I hope it hasn’t been too long since Imogen’s birth for me to share the story. I’ve actually had the majority of it written for over a month, I just haven’t had the time to wrap it up with a thoughtful conclusion. So, here goes.
On Friday, June 10th, we were one week out from our due date. My plan was to clean the house that day, as I usually do on Fridays. Planning on having a home birth made it feel a bit more urgent than usual. So, I set out to get the floors and the bathroom clean, if that was the only two things I accomplished that day.
Ian is usually great about occupying himself on chores day. But on this particular Friday he was constantly wanting my attention and letting me know so in some not-so-positive ways. That coupled with some major potty training regression made me feel increasingly discouraged as the day went on.
Unfortunately, Ian met with my irritability and frustration. I had no idea what to do about potty training, which we’ve been working on for months. By the time the morning passed and it was a nap time, I was so worked up I couldn’t sleep (something I really needed).
All these things being said, by 2pm I had called Jason in tears asking him to come home.
I will say, though, that there were some really sweet moments between Ian & I, amidst the tension and turmoil. Because he wanted my attention so much I spent more time with him than I normally would on cleaning day. I sensed we both needed that time. We had fun making up a rescue helicopter game, reading books, and just talking.
Looking back, I see these moments were God’s grace to both of us. The days of just me and him were quickly coming to an end (though I didn’t realize how quickly!).
Jason wasn’t able to get off work early. When he did get home we put Ian to bed and then I ran to the store and picked up some food (this was the kind of day when I did not feel guilty for splurging on pre-prepared food from Trader Joe’s).
After dinner Jason & I talked about the potty training situation. And I got all worked up again. I felt angry because I felt out of control and Jason, understandably, didn’t know how to solve the problem.
You can imagine this didn’t make for an evening of marital bliss and connectedness. The subject of potty training usually doesn’t evoke these sort of feelings between two people, especially if one of them is an angry, pregnant lady.
Sadly, of my own doing, I ended up on the bathroom rug bawling my eyes out, with Jason wondering what the heck was going on with me.
In the middle of all the tears, even I could see that my response was a bit over the top. This feels hormonal, I thought. Once the tears passed I remembered I felt similar on the day I went into labor with Ian–super emotional. And I wondered if I would go into labor that night. Turns out the hormones that make a woman feel crazy are also the hormones that make babies come out.
By 10pm I felt relatively at peace about life. Jason and I went to bed. At 12am I woke up and had to pee really bad. When I sat down and started going I felt a pop and a gush.
Whoa, I thought. Is this really happening? That definitely felt like my water breaking!
I went in and woke Jason up to tell him. He sat right up in bed, even though he had been in a sound sleep and said “Really? That’s so great!” That made me feel good, especially since it was a bit overwhelming to think this was happening now and not in a week or two.
I called Cindie, our midwife, to tell her what happened. She said it certainly could’ve been my water breaking, but that it also may be a false alarm. Sometimes the bladder of a pregnant lady can fool her. (Yet the pop I felt did not feel like anything my bladder has ever done before.)
Cindie instructed us to wait it out and call her if I started labor and my contractions were five to six minutes apart. I also called Eliza, our doula, to tell her the news, and that we may need her that night.
Jason encouraged me to go back to sleep, but I wanted to get up and show him where all the birth supplies were since we hadn’t done that. Jason also cleaned the bathroom since I hadn’t gotten around to it earlier that day.
It wasn’t long before I felt some very faint cramping, which is exactly what I had felt with Ian. By 1am I was definitely having contractions. We decided that Jason would take Ian over to Scott & Courtney’s. I wanted to make sure he was safe and comfortable elsewhere in case labor got going quickly.
Once Ian and Jason were gone, I dealt with contractions by myself for the next hour or so. I remember standing around the bathroom, still feeling a bit overwhelmed. I had Isaiah 12 stuck to the bathroom mirror and so I read and prayed through that for a few minutes. I reminded myself I didn’t need to be afraid of what lay ahead.
By the time Jason arrived home my contractions were about seven to eight minutes apart. I felt pretty good. Jason came up to the bathroom with a really encouraging surprise–a handful of GUs. These helped me get through transition and pushing with Ian. I had been asking Jason to buy some in anticipation of the coming labor, but he hadn’t gotten a chance to.
When Jason was at Scott & Courtney’s he had asked Scott if he would go pick up some GUs in the morning if I was still laboring. Turns out Scott had just bought a bunch that day at REI and he sent Jason home with them. This little provision from Jason, from our friend, from God, made me feel relieved and more prepared.
