The birth story of Saoirse Maire

The story of Saoirse’s birth wouldn’t be complete with acknowledging the weeks of contractions before the actual day of her birth. They started most intensely at the end of May, just before I turned the corner of 36 weeks gestation. From that point on, I had many, many bouts of random contractions that I kept waiting to organize and do something, but they never did. This, combined with a possibility-of-leaking-amniotic-fluid scare at 32 weeks made those last two months of pregnancy pretty stressful.

On the morning of  Tuesday, June 12th, at 38 weeks and three days along, the random contractions finally started to regulate and strengthen, but were still 10-20 minutes apart. Around lunch time, they got to five minutes apart and I was having a ton of pelvic pressure. Aaron wasn’t home yet and for several minutes there I wondered if I would have to birth a baby all by myself with four kids! But he made it home, the kids went to some friends’ house (who then had nine kids nine and under…they’re amazing!), and the midwife and her assistant got here and all set up. And then…contractions totally stopped! And they didn’t start back up. So the midwife and her assistant left everything and went home and after our wonderful friends kept the kids for the afternoon and fed them supper, Aaron got them…and life continued. But this drama-filled, yet anti-climatic afternoon meant that my parents were en route from Idaho on their ten-hour drive.

My parents got here the next day and still nothing had happened. They were only able to stay ten days and we were hoping that the majority of that would be on the postpartum end so I ended up putting so much emotional pressure on myself to just HAVE THIS BABY…and unfortunately, that rarely ever works! The next five days were an emotional time of lots of walks, hanging out with my parents, and trying to relax about going into labor. Sunday was Father’s Day and I thought it would be fun to give Aaron a baby for Father’s Day, but no such luck.

The following morning, Monday, June 18th, 2018, my contractions started regulating again, but were hardly painful. I timed them throughout the morning as we went to the park for a play-date with a group of moms from our church. They stayed regular at about seven minutes apart, but still not very painful. After the play-date we went to Lowe’s to pick up tomato cages and then for a brief grocery run. During that time, the contractions started to strengthen and were definitely becoming painful and were now about five minutes apart.

We got home and I let Aaron know what was happening and he came home. I also called my midwife, Julianne, while my parents made lunch. She got to the house around 1:30 and checked me (my first cervical check of the pregnancy), but I was only three centimeters dilated and the baby was still so high that she could barely reach my cervix. With that info, and the fact that it was the middle of the day and with my previous births I had tended to progress the most in the nighttime hours, we were pretty sure that it would be awhile before the baby came.

My parents had taken the kids to a nearby park for awhile so Julianne asked if I would be fine if she ran a couple errands while we waited for labor to progress. I was fine with that so she left and I decided to take a shower to help with some of the pain. It didn’t really do much because the contractions started to majorly pick up. Super painful and very close together, I moved quickly from the shower to just lying on my side on the bed with Aaron pushing on my back during the contractions. The next hour is pretty much just a constant blur of pain as the contractions just got more and more intense, with hardly any break in between them. I was timing them with an app on my phone and I had a contraction that was FOUR MINUTES LONG. These super-fast labors are something else…

At one point I remember pulling myself out of my pain-filled daze (I really withdraw into myself during active labor) and telling Aaron that we should probably text Julianne and tell her to come back to the house. To which he calmly replied that he already did and that she would be there in a couple minutes. I was SO thankful for his solid presence the whole time and the fact he had definitely done this before! He also texted my mom to come back from the park as we were planning on her being there for the birth. She brought the two girls with her as they had expressed interest in being at the birth.

Julianne and her assistant arrived, though I have no recollection of when. She saw that I was in transition so she started prepping everything. My mom arrived with the girls and they ended up coming in right as I was moving into transition. Due to the intensity of the crazy fast labor (as amazing as it might sound, I do NOT recommend a two hour labor!), I was being very loud and somewhat out of control so the girls wanted to go right back out and swung on their play-set for about ten minutes while I was pushing. The windows were open and it was interesting to hear their take on it all since they could still hear everything, like when I yelled at Aaron near the end of transition!

