I think one of my very favorite parts about home birth is having a birth team come to your house. They feel like family. You get to know them so much during the prenatal visits, delivery, and then postpartum care that you build a really strong bond. Using them again for Dax’s delivery felt more like a reunion than anything else. For anyone who is in the Upstate, SC area, I can’t recommend our team enough! Carrie LaChapelle from Hatched Midwifery Care and Julie Byers, our doula, are amazing!
I didn’t realize how much expectation Rosie’s birth created for this one. It’s my only experience with delivering a baby, so naturally, you assume (even if you try not to) that future births will be similar. Dax’s birth couldn’t have been more opposite in nearly every single way.
With Rosie, I convinced myself that she’d be late since I knew most first babies are. And then my water broke the morning before my due date and she joined us that night. I tried not to let it, but that paired with everyone telling me second babies come early, created some real expectation that he would be early, or at least on time. I also had no experience with going into labor if your water isn’t broken. My birth team kept telling me to prepare for false starts that are so common after a first baby. Well, I tried to listen. Really, I did.
About three weeks before the due date (April 8th), I had my first round of false labor. I could easily compare it to labor with Rosie and know that I wasn’t in full blown labor, but like I said, I didn’t know what early labor felt like if your water wasn’t broken first.
Over the next few weeks, I had four more rounds of that, each more intense than the last. Needless to say, each time I really thought it was happening. I tried to tell myself it might not be it and be okay with that, but it was a roller coaster. I can remember after Rosie was born thinking, “Wow, I survived that and I’d do it again tomorrow if I had to for her.” She was immediately that worth it. I realize now how funny that is because women have been delivering babies forever, but when you’ve never done it yourself, it almost feels a little impossible. This time around, I knew I had this.
But as his birth got closer and I had those false starts, some anxiousness set in. Yes, I know from going through it that labor is difficult, so that causes some anxiousness. But more than that, it was anxiousness for all of it…the whole day, meeting him etc. My midwife described it perfectly…you’re waiting on one of the biggest days of your life and it could happen at any second…over the course of a month or so! Gosh, talk about nerves and emotions going crazy.
It’s funny, the last three false starts started right around 4am. And on Friday morning, April 14th, the strongest contraction I’d had yet woke me up at 4:00am. I laid there telling myself it was nothing. It was likely still just my body preparing. I had two more in the next hour, each one stronger than the last. Then, from 5am – 6am, I had one every ten minutes without fail. After 6am, they jumped to nine minutes apart, then eight. I called my doula then to see what she thought. These were stronger, were clearly consistent (the others hadn’t been nearly like this) and they were getting closer together. She told me to watch it and update her when it changed. The biggest thing we were waiting for was daylight. Like I mentioned above, there’s something magical (I’ve been told) about night and birth. My water broke with Rosie at 4:30am, but labor didn’t start until dusk and then she was born in the night. My doula reminded me that often, the rising sun can make labor halt if it isn’t rolling enough yet. And like she said, the sun came up and everything died off at 7:30am.
This time, I wasn’t even frustrated because I felt how different it was. I knew that was something starting with how strong and consistent it had gotten. She agreed it likely was and said it could amp up again that morning or anytime that day. It was probably just my body finding a rhythm. We put my midwife on standby and I called my parents to come get Rosie. I sent Chris on to work because the false starts had shown us that he can’t stay home anytime something could be happening. We really wanted to preserve his time off for when the baby for sure came.
We decided that we’d go out to breakfast when my parents arrived. Like I’d felt all week, I didn’t want to just sit around waiting for something. Every day that week, I’d gotten dressed, fixed my hair, and put on make-up. I planned to do that this morning, but just didn’t have it in me. Something felt different. I threw on yoga pants, pulled my hair back, and we headed out to eat.
Once we got seated at the restaurant and ordered, I started to feel “off.” That’s the only way I know how to describe it. I was having crampyness and the occasional contraction, but didn’t time them. But as breakfast went on, they got stronger and I had this overwhelming feeling that I had to get home. That more than anything told me this was something. I’d wanted to paint the town red the last two weeks even when I was having symptoms, but this time, I needed to be in my house now.
