My due date was Tuesday the 29th. I woke up tired from being awake a lot of the night with some cramping. My mom and I had talked about spending the morning at Longwood Gardens, walking around, but it was chilly and pouring rain. I still wanted to get out of the house and do some walking, so we drove out to the mall instead. We met my sister-in-law and nephews there and the kids had fun playing in the play area. We walked around, had lunch, and played some more before heading home and all the while I was having some pretty serious cramping. Nothing that was coming or go, and no tightening, just the cramping. I really felt like the baby would be coming soon, but also wondered if I thought that just because I was so tired and ready to be done being pregnant!
On Wednesday the 30th I had an appointment at the birth center for a checkup. I told my midwife about all of the cramping I'd been having and asked to be checked. She offered to sweep my membranes and I said yes. I really felt like I was in pre-labor and wanted to move things along. I was 3cm, very soft, and she was easily able to do the sweep. I went home from my appointment feeling encouraged. I was going to be holding my baby soon. I could feel it. I had a very strong need for everything in the house to be very clean and in order so I scrubbed bathrooms and the kitchen, vacuumed, did laundry, dusted, and generally just de-cluttered everything. I wasn't feeling any contractions, just some cramping. I was exhausted by the end of the day and my patience with my super hyper children was stretched pretty thin. I went to bed praying for contractions. I needed to be finished with the pregnancy part of this story. And I think my family was about ready too ;)
Around 11:30 I woke up crampy, went to the bathroom, and was surprised by my bloody show. For me, this means labor, but I'm usually already contracting fairly regularly when I see it. I hadn't felt any contractions at this point. I went to lay back down. I felt anxious and my adrenaline was going, but I knew labor was about to get going, if it wasn't really already, and rest would be important. I used some breathing exercises from Hypnobirthing to calm myself down and sleep at least a little. Around 12:30 or so I started having some contractions that required my attention, so I started timing them. They weren't particularly regular, but on average were coming every 10-12 minutes. I chose to stay in bed rather than get up to walk and encourage them to get closer. At one point I was up with Kate, and at another point I was up with Henry. I wasn't going back to sleep when I was in bed, but I was making an effort to relax my body and keep my eyes closed as much as I could. When James' alarm went off for work, a little after 4am, I told him I thought labor was starting and that I needed him to stay home. I also told him to go back to sleep and that I was going to go downstairs to watch tv because I was too anxious to stay in bed. Henry woke up again not long after I went downstairs, but I got him back to sleep and then I ended up falling asleep for a while myself on the couch and my contractions took a bit of a break. When I woke up the sun was starting to come up and I knew the kids would be waking up soon. I waited until I knew my mom was probably awake and texted her to let her know I thought today would be the day, and then went upstairs to wait for the kids. Sam and Kate came in our room at 7 like always and we told them Daddy would be staying home today because we thought the baby might come later. They were excited, but we tried to really stress the MAYBE of the whole situation, since my contractions were still very irregular.
We spent the morning as normally as possible. Breakfast, playing, some cleaning up. My contractions weren't following any sort of pattern. After Henry nursed when he woke up, they got a little closer, maybe 7 or 8 minutes apart for a little while, but then spaced back out to about 15 minutes or so apart. Then some were even further, more like 30 minutes. When I was having contractions they were fairly strong, but they just weren't making any sort of a pattern and I was getting frustrated. We went outside so the kids could run around and so I could walk around. It was more of the same, labor-wise, out there. No rhyme or reason as to when contractions would come, but strong with a lot of pressure when they did.
Kate wanted to walk around the yard with me. She was so sweet to me the whole day :)
What's going on baby? Are we going to meet you today or not?!
