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The Arrival of Alaina Bay

We wanted to be ready for an early arrival, like that of Elise at 38 weeks, so the birth kit was ordered, the house clean, and the freezer stocked by early January. We were ready. The days turned into weeks and the weeks fizzled out of January. We felt as if we were waiting on a long expected guest who still had not arrived. We began to wrap our heads around the idea of a February baby. Then, on 2.4, a small sign of something happening as I lost part of my mucous plug. Waking on 2.5, which marked 42 weeks of gestation, another encouraging sign as I had 3 stronger-than-usual contractions. Elise and I did our usual morning routine and by 10:30am, I texted Jeff at work, ‘not letting up,’ to which he replied, ‘:v)’ Just 15 minutes later, I could tell my contractions were getting stronger and I asked Jeff to make plans to come home soon. Elise called my mom, her support person, saying “I think the baby wants to be born today.”

Jeff had been in a state of readiness (for several weeks) so that he would be able to leave school when the call came. So…when the call finally came, he was ready. Jeff arrived home around 11:30 and we visited excitedly before he set up the birth pool. He would go downstairs to do the setup, coming back up when he had timed another contraction to start. In addition to pool setup, we made time for a family picture and then I gently bounced on the birth ball in our bedroom while he finished getting the pool ready. By noon, the contractions were 6 minutes apart and I needed Jeff’s help to be comfortable. He applied pressure to my lower back while I sat on the birth ball and stretched my arms across the bed.

Arriving at 12:30, my mom said a quick hello and then she and Elise began playing and reading together, allowing Jeff and I to focus entirely on labor. I needed him almost constantly by this point since the increasingly strong contractions lasted up to 90 seconds and were 3-4 minutes apart. Jeff texted Cheryl, our midwife, with updates on the timing of the contractions. She canceled her afternoon appointments and said she would be nearby and to let her know when we needed her. I thought I was still in the early stages of labor because I was thinking about Elise getting lunch soon and also lunch for Jeff and I as we needed to maintain our energy.

Contractions really picked up then and I HAD to have Jeff there the whole time. He pushed my back according to my blunt, but specific directions, ‘up’ ‘down’ ‘right.’ After a while, he suggested we move to a different position so we tried hands and knees on the bedroom floor. I was somewhat comfortable, but wanted to rest my upper body so he also got me some pillows to lie on. I had my ipod playing loudly, with the headphones in so I could fill my head with music, instead of focusing on the contractions. After a few contractions on my hands and knees, I decided I needed to pee, and told Jeff I wanted to go to the bathroom after the next contraction. As I got up to go to the bathroom, another contraction hit and I felt like I really needed to go to the bathroom, but all I could do was stand at the corner of the bed and work through the contraction. Remembering that the pushing phase is often described as feeling like needing to have a bowel movement, Jeff started to say, “It’s not the bathroom…’ but quickly realized that nothing was to be gained by trying to convince me otherwise.

At 1:40, Jeff called Cheryl with an update and, upon hearing me sounding pushy in the background, she said they’d be right over. Within 2 minutes, they were there, unwrapping and arranging the birth supplies. Following her instinct, Cheryl had decided to stage herself just a few blocks from our house so she would be able to arrive quickly. When Cheryl arrived we were in the smallest room of the house, our bathroom. Cheryl knelt just outside the door to observe how labor was going and when I opened my eyes, I saw her calmly looking at us. She quietly suggested Jeff reach under me to feel for the baby’s head. The baby’s head?! I didn’t think it was there yet but was surprised Cheryl thought it was possible. I certainly did not think I was that far along and figured I’d be able to tell if the head was coming out. It wasn’t, but I realized just how close we were to meeting our new baby.

Jeff supported my upper body and pushed my knees down during contractions. I held his shoulders or wrapped my arms around his neck. Someone suggested we move to a hands and knees position in the bedroom. Although I was quite relaxed where I was, I agreed to the move, thinking it would help with the progress of labor as well as give us more room. I reminded Jeff I still wanted to eat and suggested we could try the birth pool. With great love, Cheryl said “I’d be surprised if we made it to the birth pool.” These were sage words from a midwife who not only knew what was coming, but also knew not to tell a pregnant woman she could not do something. Walking those few steps from the bathroom to the bedroom floor were very awkward as I could feel the baby low in the birth canal. After four slow steps, a contraction began and I immediately dropped to my hands and knees. My water broke and I almost made it all the way onto the towels and cloths they had set out for me for me to labor on. (We later discovered the power of hydrogen peroxide.)

Jeff held my shoulders and was my counter pressure during each contraction. He said I was pushing into him incredibly hard. I felt hot, sweaty and pushy. In between contractions, I felt like my body completely rested and then I could feel it gear up for the next one. At this stage, my body was pushing very hard during contractions. My entire body would simultaneously and with great coordination bear down as it worked to help this baby move into the outside world. I pushed and heard encouraging words of ‘yes’ ‘that’s it’ ‘there you go’ and ‘you’re doing great.’ I didn’t know if I was pushing right or enough or too much, but things kept moving along. I could feel the baby moving inside of me and at one point even moving back up quite a ways. I didn’t want pushing to be endless so I gave a long, strong push. Cheryl said baby had a lot of hair. So much for the fireside waterbirth!

Conversations seemed very clear and the room was very calm. Little did I know how much hand-signaling and whispering was going on all around me – just communications between Cheryl and Melanie, but I was oblivious and focused on the baby. Cheryl helped me to stretch and soon, the baby came out, with a hand by her chin. Cheryl asked me to hold off on pushing. “I can’t,” I said alarmingly, but I tried and was able to hold off for a few moments. Later, I learned that Cheryl was clearing the meconium and fluid from baby’s mouth and nose. With Cheryl’s guidance, out came baby on the next contraction. With a final push at 2:20pm, Cheryl guided baby all the way out and was rewarded with a final gush of fluid splashing in her face. Cheryl pushed the baby through my legs so that I could reach her. I tried to see if we had a boy or girl, but with the umbilical cord in the way, I could not tell with a quick glance. I asked if Elise wanted to come see the baby and Melanie went to get her.

I was bleeding a lot and Cheryl needed to cut the cord. She did and I pulled baby up to my chest. We had a girl! Cheryl suggested nursing to help with my bleeding and clearing baby’s mouth and nose. Our perfect little baby girl latched right on and began nursing like a pro. Cheryl was soon able to determine that my bleeding was simply from a tear and that all was well.

After a few wonderful minutes, Jeff held our baby while I delivered the placenta. Afterwards, I crawled into our bed and happily held and nursed Alaina Bay. Cheryl and Melanie cleaned the room while we marveled at Alaina. We talked about the birth and Cheryl joked about the lack of time to take any notes during labor. Cheryl did a quick check on both Alaina and I and then she filled out the requisite paperwork and birth certificate. It was amazing to give birth at home where we all felt so comfortable and at peace and even more amazing to be able to immediately begin enjoying life and recovering from the labor of birth in the ideal place for recovery – our home.

The arrival of Alaina Bay was everything we wanted, yet very little of what we expected. Jeff and I chose this experience and felt empowered by every aspect of it. Our idealistic plans were changed by the reality of the experience, yet because we had no exact plan, it was the birth experience we wanted.