I never thought I'd get to write this story. I never hoped, that after three somewhat crazy births, I'd experience a birth for the story books. And never in my wildest dreams did I dare expect to deliver a pink baby girl into my arms. I never thought I'd get to write a story like this. It is the very best story.
Each of my pregnancies has gone longer than the last. Cannon was five days early. Cason was born on his due date, and Colt arrived two days past 40 weeks. While I didn't want this pregnancy to go late, the trend had me fully expecting to see my due date still pregnant. So, when June 18, 2015 came and went I wasn't surprised. I was miserable, yes, but not surprised.
However, when week 41 rolled around and I was STILL pregnant, I was surprised. I experienced my first non-stress test (NST) which oddly made me feel stressed and my first stripping of the membranes. I was doing my best to take each day as it came, but hormones and emotions run high when you're ten months pregnant. Some days I felt calm and patient, enjoying yet another quiet day with my three boys before we added a newborn to the mix. Then some days I felt agitated, huge, and incredibly uncomfortable. Every night I showered, re-packed my labor and delivery bag and hoped I'd wake up in labor. Every morning I woke up still pregnant. I spent each day mentally gearing up for labor and mustering courage to face another delivery. It was very draining. I felt like I had the capacity to be a mom to my sweet boys or I had the capacity to be so incredibly pregnant, but I didn't have the energy for both. I knew in my head that babies come when they are ready but my heart was ready to meet my little one. And the closer we got to 42 weeks and the deadline of induction (ie: breaking my water) the harder it became to not be a big ball of nerves.
At 41 weeks and 4 days I had a second NST scheduled. Surely, I would go in to labor before that Saturday. SURELY! Well, Saturday morning rolled around and my Mom graciously (or out of pity) took me to get a pedicure and then for a fabulous lunch at Brio. I tried to relax, enjoy the girl time and enjoy those little baby kicks on the inside. As usual, the waitress asked when I was due. And, as expected, she gave me the shocked look of pity when I told her, "Oh, over a week ago." Some people would even worry that I was going to have the baby right then and there, as if labor started instantly in the middle of transition. Some asked why I hadn't been induced yet. I "loved" having these conversations about my pregnancy with complete strangers.
So after a morning of pampering, I headed up to the birth center for my check up. Three births were/had happened that morning already. Three births that had all be due AFTER me, and yet there they were laboring away and meeting their babies. And there I was, still pregnant. It was hard to not be irrationally discouraged. Everything looked great on the NST. The baby was moving fine and had a great heartbeat. Leslie checked me and said she easily stretched me to four centimeters with a bulging bag of waters. So, my body was gearing up. She also told me, after feeling my belly, that I was not carrying a 10, or even a 9 pound, baby. That was music to my ears. I knew that on my due date this baby was smaller than Colt, but with each day that passed the fear that I was growing another 9 lb 9 oz baby increased.
I went home from that appointment with a bottle of Start Up, which is a natural tincture that can help get labor going. I was mentally preparing to take it the following Monday. I spent the afternoon sweeping and mopping the floor while the boys finished up their naps. I had a few crampy contractions while I mopped by nothing terribly hard, intense, unusual or consistent.
My mother-in-law had been in town for over a week waiting on sweet baby's arrival. She was picking up dinner and after naps we were loading up the boys to go to her apartment for Jimmy Johns. Around 6:30 pm, during the five minute drive to Watters Creek I had a hard contraction and all of a sudden my mood shifted. I was uncomfortable. I had this intense desire to go back home. I didn't want to go in to labor at my mother-in-law's apartment with all the boys there. So, we called her and told her we were turning around. We picked up our sandwiches from her and headed home. I had another contraction in the parking lot and just knew in my gut things were getting started. We called my parents on the way home to come and pick up the boys. It was around 7:00 pm when we got home. I had had three significant contractions.
My parents picked up the boys and I laid on the couch. I tried to watch Netflix and relax through each contraction, but they were already too strong to focus on tv. Contractions were 10-12 minutes apart and Danny was already on the phone calling the midwife, the doula and the photographer to tell them tonight was probably the night.
