To properly tell this story, and explain all that the Lord taught me through it, I’ll have start before I actually went into labor…
My due date was on a Saturday (May 11th), and a week before that, my sister-in-law had their first baby. An exciting time, to be sure, but in all honesty, it was very hard for me to deal with because I was the one who was due first (by several days). Yes, that’s immature, but very pregnant women aren’t known for their rational emotions… At 39 weeks pregnant, I was very much in the “safe zone” and I was very ready to have this baby.
My mom arrived the Tuesday before my due date and was planning on staying two weeks. And as much as I wanted to just have this baby, I was relieved that the baby had at least waited until my mom got here. Even though we had back-up people to watch Cedar and Genoa during the birth, it would be much simpler if my mom was here since she was staying with us. Driving home from the airport on Tuesday evening, the last logistical piece of the puzzle was in place, and my “plan” was to go into labour early Wednesday morning. We could all get a good night’s sleep and we would get the greatest postpartum benefit of my mom’s presence. Also, we weren’t sure what my mom was going to do with the kids if I had the baby at night. We’re in a pretty small house and I’m not a quiet laborer so I didn’t want the kids to get scared if they heard Mama moaning and screaming.
Wednesday morning rolled around and nothing. Not even any pre-labor contractions. I had a lot of pre-labor contractions with both Cedar and Genoa‘s pregnancies, but had hardly had any with this one. And while I had been thankful for that, it also scared me a bit since both the other labors were 20+ hours even after the pre-labor contractions. Wednesday continued with nothing out of the ordinary and my mom offered to watch the kids that evening so Aaron and I could go out for dinner. We hadn’t been on an “out” date for almost a year, so we gladly took her up on the offer and I was thankful that I hadn’t gone into labor that morning. However, once the date was over, I was definitely good to go so the next “plan” was to have the baby on Thursday. I had a midwife appointment late Thursday morning and as our midwife lives over an hour away, I was hoping that I’d have a reason to tell her to come here instead of me going there!
Thursday morning dawned and not much was happening. I had a couple hours of random harder contractions, but they eventually petered out. However, because of those contractions I had called my midwife, Debi, and she told me to not try to come to the appointment with the hope I’d have the baby in the next couple of days. That was a relief, but I still got pretty discouraged when the contractions stopped and nothing was happening. I was talking about it all with my mom and about how this really was teaching me that God’s plans are better than mine, even when it doesn’t seem like it. She brought up a C.S. Lewis quote from The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We joked that we should name the baby “Sandcastle”, but the reminder was exactly what I needed. Here I was making what I thought were “perfect” plans and they weren’t coming to pass. But that shouldn’t make me anxious (exactly what was happening) — instead it should reassure me that God’s plans were even more perfect than that and I just needed to trust Him.
I awoke around 4:30 on Friday morning with hard contractions. They were roughly ten minutes apart and continued despite a hot shower and moving around some. I called Debi around 6:30 to let her know what was happening. The contractions were still ten minutes apart, but were getting to the point where I had to vocalize through them. I wasn’t sure if Debi should come yet, but she wanted to and she said that she would alert her two student midwives, Rachel and Rebecca, and that they would start heading in our direction.
Over the next hour or two, the rest of the household woke up (Aaron was obviously already awake) and Mom took over care of the kids. I spent most of the time lying on my side on our bed, trying to rest and relax through the contractions. They stayed at about ten minutes apart, but continued to grow in intensity. Because my mom was with the kids, Aaron was able to stay with me and rub my back during contractions as that was the only thing that helped with the pain at all.
The midwives arrived shortly after nine and Debi checked to see how dilated I was. As I hadn’t really had any pre-labor contractions and the ones that morning hadn’t been very close together, I had been mentally preparing myself to only be a couple centimeters or so. However, when Debi checked me, I was already around 5-6! Needless to say, I was very excited that things were progressing so quickly.
Because I was already so dilated, the midwives started working to prep our bedroom and fill the birthing pool. Debi had both her student midwives with her and I was amazed at what a great team they all were. They just took over prepping everything and Aaron and I hung out in our living room while my mom and the kids played outside.
Once the pool was filled, Debi called me to come and look at it. The local water isn’t great and we filter it to drink and cook with, and in the pool, it had a very obvious brownish tint. Debi said that she wouldn’t feel comfortable birthing in it and I agreed. However, it would be totally fine to labor in and so I prepared to get in. The water felt relaxing, but in the tub Aaron couldn’t rub/push on my lower back in the same way he could when I was lying on the bed. As that was really the only thing that helped at all with the pain, after a few minutes I opted to get out and labor on the bed.
