It was like any other Thursday night. We were still a week away from our due date and I was positive you were going to arrive fashionably late... just like your mama! Your daddy was out of state for a work meeting in Iowa as I had no contractions (even Braxton Hicks) by this time and we were positive your debut was still at least a week out.
I was itching to put the final touches on your nursery and there was one special item (an elephant mobile) that I had been pining after for weeks but had to go to Woodbury to pick it up in the store. I decided that tonight was the night to complete your “nest.” I packed Scout (our wiener dog) into the car and we made a girls’ road trip over to Buy Buy Baby in Woodbury. On the way there, your BG (Daddy’s mom) called me to check and see how I was doing since Daddy was out of town. She seemed quite concerned that I was out driving by myself “all the way to Woodbury.” I explained that I felt fine and that it was only Woodbury, not Albert Lea or Duluth and that she needn’t worry. She made me promise to text her when Scout and I were safe at home.
I found the mobile within a few minutes of the store closing and got back in the car to head home to Edina. Then your Papa Joe called me (Mama’s dad) and also was curious to know if I had felt any “stirrings” of Tiny T (what we called you since we didn’t know if you were a boy or girl). Again, I tried to assure him that I was positive you would be coming AFTER your due date and that with your Daddy out of town, I was sure it wouldn’t be happening in the next 24 hours. Little did I know what the next 24 hours would hold...
I returned home and decided that I would put the mobile up myself and take that final nursery picture to post on Facebook, indicating to the world, but mostly myself, that we were officially “ready” for you to arrive! I talked with your Daddy on the phone for a few minutes before bed and went to sleep.
Then it happened. At about 12:15 a.m., I felt my first contraction. It was no “fake” contraction or false labor, either. I had never felt a contraction before and it wasn’t painful or even uncomfortable at this time... just “present.” I KNEW this was the beginning of your journey into the world and our lives. I tried to get back to sleep, as this is what everyone had advised me to do when I felt like labor was beginning. And I did sleep. Until about 1 am, when the next contraction came.
I decided to get up and go to the bathroom and then call your Daddy. I woke him between 1:30 and 2 a.m. and told him that labor had started, but that I was fine and wasn’t feeling like things were progressing at a rate where he needed to be alarmed or even change his plans. He was planning to be home by 4:00 p.m. later that day (Friday) anyway. I had heard that many first-time moms have long labors, and I was preparing myself for a long labor, possibly even several days. Again, I went back to sleep.
Again, I awoke to another contraction, this time around 2:25 a.m. Could it be that the contractions were picking up speed? I decided to stay awake and just time/monitor the gaps between contractions to be more certain. As it turned out, contractions had indeed picked up in pace and were between 20-25 minutes apart. I tried my best to remain calm and decided to call your Daddy again just to give him an update. When we spoke, he seemed a bit more concerned and urged me to at least call the midwife pager and alert them of my status. He wanted me to call him back after I had spoken to a midwife, so I agreed to do that. It must’ve been about 4 in the morning when I received a call back from the midwife, Katrina, who asked me some questions about how I was feeling, the contraction rate and intensity, and also about your Daddy’s ETA. I remember her saying, “Well, if it were me and my husband were that far away, I would call him and tell him to start heading home right away. He probably won’t be able to eat, sleep or even focus on work much if he knows his wife is in labor!” She also encouraged me to call back should things change or pick up in pace in the next few hours.
I called your Daddy (again!) and told him that he should probably cancel his meetings and start heading back to Minnesota, since he had about a 6 hour drive ahead of him. Contractions were now between 15-20 minutes apart. He urged me to call Amber, our doula, to see if she could come to our house and be with me until he could get home. He said he would get on the road as soon as he could. I needed to get up and take Scout outside for her morning potty break.
We ventured down the nine flights in our building’s elevator and slowly made our way to the back door. We walked around in the grass patch for a few minutes and she took care of her business. We headed back inside because after morning outings, always comes breakfast! When we got back in the apartment, I fed her and as I bent over to put the food in her bowl, I noticed that the contractions were now coming more quickly. I timed the gaps between them for a few minutes and I was now at 5-6 minutes apart! This couldn’t be happening... your Daddy was still hours away!
I called him to get an update on when he’d left and informed him that things had really sped up (I think because of the activity of taking Scout out). At this point, I wouldn’t say that I was in a panic; but I was definitely pretty anxious about the possibility that you could arrive and your father might miss your birth! I asked him if we could pray together over the phone as I just didn’t know what else to do. We asked God for peace in labor and that, if it was His will, things could slow down until your Daddy got home. I felt a sense of relief after the prayer in that we’d placed the situation in God’s hands. I also told your Daddy that Amber was on her way and at least I’d have someone (someone very knowledgeable and encouraging) by my side until he got back.
Amber arrived shortly after my conversation with Daddy and I updated her on where things were at. I had started writing down the times of my contractions on a piece of scratch paper so we could look for patterns and truly capture how long I’d been in labor. She took over charting the times and also provided me with some comfort during my contractions by applying pressure to my lower back, which was where I was starting to feel most of my labor pains. We reviewed the gaps between contractions and I was slowing down... 12-14 minutes between them again! God had heard and answered our prayer! I feel quite sure that He also orchestrated us contracting Amber as a doula (another story for another time) so that she could be there for me/us during these crucial moments of labor. She did a fantastic job of distracting me, chatting with me and alleviating any remaining traces of anxiety I had about your Daddy still not being home.
Amber helped me with water and snacks throughout the next several hours, making sure I kept my fluids and energy levels up. With each contraction getting stronger and more intense, she helped me find positions and comfort measures to endure each “wave.” We labored on the floor/hands-and-knees, on the couch/on my side, and on the yoga ball. I continued to struggle with the back labor and felt that being on my hands and knees in a modified downward dog position provided the most relief.
