photography by the marvelous Jenna Reich of Life Aglow www.lifeaglowphoto.com
The date was Saturday, May 31st 2014. I awoke to what I suspected were “real” contractions. I glanced at the clock and remarked that it was 3am in the morning and my gestation was 38w4d. Precisely when my waters broke with Teagan. My contractions continued for about an hour. “Man my kids are in synch,” I thought to myself.
Skip to Tuesday, June 10th 2014. Still pregnant. 40 weeks pregnant. 10 days more pregnant than I ever was with Teagan and starting to panic just a wee bit about hitting 41 weeks and risking out of my glorious cake-topping birth at the birth center. I’d had several more rounds of “this is it!” contractions. One had even led to frantically putting suitcases in the car. Alas, no Sprog. As I sat in the birth center’s clinic awaiting the midwife, I officially felt exactly 1,000,000 weeks pregnant and doomed to be pregnant FOR.EV.ER. This was a wildly different feeling from my last pregnancy. From day 1 of Teagan’s pregnancy I was entirely convinced I would gestate to at least 42 weeks and a birth center birth was little more than a nice pipe dream. This time, having gone early with Teagan, I fully expected to shoot Sprog out by 39 weeks. Sprog obviously had other plans. Physically, I felt great. Mentally, I was squishy and battered.
In entered Sandy, one of a handful of midwives at my birth center and one who I like quite a lot. I’d seen her multiple times during Teagan’s pregnancy and I liked her style. After singing “Happy Due Date” to me, she got down to my eye level and let me vent. We discussed what the course of action would be should I still be pregnant the following Tuesday. None of it made me happy but her confidence and the answers she gave made me feel like I could handle anything this baby (and the hospital I’d give birth in) threw at me. Sandy’s awesome like that. After we hashed that out and agreed that it wouldn’t come to a hospital birth, she offered to check my cervix and asked if I’d want a membrane sweep. I hadn’t yet had my cervix checked as its not routinely done at my birth center prior to 40 weeks. I’d decided before coming in that I’d let her scope out the scene and we’d decide how to proceed. She asked me to decide upon a course of action before her fingers were all up in my business. I told her to leave my membranes alone if we were talking greater than 3cm and bulging waters but go ahead if I were between 2-3 cm. Into the business she went and discovered me to be 1-2 cm dilated and ~20% effaced. She left my membranes alone. We both agreed that waiting a few days might mean a more productive sweep. I made an appointment for Friday and left, mildly depressed that Sprog hadn’t decided to drop out while we were conveniently located.
Before bed that night I ravaged the pages of SpinningBabies.com looking for positions that might magically resolve my gravid state. I pelvic tilted and abdominal lifted for about an hour and then sent myself to bed. I awoke at 3 am to some contractions. This had become a nightly event so I sighed and tried some polar bear position in the hopes of getting Sprog into something resembling launch position. After about 30 minutes I thought maybe some time on my ball couldn’t hurt so I abandoned the bed for the living room. Pelvic tilt. Abdominal lift. Sigh. An hour went by without a change so I resigned myself to this either being yet another night of teasing contractions or the real thing in which case sleep was probably more important.
The alarm went off at 6:30 am. Sigh. Still pregnant and 40w1d. Only 6 more days until the big risk out. My contractions were still coming. I didn’t bother timing them because I’d timed enough contractions to know they were about 7 minutes apart. Nothing out of the ordinary aside from the time of day. It was not my norm to be having contractions when I woke up. Izzy rushed around the house getting things ready to take Teagan to preschool and tidying for our house cleaner. Our present to ourselves this pregnancy was a house cleaner. She’s awesome and she came every Wednesday wondering if we’d had the baby. I was sorry to disappoint her once again. I dozed in bed as Teagan came in intermittently to babble something at me while I mildly contracted. A little before 7 am, I got up to pee and saw some bloody show. Izzy asked me what that meant. I told him it meant we’d be having a baby sometime in the next 45 minutes to 2 weeks. At 7:30 am, despite feelings that I was jinxing myself, I told Izzy to call our house cleaner and give her the day off. I could handle roaming dust bunnies for a week but I couldn’t handle laboring while someone cleaned my shower. We contemplated keeping Teagan home then reconsidered and Izzy left to take her to school. I chatted with my internet squaws and alerted my birth photographer, Jenna, yet again. My declaration of “maybe labor” was met with mild fanfare.
