I love a good birth story. And I love talking about my own babies’ births. So, even though this blog has been very low on the priority list lately, I wanted to make sure I took the time to write about Chloe’s entrance into the world.
Our due date was always an approximation. So when Chloe hadn’t arrived by her “due date” I wasn’t worried. A week later, still not worried. Willow was a week “late” too after all and I’m a big believer in babies coming when they’re ready. Nine days after she was due, I started getting contractions at around 11pm on Friday night. This, by the way, is about the worst possible time for your contractions to start. There’s no sleeping when you know you’re about to meet your baby.
By about 2am the contractions had really picked up. I decided it was better to call my mom to come watch Willow for us a little early than wait too long. She answered the phone excitedly “is it time!?” and was at our house faster than she ever has been haha. We talked in the dark for a while. It was kind of surreal. Laying in bed at 3am hanging out and chatting with Erik and my mom while we waited. I remember I’d be talking and a contraction would hit and I’d stop talking to focus on relaxing through it and Erik and my mom would stare at me with concern and I told them to stop staring at me and keep talking haha.
Not much later, my contractions were close enough together and frequent enough that it was time to call Corina, our amazing midwife. She asked what we wanted to do and I said we could wait and rest at home a little longer. We hung up and the contractions were coming even faster. I started getting nervous that this birth was going to be WAY faster than Willow’s. Sometimes the contractions were only three minutes apart, which didn’t happen with Willow until the very end. It was making me nervous so not long after we hung up with Corina I told Erik to call her again and tell her we were coming. We also called our doula Andi so she could meet us at the birth center.
In the car, things seemed to pick up even more. I wasn’t thinking she was going to be born in the car or anything, but they were so close together that I thought we’d show up to the birth center and have a baby within an hour or two. I’d planned to stop at a store for some snacks on the way, but my contractions were so close together that I was too nervous to even do that. Nervous, but excited. I had really hoped for a faster birth after the long endurance race that was Willow’s, so I was glad. I just felt like I didn’t know how to navigate a quick birth and wanted to make sure we were with Corina when it happened!
We got to the birth center and Corina was ready with a giant tub full of warm water. The essential oils were diffusing. The twinkle lights were on in the “mermaid room” I’d requested. Everything was ready! I hopped in the tub.
And nothing happened.
Like, ten minutes went by before another contraction came. And then another ten minutes.
I was confused and upset. I was also exhausted. I hadn’t slept at all since 6am the previous morning and it was about 5am at this point. I got out of the tub and it almost felt like labor had stopped completely compared to before. If not for the occasional contraction I would have thought it had. I started crying, telling Erik this was going to take forever just like Willow’s birth and I didn’t have the energy to do that right now. He talked me down. Somehow. I really don’t even remember what he said, but I remember struggling to get a grip. All the excitement and worry and stress and exhaustion was pouring out of me.
Not long after this, Corina came into the room, calm as could be and with no idea that I’d been having a meltdown. She told me this was normal. This happened. There was nothing to worry about, but she thought I was tired and should try to sleep. I knew she was right, and knowing that it was a normal thing to happen did help me feel a little better about it all, even though I was disappointed that this was looking like a long game instead of a short one. I took a Tylenol PM and fell asleep almost instantly.
I woke up hours later. It was daytime. Our wonderful doula had gone shopping and brought us oatmeal and fruit. The birth center was alive with people there for their appointments and there was a class going on, tours being given. It felt like a different world than the one I’d been freaking out in a few hours before.
I ate. I hung out with Erik and our doula, Andi. We walked around outside. Corina popped in and out between all the other things she was dealing with on a busy Saturday. I think she could tell I was getting antsy and anxious. She kept giving me things to help labor progress. With Willow’s birth, I think I may have been freaked out about drinking things and doing anything to make labor go faster. But having that experience behind me, I knew I didn’t want to be completely exhausted by the time transition hit and the real work began.
I was working really hard to relax when contractions came. I can’t be certain of course but I think my stress and fear made my body extra tense with Willow’s birth. I think in a way I was fighting myself. When something hurts, you reflexively tense up. I tried very hard to mindfully push away that instinct and sink into the feelings. It seemed a lot less painful that way and I could feel the difference in the times I forgot to do that versus when I focused on relaxing.
By mid-afternoon, Corina offered to check and see how many centimeters I had dilated. I had been resisting checks because during Willow’s birth it was so demoralizing for hours to go by and feel like no progress had been made. This time was the opposite! Corina said this baby was going to be here in the next hour. THAT excited me. Everyone in the room was very surprised. Apparently I was so calm and quiet through my contractions that nobody thought the end was near! She offered to release my waters, which would really jumpstart the final phase. She’d done the same for someone a few weeks ago and their baby had arrived five minutes later it had had such a strong effect. Hearing that was so appealing and I knew Corina wouldn’t offer to do something like that unless it was truly time. I agreed!
