August 18th began as a usual day in our house. Get up, make breakfast, feed the dogs, dress Eryn and myself. Eryn, then two and a half, busily played, half watching cartoons, when the phone rang. It was my OB’s office. I considered not answering it. Against, perhaps, my better judgment, I said hello. It was, in fact, my OB herself on the line — wondering why I had “missed” my “scheduled induction.” After a guilt-ridden conversation, during which I more or less evaded this issue, I hung up, grumbling to myself. Why had I agreed to go into the office? At nine days past my “due date,” I was anxious to get the show on the road too, but not that way. I thought of the birth tub upstairs, the birth kit, the drawers of baby clothes, the bassinet. I looked at Eryn, so oblivious to all of it. I went back to making the scrambled eggs.
A few hours later, I found myself, Eryn, and my mother, “Nana,” crammed into a tiny room on the third floor of a stark office building. I was kicked back in a recliner chair, fetal monitor strapped awkwardly to my belly. Nana and Eryn sharing the remaining straight-backed chair next to me. I watched the monitor strip and recalled hours of labor for Eryn doing the same thing. I had to force the thought away. No. This would not be like that. I was far wiser and more prepared now. Or at least I hoped I was.
The nurse entered and called me away from my thoughts. Our little group trudged to the next room. I stared absently at the ultrasound machine next to me. Eryn was starting to get restless. Nana pulled some snacks out of her purse, which quieted Eryn a little. “Did I mention that the flusher handle fell off the toilet this morning?” I asked my mom. “Oh!” She exclaimed, caught off guard. I really need to fix that I thought to myself. Never know when you might need a toilet these days. Maybe it was a jinx.
After being assured that the baby was doing well “for now” and promising I would at least return in two days to repeat the whole silly process again, our little group headed to the car. It was starting to get hot and Eryn was starting to whine. We had plans to return home for lunch and then go to the mall. Unfortunately, by the time we had made it through lunch, neither Eryn nor I were in the greatest of moods. Nana suggested that I go on to the mall alone and “relax,” sensing my tension starting to build. I felt bad for not taking Eryn, but I just needed to get out for a while. In the 5 days since I had been off work, I was already going stir-crazy. At 41 weeks I suppose I could have considered slowing down a bit, but that just really isn’t me.
As I drove to the mall, I felt as though something was different. I was uncomfortable. Well, I thought, you are pregnant. Very pregnant. Of course you are uncomfortable. I went into JC Penny and bought some “post pregnancy” yoga pants. Then on to Elder-Beerman. I had no real mission, but not surprisingly found myself in the baby section. I tried to steer toward neutrals, but instead filled an entire cart full of newborn boy and girl outfits. I felt relieved that the baby section was strategically near the ladies room, as I made several trips there while I was in the store. On my third walk back from the bathroom, I thought, hummm. I really do feel different. Is this. . .? Am I. . .? No, it couldn’t be.
I paid for the basket full of clothes and went on to my next stop: Lowes. Here I had a mission: fix the toilet. I knew my husband, Wyatt, would be home by late afternoon and I figured if I had the part, he could easily fix the toilet that evening when we returned from our appointment with Abby and Jill. I entered into Lowes walking a little slower with each step. I was starting to realize that I was growing more uncomfortable. I found the needed part and was on my way home. I ate a quick meal of homemade soup that my mom made, and had a few more trips to the bathroom. Wyatt came in and quickly changed clothes before we hopped back in the car for our drive into the CHOICE office.
On the way, I told Wyatt I thought I might have had a “few” contractions. He didn’t seem very concerned. How could he be? The last time he saw me in labor, I was a far cry from calm and vomiting every five minutes or so. This surely did not look similar. I was nowhere near convinced that this was the “real thing” anyway. I just gazed out the window, taking in the beautiful August evening. Another day passed. No baby. Oh well.
We arrived for our appointment and I spent much of the time complaining about my OB visit earlier in the day. Abby checked my belly, asking a few times if I had noticed any contractions or any other changes. I dismissed her questions for the most part, admitting only to a few contractions, but ” no big deal.” We said our good-byes and I promised to call if anything changed. We were back on the road again. This time, however, the ride seemed to drag on and on. I found myself concentrating on my breath and holding Wyatt’s hand tighter and tighter. He passed me a few sideways glances, but didn’t say much. I think he knew. He hadn’t had a chance to eat dinner, so we stopped by the drive-thru at a local BBQ place on the way home. I ordered a sandwich reminding myself that if I was in labor, if might be a long night, and I had better eat while I felt like it. Just as the girl handed the bag of food out the window, a huge contraction hit me. All of a sudden I had to get home. Now.
