It’s hard to know where to start with Darius’ birth story, as there were several starts-and-stops along the way during the last week or so of my pregnancy. Joel will shake his head and say something along the lines of “shouldn’t a midwife know when she is in labor?”, but once again I had trouble figuring it out.
To give some background (especially if you’ve read my previous birth stories), we had used our dear friend Rose as our midwife with our girls, and she ended up being the first one on the scene after Matthias was born (she was home on a school break THAT weekend, and our midwife was on her way from Lancaster, but Matthias came in a hurry-read his birth story here). We love her, but due to a variety of reasons (especially the fact that Joel has no desire to ever catch one of his own babies again) we decided that this time we needed to use a midwife who lives closer to us. In the past two years I have been blessed to meet and work with Rose Marie Spicher, a midwife who lives half an hour away, and who worked for years in TX (where I did my midwifery training). She provided the “mothering” care I needed throughout my pregnancy, and it gave Joel a sense of relief to know she wasn’t too far away. With me being on maternity leave the month of May, and the fact that everyone else was expecting in May as well (I have NEVER received so many inquiries for one particular month!), I was just hoping that she wouldn’t be tied up whenever our baby decided to come!
So fast-forward through all the months of sickness, fatigue, finding out that we were expecting a baby brother (the children are still certain this was a direct result of their prayers, as I was convinced it had to be a girl given how sick I was!), and everything else until the beginning of May. By early May I was reaching that totally-done-being-pregnant stage where I wasn’t sleeping at night, having lots of cramps & contractions, felt extremely emotional all the time, and we were wondering just when this little fellow would decide to make his appearance. Between 34-36 weeks I was experiencing enough cramps and contractions to know I needed to take it easy, and once we hit 36 weeks I had a couple of times where I thought perhaps we were getting started-I distinctly remember one night when I couldn’t sleep because of contractions, so Joel & I slipped outside to take a walk in the moonlight. It would have been so romantic if I hadn’t been so uncomfortable! But everything always fizzled away, and left me feeling tired and discouraged.
At this point we were preparing for a visit from my parents, who live in Kansas. My sister had her first baby the month before, and my mom wanted to come out to help her over the time my brother-in-law was graduating and they were preparing to move. So she flew into northern PA, spent a few days with my sister, and was then joined by my dad. The plan was that they would drive down to see us before they headed back to Kansas, and of course we hoped that baby would arrive before they left, though we knew it was entirely possible that he would wait until they were home again. However, with all the early labor signs I had been experiencing, I’ll admit that I was getting my hopes up! Mom & Dad planned to arrive on Mother’s Day, and the night before I was trying to encourage things along, and ended up with a night of contractions with no baby to show for it. Everything was regular enough that I actually called my midwife to give her a heads up, but then it all petered out.
I really had to work through the disappointment of knowing that perhaps my folks wouldn’t get to meet their grandson on this trip. We didn’t know when we would be seeing them next, and I hadn’t realized just how much I had my heart set on them getting to be here to see MY baby while he was new and tiny. It took some talking, praying, crying and processing with Joel to get to the point of being okay with the fact that perhaps this time with mom & dad was to be spent enjoying their company and not stressing over whether baby was here or not. So for the next few days, my parents helped to take my mind off of waiting for baby, and we enjoyed some lovely family time at the park, taking walks, picnics, a backyard barbeque, and some time for Joel & I to be together while our children were cared for.
The last night of their visit, they took our two oldest children back to stay the night with them in their cabin. In the interest of full disclosure, I had taken some castor oil in the afternoon, knowing full well that there was a good possibility nothing would come of it, and yet hoping that perhaps it would give my body the nudge it seemed to be waiting for. I was NOT going to get my hopes up, though, and I tried to just go to bed to get some sleep. I think it was around midnight or 1am when I woke up with a contraction, and yet I tried to sleep, as it sure wasn’t the first time that random contractions had woken me up at night! After an hour or so of not really sleeping, I figured I might as well get up to see if moving around made them go away or get stronger.