It wasn’t long after Jason and the GUs arrived that my contractions jumped to three to four minutes apart. I was still able to manage them on my own, but Jason called Cindie and Eliza to head over.
Eliza got to our house first and went to work helping me get through contractions. It took me a while to find a comfortable position to labor in. I mainly stood leaning over the dresser and swaying back and forth, but found my legs would get tired. I tried leaning over the exercise ball and hanging over the couch, but couldn’t find a position that felt just right.
I think part of this was because the labor pain was centered around my tail bone, not farther up my back as it was with Ian. Standing up and leaning seemed to relieve it some. I will say it wasn’t really more painful than my previous labor and so at the time I didn’t consider it back labor, which I’ve been told can be excruciating.
Cindie arrived and she came with her precepting student, Louise. Louise had been a part of my last two appointments but I didn’t realize she was going to be at the birth. Cindie also told me that Jen or Mel (the other midwives in her practice) were not going to be there to assist her. She had called another midwife named Erin to come help.
As I labored I remember telling Eliza that I felt a little self-conscious with two new people around. I was wondering if I would be able to let loose when I needed to, which is really essential to working through contractions. She listened to me, and I think just being able to voice how I was feeling was enough for me. I don’t remember worrying about it much after that.
At one point I ended up down in the kitchen with Eliza while everyone else was upstairs. I was leaning on the kitchen counter. As things got more intense Eliza was rubbing my lower back. I asked for Jason and he came up right next to me.
Eliza asked if she could pray for me and went ahead. Then I asked Jason to pray for me, too. I don’t remember what he said, but afterward I said to him, “I always think I can’t do things and you tell me I can.” I don’t remember how he responded, but it made me feel like I could do it.
A few minutes later Cindie came around for a particularly difficult contraction and once it was over I said to her “I hope this is the transition!” She said she thought it probably was. She suggested I head back upstairs.
On our way up I had a contraction in the middle of the stairway, so I got down on my hands and knees. I found it to actually be quite comfortable. As the pain faded away I said to Eliza, “Now every time I walk up these stairs and get to this spot I will think of this.” She laughed.
Next I made my way into the bathroom and rested over the covered toilet for a while, which allowed me to sway back and forth, but at least rest my lower legs for a bit.
Around 5am Cindie asked to check me. It was encouraging to hear her say I was at 9cm. That definitely was the transition I had been feeling! Cindie suggested I head to the bed since she thought I would be pushing soon.
That word–pushing–was a bit of a bit of a loaded word for me with this pregnancy. I pushed for almost four hours with Ian and it was the most physically strenuous thing I’ve ever done. Needless to say, I had been feeling hesitant about how it was going to go this time.
I wanted to make sure I expressed this to Cindie before labor, partly to get it off my chest and partly to see if she could offer some insight or encouragement.
At my last appointment before labor, just a day earlier, I had told her and Louise that I just didn’t feel very strong for the job. They both reminded me that my uterus would do the work. Cindie said she wasn’t worried, that I would do just fine. She has a way of saying things very confidently and definitively (plus, she knows what she’s talking about) so I left her office feeling better.
So now there I was, early that morning, heading to bed to “let my uterus do the work” (which, technically speaking, it was already doing a lot of work, but you know what I mean). I am thankful that in labor you don’t have a lot of mental space to think about anything, so I didn’t feel any hesitancy. That is God’s grace for an over-thinker like me.
I laid on my side in bed for a few minutes and then felt my uterus bearing down. This is what Cindie and Louise were talking about! I felt the urge to push with Ian but this was more distinct and powerful than I had felt with him.
Jason was kneeling right next to me on the side of the bed, just as he was when I pushed with Ian. I had my arms wrapped around him. The more the contractions came, the more I went with them and pushed. I was squeezing Jason really hard. At one point I beat on his back with my fist. His face was right by mine and he kept encouraging me, telling me I could do it.
As the pushing grew more intense, I remember thinking “this is going to produce something good.” I could actually feel the baby moving down (again, not something I remember feeling with Ian).
But, it was also a helluva lotta work. As some time passed I started to wonder if I could do it. If this went on and on, I didn’t know if I could keep going with it (but really, what was I thinking?! This was nothing compared to four hours of pushing).
As the thoughts crowded in, something that Cindie said to me about a month ago came to mind. She was praying for me at the end of one of my appointments and she prayed “Blessings from God can also be tests.”
At the time I had expressed to her how I was realizing that with a new baby coming I would have to let go of Ian more and more. I was scared and I wasn’t sure God was going to take care of Him. I knew I wouldn’t be by Ian’s side like I have been his whole life.
