The Birth of Claire Anneliese

Three years ago on Monday, we welcomed a little princess into our world. We celebrated with some new doll clothes, a pink and orange pennant banner, a trip to the zoo, and something chocolatey. And today on the blog, in honor of her birthday, I bring you her birth story, as recorded in my journal 4 days after she was born…

Claire mixing the crust for her birthday pie
Caution – this could possibly be the longest post I’ve ever put up on the blog! Read at your own risk! LOL

Thanksgiving Day I woke up just about as soon as you could call it Thursday – shortly after 1 am. The contractions I’d been having off and on for several weeks now had started up again. They always began at night and were just hard enough to keep me awake, but far enough apart that I knew it wasn’t labor beginning.

“Well, here we go again” I thought, “Another sleepless night”. I got up after a while, knowing I would be able to get a nap that day, it being a holiday. I headed out to the living room to find something to do – hoping that by moving around the contractions would stop and I could get back to sleep before dawn.

The house was already so clean, all I could find were a couple dirty dishes. After washing these, I sat down at the computer. Contractions had not stopped – only coming lighter when I was standing up. Wandering through Bloggyland, I came across a few mommy blogs that refreshed my perspective once again for this season of waiting. One mother had lots of pre-labor contractions and ended up with a very short labor. “That’s me!” I thought hopefully.

Finally at 4am I headed back to bed, still not able to sleep with contractions every 15 minutes. I got out my Bible and journal. I was still really struggling with choices we had made for our birth team – certain individuals were out of town, and as much as I wanted to just have this baby, I also wished to wait till everyone I had hoped to be at the birth were back in the area. Hopeful anticipation had been replaced with anxiety and resentment each time I felt a labor pain. I knew this was not a healthy attitude, so I read and prayed until this message came – I was to trust the Lord’s timing. It had been a complete lack of trust on my part — that God had a perfect plan for this birth and who was supposed to be there. Seeing my problem for what it was, I repented and asked for grace to trust. For the first time I felt a pervasive peace about the whole situation, and I praised the Lord.

But I didn’t’ get back to sleep.

Sunrise came, the Boy woke up, we at breakfast, and the contractions continued. Finally around 10am they slowed enough that I thought I could catch a nap. At this point I felt it was very important to get whatever rest I could, in case I would be up all night laboring or something. Again, sleep evaded me. (seeing a theme, here, people?)

At lunch we headed to the town fire hall for the first course of our big, Italian-Style family Thanksgiving Feast. (No, we are not Italian, but we often celebrate with close friends who are, which gives the day a decided Italian flair) This year we had 22 people, including 7 children under 5. The food was as awesome as always, a menu worth of tradition — Caesar Salad, egg bread, lasagna, and Oreo cookie salad.. I couldn’t help it — I stuffed myself, all the while wondering if this would be the meal I’d throw up in transition?

Thankfully, naps were scheduled after lunch for those would would need them. Jeremy took Jesse and me home an tucked us in bed and went back to participate in the games. Once again, I was unable to sleep, but glad for a  rest.

Around the time we sad down for turkey dinner, I began noticing the contractions again. Once again I threw caution to the wind and stuffed myself, while keeping a casual eye to the clock. By dessert I noticed the contractions (which were not painful, just ‘there’) were 10 min. apart. We continued to feast and visit and finally headed home around 8:30pm.

Bed sounded so good to me by this time, but once again I was unable to sleep. By this time I was almost positive I would be having this baby sooner than later — yet the peace about the timing of things remained. Before falling asleep Jeremy recommended I take a hot bath if I couldn’t settle down. The contractions were slowing down to 15 then almost 20 min. apart, but they were so hard I had to breath through them. Around 11:30 I decided on that bath, if just for some relief. 30 min. later, I called Jeremy until he shuffled into the bathroom, rubbing his eyes.

“Honey, they’re less than 5 min. apart now — shall I call the midwife?”

His response was something along the lines of “I gotta have some coffee” and he stumbled out again. I heard the beans spilling int to the grinder and then the motor whirring. Several moments later he was back with my phone dialed for the midwife. The contractions were shorter and less uncomfortable in the tub, but they were definitely coming faster, and she had said to call when they were at 5 in. My little sheet of paper on which I had been jotting down times showed 3, 4, 5, or 7 min. intervals. I hit the send button.

