Lunchtime had arrived and I decided it was time to get out of bed and be a good parent. Truly I had been rolling in and out of bed all morning waffling between addressing needs of kids and justifying my “need to lay down.” When 1:00 hit I pulled myself together and yanked my sheets off the bed to throw in the wash in the process. Getting the kids fed, Corban down for a nap and setting to some chores around 1:00 was literally how my day started on August 8, 2017. With digital devices in the hands of my big boys and Corban in bed I decided that since I’d had so much help the past couple of days, me beautiful baby shower had come and gone, and most my “nesting” lists were completed, that I had better stay on top of things at the house so it stayed in pristine condition for the birth. I go a bit crazy in those last days – thank God for a husband who humors and loves me through it all.
While the sheets were in I decided to sweep, do the dishes, clear the counters, put away toys… and only a short time after putting my brain to this it hit me that I might be having contractions. I’ll start by saying all my deliveries have had similarities and some major differences. My first two deliveries were in the hospital and were my most similar. Middle of the night contractions led me to my own tub, and after I could not longer say “I’m not sure this is it” we headed to the hospital. Only a couple of hours after a painful card ride to the hospital Cashel was born – read more here. And for Camper I was at the hospital less than forty minutes and probably went through transition in the car and lobby of the hospital – his complete story is here. With Corban it was all totally different since my water broke just before I was about to head out for happy hour with a girlfriend and I ended up delivering him myself in our bathtub. Read more about his unplanned unassisted, home birth here. Given that the midwives hadn’t been able to make it for the last delivery, everyone was in high alert for this one. Especially me.
So… when I thought, “these might not be braxton hicks, I think I’ll time them” I decided to note on the clock how frequently these were coming. I started out having a couple in an hour while I cleaned. Then when they seemed to be coming every 10-15 minutes I decided not to wait for the sheets to finish, instead putting the shower curtain liner and “not nice” sheets on the bed, “just in case” this might be it. I also sent Ben a text to see if he could head toward home and maybe work at a coffee shop a bit closer to us. (His commute is 40 minutes and with Corban that was almost how long my labor was start to finish). He said he’d head our way and reminded me that we had agreed that if I felt I needed to alert him that I’d call the midwives too. I begrudgingly obliged, but I didn’t want to officially call or page, I’m a stubborn one. So… I texted one of the midwives. She texted to ask me how close together they were coming. Before I could send her a screen shot from the app, I had just downloaded to time contractions, she called. I started timing them at about 3:05pm and they were coming 9 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes, and then even more frequently. Each lasting about 1 minute, but occasionally they’d last 2-3 minutes. The fact that I can tell you this is miraculous. I really have never been able to time, note, or communicate these kids of details before. I think I was just more attune this time around and being extra cautious so that we’d all have the opportunity to be on site this time around. After a brief conversation Melanie, the midwife on call, we decided she should come and check my vitals and maybe my progress. I had a midwife appointment about 5 days prior where we decided not to take any measures to induce naturally and to wait on baby to begin my labor. (We had discussed breaking my water early to ensure that the midwives were able to make it to our home in time, but decided my gut was telling me to wait.) Melanie was not initially the “on call” midwife, but Holly was sick and had just passed the baton to Mel, who just happened to be the midwife I had texted. Crazy! I just got so gun shy of the “official pager,” which just makes me laugh. I didn’t want to cause a “false alarm” especially for my fourth baby.
This was only 24 hours after the first proposed “water break” date I was given and was still 8 days early. SO I really wasn’t convinced I was for sure in labor. I did however call my dad who wanted all the notice I could give him, and my sister who’d need to take a ferry to get to me. My mom was out of town with girlfriends so I didn’t tell her anything, figuring she was way too far away and that it looked like she would miss it.
