As it turns out, I am not very patient when it comes to waiting. I didn’t find that out with the first because she came 9 days early. Waiting for the second about did me in, and labor even began the very evening after her due date! I had to wonder what I was complaining about when that day came and passed with this one. During the last 10 days, I had 4 different afternoons of 8-12 hours of irregular contractions, usually starting after taking a walk. I alternated between despairing that it was ever going to lead to anything and also knowing they might help labor go quicker and one of these days… They wouldn’t fade away at midnight! Each day it happened, they were a little more uncomfortable or even painful. I hadn’t experienced this before and it was emotionally and physically draining!
November 18 going to sleep and November 19, Jake got an earful about how weary I was of my giant belly and achy body as I ran after two busy, messy toddlers every day. At lunch he asked how I was doing and I said I didn’t know, but it seemed my belly was hurting off and on. I hoped my frustration was hormones signaling the beginning of something serious!
That evening, needing some comfort food, I threw together a crowd pleasing meal of Banana Juice (Bolivian style) and homemade pizza. Sometime during the preparation (I estimate 5:30—didn’t bother to look at clock), I remember pausing to look over at Jake, playing with the kids in the living room, and thinking, “Hm, something has started up again… And they are rather painful.” I told Jake as much during dinner, but didn’t want to raise our hopes.
Afterwards he insisted on bringing in the birth pool and setting it up in the bathroom. I just said “no water yet!”
Callie, the day after her surprising arrival
While watching the babies in the bathtub after dinner, I flipped through “Active Birth”, one book I never finished with the other pregnancies. Around 8, the girls were protesting moving towards their cribs (as usual) and being too needy for me to deal with patiently so I quite abruptly turned the process over to Jake. Contractions seemed to be awfully frequent for just having started! I decided to hop in the shower to get them more manageable. Also, timing them seemed a good idea since it was nearing bedtime.
The saying on my calendar "Be happy for this moment" seemed very appropriate for November!
I sat on the birthing ball and enjoyed the hot water pelting my back while simultaneously timing on the handy-dandy app and reading news on the phone. They did slow from every 2 ½ -3 minutes to every 4 ½ while in shower. Better! But we were still going. (Let me just say, this was the first time I have successfully timed contractions! These iPhone apps are amazing.)
I went downstairs and made the last snack on my list: Almond Butter Oatmeal Bars. Jake joined me in the kitchen as I cleaned out and scrubbed fridge shelves and drawers—more nesting! This baby has been the best thing ever for our house, seriously! He had already set out the oats to soak for breakfast with all of the accompanying bowls and spoons. A comforting sight, his Saturday night ritual. I wondered if there would be another mouth to feed come morning.
I decided to warn my mom. No sooner had the message delivered than she called to ask more questions. They were still on the road back from the day’s barrel race. The kids were already in bed, anyway—too late to send them there to sleep, if we did decide this was “it”.
Finally at 9:30, I texted the midwife and her assistant, in case they wanted to go to bed earlier. Settling into our room, I looked at the “in labor” checklist, and Jake started helping me work through them occasionally as I started to need to focus. I was beyond a simple massage—had him go right to the double hip squeeze. Not sure it helped much, but was better than nothing. Mainly, the heat of his hands was calming, relaxing, and good distraction. Sometime around here, I realized they were radiating around to my lower back—a good sign!
Around 10:30, I wrote a photographer from the Bradley childbirth class to tell her baby might be born the next day!
As a last sign-off before bedtime, I wrote birth team at 10:56: “Definitely having some good, frequent, painful contractions. We’re going to try to sleep but I don’t think I’ll be very successful at it.” I was asked frequency/duration and Jake guessed even before we timed: 1:50 apart, lasting 34 seconds. And even though the midwife replied that contractions that short aren’t usually doing much, baby was probably just rotating, I knew that mine don’t often reach 60 seconds. These were painful enough to be doing something alright! Her comment did help me envision baby moving into a lovely position during contractions, something that was a worry since baby's head wasn't pointing the best way for birth.
She again said they could come or wait a bit, totally my call as I know my body. I replied at 11:11pm: “We’re handling it fine so far. I’d prefer for everyone to get some sleep if they can!” (Because that was my plan, too! I just couldn’t stomach the thought of another exhausting marathon birth like Lydia.)
Jake went to bed, at my insistence. I was still too much into “nesting” to give it up just yet, as well as processing that this seemed to be something. I cleaned, picked up, and rearranged our bathroom, maneuvering around the birth pool. I leaned over the counter to sway and breathe through contractions, and decided that even though I missed Jake’s company, I was being more “macho” handling them without anyone around to complain to. I’d just focus through them and get back to work!