Finally, at about 2:45, your Daddy walked through the door! I can honestly say, next to the day he showed up for our wedding, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been to see him!!! We all decided to eat a good hearty lunch together in the event that things should speed up again. And that’s exactly what happened. In just the few short minutes following your Daddy’s arrival, the contractions began to pick up in pace and intensity again. (It’s pretty amazing to reflect on the mind/body connection and how I witnessed this in real time during your birth!) We were back down to about 6 minutes again and after that point, I have to admit, things got a little blurry for me. I remember eating some of my salad and burrito. I also recall Amber suggesting that maybe I should move to the bathtub for some extra relief for my back pain. A bath was drawn and I remember there being candles and very dim lighting, which was very calming. I don’t really know how long I was in the tub for, but Amber sat right beside me coaching and praising me through each contraction. I also remember asking if we could bring the ball into the tub and just turn on the shower and let the stream of water beat down on my lower back as I hugged the ball. My request was granted and I got through the next however many contractions in this manor.
Other than that, I can reflect on the experience of going very deeply into myself and blocking out much of whatever else was happening around me. I do know I was repeating the lyrics of U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” over and over in my mind, both as a focus point AND as a distraction. I was moaning and breathing very deeply with each contraction and I also found myself calling on God’s strength and the strength of my own mother (your Grandma Kristie), who passed away several years before you were born. I know she was present there with me the entire time, cheering me on and nudging me closer to meeting YOU! At some point, Amber told me I should get out of the tub and try to go to the bathroom. I was able to get out of the tub and do this, and I’m not sure, but she felt that this was when my water broke as she heard a big “sploosh” after I had gone. I also know that this was when I started to push little pushes, even though I hadn’t been told to do so. I just felt that that’s what my body wanted me to do. I can vaguely remember speaking with Rachel, the midwife on-call, but I don’t really recall the details of our conversation. After this, Daddy and Amber made it pretty clear that we needed to get to the birth center as soon as we could. I was still in a robe after my bath, with hair wet and no clothes on. As they struggled to help me get dressed between contractions, which now must’ve been coming between 2-3 minutes apart, we packed up the rest of our birth supplies and made our way down the hallway to the elevator.
The walk to the elevator to the underground garage seemed like the longest trek of my life and we had to have been stopping every ten-fifteen feet or so for me to lean against the wall in an effort to get through the next contraction. We finally made it to the car and I remember dreading getting in as I knew the ride over there was not going to be an easy one. We were on our way in a matter of minutes, with Amber following us in her car.
Again, I was drawn inward and for most of the ride to the birth center, all I could do was focus on the digital clock in our dashboard and remind myself that each contraction was only one minute, 60 seconds of discomfort, but 60 seconds closer to seeing your face. Each pothole, each bump on the road or brick-paved street in historic St. Paul felt like a knife being twisted in my lower back. I hoped that when I arrived at the birth center, I could ask for those sterile water injections the midwives had talked about in our prenatal appointments. I was desperate for some relief. I should also add that I was continuing to push at the conclusion of each contraction at this point... it just felt like the right thing to
When we arrived at the birth center and made our way inside to the birthing suite, the large birth tub/bath had already been drawn, and there was dim lighting and some LED candles burning... I think. I remember marching into the room and asking Rachel, “Ok, what now? Just tell me what to do- I need a plan.” I inquired about the water injections and some comfort for the back labor, to which she replied, “Let’s get you on the bed and see how far you’re dilated and we’ll go from there.”
That’s all I needed to hear, as I quickly made my way to the bed as if to say, “Ok-
let’s DO this!” She examined my cervix and stated, “Mara, the quickest solution to eliminating your back pain is just to have your baby. You are fully dilated to a 10 [cm], so let’s just get you in the tub!” That was probably the fastest I’d moved the whole labor, practically tearing off my clothes to get into the water.
The back pain was so intense at this point, but it did serve as my motivation to push and ride the wave of each contraction. My whole birthing team (Rachel, Brittany the RN, Amber and Daddy) was so supportive and encouraging. I can still hear their voices: “Mara, you’re SO strong! You can do this! You’re almost there!” Rachel did a great job of telling me when to push and when to rest/slow down; Amber was reminding me to “bear down” and with each push, my low moans and breathing got louder and louder. I was switching positions too, from hands and knees to reclining back. Rachel would use her mirror and flashlight in the water to check the progress and also checking your heart rate from time to time.
At some point, I moved into the recline position and knew I would stay there until you came out. It wasn’t very many more contractions and pushes before you crowned and your little head was ready to pop out. We were so close to meeting you!! I pushed through another couple of contractions and the strongest burning sensation I’d ever felt down there (now I know why they call it the Ring of Fire!). Finally, your head came out and Rachel said I probably only needed to push once or twice more before your shoulders and the rest of you emerged. Those last few pushes and contractions were a blur, as I was so focused on finally meeting our son or daughter!
Your Daddy helped to catch you underwater when you were fully born at 8:26 p.m. on Friday, March 4th. Daddy and Rachel placed you on my chest and I immediately started crying tears of joy when I looked into your bright eyes. I felt the warmth of your body against my heart and I knew I was instantly addicted to you. I had loved you all along, before you were conceived and during pregnancy, but now seeing you, my love for you had grown deeper and our connection had become stronger. You were so calm when you came out, not even crying as you took your first few breaths of this new world around you. We still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl, until Rachel suggested I hold you up to get a glimpse. I lifted you off my chest and had to move your umbilical cord out of the way before we could see that you were our little girl, our angelic Harlow Kristianna, named after your Grandma Kristie Ann. It was such a joy to finally meet you!