Monday 9/16/13. I woke at 7 in the morning two days past my due date to discover wet panties. When I told my husband that my water broke he said, “Are you sure it’s not pee? I mean you’ve been coughing a lot lately.” When I assured him it wasn’t pee, I made phone calls to family and then sent text messages alerting my birth team, close friends and colleagues. I even texted my boss, and told him I’d work from home until I no longer could.
The gushing began around 9:30 when I went to move the car from a Tuesday spot to a Monday spot. The fact that I had a lingering cough from a cold I caught a week earlier, didn’t help the flow either. When I got back upstairs, I was met with the reality that I wouldn’t get through the day without using pads.
Mild contractions started around 3:30/4 in the afternoon. I shut down my computer and let my boss know that was going to be it. I called Jason at work and asked if we were doing dinner together. He said that if I could wait to eat after Mylo went to bed then yes. I told him I had a feeling that could be too late so I grabbed dinner at Chipotle, and bought dog food at PetSmart.
I remember running those errands by myself so clearly. On the one hand I felt so liberated, to be out and about on my own – no husband, no three year old in tow and no baby yet. And I also felt like a real rebel. I remember a couple of people looking at me and giving me a gesturing nod. Probably just being kind about my very pregnant state, but for a minute I wondered, ‘do they know I’m in labor right now?’
Contractions picked up in the evening while Jason ate dinner and we got Mylo ready for bed. I downloaded a contraction app on my iPhone and began to time them. They averaged 30 seconds long and about 6-10 minutes apart.
At 7:00 my midwife texted that I should try to go to sleep early and get some rest “before things take off.” A couple of hours later I heeded her advice.
Only when I did lay down, things picked up rather quickly. I had to use the potty a couple of times and experienced a couple of super painful contractions while sitting on the toilet. I labored in the bedroom alone with Jason and our dogs for as long as I could.
Around 10:00 it became obvious that getting shut eye wasn’t going to happen.
At 11:15 Jason texted our doula that contractions were one minute long, less than five minutes apart and that I was beginning to feel nauseous. Dia joined us an hour later.
Tuesday 9/17/13. When I made it to midnight, I knew for sure that we were going to have a baby on September 17th. I posted this Dr. Seuss quote on my Facebook page that I had come across months earlier and absolutely adored. It was my way of letting those in my circle know that the baby was coming.
Having Dia at the house was a comforting Godsend. She urged Jason to nap and encouraged me to keep moving and change positions. At one point she even took my cell phone away which was blowing up with texts from two of my close friends. In hindsight, it was actually pretty funny.
We were in the living room with the lights mainly off and my iTunes “baby” playlist on in the background, while Dia timed my contractions the old school way. Around this time I moved into the transition stage of labor. I vomited a couple of times into our beloved salad spinner while leaning over the kitchen table.
Jason joined us in the living room 45 minutes later after an unsuccessful attempt to nap. For the next couple of hours I was in and out of the tub. I can’t recall if I loved it at first or not, but given the extreme pain I was in I know I found it comforting.
Then the bomb of all bombs dropped.
A text came in from my midwife, Kristen, at 3:20. Prefaced with an “uh-oh,” Jason read it aloud.
I’m so sad to tell you this but I am headed to another labor. (You have both been in labor all night!!) she’s ready for me. I’m assuming you may be ready soon. When you are, if I’m not done, I will send (my backup) Barri Malek. She’s wonderful. You’ll be great with her but I will be really sad.
I was in the birthing pool when I got the news. My first instinct was to sink myself under the water to drown out the news I had just heard. But then I had a mind-numbing contraction and thought, ‘I don’t care who you send, just someone get here who can help deliver this baby!’
Barri and her assistant (her daughter Sophia) came over an hour later. And when they did they brought this sense of calm and confidence to the home that only a little while ago, I was beginning to lose sight of.
I sat on the rocking chair while working my way through contractions. Each time I had one I was urged to lean forward, which wasn’t easy to do. Dia was on the ground on my left side and Barri was on my right. As I worked through each contraction they stroked my feet.
I asked Barri if she was going to check me. She explained that she preferred not to but that if I really wanted it, she could. Then she asked me why I wanted to be checked. I told her that I needed to know how much longer I had to go. To which she told me that judging by my ability to carry on a conversation, she guessed I was midway through labor. That news alone was enough to take my mind off an internal and get back to focusing on my labor.
After a long and agonizing trip down the hallway and into the bathroom in our bedroom to relieve my bladder, I headed back to the birth tub. I must have made another comment about how much longer I’d be doing this when Barri asked me if I saw what Sophie was doing in the background. I didn’t exactly because it was dark, but I had a sense that she was setting up the birth supplies. I know from my son’s birth in the hospital and from the few births I’ve been a doula at, that it’s a good sign when the nurses begin to organize the equipment. It means there’s going to be a baby soon! Again, more news to help me labor on.
