By the time I hit 43 weeks pregnant, I was done.
I was hot, I was tired, and I was ready to meet my baby. Up until that point, I’d really let things continue on naturally, not doing much to encourage baby’s arrival – aside from walking and sex which really, was more for me and less for inducing labor. But there was just something about hitting week 43 that just snapped inside me. I was ready.
Ready to move onto the next chapter of my life.
Ready to snuggle my new baby.
Ready to meet this little life that had been growing inside me for 10 long months.
Ready for the big debut to finally happen, and the mysteries to be answered.
Was it a boy or a girl?
What would they look like?
Would they be breech?
See, this pregnancy had progressed so well, and so smoothly, that literally everything was a mystery.
Last we’d heard, before being dropped by our midwife for not complying with their interventions (another story for another time), baby’s head was still snugly resting underneath the left side of my ribcage. I hadn’t had a single ultrasound, hadn’t discovered the gender, hadn’t even heard my baby’s heartbeat (as I’d opted for a fetoscope instead of a doppler).
And when week 43 rolled around, the excitement and anticipation was practically brewing over.
I was ready. But baby, it seemed, was not. And so he stayed put – for one more very long week.
Just after midnight on Tuesday, August 8th (at 43+3), my husband and I did the baby dance (you know, the one that both makes babies, and brings them into our arms). Immediately afterward, I started losing my bloody show, and we both quickly grew very excited.
Could this be the night?! We looked at each other in anticipation.
Not only was it a full moon that night, but everyone had convinced me that was when he would come.
And, sure enough, the cramping began.
They grew and grew, in both frequency and intensity. It was tough for me to find comfort and, more than once, the idea that this must really be it popped into my mind. Around 2am, we decided to try and lay down, and while my husband quickly found sleep – I did not. After about an hour of struggling to find relief, I got up to have a cup of tea. The contractions (which I’ve since learned was just a fun bout of prodromal labor) continued, despite the tea, despite my attempts to calm them in the shower, and I found myself growing both frustrated and exhausted. I filled my hot water bottle with boiling water, and attempted to find a little relaxation in the recliner. Around 6am, after alternating the heat on my lower back and belly, things seemed to calm enough for me to get a couple of hours of sleep, before my toddler woke.
The following days were mostly uneventful, with the blood eventually stopping altogether, still losing large portions of my mucus plug which wasn’t much of a sign for me as I had been doing so for about 2 weeks by that point. In those final few days, I did struggle emotionally quite a bit. Feelings of excitement and exhilaration alternated with discouragement and nervousness. I’m going to be pregnant forever, I found myself thinking more often than even makes sense. Of course I wouldn’t be pregnant forever, but it sure felt that way at the time.
At 43+5, I decided to pull the breast pump out, after reading online how well it worked for tipping the body over the edge into labor. I pumped one breast at a time, for 15 minutes on each side, keeping in mind to turn the pump off should a contraction occur, as to not ‘overwhelm’ the uterus. I fully expected to experience a contraction, or two, during my pumping session. I mean, I had to be just on the verge of labor. Right?
It was disheartening to not even have one. Not even a faint tightening of the uterus. My body acted like I wasn’t even doing anything.
After laying the toddler down for bed that night, I pulled the pump out once again and tried for 10 minutes on each side. Again, no response from my body.
So, to bed I went for another night – still pregnant.
On Friday, August 11 at 43+6, I woke to find blood on the tissue when I wiped. Once again, my heart leapt into my throat. This was it. It had to be.
A surge of excitement and energy rushed through my body, and I decided to try and clean the house a bit in preparation for baby’s arrival. I spent the next hour or two picking up around the house, but not really getting much done. We hung around the house during the early part of the day, with me continuously losing blood and large chunks of mucus, as well as having sporadic and light contractions. I laid the toddler down for a nap, and we planned to meet my mother-in-law for lunch after he woke. At around 4pm or so we met and ate at Chipotle, and then drove over to her house, so we could visit for awhile. We hung out for a bit, and after using the bathroom at her house and losing a pretty sizable chunk of bloody mucus, I snapped my very last belly pic.
Around 6:30PM, we left her house and drove over to the grocery store to grab some fruit to restock the house, and then headed back home. At around 8PM, something changed in the cramps that I was feeling. The only way I can describe it, is they felt deeper. They weren’t necessarily painful, they were just different, and that caught my attention. I felt like something may start happening, and I preferred that the toddler be asleep, so I asked daddy to get him into the tub and start our bedtime routine. Around 8:30PM, after feeling a few more of those different cramps, I decided to try pumping one more time. I pumped the first breast for about two or three minutes, before experiencing quite a strong contraction so I decided to put it away, as I didn’t want to rush things along too quickly. Little did I know, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and gave my body that last little push it needed. The toddler was still awake at this point, and I told my husband that I was feeling some semi-strong contractions.
“Is the baby coming?” He asked, excitement lacing his voice.