We ate quickly and they took me home. I was pretty emotional saying goodbye to them and Rosie because my gut said that was the last time I’d see them before he came. I took one final glance at Rosie before they pulled away and something inside me just ached because I knew it’d never be just us again. The next time I saw her, I felt like my heart that’d always been just hers would be divided and I didn’t know how we’d all react to that. Looking back, I realize that so much of my anxiousness leading up to birth was about transitioning from one child to two. My head told me I’d love him as much and she would be better having a sibling, but my heart didn’t believe it. Rosie had stolen every single ounce of my mama heart and it just didn’t feel like there was any left for another baby. The dark, scary part of me deep down kept saying, “What if you don’t love him as much? What if this destroys her?” I would immediately talk myself out of those thoughts, but the new season was very unknown. My parents pulled away with her, I wiped my tears, and headed inside to wait.
When I got in the house, I texted Chris an update and just said that I really believed something was happening. I told him about how I’d felt at breakfast and said I’d pay close attention and time any contractions I had.
Well, I immediately had a super strong one. And then another. Then another. It was like my body had waited for me to get home. After walking in the door, I had three strong ones in less than 30 minutes. They were amping back up, I knew it. And they kept coming. The first three were just under ten minutes apart. Then, I had a fourth one about five minutes after the third one ended. I texted Chris that quickly and said he should come home. Then I immediately figured that hearing how they were getting closer together so quickly would freak him out, so I called him. He was so breathless and I asked if he was okay. His response was, “Umm….yeah, I’m sprinting to the car.” Haha….poor guy. He was about ten minutes away, so he was home in no time, thankfully. I updated the birth team and all said they were on their way, just in case.
The contractions kept coming and were getting stronger, but the timing was sporadic. They were consistently coming, but some would be really close together and some would spread back out just a bit. The birth team arrived and we talked and they watched me some. I told them what I was feeling. Even with how strong and consistent things were becoming, I was still a bit fearful it would die off and be another false start. Our midwife suggested they go ahead and set up the tub, just to be safe, so I knew then that they really thought this was it.
Contractions were getting stronger, but I just kept waiting for them to feel as strong as Rosie’s. In between contractions, my doula and I talked about this, and she confirmed what I was thinking. She’d personally had one baby with her water broken ahead of time and one without (and attended births of both types) and she said that the contractions felt drastically different. What she described is exactly what I was noticing. With Rosie, I described it as a freight train and it really was. They started and it was fast and furious until she was here. The contractions were incredibly strong and the worst part was that unlike what I’d heard about how contractions would feel, they started off at the peak out of nowhere, held there forever, then quickly died off. They kept startling me and you had no build to prep yourself.
With Dax, they were very different. I would feel them coming faintly, almost like they were far away. They’d grow slowly stronger and hit the peak about fifteen seconds in or so. At this point in labor, the peak was fairly short-lived compared to Rosie’s birth and then they’d die off. Having that time up front to prep made this such a different experience for me. With how strong and sudden Rosie’s were, I was laying in the bed throughout her labor. I was too light-headed and they felt too strong to get up. From the minute contractions really started with Dax, I wanted to walk. I was up on my feet his entire labor until I got in the tub to push.
About thirty minutes after the birth team got there, they said they could check me if I wanted. That’s 100% my choice and they avoid doing it prior to labor unless a mom asks because it creates such false expectations. Every woman progresses so differently so hearing you’re not dilated or that you’re fairly dilated doesn’t really mean anything about when you’ll deliver. But, man, can it create some expectations. At this point, we knew he was coming. I could feel things progressing, so I agreed to be checked so we’d have some gauge on what my body was doing…even though that wasn’t an indication of how quickly it would move after that. I was 5cm dilated. I wasn’t really disappointed because things hadn’t felt that difficult yet.
I spent about two hours standing and talking with the birth team. When I’d feel one coming, I’d go to the playroom for some reason and walk circles around the room until it passed. The room was pretty and was a comforting and special place to be. Birth amazes me because of how your body just takes over. I didn’t decide or plan to go in there, it just happened and quickly became my pattern.
At this point, I still kept waiting for them to feel stronger. While the peak itself was as strong as Rosie’s contractions, it was shorter and having the time to prep made them so much more doable. I feel strange saying this, but I was waiting for it to get difficult. All of Rosie’s felt very difficult, so this was kind of strange and jarring for me. I talked about this with my doula and she said that as it progressed, they’d notice “the veil.” That’s what they call the shift when I sort of retreat into myself, stop engaging with everyone else, and focus. She said it’s a tangible shift they all notice. That’s the part they usually consider very active labor.
