Our baby was due May 1, 2005, which came and went. After calling our Bradley teacher, Resa, for some moral support on the afternoon of May 9, I finally began having my first contractions at 10:05 that night! I was excited for sure! Joe, who was a USMC series commander at Parris Island, was a little weary that I was going into labor that night. He had been up with his Marine recruits since 4:30 that morning. I told him to go to sleep, and I’d wake him when I needed him.
At that point, I ate yogurt and a granola bar, drank water, walked around my house, showered, and tried to nap. I definitely remembered what I had learned in Bradley class! Contractions started 12 minutes apart, and while I tried to nap they continued to get closer together, while still mild in intensity.
Around 5:00 AM on Tuesday, May 10, I awakened Joe, figuring that 7 hours of sleep would have to be good enough for him. My contractions were 5-6 minutes apart and more intense, though still manageable. I knew I needed to stay upright as much as possible for the baby to move down in a good position, so we set out on our pre-dawn walk. We walked around our neighborhood for 2 1/2 hours while the dew fell, the sun rose, and our beloved gnats came out to say “Good morning.” Many honorable Marines stopped by us on their way to the base as I leaned on Joe for support through the contractions. They looked very concerned and offered to take us to the hospital. We politely told them we were doing fine, but would be having the baby sometime that day.
By 7:30, we went back to the house and ate eggs and toast. We packed our bags and put them in the car, then I did some pelvic rocks. We went out for another walk; this time only 45 minutes. The Beaufort heat was already too much at 9:30 in the morning! We continued to move around our house while Joe massaged my lower back. We called our families and told them today was the day. They were entirely too excited. 😉
Labor continued to intensifiy over the next several hours as the contractions grew closer together. Around 1:00 PM, I needed to get into the side lying position to handle the contractions. Joe turned off all the lights, put on a Sara Groves CD, got the house as cool as possible, and helped me to relax through each contraction. Around 2:30, I was in need of real relief. He filled our enormous garden tub with warm water, and I labored there for the next 2 1/2 hours. I got out at 5:00 to pelvic rock. Labor was truly rocking and rolling through me at this point. I was hurting! My parents arrived at that time, and I began to tell Joe that I couldn’t do it anymore through some tears. Joe said resolutely, “It’s time to go to the hospital. Now!” We got in the car, and I struggled to manage my contractions through the 12-minute ride to the hospital.
We arrived, were escorted to triage, and as the nurse checked my cervix, I lost my mucous plug as she shouted to another nurse: “This girl’s at 9 cm! Get her in a room RIGHT NOW!” She unlocked the wheels on that hospital bed, and raced me down the hall to a delivery room, running as fast as she could. I was hooked up to an EFM and a BP cuff in a seated, upright position. This totally stressed me out as I was strapped in the bed, and I began to hyperventilate and cry even more. An L&D nurse grabbed my face in her hand and yelled at me, “BREATHE: hut, hut, hoo, hoo!” Joe firmly said, “We have learned to breathe abdominally. She is not going to breathe that way. Could you possibly get us another nurse?” And that lady stormed out of the room. Joe refocused me on the task at hand and helped me to breathe deeply through the next several contractions that were right on top of each other. At 6:35, a new nurse checked my cervix and told me I was 10 cm. She gave me permission to push. Unfortunately, I did not have the urge to push, but decided I would push anyway. This is where a doula would have been needed! I pushed with each contraction for what seemed like a short time, but was actually 50 minutes. As the baby began to crown, I yelled, “It burns like fire!” Then as he began to emerge I screamed, “GET IT OUT. GET IT OUT!!” Finally, I felt the whole body come out…. what a huge relief! Dr. Shippey announced, “It’s a BOY!”
I couldn’t wait to have him laid on my chest! I looked up at my husband, who kissed me through tears. I don’t think I had ever felt that much excitement and joy ever before. And I marvelled that only seconds earlier I had been yelling in pain! How amazing was that!? Joe told me over and over, “You did it! I’m so proud! I knew you could!” I began breastfeeding our little Joseph, and about an hour later the placenta was released and “born.” Our families came in to meet him, and we all sang “The Doxology” to give thanks for this sweet human spirit that had been entrusted to us.
This day is forever burned into my heart, and if I live to be 100, I’ll never forget it. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gifts.”
