My due date was St-Paddy’s day, March 17th, 2017 but it was the week of March 6th when I knew she was coming soon, possibly within days. The entire pregnancy, I had been relying on my gut feelings on a lot of things. Sometimes in the craziness of pregnancy, that’s all I had to hold on to since life with a toddler had basically made my brain mush. My gut feelings were the most primal indicators that I was in touch with this pregnancy more than my brain was letting on.
But the thing that convinced me the most that my daughter would be entering the world soon was how John Fredrick was behaving. He was so full of love and affection toward both John and I. I know that sounds weird, but our very busy 18-month old was not one for cuddles all day long….except for that week. He was constantly hugging me, offering kisses, reaching for our hands, snuggling and just wanting to be close for closeness sake. One of my son’s primary love languages is definitely physical touch, but not to that extent. He rarely offers kisses and hugs so willingly. But that week, he was just so full of physical affection, it was absolutely amazing and totally out of his character. JF is such a busy little toddler, so full of energy, physical vibrancy, enthusiasm and excitement. He loves to have fun and just bounce around all over the place. It is beautiful and it is exhausting. So his display of physical affection was quite out of the ordinary. One night before bed and before a whole bunch of kisses and hugs for both John and I, I looked at my husband and said, “He knows something we don’t. She is coming soon. And he knows it.”
The week continued on. My parents had arrived in town on March 2nd and were staying with us for about a month to help before, during and after the baby was born. Up to this point, we still didn’t have a name. We were pretty certain we would decide like we did last time with John Fredrick – at the very last minute!
I was full of nervous energy and lots of oxytocin surges, especially because nursing with John Fredrick was still going strong. When I found out I was pregnant when he was 10.5 months old, I vowed to continue nursing him throughout the entire pregnancy and beyond. Neither of us were ready to wean and I was willing to do everything in my power to maintain this close bond with my son for as long as possible. And here we were reaching the end of the pregnancy, our breastfeeding relationship still as strong as ever. So strong in fact, that his constant nursing is what started my labor. That was also something I had a gut feeling would happen. And it did, to my complete surprise.
Friday morning, 5am. March 10, 2017. 39 weeks pregnant.
I woke up most likely because John Fredrick stirred and wanted to nurse so I rolled over on my side and he latched. He was most likely dry nursing for most of the pregnancy, but since we were cosleeping, it was absolutely his source of comfort and security. I had been having Braxton Hicks consistently for weeks, but no real contractions…until that morning. In a very sleepy morning haze, I felt that oh so familiar pulling, deep aching and contracting in my lower abdomen and travelling to my back. Unlike BH contractions, this one lingered for a few minutes and when it was over I realized that I had been holding my breath. My eyes shot open and I felt like the world today would now be a completely different place. My daughter was coming! John Fredrick continued nursing in his sleep and I waited. I wish I had counted now for memory’s sake how many contractions I had but I definitely felt those surges radiating through my uterus and to my back for a number of times. There was no rhyme or reason and there was no pain and no rhythm so I just took deep breaths and felt tears in my eyes form from joy and and excitement. I remember those moments, alone in my wakefulness knowing those were real contractions starting and my body was preparing. I poked John in the head and woke him up. He looked at me with very sleepy eyes but when I said, “I think we are going to have a baby soon”, his eyes shot open and he exclaimed, “Today?!” and I said, “No, not today. Well, maybe. But definitely at some point this weekend!”
The sun was out and as I looked down on John Fredrick nursing in his sleep, I started to cry. All these “last” moments I had been anticipating for months, well these last moments as my only baby were going to be it quite soon. This build-up of “grieving” the end of my only child was now upon me, and as excited as I was to meet my little girl, I couldn’t help feeling sad that a part of John Fredrick’s and my journey as only child and mother of one was coming to an end. It’s a deep metamorphosis becoming a mother of two, one that can only be understood after the fact.
But I digress. Back to Friday morning.
My plan was to just go about my day just as normal and ignore my contractions…until I was not able to ignore them any longer! That was some wise advice I received from one of my midwives. I knew starting true and active labor could take hours, even days at this point and there was no use getting worked up unnecessarily. This labor was already starting off very different from John Fredrick’s, where I didn’t feel a single contraction and my first indication was that my water broke! So go about my day. Here was my morning plan:
- Bring John Fredrick to his gym class at 10:30AM in Greer
- Go to the closing out liquidation sale at Baby Furniture Plus on Pelham
- Porch pick up something I bought off the internet in Simpsonville
- Go home. Feed John Fredrick lunch. Nap.
