"I discovered I was finally pregnant with Emalynn almost 8 months after my husband and I began the journey to become pregnant. It seemed like those 8 months were truly years. I was anxious that something was wrong and that we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. The day the test showed positive, I was an emotional wreck. Earlier that week I had taken 2 pregnancy tests and they had shown negative. The fact that it was positive was a shock, even though I wanted it so badly, and even though my body had been telling me for a while that it was beginning to support a new little life. I had been feeling sick and very tired. The positive pregnancy test was definitely an answer to all of our prayers. This was my second marriage and my 4th pregnancy. Our daughters were 13, 12, and 9. We had all been dreaming and praying that we would get the privilege to add another member to our family.
"The girls were born in a hospital, but with no medications and I wanted Emalynn’s birth to be even more of a natural experience than the first three deliveries. My husband, Aaron, had some concerns. This would be his first baby. Convincing him to use a midwife and deliver at home was difficult. I was 13 years older now than with my first pregnancy. What if something went wrong? We didn’t live far from a hospital, but all of the “what ifs” were definitely on our minds. As my pregnancy progressed and we learned more together about natural birth vs. medicated birth, he began to warm to the idea. I was incredibly thankful that over time he became just as passionate about delivering at home and his own significant role in my labor as I was.
"We also began to talk to our daughters about whether they would like to be part of my labor. My oldest immediately wanted to be there, but the other two were more cautious. I didn’t want to pressure them at all or make them feel guilty for choosing not attend their sister’s birth. I did know that they needed to understand what would take place during my labor. I began to educate them on what they would see if they decided to attend Emalynn’s birth. I didn’t want the blood to scare them, or the noises to make them wonder if something was wrong. All three daughters began to attend all of my midwife appointments with me. My midwife, Alex, was excellent at including the girls in the appointments and explaining everything she was doing. She would let Jenna, my middle daughter, listen to heart sounds with the Doppler. She would let them measure my belly or palpate to find the baby. It gave them some ownership in what was taking place in my body. I began to use the phrase “When WE go into labor…”. I wanted them to know we thought of them as part of our birthing team. We asked each of the girls what they wanted their roles to be. They all had wonderful ideas of what they wanted to do and Alex helped them take ownership of their jobs. When we were all discussing the birth she would mention, ”Andi, this is where you would help me get some water for Mom…”. I loved watching their excitement build as time went by. I also did a mini birthing class for them. I gave them a color page of the womb and explained some of the words they would hear; placenta, uterus, dilation, bag of waters, etc. I also talked to them about contractions and what the stages of labor would look like. Being intentional to prepare the girls made the difference, I believe, in how they felt and what they experienced in our labor. By the end of my 39th week, each of our daughters were all in and ready to bring their sister into the world.
"Around 36-37 weeks I began to have some very good contractions. Some of the contractions would even stop me in my tracks and cause me to wait for them to pass. This was the first pregnancy that I had such strong contractions before labor. I worked hard to keep in mind that it would still be a long time before we met our little girl. I tried to remind myself that feeling contractions did not mean that I would go into labor any time soon. This became more and more difficult as the due date grew closer. Two different times I thought I was in labor when I wasn’t. I had regular contractions, discharge, and even one time had some emotional signs that it was going to be anytime now. Emalynn still decided to wait. My due date passed. My husband and I began to use some of the natural induction techniques that our midwife suggested. Almost a week after my due date, December 2nd, we (Alex, Aaron, and I) decided that it was a good time to strip my membranes to help induce labor. Alex reminded us that it wasn’t a guarantee. She reminded us that if my body wasn’t ready that this would cause some contractions and then they would stop. That is exactly what happened. By that evening the contractions had puttered out. I was very disappointed and went to bed thinking that the membrane strip had failed to induce labor.
"However, by 3 am some strong contractions woke me up. They were very uncomfortable, but I was able to rest through them and decided not to time them. I figured if I could sleep through them they weren’t “the real thing”. By the time I woke up, the contractions had regulated in duration, but were still erratically spaced apart. In my understanding, that meant it wasn’t “real” labor. I still suggested my husband stay home from work just in case. Alex came by mid-morning and checked me for dilation. I was dilated to 5cm. She said that I was on a teeter-totter. My labor could begin today, or it could putter out. I asked her to strip my membranes again and she suggested we do a lot of walking, use essential oils and take black/blue cohosh. All five of us went for a brisk walk in the neighborhood. This is one of my favorite memories of the day. It was beautiful out, and the girls and Aaron were all so supportive. They kept asking how far apart the contractions were. We had Lexi, our oldest, begin timing contractions. During our walk the contractions were regular, about 8 minutes apart and 1 ½ minutes long. To our great disappointment they became erratic again when we finished our walk. We decided, if I was in labor, it was going to be a while, so our friend came and picked up the girls to go play. This gave my husband and me some “time”. We also took a short nap and then Aaron went to the grocery store. While he was gone I took a shower.
"This is the point I began to feel things change. I began to notice the contractions were closer and even double peaking at times. I began to feel some anxiety and panic. I called my midwife and told her what I was noticing. I wanted to see if she thought that I was in true labor. The contractions were still unevenly spaced, but were lasting a good 1½ minutes. She said she believed that I finally had entered true labor and that I should have Aaron come home from the store. Thankfully, he was right around the corner when I called him. He immediately began putting up the birthing tub in the living room, and the girls came home. My dear friend Rossella, who had come to town all the way from Oregon for our labor, arrived as well. Alex suggested I lie down on my side to help slow things down a bit. She hoped this would help with my anxiety. Rossella came and held my hand while Aaron worked on the tub, which was not going smoothly at all. Alex called her friend Sara to come and assist her. She was concerned her second midwife, who was coming from an hour and a half away, wouldn’t make it in time. The girls were coming in and out of the bedroom checking on me. Giving me kisses and laying beside me on the bed. Sara came and took over the tub, so that Aaron could come and coach me. Before I knew it, I was standing by the bed, and all 4 of my loves were lying on the bed helping me breathe through each contraction. It was a precious moment. I would put my head down and focus through a contraction, and then look up to all 4 of them being right there beside me.
