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Our Fifth Born: Jack's Home Birth Story

Our Fifth Born: Jack’s Home Birth Story

 Jack Phoenix Maaser

Born: 3-3-2017 (Friday)

Time: 4:54 a.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 9 oz , 21.5 inches long, 13.5 cm head circumference

In a lot of ways, I view Jack as a miracle or a gift. We really thought we were done with four children and even traded in our 15 passenger van for a bells and whistles minivan thinking that the diaphragm would keep us safe. It did not, however, and the entire pregnancy, birth, and time with our sweet little Jack has seemed so surreal, as if it were all part of a dream that I never want to awaken from. He is our bonus child. (Read our thoughts about finding out we were pregnant for baby #5 here.)

The Pregnancy

Finding out we were pregnant this time around was a shock, miracle, joy, and beautiful surprise. As we began making preparations for prenatal care and birth, we were thrilled that we would actually be having another baby in the same home and with the same midwives for the first time ever. (Ruby was born at the Mountain Midwifery Center in Colorado, Elliot was born at our condo in Colorado attended by DeAna Durbin, Ophelia was born at our rented Reed City home attended by Sarah Badger with Simply Born from Grand Rapids, and Julian was born here.) Laurie Zoyiopoulos with Faithful Guardians Midwifery and Jillian Bennett now with Family Tree Maternity attended Julian’s birth and would also be attending us during this new journey as well.

Just like with Julian’s pregnancy, I was so busy with all of our kids, routine, and life, that I kept forgetting that I was pregnant! Life just carried on with the exception of a few additional supplements and a more careful diet. Also, just like with Julian’s pregnancy, I was measuring quite large at first, so we scheduled an ultrasound to be sure there was only one baby in there. I was feeling a lot of morning sickness and fatigue, but it wasn’t because I was having twins, it was just that I needed more sleep and more food! I always love the idea of twins, but the reality scares me, and I was actually quite relieved that it would be just one.

The ultrasound showed that everything was normal and that my expected due date was Feb. 18th (we predicted Feb. 14th, so pretty close). Based on the way I was feeling and what I was craving, I was CERTAIN it would be a girl, but at our 20 week ultrasound, we found out that we would be having a boy! We had never had two genders in a row and were very excited for Julian to have a little buddy.

The entire pregnancy flew by, and I started to feel like being pregnant was just a part of who I was going to be for all of eternity.

But just like with all of my other pregnancies at about 35 weeks along, I started feeling Braxton Hicks contractions very regularly. It made me fear that I would go into labor early and be forced into a hospital delivery, and all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks that this baby was coming soon! I started getting more serious about doing my prenatal yoga videos, tackled a deep cleaning/organizing project just about every day, started gathering all of my birth and baby things, and most importantly, I started to visualize what my birth would be like.

Organizing the Silverware Drawer

Organizing the Silverware Drawer

As my due date drew closer, I was relieved that my little guy had made it full term, but devastated to see that everyone in our family was getting sick when we had worked so hard to keep everyone healthy throughout my entire pregnancy. Scott got a REALLY bad stomach virus that made him miss a bunch of work and left him bedridden. I kept feeling like labor was right around the corner and thankfully my mom was able to stay with us and help me around the house until he was better.

We viewed each day that labor didn’t come as a gift that allowed everyone to gradually get better, for my mom and I to tackle more and more cleaning projects, and for our sweet little boy to continue to grow stronger inside my womb.

When I was about a week overdue, Scott got really sick again with a different virus that once again left him bedridden and with a high fever. At this point, I was getting a little mad. I mean, we were eating healthy, getting enough sleep, taking high quality supplements…and I couldn’t figure out why he was not only getting sick repeatedly, but worse than I had ever seen him before.

It wasn’t until after the birth when I was rereading our old birth stories and noticed that the exact same thing happened to him right before Julian’s birth, and then it dawned on me the amount of stress he was under and how it really took a toll on his immune system. Seeing the way he is so calm and at ease now makes hindsight 20/20 as I look back and see all of the signs that he was getting stressed out. I mean, not only was he nonstop busy at work, but to have something looming in the future that is so life changing and that comes with such a huge responsibility, but you have no idea WHEN it is going to happen is enough to drive anyone mad!

37 Weeks Pregnant

37 Weeks Pregnant

At any rate, up until about 37 weeks, I would have truly been content to stay pregnant forever, but after that, things started getting really uncomfortable, sleep was difficult, my back was killing me, none of my clothes were fitting, my leg cramps were always just one bad stretch away, I was always cramping from Braxton Hicks and out of breath, and I was just ready for it to be done. As I saw my due date come and go, there was a part of me that was excited to tackle the birth and anxious to finally meet our sweet little guy, but happy at the same time knowing that he needed this extra time to grow and that he would come when he was ready.

Even though people kept asking me when I would be getting induced, I knew that being overdue wasn’t a bad thing, especially since the midwives were continuously monitoring me to make sure everything looked good.

Leading Up to Labor

Scott came home from work about an hour early on Monday (Feb. 27th) feeling awful with a high fever. I put him to bed for the rest of the afternoon and we hoped that with the extra rest he would be feeling better on Tuesday. But on Tuesday he felt just as bad, and at 10 days overdue, I didn’t know how much longer our son could wait to be born! I was getting a little panicky because I really and truly didn’t think I could go through labor without Scott by my side, and I could feel that things were getting closer. All of the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having left me at about 80% effaced, at least 3 cm dilated, and I could feel that he was very low.

I mean, at some point, it felt like he was just going to fall out!

Scott took Wednesday off as well and was finally starting to feel better. That night, I was feeling a lot of cramping and thought things might progress in the night – but they didn’t. We figured that it was probably best for Scott to take Thursday off to ensure a complete recovery and so that he could watch the kids while I went to my chiropractor visit on Thursday at noon. I was trying everything I could to get our little guy out of his posterior position, but nothing was working, and I started to wonder if his position was preventing labor from getting started. My midwife, Jillian, thought that a chiropractor visit would help us get him into an optimal position. We had planned on keeping the big kids home from school on Thursday, but as luck would have it, school was canceled due to the snow and ice!

Early Labor

At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday (March 2nd), I texted my mom to say that my contractions were coming back, but that it still felt like it would be quite a while yet. She said she was caught up at work and could come and just hang out with the kids even if things didn’t happen for awhile. When she got here and took over, I went and hid in our room to bounce on my ball during contractions and was determined to finish my blog about being overdue (12 days at this point) before our baby was born. Scott helped me edit my final draft, and I got it published just in time!

Working on My Blog (Julian took this picture.)

Working on My Blog (Julian took this picture.)

All morning, my contractions were very erratic and had no pattern. It felt like labor was in a cycle where it was continuously starting and stopping, and it was really messing with my mind. I even wondered if what I was going through was prodromal labor (labor that starts and stops…more intense than just Braxton Hicks contractions), and it made me feel like I was stuck in a loop that would repeat endlessly like in Groundhog’s Day.

It was nice having my mom around, all of the kids home, and Scott there to keep me distracted. At one point, Scott had all of the kids outside and was pulling them in the sled in our new (used) riding lawnmower, and I decided to take over. There is definitely something to be said for the whole “bumpy car ride” getting labor started, and I could feel my contractions spurred on with each jarring bump!

After that, Scott and I stayed bundled up and went for a walk to Vics to get a few groceries while my mom watched the kids. It felt like so many other pregnancies when we would try to “walk them out”. (We even went to Vics when I was in early labor with Julian!) Each contraction that came would make me stop, and Scott was there to support me through each one.

Walking to Vics

Walking to Vics

 

Scott took this picture of me because in the background it says "She's a thing of beauty"...love that man!

Scott took this picture of me because in the background it says “She’s a thing of beauty”…love that man!

When we came home and still nothing was progressing, I started feeling really discouraged. I had been keeping my midwife, Jillian, in the loop and she really lifted me up when I started messaging her with all of my fears (i.e. What if the baby is posterior? What if he is stuck on my pubic bone? Why am I starting and stopping labor? What if I never give birth? etc.). I told her how I was trying everything under the sun to get him to turn if he was posterior, and she said that she saw no reasons for concern, and that I was doing all of the right things. This helped me to release most of my frustration, anxiety, and pending panic.

My mom took Julian and Elliot for an excursion to McDonalds which left the house considerably quieter with just Ruby and Ophelia who were playing independently. Then our friend LeeAnn showed up to deliver our milk, and even though I slipped into our bedroom to bounce on my ball during contractions, I stopped thinking about whether or not I was in labor. It felt like it was just another day as I putzed around in the kitchen while LeeAnn told Scott about her recent cruise. Then my dad stopped by, on his way home from doing business up in the U.P., my mom brought Julian and Elliot back from McDonalds, and as the house became full of tickles, laughter, and love, my contractions seemed to have been put on the back burner and totally subsided.

When my dad was getting ready to leave, I encouraged my mom to go home as well,

“I really don’t think anything is going to happen for awhile,”

I told her with defeat, but she insisted on staying nonetheless. By the time we put the kids to bed, my mom was already tucked in for sleep. The kids were very helpful during our bedtime routine.

After we put the kids to bed, Scott and I stayed up to watch most of La La Land and then headed off to bed around 10:00 p.m. I was starting to feel contractions again, but I just wanted to get Scott into bed so that he would be well rested if indeed the end was near. Even though I didn’t think that I would be able to fall asleep, I did. When the contractions came, they were enough to wake me up and I had to moan softly, but not get me out of bed.

Finally at about 11:30 p.m. I couldn’t take lying in bed anymore. Not only were the contractions getting too strong, but I suddenly realized that I hadn’t pooped yet that day (TMI maybe, but hey this is a birth story…what did you expect?). So first things first, I drank a Fiberwise and then putzed around the kitchen until I needed to poop. After that, the contractions started coming on stronger and more quickly. I even had to get on my hands and knees to rock through them. It was really sweet though because our cat Storybelle would crawl under my belly as I did this, and focusing on the softness of her fur really distracted me and made the pain melt away.

After a particularly painful contraction, I hurried into our bedroom to grab my birthing ball and came out to the living room to watch the parts of La La Land that we had skipped. (Sidenote: I really love how this movie shows how love and family are more important than a career and dreams of individual happiness via external achievements.) I sat behind the couch in our living room, bouncing on my ball, watching the movie, and moaning softly with each contraction.

At about 1:30 a.m., I started to feel like I needed Scott’s support. The contractions were getting a bit more painful, but with all of the delays, I still wasn’t convinced that anything was really going to happen. When I gently woke up Scott and said,

“I need you now. I can’t do this alone anymore,”

he bolted out of bed like it was a fire drill and stumbled into his sweat pants and shirt in about 3 seconds. I gathered up a nightgown, told Scott to grab my birthing kit box, and we crept past a soundly sleeping Elliot and out into the living room.

As Scott sat on the couch watching me expectantly, I almost felt foolish when after minutes and minutes nothing was happening. He asked me if I had called the midwives yet, to which I curtly responded,

“Now with you here, I don’t think anything is going to happen again.”

But seconds later…something did.

Active Labor

All of a sudden, the waves of a very powerful contraction washed over me, and I yelled to Scott, “My hips!” He immediately sprang into action and expertly began rubbing my hips and back like he had done with every other birth. The pressure from his hands was strong and soothing and helped to dull the pain of the contraction, but it was still painful enough that I moaned loudly. When it was over, Scott sternly said,

“You need to call the midwives now! This could be happening fast!”

After another powerful contraction, I called Jillian and told her that things were happening and that they were happening fast.

“We might have the baby before you get here!” I stammered while completely failing to sound calm.

In between contractions, Scott started laying down chux pads while I unpacked the birth kit. As I visualized giving birth unassisted, my mind switched from just getting through each contraction to worrying about all of the possible things that could go wrong. (Would he get stuck in the birth canal? How could I get him to rotate if he was indeed posterior? What if he got tangled in the cord on the way out? etc.) Jillian called me when she was on the road (later she told me she could hear the panic in my voice) and reassured me that they were on the way and to let her know if we needed her to walk us through anything.

Laying Down Chux Pads

Laying Down Chux Pads

Laurie and Jillian were each about 45 minutes away on a good day and now the roads were icy and it was the middle of the night. But just knowing that they were on their way put my mind at ease, and I went back to focusing on my Enya mix and getting through one contraction at a time. In between contractions, the pain melted away, and I continued putzing around. I really wanted to get more videos of me going through contractions and of the birth, but this (below) is all that we managed to record!

Laurie was the first to walk through the door at 2:30 a.m., and Scott and I joked that she was our babysitter there to give us a night on the town. She unpacked her bag and checked on me right away. The baby’s heart rate was good and after watching me have a contraction, I could tell by the way that she hovered that she thought things would be happening soon. Jillian arrived shortly after Laurie and after about twenty minutes, their assistants Sarah and Stephanie arrived. It was about 3:00 a.m. at this point, and frankly, I was completely surprised that he hadn’t been born yet.

Laurie Checking on the Baby

Laurie Checking on the Baby

Transition

Transition is defined as the dilation of the cervix from 8 cm to 10 cm and typically lasts about 30 minutes to 2 hours with really intense contractions typically occurring every 2 minutes and lasting from 60-90 seconds. It’s hard to say when transition really began for me because right up until the end, my contractions were anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. But even with my erratic pattern of contractions, I could tell with an internal check that I was pretty much dilated all of the way and just waiting for that pushing sensation.

The midwives kept coming in to check on me to see how the baby’s heart rate was doing, and at one point it dropped to 116 beats per minute (from about 138 I think). Scott knew that with the lowered heart rate, I needed to pick up the pace. He gently encouraged me to walk around in between contractions to get things going, and I did so with shuffled feet and tearful eyes.

With every contraction, Scott was right there by my side to expertly massage my hips and back, but it wasn’t making the pain melt away like it had with all of my other births. As each contraction came and went, I was getting increasingly frustrated that I wasn’t getting the urge to push. I started to feel a sense of panic creep into my psyche as once again that feeling of being stuck in this moment for ever and ever and ever penetrated every ounce of my being.

The contractions were wearing on me, and I started crying when they came, not sure how much longer I would be able to hang on. “Why am I not feeling the urge to push???” I asked in exasperation. The midwives could tell I was having a hard time, and even though the baby’s heart rate was back to normal, they wanted to encourage me to move things along. I felt like I need to do something different, but I didn’t know what. I asked Jillian if I should squat she said, “NO!” (*If the baby was posterior…which we weren’t sure of at this point, but suspected, then squatting would have made him descend posterior and could have led to over an hour of intense pushing.)

Jillian recommended instead that with the next contraction I get on my hands and knees and sway my hips back and forth. So with the next contraction, I did just that.