After I had moved into active labor, my mom had taken the kids on a long bike ride to the park with plans to picnic there and come back once the baby was born. I had been slightly nauseous most of the morning and so hadn’t eaten much, but I occasionally sipped on a raw milk/chocolate/banana/peanut butter smoothie that Aaron had made me and tried to keep drinking water. Every so often, one of the midwives would come in and check the baby’s heart-tones, but for the most part, Aaron and I were left alone to labor together. I lay on my side on the bed, breathing and moaning through contractions. Aaron would push on/rub my back through every contraction — he never left my side. With my other two births, by the time the midwife got there, I was already in active labor or transition and Aaron had to be helping set up the birth pool, etc. But this time, he was able to stay with me the entire time and it was incredible. Other than the very strong contractions, the next hour or so was quite peaceful as my body moved through active labor and started transition.
I started to feel pretty pushy after awhile and when Debi checked me, I was around nine centimeters, but with a lip of cervix in the way. She wanted me to wait to try pushing since I wasn’t fully dilated yet, but pretty soon the urge was so overwhelming that she let me try and see if that pushed the lip out of the way. It did, but slowly. With Genoa’s birth, I had felt her head descend on the first push and I was expecting that to happen again since this was my third baby, but for the first ten minutes or so of pushing, it felt pretty unproductive.
The sudden change in plans from a waterbirth to birthing “on land” wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it might be, but in my laboring state, it left me rather confused as I’ve only ever given birth in the water and loved it. In retrospect, I can see that I should have just let my body take over and do what it knew to do in regard to birthing on land, but instead I ended up trying to duplicate birthing in the water minus the water. This meant that I didn’t really try to experiment with different positions when pushing, etc. but stayed in the semi-reclined position that I had gravitated toward with my previous births. Since the pool wasn’t in the way this time, Aaron was able to be directly behind me and support me through the pushing phase which was very calming.
Pushing this time around was a lot more painful than the other two births, especially Genoa’s. That, combined with my unmet expectations of a very fast pushing phase, made pushing seem like it was taking forever, but in reality I think it was only around fifteen or twenty minutes. Also due to the fact that I thought it “should” take less time than it was meant that, after I got going, I wasn’t really waiting for strong contractions to push. Basically, in general, if I had just realized that each birth is completely different from previous ones, I think it would have made the pushing phase a lot more effective and enjoyable.
But, in the end, I finally started feeling the baby descend and I pushed the head out. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the baby was born in the caul so Debi broke the bag of waters while I finished pushing the rest of the body out. (A neat little gift as I had always wanted a caul baby!) The midwives told me to reach down and catch my baby, but I said I didn’t want to because my hands were tingling so badly from me hyperventilating some while pushing. However, despite my protests otherwise, apparently I did catch my baby and brought her up onto my chest. It was 12:31 in the afternoon, on Friday, May 10th, 2013 — the day before the due date.
We discovered that the baby was a girl (what I had thought all along!) and she was much chubbier than either Cedar or Genoa had been at birth. The cord was kind of short, so I didn’t start trying to nurse her until after it stopped pulsing and the midwives cut it. The midwives started cleaning up while Aaron and I cuddled with our new little girl and called my mom’s cell phone. They were just finishing up their picnic at the park and we told Cedar that he had a new baby sister. He was very excited (and apparently was telling a bunch of people at the park!) and they started heading home. While we waited for them to get back, I nursed the baby and she took right to it.
It was so sweet introducing the kids to their new sister. Cedar was ecstatic, but Genoa was a little apprehensive of the new situation. After the kids had been with us for a little bit, my mom took them out of the room and the midwives prepared an herb bath for the baby and I. They ended up putting it in the birthing pool since it was so much bigger than our bathtub and Aaron held the baby while I transferred over to the tub. Once all the bloody sheets and Chux pads were cleaned up, my mom brought the kids back in and they watched the baby and I in the herb bath. I had never had one of those immediately post-birth and it was amazing.
After that, I got dressed in clean clothes and ate something while Debi did the newborn exam. The new little one was eight pounds exactly and 21 inches long. We dressed her and the kids and my mom were able to hold her. The midwives finished cleaning everything up and headed out.
Since we didn’t find out the gender beforehand, Aaron and I had come up with both boy and girl names early on in the pregnancy, but the girl one had undergone several changes over the months. Aaron’s favourite was Avila Constance, and while I liked that name, I preferred another one that had been in the running. However, after all the excitement had died and Aaron and I were discussing it, I realized that Avila Constance just fit. While I knew it as a city in Spain, there is also an Avila Beach in California and that seemed fitting in reference to C.S. Lewis quote that had been so meaningful the last days of her pregnancy. Constance was the middle name that we had already chosen in combination with Avila, but that too ended up being a reminder of God’s constant faithfulness in His timing. We always have chosen our kids’ names for how they sound, and not for any specific meaning, but it ended up working out that Avila’s name had a lot of meaning after the fact. Our little reminder that God’s plans (and specifically His timing), really are better than ours!