I feel like there's always so much more to a birth story than just when the contractions started and when the baby was born.  There's so much preparation that goes into birth.  Mental, physical, and emotional prep that should not be overlooked or underestimated.  This pregnancy was a bit of a surprise as we were pretty certain we were happy with our brood of five but there were other plans for our family. As I sit here staring at my new, sweet little girl, I'm so glad the plan changed.  My last birth was very mentally challenging for me and I had a lot fear I had to work through to prepare for this birth.  Birth is hard work and it was still very fresh in my mind.  I made a lot of plans to "fix" the things that were hard about Connor's birth.  I talked to my midwife and my doula a lot about my fears and expectations for this birth.  Ultimately I realized that I can not control how my labor goes, I handed over all the plans and parts of the birth I could control (having a birth pool, how I wanted to be talked to or touched, etc.) and then stopped thinking.  I filled my mind with wonderful affirmations.  I have some sweet friends that made me a banner full of affirmations that I hung in my room.  I made my nest and let go of plans and thinking and just prepared my heart. 

As I prepared my heart though, the heavens opens up and the floods came.  Literally.  The Houston area and beyond had record breaking amounts of rain and at one point the roads were so flooded that Toni (my midwife) would not have been able to get to me if I labored.  I tried to relax and think anti-labor thoughts.  In the back of my mind I was worried, understandably so, I think!  In the meantime, my doula/best friend's house flooded, making it impossible for her to come to me.  We had a break in the rain but the forecast called for more later in the week so I really wanted to have the baby on Monday, Memorial Day.  The roads were clear and no rain on the radar.  Perfect.  So Monday morning came and I had a massage scheduled, an appointment with my midwife, and a chiropractor visit all lined up.  I was even willing to take castor oil to get things started.  My massage was AH-MA-ZING! My appointment with Toni was wonderful, as usual.  We decided to do a check before I committed to the castor oil and I was only 1 cm, baby high, no effacement.  I knew that was a possibility and as much as I wanted to have the baby that day, it didn't seem like it was going to happen.  I skipped the castor oil, got an adjustment, and went home.  

The rain held off and was never as bad as the forecast warned, the roads dried up and I was much more relaxed.  The only thing now was that my dad was getting married on June 18th and having the baby as old as possible at the wedding would be best for both of us.  On Friday, June 3rd (my due date) an amazing friend of mine, who happens to be a massage therapist, came to my house and gave me a great massage working on all of the labor pressure points.  Bless her!  I mildly contracted after she left and into the evening. I woke up several times contracting in the night but was able to go back to sleep.  I finally got up about 5:30, showered, did some laundry, and enjoyed the quiet house.  The contractions were about 15 minutes apart but good, strong ones.  I debated about texting Toni since they were still so far apart, but I knew she had family visiting and finally at 7:30 I decided I should give her a heads up.  Her exact words were "don't worry about my family!  Worry about the other girl I have contracting!"  WHAT?  This was one of my students and we joked about having our babies on the same day but it was a JOKE!  So we texted back and forth and we decided we'd load up my birth stuff and meet her at the birth center.  I woke John up and told him what was going on,  made kid arrangements and headed to Bryan.  I was worried about being in car in labor. The beauty of a home birth is everyone comes to you!  On our way Toni called me and said the other girl delivered and asked if I still wanted to come.  Knowing that she would still be at the birth center for several hours we decided we all felt better being close in case things moved along quickly.  By the time we got to the birth center around 10:00, my contractions completely fizzled out.  Toni checked me and I was 2-3 cm but baby was still high.  We decided to go walk Target (which I always thought would be fun in early labor but never thought I'd actually get to since Brenham doesn't have one!)  We were finishing up in Target when my chiropractor text me and said she was at the birth center adjusting the baby and offered to adjust me, too.  Yes, please!  She didn't have her table so she adjusted me out on the porch.  Officially the strangest place she's adjusted anyone, she said!  Around noon, Toni was finishing up with the other family and John and I were starving so we went out to lunch (spicy food, of course!), went home and took a nap.

I woke up around 3:30 contracting.  They were still really far apart but strong enough for me to start timing them.  They were about 10-15 minutes apart.  I went about my business but kept timing them.  I had been in touch with my friend Kacy and photographer Dixie all day.  I gave Kacy a heads up that things were starting again but I had no idea how long it would be before active labor kicked in.  She decided to finish up some things at home and head my way.  She got there at 7:00 on the dot and even though the contractions were still about 10 minutes apart they were loooooow and stroooooong.  I'd have to stop and really focus through them.  Even between contractions I wasn't very talkative and preferred to quietly lie on my side with a pillow over my face.  I'm a great hostess! *wink wink* I did this for a little while and again debated about calling Toni.  The contractions were not close enough to be considered anything but early labor and yet they were so low and strong that I was already having to work through them.  At 7:45 I finally called her.  We would not consider contractions that are 10-15 minutes apart to be active labor,  but she asked if I wanted to come now.  I said no since 10 minutes apart is still no where near having a baby.  I had a contraction while I was on the phone with her, breathed and moaned through it.  After it was over I told her that was a easy one.  She said "THAT was any easy one?"  The fact that they were so strong was throwing us all off!  She suggested I do a couple of inversions off the couch, that maybe the baby needed to reposition for labor to really kick in.  Kacy helped me with two and we decided to go for a walk.  We went back in to my room and a contraction hit.  I laid on the bed and moaned through it.  Kacy applied clarysage to ankles and gave them a good massaging.  Another contraction hit that was different.  I moaned through that one but it was hard!  It was about 8:30 by now and I heard someone in kitchen and Kacy told me it was Toni.  She decided to go ahead and come check on me.  I looked at Kacy and said "she's so great to me."  We told her what was going on and Toni listened to baby and did a check.  I told her I didn't want to know where I was.  This was one thing that made it hard with Connor.  I got obsessed with numbers!  She checked and said she was going to go ahead and call Riley (the assistant and my sweet friend) and start setting up.  I noticed John starting to mess with the birth pool so I knew I was a good amount along for Toni to say I could get in the water.  The contractions finally started getting closer together.  I always say that labor really starts when the midwife gets to my house and this time was no different!  Kacy was timing them, John filled the pool, and Toni got things set up.

