It was August 19th, 2016, 2 days from the estimated due date of our baby. We were just leaving the house to meet friends at the beach when the first sensation hit me. It shocked me with its intensity and I told my husband, Jeremy, that I thought it felt like a real contraction and not primordial labor. He asked if I still wanted to go out and meet our friends. Our shoes were on and bags were packed, so I suggested we continue on with our plans and see what happens. It took us about an hour to pick up takeout for dinner and get to the beach. I had 3 more waves within that time period, one right in the middle of Whole Foods. We parked and stood at the top of the 339-step staircase leading down to the water. Again Jeremy asked if I wanted to continue and I said that I did. If this was real labor, then surely the stairs would only help the process. Labor with my son took 49hrs, and although second babies often come more quickly, I wasn't too concerned about a particularly precipitous birth. Plus I welcomed the distraction of activity in the early stages of labor. The walk down felt comfortable and I jumped into the ocean as soon as we arrived. This baby sometimes preferred a posterior position (spine to my spine), but a long swim always brought it back into the 'proper' anterior position (spine to my stomach).
The sunset streaked the sky with vivid pink and orange, and our friends lit a small fire on the beach. Several seals were splashing around us in the water, just feet away, and my water-baby son was squealing with delight. The swim was pure magic and I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend celebrating our last evening as a family of three. The coldness of the water combined with the company of friends seemed to slow the progression of early labor. I still had light cramping and small sensations, but they didn't take my breath away and they felt less consistent. If we'd stayed at home, I'm sure things would have progressed more quickly, but I’m so grateful for that special evening we had together. Around 9pm I told Jeremy that I wanted to head back up. The staircase wasn't lit and it was a long walk up in the dark. I sensed things were picking up as we climbed the stairs, and I had another stronger sensation just as we reached the top... perfect timing.
When we got back home, I went straight to bed and tried to rest as Jeremy bathed, changed and put our son to bed. Then he did all the dishes and tidied up the entire house. He finally crawled into bed and softly rubbed my back as he told me how strong and brave I was. Overcome with gratitude I secretly vowed to have 17 more babies with this amazing man. It was hard to sleep with the anticipation of birth nearing, but after the long labor with my son, I knew how important it was to get rest when I could. I slept for a few hours and woke every 10-15 minutes with more waves. I was able to breathe through them while lying down, sometimes grabbing onto Jeremy for support, which startled him awake. Around 1am I got up and took a long, luxurious shower. Not so much for comfort, but to have a quiet moment to myself, as I know that they can be few and far between with a newborn. I went back to lie down for a bit, but around 3am I couldn't sleep anymore and Jeremy woke up as well. We discussed calling our birth team, but I was hesitant because of the lengthy labor with my son and I didn't want to wake anyone before it was truly necessary. At 3:30am Jeremy decided to call his mom because his parents live on the Sunshine Coast and needed to take a ferry over. They were going to take Jones, our 26 month old son, during the birth. His mother sounded very awake and ready for the call and said they'd take the first ferry over. After a few more contractions that must have sounded like they were building, Jeremy said he was calling Gloria, our traditional birth attendant. She said she’d be over in about an hour to set up the birth pool just so that it was ready, even if we didn't need it right away. When she arrived I sat on the couch talking with her for a while. Still having waves, but they became further apart and less strong. Feeling like I needed to relax and concentrate, I went back to my bedroom again. Gloria and Jeremy set up the tub, then Gloria agreed to come back around 9am unless we called her back sooner.
My in-laws arrived at 7:30am and Jones woke up about half an hour later. Jeremy left on a quick trip to the grocery store to buy food for our birth team and a few requests I had for the birth. I encouraged him to go, but while he was gone the waves seemed to get quite a bit stronger. I was on my hands and knees vocalizing through each one and my mother-in-law came down to see that I was all right. I called Jeremy a few times to ask him to hurry back, but it was going straight to voicemail. I got a bit panicky and wanted him back with me as soon as possible. It felt like I had been trying to contact him for ages, but reviewing my outgoing calls revealed that I'd actually speed dialed him 6 times over the span of just 5 minutes. It was a great comfort when he arrived back home and a relief to know that Jones was now off having fun with his grandparents for the day. Then I called my mother who was joining us for the birth and told her to make her way over.