The Midwife answered promptly and agreed that it sounded like we were in business. She said that she had thought I would have my baby tonight and had prayed that direction when she’d gone to bed. She said she would collect her things and be on her way.

With reality setting in that it was actually happening now, I got out of the tub to make sure all was ready. Jeremy was fixing his first cup of coffee, and Jesse was sleeping soundly. The tub was already in the living room and all Jeremy had to do was run the hose down the hallway to hook up to the hot water faucet behind the washing machine. Contractions slowed down when I had got out of the tub, but were still there.

The Midwife arrived around 1:30 with her bright smile and a hug for me. soon after her assistant came and together they began setting up. I was pretty decided I would labor in the tub, but they made up a bed on the couch for afterward.

I had gotten in the tub as soon as it was full, embracing the relaxing effect it had on the contractions. But now, when I got in the water, the contractions would slow, and when I was up and around, they were more frequent and stronger. Considering I had not slept in over 24 hours. I discussed it with the Midwife and decided I’d rather get this done. So I got out of the tube and began pacing. The RN that assisted my midwife had arrived by this time, and all three of the ladies were settled comfortable in the living room. The Midwife told Assistant #1 it was her watch, and The Midwife and Assistant #2 curled up for naps. Jeremy kept monitoring the tub temperature, and I kept pacing. I had tried to lay down to rest fora while, but found the contractions were most uncomfortable when I was horizontal. I found I really preferred laboring on my feet, leaning on the counter during the hard ones. It seemed easier to relax while standing. With Jesse’s labor I remembered laying on the bed working so hard on keeping my whole body relaxed. But this time around I felt a little more free and confident in my ability to explore various birthing positions on my own, and I found that when I was standing, there were some muscles being used purposefully, and it wasn’t so hard to relax the others.

Every once in a while I got back in the tub for a few contractions just for the break it gave me. This system seemed to work really well. Every 1/2 hour Assistant #1 checked my blood pressure and listened to the baby with the doppler. The Midwife didn’t check dilation routinely like my previous midwife. She said, “It’s just numbers – you will have this baby when you are ready!” (Such a midwife-ish response!:)) But around 4am I found myself really wishing to have a little indication of how far I had come, or how much I had to go. 7cm was the answer. “Wow!” I thought – “just 3 to go, and it hasn’t been too bad so far!”

At 4:30 I was in the tub again for a breather and ti was time to call the rest of our birth team, Cheerleader. She said she wasn’t surprised to get the call, and had not been able to sleep at all, thinking of me. She told me later that usually, when she couldn’t sleep, she would use her insomnia as an opportunity to pray for good rest for me – but that night she had the distinct impression she was not supposed to pray for sleep for me! Cheerleader arrived 10 min. after we called. I was delighted to have her as I knew she’d be great labor support.

At 5 I was sitting on the couch, having had my blood pressure taken, and Assistant #1 was listening to the baby’s heart beat when  loud “pop!” came through the speaker. I heart it and felt it – it was so jarring, it felt like a chiropractor’s adjustment in my abdomen. “What was that!?” I cried, at the same time realizing it was my water breaking. Hooray! Now That meant progress! Now The Midwife said I could get in the tub and stay in the tub, for there would be nothing that could slow things down from here. I happily climbed into the tub and relaxed just in time fora  good, hard contraction. Yep, things were moving now! In between contractions I was chatting cheerfully with the Birth Team, leaning my arms over the top of the tub. Jeremy  took a picture of me, smiling wide before another contraction They were several minutes apart still, but strong enough that I had to focus during them, and I was starting to moan a little But the was a nice time to recover after each one and the hot water helped so much.

“Not much longer now, huh?” I asked the Midwife hopefully.

Oh, maybe 20 more minutes – maybe more, maybe less.” was her non-committal answer.

Twenty minutes later our baby was born.

Somewhere around this time, I think as I was getting back in teh tob, I hit transition. I did get the urge to vomit, but I guess all my Thanksgiving Day feasting was far enough down my digestive tract that it couldn’t’ reverse directions. Someone held out a bowl for me, and someone else wiped my forehead with a cold cloth – ahh, the perfect sensation for that moment.

