This is a tough one to write. How do you just “start at the beginning” when you’re really not sure where the beginning was? I guess I have to take the story back to week 32 or 33. That was when we had a night where I almost headed to the hospital. We had been contracting all evening. I wasn’t too worried yet, because this wasn’t the first episode of timable, painful contractions that eventually tapered out. I did all the usual things to try and stop false labor… Warm epsom salt bath, glass of red wine, lots of water, Natural Calm magnesium drink. Nothing was helping. I laid down in bed, still not too worried… Until I started shaking. And feeling nauseous. Uh-oh.
I told my husband I thought we were going to the hospital, but to give me 10 minutes to be sure. The praying commenced in earnest. I prayed the “emergency novena” that Mother Teresa was fond of: 9 Memorares in a row. Blessed Mother, please help keep this baby in a few more weeks.
As soon as I finished the last prayer, I heard in my heart “Mama, the Lady says it’s not time yet.” Then everything stopped. No shaking. No nausea. No contractions. Thank you, Heavenly Mother!
After that night, prodromal labor became an almost daily thing. We never got back to the “Oh man, is this transition?” point again, but we labored on.
Know what prodromal labor is? A cruel trick of nature. It’s basically where you “labor” on and off for days or even weeks. Not those cute little Braxton Hicks contractions either. Nope. These are REAL contractions. They feel exactly like early labor. They wake you up at night. They demand you stop talking and breathe through them. They are timable. They make you eat everything in the fridge because you’re STARVING. They make you almost cause an accident when one hits out of nowhere while you’re trying to merge onto the freeway. They are sometimes strong enough to make you pee or poop your panties (TMI? It’s a BIRTH STORY y’all!).
But they don’t give you a baby.
Yeah. So that’s what I’d been doing for weeks. Every week or two the baseline intensity would jump up another notch and I’d wonder for a few days if this was “it.” Nope. This is just your new day-to-day normal, darlin’. But other than the never-ending labor, Baby and I were both doing great. Absolutely no complications or complaints. So we just rolled with it.
Then a week before my due date, my midwife texted me that she would be out of town this weekend, so if anything happened I should call her partner. Induction by absence? Now, I love her partner. She was a student during my last birth, and became a Certified Professional Midwife about a year ago. She is in every way a wonderful, beautiful woman… But she’s not MY midwife! She’s not the woman who has already held my hands and prayed with me through a birth. (Though she examined my lady parts right after a birth, so I guess we have that going for us.) I know that sounds babyish, but at 39 weeks pregnant, darn it, I’m allowed to be a bit of a baby! So I have a heart-to-heart with the little pumpkin in my belly. “Hey Bub, You know you can come whenever you need to. But, if it’s all the same to you, Mama would feel much more comfortable if you could wait until Monday, when our midwife is back. Okay?”
This baby has been such a polite, well-mannered little one. No little feet pushing into my stomach giving me heartburn. No somersaults keeping me awake at night. No painful kicks to the ribs. If a little foot ever does poke someplace uncomfortable, all I have to do is give it a little nudge “Not there baby, you can kick over here, alright?” Seriously, this kid is amazing. Maybe he/she will listen to my request?
Early Friday morning I wake up with the strongest contractions to date. Breathe. The wave washes slowly down my uterus. Pressure builds at the top. Tension in the lower segments. Then an intense stretching in the cervix before the wave is gone. Hmmm… Wait for it. Again. And again. 8 or 10 minutes apart, and definitely building in intensity. After a few hours, Matthew’s alarm goes off. I tell him I think it’s baby day, but I’m not ready to pronounce it as fact yet. He decides to take the day off anyways.
Then about 6am the girls start to stir, and the contractions back off a notch. Hmm… Alright, well I guess we will be keeping our midwife appointment this morning after all. It’s a good thing Matthew stayed home, because there is no way I can drive through all of this. We load everyone up and drive down to see my midwife’s partner. She watches me have to close my eyes and rock my body through 3 contractions in our 30 minute visit. You can see “hmmmm…” all over her face as well.
