As a preface detail, the birth center we chose to deliver at is in Chapel Hill, which is a full hour drive from where we are. It's the only birth center in the state, and the second busiest birth center in the entire country. Because of my fast labor with Mason, my biggest concern all along was making it there in time. My other concern was going too soon and having to go home and drive back and forth a bunch of times. Finding the delicate balance was a huge stress!
On Wednesday I was having some pretty hard braxton hicks. I had my 39 week appointment that day and when she checked me I was only 20% effaced and not dilated at all. I wasn't surprised since I still had a week to go. But that night I started to have some fairly painful contractions that were getting steady, like 15 minutes apart. I went to bed that night figuring that I'd know for sure during the night if anything was happening.
Thursday morning the contractions had stopped but there were some other imminent signs of labor. My mom decided she was going to drive down, so she started getting ready. It was a full week early so I was scared that she'd come down and then it wouldn't happen. I had mild contractions throughout the day that were worse if I was running around with Mason, so I tried to relax. I wanted my mom to make it on time and I wanted Austin's parents to be able to come down at a convenient time for them and I wanted Austin to be able to finish work for the day. Because it was Easter weekend coming up, everyone had work off on Friday and I kept telling myself "Friday would be really convenient, just hold off until Friday".
By about 3 pm on Thursday I called Austin and asked him to try and come home a little early, I said something like "maybe just around 4:30 or something". I was just tired and uncomfortable. Being the good husband he is, he came home right away instead. And it was a good thing he did! Over the next hour contractions suddenly started coming 7 minutes apart and lasting a minute. The midwife on call told me I needed to come in because it was holiday traffic and getting to be rush hour. Plus my in laws had to drive an hour to get to us, and then we had to drive an hour to the birth center.
I was told to come in at 4, because of traffic we left for the birth center at 6 and we got there at 7:30. I was so stressed about how long it was all taking that I totally psyched myself out. I only had two contractions in the car on the way to the birth center and was starting to feel really stupid. It was probably false labor and now I had my mom driving from Connecticut and my in laws came all the way down to watch Mason and we drove all the way to Chapel Hill. Ugh.
When Emily checked me I was 4 cm but only 50% effaced. It was nice to hear I had made some progress, but discouraging that nothing was happening anymore. And Miriam was still posterior so I was nervous about her turning. Emily tied my belly with a sheet in a way that's meant to flip a posterior baby and told us to go to the mall close by and walk around for two hours. If contractions started again then we'd see what was happening, otherwise we would just go home. I said something like "well if it's not tonight it'll be like this weekend right?" Obviously I was feeling desperate to feel validated that I really might be in labor! She said "welllll......I can't really say.....". Obviously not wanting to give me false hope.
At this point I decided that I was going to have this baby tonight. I was not going home. I was not going to make everyone go through all the inconvenience for no reason. And I knew that if I went home with false labor then the next time it was the real deal I would wait too long because I'd be paranoid and would probably have the baby in the car.
So we went to the mall and walked up and down about a thousand times. Contractions were kind of coming again but not that strong. Then at about 8:30 pm things took a huge turn. Suddenly they were super strong and five minutes apart. We went to the car and debated whether we should call again or just wait. But I had a contraction in the car and thought I might die if I had to have another one sitting down. So we called again and Emily said "okay you sound different, come back in."
When we got back to the center it was 9 pm and I was 6 cm and 90%. I was elated! Baby time!! No more driving. Contractions while driving are a nightmare. So we brought in the bags and settled in. Emily had to go deliver a baby at the hospital, so Kate was our midwife. She was so calm and just very mellow, which is always nice when you are giving birth.
The rest of my labor was just Austin and I, and Kate would come in every half an hour or so to check baby's heartbeat and told us to come get her if my water broke. I labored in the tub but also walked around a lot more this time. And I wasn't nauseous with this labor! Oh my gosh, it felt like a breeze because I wasn't throwing up between every contraction. That was so stressful and really made me feel out of it last time. This entire labor I just felt so present and lucid and aware. It was such an improvement.
At about 11 pm I was 8 cm and starting transition. This is also of course the most intense and hardest part of labor. I had been able to laugh and talk between contractions up until this point, but around this time I felt myself kind of just go into coping mode. I just wanted to be able to push. With every contraction I would think "okay just this last one and then you'll start feeling like you want to push". I was reaching that point where I felt like I really couldn't do it anymore, so I knew it was almost over. Even though I hadn't been in hard labor for more than a couple hours I was completely exhausted. It's just so much work done in such a short time and really feels so impossible toward the end.
It must have been about 11:40 or so when my water broke and that crazy urge to push took over everything. It was such a relief. Kate and our nurse came in and Miriam's heartbeat was really strong and everything looked good. After a few pushes her head was out, and with the next contraction I was able to pull her out of the water and up onto me. It was 12:04 am on March 29th. The first thing I noticed was her hair, so much beautiful dark, curly hair. And I was just washed over with that incredible rush of love and excitement and relief that labor was over and everything was okay.
Kate said "Wow! That's a big baby!" She did look really chubby and ended up being 8 pound 3 ounces. Such a sweet little chunk. There was more bleeding than they wanted so Kate had the nurse give me a shot of Pitocin. It's kind of an urgent thing so she jammed the needle right into the middle front of my thigh. I was kind of in dreamy new mommy land until she did that, and I said "ouch...OUCH!" It totally brought me back to Earth! It really did hurt, even after the pain of labor. Yikes.
After we were all cleaned up and tucked into bed, and after Kate told me I didn't need any stitches (hallelujah!), I just blurted out "That was so fabulous!" She laughed really hard and said "That is not what I expected you to say!" I felt kind of loopy and dreamy with joy and happiness. And then my mom walked in! She drove straight from Connecticut to the birth center. She missed the birth by about 15 minutes but made it in perfect time to hold her brand new 5th grandbaby.
Miriam was born on a Good Friday just like my Mom. And we named her Miriam JoAnn after my mom JoAnna and Austin's mom Ann.
It was about 2 am by the time her newborn exam was done so we decided we would sleep a few hours before heading home. We all crashed, even Miriam. She slept until like 7 am! We were all surprisingly refreshed and packed up to head home.
We got back to the house around 9:30. The timing of it all was so perfect. Mason went to bed at 8 the night before and woke up at 8 the next morning, so to him it only seemed like we were gone for a couple of hours. Plus he was with grandma and grandpa whom he adores, so it was really just party time for him. I was really worried about making sure that the birth wasn't stressful on him, so I was grateful that it happened the way it all did. And grateful that we didn't have to stay in the hospital for days or anything. And I missed him! It was so nice to just come home and see him right away.
He was completely awe struck with baby sister, and was so excited to give her kisses and say hi and share puppy with her. It was so sweet to see him bond with her so quickly.
In the end this was pretty much my ideal birth experience. Relaxed, calm, straightforward, and fast. I felt so calm and collected during it and just can't believe how aware and present I was. That was really such an incredible blessing. I feel so blessed to have had two amazing and powerful birth experiences, and grateful for the support of my wonderful husband. It was really just me and him for 98% of this labor and birth, and I couldn't have asked for better love and encouragement. And our sweet baby girl has been the perfect addition to our little family.
Life is beautiful.