On Thursday, May 7 at 8:08pm I sent my midwife a text message.
“That sweep did the trick, these are great contractions!”
I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant with our precious rainbow baby, Norah. My contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes and were around 2-3 minutes long.
My midwife had come for an appointment earlier that day to strip my membranes (again) to try to kick-start labor. Otherwise, I was going to have to be induced in the hospital that Sunday that followed, which I did NOT want. For days, I tried chiropractic adjustments, took tinctures, had a membrane sweep and tested some other various “labor inducing” old wives tales. Nothing was working and I was getting more and more nervous. I was beginning to really doubt myself and my body. So, when the contractions and the Active Labor tincture were working to get my body doing what it needed to do, I was ecstatic. Finally, I was closer to meeting my baby girl.
Her reply, “I’m changing my clothes to head that way,” was the most exciting text message! We went into prep mode. We moved all of the furniture into the places that we had planned so we could make space for the birthing tub. I set up the diffuser, the battery powered candles, the crockpot with water and washcloths for a compress… We got the bed ready, set the coffee table up with the birthing supplies and Jay ran the hose line from the laundry room so that when the tub got here, we would be ready. I walked the newly-transformed spaces in my home and was so elated and emotional. My dream of a home birth was so close I could feel it.
Earlier that Thursday, during my appointment, my midwife brought over a monitor to check on Norah’s heartbeat. She was concerned. Her heart rate went from it’s usual 140-150 range into the mid 90’s with each contraction. This can be normal, but her heart rate is supposed to go back up just before the contraction ends, and it wasn’t going back up until a few seconds after. With this being my fourth birth and with me being so far over my due date, it could be a cause for concern if I had a “tired placenta”. So the plan was, that once she got to the house, she would monitor things and check my dilation. If I were getting close to active labor, we would be fine to stay home, but if I were only around 5cm (which I was that afternoon) and still had progress to make, that it would be safest to go into the hospital before it was a medical necessity.
When she came to the house, Norah’s heart rate seemed to be a little better, but it still wasn’t ideal. My midwife called and consulted with the OB who said she would feel most comfortable if we came into the hospital. Of course, if it were any question of baby girl’s safety I wasn’t going to take any chances. So, I pulled the monitors off of my belly and got up off of the couch with the intention of packing a hospital bag. I got around the back of the couch and just broke down crying. I was so completely consumed with emotions that I simply couldn’t hold it back anymore. I kept trying to tell myself that this was God’s plan for her arrival into this world and that I need to just let go and have total faith in Him, but I was also grieving the loss of the dream I held so vividly in my mind for months.
If you’ve followed along with this pregnancy, then you know that this wasn’t my initial birth plan. I had planned for a birth center birth with Baby + Company in Nashville. In the 34th week of my pregnancy, Covid- 19 changed everything. The birth center that once made me feel instant calm upon entering, was now changing everything and causing me an immense deal of unhealthy stress. No more in- person visits, labs being done in a parking garage, and in the event of an emergency, I would no longer have the support of the Baby + Co midwives, I would be left to figure things out myself with the Vanderbilt Hospital staff. I had always dreamed of having the strength to have a home birth and I thought this was God’s way of leading me there. Once I met my midwives, and got over the financial stress of paying for two births, essentially, I felt so much peace. I began to look at our home in a totally different way. This was the place where I would meet my baby girl. I would have the support I felt I needed for my first natural labor, I would have my children there to witness the miracle of birth- or at the very least, have them wake up in the morning to their new baby sister. I could have my photographer there, I could labor in my own way, do things that felt natural, in the comfort of my own home. Not only did I have one plan dissipate, but two. It caused my anxiety to ramp up and I remember feeling so many mixed emotions. I remember standing in the doorway of the family room, by the couch, while my husband wrapped his arms around me. He just held me while I cried. He rubbed my back, he kissed my head and told me it was my choice but it would be okay. I took a deep breath, swallowed back the next wave of tears and went to pack my bag. Where I had that next round of emotions flood me. I packed all of the things I had planned on touching in my own home. Swaddle blankets, cozy PJs, my own PJs… all of the things that were to be a part of my birth story at home.
In a few minutes time, the visions of me being overwhelmed by pride for birthing my daughter in the most natural way, pulling her from the water and kissing her head… of having my husband see me at most most vulnerable and simultaneously at my strongest… of everyone around me smiling in my living room while telling me how beautiful she was, how amazing it was to see, to go from the water where her life took form, into the bed where she and I would spend the first few golden days bonding. Friends, it was hard to let go of that. It still is hard.
We got into the car to follow my midwife to the hospital and I tried to get myself excited, afterall, I was only hours away from meeting my baby. I put on some music to totally pump me up and danced in the car, my big bump bouncing all around. Through each contraction I tried to make myself feel more and more excited. I danced and smiled and had tears hot on my cheeks- totally overcome by so many feelings.
We got to the hospital and it was real. There was no turning back. The birth experience that I did not want at all, was now my reality. We walked in and had a Covid screening. We all answered the same questions, had our temperatures checked and went up to L&D. I went into a room where I was given a gown. I remember taking my clothes off and putting on the gown and looking at my reflection and just having it all hit me again… and crying, again. I walked out and was asked to get into the uncomfortable hospital bed, by nurses wearing masks. We had to talk to the front desk and provide all of our information over the phone because we hadn’t registered to deliver there, of course. So through contractions and heightened emotions I spoke my social security, address, health history and all of the things I had answered for the last two birth plans that I had.
When it came time for the IV line, I made it clear that the only place I could have the line was my hand. The nurse insisted it not go in my hand because “that wouldn’t be comfortable,” completely brushing off the fact that I know my own body better than anyone. Sure enough, she blew my vein- not once, but three times. At this point my anxiety was so high, I could feel a panic attack coming. Like watching a storm roll in, the dark sky fighting to take over the clear blue. It was at this point of overwhelm, feeling so unsupported and so unconfident in myself, that I decided to get the epidural. Which of course took adjusting. It was really one thing after another- just not feeling heard, not feeling strong… Not feeling proud of where I was and how I was handling things. And then it came time to push.
I said a prayer. Here goes, we are ready. I asked my husband to put on my birth soundtrack. The song “Oceans” came on. “Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.” They were moving the hospital bed, the doctor was getting gowned up, the cart was being moved beside her. My husband was beside me holding my hand and my midwife had her phone ready to capture the moments of my last birth that she knew were so important to me. I hear more lyrics “I will call upon Your name, keep my eyes above the waves” exactly the words I needed to hear. I began pushing, and it was the first time I felt in control and in tune with my body and friends, I have tears in my eyes as I type this. Just to recall those feelings, how relieved I felt to finally feel control. I could feel were she was with each push, I was quiet, I was focused, I was so connected to her. She and I did it together, afterall. “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me…” Over and over I heard these words, focused on them, feeling the life I was about to bring into the world. I felt her crown, and burst into tears, she was almost here. One more push and then that beautiful sound of her first cry. That first breath of life.
We did it.