I wobbled into my kitchen barely even acknowledging my mom, who was saying something about getting Eryn ready for bed. I sat down at the table to eat, more on a mission than hungry. After only a bite or two, I got up from the table and headed again to the bathroom, leaving my sandwich behind without saying a word. I turned on the bath water and started to undress. I felt, I don’t know, maybe freer, as I threw my clothes into the laundry basket. I got into the tub and breathed a sigh of relief. Momentary relief. In between contractions, I managed to wash, shampoo and condition, and shave my legs. The water felt great and I was hesitant to get out of the bath. I heard Wyatt come upstairs and enter the bathroom, setting a few tools down on the floor. He quickly went to work on the broken toilet handle.
When I stepped out of the tub, I knew this was it. I just leaned against the wall…naked, dripping wet, towel loosely around my shoulder. Wyatt would later say, he looked over and thought, “Uh-oh, doesn’t look too good.” But, I didn’t notice his concentration on me. My mind sprung into full gear. The tub. The birth tub! Oh no! We need to fill it up! I told Wyatt to forget about the toilet and work on the tub instead. He dutifully did as he was told. As he scurried around, I tried to dry my hair. We discussed whether to call Abby and Jill. At this point, I realized the contractions seemed quite close together, and figured if we did call, we had better have timed a few so we would know what to say. I had a little bloody show at this time, as well. Timing the contractions was interesting for a few reasons. One, neither one of us really knew how to use the stopwatch on the cell phone. Two, I was concentrating too much on myself to watch a clock and Wyatt was running all around trying to get the tub going. This is what Wyatt managed to write down: 9:46.40 start, 9:47.40 end, 9:48.40 start , 9.49.45 end , 9:50.30 start , 9:51.38 end. I quickly gave up on this and began to pace the upstairs hall, eventually laying down sideways across our bed. Eryn was sitting there watching “toons,” having never officially been put to bed.
I don’t know how long I laid there. It couldn’t have been long given that the same episode of Wow Wow Wubbzy was still playing as Wyatt interrupted my fog, shoving the phone at me saying, “talk to Abby.” She, of course, wanted to know if she should come over, and after a few minutes of me saying ” well, um, well, um, I’m not sure, um, ” she decided she might as well come to check in since she “wasn’t home yet.” (I later came to know that she had been talking to me from her driveway.) It seemed like only moments before she was knocking at the door. I made my way downstairs to the front door to let her in, but had to take a little break before I got a chance to say much to her. She helped me time a few contractions (finally someone here who could do this!), and very, very, calmly said, “It seems like they’re pretty serious. Would it be okay if I checked you?” Wyatt had come downstairs by this point and I leaned against him for a contraction or two. Then we headed back upstairs to the bedroom.
My mom, who had headed home when we had returned from the CHOICE office, must have been back by this point, but I honestly couldn’t say for sure when she came in. Abby had a bit of a puzzled look on her face as first, and truly, I was thinking, “Great, I’m probably not even 4 cm.” The doctor was probably wrong when she said I was “a good three” earlier in the day. Abby asked if she could wait until I was having a contraction to tell “for sure.” I said fine. She looked even more puzzled as I strained to make sense of the situation. She said then, matter-of-factly, “You’re 9.” What?!? I thought. A 5? No, she didn’t say 5. She said 9. 9? 9? 9?!? She called Jill as she stood there with me next to the bed. I started to panic, not out of pain, but out of total shock. Jill was equally shocked, I think, as she headed on her way. Abby said she was going to her car to get a few supplies and hadn’t made it any further than the hallway outside our room when my water broke. Wyatt hollered out to her and she asked if the fluid was clear. Yes, Wyatt said, it was. My panic intensified, and so did my contractions. I just remember feeling like I didn’t want her to go to the car, I just wanted her to come back and stand there with me. I wasn’t sure what she was going to “do,” but, my panic was interrupted with an unmistakable feeling: the need to push. I was probably most shocked to hear Abby say, “Well if you feel like pushing, then do. You are probably a 10 now!”
