On the morning of May 19th I woke up to a really intense contraction a little after 8am. I still had 12 days until my due date and assumed it was just a Braxton Hicks contraction which I mostly just found irritating so I ignored it and promptly dozed back off. A few minutes later I woke up to another one, rolled over to get more comfortable and as it subsided I dozed off again. After the third or fourth time I was awoken by one they had gotten my attention and I decided that maybe I had better take them more seriously. I lay awake at this point but stayed in bed because I was sleepy and didn't want to start the day yet. The contractions went on for a little bit in a lazy pattern until just before 9am when it occurred to me to get up and go to the bathroom and then and move around and take a shower to see if they would go away. I had a couple of them in the shower but they were short---lasting only 10 to 15 seconds but sort of intense. They didn't feel like they were going anywhere but they weren't going away either.
By around 10:15am I had counted more than 6 contractions within an hour. As a general rule of thumb I have always considered this an indication of true labor more so than having them a specific number of minutes apart. I decided I should text Rob to give him heads up that we were going to have a baby that day so that he could get things in order at work to be able to go on family leave. I emphasized to him not to hurry because I really believed it would be later that day or that evening. In fact I didn't even message my midwife in case I was wrong that it was actually labor.
Curious if I was making any progress and hoping it might indicate how far into labor I could be I tried to check my cervix but I couldn't feel the cervical os. It seemed to me to be very posterior (way to the back of my body) which for me has historically indicated my baby was still high and I was not far progessed.
After a while I got Hayden up and told her she needed to get her household assignments done because we had some things to get done to be ready for the birth. I didn't indicate yet that I thought that would be today because I wasn't sure myself still. Caleb and Nate were gone to seminary and Max was still asleep. I thought I would just keep things low key until my labor picked up.
Over the next hour my contractions were somewhat schizophrenic. At one point around 11:15am I even texted Rob back that they had petered out and that he should take his time. Then within 10 minutes I was messaging him back again that I had changed my mind and things have picked back up again. Like I said schizophrenic!
|My crazy texts to Rob. Make up your mind woman!|
At 11:29am I called my midwife and gave her a heads up that I was for sure in labor but same as I told Rob, I didn't feel it was imminent and she didn't need to rush out. I even had a good strong contraction while talking to her and I talked right through it with little difficulty so this again made me think I had a long time yet to go. When we hung up she said, "Keep me informed about where things are at."
When I got off the phone I started getting some things out of the birth supply box to prepare the room. We had a large painters tarp to duct tape to the bed under our sheets but I had forgotten to buy duct tape so I sent one of my boys to borrow some from my friend Johnell around the corner. My mom had given me a beautiful birth gown for my birthday in December and I had it carefully tucked away for this day. I decided it was time to go ahead and put it on. When I walked out into the living room wearing it Hayden's eyes got big and she grinned and said, "Why are you wearing that?!" I put my finger over my mouth conspiratorially and smiled. She came over and hugged me and then jumped into action feeding and dressing the babies for the day. I went back to my room to get some more things ready and Hayden came in and helped me make up the bed. I had bought a set of lovely white cotton sheets with sweet little blue rose bouquets on them to have on my bed postpartum so those went on first, covered by the painter's tarp, topped by my special yellow birth sheets I have used in my previous births and then washed and put them away for safe keeping. They are bright and sunny with trellised pink flowers on them and they carry the echoes of joy I felt at the births of my other babies. In the days preceding, Hayden and I had put up cheery little banners made of cards with my birth affirmations on them. My affirmations were selected phrasing from some of my favorite hymns along with a couple of them reminding me that I would be doing all of this for the love of my baby.
|My birth banners. Hayden and I made them and the pom poms.|
Once we completed my little nest and the littles were fed and dressed I told Hayden she could tell Max it was birth day. Max was equally excited. I told them they needed to watch the littles for a little bit while I lie down to stay rested in preparation for the hard part of labor (still thinking this would be a nighttime birth). I had just climbed onto my bed when I started having a pretty intense contraction that required my full focus. Part way through it I was startled by a sensation that felt like my water broke. This was weird for me because my water usually doesn't break until my babies are actually being born. I got up to go to the bathroom to check and was more startled that actually what I had felt was bleeding. Many women experience a "bloody show" and obviously I'm familiar with that but this seemed like more blood than I have seen in early labor.
I immediately called my midwife Stephanie and told her the situation. At this point we both agreed she now needed to come out and assess things so she started heading over. I also texted Rob and told him things were getting weird.
