Her birth story begins with a prayer on a Friday afternoon. Well that's not exactly when it begins, but that's when the important stuff began.
I had been having contractions all through the night before. And actually I had contractions all through Wednesday night too, often enough that I would wake up for each one and hit the start button on my contraction timer. But they never got closer together or stronger. And by Thursday morning, they had completely subsided, you know, as soon as the sun came up. My body prefers to labor at night, in the dark, in the quiet, all alone.
After an entire day of zero contractions, Thursday night came along and what do ya know, as soon as the sun went down they started up again. The same as the night before, they were consistent enough and strong enough to start timing them, but they again, didn't get any closer together or any stronger. That isn't to say they weren't strong because every single one woke me up.
By Friday morning I was starting to get a bit annoyed. [Sound like a familiar story? Because Stella's birth story begins much the same way.] Ben was getting ready for work and we were trying to decide if he should just stay home with me or if he should go and come home when I called. The kids were up and running around the house and I was still having contractions but not as strong as they had been while the sun was down. I knew something would have to happen soon, I just wasn't sure how soon. So Ben stayed for about an hour to let me sleep some more and then he headed to work.
I decided to call my mom and let her know I was in labor. She offered to come and take the kids as soon as she could get things wrapped up at work, which ended up being a little bit before lunch. In the meantime, I made breakfast for the kids and continued having contractions about every 15 minutes or so.
My mom came over and we waited for Ben to get home for lunch so that she could take the car seats. We loaded up the kids and they headed out. Ben ate his lunch and then went back to work. I told him I'd call if anything really started to happen.
Spoiler alert: it didn't.
And that brings us to that Friday afternoon prayer. The house was empty. Quiet. I was all alone. It was so unusual. What would I do with an empty house? It was such a unique opportunity. I could have watched television. I could have prepped dinner for the evening. I could have taken a nap (I think I actually did do that). I could have read a book.
Instead I decided to turn on the Pandora station I would listen to during labor (and customize it while I was at it), sit on my bed with my Bible open and just pray.
Contractions were still coming every 15 minutes. I actually wrote down in my notebook, while I was praying and writing, that I had one at 1:26 pm. A simple reminder that I was, in fact, in labor and that soon this baby would come. Or at least eventually if not soon.
So on that quiet, cool, cloudy, drizzly April afternoon, I sat on my bed, alone, in labor while tears streamed down my face. All I could do in that moment was cry and thank God for His good and amazing grace, and for the abundant blessings that He has bestowed upon me, little 'ole unimportant me, time and time again. None of which I deserve or have the right to ask for: my family, my precious children, this brand new child.
And while I could have sat there and prayed for strength or endurance or peace, instead, in repentance I prayed for forgiveness. Forgiveness for not appreciating what I have, for an ungrateful heart, for getting angry and frustrated far too often with these precious blessings of mine. I asked Him to kill that anger and to replace it with compassion, gentleness, kindness and patience. And in that confession, all I could do was again, be thankful for all the things that I don't deserve.
And then Colossians 3:15,17 echoed in my mind: "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful... and whatever you do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (emphasis mine)
And so, it was with those verses, and that posture that I entered into labor.
With thanksgiving and in peace.
Ben got off work at 5 pm and headed home. Labor was still exactly how it had been all day: very uneventful. He ran to Roberto's and picked up dinner for the two of us. I had rolled tacos with guacamole and cheese. He had tacos. We sat on the couch and watched the news with the windows open, listening to the drizzling rain.
I kept hoping my contractions would get closer together when the sun went down.
Now, in the meantime you need to know that that Friday, the one I'm describing to you, was the only day my midwife was unavailable. Her son was getting married that evening. And so another midwife was on call. For the entire week leading up to this day I kept joking with Ben that I would probably have this baby on Friday because, well, what are the chances! (side note: my due date wasn't until the following Tuesday).
I began to prepare things around the house: a crockpot full of hot water, lavender essential oil and wash cloths, a bag of nuts and chocolate in the bedroom, a plastic shower curtain under my sheet, music playing, coconut water in the fridge and my labor kit in our bedroom.
