I thought for sure that my baby would be born in the middle of January. Despite our January 5th guess date, I joked with my midwives that January 18th would be the day our little one would make his or her big arrival. I was positive that I would still be pregnant at La Leche League on Tuesday, January 8th at the very least… but baby had other plans.
The prodromal labor started on Christmas morning, bright and early, rousing me from a deep sleep. Three strong waves came one after the other, each uncomfortable and stealing my breath, waking me one at a time, as each time I would go back to sleep afterwards. “Remember how I said we weren’t having a Christmas baby?” I teased David when he finally climbed out of bed to do stockings and gifts. “I might have been wrong.” After 20-odd weeks of Braxton Hicks, these were different. As the day continued on, the contractions continued at a rate of about 5 minutes apart and 1½ minutes long apiece. They were strong enough that they were noticeable no matter what I was doing, but were more uncomfortable than anything. By late afternoon, I had texted my midwife letting her know that, while we were “not planning on having a baby today,” she might like to know that I was having regular practice surges every 5-6 minutes with some pain that weren’t abating. On her advice, I took magnesium before bed and a strong chamomile/valerian tea to get some rest. I slept like a rock that night despite the waves continuing, so hubby and I planned a Les Miserables movie date for the following evening, knowing that it might be the last chance we would have to go out alone. The surges continued on the 26th at a strong, regular rate for about 35 hours before eventually dissipating into a more irregular pattern on the 27th.
The night of the 29th, the waves came back… a little bit more seriously this time, and still at about a 5 minute frequency. They lasted through the night and, combined with Xander’s lack of sleep, led to my decision to spend most of the morning on the 30th trying to rest and recover. By 11am, it was clear that my body was working hard to get something started. I didn’t believe that we were anywhere close to the real birthing time, since my belly was still high and my cervix was still closed, but it was a challenge to get through putting Xander down for his nap, since I had to breathe through several surges in the process. I spent the afternoon on hands and knees over a birth ball, breathing and trying to relax, washing dishes and lanolizing some diaper covers, and taking a bath with Xander to try to relax.
By 4:30, we had decided to go for an early walk to beat the rain and hailstorm moving through San Diego. We were planning to pick up some groceries at Major Market and dinner from Pick Up Stix. The waves were coming about every 3 minutes at this point and we needed to stop so that I could get through each one, so we decided to call Vickii and let her know that things might be getting started. While David was ordering at Pick Up Stix, I found myself leaning over a booth, breathing and focusing through one of the waves. The manager came over to ask what was wrong with me. When I responded that I was in early labor, she said, “I’m not delivering no babies today.” I laughed and told her that we were still a long way off from that.
After ordering dinner, we walked to Major Market to pick up some canned goods and the produce and meat to make a crockpot pot roast, and then headed back to pick up our meal. Since the surges were getting significantly stronger, we borrowed a shopping cart to contain a now-tired Xander and our groceries and walked home. Once unloading our purchases, I returned the shopping cart back to the grocery store alone while David served dinner for Xander. By 5:30, we were all home and settled in for our family evening, enjoying chicken lettuce wraps, house chicken, and rice.
At 6:30pm, I started putting Xander to sleep in our shared bedroom. By this point in time, nursing him quietly through my strong surges was all but impossible, but somehow I managed, and he thankfully fell asleep quickly and without argument. From 7pm on, I isolated myself in the bedroom. I took valerian and chamomile on the midwife’s advice and spent the time moving back and forth between a side-lying position and on my hands and knees in my bed, Xander just 15 feet away. During that time, David and I also made our bed with an inside layer of shower curtains and got the birth pool filled up with air so that it was ready to be filled with water when things got serious.
Vickii called shortly before 9, checking in on me to see how things were going. After speaking on the phone for a few minutes (and through several surges), she asked when we’d like her to come up to our home. I explained to her that I was really a solo birther and that I didn’t want for her to have to come up and waste her time sitting around, and she suggested that I talk to David about it, since I was her only mama in active labor at present, and besides which, she’d rather take a nap on my couch and be here early than not make it on time. She insisted that I make myself something to eat, have another cup of tea, and talk to David before making a decision.