Around 5:15 I shifted int eh tube to have my back against the wall and my legs and pelvis floating free. near the end of the next contraction I began to feel the urge to push! I could feel the burning stretch as the baby moved down the birth canal. Despite the pressure right there at the end, I was soooo excited to be aware of what was going on, to be feeling the sensation that meant I was nearing the end of this race. I had no idea, though, just how close I was to the finish line!

When it was time to push, I remembered my lesson from the assistant at my first labor (“Push like you’re ANGRY!”) and put every bit of force I had into an angry sounding grunt and pushed for all I was worth. I was amazed to feel the little body sliding right down the birth canal and heard everyone say they could suddenly see the head! Really? I felt for myself — sure enough — I had crowned already! At this point they told me just to breath and let everything else catch up! And that’s how the baby’s head was born – without me even pushing! The Midwife said her eyes were open as she came out — Claire was bright-eyed from the start. With the next contraction I again gave it all I had, and whoosh — my baby was born — after only 2 contractions and 7 min. of pushing. Astounding. They lifted the baby out of the water up on to my tummy, but the chord was short, and they couldn’t get her higher than my navel. I was so anxious to hold her to me and at this point I checked to see that – yes! – I had got my girl. Now I was practically crying – the combination of relief and joy and excitement was just as wonderful as I remembered it from Jesse’s birth. It was over! I had a girl!

Jeremy was taking pictures, Cheerleader was at my head, giving me sips of chlorophyll water, and the midwives were supporting baby Claire above the water while they made sure everything was ok. Claire gave her first cry and I was talking to her – “Oh, honey, if you only new how much I loved you – you wouldn’t cry, sweet girl!”

As soon as possible they carefully got me out of the tub and onto the couch. The chord stopped beating very quickly so they were able to clamp it an cut it so I could at last hold my baby to my breast (the chord was only 14 inches long!)

Birthing the placenta, learning I had a small tear, after birth cramps — all of this was insignificant next to the fact that I was holding my baby girl and it was all over. In fact, I was in shock for several hours that I was, indeed, through with labor! I kept asking the Birthing Team – “Am I done? Is it all over? Is that it?”

Jeremy got Jesse up within minutes of the birth – I was surprised, but then delighted that he was here and able to participate in bonding with little Claire form the start. He was sleepy eyed, but aware and pleased with what he saw. He cuddled with Daddy and baby on the couch and then helped with the newborn exam, holding the end of the tape while they measured her.

181/2 in. long. 7 Lbs. 7 oz.

She was 20% smaller than Jess and such a perfect little head, no wonder I got her out in two pushes! Soon Daddy put The Boy back in bed, but an hour later he called to get up, and then he was wide awake, and so excited about the baby. he just kept reaching out a single finger to tightly touch her face or her blankets as if to make sure she was real, and not a dream. So gentle, so careful, so in love already.

By 7 am I was settled in my bed, encouraged to take a good long nap. Jesse went down to Grandma’s house, The Midwife and Assistant #1 left, and finally, after getting the last load of laundry in the washing machine and making sure mom and baby were well, Assistant #2 was on her way by 8:30. Jeremy, baby, and I all comfy in bed, and they slept, but I didn’t feel tired, too excited to sleep, despite having been awake for over 30 hours at this point!

The rest of the day is rather a blur now. I know Jeremy made me a delicious omelet for breakfast when we got up at 11am. We made phone calls to friends and family gradually through the day. One of the best phone calls was to my Grandfather, to tell him his first great-grandaughter had been born on his birthday!

It was after midnight when I finally got to sleep, as Claire had some mucus to work up and was a bit restless her first night. So, after being awake for 48 hours, I finally lost consciousness, the best day of my life complete, and the first day of my daughter’s life a sweet memory.

Seth’s Birth Story

So, here, for those of you who’ve asked or wondered, and even for those who haven’t  – the first in a series!

{TMI Alert} This is Seth’s birth story as written in my journal after he was born. I have edited it for
the blog, but it may still be Too Much for you. You have been duly warned and invited to hop over and read some archives if you like. :)

{Background} 3rd Baby, due July 25th, planned water birth at home.

