It was about 7:30 pm on Tuesday night, and the work was here. All of my warm up labor, and all of the discomfort had paid off, my body was working, just in a way I hadn't expected it to. It wouldn't conform to any of my expectations that night.
My birth pool had water in it from that morning so it had gone cold. We didn't have a sump tank. Everyone looked around at each other for a minute and then someone said "Let's get some buckets!" Eamon went with me to the living room to labor on the birth ball while my diligent team emptied and refilled the tub. I actually had no idea what was going on until I heard Lily CRACKING UP in our bedroom. Apparently all of the ladies were in there with pots and bowls scooping out water little by little and throwing it over our back porch balcony. Lily thought it was hilarious.
When the tub was ready, I asked for some time to have to just Eamon and myself. I loved this. Eamon prayed over my delivery and set my mind at ease that we were going to have this baby tonight. Before we were done he laid his hands on my belly and just talked to our little unborn child. He didn't say a word out loud, but I could feel every bit of emotion that he was emitting to our little one. More than I was ready to meet this baby myself, I was ready for Eamon to meet him/her.
Us laboring together after our time of prayer
The clock continued to tick and I knew Lily would need to go to bed soon. In my head I was so upset. The night before I went to a Mom's Group and wasn't home in time to put Lily to bed. I had been making it a very special time for the two of us the past few months and it was something I looked forward to. I would bathe her, comb her hair, read to her, just made her feel extra special in case I went into labor that night. I was sad that I hadn't got to the night before and was sort of jealous of Eamon. He said "Well maybe you can read her a story before she goes to sleep?" Capital idea, Watson! As Eamon went into her room to get her ready for bed...I started to climb out of the tub. Wait, WHAT?!? Yeah, I wasn't exactly thinking that one through. Just as I started getting out Eamon walked in with Lily "WHAT are you doing?! Sit back down!" Eamon brought her to the side of the pool and through a contraction or two, I read Goodnight Moon to my baby girl one last time as an only child.
Thank you so much Michelle, this one's hanging up in her room
With Lily asleep in her bed [that's where she stayed all night, a miracle I tell you!] I knew it was time to get serious about having this baby. Contraction after contraction came...but it felt different. I remembered being in the pool with Lily. I remember what my breath felt like in my chest. I remember what the pressure felt like in my womb. I remember the relief the water gave me. Only the last of those memories were becoming familiar. My contractions were not long, they were not close together, but they were painful. The water did make them feel so much better, but there was still something off. Then I felt another change. My contractions were only down really low, and I felt like the urge to push was just around the corner. Everyone thought pushing was just minutes away.
Since I started becoming a bit too uncomfortable, I thought maybe I should try to go use the restroom and come right back out. I was still excited. I still smiled in between all of my contractions, I still cracked a joke here and there, and I still was hopeful that it was only going to be a little longer. The clock read a little before 9 as I made my way to the bathroom...
"Any minute now," I thought "Any minute..."
An hour passed.
I went back and forth from the tub, to the toilet, to the bed.
I squatted. I got on all fours. I sat on my ball.
Another hour passed.
I looked at the clock. I got mad.
What was going on? We knew baby was posterior on and off. I knew that must be what was making this hard, but why were my contractions anywhere from 5-15 minutes apart? Didn't my body know what it was doing? Why was this happening to me?
I was trying to keep a brave face and with Leila holding my right hand and Eamon holding my left, I labored some more on the toilet. Adrenalin took over my body and I couldn't stop shaking. I was mad. Why was the Lord abandoning me now? I needed Him! Where was He?!
"This is too hard!!! I can't do this! I'm going to the hospital, this is not supposed to be this hard for me! Why are you doing this to me and my baby?!?"
The pain was overwhelming. My internal dialog was getting hard to hide. For quite a while, the only two things keeping me from saying, "Screw this, take me to a hospital" were the facts that I didn't want to have any of these contractions in the car and that we didn't have anyone to watch Lily.
On the toilet once more, I reached down because I could not understand what the pressure was I was feeling. I felt...bulgy, but there was no baby. I had my midwife check me.
"Can you even feel the head?" I asked her. She said she definitely could, but that my bag of water was in the way of Baby's head engaging. She pulled her fingers out and then asked "Can you feel this?" as she inserted one finger just to her fingernail. I could, it felt like she was touching me-but not. "That's your bag of water" she said. She told me that there was a lip on my cervix that wasn't melting away and that Baby couldn't engage.
I had asked my midwife to call my chiropractor midwife friend, Cindy, to come and adjust me. When I found out she made it, I made my way down the hall to the living room to get adjusted on the couch. In my head I was still yelling. In my heart I was breaking down, not knowing where to turn to. Cindy adjusted me and I laid there on the couch.
I felt my contractions slow down even more. My heart was sinking so low...I don't know where it really went. Someone started to say something and I just couldn't keep it in anymore.
"What's wrong with my body?! Why isn't it working?!?"
I was broken. My cervix, my thoughts, my heart, they were all working against each other. I looked to my midwife and my doula for some sort of answer. I didn't get one I wanted. Angela told me that they were going to stay in the living room while Eamon and I went to rest in the bedroom. As she was telling me this I searched Eamon's eyes for some answers. I wanted him to tell me what to do, I wanted him to tell me that this was going to be over soon, I wanted him to make this easy for me.
