Birth Story 3.0: Expectations

It’s been eleven days since Baby #3 (“M”) arrived. We’re still in the sleepy newborn phase, so rest hasn’t been too hard to come by yet. My mom left yesterday after ten days of cooking, cleaning, hanging out with big sisters and preserving my sanity.

After M was born, I shared a photo of our newest addition with this caption: “I’m still processing her entrance into the world, but two things I know: God is good and she is a gift.”

These words elicited some concern as friends began speculating about possible complications.

There were no complications. M arrived safely at the hands of a dear midwife and nurse at the same birth center where K and L were born.

So, what was different? What was there to process?

Unmet expectations.

I had expectations about when she would be born (early). I had expectations about how she would be born (quickly). I had expectations about how big she would be (at least seven pounds). I had expectations about how breastfeeding would go (easily).

These were not unrealistic expectations based on my last childbirth and newborn experience, except that previous births really have no bearing on future ones. I learned this the hard way.

And then there were expectations I had not considered—one being that my four year old would not be unknowingly exposed to poison ivy the same week that her sister arrived and that both K and I would not be covered in a rash my first few weeks postpartum.

I still have some processing left to do, but for now, I am ready to share my story.

At 37 weeks, I experienced contractions and a burst of energy. After that, I thought every day could be “the day.”

The next three weeks came and went…slowly.

My parents arrived Saturday, two days after my due date.

Two more days passed and on Monday morning, I finally passed my mucus plug. If you’ve read my other birth stories (here and here), you know this is how both of my previous labors started. Except this time, I wasn’t experiencing any contractions. It wasn’t until that evening around 5:00 PM that I started contracting. They were coming anywhere from 3-7 minutes apart and the midwife on call, Carey, advised me to come in, since third babies can, in theory, come quickly.

We waved goodbye to the girls and told them we’d see them in the morning with their new baby sister.

We arrived at the birth center around 6:30 PM and Laura was the back-up midwife on call, since Carey was with another mom in labor at the time. She checked me and I was 3 centimeters dilated. Not what I wanted to hear, but I thought that I could get things moving with some walking, pelvic exercises, binding, and labor & delivery tincture. Chris and I went for a walk around a nearby neighborhood. I continued to have contractions.

Over the next few hours, contractions remained inconsistent, although they grew in intensity.

Laura and my nurse, Jennifer, suggested that I try to rest, but I was determined to push this baby out as soon as possible and I had no interest in sleep.

I gave in around 11:00 PM. I slept until 1:30 AM and got up again raring to go. Laura checked me again and I was still 3 centimeters. I felt deflated. She asked me if I wanted her to sweep my membranes to get things moving, especially since I was 40w5d at this point. As much as I wanted to move things along, I didn’t want a sweep. We decided to go for another walk around the birth center. We passed another couple doing the same thing and exchanged knowing looks. I had four really intense contractions during our short trek. We came back inside and the contractions slowed again. It was as if I could only have effective contractions while upright. This became exhausting. After some more laboring and wishful thinking, I went back to sleep around 3:00 AM.

When I woke up again, Carey was back. She has been a familiar face throughout all three pregnancies and I was thankful to see her. After some more slow labor (including falling asleep mid-sentence at one point) she offered to sweep my membranes and I reluctantly agreed. At this point, I was worn out and I didn’t think this baby was ever going to arrive. Much to my delight, when she checked me, I was 5 centimeters and contractions were picking up. I didn’t need the sweep! I was so thankful. I continued to labor and before long, it was 8:30 AM and Emily (midwife) and Emma (nurse) picked up where Laura and Carey had left off. If you recall, Emily caught L at 9:36 AM after coming in around 8:30 AM. At this point, I was standing in the bathroom laboring pretty hard and began to feel it was time to push when Emily came in the room and I jokingly told her she had an hour to work her magic.

I moved from the bathroom to leaning over the bed during this phase. I was pushing pretty hard, but contractions were still farther apart than I preferred, leaving me with way too much time to think between each one. I stood there at the edge of the bed, staring at my feet, thinking, “Why won’t she just come?!”

Emily realized that although I was bearing down, M’s head was pushing against part of my cervix that was still in the way. I moved onto the bed on my back so that she could manually move my cervix allowing M’s head to move past it. That was the longest contraction of my life, but it worked.

After some more really intense pushing, mostly on my hands and knees, and a last minute water break (I was GBS+ again, so this was ideal), our sweet girl finally made her appearance at 9:39 AM. She was 6 pounds 9 ounces and 20 inches long.

Similar to K’s birth, Emily was concerned with my bleeding and my placenta was slow to deliver, so after trying some herbs, we opted for a pitocin shot. Although we never prefer synthetic drugs, we always weigh the risk versus the benefit and recognize that they have a place.

Emily and Emma were simply amazing throughout that last hour. They worked together seamlessly. I spent a lot of this labor frustrated, discouraged and not believing that I could keep going, but their compassion and wisdom carried me through to the moment when I saw my precious girl’s sweet face for the first time.

And Chris… always steadfast. Nearly all my contractions were spent pressing my head into his chest while clinging to his shirt collar. I couldn’t do it without him.

As one who tends to have expectations for everything, I realized that if you make up your mind about every single detail beforehand, even a healthy, un-medicated, uncomplicated birth can be disappointing. At least initially. Now that some time has passed, I can see clearly that I’ve had another beautiful birth experience and I never want to take that for granted.

If we should choose to have more children and God allows it, then I hope to limit my expectations to God’s will being done. And no poison ivy.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset