My first two kids were 21 months apart. If I can be honest, that age gap wasn’t completely planned. In our heads, my husband and I had always thought 2+ years apart, but our tiny, feisty 2nd girl made up her own mind and snuck into our lives a little bit earlier.
Two under two rocked me. I’m assuming it does most everyone who experiences it. And I’m also sure that things were even harder in the wake of my mama’s death. I’ve heard it said before, that “the body keeps score” – and if my life is any indication, I think it does. The year after my second was born was hard. My weight plummeted. I battled migraines, postpartum anxiety, and DMER. MRIs, chiropractors, and doctors’ appointments couldn’t figure out my headaches. It took SSRIs, prayer, support, and the end of breastfeeding before I started to feel halfway whole again, before the thought of another child seemed plausible instead of insane.
But eventually, we were ready. Excited. I felt well again – finally, more whole than broken. We talked about getting our IUD out, the potential of a Spring or Summer baby, maybe even a son this time. And then COVID hit the world – and Kelvin and I started debating the rightness (or wrongness) of trying to have another baby when the world was on fire.
We watched, we listened, we prayed, and we paid attention. Like the rest of the world, we weren’t certain what was right or wrong – so we followed our guts, trusted our hearts, read up on the (small amount of) science, and decided to chase hope in the middle of another very bleak year.
I got pregnant immediately – a blessing to be sure, but one which also immediately thrusted us into the “pregnant in a pandemic” population.
It caused uncertainty, fear, and frustration, but I was so very grateful to be growing a sign of hope while the world continued to feel like it was out of control.
I was tired, aggressively so. Nauseous too, in ways I hadn’t been with my first two pregnancies. My prenatal appointments skipped by, Kelvin and I some of the lucky ones since he was allowed to attend most of my ultrasounds. COVID continued to burn, occasionally threatening the hard fought for peace in my body and mind, but more or less, all of us, the tiny little growing life included, felt pretty good.
I spent those nine months chronicling my pregnancy with The Labor Mama. Woman after woman joined the community, walking side by side with me through their own pregnancies. We learned from each other, grew with each other – and I was given the precious privilege to educate and teach while my own child grew in my body. In some strange way, COVID had delivered an unexpected virtual blessing – a reminder that women know how to show up for women.
Braxton Hicks contractions plagued me this pregnancy. SPD and lower back pain were my constant companions. By week 36, the baby was comically low – for the first time ever, I waddled my way through the world. And we waited.
And then labor began…
When I was 39 weeks pregnant, I couldn’t help but feel that there was no way I would make it through the week without having a baby. A snowstorm was coming, a full moon too – AND IF HISTORY TRULY DOES REPEAT ITSELF, I KNEW I HAD TO BE CLOSE.
Kelvin and I went to bed the night of the huge snowstorm. I was 39 1/7 weeks pregnant, we were supposed to get 10 inches of snow overnight, and we were both terrified we’d be driving to the hospital in a blizzard. I slept hard until 3 am – when something woke me up. I got up to pee, peeking at the blizzard outside. Déjà vu tickled the back of my brain, as I again wondered (as I had with my 2nd baby) if a contraction was actually what had woken me. I peed, laid back down, and tried to fall back asleep.
And then there it was, 30 minutes later.
That telltale “period cramp,” nothing serious nor painful, but the quiet whisper of a body that may decide to start laboring. I fell back asleep, my semi-conscious brain registering an occasional twinge every 30 minutes or so. When I woke at 7, I mentioned to Kelvin that something may happen that day, but otherwise, I was unconcerned.
I spent the morning with my 4-year-old and 2-year-old, quietly wondering if I was laboring or not. Occasionally, a contraction would come and feel mildly painful, but I never felt confident or sure that this was the “real thing.” Kelvin was working diligently in his office, tying up loose strings – he claims he knew I was about to have a baby, even when I was clearly unsure (or unwilling) to admit the same.
Despite my lack of clarity about what was going on, the contractions crept irregularly closer. 15 minutes, 12 minutes, 8 minutes, then back to 11 minutes. Though I knew I knew I was playing with fire, waiting it out, I also knew that this could be false. That this wasn’t active labor. That there was just no indication (yet) that I should call my midwife, my family, the photographer.