With my hands out in front of me and my butt up in the air, I gently swayed my hips back and forth, and as I did, I felt his head turn about 90 degrees in my pelvis.

The pain was excruciating beyond all measure of belief, yet I somehow managed to bring my hands up to the edge of the couch and buried my face in the cushions so that I could scream with reckless abandon. Scott was still expertly massaging my hips and back, but at this point, nothing was helping with the pain.

It felt as though time was standing still and this pain and this moment were somehow holding me captive to live in this experience for all of eternity. But then a little voice inside me whispered,

“I promise that this is the last time you’ll ever have to do this.”

And somehow knowing that this would be the last time ever, gave me the grit to see that the end was near.

Birth

The previous contraction was about 90 seconds of the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life, and after that I was immediately racked with another one.

I felt like I was spinning out of control and that my body was being turned inside out, but I kept telling myself over and over that this would be the last time and that it was almost over.

With a pop and a gush, my water broke, and FINALLY I got the urge to push. It was such a relief!!! The feeling of his head coming down the birth canal consumed the cognition of every cell in my body, and I pushed with all of my might like a sprinter reaching desperately to break the final ribbon at the finish line.

I heard everyone frantically clamoring behind me trying to process the sudden uptick in the pace of things. Jillian asked Scott (who was still massaging my hips while I was on my hands and knees) if he wanted to catch the baby. “Yes, of course!” he said.

“Well then get ready,” said Jillian, “here comes the head!”

Scott looked down in shock to see that yes indeed here came his head! With every other birth, after the head is delivered I have waited until the next contraction to push out the rest of the body, but I just wanted things to be over so badly this time that I reached into my primal core and used the reserves of all the strength I have ever saved to push his entire body out in one go…and so out came his head, shoulders, and hips all in one big strong push.

After the Birth

After he was delivered, I awkwardly spun around while Scott listened to directions for how to hand him through my legs and up to my chest. I glanced at Jillian and noticed the look of concern on her face when he didn’t cry right away. Typically, the passage through the birth canal will help to aspirate the lungs, but with our little guy coming out so quickly, he was having difficulty taking his first breath. With the cord tugging at the placenta still buried inside of me, I brought him up as far as I could and patted his back while Jillian tickled his feet and massaged him a bit trying to get him to cough or cry.

After the longest 20 seconds of my life, he coughed a wet raspy cough, gave a little cry, and I could immediately see him pink up. Right away, I let go of the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding.

I nestled him to my bosom, skin to skin, and finally said hello to my son. I cannot even tell you in words the feeling of elation, wonder, and joy upon first meeting a child after getting to know him over nine long months in every way possible except for sight. To see his little body, sweet face, and big eyes looking up at me, recognizing my voice, and feeling a complete flood of oxytocin love hormones as snuggled on my chest rooting for my breast, well it was enough joy to fill a thousand lifetimes with happiness. When I looked at our little boy and felt his warmth, I caught a glimpse of him taking his first steps, learning to ride a bike, falling in love, having children of his own, and being by his side every step of the way. What an endless miracle a new life is!

Scott quickly ran to wake up Ruby who had been anxiously waiting for this day to come. She came and sat down beside me simply in awe of her new little brother. I suddenly got the urge to deliver the placenta, and I could see her eyes widen in shock as she watched it come out. When the cord had stopped pulsing, the midwives clamped it in two places and handed Ruby a pair of special scissors. With one snip, a little blood spurted out and with a some encouragement, she went back in for two more snips to complete the job.

In that moment, I saw Ruby’s maternal instincts awaken and blossom…she was so tender and loving, and it made me remember what it was like to cut my sister’s umbilical cord some 30 years ago. It was a moment of pride for me and a special memory that I have not only cherished but that has helped to shape me into the person I am today.

Ruby Cutting the Cord

Ruby Cutting the Cord

The midwives helped me up to sit on a chux pad lined couch, and we gathered around our son as he latched on to nurse. I asked Scott to wake up my mom, and she was thrilled to meet her grandson! We enjoyed telling her all of the details of the birth, and she couldn’t believe that she had slept through it all! When we noticed the meconium poop all over our nice swaddling cloths, we realized we should have put him in a diaper. So we quickly cleaned him up, put him in a diaper, and continued to bask in the glow of what had just taken place.

Ruby, Scott, Jack, and I

Ruby, Me, Scott, and Jack

Scott, Ruby, and Jack

Scott, Ruby, and Jack

Baby Jack

Baby Jack

While Ruby and my mom went to boil the herbs for my herbal bath, Scott and I talked about names. We originally really liked the name Reed and thought about Reed Scott or Reggie Reed. We also liked the names Kurt, Easton, Bradbury, Landen (Ruby’s idea), and Alex or Alexander (Elliot’s idea). But when we were driving to Chicago for Christmas, we heard one of our favorite bands come on shuffle right while we were passing under an overpass with the street name the same as the band’s name…Phoenix. We both looked at each other with eyes wide saying, “It’s perfect!” But then we remembered some friends of ours had a son named Phoenix, so we were torn. A few weeks later, Scott finished a Steven King book about JFK whose nickname was Jack. He really loved the story and we have both always been in awe of JFK, not to mention Jack White from the White Stripes and all of the nursery rhymes featuring Jack. Plus, Jack has such a versatile and regal resonance to it that can allow for any path that our son may choose in life.

When we met our little boy, we knew that the name Jack Phoenix Maaser suited him perfectly.

Jack passed the newborn screening with flying colors, and after inspecting him (practically no vernix, just a little in the crease of his thigh) and seeing his placenta (many spots of calcification showing its age), we knew that he was definitely overdue!

Newborn Screening

Newborn Screening (Me with a pinkie in his mouth, Stephanie checking him over, my mom watching, and Sarah charting)

After going over some information with the midwives, Jack and I took a nice relaxing herbal bath. He nursed hungrily on both sides and soon we were all tucked in bed right as the sun was rising. Ruby cuddled up inbetween us as we reflected on the birth.

After awhile, she went to go play, Scott and I stayed in bed to sleep, and my mom stayed up to take care of all of the kids as they woke up one by one. (We had the big kids miss school.) I was prepared this time around with my After Ease Tincture and a heating pad to help with the after pains (which started to become tremendously painful after baby #3.)

Family Cuddles with Jack

Family Cuddles with Jack

At about 9:30 a.m., Elliot crept into our room like he always does on the weekends to cuddle us in bed, and he was thrilled beyond belief to discover that there was a baby in there with us! He was so sweet and kind as he snuggled up to his new little brother, and then he ran through the house saying, “There’s a baby! Mom had her baby!” The other kids soon came in after that. Ophelia was so happy to see the baby, but right away wanted to call him Jude (her friend Adeline’s little brother’s name) and said, “Awwww, he really likes you!” Julian was excited too and said, “That’s a baby in mom’s tummy!” When Ruby came to cuddle us, she didn’t leave for hours, and we had a very sweet conversation. Scott and I were able to take another nap and woke up feeling very rested. My mom stayed long enough to help put the kids to bed, and then she went home. Life was feeling very sweet.

My Mom Holding Jack During Bedtime Routine

My Mom Holding Jack During Bedtime Routine

Life with Jack

Since Jack was born on Friday, we were all happy to head into the weekend together. Scott took over the house on Saturday and let me rest and stay in bed. On Sunday, we had our two day visit from Jillian. Jack was looking really good, and Jillian was happy to see that I was resting and mostly staying in bed. (I can’t even tell you how amazing it has been to have had all pre and post natal appointments at our home.) Most babies lose weight at first and then come back to their birth weight by two weeks, but Jack had already gained 3 ounces! I was kind of having difficulty getting him to latch at first (which all started right after we gave him a pinkie to suck on, which soothed him at the time, but probably created a bit of nipple confusion), and so I had been pumping and feeding him colostrum in a dropper which probably really helped him to gain some weight!

Jillian Weighing Jack

Jillian Weighing Jack

Just like after Julian’s birth (and all of the others probably), but to a WAY worse extent, my hips and lower back/top of my butt were in terrible pain following the birth. This made any type of sitting very painful and difficult. (Someday when I’m fully recovered, I’d like Scott to rub me again like he did towards the end of the birth to see just how hard it was.) At any rate, after going through about 3 hours of intense contractions with Scott’s special hip, back, and butt rubs plus going through a posterior labor, it just took a toll on me. When my midwife suggested a chiropractor visit, I was determined to get an appointment. We went to Family Chiropractic Health Center with Dr. Tracy Morningstar, and I was overjoyed that she was able to bring my pain level down significantly and immediately. (My pelvis was really out of whack.) She was also able to do some work on Jack who was having trouble latching on the left side, and he went from being a calm baby to the calmest baby ever who could now nurse on both sides!

Jack at the Chiropractor

Jack at the Chiropractor

Not only has Jack been our sweet little miracle bonus baby, but he has been the easiest baby, and what a wonderful gift that is to have with baby #5! He nurses well, poops and pees like a champ, is alert and awake during the day, sleeps wonderfully all night, sleeps in most days so I can shower, naps wonderfully, takes a pacifier, doesn’t spit up, hardly ever cries, and brings joy to every single member of our family and everyone he meets.

We love you Jack Phoenix Maaser! Welcome to the family.

Jack Phoenix Maaser

Jack Phoenix Maaser

Julian’s First Ten Days

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I’m sitting on the couch right now watching The Land Before Time with Ruby and Elliot snuggled up close on either side of me. We just ate a huge pile of cookies and some fresh milk and now we’re all buried under silkies while Julian rocks peacefully in his swing. A fire is blazing, the snow blankets the world outside, and I feel very cozy staying inside and happy to not be tempted by the nice fall days that could lure me to do too much while instead I get to recover, rest, and recuperate. Ophelia is sleeping and Andrea just left after spending three wonderful days with us. Daddy is still at work for a couple of hours and then he has tomorrow off for Thanksgiving. Ruby had a half day today and she’ll be off from school on Thursday and Friday as well. These past ten days have been amazing, magical, life-changing, and completely wonderful and I want to go back to the beginning and try to remember how we got to this place.

For nine months we talked about what our lives would be like with a 4th. We imagined, we dreamed, we moved,  we prepared, we rearranged, we prepared some more, and we rearranged again, and again, and again. We were most concerned about how we would get through our bedtime routine and how I would handle taking care of a baby and three little ones. This new baby was the biggest reason for sending Ruby to school, and while it was difficult at first, I’m so glad that we stuck with it because she loves it so much, she is learning so many things, and I don’t know how I would have managed doing homeschool kindergarten and taking care of the other three.

But all of that planning and preparing couldn’t get us quite ready for what was to come as much as just diving in and getting used to this new life. I thought that we would need extra help especially preparing dinner and getting the kids to bed, but with a big winter storm snowing us in, we didn’t really get the help that I thought we would need, and it turns out, we didn’t need it!

I knew how important it was to have a baby moon, especially when Ruby was born and EVERYTHING was new to us. We didn’t want people coming over and telling us what to do before we had a chance to figure it out for ourselves. But with baby number four, I didn’t really think that a baby moon was possible or even necessary, but it turns out I was wrong! Whether we had planned for it or not, we got a baby moon! We had my mom, grandma, and sister there to help us on day one, and then we were on our own for the rest of the week. It was a wonderful week and it was so cool to see all of our lives transform as we became a family of 6.

Scott’s Transformation

The first person that I noticed to change and grow was Scott. He has always been an amazing father and husband, but he stepped up to a higher level than I even thought possible after this birth. I knew that I really needed to take advantage of his week off to recover so that I could take over when he left and so I spent a lot of time sleeping in, resting, sitting in one chair or another, cuddling, and demanding one thing after another. Scott was there before I could even ask him to come, he did things before I even saw that they had to be done, and he was constantly busy keeping the kids dressed, fed, and happy, the house clean and picked up, laundry taken care of, food prepared, the kitchen cleaned, and he was always there to make sure that I had everything that I needed. He was so attentive to our needs and so in tune with what needed to be done and I just fell in love with him all over again. In this week of sleepless nights where we were constantly at least a baby’s length apart, he made me feel beautiful, loved, appreciated, and so much more.

It’s just amazing how much our lives have changed since having kids and instead of trying to balance the way our lives used to be with the way our lives are now, we have simply embraced the way that they are now without any pretenses about trying to recreate the past. In some ways, I think this is an easier task for the mother. Carrying a child for nine months and then having them need you constantly during that fourth trimester forces you to be there. All a mother has to decide is if she’s going to do it begrudgingly, simply waiting for the sleepless nights and sore nipples to pass or if she’s going to embrace it with a passion that consumes her. Easier said than done, I know, but when you carry a child in your womb, you feel like they are a part of you forever and always. Even as my children grow, I still feel like we are connected by an invisible umbilical cord. Every joy they experience I do too and every sorrow they encounter is one that breaks my heart as well.

But the father is needed in a different way. One that isn’t quite obvious at first, but is just as important as the mothers’, albeit in a different way. I see our kids desperately seeking their father’s approval and love, and I see them beam and grow in very strong and powerful ways when he encourages them. He is more practical than me. Sometimes I look at my little angels as if they are perfect and can do no wrong, but he is so good about gently guiding them to learn about the rules of what is right and wrong. He tells them about the world and patiently answers all of their questions, he wrestles with them roughly when they need to fight and cuddles them gently when they need to be loved, he tells them about his passions and encourages them to seek theirs, he introduces them to new things that make them feel so cool, connected to him, and respected like how to fix computers, play Minecraft, cook, do dishes, enjoy books, and more. But the most important thing that he gives his children is his honesty. His love is honest—it is not forced, he does not do these things or give of his time because he is supposed to or it is expected of him. He truly enjoys it. He loves being a father and he tells me and the kids this constantly. To have a father who parents with such joy, not begrudgingly while wishing he could be out on the town or doing the things “he wants to do”. This is what he wants to do, this is who he wants to be, and our children will grow up with this knowledge at the very core of who they are.

Kids can sense when you’re doing something out of duty or if you’re doing it because you completely enjoy it with every fiber of your being, and it is obvious to anyone who sees Scott interact with his children that he is madly in love with them and loves to be with them. I think that this stems from the love that we share with each other. When you go back to the beginning of Scott and Stacey, you will find two people that are completely, madly, and deeply and passionately crazy for each other. This passion has grown deeper with every adventure, every change, and every child and we still can’t keep our hands off from each other just like when we were in the beginning stages of our relationship. I love him so much and the thought of spending our entire lives together watching these children who we birthed, raised, loved, and cherished grow into adults and have children of their own warms my heart and makes me happier than anything money, prestige, or status could ever offer. As we become grandparents and reflect on all that our love has created as we settle into our “golden years”, I simply can’t imagine a better future.