Joel sweetly got up with me, and fixed me sourdough toast with strawberry jam-his mom had given me jam and sourdough bread the week before, and it was becoming a regular midnight tradition to eat a piece when I couldn’t sleep! After another hour or so, Joel commented that these contractions seemed to be pretty regular and close together. I did NOT want to give another false alarm to anyone, and didn’t feel sure that this was anything more than what had happened on previous nights. Looking back, they were coming close together (every 2-4 minutes!), but they weren’t very intense, and they didn’t last long, so I wasn’t convinced they were doing anything. With my previous babies, my water had always broken either before labor began or at the start of active labor, so I kept waiting for that to be the clue that this was the “real thing”.
At 4:00am, Joel really felt like we should call Rose Marie, as he said he thought this seemed more serious, and he did NOT want to wait until it was too late! So I called Rose Marie, and I told her I still wasn’t sure this was “it”, yet Joel would feel better if she came, but she didn’t need to rush. The contractions were starting to get a bit more of an “edge” to them that took my breath away, but I still felt like I could make myself talk through them, though I preferred not to. Another sign I should have paid attention to!
Within 15 min of calling Rose Marie, all of a sudden things kicked in with a vengeance. Up till now I had still been puttering around, but hadn’t gotten birth stuff out yet, as I had gotten it all out and then had to put it all away a few nights before. I wanted to make sure I was in REAL labor before getting everything set up again, and figured I could do it in between contractions as a distraction. Well, that’s not how things happened. Labor went from being “not sure this is it” to “we’re in seriously active labor” in a few minutes! Joel called Rose Marie back and told her to step on it, and then he promptly called Lynelle (my birth assistant who was planning to assist Rose Marie with our birth-she lives less than five minutes away) and told her to come. I think it was around 4:30am when Joel called Lynelle, and boy did she know how to get over to our place in a hurry! Joel said he has never in his life been so happy to see Lynelle walk into a room, and it was just in time.
By this point my contractions were one on top of another, and I felt like I didn’t have any time to collect myself, catch my breath or get a break in between. Joel kept encouraging me to breathe through them (he didn’t want me pushing!), and I was leaning over the birth ball squeezing his hands for all I was worth, just praying that God would make it stop so I could catch my breath. Lynelle quickly realized things were serious, and started pulling all the birth supplies together. All of a sudden I told them there was no way I could keep from pushing any longer. It had been taking everything I had to blow through contractions, and I was done. I distinctly remember saying “you all are just going to have to catch this baby ‘cause I can’t keep him in any longer!” Lynelle calmly replied that everything was okay, and with the next contraction my water broke. Now I can laugh about it-that was the clue I had been waiting for all along to tell me if I was actually in labor! With the next contraction Lynelle could see his head, and she did an awesome job of coaching me through as I tried to breathe him out. Right at the point his head was delivering, Rose Marie walked in the room! Lynelle started to move out of the way, but Rose Marie just smiled and said it looked like she was doing a great job, so she might as well continue. Rose Marie guided Lynelle through the rest of her “first catch”, and the official birth time was 4:56am.
I can still remember the absolute relief that comes from being finished, and laying down with my baby on my chest. He cried just enough for us to know he was great, and then he snuggled on my chest, and we all exclaimed over his head full of strawberry blonde hair-that was a surprise! We had a really special next hour or so as we reflected over the crazy labor, the special-ness of the unplanned “first catch” for Lynelle, Rose Marie’s perfect timing, and Joel’s relief that he didn’t have to do this birth alone. We had invited another family friend to be present at the birth, and sadly she didn’t make it time, but her sweet & joyous spirit added to the atmosphere in the room as Joel fixed breakfast and baby Darius had his first meal. Thanks for coming, Mary!
And then it was SO amazing to call my parents and tell them that their grandson had arrived! Having them able to bring our oldest two over first thing that morning was so special. They were able to watch the newborn exam, meet our midwives, and see the children as they delighted in meeting their new sibling. It was the “icing on the cake” to have them around, and able to snuggle their newest grandbaby that morning, before they had to leave that afternoon to catch their flight home.
We had struggled with finding the right name for our little guy, and settled on Darius Rafael just a few weeks before his birth. Darius means “Upholder of Good” and Rafael means “God is Healer”. It is our prayer that our little son will grow into a man who does good, and is used to provide God’s healing to others. He checked out at 8# 10 oz, and measured 20 in long. Matthias was absolutely delighted to have a baby brother, and they continue to have a special relationship as brothers.