Around 8:00 pm, while Danny was on the phone with Leslie, the midwife, I told him that I'd probably want to go to the birthing center within the hour. I could tell things were picking up speed. Leslie, very wisely said she'd just get ready and head that way and be there by 9:00 pm. I'm so thankful she just knew to go because by 8:30 pm I was ready to head that way. Contractions were increasing in intensity faster than even I was use to. I would have one or two contractions at one level and then the third contraction would be harder. I felt like I was on a runaway train. We kept passing these stations and I wanted to slow down and rest for a minute, but the train kept plowing on at break neck speed.
By 8:45 pm we were in the car and to the birthing center by 8:55 pm. It was dusk and the sun was going down. Leslie was not there yet, so I labored on the porch of the birthing center. On my hands and knees, I remember the fresh air and the births chirping. I remember the rough wood of the porch under my hands. I remember when the neighbor across the street came out of her house to get into her car. "How many crazy laboring women has she seen on this porch?" I wondered. I moaned through two or three contractions before Leslie arrived and escorted us upstairs.
Danny and Leslie scurried about getting things ready. I had another two or three contractions before our doula, Stephanie, arrived. I remember her squeezing my hips through one contraction. I was very quickly disappearing down the labor hole, going to the place where the world fades away and it's just me and my baby. I also remember going to the bathroom at some point. I had a contraction on the toilet and had an instant need to hold Danny's hand. Usually Danny's job during labor is to squeeze my hips, and while that felt good this time, I had a more pressing need for him to be in my face, so I could look him in the eyes and hold his hand during each contractions.
After just a few contractions on the floor, I was ready to get in the water. In God's gracious provision the tub was already filled and warm. It had been filled earlier in the day for one of the laboring mamas and she hadn't used it. I felt in that moment that God showed me that he cared about the little things for this baby's delivery.
I had a few contractions in the tub and Monica, our photographer, walked in. I remember have two or three strong contractions leaning on the outside of the tub before I wanted to turn over. Remember the runaway train? I didn't stay in one position for more than two contractions I don't think. Things were progressing so quickly.
I had several prayers and hopes for this labor and delivery. One of my prayers leading up to this birth was that it would be quick and gentle. I know that those things don't usually go hand-in-hand for birth, but I had so much anxiety anticipating childbirth, that asking God for a swift and easy labor was comforting. I also wanted to be more "present" during this birth. In my previous births I felt like once I hit transition and pushing I was very frantic, out of control and just "out of it." I had my eyes closed for the birth of all three boys. With Cason and Colt, the midwives told me to reach down and catch my baby as they were being born and I was so paralyzed with pain and fear that I couldn't move. I didn't want that for this birth. I wanted to open my eyes. I wanted to see my baby being born. I wanted to catch my baby in the water. I wanted to see it all so I could remember it. I didn't want fear and pain to be my last memory of being pregnant.
It was during this time laboring in the tub that I opened my eyes. I saw the dim lights. I saw Leslie listening to the baby with the doppler. I saw Danny's arm supporting mine. I saw my knees bent, sticking up out of the water. I noticed shadows on the walls. I reminded myself when I felt like I was splitting in two, that I wasn't dying. Nothing was breaking. God was giving us a baby! And as crazy as it sounds, I talked to our baby. I told Marlow I'd deliver her as gently as possible. I asked her to be gentle with me. "Come gently baby. Come gently," was a phase I repeated to myself. Later on Danny said he noticed that there was a point right before I started pushing that I calmed myself down. My moans didn't turn to screams like usual.
Another hope for this birth was that I would let my body tell me when to push. I usually start pushing simply because I'm so tired of the pain that I want to get the baby out. I've never started pushing because I just can't stop, which is what I've heard other mom's describe as the "pushing contractions." Well, this time I waited. I let the contraction start after my water broke and suddenly it was there. The pushing contraction. It was like every muscle in my body was bearing down and pressing the baby out. I pushed. She crowned. And her head was born, just like that.
The contraction ended and I was going to take a breath and a rest and deliver her body when the next contraction started. However, Leslie told me to push and birth my baby. "Now?" I asked. "Yes." She replied. And so I pushed. At first I felt like I wasn't going to make any progress or get her out, when suddenly that wonderful slippery relief of delivering the shoulders happened and Marlow was born. My eyes were open. I saw her underwater and I grabbed her. Danny reached down and helped lift her to my chest.