Even though Wyatt had started filling the birthtub, it wasn’t nearly full at this point. I was already in bed and was fairly content to stay there, considering the thought of standing up seemed to rival jumping the Grand Canyon. I was actually surprised by how nice it was to have breaks between contractions while pushing. When Eryn was born, I couldn’t feel anything and had to be told when to push. To say that pushing came “naturally” this time would be a bit of an understatement. Pushing wasn’t a choice now–it was happening with or without me.
Jill came in sometime while I was pushing, although I don’t clearly remember her arriving. She seemed to just appear. I recall trying to muster a smile, thinking of the irony that I had been talking and laughing with her at the office only a few hours before. Abby reminded me that I hadn’t wanted to be on by back while pushing, so I switched to my hands and knees, leaning over Wyatt. Wyatt was so amazing through all of this. He kept telling me how good I was doing and was right with me for every push. At one point, Jill was checking the baby’s heartbeat and found it to be a little low–which scared me. Wyatt said it was as if I “woke up” at this point and really got to work.
Even though this all seemed par for the course to me, to Abby and Jill my relatively slow progress at this point was surprising. Unknown to me at this time, Abby had started to think that the baby might be posterior, but if she was concerned, she did not show it. They briefly offered the half-filled birth tub, but we all decided that wasn’t the greatest idea. Abby suggested squatting, but I was unsure if I could support myself in that position for very long. Jill mentioned that she had a birth stool in her car and asked if I would consider that. I said I wasn’t exactly sure what that was, but I was willing to give it a shot. However, I hadn’t considered how difficult if would be to walk around the bed to the area were the stool had been set up. Abby warned me that pushing would feel a lot more intense in this position. No exaggeration! It was pretty difficult to get myself balanced well on the stool, so I was mostly relying on Wyatt holding me in a squat like position.
Poor Eryn was so great through all of this. My mom had brought her in and out of the room several times while I was pushing so that I was able to tell her that I was okay and I was “making noise” just because pushing was really hard work. Just as Jill had described in class, I got to a point where it seemed like it hurt too much to go on, but I knew there was no turning back. Even though I was hurting, I was thankful to be able to feel everything. I felt like my body was doing what it needed to do and I completely trusted everyone who was there with me, helping to bring this new little life into the world. I remember Abby saying something along the lines of “Okay, we need to have this baby now.” I looked at the clock. Midnight. August 19th would be the birthday. I gave a few more hard pushes and then Jill and Abby reminded me to reach down to catch my sweet baby–and there she was!
She looked so perfect. Her eyes were wide open and she was crying just a little. I held her close and leaned against Wyatt who was still behind me. Jill and Abby helped me cover her up with the towels and blankets we had prepared. I remember thinking I wanted so badly to know if she was a boy or a girl, but I was so shaky and still trying to balance on the stool that I didn’t want to drop her! I was surprised to see that she was a girl–there are not too many times in life where you get to be so pleasantly surprised by something that is a 50/50 chance! For whatever reason, I was so shocked; I had to check a couple times–just to believe it! We called her Anna Celeste right away, a name we had chosen just a few weeks before her birth. Eryn was right there with us, and Nana too. Eryn just kept saying, “It’s okay, sweetheart.” She thought Anna was sad because she was crying. She wasn’t so sure about touching Anna, no matter how much we coaxed, because she was “all gooey.”
After we all collected ourselves a little and I delivered the placenta, Abby and Jill helped me get back into bed so that I could relax and Anna could start to nurse. Again, the walk to the bed–a whole three steps–seemed so far away and it hurt a lot to sit down. But, Anna was there, in my arms. What a wonderful feeling. It was strange to think, I can’t believe I did it, and yet I knew I could do it, all at once. Everything felt so right. We all just laid in the bed together for an hour or so. I kept kissing Anna’s head and thinking she was so beautiful. Eryn and Wyatt started to cut Anna’s umbilical cord, but Eryn was a little afraid that she was hurting her new little sister and Jill stepped in to help out. Nana put the exhausted “big sister” to bed, and Abby showed Wyatt and I the placenta, which we were both interested to see. It was so cool to see what had been nourishing Anna for the last 9 ½ months. It’s funny, even though I had seen placentas before (in nursing school), it was an odd experience to see my own. It seemed, well, I don’t know, big. When you sit there looking at a whole baby and a huge placenta, you realize suddenly why your belly really was so huge! It is amazing it all fits in there. Although I would not consider myself to be superstitious or anything about the placenta, I felt a need to respect it. It had served its purpose, but throwing it directly into the trash seemed wrong somehow. It was relieved when Jill suggested that she take it to share at her childbirth preparation class the next night. That seemed appropriate.