This all took place between 4:00-5:30pm on August 8th while I continued to keep kids quiet, alive, do chores, and note contractions in my app. As I got to the end of my list I put the dog in the garage and both Ben and my dad arrived. Just a few minutes later around 6:25 the midwife pulled up too. Benjamin had been hooking up hoses, getting water boiling, and preparing like this was it. Melanie brought in her gear and did my initial vitals. All looked good except she thought I might be a tad dehydrated since my pulse was a little fast. I mean, who’s wouldn’t be if they were about to deliver their fourth baby – a gender surprise. Melanie felt like this could be delivery day so this is when my sister decided to get on the ferry and head over. She’d already started that way just in case, and was just waiting to hear from the midwife if it was the real deal. I set to walking outside in the driveway, trying to drink lots of water. While out in the driveway I let a few others know I was in labor and called my mom. She decided to try to make the long trek home, which would include 2 ferries, and we realized this meant she still probably wouldn’t make the delivery. We agreed though that it would be nice if she was home very soon after delivery to meet baby and hear our gender news! Sometime after Melanie arrived, and before I got in the birth tub for the first time, I had a cervical check that revealed I was at about 4cm. And since the contractions were coming fairly consistently we decided I’d get in the tub to test it out.
After getting in the tub I immediately relaxed (so nice) and so did the contractions. They were still coming, but it didn’t take long to realize the warmth (tub was a tad on the hot side) and the water itself had really caused my contractions to lose steam. After about a half hour the team decided I’d better get out of the birth tub, and we tried a few other strategies like lifting/binding my belly to re-engage active labor. This is when I learned I had a “pendulous belly” which is common for a fourth baby that hung out over my pelvis and so lifting the belly would help baby engage more in my pelvis and sit more on my cervix to cause dilation. At this point several siblings who live in town had arrived which made for a fun time for all! Jorden, my sister in law, picked up dinner and our village ate, played and visited. Around this time my sister arrived and I had my second cervical check. It seemed I had progressed a centimeter, but not significantly. I’ll be honest and say it was hard not to get discouraged. Even thought this was a very normal progression for labor, and even for my own labors, it felt less climactic and even like “I wasn’t progressing” since it was “slower going.” I don’t actually think it was any slower, I think I just told people I was in labor this time around and so we were “waiting” instead of me just going about my own business on my own, progressing by myself like I had in other labors. And then notifying when we were full throttle. Less climactic maybe but nicer for everyone to not be so pressed or overwhelmed.
I’ll share more about the why behind our home birth choice, but these photos reveal the biggest reason! We have a village of loved ones that are involved in our lives and we want our babies born right into that village. Surrounded by love, laughter, family, and home.
After the midwives fed themselves and we tried a few other strategies to progress labor, Ben and I decided that we felt okay about having Melanie break my water. By this time it was late evening. We all were nervous that if we said “this is technically not active labor or it has slowed” and went home that then my water would break and I’d have the baby very quickly like last time, meaning I would probably end up on my own – since we live 40 minutes plus from the midwife team and family. When our attempts at stimulating contractions were still futile I decided to get up, walk around, and get active. It seemed that I was progressing much better in those conditions and decided being with family and friends was exactly what I wanted.
These are some of my favorite moments when I look back on our delivery day. The midwives curled up under quilts in the living room, sharing their own delivery stories or about their experiences as midwives. The kids around the island eating and chatting. Family and friends filled with excitement about meeting our little one and anticipating his/her arrival with baited breath. It was clear to the midwives from my face and movements that things were progressing nicely so we just let my body work for a bit. All the while my Mom was racing home, Ben and I kept discussing breaking my water and when would be the right time, and there were lots of whispers that I was just holding out (unconsciously) until my mom was home.
Finally we knew she had made the second ferry and would arrive at our house just before 11pm, so we decided to wait to break my water until she was there at the house, we just figured why speed it up when now she was so close to being able to make it. My dad headed to pick her up at the ferry and I knew we were in the home stretch. When she arrived I think it felt like “go time” to everyone.