My mom obviously stayed though and as the birth photographer hadn’t arrived yet, Aaron told my mom to take some photos with her phone. I started pushing and at one point the baby’s heart rate started dropping so Julianne had me turn over to my other (right) side and thankfully it went right back up. I think I pushed twice and the baby’s head was out and we saw that she was en caul (i.e. still in her unbroken bag of waters). Julianne asked for permission to break the bag, which we granted, and then we saw that the amniotic fluid was full of old meconium (which Julianne thinks was from the previous weeks of contractions). At 3:46 P.M.. another push and the baby was totally out and I pulled her up onto my stomach. She was a little purple and still at first, but started perking up quickly as soon as Julianne started rubbing her down with a blanket. I found out that she was a girl, which I had thought all along.

Once we were sure that Saoirse was breathing fine and everything was okay, my mom went out and brought the girls in so they got to meet their new little sister within a few minutes of her birth and it was so sweet. The birth photographer finally got there about five minutes after the birth so she started taking pictures. My placenta took almost an hour to detach so while we were waiting on that, Saoirse nursed for the first time and my dad and Caedmon came in to meet her (Cedar didn’t want to come in until everyone extra had left) . Once the placenta finally detached, Julianne examined it to make sure it was healthy and explained all about it to the girls. Aaron had never been super into cutting the cord and as it was the first of my births that my mom was able to be a part of, Mom cut the cord and I gave Saoirse to her daddy so I could rinse off.

After my shower, Julianne gave Saoirse her newborn exam on our bed. She was perfect, but tiny at 5 lbs., 12 oz. and 19 inches long. Sometime around then we announced her name: Saoirse Maire. I discovered the name “Saoirse”, the Gaelic word for “freedom”, in my teens and since that time I had always wanted to name one of my daughters that. Different things happened around the time that Saoirse was conceived and we discovered we were expecting her that impressed upon me really strongly that we were going to have a girl and we were to name her “Saoirse” as a declaration of God’s promise of freedom. So my entire pregnancy I had thought of the baby as a little girl named Saoirse…and she was. “Maire” is the Gaelic form of “Mary/Marie” and is to honor my maternal grandmother, Theresa Mary, and my mom, Karen Marie, both strong, Irish women who are some of my biggest role models as a woman, wife, and mother.

For my last several pregnancies, my labors have gotten shorter by halves: Avila was eight hours, Caedmon was four, and now Saoirse, two hours. Cedar and Genoa were both in the 24 hour range. And honestly, though it probably sounds really nice to only be in labor for two hours, it was probably my hardest labor. Going from three centimeters dilated to the baby born in two hours requires basically constant contractions and so almost all Saoirse’s labor is just a blur of pain to me and I don’t remember much. And as someone who loves the experience of giving birth, that’s been hard. But she’s here and we’re so thankful and the last six months with her have been sheer joy. We’re so beyond thankful for Saoirse-love!


The birth story of Caedmon Isaiah

From the beginning, this pregnancy had been very different from my previous three pregnancies. There had been several scares in the first half of the pregnancy, when I had unexplained spotting and discovered the beginnings of a prolapsed cervix (which thankfully resolved itself as I moved into my second trimester). The spotting got worse around 22 weeks, and along with checking some other possible issues, I ended up having an ultrasound to check for the possibility of placenta previa. We had avoided ultrasounds (unless medically necessary) with the other pregnancies, so this was the first time I had gotten one of this kind (after my first spotting episode, I had had a very basic one at nine weeks to make sure the baby’s heart was still beating). Since we were having to have the ultrasound anyway, we decided to find out the gender this time…we hadn’t with the other three, and while we enjoyed the surprise, we also thought it would be fun to know ahead of time for once. And also, while I had always had strong feelings about what the gender was with the other three (and was right every time!), I had felt even more strongly than normal that this baby was a boy and wanted to make sure so I wasn’t calling a girl a “he” for the next four months! Turns out, I was right again…it was a BOY!…and very thankfully, there was no sign of placenta previa. After ruling out a couple other possibilities, my midwife determined that all my spotting was caused by a friable cervix; basically one that’s very irritable. Thankfully, it generally is harmless and doesn’t cause labor issues. Interestingly enough, after the ultrasound, the spotting stopped completely and never came back.

Thankfully, the second half of the pregnancy was pretty uneventful though I was significantly more tired than my other second and third trimesters. Even though Cedar had come four weeks early, I was pretty convinced that this baby would come close to his due date as Genoa had come on her’s and Avila, the day before her’s. Also, my Braxton-Hicks had been very minimal and no preterm labor at all!

