“If this kiddo makes her debut three weeks early, I’ll be having an April baby!” I told my best girl friend, Kristy. “I will NOT be ready if that happens.” With my first baby born three days past her due date and my second baby born on her due date, it never occurred to me that this little girl would in fact arrive three weeks early.
At 3:30am on Thursday, May 1, I woke up to a small gush of fluid that missed the panty-liner I was wearing. I jumped up and went to the bathroom, confused, because I had not leaked any urine this pregnancy and I couldn’t understand why I would start now. In my half-awake state, I slowly began to recall feeling a small pop before the warm gush. My stomach dropped as it dawned on me that my water had broken.
I went back to bed and immediately fell into a shallow sleep, then jerked awake and couldn’t remember if I had dreamt the whole thing. I went back to the bathroom to check and was pretty sure I was still leaking. I shot a text to my midwife, Laura, shortly after 4:00am to let her know that I *thought* my water had broken but I was not having contractions, so I was going back to bed and would call her when I woke up.
After trying unsuccessfully to fall back asleep, I decided I was going to need a more absorbent pad if my water had indeed broken. I headed downstairs to my box of birth supplies and grabbed a postpartum pad. As I was heading to the bathroom, the flood gates opened and my water started gushing out in torrents, completely saturating the pad I was wearing and running down my legs. That definitely cleared up any lingering doubts in my mind.
After cleaning up, I tracked a couple contractions that were coming 5-7 minutes apart, quite regularly, but they felt like Braxton Hicks, which I had been having regularly for weeks. I spent the next two hours scouring the internet to come up with ideas to get labor going just in case it didn’t start on its own.
Around 6:00am (the time Home Depot opens), I finally decided to wake up Chris because we still didn’t have the hose or faucet adapter we needed for the birth pool, which had only arrived in the mail the previous day. Breaking news like this to Chris is probably my favorite thing ever:
Me: Hey, Chris? Chris…
Chris: Huh? What?
Me: My water broke. Would you be willing to run to Home Depot for those birth supplies we still need?
Chris: [Jolting upright] WHAT?!
He did indeed run to the store, then made some phone calls into work to let them know he wasn’t coming in and to let his parents know that we would be needing their help with the older girls. I was not opposed to Hannah and Becca being present for the birth, but I didn’t want Chris trying to care for them and for me while in labor. I wasn’t comfortable with anyone else being in the house to care for them either, so it worked out well that my mother-in-law took the day off. (Funny sidenote: After learning that the baby was going to come out the same way I pee and poop, Hannah not only wanted to be there for the birth, she actually asked me if she could catch the baby. I regrettably said no.)
My contractions stopped almost completely when I finally got out of bed around 8:00am. When things didn’t pick up after waiting for hours, I walked a mile on my treadmill, but the contractions still didn’t start, so I tried pumping. My water broke first when Hannah was born and my contractions started immediately, so I felt confused and very anxious when they didn’t this time. I wish I had thought to ask my midwife how much time I had before the pressure was on to get baby out, because it is significantly longer than the 24-hour deadline most hospitals impose on women. (I asked later, and she would have given me more like 72 hours.) Even though I knew this in theory, I nevertheless felt almost frantic about trying to get things going. Finally, Laura told me to take a nap. Having been up since 3:30am, I crashed. For three hours!
When I woke up around 4:30pm, I started having more Braxton Hicks contractions anywhere from four to seven minutes apart. When they kept getting more regular and anywhere between three to five minutes apart around 5:30pm, it occurred to me that perhaps these could be labor contractions after all, even if they were so weak. I called my midwife, who listened to me talk casually through a couple of contractions, so she told me to call back in an hour with an update.
By 6:00pm, I knew this was finally labor. I called my best friend Kristy and we chatted for the 30 minutes before I needed to call Laura back. I still could talk through the contractions, although they were becoming more bothersome. Looking back at my contraction timer app, I can see that they were coming every two to three minutes at this point, so I should have known better, but they just weren’t that painful!
I called my midwife back at 6:30pm. She again listened to me talk through a couple of contractions, then said she would pack up a few things and head my way in about 15 or 20 minutes, taking another 10-15 minutes to make the drive. I told her that sounded great and I’d see her soon.
By 6:39, just a few minutes after we had hung up, things began to change. I texted Laura to ask if it was too soon to fill up the birth pool. She told me to wait a bit, but I felt a sense of urgency, so I ignored her suggestion and told Chris to fill up the pool immediately. He did.
