Moira’s Birth Story

Moira is 4 weeks old today! What a surprise that she decided to make an appearance over two weeks early, although I guess I can say now that it’s a trend, considering Cormac was early as well. I am so thankful to say that my second labor/delivery experience was equally as smooth and awe-inspiring as my first. Even, dare I say it, enjoyable. For more details, read on…

This post does contain a few graphic images and details that may not be everyone’s preference. If you’re not into reading birth stories, STOP NOW! And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The dog woke me up at 1am on Thursday morning, January 28. She was barking at nothing again. Or probably something (like a squirrel or a moving tree branch), but this was still somewhat unusual for her in the dead of night. Perhaps she knew something big was about to happen… I must have fallen back asleep, but I awoke again at 1:30 to hear Cormac shuffling into our bedroom. He’s been in his “big boy bed” since November, but he still occasionally makes his way to our room at some point during the night or early morning (usually closer to 5:30am). I pulled him into bed with me and closed my eyes, feeling too sluggish to walk him back to his own bed. I fell back asleep, but not for long.

I shot awake again as I felt the rush of fluid. I thought I might be dreaming, but the sensation was all too familiar… I just couldn’t believe it was happening so soon. I thought I had at least another week! My mother wasn’t supposed to arrive until next Thursday! Is this really happening? Cormac whimpered next to me as I sat up in bed and tried to decide what to do. The clock said 2:03am. I made it to the toilet before the next gush — my water had definitely broken. The rush of adrenaline hit and I sat for a moment trying not to giggle at the irony of the situation. We’d had dinner with my in-laws the night before (pizza, yum!) and my mother-in-law had said something about how low I was carrying. I joked throughout dinner that this baby wasn’t coming any time soon… little did I know! I’d seen the midwife that morning as well, with no signs of the onset of labor (I was only 37 weeks after all) although my fundal measurement had gone down to 35″. That should have been a clue. Either way, man makes his plans… and God shows His sense of humor in moments like this.

I stepped back into the bedroom and whispered to Patrick, “Don’t freak out…my water just broke.”

For Christmas, I had bought him tickets to see one of his favorite bands play in Detroit the following evening and I was already thanking God that the show was not until tomorrow. Given my previous experience, this baby would be born today and Patrick would still be able to see his show. Yes, that is literally what I was thinking. And I told him so in no uncertain terms. “You are going to see that concert!”

These things being decided, I crawled back into bed to start the waiting game. I was not yet feeling any contractions and didn’t want to alert the midwife or anyone else until I was sure something was happening. Of course, sleep was the last thing on my mind at that point, but I knew I should try to rest. Cormac was still in bed with us but not quite awake. I snuggled him close to me and shut my eyes, but sleep was elusive (as one might imagine). I was worried that maybe contractions wouldn’t start at all, or that things wouldn’t progress as they should… it just seemed too soon for this to be happening! But about half an hour later, the mild contractions began. So mild they were not even worth tracking, and by that point I was too excited to sleep. So, of course, I called my mother. It was about 3am.

I was a little nervous about having to tell her that I had gone into labor early… again. With Cormac, she was supposed to arrive on a Saturday. I went into labor on a Thursday night and he was born 7 hours later. This time, I was going into labor a whole week in advance of her planned arrival date, and 17 days before my due date! We just can’t seem to get the timing right with this stuff. Maybe with the next one… 😉 She answered after a few rings (even at 3 in the morning!) but didn’t sound too surprised. I hung up hoping that she would be able to make it up to Indiana by the next day.

I finally called the midwife as well. Or rather, the hospital to page the midwife. When I got the call back, it was a midwife I had only seen once before and I was a little worried that I would be delivering with someone I didn’t know that well. But decided to just wait and see what happened. The contractions continued, still mild and easy enough to walk/talk through. Patrick was awake at this point and starting to get things ready that we hadn’t finished yet: getting the infant car seat installed, packing up our bags for the birth center and throwing last-minute things in the car (we thought we would have time for this!). While he got things ready downstairs, I did what one would expect all laboring mothers to do: painted my toenails. I had distinct memories of looking down at my feet while giving birth to Cormac and apologizing to the midwife for the sorry state of my pedicure. That was not going to happen this time! I painted a quick layer of magenta on both feet (legs hoisted onto the bathroom vanity counter). From afar, they looked ok. Good enough for me. And perhaps this was a good stance for getting the baby’s head into the right position? Who knows.