 

The Kids Have Changed Too

The way that Scott and I have changed and grown is more obvious, but as we welcomed Julian into our lives the kids changed too, although in more subtle ways. Ophelia was quite indifferent at first, but she is going through perhaps the biggest change of us all. Now she is no longer the little baby and mommy’s lap that used to be reserved just for her is now being shared my a helpless little infant. She loves standing on my footstool while I nurse and she says, “Baby! Baby! Goo goo ga ga!” It’s so cute! She gets a little jealous if Scott gets her up and she sees Julian on my lap, but then Scott will take Julian and I cuddle up with Ophelia and then she’s just fine. Other than that, she hasn’t really shown any other signs of jealousy. We’ve treated her like all of the other little siblings with a new baby and have tried to give her lots of extra attention and we haven’t pushed her to acknowledge the baby unless she is ready to do so. She loves looking at him and saying, “Baby sleeping!” or if he’s laying on the floor she’ll pet his head and say, “Baby. Gentle.” just like she would with a kitty.

Elliot has been through the roof happy with his new brother! After being so indifferent after Ophelia was born, it’s been so nice to see him so excited for a new sibling. His enthusiasm is so vibrant and he gets so loud, but Julian LOVES it and looks right at him. I think that he heard Elliot’s voice in the womb very clearly and really recognizes it. Elliot loves cradling his face and showing him things and talking to him about fighting and video games and Minecraft. He is so excited to have a brother and wants to know when he’ll be able to wrestle, fight, and play. It has been so nice having extra time with him while Ruby is at school and Ophelia is sleeping or busy. I know it won’t be long until he’s in school too or too busy to need me as much as he does, but for now, he’s my special cuddly guy and it’s just so fun to spend all day every day together.

Ruby is a little mother hen and she is truly quite helpful. She loves to tell Julian stories and sing to him and every time she sees him she wants to see if he’s awake and give him a kiss. She is always wondering why he is sleeping so much and wants to know if his eyes are open. “Sorry dear, he’s probably more awake at night than during the day”, I tell her. She is so good about getting me things that I need and keeping me company while I’m nursing or holding him. She is also so helpful around the house picking things up and helping us with cooking or other projects. We were so worried that she would want to stay home with us while Daddy had a week off, but she was really excited to get back into her school routine and hardly noticed what was going on at home while she was gone.

But through all of the positive aspects of change, there have been some bumpy and rough parts too. It’s hard to put my finger on what has been rough exactly, but there just seems to be a bit more angst, feelings that are hurt a little more easily, fights that erupt over seemingly unimportant things, and everyone just seeming to need a lot more attention. I’m so glad that we have limited our contacts and excursions and have instead focused on being a family and meeting the needs that everyone has as we stretch, grow, and change to welcome this new addition into our family.

 

Julian and I Get to Know Each Other

With this being my fourth birth, I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing now, but each child is different and unique and while there are certain techniques that are universal, these ten days after Julian’s birth have been all about the two of us getting to know each other.  First of all, after going through thrush with Ophelia, I was very happy in the end of this pregnancy to finally beat my reoccurring yeast infection by eliminating sugar and processed foods along with buying some really great cotton boy cut underwear. 🙂 But breastfeeding and sleep were still the two biggest challenges that I had to face.

 

Breastfeeding

Julian latched on right away and I thought we were going to have an easy breastfeeding relationship, but that hasn’t quite been the case. The initial latch on was painful, but that’s kind of normal, so I didn’t think anything of it until it was still hurting over a week later. My nipples were also kind of slanted, a tell tale sign of a bad latch. So I pulled up his lip in search of a lip tie, and sure enough…there it was! Ruby had this and as a result she wouldn’t latch on for very long which resulted in her taking in too much air, getting gas and hiccups and well as not nursing long enough to get the fatty hindmilk (green poop was a tell tale sign of this) which resulted in her being really fussy. I had no idea why until our midwife pointed out Ophelia’s lip tie. She said we could cut it with a scalpel, but I simply couldn’t imagine doing that! Plus, it could heal back together. She suggested rolling her lip up several times a day to stretch it out and after she latched on to make sure her top lip was rolled up by coaxing a finger underneath and helping it to flip up. By doing these techniques, her lip tie ended up not being a problem.

So, I’m implementing the same techniques with Julian, but getting results has been slow going. I can’t get him to latch on while reclining in bed and I either have to sit up and really lean forward or go to our rocking chair where we somehow always seem to find the perfect latch. I know that we’ll figure it out eventually, it’s just hard when he needs to eat every two hours throughout the night and I’m oh so very tired.

 

Sleep

I remember reading somewhere that babies are really tired after birth and so they will sleep pretty much nonstop for two days. I think that this happened with Ruby and maybe Elliot too, but I was not fortunate enough to have that for Ophelia or Julian. Part of it are the afterpains that totally shocked me with Ophelia. I was more prepared for them with Julian, but they were still painful. The uterus has more work to do to contract and get down to it’s normal size with each child and so the contractions that help it to do so that are brought about by nursing can be as intense as labor. I had an afterbirth tincture that I took to help with this, but what really saved me was having a heating pad ready to go. I put it on my belly and it really helped to melt the pain away.

That first night, I was able to swaddle Julian and lay him between us and he slept for one five hour stretch…the most he would sleep at night for the next ten days! I usually prop up about ten pillows all around me and hold my babies close while leaning back on a well positioned pillow to sleep at night, after I tried many times with no success to put Julian inbetween us, I ended up doing this with Julian too. It just takes awhile to get used to sleeping this way, but by day ten, I’m so tired that I could probably fall asleep standing up if I had to!

The next few nights, sleep was a bit more difficult. Julian would sleep really good during the day, but at night would get a little more fussy. I kept trying different strategies until I found something that worked. Sometimes he really liked it when we did skin to skin, other times he liked to be swaddled, and when I couldn’t console him in our bedroom (we tried to be quiet so as not to wake up Scott and Ophelia) I came out to the living room where he could be awake if needed. One time I had to swaddle him, have him suck on my finger, and shush him to get him to calm down, but he usually just wanted to be awake, so I would watch some Once Upon a Time until he fell asleep and then came back to bed.

It’s so easy to get frustrated in this first month when babies do not have their circadian rhythm or produce melatonin to help them sleep at night, but I know that the best thing to do it try to sleep any way that I can, get through these first four weeks, and know that eventually he will fall into a pattern and I will get more sleep. I feel like I’m really well equipped to survive for awhile without much sleep and it really helps that we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. I took it easy as much as possible, especially during these first ten days, and that really helped.

 

My Recovery

I know from recovering from the other births that I need to take advantage of the extra help that I have in the beginning and do whatever I can to heal so that I can get back on my feet quicker and not backslide. I really didn’t bleed much at first and my bleeding kept stopping, but then if I would go up the stairs or walk around too much, I would bleed fresh blood again. I tried my best to not do too much, but there is really only so much that I can stand sitting around and running a household with three other children (even with help) requires a lot of work, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

My recovery downstairs was really quick. There was one little spot that stung if pee got on it, so I would spray a peri bottle on myself while I peed and sprayed some bactine on it afterwards. It stopped stinging on the third day. The thing that hurt the most were my hips from Scott pressing so hard on them! I think something may have gotten out of line on my left hip because it was so tender and hurt to even walk. It has taken ten days for the pain to fade and it’s almost gone now.

I tried wearing my girdle a few days after birth and I couldn’t even fit it over my belly. After Ophelia, I was determined to heal my diastus recti and I wore my girdle day and night which really helped me to get my figure back. But this time around, I knew that the process might take awhile longer and I am totally fine with that! There are more important things in the world than having a flat stomach. Once my stomach shrinks down a little more, I’ll try to wear it for a few hours at a time and then work my way up to wearing it for longer periods. I also look forward to working out again, but I’m going to give it a good six weeks before attempting anything.

 

Julian’s Growth

As soon as he was born, we saw his peaceful personality. Hardly a cry and those wide eyes looking around ready to take in everything the world has to offer. Coming into the world in such a peaceful atmosphere and settling in to the sounds he became familiar with in the womb certainly helped I’m sure, but I can tell that his personality will reflect these traits that we see right now. I am amazed at how well he’s able to turn his head to look at different voices that he hears. He does like to sleep a lot, but when he’s awake he is so extremely aware , focused and calm. Just like when he was in the womb, he likes to be awake right after we put all of the kids to bed. It’s such an amazing time for Scott and I as we snuggle up on the couch together and cradle him in between us so he can see both of our faces. And then we gently coo to him and he looks back and forth from Mommy to Daddy with his big wide eyes and his mouth pursed into a little o.

His limbs remain still and his body calm as he patiently accepts all that is happening around him, and then just like a snapping twig, he’ll erupt into a powerful and monstrous cry and we know that he’s had enough of the world and wants to be safely cradled back in his mother’s arms to nurse and be rocked back to sleep. I remember with Ruby how I would hardly be able to step into the shower without her screaming and crying, and once again, it could be just because we’re all more comfortable with this world of parenting, but Julian can stay with Daddy or others for quite a bit of time before needing Mommy again.

We bought a really nice (and expensive) swing thinking that he would like sleeping in it at night, but it’s just too loud of a contraption to keep in our bedroom so we have it in our living room and it works great for naps. After Julian was born, Scott and Elliot took a trip to Meijers for groceries and I had him pick up a little vibrating bassinet that is extremely portable and easy to move around. I drag it from room to room and Julian loves sleeping it is during the day, but at night, it’s just easier for me to hold him. We have a bunch of little bouncy chairs from the other kids, but he’s too little for them yet.

I love taking pictures and videos of him every chance I get. He changes so gradually, but when I look back to the beginning I can see the enormity of his change. I know that I am going to be busy and I may not write in my journal as much as I have in the past, but I wanted to remember every moment and feeling of Julian’s birth and how our family changed as he joined us.

 

 

 

Our Fourth Born: Julian's Home Birth

Our Fourth Born: Julian’s Home Birth

Julian William Maaser

Born: 11-15-14 (Saturday)

Time: 12:40 a.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 8 oz, 21 inches long, 13.5 cm head circumference

Pregnancy

They always warn you that the more kids you have, the less pictures you’ll take. Well…because we keep getting better iphones and gadgets, we actually have plenty of pictures and videos, but now I just don’t have the time to organize them all and do as much writing as I used to. With this pregnancy, I was so busy settling into our house, spending time with the kids, and working on my new blog www.embracing-motherhood.com that I haven’t had a lot of time to write about this pregnancy, so here’s a little overview of what this pregnancy was like.

I always love being pregnant…especially in the beginning. Just knowing that a new life is growing inside of me is so magical and wonderful, and I love thinking about the new little person who will change our lives forever. But this pregnancy seemed to bring on a few more stressful situations than the others. With this being my 4th pregnancy in 5 years and being 35 years old, I all of a sudden was in a higher risk factor bracket. Plus, welcoming a new little peanut into an already full household and busy schedule made me want to plan everything out so perfectly in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed or depressed after the birth.

The beginning of the pregnancy went so smoothly that I kept forgetting that I was pregnant. Things would settle into a really nice rhythm and I kept feeling like saying, “I’m ready to get pregnant again…oh wait, I already am!” It made me so happy to know that for the first time since having children, we wouldn’t have to move again. We were so excited to welcome a new baby into our new home and we spent my entire pregnancy doing one project after another getting everything just so.

We found a wonderful midwife near the Amish community where we get our milk and when she noticed that I was measuring 4 cm ahead of my weeks, I started to wonder if it could be twins. So we scheduled an ultrasound and it’s so funny how when you just start thinking about something that could be, it all of a sudden starts to become a reality in your mind, especially if it’s something that you’re afraid of. I cracked a double yolk that morning and found two baby mattresses at the thrift store…all signs that I was certainly carrying twins.

Andrea rode with me to the ultrasound and we chatted the whole way there about what it would be like to have twins. Scott met us there and when we found out that it was only one baby, we were kind of sad. But then the relief sank in about only needing to nurse one baby, be up in the night with one baby, soothe one baby, and all of a sudden one baby seemed easy in comparison. With the last two pregnancies, we didn’t have any ultrasounds and never found out the gender, but with the answer being right there in front of us with this baby, we couldn’t refuse. We wanted a boy soooooooo bad that we were afraid to find out, and when she said it was a boy, we just about cried we were so happy! Elliot would have a little brother and our “girl, boy, girl, boy” pattern would be complete.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound also revealed that I had a low lying placenta, so we knew that although unlikely, placenta previa which would mean an automatic c-sections was a possibility. We didn’t worry about it too much though until I had some bright red bleeding at about 34 weeks. At that point, we scheduled another ultrasound and we were sadly informed that the placenta was touching the cervix. As we started discussing the ramifications of this, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to have the homebirth that I had wanted so badly and that it could very well mean that I would need a c-section and somehow have to recover from major abdominal surgery while also taking care of 4 little ones…two of which who need to be put to bed upstairs…

But then, a miracle happened and as my bladder filled, the ultrasound technician realized that the placenta was actually quite far from the cervix. Phew! But there were a few other concerns such as significant calcification, a heterogeneous placenta with many “lakes”, and the lingering concern over the blood that we couldn’t seem to explain.

So we scheduled a meeting with an obstetrician and he was able to explain in clarifying detail what he saw in another ultrasound that he performed in his office. He said that there were also “lakes” or pools of blood in my uterus (from having so many babies so quickly) and that that would explain why the technician thought that the placenta was touching the cervix. He also did a cervical exam and determined that a blood vessel in the cervix was likely ruptured, which explained the blood loss. We had been most concerned about placental abruption, which could mean hemorrhaging and death during delivery, so we were very glad to clear that up.

We were so happy that we would still be able to plan a home birth and we continued preparing for our sweet little boy to enter our lives. At 35 weeks, I started to really notice my Braxton hicks contractions, and I became concerned that I wouldn’t be able to meet my due date. I started researching “babies born at 35 weeks” and we talked about how if he came early, we would just have to go to the hospital and do the best we could.

When I was 37 weeks, I was so glad that I had made it technically to “full term” and as I noticed the Braxton hicks increasing, I continued to try to take it easy. I knew that every day in the womb was worth three outside, and I wanted our little boy to be able to grow as much as possible before he was born. Besides, we had WAY too much to do before he came and we needed the time to finish all of our projects!

Every day I kept thinking that he would be coming any time and Scott kept reminding me that I said that with every pregnancy. So, I reread my birth stories, and sure enough, I did! I guess I just kind of start to panic a little bit in the end. I know that I want to be able to take the time to recover after the birth and so I want to know that everything I could possibly think of is done so I can rest assured. That in addition to the fact that it takes me awhile to mentally psyche myself up to go through the labors of labor. A part of me just wants to get it started so I can get through it and get the last uncomfortable stages of pregnancy over with, and another part of me feels like I’ll never be ready! Ophelia had been trying to cut her bottom eye teeth for months and she kept waking up in the night, so I didn’t even want to think about the baby being born before her teeth came in.