Things progressed FAST!  I alternated from lying on my side and going to the bathroom.  Once the pool was ready I hopped in and there was instant relief.  It felt soooooo good!  For about 5 minutes.  Then transition hit.  I have really hard transitions and requested LOTS of smooth transitions tincture to help me through.  Kacy was right there with it when I started with the classic transition lines "I can't do this!" and "this was a really bad idea!" It took the edge off and I could think again.  I had to pee again so I got out of the tub.  My sweet husband spent I don't know how long setting up the pool, blowing it up, and getting the water the perfect temperature, for me to spend five whole minutes in there.  It was a glorious five minutes though!  

This is where things get a little fuzzier in my memory and I have no idea of the timeline.  I came out of the bathroom and climbed on my bed and asked Toni if I was close.  She said yes, so I asked what I was when she checked me.  "You want to know now?" I asked again if I was close and she said yes and that I was a six.  I liked that number!  It also meant that I was moving FAST!

I sat on the stool for Toni to check me and she said I was almost complete, there was just a little lip, but if I felt the urge to push to go with it and we'd see what the lip would do.  PUSH? WHAT?  I forgot about that part.  It couldn't possibly be time to push yet!  The stool was uncomfortable even with John supporting me.  I had always been on the bed to push with my other babies.  I stood at the bed thinking I could get back up there, but that was a big, fat joke.  I went limp with every contractions and John literally held me up.  I was in some kind of awkward supported squat and kept yelling to John "You have to hold me up!  You have to hold me up!"  (Dads, you totally have your work cut out for you, too!) I remember looking down and noticed that my body was at the exact level of stool so I moved over and sat down. At one point I decided I'd just stay pregnant. That didn't sound so bad after all. I kept asking why it was taking so long.  I'm not sure what I meant since things were moving fast and I hadn't really started pushing yet.  Toni said all the good midwife-y things about how I can do this, it wasn't taking long, everything is perfect, I'll see my baby soon and whatnot.  Then she looked at me straight in the face and said "Cheryl, you are the only one that can do this.  You can make this over.  Push your baby out!  Do you remember how to push?"  I literally remember thinking "yes, we talk about pushing in class 7!"  But something clicked with her statement...OH! I can push now!  I can meet my baby! Let's do this!  So I pushed and moved the baby down.  I had forgotten how intense that pressure and stretching is.  Yeeeeow!  Between contractions Toni told me the baby was on the perineum.  "What?  I thought the head was out!"  No, not quite.  With the next contraction I crowned the baby.  Toni told me that the contractions were still a little bit far apart and if she told me to push I needed to do it.  I have attended enough births to know that she was serious and I needed to be ready to listen.  The sensations were so intense that I couldn't really tell if I was still in a contraction or not.  I remember thinking maybe I could just breathe the baby's head out so I gave deep, long breaths and another contraction came  and at 10:41 pm I pushed the head out along with a sweet, wet, little body.  I grabbed the baby and Toni untangled the cord.  I looked down and immediately knew it was a girl.  She looked just like Mia.  She took about a minute to cry and pink up.  Riley put the doppler on her and her heart rate was great.  We all gave a huge sigh of relief when she cried!  I looked and sure enough, A LITTLE GIRL!  I really thought it was going to be boy!  It was a moment I'll never forget!  

I pushed out the placenta (which I had forgotten how weird it feels coming out and how much relief you feel once it is out) and moved to the bed to try to nurse. She had a sucker blister on her hand from sucking in the womb so I knew she was going to be a great nurser!  

I was anxious for Toni to weigh her.  I worked really hard on my diet following the Trim Healthy Mama plan.  I have a tendency to grow big babies and I wanted to grow a small one this time.  She wieghed 7 lbs 12 oz!  I couldn't believe I grew a small baby!  Yay me!  We did the rest of the newborn exam and Toni laughed at me because I grabbed the papers and charted for my own baby!  Once a birth assistant, always a birth assistant! The exam revealed what we already knew...she's perfect in every way!

Jay and Hunter were still awake and came in to meet their sister, we took an herbal sitz bath, and climbed in bed to finally sleep.  It was an amazing, perfect, fast birth.  I'm really proud of us.  I had the best birth team who literally helped me through every single moment.  They were exactly who I needed.  My only regret is that my favorite doula couldn't be there, but she was where she needed to be.  I'm forever grateful for this birth and this sweet girl I'm nursing and snuggling as I type.  Life is a crazy, wonderful journey and I get to do it with the best people.