While we waited on that, I kept walking circles around the playroom and sometimes walking throughout the house. I wish so bad I’d had a step counter on that day! There’s no telling how much ground I covered. This deep, almost subconscious need I had to move blew my mind. I’d start walking right as one started, sometimes even right before without even thinking about it. My doula showed me some exercises to do through the contractions to help move the baby down and help things progress. We did some squats and side to side lunges (not super deep) and did some with my foot elevated on a chair. Leaning into that through a contraction sure felt like the baby was working down. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling by any means, but I wanted to progress. I could feel a huge difference from those.
The contractions kept getting longer and stronger and got to the point where I couldn’t talk through the middle of them, but it still felt minimal to what I had with Rosie and I really attribute that to having the build up front to prepare myself. I kept trying to evaluate my progress and sort of figure out what was happening. Rosie’s was so strong, I couldn’t even process it from the very beginning. This time wasn’t and that confused me. My doula finally told me to let it go, stop worrying about it, stop timing them, just be. And that was the best advice. It took all of the pressure off and I just started doing what my body needed to and not worrying about anyone else around or what their expectations might be.
Around 4:30 or 5:00pm, I noticed things change. The contractions got stronger and longer again. I noticed much less time in between, though no one was counting at this point. The peaks got pretty difficult and were definitely on the level of Rosie’s birth. But the notice ahead of time made it doable compared to hers. I practiced my Hypnobabies skills that I did with Rosie and it made such a difference. Having the notice to focus your mind and get mentally prepared was huge.
Chris is so great during labor. With Rosie, he just did what I wanted him to without me even saying it. He was right by my side, holding my hand, putting his cheek to mine, and talking to me through every contraction. This time around, I didn’t want him right there immediately. I didn’t feel the need for that and wanted to walk around by myself. He sensed that and just watched me. Around this shift, though, I wanted him close. I wanted him touching me through each contraction….his hand on my back, holding my hand, something. Looking back, I can see that I retreated right around here, but I didn’t feel it at the time. My mind was shutting off and my body was just taking over. I’d stopped engaging my birth team and really forgot they were all around me for the most part, even in between contractions. I was focused.
Right around this time, I heard the midwife tell Chris we needed to fill up the tub. She was calm, but there was also an urgency in her voice and I realized it’d happened. The “veil” had come, even though things hadn’t felt like they were really progressing. I was so encouraged, but also shocked when this happened because so far, the labor had been easier and so much more peaceful than Rosie’s and this meant we were already nearing the end. I’m not saying it was a walk in the park, but it really didn’t compare to Rosie’s in my mind.
Not long after they filled up the tub, I needed to go to the bathroom. As soon as I sat down, I noticed a giant, super strong contraction. Chris hugged me and it just didn’t die off. It kept coming and kept coming. It would ease off every so slightly and immediately amp back up, stronger than before. I got up and walked circles around our bed and bath. This part is really vivid in my memory. I can remember exactly how strong and sharp it was. It reminded me a lot of Rosie’s birth. I walked circles and cried and I can remember making “Ooooh,” noises over and over. Chris followed me in my circles and his hand never left my back…sweet man of mine. I got so emotional during these, partly because it was difficult, but more like an uncontrollable, hormonal thing. It was the first real “out of body” moment I’d had during this labor, whereas most of Rosie’s felt that way. I remember it almost like I was watching myself experience it, as strange as that is.
I think this part lasted a few minutes before I noticed my doula standing in our doorway out of the corner of my eye. She said that I could get in the tub if I wanted to, that they thought it was about time to push. She told me later that what I’d experienced in the bedroom was transition…she recognized it immediately, but I didn’t at all because again, it was so different than Rosie’s. With Rosie’s, I remember the contractions becoming so strong and constant like that, but I was shaking and had horrible cold chills. That’s the most vivid thing I remember and I didn’t have those at all this time. I had the overwhelming emotions instead.
I was literally shocked when she said it was almost time to push. That little stint was the first thing that felt as difficult as hours of Rosie’s birth leading up to pushing, so in my head, we had a ways to go. I immediately went into the living room and got into the tub. As soon as I was in there, this incredible fear came over me. Suddenly, I was absolutely terrified to push. I got really scared to push Rosie out, but I’d had it in my head that this one would come in a few pushes, like many second babies do, so in my mind, this would be the easy part. I cried and told them how scared I was to push. My midwife encouraged me and said she’d felt the same way with all six of her babies. She said some women find pushing to be a relief and the easier part, but others feel the opposite. I remember she said she’d take 65 more contractions over pushing a baby out and I can totally relate. She was so gentle and calming and said no one was in a hurry and to take my time.
