Tuesday, April 21st–Lucia’s birthday
1:00 AM – 3:30 AM
I was woken up by some intense contractions and after a few rounds decided to put the Contraction Timer app that I had installed on my phone to use thinking today might be the day. For 2.5 hours the contractions varied in frequency from 8 minutes apart to 12 minutes apart, lasting 30-50 seconds long each. The birth center advised that we call the midwife when they were 8 minutes apart and lasted one minute long for one hour so it was still too early to call. They were intense enough that I had to breathe really deeply to get through each of them but they began tapering off around 3:30. I decided to turn my phone off and try to get some rest which, luckily, I was able to do.
6:45 AM – 9:00 AM
Sirena woke up at 6:45 and came into our room for her morning snuggles. I told Kevin about my evening and he immediately got excited. We tag-teamed getting Sirena ready for preschool and he took her to school by himself because I was too nervous to leave the house in case things started picking up again in intensity while out. Kevin told Sirena when he dropped her off that either Nani or Auntie Jessie might be picking her up from school that day, just to give her a heads-up. We texted our moms and my sister telling them to be on alert that day because things were definitely happening.
9:30 AM – 10:15 AM
Kevin and I took Lola for a nice long 45 minute walk through our neighborhood. It felt really good to get out in the fresh air and be physically active instead of cooped up in the house and stuck with my thoughts (which have the tendency to spiral when I’m stressed out which, as you can imagine, I was starting to become). The weather had changed drastically from the days prior–it was overcast and cooled down quite a bit which was such a nice change especially for a super pregnant woman on a long walk! I started using the Contraction Timer app again while on the walk and they were picking up in intensity but were coming along with the same inconsistency as before. Throughout the walk I had to pause when a contraction began and either breathe it out in place or attempt to walk and breathe it out (walking during the contraction sometimes felt better than just standing in place).
10:30 AM – 12:00 NOON
Kevin thought it’d be wise to pack all of our stuff into the car just to be ready whenever the time came. I continued timing my contractions and it was at this point that I began feeling them more intensely in my lower back so when a contraction would begin I would lean over onto the couch or the counter or the table, breathe deeply, and sway back and forth to get some relief. For about 20 minutes during this time my sister called me to ask some work-related questions (she’s taking over part of my job responsibility while I’m on maternity leave) and 2-3 times I’d have to tell her to hang on, put the phone down, and breathe/sway through a contraction.
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Kevin and I made ourselves a significant lunch to help us power through the afternoon. We ate on the patio and it was nice to have some one-on-one time in the outdoors not knowing when the next time we’d have a moment to ourselves would be if Lucia decided to make today her birthday.
1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
My contractions were still feeling intense in my lower abdomen and lower back but were still coming on inconsistently and my thoughts began to spiral. I didn’t know if things were really progressing or if this was false labor (and if so, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to handle it!). I also was so unsure as to when to call the midwife (I didn’t want to raise a false alarm but also didn’t want to progress so quickly that we wouldn’t have enough time to make it to the birth center). I decided that I needed to center myself and get myself in the right head space so sat down to chant (Buddhist prayer) which I did during this time. I texted with my sister and told her I was getting nervous and she called me which I so desperately needed. She helped talk me through my feelings and reminded me that I am a strong woman who can absolutely have this baby naturally and create the healing birth experience that I had set my intentions on. She told me it was more than okay to cry if I felt that was necessary just to get it out. After hanging up with her I did cry and felt a huge release in doing so. From 2-3pm I made a concerted effort to chant and time the contractions and then call the midwife at 3pm to get her opinion on how things were progressing. For that hour the contractions were getting more intense–I’d have to rise up to my knees from my cross-legged position, lean over on a stool, sway back and forth, breathe deeply, and make a low “ahhh” sound relaxing my jaw to get through each one. They were still somewhat inconsistent in how frequent they were coming along (from 8-12 minutes apart, lasting 45-60 seconds each) but their intensity made me think that the time was getting near to meet our little girl.
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
I called and left a message on the birth center’s pager for the midwife on call and within a few minutes was called back by Vickie, the midwife who was on call that day. We had only met with Vickie a couple of times during our prenatal visits so I didn’t know her too well and was feeling a little disheartened that it wasn’t midwife Allison on call that day (the one who we had felt the closest connection with during the pregnancy). Turns out Vickie was probably the best midwife to work with me during Lucia’s birth, more on that later. On the phone Vickie was very matter-of-fact about things–she asked me about Sirena’s labor (so she could get some idea as to how quickly it went for me the first time) and she said that although my contractions were still a bit inconsistent in frequency, as a second time mama things could change in a heartbeat and so she was going to begin getting ready herself and make her way up to the Long Beach birth center (she was located in south Orange County so appreciated the 3pm heads-up so as not to be stuck in terrible traffic). Before hanging up she said she wanted to wait until my next contraction began so that she could hear me talk through it (or not) and get a feel for how intense they were–but of course during our whole 10 minute phone conversation I didn’t have one contraction! She said that regardless, she’d make her way up to Long Beach and call me when she arrived so that we could meet her at the birth center and check on my progress.
