Ava arrived a week before her due date. She had been hanging out low since 34 weeks and didn’t seem to have any plans of shifting again. At my 36 week home visit our midwives confirmed that Ava was engaged and “wearing my pelvis like a hat”!
Friday morning, the 15th of January, I lost my mucus plug. A good sign that your body is preparing for labor. For most of the morning I didn’t tell anyone that it had happened because I was determined not to get anyone riled up unnecessary and I was only 38 weeks. But as Friday progressed so did my emotions (lets just say that unnecessary tears were shed) and I had sporadic contractions throughout the whole morning. I came clean about how things have been progressing to Ken and my mom and then spent the next 2 hours in bed sleeping and resting. I was not ready to claim labor as officially in progress but I realized that there were some loose ends with work that was holding me back and so I started putting my energy into sorting that out. Contractions continued to come on and off and I spent some time trying to engage with them while my mom supported me with some doula practices. However, I found myself quickly snapping out of that zone whenever Liam needed/wanted me. That evening I put Liam to bed, sensing deeply that our “alone” season would be ending soon. Once he was asleep my wonderful mother (and trained doula) helped me do some Spinning Babies exercises that help optimize baba’s position for birth. I felt it activate some contractions. In my head I saw myself going into the living room, lighting some candles, putting on some Norah Jones and allowing the contractions to build into what I felt for the first time could be labor. My husband was busy setting up the liner for the birth pool just to be prepared so I helped him finish it up. When we were done I asked him how he was doing and his exact words were: “I am exhausted!! I really hope this baby doesn’t come tonight!!”. Needless to say, I shifted the idea of Norah Jones straight out of my head and headed to bed knowing that I cannot labor if he was not ready for it.
The next morning I woke up feeling totally ‘normal’, the thought of labor feeling like a distant memory. We went for a nice long morning walk and I was spoiled with a sweet at home baby shower with my mom and sister which included a foot rub and a facial. While my pampering was happening, Liam and Ken both took a lovely long nap.
That evening we went for another walk during which I experienced a lot of pelvic pressure but it was not unusual for that to be happening at 39 weeks. After dinner, I bounced on my birth ball to help relieve some of the pressure but felt it was only getting worse. I decided to run myself a bath to give my body a chance to relax and to also have some alone time for my raging emotions (because I was a hormonal mess!) to calm down. While the bathwater ran I walked into our room to fetch something and suddenly felt a trickle of water run down my leg. I instantly froze in our doorway. Ken, who was getting ready to put Liam down for the night, just looked at me - puzzled by my abrupt halt. I calmly explained to him that I was pretty sure my water had just broken but that it doesn’t mean anything is going to happen now! It could still be days.. “ however when the first contractions started up after only 10 minutes I realized things might be moving along.
Ken asked me what I wanted to have happen next and I told him that all I wanted was just to spend some time with him and Liam while we waited to see if labor progressed. We sat on our bedroom floor chatting, Liam being silly and putting all the baby clothes we received for Ava at the baby shower on his head and me flinching at the contractions that were starting to build in consistency and intensity. After about 30 mins I told Ken that he should put Liam to bed and that I was going to go hang out in the living room. I sat with Liam on my lap and explained to him that his sister might be arriving so he might wake up at night and see that mommy and daddy are not there. I told him how much I loved him.
I grabbed all the precious snuggles I could get. He rubbed my bulging belly. He hugged my neck. He whispered he loved me. And my oxytocin levels shot through the roof.
As Ken put Liam down I lit candles in the living room and got my Norah Jones music going. I paced the living room floor - creating wide circles and tracking the contractions using the wall clock. My mom made good use of the bath water I had run for myself and I was left alone, at peace and in the zone. I noted how the contractions started to close in on each other with every lap I made around the living room. By the time Ken came out of the room I was ready to “call it”. He got to work setting up the pool. When my mom came into the living room I made her stop, sit on the couch and listen to me ramble off a list of things that still had to be done. The list was swirling in my head as I made my rounds and I needed to get the to-do’s off my mind and into her hands.
After an hour I was eager to get into the water. The contractions were intense and I was yearning for some relief. The pool was not totally ready yet and my mom encouraged me to lie down for a few minutes while I waited. I breathed through several contractions while laying down, went to the bathroom, things started escalating and I remember thinking “I don’t think I can do this for another 18 hours!! Was is this sore with Liam??”.
I get into the pool, Ken sits on the other side. My mom is in and out getting the to-do list sorted. Ken and I chat. He makes me laugh. I breath through another contraction. I giggle some more. Ken and my mom switch. I ask her “how long did I last?”… meaning, how long did I labor before getting in the water? I had set the intention to not get in as quickly as I had with Liam’s birth. She laughs, “long enough” is her response, knowing that it is important to keep my thinking brain switched off at this point.
Soon I am instructing Ken to get in the pool with me. I believe “get in and sit on my back” were my exact instructions. I get out of the pool to go to the bathroom once more and almost don’t make it back in the pool because of the contractions. One rolling right into the next. Once I’m back in the pool I reach down and realize that I can actually feel myself dilating. It is magical. It gives me courage. I try and imagine what 10cm looks like on a ruler.
Deep inside I know that she is almost here. I ask my mom whether she is talking to Ruth, our midwife. She says she messaged her earlier. I know that Ruth only lives 5 mins away so I leave it at that. The contractions keep coming. My mom encourages me to try and lean back into Ken between them so that I can rest. I try but as I feel the next contraction coming I know that I need to be back in my original position, leaning over the pool. Ken has to push me forward to help me back up as the contraction rolls in and I reach down to feel again - I feel her head. I whisper something of the sort. I Another contraction. I feel again. I can feel her ear. I realize that she is about to arrive. So I gather my strength and whisper to her, “come on baby girl, we can do this”.. and then she was there. In my arms, against my chest. On the outside. Perfection. I hear my mom on the phone.. “uuhmm, yes. She is here!”. Ruth was only leaving her house now. My mom hands us towels, we drape them over as we cuddle, in awe that she is really there.
4 hours. No midwife. Just us. Me, Ken and Ava. My mom as our cheerleader, space holder, comfort giver.
Ruth came in, glanced at us from across the room and said congratulations. She then sat down and started the paperwork, leaving us in our bubble. She helped as I birthed the placenta, gave me the all clear to get out when I was ready and my mom helped me get dressed as Ken snuggled our newborn. We decided to wake Liam up to introduce him and what an incredibly special experience. It was also the first time we shared her name with anyone. Ava Joy.
What a joy you are indeed.