Contractions were coming about 8 minutes apart now and were approaching a minute long each. With every one I bent over the side of the bed and squeezed my husband's memory foam pillow (so helpful!) while he draped hot, wet wash cloths over my back. As I could feel each contraction approaching, I'd hit start on the timer. Ben would take notice and have a rag ready and I'd breathe through each one. I remember the wash cloth trick being super helpful with Stella, but I had forgotten how helpful. The hotter the rag, the more it took my mind off of the pain of the contraction and gave me something else to focus on. During other contractions I would wrap my arms around Ben from behind him, he would lean over a bit and I would squeeze his torso as hard as I possibly could.
I also remember going to the bathroom constantly, pretty much after every contraction. That was probably partly due to the fact that I was drinking a ton of water. Ben made sure I always had a glass of coconut water (mixed with some pineapple juice) or a glass of ice cold water nearby. I could not get enough water. And I could totally tell how helpful being that hydrated was.
I have never been so coherent during labor than I was with Liberty. Ben and I spent the evening, in between contractions, talking like it was a normal night. The bedroom window was open, cool air blowing in, rain trickling down outside. I played fruit ninja and bejeweled on my kindle to pass the time. We listened to music and snacked. (At some point I'm pretty sure I took a shower but I honestly can't remember when.) The rain was pretty constant and at one point we went out front and walked around in it. I told Ben I wanted to be able to say that I went for a walk in the rain while I was in labor. And now I can. Contractions were still consistent but still not really picking up. I had to keep reminding myself to just persevere. Eventually my patience and hard work would be rewarded.
Around 9:45 pm I texted my midwife and the midwife on call to give them an update about my labor. My midwife let me know that her guests were leaving (the wedding was at her home) and she was going to lay down for a bit and get some rest. She joked that I would most likely be calling her in the wee hours of the morning but said she was glad she'd be able to attend my birth after all (and so was I! That was such a relief).
I called her an hour later (and felt bad she wasn't able to get that rest!). I was finally feeling like things were progressing fairly quickly, after hours and hours of labor. Contractions were definitely closer together and a whole lot stronger. I was feeling a bit nauseous and thinking (hoping) I may be at transition.
She got to my house around 11 pm (my contraction timer shows the last time I hit start was at 10:55 pm. Once she arrived I stopped timing them). The contractions had gotten closer together, but as with Stella, they weren't consistent. They never do get to be consistent. Some are 5 minutes apart, some are 15.
We sat and talked for a little while in my bedroom about gardens, yard work, children, just life in general and my contractions completely dropped off. She asked if I wanted her to check my progress but I said no. I prefer not to be checked during labor because, while it can be encouraging, it can also be super discouraging. I'd rather just listen to my body as things progress. Ben offered for her to lay on the couch if she wanted to get some rest and she suggested I lay down and rest too. So I did, beginning to feel a little defeated, wondering if it was all a false alarm, and praying that it wasn't.
But within just a few minutes we were up and going again. Contractions were coming again, closer together and stronger and stronger.
And within just a few more minutes I was feeling the urge to push.
A few contractions later, my water broke.
My midwife was listening and watching from the hallway, timing and tracking everything.
I stayed standing for a few more contractions, pushing with each one. Then I decided to get on all fours and try pushing that way because my legs were getting a little tired. I think I stayed there for a couple contractions, at which point I laid down on the floor to rest. With the next contraction my midwife checked for an anterior cervical lip (which has happened with all 4 of my kiddos so I was expecting it). She moved it out of the way and I was ready to push the baby out! She also mentioned that she was fairly sure she could feel a hand up by her head. But I just ignored that because, ouch!