This plan kind of brought me all over the place, but I figured it would keep my busy. One reason I felt confident about going about it was that my parents were there and I could have my mom come with me to support me through any necessary events. (Ha!)
When everyone was awake, I told my parents that I was having contractions and that I probably going to have the baby this weekend. Just like that, ha. Since they were with me when JF was born, they were familiar with what point I would be at before it was time to go to the birth center.
So I brought John Fredrick to his gym class that morning, which I had to also actively participate in by helping him climb, jump, and sing along and do actions. We had been in the class for a few months now so I was used to it. Except today I was having contractions the entire time. I was literally sweating beads trying to keep up with him while the surges went through my body. Some of the sweet Moms and Grandmas that I had gotten to know were all excited for me since my due date was getting so close, and when I told them I was having presently contractions while spinning a bunch of 18-24 month old kids in a parachute and singing “Pop goes the weasel”, I swear I saw some of their jaws drop. But really, there was nothing better to do that would help baby girl descend than to keep on moving! By the time the class was over, I was a sweaty mess and I felt kind of gross!
The next stop was to do some liquidation shopping at one of my favorite baby stores in Greenville that was closing. My mom was skeptical asking me, “Are you sure??” and I was like, “Yea yea! I’m fine” The shopping trip was fairly uneventful, with some notable moments when I had to stop several times walking through the parking lot to breathe through contractions and squeeze my mom and John Fredrick’s hands. My mom is generally a pretty worried and anxious lady, so I can’t imagine how much she was trying to not appear worried!
After shopping, I dropped my mom and John Fredrick home and decided to finish my last task on my own. As I drove away, I started to feel the surges deepen and part of me was like, “Are you crazy girl? Driving to some neighborhood you have never been to while you might potentially start active labor – just to pick up a bottle drying rack?!” I almost started to cry. I had to stop for gas and I had to pee so I waddled from my car to a strange gas station and felt this sense of strength in my solitude at that moment. It was a weird gas station off of the freeway that I would probably never go to again – but I never wanted to forget it because these were the moments that would be mine forever in my memory of my labor for my daughter. I love weird, seemingly useless bits of memories because they are somehow meaningful for me. Maybe one day I will move out of this state but come back and find myself at this gas station again years from now and remember how I held my belly and felt the tightening as I filled up my tank and went along my way. This gas station was part of this labor story.
The trip to pick up my purchase and drive back was also uneventful but I was more than convinced that this labor was starting to pick up and that contractions were a bit more steady and stronger. Not yet quite there, but definitely gaining momentum. When I got home, I ate lunch and then was absolutely exhausted. I brought John Fredrick upstairs to nurse him for a nap and I was more than ready for one as well. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and my whole body was heavy and exhausted. This was absolutely not normal at all for me. I knew it was my body preparing for some big things ahead and telling me to get some rest.
I fell into a deep, deep sleep for about 2 hours with John Fredrick and woke up fairly disoriented. It was one of those sleeps where you wake up foggy, not sure what day or time it was. John Fredrick was awake too and I figured I couldn’t go back to sleep. I waddled to the bathroom and sat on the toilet, and suddenly felt something come out of me and fall in the toilet. I knew what it was immediately as my breath started getting shorter, I could feel all my emotions rush to my chest and the tears well up in my eyes. It was my mucus plug. This was it, it was happening. All the contractions all day and now my mucus plug… I knew my body was working hard. My baby was working hard!
I was crying. My body felt exhausted and tingly. My belly was tight but the pressure waves had taken a break. I picked up John Fredrick and went downstairs and I heard noises in the garage and realized John was home. I opened the garage door and as soon as I saw him I started crying, and all the emotions came out.
“I lost my mucus plug. We are having our baby soon.” John was ecstatic and nervous. I was a wreck, FULL of nerves and excitement, and anticipation and bittersweet heartache as I looked at my sweet baby boy John Fredrick.
“Can we go for a family walk around the neighborhood?” I asked. It was a beautiful afternoon and I just wanted to go for a final walk just the three of us. So off we went, as we both held John Fredrick’s hand and strolled around our neighborhood. Contractions came and went, but still nothing worth timing. My belly felt heavy and my pelvic floor felt heavy as well.
When we got back, it was the early evening and time to think about dinner. I needed fuel for what was to come. I asked my parents if they wouldn’t mind going out for dinner since this would be one of the last times we could go out for dinner in awhile. We had dinner at a Mediteranean restaurant near us that we like to go to. I had many contractions throughout dinner. I had a baby shower that I was supposed to attend the next morning (and in my brain I prepped that I would still be going!) and I hadn’t purchased a gift. So I stopped at Target while my parents stayed in the car with John Fredrick. I walked around Target for a good 20 minutes, going through pressure waves. I laughed thinking how I was in early labor, strolling around Target.