~II Corinthians 9:15
I had continued the Brewer pregnancy diet that I had used from the Bradley Method from my first pregnancy. I took my daily exercise pretty seriously, and had a three-mile loop that I walked six days a week while pushing the stroller. I pushed myself to get up at 6:20 every morning and walk before the Mississippi heat controlled the day. I mainly just tried to stay cool since my entire last trimester covered the months of June, July and August.
On Saturday, September 2, I decided to treat myself to a pedicure, since I knew the baby would be coming soon. I was sure it would definitely not come on it’s due date, which was September 3, because everybody knows that only 5% of babies are spontaneously born on their due dates. Right? And knowing that my last baby was nine days overdue, I was figuring that I’d keep tracking like that last one. Famous last words. Anyway, back to the pedicure. I was enjoying someone making my feet look pretty since pregnancy feet need all the help they can get. But I was having low and steady back pain through the whole thing. A little annoying, but I was guessing that I had overdone my walk that morning. Not a big deal.
I went home and finished stocking my freezer. My goal was to have sixteen frozen meals put away before the big day, and so I baked four different kinds of quiche that afternoon. I bagged them, labeled them, marked them with a “T” and put them in the freezer for baby and me…. and then patted myself on the back for meeting my goal. But that low, achey backpain was still there, not leaving me alone. I made sandwiches for Joe, Joseph and myself, put Joseph to bed, then told Joe that I was going to bed early.
Like all women in their last weeks of pregnancy, I got up around 1:30 that morning to go to the bathroom. Two steps across my bedroom, I felt a trickle of water (?) go down my leg. I was hoping that I wasn’t losing my bladder control, but who can really be sure at 40 weeks pregnant? I went to the bathroom, but all I could really tell was that I needed to urinate. I got back in the bed and went to sleep. I woke up at 2:30 again, but realized that I was waking up because I was having contractions this time. I was thinking, “Crazy! It’s my due date. I can’t really be in labor!” I timed them. They were 6 minutes apart. I woke up Joe. I told him I was in labor. He called our friends (who had to be REAL friends since it was almost 3:00 AM), the Morrow’s, and Rhonda came right over to get Joseph. I jumped in the shower to freshen up for the big day. I got out and packed my bag. Then I thought I needed to do something to waste time because I kept thinking about how L-O-N-G my last labor was. Well, I knew I wanted to do some deep relaxing, and my favorite place to do that is the bathtub, so in I went. I dozed off and on for the next hour while in a wonderfully warm bath. My contractions were getting closer together, but weren’t super intense. They were under control, and I was in control. I was liking this.
After that hour, I decided to get out of the tub. I was pretty pruny, after all. The second I stood up, I felt the baby’s head drastically drop. I yelled, “JOE! We need to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW!!!” I threw my clothes on, grabbed my bag and went right to the car. My contractions became super intense, out of nowhere. I sat in the car. Alone. And waited. And waited a little more. Now I was mad. What in the heck could he be doing?! He heard me yell. He saw me walk to the car. I laid on the horn in our 4-Runner. I woke up all our neighbors. Surely that would get his attention. I could see every light in our house turn off, one by one. Had this man lost his mind? Now was not the time to care about saving money or conserving energy. He walked to the back door, and I saw him reach into his pocket to get his keys to lock the door. And that was when I lost it. I laid on the horn again. Who cares about a locked house when a baby is going to be born in a vehicle, I ask you? Startled, he ran to the car and jumped in. “What’s going on?” asked Joe Steele. I screamed, “JUST DRIVE!!!”
So drive he did. We only had an eight-minute drive to the hospital. He was going fast. Down a very bump-ity 23rd Ave. Any Meridianite can tell you, it is a bumpy street. The problem was that my law-abiding, do-the-right-thing-even-when-no-one-is-looking husband was STOPPING at the red lights. At 4:45 AM. Yes, when there were no other cars on the road at all. I punched him as hard as I could between contractions and said things that I won’t write here because they aren’t nice.
He swerved into the parking lot at the hospital, and I threw myself out of the vehicle. I immediately got on my hands and knees and told him I needed to push, right then and there. I screamed very loudly, “Take my panties off!” (I was wearing a skirt.) To that he said, “NO! I am not. No, no, no. Do not have the baby out here.” At this point, I should tell you that we were very close to the entrance. The linen service truck was there, dropping off the clean hospital linens. And that truck driver was just standing there, with his arms crossed, watching the whole thing. Just watching.
