I had been having harder contractions since the previous day but no consistent pattern. This morning though I did have an hour of contractions 5 minutes apart and had considered asking Andrew to stay home but decided I'd rather have him get as much work done ahead of time so he would be more available afterward if this really was "it". Then out of the blue my dad called and offered to take the kids out to McDowell Creek Park outside of the Lebanon/Sweet Home area in order to see the waterfall at a possible record high. This sounded great as I'd have almost the entire day to myself, maybe I'd even go into labor and have Eliza before they got back (wishful thinking!). So the day ended up with me spending my time relaxing, walking, and napping while contractions came off and on throughout the day.
By dinner time I was having contractions more consistently and at 7:39 pm I emailed my midwife for a heads up that they were 8-10 minutes apart and getting very strong, meaning I needed to work my way through them. Josiah kept asking if the contractions were still "working" and if tonight was the night Eliza was coming. I still did not feel confident to say, "Yes." I told him probably but we'd find out one way or another in time.
At 8:28 pm I posted on Facebook that I was timing contractions and that this could be it! I still wasn't sure.
At 9:30 pm we called Andrew's parents, who had requested we make calls before 10 pm and after 7 am. Even at this point I still wasn't for sure I was in real labor but didn't want to miss the window to let them know just in case. So I told Andrew to say that it looked like she "might" be coming tonight.
At 11:09 pm I emailed the midwife to tell her contractions were about 5 minutes apart and that I finally felt like this was real labor but that I didn't feel I needed her to come over just yet. I was really enjoying the privacy of laboring without witnesses. One thing about this labor that I especially appreciated is that I wasn't being constantly monitored by automatic machines squeezing my arms every couple of minutes to check my blood pressure (which had always been great) and cinching around my pregnant belly to tell everyone how hard my contractions were (like I couldn't communicate that!). Since I could feel Eliza move between contractions and I was managing labor well I felt like I didn't quite need the midwife or my support team yet. So, I rocked in the new recliner Andrew got me, walked around the house, updated Facebook, sat on the bouncy ball, tried to sleep (ya right!), went to the bathroom, drank some water, ate a stick of cheese, brushed my teeth... just whatever I wanted to do. Andrew and I talked between contractions about what needed to be done and how things were going. I told him at this rate I'd probably have her around 6 am and that we should wait to call my dad until about 6:30 am so he'd be here to help when the kids woke up but would also get as much rest as possible. For the same reason we decided to continue to wait to call my labor support team which was my mom, who's been at all of my labor and delivery's, and Vicki, my dear friend who supported me through labor and Mia's delivery and made it just in time to see Sierra born. I was thinking that a well rested team would go a long way!
At 12:03 am the midwife emailed me and said let her know when I'm ready for her to come. I still felt fine so I waited to reply. It was only about a 1/2 hour later, I still had contractions every 4-5 minutes but I had a few coming every 2 minutes. Hmmm... might be time to get people coming. So I called the number for my midwife that I had saved on my cell phone. It immediately went to voicemail. Yikes, that wasn't what I expected! But, I remembered her saying that if she's with a client or something just to call right back and with the second ring she'd know to interupt and pick up. I don't know why I thought she'd be with a client in the middle of the night but at the time it made sense to me. So I called back, and it still went to voicemail. This concerned me a little but not too much, in my mind I still had lots of time. So next I called my mom but I couldn't get out what I was trying to tell her because the contractions were coming too hard and quick. Andrew got on the phone and told her to come on over. Then he called Vicki and said "It's gonna be soon". I remember being annoyed by that because I thought it would cause her to rush and drive too fast and I still didn't think things were moving along that quickly.
I had Andrew call the midwife several more times, but still it went to voicemail. At 12:42 am I emailed her for the last time saying, "Ya... I'm ready for you" in reply to her last email to just let her know.
At 12:51 am I posted on Facebook that I was going to have a baby in not too long.
At that point I decided that I was ready for the birthing tub so Andrew started that process. Up until that point I didn't want to fill it because I was afraid it would cool off too quickly before the baby got here and then she'd be too cold upon arrival. Now, though, I was ready to get in. We could only fill it about half way before the hot water was gone but it was enough for me to comfortably get in and then Andrew started manually adding water from the tap which was on a separate water heater and it allowed him to get the temperature just right. I suggested that he boil some water so we could mix that and keep the cold hose going, too. Andrew didn't like the idea of adding boiling water and since he was the one doing the tub management I didn't argue.
As soon as I got in the tub contractions stopped for 7 minutes. I remember being disappointed that I had woken everyone up and it was all going to be for a false alarm. Also, I had heard that the water would help me relax and move things along faster so I couldn't believe my body was working the opposite. Well, my little break was not long lived and suddenly contractions were on top of each other. I had Andrew call the midwife again... still voicemail. Then it dawned on me to have him compare the number I had on my cell phone to the number she'd given me on the "What to do" list for labor. What do you know... different numbers! How could I have overlooked this? Andrew dialed the right number and got a hold of her right away and she started on her way. I remember thinking that at about this point in the hospital they would have been trying to jab a long needle in my back for an epidural while I tried to be still through contractions. I was thankful I could move freely around at home. I changed positions in the tub a few times, each time I moved it seemed to trigger contractions. It's funny, there's conflicting emotions at a point like that. If I wanted to help labor progress, moving around would be the way to go, but if I wanted the pain to stop, holding still would be the best. I tried to just relax into the water when the contractions came. That didn't make the pain go away but I felt like it helped my body do what it needed to do. My back had been hurting off and on so I decided to stay on my knees for a while just in case Eliza was thinking about coming facing up and giving me some back labor. I had read that this was a good technique and, again, I thought I had a couple hours to go so in my mind this was a temporary position to help down the road.
