(Note – One of the wonderful things about my midwives is that they have given me copies of their detailed notes from my births. I love looking back through them and get another perspective, especially regarding time. Once I get in the zone, I lose track of time, so until I can find Grace's birth records, her birth story will have little in the way of time references.)
Although I missed my family like crazy, I had a wonderful week working in the kitchen at camp during Leadership Training Camp. I even got to do devotions with the girls one night. It was a true joy and blessing to be able to invest in God's work at KBC while I awaited the beginnings of labor.
Friday night, I started feeling less and less comfortable. As I stood in the camp kitchen working on something for Saturday, I realized that I was having steady, but spaced out, contractions. I sat down to work, but the contractions didn't fade. After a while, I went to lay down in the nurse's room, and borrowed a cell phone on which to call Jonathan and say, “Drive, Babe, drive!”
My dear friend and second mom, Cheryl, drove me down to the Birth Inn that night, where I promptly got in bed to get as much rest as I could. Jonathan arrived early in the morning, and we both went to sleep after he arrived. My contractions had faded through the night, and we were both glad for the extra rest.
Saturday morning, we enjoyed making ourselves at home at the Birth Inn. It's not a birth center, but a real home with a terrific birthing room (with toilet, sink, couch that could be made into a bed, and huge jetted tub!). There is a beautiful family bedroom with an heirloom cradle, a couple of extra bedrooms for family or midwives, a comfortable and lovely living room which they also use for childbirth education classes and such, and a nice kitchen/dining area. It's intended to be used for one family at a time, and we really felt at home while we were there.
Now that Jonathan had arrived, I was more than ready for my contractions to start up again. Saturday afternoon, we walked and walked, first around the neighborhood, then around the mall, then to Aldi to get some food for our stay. The contractions would come and go, but nothing intense. I was so frustrated!! At the same time, I felt extremely thankful that Jonathan had had plently of time to get to Wichita. I was just hoping that it hadn't been a completely false alarm, with days (or weeks?) to go before Baby arrived. Kathy's wonderful assistant, Brenda, was a tremendous help to me with my attitude and perspective.
When Saturday night and Sunday morning passed without any developments, we decided to head back to camp to pick up the rest of my luggage. I had left with just an overnight bag, and with a new week of camp starting, I needed to move my stuff out of the way. We got to visit for a little while with a good friend of ours and his fiance, then headed for Wichita again.
I wonder if perhaps part of what was holding things up for my labor was a sense of unfinished business having left my stuff at camp, because on the way back to Wichita, my contractions started getting more serious. We called Kathy on the way and asked her to meet us at the Birth Inn.
A check showed that yes, things were starting to move along. I walked around the living room; I sat on the floor and sorted through baby things and chatted with Kathy's apprentices between contractions; and after a while I started gettng antsy for the tub. Kathy's general policy is to have moms wait until they're at least 5 cm before having them get in the tub, but I was sincerely requesting that they start filling it before then, because I could tell things were really starting to move along and I was looking forward to seeing how the water would ease the intensity of my labor.
I had never had the opportunity to labor in the water before, but had read a lot about it. I knew as soon as my feet hit the tub that I had found heaven on earth (at least for labor!). The water embraced and cushioned me. It muted the many incoming sensory messages, and allowed my body to focus on the business at hand. I could feel my uterus working, my cervix expanding, and yet I was amazingly comfortable.
The lights in the birthing room were dim; music I loved was playing on the CD player; Jonathan was sitting against the tub rubbing my back and neck, and chatting with me when I didn't need to focus on the contractions. I wish that I could find the word pictures to describe the warmth and comfort of that time in my labor. When I think about Grace's birth, I see/hear/feel the comfort of dim lights, the flow of water, my man next to me, calming music... It truly is one of the high points in my life. Bliss.
After a time, I needed to get up and use the toilet they had so wisely installed right next to the tub. I mentioned in passing to Jonathan that I was starting to feel a little bit “pushy,” but I didn't think anything was “imminent.” Jonathan was wise enough to go give our midwifery crew an update, and they came in to see how things were going. If I recall correctly, it was around 11.30, and I remember someone commenting that it looked like this baby wasn't going to make it in time to arrive on June 1st. It was only a few minutes since I had said nothing was imminent, but when I heard that comment I thought to myself, “Don't count on it.” My “pushy-ness” was intensifying quickly!
Sure enough, around 11.50, my body hit a “gotta push!!” contraction. It's amazing how much can happen in one contraction. I had a split second of panic, not sure that it was really time, and I don't know if the words “oh no!” were spoken out loud or only internally. The moment of panic quickly passed and I surrendered to the knowledge that my body had been made for the task at hand. My water broke and Grace's head was born, all in that same contraction. The rest of her followed quickly.
It was such a unique experience, actually giving birth in the water. Grace was so calm and quiet, and everything had a surreal feel. After we had had a few minutes to get to know each other, I got out of the tub (love that shower head with flexible hose!) and moved to the couch. We enjoyed bonding and getting to know Grace (who was a great nurser from the beginning), and eventually moving to the bedroom to get some rest. After pictures!
Jonathan, Grace, and I with our midwifery team:
We stayed at the Birth Inn for a couple nights, so that Kathy could check on Grace and I a few more times before we headed back to Missouri on Tuesday. Kathy was actually in the St. Louis area for Grace's two week check, which was a special treat.
I was so blessed to work with Kathy and Brenda for Grace's birth. They are a terrific team, whose strengths compliment each other perfectly. Kathy had asked what they could do to make this my best birth, and they did it. It was a wonderful experience, and made us sure that we had made the right choice to travel eight hours to work with a legal midwife in a home setting.
(Of course, we are thrilled that if we are blessed with another baby, there are now legal home birth midwives in Missouri, and more working towards their Certified Professional Midwife credential even as I type.)
Here's a picture of Grace with J's Grandma Hall, so you can see what she actually looked like as a newborn.
Happy Birthday, sweet Grace! You are such a living token of God's undeserved favor, and a beautiful reminder that through HIS grace we can have victory. We love you and are so very thankful that you are our precious daughter!