I love how each time I’ve been pregnant the Lord seems to prepare my heart for the sex of the baby, enabling me to welcome the child as the special gift that he or she is, and feeling like I ‘got just what I wanted’.

So it was with Seth. I tried to tell myself I didn’t care, but all along I knew I wanted a boy. Then, as my due date of July 25th came and went, I began to let myself hope that my going late meant there was a boy in there who wanted to bake a little longer.

The newly installed tub

I was having early labor all week, so much, in fact, that Jeremy worked 13 hours straight one day, till 11pm to ensure the tub in our new bathroom was ready. Then he had to stop working on our remodel ’cause the next step was laying tile and that would mean we couldn’t walk through the room for 4 days. Meanwhile, one of my birth team was out of town and I really wanted to wait ’till she got back. So, we waited, and I grew in longing for a boy.

Saturday, July 31st, my father-in-law (who is also our pastor) came buy for something and as he left I asked him what he was going to preach on the next day because, I jokingly said, “I don’t plan on making it to Church”. I was hopeful that the afternoon’s bike ride would kick me into labor that night, and I wouldn’t be in church ’cause I’d be welcoming a new baby.

Bike riding – works every time

Sure enough, that night as I went to bed, I was having contractions, but they were light enough to sleep through. I think it was about 1pm when I woke from them and wondered if this time they were active labor. I went downstairs and bounced on my birthing ball while browsing online. Then I took a warn bath to see if I could slow them down and get some more sleep. Despite the relaxing effect of the water, the contractions persisted, yet in a funny pattern – 3 min. apart, then 4, then 7, then 3 min. again. I’ve since learned that this is a very common pattern.

Finally, around 3am, I just felt it was the real thing. I woke Jeremy, called my friends who were joining us for the birth, and began baking the muffins I’d soaked for breakfast. I figured Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes would make a yummy after-the-birth breakfast, and turned on the oven at 3:30. My friends arrived to the smell of coffee and fresh-baked cupcakes. I was bustling around, making them feel at home and tidying the kitchen and found the contractions were slowing down. I was suddenly annoyed ’till someone explained to me that it was probably all the excitement, and I should just go lay down. Sure enough labor was indeed in progress and within an hour, I asked Jeremy to start the tub.

By the time it was ready, I was very grateful to sink into the soothing water. The contractions were strong, productive, but not intolerable, and I was enjoying chatting with my friends in between them, savoring this rare chance for fellowship, though it was the middle of the night. We checked heart tones and my blood pressure occasionally, but otherwise the atmosphere was very relaxed. (#1 Reason I love home birth – I don’t have to go anywhere and I can just relax in my comfort zone!)

It was around this time that someone reminded me that there was going to come a threshold when I would know that crossing over would mean stepping into a more intense phase of labor, beyond the point of no return, and that when I felt that come, I needed to “cross over the line” – to even consciously picture a line and envision myself stepping over it with determination. I agreed to embrace progress and was so thankful for such excellent coaching. My birth team was so intuitive and right-on with their encouragement and support, I knew it was the Holy Spirit working through them.

I was in and out of the tub – exploring what was the most comfortable yet active place to labor. I found that rather than slowing things down, like at Claire’s birth, the warm water seemed to be stimulating labor, so that at times I felt I preferred bouncing on the ball, or standing up instead of being in the water. That’s when I received some more great advice, as a friend gently reminded me, “wherever you are least comfortable, that’s where you should labor!” I laughingly agreed and climbed back into the tub.

I was out again a while later to use the bathroom and for us to check heart tones, and that’s when I went through transition, or so Jeremy told me. I never would have guessed and nothing seemed different to me, but my birth team all agreed heartily! I was relieved to have sailed past it without incident (I threw up at that point with Jesse’s birth, and almost did with Claire).

After that I stayed in the tub and Jeremy took up position at my shoulders. I love to have his hands to hold on to and feel his strength – makes me feel like I’m not doing this alone, but I have a team member.