When we were at the midwife appointment two weeks before my due date and she started making plans for our next appointment ON my due date, I only half-heartedly made it thinking that there was NO WAY I would last that long. But sure enough, my due date came and went and still no baby. Every morning I excitedly thought, “This could be the day!” And then when night time came around I became worried and thought, “I’m not ready yet! We’re too sick, too tired, there’s too much to do!”

But then four days after my due date (and one day before my original due date – based on the date of my last period rather than the ultrasound’s diagnosis), things began to happen.

Early Labor: Out and About

It was a Thursday night in the middle of November, and winter was coming much too fast. We knew that it was our last evening of mild weather, so Scott and I moved all of our yard furniture, toys, etc. closer to the house in preparation for the early nights and blowing snow. I had really been trying to take it easy because every time I walked a lot or exerted a lot of energy, I noticed that my Braxton Hicks contractions would increase, but I just really wanted to get this done, so we pushed through it. “I’m probably going to put myself into labor now!” I told Scott. And sure enough…

For the past few nights, weeks, I would feel contractions intensify in the evening after putting the kids to bed, but then they would die down as I slept. So after all of our moving on Thursday night, I wasn’t surprised to feel them again. I slept peacefully that night until about midnight and then they started to become too painful to sleep through. So I got up to make sure everything would be ready if I DID go into labor. Ruby still needed her lunch prepared for the next day, I needed more sourdough muffins, another batch of kombucha, the mirrors were streaked, there were dirty dishes, and of course I needed to get some coffee ready for the next day.

Scott came into the kitchen groggy and excited, “Is it happening?” he wondered. “Maybe, maybe not” I said unsure. While he was there, I got on my hands and knees and he really rubbed on my lower back and the back pain that I had been feeling for weeks finally melted away. I think that our little boy was in a somewhat of a posterior position and we must have helped him to turn and descend into a more optimal position. I shooed Scott off to bed and stayed up for a few more hours getting everything ready. Finally, at 5 a.m., I went to bed and the contractions died down while I slept.

I was up at 7 a.m. to help Ruby off to school and once her and Scott left, I called my mom to tell her that even though I wasn’t feeling contractions at the moment, I had felt them pretty intensely in the night and that things would probably be starting again soon. She had already planned on trying to work from home that day and so she said she would be there at about noon to help out just in case.

The evening before, Scott started feeling really sick and I knew that he would need his strength to take care of me and our family during my labor, so I strongly encouraged him to take the day off and rest. He came home from work, reluctant to take the day off when he wanted to save up as many days as he could for after the baby was born, took a bunch of herbal “get well” pills and slept all morning long.

I sent a Facebook message at 10:00 a.m. to my midwives to let them know that things were starting to happen. With Ophelia’s birth, I had started feeling contractions for her in the morning, things got intense by noon, and I told my midwives that she would probably be born at 7 p.m.…she was born at 7:20. But this time around, there wasn’t any time that I felt comfortable making a prediction about when the baby would come. About 6 weeks prior, however, I had written on the calendar that I thought he would be born at 10:59 p.m. on November 15th. With that prediction, I was less than 2 hours off.

So anyways, while Scott slept, I took Ophelia and Elliot to the thrift store to get Scott a really cool coat that I had seen earlier. I was starting to have contractions that were definitely more than Braxton’s, but not enough to stop me from moving around. It was half off toys day and Elliot loaded up on his favorite toys of all…little figurines of superheroes, fighters, and the like, and Ophelia got a cool little ferris wheel/merry-go-round toy. I got Scott his really cool winter coat and one for myself as well, plus this amazing white chair that we needed for the dining room.

I was about to drive 40 minutes to get our milk on my own, but I was relieved when I called my mom and discovered that she would be there soon. I really wanted to be able to get milk and go to Meijers before labor kicked into full gear, so I was really driving fast, passing everyone and speeding quickly to get it all done. Elliot and Ophelia enjoyed getting out of the car with us and playing in the barn as I filled up our 8 gallons of milk. My mom helped me to carry them to the car and we just laughed about doing all of this work during early labor! It was so fun to have my mom there with me and I really enjoyed chatting with her on the drive. We both agreed that staying busy during early labor was so good because it doesn’t make you feel like a watched pot and get too nervous about what’s to come.

Getting Milk at the Farm

Getting Milk at the Farm

Elliot and Ophelia Pretending to Switch Seats

Elliot and Ophelia Pretending to Switch Seats

When we got home, Scott was feeling well rested and much better, and we decided to pick up Ruby early from school (2:00 p.m.) and try to head to Meijers. Ruby felt so special to have us both there to pick her up and she said that if the baby was born in the car, he could have her coat to stay warm.

After we dropped Ruby off with my mom and got about one third of the way to Meijers, contractions were picking up and becoming too intense for me to feel comfortable being out and about. So we turned around and went to Vics, the local grocery store, instead. While we were picking out cheese and sour cream, my midwife Laurie called us to see how things were going. The store was really busy and it was fun trying to talk quietly about my mucus, cervical dilation, and pain level. Contractions were about 5 minutes apart, lasting for about 35 seconds, and intense enough to make me pause, but not too strong to talk through.

Pre Labor: At Home

I told my midwives that when I got home and started to relax that things would probably start to move quickly. I don’t know, I just kind of assumed that with the fourth baby in five years, things would just progress rapidly, but they never really did. The entire labor was just slow, easy, manageable, and calm…just like our little boy would be.

So Scott unloaded and put away the groceries, my mom had just pulled out a fresh batch of my sourdough muffins from the oven, and the kids were all playing quietly throughout the house. I started putzing around slowly folding laundry, checking on the kids, tidying up the house, and walking around. During contractions, I would just sway back and forth, but they still weren’t getting very intense. In the picture below, I was leaning against a chair to get through a contraction when Elliot climbed on my back to “help” me, and if you look at my face, he actually did!

Elliot Helping Me Through a Contraction

Elliot Helping Me Through a Contraction

After the bath, we all got the kids dressed in their snowpants and headed outside for a fire in the early November snow. My mom kept saying that she was going to lay down for a nap, but there kept being one thing after another that kept her on her toes. I even put on some slippers, coat, hat, scarf, and mittens, and rolled my ball out by the fire.Scott unpacked my birth kit and made our bed with the plastic and extra sheet and we got ready for things to progress. I started hanging out in our bedroom a lot. Scott drew a nice warm bath with music and soft lights and I enjoyed relaxing in the tub for awhile. I kept trying to check myself, but for some reason, it was really hard to tell what was going on. After the bath, I told the midwives that I couldn’t be dilated more than 4cm. There was also some more blood that came out, but I think it was from the placenta, not the mucous plug. I’m not really sure that I ever lost my mucous plug during early labor, maybe I lost it awhile ago???

The first midwife assistant, Julie, arrived and hung out with us by the fire. We turned on the back porch lights since it was completely dark, and the kids enjoyed playing on the slide and eating snow. It was such a fun distraction to keep busy during early labor. When I bounced on the ball during contractions, I could hardly feel them.

Having a Fire

Having a Fire

Ophelia (1.5 years old)

Ophelia (1.5 years old)

I was getting so excited about the impending action, but also a little anxious wondering when things were going to get going. Julie reminded me to keep eating and drinking water and I suddenly remembered I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, so Scott brought me a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes. That food gave me instant energy and I could feel my contractions intensify almost immediately!

Grandma Reading with Ophelia

Grandma Reading with Ophelia

When we came inside at 7:00 p.m., I realized that things probably wouldn’t be happening until after the kids went to bed, so we moved all of the birth supplies to the new birth location…the living room. I set up a bunch of candles over the fireplace and Scott got my Enya/Joshua Radin mix going on the tv. We got the kids in their pajamas and I enjoyed watching them do their nightly wrestling in our bedroom.

Nightly Wrestling

Nightly Wrestling

After that, Scott brought my ball upstairs and we were able to pretty much go through with our normal bedtime routine. Scott cuddled up with Ruby and Elliot and read them three books. I read Ophelia a few of her favorite books and when I felt a contraction, I would sit and bounce on my ball. When Scott brings Elliot to his room to read him three more stories in bed, I usually read Ruby three more stories in bed while Ophelia reads to herself, but on this night, my mom read Ruby a whole bunch of poems from A Light in the Attic and I was able to take Ophelia downstairs to put her to bed.

After I kicked my big ball down the stairs, I was a little worried about managing my pain during contractions while I read Ophelia stories. But I just kicked the ball into our room and things seemed to stall out just long enough to have her sit on my lap in the rocking chair, give her some milk, and read her three stories before putting her to bed.

Active Labor

While we were putting the kids to bed, the other two midwives Laurie and Jillian arrived and got all of their things set up. After that, they checked the baby’s heart rate and took my blood pressure. I felt so bad that I had encouraged them to come out so much earlier and now here they were getting here so much later and still nothing was really progressing very fast. After I apologized, they said, “Don’t worry! We’d rather be here early than get here just as you’re pushing him out.” My mom was so sweet and showed them where the food was, the extra beds where they could rest, and chatted with them for a bit while Scott and I got things settled in the living room.

My mom soon joined us in the living room and we talked excitedly about the day so far and what was to come. I kept waiting for things to pick up, and they didn’t. My contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting for less than a minute, and still not very intense. I kept trying to check myself to see how far dilated I was, but things were just too mushy and I couldn’t tell. One of the midwives said she would check for me and even though I typically don’t like being checked by anyone ever after feeling violated during Ruby’s birth, I was very curious to see just how far along I was. It wasn’t easy for her to tell either, but she guessed that I was at about 6 cm. At least there was some progress. I couldn’t imagine being at a 6 and having things fizzle out overnight.

At about 9:30 p.m., my mom finally went lay down. “Wake me up if things start happening,” she said. I felt so bad that things weren’t progressing, and that all of the midwives had to just sit around waiting for me. But I put all of those feelings of being a watched pot out of my mind and knew that this time was all about me and whatever I needed. I let everything else melt away and focused on my body and what it was telling me.

During contractions, I would bounce on the ball and the pain would just melt away. I didn’t really even feel the need to vocalize, but I did anyways just so that the midwives would know that something was going on. They were set up in our little homeschool room staying out of sight, but within earshot. They would come in to check the baby’s heart rate periodically, but basically let us do our thing which is just what I wanted.

By 10:00 p.m., Scott wondered if I was up for some video games. That sounded perfect! So Scott and I played this silly fighting game called Altered Beast where you have to punch and kick all of these evil creatures and every time you kill the white wolf you power up to become an increasingly more muscular man or ferocious beast. The midwives later told me that it was so funny because they would hear all of these sounds and rush in to see what was going on only to see us excitedly talking about the game. Even during contractions, I would keeping pushing A and B to fight the evil creatures.

By about 10:40 p.m., I suddenly got really tired and just wanted to lay down so I closed my eyes and rested on the couch for awhile. I almost felt myself slip into a deep sleep and contractions seemed to stop. After laying down for about 20 minutes, I felt another contraction coming, so I slipped onto the ball and rocked through a very mild one. I laid down for another 20 minutes or so and expected to get up to a very powerful contraction, but once again, it was very mild.

I went to the bathroom at 11:25 p.m. and told the midwives after I checked myself that it felt like the baby’s head was lower and that I was dilated further, but that contractions had died down, so I didn’t know what was going on. Jillian told me that my body was probably saving its strength for the final push, but I was starting to feel like maybe things wouldn’t be happening that night after all. I was starting to get really tired and feeling a little shaky. I was also getting really anxious about how long things were taking, and I didn’t know if I would be meeting my sweet little boy soon, or in hours…how many hours? How much longer???

I was determined that I didn’t want to go to sleep and wait until things picked up the next day, and even though I was tired and really just wanted to lay down, in between each contraction I would squat and sway, or pace the room, or go to the bathroom, or bounce on the ball.

When the midwives came in to check on me, I apologized once again for things taking so long and Jillian said that her and Julie didn’t get to see each other very often and were really having fun catching up. I said I wished that I had some wine for them or something! Scott remembered our kombucha and offered them a glass. He ran to the kitchen and came back with two little glasses and a bottle of our red raspberry leaf kombucha. They loved it and just before I could give them the recipe, I felt a powerful contraction coming on, so I got right to my ball.

Active Labor

Active Labor

Transition

I’m not sure if I was quite to transition at this point, but by about 11:30 p.m., contractions started getting intense to the point where I needed Scott to start rubbing my back. He reached into his old bag of tricks and pressed really hard on my hips massaging them with all of his strength. I didn’t feel like doing our “washing machine” move from Ophelia’s birth, but just steadily bouncing up and down on the ball during each contraction. A low guttural moan started to escape my lips at the height of each contraction and my entire focus was on that moment and what I needed to do to get through it.

But as each contraction ended, the pain completely melted away and Scott and I would joke and laugh and putz around getting ready for the next contraction. At one point during a particularly powerful contraction, I yelled at Scott, “What are you doing! That really hurts!” He had been rubbing my hips pretty intensely and all of a sudden it got painful! “Push in the middle of my back!” I commanded. He did, but it didn’t really do much. (Sidenote: For over a week after the birth, the only thing that really hurt were my hips from Scott pushing on them so hard!)

With just about every other labor, I had experienced back labor and these techniques really worked, but maybe this baby was in a better position because I never once felt any back labor. The peak of each contraction lasted about 20 seconds and was intense, but manageable. I never felt out of control or that the pain was too much. I just knew that I needed to get through it one contraction at a time and that every one brought me that much closer to holding my sweet baby boy in my arms.

This went on for about an hour and then at 12:30 a.m., Laurie told us that she had another mom in labor with contractions 2-4 minutes apart and lasting over a minute. “Well,” I said, feeling like a failure, “she sounds closer than I am.” Laurie explained that she would be sending her backup midwife, Dorthy, to come and assist us. “My last two births happened with the midwives getting there five minutes before I pushed, and now our midwife is going to be gone for five minutes until I push,” I joked.

I knew things were feeling close, but I guess in some ways, I was still scared and I realized that there had been a small part of me that had been holding back this whole time. The part of me that didn’t want to quite accept what was happening, the part of me that kept feeling like there was one last thing that needed to be done before he could be born, the part of me that didn’t feel like I could handle it, the part of me that was afraid.

Scott asked Laurie if he could help her out with her second load, and in that moment, I just let it all go. The fear, the worry, the pain…I let it all go and went inside of myself and felt like something deep within was finally able to exhale. In that moment, I was rocked by a huge and powerful contraction and then I felt a pop and a warm gush. “My water just broke!” I shouted.