Back then Cindie reminded me that the wonderful, good things God gives us can also be used to help us grow in our trust of Him. My family has certainly been this to me. Likewise, as I pushed during labor, with every contraction, I felt tested, in a good way.
Yet I was also was being carried along with it, just as Cindie and Louise had said it would be. There was a big part of it that was out of my control–my body was just doing it.
It’s funny how the hard things in life feel so much like work, and yet, we can also feel (either at the time or looking back) that God was doing the really hard stuff and we were being carried along.
At one point I remember saying “I can’t do this.” And all the women in the room just got louder and said “Oh yes you can, you are doing it!” And then a few minutes later, as a pushing urge came I said “I can do this!” It felt good to hear myself say it.
As Ian approached his birth, he crowned for what seemed like forever. I was thinking back on that and so in between my contractions I tried to feel the baby’s head. I figured if I could feel it, she would be coming out soon. It must be there, I thought. But I couldn’t feel anything.
I was confused. Everyone in the room kept telling me I was making huge progress. The impression I got from them was that this baby would be out into the world soon.
At that point Jason said, “I love you, Beautiful, but I’ve got to go. I’m going to throw up.” He ran out of the room and Cindie slid in where he was. She let me hold on her to and as that contraction passed she said “You could have this baby in five minutes.” I wasn’t really sure myself.
But, Cindie was right. Jason came back (sticking his head out the window had been enough to make the nausea pass) and just a few minutes later and I gave a good hard push, which brought the baby’s head out. And then another push and her body was out. The time was 5:40am.
And then that moment came that I will never forget. They set her down on me and I saw her for the first time. She was petite and pink, with dark eyes. She looked so different than Ian did fresh out of the womb. He was a blue-ish gray, with the face of a wrinkled old man. He was so quiet, this little girl was crying.
I was given a shot of pitocin right away and thankful no hemorrhaging occurred. It wasn’t long before they cut the cord and the placenta came out.
A few minutes later Jason said “Well, do you want to share what her name is?” Strangely, I said no. I think I wanted to keep the secret a little bit longer. I loved having that just between us. We had known what her name would be since the day we found out we were having a girl and Jason had said “Well, should we name her Imogen?”
And now you all know, of course. But Jason had to ask me again a few minutes later if we could share, and I said yes.
When I was finally ready to get into the bath, Louise stayed with me and we chatted. I could hear Jason gabbing away to someone downstairs. Turns out he was skyping with Jordan & Elysia. At the time I felt a little annoyed because I wanted to share these special moments with him, but now I look back and realize he was just so excited and proud and wanted to share the joy with good friends, with the world.
Once I got cleaned up and back into bed it was time to try breastfeeding and to eat. The labor support team cleaned up around us, did the newborn exam, and left us tucked into bed.
And then I found myself back at that same place again that I had been two and a half years ago. The house was quiet, I was wide awake, and I had a new baby and a husband lying next to me. I had just accomplished this amazing feat, while at the same time, experienced a miracle.
I actually had many of those moments in the weeks following Imogen’s arrival. I would be laying in bed, trying to sleep, and would think back on how awesome (and I am using that word how it was originally intended to be used) it was bring Imogen into the world.
She was the one we thought we were going to lose. She was the gummy bear on the screen that had a heartbeat. She was the one who survived with me through the crummy flu and stomach flu. She was the one who kicked me in the middle of the night and made it hard for Ian to sit on my lap.
I have been very, very blessed by God. Honestly, it’s a little scary to say that. But it’s true. Imogen’s birth was a great experience. And Imogen, herself, is perfect. She’s our Imy, Imsy Bimsy, our Gooby Girl.
I’ve also been blessed to have great care during both my pregnancies by women who love women, families, and God. I know that is unfortunately not the norm for many, so I am thankful for that.
I’m also blessed to have a husband who has been there for me; not just through the labor and birth (though he was wonderful then) but also through our miscarriages, the scary bleeding, and the woes of a tiresome, sick pregnancy. He is a great dad to our kids and I’m glad I get to parent with him. I love seeing him get up close to Imogen’s face and sweetly say “Hey girl.”
Thank you, also, to our family and community who have prayed for us through this and many other things.
If you enjoy reading about labor and birth and you’re a story person like me, you may like reading the birth stories in this book. Also, with this pregnancy I really appreciated what two other ladies, Brenna and Sarah, have to say about it.
And of course I’ll leave you with the fruits of my labor (literally).