I soon found myself back in the shower, with Wyatt at my side. Having officially settled Eryn into her bed, Nana got to sit and rock her new little granddaughter. I can honestly say that a shower had never felt so good in my entire life. I felt a little twinge of regret as I looked at the birthtub sitting in the corner of the bathroom. I had wanted so badly to give birth in the tub, but everything had gone wonderfully. Maybe next time. Wyatt cautiously stood by my side while I showered. My legs felt weak and tired, and of course by butt hurt. Although I can’t recall his exact words, he just kept smiling at me. I remember looking at him as the water streamed through my hair and telling him he was going to have to buy two cars now and walk two girls down the aisle. He had the biggest smile on his face and said he couldn’t wait. By the time I got out of the shower, I was pretty drained of energy.
I dried off and put on a fresh nightgown leaving my hair to drip-dry. I sat down on the toilet to fix the “underwear sandwich”, named by the postpartum nurse at Mt. Carmel the night Eryn was born. I waddled back to the bedroom when I was finished and found my room as tidy as before the night had started. My mom would later comment that she had never seen two people make a bed so quickly and efficiently. I took Anna back into my arms and prepared to weigh and dress her. Jill took her time checking her over, ever so gently, then put her into the sling to be weighed. 7# 3oz. Just slightly larger than Eryn’s 7# 1oz. Apparently I have consistent babies. We opened the bag I had stored the teeny-tiny newborn diapers and outfit in so many weeks before. I had chosen the sleeper carefully. It was soft and white, a little bag that snapped up the front with tiny Noah’s ark animals on it. Anna looked so sweet in it, as we put on her little matching hat. Just as I thought she would look.
Abby opened another bag too–this one with a T-shirt for Anna, with the words “born at home” and a bumper sticker for me sporting the phrase “We had our baby at home by CHOICE.” Now, it might sound crazy, but that bumper sticker meant, and continues to mean, the world to me. Insane, right? It’s a silly little sticker. But somehow, it was like a trophy. An acknowledgement that I DID IT. I had the birth that I wanted, the birth my family needed, the birth my baby deserved. I am proud to drive around town with my sticker and am always happy to answer the inevitable question with a smile, “Did you really. . .?” Yes, I did.
After hugs and good-bye’s and promises to check in the next day, Abby and Jill went home to their beds and Wyatt and I laid Anna down in her little basinet. She was so calm and looked almost angelic swaddled in her little pooh bear blanket. A sense of relief washed over me as I lay my head down on my pillow. Wyatt was asleep in an instant and I felt relaxed as I listened to him breath. A family of four, I thought. Amazing.
I woke to Anna’s little whimpers as dawn began to break. I was disoriented at first and it took me a second to make sense of things. I looked over at the sleepy little baby and smiled. How absolutely wonderful to be waking up in my own bed, in my own house, with my sweet little Anna. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
Anna is now quickly approaching two. She and Eryn are a blessing each and every day. Anna is the sweetest child. She has a pleasant personality and is a little helper. She is a thumb-sucker and a cuddler. She loves doll babies and her words are “this” and “that.” Her smile is infectious. As I look back on the past two years and remember Anna’s special entry into the world, I have made a few observations. One, I am certain that Anna’s calm, content nature can be directly attributed to her birth experience. Many would say that this is coincidental, or maybe only because of my mindset, but I know in my heart that it is true. Secondly, the bond that formed between Eryn and Anna that night in August is almost unexplainable. Eryn loves her little sister, but more than that, she feels responsible for her. She feels that she plays a role in her life. She has a vested interest in her. That is something big to say for a now four-year-old, but it is true. Sure, they have, and will, go through the trials and tribulations as any siblings do, but these girls are different. Eryn has a bond that not even I have with Anna. Eryn will tell you about Anna’s birth; she will give you all the gorey details, if you will listen, but she will never tell you that she is jealous or regrets that Anna is here. She accepts her and wants to do what is best for her.
Just as it should be.