When we finally got home it was probably past 9. We got John Fredrick into bed and after 9 months of preparing, I knew tonight was the last night he would be my only baby in our bed. I must have taken a million photos in between, but these were our last nursing moments before his sister came into this world.
It was around 10:30pm when I went downstairs to find John in the kitchen. Contractions now had a steady rhythm going and the oxytocin was definitely kicking in as I was excitedly and playfully swaying and dancing through contractions. We put on the 80’s station on Pandora and danced in our kitchen as waves of pressure overtook me. There was a large part of me that still didn’t believe I was in true labor even though contractions had been pretty steady for over two hours, since dinner. I tried to have as much fun as possible in the meantime before I really got down to business…which would be sooner than I thought. It was going on 11 and John and I knew the smart thing was to go to bed and get some rest. But John Fredrick and my parents were asleep and John and I had our time together alone at night as we anticipated our lives being rocked by a newborn. We decided we would stay up for 20 more minutes and listen to music and then go to bed. We sat in the living room and I sat on my birthing ball while I listened to some relaxation tracks. John massaged my shoulders to help me relax.
Now, since it has been some time since that night…it gets quite foggy after I snapped this last photo. I’m not sure I remember when things kicked into full gear…but it wasn’t long after I posed with this playful smirk. Somewhere between 11pm-12am, contractions got heavy. John and I decided it was a good idea to call the Midwives and let them know things were moving along and it was possible I would be coming into the birth center that night, and we would call back when we thought it was time. I remember we finally decided to go upstairs so I can attempt to get some rest. I decided to try and take a bath to relax my body. We went into our master bathroom through the bedroom and I was sure I would wake up John Fredrick, but he slept like a rock through the whole ordeal at home. I labored for around 30 minutes in the bath and contractions slowed some, but were still quite intense. I was soooo tired (should have gone to bed at 10pm when I had the chance!) and was starting to feel edgy. I decided I needed to try to get some rest and got out of the back. Since we coslept, John Fredrick was sleeping in our bed, even though we had his room already set up. So we bunkered down in his bedroom so that I wouldn’t wake him up through contractions. With John Fredrick’s labor, at the beginning I managed to relax enough to the point to be able to rest and sleep between contractions. I assumed and hoped I would be able to do the same thing this time around…but either contractions were stronger, I was not in a relaxed enough state of mind, or I was just utterly exhausted I couldn’t bring myself to find my calm. I listened to my playlist, but like my first labor, I couldn’t stand listening to music, it was too stimulating on top of everything else going on in my head and body. Around 1:30AM, my mom came into the room and asked how I was doing. She had been listening to me labor (it would have been hard not to!) and she suggested maybe we should be on our way to the birth center. She felt like the contractions were getting close. I just wanted to lie in bed.
During both of my labors, every time I moved, I had a contraction, so often it was easier to just stay in one position. But Mom was right and John agreed. He called the midwife back again and told her he thought I was just about ready. I mentally prepared (or at least tried) to get a grasp on what was going on. Birth center bag was ready, and snack bag was ready. We got the doorway to the garage right next to the kitchen and I started sobbing hysterically. I wanted to run up to John Fredrick and hug him and kiss him all over and tell him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him tonight, the first night in his life that he would sleep without Mama. And how his and our worlds would be totally different once we came back home because his sister would be with us. I just cried and cried and begged John to grab the photo of John Fredrick from Valentine’s Day that he “made” me. My mom and John took turns hugging me and comforting me and assuring me that he would be just fine. My heart ached so much. As John got the car ready, my Dad helped me walk out to the car and held me through a few contractions. I can’t imagine how it would be like to be a parent to watch your child – your baby – go through labor. I’m now a Mom so I can imagine what it feels like for me…but I can’t imagine what it’s like for a father to see his daughter go through the pains of labor – for the second time! My dad has always been so good at comforting and it felt good to share these special moments with him, even though I know it pained him to see me like this!
So at about 2AM on Saturday March 11th, 2017, John and I were on our way to the birth center, going around 95MPH on I-85. This is where I will end Part 1, because the labor gets pretty heavy and a bit dark as both me and my daughter worked hard to get her into the world. It was not a perfect labor, in fact, it was incredibly traumatizing for me for months. So much of it was not as I wanted. But now, 6 months later, in hindsight, I know it was perfect in its own way. It was how my Juliet came into this world and into my arms. Before I get too emotional, please tune in to read the rest when I post Part 2!