So when I started having regular pains in my back and hips in the evening of Monday, February 22, 2016, I immediately brushed them off as gas ((the joys of pregnancy!) from the lentils we ate for supper. The baby’s due date wasn’t until March 16, which was over three weeks away…and I could never feel my uterus tightening when I had the pains. The “gas” pains continued through the night, and I didn’t sleep much. I woke up Tuesday morning, mentally vowing not to eat lentils again until after I had the baby! My thoughts of lentils disappeared as soon as I went into the bathroom and discovered some bloody show. While I had never had bloody show with my other births, I knew that it meant that something had definitely been happening throughout the night and those hadn’t been simple gas pains! I called my midwife, Dina, and let her know. While the bloody show didn’t necessarily mean that labor was imminent, she wanted me to keep her in the loop if what I now knew were contractions picked up again.

Aaron had been planning to go to an interview later that day so thankfully he was home for the morning. Unfortunately, as the morning progressed, the contractions increased and we realized that he should probably stay home (though thankfully he was able to reschedule the interview for a couple days later). The increasing contractions also presented us with a dilemma: while they were only four or five an hour at this point, I knew from my previous labors that those type of contractions definitely still “did something” for my body and that real labor was coming. However, I wasn’t 37 weeks along until the next day, and in our state, a midwife cannot legally deliver a baby at home before 37 weeks gestation. Even though it was only one day from that, if I gave birth that day and my midwife delivered me at home, she could have her license taken away. So the plan became to try to slow contractions as much as possible and just try to make it past midnight, so that we could legally have the baby at home. (PLEASE NOTE: if there had been any other complications, etc., we would not have hesitated to go the hospital and were planning to if active labor started that day.) My midwife recommended a tincture by Wishgarden called “Welcome Womb” that is specifically made to calm the uterus. Aaron picked that up at our local health food store and every half hour I took the dose recommended by my midwife. It tasted SO nasty, but thankfully, along with trying to rest as much as I could and take warm magnesium baths, it seemed to slow my contractions down. I let some family and close friends know what was going on so they could be praying.

The day slowly went by, my contractions down to two or three an hour. At my midwife’s direction, I stopped taking the tincture around 9 that evening and took another magnesium bath before bed. The contractions seemed to be petering out and I didn’t know if we’d have the baby the next day or if this was indicative of the next several weeks.

I slept for a couple hours and was awoken around 2:00 am by a contraction. They were back with a vengeance, and were happening every five minutes or so. We were definitely having this baby today…but very thankfully, it was February 24th, and I was officially 37 weeks so we were legal for a homebirth! I let Dina know and she headed over to our house. The contractions were quickly increasing in intensity, and I resumed the laboring position I had favored with Avila of lying on my side on our bed. When each contraction hit, the only thing that helped the pain was for Aaron to push heavily on my back and hip.

Dina got to our house around three, and checked my progress. I was already at 4 cm, so we started to get set up. The kids’ bedroom is right next to our’s and I’m not a quiet laborer, so we turned up their sleeping music, turned on their bathroom fan, and shut their door, hoping they would be able to sleep through my moans. In between contractions, Aaron and Dina prepped our bed. While I had waterbirths with Cedar and Genoa and loved them, I wasn’t comfortable with birthing in our city’s water, and we also didn’t really want to deal with the hassle of setting up a birth pool in our upstairs carpeted bedroom. I had planned on laboring some in the shower, but the contractions were already so painful that the thought of standing up through them sounded horrible!

The next several hours passed in a blur of incredibly painful and intense contractions. Dina’s assistant arrived around five, though I wasn’t aware of much outside of getting through each contraction. Aaron stayed by my side, pushing on my back and hip through every contraction…his arms very pretty sore later on! Around 6:20, he was going to quickly head downstairs to call the friend we had on call to watch the kids during labor (my parents were planning on coming closer to the due date, but we had someone on back-up in case the baby came early). He left right after my last contraction ended, thinking he had at least a couple minutes to make the call. However, within a minute, another contraction started and it was bad! I screamed at my midwife to come push on my back and hip, and then immediately felt my body start pushing on it’s own. When that happened, I felt the baby’s head start to crown, and yelled, “The head is coming!”. I was still lying on my side and was vaguely aware of Aaron coming back (apparently Dina’s assistant ran downstairs to get him as soon as I said that the head was coming), but was focusing on keeping my body from pushing the head out all at once. I had instinctively reached down once the head descended and I felt his hair and noticed the tininess of his head as it pushed out. In all, the entire pushing phase was probably about a minute long, with my water breaking as I was pushing him out.