We did another cervical check and I had made good progress. Now at a 7-8cm, and Melanie offered to break my water. This is not an intervention Melanie usually offers, but what I appreciate so much about the Salmonberry Birth Center and Midwife team is that they take each client and each situation and treat them individually. They know me, know my birth stories, and offered what they felt would be best for me; because they have spent time with me, and know who we are and what we envision for our birth. Just after my mom flew in the door, with so many stories to tell, Melanie began the process to break my water. I love the that student midwife also got to be so involved and learn from our experience. And after a couple of contractions and a few tries Melanie was able to safely and successfully break my water.
I had an unusual amount of fluid, which Melanie believes is what made this labor longer than my last. And therefore allowed my mom to be present! Very cool. After my water was broken I got up, ready to head to the tub, and almost immediately it was clear it was go time. Things would move quickly now. From this point on the delivery is almost identical to Corban’s, except I was in the tub longer. With Corban I was trying to stay out of the tub because I knew the midwives prefer to do vitals and check you before you get in the tub if they can. So I stalled until I could tell he was literally about to arrive and that the birth tub wouldn’t have time to fill up, so I got into my own tub. With this delivery the moment my water broke I dove in! So I went through full transition in the tub (I’ve done this on the toilet, or in the car with my other babies).
From my water breaking, getting in the tub, and our babe’s delivery at 12:39am on August 9, 2017 there was only about 45 minutes. After getting in the tub I needed Ben’s hand, my teammate. I also found the birth tub to be quite tall for my short frame and that had some ramifications. It was hard for me to get leverage like I needed so pulling my legs back proved difficult. I also preferred to have my arms over the tub to feel more anchored, because I was literally floating. but that made me more tense and therefore a bit sore the next day through my neck and shoulders. The water really was too deep for me. I also found at the end nearing the “ring of fire”, at crowning and during the pushing phase, that feeling our babe’s head and the progress my body was making helped me stay more in control and focused. You’ll see the transition in the photographs. Melanie checked to ensure the cord was not wrapped around baby’s neck, but otherwise I was left to progress and deliver our baby with no interruptions, for which I am so grateful. Also after pushing out the head and shoulders I felt such relief that I thought I was finished before that last small push. Makes me smile just thinking about it. Melanie had to let me know I wasn’t done yet and then she let me deliver our baby right into my arms. Catching my baby was also a deep desire of mine, which was hard given the lack of leverage and how deep the water was, but in the end Melanie made that possible too. (This particular tub was hard for midwives to work with as well – so grateful for their expertise and self sacrificing hearts.) I want to let the images speak for themselves as there really isn’t a better portrayal. My words just don’t do it justice.
I pray over each of my babies and their deliveries, and with home births I have felt like I had more control of the environment they were born into. My prayers were answered so completely this time – a room filled with family, worship music playing, and me as calm as I could possibly be.
Of course as soon as I caught our precious baby I gave Ben the first glance and he declared “it’s a boy!” just as we hoped he’d get to do.
Oh a proud Papa moment for sure. I was elated and we immediately shared his name with the village who had just watched him be born. Copeland Oread joined our family at 12:39 am on August 9, 2027 – a week before his due date – to turn our trio of boys into a boy squad. You can read more about his name and it’s meaning here.
We rested, and just relished over 20 minutes of a pulsing cord. His cord was so large, thick, and beautiful. It pulsed for so long, even the midwives were amazed. Once we felt it was almost done, Benjamin cut the cord and put him to his own chest so I could get out and begin the next phase of recovery.
Our family participated and honored this special time, onlooking and meeting him. I had the comfort of our own bed, the big brothers were sound asleep upstairs, food was delivered to me – the most beautiful omelet made from eggs from our own chickens, and we were surrounded by so much love. Midwives took vitals, family hovered and eventually after everyone had gone home to bed, and we’d had over an hour of skin to skin time and our first nursing session, we weighed and measured him. 8lbs 4oz, 21 inches long and pure perfection.
You can watch the birth video here. Thanks to my dad for capturing this moment for us! And a huge thank you to my sister of Tonie Christine Photography for capturing yet another family milestone for us.