I’m still hoping that the birth waits until at least Monday. Wait, what’s the weather supposed to be like? Oh, thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. Perfect. And is that a FULL MOON tomorrow!? Oh, not just a full moon, but a super moon. Well now. That evening I have my first ever professional massage. An hour of pure heaven! My contractions are so strong, the massage therapist can feel them with her hands on my back or thighs, but I feel so amazingly relaxed.
(excuse me for a second while I leave the computer. I hear the kids talking to someone outside………………. Alright, they were saying good morning to the neighbor “Mr Matt”… while the 2-year-old was eating 2 fistfuls of dogfood… and not wearing anything from the waist down… Man I’m glad we have such a chill neighbor! Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming)
Contractions are strong and powerful by the time I crawl into bed. Then, they stop. Like, they stop for a WHOLE NIGHT. I actually SLEEP through an entire night! Man, that was amazing. All day Saturday I keep waiting for them to come back. After all we have thunderstorms on a supermoon and an absent midwife today. Nothing. More than 24 hours of still, blissfully resting uterus.
Sunday morning we get the family ready for Mass. I start having occasional good contractions. What else is new? During Mass I have several fall-deeply-into-yourself contractions. Matthew is pretty much on his own with the girls. Mama is busy. After Mass we let the girls play with their friends on the church playground for a few minutes. “Mama! I going to slide down the BIG ONE! Catch me!”
“Okay sweetheart! Ready? Set… Oh, wait a minute BabyGirl. Mama’s body is hugging the baby again…” lean over the bottom of the slide and rock my hips in a way that should never be seen on the Church grounds. “Ooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh ummmmmmmmmmmm mmmmMMMMMMMMmmmmm………… Okay Honey, I’m ready to catch you! Go!”
That evening contractions fizzle out. I tell my husband that I feel like my belly sticks out so far I can’t keep baby putting pressure in the right places! He reminds me that we bought a belly binding wrap. Oh yeah. I bind up that belly real good, then work with the birthing ball for a couple of hours. Bounce. Circle the hips. Bounce. Circle the hips. I can feel the pressure lower now. Good baby. Man, I’d love to stay on this ball for another few hours, but it’s already waaaaay past the girls’ bedtime. (ha, like we actually have a regular bedtime these days. Schedules are hard when Mama is in perpetual labor and Dada is in school 3 night a week. Okay, the kids are just too fussy to be around anymore so I should probably get these poor babies to bed.)
Before bed that night, my husband asks me to wake him up i I have to get up. I pretty much tell him no way José. For the past few weeks I’ve been having to get up to “labor” for a few hours several night a week. I’ll wake you if I need you, Dear.
We don’t have a clock in our room, and I can’t reach the phones from where I am imprisoned between a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, so I don’t know what time it is when I wake up. Breathe. Pressure. Tension. Stretching. Wow, that was a this-is-for-sure-the-day one! Wait. How many times have I said that in the past 3 days? Yeah right Mama, go back to sleep. After an hour or two of trying to ignore these contractions, I realize I’m feeling all the pressure on top of my pubic bone. So I decide to get up and try some Spinning Babies stuff to get baby’s head engaged.
Now I can see a clock. 3:30am. I start timing. There is a pattern of one big contraction, then two small ones before the next big one. I decide to only time the big ones. They are about 8 minutes apart, and only 30 seconds long. I decide to do the abdominal lift and tuck through 10 big ones.
(hang on a sec, the 4-year-old is spitting on the watercolor notecards I just finished painting… Okay, I’m back)
By the time I finish the 3rd lift, there is a change. I feel the pressure down and back instead of on my pubic bone. Baby shifted somehow. May as well continue the set; the contractions feel more productive when I’m lifting and tucking.
I’m going pee every 15 minutes or so. Then I see it. The holy grail of prodromal laborin’ mamas. Bloody show. YES! It’s gonna be a birthday!