The kids ate lunch, I ate some cereal, and we got ready for nap/quiet time. A whole HOUR passed without a single contraction. I was so frustrated, I just felt like crying. I was nursing Henry down for his nap and for a long time I still didn't have a single contraction. And here I had been banking on his nursing bringing them back. Just as he was drifting off to sleep though, an incredibly strong contraction came. I had to quickly unlatch Henry in order to try and maintain some semblance of focus to get through this very strong, very long contraction. Poor guy was so sleepy and so confused. I couldn't even get him his binky to make up for so quickly unlatching him because I couldn't bend down to get it. Once the contraction passed I finished getting Henry to sleep, and then had another contraction after leaving his room. I was still feeling discouraged and upset. I told James I just wanted to take a nap. Thankfully I was able to sleep for about an hour and a half. I had only 2 contractions during that time, but both were very strong. I was starting to feel uneasy. It didn't feel like I was in active labor, but the intensity of my contractions made me feel like my labor was going to eventually take a very sudden turn. I told James how I was feeling and he said he was feeling the same way. I decided to call the birth center and see what the on call midwife had to say. She said, since we don't live too far from the birth center, that it wouldn't hurt to drive by at least for a check. So we started to pack up the car. I kept stressing to the kids that we MIGHT stay at the birth center to have a baby when we got there, but we also might just turn around and go home. I must have told them 50 times that we'd be leaving all of our bags in the car when we got there. At that point I had a string of strong contractions about 12 minutes apart, after they had spaced 20-40 minutes apart for a while, so I felt slightly encouraged, but then I had not a single contraction while packing up the car and driving to the birth center. When we got there I felt certain we'd be turning right around to go home. The kids started playing with the toys there and I went with the on call midwife, Sarah, into the little triage room for a quick check. I reminded her that I had been 3cm the day before, so 4 or 5cm right now wouldn't be much of a big deal. She said if I was a 4 she'd probably send me home since I didn't look to be in active labor at all and hadn't had any contractions spaced closer than 12 minutes in hours. I tried to read her face while she was checking me, but she just looked confused. She didn't say anything for a long time. I said, "So a 4?" She looked at me for a minute and said, "You're not going home." But still didn't say anything else. She was still checking. I asked, "Oh! A 6?" She sat back, "How are you so calm right now? You're a 9. 9cm. Actually more like 9.5. The only thing holding your cervix in place at all is your bag of waters." I was in shock, "Wait. What? But I don't feel like I'm in active labor. 9?" She assured me that that's why she was checking for so long, because she didn't believe it either and wanted to be really sure, "You're definitely almost complete. I could break your water right now and you would be holding your baby very soon. I'm sure of it. In fact we can do that if you want." I said I did, but that we'd need to wait for my mom and dad to get there to have help with the kids. She told me to go ahead and get a hold of my parents and then get settled in the room I'd picked. With my mom and dad on their way, the kids and I hung out in the room while James brought our things in. My contractions started to get slightly closer now, but I wasn't timing them anymore. Just trying to find my focus through my shock. At this point it was a little after 5pm.
"Strong Like Mom" shirts seemed the most appropriate ;)
Once my parents got to the birth center, James got the kids and my dad situated out in the waiting area with toys, snacks, and movies. Sarah and I had been chatting while we waited for everybody. I expressed my concern with water slowing down my contractions even more, and also the fact that my babies have a history of 'sticky' shoulders. She was in agreement and suggested that we just keep the tub empty and plan for a land based birth. I felt most comfortable with that. With my mom and James in the room, Sarah went ahead and broke my water and felt for baby's position. She said baby was most definitely posterior, which would explain my funky labor pattern (or lack thereof). Only a small amount of fluid came out when she broke my water. Clearly baby's position was not ideal at that time. So we put the big ball up on the bed so I could kneel and drape my body over it, in hopes we'd get the baby to turn. It was close to 6pm by now. Leaning over the ball my contractions started coming much closer, and when I suddenly got very sweaty I knew I was in transition. I had a minute or two to gather myself together for what I knew was coming. I was struggling with focus. I'm used to having hours of labor prior to transition to really go inside myself to find a super calm, focused place. My contractions started piggy backing each other and, thankfully, after the first 1 or 2, I found that calm, focused place. Because of baby's position, my contractions were mostly felt in my back and my hips. Leaning over the ball did help a lot, as did James pushing my hips together during a few contractions. After a blur of these contractions I suddenly felt incredibly calm and relaxed, the contractions backed off, I picked my chest up off of the ball and asked Sarah to check me. "Transition is over. I know I'm complete." She checked and told me I was right. I love how in tune with my body I feel when I'm in labor!
This was hanging in my bathroom. Very appropriate for this particular labor!