From my spot in the tub I was able to grip onto the bed beside me which was a nice place to direct some of the pain. I asked Andrew for a cold wash cloth and I've never felt such a wonderful contrast: the warm pool and the cold cloth. It was a welcome relief. Then I felt the need from some physical touch. I asked Andrew to put his hands on my back. He was rubbing my shoulders with his fingers but I needed flat hands, he adjusted and it's amazing the emotional relief that brought. That connection centered me and really helped me through each contraction.
We could hear a car coming up the driveway. It was actually two cars. My mom and Vicki arrived at the same time, around 1:30 am. Before I knew it Andrew was up and greeting them at the front door. In the meantime a major contraction came on and I was all alone. That contraction could have been the hardest one I had to deal with. I screamed for Andrew to come back but he couldn't hear me. I called over and over again but it was no use. Finally I made it through. When he did finally come back in the room I told him not to leave me again. I don't think it was that the contraction was any harder than the others, it was just his presence and support that empowered me on an emotional level and in turn created a physical effect.
From here on out things get a little fuzzy for me. I remember Vicki sitting on the bed and asking if there was anything she could do for me. I requested she cool my wash cloth down. Again, it was so refreshing. I remember my mom laughing that the cat was in the room watching everything unfold and then I saw the flash of the camera.
Vicki asked me if I wanted her to boil some water to add to the tub. A contraction was starting so I couldn't answer but I remember, again, being agitated that Andrew didn't answer because he knew I had asked for that before. It's funny to me now the little things that I let bug me at such a critical point in labor. Didn't I have enough to be concerned about? I told her yes, I wanted the water added and she and Andrew left to get that started. I could hear my mom sympathizing with me through contractions with a soft "Mmmmm" each time. It's a familiar sound from all of my labors. In times past she would have been the one hovering over the monitor and writing down all the stats of the time and length of contractions. I think she missed the peace of mind that the machines would have provided her. I have many years before I may get to witness my daughters go through labor - I can't imagine.
At a break point in contractions I requested they call the midwife again to determine how close she was. I wasn't nervous about having the baby but I was really hoping she could bring me some coping techniques to help me through what I thought would be at least a couple of hours. I was trying to communicate to my mom between contractions which phone number to use and wanted to make very sure that Andrew did not leave to try to help with this. As soon as my mom got the midwife on the phone I felt my water break. Whoa! Things were moving now. I could tell my mom was trying to be calm and that the midwife must have been asking some questions. I heard my mom say, "It looks clear" in a forced casual sort of way. That was a relief as I assumed she was talking about whether or not there was meconium in the water.
Some time around here I could hear some bustling in the kitchen and steam sounding and just some concern. I guess the water had boiled over which I found hard to believe because it seemed like they had just left to start that process. I remember Vicki coming in over and over and adding the water and, again, I couldn't believe how quickly she was coming.
I remember saying I was feeling pressure so I knew now that I was transitioning and soon would be pushing. With the next contraction I felt that old familiar feeling... the urge to push. Wow, it came soon! I shouted, "She's coming!" My mom tried to get the video camera ready. I think she was having trouble with it and handed it off to Vicki. At any rate Vicki ended up with it. After the next contraction I felt down between my legs and could feel her head beginning to crown. I shouted again, "She's coming out!" I could see bodies rushing to the tub. I remember worrying that all three of them were going to jump in with me. I wasn't actually sure who got in at first but it was Andrew. We had talked earlier about how he was going to get changed into his swim trunks with all these women in the room. Thankfully he decided to just wear them under his sweats. Apparently he did the fastest strip job on record, he calls it his superman change, and hopped in the pool. He gave only passing thought that his hat had flown off across the room and he really wanted to meet his daughter with his hat on. I had several hard contractions and pushed with them with all my might. I was not a quiet laborer at this point. It was so nice not to worry about other people laboring in the room next door or what strangers would think of me like I had at the hospital. I was free to just labor as I needed.
I heard Andrew say, "Come on Mia" in a calm voice. Then I saw Mia enter the room and my mom told her to come up on the bed with her. I was in the middle of another major contraction and, as I said, for me being vocal was an important part of this labor, but as I made eye contact with her I was able to gather some words for her, something along the lines of, "It's ok Mia... this hurts a lot... and I need to be loud... but it means Eliza is coming. It will be better soon. It's just like we talked about." It amazes me that I could compose myself for this conversation. It's a mother's instinct to care for her children and that overrides so much else. Mia's well being was certainly on my mind and I wanted her to have a good experience. I had done lots of prep with the kids and reassured them that, despite the initial pain, as soon as Eliza was out they would see a big change in me and I would be so happy. I have to think this helped her as well as the composure of all the adults in the room.