Claire’s visits Mommy in the tub

Around 7am we heard the kids wake up. For some reason this didn’t bother me too much, though my ideal plan was to labor at night so I wouldn’t have to worry about childcare for them. But it was fun to see their sleepy little faces and to tell Jesse with all certainty that today New Baby was coming for sure. We took a few photos of Claire visiting me by the tub, then someone took them downstairs, fed them breakfast, then put them in my old bedroom with a Baby Einstein movie (their favorite). It was just in time, for though up until that point I wasn’t worried about disturbing them, when I began to push I did get a little, well, growly, and I was glad I didn’t have to worry them hearing me.

I will remind myself of this in the future – that the really tough part didn’t last longer than a Baby Einstein video. It was about 7:30 when I was encouraged to start pushing when I felt like it. The prompting seemed to clue me in that it was, indeed, time. A few half-hearted pushes with the next few contractions, and then there was no stopping – my body took over and I concentrated on giving my best effort while assuring myself it would all be over very soon now!

It was not as quick and easy as Claire’s – she was so small (7/6, and Jesse had been 9/10), she had slipped right out with just two pushes. I had to work a little harder for my Seth boy, but he was worth it. The thing that helped me endure was that someone mentioned to me the idea of catching the baby myself. I hadn’t realized this was an option, but loved the idea of it – of being that engaged and intimate with my baby at the very moment of his birth. So, through the final contractions, I reached down and felt his head crowning, knowing we were close. At the last, all 4 in the room were encouraging me to relax  – I needed that reminder with every breath – and finally, out came his precious head.

I felt, even as someone exclaimed, “The chord!” that he had two loops around his neck and Jeremy and I quickly looped them off, he turned his little shoulders, and the rest of him was born and I was holding him – holding him – holding HIM! I saw he was a boy and my heart thrilled. Then there was all the excitement as what had been 5 people in a room suddenly became 6 and he was making noises and we were taking pictures and I was so relived it was over, and someone was giving me chlorophyll to sip…

And I had my Seth Franklin.

His color was bit off, but soon we realized that thought he appeared blue, it wasn’t lack of oxygen – the rest of him was nicely pink – it was just his face, which appeared slightly swollen. We decided it was probably due to the chord loops and my blood sugar issues – his little face was bruised and swollen but it faded within days. Meanwhile, I called him my California Raisin Boy.☺

The kids got to come in the room even before I was out of the tub or the chord was cut, which I loved – I was so glad they could bond with him so soon, and that they could be part of the miracle. I was so proud and excited to present their new brother to them.

Then the after-birth cramps started, and clean up, and seeing if my little tear needed stitches (it didn’t), and all that not-so-fun stuff which is so endurable because of the happy after-glow of the birth. I had my little, scrunched-faced baby and I would, indeed, miss Church! I was happy.

A soothing herbal bath

They made an giant batch of herbal tea for me and baby to bathe in – it was the first time I had the pleasure of giving my baby his first bath myself, and he loved relaxing in my hands in the water. Then we were all bundled up, clothed in clean pj’s, and put to bed.

bonding with baby together

Seth was 8 Lbs and, well, I don’t know how many ounces. Somebody told me, but I’ve forgotten. Does it really matter? He had dark hair, big, wild eyebrows from me and, once again, a peaceful, easy-going nature from his father. There was all of 5 hours of active labor, just like Claire’s birth. It was smooth, relaxing, exciting, and only the last 20 min. were something I’d rather not remember. ☺

breakfast in bed

The following days were filled with sighs of contentment, lots of snuggling as a family, visits by a few close friends, and lots of yummy food. I’m passionate about pampering new mommies because I get absolutely spoiled in the days after I have a baby. With Seth it was really nice, because we had stairs and I wasn’t allowed to do stairs for a week! All the dishes, laundry, and cleaning are all downstairs, and I was stuck upstairs. Not a bad deal. :)

so happy to be right here, right now

Friends brought meals, did laundry, loved on my kids, and Jeremy got the week off and continued to work on projects around the house while he pampered me.  The best part may have been watching Jesse and Claire bond with their little brother. It was a wonderful season, and I thank God for the opportunity to birth at home, and for my safe birth and healthy baby boy.

If you have questions about my home birth experiences, will you email me personally? What I have included in this post is all that I am willing to share publicly. Thank you!☺