Cormac was starting to wake up a little more, and around 5am we called Patrick’s parents to let them know what was going on. They showed up 10 minutes later. I was still at a point where contractions were not too difficult, so I made coffee for my father-in-law and we all sat in the family room watching the news and keeping Cormac entertained. The plan was to send him to preschool as usual and keep the routine as normal as possible. We didn’t know when the baby would arrive, so it made sense to just keep him on schedule. I hadn’t expected such a crowd during labor this time around, but it really wasn’t so bad and it was nice to have extra hands to keep Cormac occupied. To keep myself busy and distracted, I decided to work on a design proposal that was due the next day. I had been able to get some work done on it the previous evening while Patrick took Cormac for an hour, so this was, of course, the ideal time to finish things up. I sat in front of my computer, leaning forward with contractions and trying to focus on the screen. I was half-heartedly timing contractions and not seeing any real pattern in length or time apart. But this is how it was with Cormac…

Around 6am, I still wasn’t feeling much progress, so I decided to try to go back to sleep. I brought Cormac with me (I didn’t want him to be exhausted for school), and we both somehow managed to fall asleep for another hour or so. Patrick came in a bit later to check on me and get Cormac ready for school. I don’t remember when, but at some point he went to pick up Gatorade. I remember being really thirsty, but also having to use the bathroom often. Must have been the baby was positioned directly on my bladder.

I called the hospital again around 8am and was relieved to find that shifts had changed and the new midwife on call was the one I had seen the most during my prenatal care. I felt most comfortable with her and was very happy to know that she would most likely be the one delivering the baby. The same situation had happened with Cormac (although he was born just as that midwife’s shift was ending!), and I’m so thankful that God was looking out for me during both deliveries. Even though my mother wasn’t able to be there, at least I was with other women I felt comfortable with! I told her I still wasn’t feeling a lot of intensity in the contractions so she told me to just stick home and see how things progressed. I was really starting to get nervous that this was going to be a much longer labor than my first, so I tried to just relax and keep myself occupied with easy activities. Like folding laundry — perfect for a laboring mom! By this time my in-laws had left to take Cormac to preschool and Patrick decided to pop out and pick up some breakfast. He returned with McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches while I was folding the laundry and breathing through contractions. At one point I remember getting down on my hands and knees to see if a different position would affect the intensity — it did. The contraction I felt in that position was more painful and a little longer than the previous ones, and I was grateful because it finally was starting to feel like something was happening.

I ate about half of my McDonald’s Egg White Delite (yum!) before deciding it was time to head to the birth center. One of my primary concerns with this delivery was decided when to head to the birth center. We had just barely arrived at the hospital in time with Cormac (I was already at 10 cm dilated and +2 station!) and I didn’t want to repeat that situation this time around, especially considering it was a longer drive. So we got in the car, figuring we would still have a few hours of laboring to go. The drive was about 20 minutes long, and I only had 3 contractions, not quite 45 seconds each, and then another one after we had arrived at the birth center and pulled into the garage. I distinctly remember walking back and forth next to the car in that chilly garage waiting for the contraction to end. Not until then was I ready to walk inside (after opening the wrong door first — it opened to the exterior, oops).

Another baby had just been born at the center and there were only 2 other rooms — one of which was undergoing some renovations. So we got the last room available! Good thing there wasn’t another baby being born… We got into the “Victorian” room (haha, would have been my last choice if given an option) and I tried to make myself comfortable. NOT on the bed. My method of dealing with contractions is to pace back and forth and breath deeply. So while the midwife got us checked in and took some notes, I walked and breathed through contractions. She didn’t want to check me quite yet (they try to do so as little as possible after the water has broken) but did have to take my temp, blood pressure and try to listen to the baby’s heart beat with a fetal monitor. I remember feeling a little annoyed about trying to stand still (or rather, rocking in place) while she listened before, during and after a contraction. I was still laughing and talking between contractions, so she was still thinking we might have a while to go. She left the room to check on the other family and we waited through another couple contractions.

