That title blows my mind. After birthing Eleanor in the hospital – which was empowering in and of itself, but also traumatic in so many ways – and then finding such healing in birthing Sofie at the birth center, I never imagined myself birthing in the hospital space again, let alone walk away feeling like it was a joyful, powerful, beautiful kind of experience. But here we are – a cute little babe in my arms, a four-day postpartum belly, and a heart full of gratitude and JOY.
I also usually wait at least a month or two before sharing my birth stories. Perfectionism and wanting to include all the important things, to say everything the right way, processing how I feel about it, seeing my birth gallery and film – those all contribute. But today, I find myself wanting to give you just a glimpse into Emma’s birth, as I feel, now. And today, I’m honoring that. (There will be more details and pictures later, and probably more feels later.)
Emma’s pregnancy followed all of my usual patterns: a super-super fertile March, a positive pregnancy test in April, first-trimester fatigue and mild nausea and fatigue, slowly growing out of my normal clothes, finding out we’re having a girlie at the 20-week ultrasound, discomfort, weaning of the older toddler sibling (though Sofie clung onto her mommy milks much longer than Eleanor did; I finally reached the point of being done and set the boundary), etc etc etc. My cycles are VERY consistent apparently. (We do LOVE being a girl family – I just didn’t expect us to be a DECEMBER girl family!)
Emotionally, though, there was a LOT more this time. We planned to wait a bit longer before getting pregnant again, and I rode lots of waves of peace, grief, joy, and sadness as I adjusted my expectations for the year. The hardest was setting aside so many of my business goals and plans when the energy I needed simply wasn’t there.
Deciding where to birth this little girlie felt hard, too. After Sofie’s birth, I planned on being here at home, but after many interviews and lots of sitting with feels and data and talking through things, we felt like Heather should be my midwife and we needed to be at the hospital this time. (More grief, alongside reassurance and lots of practice trusting myself to make good decisions.) My therapist helped me acknowledge and share the trauma points from Eleanor’s birth with Heather and do a lot of emotional work: this birth would be different. It would be beautiful.
The emotional end of pregnancy came quicker this time – I grieved us leaving the family-of-4 stage, and nested and doubted and waited and watched for the shift from uncomfortable tightenings into labor contractions. Not yet, not yet. Between Christmas and baby sister, there was a LOT of anticipation over here! Sofie told me daily how “baby sister’s coming. I’m going to snuggle her!” Eleanor kept asking if she was going to come before Christmas, to which I’d say “I don’t know, but I think so. She’s coming soon.” I kept feeling that: she’s coming soon, she’s coming soon. We celebrated the older two’s birthdays, had a nesting party, decorated for Christmas, wrapped presents.
Heather was fantastic – as my due date approached (and my anxiety about being post-dates and induction and hospital birth things increased), she kept offering reassurance, hugs, and patience. This was going to be great. Together, we walked me through how she’d support me in catching my babe and all of my birth plan details – she was there for me. This was going to be great.
And then the wild-ness began. We came in for a check-in the morning after my due date (the 22nd). My uterus measured small and things felt off to Heather; she did a quick ultrasound, and found that little girl’s fluid levels measured really LOW. We talked about induction (AHH FEELS), and decided to do a stretch and sweep and then double-check fluid levels before jumping over to L&D. The ultrasound tech there at the office squeezed us into her morning, and in the course of an hour, all the fluid levels were normal (and my fundal height measured 2 cm MORE). In Heather’s words, “this is a different belly.” WILD. We laughed in the back room and went home after that little trust-fall exercise, feeling grateful that this little girlie could safely pick her birthday again.
I felt crampy the rest of the day and got some bloody show out of that stretch-and-sweep; by midnight, things had officially shifted into early labor feels. I woke up and made myself my early labor eggs and tea, timed some contractions, and sent excited texts to the birth team. Ben woke up, and they all started heading our way… well, until 1:45ish, when everything just slowed down and stopped. So, I told everyone to turn around, and we all went back to bed.
The next morning felt totally normal. I figured things would pick back up as soon as they were ready, though, and so set out to make it the best last day pregnant possible! After a morning with our girls, we sent them off with grandma so we could get a few hours just us. The plan was to get sushi after one more heavenly prenatal massage with Eva at Healing Tree… but, well, long story short, the massage was fantastic (Eva added in some induction techniques in there, too – a very, very effective induction massage), but we never made it to sushi!
