This is the story of how Jingle Baby, due Christmas Day, came into our lives 10 days early. :)
On Friday, December 14, Eli, who is normally a solid 7 PM to 7 AM sleeper, woke up at 3:30 AM and never went back to sleep—which meant Andrew and I were awake most of the rest of the night as well. When I headed out at 8:00 AM for a prenatal massage, I was having sporadic crampy contractions that were distinctly different from Braxton Hicks. I told Andrew that I was pretty sure I was experiencing pre-labor (which I knew could potentially go on for days). The crampy contractions continued for the rest of the day, and although they were not consistent, some were quite painful. I took a one-hour nap in the afternoon and watched movies in bed with Caleb until Eli woke.
We went to bed around 9:45. Andrew fell asleep immediately, but my gut told me that real labor was beginning, and I started timing my contractions. By 10:45, they were coming every 3-5 minutes; many were painful, and all were impossible to sleep through.
I was suddenly filled with intense anxiety and fear as I remembered what true labor is like. I wanted the contractions to stop—I did not feel ready to tackle the real thing. I texted a few family members and mom friends requesting prayer for my mental and spiritual state. Psalm 121:1-2 started playing on repeat in my head and brought me much comfort. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
Around 11:30, I woke Andrew and updated him before calling Alli, my midwife. She recommended a shower to make sure it was real labor. If anything, the contractions picked up under the warm water. We agreed to meet at the birth center at 2:00 AM, and Andrew got our bags and supplies loaded up as my contractions ramped up.
Alli checked me around 2:15 AM and I was at 5cm and 80% effaced. I was encouraged to have made this much progress via contractions that were bearable. I got in the corner tub as things quickly intensified and after a few more contractions, felt an enormous pop and gush when my water broke. Just like with my first babies, I had a ton of fluid and it kept coming and coming.
With each new wave of pain, I poured all my mental energy into deliberately relaxing my body, starting with loosening my jaw, and visualized making space for the baby to engage—but the pain was so heavy that truly relaxing was impossible. Recalling specific encouragement from my friend Rachael, I thanked God aloud many times that the contractions meant my body was working as He had designed it to. I groaned to Him for strength. I also muttered things like, “Next time I’m going straight to the hospital for an epidural” and “Baby, you better be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” I could feel my baby’s body shifting down and engaging, and although it was a torturous sensation, I was encouraged to know that we were making progress.
As I hit transition, I began bawling and trying to make Andrew understand that I REALLY couldn’t do it this time while he and Alli continued to assure me that I REALLY could. Suddenly after one huge contraction, I conked out for a couple of minutes before the freight train of the last phase of labor overtook my body and I just tried to hang on for the excruciating ride.
Honestly, I can’t describe the intensity of the pain I was experiencing at this point. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. My body felt like it was splitting into little pieces. Everything hurt immensely even between the contractions, and no position or mental trick brought any alleviation. I yelled and groaned and cried out to God through every wave. Andrew and Alli did an incredible job supporting me through all this, verbally, and with ready sips of water and gentle touches. Andrew let me hang onto his hand with a death grip depending on the position I was laboring in and encouraged me through every second of pain. Although I did not feel like I coped well mentally, I did feel very aware of God’s presence and my utter dependence on Him and His design to bring my baby into the world. I knew He was right there with me the whole time, and His presence was a huge comfort.
The urge to push began coming on and I pushed through a contraction without telling anyone, then exclaimed, “I feel the ring of fire!” I asked Alli if she was going to check me. “I don’t think I need to,” she responded. “Your body knows what to do. Follow the cues it gives you.” This is one of the many things I love about midwives’ approach—they embrace that our bodies are doing what they were designed for, and they put a lot of stock in a mother’s intuition. It was a small thing, but Alli’s confidence in my body really filled me with hope, and gave me courage to finish strong.
At some point in all this, our friend Carolyn arrived. She’s a very experienced doula who is training to be an assistant midwife, and we had arranged for her to come and learn from Alli’s assistant. Having another believer walk into the room brought me such comfort and I asked her to pray for me. Her prayer was so uplifting to my heart as I fought feelings of discouragement.
I pushed through parts of the next few contractions before Andrew convinced me to try the birthing stool. Climbing out of the tub was excruciating. Andrew held me up as I hung from his body and half-heartedly pushed for another horrible contraction before hobbling to the stool. He sat on the bed behind me and wrapped his arms around my torso to support me.
As the next contraction came on, I pushed with everything in me and suddenly gravity took over. Alli urged me to slow down and pant to give my body time to stretch, but although I did exactly that, the baby’s crowning head wouldn’t stop and I had to follow my instincts and push again, albeit with measured control this time.
If there is one experience in life that captures the full meaning of the word “relief”, it is the sensation of a baby’s head emerging from the birth canal. I distinctly knew what that feeling meant as I delivered my baby’s head, and eagerly gave another push as his shoulders and body slipped out. It was over, and he was here. I laughed and cried in utter relief and joy as I heard our baby’s first squawk. It was 3:27 AM on December 15.
The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but we were not alarmed since he had cried out and was also a really healthy color. It took Alli and her assistant some finagling to free his neck before they could hand him into my arms. Clutching his little body against mine for the first time, I kept saying, “You’re here! You’re my baby and you’re here!”
We called my mom into the room and everyone buzzed around us, taking baby’s vitals and monitoring my bleeding while Andrew and I just treasured this moment with our little one.
Within a few minutes, I was lying in bed with our baby on my chest, listening to his little noises, admiring his dark hair, and relishing the feeling of his sticky skin against mine. I delivered my placenta with no trouble and Andrew cut his cord. I had only a small first degree tear that did not even require stitching! I had violent postpartum shakes and intense afterbirth contractions, but nothing compared with the level of joy I was experiencing with our child in my arms. He latched very easily and nursed to his little heart’s content before we took his measurements.
We all knew he was much smaller than Eli (9lb with a 15” head) but we were still surprised at the difference—this baby (unnamed at this point) weighed 7lb 3oz, measured 21 inches long, and had a 14.25” head circumference. No wonder he was much easier to push out! I was so thrilled to have a little peanut and had even specifically hoped he would have dark hair.
As we took some time to reflect on the labor, I was astonished to realize that I had gone from 5cm to holding my baby in about an hour and ten minutes. Knowing how fast I had progressed made me feel more validated with how much I struggled to cope. Andrew and Alli tried to convince me that I hadn’t actually been very loud, but my voice box hurt later in the day, so I am not sure I believe them. Either way, I’m thankful that at least I didn’t say anything nasty or mean that I had to apologize for later. ;)
I am so grateful for the people who were praying for me before and during labor.
I am grateful for the assurance that God was right there with us through the whole process. I praise Him for His truly miraculous design of childbirth and the strength He gives moms to do what He created their bodies for. I know that He was watching over our baby and keeping the cord from choking him. I credit Him 100% for giving us this safe and healthy delivery.
I am deeply thankful for Alli, whose competence, expertise, confidence, encouragement, and general demeanor and presence were exactly the right fit for both Andrew and me. If anything makes me want to have more babies, it’s the thought of having her for my midwife again. :)
And Andrew…I can’t adequately express the incredible support that he has been at each of our sons’ births. He is truly my rock, and all my labors would have been so different apart from his steady presence through every moment of each one.
Our sweet Silas Andrew, we will never forget the day God brought you into our lives. We praise God for the miracle that you are and look forward to watching you grow and loving you through each age and stage.