“Don’t pick that up!”
“Put that down!”
“No, that really IS too heavy for you!”
These were the exclamations that filled my ears in the last weeks of my pregnancy as we hurried and scurried to prepare to move as my due date loomed closer and closer!
Jesse or Mom would say something akin to “You’re gonna put yourself into labor!” I’d think, “Good! Finally!”
But then I’d sigh and reluctantly put down the all-too heavy box I was attempting to lift and plop my very sore body down on whatever piece of furniture I could find amongst the chaos to watch as everyone else made themselves useful.
I really did want to have this child in our beautiful new home, though, I was huge and tired and wanted my baby.
And I did.
On Thursday, I had everyone on eggshells as we closed on our house. Any time I shifted in my seat, I’d to look up to anxious faces that would erupt into nervous chuckles. We made it through the day, going straight from the closing to the new house with our fully-loaded truck to begin our transition. That evening after, again, watching everyone work themselves to exhaustion, I mentioned I might have the baby that night.
Mom and Jesse groaned tiredly and protested, “No, please.”
Friday and Saturday were much the same. I hurt if I helped, I hurt if I sat, and I felt guilty feeling bored when everyone else was working so hard. But I had a terrible case of nesting. I was finally in the right house, and I was eager to make it mine.
Finally we made it to Saturday evening. We were relaxing all together after a very productive day. Most things were unpacked and the place was tidy – it was even pretty!
I said, “What about tonight?”
Mom smiled and said, “Tonight would be fine!”
So, I asked, “Then, will you stretch me?”
I meant stretch my cervix, and boy did she!
Then we all hurried off to bed.
Right around 1:00 am. I woke and was immediately disgruntled I didn’t seem to be in labor at all. I trudged off to the bathroom where I had a contraction on the toilet that made me re-think my state of labor-lessness – a powerful reminder how intense the whole thing was going to be!
Jackie, Jesse’s Mom, was asleep on our couch and my Mom was asleep in our basement. After several contractions on the toilet, my cardinal sign of early labor – a case of loose stools – finally subsided and I was able to leave the bathroom. I texted Mom, “Seems to have worked” and I went down the stairs to fetch her, stopping every couple of steps for a good contraction. I made use of the toilet once again while she brushed her teeth and hair, then we headed back upstairs and I went in the tub. Jackie sat in there with me as Mom woke Jesse, summoned Jenni, my apprentice, and got things ready for the birth.
For a while in the tub I felt nervous, but good – in control and excited to meet my baby.
That quickly changed as my labor careened into transition. I could no longer get comfortable in the water and I grew increasingly more fearful. I left the tub and went to the bed.
When I had Evangeline nearly two years before, I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to handle labor. I hadn’t even been convinced I really was in labor until it was nearly time to push. I was just lost in the process and very peaceful.
This time, I knew I could do it but was struggling mightily to want to do it.
There was no hurrying and scurrying to distract me. Everyone was there, peaceful and calm and waiting. And that filled me with impatience. I felt I’d waited so long! If everything was ready and in place, I just wanted it done.
Contraction after contraction came and I knew I wasn’t fully dilated. The front, low part of my belly pinched and burned during contractions, so, I knew I had a lip of cervix in the front. They put hot wash cloths across the spot and that helped so much.
At last I felt like I had to push, but I was nervous about my cervix. I checked and sure enough, a lip of it was still there. I was so disappointed. With the next few contractions I tried to press it back while I pushed but, OUCH! I feel now more fully for every brave woman whose cervix I’ve held for them. It didn’t want to get out of the way, though I sooo felt like pushing. I went back and forth between breathing through those intense urges to push and checking to see if it had slipped back past my baby’s head.
I was very much in my head in this birth. I was afraid, again, to tear – afraid I would tear even without pushing. I could feel my baby moving lower with each contraction, and it was happening so much faster and with more intensity than I remembered. I began to panic a little because I knew I shouldn’t push against my cervix, but I could hardly help it!
Somewhere right in here Mom said we’d better wake Evangeline if she was going to be able to see the birth. I said something like, “What? Not yet!” thinking it would take a long time of pushing and despairing at the thought.
But Mom insisted I was close, so, Jackie brought her in. I remember looking into those sleepy eyes, the eyes of my current baby as she calmly surveyed the room, listening to her Grandma say, “The baby’s going to come out of Mama’s belly now.”
I rolled onto my back and felt for that cervix again. I was pushing and it wasn’t there, but I was still scared. I felt sure I would tear – the baby was really coming fast! I wasn’t relaxing, and I certainly wasn’t surrendering.
At this point I said, “The baby’s coming too fast! I’m gonna tear! It really hurts!”
Mom said, “If your body’s doing it this fast, you can trust it. Just don’t add a lot to it.”
That made sense and broke through my fear.
I needed to trust.
What a difference! It wasn’t nearly as painful after that. I felt the pain receding as I pressed sweet Elyse Hannah, into my husband’s waiting hands. Her shoulders were a bit hesitant to come and Mom said, “Really push Hannah.”
I tried, but my muscles felt all backwards as I’d spent the whole time trying NOT to push. She frowned when nothing happened with my “effort” and said, “Okay, better flip over to hands and knees.”
I quickly said, “I can push better!” absolutely not wanting to move. I gathered my strength and pushed with all my might and she slipped right out. Her cord was looped around her neck once and around one of her shoulders, too. She was slightly blue, but cried right away and felt so good right on my chest!
Jesse moved up into the bed next to me. Evangeline joined us, peaking at her sister. It’s all a bit of a blur, I was so relieved and a little shocked, but it was a beautiful blur of hands and kisses and hugs. My little family shifted from three to four, right there on my bed, in our house – surrounded by our moms, our midwives, and our friends – roles that overlapped beautifully.
It was peaceful and good and how birth should be. It was how beginnings should be.
I love it as my birth.
I love it as my job.
I love it as my hobby.
This is my passion. This is my calling.
Hannah Evangeline Simmons, wife, mom, midwife ♥
Photographs by Jenni, Hannah’s apprentice, and Kim
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife. And Grandma ♥