The only thing I would change about my birth is bringing the photographer in earlier. And perhaps, that Jason remembered to handle that part of it as well. The last time the photographer heard from me was in the morning the day before, when my water broke. Mark arrived around 5:30am.
I was in the birth tub when Mark walked in. With my head down, I said hello to him. I remember the quiet clanging of his lighting equipment being set up in our living room and I appreciated the noise that was drowning out the soft whispers of my birth team.
Not long after Mark arrived, my midwife Kristen and her birth assistant Piper walked in the door. My birth team was complete, in fact more than complete! I had two midwives, two midwife assistants and a doula!
In between contractions I asked Kristen about the other woman who gave birth. I needed to know what she had and at what time. It helped me to know that someone else went through what I was going through and she made out ok. The other mom had a girl around 4am.
I never announced out loud when it was time to push, but my body did. Out of no where I had this intense urge to begin pushing, something I didn’t have with the labor and birth of my son. I started out on my back in the pool with my feet up against the sides. I pushed through a couple of contractions but it didn’t feel that productive. When I told the midwives that, Barri began pulling down my perineum to help open me up with each push.
Not only did that help in bringing my baby down lower but the pain of her stretching me out, took my mind off the pain from pushing. At one point Barri, who was all smiles, even while she spoke, said my baby would be here in a couple of more pushes. I remember looking at her dead in the eyes and saying, “You don’t have to lie Barri, I know we’re gonna be here a long time.” (Based on the fact that it took me two hours to push my son out, I had this sinking feeling it could take that long again.)
Barri chuckled and said something along the lines of ‘Why would I lie? You’re doing this, your baby is almost here.’
Time was becoming a factor for me. It probably didn’t help that I was sitting facing the clock on our kitchen wall, but I was acutely aware of the fact that my son Mylo would wake up soon. Though my birth plan originally called for him to be present if possible, I no longer wanted him to see me in this final stage of labor. I didn’t want my screaming to alarm him.
I’m not sure if I wanted to change positions or if I was told to change positions but I made my way to the edge of the birth tub, resting on my knees and shins. This squatting position which I had labored in earlier, was a total game changer. I was still in unbelievable pain, but bearing down while pushing was way easier and more productive. Not to mention it gave me a sense of privacy that being spread eagle didn’t.
The 15 minutes or so that I spent in this position was a complete out-of-body experience. There was a lot of screaming. A LOT. At one point, I screamed “PLEASE HELP ME,” something that had me laughing and feeling ashamed about later when I recapped the events with Kristen. There was also a lot of focusing on objects — like the sun rays on my doulas T-shirt and the darkness outside the slightly opened window. I was in a trance. I remember having a very hallucinogenic moment in which I closed my eyes and saw this girl I knew from my school days, dancing around in a jester’s costume. Freaky. I know.
I could feel the bulging when I pushed and it was then that I knew I was close. When Kristen told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head I said no. Not because it weirded me out, but because if any part of my upper body let go of the side of the pool, I was convinced I was going to fall in.
I remember the excruciating burn, and being told what an amazing job I was doing. I remember Jason being right in front of me, despite plans to be in the back, catching with Kristen. But it was for the best, I needed him to be right where he was, holding my hands.
With another mind-numbing push, the head was out. I stayed squatting with the head out, about another minute or until the next contraction, and then eased my baby out. When I did, I felt the body leave me in an amazing “bloop bloop” sort of way. Again, something I don’t recall when I pushed my son out.
In an instant I felt the baby’s slippery, jiggly body get past up through my legs. I looked down and saw a squishy little face swimming up toward me. I lifted my baby out of the water and brought it to me.
My whole world stopped in this moment, for I was overcome with great relief and immense joy.
The baby was pudgy and squat and covered in vernix. She had a shock of black hair and she remained incredibly calm – like the room she was born into – in those first few minutes.
I’m not proud of the words that immediately flew out of my mouth, which were the first words the baby ever heard. They were “Thank fucking God”. What can I say? It just happened.
After a minute or so of relishing in the shock and awe of what just happened, I asked if anyone in the room knew what the sex was. I thought perhaps someone saw something I didn’t.
I was told to reach underneath and feel for balls but I lay her out in my arms instead. I looked down quickly and saw a little vagina. She had holes in all the right places. It was a GIRL and I was THRILLED. I mean really, really thrilled.
Reya Taha Wood was born at 6:27am after 14 hours of labor and a half hour of pushing.
Jason retrieved Mylo from his room and found him sitting up in bed awake and smiling. We’re not sure how long he had been up and what he had heard but he handled the busy room with our birth team with equal parts cutesy and shyness. I was so proud of him.
I birthed the placenta 15 minutes later and Jason and Mylo cut the cord.
I was guided to the bedroom where I nursed Reya and was spoon fed Cheerios by Kristen.
Reya was weighed and I texted profusely our beautiful news with family and friends.