My midwives, doula, photographer, and best friend watched me walk back down the hallway with Eamon's help. I cried the whole way there and broke down between contractions. He whispered in my ear "Whatever questions you have babe, I can't answer those for you. I know you want us to, and I know we might have some good ones, but they aren't our questions to answer." We laid down on our bed, and I began to fight it out with God in between contractions.
I can't really explain what happened, but I came to a point of surrender. I had hit this pit that seemed impossible to crawl out of and I realized I needed God. I couldn't do this, but He could. I called my birth team back in to our room and told them I needed them too. Eamon says at this point in labor I sounded like I was giving a sermon...whatever that means :] But during every single contraction I had to cry out to the Lord with my heart and say "I'm not strong enough, I can't do this, but you CAN! Finish this contraction for me, please Jesus!" and with each wave of contractions I got a little bit of relief. But sadly, there was no progress.
Angela checked me, she was contemplating breaking my water for me since I had tried every single thing we could think of. Ann was supposed to be assisting, but she was in the hospital with her husband that night. Instead, her mentor and partner, Donna Miller, had come in her place. Throughout the labor she had just sat to the side praying, keeping quiet, letting my body work. Angela asked me if it was ok if Donna checked me so she could get a second opinion. During another contraction Donna tried to diagnose the situation. When we asked her what she thought was going on she said
"Well she's a 7-8"
Before she could finished I yelled "NO!!!" I had just surrendered, I had not been laboring for almost seven hours at the same 7 centimeters...
But she reassured me and said "BUT when she has a contraction, she's complete. I just know if we break her water that she can push that Baby's head down."
At my follow up appointment I found out three things. One, even when I was complete, there was still a lip on my cervix. Two, my baby was still posterior before they broke my water. Three, Donna Miller never breaks water.
So confident that my baby wasn't at risk, and neither was I, Angela broke my water while I lay on the edge of my bed, again holding Eamon and Leila's hands. I tried every position I could think of that would bring my baby into my birth canal. At one point I got down on my hands and knees. I couldn't even stay up on my own. I could hear the Lord calling me to continue to surrender to Him. He was going to help me.
I felt like I needed to get back on my bed. Suddenly I found myself in the same position I was in when I birthed Lily. Angela wanted to check me one more time to see if I made any progress. Then a powerhouse contraction hit me. I remembered this! This felt familiar, this felt good! I couldn't control my voice and I let out every breath of air in my body. I heard Angela say "GOOD MAE! Baby's head is coming down!" I couldn't stop! The contraction kept going so I kept pushing! This was right. This was the way I remembered my body working. Everyone started to cheer me on. I heard Eamon say "We're about to meet our baby!" I got my excitement back, I reclaimed my joy. Another contraction hit. "Ok, the head is crowning, Mae!" Angela started to say. I still could not stop! "There's the head! The head is out!" Eamon was sitting up and I could hear the excitement in his voice "I can see it!" Another contraction hit right after that and I could hear everyone tell me to slow down, but I couldn't!
I felt the relieving familiar feeling of a warm, slimy baby slip right out of me.
I heard Angela say "Your baby's out Mae!!!"
The buzz around me was unreal. My body did NOT fail. It remembered exactly how to do this, and it did amazing! In three pushes [less than five minutes] I took my baby from a negative station, to out on my chest.
Angela brought this tiny, squishy being up to my chest, just like she had with Lily. Eamon got to see the face before I did and with ecstatic joy in his heart he said "It looked right at me!" [Lily didn't look at Eamon for weeks, it broke both of our hearts] Angela asked "So is it a boy or girl, Dad?!" Both of us knew as soon as she asked, and Eamon said "It's a girl! Norah!" He laid down close to me as she wiggled around on my chest. I said "We have two girls, babe!" and he said "I have THREE!"
As she rooted around on my chest, I said "I'm done! Yes! Praise Jesus!" and Angela reminded me "You still owe me a placenta, Mae." I had nothing to else to say but an emphatic "Shit." Everyone laughed, I was embarrassed :]
Finally, she was here. My arms were full. My Lord finished what He started. I wasn't bitter. I wasn't mad. I was full of joy. She was here.
While Norah was waiting for me to get out of the bath, she decided she needed to eat...now.
I couldn't believe that I had done it. I also couldn't believe that Lily [who wakes up at even the mention of any...uh, night time schinanigans...] slept through the whole thing. But right on queue, she woke up just in time for Norah's newborn exam. She looked at me like "OH! Angela finally brought that baby you guys keep talkin about!" This was the first time she got to see and touch her baby sister. I'm so glad she woke up.
Norah Jean Burke
March 31, 2011
7 pounds 15 oz
22 inches long
Everyone got a good night's sleep that..well, morning. The birth team left by about four, and Lily was back in her bed. I woke up to see her laying there next to me, remembered what I had just gone through to get her, and thanked God for every second of it. Donna came by later that afternoon to get her purse and said
"I am so proud of you, you are such a strong woman. Not many women can do what you did."
I said "No, I'm not strong, that wasn't me, that was Jesus."
She laughed and said, "Ya, but you have to be willing to let Jesus work through you."
I took her compliment and said "Well maybe THAT'S why it took so long!!!"
We both had a good laugh. I knew what she meant, but it's still really hard for me to say "I did it" after all I went through. He did it.
I love Norah's story. I don't feel like I got jipped. I don't feel like I would have done anything differently. My baby is here and she taught me things that I don't think I would have wanted to learn any other way.
I can't wait for you to get to know her with me :]
You can go here to view Norah's slideshow.