The next thing I know, a huge, 300+ pound woman in scrubs comes barrelling at me with a wheelchair. She grabbed one of my arms and one of my legs and threw me into the wheelchair. She ran with all her might to the elevator, where another nurse was standing with the door open. The four of us got in the elevator, and as it started to ascend, the nurse asked, “Has your water broken?” To which I replied, “Well, umm, there’s the head right there.” She felt up my skirt and said, “OMG! The baby’s crowned!!” The elevator doors opened, and we ran down the hall.
About five steps into the hallway, I yelled, “JOE, catch the baby!” To which he stepped in front of the wheelchair, and indeed caught the little wet thing before his tiny head hit the floor. With one hand, I might add. He looked incredulously at me for a second, then handed me the baby. It WAS a boy! But I was really sitting there in shock, thinking, but not able to say, “What just happened? I’m wearing all my clothes–yes, still my panties– and I didn’t even give one push, and a baby just flew out of me like a torpedo.” Dr. Trest ran up to me and said, “Time of birth: 05:00. Well, I guess you didn’t need any of us. That’s what we call ‘precipitous’ birth! You ready to cut the cord, Joe?”
And that was a day for the books, folks. Riley Hospital nurses told my story to all women who went on the birth tour of their L&D ward. The point of their story was when NOT to come to the hospital. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t have changed a thing. Except maybe the part about my overly-cautious and sometimes slow husband, whom I still dearly love.
Because my grandaddy had died, my family made an unexpected trip out to South Carolina for the funeral. I stayed there with the boys for an extra couple of weeks, as my husband was a full-time divinity student at this time and had to be in Jackson for classes. I would sit on my parents couch every night and watch TV while having regular contractions. They were stronger than Braxton-Hicks, so I discussed with my mom what my options for delivery would be in Savannah if I happened to really go into labor. However, these contractions would stop after about 3 hours of regularity every night. I figured my body was just doing a good job of getting ready for the real thing.
Finally, when I was 38 1/2 weeks, I decided it was time to make the trek back to Mississippi. Of course, everyone related to me was very concerned that I was traveling back with two toddlers and a very large abdomen. But I had done more difficult things in my short lifetime than make a simple 9 hour drive. And besides, I knew I was very capable of delivering the baby on the side of road if need be. I had no fear. Oh, and let’s not forget that my previous babies had come at 41 1/2 weeks and 40 weeks. I knew time was on my side. After deciding to stop in Atlanta and spend the night with the Holton’s, the boys and I made it safely back to Meridian at the end of my 38th week. Baby was still safe and sound in the womb.
I spent the whole week baking dinners and breakfasts to stock my freezer. My friend, Sarah, even watched my boys two whole days that week to let me cook without needing to tend my children. By the time Saturday, July 26 rolled around, I was pleased with the way my freezer looked, and declared my work was done. I then decided it was time to do serious house cleaning, so I spent the whole day scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing. It was nesting at it’s finest.
I was pooped that night as we put the boys to bed. It was 8:05 PM, and I sat down on the couch for some much-needed rest in a quiet house. I was planning on finishing Dickens’ David Copperfield that night, so I had just picked it up. But at 8:10, I had what I knew was a real contraction. I waited for the next one: 8:18. The next one: 8:25. I told Joe I was having contractions. He asked me how they felt. I told him, “Real.” He said he did not want a repeat of our last labor.
We had actually been planning a home birth for this baby, but found out earlier that week that our insurance would not cover our midwife. Thankfully, I had also been seeing Linda McClendon, a midwife who delivered at Rush Hospital, for my prenatals as well. So we were pleased to have her attend our birth and knew she was on board with our everything on our birth plan, and optimistic and encouraging about natural birth. Huge bonus.
Joe decided to call our friends, the Hunt’s, to see if he could take the boys over there to spend the night. They were happy to let them stay and take them on to church in the morning. While Joe was taking them there, I decided that making cookies would be the best way to pass the time. My contractions were consistently 5-6 minutes apart, but easy to handle. Making double chocolate chocolate chip cookies with pecans was my favorite way to raise my endorphin and blood sugar level, so that was what I did for the next hour. A few of those with a tall glass of milk had me smiling when he returned home. I told him I was still having mild contractions. It was 9:30, and I had two batches baked and one batch of frozen dough, so I was going to get a shower.
After showering and doing my hair and makeup (I totally wanted to look “prepared” for those after-birth photos), my contractions were still 5-6 minutes and mild. They weren’t changing at all. I thought (according to my last labor) I would be giving birth by now. Oh, well. I told Joe to go on to sleep and I’d let him know when I needed him. I did remember that getting in the bathtub last time seemed to really do the trick. So in I went. I napped here and there for the next two hours while in the warm bath. Still no hard contractions. “What is going on here?”, is what I kept thinking. It was 1:00 AM, so I got out, dried off, and pulled out our beach towels to lay on the bed in case my water broke. I was going to bed.
At 3:55 I felt a “pop” and a gush of water. STILL NO HARD CONTRACTIONS. Still 5-6 minutes apart. I woke Joe up, and told him maybe we should go to the hospital?? Like a man who’s previously been with a woman in labor, he said he would do whatever I wanted, so he put our bags in the car, and we calmly and quietly drove to the hospital. He was telling me, “Well, this isn’t anything like last time. Are you really sure about this?” I told him I really wasn’t, actually. I had no emotional signposts at all.
We arrived at the hospital at 4:32. They had us in a room five minutes later. Linda was on-call that night (yay!), so she came right in and checked my cervix. She told me I was 9 cm. I said, “Really? Cause I don’t even feel like I’m in labor.” She laughed and said we’d be meeting the baby momentarily. I laid on my left side, wondering how long it would be. I had two harder contractions, but deeply breathed through them and felt fine. All of a sudden I said, “I’ve got to push!” Joe said, “No way! This is like a labor from the Twilight Zone.” We both laughed, and I said, “Yeah, I guess so. I can’t believe I’m giving birth!”
I got on my hands and knees to get ready. That definitely felt the most comfortable. Linda asked if three nursing students could come watch a natural delivery. I laughed and said, “Why not? Every nursing student needs to see a natural birth!” My next contraction came. I gave one easy push. The baby’s head delivered. I gave one more push, and it was fully out. Linda said, “This makes boy #3!” I was delighted! I had always wanted three boys in a row! Time of birth was 05:00. Just like last time.
And oddly enough, just like the last time, it was also on a Sunday morning, and it was also on my due date. She laid him on my chest and he breastfed right away. He weighed in at 7 lb. 15 1/2 oz. and 20 1/2 in. I couldn’t believe I had just laughed through that birth! If any birth had ever been labeled “fun” that was it! We were so thankful to have the experience of a calm, quiet, and light-hearted delivery. Nathan was for sure my easiest and most content baby, and I can’t help but think it had something to do with his birth. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
We decided early in our pregnancy that we wanted to home birth our baby. After having 3 hospital births, we were more than ready to experience birth in the comfort of our own home. Having had several friends who had gone before me down this path, I was excited and looking forward to it.
I had seen my CNM, Linda McClendon, for several prenatal visits in addition to seeing my home birth midwives, Sibylle and Debbie. Linda knew I was planning a home birth and was supportive of my wishes. I loved the fact that my visits with Sibylle and Debbie were so personal and time was not an issue. I felt like they were members of our family.
Around my 33rd week, I began to think my baby was breech. I was feeling hiccups up in my ribcage, and when I felt for body parts, it seemed that the head would always bob up at my ribs. I didn’t worry too much, as I knew the baby had time to move. And there was so much going on with 3 boys and a big trip to Germany with my husband that I didn’t put too much thought into it. I spent my 34th and 35th week in Germany since we were planning to plant a church there, and then returned back to Meridian.
I still was feeling a breech baby when I went to see Linda at 37 weeks. She said the only way to tell for sure was to do an ultrasound, which I declined. She felt around my belly for body parts, and said she didn’t feel a breech baby. I had a home visit from Sibylle and Debbie at 38 weeks and told them the same things. They both took my measurements and felt around my belly and said exactly what Linda said.