Apparently I had a ton of fluid in me? Everyone was like “wow that water just keeps coming!” And when that was over is, I guess, when active labor really began. The contractions were a lot more intense. I walked around to help Chloe really lower as far as possible. The giant bathtub was filled with warm water and I was back in again, grateful for how much the water helped the pain. It was almost 5pm at this point.
This was the hard part. But I think it only lasted 30-45 minutes or so? As soon as I got in the water I felt like I needed to push. I was holding Erik’s hands with my face down against a towel on the side of the tub. Andi was on one side of Erik giving him cool towels to place on my head, which felt amazing. Corina was on the other side talking me through.
I never looked up. My head was down, eyes were closed as I tried to relax and push simultaneously. My brain couldn’t make sense of doing that though so I started panicking at one point as the pain became overwhelming and I didn’t know how to respond to it anymore. Corina said all the right things that calmed me down. She always sounded so calm and patient and that helped me feel like everything was going right, despite the struggle. I was amazed how she seemed to know just what I was feeling and had the right language to help me through it. The right language to help me feel like I knew how to push when I was struggling with that. “Push” seems simple, but it’s not. At least not in my brain where I tend to overthink everything!
What was a little surprising for me were the moments of calm in between the pushing. I would give everything I had for a moment and then I would rest. Everything was still and everyone in the room just waited. When you watch births on TV (which are beyond ridiculous now that I’ve been through two real ones) there’s a non-stop sense of urgency that makes things more dramatic and intense. Great for stories, but not so great for nervous pregnant people! I would never have expected that during the pushing phase of labor, there would be long moments of rest and peace. Even when Chloe was nearly out.
Finally, Corina said Chloe was crowning and Chloe would be here in one minute. I knew from Willow that once the head was out, that was IT. I was so relieved. I pushed again. And Corina said “okay, still crowning.” Little Chloe had a VERY LARGE HEAD and it took a few tries before she truly crowned. In hindsight, Corina’s “still crowning” comments make me laugh but at the time I was just confused and desperate to be finished.
And then, she was out. I felt so much relief feeling her little limbs slide out of me. I can’t say I witnessed it because I had my head down and eyes shut, but everyone told me when Corina caught her and pulled her up and out of the water, her little fist was raised up above her head triumphantly. Corina was laughing as she held Chloe and asked me where I’d been hiding this giant baby for nine months!
I finally opened my eyes and turned over to sit and hold Chloe up against my chest. She WAS big (9lbs 7oz). Holding her was so satisfying. I talk all the time about how holding Willow wasn’t that perfect moment because I felt so defeated by the end of that birth. This was everything I had wanted. I felt present and grateful she was here and that everything had gone smoothly. I still didn’t cry those perfect happy tears but that’s never been me anyway. I’m more emotional thinking back on the birth than I was while I was in it.
After Corina made sure Chloe was good and healthy and I was okay, I got all wrapped up in a fluffy robe and Erik and I just lay in bed with Chloe for a few hours. We ate some dinner and looked at our new little person in awe. I was amazed because Erik was instantly able to calm Chloe’s crying. It was like she truly felt at home in his arms. I kept saying “she likes you so much, Erik!” He cried some happy tears because he HAS a heart and nothing made me happier all day than seeing him with her, both so happy and content.
I picked up my phone for the first time since we arrived at the birth center and had tons of pictures from my mom of Willow’s fun-filled day. I thought I’d be more worried about Willow during the birth than I was. I guess I was so focused on the present. It was part of why I didn’t touch my phone at all. I didn’t really want to think of any world outside the one I was in. I had no mental room for that. When we’d left in the middle of the night, I’d had the fleeting thought that Willow might be upset when she woke up and realized we were gone. That hadn’t been the case though. She was excited and happy for Grammy to be there and to get to meet Chloe soon.
We went home with Chloe that night. It was about 9pm by then and we were both hungry still so we stopped at a Wendy’s on our way home haha. It felt like a truly anticlimactic thing to do after a birth, but your options are limited at such an hour! We came home, ate, and went to bed.
The next morning Willow got to meet her sister and she was as sweet as could be. She instantly loved her and told us all about her fun sleepover at Grammy and Granddaddy’s house. We’d been on an adventure, but SO HAD WILLOW. And hers was better because it had a hot tub and ice cream!
It’s still surreal to me that we have our two girls now. That our family is “complete.” I remember the first time Erik said something using the phrase “the girls” and my heart nearly exploded. This is our future. Us and our girls. Erik and ALL his girls. I should have gotten a male puppy when I had the chance haha.
Well, I think that’s a wrap on maybe the longest blog post ever. I can really talk about birth can’t I? I didn’t even get a chance to talk about little Chloe! That’ll be next time. I know I won’t do monthly updates like I did with Willow. There’s just not enough time. It has taken me a week to get all this out and I didn’t even have pictures to edit. I know that this time around when I actually get a free moment, I need to use it to recover. Life with two littles is a whole different thing and I’m still trying to navigate it without losing my mind!
But man, I am so glad Chloe is finally here :)
Photography by Lindsey Martin