In Alicia’s words:
Having a gentle, natural birth with a hands-off approach was really important to us with Ellie’s birth. After being risked-out of midwifery care at the beginning (due to being high risk for blood clotting) I was a little devastated that we might not be able to be supported in our desires. We patiently researched and then found the perfect doctor that matched the style of care we were seeking. He even recommended Hypnobirthing, which we had already planned on learning. We took Hypnobirthing classes with Jacie, and we also hired her as our doula. It was a perfect match of the support we were looking for. I had a very healthy, mostly uneventful pregnancy. At those last weekly appointments our baby girl was in perfect positioning. Conditions were favorable for a spontaneous labor, maybe even before her due date. Earlier in the pregnancy we learned that our doctor was going to be leaving the country during my 40th week for a missions trip. As the 40th week mark approached, our doctor was encouraging and really thought I would deliver before then. We asked him who would be there for the delivery in his absence. He said that because we had been preparing for a natural delivery, we could request one of the midwives in the practice if I went into labor while he was gone. It made me feel so much better that regardless of who attended the birth, our wishes would be understood and vision supported. And how ironic that we were denied midwifery care in the beginning at other practices, but had a good possibility of ending up with one for the birth! I breathed so much easier knowing we were taken care of in any circumstance. We were ready, beyond ready.
40 weeks came and went. We were more prepared than ever: labor and hospital bags were meticulously packed, freezer meals were made, daily meals were prepped, notes were left for Nana, the nursery was ready, every piece of laundry was washed and caught up on every day, the floors and baseboards were clean, the house was dusted. Nesting at it’s finest, really. Everything had it’s place incase we went into labor and had our sweet Ellie at any moment. It was the cleanest our house has ever been– Logan even learned the word “cleaning” that week. Phil would come home from work and see folded laundry on the table and say, “you must be bored…”.
With each day that passed the November 21st due date, I wondered when our baby girl would arrive. She was in perfect positioning and was lower into my pelvis by the day. I could feel a few light, irregular surges (contractions) here and there, but they never amounted to anything consistent. We walked the malls several times that week, which wasn’t bad considering the holiday lights were up and Christmas music was playing. It was my favorite time of the year. We soaked up our last moments as a family of three with a trip the indoor playground and special things to do with Logan. I drank more red raspberry leaf tea than I could keep track of, practiced Hypnobirthing breathing and focused on my birth affirmations.
We had our weekly NST (non-stress test) and prenatal appointment on the morning of Tuesday, November 25th. Since our doctor was out of the country, we met with Cassie Applegate, one of the midwives. I seriously didn’t think we were going to need that appointment when we made it, but there we were. Ellie looked great on the NST and following that we met with Cassie for the first time. She was so patient, gentle and took time to talk with us at that appointment. She measured my belly and I was measuring right at 40 weeks. My cervix was still high and posterior, but this week I was measuring a 2 and still was a very soft 80% effaced. We left that appointment to fully surrender that Ellie was just going to come when she wanted to and when my body was fully ready. Maybe she was waiting for our doctor to come back… maybe she’d be born on Thanksgiving… or even into the first week of December. I didn’t feel rushed, just impatient to meet our little girl, especially since the conditions were so favorable. We embraced the possibility of a holiday baby, and I was quite okay with that.
Later that evening we made a “quick” grocery trip to Target to grab some last minute items to stock the house (you know, just incase, like we had done for the past month or so). Being the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, even if Ellie didn’t arrive by then we didn’t want to go shopping on either of those days or that weekend for that matter. Our quick trip was chaotic. Logan was having a horrible night and threw his first grocery store tantrum on the floor of the freezer aisle. I was trying to be efficient in my wandering through the aisles but kept getting distracted. Waddling around the store that night was stressful and I could have cried at any moment. Looking back, that night felt different. We came home, ate a late dinner and headed for bed. I took my nightly dose of Heparin in sobbing tears because I could barely see that part of my belly anymore and it hurt badly as I tried to find a place to inject the medicine. I was just done. I didn’t want to take another shot and prayed that it would be the last one. That night definitely felt different, but I was too exhausted and emotional to notice. I deeply fell asleep that night, for a few hours at least.