Right at midnight I blew out the lit candle in the bathroom and came to bed. I set up a third pillow (from the usual two) between my legs, simulating the peanut ball to keep my pelvis open even while lying down.
This was a very miserable part of the process, so tired and yet such painful contractions every few minutes. I felt very alone and was having a bit of a pity party, chatting with God frequently, something along the lines of “Woe is me, why couldn’t at least every other baby be born during the daytime?!” If Jake had woken during any of my movement during contractions, he would have gotten an earful, too! Luckily, he didn’t! He said later he couldn’t go to sleep until I came to bed.
I was a little worried about not using gravity to my advantage by lying down. Consolation to me was 1) if it was going to be as long a birth as the last, I needed the rest even if it slowed things down, and 2) Bradley method!! The famous “side-lying position”! They taught it for something.
As the minutes wore on, it seemed like I was able to get into a little deeper sleep in between contractions. Sometime near 1:30, I realized that I was trembling. (Sign of transition, I questioned myself?! NO, it COULDN’T BE!!) I had switched to my right side after a bathroom break, thinking how hourly change of position is good, probably even when side-lying, when I got a message at 1:33 that seemed to actually wake me—a surprise, with such difficult contractions. It was the photographer, checking in. (Little did I know then she should have come right away to make it for the birth!)
Deciding I was pretty wide awake by now, I went downstairs to thaw birth drinks (should have done that WAY earlier) and to cover up the snack I’d made, now cool. (Supposedly for those at the birth, but I never got to put everything out.) It seemed like walking around was making contractions just pile one on top of the other (ugh, transition!). They also gave me a flashback to the end of Lydia’s birth, or even Sophia’s, that awful “I can hardly deal with this, I need RELIEF” feeling that I would have when midwife Katrina would have me get out of the birth pool near the end and move around. That made me think, “Ah-ha! That means I’m far enough along for water!”
Since I needed something fast, I thought I’d just jump in the tub till needing to wake Jake. After adding “Serenity” oil to the diffuser, and almost immediately deciding the smell was too overpowering and I couldn’t handle it (hello transition again), I got in even before it was full, desperate for help with the pain. So I was probably there from 1:50-2:10, eating the one labor pop I’d brought upstairs with me and wanting to drink the tangy coconut labor drink (which still wasn’t thawed by the time I got out of tub with baby much later!). It seemed like so much longer! I visualized baby coming down, trying to relax everything, even shaking my hands out as I’ve learned from doulas, and know that each one was closer to the end and my baby! For a couple of them, I visualized the waves of Florida, as if I were standing back on the beach, watching them roll and thunder in. Nothing too fancy, I was too out of it for that, but it helped. I had the feeling that I would like music or Jake talking me through contractions. The nighttime silence had become deafening. I’d rest my forehead or cheek on the edge of the tub with the little rest I had in between. As I told Jake with a bit of a laugh the next night, I was cursing everything about natural, un-medicated births, and why in the WORLD I had chosen such a profession as birth doula, when this was about the worst thing IN THE WHOLE WORLD!! Clearly, out of my mind—a good sign during birth! (And sentiments swung back the other way to something like “CHILDBIRTH IS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD!!!” by the end. :) )
Jake noted that I woke him at 2:11. As I leaned over him, I flung out something like, “I need help…I just really need help now…sorry…OWW!” before another contraction. I asked him to fill the birthing tub. He was having a hard time with the length of hose he had to work with. He would come over to help me through contractions, using some of what he had learned in the Bradley pages I copied for him (although he already knew a ton), then turn the water back on. In other errands, I asked him to turn on “Childbirth in the Glory” on my computer, which had never been shut down, and he lit the candles by the bathtub.
The Bradley Childbirth Method - highlights for partners
This whole time I was thinking the midwife probably needed to be notified, I just wasn’t verbalizing very well at this point. It took 19 minutes to gasp, “Get help here!” I thought it was time to find out what was going on. Ha—we were very quickly about to find out!
Jake called her at 2:30. I had been timing, which was good because she asked: 1:42 minutes apart, lasting 54 seconds. As I recall, literally right away I got noisy. “Pushy”. Like Jake said later “I thought uh-oh, these are sounds I hear at the end!” I was moaning loudly and told Jake after the first one that it felt good to do so. The contractions had definitely switched gears. 10, anyone?! I didn't want to admit it, but we were in 2nd stage and I knew things were getting serious.
Jake mentioned that I could go ahead and get in the birth tub as he continued to fill it. While those words at the other births were met with joy and relief on my part, this time I also had doubt. It was going to be a feat to move me, so overwhelming were the sensations I was having. Jake offered me his hand to get out, but another was already upon me and I held up a hand and shook my head to signal “not yet”. Good thing, too, or baby would have been born onto the bathroom floor!