The discovery that I was bleeding gave me some anxiety and also made me a bit queasy at the site of my own blood so I had Hayden call my sister Shannan to come over in case I got woozy or the situation became emergent. In my anxious state I could feel myself losing focus so I decided to start a warm bath and get in to calm myself. Throughout my pregnancy I took a lot of comfort from listening to the hymn "Be Still My Soul" as performed by David Archuletta so I asked Hayden to turn on "my hymn".
As soon as I was in my warm bath with the music playing I began to feel peaceful and calm again. Shannan arrived and shortly after that Caleb and Nate came home from seminary and then Rob got home about 12:30pm. Relaxing in the bathtub I would have the occasional contraction but there was no real pattern to them and they were short and didn't feel like I am used to them feeling. I said something to Rob about my labor pattern being "wrong" and it was going to be a long labor.
Stephanie arrived at the house at about 10 minutes after 1:00pm and Rob brought her straight to me at the bath. She settled some of her equipment down in the bedroom and and asked me a few questions about how the labor was going. We chatted for probably 8 to 10 minutes and then decided that she should check my cervix to see how far into labor I was.
|The boys made it home from seminary in time to welcome their brother|
|Stephanie arrived 19 minutes before Spencer did.|
I asked her if I needed to step out of the tub for her to be able to check me. She said no I was fine to stay put. She checked but as she did so it stirred up a contraction that was way more intense than the others that I had been feeling. She stepped away from me to allow me a moment to recover from the contraction and I assumed that she had not had a chance yet to find my cervix or to check me---again I assumed perhaps my cervix was very anterior and the baby was high up; again; thinking it was still early labor.
Stephanie does not interrupt during contractions so as I was breathing through this one she removed her glove and threw it away and slipped quietly out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. As the contraction subsided I looked up and remember thinking, "Where did she go? Isn't she going to check?" Just as I thought this she popped her head back into the bathroom and said, "I'm going to come in here and set up now because you're about 8 cm.". Everyone in the room (myself included) was shocked.
After we all recovered from the surprise someone asked me if I wanted to get out of the tub and settle on my bed. I was surprised again at my own answer when I said no. I felt like things were going fine where I was at and I didn't want to upset the apple cart. I had not intended to have a water birth but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. As I was reasoning all of that out another contraction was already upon me and this one seemed as intense as the last. I had been having Hayden replay "my hymn" over and over again and just about then the song ended so I asked her to start it again. Then with my eyes closed in concentration I muttered, "I freaking love that kid..." Shannan---confused---said, "Which kid? Henry?" I said, "No. David Archuletta!" This gave everyone a good laugh.
After a few more contractions I wanted more leverage so I moved from seated in the tub to kneeling. I could feel him moving down and that is a pretty big sensation so I reached down to feel his head to give myself some focus. Instead of his head I could feel my bag of water bulging ahead of him. The pressure from my bag was super annoying to me and I tried breaking it with my fingers but it was firm. Then the next contraction hit and it didn't matter because he was coming right then.
|Gone to the stars|
I can so clearly recall which words he was singing at that second, "Be still my soul, thy best thy Heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end..." The irony was not missed on me that this was the exact phrase I had written down as one of my birth affirmations. It was incredibly personal to me that the timing was so aligned.
Just then, the joyful end came as Spencer Mason Halliday slipped into my hands---in the caul (still in his bag of water) at 1:29pm.
|Spencer swam into this world still in the caul.|
I lifted him up to my chest and leaned back in the tub to pull him close and get a better look at him.
|Meeting my little man|
The children; who had all been there for the whole thing; scooted in closer so they could get a better look at him. Stephanie (who knows me so well) placed a lovely red towel over us because she knows how much I love postpartum pictures but also that I want to preserve my modesty in those pictures
|Mellow little guy|
There was such a beautiful sacred peace and joy in the room. When the excitement settled down and things were very quiet Stephanie whispered to me, "Do you feel that?" I felt the Spirit so strong in that moment that I was pretty sure I knew what she meant but to clarify I asked, "Feel what?"
She said, "God is in this room."
I did feel it. Everyone there did. It was undeniable.
|Spencer's first meal. (Cord still attached)|
|We have a tradition of using a braided cord tie instead of a clip.|
|Piper got some last minute instructions from Stephanie about cutting the cord.|
|Piper cutting the cord.|