From 3-4pm I continued to chant and time my contractions.
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
I texted my mom and sister asking if one of them could please pick up Sirena from preschool for us. My mom said she’d be happy to and would pick her up at 5pm. I finished chanting and decided to take a shower, have a glass of wine (I had bought a bottle of wine for just this occasion, to help relax me during early labor), and get myself ready to go to the birth center. Vickie called me at 5pm letting us know she had arrived and that we could begin making our way to the birth center.
5:15 PM – 5:45 PM
Kevin and I left for the birth center at 5:15pm and arrived at 5:30pm. Vickie greeted us and had us go back to the examination room. I was so happy to hear that I was 4 centimeters dilated (which was exactly how far along I was when I was admitted to the hospital for Sirena’s birth!) She suggested that we walk around the park next door for 30 minutes and then check in with her again afterwards to see if things were progressing.
5:45 PM – 6:15 PM
Kevin and I made two loops around the neighborhood park next door. It was surreal being out there, walking past the playground where kids were happily playing, walking past people who were out walking their dogs, all while I was hugely pregnant and had to pause every 8-10 minutes to lean on Kevin and breathe through a contraction. We wondered how many of the neighbors whose homes were across the street from the park were looking out their windows and thinking, “There goes another pregnant woman and her partner, walking her baby out!” I continued using the Contraction Timer app so that I could report back to Vickie how they were coming along. Before going into the birth center we went to the car so that I could get a protein bar and coconut water to fuel up.
We checked back into the birth center and let Vickie know that they maintained their intensity and frequency during the walk. She wanted to watch me through a contraction and, yet again, it seems I got stage fright and a contraction wouldn’t happen while in the lobby! She suggested we go outside again for another half hour of walking and to check in with her afterwards.
6:15 PM – 6:45 PM
As we left the birth center and started our second round of laps around the park I noticed that my mom was getting out of her car in the parking lot. She told us that she left Sirena with Jessie because she wanted to make sure she was there in time and didn’t miss the birth so she joined us for one lap around the park. My contractions were getting more intense and frequent and I was having a hard time focusing with an “audience” so we asked my mom if she wouldn’t mind grabbing us some dinner from Hole Mole (a taco shop two doors down from the birth center) while we walked another lap around the park.
Each contraction was coming along quicker and were more and more intense especially towards the end of our second lap.
We checked back in to the birth center and luckily I had a contraction a minute after arriving so Vickie was able to observe me. Afterwards she said that it was very clear things were definitely coming along and that she was going to call in the birth attendants and start getting the room ready for us.
7:00 PM – 7:30 PM
I had tested positive for Group B Strep (a very common bacterial infection found in many pregnant women that can be passed on to babies during birth, I had tested positive for it during Sirena’s pregnancy as well) so she had to give me penicillin via an IV every 4 hours and wanted to get started right away in case Lucia arrived quickly. As Vickie was hooking me up to the IV she asked me about Sirena’s birth. I told her about the labor and the pushing while on my back which led to tearing and a really long recovery. I told her that it was my hope to make this my healing birth and she said that she would do everything in her power to help me minimize tearing and have the healing birth experience I wanted.
While hooked up to the IV for around 30 minutes I used an exercise ball to rock around on between contractions. Once a contraction started I had to get up off of the ball because the low back pain was too intense and I could not stand it sitting down. Towards the end of those 30 minutes I was having a really hard time getting up off of the ball at the start of each contraction so once I was disconnected from the IV I decided to remain standing.
In between contractions I was able to take the whole experience in–it was so refreshing to see Vickie turning on (electric) candles and dimming the overhead lights to set a comfortable mood in the room and it was surreal to see her getting all of the newborn baby things together for when Lucia arrived.
Libby, one of the birth attendants, arrived and introduced herself. She and Vickie continued to get the room ready while I worked through each contraction every few minutes. Things were getting more intense and I told Kevin to update our family and friends via text. He read me what he was going to send and he had included something about me not yet being in active labor. I was bewildered and had to ask Libby if I was, in fact, in active labor or not and I was grateful to hear that yes I was definitely in active labor! If that wasn’t active labor I didn’t know if I could handle anything more intense than that for a long period of time! Kevin updated his text message to let everyone know my status. 🙂
7:45 PM – 8:30 PM
Kevin put on some classical music which was a nice mental break in between contractions. He went out to the car to get our bags so that I could change into a nursing sports bra and a robe and we’d be ready with Lucia’s things (clothes, diapers, car seat, blankets) once she arrived. From my purse I grabbed out the affirmations that I had brought with me to help me remain focused–the ones that were the most helpful for me were, “I trust that my body knows how to birth this baby,” and, of course, “This is my healing birth.”
