I must start her birth story about a month before my due date. The previous month had been a tough one, with all 4 of my girls coming down with a long, miserable virus and many sleepless nights. Mark and I also came down with sickness, although thankfully not the virus. Needless to say, I was sleep deprived, utterly exhausted, and my immune system was down. Shingles chose that unfortunate time to strike and it is honestly the most painful illness I have ever endured. Between the baby kicking my bladder and the intense pain of the shingles, I could not sleep at all. Only a month left before our sweet blessing arrived (if she waited that long!), and I could not do anything to get ready. It hurt to even walk around, let alone clean the house or wash baby clothes. Also, we had no room for the new baby yet. My husband and his Dad were busy putting up a wall to make a new bedroom for the big girls so the baby could take theirs, but in the meantime, the house was a chaotic construction zone and everything from our former family room (think tons of books and games and art supplies) was scattered around the house, waiting for me to feel good enough to find new homes for them. It was a miserable time but we are so thankful for amazing family and friends who brought us meals and helped take care of the girls when I was in too much pain to move. And we all just prayed hard that Alyssa would stay put until I felt better enough to get the house back in order and be able to take care of her!
Finally, after about 2 1/2 weeks of intense shingles pain, it finally lessened (turned into very frustrating itching) and I was able to start doing the things I needed to get ready for our baby girl! It was such a joy to wash her little clothes and finally set up her new room! But I still didn't feel great and still had much work to do to get the house back in order and continued to pray that she would not come til we were ready.
About a week before her due date, news reports claimed the coming of the biggest/ closest full moon in about 70 years on Monday. The old wives tales say that full moons bring on babies and my delivery nurse friends and chiropractor readily agree. (My OB, however, says that a change in barometric pressure affects labor the most.) I began to wonder if it would affect me at all. My 2nd born had come a week early so it would not be a surprise for this baby to come that early. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks since about 15 weeks and they had been stronger and more frequent the past week. But I really wasn't ready for this baby to come yet...
Sunday morning dawned and my 3 year old seemed sick again... some kind of stomach virus. And my husband had come down with a miserable sore throat. I had gotten the baby's room and clothes ready, but had not yet had the time to sort through all the junk from our family room, let alone deep clean the house since my neglect during the shingles. But regardless of whether I was ready, the pull of the moon brought strong, painful contractions that evening. My husband was trying to discuss baby names with me and the pain was too much for me to even hold a conversation with him! I honestly was overcome by fear, once again reminded how much labor hurts. I just wasn't ready to do this! I needed my husband healthy and my house straight and my faith stronger. I went straight to bed and just lay there and ached and prayed the contractions would cease. I wrote down the times of my contractions and they were pretty constant for about an hour and a half, a lot of times only a couple of minutes apart. But they didn't grow worse and finally ceased and I drifted off to sleep. I was so thankful!
The next day, my body seemed to be cleansing itself, getting ready for labor. But the contractions never returned! My poor mother-in-law kept her suitcase and make-up in the car all week long, thinking labor would start again and she would need to rush over and take care of the girls. But God gave me just the week I needed to get everyone healthy, my house clean and straight, and my courage revived.
(Note: many people have wondered why I chose to birth at a hospital this time rather than the birthing center I used last time. It was a purely financial decision. I absolutely loved the birthing center and my midwife and would go there again in a heartbeat, but our insurance changed and we just didn't have the extra almost $2000 it would take to do the birthing center rather than the hospital. I had heard many good things about this particular OB and after meeting him, I felt he would be perfect for delivering our baby.)
On Friday morning I went to see my OB and he told me he would be on call the next day. I love my OB (He has 11 kids his wife birthed naturally so he really understands me!) and I knew he would be on vacation for Thanksgiving after that, so I immediately started praying that I would go into labor on Saturday when he was there. I did a bunch of exercises that are supposed to help spur on labor and texted Mark that I wanted to eat spicy Mexican for dinner since many people affirm that spicy foods help encourage labor. There is also a particular pizza place in our area known for its patrons going into labor after eating there so I had decided to do lunch there the next day if the Mexican wasn't enough. Friday afternoon was a gorgeous, amazingly warm day for November and my husband had the idea to take the girls hiking to enjoy the weather. So we walked trails with some good friends for over an hour and I tried to keep as good a pace as I could. I was doing everything I could to get this baby out!
