The couple weeks leading up to Lincolns birth were hard for me.
I guess that’s sort of a silly sentence to open a birth story with, of course they were hard for me, I was 9 months pregnant parenting a toddler for goodness sake. But I mean more than just that…
Each of the days of those last weeks before his birth were increasingly difficult on my hips, back, pelvis, shoulders, and just body in general, but also on my mind. The anxiety that I’d been doing my best to put off for the whole pregnancy was starting to compound in on me and the nights that I awoke in tears from the nightmares of Lincoln dying before birth were coming more and more frequently. It is a feeling that is all too real to me.
I knew he was alright, Lincoln was a biiiig time wiggler for the whole pregnancy and never let me worry long, however the anxiety was nonsensical, regardless of his kicks and jabs.
On the way to my midwife appointment two days before my 39 week mark, I cried to Warren about the ever increasing body aches and issues, and especially the mental toll I was feeling. We discussed asking the midwife about possible induction ideas or thoughts to give me any sort of “light and the end of the tunnel” feeling. When we sat down with my midwife, before even saying anything we’d discussed in the car she suggested making an induction plan for later that week. What an answer to prayers, hearing the provider I prayerfully chose say just what I needed to hear before even having to ask her.
So, we planned on coming in later that week when I’d passed the 39 week benchmark to check where my body was and then work on a ‘natural’ induction.
Having that date on the calendar and knowing there were only days instead of possible weeks left ahead of me was the boost I needed to be able to even somewhat enjoy some of those last days of pregnancy.
Of course, I still wished my body would start up spontaneous labor during those few days between, but I was able to distract myself with activities and outings, mainly surrounding Kate and making sure she had fun mommy memories before her whole little world turned upside down.
The morning of our planned visit to discuss and start natural induction came (Friday the 6th.) Warren and I drove into the birth center, leaving Kate with my sister & brother-in-law at home. When we arrived and sat with the midwife, she outlined her proposed intervention that she’d mentioned at our previous meeting, the cook-catheter or “double-bubble.” It is a sterile double balloon that is placed inside of the cervix and the vagina to help pressure the cervix into dilating to a 4/5. Before placing the catheter, my midwife wanted to check on baby’s positioning with the doppler just to be extra sure he was in a favorable position to labor in, but finding his heart tones was proving especially difficult. Finding his heartrate was easy, as the umbilical cord was all over and you can pick it up through that, but to check positioning with a doppler they’re looking for more of a galloping sound you’d hear when the doppler is placed at the baby’s back rather than the whooshing pattern of the cord. After several minutes of searching around with the doppler, my midwife decided just to be extra safe and send us in for an ultrasound to be sure baby hadn’t flipped around. So, Warren and I drove down to the hospital where the sonographer was to check on baby.
The ultrasound went well, he was still head down, and was measuring around 9.5 lbs according to the sonographer. His heart tones had been difficult to find because his back was toward my back, he was “OP” or sunny-side up. With this information, we updated my midwife via text and planned to go back into the birth center to place the double-bubble that evening.
Around 6pm, we walked back into the birth center and had the bubble placed. By the time we got home, I was already having some mild contractions somewhat regularly, but too short and close together for me to consider it ‘real’. I took a bath to try and relax, but the contractions kept coming. Finally, I decided to try and lie down and sleep to see if that would stop the contractions (but secretly wishing it maybe didn’t stop them which would tell me it was real.) I woke up in the early hours of the morning with no more contractions and felt a little discouraged. It was hard to get good rest after that as I was up and down for bathroom breaks and anxiety breathers. At about 7:30 am I sat down to try and pee (the pressure the balloons put on me made peeing somewhat difficult…) After sitting on the toilet for a good 20 minutes, we finally messaged the midwife for instructions on draining a bit of the liquid out of the lower of the bubbles to relieve the pressure enough to pee. After peeing, when I stood up, the catheter came out! That meant my cervix was dilated to at least a 4 or 5. I snapped a gross picture (mucus plug and bloody show present,) and sent it to my midwife. She gave us the go-ahead to begin the induction regimen she sent home with us.
