I’ve wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember. People who know little more than my first name would be able to tell you that I love babies.
When David and I were engaged, we discussed having children and agreed that a few years would be preferred before starting our family. We’d only been married two months when, unlike we had planned, I was ready. I wanted to be a mother as soon as I possibly could. Months and months of back and forth, praying fervently for direction, arguing heatedly about decisions, and many tears of loneliness, and we were in a very dark place. I couldn’t stop thinking about having a baby and David simply wasn’t ready. In the spring of 2011, he came to me and said that he would make it a goal to be ready for a family by August. A weight was lifted and the unknown morphed into a finite goal. Those months were so peaceful and so very exciting. We worked together to prepare in many facets of our lives and our marriage improved drastically. We began trying for a baby on our second anniversary. I had irregular cycles but had charted them religiously for years. As excited as I was to be a mother, when four months passed without a pregnancy, my heart was still content and I was still enjoying the anticipation. It was just so fulfilling to finally be on the same page as David and to be working toward the same goal instead of against each other that I was not getting very anxious about our unsuccessful attempts.
On Thanksgiving Day, I took a pregnancy test, thinking I might want a glass of wine with dinner. I was 13 days past ovulation. I dropped the test in the sink with running water and it never developed. I was so sure it would have been negative that I had a glass of wine and didn’t think anything of it. I spotted some the next day and was sure my period would begin any day. Five days passed and on my way home from work, my pants were tight and digging into my stomach and it dawned on me that my period hadn’t come and I could be pregnant. I am typically very aware of my body and the fact that it took this long for me to think to take a test is so rare. The next morning I took a test and it was very faintly positive. I was so excited and yet I just couldn’t let myself believe it yet. I ran errands that day and took a dollar store test that afternoon, another very faint positive. I was headed out of town and we decided to wait until I got back to test again. Over the weekend, it started to sink in that a little baby was in there, and I waited anxiously to confirm it. Monday, I got home from work and wanted to test so badly. David had a drum lesson and I couldn’t wait any longer to hold my pee! It was a definite positive and I left it on the counter and prayed, thanking God and asking Him, is this real? Can it really be true? Thank you, Lord! David came up from his lesson and I told him to look. We hugged then sat in awe, giggling and excited. We told his parents and sister that night and my family later that week.
I met with midwives a friend of David’s mother had recommended- Melissa Mayo and Heidi Sylvester. They were a perfect fit. They answered my two-page list of questions more beautifully than I could have ever hoped for! They believed in me from day one and treated me with respect and esteem. They valued prevention and trusted in instinct and self-awareness. I loved our appointments so much- we would stay for an hour just visiting and laughing.
We heard the heartbeat at 11 weeks, I began showing around 12 weeks, and I first felt the baby move at 14 weeks. Despite all of those events, it was well into my second trimester that I stopped questioning the pregnancy and truly believed that a baby was growing within me. In hindsight, I guess I just doubted that my dream was really coming true.
I had little morning sickness, mostly nausea and a need to eat frequently to steady my blood sugar. I had a strong aversion to cooking and craved large meals, not snacks, and couldn’t get enough sour foods- I ate lemon slices and drank straight cranberry juice. I carried brown rice cakes and ate them every half an hour.
In March, my feet began to swell and they never stopped. I bought compression stockings and wore holes in them. I wore one pair of silver flip-flops for six months straight. My favorite moments were when I sat in a crowded room and the baby kicked and squirmed and I sat there feeling so close, aware that I was the only person in the whole world who would ever experience such closeness to this child.
I’d always passed out when faced with needles but bravely had my blood drawn twice, thinking of our sweet baby each time. I ate nourishing foods, rested a lot, and researched constantly. We chose not to have an ultrasound and thus didn’t know the gender until birth.
Our baby’s legs were so long and two little, pokey feet could typically be found along my right side beneath my ribs. An elbow or shoulder was hooked on my left pelvis in the last few days and felt so strange. The baby got hiccups a few times a day and I always felt them deep down within me, reassuring me that the head was indeed down. I loved rubbing my belly and feeling a reaction immediately.
