So when my 38 week appointment on April 21st came we were expecting that same thing. I got weighed, peed in the cup, and waited in the exam room with Wytmer. After a couple minutes our midwife, Bernadette came in and asked, “So, are you ready to have your baby?” Well, yes—my ankles were swollen, my back was aching, and I was the size of a house—I was ready. But then she asked, “Well, how about Friday?” Wait, what? Isn’t this a birth center? As in no-inductions-do-everything-the-natural-way birth center? She proceeded to check my cervix, as well as Hannah’s heartbeat and position. Then she asked me to get dressed and she left the room. I looked at Wytmer, “what does she mean, Friday?” The blank look on his face told me he didn’t know either.
When I stepped out of the room I heard Bernadette telling one of the student midwives to make sure her schedule was clear on Friday because Miss Wendy was having a baby. Huh? Did she know something I didn’t? At that point I finally found my voice and asked, “What exactly are we doing Friday?” She then explained that she would strip my membranes (okay, I’d read about that before) and then I would drink a special tea (yeah, this is where it gets strange), go walk around for a couple hours, come back, and have a baby. Now, my experiences with midwives have always been very professional and, how do I say this— non witch doctor-y? But at that moment I was thinking, “Yeah, right, crazy witch doctor.”
Nevertheless, we left, got a table at the restaurant next door, and called our parents to tell them the new plan. On our way out of the birth center I noticed that I was having some contractions. I’d been having Braxton Hicks for weeks, but these were a little more intense. I brushed it off at first because I thought I was just sore from having my cervix checked. But when we were paying the bill at the restaurant and my contractions were still regular and intense, I looked at Wytmer and said, “Hannah might not wait for Friday.” We both thought there was no way it could be happening already, so we stopped at the grocery store on our way home. All through the store I timed my contractions and when they were about five minutes apart we decided to call Bernadette.
I called her cell because the center was already closed. When we told her about the contractions she was surprised at first and then told me to go home, go to sleep, and call her when they were very painful. She said that checking my cervix could have started labor and that I would need a lot of rest in case Hannah was really coming.
I let the school know I wouldn’t be at work the next day and spent the rest of the evening frantically cleaning our tiny apartment and obsessively timing the contractions. They were staying about five minutes apart and weren’t getting any stronger. I went to sleep fully expecting to wake up in the middle of the night with sheets wet from my water breaking, or contractions that would rock me out of sleep. Neither happened.
I woke up Thursday morning comfortable and well rested. Not a single contraction to be felt. As soon as my eyes opened I rolled over to poke Wytmer and whisper, “nothing happened.” I was devastated. I called Bernadette who heard the disappointment in my voice and asked me to come in that afternoon to “get a head start for Friday.” Again, I didn’t know what that meant, but I made my appointment and spent the rest of the day in my pajamas thinking that I was cursed to be pregnant for the rest of my life.
Our Thursday appointment was a repeat of Wednesday’s. I was told that my cervix had dilated some more when I was checked. Again, the contractions started. But, this time I didn’t trust them. Bernadette told me to go home, relax, watch a movie, and go to bed early. So I did just that (after stopping to get more Mexican food next door…).
Finally, Friday morning comes. After going through false labor the last two nights I was filled with doubt. Still, I got dressed and we loaded up the car with our bags and the car seat.
When we arrived at the birth center we were greeted with a new student midwife that I’d never met, named Jamie. She informed us that she would be attending the birth. She was a wonderfully sweet woman who made us feel at ease right away. We talked about my disappointment and she let me know that those contractions were still helping us move forward and that they were a good thing. She got me set up in the exam room and then Bernadette came in to strip my membranes. As soon as she started, I felt an instant contractions that was much stronger than any I’d felt before. At that moment I became hopeful that this process might actually work. While I got dressed Bernadette got my tea ready. I sipped it through a straw in the back kitchen and nervously asked Jamie, “Is this really going to work?” She smiled and answered, “I’ve seen Bernadette do this with ten women and all but one of them had their baby that same day.”