Throughout the day, my contractions kept coming. Ever so slowly they got stronger and my show appeared at each bathroom trip. My contractions weren’t any stronger or closer together than they’d been during previous rounds of maybe labor so I tried to keep my hopes low and the eeeping from my squaws to a minimum. Around noon, I slowly started to put some last minute things in the birth center bag; a toothbrush here, a phone charger there. All the while thinking “nice try, trickster Sprog.” I worked on finishing a dress I was knitting for Teagan. I’d sworn I would get all but weaving in the ends done and then Sprog would come and I had a few inches left on the skirt. So, frantically, I knit. At 3 pm I was confident enough that I was in “probably labor” but felt that it would take awhile so I sent Izzy to pick Teagan up from school rather than having my friend Leigh pick her up. Leigh had graciously signed up to manage Teagan at Sprog’s birth. While he was gone, I called the birth center to give them a heads up. The nurses told me to call back when my contractions were about 4 minutes apart and stronger. I was informed that Sandy was on call for the evening. Sweeeeet.
Izzy got home with Teagan at 4 pm and was happy to see I’d not had a baby while he was gone. I was breathing harder through the contractions, which were about 5 minutes apart but still easy. We ate dinner and got some last minute things squared away. I instructed Leigh and Jenna do the same. At 5 pm, Sandy called to remind me that second labors can go much faster. I took a shower and despite the calming hot water, I had some strong contractions. That and the persist reminders I was receiving from my squaws, Leigh, Jenna, and Sandy that I’d rather not give birth in the parking lot of a Circle K prompted me to make the call that we’d convene at birth center at 6:45 pm. GO TIME! Or, at least it had better be GO TIME.
My contractions spaced out along the 15 minute car ride, as I suspected they would. Feeling a bit like I might have jumped the gun, we arrived at the birth center to Jenna snapping pics.
I got my pick of rooms and went for the one I’d been told feels secluded and that had a lower bed. I felt that those qualities were amenable to having a 3-year-old present at the birth. Bonus points that that room contained the same bed I labored in during Teagan’s birth, the same bed that Leigh’s first daughter had been born in, and was the room where Leigh gave birth to her second daughter. The room had good juju. It also wasn’t pink.
She instructed me to chill, walk, do whatever I needed to do to get my labor ramped back up. Leigh snagged Teagan and distracted her with the movie Frozen, which we’d secured and delayed viewing of just for birthy distraction purposes. Leigh had also brought a bag of crafty goodies for Teagan.
On the way out, Teagan asked if we could go home. I pointed to my tummy and said, “this needs to come out then we can go home.” She went back to Frozen and Izzy, Jenna, and I headed out into the warm Tucson darkness.
Walking immediately brought my contractions closer and stronger. We made laps around the grounds (parking lot), chatted, and stopped every 4 minutes so I could hang on Izzy/a tree/a handicap sign/a bike rack.
Halfway through our first lap, Izzy caught a giant biting Asian longhorn beetle. I decided not to interpret its presence as some sort of omen. We headed back to show Teagan our find. She was thoroughly enthused.
With each lap, I’d come in and they’d space out. Clearly walking was going to be my thing. It was my thing during Teagan’s birth when I was staring a hospital transfer in the face due to my waters having broken and labor being fickle. Things were moving along but I felt that nagging pressure to show some proof that I should be there and I felt guilty for having called my birth team together to watch me pace the parking lot.
Frustration, guilt, and denial swept over me. I desperately wanted to try to sleep but I was scared it would make my labor slow even more or (gasp) make it stop.
I asked Jenna what would happen if they sent me home. She looked at me like I was a crazy person and told me that they weren’t going to send me home. I wavered back and forth between feeling that all too familiar pressure to perform and feeling like maybe, just maybe, things were progressing just as they should be and I was having an easier time just because this was my second labor and I was experiencing contractions without my waters having broke. I decided sleep was what I needed but first I needed to see what was going on with my cervix. I tiptoed out to the desk and asked the nurse to send Sandy in. Sandy came in and asked me why I wanted to know where I was at (see, Sandy’s the shit). I told her I’d have a better time sleeping if I knew because I’d either KNOW I needed rest because I had a long way to go or I’d KNOW that is was OK to relax because things were well on their way to baby. As if that made any sense, Sandy obliged me. I was 5 cm and 80 % effaced.
So, I was somewhere between KNOWING and KNOWING and knew I needed to sleep. I sent Jenna out to rest her eyes. Sandy started filling the tub so that it would be there if I needed it. While I tried to relax in the bed, I had two doozies of contractions.
Hearing the water filling in the tub tempted me. I was past the 5 cm mark so the tub was an option but I wanted to hold off a little bit more so that my labor wouldn’t stall. I chose to go sit on the toilet for a bit. One contraction later I decided it was tub time.
It was midnight, June 12th. I found the tub immensely soothing just as I had for Teagan’s birth. The tub was my turning point in Teagan’s birth. I’d no longer had anything to prove. I’d just needed to breathe. I’d just needed to hold on for dear life. I was hoping for a repeat but my doubts lingered. My contractions were still pretty easy despite vocalizing through them and they weren’t coming in any consistent pattern. 4 minutes, 10 minutes, 7 minutes, double peak at 10 minutes. At 1 am, I felt I needed a potty break. One contraction on the toilet flushed (ha!) away any doubt that the tub was where it was at. In the bathroom, my contractions were 2 minutes apart and INTENSE.
