On a Friday evening in January 2005, almost two weeks past my due date, my phone rang. It was my sister informing me that she had “beat” me–her newborn daughter (due the same day as my baby) had arrived! As I was visiting her at the hospital I started to notice contractions that were coming pretty regularly, but I waited until we were in the van on our way home to mention it to my husband. At home, we called Leah and told her what was happening, and she and Laura decided to drive over to our house later that evening, as it seemed likely our baby was ready to arrive!
We put our two other children in bed for the night and prepared the birthing room and Leah’s new waterbirth tub. I was still having regular contractions, although they didn’t feel very strong. When Leah arrived, a vaginal exam confirmed that the contractions were affecting my cervix, so we continued with preparations for the birth. Leah and Laura decided to try to get some sleep until things picked up and encouraged me to do the same, since I would need as much energy as possible for the task at hand.
Toward morning, after a long night of seemingly half-hearted contractions, my labor stalled completely. I was dilated 4-5 centimeters, but it seemed we would have to wait awhile longer to meet our baby. Leah and Laura left for the day but said that we should call if anything changed.
I spent that Saturday caring for my other children and trying not to be frustrated that we were still without a baby. Towards evening I noticed my contractions started in again, but was almost afraid to call Leah after the false alarm we’d had the night before. However, we did call her, and she and Laura decided to come out again that night in order to be close at hand.
I experienced contractions most of that night, although still not to the intensity that I expected with full-blown labor. We tried a few natural remedies in order to encourage my body along, but as the sun came up the next morning my contractions again completely stopped. At that point I was dilated to almost 7 centimeters, which seemed like a ridiculously frustrating place to stop labor! Leah and Laura left again, suggesting that we should try to get on with our day as normally as possible. Although I had missed almost two complete nights of sleep by that point, we decided to head to church in order to get out of the house and keep my mind on something besides feeling sorry for myself.
The rest of the day progressed uneventfully. Then towards evening we received a phone call from Leah. Because I was so far dilated, she was concerned that if my labor started up again that night, it would progress very quickly, and the snow and ice in the weather forecast might prevent her and Laura from getting to our house in time for the delivery. She offered us an option–breaking my bag of waters in order to more aggressively stimulate labor. After talking over the pros and cons with James and me, she told us she would wait to hear what we decided.
James and I talked about Leah’s offer. We decided to call the midwife who attended our birth in Minnesota to get an outside opinion. She listened to our story, and the first thing she said was, “Sounds like you need to get that baby here soon!” After talking with her, we chose to go ahead with the plan to break the bag of waters.
Leah and Laura came over about 10:00 Sunday night, but we all agreed to get as much sleep as possible before breaking the waters. I fell asleep for a couple hours but was wide awake again around 1:00 or 2:00 AM. At that point Leah said she wasn’t prepared to break the waters until we’d tried a few other less invasive methods of encouraging labor. Our efforts seemed to work because, although I wasn’t experiencing painful contractions, I soon dilated to eight centimeters and then to nine! Leah said she was ready to break the waters, so I went downstairs to the basement while she and James and Laura prepared for the birth. As they were working, I walked around and around in the family room, feeling no pain but only a heavy pressure during contractions. Soon I realized that I had water trickling down my leg during each contraction and I realized that my bag of waters had broken on its own!
Soon Leah announced that I was dilated to almost 10 centimeters. I hardly believed her, because I still wasn’t feeling any painful contractions and nothing at all like an urge to push. I decided to get into the birthing tub, thinking that would help move labor along. However, an hour or so in the tub confirmed what we’d been learning through the previous two days: this baby wasn’t going to come into the world in the ordinary way. Although I was dilated to almost 10 centimeters, I was still feeling no pain, and my labor seemed to have stalled again! I remember sitting in the tub talking and laughing with Leah, Laura and James–we were all amazed at the way things were progressing. After awhile Leah encouraged me to try some nipple stimulation, because that seemed most effective at encouraging labor earlier in the night.
The nipple stimulation did work, as I was soon experiencing very heavy contractions and then what I considered transition-like pain. My three nights of lost sleep started to catch up with me at that point, and I felt utter exhaustion. I was about ready to ask everybody to take me into the hospital for a C-section because I couldn’t take any more, when I remembered I often feel like giving up just before my babies are born.
I decided to change positions to see if that helped relieve some of the pain. As I stepped out of the tub, I suddenly realized the baby was coming NOW! I dropped down onto the floor and moaned “Help me! Help me!” I was feeling a strong urge to push, but Leah was encouraging me to give the baby time to slowly move through the birth canal in order to avoid tearing. Laura was holding my head in her lap, and James and Leah were preparing to catch the baby. The pain seemed even more intense from what I remembered of my daughter’s birth, but soon the pressure and pain vanished, as our son slipped into the world!
Our “little” fellow weighed in at 9 pounds, 5 ounces, and his head was 15 inches! Despite his size, I had only a small tear that required no stitching. James and I spent some time discussing a name for him and finally decided on Armin James, naming him after my grandfather.
After the placenta was delivered, Leah tucked me and Armin into bed with strict instructions to remain there as much as possible for the next week. She and Laura spent time cleaning up and doing laundry before they left, leaving a promise to come back for post-natal check-ups.
Looking back, there’s not much I would have changed about Armin’s birth. At the time, I was frustrated with how slowly things progressed, but I can also see a blessing in the fact that I experienced no pain until just before Armin arrived. God knew that I was exhausted from losing three nights of sleep, and I believe He pushed me just to the edge of my endurance. I will always be thankful to Him, and to Leah and Laura, for my beautiful birth experience.