I feared that saying yes might jinx it or something, even though I really felt that this could be it, so I said I just didn’t know. But we needed to be prepared.
Around 9PM, I had to use the bathroom, and had a contraction in there that took my breath away. It lasted about 30 seconds, and there was nothing I could do but just stand, lean over with my hands up against the wall, and sway, breathing through. I emerged from the bathroom to find my husband in the living room and said “Baby’s coming.”
He sprung into action, picking up the house, and readying the toddler for bed. I told him to forget about bedtime, that he would be fine. I sat in the recliner and mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, using it as a distraction, as I breathed through two or three more contractions. I’d say they were coming about every 7-10 minutes at this point. Something started shifting in them though, and they were becoming more painful, and I was feeling more pressure and a pulling-like feeling in my cervix during them. Still not completely convinced this was actually it, I decided to try jumping in the shower. I remembered reading that warm water would do one of two things: if it was practice labor, it would help relax the body enough to slow or even stop the contractions. But, if it was true labor, it may make them even stronger. I spend 5-10 minutes in the shower, laboring through two more contractions, before deciding to just get out, as I just wasn’t comfortable standing there. I walked into my bedroom to find my husband laying the tarp and waterproof mattress protector over the bed.
“Not yet” I told him, still not convinced baby was on their way.
I then made my way into the living room, but stopped short with a breathtaking contraction that made me double over. I remember my husband trying to say something to me during this time, but the surge took all of my focus. It was at this point, around 9:30PM, that I was finally convinced it was baby time.
I felt that I would be more comfortable laying in bed, so I went back into the bedroom and laid down on my side, with one pillow between my knees, and hugging another. Both my husband and the toddler came in and out of the bedroom, offering love, comfort, and support. It was after 10PM now, and the toddler had started getting a little cranky, so my poor husband was left stretched between me, and an overly tired little boy.
I began vocalizing through the contractions, which my son found a little unsettling, but I took time between them to remind him that everything was okay.
“Mommy’s just having a baby” I repeated to him, over and over. I smiled, a smile that reached deep into my soul. I felt no fear in saying these words, I was ready to welcome my sweet little baby who I’d waited so, so very long to meet. And it was finally time. I was so ready.
I lay in bed, laboring through two or three more contractions before I started feeling like I couldn’t find comfort or relief in any position.
I rolled over in bed, desperately seeking relief, as another contraction began building. Something was different.
This contraction was strong, so very strong. And through it, I could also feel my baby moving, shifting. And then, I felt a pop.
It was a strong, strange sensation. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened, and questioned if it was just a strong kick. Then, as the contraction faded, and I changed positions, fluid leaked from between my legs. My water had broken – this was really it.
I got up on my hands and knees to look at the small puddle on the sheet which had seeped from my body. I looked for blood, looked for signs of meconium. It had neither, and was a beautiful clear color. “My water just broke” I shouted out the door to my husband, who was trying to settle our toddler with bribes of food and games. I climbed down from the bed, and made my way into the living room. I was just so excited, and had to find my husband to share this excitement with him. Our baby was coming. I quickly hobbled, trying to keep myself from leaking all over the floor, back to the bedroom to lay the tarp and waterproof mattress protector over our bed. Just as I got it covered, another contraction built from deep within me. I hurried over to the camera we had set up on the tripod, and set it to start recording, and then made my way back onto the bed, on my side, with a pillow between my legs. I endured two or three more contractions this way, unable to find any relief through them, rolling around on the bed. As another one built, I got up onto my hands and knees to see if that position helped at all. During this time, both my husband and toddler were again in and out of the bedroom, bringing me kisses, encouragement, love, and so much support. Though my toddler was cranky, and my husband overwhelmed with it all, they were all I needed to continue this marathon.
Up on my hands and knees, I vocalized through another contraction; and again, something was changing.
As the contraction ended I climbed back down from the bed, which now had small puddles of amniotic fluid in several places, to find my husband trying to put the toddler to sleep in the living room. “I think I’m pushing” I said, with a hint of worry in my voice. “I can’t help it, but I think I am.”
Now, the reason for my concern is that it was only about 11PM. In my mind, I was still in the early stages of labor and had a lot longer to go. I didn’t want to push before my body was ready, but I didn’t want to fight my instinct either. “I’ll be in, in just a second” he replied, tossing a smile in my direction. Through all of this, excitement was one emotion that ran deep. We were both just so ready to meet our baby. My husband returned to the bedroom just as another contraction was building deep within me. I was on my hands and knees on the bed, and he came over to offer support. As I labored through the contraction, finding very little relief or comfort in my position, a gush of fluid erupted from my body.
“I think I need to get in the shower” I said to my husband as the surge faded, and he helped me into the tub. As the water rained down on my back, I leaned over with my arms against the shower wall while another contraction built. As it reached its peak, a primal roar began escaping my lips. It wasn’t a scream, like I had done during my hospital birth with my firstborn, no. Rather, it was a deep, animalistic, warrior sounding roar. And stopping it was as impossible as stopping the bearing down my body was doing on its own.