Later in the night I woke at 1:55am to a decent surge (contraction) that lasted about one minute. This had been happening in the middle of the nights earlier in the week, so I didn’t think much of it. I continued to lay in bed and drifted off to sleep again. 10 minutes later I had another one lasting about a minute as well. I still stayed in bed because that’s what the surges had been like the other nights too– 10 minutes apart for about 30-45 minutes and then they would go away. At 2:15am, just like clockwork there was another intense surge. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom, just like every other night, but while I was in there I got another surge within 5 minutes. I started to feel different and wondered if this was early labor. I drew a hot bath and continued to time the surges in the app on my phone. Within 30 minutes they jumped from 10 minutes apart to 4 to 5 minutes apart, still lasting about 1 minute each. Every once in awhile I would get surges that were every minute to 2 minutes apart here and there. It was a bit inconsistent, so I wasn’t sure what was going on yet. I listened to my Hypnobirthing tracks on my phone to relax and focus. Phil was still in bed, but by 2:30am I called him into the bathroom for support and to see if he thought this was the real deal. I got out of the tub and called Jacie and Danielle to let them know I was thinking this was early labor, but not to come quite yet. By 3am I tried to lay back down in attempt to relax and conserve energy but the surges were so intense that I abruptly crawled right out of bed to stand. I labored on the birth ball at the side of the bed for a bit. Phil called his mom to come over to the house incase Logan woke up. In between surges I felt fantastic, but when the waves came they climbed fast. As I was sitting on the ball in the middle of a surge I said, “I don’t think I can do this here”, pondering going to the hospital to labor. But after the surge came back down, I recognized that making decisions during surges probably wasn’t the best idea. The surges were so intense a couple times that I needed to stand at the bed. Nausea started to kick in, but I thought maybe it was a few of my anxious nerves.
I headed back to the bathtub to give it another try and added more hot water. I discovered that pouring water over my belly was soothing, so Phil continued to do that with a cup as I labored through consistent surges. I switched the music from my Hypnobirthing tracks to a song by Steffany Gretzinger called “Letting Go”. Listening to that song on repeat helped me relax, focus and let go. We turned off the bathroom lights as I found the darkness to be soothing as well. There was a soft glow of light from the one lamp that was lit in our bedroom. At 4:20am we called Jacie in and she arrived by 5am. She calmly coached me through surges and in between them we quietly chatted. I had serious heartburn and nausea, both of which Jacie said might be changes worth noting, that labor was headed in a good and progressive direction. She got peppermint oil and wafted it in front of my nose for a good part of that hour; it helped greatly. She got some apple cider vinegar from the fridge and I took a shot of that for the heartburn, which also helped greatly. Phil made the phone call into the midwives so they would have a heads up and Jacie stayed with me working through the surges. I asked her how we would know when to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to get there too early and be turned away for not being dilated far enough along, and I didn’t want to be poked and monitored more than I needed to be. Jacie calmly and quietly spoke saying that we wouldn’t know for certain, and I knew that we were supported in whatever decision we made. I didn’t want to have the baby in the car during the 25 minute drive, but I honestly didn’t think I was progressed that far to worry much about it. Jacie kept track of my surges in the app on my phone as they came and went. She assured me I was breathing well and doing great. The bathtub ended up being the perfect refuge to labor in as it was dark, quiet and peaceful. In between surges I looked up to the window and noticed it was getting a little bit light outside; it was not much, but enough to notice. There was a soft glittering snow in the air that was dusting the ground. It was a perfectly cold, quiet, winter night– just like I was hoping for. Not too shortly after Phil told Danielle to come to the house, I told him to call her back to tell her to meet us at the hospital. She was already on the way to our house, so she came anyways. And I’m so glad she did. Just as she arrived (right before 6am) I was getting out of the tub and drying off, wrapping my bottom half in a towel while working through a surge. I took a couple steps into the bedroom to get dressed and we worked through another surge. These frequent surges continued while we walked downstairs. We slowly made our way out the front door to the car in the garage, every few steps working through surges. It was relentless, one on top of another. The surges were coming so quickly at that point that we stopped timing them. In one pocket of my sweater I had my phone with music still playing, and in my hand I had a tissue with peppermint oil on it, inhaling it every chance I got. We got in the car by 6:15 and drove to the hospital. I was nervous that we would arrive there too early. I remember thinking “so help me I’m only dilated to a 3…” Somehow I still wasn’t sold that I was in active labor.