All my babies have been late, or would have been if not induced on their due dates. I didn’t expect anything less from Ashlyn, I even set my due date a few days later (January 9th) based on my charting rather than the typical last missed period (January 5th) dates most people use to help my mindset of being okay with being “late.” But, of course, I hoped maybe she would surprise us and be early! In December the rounds of prodromal labor started, right at the 37 week point based on my midwife’s date (she went by January 5th). They would stop and start every other night for about 2 weeks, making for some sleepy days! At 40 weeks I allowed a check and I was 4cm dilated from all the prelabor action.
We waited and waited, trying every natural thing in the book from acupuncture to pineapple and walking. We prayed a lot about what we should do as time crept closer to 42 weeks. Thursday night January 17th, Mark and I prayed hard that God would give us a clear answer as to whether we should do castor oil again as we did with Jaxson. The next morning, Friday the 18th, we both felt peace and knew that today was the day to induce at home.
My midwife knew we were planning it, she gave us directions, and we kept her up to date throughout the day. I ate a big healthy breakfast and took my first dose of 1 ounce in a smoothie at 9:30am. The pooping surprising started within 30 minutes (with Jaxson it took 2 or 3 doses and several hours to start taking effect!) and by 10:30am I had my first real contraction, about 5 minutes apart. I told Mark to get the kids ready to go to their grandparents because with Jaxson once contractions started I had him within 4.5 hours. I was expecting this birth to go fast as well since I was 4cm dilated already, but Ashlyn has proven time and again that she goes at her own pace :-) The kids left about 11:30 and contractions were still there, every 3-5 minutes. I had to breathe and sway through them but they were very manageable and I was just thrilled to be having contractions!
By 12:30 the contractions were stronger and I had Mark start filling up the birthing pool to get it ready for when I needed it, I knew with the next “level” that I would be wanting it. My midwife said to take another dose of castor oil to make sure that contractions stay and not die out as they have in the past, so I did that. I felt strongly that Ashlyn needed to move lower to help move things a long, so I labored in our bedroom laying over my birthing ball for a while or walking around. Around 2:30pm contractions were 2 minutes apart and definitely stronger so I got in the pool. This whole time Mark was busy cleaning, prepping birth supplies, or simply just being near me. I didn’t feel a need for his support yet but loved his company. We spent a lot of time laughing in between contractions (the way he can make me laugh is one of my favorite things about him!) and the atmosphere was so lighthearted, joyful, and peaceful as I labored on. We had my labor play list playing on his iphone dock, songs ranging from hymns to songs about looking forward to life with a baby. I was so enjoying the sunlight pouring into our windows, it felt refreshing and pure. I was sure she was going to be born during the day and it delighted me since all my others were born at night. I was just waiting for the corner to turn and transition to hit, but at the same time I kept thinking that these were too easy, not getting stronger, and I half expected them to pitter out.
4pm I felt that she was finally getting lower and feeling more pressure, but still hadn’t turned that corner contraction wise. I had been in and out of the pool, using the bathroom, and trying to walk around to move her lower until I couldn’t stand not being in the water any longer. It was getting dark by this point and I was beginning to lose hope that she would be born in the daylight like I imagined. At 6pm I asked my midwife to come check me to see if anything was going on. I had been laboring for hours with contractions every 2-4 minutes but they weren’t getting stronger, it felt stagnent and like that next level would never arrive. She arrived with her assistant and I disappointingly found that I had barely any change from my last check at 40 weeks. I maybe was “a little more” and she was a little lower. All those hours for hardly any change? She advised me to eat a big meal, take another dose of castor oil, and rest since I had been up for 12 hours by that point . I joked with them that my body must like giving birth at night, since that’s when all my other babies were born. They left and I felt so disappointed, exhausted, and frustrated. I had been keeping some prayer warriors from my church up to date on my labor, and I asked for their prayers that it would pick up soon. I was ready to be done, ready to meet this little girl, and not feel like I was running this marathon at a slow pace.