As I pushed his little body out, I pulled him onto my chest as Aaron helped me sit up. The baby was SO tiny, and covered with a lot of vernix. He wasn’t moving much or making much noise at all, which, after Cedar’s birth, really scared me. Dina gave him a couple puffs of oxygen from the tank she had, and a brisk rub with a towel and he started to move and cry a little bit. It was SUCH a relief!

Aaron and Dina helped me move back on the bed to lean against our headboard, and despite his tininess, the baby started nursing right away, and his latch was perfect from the beginning. He nursed for awhile, as Dina and her assistant worked on cleaning up the birth mess. Aaron called back our friend who was going to watch the kids, letting her know the baby was born and we didn’t need her to come and watch the kids for the birth anymore. Even though the baby was nursing so well, my placenta wasn’t detaching and coming out. Dina stopped cleaning up to focus on kneading my abdomen to get my uterus to contract more, with these afterpains being almost as bad as the labor contractions! It took awhile, but the placenta eventually detached and I delivered it. Even with all the work to get it out, it was thankfully completely intact and Dina prepared it to give to the woman who was encapsulating it for me. Somewhat humorously, I had an appointment with that woman later that morning to sign paperwork, etc…and we also ended up giving her the placenta then as well!

Shortly after I delivered the placenta, Genoa and Avila woke up and Aaron brought them into our bedroom. It was so fun to introduce them to the baby since they had no clue he was coming when they had fallen asleep the night before (and amazingly, they had all stayed asleep through my very-less-than-quiet labor, despite their bedroom being right next to our’s!). Cedar woke up a bit later and came in as well.

After all the kids were there, and the baby stopped nursing for awhile, Dina did the newborn exam. Everything looked great, and the baby was so small that he fit into the hood of Avi’s bath towel that he was lying on for the exam (he was 5 lbs., 7 oz…the tiniest of my babies by a whole pound!)! Once the exam was finished, Aaron held the baby while I got into the herb bath that Dina had prepared. As I was kind of tired of baths after so many magnesium baths the day before, I didn’t stay in there long. After I cleaned up, I got back in bed and started nursing the baby again, while Aaron and I talked over the name.

As I mentioned earlier, I had an incredibly strong feeling all of the pregnancy that this baby was a boy. And along with that, even before he was born, I had felt like his name was Caedmon Isaiah. For awhile, we were leaning toward a different form of Isaiah for the middle name, but the basics of his name were the same since before he was conceived. Though Cedar and Genoa’s names were chosen just because we liked how they sounded, Avila’s name ended up having a lot of meaning behind it (the details are in her birth story), and Caedmon’s name held much meaning as well. For a variety of reasons, the previous year had been the hardest Aaron and I had ever gone through, by far, and “Isaiah” was a reminder of the Biblical book of that name that is full of promises of the Lord’s redemption. A reminder that, even if we can’t see how, Jesus can redeem all the pain and hardship of the past months. Caedmon was a name that we had always liked, and after we chose it, I found out it meant “wise warrior”. That had meaning as well, knowing that the Lord can fight our battles that we have no idea how to fight.

Even though we had that name chosen throughout the pregnancy, we didn’t want to “officially” name him that until he was born and we saw him. After talking it through, Aaron and I agreed that the name definitely fit and we told the kids and called our families to let them know. And in the last month, it’s become even more apparent how perfect it is for him. Despite his tininess, Caedmon is so strong…he’s been picking up his head since the day he was born, and started rolling himself from his side to his tummy before he was a week old! The “warrior” part is coming through clearly, and he also has regular times when he looks so serious and “Wise”. And though it hasn’t happened how I envisioned it, I’m already seeing the Lord’s redemption of the hard things.