Our friends joined us at the Mexican restaurant for dinner and while we were chatting, mentioned an activity going on the next day. I jokingly said that we wouldn't be able to join them because we were going to be at the hospital to have this baby. My friend retorted, "Oh yeah? What time will you be going?" I responded with, "Oh, about 7am!" as if I had any control over when this baby would come and we all had a good laugh.
After such an exhausting day, I went home and took a shower and went to bed early. I was a little disappointed because I wasn't having any contractions at all, not even Braxton Hicks! But I went right to sleep and had the best night's sleep I had enjoyed in a long time. At 5:23am, however, I was awakened by a sharp pain and just knew it was time. 5:30, 5:34, 5:37, 5:40. I just knew. No doubt about it. This baby was coming. I went ahead and called the hospital to let them know I was coming and (more importantly) to ask what time my OB came on call. 7:00 Perfect! The nurse asked how long I had been experiencing contractions and when I said ten minutes there was a big silence on the phone. It was obvious she didn't believe that I was really in labor. I said , "Listen, this is my 5th baby and we aren't even coming to the hospital for another hour but I just wanted to let you know and to find out when my OB would be coming in." She sounded relieved as if in an hour I would realize it wasn't really labor. I laughed to myself and breathed through contractions and called the grandparents and packed a few things. I finally woke My husband up around 6am because I was having trouble getting anything done in between contractions and needed his help. He took a shower and finished doing the things on my list and we were off to the hospital right around 7am! I later laughed at the irony of our dinner conversation but was in too much pain to think of it at the time.
We got to the hospital and my nurse read my birth plan and said, "I used to be a doula so I think your plan is awesome!" I almost cried with relief but a contraction came at that moment and I threw my arms around her and groaned as she held me up as we swayed through it together.
When my OB came in the first time he checked me and said I was already at 8cm! My contractions had been quite intense and I was so incredibly relieved to hear I was getting close! He laughed and said, "I knew if I saw you in this hospital it would be almost baby time!" I usually walk the halls for hours during labor but by the time the doctors and nurses had finished doing their initial checks, I was pretty far along already! I endured contractions for a bit longer and then started to feel pushy. I told my nurse/ doula and she checked me and said I was complete! She left to get the OB and my husband got pretty nervous about the baby coming while everyone was gone.
It seemed to take forever for them to get back! I was already on the bed on my hands and knees ready to push. I was also waiting for my Mom. My parents live an hour away and hadn't expected labor to progress quite that quickly. Right after the OB and nurse came back and I started pushing, my mom rushed through the door. She had run the entire way through the hospital and was out of breath but I was so relieved to see her! She is always the encouragement I need!
Even though I have done this 4 other times, I always forget how to push and how to hold it out long enough to be effective. The pain just makes it hard to focus at first. I kept asking if they could see her head yet and it seemed to take forever! Finally my mom told me she could see it and that baby girl had tons of dark black hair! That was just the encouragement I needed to push her out! I was determined to push her out in a single contraction because at my last birth, I pushed out her head and then rested and it seemed to take forever for the next contraction to get the rest of the baby out and my strength had lessened. So this time I just kept pushing and managed to get her all out in one contraction! Such a relief! My water did not break until her head came out, which turned out to be another little miracle. I was GBS+ but didn't get to the hospital in time to get the antibiotics. If my water had broken earlier, they would have had to immediately administer antibiotics to my baby, but staying in the water sac had protected her and instead they just did a 48-hour blood test to make sure she wasn't infected. I was so thankful that she didn't have to start out her little life with antibiotics that could ruin her gut flora and give her tummy trouble!
After she was out, I kept asking if I could hold her, but her cord was too short to reach my arms. It seemed like forever until it stopped pulsing and it could be cut and I could have her but oh, once I had her it was worth all the pain! My Mom said that as I was asking to hold her, my baby turned her head to the sound of my voice as if she knew it already and wanted to get to me also. New life is so amazing!