On Wednesday, I washed three loads of laundry and baked two batches of cookies and cleaned our whole apartment top to bottom. It wasn’t out of necessity- I was scrounging to find laundry dirty enough to wash and cleaning an already clean house. I can only explain it as hormone-driven nesting, which felt like an intense, deep-down need to do those things. It was the most intense of day of a week of nesting, during which time I accomplished everything on my to-do-before-baby list. Physically, I was feeling quite uncomfortable- for almost a month, Baby Girl had been sitting so low I felt she might pop out if I squatted down; the Braxton-Hicks contractions were frequent and intense at times; and though the nesting hormones helped me accomplish an insane number of chores, they were keeping me from resting at all, and I was exhausted.
Late that evening, while I was in the shower, I decided to have a little chat with Baby Girl. With the hot water relaxing my sore back, I told her, You can come out any time now, Baby Girl. We’re all ready to meet you. I’m ready to meet you and kiss you; your Daddy might say he wants to work another couple days, but he has his whole life to work; and your sister is really excited for the milk you’re going to bring her. We are all as ready as we’ll ever be, and we can’t wait to meet you. You can come out whenever you’re ready.
I went to bed soon after, hoping for some rest. I remember dreaming about contractions I was having, thinking These aren’t stronger than the ones I’ve been having, but each one is lasting longer. I forgot how long actual labor contractions last. These are the real thing. I’m definitely having this baby tonight. So I should try to sleep through them for as long as I can…. Then soon after, These feel really close together. Maybe I should be timing them.
Over the next two and a half hours, I had light but long contractions every 2-4 minutes as I took a warm bath, emptied the dishwasher, folded the last of the laundry, re-organized the refrigerator, and made chocolate chip almond flour scones. Then suddenly, the contractions slowed and intensified. The first intense contraction came, followed by another 10 minutes later, another 9 minutes after that, then 8, 7, 6, then several 5 minutes apart. I called Linda, our midwife, at 3:02am and she headed over to us.
Around 3:30, I woke Tyler and we started our home birth preparations- making the bed, moving furniture to make room for the birth tub, setting the mood with music and candles as we kept the lights low. When Linda and her midwife assistant arrived, Tyler started blowing up the inflatable birth tub while Linda checked me. Six to seven centimeters. The midwife assistant got a kick out of my ability to rattle off all the food I had made for them while enjoying a cup of tea at 6-7 centimeters, and we had a good conversation about being foodies and good restaurants in NYC and Chicago.
During that time, I made one special request of the birth team- that they remind me to open my eyes when Baby Girl enters the world. When Tye was born, I was focusing all my energy on pushing and in my concentration, didn’t open my eyes to witness for myself Tye’s arrival into our world. I remember the sounds of her birth, the feeling of her body slipping out of mine, and the flood of emotions with incredibly vivid clarity. There’s just no visual to go with it. Since Tye’s birth, I’ve wished so much that I could have just opened my eyes to fully experience her entrance. With this birth, my heart was set on keeping my eyes open to witness the entire birth. As I explained to the midwife and her assistant, I didn’t want to miss out on anything.
Over the next few hours, I continued to move around during my contractions. We called the doula who would be hanging out with Tye during the birth, and she arrived just as Tye woke for the day. Sometime between 6:30 and 7, I got in the tub.
The water helped ease me through the contractions and relax even more between them. I could feel Baby Girl’s head just a couple inches inside, which was encouraging. By sometime around 8 am, the contractions were so intense that I threw up after one of them. I kept thinking I’d be ready to push when the next one arrived- but as much as my mind wanted to enter the pushing stage, my body wasn’t in the same place.
Then, in the middle of a contraction, my water broke. The popping sensation felt like a swift punch to my contracted uterus- definitely the most painful contraction of the whole day. But with that one contraction, my body was suddenly ready, and I began to push.
The pushing contractions were long and right on top of each other. I felt like I had about 15 seconds between them, if that. During the first two, I remember thinking, If I keep pushing as hard as I can, I’m going to tear. But if I ease up, it will take longer for her to come out… But I quickly gave up on holding back and just let my body push as hard as I could. As Baby Girl was crowning and I was feeling that Ring of Fire, I had this sudden vision of chunky newborn baby legs. As I imagined kissing the chubby creases of Baby Girl’s thighs, my heart felt like it was going to explode with love for this little baby who was about to enter our world. I felt myself pushing with a new, almost primal power.
Suddenly, I heard Linda say, “Okay, on this next push, you’re going to have a baby!” I could hardly believe it was happening so quickly. Without a break, the next contraction came on and Baby Girl’s head came out. I opened my eyes just as I pushed the rest of Baby Girl’s body into the clear blue water.
In both of my birth experiences, the moment when baby’s body slips out of mine is purely, truly miraculous. It’s as if a switch is flipped and my whole body- my whole life- is changed. I feel that surge of maternal hormones flood my body immediately. It’s hard to explain. I know not all mothers feel that wash of emotions at the same time, and there’s nothing else to compare it to. When else do we knowingly experience our lives changing so significantly in the blink of an eye? For me, that moment- feeling baby’s slippery limbs slide into their own existence- is magical. It’s precious, powerful, and unforgettable. And this time, my eyes were wide open.
As Linda scooped up Baby Girl, she said something about the cord, but I was so eager to hold Baby Girl in my arms that I barely listened. Linda pulled the cord from around Baby Girl’s neck where it was loosely wrapped once, and finally, she was mine to hold. In a few seconds, she took her first breaths. She was bluish and had a thin layer of vernix over her body (she was, after all, only 38 ½ weeks), but with a little time and back rubbing, she pinked up as we let the cord continue to pulse. I told Baby Girl over and over again how much I love her as Tyler proudly declared from behind the video camera, “Yup, she looks just like me.”
Soon, I moved to the bed, where we were covered with warm towels before Tyler cut the cord and I delivered the placenta. Baby Girl latched on like a little nursing champ as Linda gave me five tiny stitches where I had just slightly torn skin.
Tye could see me from the hallway, but she wasn’t quite ready to come into the room just yet. When I was ready to stand up and make my way to the bathroom, Tyler carried Baby Girl into Tye’s room. Upon seeing the baby, she whispered excitedly, “Shhh, baby sleeping!” Once I was back in bed, Tye ran in and jumped in next to me. I took Baby Girl back and began to nurse her, and Tye asked to nurse. I never thought it would be me, but now I have a photo of me tandem nursing just minutes postpartum. And nothing could make me prouder than cuddling both of my girls, watching Tye reach out to hold Baby Girl’s hand, and hearing her say in her sweet voice (nipple still partially in her mouth), “Hi, Baby Sister.”
As soon as our tandem nursing session was over, Tye went back to playing with her new favorite grownup friends and everyone else set about cleaning up. Tyler made me scrambled eggs and we toasted our daughter’s birth with Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA, the same favorite microbrew we drank to celebrate Tye’s birth. Amidst the hustle and bustle, Baby Girl and I laid in bed, skin to skin, nursing on and off as we took each other in.
We called family members and I cried tears of joy as we shared our news. Every time Tyler tried to take a picture of me, the reality of the moment hit me and I started crying again. The pictures may not be the most flattering, but they hold that much more emotion for me.
By around noon, everyone left. We all, in various states of undress, climbed into bed together and took turns snuggling skin to skin and sleeping.
Eventually, Tyler and I decided on a name for Baby Girl- Etta Maeve. That night, the four of us slept in our bed, in our home together- Tyler, Emily, Tye, and Etta. Our family of four.