In the craziness of our life right now, Caedmon has been such a little island of sweetness for me. He’s such an incredible gift, and I’m so thankful!

The birth story of Avila Constance

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!

The birth story of Genoa Leanne

It’s hard to know where to begin this birth story since there were several days and nights prior to “going into labour” that were full of pretty regular contractions, making me think that we were finally on our way to having this baby.  But they always eventually petered out.  So I guess I’ll begin from when my midwives and I decided that I “technically” began early labour…

The early morning hours of April 28th, 2011 found me yet again trying to sleep through contractions and not succeeding.  I finally got up around three to try taking a warm shower since that had helped to slow/stop the contractions in the past weeks.  This time it didn’t work and since the contractions were getting to be about five minutes apart, we decided to call Jenny (our midwife) at around four.  She got here in about forty-five minutes and when she checked me, I was dilated about three centimeters.  She called Jackie (the second midwife) to let her know that things weren’t super urgent, but we all still thought that I’d go pretty fast once I started active labour.   Everybody started getting set up.  Aaron’s mom, Cassie, came down and we started filling the birthing pool.

The contractions were starting to get rather painful and I desperately wanted to get into the pool, but I knew that I should wait until active labour started or else  I would risk the labour slowing down.  I decided to try and rest a little bit so I laid down on the bed and moaned my way through a couple more contractions.  Around seven, the contractions started getting farther apart and then stopped completely.  I told Jenny (who had already figured it out due to the fact that I wasn’t moaning anymore) and she decided to leave all her stuff at our house and go hang out with Jackie at a local coffee shop for an hour or so and we were to call her if things picked up again.  She encouraged me to try to sleep if I could as I hadn’t gotten any sleep the previous night.

Disappointed that the contractions had yet again petered out, I went back to bed and thankfully was able to sleep for a couple hours.  Aaron called Jenny and Jackie while I was sleeping to let them know that things were still quiet and as Jenny had several prenatals to do that morning, she was planning on continuing to go about her day and just told us to keep her informed.

I got up around mid-morning, had some breakfast and then went and visited Cedar, who was spending the morning up at Aaron’s parent’s house (in order for me to rest and because all the birthing stuff was still out at our house).  I came back down to our house and put away some of the towels and blankets and such.  The birthing pool was still filled in the middle of our living room.  We tried a couple things to get labour started again, but with no visible results (ironic since with Cedar’s birth we were doing everything to try to stop labour).

Around mid-afternoon, I started having contractions again.  They were very painful and intense, but about twenty minutes apart.  They continued throughout the afternoon, sometimes getting closer together, but never more than ten minutes or so.  I tried to distract myself from the pain through doing some online shopping with a gift certificate I had received for my birthday and watching part of “Babies” with Cedar.  Cassie had invited us up to their house for dinner and we went, though I wasn’t a very good dinner guest as I tried to breathe through the contractions when they came every ten to fifteen minutes or so.

As the evening progressed, the contractions continued…very painful, but still never closer together than ten minutes.  I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before and from dealing with contractions for most of the day.  As the contractions didn’t seem to be going anywhere and I desperately needed sleep, we tried several things to stop them, but nothing worked.

Resigned and exhausted, Aaron and I went to bed and I tried to doze between contractions.  They were so painful that I had to moan through each one, which I felt horrible about since I knew that it was keeping Aaron up too.  After a couple hours, I couldn’t handle lying down any longer and I told Aaron that I was going to try taking another hot bath (one of the methods we had unsuccessfully tried earlier to get my labour to stop).  The bath didn’t help much and at that point the contractions got to about five minutes apart so Aaron called Jenny and she left to come here.

By now, the contractions were so painful and intense and I was so exhausted that I was seriously considering asking to go to the hospital and get an epidural because I didn’t think I could handle the pain anymore.  I’m very pro-homebirth and don’t like any unnecessary interventions so the fact that I was even considering that was a big deal.  I was sure that Jenny would get there and check me and I would still be a three or four.  It was not a very fun time!

As the bath obviously wasn’t helping, I got out and lay down in bed again, trying very hard to relax through the contractions.  This was a lot more difficult than it had been with Cedar’s labour as I was so exhausted from lack of sleep.  Keeping up a low-pitch moan and breathing through the contractions was my goal.