At 4:30 I’m finishing up my set of 10 lifts. Things are getting more intense. I go wake up my husband. He watches me move around the house for a while. At 5am I decide to call the midwife. MY midwife. I ask her if she’s back on midwife duty yet, or if I should call her partner. The poor lady says sleepily “Um, well, I got a little bit of sleep so I guess…”
I tell her what’s going on. She says to call her in an hour if it’s still going this strong.
My husband is hanging around ready to help, but it’s too early for me to want company. I ask him to go do something else and close the bathroom door. I get in the tub. The water feels AMAZING. Too good, actually. The contractions become less intense and space further apart. After a while, I decide to go lay down in the unoccupied guest bed and try to get some rest before things pick up again.
HypnoBabies helps me relax deeply and even sleep between waves, which are now 8-10 minutes apart.
A huge crash and bang from the kitchen jars me mid contraction. After the wave passes, I get up and, politely as I can, ask my husband to please try not to wake the girls up. I really don’t want to have to be “mama” right now. Turns out, he was keeping busy by re-seasoning all my cast iron. This stuff looks GREAT now!
Shortly after that I can’t stand to lay down anymore. I start pacing the house like a restless animal, grabbing walls or furniture and moaning or growling through contractions. My husband asks if I need anything. “No. It just feels better to move than to lay there listening to that darn HypnoBabies lady and pretending these things don’t hurt!” Ha! That’s usually the sign that I’m really getting going.
Giacinta is calling for me from the bedroom. I go scoop her up and tell her we will have our baby today! My contractions are back to being intense, but I’m still able to talk and care for the kids between them. I get back in the tub and Giacinta is sad that she can’t get in the water with me. She sits on the tub step so I can wrap my arms around her, and eats a bowl of ice cream for breakfast.
Philomena wakes up and wanders in to check things out. After she sees that everything is okay, she takes her ice cream and goes to watch a movie. The girls handle the rest of labor incredibly well, even the loudest parts. They are completely unphased.
After a few minutes, in the tub, contractions start to slow down again. Cue frustration. I stand up to get out. As soon as the gravity grabs my body, BAM! Wow, that one was good! I use the toilet and decide to just stay there. It intensifies the contract and makes me feel like we’re actually doing something.
I check dilation. My fingers can’t quite reach the back of my cervix, so I don’t have a number. But I feel the sack bulging through and clearly feel baby’s head. Baby’s head! I jump up and throw my arms around my husband, crying for joy. I can feel my baby! I kiss my husband hard and sob into his shoulder.
My happy sobs turn into laughter as the next contraction builds. Back to laboring on the toilet! Matthew texts the midwife to update her. 9:50am. She immediately calls back… Right about the time the next contraction comes and I start laughing hysterically. “Um, well, I think we might be going into transition right now. So you better come.” I love this man. He knows me so well.
The next hour and a half are absolutely amazing. Midwife and doula arrive about 10:30. My first sign that another contraction is coming is this wonderfully warm surge of happiness that floods my soul and buzzes in the back of my head. Every time I feel that I start laughing like a crazed woman. As the intensity builds I grab my husband’s arms and make loud birthing noises at the peak, then laugh my way back down again.
The strength of these contractions is unreal, but I still wouldn’t call it “pain.” It feels like a great big party in here! After an especially powerful one that has me roaring and my body shaking, I smile at my husband. “Not bad for someone who can’t even open the pickle jar, eh?”
My midwife laughs and says “Your strength is just in different places!”
“So… are you suggesting an alternate method of opening pickle jars?” 😉
More contractions. More laughing. “Epidural mamas don’t know what they’re missing!” (note: please don’t think I’m judging epidural mamas! No one birth choice is right for every mama, or every labor… and if I’m ever induced or augmented, sign me up for the epi! I was just having fun joking around.)
