We liked the idea of three children. With two wonderfully wild boys, and I wanted to sleep for another year before trying again.
But oops. With baby #3 on the way I wasn’t gonna get that sleep.
I sat on a hard chair in the bright 4th floor office, my arms embracing a very round belly.
“And are we birthing at home or the hospital?” The midwife asked.
It was not the first time she asked. Nor the last.
I was self-conscious about the answer. The truth was, I wanted to birth at home. What’s more, I wanted a waterbirth. But I had a pile of doubt and uncertainty suffocating that dream. I talk more about where that uncertainty came from here (and how safe homebirth is for healthy pregnancies).
I write this birth story to share the sheer joy of it.
The shock and overwhelm of a surprise pregnancy turned to joy and anticipation. For the first time, we found out the sex of our baby before birth –– a girl!
I don’t think I slept the night we found out, I was so excited. 2 boys. And now a girl!?
The pregnancy was hard but healthy. Two toddlers and a big belly are NO JOKE.
Then – BAM – a pandemic.
Thankfully this pregnancy had no complications, COVID complicated everything enough.
I thought over where to birth without resolve. We eventually agreed to “plan for both and decide the day of.” HA! Ok???
Then, I finally let my dream come into the light – I wanted a waterbirth. In our new home. My dream was met with love and support from my husband.
Wise friends that had had several waterbirths talked us through the process from the parent perspective and the midwives walked us through the medical perspective. All lights green.
At 7 or 8 months pregnant, what once was a dream beyond the horizon became an inflatable tub in our closet.
I was due July 29. But I had this feeling she was going to be early. Actually, I thought my dating ultrasound was just wrong. We’ll never know.
This is a story of my dream come true.
I write this birth story simply to share the sheer joy of it. Because this is a story of good.
Saturday, July 18 – the wee hours of the morning.
Cramps. Strong enough to wake me, but far apart enough that I would fall back asleep in between.
When my feet hit the ground I looked at Justin and said “I think we’re going to have a baby today!”
I typically ignore early labour because… it’s annoying. Is it happening? Is it not? Whatever. I’ll know when I know.
But this time I was a little more alert. Baby 3 can be a wildcard and I was nervous she was going to be even faster than my previous precipitous birth [here].
Plus, I seriously hoped for a waterbirth. Which took at least 30 minutes to set up.
It was almost 30 degrees C on this particular Saturday in July. There I was, washing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees in a sundress. Our 2-day-old AC unit was humming to hold a solid 25C.
Unremarkable contractions coming and going at a good rhythm. 6-8 minutes apart. For hours.
I was texting my doula all morning. She was with me for all of my births and this was the first in-person birth she could support since the start of the pandemic.
Maybe baby time? Maybe not. We didn’t know.
I probably took 4 baths before noon.
The rhythm of contractions still rolling, still unremarkable.
We decided to send the kids to the grandparents after naptime “just in case.” A quiet evening never hurt tired parents anyways.
My contraction app tells me to go to the hospital. Which I think is silly, contractions still feel so unremarkable.
But last time I thought that was silly, I had 2 hours before I was pushing.
We gave our midwife a heads up, but told her not to come yet. We decided to call her once contractions were real enough I had to breathe through one.
Our doula arrived. Then we hung out. For hours.
Still nothing new.
Justin eventually started rolling out his homemade pizza dough — his pepperoni pizza rivals any big-city pizzeria I’ve found. He and Doula Deb wouldn’t have even known I was in labour.
The late-day sun was starting to shimmer in the windows while I waddled up and down basement stairs and sauntering circles around the kitchen.
Annoyed nothing seemed to be happening, I went to float in the bath –– again.
And one good contraction.
And then another one.
And then an “Ok I’m getting out! Call the midwife!!”
Just like that.
Pizza was ready! And so was baby.
Now I’m excited. And I can’t stop saying it.
“I’m so excited. I’m so excited.”
The midwife on her way, the tub patiently present in our living room, and hot pizza resting on the counters.
It was time to meet our baby girl. I looked at the sun sparkle through the glass pane of our front door and got teary-eyed from the joy of the anticipation.
With each contraction I paused to breathe. Then came back to laugh and crack jokes. “Get the barf bowl ready – the next one might be it!”
Our midwife, Emily, breezed through our front door with armfuls of baby-catching gear. My and baby’s heart rates are solid. So thankful.
I asked for a bigger barf bowl. C’mon now, don’t make me aim.
I throw up every time I give birth. TMI? It’s totally normal for me, an exciting milestone of progress. The smell of peppermint essential oil is my hero.
I leaned on our freshly wiped kitchen counter breathing in the cold, sweet scent.
Then I feel it, that instinctive push reflex the body has when a baby is ready to arrive. The urge makes you hold your breath – not from pain but from pressure – as your body works to let the baby out. It’s incredible. Intense. Powerful.
I got in the birthtub for the first time.
The sunset warmed our west-facing window making the room glow.
I was in labour land now… focusing. I retreat into my mind, focus on relaxing and surrendering. I stop talking to people, I just focus. And relax.
I draped myself over the side of the tub and let myself float in the warm water like a lily pad. Only, way less graceful than a lily pad.
It. Was. Glorious. The most comfortable I’ve ever felt in labour.
With each contraction I could feel my body pushing, but I wasn’t pushing. It’s hard to explain.
In my two previous births, the pushing stage was an extreme amount of work and energy, people cheering and saying “push push push!” But this time… calm. Quiet.
Even my midwife who had walked in the door just moments earlier and didn’t yet have our support midwife there yet was quiet.
Though I could hear her zipping around, moving with a mission, preparing the space, everything that came out of her mouth was calm and encouraging. (Do you know how much gear midwives are armed with? They’re even prepared to intubate a baby at home in an emergency. They’re all-stars.)
Each wave of contraction, strong and with purpose, moved the baby down. I held my breath until a contraction ended and I relaxed like a noodle again. I was so relaxed I almost felt like dozing off between contractions.
I used my doula’s arms as leverage while my body pushed. I welcomed each contraction in my mind and praised my Creator.
My water broke in the tub and felt like a water balloon popping inside my belly! Which… I guess… is literally what it was! It almost made me laugh, but I was focused.
I was surprised how soon her head was out! With Emily’s coaching, I turned belly-up in the tub. Still calm, still in labour land, one last push.
The midwife guided Anna through the warm water to my hands.
I lifted Anna out of the water and her lungs filled with breath.
There she was in all her glory, squishy and screaming on my chest, in our living room, as the sun went down.
Talk about Divine.
We snuggled for almost 10 minutes before the backup midwife made her grand entrance!
With the support of our incredible care team, I walked down the hall with Anna on my chest and lay down in my own bed.
What. A. Dream.
I underestimated how calm the calm would feel in a home. No beeping. No ambient noise. No bright lights. We snuggled for over an hour, skin to skin, on our own bed.
The midwives weighed and checked her over while I had the best shower of my life.
I stood for a long time with the hot water beating on my shoulders, looking at my belly that now resembled more of a hammock than a beachball, praising God for what He had just done. Birth is a miracle. So much has to go right. And we all know that sometimes it doesn’t.
The undeserved favour of this day is not lost on us. But by the grace.
Welcome to the world, daughter.
Then, they all ate pizza. 🙂
Photo credit to @MrsJessicaBurke