Pushing

The other midwives came rushing into the room and yelled to Laurie, “She’s pushing!” Laurie quickly came into the living room where I had slipped off from my ball onto my hands and knees and started leaning against the coffee table. Scott helped me take off my underwear, and I almost knocked everything off the coffee table in one fell swoop until I realized that it was a candle and half drunk bottle of kombucha beside me. So I gently moved them aside and grabbed onto the side and back of the table while I rested my head in the middle and let my body get to work. I could hear the midwives scurrying about getting their supplies and laying chux pads underneath me.

I felt that familiar urge to push that took over every sensation in my entire body, and I knew that I would soon be meeting my son. The thought thrilled me, and I felt the adrenaline surge through me as he traveled down the birth canal. I remembered to take it slow and gently let him enter the world so that I wouldn’t damage myself too badly.

When it felt right, I pushed. In a few minutes, I could hear Scott yell, “I see the head!” I heard other voices too saying things like, “You’re almost there!” and “You’re doing great!” I love hearing words of encouragement when I get to this pushing phase. Feeling that ring of fire is intense and I like to hear that it will be over soon and be reassured that everything is okay. Scott just told me as I’m writing this that as the head was crowning, Laurie said, “This might sting a bit” as she poured some kind of black oily stuff all over my perineum that they had been heating up in our crock pot all evening. I will have to ask them what that was at our next appointment! I have no recollection of that by the way. Then the intense feeling of him crowning was over and I knew that I had delivered the head and that the rest of him would be slipping out soon.

As soon as his head was born, Laurie suctioned out his nose and mouth right away. There was a big smear of something dark on his face. They thought it was meconium at first, but realized later that it was just blood because all of the water that came out was completely clear. As I prepared for the final push, Jillian cradled his head and said, “I’m going to bring him up through your legs,” and with one final giant push, our little baby boy was born. I reached down and picked up his small slippery body and drew him close to me. Nine minutes after Laurie started heading out the door, and there I was holding my sweet little boy!

Everyone helped me turn over and I brought our son up to my chest. He looked a little pale and I quickly wrapped him in a blanket and brought him to my chest. I cooed to him and rubbed his sweet little head in complete awe of the miracle of life as I held him. He never once cried and his bright eyes looked calmly right into mine. Within a few minutes, he started to pink up and I suddenly felt the urge to push again. Out came the placenta.

After I held him for a few minutes, the midwives noticed that his cord had stopped pulsing and so they clamped it and with a few snips, Scott cut his cord. At this point, I was kind of awkwardly propped up on the floor and Scott helped me up while the midwives ushered me to the couch where they had prepared some more chux pads and pillows.

After the Birth

Scott texted my mom to let her know that something had certainly happened. He sent her one word…it said “born”. She was so sound asleep that someone had to go wake her up, but I knew she wouldn’t want to miss this for the world. As I settled onto the couch with my sweet little boy nestled against my chest, Scott cuddled up next to me and we looked into each other’s eyes with that look that says, we just went through something amazing that has changed us once again forever. We looked at his sweet little face and couldn’t believe how alert he was and how simply peaceful he seemed. He was such a beautiful baby!

He latched on right way and ate hungrily. The midwives were busy filling out paperwork and I asked Scott, “Should we tell them his name?” We had decided a while ago what we wanted to name him, but of course we had to meet him first and see if the name fit. When we said it out loud – Julian William Maaser – we knew that it fit him perfectly! Soon, my mom joined us and couldn’t believe that he was here. We joyfully told her the rest of the birth story and she was so happy to meet her little grandson.

Julian William Maaser

Julian William Maaser

Julian and Mommy

Julian and Mommy

Julian, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma

Julian, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma

IMG_4100

Mommy, Daddy, and Julian

After Julian ate to his heart’s content, they were ready to do the newborn screening. They gently looked at his reflexes and checked over every inch of his body while I sat right next to him talking gently and rubbing his head. He made one little cry of protest, but otherwise continued to display his calm and gentle demeanor that he had shown since the moment of birth. He was a perfectly healthy little boy and there were no concerns. I dressed him in a little onsie and footie pants that I had picked out weeks before. After that, I swaddled him tightly in really nice new swaddling cloth I splurged on from Amazon.

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening

Newborn Screening

Mommy's Here!

Mommy’s Here!

When they checked me over, I just had one little “scuff mark” down there, but otherwise things looked great. My blood flow was normal, my uterus was contracting as it should, and I felt great. I had sent Scott to look for the cats who went outside when we were by the fire much earlier in the evening and hadn’t come back in yet. He kept calling and calling but they didn’t come. Jillian asked me if I’d like to go pee, so I handed Julian to my mom and hobbled to the bathroom with Jillian’s help.

Later, when I asked my mom about holding him for the first time, she said, “It was a magical moment because I was all alone with him. Scott was out looking for the cats and both of the midwives were with you. The room was dim. It was just precious. I didn’t have any pretenses or feel like anyone was watching me. I just looked at him and felt so honored and in awe and sort of in shock a little to hold this precious little being that belonged to you.” When I came back to the living room, Scott was expertly rocking Julian, and just like with Elliot, he was soothed by a pinkie in his mouth.

Julian and Daddy

Julian and Daddy

Julian

Julian

I was determined to get those cats inside because I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest easy unless I knew they were safe and sound, so I sent my mom outside to do her loud, “Here kitty kitty kitty!” that was so loud I’m surprised all of the stray cats in the neighborhood didn’t come running. Eventually, both of our cats came running from half a block away and they were eventually corralled inside. Ahhhhhh, now I could sleep!

After that, we said goodnight to my mom and the three of us headed off to bed. It was about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at that point. The midwives came in to tuck us in and gave us a few postpartum care reminders. Scott drifted off to sleep immediately, but I was up checking my facebook status that I had posted of our new family, and felt like I would be too excited to sleep. But at some point I drifted off. Julian was swaddled beside me and slept soundly for five hours (the best he would sleep for the whole first week, so it’s nice he started off with some good sleep). All of the other children slept peacefully throughout the whole labor and birth. We were so excited to think about their reactions to their new baby brother the next day.

Midwife Notes 1

Midwife Notes 1

Midwife Notes 2

Midwife Notes 2

Midwife Notes 3

Midwife Notes 3

Midwife Notes 4

Midwife Notes 4

The Next Day

Elliot was the first one up and came into our room at 5:30 a.m. So early! He is usually pretty good about sleeping in until 7:30-8:00 a.m., but he will wake up early if he has to pee. He cuddled up in bed with us, so happy to meet his little baby brother! He giggled and laughed and loved his little brother as he snuggled under the covers with us. After that, Scott took Elliot out to the living room and I continued to sleep.

Ruby woke up at 6:30 a.m. and joined Daddy and Elliot. Then Ophelia, who usually sleeps in until 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., woke up at 7:30 a.m. and that’s when Ruby and Ophelia came in our room and met Julian for the first time. Ophelia said, “Baby, baby!” but was really pretty indifferent. Ruby was sooooooooo happy! She cuddled right up to him and started talking to him right away. I don’t remember her first words exactly, but I think she started describing the world to him right off the bat and explained how much she loved him and was so happy to meet him.

At about 9:00 a.m., my mom woke up and joined Ruby, Elliot, and Ophelia who were all dressed and fed and playing with Daddy in the living room. She took over and let Scott come back to bed. I tried sleeping some more, but I was still just too excited. Plus I felt really gross and wanted to take a bath and brush my teeth. My mom brought in the herbal bath mixture and I enjoyed a nice hot soak in our walk in tub while Scott cuddled up with Julian. It felt AMAZING!!!

I was so happy to bring Julian out to the living room and to have our whole family was together for the first time. My mom took such good care of us that day. She brought us food, played with the kids, and kept the house clean. At about 2:00 p.m., Grandma Gene and Andrea joined us. It was so nice to have a few extra hands to help keep everyone entertained. Scott and I were able to slip away for another nap and my mom brought us out an amazing platter of dinner when we awoke and came back into the living room.

That night, we were able to easily pick up our bedtime routine with one extra person in tote and everyone went to sleep on time, peacefully, and easily. I am sooooooo glad we had some good bedtime routines in place and were so settled in our home. Scott and I sat in the living room with Julian, who just like when he was in the womb, would wake up after the kids went to bed. He was so peaceful and calm and Scott and I chattered away excitedly about all of the events that had taken place. My heart felt so full of love that it could just about burst.

Elliot, Ruby, Mommy, and Julian

Elliot, Ruby, Mommy, and Julian

Ruby Holding Julian

Ruby Holding Julian

Ophelia Isn't Quite Sure What to Think

Ophelia Isn’t Quite Sure What to Think

Grandma Di is Helping

Grandma Di is Helping

Grandma Gene, Grandma Di, Ruby, and Julian

Grandma Gene, Grandma Di, Ruby, and Julian

Elliot Holding Julian

Elliot Holding Julian

Elliot, Auntie Andrea, and Ruby

Elliot, Auntie Andrea, and Ruby

In the Living Room

In the Living Room

Grandma Gene Holding Julian

Grandma Gene Holding Julian

Julian William Maaser

Julian William Maaser

My First Birth: An Epilogue About Dealing with the Pain

So hear I am, three days away from my due date with my fourth pregnancy, and it took a little longer than the last few times, but I’m finally starting to read birth stories again, namely my own. Reading through them, I feel like I am right there again reliving the moments, and I am so glad I took the time to write them down in detail.

The one that stood out to me the most was my first born Ruby’s birth. It brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the pregnancy, the researching, the not knowing, the fear, the anticipation, the l-o-n-g labor, the pain, oh god the pain, and the sheer and utter joy of meeting our sweet little angel that had been nestled inside of my body and our minds for so long.

I just wanted to write a little epilogue as a reminder to myself before I enter the throes of childbirth again, and to anyone who has read my birth story before giving birth the first time and thought “Yikes!”, or to anyone else who might be scared about childbirth and researching what it’s like to give birth for the first time…or anytime. While first births do tend to be long, I do not think that I should have had to go through so much pain, and I just wanted to talk a little bit about why I did and if I could go back in time, what I would have done differently.

1. Labor at home as long as possible. When I was laboring at home, the pain was WAY more manageable. I was so comfortable putzing around my house, but as soon as we had to awkwardly get me in the car, drive for 20 minutes, get to a strange new place in the middle of the night, be scrutinized by someone who didn’t think one of my contractions was “good enough” to be admitted, and then have nothing to do but walk the strange hallways and watch the clock, it started to feel like things were out of my control. I know that memories fade over time, but when I remember Ruby’s birth, I don’t remember things being very painful until we got to the birthing center.

2. Have a home birth. There are tons of articles that can scare you into the all of the things that could go wrong in birth and why you should be near medical staff who can provide all of the interventions that cause the United States to be ranked 34th when it comes to infant mortality, and there are also some wonderful articles, like this one, about how giving birth at home is actually safer and requires less medical intervention. But I want to talk about the feeling you get from being home versus being somewhere foreign. We were at a birth center with a team of caring midwives, comfortable homey rooms, soft lighting, plenty of snacks, and no interventions, yet it still wasn’t comfortable enough.

The best thing about being at home is that you already have an entire system in place for relaxation. When I am feeling stressed at home at any normal given time, I know that I can light some candles, take a bath, grab one of my favorite beverages from the fridge, put on my favorite playlist, and let the problems of the world melt away. But in this foreign place, we had to figure out how to hook up our ipod, where to put all of my “comfort items” that I brought from home (and yes, I brought a deck of cards – just in case we got bored!), dim the lights, try to remember from our tour how the kitchen was set up, and orient ourselves with our new surroundings. And while things may have appeared physically comfortable, they weren’t mentally comfortable.

That brings me to the next best thing about being at home. You can putz around your house doing menial tasks that will totally help you to clear your mind in between each contraction. My nesting instinct always hits really hard right before and during labor because I want everything to be just so when my precious little angel enters the world. The beautiful thing about labor is that while contractions do have about a 15 second peak of really intense pain, the pain will completely melt away in between contractions and this enables you to handle them one at a time. Unless, that is, you are like me with this first birth and start to panic and feel like the pain will never leave and you’ll be stuck there laboring forever. Giving birth is just as much mental as it is physical. If you’re considering a home birth, I highly recommend watching The Business of Being Born and reading Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.

3. Have the option of an epidural if you’re not going to give birth at home. I kept thinking that time would go fast, or that my adrenaline would kick in, or that my endorphins would allow me to handle the pain, but none of those things happened. I kept trying to do everything I could think of and because I was in this foreign place, I was trying to rely on my head instead of my body. Whenever I have labored at home, I have been able to let everything else melt away and focus very intently on what my body is telling me. Should I get on the exercise ball, get on all fours, wiggle my hips, request pressure on my back from my husband, walk around, get in a warm bath, eat something or rest?

As much as midwives, doulas, husbands, nurses, and doctors are there to help and support a woman in labor, it’s really just an internal experience for the mother. She has to find her inner strength, she has to learn who she is more deeply than she ever has before, she has to get in touch with the parts of her mind and body that are locked far far away, and in doing so, she opens up to the part of her that is giving birth not just to a child but to herself as a mother. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do when you have a bunch of people shouting directions at you or making you feel like a watched pot. This is why I recommend that if you’re not going to give birth at home, just get the dang epidural. Sure, you’ll have to deal with the fact that you are paralyzed from the waist down and lose your ability to listen to your body, but how can you be expected to do that in the first place in this foreign place with foreign people trying to learn how to do something completely foreign to you? If I could go back in time and give myself an epidural, I most certainly would!

4. Don’t rely on what you’ve read or what you’re being told, rely on your instincts. I just want to reiterate this again because it is so so important. Your body knows what do to. Women are designed for this process and our bodies are made to open up and give life. Women around the world and for centuries before this have been giving birth long before epidurals were even invented. It is a process that unites all women and it is an amazing and incredible experience that will transcend you and leave you completely changed from the person you were before…for better or for worse.

When I started to panic and felt like the pain was more than I could bear, I started thinking about things I had read like, “I should squat because it opens up the birth canal by 20%. Or, I should sit backwards on the toilet because it helps to give women the urge to push.” Instead of relying on my instincts, I was relying on the professional advice I had gleaned rather than on my natural instincts. If you can enter a mental state where you can really and truly listen to your body, find your inner strength, and do what comes naturally, you will be able to have an experience that is exciting, beautiful, and pure rather than something you just want to be over.