The Precipitous Part
Between the trembly shakes and how much I wanted extra support, I knew that we had shifted straight into active labor. I texted the birth team, and told everyone to meet us at home. Looking back at the time stamps… it still feels so, so surreal.
We got home at 2:36 (a few bites of yogurt/mashed potatoes for calories), Danielle got there at 2:55, Carly about 3:15. I dug IN, gratefully surrounded by my people. Eleanor sweetly joined us for a few waves, and I felt that shift 15-20 minutes later: it’s time to go. So, we left for the hospital in the middle of holiday traffic at 3:51 for my second car ride in labor. I tuned into one of my mindfulness meditations, and… next thing I knew, I was waking up. I FELL ASLEEP in between contractions. (Like… HOW??) We pulled into the hospital parking lot at 4:13, and things jumped back into that same need-support-these-are-big contractions. It took us 10 minutes to get upstairs to L&D – we didn’t see anyone else aside from the nurses who opened the doors to L&D, and thankfully led us straight back to our room at 4:23.
A LOT happened in the next 7 minutes. I leaned onto the bed, riding wave after wave of contractions, taking the little spaces between to take my shoes off, then my comfy dress, answer questions, move to the other side of the bed to get a baseline heart-tone for little girlie. I remember telling everyone that this felt more intense than last time, seeing Danielle set her things up and the sound of Carly filling the tub. We were all here, ready, I was safe.
Carly asked me if I was feeling pushy, to which I responded, “no, not right now.” After which, my water proceeded to break all over the floor (and Ben’s shoes), and I laughed – nevermind, I feel pushy now. The nurse asked if she could check me, so I checked myself: just as expected, her hard, round head, a finger’s length away. A brief pause, and then my instincts (almost muscle memory) took over to navigate all the intensity in pushing her wet little self out into my waiting hands. I unwrapped the cord from around her neck, and – our nurse’s hands right there with me, Ben’s hands keeping me stable – pulled her up to my belly and then chest. I felt impossibly in control, impossibly present, connected, JOYFUL.
AND I LAUGHED. With some prompting from our shocked nurse, I sat down on the bed, and we all just looked at each other, and laughed. (Like what just happened?!) Heather came in 5 – 10 minutes later and helped deliver the placenta (squishy release), laughed with us, and confirmed that bleeding and my perineum were all normal (no tears or stitches this time, no IV needed – whooo!). She sat a minute with us in our disbelief and joy before going to help get my post-birth admission paperwork taken care of; we snuggled and absorbed our golden couple of hours, fairly undisturbed.
Eventually, Ben cut the cord and supported Emma for her newborn exam while Carly and I birth-nerded out over my placenta. (Emma’s our biggest babe so far, just over 7 lb!) My mom brought the girls in to meet baby sister then; we snuggled all together, and Sofie and Eleanor got to hold their little sister (and didn’t ever want to let her go). Once they left, I took a warm bath while Carly fed me dinner; chatting with Carly and Danielle while Ben finally snuggled his little girl. Carly got us settled in our postpartum room after Danielle left probably 3-4 hours later – no rush, plenty of space, lots of love. Emma and I checked all the healthy boxes and got discharged on Christmas Eve, just in time to celebrate and experience the magic of Christmas morning, all together.
In preparing for this birth, I carefully pulled together my birth plan and affirmations, desperately hoping for an experience that also felt so impossible. I craved something beautiful, an experience that would connect me with both heaven and self, partner and friend, provider and birth team. I needed to feel in control, given power to make decisions for myself, trusted. I hoped to feel safe enough to let my needs and feelings take up space, to voice my needs, and let this dramatic transition be deep and beautiful.
AND I GOT THAT. I felt impossibly grounded and connected to what my body was doing, in charge and able to hold boundaries and ask for help and let my feelings take up space. The intense contractions felt big and hard, but also incredibly doable. The car ride I dreaded somehow carried the rest I needed. The people I loved the most were there for me when I needed them. I felt safe. Euphoric. Joyful. Grateful. Appreciated. Connected. Not alone.
And I am grateful. Welcome to the world, little Emma. Merry Christmas.