Little did I know that just 24 hours later, I would be preparing to welcome our second baby.
At 4am on March 6th, I woke up at my usual time to use the restroom. Usually when I woke up at this time, it was a guaranteed 2 hours of insomnia wakefulness. I had hoped today would be different. On the walk back from the bathroom, I had a Braxton hick which was very typical for me but this one “hurt”. Three or four steps later, another wave that “hurt” and by the time I got to my bedside, I was on my third wave and had to stop and breath through it. The thought that I may be in labor crossed my mind! I brushed it aside as I always tell clients not to focus on early contractions as it can make them feel like they are in labor forever. I sat on my birth ball and breathed quietly through each wave that passed. They were close enough together that I started timing them. Three to five minutes apart and lasting a minute. “Not bad for early labor”, I thought. After about 90 minutes, I began to feel tired and attempted to lay down but with the next wave, I realized the bed was the worst place to be and couldn’t move when the next wave hit and I felt myself want to panic. I breathed through that wave and decided that tired would have to wait, I wasn’t laying down again if I could help it! By 6am, I had let my doula and birth photographers know I was in early labor. I was anxious as my labor was only 6.5 hours with my son and I didn’t know what to expect with baby number two without being induced. I didn’t want people there too early but also didn’t want to wait too late. This definitely made me more uncomfortable in my mind this labor. I was so anxious about calling people in too early and so my focus was constantly on the timing of my contractions. At 6:30am, my doula reached out to my husband asking how I was doing. I think everyone was anxious I’d wait too long to call! She told him she felt like she needed to be there but I assured him I was doing fine and they could wait. Sarah didn’t believe me! I did wait too long to call her in with my first baby so I guess I can’t blame her!
I made our bed and put our room together the way I wanted it in between contractions (or waves 😉). When I was active, the contractions were definitely closer together and more intense. At 7:15am, I heard Sarah, my doula, and Danica, my birth photographer, come through the door. I was sitting on the floor after laying on the ball for a bit. The next wave hit and I felt myself start to well up with tears. My anxiety that they were too early was coming out. I explained my fears but of course, they wanted to be there and they didn’t want any close calls! I silently reassured myself I was not inconveniencing anyone! By 8:30am I felt like my contractions were spacing out which made me nervous. I decided to start walking around to keep them coming. In hindsight though, the contractions were just getting more intense but staying about 4-5 minutes apart. I needed to walk to distract myself and I couldn’t time them anymore. Something that now as I look back, I can see I was progressing even though in my mind I felt like I wasn’t! My sweet son had woken up at some point in all of this and his hugs and chatter made my heart so happy and calm. I loved having him around during everything as he definitely helped me to focus and reminded me what I was working towards! My lovely midwife Lauren came up to check on me and baby around 8:45am, I assured her she could start clinic as baby wouldn’t be here for a while. She was hesitant and really wanted to cancel clinic but I couldn’t stand the thought of messing up her week so I forced her to start clinic! While she started clinic, I continued to walk with my sweet doula Sarah. At this point, a few of the contractions were so intense they’d make me tear up. I felt like I was being a wimp! How could these tiny contractions be making me cry?! But since it was just a couple here and there and nothing consistent, I was convinced my labor was still not progressing. Poor Sarah had to keep reminding me I was doing well and everything was progressing like it should! Around 9:30am, Monet showed up and I actually felt relieved for the first time that everyone was there! Now I didn’t have to think about anyone not making it on time! Thank goodness Sarah and Danica took over getting everyone there because I had long since left my phone!
As I walked back and forth between my room and McKinley’s, I started to allow my body to “get lost” in labor land. I tried not to think about what was happening around me. I did at one point hear my husband Jason tell Lauren to cancel the rest of clinic (this was around 10am) and I even felt relieved that she would be with me as well. Our nurse Courtlyn arrived shortly before then (Lauren tells me it was to keep an eye on me because she was worried I would wait to long to get her to cancel clinic) and we got to hear our sweet baby again, reassurance that everything was going well! By 10:15am, things were getting intense and Sarah asked if I wanted to get in the shower. I resisted because I was afraid it would slow things down more (was still having 4-5 min apart contractions at this point) but Sarah pushed me to get in. I know Monet mentioned getting the tub going instead but I was so nervous I wasn’t far enough along I decided to do the shower. Jason started setting up the tub and still little fears that I wasn’t far enough along for all of the set up snuck in my mind. I climbed into the shower and as predicted, my contractions nearly stopped. I was so disappointed but at the same time, the break was glorious! I could hear everyone talking about getting the pool set up and not using up all the hot water so we turned the shower down to a dribble and I sat on the ball in the shower. This didn’t last long though as I got too cold. I decided to get out and walk more. As soon as I got out of the shower, my contractions changed. They started coming faster and faster and more intense. By 10:45am, I could feel myself starting to panic a bit. Fortunately, I had 5 amazing women reminding me how strong I was and tears only fell every so often. I couldn’t walk anymore and was trying different positions to help with the intensity but nothing was working. My team feverishly finished the pool set up and were bringing boiling pots of water to compensate for our running out of hot water. My son thought the entire ordeal was so amazing and he was thrilled about the pool in our home! The only time he really threw a fit was when he was told he couldn’t get in the water by my husband. I was able to let Jason know he could put McKinley in the tub until I was ready for it. It was the best part of my labor for McKinley I’m sure and once again, his joy, laughter and chatter brought calm to my heart.