They began filling the birth pool and Gloria came down to my bedroom with Jessica, her doula assistant, to tell me it was ready. I told her I was hesitant to go in because it slowed down labor with my son. She assured me that second babies were different and we didn't have to worry about things slowing down. Climbing the staircase from the bedroom to the main floor was one of the most difficult parts of labor. A strong contraction began as soon as I stepped out of bed and continued relentlessly with each step. I dropped to hands and knees and began crawling up. My mother had just arrived and met me at the top of the staircase. The contraction continued to grip me and I asked Jessica why it hadn't ceased yet. She told it was because I'd likely be meeting my baby soon.
Being in the water felt fantastic and I honestly can't imagine laboring without it. It was 11am and surges were coming steadily but felt manageable with lots of rest in between each one. I remained completely coherent and engaged in light conversation with Jeremy and my mom. They continued to crack jokes and make me laugh and I was convinced that my baby wouldn't come for a very long time because I was still so present. The birth of my son sent me into an extremely deep state of 'labor-land' where I felt completely incapable of engaging with anyone.
I was experiencing a great deal of pressure and a self-examination revealed the membranes had not released yet. They remained intact through the entire labor with my son and he was born en caul, in his water sac. I could tell when I reached transition because I became quite frustrated that my membranes hadn't released. As my water sac never released with my son, I wanted to feel what the difference would be. "I might just break it myself", I declared, "it's too much pressure". My mother knew my intentions of an unmanaged labor and reminded me that I didn't really want to meddle with the process. With another self-examination I felt my baby's head just behind the sac and knew that he or she was close, which gave me the strength to trust the journey this little one was taking to meet us. I felt a slight urge to bear down at the end of the next few waves and was encouraged by Jessica to follow these instincts. The following three waves were the most intense, much more so than I'd experienced with my son, and I felt tissue tearing deep inside as they peaked. I kept chanting, "open, open, open" and my birth team gently assured me that these were safe sensations.
I completely abandoned any concerns of how I looked or sounded and welcomed any and every guttural noise that escaped me. At one point in time I may have aspired to remain 'composed' in labor, but I now believe that surrendering to the body's primal impulses without holding back serves a great purpose in birth. I threw up from the intensity of a particularly strong surge, but then felt a distinct shift take place. I suppose the strong waves allowed high levels of oxytocin and adrenaline to build up and I was in complete and utter birth bliss. I cried through the next few sensations, which were much gentler. Not from pain, but from the intensity of emotion. I cried with deep gratitude for the support around me and I cried with empathy for the women who meet their babies through more traumatic experiences. I cried with overwhelming excitement and anticipation of what was to come, and I cried for what I was about to lose. Our family of three had fallen into such a safe and comfortable daily rhythm. How would a baby change that? My tears brought an incredibly cleansing release that cleared my emotional state and provided me with great clarity.
At this point labor almost seemed to stop and I felt suspended in space and time. This period of inner resting allowed me to regain focus, connect with my baby, and take a moment of peace before my life was forever changed. It’s not uncommon for a laboring mother to experience no immediate urge to push once she reaches full dilation. It can be a sacred time for a woman to reflect on the place where she came from and shall never return.
A strong energy started to build inside of me followed by an unstoppable bearing down. I felt the water sac bulging out of my body like a balloon. I got on my hands and knees and my chants involuntarily changed from "open, open, open" to "down baby, down baby, down". I expected a second baby to come much faster once I reached this stage, but this baby came down and retreated for quite some time. It felt as though the head was completely out, only to have it slip back inside again. It burned in a way that words can't describe and my brain wanted so badly to bear down as hard as possible and just 'get the baby out', although I knew that would likely cause more tearing. Allowing baby to descend little by little felt intense, but I was conscious enough to know that it was gentler for both of us. Finally with a mighty roar I lifted my back end out of the water as the head fully emerged. The body was quick to follow and at 2:35 pm on August 20th, 2016, Jeremy was there to catch our baby. This baby was also born en caul with the water sac intact, just like our son! It’s such a rare occurrence and I’m glad I didn’t break the sac earlier because I always would have wondered about the possibly of having two babies born in this way. The baby then stretched its hands out wide, which punctured a hole and created an air space inside. Jeremy saw baby take its first breath, so he swiftly unveiled the sac from our little one's face.
I turned over to face them and the rest of the sac was lifted to reveal that we had a little girl…. we had a daughter!! Absolutely nothing can compare to the moment of meeting the soul who intimately nestled and grew within you for 40 weeks. I'd known her face for mere seconds, but already couldn't imagine a life without her in it. My womb emptied so my heart could be full.
Welcome to the world sweet baby girl.