5. Don’t let anyone check you internally. I know that most women are uncomfortable with the idea of checking themselves, but I highly recommend that you get familiar with your body either before becoming pregnant or when you first find out so that you have a comparison and check yourself regularly so that you can track your progress. When you check yourself, you are very in tune with what feels okay and what hurts. When I was internally checked during this birth it was VERY painful! I think before the midwife checked me she asked if she could “do something to help things move along more quickly” and even though I have no recollection of understanding what that meant in any sense, my husband said I grunted something that sounded like, “Sure!” I’d say it’s best to keep everyone’s hands out of there except your own. It’s not fair to ask a woman who is going through something like this if they are okay with having their waters broken, cervix stretched, or membrane’s stripped when they don’t fully understand what the ramifications will be.

I have found that the best way to learn how to check myself is in the shower. I am right handed, so I prop up my left foot as high as I can and position my left hand palm up and my first two fingers extended. Then I reach up and back as far as I can. Now, first of all, I can tell you that my cervix has been much easier to find with each pregnancy, probably because it’s not as high as it once was. But it is still possible to find with your first pregnancy. You just have to reach really really far. In the beginning, your cervix will feel like a nose, kind of sticking out and down with a firm but soft texture. In the middle, you’ll find the opening of the cervix. With your first birth, you probably won’t feel much of an opening until much later in the pregnancy, but with subsequent births, it always seems to be dilated to at least 1 cm. As you enter labor, your cervix will efface which means that it will thin out and flatten. It starts out as being 0% effaced and when it’s completely 100% effaced and your cervix is dilated to 10 cm, you will be ready to push the baby out. With Ruby, I was about 1 cm dilated and about 40% effaced for the weeks leading up to her birth. Now with my 4th, I have been about 2 cm dilated and about 60% effaced for weeks.

During labor with Ruby, I checked myself regularly before we went to the birthing center. My husband found a google image that looked like a bullseye chart showing what the cervix would look like at each dilation. Before we left, I predicted that I was dilated between 4 and 5 cm. When the midwife checked me upon our arrival, I had been right on. I remember checking myself with our second birth, Elliot, when I was in the bathtub and even though I was dilated to 5-6 cm, I was in denial that the birth was really happening and convinced that I would still go to sleep that night. With our third birth, Ophelia, I remember checking myself right before I pushed her out. I was brushing my teeth in between contractions and I announced to my husband, “I can’t feel any edges, I must be dilated to 10 cm!” I can’t tell you how empowering it is to be able to check yourself and know exactly what your body is going through rather than having to rely on someone else to do it for you.

6. Don’t let anyone stretch your cervix during labor. I’m sure that there are times when this intervention can actually be helpful, and I’m not saying to NEVER do this. I would just encourage you to research it before you go into labor so that you at least know what you are being asked to give up when this happens. Whenever the midwife stretched my cervix, I believe she gave me what is called an anterior lip (it is also possible that I already had an anterior lip, but whatever she did made things hurt much much worse). This happened to my mom too when she had her cervix stretched by her midwife during the birth of my twin sisters and the results can be very painful. Basically, the baby’s head will push down on the cervix and evenly dilate it so that it forms a nice perfect circle. When your cervix is stretched in the throes of labor, however, it can cause it to open in an oblong shape which can become enflamed and continue to dilate unevenly. This becomes VERY painful and can prevent you from opening up all the way when it’s time to push thus resulting in further interventions.

7. Don’t let anyone bully you into speeding up your labor because they have somewhere else to be. When we transferred to the midwifery at 31 weeks, we barely had time to meet each of the five midwives who could potentially be at our birth. This resulted in us having someone at our birth who we had only met one other time and who we had not had the time to build a relationship with. With our next three births, we have had three different midwives (because of our constant moving), who we got to know each one really really well throughout the entire pregnancy, which resulted in an incredible experience every time. With our first birth, I felt like our midwife was slightly annoyed at being called up in the middle of the night and not looking forward to the long slow progression of a first time mom. When she wanted to stretch out my cervix to “speed things up” I have to wonder, was that really for me, was that really in my best interest? Or, was she just hoping to get home a little sooner?

8. Keep hydrated and nourished. I don’t know what all of the hospital policies are, but I have heard that they only allow ice chips in case you have to have to be rushed into surgery so you don’t vomit. Once again, something that is good for the doctors, but not for the woman in labor. I have read many stories of laboring mothers whose births have stalled because they simply ran out of fuel. Now personally, I didn’t feel like eating anything during labor and during transition I actually vomited up all of the food I had eaten anyways, but my husband and midwife kept my water bottle constantly full of Recharge which really helped me to keep my energy up. During my third birth I ate a nourishing bowl of soup right before labor and it energized me completely throughout the birth.

In conclusion, I just needed to give myself a little pep talk as I try to mentally prepare for this upcoming birth and remember that I can do this, my body is designed to do this, it will start, I will manage the pain one contraction at a time, it won’t last forever, I will rely on my instincts and find my inner self and my inner strength, and then I will be able to bond with a little person who will join our family and change our lives forever.

 

Our Third Born: Ophelia's Homebirth Story

Our Third Born: Ophelia’s Homebirth Story

 Ophelia Ella Maaser

Born: 5-21-2013

Time: 7:35 p.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 8 oz , 20.5 inches, 13.5 cm head circumference

The Pregnancy

After having Elliot, my body felt pretty depleted, so when I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I met with a homeopathic doctor at Elder and Sage for some wonderful advice. She was able to guide me through a pretty serious case of candida and advised me to cut out sugar and carbs. I did this pretty religiously for six weeks, then half-heartedly for three months, and sort of okay for the rest of the pregnancy. I wish I had stuck with it a little better, as I battled a yeast infection towards the end and then thrush afterwards, but that ordeal is another story! Anyways, she also advised that I drink red raspberry leaf tea as much as three times a day. I did this pretty faithfully throughout the whole pregnancy and it was AMAZING! I was suffering from a practically prolapsed uterus after Elliot’s birth and I could feel my pelvic floor getting stronger and stronger with every cup throughout this pregnancy. During and after the birth, my uterus performed and recovered wonderfully!

At Ophelia's Prenatal Appointment

At Ophelia’s Prenatal Appointment

I also took cod liver oil, a prenatal vitamin, and trace minerals. In addition, I took calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D supplements to help with leg cramps towards the end of the pregnancy. With Ruby and Elliot, I enjoyed small cups of coffee here and there, but with this pregnancy, I cut it out completely. I can’t say that it helped anything per se, but I continued to cut it out after she was born and we never dealt withany witching hour like we did with Ruby or constant crying like we did with Elliot. I did start drinking coffee for about one week and during that time, Ophelia started to cry pretty inconsolably and pretty consistently 12 hours after my daily cup of coffee. When I cut it out, no more crying.

Anyways, our midwife, Sara Badger, was able to give us some wonderful advice during the pregnancy that helped me to enter labor in the best shape possible. She advised a deep tissue pregnancy massage with Lisa Gowins, and a meeting with a chiropractor that helped to melt away the sciatic nerve pain that was becoming quite unbearable. She also moved little Ophelia’s little hand away from her face days before labor, which helped me to avoid tearing like I did with Ruby. During the first three to four months of my pregnancy, I started getting into a pretty amazing kettlebell routine and then after that I stuck with some yoga videos. I tried to do at least ten minutes of yoga daily and that really helped me to stay flexible and in good shape. I’m glad I was able to spend so much time taking care of myself during the pregnancy. It really helped me during labor and recovery.

Leading Up To the Birth

Just like with Elliot, for weeks and weeks leading up to my due date, I thought for sure that I would go into labor early! When I was 37 weeks along and started feeling regular contractions, I realized that we were not at all ready! We didn’t even have any diapers! So that night, when the contractions slowed down and eventually stopped, we talked about things like how we would get through our bedtime routine and what other preparations needed to be met. We spent the next several weeks making and fulfilling one to do list after the other. As my due date drew closer, arrived, and passed, I kept thinking okay, now I’ve finally got everything done, but then the next day I would think of more things to get done! Moving to a new house six weeks before my due date certainly gave me PLENTY of nesting projects!

In my last month of pregnancy, things finally were getting uncomfortable (back aches in the night, leg cramps, the uncomfortableness of getting around, etc.), but I wasn’t anxious about going overdue. Not working for the first time really took a lot of pressure off. Plus, knowing that I wouldn’t have to go back to work when the baby was a few weeks or months old really took a lot of pressure off too. Thanks to being overdue, I was able to get my sister Lisa’s baby blanket made for her little boy due Oct. 31st, and everything ready for her baby shower, everything for the new baby from Amazon was shipped and assembled, diapers, baby clothes, blankets, and birth kit were all here and ready to go, and the massive amount of yard work was finished. (See ya ticks!) Plus, I was even able to clear out the garden boxes and plant my mother’s day flowers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and herb garden.

Pre-Labor

The days leading up to my labor, I knew that things were getting closer and closer. My Braxton hicks contractions were becoming more painful and I could feel myself effacing more and more every day (on top of being about 2 cm dilated for the past 3 weeks). On Tuesday, May 21st, I woke up at 5 a.m. to some contractions that felt different. Somehow I just knew that these were going to lead to the real thing. I was so excited! Scott and I made good use of our time together in the morning before he had to go to work by doing the one thing that both initiates conception and induces labor… I told him with certainty that the baby would be born that day or the next, but that we still had plenty of time, so he didn’t need to stay home from work or anything.

We enjoyed a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast before the kids woke up and then I enjoyed my second breakfast with the kids. I told them that the baby might come that day and we talked about how it was like mommy had to push out a really big poop and that I might moan and cry out but that I would be okay. I showed Ruby how she could press on my back and help me push the baby out.

We are usually pretty set in our routine of me doing something active with the kids in the morning—be it an outing, playing outside, doing homeschool, or doing some sort of project—but I still wasn’t done with my to do list, so they played quietly while I made a big pot of chicken and barley soup, a fresh batch of cookies, did the laundry, and tidied the house. I prepared the kids some lunch and they ate at the table while watching some LeapFrog videos. When Scott came home for lunch at 1:00 p.m., things weren’t serious, but when a contraction came, I would pause what I was doing and rock through it. For mental reasons, I just wanted him there with me. So we ate some soup together while watching the kids play in the sandbox, and then he called into work, set his out of office message, and then took the kids off my hands. Once I knew he had taken over, I could feel my entire mind and body melt with a feeling of tranquility. I felt more at ease knowing that I didn’t have to manage them anymore and was able to continue to putz around the house and get everything “just so”. That’s when contractions started to pick up a little more and I knew without a doubt that the birth would be happening within the next 24 hours.

So after we played outside, we all went down to the basement to watch Land Before Time and take a rest. My contractions were coming sporadically at about 10-20 minutes apart. I was about 4 cm dilated at this point, but not making any sort of rapid progress. I was keeping our midwife Sarah in the loop at this point. She wondered if we wanted her there at the birth or just after. We had originally talked about doing an unassisted birth, but we didn’t want to take any chances with complications so we said we definitely wanted her there at the birth, but we would let her know when things were getting closer. While we were watching the movie, I all of a sudden felt really tired, so in between contractions I would lay on the futon for about 10 minutes and close my eyes. Ruby was cuddled up with Scott on the little couch and Elliot kept covering me up with his silky. I would get on the ball to bounce through contractions and Scott would massage my back. The contractions were painful enough, but not so painful that I absolutely needed him at that point. He even snoozed for a little while with Ruby. I was feeling slightly frustrated at this point because I had expected things to move rapidly after Elliot’s birth and now things were seemingly moving so slow and I wasn’t making a lot of progress, but the rest time was really great and I felt rejuvenated as we began to migrate back upstairs.

At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted my mom to be there or not. I knew that she would be a great help, and I really wanted her to meet our new addition, but I didn’t want to feel like a watched pot and I thought that it would be ideal to keep the people to a minimum as we bonded as a new family.  But I also wasn’t sure if Scott would be able to manage our 2 and 3 year old on his own AND be there to give me the support I needed. So I was keeping my mom in the loop via email and she was ready to leave work at a moment’s notice and be there in any way she could. (Of all days for her to not have a phone! The night before she had dropped it in the lake while her and my dad put their dock in. My dad was getting her her new phone at 3 p.m. that day.) I finally called her work number to tell her that things were progressing and that I would in fact like her to come out and give a hand with the kids. It kind of dawned on me that we would have to put Ruby and Elliot to bed at some point and that I would be entering active labor soon and I couldn’t believe I had even questioned her coming over in the first place So she said that she could be there about 6:00-6:30 p.m.

Active Labor

I had downloaded a contraction app and started timing my contractions when we were resting in the basement. Contractions went from being about twelve minutes apart when we were resting downstairs to about five minutes apart when I started walking around upstairs at about 5:00-5:30, and I definitely needed Scott to help me through each contraction. The kids were playing on their own so nicely as Scott, and I putzed around the house getting things ready in between contractions.

Ruby and Elliot Eating Snacks Outside

Ruby and Elliot Eating Snacks Outside

Scott remained within ear shot and was ready to run to my side whenever I called. At one point, we went and got the mail together and saw our neighbor Amy. I told her that contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart so we had just enough time to get the mail and get back in time for the next contraction. In between contractions, I was folding clothes, cleaning up the kitchen, getting snacks for the kids, and checking my phone. It really helped me to read about the different phases of labor and think about what my body was going through. I started getting really excited thinking about meeting the sweet little peanut in my belly soon! I had my Pandora mix playing Joshua Radin, Enya, Sigur Ros, Camera Obscura, and Melody Echo Chamber, and I felt so calm and at ease.

Ruby Pretending to Have a Contraction

Ruby Pretending to Have a Contraction

Elliot Pretending to Have a Contraction

Elliot Pretending to Have a Contraction

My parents arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and it was a relief right away to know that they would be able to take over with the kids. My mom took Ruby outside and they did some puzzles together. Elliot was playing the ipad and my dad gave him some attention and helped Scott finish cooking the hot dogs on the grill. It was so funny to me to be in the middle of this crazy life changing moment and to just see them milling about like they were just visiting on any other weekend.

I had a little “contraction zone” set up in the living room where I would bounce on the exercise ball with a chair in front of it. I would bounce on the ball while holding onto the back of the chair for support while Scott massaged and helped me rotate my hips. When my parents arrived, we moved our “contraction zone” into the dining room area. The contractions were starting to become more painful and I was writing and moaning with Scott supporting me, and it felt like it should just be an intimate moment with the two of us. It’s amazing to think about how much having a baby sounds like making a baby! No wonder my dad seemed a little uncomfortable and I sensed a bit relieved to have the excuse of leaving on his business trip up north soon after that!