Time starts to become weird at this point in the story as things began to move very quickly. My contractions were close together and intense but still very manageable and I could talk in between (though most of the talking was feeling like I wasn’t progressing and panicking about going too slowly)! Sarah suggested sitting on the toilet and I agreed though my photographers really wanted me to get in the tub, I was afraid my contractions would space out again (they were afraid I’d give birth in my hole-in-the-wall bathroom without proper lighting or windows which I now realize!). I sat on the toilet for 3 contractions and that was all I could handle. It made them hurt worse and by the third wave I remember telling Sarah I thought I might be feeling the urge to push but I even panicked over that because I was convinced things were “too easy” and “too spaced” for me to already be feeling the urge to push. I mean, I could still talk in between contractions?! Lauren chimed in about where I likely was in my labor and that if I didn’t get in the tub now, I may not be able to. I started to cry. Tears because I had to let go of these fears that I wasn’t progressing! And then it hit me, I was panicking, this is what I did with McKinley right as the urge to push hit. I teased Lauren about only being 3cm and she kicked me out of my bathroom and to my tub with a snarky comment about being a midwife and knowing I was way past 3cm, we all laughed at my silly behavior!
I had one wave outside the tub and this time I could definitely feel the urge to push was coming! I climbed into the tub and was immediately met with warm relief! Boy did it feel good to be in water! Well, at least until the next wave hit and I had the urge to push even stronger! My body was taking over! I will admit I thought there would be less pain in the water! I wonder if I waited too long to get in so by the time pushing hit everything was so much more intense but I also know that the water helped me relax in between waves which was very necessary. My son wanted back in the tub with me which I welcomed with open arms. I loved his hug but with the next push, he begged to get out! Haha, I was a little too loud for him I think!
With each wave, I had to push so much! I gave into my body even though it was so intense! This pushing was SO different from McKinley. I started to feel myself really panicking. I begged those around me to help me as the pressure in my pelvic floor forced me to push even though I didn’t want to always! I checked myself after the first wave expecting to feel my baby’s head, nothing. How could my baby not be there?! There was SO MUCH pressure!! The pain was so intense! I may have whined about this to everyone in the room :/ “where is my baby?! Why won’t they come out?!” Before I could give up, the next wave hit. Intense pressure and urge to push overtook my body and again, I felt my baby move down, this time, it felt like my butt was going to split open! I hollered at Lauren to help me. I pushed until the urge to push left me. I checked myself again, still nothing! “What the hell?!” I thought to myself. I demanded from Lauren to know why my baby wasn’t coming (because obviously it was her fault lol). It was the next wave that hit that really changed things! Suddenly I felt burning. I didn’t have this with McKinley or if I did, I had zero memory of it! My water broke which increased the burning. I didn’t want to push anymore, it hurt so much but I couldn’t not push, that hurt more! In my mind I felt like I was screaming but everyone assured me I was only grunting/growling with the urge to push (thank goodness). The burning kept getting worse with each push and I remember begging for help but when Lauren touched me, it was so sensitive I yelled at her to stop. If anyone moved or changed anything while I was crowning, I couldn’t handle it. I begged everyone not to move. I begged everyone to help me even though they were all doing so amazing! With my final push, I felt baby’s head deliver, then nothing. This didn’t happen with McKinley either, he just, well, came out! This baby was not cooperating! I asked Lauren to pull baby out, it hurt to have them half in and half out! She asked me to push but there was no power! I told her we’d have to wait for another contraction or something. Within seconds another wave hit and with two or three wimpy, exhausted pushes, there was finally relief, my baby had been born!! Relief washed over me as I collapsed on the side of the pool.
It was quiet in the room for just a moment and then a small whimper from my baby urged me to turn around. I asked Lauren if baby was doing Ok and Lauren said, “she’s doing great”. I turned around in just enough time to see the look on Lauren’s face and then it dawned on me and my husband announced we had had a girl!!! Lauren’s look made me laugh because we never announce gender before dad does but she was so excited it was a girl (and was convinced the entire pregnancy it was even though I tried to tell her it was a boy 😉)! Of course, I didn’t notice before Jason told me it was a girl. I finally had the strength to turn over and when I saw her, I was amazed by her head of dark hair!! I remember that being one of the first things out of my mouth after my stunned response to her being a girl!! I took my baby into my arms and started to talk to her as McKinley peered over the side of the pool to meet his new sibling. She was slow to come around after her birth so I encouraged her to breath and look at mommy and within seconds of being in my arms, she let out a strong cry and opened her eyes! She was beautiful! All I wanted to do was look at her! I held her in the water in front of me and admired her perfection! I was done and once again had done it, only this time in the comfort of my home just as I had one day hoped would happen! Our sweet Henslee Honor joined us earth side at 11:20AM on March 6, 2019 after only about 10-15 minutes of pushing (and not hours like it felt to me lol) and 7 hours 20 mins of labor total. I believe firmly pushing was so intense for me this time because it was so much faster AND she was two pounds bigger weighing in at 8#5oz. I had hoped that I would be calmer during the pushing stage of labor but I have decided I am just vocal when I am uncomfortable and this is probably going to be the norm for me! I have decided to embrace this reality about myself. I can birth my children!! I don’t have to do it quietly or gracefully if that’s not who I am! I am a beast and feel amazing after pushing through everything! Women are incredible and I am privileged to be one of them and to support them! What an amazing gift! Welcome to the world sweet Henslee, it was all so worth it!
There’s something so amazing about undisturbed birth! It creates such a sacred space for the beautiful bonding that happens after baby is born. I got to hold McKinley all of two seconds before he was whisked away to the NICU. This time, I got to savor each moment. Loving on my new baby, in peace and quiet! What a joy it was to get to know her calmly and quietly without feeling even a bit rushed!
Photography: Monet Nicole https://www.monetnicole.com/
Danica Donnelly https://www.danicadonnelly.com/