Somewhat unbelieving what I was feeling, I reached down and literally felt a dramatic “pop”. Jake was out of my sight somewhere so I think I fairly shouted at him “MY WATER BROKE!! IT BROKE!!”
2:42 message from Jake to midwife: “This is Jake. Her water just broke.” She replied that she would be out the door in two more minutes but it would take her 30 to get to us. It was also 30 degrees outside, our first freeze this winter.
Not knowing Jake had messaged, as busy as I was pondering this very clear sign of real labor (yeah, I’m slow), I asked Jake if he knew what time it happened, and that he could record it in the contraction timer app. Where? The drop of water sign. Okay… Was it a big or small gush? Clear or not? Oh my, all the questions! We laugh now, but I was not laughing then. Who cares! It broke!!
Strange as it sounds, I don’t remember the contraction that accompanied the next development, because it was so shocking, and painless. I was still very much hung up on “Cool, the water broke, this is going somewhere”, when, wait…. I yelled something about crowning, then “THE HEAD…THE HEAD IS OUT!!” Jake, probably still messing with the phone (can you tell we were enjoying modern technology with this birth?!) calmly replied, “It’s fine”. He had responded perfectly. The words struck me just how they needed to, washing through my body. Why yes, it was fine, we were in this to have a baby, after all! I relaxed but kept my hand there, and in mere seconds, I felt her whooshing out of me and into my waiting arms. Totally, completely, indescribably experience! None of the all-consuming pain, pressure, and burning of the previous “land” births, where I felt obligated to inform Jake how much it hurt, in case of any doubt on his part. In my studies to become a doula, I was inspired to “breathe out” this baby instead of actively pushing. I just never thought it would happen without any thought or concentration on my part, especially with all the concerns about her positioning! Baby really birthed herself. If the herbal tincture I took daily the last month called “Gentle Birth” had anything to do with it, that’s some potent stuff!
I swooped her out to cradle her in my right arm, patting and rubbing her like crazy, looking up joyously at Jake. I was babbling away to the baby and him nonstop, about how quickly she had shot out of me. A “butter birth”, indeed! I asked Jake if he’d caught the time, and he had: 2:43. We were already done! And holding our beautiful baby! She was calm as could be. So much joy! And just the craziest realization that we’d done it, perfectly alone and intimately, just as we’d dreamed of but never would have planned. I’m so grateful for Jake’s presence of mind and his full support of this crazy but oh-so-good home birthing business.
I didn’t waste much time adjusting baby and trying to peek around the umbilical cord to finally know to call this baby a “he” or a “she”. As I studied the tiny face more, I thought to myself, “That face belongs to a girl”…and it did. I told Jake and don’t remember his reaction. It was like, “Okay, we know girls!”
At 2:44, Jake was already messaging the midwife: “Baby is born. Girl.”
She replied at 2:46 “Is she ok? Coming”
Jake replied in quick succession: “ok, she’s ok, not crying, a few noises”
Lynda suggested rubbing her with a towel. I thought she looked just perfect! She was relaxed, yawned, nestled so sweetly into me, and prepared to sleep. As Jake said later, it was like she didn’t realize she’d been born yet. However, Jake insisted that we hear her cry. I tried but it bothered her, so I went back to cuddling. This was the ideal peaceful, gentle birth, that our Kiwi midwife for our other two hoped I would experience someday (we couldn’t birth into the water in Bolivia due to contamination).
Our next concern was how little cord we had to work with, so I couldn’t actually bring her to my chest and cover with a towel to keep her warm while we waited for more assistance.
Jake hoped on my computer to see if our midwife in New Zealand was online, as it was the end of the day there. Remarkably, she was, even though she told me later she would usually have been offline by then. She gave us advice about keeping baby warm.
Meanwhile, I was studying our newest, grateful that her tiny body seemed just perfect! No birthmarks or strange scars or lines—or worse—from the purported amniotic band spotted at 20 weeks (and only at 20 weeks).
I didn’t feel like I’d just had a baby. However, I did start to really ache from sitting in the tub the past hour. The birthing pool would have been much more comfortable in that regard, although scary because we wouldn’t have been able to pull baby up high enough and I would have had to get out immediately, with no time for the peaceful “after glow”. The after contractions were also particularly uncomfortable and long lasting.
Speaking of glow, Jake switched on the red heating lights in the bathroom, so our first pictures have an eerie red glow to them.
I tried nursing, per Kiwi midwife’s suggestion, but it was too awkward to hold a good position with the limited cord length, and baby just wanted to rest, anyway.
