Throughout my pregnancy, our wonderful midwife Shari has been predicting that our little Grain would be right on time: due date, July 11. I was measuring on track, and we had an 8 week ultrasound to get the most accurate date possible. On Wednesday, June 28 I had an 2:30 appointment where everything still showed I was on track. Baby was doing great. I had some Braxton hicks contractions while she measured my belly that I could not even feel. This surprised me, so I asked what I should be paying attention for when it came to real contractions. Good thing I asked, because 90 minutes later, on the ferry towards home, I started feeling those first ones roll through.
I thought, nah, I am going to my due date, these must just be nerves. After all, this was my final day commuting to the office. I planned to work from home until the baby showed up, and take some time to decompress and shift modes to maternity leave.
But the contractions kept coming.
So I downloaded a contraction timing app and started to keep track.
(5-7 minutes apart, ~40 seconds long)
When I got home, I walked into our totally wrecked in-the-middle-of-a-remodel house. No functional kitchen, sawdust and debris everywhere. We were close to putting on countertops the upcoming weekend and progress was looking good, but it was a frustrating day for Matt with some projects going awry.
I got in the bathtub to see if the contractions would stall out. Nope. Then laid on the bed. Nope.
We ate dinner, watched an episode of the Sopranos. Contractions still coming.
(5-7 minutes apart, ~40 seconds long)Living on an island with no medical facilities presents a limited array of options when it comes to giving birth. Basically homebirth, or get yourself off the island. The idea of a home birth was what resonated most with Matt and I, but the possibility of needing to transfer off the island in an emergency was not a thought I wanted in my head for delivery. Instead, we opted for our little Grain to be delivered at a freestanding birth center in Tacoma, The Birthing Inn. We liked that it was basically a homebirth at a bed and breakfast type atmosphere, 4 minutes from a hospital. I wanted to have a water birth, and they were perfectly set up to accommodate that with huge comfortable tubs.
So now the question was, when do you leave the island? I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, while managing ferry lines and the nighttime gap in service. We called Shari and let her know what was up. Ho boy was she surprised to hear from me the same day as the appointment!
We decided to keep me at home and check in the next morning, unless something drastically changed. She was super flexible throughout the whole process, ready to come to Vashon for labor, or just meet in Tacoma depending on ferries, timing etc.
Matt was exhausted after his trying day, so my #1 priority for him was sleeping. I knew I would need him to be 100% for the real deal of active labor and getting me safely off the island. So we went to bed and I quietly labored in bed as he slept.
(4-6 minutes apart, ~35-45 seconds long)
Contractions were regular but manageable. Eventually I moved from laying down to standing and swaying as each one came.
(3-5 minutes apart, ~45 seconds long)
Finally, around 4 AM I knew it was time to get Matt involved. The contractions were strong enough that I needed to hang on to him. We tried the yoga ball, hated that. I could not sit or lay through these, I needed to hang on to him and sway.
(2-4 minutes apart, ~60-70 seconds long)
We called Shari again. We check the ferry schedules and decided Matt and I should head to Tacoma and check in when we were off the ferry to decide if we should come to her condo or straight or the birth center. So we loaded up the car and started on the 20 minute drive to the south end of Vashon. Contractions in the car were uncomfortable, and I was glad that we were going when we did because I could work through them. They also slowed down. My body knew I was in transit. We stopped at the grocery store for sandwiches, bagels and chocolate milk. Then headed to Shari’s condo.
We were 4th in line for the ferry and loaded easily. Checked in with Shari and decided to head to head to her condo to labor longer. The Birthing Inn was not for until active labor started.
(6-7 minutes apart, ~45 seconds long)
At her condo we took a long walk along the waterfront. Talking and looking at the glass sculptures and pausing for me to hang on Matt and sway through contractions. After an hour of walking I was exhausted and we went back. Ate some sandwiches. Rested. And the contractions were not picking up. They were more intense but still too far apart. Not active labor.
(7-8 minutes apart, ~90 seconds long)
At 12:30, Shari suggested that we check my cervix, and consider a membrane sweep if appropriate. Her approach has been minimal physical checks (which aligns with my approach to childbirth) so when she suggested it I knew it was in my best interest. The check revealed that I was dialated to 2cm…not nearly as far as we had anticipated. However, she also found that my cervix was SUPER soft and elastic…and ready to stretch so she manually moved me to 5cm with her fingers! Baby was in exactly the right place and ready to go when things got moving. She did a membrane sweep (and commented that I must have a high pain tolerance since it did not bother me at all) and let me know that things would likely really start to pick up the pace.
She was right.
Contractions started to get more intense, and Shari had me work through them in positions that encouraged baby to move down and engage. I would lean into each one with on leg bent like a runners stretch. These really made things feel open. And intense. Matt was awesome at talking me through each one. The whole labor, I really could not use the work painful to describe what I was physically feeling. It was more of extreme discomfort, with a purpose. I knew I was working for my baby and he/she was working with me. We had a goal, and to reach it we needed to just keep doing the work. Shari observed that my moans through each one were getting higher in pitch and guided me to lower my tone to a low groan, almost a growl.
