I was feeling usual signs of early labor for a few weeks prior to the day. Just a week before I started having strange feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. I just felt “off”. I felt so uncomfortable and almost anxious to get out of my own skin. Insomnia switched to long, hard bursts of sleepiness that left me dazed and confused. Heat flashes and sweats accompanied my 9-10 hour nights of sleep and additional naps that demanded my energies. I lost my mucus plug. It was as if the chemical make up inside of my was shifting. I felt so emotional, depressed and anxious.
Sunday morning at 10am my Braxton Hicks moved into my lower back and came on me every 5 minutes. No matter where I went or how I moved they persisted until Monday evening. I knew things were moving along, but I thought I would have another week or so of pregnancy still ahead of me. My midwives suggested getting everything in place in came labor happened this week.
Tuesday evening the contractions hit hard. I had just reached 37 weeks gestation. I have never had a baby this week. I have in my 35th, 36th, 38th, and 39th week, but never my 37th. This was different. Everything would be different.
Contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and rather strong. I called the midwife before midnight, but decided to have her wait to head over as I felt they could progress a bit more. Stonger and stronger the waves came on me. I lay in bed with the tv on, not really watching what was playing but using it to distract myself as I breathed through each surge curling my toes and clenching my fists. I paced the house for a few hours, laid down for a few more.
I was in and out of sleep until 6:30am when labor just stopped. I slept from 6:30-8:30 knowing that my husband took the day off to be home and help with the other kids. I woke up discouraged, but with a sense that hope was not completely lost. I felt as though I was still going to be in labor. In fact, I felt like I needed to just have one bowl movement and things would pick up. Sure enough, around the early afternoon, that movement came and contractions started again. Long, hard contractions in my back, just as if they had never let up. I felt the urge to walk, but the warning to stay close to home. So we packed up our troop and headed to the store.
We strode through the store aimlessly just to be indoors. I would dodge into isles to brace myself for contractions so that people wouldn’t stare. Stronger and stronger they got. As we neared to toy isle, I felt a sense of urgency to get home. We packed up the car and I gripped the car door to brace myself for the contractions as the car bumpped along the high way. When we arrived home, I dropped everything and retreated to my bedroom. I had to fight my typical mode of thought: I need to pack up the kids, grab my bag, get in the car, drive to the birth center… then and only then can I relax and have this baby. Yes, I had to fight it because everything in my room was clean, calm, and set up for birth. All I had to do was just relax and labor. No where to go, no one to get ready. Just labor.
The midwife came and checked me. I was only at a 4cm, but the contractions were oddly stronger than I have ever felt at this point. She left and within the next hour or two I called my midwives back over explaining that these contractions, though 8 minutes apart, felt in their intensity like they do when I am nearing transition. Little did I know what a long, painful journey lay ahead…
The contractions were so strong and so familliar I thought for sure that birth was just around the corner. I had Alex fill the tub and I relaxed while waiting for my midwives to show up. Contractions were still 5-8 minutes apart, but they were far more intense then I have ever experiences at such an early point.
My midwives went about setting things up. They were brewing tea and mixing herbs, making my bed and piling up supplies. My sister arrived to take photos and our room mate came up to observe the entire event in the backdrop. My oldest girls bopped in and out of the room as they pleased as I desired them to participate in the process. My mom showed up to sit with the little kids down stairs.
My midwives observed many potential things that could have been occuring. One of which was that the contractions were so strong, yet so far apart. They suggested we try some different techniques and positions to assist Willow in dilating my cervix more effectivley. My uterus was severley tilted to the right and leaning forward due to multiple pregnancies as well as a twin pregnancy. These two things combined could have been attributing to the strong pains, but little progression.
Braving myself, I stepped out of the tub and into the fallen world of pain and gravity. We tried using a cloth to lift and tuck the baby towards my spine during each contraction. We tried placing my leg on a step tool and leaning into the contractions. We tried squatting into the contractions. And we tried laying on my back on the bed (which is my biggest fear during labor), which happened to be the most effective in getting me to progress to an 8. My midwife held my hand and brushed the hair out of my face while whispering in my ear that I could do this and I was doing a great job. Those words and that gesture gave me such strength and made me feel like I was not in this alone.
Hours and hours of pain. I felt robbed of the usual progression of pain that builds from soft to harder and harder. I felt like I was thrown into the most intense part of labor and given no choice in the matter.
A few more contractions out of the tub and I started feeling pain down into my thighs. My midwife told me to get back into the tub. Almost immediately, I knew transition was coming and pushing would soon begin. The warm water and weightlessness gave me a new sense of “I can do this.” At the same time, a fear came upon me and my mind began to race. I felt as if I was in between two worlds and my body was giving me a moment in the calm before the storm to make two choices:
(1) I can fight my body, fight the pain, bracing myself during each pushing contraction as to evade the agony
(2) I can let go, bear down, and give it all I have to get Willow out
It was almost as if the moment I made up my mind as to what I would choose, the first pushing contraction came. Usually I can begin pushing immediatly and within 1-2 contractions the baby is out. However, this time was much different.