My cousin Jenn, training to become a midwife, came home from missionary work in Thailand to attend our birth. She’s always been my mentor and was the one who first showed me the beauty of birth; it was incredible to finally be here, anticipating my own home birth with her. She spent three weeks with us and we visited, shopped, cooked, and dreamt together. It was so special to have her with me at such an important, vulnerable time. Like my midwives, she believed in me and provided a strong, steady reassurance.
Because I had charted so carefully, I was quite sure I was due August 4. We decided to go with the latest calculated date of August 8, 2012, our third anniversary, as our estimated due date, to give some leeway. The weekend before I was due, we went for a Jeep drive, out boating on Utah lake, and swimming in the Great Salt Lake in the very buoyant salt water. It was a fun weekend and I could feel my body getting ready to labor. My pelvis ached as it softened. My cervix stung as my baby stretched his or her legs and pushed that little head deeper and deeper. I ate as well as I could despite some end-of-pregnancy nausea and rested, preparing for my upcoming marathon of labor that would begin any time. At my final prenatal appointment, my Braxton Hicks contractions were so strong the midwives could hardly palpate and kept asking if I was sure I wasn’t in labor already. For months, if I laughed, went up stairs, or bent over, I would have several very long, intense contractions that were a lot of pressure but never painful. I was in awe of my body’s obvious preparations.
On Thursday, August 9, I went downtown to visit my nanny family. I had realized the importance of keeping myself busy and getting out of the house. When I used the bathroom at their house I noticed some bloody show and smiled, thanking God for my incredible body doing just what it was made to do! I spent the evening finishing the few items left on my before-baby to-do list. My typical contractions had become somewhat crampy and I put our dinner leftovers away in the cupboard instead of the fridge because I was so distracted. I decided to acknowledge that this was really happening and gave my midwives a head’s up, ate some peanut butter sourdough toast, and went to bed early. David came home late from a bachelor party and I told him I thought I was in early labor. I couldn’t bear lying down through any more contractions and got out of bed just minutes after he lay down. My legs were so restless. I bounced on my ball and tried to quiet my mind. I woke Jenn up at 1:30, with contractions about 8 minutes apart and 40 seconds long. I spent the next few hours walking the living room and leaning onto the table while sitting on my ball. Jenn sat quietly by and timed contractions and monitored the baby’s heart tones periodically. She made me some scrambled eggs and rice for energy and I nibbled on them here and there. I texted our parents around 5am and told them I was in labor. My sister, Steph, bought a plane ticket for Friday evening at 6pm and I wondered if I would have given birth by then.
After a full night’s sleep, David woke up to his alarm around 8 and was very surprised at the developments. His mom had texted him asking if he had the day off and he was confused. I told him he certainly wouldn’t be going to work and that we would be having a baby that day. He was so excited and couldn’t believe he had slept through all of that.
I soon began vocalizing through contractions. A deep, slow “ohhh” sound helped me get through them and if I didn’t start it the moment the contraction began, the entire thing felt out of control. I sipped on a smoothie and roamed the living room. The whole morning and into the afternoon is quite a blur to me. I was just concentrating so hard on being relaxed that I didn’t really notice the passing of time. Everything intensified when I sat on the toilet and I remember being scared of that. Jenn suggested that I embrace the intensity as progress and I breathed into the contractions and focused my energy downward, trying to visualize how open I was becoming.
My contractions were very irregular, ranging from 3 to 10 minutes apart and 30 seconds to 2 minutes long. Melissa and Heidi came at 4pm. I remember being on the toilet and Heidi came and sat in the doorway of the bathroom to talk with me. I didn’t say much and was thinking maybe that was rude but couldn’t muster the ability to say anything more. She had me move to the bed and checked my dilation to gather some information. Laying on my back was so uncomfortable; I can’t imagine doing that for my whole labor! During the exam, Heidi felt an ear and some fingers- the baby’s head was asynclitic with one hand by his or her head. I was dilated to 8 1/2 cm. I was amazed at my progress! They helped me into a knee to chest position on the bed to help the baby move up, resituate, and descend back down. After 30 excruciating minutes and lots of movement on the baby’s part, I stood up to an intensified labor and my voice began catching in my throat. David tried some belly lifting but it only felt good when I did it. I remember walking out to the living room and no one was there to push on my hips through a contraction and I felt so out of control. Things were moving along and my mom came around 5pm.