(4-6 minutes apart, ~70-90 seconds long)
By 2:30 contractions has picked up pace, and the stretching positions had dramatically increased the pressure I was feeling. Matt and I had been laboring upstairs in her loft by ourselves, and I called down to her that I felt it was time to go to the birth center. We stopped keeping track of contractions, packed up our things, and headed for the parking garage.
I had three intense contractions between leaving her unit and getting in the car. Then three more on the 9 minute drive across town. Contractions in the car took all my mental energy to breathe through because I was on my own, sitting, trying to keep Matt focused on driving. But this labor was MOVING!
When we pulled into the parking space marked for laboring mothers I burst into tears of relief…we had made it. This was the destination. This was where I knew I would be giving birth and my body knew that too. We had the whole place to ourselves, and my favorite birth assistant, Suzie, was on staff that afternoon. I immediately felt comfortable, and they prepped room 1 and turned on the tub while I had another contraction. I had another one moments later as Shari started to take my blood pressure, me leaning against the wall while Matt changed into swim trunks to join me in the tub.
Getting in the water felt amazing. I could relax and settle in. This is what I had mentally prepared for and felt ready to tackle it. However, sitting was not comfortable, so Shari had me kneel like a frog with my arms on the side of the tub. Matt settled in behind me sitting on a step and poured water over my back during each contraction. I focused on keeping my breathing steady and voice a low pitch when I needed to make noise. And so we labored. At some point my dear fried Cassie arrived! It was so good to see her face! We had invited to her witness little Grain’s birth and also take some photos. I was so glad she made it!
I could feel my baby moving down more and more, and then felt something pop…my water broke! Shari told me that I would soon start to feel myself needing to push, and to wait for that feeling to just take over. I settled in and then yep, there it was! My body was pushing my baby down and out.
After a few pushing surges it became super uncomfortable being spread kneed, there was just too much pressure. So Shari had me roll to my side, my top leg propped up on Matt. I honestly don’t remember much of what was happening at this point, I just heard Shari say that baby’s head was crowning, and Matt’s hands were guiding her out. She told me to take my time, and only bear down when a contraction was helping guide the baby out. And roughly 3 pushes later at 4:14 in the afternoon on June 29, my baby was out, safe in Daddy’s hands and he placed her on my chest after 19 minutes of pushing.
Shari asked him to see if it was a boy or girl, and Matt looked and said, boy?, nope, look again, things are a bit swollen down there on newborns…IT’S A GIRL! We were in shock! Yes, her gender was a surprise, but we most have both really been thinking it was a boy…this was a SURPRISE!!!
I started to get a bit distracted with some discomfort from her umbilical cord…it was shorter than average and rubbing uncomfortably since my placenta had not yet been delivered. Matt cut the cord and I delivered the placenta. As my body prepared to expel it Shari could see that I was not ready to push again, and reassured me that this would not hurt…there were no bones in this one.We got out of the tub and Shari and Suzie got me to the bed while Matt snuggled our little girl to his chest. They took my vitals, monitored baby, and Shari kneaded my very floppy stomach to help my uterus clamp down. She also gave me a shot of Pitocin to help stop extra bleeding. When I was stable, and resting on the bed we gave breastfeeding a shot, and our little Grain took too it right away! Horray! We rested a bit and got me cleaned up, then took inventory of our little lady.
Weight: 7 lbs, 11 oz (her due date! although for days Matt and I incorrectly remembered this at 7 lbs, 13 oz)
Length: 19 ¼” long
LOTS of dark hair, fuzzy arms and legs, and lots of vernix!
Reflecting on the labor: Active labor 2:30-4:20PM, 19 minutes of pushing, no tearing!
Also, she and I grew the biggest placenta they had ever seen! Which is likely why she came early, it was used up and needed a new source of nutrition.
Our little girl was perfect!
One of the best parts of giving birth in this atmosphere was the amount of freedom we had. Once everyone was squared away we were left alone to just bond and recover. Cassie was a huge help in getting me showered and to the toilet a few times, and the 4 of us just sat around and chatted, and rested. It was a wonderful start.
Shari came back and gave us some instruction for the next 24 hours before she would visit us at home. We were to monitor my and her temperature, keep an eye on bleeding, and a schedule for breastfeeding. Around 7:00 we were given the OK to leave, and decided to hang out and aim for the 9:30 ferry home. Shari went home, and Suzie was around if we had any questions. I laid on the bed with our little girl, and Matt went to install the car seat, and shuttle our stuff back to the car. Cassie snapped a few final pictures as we left, and then went home with our sweet little girl: Oakleigh Elaine.