Unfortunately, all the noise that I was making kept Cedar from sleeping very soundly that night and he was starting to get a little scared.  Aaron was trying to drain the cold water from the birthing pool and fill it with warm, but he had to keep running back and forth between comforting Cedar and helping me through contractions.  It got to the point where the only thing that even remotely helped the pain was Aaron rubbing my lower back hard through the contraction.

Jenny got to our house around three and Cassie about twenty minutes before. In between contractions, Jenny checked me and I was dilated to about a nine.  I was so incredibly relieved and it then made sense why I had been having so many “I can’t handle this any longer!” thoughts…I was going through transition!  I could obviously get into the birthing pool at this point if I wanted to, but the contractions were coming right on top of each other and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try to walk from our bedroom to the living room where the pool was.  Thankfully, Aaron and Jenny knew that I did really want to birth in the water so they helped get to the pool.

Getting into the pool helped so much in relaxing me and thankfully I got a several minute break from the contractions.  This ended up working out really well since by now Cassie was trying to calm Cedar down and he was just losing it.  Since I had a break from the contractions, Aaron was able to go and calm Cedar and then Cassie brought him up to her house where he spent a couple hours with Grandpa Donald.

Once the contractions resumed, I felt a very strong urge to push and since Jenny figured I was fully dilated by then, she said it would be fine.  With the first push, I felt the head descend and when I reached down, I could feel it.  My water still hadn’t broken and therefore I couldn’t feel any hair yet.  I pushed for about ten minutes, about four or five contractions (though I wasn’t counting!).  I felt a pop as my water broke and about a minute later I finally pushed the head out.  (The fact that my water broke only about a minute or so before Genoa was born was a huge blessing as I was positive for Group B Strep and didn’t have the antibiotic drip…therefore she was protected by the bag and her exposure to the GBS was extremely minimal.  We’re so incredibly thankful for God’s protection in that!)  One more hard push and she was out!  It was 3:52 AM on April 29th, 2011…the due date!

I drew her up out of the water and onto my chest.  The midwives (Jackie had arrived about ten minutes before) were ready with warm towels and blankets and we dried her off.  I discovered that she was a girl…something that both Aaron and I had thought all along.  We spent about five or ten minutes in the tub and then Jenny wanted me to move to the bed to deliver the placenta.  Once in bed, the midwives helped me get out of my wet camisole (the same one I wore for Cedar’s birth) and I dried off some.  After being in bed for awhile, the midwives could tell the placenta had separated so I pushed it out.

About a half hour after she was born, Genoa started nursing and continued for about a half hour (amazing for me since Cedar didn’t nurse until he was five days old).  When she was finished, the midwives did her newborn exam and had me use the bathroom and get cleaned up some.  Then they went into the living room and Aaron and I were left with our little girl.

A couple hours after the birth, Donald brought Cedar back down and he met his new sister.  He was in a remarkably good mood for having such a rough night and being up so early and he was fascinated by his little sister.  We took some pictures and then Aaron put Cedar back to bed and everyone else left.

We had two girl’s names picked out during the pregnancy and after she was born, we both agreed that she was definitely a Genoa.  We went back and forth on the middle name some, but finally came back to our original choice for Genoa.  Once that was decided for sure, we called both sets of grandparents to tell them her name…and then we all slept.

This postpartum/newborn period has been amazing and such a night-and-day difference from all the stresses of the first weeks after Cedar was born.  Genoa loves nursing and is such a natural at it.  Thankfully, she didn’t have any problems with jaundice either and gained back her birth weight by the time she was six days old!   We’re so amazingly grateful to our Father for this precious gift.

The birth story of Cedar Milan

I originally typed this up at my midwife, Marilyn’s, request, to be put on her website, but, not much to my surprise after I saw the finished length, it’s too long!  So, with my wonderful husband’s help, I’m going to work on editing it and whittling it down a bit (or a lot!).  However, I thought I’d post the original here for those of you (like me) who love birth stories.  Those of you who read my post “When His grace was enough” might notice that I copied and pasted some bits near the end from that post…but considering that I wrote that too, I figured it’s not really plagiarism!