I got into the birth tub at 5:45pm and it felt incredible. It took so much pressure off of my back. At this point I could feel my hips and tail bone widening and the water relieved some of that pain. My contractions slowed somewhat and I was able to rest in between them. Steph came and she and my mom sat nearby and cried and cried; I remember wondering why they were crying so much! Apparently I was quite a sight. Melissa, Heidi, Jenn, and David all sat around the tub, offering me sips of Recharge, orange juice, and water, and changing out the cool towel on my head when it got warm.
I got out reluctantly after awhile to use the bathroom and keep my contractions going. My vocalizations were turning from ohs to grunts. The midwives checked me again and discovered a cervical lip that wasn’t dilating. My body was beginning to push and we didn’t want my cervix to swell, so I panted through some contractions in an effort to give the lip more time to dilate. Not pushing was near impossible. I tried to “blow out my birthday candles” and raspberry my lips, but my body was simply ready to push. I apologized for not being able to resist pushing and the midwives decided to try to manipulate the lip. This was incredibly painful and didn’t do much for dilation. I tried getting on my hands and knees and that seemed to help things. I think I yelled at Melissa to stop pushing on my cervix. It was just too much to handle all at once. I got the go ahead to start pushing against the lip around 8pm and roared my way through contractions. My whole body felt it and pushing somehow helped counteract the feeling. I remember wanting them to come closer together so I could just push constantly. It was so much pressure and such an intense feeling. Painful, yes, but mostly just intense. Lifting up on my belly felt better and so I pulled up with both hands as I bore down and growled. I was mostly shut off from thoughts but at one point I stopped to really think about what was happening. I looked up at David and repeated, “I can do this. I can do this,” and questioned, “I can do this?” and he nodded, “You can do this.”
The passing of time was nonexistent. Eventually, I felt the baby’s head coming close and my skin bulged from it. I was suddenly convinced there was no way I could stretch around it! The intensity had waned a little once I got past the cervical lip, allowing my body to ease the head out little by little. Each push brought more of the head out, but as soon as the contraction ended the baby’s whole head and body would go back up inside me. It was the strangest feeling and I asked why I was losing so much precious progress, but they reassured that it was good and normal and that it was important that my baby didn’t come all at once. I put my hands down and felt as I pushed. It was unbelievable. Everyone was talking about how they could see the baby’s blonde hair waving in the water. It was such a strange moment- the end of my pregnancy. I hesitated, questioning all the feelings of readiness and excitement and anticipation and all I could think was, “Is this real? Is this really happening?” I had worked so hard to be relaxed and to clear my mind that I think I had a hard time shifting to be present for this moment. It seemed to be slow motion as push after push made small progress and David’s hands joined mine- feeling our baby’s head emerge. Next were the shoulders and at least one arm was still bent, fist tucked up by the baby’s chin. The rest of the body eased out and I paused- sighing- then pulled my baby- MY baby!- up out of the tub and into my arms at 9:38pm.
“Hi, I’m your mama. We did it. You did it. Hi!” My voice was so hoarse and cracked with emotion as I spoke softly to my baby, rubbing flailing arms and legs and buns and waiting for a cry. And then it came after a few minutes of rubbing and coaxing and careful watch by the midwives- the most beautiful sound- a faint, woeful cry and a roomful of “Ohhh!”s as this pink little slippery baby breathed in deeply. David kissed my forehead and giggled with delight, such a proud daddy already. And then Melissa asked what probably everyone but me was wondering, “Well, what is it?” and it dawned on me that we could finally know what gender our baby was! I clumsily held our baby’s body out and moved the umbilical cord aside to find out. David and I both stuttered, “It’s…a…It’s a girl!”