I made up my shake with the ingredients from my midwife, then went through her carefully outlined steps to encourage labor. I kept my midwife informed of everything my body was doing while we worked through the steps, and followed her added instructions as she gave them. I was having those regular but short contractions again most of the morning, and by around lunch time I was instructed to try and relax for an hour or so to see what my body would do. I sat on the couch and turned on a comedy to try and distract myself, but the contractions didn’t stop. My doula called to see how I was doing, and talked with her through some of the contractions. Because the contractions were still short and too close together, I thought it would still be a while before I was in active labor. I decided to try and take a bath to see if that would calm down or regulate the contractions, but it too didn’t work.
Around 2:30pm we decided to go into the birth center. In the car during the ride into the birth center, the contractions definitely went up a notch in intensity and length. Warren was really on top of keeping my whole birth team informed of how things progressed so by the time we got to the birth center my good friend / photographer was already there, the midwife was preparing the room for us and my doula came in maybe 2 minutes after we did. They all agreed I was in real and true active labor by then. My midwife checked my cervix to see where it was at, and I was still only at about a 5 or 6. I didn’t allow myself to feel discouraged by that news, and with contractions coming in strong and regularly I labored.
With the support of my doula, midwives, assistants and my husband, I labored in many places/positions. I had made myself some affirmations to hang around the room as I labored, and although I don’t remember taking the time to read though them, my doula and husband found times to say those things to help me through. Warren was amazing at being right by my side the entire time, offering a hand or counter pressure, even when I was in the tub.
There came a point while laboring in the tub that I knew I needed a little push or else some kind of relief, I was starting to feel like the pressure and pain was getting to be too much. I got out of the bath and over to the bed for the midwife to check me, she let me know I was around an 8 or so and asked me if I’d like her to break my water, I said yes please! Having had my water broken with both my previous deliveries, I can tell you that this last time was the easiest and most comfortable time. I then returned to the tub to labor more. It felt to me like the minute I was back to the tub I was getting the urge to bear down and push.
I did my best to trust my body moving through different positions and laboring down until I started pushing. After just a handful of pushes, his head was out, at which point the called the midwife back in. Only about 20 minutes had passed since my midwife had broken my water, so she hadn’t expected to be needed so soon. After a short rest between contractions, I pushed again for a couple minutes and delivered my boy at 6:32 pm, only three and a half hours after arriving at the birth center.
They pulled him up to my chest and let us get acquainted. My midwife commented on how thoroughly covered in vernix he was, and of course how big he seemed to be. I was pretty consumed by him, and taking it all in. Lincoln was still quiet, and so I looked down to him and said, “say hello.” Then he cried.
We were in no rush to deliver the placenta or cut the cord, my midwives were awesome and allowed me to lead, and honestly I couldn’t tell you how much time passed between then, but when the time came and after another little push, my placenta was delivered and Warren was ready to cut the cord.
The birth team were exchanging weight guesses and congratulating us. With the bath drained, I urged Warren to take his shirt off for some skin-to-skin so that I could rinse off and come to the bed. We ordered sandwiches, something I’d been looking forward to for weeks. We spent the next couple hours just soaking in Lincoln’s cuteness, breastfeeding, and feeling the happy blessing of birth.
There is a palpable feeling in the air after a birth. It is an amazing happiness and peace, a huge part off why I love photographing births. That feeling, in my experience, is strongest for the mama, and is accompanied by an amazing sense of accomplishment, strength and an overwhelming love.
Lincoln weighed in at 10 lbs. on the dot, a bit of a shock to me, but he is every bit perfection and love. We were discharged around 9:30pm and home in time to go to bed (sorta, ya know as much as you can with a newborn.)
I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the birthing team around me that was so supportive. I know the Lord was involved and guiding us to take each step in Lincoln’s birth, from choosing providers and my birth team to each ‘intervention’ in the process.
Photos by the amazing Laura Miller Photography