It was a very interesting experience at this point, compared to my hospital birth. I was in charge, I was in control. I remember reaching down several times to check and see if I could feel any progress as my child moved downward inside my body. I could feel him kicking, and shifting between each contraction. I knew when to push, and I knew when to change positions. My husband stayed by my side this entire time, offering a warm cloth soaked in water and olive oil to support my perineum. We were doing this on our own, we were following our own intuitions, we were listening to our child, and to my body. It was exhilarating. I labored for quite some time in that position, sometimes dropping to my knees while pushing, before I once again felt something change, and I could no longer find comfort that way. Between contractions, which now were coming about one, to one-and-a-half minutes apart, I got on my knees and leaned over the outside of the bathtub to face my husband – who I needed now more than ever. During this entire time, he offered such immense support, reminding me of my strength. “It’s not pain, remember, it’s progress.” he repeated my favorite birthing affirmation to me. “You are doing amazing, I am so proud of you” he smiled, rubbing my back. He truly was my perfect cheerleader, the most amazing birth partner, I tear up just thinking about how incredible he was. There was only one instance, during my labor, where I found myself covered in self-doubt. “I don’t know if I can do this” I breathed heavily to him, seconds after a strong contraction ripped its way through my body. “What do you mean?” He asked, concern laced in his voice. “I don’t want another contraction to come.” “You can do this, you’re okay” he gently smiled, and the doubt faded from within me. “I’m okay. I can do this” I repeated.
As I looked into his eyes between contractions, my hands in his, I knew that I could do it. I was made for this. I was bringing my baby into our arms. As another contraction built, and my body bore down on its own, I felt myself start stretching, I felt something making its way down. “Something is coming” I said, excitement bubbling over in my voice as I reached my hand to feel. “It’s a baby.” my husband told me jokingly, a smile pasted on his face. I laughed as my husband peered over my back to see the progress being made. It still amazes me the positivity that was just surging through us both. Never was there a moment of fear, never did I think we should rush to the hospital. It felt perfect, and natural, and wonderful as instinct took over.
“I know you’re tired” my husband whispered in my ear, my hands in his, “You’re almost there.”
Another surge hit, and I could feel my baby emerging, stretching and opening my body. “It’s coming! Look!” I said to my husband, just a hint of panic in my voice. A couple of different times, as baby made his entrance, my hips felt as if they were being ripped open, which was both painful and exhilarating. My husband bent over me to get a better look, and said “She’s coming, she’s coming!” (he thought it was a girl all along). “She?!” I asked, excitedly. “It’s a butt?”
“No, I don’t know for sure yet, it’s a head!”
Excitement bubbled over, my baby was coming: head down!! Around 42 weeks, after a full day of wild and strange movement coming from within my tummy, we both wondered if baby had finally flipped, and I was so excited to learn that he really had. The next contraction grew, and my body pushed mightily, until I felt that beautiful head pop out. At this point, the adrenaline, hormones, and endorphins had reached their peek, and I was on top of the moon. I cradled my new baby’s head in my hand, caressing his scalp, feeling his hair. “Oh my goodness, this is incredible” I said. The pain had completely disappeared, I felt only happiness. “This is the most incredible moment of my life, get the camera, get your phone!”
My husband fumbled with his phone, and caught a closeup shot of my baby’s head as he lingered between two worlds, and then the contraction built. I thought to myself This is it, you’re about to have a baby. And within nanoseconds, my son was cradled in both mine and my husband’s hands, before I pulled him to my chest. He was a bluish color, so I rubbed his back, and he threw his head back and stared directly into my eyes. Tears sprung, he was beautiful. I held him against my chest as I gently massaged his back, and about 15 seconds later heard the most beautiful sound a mother can hear: her baby’s first cry. My husband then grabbed his phone again to record our baby’s first moments, as I peered between those little legs and saw…balls! “Oh, it’s a boy!” I exclaimed. “It’s a boy?!” My husband asked, shocked. “A boy, a baby boy!” I pulled him into me and sobbed. My baby love, my second little boy was finally, finally in my arms. “Oh, what time is it?!” I asked, remembering that we were responsible for this kind of record keeping. “12:20 AM”.
He finally made his beautiful appearance on August 12, 2017, three days shy of a full month after my predicted due date.
A few minutes later, I made my way into the bedroom for some long-awaited baby cuddles. Jackson Thomas remained awake through the rest of the night, and didn’t really sleep until I did the next morning. Unlike my hospital birth, I was hungry immediately afterwards and my husband served up some burritos and pizza for celebration. We’d done it. Our sweet baby was not induced, was not forcibly turned while inside of me, and was most definitely not cut from his home. We’d brought our sweet little cub into our world together, the way nature intended. And it was the most empowering experience of my life.