I moved to the kitchen and started a pot of boiling water on the stove, intending to make potstickers, and started steeping chamomile teabags on the counter. I walked into David’s office to talk to David, who suggested that perhaps we should have Vickii come up now, since he’d feel more comfortable if we had her around, especially given the stormy, hailing weather. Wanting him to feel confident in the process, I agreed to text her. I sent my mom a message at 9:47, asking her if my dad could come help fill the birth pool, and messaged Vickii at 9:49: “David says he would feel more comfortable to have you here if you are okay with that so we don’t have to make a judgment call on when to call you. Even making a cup of tea is an ordeal right now for me. Oy. Seriously don’t think I’m going to be able to eat.” She responded with “Eat anyway. Yogurt bites? Ok. Finishing up making me a wake-up mocha, then gonna change and head over.”
One surge later, I realized that I definitely wouldn’t be able to finish brewing my tea, much less wait 10 minutes for the potstickers to be finished. I stood over my kitchen table, upper body resting as best I could flat on the table, with my legs beginning to shake as another wave came on. I briefly thought instead about boiling eggs, then processed that they would take even longer and started to cry with frustration. David came in and I asked him to turn the water off, put the potstickers back in the freezer, and finish my tea for me (he joked that at least we had boiled water). I moved to the living room and worked through my next couple of surges kneeling over the loveseat, David supporting me and encouraging me to drink the tea. I finished it in one swift gulp, and then left the mug on the end table, frustrated because I didn’t have the energy or time to return it to the kitchen before the next surge… my pet peeve is empty glasses and dishes left around the house. I moved to the bedroom, where I continued to labor in my own bed. I texted Emily at 10:13: “Definitely candle time. Vickii and mama on the way.” “Yay! Go, Mama!” she responded, to which my reply was, “Whoo! I’m having a hard time getting excited like you! Haha. Sleep well!”
My parents arrived around 10:20. My dad turned on the bright light in the bedroom as he started working on filling the birth pool with David (and Matt, who came by to help problem solve after a few minutes). As they worked to get the pool filled, they decided to move Xander out of the well-lit and now relatively noisy room to the bedroom next door and, amazingly enough, he stayed asleep through this process.
My mom stayed with me through a couple of surges, holding an ice pack to my back between them. I told her that I had promised Vickii I would eat and wanted boiled eggs, so she left the room to finish making them for me and to start prepping my crockpot pot roast for the following day. Since I was starting to come to terms with the fact that, yes… I might be actually having a baby sometime in the next day or so, I pulled out the iPad and started listening to my HypnoBabies tracks. I got about 11 minutes in before I felt the need to change positions from my side/tummy lying position. I literally had just moved into a hands and knees position on the bed when my water suddenly broke at 10:55.
Vickii pulled up to our home as this was happening, and came walking into the room at 10:57. She quickly pulled out her birth supplies and used the Doppler to monitor the baby through surges – all was well.
After another surge or two, I pulled my wet skirt off. Surge. Ate two boiled eggs. I continued to work through my surges as everyone waited for the pool to fill to the correct level. By 11:25pm, my body had completely taken over and was pushing on its own, as I still laid across my bed, one leg crossed over the other. I wasn’t going to make it to the birth pool after all. I remember Vickii turning to my mother and asking her for a bowl from the kitchen, preferably not glass (to catch the placenta). She turned to leave, and David said, “I know where it is!” and ran from the room to get it. As he returned, my mother pointed to the baby’s head crowning and David realized just how close we were to having our baby. “There’s so much hair!” someone said, and Vickii asked if I wanted to feel my baby’s head, which I did. A moment later, Nicole arrived; I remember greeting her as she entered the room with, “Hi Nicole!!! So glad you made it!” Ridiculous, typing that now…
As the baby’s head continued to move with each wave, Vickii asked if we had wanted Xander present (David assured her that yes, we did), and my dad went to go and wake him up and carried him into the room. He was still half asleep and had a stressed look on his face as he came into the scene of me birthing on the bed. As I pushed, my Mama was taking photos, Papa was holding an uncertain Xander, and David was ready to catch. The baby’s head emerged and, after a moment, Vickii asked me if I could move my leg across to give the baby more space to breathe and to come. Just moments later, I felt the baby slip into David’s waiting hands, and heard my mother’s loud pronouncement: “It’s a boy!”
“It’s Jasper!” David exclaimed, holding our sweet child in his arms.
As Jasper was passed to me, my first words were, “He looks just like Xander!” as I cradled him against my chest.
The experience was moving beyond belief and, once again, we were instantly in love. Xander moved up beside me on the bed to see our baby… Jasper was born at 11:38pm on December 30, 2012, six days before his guess date, at home with his family, a little bigger, intact together, safe, warm, and loved.