By this point I could feel Eliza's head passing down, and lots of head was crowning but it was not getting through and she wasn't just slipping out like the other kids. It was like I had to push her every centimeter. I had the urge to stand up, I felt so sure that she really should just slip out at any point. I tried to stand but no one liked that idea and told me to stay in the water. Since I was on my knees I put one leg up to try to help. I believe it was at this point that the midwife came in. She asked Andrew if he knew which way she was facing and he said facing the back. I was pushing and pushing to get Eliza out of this terrible spot and the midwife calmly said, "Christy wait for the next contraction and then push with it." Her voice was so confident, knowledgeable... like someone shining a light in the dark. I waited and then pushed with all my might on the next contraction. I did this two more times I believe and finally relief. Eliza was out. I didn't hear much at first... well, I remember Vicki saying, "Oh she's beautiful" and my mom saying, "Look there's your baby sister." As I was turning around to meet my daughter the midwife told me to lift my foot up and over the umbilical cord and she helped me.
Then I laid eyes on her! Beautiful Eliza. She was so pretty. She looked like one of my babies. It seems the kids all come from the same mold and I could spot one of mine in a crowd of babies. Andrew gave her to me and she gave a little cry. She opened her little eyes and looked at me and around at the world. I was still having lots of pain from the placenta but the worst was over and here was this precious child in my arms and no one was waiting to take her from me or trying to get to the cord to snip it off or starting in on the routine baby care, although the midwife was right there making evaluations. I felt Eliza's umbilical cord and could feel it still pulsing the healthy cord blood and oxygen into her little body. This was even after the placenta was delivered, it felt just like a heart beat, right up near where her belly button will be.
Mia was unfazed by the labor and delivery and when Andrew asked her what woke her up she said Momma rhymed with her dream which was about someone up on stage who forgot their lines and was making pushing and groaning noises since they were so frustrated. Her memory of seeing her sister born is that Eliza floated underwater and then was crying and she liked Momma holding her. She also says that Eliza is a good girl.
Now that Eliza was here I told them to go get the other kids. I was so eager for Josiah and Sierra to meet their new sister. Sierra came sleepily into the room a few moments later. She had been the most bonded with Eliza while she was in me. She would call out, "I love you mom. I love you Eliza" as if she were already here. It took her a few moments to wake up completely but when she did I could see the same love in her eyes as she watched her baby sister.
After I held Eliza for a while I asked Andrew if he wanted to hold her, of course he did. Somehow by now his hat was on. I guess he had gotten Mia to retrieve it for him just in time for pictures. The girls were leaning over and admiring their little sister, touching her little head and getting used to the idea that she was here.
Andrew gave Eliza back to me as he prepared to take a shower in the front bathroom. Shortly after that I gave her to Vicki and a waiting towel. Josiah is a pretty hard sleeper and apparently when they woke him his comments were along the lines of "Oh, good Eliza's here" and "I need to go back to sleep so I'm ready for my day at a friend's house tomorrow". Funny guy, one track mind. So when Vicki took Eliza she brought her in to meet Josiah and then he was back to sleep. I didn't see him until morning when he came in and held Eliza for the first time. His face was all full of joy and pride, it didn't matter that he didn't see her fresh out of the womb.
Meanwhile, I showered off and got into bed. Vicki brought Eliza back to me but the little sweetie had already done a major number in the towel she was wrapped in so Vicki got to do the first meconium clean up. What a memory. We had one disposable diaper in the house so Eliza's first diaper was tossable - the rest we wash!
After she was all cleaned up, the girls and I laid in bed and Eliza attempted to nurse. She did great! After a while the midwife's assistant finished off the check list and weighed and measured Eliza. 9 lbs 8 ozs, 20 1/2 inches long. Wow! My biggest baby by just over a pound. Funny, how they all look the same to me: tiny, sweet, beautiful, familiar.
Then the midwife checked her over while the girls supervised the whole process just as they had done during my appointments at home the last several months.
My mom began making phone calls for us even at that early hour and Andrew posted on Facebook, "Christy has delivered Eliza Bella Marie @ 2:08am this morning in the birthing tub by non-other-than me (Andrew - the jack of ALL trades). Pics to follow." Sierra talked to my dad and told him to come over Eliza is here. I told him he could wait until later in the morning. Vicki also sent some emails out for me.Eventually the midwife and her assistant went home, Vicki went home and mom went to bed down in the basement where she'd been staying off and on while we waited for Eliza's arrival. Andrew, the girls and I stayed in bed a while longer admiring our very alert, newest little girl. In the morning my dad arrived and all the kids joined us for turn taking on holding their sister.
What a joy, what a blessing that I was able to have Eliza at home. I know not everyone is able to have that priviledge and not everyone is willing to try it. Praise the Lord that those two things came together for me this pregnancy. It was truly a special blessing.
Eliza: God is Generous
Bella Marie: Beautiful, Wished for Child