On the morning of December 19th, 2009, I woke up much earlier than I wanted to.  Around 5:30 or so, I was awakened by some strange hip pain.  At first I attributed this to sleeping in some weird position somehow comfortable to my eight-months-pregnant self, but after awhile I realised that the pain was coming in waves, accompanied by lower back pain of a similar nature.  I remembered one of my friends telling me that she felt a lot of her contractions in her hips when she was in labour, and as I could feel my uterus contracting, I concluded I must be having some false labour.  False because it was still four weeks until my due date, and with all of the contractions, I could feel that the top of my uterus was still soft, and as such I concluded that my entire uterus wasn’t contracting and therefore wasn’t “doing anything”.  Reassured, I tried to fall back asleep, but could only doze off and on from the pain.

My husband, Aaron, and I got up about an hour later with a dilemma on our hands.  That day was the day of the annual progressive Christmas dinner that Aaron’s family and some of his relatives put on.  We had been preparing for it for awhile, but it was in San Jose, three hours away, and we would be gone all of a very long day.  I was still having a lot of contractions and didn’t relish the thought of a three-hour car ride and then trying to be social.  After much discussion, we decided we would stay home…we were disappointed to miss it, but knew it was the right decision.  After sending our gifts and homemade baklava Christmas plates with Aaron’s family, I headed back to bed, hoping that the contractions would stop.

The contractions continued off and on all morning.  We called Marilyn, who was several hours away at a family function, and she recommended soaking in a warm bath to try to stop them.  The travel trailer that we were living in while Aaron was building our house had a tiny tub and only a six gallon water heater, so we headed up to Aaron’s parents’ house, right next door.  His parents have a soaker tub, so I tried that for awhile, and though it seemed to slow the contractions some, I couldn’t get comfortable.

Throughout the day, we tried that and other methods that Marilyn recommended to us to stop the contractions, but they kept coming back and getting more frequent and more intense (both in length and in pain level).  Marilyn got back from her family function late that night and came over at around 11:30 to check me.  I was already dilated five centimeters.  She finished checking me and then looked at me and said “You’re going to have your baby tonight!”.  I was shocked.  Tonight?!  But…but…I still have four weeks to go!  She seemed calm about it all so I took my cue from her and we started figuring out what needed to be done.

We had planned on having a water birth in our almost-finished new house…Aaron had bought all the bathroom fixtures the day before.  However, with this new development of the baby coming four weeks early, we needed to move to Plan B, Aaron’s parents’ guest room.  His family had gotten back from San Jose about a half hour before so we called them and told them the situation.  We gathered together the birthing kit, sheets, etc. from the trailer and headed up to Aaron’s parents’ house.  Most of Aaron’s siblings (he’s the oldest of eight) were already asleep, but two of his sisters were up along with his parents.  While everyone else set up the guest room and guest bathroom, I paced the living room through my contractions.  It felt so good to be walking!  I had been lying down most of the day in an effort to stop the contractions, but now I finally had the go-ahead to move around and since that helped the pain, I moved!

After about a half an hour or so, the contractions were getting so strong that I didn’t want to move around anymore.  I came into the guest room and lay on my side on the bed, watching Aaron set up the birthing pool (an inflatable kiddie pool that we had bought online).  Marilyn was concerned that we wouldn’t get the pool filled in time, but they did and I was able to get into it when I was around eight centimeters or so.

The pool was such a relief!  I lay back, slightly reclined, with Aaron kneeling behind me outside the pool.  After awhile, I started to get really hot so he would fan me with a wet washcloth and then lay the cooled cloth on my head….it helped.   I started feeling the urge to push, but even though I was almost completely dilated, there was still a lip of cervix in the way.  It wasn’t moving, but then Marilyn (or her assistant, Jenny…I can’t remember who) held it out of the way while I pushed a couple times – pretty much the most uncomfortable thing ever! – and we were good to go.

I had thought that once the baby crowned, you just had to push a couple more times and he would be out.  Well, that was definitely not the case!   According to Marilyn, my pushing labour really wasn’t that long compared to most women’s, but it seemed to take forever.  At one point, I started to feel light-headed and then someone got me a paper bag to breathe into for awhile and that helped some.  Once the baby had crowned, I was so thankful to be in the water as it helped immensely to be able to just float in between contractions, instead of feeling like my weight was pressing on the baby’s head.