Back in the tub, a big yellow noodle became my very best friend in the whole world. My contractions were 4 minutes apart and much more manageable than those in the bathroom. Between contractions, I would squat and roll my hips, trying to get Sprog to nestle the hell down onto my cervix. I felt feet all up in my ribs. It was a party in there. When a contraction hit, I leaned forward onto my noodly friend and moaned.
At 1:45 am, Sandy came in to see how I was doing. She liked the sounds I was making and that encouraged me. I compared what I was feeling to Teagan’s birth and did some math and settled on thinking Sprog would arrive some time around 6am or so. So squat and lean and moan I did. I’d asked Izzy to stop timing my contractions because the numbers were swimming in my head and distracting me. I had a sense they were getting closer because my squatting periods were getting shorter. Izzy went and got Jenna so she could get some shots of me laboring in the tub. I was far less aware of her presence at this point. It was all about me and my yellow noodle.
At 2:40 am, I felt my body push a little with a contraction. Just a little. “No way”, I thought, “Where was transition? I’m clearly pushing too early and Sprog is just playing tricks AGAIN.” At 2:45 am (obviously I’m running off Izzy’s notes at this point), the nurse came in after hearing the change in my vocalizations. Sandy followed. They checked Sprog’s heartbeat with the Doppler and I could tell Sprog had received my message to settle down based upon where they were aiming the probe. Little involuntary pushes quickly became big involuntary pushes with the next 2-3 contractions. I remembered that I wanted to try more effective pushing positions this time around in the hopes of shortening my pushing phase. I had pushed for 45 minutes with Teagan and I probably would have not pushed so long had I not just been clinging to the side of the tub. I squatted for one contraction and kneeled for the next. I was getting a good 4 or 5 minutes between contractions to regroup. Sandy saw that my cervix had a bit of a lip so she reached in to massage it away. All at once I wanted to kill her for the pain she was administering and I wanted to kiss her for I knew exactly why she was doing what she was doing.
It felt surreal that I was already pushing. I yelled to Izzy to go get Teagan, not realizing he had just left to do just that. In a flurry, I saw Izzy carry a sleepy Teagan into the room and I saw Sandy rustling with supplies on the bed. I got excited. I felt energized. All the doubt, guilt, and frustration were long gone. Sprog was coming!
According to Sandy, my water broke in the tub at this point. I was feeling great. In lots of pain, sure, but great. Sandy advised me that getting out of the tub would have the baby out faster. I momentarily mourned a second water birth, had another contraction in the tub, then scurried to the bed as best as a woman can scurry in such a situation. Sandy positioned me on the bed and advised me to lay on my side and grab my leg. I immediately felt the difference with the next contraction. My push moved Sprog down and I started to feel the burn. The next contraction brought Sprog’s head to the “right there” point. I knew it was almost over. I knew I was about to meet my second child. I felt Izzy and Teagan’s presence … and Sandy’s fingers. She asked me to breathe a bit and hold back through the next contraction. I did my best to oblige. She gave me the go on the next contraction and with that and a lot of yelling, I pushed out my baby’s head. Sprog was real. Sprog was my baby now. One more contraction and baby was here and on my chest in a flash! I looked down and found girly parts. “It’s a girl!! Teagan, you have a baby sister!!” Teagan said, “I TOLD you it was a girl, guys!”
I gazed at my new daughter. I hugged and kissed Teagan and Izzy. Baby girl wailed. Leigh was in the hall conveying the news to the squaws. The squaws rejoiced. Jenna stealthily documented every moment. As my new family of four bonded, Sandy announced that the cord had finished pulsing. Teagan got to cut the cord with Izzy’s help. She rocked it. A few minutes later Sandy asked me to give a gentle push and out popped the placenta. I don’t think I even felt it. I got to getting baby girl latched while Sandy determined that I wasn’t in need of stitches (score!). Teagan announced that she was tired. Leigh took her back to the community room for some shuteye.
Izzy and I ogled our newest little wonder for a bit then I demanded a shower. I rinsed off quickly then we got down to the business of picking a name. We’d narrowed it down to 2 girl names but hadn’t spoken about it much in the previous few weeks. I decided the best course of action was for us each to say our favorite on the count of three. Together we said, “1, 2, 3, Farrah!”
Farrah Fossey Vaughn entered the world at 3:30 am on Thursday, June 12th, 2014. To my surprise, she baked 12 days longer than her older sister. She weighed in at 7 lbs 14 oz, and measured 19.75 inches long. Despite the extended wait time, frustration, guilt, and denial, her birth was everything I’d hoped for and more. I’m madly in love with my new family, grateful for an outstanding support team, and astounded by how good I feel considering I just rocketed a baby out.