Deep beady eyes stared up at me as my sweet baby rooted around and kissed my chin. She’s perfect. She’s stunning. She’s breathtaking. She’s got so much blonde hair! She’s mine! We spent so long just staring at her, admiring each little finger and toe and ear and telling her how perfectly she was made.
David’s parents, his sister, brother in law, our niece and nephew, and my dad, all came within minutes of the birth. Here I was in the tub with my brand new daughter, my husband by my side and the ones I love most circling around in my living room. It was so surreal. “What’s her name?!” they asked, and we chose Mae. They filed outside to share the news and she latched on beautifully, bringing some contractions but not enough to get the placenta out. My midwives massaged my belly- more like kneaded it- trying to get the placenta to come, as the water was darkening with blood and it had been quite some time. An hour after the birth with some squatting and some tugging, it finally came and David cut the cord, which had finished pulsating long before. They helped me out of the tub as David took Mae. I was bleeding still and had some gushing once I laid down. Swiftly and calmly, Heidi administered a shot of Pitocin into my thigh, which brought some contractions and clamped down my uterus to stop the bleeding. The fleeting fear of the shot was probably the worst part of my labor, which I can’t really complain about.
Once I was stabilized, everyone gathered in our bedroom and celebrated. David weighed Mae in a sling hanging from a fish scale and we were shocked- 8 pounds, 6 ounces! She was just over 21 inches tall. I drank a smoothie with some placenta in it to help with the blood loss. Heidi did Mae’s newborn exam at the foot of the bed and she passed with flying colors.
We nursed some more and I got up and used the bathroom but felt very faint. I remember sitting on the toilet just knowing I was going to pass out and being so frustrated at that thought, but Melissa helped me back to bed. I needed a few stitches from where Mae’s hand was by her head. I hate shots and laughed at how mad I was that I had to be numbed for stitches when I had just given birth. The string was brown and some hair-pulling went on that was pretty unpleasant but also funny. My legs were shaking a lot- from blood loss or hormones I imagine- and I was so incredibly tired. They finished and swaddled Mae and nestled her between us. We said good night to our amazing birth team and family. We laid in the dark marveling at our day only briefly before drifting into much-needed sleep.
Our first days were a whirlwind of family, good food, and praising God for the perfect gift Mae was and is to us. David got to stay home the whole week and we just hung out in our bed with our sweet baby, surrounded by loved ones coming and going. My favorite memories are waking in the middle of the night and nursing while I could barely hold my eyes open, still in disbelief that this little girl belonged to me- I truly enjoyed every minute of that. I also loved taking baths with Mae, holding around her face and letting her curly body float around and relax. We took a lot of naps together, the air warm and the sheets cool. I felt so in tune with her when we napped and still find that napping together helps me center with her when we’re feeling a little off.
When Mae was four weeks old I experienced heavy bleeding and passed some large clots. Heidi brought me some methergine, a drug to help my uterus clamp down. When the bleeding came again three days later, we knew it was probably indicating a problem and I went to the emergency room the next morning. After a long day of scans, painful blood draws, uncomfortable exams, and ultrasounds, the doctors advised a dilation and curettage surgery to remove what ended up being retained pieces of placenta. I was afraid of being put under for the surgery and overall just mad to be in the hospital after my beautiful home birth. Heidi spent the whole day with us at the hospital and really helped me feel okay to go ahead with the D&C. The experience helped me appreciate my peaceful birth even more and also helped me value the medical field and its necessity. I’m thankful my body gave me signs of needing to get retained tissue out, and that Mae was a month old and not as needy as she might have been had this all happened earlier on.
Her first year has been so full of every emotion under the sun. David and I have grown so close and are amazed daily at our precious daughter’s beauty and brilliance. She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). We have very hard days and very perfect days and I’m sure we’ll have many more of each. I wouldn’t trade a single one.