At this time, I was dilated to about a 5-6cm. The midwife was going to be arriving at about 7 p.m. (I think I told her at about 4ish after doing the math in my head: the length of prelabor thus far, how fast my contractions were progressing, how dilated I was, etc. and predicted that I would give birth at about 7:00 p.m. How accurate!). When a contraction came I was very vocal with Scott about how to help me, “Higher, lower, squeeze, push!” We eventually settled on a move we called “The Washing Machine” where I would gyrate back and forth and around and around while he pushed and moved my hips with me. Each contraction was lasting about 45 seconds and had about a 15-20 second peak. They were coming about 3 minutes apart. The pain was very manageable and in between contractions the pain completely melted away. I watched my contraction timer to know how long I had to get back to my ball! I kept checking on the kids, taking pictures and videos, and tidying up the house. Scott had put the sheet on the bed and I set up the chux pads and everything else we needed in our room. At this time, my dad left and my mom took Ruby and Elliot to the park across the street.

Transition

Shortly after my mom left with the kids, I had a pretty intense contraction and Scott suggested we move into our bedroom. “Already???” I thought, but I followed him in there. He brought my ball and a chair for me to lean against. In between contractions I brushed my teeth and hair and when I checked myself to see how dilated I was I was shocked that I couldn’t feel any sides to see how far dilated I was. “Hmmmmm, I guess that means I’m at 10 cm!” I thought excitedly. Things still didn’t feel too crazy though, so I didn’t know what to expect at that point.

Birth

The midwives got a little lost and finally showed up at 7:15 p.m. Scott ran to the door to make sure they got in alright and as soon as they entered the room, I heard Sarah’s new little boy Thorbin cry just I was racked by a powerful contraction. I sat on the ball and Scott rushed to my side and did what he could to ease the pain but at this point things just felt crazy. I felt a little pop and warm fluid start to leak out. “My water broke!” I shouted. The contractions were coming quickly and the next one was really intense with a long peak and no break. “Make it stop!” I yelled. So Scott stopped rubbing my back and I said, “NO! Not you! The pain!”

Then I pushed the ball aside, dropped to my hands and knees, and couldn’t believe the words as they came out of my mouth, “I’m feeling pushy!” I shouted. I grabbed onto some blankets that were on the floor and tried to make a little tower to lean against. It had worked so well with Elliot and I was trying to recreate that moment. I remembered that I wanted to just breathe the baby out at this point and waited for the contractions and my body to lead me.

I felt a huge amount of pressure and the incredible urge to push, so I gave one giant push with all of my might. After that, I breathed deeply and felt a delicate hand applying oil to my perineum as I slowly pushed. I gave another slow and steady push as I felt the baby’s head crowning. Words of encouragement made me feel relaxed and took away any panic that was creeping up. “You’re doing great! I can see the head!” they encouraged. I could feel the excitement building as I knew I would be soon holding my sweet little angel. I pushed the head out and felt a huge wave of relief knowing that I was almost done. I waited until I felt the next contraction. Scott said he could see the head moving in and out with each breath. Then when the next contraction came they said, “Ok, give one big push!” So I did, and then I felt the rest of the body slip out. I turned over and couldn’t believe the little miracle that was placed upon my chest.

After the Birth

I wanted to get settled in and cozy with our little darling, so I left the midwives sitting there in complete shock as I picked her up from where I had given birth in front of our dresser about 15 feet from our bed and carried her there. They hurried over and put some chux pads underneath me as we waited for the placenta to come out. Scott and I were practically weeping with joy at our sweet little angel and didn’t even think about the gender until the midwife asked us if it was a boy or a girl. We promptly looked and both shouted,“It’s a girl!!!” Our midwife just had a baby and brought him along. Here’s our midwife and her assistant below.

Our Midwives

Our Midwives

“Tell my mom to come back from the park,” I said to Scott, thinking about how excited Ruby and Elliot would be to meet their new little sister. Soon Ruby and Elliot came into the room. Elliot was crying because he didn’t want to leave Grandma’s van and Ruby came bounding in with curiosity and wonder. I had delivered the placenta (which seemed to take forever to come out…about twenty minutes after the birth) and a very long umbilical cord. The cord had stopped pulsing, so Scott helped to clamp both ends and then he and Ruby cut the cord together. Ruby was simply mesmerized as she saw her new baby sister and proclaimed, “Finally I’m not alone anymore!”

I held Ophelia and just stared into her sweet little face and Scott and I marveled at the little human that had been nestled inside of me—her beautiful dark hair, her delicate and long fingers, and how absolutely perfect she was in every way. She had some vernix on her arms and back and I rubbed it in and she rooted and began to nurse. She latched on right away and we sat there in peace under the red glow of our bedside lamp.

Nursing Ophelia with Ruby and Elliot Nearby

Nursing Ophelia with Ruby and Elliot Nearby

Scott and I with Ophelia

Scott and I with Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

At some point, my sister Andrea had arrived and her and my mom then proceeded to try to put the kids to bed, but they were kind of thrown off by the whole day of me laboring, meeting their sister, and then a different bedtime routine. So as soon as I was done breastfeeding, I handed Ophelia to my sister and went to rescue my poor little crying Elliot. I sat in the rocking chair in his room and cuddled him close while his body heaved with sobs. I told him stories about Captain Hook and the Crocodile and Pinnochio and Monstro the Great Whale until he finally stopped crying. Ruby had been pretty upset too, and Scott was calming her down when Elliot and I came into Ruby’s room for stories and milk and cookies. Both kids were so happy to have us both there reading stories and we made barely a little mention of the sweet baby who wasn’t in my belly anymore before tucking them in for the night. They both slept soundly for the rest of the night.

We went back into our room and my sister Andrea was expertly rocking our little girl while chatting with the midwife. We learned that we missed her first meconium poop that went all over Andrea and the towel. Oops! Probably should have put a diaper on her! I took a quick shower and then nursed my little angel and wrapped up her sleeping little body. Then Scott and I met my mom and sister in the kitchen and reflected on the amazing experience of the birth. We all talked with my dad on speaker phone while he was driving up to the U.P. It was such a magical moment to realize that our family was forever changed. We discussed our possible name choices of Veruca Ella or Ophelia Ella, but decided we would sleep on it and see which name suited her in the morning.

That night, Ophelia didn’t sleep much. She just wanted to look deeply into my eyes. And I was so thankful to have that peaceful time with her in the night. I could literally feel my heart expanding with my love for her and I marveled at what we had just went through together. My afterbirth pains were quite intense – way more so than with Ruby or Elliot – and I couldn’t have slept much anyways. When we woke up the next morning, we both knew that Ophelia was the perfect name for our little angel. Veruca was such cool and rocking name, but it belonged to Ruby first and seemed to fit her personality more. Just one day old (plus 9 months of getting to know her in the womb), and we could already tell so much about her personality. Her long languid movements in the womb, her deep soulful eyes looking intently at us right after birth, her contentment upon hearing the shrieks from Ruby and Elliot…yup, she was Ophelia.

That morning, Scott made us a delicious breakfast and at 9:00 a.m., we all ate at the table as our new “five family”. We talked with Ruby and Elliot about their new sister and then gave them their “after the baby is born” presents of play-dough, bubbles, and M&Ms. It was so nice to give them both a lot of attention right after Ophelia was born. As much as we wanted to give me some rest, we also knew that in these first few hours/days as a new family, we would have to be careful to set the right dynamics in place. We didn’t want Ruby and Elliot to feel like they were being put on the back burner by any means so we proceeded to make our first day together as normal as possible. That included a family trip to the farm in Marion 45 minutes away to get our raw milk, then a stop at McDonald’s to play at the indoor play place, followed by an entire afternoon and evening together as well.

Elliot and Ruby Open Their Gifts

Elliot and Ruby Open Their Gifts

We mistakenly gave Ophelia a pacifier that night and following that she did not want to nurse and was crying a lot. I pumped and gave her droppers full of breastmilk, but she didn’t sleep all night and after getting only 3 hours of sleep since giving birth, I felt like I might just have a nervous breakdown. Our midwife suggested a bath together and lots of skin to skin. At 10 a.m. the next morning, I finally got her to nurse again and we both finally got some much deserved sleep! Ophelia then proceeded to sleep for pretty much the next two days straight (and so did I) and we felt incredible after that! What an amazing journey, an amazing family, an amazing life.

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Elliot Checking Out Ophelia

Elliot Checking Out Ophelia

Ophelia Ella Maaser

Ophelia Ella Maaser

Our Second Born: Elliot's Homebirth Story

Our Second Born: Elliot’s Homebirth Story

Elliot Edward Maaser

Born: 12-28-10

Time: 11:06 p.m.

Measurements: 8lbs 13oz, 21 inches long, 14.5cm head circumference

Leading up to the Birth

It’s hard to say when labor began since I’d been feeling contractions for the two months leading up to the birth. At 34 weeks, I even got worried that I would go into premature labor…little did I know how far from that I was! I did a lot of walking at work which stimulated barrages of Braxton Hicks contractions (about 8-12 per hour) on a regular basis. Once that started happening, I really tried to take it easy and stay off my feet and that helped to settle things down a bit.  I told everyone at work that I might need to go on bed rest (per the midwife’s instructions) so that I wouldn’t have a premature labor.

Everyone was so understanding and just couldn’t believe how hard I worked all through the pregnancy. Although we did joke a lot about how many times I thought I would be going into labor “any day”. I got REALLY tired of hearing the phrases, “You’re still here?” or “I thought for sure you were going to have that baby last night!” I thought for sure we were going into labor on Thanksgiving. We were in the middle of dinner at our friend Nadine’s house when my contractions started becoming more intense and I could feel them regularly. It was also a new moon that night…my labors seem to be quite affected by those. I also thought I was going into labor Dec. 5th, the next new moon. So many false alarms! I didn’t know what to believe at that point.

So on Dec. 15th, three days before my winter break started, I stopped working at the recommendation of DeAna, our midwife. She didn’t want me going into a long hard labor after working all day. (After 36 hours with Ruby’s birth, I was preparing for a long and hard labor.) Scott also stopped working, and we began a blissful second honeymoon together. We saw our due date, December 18th, come and go. Because we were worried about a premature labor, we had been ready months ago, but every day seemed to bring “one more thing” that just HAD to get done before the birth. One of the first things we did is move our bedroom upstairs with the help of our friends Mark and Jessica.

Ruby was just starting to sleep through the night and we didn’t want to wake her up with the new baby. We kept making casseroles, chilis, and other dinners so that we would have a good amount of food at hand. We enjoyed spending a remarkable time together as a family as we waited for the arrival of our New Magoo. Every morning we would cuddle in bed, read Ruby stories, and feed her a greek yogurt. Mmmmmm…. Then we would find some sort of task to accomplish like doing the laundry or scrubbing the bathtub. The rest of the day was spent going to the park on these beautiful 50-60 degree sunny days, walking at the mall, going to the library, and basically spending hours and hours playing with Ruby. We found ourselves feeling thoroughly rested and blissfully happy.

Scott and Ruby at the Park

Scott and Ruby at the Park

Ruby and I at the Park

Ruby and I at the Park

At Nancy and Bill's with Brian and Derek

At Nancy and Bill’s with Brian and Derek

Me at the Tennis Courts

Me at the Tennis Courts

But there was just ONE teeny tiny thing weighing on my mind….WHEN AM I GOING TO HAVE THIS BABY?!?!?!?!  The pregnancy had been wonderful and fairly easy, but as I watched myself go one day overdue, then two, three, four…up to nine days overdue, it just became too much to bear. I was having trouble sleeping, my back was hurting, and I was just getting sick and tired of being pregnant.

I was also really anxious about the labor. The baby had been presenting itself in a posterior position (which makes for a really long and painful back labor…often times the baby will get stuck and a c-section will be needed) and we tried countless times to get it to rotate only to have it move back again. Also, I remembered what it felt like with Ruby and I just didn’t know if I would have the strength to go through that much pain again…and for so long. (Prelabor with Ruby lasted about 27 hours. Active labor, transition, and delivery were about another 9 hours.) I just wanted to get things going and be done with it so that I could stop worrying.

Me Feeling a Little Sad

Me Feeling a Little Sad

Then one night I got really nauseous and sick. I ended up throwing up in a bucket near the bed. The baby moved like CRAZY that night and it felt like it moved back into a posterior position. I also felt so much movement that I became certain it was twins. The next day after comparing pictures of my belly from this pregnancy to Ruby’s pregnancy, I started to think more and more that I was having twins. I chatted with my mom and she shared with me her premonitions when she thought she was having twins but the midwives just couldn’t detect that second heartbeat until 9 days before they were born!

Scott and I went to bed that night nervous and frustrated. All that day we had tried EVERYTHING to get labor going (sex, foot massage, breast pump, walking, and the belly lotion) but to no avail. So we felt frustrated that maybe we were getting things started and then nervous that we may have been off on our due date and were in fact expecting twins who were just barely 37 weeks along (if our due date was off).

Pre-Labor

The next morning, which was Tuesday, December 28th, I called DeAna and shared with her my fears about having twins. I really wanted to get an ultrasound, but she said that if it WAS twins, we would have to do a hospital birth…some kind of Colorado law or something. We were scheduled to have a prenatal appointment the next day, but she said she would come over that day to do the appointment and give me some things to stimulate labor.

She also said that the excessive movement I felt could be due to the baby’s posterior position. She asked if we had been doing hands and knees and Rabozo to turn the baby. I felt like screaming, “NO!” but I calmly explained that we had not and would try before she came over. For days I had been crawling around on all fours which was both degrading and uncomfortable. I would also lay on my ball, do yoga positions, Scott would use the Rabozo, and I would gently massage my belly trying to coax the baby to turn like a sleeping kitten. Every time, we would work so hard to get the baby to turn a little bit, and then it seemed to turn right back the other way! So I was just really really really frustrated with the task of rotating the baby and even more frustrated by the thought of a painful posterior back labor.

So anyways, both DeAna and her assistant Whitney came over around 11:00 a.m. DeAna explained where she was feeling the baby’s shoulder and bottom and where the pockets of amniotic fluid were. She predicted a larger baby…about 9 lbs, but said that she was certain that there was only one baby in there. She also listened to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler for the first time. We could really hear one really strong heartbeat on my left side (so the baby WAS NOT posterior…for now) and no other heartbeats.

I shared my frustrations about being ten days overdue and how I was crying, getting emotional, and just having a really hard time. I had been checking myself to see if I was dilating any more. I was having so many painful contractions that I thought at some point the baby might just fall out!  At this point I was about 80-90% effaced and about 2 cm dilated. I had tried several times to stretch my cervix out and to strip my own membranes, but it was really hard to reach that far up and back! I had a good amount of bloody show and had been losing my mucus plug over the last few days. So there was progress at least!