During each contraction I had to continue to lean my forearms onto the dresser, hang my head down low, rock my lower body back and forth, and make a low “ahhh” sound while relaxing my jaw. The back labor was getting really hard to manage and as if she could read my mind, Libby arrived with a heating pad that Kevin placed on my low back and it was pure relief. The heating pad was my saving grace during this period!
Vickie and Libby had asked if I wanted to birth in the bathtub and I said yes so they began filling the tub up. The other birth attendant, Raquel, arrived around this time and introduced herself but I could barely focus on anything other than the work my body was doing so she was mostly behind-the-scenes during the birth.
Around 8:30 during another intense contraction I knew that the period of labor called “transition” (which is a relatively short period of labor just before the pushing stage) was upon us because I got nauseous and felt like I had to throw up (the same thing happened during labor with Sirena).
8:30 PM – 8:45 PM
Vickie had told me earlier to continue to drink as much water as possible so that I could relieve myself frequently which would help Lucia continue to descend. At this point it was the second time I felt that I had to use the restroom and so went into the restroom connected to the birthing room and had closed the door most of the way. While sitting down I had an incredibly intense sensation that I needed to push and called out to Kevin and Vickie saying so. Vickie rushed in telling me that the toilet was not a pleasant place to have a baby (I couldn’t have agreed more!) so she and Libby helped me walk back out into the birthing room.
The tub wasn’t quite filled up yet so they encouraged me to get on the bed on all fours because it seemed to Vickie that that’s where I got the most relief during the contractions (leaning forwards). As I lifted my knee to get on the bed I was overwhelmed with the sensation of my water bag breaking! They continued to help me climb on the bed and within a minute of being there my arms were shaking so bad, almost violently, and I was having a really hard time keeping myself up (over the course of the day I had walked for 2 hours and had been standing the last hour and a half through the contractions so it’s no wonder that my body was exhausted). I stayed on the bed during one contraction but after it was over I was able to squeak out the word “bathtub” and luckily Kevin heard me, asked me if I wanted to get in the bathtub, and I was able to enthusiastically nod my head in agreement. The whole team helped me get off of the bed, get out of my robe, and get into the bathtub.
8:45 PM – 9:10 PM
Having my body surrounded by warm water was a huge relief. My body temperature rose pretty quickly and I was sweating and feeling a bit uncomfortable and again, as if she could read my mind, Libby came to the rescue with cold washcloths which she laid over my back and had Kevin rub my forehead with another. Each time they placed a new cold washcloth on me I would nod my head enthusiastically because that was the only way I could communicate to them that that was exactly what I had needed and it was so appreciated.
I was on my knees in the tub, leaning my forearms onto the sides of the tub, for the first part of the pushing phase. As a contraction came on I would relax my knees into the side of the tub, lean my head down, relax my jaw, and let out a low moaning “ahhh” sound. After a few rounds of this Vickie told me that it seemed to her that I was actually stifling the urge to push through my deep breathing and I nodded in agreement. She told me that at this point I needed to listen to my body and if it told me to push, I needed to push. It was so reassuring to hear her tell me that it was okay to push as hard as my body was telling me to–I had been afraid to do so because I was afraid of tearing but hearing her telling me it was okay was so helpful and a huge relief.
During the next few contractions I did as she had advised and pushed when my body told me to. Vickie was helping me minimize tearing with massage and hearing the verbal feedback throughout from Libby saying, “You’re doing an amazing job,” was so extremely helpful and appreciated. The noises that were coming out of me were primal, there’s really no other way to describe it! It’s so incredible how birth taps into the most basic animal instincts within each woman.
After each push I knew that Lucia’s arrival was getting that much closer so at the end of this period and after a contraction I was able to squeak out the word “moms” to Kevin–he asked me if I wanted our moms to come in at that time, I nodded in agreement, and Raquel went out to the lobby to get them.
9:10 PM – 9:23 PM
After our moms arrived Vickie told me that I needed to flip over in order for Lucia to have enough room to come out. They helped me maneuver my body into position which was no easy feat because I could barely be of any help as pregnant as I was and as far along into labor as I was. Kevin continued placing cold washcloths on my forehead which were so appreciated and Vickie continued to massage me.
It was during these final 3-4 sets of pushes that Vickie had to coach me so that I would keep any tearing to a minimum. She told me that at this point I had to prevent myself from pushing as hard as my body wanted to so that I could ease Lucia’s head out and the way to do that was to breathe out like I was blowing out a candle. Vickie was in my ear breathing just like that so that I could mimic her. This was by far the most intense experience of the entire labor and birth. After that final push I felt Lucia’s entire body squirm its way out of me and it was the most incredible relief I have ever felt in my life! Vickie caught her but immediately passed her to Kevin and he’s the one that brought her out of the water and onto my chest. She came right out of the water and into this world squeaky clean and as soon as I laid my eyes on her I was overwhelmed with pure love for this new little creature we had created and brought into our family.
And in an instant we went from being a family of three to a family of four and our lives haven’t been the same since.