Meanwhile, I wanted to research breech birth since I still felt an unusual position with this baby. So, I found that Canada, our northern neighbor, still routinely delivers over 70% of their breech babies vaginally, and so does the UK. But I found out that the USA had basically “outlawed” breech delivery per ACOG guidelines as of the year 2000. This left me feeling pretty dissatisfied, as I had 4 personal friends who were my own age who were all vaginally delivered breech back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I was somehow confused that the female body around the year 2000 seemed to have been determined to be unable to deliver a breech baby in America by ACOG.
Since doctors in Mississippi don’t deliver breech babies anymore, I knew that home birth was our only option, and glad that it had been our plan all along. Thankfully, Sibylle had been trained to deliver breech babies in Germany when she was a young midwife in the late 1940’s there, and had the skill to deliver one… even though everyone had told me that they didn’t think my baby was breech. 😉
The one concern I had was the distance from Sibylle’s house to mine. Long Beach to Meridian was quite a ways, and considering that John-Mark was born in 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, I was worried about getting her there in time. I told her that, and she just told me that we were going to pray for a sign of pre labor. So we did.
On Sunday, July 11, we were having visitors over after church for Sunday dinner, as is our usual practice. Around 2 PM, we were still sitting at the table talking with our friends when I had two mild contractions. I excused myself and went to the restroom. I was losing my mucous plug. This was the first time I had ever lost it before I was 9 cm dilated and getting ready to push. God had been pleased to hear our prayer, and this was what we had prayed for. I called Debbie and Sibylle and told them. They said they’d be there in a few hours. I continued to have a few erratic contractions that afternoon. Our guests left.
Debbie and Sibylle arrived around 5:30 that evening. They stopped in, saw I was definitely not in active labor, and went and visited their other clients and friends that were in Meridian. They came back around 10 PM after I had been a 3 mile walk, and we all headed to get some sleep. I woke up at 2:30 AM having contractions. I told Joe to wake up. He watched me for about 15 minutes, and then went to get our midwives out of our guest room. My water broke on the toilet around 3 AM. I went to do deep relaxation in our bed for the next hour. Joe held my hand and prayed. Around 4 AM I got back on the toilet. I wiped and saw meconium staining. I told Sibylle, and she checked me. In her deep German accent, she said, “Well, the mother was right. This baby is breech, and every contraction will give us a bit of meconium as it squeezes the baby’s rear end.” Joe prayed some more. I spent the next 45 minutes on the toilet because that felt the most comfortable. I quietly deep breathed through each contraction. At 10 minutes til 5:00, I stood up. I needed to move and adjust my body. I wiggled around the bathroom. After a couple minutes I told Sibylle I needed to push in no uncertain terms. She tried to get me to move to the bed, but I said no way. I spread my legs as far apart as I could, leaned my upper body on the bathroom counter, and sunk down into a modified supported squat. I pushed once and the buttocks were born and the legs flopped down while I felt my pubic bone separate and I screamed out. Sibylle threw down a towel and got on her 84-year-old knees. Joe looked down and yelled, “I can’t believe it!!!! It’s a GIRL!!!!!!!” She told me she wanted the rest of the body born with the next push. I kept saying, “No way. No way. No way. It can’t be a girl!” And here it came. One big contraction, one big push, and the rest of that little girl was born. It had been maybe 20 seconds from first push to last push. She immediately held our little girl up, and Susie let out quite a scream. Sibylle checked and there had been no meconium aspiration. She handed her to me. We went to our bed to lay down. She was just as pink as could be and had a good set of lungs. She had a true knot in her cord as well. She nursed about 15 minutes later. I still COULD NOT believe I had a girl. Susanna Joy was born at 4:56 AM on Monday, July 12; one day before her due date at 7 lb. 1 oz. and 20 in.
As I laid there, Joe prepared breakfast for everybody: scrambled cheese eggs, deer sausage, toast with butter and blueberry jam, and orange juice. I enjoyed every bite. 🙂 A few hours later the boys came in and met the sister they had prayed for. They were as much in love with her as Joe and I were.
My heart was full of thanks for a breech baby, safely delivered with skill by a midwife, that would have otherwise been a cesarean in a hospital. And my, oh my, we finally had a girl! So grateful that God has a hand in all things, for our good and for His glory.
Elizabeth put my heart and mind at rest, and continually assured me that I could do this; and I believed her. She was not only a doula; during labour she was also like a mother, a friend, and a coach, all wrapped up into one.