"About an hour after I had first called Alex, the birthing tub was ready. I climbed in the water and it felt wonderful! It took a while to get the water the right temperature, but I think that was more about me feeling hot and then cold so quickly. The contractions were getting very hard. Jenna was concerned about me and I reminded her that all the contractions were “good contractions”. I reminded her that hard meant that it was bringing Emalynn lower in my pelvis. Alex reminded me to surrender to the birth and let my body do its work. I worked hard to stay relaxed during contractions and not dread them. Rossella would say “get on top of the contraction”. This helped me remember that I was in control of the pain. As the contraction came on, I would bow my head and relax that much more. Between the contractions I was still able to visit and be light hearted with the people that were there. The second midwife, Helena, got to the house and stepped right in, helping Alex. My friend Brittany arrived and began taking pictures. She was also an emotional support for the girls. The three girls were helping the midwives with whatever they needed, getting me a drink or getting the lights just right. I remember this time very fondly. It was peaceful and relaxing. Aaron was right behind me, helping me remember not to hold my shoulders up, or scrunch my forehead. He helped me feel more and more calm. The Christmas lights on our Christmas tree were the only lighting in the room and the whispers of my birthing team was the single sound in the house. Alex asked me if I would like to put on some music. I told her that it would just feel like noise at this point.
"I felt like Emalynn was so low, that her head had to be touching the pool. Alex took her heart tones and said she sounded wonderful, and that her heart rate was not even changing during contractions. That meant she was under no stress, but also that she wasn’t feeling the contractions. This was possibly because I had so much amniotic fluid cushioning her. I knew from my previous births that my bag of waters was very thick and didn’t break on their own. Alex and I had discussed breaking them earlier in the labor if things were progressing in a healthy way. It was evident my bag of waters was keeping Emalynn from coming down on my cervix and helping dilation, so I moved to the bed and Alex checked me. It was right around 5 pm when she checked my cervix; I was dilated to 7 cm. We sat and discussed whether to break the waters now, or wait. During this few moments of laughing and talking together Alex felt my cervix dilate to a full 8 cm. Wow! It was such an amazing moment. We were seeing the joy and relaxation we had communicate to my body that it was okay to progress further. That is was safe. That is was time. We decided it was good to puncture the bag of waters so that Emalynn could move down further. We were all shocked by the amount of fluid that came out when she ruptured my water. The amniotic fluid would gush during each contraction.
"Immediately, I felt the contractions change. They were harder and more painful. It was difficult to relax lying on my back. I wanted to get in the tub again to see if I could get focused and regain control over my body. I returned to the birthing tub and Aaron climbed in with me. He sat behind me. I was able to lean into him between contractions. He would support my body in order for me to completely relax my legs and hands. In spite of the fact that the contractions were very intense, we were able to talk and laugh between them. Aaron was still making jokes. He said “Just don’t pee in the water, okay?”. We all had a good laugh over that. Our girls were all very close to us, watching as everything unfolded. Lexi had my Mom on FaceTime, so that she could experience the birth, even though she was not able to be with us. Aaron was amazed at how much more he could feel Emalynn by touching my tummy now. I could actually feel her moving lower with each squeeze of my uterus and knew that it would not be long.
"The midwives began to add more hot water and I focused on what I was feeling, lying back on Aaron’s shoulder. He was right there, whispering reassurances in my ear. Alex was checking baby’s heart rate. As she was leaning over the tub, I began wondering why I had not felt the urge to push yet. I thought “Maybe if I lean into the contraction it will help her get lower.” I was shocked that as soon as I leaned forward I felt Emalynn beginning to crown. I told Alex that I felt the “ring of fire.” It was very intense. My body took over and I began pushing. Alex encouraged me to slow down and breathe. She told me to give a ½ push. Most of her head delivered. Everyone was so excited. On the next contraction I barely gave one full push before Emalynn came bursting into our world. Alex leaned down quickly to pull her out of the water and place her in my arms.
"I was amazed that it was already over. I felt complete victory and pure joy as I held her up against me. It all happened so fast. I looked up and around the tub to see each of the girl’s sweet faces right near us, watching our sweet Emalynn as she let out her first cries. Aaron was stroking her and Andi reached out to help rub in the vernix on baby’s skin. I think everyone in the room was crying tears of sweet joy, except maybe Emalynn. Poor thing had been delivered so quickly that she was crying from the surprise of it all. I tore a little from the quick delivery, and the fact that our girl beat the record for biggest baby in our family. She was 9 pounds 8 ounces!
"She arrived at 5:47 pm; only 30 minutes after Alex ruptured my water. Emalynn was a healthy beautiful girl! Aaron did cut the cord and the rest of the delivery went smoothly. Our family prayed and cried together that our precious girl was here safely. Each step of the way I was surrounded by my amazing husband, our precious daughters, my dear friends an incredible midwife, and two great birth attendants. I am forever grateful for this experience. I can’t imagine birthing any future children in another environment. It was peaceful. It was calm. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be and more." -Lacey B.