Marilyn kept monitoring the baby’s heartbeat every other contraction and at one point, when the baby was almost out, it dropped and as she felt my pushes weren’t going to get the baby out fast enough, she helped by easing his head out.  Once his head was out, one more push got the rest of him out…the strangest feeling!  Marilyn drew him up out of the water and put him on my chest and it was one of the most amazing moments of my life.  He was a little limp, but after several seconds, his tiny limbs start squirming and he let out a few lusty cries. It was 3:16 A.M., December 20th, 2009.

We moved to the bed to deliver the placenta, but it ended up coming out as I was standing up in the water.  Marilyn kept monitoring him, and after a couple minutes was concerned that he didn’t seem to be breathing very well.  After the first few loud cries, he was just whimpering and it kept sounding like he was trying to catch his breath and couldn’t.  Marilyn called the doctor she works with, asked his opinion and they decided our little boy needed to be taken to the local children’s hospital.  The ambulance was on its way.

While we waited, I held my little one close, bundled in blankets and holding an oxygen mask to his face, only taking it away to suction his nose and mouth every so often.  We announced his name, Cedar Milan, to Aaron’s family who was waiting with us.

When the ambulance finally came, they worked on Cedar on the dining room table, inserting an IV into the back of his tiny hand.  We weren’t allowed to come in the ambulance with him, so I kissed him and told him I loved him and then…they took my baby and I didn’t know if he would live until I saw him again.

Due to certain NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) policies, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to see Cedar until a couple hours after he had gotten to the hospital, so after the ambulance left, we stayed at the house for about an hour.  We had hopes of possibly catching up a little on some of the sleep we had lost the night before, but I wasn’t able to sleep at all so I just rested on the couch and I think Aaron caught a couple minutes lying on the floor.

We left for the hospital early that morning, and amazingly enough, I had lots of energy and chatted away with Aaron and his mom, going over all the details of the birth.  Now, I wonder if I appeared unfeeling, but I actually think it was the Lord’s grace upholding me at that time.  If the enormity of what was going on had actually sunk in at the time, I don’t know if I would have been able to hold it together and deal with all that we had to.

We spent the day at the hospital, mostly in the NICU waiting room, trying to doze on the slippery couches, and walking gingerly (on my part anyway) down white corridors whenever we were allowed to see Cedar.  He was doing better than they originally thought he would, and he continued to improve all day, but it still was my baby who was under all those tubes and wires.  Before giving birth, I had daydreamed often of how wonderful it would be to cuddle my little one against me after the excitement of his arrival died down.  Now, all I could do was put my hand through the hole in his isolette and stroke his downy head, watching the fragile up-and-down of his little chest.  Yet again, in all this, there was peace and a strength that could only come from the One who had formed every part of my son when he was hidden inside me.

The hardest part of it all came that evening, when we had to drive home for the night, an hour away from our little boy who wasn’t even a day old.  People near the hospital offered their homes to us, but we had to go and pull together things we would need when we came back the next morning.  We were hoping then to be able to stay at the hospital until Cedar was released, which, we were told, could be anywhere from one to two weeks, at the least, five days.  We knew we needed to go, but the doctors had told us that the turning point would come when he was around 24 or so hours old…that night…and there was nothing we could do.  So we went home, knowing the best we could do for our son was to be ready for whatever would face us the next day.

I remember many tears in the car that night.  Aaron and I held each other and sobbed before we pulled out, and I broke down a few more times on the drive home.  We didn’t know what the morning would hold.

But…there was grace.  Grace for both of us to be able to sleep soundly that night and awaken to hear that Cedar was doing much better in the morning.  Grace for the next four days (much less time than the doctors had originally told us) that we spent in a room in the NICU, trying to catch snatches of rest amidst constant beepings and babies crying and trying to get our little one to eat enough so we could leave.  Grace for when Cedar had to spend a day and night under the bilirubin lights and all we could do to calm him was briefly cover him with our hands.  Grace for the days finally at home, but wondering if his jaundice would ever get better.  Grace for all his problems with learning to nurse and wondering if he’ll gain weight as he should.

And gain weight he did…with a vengeance!  And despite our initial troubles with nursing, he’s now a very chubby little baby boy who loves to eat.  And it constantly amazes me to think how far our loving Father has brought him…and will continue to.