As emotional as I was through this first season of pushing, I kept thinking how much more peaceful and doable his birth had been than Rosie’s. I literally couldn’t believe we were already to that point that the majority of it was behind me and we were about to meet him. If Rosie’s labor and contractions had been a 10, his was a 4, no question and that just stunned me! Again, not something I’d want to do every day, but a 4, y’all! Thank you, water, for not breaking early on this one. Our emotions are funny things…I was terrified to push and yet thinking at the same time how much easier this was than Rosie’s.
For about thirty minutes or so, I gently pushed through each contraction and could tell I was making no progress. I’d prepped myself to push gently because after talks with the midwife, I thought if I pushed with all I had like I had to with Rosie, he’d slide right out and delivering so quickly wouldn’t be good when it came to tearing.
Each one was so frustrating and I’m not sure I stopped crying throughout this whole time because I felt like something wasn’t working right. I’d pushed with Rosie for three hours. Her hand had been up by her head. This one was supposed to be easy and he wasn’t budging. They encouraged me to try a few different positions in the tub, hoping the change in position would work him down. Through each contraction and pushing, Chris was on the side of the tub physically supporting me with his arms under mine holding me up some and encouraging me. I couldn’t have done any of it without him.
After all of this with no progress, my midwife checked me again and said that that little lip of my cervix was still in place, holding back the edge of the baby’s head despite how long I’d pushed. I couldn’t figure out how I hadn’t pushed him past that in thirty minutes! On the next contraction, I pushed while she reached in and held that lip back so that I could push his head past it. That wasn’t pleasant, though it wasn’t nearly as bad as it might sound. I pushed his head past it.
Soon, I began pushing with everything I had and immediately felt such a stretching and pain that I pulled back. But the second I did, Chris started cheering me on. He could sense me pulling back and I may have shouted some “I can’t do this” in there, but he could also see the midwife furiously working where she hadn’t been before. The only reason she’d be doing that is if the baby was coming. Something changed in Chris’ voice. There was an excitement and an urgency and he kept saying, “Keep going! You can do this!” over and over while he held me tighter and tighter. And so I did.
This contraction and the four or five pushes it took to get him out couldn’t have lasted more than a minute, if that. But I’ve literally played this tiny part of labor over and over in my mind about a thousand times since. I’ve debated how to word this because I believe birth to be a beautiful thing. Rosie’s was, though it was very difficult, and his had been so peaceful and dare I say fairly joyful up until this point. But I’ve realized I can’t sugar coat it. As I was rehashing the birth later with my midwife, I was searching for how to describe this last little section and she said “It was very intense.” Yes, it was.
He was out and he was in my arms at 7:32 pm, after about two hours since “the veil” and after one hour of pushing. The switch flipped, every ounce of pain was literally gone in an instant, and I stared down at him. I remember crying “Thank you, Jesus,” over and over. While I’m very grateful for his little life and I definitely was in that moment, I was talking about thank you, Jesus, that’s over and I survived. It may have been a minute or less, but it was the most intense minute of my life, hands down. But then it’s over and even the memory of it becomes blurry as you stare at their face. It’s amazing how something so short can be so hard, leave such an imprint, but also immediately feel worth it at the same time.
Something wells up inside of you after you work to deliver a baby….a confidence and a bravery. It gives you an assurance that you were CREATED to do hard things, that you CAN do hard things, and that you come out on the other side not just whole, but with joy and stronger than you went in.
You come out ready to tackle anything that motherhood will throw at you.
You come out nothing short of a warrior.
And what do mamas need to be if not warriors?
Chris looked at me wide-eyed and said, “Dax was nine pounds. He was a Rosie and a half.” I started laughing because all of it finally made sense! He wasn’t budging because he was huge compared to Rosie. His head was stuck behind my cervix because it was 1.5″ wider than Rosie’s was! And he was long, y’all….22.75″ to be exact….the longest baby by far our midwife said she’d ever delivered….and she’s delivered many. And getting him out was so “intense” because he was a giant little baby…those two words can go together right?
- I don’t think he’ll fit in his newborn clothes!
This is an edited version of Lindsay’s birth story. The complete story is published on her website, The White Buffalo Styling Co.