Next we headed to Wal-mart to “walk around for a couple hours.” The whole time I was thinking how odd and surreal this was. We’d walk, pause for a contraction, and then once it was over we would go look at socks. We bought a fan for our living room, tennis balls to use for massage while I was in labor, water for me, and coffee for Wytmer. We walked all over that store a dozen times only stopping to get some breakfast and so I could use the bathroom. At one point we ran into an older lady who we used to work with. She saw my big belly and asked when I was due. I told her that I was due next week just as another contraction grounded me. She smiled and walked away and I thought about what she would have said if I told her I was in labor at that very moment.
When the contractions were about 3 minutes apart we called Bernadette who told us to be back by 11:30. We did one more lap around the store and then got in the car. When we arrived at the center Jamie took me back to my suite and I sat down in a rocking chair by a tall armoire. The tub was filled with warm water and the bed was made with fresh sheets. Jamie checked my blood pressure and Hannah’s heartbeat with her Doppler and then asked me to get undressed so they could check my cervix again. And that is when the contractions really started. When she was done, Jamie left the room to get some supplies and while she was out I had two very strong contractions. Finally the doubt was gone and the reality of the situation was setting in. I was having my baby that day, and there was no going back now.
Bernadette came in the room and asked if I would like to get in the tub. I undressed and awkwardly stepped into the tub. The water was warm, the lights were dim, and the room was quiet. I was still relatively comfortable so I sat cross legged in the middle of the tub and casually joked with Jamie and Wytmer. After a few minutes Jamie stepped away to the back of the room where she stayed for most of my labor. She watched quietly and assisted when needed. This gave Wytmer and me a wonderful balance of security and privacy that we deeply wanted in this experience. As the contractions grew more intense I moved to kneel by the edge of the tub where Wytmer held my hand and whispered encouragement. He would give me sips of water or Gatorade between contractions and breathe deeply with me when my grip on his hand tightened.
Eventually Jamie suggested that we break my water to move Hannah down faster. I was scared because I knew that the contractions would just get worse, but I agreed. As soon as she was done the contractions pounded into me, shaking every fiber of my body. I braced myself with eyes closed; deeply experience every rise, peak, and fall. Instead of using distraction, I focused inside and meditated on the sensation. I made a conscious choice to welcome the feelings and move through them. As the contractions grew closer together I fought against myself to keep my muscles loose so that my body wouldn’t slow down what was happening. I progressed quickly.
When I arrived at the point where the idea that I couldn’t do it any longer arose (as I knew it would) I told myself that this was transitional labor and it meant I was almost done. That idea kept me focused. In a few more minutes I was ready to push. Bernadette came back in the room and helped me out of the tub. She wanted me to try to empty my bladder before I tried pushing, but my body wouldn’t let me sit down. So we moved to the bed. I was disappointed because I had wanted to give birth in the tub, but Bernadette told me that my muscles were too relaxed and I would push more effectively on the bed.
Wytmer helped ease me down and sat next to me with wide eyes and quick breaths. Bernadette told me to give it a try. It felt like I wasn’t doing anything, but then she was asking me if I wanted to see Hannah’s head. She held a mirror for me and I saw her dark hair. At that moment I couldn’t wait anymore. I couldn’t stop pushing in between contractions. My entire body trembled as the last moments without her gave way, and at last, Hannah was placed on my chest.
I felt my heart expand in my chest. I felt an entire lifetime of joy birth itself within me and my capacity to love became instantly infinite. I wept with eyes wide, begging God to answer, “How is she this beautiful?” Within one second the world became entirely more profound, because she was here to experience it. And there was nothing else. I had never felt more close to life than I did at that moment.
After being in labor for just five hours and pushing for 15, I had my baby in my arms. I held my daughter for an hour, breastfed her, and watched her Daddy fall in love all before she was ever taken away. At that point Wytmer and Jamie cut her cord, weighed, cleaned and dressed her while Bernadette helped me get dressed. Then Wytmer picked up some food from (guess where else) the Mexican place next door. I ate quesadillas and guacamole while our paperwork was filled out. After just three hours we got Hannah in her car seat and took her home.
When we got home my parents came to see Hannah for the first time. After a short visit we went to sleep in our bed, completely exhausted and entirely in love.
Hannah was born April 23, 2010 at 5:01PM
She weighed 7lbs 5oz and was 20.5 inches long