Between 6:30pm when they left to 9:30pm, I did as they told me. I hopped back in the pool to continue managing contractions every few minutes and Mark fed me a meal while I was in there, took another dose with root beer, and laid down to rest. I didn’t expect to fall asleep since my contractions were strong and every few minutes but amazingly they must have stopped for 2 solid hours so I could sleep. I was passed out for 2 hours and awoke at 11:30 pm to another strong contraction. I was amazed they came back! They stayed (unlike with Jaxson’s due date false labor)! It was then that I knew these wouldn’t pitter out and we would be meeting her soon. My contractions picked up soon after. I felt the need to stay in the pool (in between pooping…) and needed Mark to be with me and support me. I remember feeling like I wanted to escape them, I wanted this to be over. I felt so much pressure on my bottom and my hips/pelvis felt like they were being pushed in opposite directions. I called my midwife and told her that they had finally turned that corner and she said she was on her way! Throughout all this labor I had been comparing this experience to Jaxson’s, and at this point I was feeling like I did when I called her when in labor with Jaxson and headed to the birthcenter. I knew this had to be transition since I was feeling like I couldn’t take anymore, slightly nauseous, and desiring support.
The midwives arrived around 1 am while I was on the toilet yet again. When I came out I asked her to check me, she told me with a smile that I was 8-9 cm! It was reassuring that I did know my body, and when that corner came I totally knew it. I had a few strong contractions on the bed that I started moaning through (sweet Mark was rubbing my feet!) and when one ended I quickly hopped in the pool beside the bed for relief. With the next contraction my body started pushing and my moaning got louder. Mark appeared behind me for support, his arms draped around me supporting me physically and his head right by mine whispering encouraging things constantly. This was one of my favorite things about this labor and birth experience, his support and love that held me up both physically and emotionally. With each contraction I gripped the handle in tub and brought my baby down with a loud moan, working with my body as it lead. I found it interesting that I assumed the same pushing position and the same pushing sounds as I had with Jaxson. This is how my body births, it was familiar. I knew what was coming and while it felt totally overwhelming, and honestly, painful, I knew I had this. I knew I could do it because I had done it before, these pains were familiar and I knew to push through it. I’m told I pushed for about 15 minutes, though it felt like eternity to me! She came down quickly and with each push I reached down to feel her progress. I remember saying, “She’s coming!” and my midwife saying, “I know!” I remember as she was nearing crowning and the burning was getting intense I screamed, “COME OUT!” I remember Mark telling me to breathe. I remember in between contractions as I was resting Mark saying, “You feel that? That’s Ashlyn, she’s not afraid to come out anymore” (we were joking for weeks that she was afraid to come out into our crazy home) or he would tell me to listen to the song playing because that would be us soon (“I Get to Be” by JJ Heller). He was incredible, this experience has bonded us even more.
We saw what we thought was her crowning very quickly after I started pushing, only to find that it was a bubble of her intact amniotic sac coming out first! So the progress I kept reaching down to feel was actually that and not her head, but her head was close behind. The burning increased and I knew we were almost done, I knew this time that I wasn’t going to rip in half and if I just kept going she would be here soon. Still, I grunted and roared loud to get her out. It honestly sounded like a clip from those stupid birth scenes on TV, but screaming helped get the job done for me. I pushed for several contractions and finally her amniotic bubble came out followed by her head. My midwife broke the sac so she would be able to breathe when she was pulled out of the water. I screamed, “Get her out of me!” because it was so intense and I knew it was SO close to it being over. I knew relief would come as soon as she was out. She had me push again to get her shoulders out. At 2:08 am January 19th, 2013 she came into this side of the world. The cord was wrapped around her shoulders (not around her neck 4 times like Jax, whew!) so she unwrapped it and together we put her on my chest. I said, “Oh baby!” and started sobbing.
I was filled with relief physically and emotionally, this little girl was finally here! Weeks of waiting, days of emotions and tears feeling like this moment would never come. She didn’t cry, she just looked around and stared at me with her blue eyes. So alert and calm! I always felt like she would be a calm baby, just as she was in the womb. So far that’s been true. Being born in the caul is said to be very rare, my midwife in all her years of practice has only seen one other birth with it. She’s a special girl regardless of her caul birth, such a blessing to us and a gift I feel God gave us because of so much healing that has gone on this past year, and preparing for her arrival was a huge part of it. Coincidently, the song playing when she was born was “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. How fitting.
Welcome to the world Ashlyn Grace. We are beyond overjoyed that you are with us finally!