I tried to keep busy and patient the next few days. Saturday I continued to have mild contractions that were becoming more regular as the day went on. Chris, Cole and I went out to Touvelle park and out to ice cream for a last hurrah as a family of three, just in case things picked up. I got some last minute things packed and went to bed. Even with the regular contractions, I slept pretty well, and woke up on Sunday with them about 5 mins apart. As we ate breakfast, I asked my mom if we could go to Target and walk around since it was freezing outside and I wanted to walk to keep the contractions coming! In Target, I had a few contractions every once in a while that made me stop and breathe, so I knew things were moving along. As soon as we arrived home, I texted my midwife that the contractions were about every 4 mins, but very mild. She called back and suggested we go ahead and come on into the birth center, even though I wasn't sure it was necessary yet - she wanted me as comfortable and unrushed as possible through the whole process. I looked at Chris and said, "We're having a baby today!"
We gathered our last minute things and said a (somewhat teary) goodbye to Cole. I was so excited, so nervous, so happy, and so sad at the same time as I waddled out to the car and climbed in while Chris held the door.
At the birth center, we settled in at 11:00am (with our bajillion bags of stuff...we are both serious over packers) and met our wonderful friend and doula, Nina, there. Nina had been doula for several of our friends' births, and we had asked her early on in our pregnancy if she would be there for our birth as well. Chris and I couldn't think of anyone else we'd rather have supporting us during labor. Augustine, my midwife, arrived and checked me - still at a 4. She reminded us that we were in no way tied to the birthing room, or even the birthing center. We could walk the neighborhood, go get ice cream, or even go see a movie. However, I wanted to get the baby going, so I elected to walk laps around the birth center, munching on snacks and drinking lots of water . I had to stop every couple of minutes to work through the contractions, and I loved the freedom to try out different positions to see what felt right as they increased in intensity and frequency.
Chris brought me flowers :)
We joked the entire time about how I wanted my birth experience to be "fun"... Chris was like, "Yeah, uh-huh, right..." -But, it seriously was! Nina, Chris and I spent the afternoon talking, taking fun surveys, and generally having a lovely time while my contractions became closer and closer.
Around 3:00, I requested Augustine, my midwife, check me again...and was totally disconcerted when she announced I was a 6, with a bulging bag of waters. Only a six??! After four hours of active labor?! Grr... But since the pain was getting worse, I asked to get in the tub to labor in the warm water. The tub takes awhile to fill, so I determinedly continued my laps around the center to encourage the baby to descend.
I'm not gonna lie, the contractions were two to three minutes apart at this point, lasting for about a minute. And they HURT. Tears would come to my eyes as Chris held me through each wave of pain, but he and Nina both coached me patiently and unfailingly, reminding me to breathe through the pain, to not fight it.
At 4:00, I hopped (or slowly and painfully was assisted) into the big gorgeous bathtub. I'm totally not a bath person normally, but it's my favorite place to labor. And one of the coolest parts of the birth center is the absolute freedom to do whatever we would like - Chris turned on our iPod for me, we lit relaxing candles, and dimmed the lights.
The contractions at this point were for sure incredibly, incredibly painful. I felt as though my insides were being torn apart. The amazing thing about contractions, though, is the complete and utter absence of pain in between them. Just when I would think I couldn't possibly handle another second of the pain, the contraction would ebb and the pain would miraculously be gone for a minute before the next one started up again.
I lost all sense of time around this point, but somewhere around 4:45 I requested Chris get in the tub with me, and shortly after that my water broke. Augustine came in and started to inform me that there might be a little break from the contractions temporarily, but then they would probably become more intense. In the middle of her telling me, I was hit with THE BIGGEST contraction - so she ended with, "Ok, so you are not going to get a little break."
One after another, wave upon wave of contractions. I brought myself firmly into a zone to get through each one, relaxing against Chris' warm body in the bath between contractions, pulling myself up onto hands and knees during each one, holding onto Nina's hands and soothing voice with dear life while Chris patiently and steadily massaged my back.
If there was ever a time during my labor that I felt like giving up, it was at this time. But there was one main difference between my two labors. During my labor with Cole, I remember feeling so shocked, so railroaded by the pain of the contractions, I fought with all my being against them. I would tense up my body in preparation for each wave and hold my breath until they were over. But with my second labor, I focused on accepting the pain, owning it, visualizing the good it was doing for my body to bring forth our baby. It may not seem like much of a difference, but it helped so much to get myself through the pain.
A little after five, I noticed through my fog of contractions that Augustine and the student midwives were quietly preparing the room and prepping thing to get ready for our baby's arrival. While she hadn't checked my dilation, Augustine was experienced enough to tell just from how I was handling the contractions how close I was to delivery. She bent down, looked into my eyes, and told me that whenever I felt the urge to push, to go ahead and push.
I pushed a couple of times, but I wasn't really getting anywhere - so Augustine checked me again and informed me that I was ten centimeters, but had a cervical lip that was preventing the baby's head from descending. She told me I could keep trying to push or she could move the lip aside so he could come down. I pushed a couple more times, but could tell it wasn't doing anything, so she moved the lip while I pushed his head past. So, so painful - I actually almost felt as though I was having an out-of-body experience as a result of the pain. I felt as though my body was no longer in my control as I yelled and grunted and thrashed uncontrollably, trying to do anything I could to alleviate the pain.
But as soon as the cervical lip was moved aside, I could literally FEEL our baby moving on his way out. I realized that the only way out was through the pain, so I gritted my teeth and focused all my effort, all my energy, every part of my being on pushing him out. The contractions were still as painful as ever, but I was totally encouraged by all the positive words of everyone around me - "You can do it!" "Reach down, feel your baby's head, it's right there!" "You are so awesome, sweetie, you got this!"
Just a few hard pushes, and I could feel his soft, sweet head. I gathered my strength and pushed harder than I thought was possible, and his whole little body slipped out into the water and into my arms.
Time stopped for a moment.
I pulled our child from my body, up into my arms
and I heard Chris' intake of breath, his voice choked with emotion as he said, "Hi little guy!"
and I held his perfect, tiny body
and he let out one little cry, just enough to let us know that he was ok
then he gazed up at my face with the sweetest eyes you could imagine, blinked and looked around
and I was completely oblivious to anything else but Chris' arms around me and our little baby
and I was overcome with the relief that the pain was over and gone, that our baby was here and he was amazing and gorgeous, with a soft perfect head covered in brown fuzz and an old-man, wrinkly forehead
and I held him close and told him how much we loved him, how happy we were to see him.
6:05 pm Chase Asher was born.
And there was so much palpable joy in the room - the midwives rejoiced with us and admired his adorableness, and Nina held my hand and told me how proud she was of me.
His birth was perfect. Peaceful, joyous, exactly as I had imagined it would be. His gentle entry into the world was full of love. I felt simultaneously taken care of and nurtured, yet empowered and in charge of exactly what and how I wanted our birth experience.
After some minutes of holding him and admiring him, Augustine asked if we felt comfortable getting out of the tub and warming Chase up, so we handed him to Nina to hold as we were getting out. We spent the next couple hours holding him skin to skin and getting to know every inch of his perfect, tiny little body, his soft skin, his long delicate fingers and adorable frog legs.
Our beautiful and amazing friend Nina:
The weighing of the baby:
I felt absolutely euphoric and exhausted at the same time. To know that my body can do such a thing - make it through incredible pain to get to the incredible reward - is so empowering.
I honestly wasn't sure if I could love another baby with the instantaneous, heart-stopping love that I experienced right at the beginning with Cole - but I could and I did. So much love - maybe even more so because we have first hand knowledge of how fleeting each stage is as our babies grow up and get older.
Later that night, as the dark descended and our midwives and friends left us, I nursed Chase snuggled close to me while Chris slept beside us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for another healthy, beautiful child - an emotion that has been echoed over and over again in the past two weeks as I hold both my children close.