As we enter into the Christmas season again, I have to think about the year we were anticipating our own Christmas baby, and what a delightful time of year it was to cozy up inside with a newborn! Our little Tirzah had quite the dramatic entrance into the world, and it almost makes me laugh every time I recount it…
By the time I was expecting my fifth baby, I knew to expect lots of contractions and discomfort, and this pregnancy was no exception. Thankfully my blood pressure was staying within normal limits, and everything else was proceeding smoothly. But after several nights with contractions and signs that labor could be imminent, I was getting TIRED. Once you loose that much sleep and feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, you start to wonder how on earth you are going to make it through labor yet! One night I was pretty sure it was the “real deal”, after being up for hours with regular contractions, only to find everything stopped once the birth team was here and the pool was filled! Funny that it took the fifth child to experience that “false run”, but after not calling the midwife soon enough last time, we were trying to not repeat that scenario—only to send everyone home after a couple of hours!
My previous baby had come after an extremely intense labor, and I was trying hard to not allow fear to overcome my anticipation of this birth. Lynelle, my good friend and birth assistant, had told me that I really should try the birth pool this time around, and even offered to take care of all the set up and prep to make that happen. So we had set up the pool in the office, and had everything ready to go, and I was really hopeful that it would make a difference in the intensity, especially at the end.
Fast forward a couple of days: after getting a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Saturday feeling like this baby needed to be encouraged to come. I’ve taken Castor Oil before, but every time I thought about that option it made me want to puke. So I figured there had to be an alternative: enter the Midwives Brew! I had read about this recipe (used often by European Midwives), but had always figured that the small amount of castor oil combined with the other strange ingredients wouldn’t actually be effective. But by this point I was willing to at least TRY it and see! My husband was on board (he was ready to see me up at night nursing a baby instead of up at night with contractions!), but I warned him that I really didn’t think it would work.
Mid-morning, I took my youngest for a little “mommy date”, and we headed to Wegman’s for a few groceries and the ingredients for the brew (see this post to find out what those are!). I had fun picking out a few things that I thought would sound good to eat or drink IF I was in labor later on, and we had a pleasant little outing. Once I returned home it was about lunch time, so while Joel fixed lunch, I blended up the brew, and sipped it down before eating a little lunch. While not the best flavor I’ve ever tasted, it wasn’t nearly as bad as downing large amounts of castor oil in juice!! My stomach felt a little funny, but eating some food and then chewing some gum seemed to settle things.
This was the weekend that one of our little local Victorian towns always holds an event called “A Victorian Christmas”. That event combined with the opening of an exhibit of an Underground Railroad station in one of the museums there had made me want to take the children out for awhile if we were still waiting on a baby over that time. Since Joel had a Bible Study planned at our house for the afternoon, it felt like a great opportunity to take out the older children for some educational distraction and let me get a chance to think about something other than baby waiting! Since all I had been experiencing for two hours was some minor stomach discomfort, I decided to head out around 2:30pm, despite my husband’s slight misgivings. Laughingly I joked with him that if I called him he’d better answer the phone, as it might mean I needed him to come pick me up!
Bellefonte is about 10 min from our house, and we parked and went through the historical museum, only to find out that it did not contain the Underground Railroad Exhibit like I had thought. The curator pointed us up the road about half a block to the right museum, and the children and I headed that direction. Right as we hit the steps (around 3:30pm), I felt a slight “pop” and had a thought that perhaps my water had broken. But I wasn’t sure, and decided since we were RIGHT THERE we might as well go in. I felt a bit of dismay when the museum volunteer cheerily told us that the exhibit was on the top floor…UP THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS!! We started up the stairs when I felt my first real contraction, and I immediately thought that we’d better not stay long. The children were oblivious, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring, while I tried to act like nothing was amiss as the contractions quickly started getting stronger and harder. I hurried them through the exhibit and back down the stairs, stopping briefly in the bathroom where I confirmed that indeed my water had broken. As we headed outside, my children excitedly discussed the next place we would go…and I seriously informed them that we needed to get home NOW. They looked at me puzzled, and I told them I thought baby sister was going to be coming, to which my 6 year old son replied “how do you know? Your water hasn’t broken yet, has it?”. That made me laugh in spite of the situation, and when I told him it HAD, they all got really serious!
The half-block walk back to the car seemed to take forever, as the contractions were definitely picking up in speed and intensity. Once we pulled out and started on the road, I called Joel. The first time he didn’t answer, but then when the phone rang the second time he figured he’d better pick up! I told him that labor had begun, and to please have all the Bible study men out of the house by the time I got home and figure out where the boys were supposed to go…and to pray I could drive home safely! Next I called my friend Lynelle, as I knew that she would need to get a babysitter for her children, and I really wanted her free to get the pool started if things continued. Once I was finished with this phone call I knew I couldn’t make any more calls and drive, as things were just too intense. It was all I could do to stay focused on driving! I kept praying a policeman wouldn’t pull me over, as I had no bandwidth to explain why I was headed home instead of to the hospital!
I reached home, and our friend Daniel had his van running so he could pull out with the boys as soon as I arrived with Matthias. I pulled in the garage around 4:20, and had a massive contraction that made me unable to even get out of the vehicle. I heard Joel on the phone—he had called our midwife to see if I had called her yet (I hadn’t!! She was next, but I couldn’t make another call after I talked with Lynelle!), and she said she’d be on her way. I still remember running inside to the bathroom, trying to focus on relaxing, and coming to grips with the fact that at this rate I would not be having a water birth, then Joel calling through the door “the pool is warm and half way filled if you want to get in!!” He had so sweetly started filling the pool, turning on the music, and getting things ready the minute I called home! I told him he’d better call Lynelle and Priscilla (our friend who was going to come help with our girls and take pictures), and they’d better hurry, and I still remember the relief of settling into the warm pool.
Once I got in the water, the intensity and closeness of the contractions subsided, and I had a chance in between to catch up Joel on all that had transpired. Lynelle and Priscilla don’t live far, and arrived within a few minutes, and I still remember us all laughing in between contractions as the craziness of how fast things were happening! It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure of Tirzah’s head descending, and Lynelle was ready to help in anyway she could. Priscilla called our girls in, and they all clustered around the pool, quiet with excitement and anticipation. This time around I didn’t want anyone to touch me (other than squeezing Joel’s hand!), and I have never experienced the awareness during pushing as I did with this birth. It was an incredible experience to actually breathe her out and catch her myself—something I don’t think I could have done without the help of the water! I pulled her up to my chest, she cried right away, and we settled back in the warm water, both amazed at all that had happened. It was 4:42pm, only 20 minutes after I had arrived home!!
My girls were so delighted to help welcome their little sister, and their eyes shown as they stroked her head, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit back and relax and catch my breath. Being in the warm water seemed to decrease my usual after-birth shakes, and we had a long chance to connect and rest. Rose Marie arrived about 20 min later, and since I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, daddy and the girls took baby sister to the other room while I transitioned to the birth stool where the placenta came easily. I was feeling good enough (and minimal blood loss!) that I showered quickly, and then cozied up on the couch while our midwife and friends did all the baby checks, and Joel popped a pizza into the oven. Eventually Priscilla went to bring the boys home to meet their sister, and we had a lovely evening rejoicing in our new gift. I had never had a daytime baby, and I couldn’t believe how good I felt and how I was hardly even tired! After everyone had some supper and everything was cleaned up and taken care of, I took our new baby upstairs, and we cuddled up together for the night-so thankful for the amazing experience, and still in a bit of unbelief!