Jake had called my mom, who later reported she was standing before she even answered, ha! My parents came right away, Dad waiting downstairs until he got the all clear. They pulled in right behind the midwife’s assistant. So great to have them so near and involved! Mom said they are making up for missing the last two.
Cutting the cord!
It was a relief to see Kimberly, the midwife's assistant, appear at my side! She suggested draining some water, passed me a towel to hold baby easier, and went to work getting out the items of the birth kit stowed in our bedroom. She had soon clamped the cord, very well drained of blood now, and Jake cut it! I was so glad that we kept him more rested and sane during this nighttime birth, not fainting away at the end like at Lydia’s, completely exhausted.
Straight to Dad's arms from the tub
The placenta was studied (no sign of any band or abnormality), I showered, baby nursed well, got checked over, and was weighed by Daddy in a cloth sling. Another surprise: she weighed the exact same as her sister, 8 pounds, 1 ounce! That makes it easy to remember. Blood type—same as her daddy and sisters. I would need a Rhogam Anti-D shot.
Newborn baby check after we'd had some good skin-to-skin time
Daddy providing some light as Kimberly and Lynda (l-r) work on her umbilical cord
She still hadn’t made more than a peep. I think we finally heard her cry the next night when I didn’t start nursing fast enough (she kinda ate all night long)!
Still couldn't believe - she's HERE!!!
After such an exciting night, I didn’t know if I’d be able to settle down to sleep, but did from around 5:30 to 7 something, when I heard Sophia calling from her bed. Jake got up and said he could go out and prepare the Sunday oatmeal and no one would know a baby had been born overnight. But Joel had in fact overheard, probably the noise in the hallway as Jake directed visitors in during the wee hours.
I've never seen Sophia so somber... So glad she quickly became herself again!
At around 9am, when my mom came back, bearing gifts in the form of every newborn girl outfit and blanket she could find at Target at 8am, we brought the kids in to meet their new sister! The boys were unimpressed that it was another girl, Sophia was quiet and processing (either that it was a girl, or another real, live baby!), and Lydia was boisterous as usual! She protested loudly when we had to pry the baby away from her tight grasp.
Lydia wants to lug her around like she did our kittens, before they got too big!
Jake and I have talked over and processed more parts of this birth than either of the last two. Part of the reason, I suppose, is we are comparing all three experiences. Each one was so unique, just like the children born! Birth #1 started at night and ended by afternoon—less than 15 hours total. Baby #2's labor began one evening but truly kicked in by the next morning. The next day (middle of the night) and 18 hours later, we finally had a baby! Baby #3’s labor was just 9 hours and only half of that was intense (and 1 ½ hours of that I was half asleep!). As much as I dreaded going through labor again already, it couldn’t have gone better! And now I’m totally fine with doing it again… Although I do need a break to concentrate on my big family!!
Visualizing your ideal birth is something doulas talk about, and we had to draw ours during doula training 3 months ago. It’s very interesting to think how this birth went down just the way I drew it! All the family at home, yummy food on the table, with my birth books all around, me and husband cradling baby alone…
Daddy is completely smitten and says she’s his favorite baby! He loves how she responds positively to his affection, and I love watching them interact. The other two had distinct ways of responding to Jake while in the womb that remained true after birth, and this one had her own way but I wasn’t sure what it meant. Jake was just sure that she got still to hide or because she was afraid of him, but turns out she was just freezing to listen in wonder! That’s what she does now outside.
Meeting grandparents in Washington via skype!
He says she looks like she just hopped off her surf board in Hawaii, with her bleach blonde mop of hair. He says the coloring is thanks to me, quantity thanks to him—a joint effort, which I love!
Since he thinks I'm a wee bit crazy for already talking about the "next one", he has made up an acronym with her initials: "Can't Get Better, CGB". :)
Since he thinks I'm a wee bit crazy for already talking about the "next one", he has made up an acronym with her initials: "Can't Get Better, CGB". :)
After two very Beaty babies, Callie most reminds me of my mom. Or me. Especially when she cries, for some reason? Mom says she’ll have to get out my baby pictures.
Joel and Michael ask to hold her and will do so for a long time. They are baby pros by now! As to Lydia, on the other hand—we keep her chunky 27 pounds as far away as possible!!
Sophia often mentions how much she loves her new baby. The first two days she was saying “Sally” instead of “Callie”, and then decided to call her Caledonia, like Daddy (who is eating up having the first unusual name of our bunch, and it’s growing on me, too). It’s the cutest thing to hear her say that big long name!
Our first day together
I’m eating up her newborn tiny-ness, so fleeting with Lydia, even while imagining how much fun it will be when the three sisters can play together at all the different stages.
If you don’t hear from me for a while, you can imagine why!!