Saturday, December 28th marked the last weekend before my family would all fly back home to Virginia. I was 40 weeks, 5 days pregnant with no signs of impending labor. That evening, Philip, along with my mom and our kids went to Sacramento for a holiday light show. Feeling rather tired and thinking I'd prefer to stick close to home should baby decide to come, I stayed behind with my dad. We went downtown and picked up dinner from a fun little place that only serves grilled cheese sandwiches (so cool, right?), came back home and watched tv together. I had my dad help me unload a few more boxes, I switched around the placement of a couple mirrors, you know, the usual :)
Middle of the night, December 29th: I woke several times aware that I was having contractions. This had happened a few other times over the past couple weeks, but these were a bit more bothersome, and I wasn't able to sleep through them quite so easily. When I shared this with my mom the following morning, she was very eager for things to move along…she wanted to meet her newest grand baby before she had to fly home! We figured we'd try timing my contractions, but they really didn't bother me enough to seem to warrant all the thinking and calculating that timing requires! At this point they were somewhat irregular, lasting maybe 20-30 seconds, every 12-15 minutes or so.
9:30 am: My brothers stopped by the house before heading to Tahoe for the day. They helped us move the rug from our bedroom to the dining room. I was quite happy to have that taken care of :) I went on a walk with my dad, hoping to encourage the contractions to progress, but not much really changed.
12:00 pm: Wade, my brother Graham, and I headed to the park near our house. The sun was shining bright, and the temperature was in the upper 50's. I was happy to sit on a bench and watch Graham and Wade play basketball. I don't really recall being bothered by contractions.
1:00-3:00 pm Philip and I discussed whether we'd go to church at 4:00 that afternoon. I putzed around the house, played with Holland in the playroom some. I remember it being such a mess in there and trying to get somewhat comfortable on that hard floor when a contraction would come. My contractions seemed consistent enough to warrant me getting my hospital bag finalized though, so I worked on that and we debated about what to do next.
I still wasn't convinced things had progressed enough for me to head to the hospital, so we decided to try Nancy's little trick for speeding up labor: climb stairs! Problem was we had no steps in our house or anywhere nearby (I had already tried climbing around on the playground but that just proved kind of annoying.) Philip was in the mood for some frozen yogurt, so we figured we'd kill two birds with one stone: get yogurt and find some steps to climb. We took some pics with the kids, and I remember telling my mom that we might come back home if things didn't pick up…
3:30 pm: Frozen yogurt stop. I probably should have known it was a sign that I wasn't quite myself when I wasn't even in the mood for fro-yo! Fun fact: they didn't charge us for Philip's frozen yogurt when he explained that the reason I was leaning over and moaning was that I was in labor! I think my contractions were about ten minutes apart at this point.
4:00 pm: We identified a parking garage on the UCDavis campus with a big 'ol set of stairs, and I set out climbing. This helped speed things up, and my contractions started coming a little closer together. I started having some that made me get down on all fours, so I knew we were headed in the right direction. Not wanting to experience really hard labor in the car (been there, done that with Wade. No fun!), we decided to head to the birth center.
4:30pm: Contractions were about 5-7 mins apart when we arrived at the birth center. We talked with the staff about whether we were ready to officially check in. I still felt like I could manage my contractions, and I knew I'd have to go through a cumbersome check-in process, so we decided to find some more stairs in the hospital. I had a couple contractions on the floor of the hospital before we found a set of stairs in a different part of the hospital.
5:00 Finally, things were starting to get noticeably harder. I found myself needing to stop and sway through contractions, and as I listened to my mix of labor music, I found pain relief by singing through my contractions. As I reflect on this, it was really worshipful--the words I sang were offered to Jesus in praise and out of a place of very real need for Him. I told myself I'd have five more contractions on the steps before we went to check in.
I exchanged texts with a friend back in Richmond who's a doula and decided it was time to check in. I'm grateful for you Jenny!
Once we made our way into the birth center, it was apparent to the staff that things were too far along for the basic check-in procedure, so they ushered me right into a room. I'm pretty sure I told them right away to fill that tub up (how thankful I was that there was an available room for me with a tub!). They explained that the midwife needed to come see me first. I was relieved to see the face of Jennifer Taylor, one of two midwives I had met! I could have had any of 13 different midwives attend me, but I got the one I'd seen for two prenatal visits. What a gift to me!
As I undressed to prepare for her to check me, I told Philip I was "having the feeling where I want to escape." (That should have been a clue as to where things stood!) Jennifer checked me, and hallelujah--I was fully dilated! I was not expecting that news because honestly the pain had not yet gotten to where it felt completely unmanageable. Jennifer gave the nurses the green light to fill up the tub. She told me to listen to my body and push whenever I felt ready.
As I waited for the tub to fill, I leaned over it and told Jennifer that I didn't want to be scared to push my baby out. This not being my first rodeo, I remembered the intensity of pushing and the overwhelming sensation of feeling completely out of control. She told me I was safe and that I didn't have to think my way through it. Such wise words.
I moaned and leaned over the edge of the tub, letting my body push my baby down. I could feel her slide back up a bit after she'd descend during a contraction. I remember trying to stay focused and present. I knew to expect lots of pressure, even burning. But I also knew that this baby was going to be born; I only needed to stay with each moment and we'd get there. Philip reminded me to remember my breathing. I breathed through horse-lips (like a little baby learning to blow raspberries!) and did my best to let each contraction come without fighting it.
Soon, I felt her crowning, followed by the unbelievable sensation where the burning meets relief and baby slides out! I delivered her behind me, so Jennifer scooped her up and handed her to me. I held her close in my euphoric state of relief and joy and a few moments later lifted her up and discovered that I'd had another girl! I was over the moon at the gift of another daughter!
My labor and her birth were undoubtedly marked by God's grace to me. During a season of life that had been defined by transition after transition and lots of stress, her birth was anything but those things. It never felt so difficult that I couldn't bear it. My mind never scattered, even during the most intense part of transition and pushing.
I am so grateful that I was able to be fully present throughout my labor. I remember what each part felt like and while it was overwhelming as birth can be, I was not afraid. God was faithful to me, helping me to welcome the labor and to trust Him. What a picture of our new life with sweet Mary Graham. Welcome and trust. A child we did not even know we needed, we now cannot imagine our lives without. Thanks be to God for the gift of this precious baby girl.