As my body moves more into pushing, the laughing stops. I still wouldn’t call these sensations pain, but they are overwhelmingly powerful. I open my eyes and look at my husband; his face is so full of love and pride for me. I feel so wonderfully safe, and I kiss him.
Ooh, harder and harder come the contractions. I do another internal check. “There’s been no change.” I whine to my midwife. “I still have just as much of a cervical lip as half an hour ago!” In this moment, I forget everything I know about a cervical lip, how meaningless it is, how normal it is to feel pushing before complete dilation. In this moment, I am just frustrated, unsure, and afraid I’ll have to do this forever. It is the ‘I can’t do this anymore’ stage.
My wonderful midwife just calmly tells me “That’s okay. It will melt away. Just listen to your body. You’re doing beautifully.” Oh, right. Okay. We’ve got this.
After a couple more contractions sitting on the toilet doesn’t feel right anymore. I stand up and look around restlessly, not really sure what I need. “Would you like to get in the water?” My midwife suggests. I’m not really sure, but maybe? Okay, I’ll try it.
As soon as I’m on my knees in the tub, a huge pushing contraction rakes through me. It seems to go on forever as I roar like a lioness at the strength running through me. In that one massive contraction my water breaks and baby moves past my cervix and halfway down the birth canal. Yes. Here we go! Midwife checks baby’s heart tones with the doppler. Doing great. The next contraction pushes into my tailbone. “It hurts, oh it hurts” This is the only time I complain about pain. “Remember to let baby out gently, mama.” my midwife reminds me. “I can’t slow it down!” A few more contractions and baby is there, about to crown.
Too hard, too fast. I realize I’m going to tear this time. I’m afraid. I look at the crucifix propped on the edge of the tub. The Lord’s body all torn. He didn’t resist. Jesus, help me not to resist. Help me surrender my body for this child. I offer this all up for the sanctity of my family. Out loud all I manage is “Jesus, help me.” “Lord, we invite you into this space.” echoes my doula. I grab the crucifix and kiss His sacred feet.
Then the next contraction is here and we are crowning. I hold both my hands over baby’s head. “Good job mama, right into your hands.” coos my midwife. My entire body is shaking with the effort of keeping baby inside for just another moment. Breathe. Slow. Horsey lips. Breathe.
The next surge comes and baby slides out, head shoulders and body. All at once. I reach in the water and pick baby up.
“Cord!” says the midwife as she reaches in to untangle us. I pull my beautiful baby up on my chest.
“It’s a boy.”says my husband, who has a better view of the business end. I stare into my boy’s eyes. He cries just enough to clear his lungs, then looks up at me and starts to coo.
We call the girls on the bathroom to meet their brother. Seeing the joy on their faces is almost as wonderful as feeling my baby in my arms. I’m so happy to have given them another sibling!
After just a few minutes I feel the cord slack a bit. A little push and the placenta is out. I hand baby to my midwife so my husband can help me out of the tub and into bed. Incredibly I ended up with only a small, surface perineal tear, straight down. It didn’t even need stitches.
My baby is perfect. 7lb 13oz. Born at 11:24am? Alert and happy. After the midwife and doula leave, baby and I settle down for a nap. I play the Rosary on my phone and pray along until I fall asleep. Such deep gratitude fills my heart.
After 2 days of tossing around ideas for names, we finally decide to name him Aquinas Benedict. We call him Quinn for short.
Baby Quinn. 6 weeks of prodromal labor. 7 or 8 hours of early labor on D day. 1.5 hours of intense active labor. My 3rd baby. 1st boy. 2nd homebirth. 3rd beautiful birth experience.
Thanks be to God! I am so blessed.
In case you’re wondering what impression being here for the birth had on my girls: a week later I asked them what they they thought about it…
“Mama laugh!” 🙂
Yes. Yes I did.
BTW, if you live in Kansas City and need a midwife, I wholeheartedly suggest Amber Walla!
And my wonderful doula (who somehow managed to get great pictures despite having a bright window in the background) is Stephanie Luce.
In Corde Maria,