Letters from a Learning Mother, Letters from a Pregnant Mother

Birth Story: Welcoming Lucy

For what felt like the tenth time, I woke up with contractions just a few hours after going to sleep. The first night it happened, I thought about getting the bath water running, certain that “this was it” but not sure how quickly things would end up progressing. After an hour or two of lying in bed with contractions coming every ten minutes, I fell back to sleep and woke the next morning as if nothing had happened. 

Two weeks later, I found myself awake again with light contractions coming in steady every 7-8 minutes. I looked at the clock that read 2am and gently woke my husband saying, “I think we’re going to have a baby today.”

I spent about an hour in the tub until the contractions were only 5-6 minutes apart while my husband called his parents and talked to our friend and flatmate, deciding that Ellis, our 22-month-old, would stay home with her and that Matthis’ mom would join them for breakfast, then take him home with her. After accidentally waking him a little too much to tell him what was going on, Matthis attempted to put our son back to sleep before we left for the three-minute drive to the hospital, but eventually, Jhana ended up taking over so we could leave. 

In the car, I noticed that the contractions had slowed and I started to worry that this was nothing more than a false alarm. When we arrived and I got hooked up to the machine, it showed contractions coming every 8-10 minutes and I was dilated to about 3cm. Since we were the only ones there, the midwife admitted us to a birthing room but noted I was not yet in active labor. Since birth can progress more quickly with your second child, she said it was possible that things could intensify rapidly, but that there was no guarantee. 

We spent the next 8 hours attempting to somehow get the contractions to pick up speed — eating breakfast together, spending time in and out of the tub, roaming the halls and power walking up and down several flights of stairs — but when lunchtime rolled around and things were just as they were when we had arrived around 4am, we spoke to the midwife on duty and decided to leave and come back as soon as there had been some sort of change. Both tired and hungry, we ended up going out for lunch before going home to take a nap, and when our Italian waiter joked around as he brought me some schnitzel and Matthis pizza, telling me I better not go into labor at his restaurant, I almost burst into laughter but didn’t have the heart to tell him we had just spent all morning at the hospital. I was able to silently breathe through the contractions when they came, and thoroughly enjoyed my much-needed boost of energy before going home to rest.

Matthis and I ended up napping for two hours, and when I woke up around 4pm, the contractions had picked up in intensity. Not wanting a change in location to slow things down again, we decided we would stay home until we didn’t feel comfortable there anymore. After a while, we decided to watch a movie together, and paused “The Game Plan” each time a contraction came so we could breathe through them together. Although they only came every 7-8 minutes, I found a few tears escaping my eyes as I told Matthis how torn I felt inside: thankful for every contraction that came, knowing each one was bringing us one step closer to meeting our daughter, yet wishing them away as I felt like someone was wringing out my insides like a towel. My husband’s presence and encouragement kept me steady with my eyes on the invaluable prize we soon would receive.

After eating some melon and debating on what to do next, I decided to go to bed, thinking that if I was able to sleep, I should, and if not, then this was the real deal. I think I slept for about an hour before contractions started surging through my body that made me tell Matthis we needed to head back to the hospital. When we arrived at around 11pm shortly after calling to say we were on our way, contractions were coming in consistently every 5 minutes and I was dilated to 4-5 centimeters. The midwife on the night shift showed us back to the room we had been in earlier and the tub was already filled with water, waiting for me. She encouraged us not to get stuck in asking ourselves if this was really it or how long we would be there, but to get settled in and assume we were about to meet our little girl. I ended up getting right into the tub and spent the next few hours using the breathing techniques the midwife showed me to allow the intense contractions to do their job. Matthis held my hand through each one and brought me water whenever I needed it. At one point, we both laughed really hard as I attempted to get into a new position using the long, floatable pillow and dunked my face in the water in the same moment he warned me that I was about to go under. I was present, awake, aware and could have short conversations between each contraction until the very end.

At some point, I started to feel a shift as I attempted to push a bit to see what would happen and felt my daughter start moving down through the birth canal. The midwife checked and I was completely dilated. I could push. Since the urge to do so hadn’t quite settled in, I felt a little unsure of if and how I should implement my strength. The midwife told me that everything felt almost too good to be true up until that point, almost too peaceful, and that it rarely sounded as calm as I did in the moment a woman birthed a baby. During the next contraction, I let out a gentle roar as I pushed, and the urge joined immediately. It didn’t take long until I felt my water break, and a few pushes later, I reached down and felt my daughter’s head and hair as she was crowning. My midwife coached me through each contraction, attempting to lengthen this final phase to prevent any tearing like I had experienced with my firstborn. With the breathing techniques she showed me, I truly felt like I could control my strength and push only with the intensity required, none more. I could feel my little girl pushing too — it was as if her feet had found the perfect spot beneath my ribs and she was using them to kick herself out of my womb.

Seemingly only minutes later, my daughter was in the tub with me, being untangled from the umbilical cord and was then immediately placed on my chest. It was a moment I couldn’t fathom. She was here, and her entrance was beautiful as she was.

After quite some time of admiring our little girl in an awestruck state, I looked up at the clock that read just a little after 2am. My husband cut the umbilical cord and took our baby in his arms so I could move over to the bed where I ended up having to get stitched back up, though I had remained much more in tact than I had with my son. Once I had gotten situated, my husband brought our baby girl to me and she nursed as if she had done so a thousand times. 

We are so thankful to welcome this healthy, 9lb 16oz treasure into the world and especially our family. And we’re thankful for the way we will always remember becoming a family of four.

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