Before 7:00pm, I felt my legs begin to shake. It was then that I knew JUST how fast things were happening. I debated whether or not to call my midwife back, since she was probably already on her way. I shot her a text instead: “Getting shaky I think.” She responded with, “Ok. Get in the water… I will drive faster.”
I walked downstairs, where Chris was still filling up the pool. I calmly announced, “I am in transition, so I’m getting in the water now. Please time my contractions for me. Laura will be here soon.”
After getting in the pool, the contractions came every one to three minutes and were very intense. I am glad the situation felt so serious to Chris, because I must have looked ridiculous. I rocked back in forth on my hands and knees in the water, bouncing my head off of the inflated wall of the pool.
Finally, Laura arrived as I was having another contraction. She told me how great I did and coached me to relax completely during the lull. By the end of the next contraction, which came almost immediately, I announced, “I think I pushed! I think I pushed!” Laura went to the sink and washed her hands, then started to put on her latex gloves, but my next contraction hit.
“Baby is crowning. Do you want to catch her?”
“NO!” I gasped. There wasn’t time.
I pushed. “Her head is out.” I pushed again and out slid her body. Some women describe that moment as orgasmic. I think that’s weird, but I understand why. The sense of relief is overwhelming. Laura informed me later that she didn’t even have time to put on her other glove! Elizabeth Claire Neumair was born at 7:23pm, in two pushes, less than 10 minutes after my midwife had walked through the door.
Chris said it felt like an eternity to him, but I thought Elizabeth let out a beautiful, strong cry the second after Laura pulled her out of the water, so I knew all was well even before I saw her. Chris told me later that the umbilical cord was draped around Elizabeth’s neck, but from his point of view it looked as if it were wrapped around. He also was not familiar with vernix, a white slimy substance that commonly covers the skin of early babies, so when he saw this white and purple baby with the cord wrapped around her neck, he was ready to dial 911. He looked to Laura, who remained completely calm and clearly wasn’t fazed one bit. She tenderly moved the cord and began to wrap the baby up in a blanket, and it was then that Elizabeth let out a holler.
Laura instructed me to roll over so she could hand me the baby, since I was still on my hands and knees—the position I had delivered in. For a moment I felt like I couldn’t move, but since I was in the water, I pulled one leg over the umbilical cord and then just kind of flopped backward and let the water catch me.
She placed this beautiful baby on my chest, who immediately quieted and just stared at me. I sat there amazed.
Chris cut the umbilical cord a few minutes after it had stopped pulsing, and Laura then suggested I try to deliver my placenta. I didn’t feel the urge to push, but I gave a little oomph anyway and it slid right out. I had asked to see my placenta after Hannah was born, but I forgot how massive this thing is. Very impressive. Laura packaged it up for transport, since I decided to encapsulate it in a desperate attempt to prevent PPD.
The rest of the night is a blur. I somehow made it out of the pool. Laura toweled me off and helped me slip on some underwear with a postpartum pad, then we moved to the couch. I immediately began nursing, and Elizabeth was a champ. I finally had to break her latch so we could weigh her. She was a massive 7 pounds and 12 ounces, as well as a full 20 inches long—my biggest baby by an entire pound despite being three whole weeks earlier than her sisters.
Laura informed me that I had absolutely no tears, and that Elizabeth was perfect, scoring a 9 on both of her Apgar scores. Shortly after, my MIL brought my girls over briefly so they could meet their new sister before bedtime. Becca’s response was, “Awww, she’s adorable. I want to see the baby swim!” Apparently telling her the pool was “for the baby” was a little confusing to her three-year-old mind. Elizabeth was maybe only 20 minutes old when we took our first family picture together:
As I continued to nurse, Laura sneakily managed to clean up just about everything, including draining the pool. Since we paid a whopping $30 bucks for the thing, Chris just threw it away. Best $30 bucks I’ve ever spent.
Not long after, Laura rested her hands in her lap and shrugged. She asked if there was anything else she could do for us, or if I wanted her to help me take a shower. She told me she doesn’t normally head home so quickly after a birth, but she honestly didn’t know what else to do for us because we seemed all set. We sent her on her way and settled in for a relaxing night at home.
“So, a homebirth, huh?” I said to Chris a few days later, grinning.
“Yeah. You done good.”
“Better than the hospital?”
“It was amazing.”