When I got pregnant with our third child I knew I wanted everything to be different with this baby. I started doing things differently by not advertising my due date. I hoped that by not telling people I would be more relaxed about the whole thing if I went overdue. Another major thing we did differently this time was not finding out the gender, in fact we didn’t have any ultrasounds at all. But my favorite difference was that this time I was able to have a midwife for my care provider and I was going to be able to have my baby in her home, in her “birth apartment” that she had in her basement. I like to think of it as my “home-away-from-home birth.”
My first child was born on his due date and my second was three days past her due date so I assumed that if I went “overdue” it wouldn’t be very far. My plan to be more laid back about when the baby arrived really didn’t pan out. I still felt pretty impatient, because after all, I still knew when I was due. The suspense of not knowing whether the baby was a boy or girl was killing me too.
Our family was living in Roach, MO at the time, attending New Tribes Mission’s Missionary Training Center. I was due May 12th and we were to graduate from the program on the 22nd. I envisioned wearing my newborn in my homemade ring sling while I got my diploma. I was sure I wouldn’t still be pregnant at graduation and half-jokingly told people I wouldn’t go if I was. “There’s no way I’m waddling across the stage to get my diploma.” I said.
Of course, my due date came and went, and eventually the 22nd arrived. I skipped class that day because I was tired and emotional and didn’t think I’d be able to make it through classes with my dignity intact. The next day many of our friends were leaving for their summer break and since we were graduating, we wouldn’t be seeing them again. The sadness of goodbyes plus the hormones of pregnancy made me a mess. I took a few short walks that morning and then tried to rest. I’d been having painless contractions on and off for weeks, and continued to have them all day that day. After some grocery shopping that afternoon I went next door to my friend Emily’s place since she had volunteered to do my hair for graduation. It was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. She loaned me a maternity dress, I put on my heels and went to the graduation, still very much pregnant.
During the ceremony I started having contractions that actually hurt. I remember thinking that the students and staff that were giving speeches probably weren’t giving very long ones and I was having several strong contractions in the time span of just one speaker’s speech. I was a little concerned I would have one while walking across the stage to get my diploma and that I wouldn’t be able to manage not waddling, not falling and a contraction at the same time. Thankfully, I was between contractions when it was my turn to walk.
After the ceremony they had snacks and drinks, so we stayed and chatted with friends. Of course everyone had something to say about the fact that I was still pregnant. Several joked that I should have feigned a contraction while walking. I just smiled, knowing that I was probably indeed in labor.
We got home from graduation about 9pm and I told Stephen I was pretty sure we’d be having the baby that night. Right after I said this I had pretty good contraction and something like “Shoot! I forgot how much this hurts!” Stephen called our friend Aileen who would stay with the kids, put the kids to bed and we packed up to leave. The drive to our midwife’s house was an hour and my contractions were already intensifying since leaving graduation. I prepared myself mentally for a rough ride while in labor.
We left our house about 10pm. I survived the laboring in the van just fine. I would close my eyes and focus on my breathing or the song on the radio during a contraction. It wasn’t fun, but it was manageable. Shortly after arriving at Susan the midwife’s house she checked my cervix and said I was 7cm dilated. I couldn’t believe I had progressed that far already! It was about 11:15pm and I got in the tub. They had it all ready for me before I got there, and the lights were low and candles were lit. I remember looking around and just being so thankful for the homey environment and that I wasn’t in a hospital. The water felt nice, but the contractions were so intense at this point I didn’t really feel like I was relaxing. I kneeled in the tub and Susan squeezed my hips while I held Stephen’s hand through contractions.
By 11:50 I was making, what seemed to me, to be a lot of noise, but I couldn’t help it. At 12:30am I began to feel the urge to push and asked Susan to check me again. I was 9cm with a bulging bag of waters. I really felt like pushing and so I had Susan break my water 15 minutes later. At 12:48 Susan told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head.
I remember that about now I had a moment where I thought “Oh no, no one is telling me when to push! I don’t know what to do!” Then I remembered that I could push when I felt ready and that I was capable of doing it all by myself. I had one hand on the baby’s head and I could feel he was coming quickly. It was SO amazing to be able to feel him coming and to know the progress I was making without anyone couching me. As far as I remember the room was pretty quiet besides the noise I was making. At 12:51 the baby’s head was out and at 12:52 our third child was born, all slippery and warm, into my hands. I peeked between the baby’s legs and saw that we’d had a boy. “I didn’t think you’d be a boy!” is what I said. It was so amazing to finally have my baby in my arms and no one was trying to take him away or cut his cord or put goop in his eyes.
We stayed in the tub until I delivered the placenta. Sullivan’s cord wasn’t clamped for 10 minutes and both Stephen and I got to feel it pulsing. So cool! Once we moved to the bed we got to snuggle in and nurse for the next hour or so.
While this birth was intense and hard work, it was exactly what I wanted. I told my husband several days later that it almost felt uneventful it was so simple and natural. There was no arguing with medical professionals, refusing interventions or fighting for our desires. We just showed up at the birth apartment, birthed a baby and took him home. The simplicity of this felt so amazing. I am truly thankful for this wonderful experience I had with our midwife Susan and her assistant Ruth. I had full confidence in her ability to keep me and Sullivan safe while not doing anything that didn’t need to be done. This is the kind of care every mother and baby should have. A huge thank you, too, to my friends Alisha and Jill who took all the pictures of Sullivan’s birth. I loved having them present for moral support too.
Welcome to our family Sullivan James. You were worth the wait.