When she came back (I’m not sure how much later, the timing got a little hazy at this point… all I know is that we arrived at the birth center a little after 9am), I was probably making a little more noise with contractions so she decided it was time for a check. Lying down on the bed and enduring a contraction in that position was miserable. I don’t know why anyone wants to be in a bed during labor! But the results were good: 7cm, 100% effaced, 0 station. Things were moving along. And the contractions seemed to changed after that point. Shortly after standing up again, I went to the bathroom and had my “bloody show”, laughing and apologizing at making a mess on the bathroom floor. Funny how these things are totally normal and acceptable during labor, even laughable. But also a good sign that things were moving along.

It seemed like all of the sudden my contractions got much more intense and I started feeling the urge to push. Things started happening very quickly and I remember feeling the same sensation before Cormac was born — this is probably the point when my vocalizations became much more… pronounced, shall we say? Up to this point, I don’t think I was making much noise during contractions. But pushing simply seems to require some sort of noise, kinda like when those female tennis players hit the ball. They probably don’t even realize they’re making such an unattractive sound, but it really must help with the physical action of hitting the ball. Same with pushing through contractions during labor.

At this point, I realized we probably should have asked them to fill up the birthing tub as soon as we got there. I was still in the bathroom so I asked them to start the water. I don’t think at this point anyone realized how quickly things were moving (even me). I stood by the side of the tub as the water filled up, rocking and groaning through contractions. And pushing. I remember worrying they were going to tell me to stop pushing (like they did with Cormac), but nobody said anything so I just kept it up. Finally, the tub was full and the water hot enough for me to get in. I climbed in without any assistance (I was ready to be in there!) and immediately got on all fours. The midwife started staying something about turning around to the other direction (there was a headrest/pillow on the other side of the tub), but I was already pushing through another contraction. I think she finally realized that baby was about to make an appearance. After the first push in the water, I reached down and felt the baby’s head. I panicked. This was happening really fast! With Cormac, I’d had to push for about half an hour before he was crowning. This time, I could tell the baby was about to come out and I freaked out! I distinctly remember saying “Help me!”. At some point in the previous moments, I had asked Patrick to snap photos and I’m so glad I had the presence of mind to do so. The photos included at the end of the post are from the ones he took on my iPhone starting mere seconds after I got in the tub, right up to several minutes after she was born. We were able to verify the second she came out through his photos — 10:12am!

After the second push, the baby’s head was out and I really panicked. The midwife and birth assistant were leaning over the side of the tub, but in my hands-and-knees position they weren’t able to do as much and I wasn’t quite sure what to do next… I could feel the baby’s head between my hands and had to valiantly resist the urge to just yank it out. Finally the next contraction hit and with one final push she was out (whew!). I grasped her by the shoulders and pulled her up to my chest. What a relief, a surprise, a joy. She was here! The umbilical cord was loosely looped around her neck and the midwife was having a time trying to unloop it while I tried to lean back against the edge of the tub. This is the part of delivery where the adrenaline starts to recede and oxytocin hits and I was in a hazy phase of weepy excitement to see our daughter, finally be holding her in my arms, and relief that the hard part was over. Mostly. You always forget about the second half which involves delivering the placenta. Thankfully, it wasn’t too difficult and before we knew it, it was time to cut her cord. We were still just chilling in the bathtub and Patrick was sitting in the corner snapping photos with little interest in getting any closer at that point (he was a trooper!) so I did the honors myself.

She latched on almost immediately thereafter and sucked voraciously for a good half hour, if not longer, before we finally got out of the tub to take her vitals and get cleaned up. And stitched up. My least favorite part of labor/delivery. Even after all the pain of contractions, pushing, etc., getting stitched is still difficult for me. Even numbed! Something about the thought of a needle going through the skin makes me rather uncomfortable. I could never be a doctor. But that part was finally over as well and we got to sit (in the bed! haha) and enjoy getting to know our daughter. And figure out what to call her. 🙂

So here’s the photos and my next post will be about her name!

She’s crowning… “Help me!”
Last push… I got her!
They’re reaching for that cord around her neck. I’m still in shock that she’s OUT.
The midwife is laughing at how fast she came!
Putting on a cap and washcloth to keep her warm… I’m overwhelmed.
Cutting the umbilical cord
Hi, baby girl!
Spending some time with dad

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