Now, up until this point I had been in labor longer than I had ever been previously (sounds backwards right?! I know). Isaac was 15 hours. Eli was 24 hours. Stella was 8 hours. Liberty was a wonderful 28 hours (granted it wasn't continuous because there were breaks in between that sometimes lasted hours). But her's was also the shortest time pushing (like real, targeted, get-this-baby-out-right-now pushing). I pushed for probably 45 minutes, on the floor, on my back (gasp! I know, so not acceptable, right? ;) and from what I remember, I think I had maybe 5 contractions total in that time, maybe a couple more. So honestly, it wasn't really that much pushing, at least compared to what I'm used to!
After one or two pushes my midwife asked if I wanted to check and see if I could feel her descending. I checked and felt nothing.
Momentarily, I felt a bit concerned, a bit defeated, a bit discouraged.
But at the same time, I felt ready to keep going. This wasn't going to be like before. Before, when I pushed for 5 hours and couldn't get Eli out. Before, when I pushed for a far shorter time with Stella but started to get so discouraged and lose strength (she came about 5 minutes after I had looked up at Ben in total defeat and said, "I can't do this anymore!"). I had resolved long before labor began that I was going to push this baby out and I wasn't going to give up. When I reached the wall, I was just going to climb over it or push it over (see what I did there??).
Contractions kept coming, with plenty of resting time in between, and I kept pushing. And then, her head was there and it was out. Normally at this point I would have taken that moment to rest. I would usually rest until the next contraction before I pushed the rest of her out. But this time I said, "no way. She's here, she's right there and I'm just going to keep pushing, because I'm done and I want to be done." And so, I just kept pushing and out she came, face up, posterior (which pretty much explains the long labor).
And just like that, our baby was born, at 2:02 am, on a rainy, chilly, Saturday morning (my third Saturday morning birth). It was a perfect day to be born if you ask me.
There I was, laying on the floor, beside our bed, and this tiny little (a pleasant surprise!) baby was there. I took her from my midwife and placed her on my chest immediately. And in awe (and complete exhaustion), I laid there while we waited for the placenta to deliver.
This sweet, precious baby. She was so small. So perfect. And she pooped on me almost immediately. I moved up to the bed where I proceeded to shiver like crazy, as I tend to do after delivery. Ben piled blankets on me and I nursed this tiny new baby, who still had no name. She latched right away and nursed without any issues. And she pooped on me again.
We weighed her, measured her and checked for all those adorable little baby reflexes. She passed with flying colors and then it was time for sleep (and a diaper!). She weighed 7 pounds and 11 ounces and she was 21.5 inches long.
Once my midwife left (but not before cleaning up and putting a load of towels and sheets in the washing machine because, well, she's the best), Ben brought food from the kitchen to the bedroom so I could eat and then he went to sleep. I laid in bed next to a sleeping brand newborn and a sleeping husband and ate cheese and crackers and strawberries. It was all so so delicious.
And then I went to sleep.
Since my mom had the other kiddos we were able to sleep in. And if this story wasn't already so long I would take the time to describe that first day with her home. It was the perfect day. The rain, the coziness, the kids coming home and absolutely loving her, the quick return to routine, working in the garden, burgers on the grill for dinner. I'm hoping to write a part 2 just for that.
But for now we'll leave it there. The labor was long. But the reward was great. And in the midst of it all, my faithful Father provided the peace I needed, the strength I required and blessed me, yet again, with a gift I most certainly did not deserve. It was with a grateful heart I entered into her labor and it was in thanksgiving that I received her into my arms. Thanks be to the most good and gracious God.
And if there is any encouragement I can give to any mother-in-waiting who is reading this right now, it would be that despite the hours and hours of labor, despite the numerous times I thought things would never progress, despite the posterior position of my baby and the anterior cervical lip (both reasons cited for increased medical intervention often leading to c-sections), I was able to persevere. I was able to listen to my body and not lose faith. I was able to push through. I was able to be at peace with the entire process. And none of that is because of who I am or what I've experienced or how strong I am (believe me, I'm not!). All of that is because of Who I put my trust in, because of Who I relied upon for peace, and because of Who strengthened me and upheld me. So no matter what happens during your labor, do not lose heart. Instead, rely on Him and trust Him. He is faithful!