Around noon, Kelvin convinced me to call our cousin and have her come over to watch my girls, “just in case.” In the prior week we had read up on precipitous labor together and packed a couple things for a possible “baby in the car” scenario. I’d probably scared the crap out of him, but I knew if my water broke, we were likely delivering this baby on our own.
Once our cousin showed up, Kelvin and I put our 2-year-old down for her nap and moved downstairs to our basement, alone. We chatted in the dark, he sitting next to me on the floor, while I quietly let me body do what it was trying to do. My contraction pattern remained irregular and unimpressive, 7 minutes, 6 minutes, 9 minutes. And then I had that one contraction, much like my first labor, the one that told me “go.” I looked up at Kelvin and said, “I think we should go.”
I kissed my 4-year-old goodbye and jumped in the car. I still didn’t feel like I was in active labor, the pain and the contractions were manageable, more or less “easy.” We called our photographer and I finally let Kelvin tell some family. We were checked into our room at the hospital at 1535. Our photographer showed up about 5 minutes later.
Much like my first two labors and births, I was met at the hospital by friends and coworkers. I had texted some of them ahead of time, so I knew they were ready for me to come in. And exactly like the first two times, I felt safe and loved the moment I walked onto that unit.
It’s as if my body says “go – you’re safe.”
My RN let me run the show – again I was trusted wholly and completely. I denied a cervical exam. I sat on a birthing ball while they took their 20-minute NST. I watched that heartbeat move across the computer screen, seeing the accelerations and movement my RN brain was hoping to see. I had them place the IV this time, not wanting to deal with the postpartum bleeding I’d had after my 2nd birth. I heard my RN call my midwife, tell her “she didn’t want to be checked.”
I moved again to hands and knees on the floor, for me, a tell-tale sign that I was about to have a baby. I can’t tell you what my contraction pattern was at that point – I think I skipped active labor and hit transition hard and fast – and I remember little of those 45 minutes. My midwife showed up, quietly whispering the things I needed to hear. I was doubting myself, my body, the reality of what was happening – again, the emotional signpost of doubt, loud and clear. I remember noticing that my midwife and RN weren’t leaving the room, a quiet awareness in me that “I must be close.” My midwife asked me to take off my underwear after a contraction, and again my brain thought, “hmm, maybe I’m close.”
My water broke with an audible pop – and for the first time, no meconium. I looked up at Kelvin and said, “my water just broke.” Exactly like my first two labors and births, I jumped into the bed (as I wanted to). The room was quiet and calm. I can’t remember any panic, any noise, out of any of us. I pushed once on my hands and knees – like always, I didn’t like it. I felt exposed and vulnerable, unable to maintain the modesty that I always want to hang onto. I flipped to my back and I heard the midwife ask Kelvin if he wanted to deliver. My body gave me a break in these moments – the next contraction took a couple of minutes to come. I lay on my back, waiting. Kelvin gloved up and moved around for delivery. The room paused. It felt as if the very space we were in was holding its breath.
And then there it was, that fullness deep in my body, that delivering contraction. I pushed once and the baby’s head was out, that incredible sense of relief. The baby rotated the opposite way they were supposed to, staring straight up at their father, my midwives, my friends. “Push for the shoulders, Laura. One more push.” Oh yes – I’d forgotten I had to push again.
I pushed and out they came – straight into their Daddy’s hands. Kelvin lifted the baby up, disbelief in his eyes as he called “It’s a boy!” My heart whispered, “Of course it is,” for in some sweet and unexplainable way, this time, I had known. The room filled with the audible cheers of four lovely women that I had been privileged to train, to teach, to practice beside. My mama, briefly, flashed across my mind – finally, a grandson, the little man she would never get to meet.
Tears poured down Kelvin’s face as he laid our tiny son on my chest.
The time was 1438. The day, February 25th.
Welcome Mack Sullivan. It was always supposed to be you for us.
Mack’s birth was the first one in which we were privileged to have both professional photography and videography by Monet Nicole Photography. What a gift it was!
Those women captured something for us that is absolutely precious. After helping thousands of mamas deliver their own babies, it is so very special to finally get to see the way I too handle the ride that is labor and birth. It is my privilege to share all of that here with you.