DeAna recommended that we try the castor oil. I was really hesitant to go that route, but she said that if the baby was ready for labor, this could be just the nudge we needed to get things going. She told us mix 2 oz. of each of the following: castor oil, vodka, and orange juice. She also gave us the herb blue cohosh to take every hour, some belly lotion with herbs to use every half hour, and recommended more sex, massages, and walking. Whitney also gave me this amazing pep talk that made me feel empowered and like, “I can do this!” Sometimes moms just need a little cheerleading!

So after they left, we walked to Whole Foods to get the ingredients for the castor oil cocktail. I was feeling contractions that day, but no more so than I had over the last few days…weeks…months. (Over the last few days, they were starting to get more painful, but mainly just annoying.) After we put Ruby down for a nap, we each drank a cocktail (mine was the only one with castor oil). Then Scott tried setting up Mario Kart online so we could play with his parents while I hung out on the ball and tried to encourage the baby to turn.

Our friends Mark and Melissa came over with their one month old Olivia at about 4:00. (They had really hoped to be pregnant when we were pregnant with Ruby, and they were overjoyed when they finally became pregnant this time around.) We had fun seeing them and tried to get Ruby to interact with Olivia, but she was being pretty whiny and needy and didn’t want much to do with her at all. They left at about 5:30. I was a little frustrated because I had hoped to go for a walk to encourage the baby to come out, but it was getting too dark. Turns out I didn’t really need the walk…

Labor Begins

When I share my five hour labor story, I say that it begins at 6:00 p.m., but things were so mild then that I have a hard time even saying that this was the beginning! It was VERY clear, however, that this was the beginning of the castor oil effects! I started to have a few cleansing trips to the bathroom that were followed by some pretty nice contractions (or cramps as I was referring to them then). Then the trips to the bathroom started to come more and more often and were getting rather annoying…and my butt was getting rather sore (or like it was going to turn inside out as I referred to it then). Meanwhile, Scott and I were playing with Ruby while she built lego towers, stacked her cups, and pulled all the books off the bookshelves. Then around 7:00 p.m., I got the urge to “set the stage”. I felt like things were really starting to happen and I wanted to be ready.

I started to arrange things just so and tidy up a bit while Scott played with Ruby. She was getting more and more whiny and after she started crying one time I just kind of snapped and yelled at Scott to get her out of there. I felt so bad abandoning my sweet little baby girl (who at 15 months, suddenly didn’t seem like a baby anymore), but I just felt this snarling protective mother instinct pour through me and I knew that I had to focus all of my attention on what was happening to me, my body, and this new baby. Her and Scott watched a “Your Baby Can Read” video and she said every single word on the video. She was also very calm and obedient for the rest of the night, as if she sensed the impending seriousness of what was going on. Meanwhile, I finished up a few dishes, put some toys away, lit some candles, and started to play my Enya, Siger Ros, and Imogean Heap labor mix.

By 8:00 p.m. Ruby was ready for bed. We snuggled up in her room, gave her a bottle, and read her a stack of books. Every time I would have a contraction, I would just slip onto the floor and soundlessly rock on my hands and knees. They were getting more intense, but I could still read the words to the story along with Scott. After Ruby went to sleep, I called DeAna to tell her that things were starting! She said that if it really was labor that nothing could stop it, but that the contractions could just be from the castor oil and if so then things might just slow down once the effects wore off. She told me not to get discouraged if that if things were stalled out by 9:00 p.m., I should take a bath, try to relax, and possibly get some sleep.

So Scott and I played a game of Monolopy together on the Wii. He started to time my contractions, but stopped after awhile since they weren’t really forming a pattern and were only lasting about 30-45 seconds; also the time in between them was anywhere from one minute to five. Every time a contraction would come, it was intense enough for me to have to stop playing and rock on the exercise ball while moaning, but I still wouldn’t really call them painful. It was the worst game of Monopoly I ever played! Scott and the computer players kept offering me deals, and I just couldn’t concentrate enough to think them through, so I just accepted them! (We moved from Colorado to Michigan when Elliot was 6 months old and were living with my parents for several months when we finally unpacked our Wii and found our unfinished game. Scott finally got the glory of winning!)

At about 9:00 p.m., we paused the game and I went to take a bath while Scott played some DragonBall Z on the Wii. Our bathtub was my favorite thing about our little condo. It was a HUGE oval with tile all around to put candles on and little steps leading up to it. It totally accommodated my huge pregnant body and it felt REALLY good to relax in during labor! My music was playing in the background, and I was engulfed in the soft flames of candlelight. I kind of had a panic moment thinking, “I’m just not ready for this train ride yet”. I started to convince myself that the contractions I felt were really just from the castor oil and that we would go to bed soon and possibly have the baby in the next few days. I was FINE with that and started to feel pretty silly for trying to rush things along with the castor oil rather than let them take their own course. When a contraction came, I rolled over onto my hands and knees and kind of floated there in a frog like position. I stopped moaning during contractions and just really let myself enter a deep state of relaxation. Contractions REALLY slowed down and I was only feeling them about every 10-20 minutes. When they did come, they had about a 10-15 second peak of pain, but it was very mild.

At about 10:00 p.m., Scott came in to check on me. I told him I was feeling very relaxed and that we should probably just go to bed. I also shared with him, however, that I checked myself and I could very easily feel the head in the bag of waters and that I was about 5-6 cm dilated. Even with that information, I was STILL convinced that we would not be having a baby that night! Things had stopped and started so many times that I just couldn’t accept that things were really happening! Scott kept encouraging me to call DeAna, but I didn’t think there was any rush.

I got out of the bath, put on my nighty, and then I was all of a sudden gripped by a really powerful contraction that brought me down to the floor on my hands and knees. Scott started to apply pressure to my back and it felt really good! Seconds later he put my phone in my hand and said, “Call DeAna now!” So I called her and told her that things had really slowed down in the bath but that I was about 5-6 cm dilated and had experienced one painful contraction after the bath. I explained that we were probably going to go to bed. She said that she would come over and even just sleep on the couch if nothing happened. Then I got another contraction while we were talking and started moaning really loudly; it was quite intense! DeAna’s voice changed and she was like, “I’m coming over right now, that sounded pretty intense!” She also said to have Scott call her immediately if things started to progress rapidly.

The contractions started to come about every two minutes and lasted about 45 seconds to a minute each. With each contraction I would get low on my hands and knees and rock back and forth. Scott applied REALLY strong pressure to my back and I would tell him, “higher, lower, both hands, squeeze!” until he got it just right. And when he did, oh boy, the pain just melted away! The peak of each contraction was only about 15 seconds and was very manageable. After each contraction, I would get a very definitive break where I felt no pain.

During this time, I was tidying up the area in front of the fireplace. I made sure the nice white silky that my mom had just made for Ruby was laid out smoothly underneath me. (A white silky for a birth! Crazy, I know, but I wanted to feel its softness beneath me.) Then I organized my tower of pillows that I was leaning against so that I could look at the roaring fire in the fireplace. I also made sure our coffee table was free of clutter and that the water bottles were organized just so. When I wasn’t having a contraction, Scott would race upstairs to make the bed with plastic sheets. He would quickly rush downstairs when he heard another contraction starting.

Dealing with Contractions

Dealing with Contractions

DeAna arrived at about 10:40 p.m. and started getting things set up. She tried to listen to the baby’s heart beat right away, but I was just getting another contraction. She was like, “Oh boy! That was intense!” She tried to apply pressure to my back as I rocked back and forth on my hands and knees, but it was too weak and I demanded right away that Scott put his hands on me again! Ahhhhh! Instant relief! DeAna stared to call for the supplies that she needed and Scott brought them over. “No! Not those towels Scott!” I pleaded. “I have the blue ones neatly stacked on top of the washer…get those!” DeAna stared to put some chux pads underneath me as I continued to rock back and forth.

She tried to listen to the baby’s heart again, but the next contraction brought forth an animalistic growl and DeAna asked if I was feeling a little pushy. “Yes! I am!” I said in both shock and amazement. “There’s NO WAY I should be feeling pushy now,” I thought to myself. I guess there was still a part of my brain that thought we wouldn’t be having this baby tonight. The next few contractions were bringing more and more of that pushing sensation and it felt SO GOOD to know that I was getting through transition sooooooo quickly. (Transition only lasted 20 minutes!) “I’ll be meeting my baby soon!” I thought. “No way, no way, no way!” Then I felt as though some other force was taking over my body and I became completely overwhelmed with the urge to push.

The Birth

I was still rocking back and forth on my hands and knees, and I didn’t even notice that DeAna had slipped my underwear off. She shined a flashlight on my bottom and her and Scott could see the head (which was still in the bag of waters) starting to crown. I didn’t force the push; it just sort of came out of me naturally. My first instinct was to push as hard as I could, just to get that baby out. But I remembered from Ruby’s birth that I needed to breathe the baby out as slowly as possible so I could avoid all of that awful tearing that was so painful to recover from. It felt unbelievable to have this giant watermelon of a baby just hanging out inside the cavity of my body! With each contraction, I could feel the baby coming down a little further.

Scott told DeAna months prior that he was interested in catching the baby, but when she asked him, “You want to catch the baby, right?” Scott had forgotten about this and got really excited. I felt myself stretching beyond what was humanly possible, and the words “ring of fire” certainly rang true. DeAna told Scott the head was about to come out, and to position his hands in a way to cradle it as it emerged.

I was still positioned on my hands and knees, and with one good push, the head popped out! My waters finally broke and Scott thought that I had peed on him! It didn’t even phase him a bit. Our little baby emerged with a face that was stone cold serious, looking straight up (eyes closed). At that point, in between contractions,  I grabbed our little flip camera and held it over my back in the hopes of capturing the birth on video. Scott and DeAna were both in shock that I just did this right in the middle of pushing and DeAna snatched the camera from me and set it up on the TV stand – this gave us a wonderful video capturing everything from that point on until about 10 minutes after birth.

I waited until the next contraction, which felt like eternity, especially with that head hanging out of me, for my next opportunity to push again. When the next contraction came, I actually did push with all my might to get the rest of that baby out. Scott and DeAna could really see it coming and said “Come on! Just one more good push!” – and sure enough! After that last great push, out popped the rest of him into Scott’s waiting hands.

DeAna told me to turn over and she brought our sweet baby to my chest. Scott pulled down the straps on my shirt so I could start breastfeeding him, and we were in complete shock and amazement that it was over already, and we were holding our little baby in our arms. We didn’t even think to check his gender right away! Words cannot express the feelings of joy that we had as we kissed each other and bonded as a new extension of our family entered the world. One of my first words after the birth  was “That was sooo easy!!” because really, it was. I had been a little afraid that after this birth I wouldn’t want to have any more children, but Scott and I looked at each other and agreed we would love to have more kids.

We just agreed to wait a little longer next time, and avoid the castor oil. I had an immediate desire to wake up Ruby so she could share in this joy as well, but decided against it as the reality of that set in… We couldn’t believe she had stayed asleep the entire time! I felt another contractions rise, and then plop! There was the placenta. So then, the three of us cuddled in front of the fireplace and we finally thought to look to see if it was a boy or a girl! “It’s a boy!” I squealed, and we laughed and cried and kissed just as when we he was first born. We couldn’t belive we waited so long to check. Scott and DeAna adjusted the pillows so I could sit up, and 30 minutes after he was born he got a great latch on my breast and began his first feed.

DeAna Feeding Me Yogurt After Birth

DeAna Feeding Me Yogurt After Birth

Nursing Elliot

Nursing Elliot

Nursing in Front of the Fire

Nursing in Front of the Fire

Scott and I With Elliot

Scott and I With Elliot

At this point, the midwife’s assistant arrived. She was so sad that she had missed the birth, but DeAna got her right to work getting an herbal sitz bath ready to go. She and DeAna checked me out to make sure I had no tearing, or skid marks like I did with Ruby. I did a little kegel and the muscles felt great.  They did say there was one little tear, and if we wanted, DeAna could have put some super glue on there. It didn’t really hurt so I just opted to wait and see. Scott caught a quick glance while they were poking around and noticed that I looked nothing like I did when Ruby was born. He said I looked pretty much normal down there!

While we all had a chance to catch our breath, we decided to watch the birth video since we were all just sitting around in front of the TV. It was incredible, and we were so happy all over again. After a while, Scott took Elliot and I got into the bath. I was afraid of it burning or stinging like it did when I bathed after Ruby – but I felt nothing but comfort. As I was comfortably soaking, Scott took off his shirt and had some incredible skin to skin time with our little boy.

Then after I was settled in the tub for a while, he brought Elliot in to join me, with the placenta floating nearby in a metal bowl. Elliot was scared at first, but then I fed him and he fell asleep with me holding him there in the tub. Meanwhile, we could hear the midwives scurrying around cleaning up, making some eggs and cheese, and doing some laundry. Scott sat tubside and we just had so much fun talking about everything that happened. We talked about playing monopoly, having a boy, the quickness of labor, how amazed we were that Ruby was still asleep, etc. They eventually came in and helped me out of the tub while Scott brought Elliot upstairs to the bed room. They helped me dry off and get a pad, and then they helped me get upstairs.

Weighing Elliot

Weighing Elliot

Elliot's Newborn Screening

Elliot’s Newborn Screening

This is where they did their newborn check of him and I cut the cord while Scott held him. We ate our eggs and cheese and they went over a few postpartum care directions, which we promptly forgot in all the excitement and exhaustion. DeAna said she would call the next day at 11 to see how we were doing. Then she would stop by for the 2-day old visit (and a one week, 2 week, and 6 week visit as well). Then they tucked me into bed and Scott helped them bring down all their stuff to their car.

At this point, it was 2 a.m. and we thought we would be too excited to fall asleep. But as soon as we got snuggled in, we conked out until 3:30 a.m. when we heard Ruby through the baby monitor. Scott went down and gave her a bottle and changed her, and she went right back to sleep until 8 a.m. Elliot woke up at 5 a.m., I fed him, and off we all went again until Ruby woke up and we started our first day together. Scott snuggled her right in between us and she did not know quite what to think of her little brother, so she just gave him a sideways glance and snuggled in a little closer, and ate her yogurt while watching Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers. We were careful not to give Elliot too much direct attention while Ruby was around. We wanted her to discover him on her own (which she slowly did over the weeks to come).

It felt so crazy to have gone through such an amazing experience and to then just settle into normal life, WITH ANOTHER HUMAN IN OUR FAMILY! And a little boy too! We were so happy and felt so complete. Scott had the next two weeks off, and we enjoyed a blissful family moon. I got lots of bedrest, and Scott took care of all of us. It was perfect.

Ruby Loves Her Little Brother

Ruby Loves Her Little Brother

(Ruby decided to add her impression of the night: “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxszszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzxcfvfADVCZ”)

Elliot Edward Maaser

Elliot Edward Maaser