I had a welcome break at this point. I drank water and we talked about positions to try pushing in to keep encouraging the baby to turn. When I started to feel 'pushy' contractions beginning, probably between 6:30 and 6:40, I asked to stay on my hands and knees since I was still feeling a lot in my back. I started breathing down through contractions and could feel the baby moving down, but not enough, and still so much pressure and discomfort in my back. I moved to semi reclining now and put a little more power behind each contraction, rather than breathing through. I still felt like baby hadn't turned. We tried a stool to help me squat. This was SO intense. I was starting to feel a little panicky and scared by how intense pushing on the stool felt. I was crying, "I want my baby." in between contractions. Sarah asked me after one if I wanted to move back to the bed because she could tell I'd made a lot of progress. I told her I'd do one more on the stool and then went deep inside myself and gave myself a pep talk. "You CAN do this. You are STRONG. You are CAPABLE." and from that moment on that was my mantra inside my head for each and every contraction. Sometimes just, "You are STRONG." over and over and sometimes the whole string of affirmations. Once I got back up on the bed I felt more productive. I knew the baby had turned while I was on the stool and wasn't posterior anymore. I had thought I had felt it, but once I felt how much more productive I felt pushing back up on the bed, I knew for sure. I asked Sarah to tell me as soon as she could see even a little of the baby's head because I needed to feel it with my hand. Shortly thereafter she told me to feel and once I did and knew how very close my baby was, I prayed for just a little more strength, and told myself I was having this baby right then. James was talking in my ear this whole time, assuring me that I was so close, that I was doing everything exactly how I was supposed to. With the next contraction, baby's head was born and then, with a little extra effort, shoulders, and finally I was pulling my baby onto my chest, "Oh I did it. Oh you're finally out!" Sarah reminded James to take a peek to find out if we had a boy or a girl, but he had caught a glimpse on the way up to my chest, "It's a little girl!" I started crying then and said, "It's Anna! This is our Anna! Hi Anna!" And, in that minute, our family grew.
I looked up at James and said, "That was hard. That was really hard." and we both remarked over how big Anna looked! The yummiest rolls on her arms and thighs! While I delivered the placenta and Sarah checked me out (I just needed one small stitch), James went out to tell the kids that they had a sister. I asked my mom to go out and capture their reactions on camera because they had been so sure it was a girl and so excited at the prospect of another sister. I knew their reactions would be so sweet, and I was not disappointed ;)
A few minutes later Anna had very easily latched on (I was very grateful to notice absolutely no tongue tie after struggling with both Kate and Henry's tongue ties!) and the kids came in to get in bed with me. Such a wonderful feeling, having all four of my babies there in bed with me.
Comparing his thumb size to hers
The kids went back out to be with Grandpa and my mom went to start heating up food for all of us while the nurse took vitals from me and Anna and then left us to relax. This is one of my favorite parts of a birth center birth. The absolute peace of being left alone for a couple hours after your baby is born. Anna nursed, James and I talked over the strange whirlwind her labor and delivery ended up being, my mom brought us food, it was cozy and quiet and wonderful.
After a couple of hours Anna had her checkup and was weighed and measured. She was 9lbs 4oz and 20 3/4in! Our heaviest baby by a lot! I couldn't believe she had been in my belly and that I had pushed her out!
My mom and dad got the big kids into their jammies at this point and took them home to go to bed. I took a shower and our nurse went over our discharge paperwork with us before we packed up and went home ourselves, about 4 hours after Anna was born.
Since bringing Anna home we've just been soaking her in. Everybody is just so in love with her and is always asking for a turn holding her. She's a champion little nurser and a pretty good sleeper. I think we're all enjoying a very quiet, very low key postpartum. Pajamas, movies, snacks, snuggles, naps. I've been feeling wonderful! I'm actually surprised because of how tough the actual delivery was. The only thing that's sore is my upper back and chest. I feel like I've been doing a lot of push ups actually. Probably from all of the time I spent on my hands and knees, trying to get little miss to turn. Between how much Anna has been nursing, and also nursing Henry a few times a day, I've been very very hungry. Thankfully, James is home until Tuesday and is keeping me well fed ;)
I feel so incredibly blessed to be Mama to these 4, wonderful, healthy, beautiful children and am so looking forward to settling into a routine at a family of 6!