The strongest of all contractions, the most trembling and deep pain that can ever be felt naturally, over and over again with no hope. I kept changing positions in the tub trying to get myself to push so it could just be over. I kept saying, “I just can’t do it.” It’s not that I didn’t want to, I felt like I physically couldn’t. I didn’t understand why.
Finally, I felt a huge pressure and started pushing. Harder and harder I pushed, but still no head crowning. When the head did crown and I felt it come out, I still felt like she was stuck. I reached down and held her head in my hand. I was begging her to come out. That feeling of her being half in and half out is the worst. Usually when the head is out it’s just one more push for baby. This was not the case.
I am a quiet birther. I interanlize the pain and deal with it so well. This was so different. I couldn’t cope. I was yelling and even my mother downstairs was tearing up. My daughters watched in awe and in prayer for their mother.
Finally I got passed the umbilican chord which happened to be wrapped around Willow’s neck twice. Her shoulders and reat of her body came sliding out.
With a giant sigh of relief I laid back. My midwife unwrapped my baby while she was still submerged and I pulled her out of the water and onto my chest.
After a few breaths of exhaustion, I lifted my back from it resting on the edge of the tub and I took a good long look at my beautiful baby girl resting on my chest. Then she did the most magical thing. It was different then the rest of my births.
She didn’t breathe, she didn’t cry; she lifted her head and just stared at me. She looked so intently at my face as if to say, “I have waited so long to lay eyes on you. Finally, I behold my mother. I am so overjoyed to be in your arms.” It was as if our souls were intertwined at that moment. Inseperable.
The deep love that filled my heart at that moment is beyond what language can explain.
She did breathe. She did cry. I called the rest of the kids upstairs as well as my mom. One by one my sister caught their first expressions on their faces as they saw their little sister for the first time. It was just moments after Willow had taken her first breath. I was still in the tub and she was still attached to the placenta, which I hadn’t birthed yet.
A few minutes of aquantences and it was time to birth the placenta. So many questions filled my kids minds and mouths as the looked on the glorious event! Willow was officially detached from me. Her own entity. Her life was still dependent on her mother, but in a whole new way.
The rest of the evening was learning and asking questions.
I moved from the tub straight into my bed where I would spend majority of the next several weeks. This was where Willow and I together would learn how to nurse, learn how to have her first bowl movements, have our first sleepless nights of colic, and learn how to burp.
Alex and I just laid there together. He was in love. I was exhausted and kept telling him, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He was amazed and kept telling me how good I did.
It felt so good and so right to be in my bed. In my room. In my home. In our home. With our seven children and all our loved ones. This place was safe. This place was sacred. This place was love. It was perfect for Willow to enter the world here.
My midwives included the kids in the whole parade of events that needed to be accomplished before we could have our first few hours of well earned sleep. They measured the baby, they toured the placenta, they cleaned up the room, and they made me some food. We snuggled, we reminisced about all that had taken place, and we took in what our family now looks like as a whole.
Everyone was bustling about taking their turns studying their new little sibling, the umbilican cord, the placenta, the blood, the birthing pool, the whole event. All the sounds, all the noises, so much to take in. It was energetic and exciting! There were so many conversations, so many comments. There were tears and laughter. It filled my heart to more then I felt it could handle. So much love! So much learning! This was life. This was family.
Eventually, the kids headed off to bed as we did the last few things that only postpartum women know about. All was well and my midwives were bidding me a goodnight.
My bedroom was spotless. I had a full meal in my stomach. My laundry was going. My baby and I were tucked into bed with a world of herbal medicines, tinctures, teas, herbal bath mixes, herbal rinses, and herbal cold packs at our finger tips.
The lights were turned off. The house was silent. All except the the sound of the little one breathing in and out in my arms.
“Oh my God! How good you are to us! To have this home filled with seven amazing blessings and pictures of your grace and love. Thank You my God.“
Willow: Tree with extremely strong and developed roots with branches that bend under pressure and do not snap; a source of healing and pain relief
Temperance: Moderation, self-control, restraint of passions, patience, calmness
I pray that you are rooted and grounded in Christ Jesus who is immovable, unchanging and forever Faithful and Good. Nothing can separate you from His love: neither height nor depth, death nor life, angels nor principalities, present trials nor ones to come. May you endure all things in your life with endurance and temperance being motivated by the love that Jesus has for you and has placed in you. May He be your everything.
–> He brings tremendous strength when we are rooted in Him. He brings healing to our pain both physically and spiritually. He makes us capable of overcoming our flesh and able to bear up under anything that comes against us.