Although I never thought that Abbi Grace would come after her due date, it was truly the perfect timing and I praise God for it!
Some examples of why I now see that God's timing was perfect:
1. She stayed put during the flu and long recovery.
2. Although I really wanted her to come while my parents were here over the weekend, it would have been an impossible situation for Mark. Many of his coaches and workers came down with the flu and it turned out to be one of the busiest and most stressful weekends of work for him. He told me later on that he had no idea how he would have been able to cover things had I gone into labor that weekend!
3. Both sets of grandparents were already here so my girls were taken care of and no one had to travel in the middle of the night!
4. We all got a good night's sleep before labor began! With both Karis and Karlie, I labored overnight and was so utterly exhausted that it was hard to keep my eyes open to enjoy my new baby. This time, although I was physically exhausted, I didn't have that lingering, miserable headache due to sleep deprivation and it made such a difference!
So, here is the story... if you are a guy who doesn't like to hear about the birth process, you might want to stop reading now :) I want to remember everything, so I am trying to write out every detail that I remember!
Well, my due date came and went. The baby still had not dropped in the least! My parents had been here for the weekend, which was wonderful, but I told them to go on home Sunday afternoon because I wasn't showing any signs of labor. I had some mild contractions Sunday night during the Superbowl that were more real (crampy rather than just a tightening) but nothing painful or regular at all, so I went on to bed, feeling like this baby would never come.
Around 2am I woke up completely, having some more contractions and feeling sick to my stomach. Was that because of the mad amounts of sausage-rotel dip I ate during the Superbowl, or was my body cleansing itself to get ready for labor? After a couple hours of not being able to go back to sleep due to contractions and bathroom runs, I figured that Abbi might actually be on the way!
I called my parents and Mark's in the morning before they left for work just to tell them that I *might* be in the beginning stages of labor so they could keep their suitcases in the car. I knew that with Karlie, it took my body about 24 hours of mild "real" contractions and feeling sick before the super-painful, "go-to-the-hospital" type of labor actually commenced. I was worried that the contractions would slow down once I got moving and didn't want them all coming if it was a false alarm. So I encouraged them to wait.
But since I was over-due and they didn't want to be making any "middle of the night" long drives, both of our parents decided to go ahead and come. Mark's parents, who were going to keep the girls for us, left right away. My folks were going to leave after work unless we called and said things were moving faster. But sure enough, once I got moving around, the contractions faded. I was sure Mark's parents' had come for no reason.
They got to our house by naptime, and I was so thankful! I was exhausted since I had been up sick the night before and I was able to take a long nap. I also took a LONG, brisk walk trying to move things along and a long, hot shower just because it felt so good. I would not have been able to do any of those things had Mark's parents not come early. But I felt really bad that they had come, because the contractions had slowed down almost completely and I was just sure it was a false alarm! I called my parents and told them not to worry about coming because I just wasn't having contractions anymore. Too late; they had already booked the hotel room beside the hospital for the night and they were getting in the car ready to come.
I went to bed that night around 8:30 just because I was so tired. Every time I woke up, I prayed for contractions because I really wanted Abbi to come while they were here. But I felt nothing.Later on, I realized what a blessing it had been to get a break from the contractions because I actually got a full 8 hours of sleep before real labor began!
Around 5:00, I woke up with contractions that actually really, really hurt! I knew they were the real thing, but they weren't close enough together to be sure she was coming right away. I got up to see if they would still come if I walked around and to call my doula. Mark's Mom heard me and started to time my contractions. They were 10 minutes apart, and after just a couple of bounces on the exercise ball, they started coming at 5, then, 3, then 2 minutes apart! It was amazing how fast they changed and how painful they got so quickly! I woke Mark, and we quickly gathered our things and left for the hospital around 6am.
We had a 40 minute drive to the hospital, and it was excruciating! I had switched hospitals so I could use a midwife group that was more happy about my "natural" birth plan and it was the wisest decision that I had made. Instead of a humongous "business-like" hospital that had their own routine and formula for births, this tiny hospital truly catered to EVERYTHING in my birth plan. Not one person walked in the door that had not read it, and they kindly asked before doing ANYTHING that wasn't in the plan. I was utterly amazed! They really left us alone to labor as we wished, which is what I wanted. I did have to let them monitor the baby's heart-beat for just 10 minutes when I first got there, but I never even saw anyone after that!
We got in the hospital room right around 7am. My doula got there shortly after we did, and as my husband later said, "That was the best money ever spent!" Oh, she was so wonderful! As soon as I got off the baby monitor, we started walking the halls. I would walk till a contraction hit, and then lean against the wall while she applied strong counter-pressure to my back. I cannot tell you how much it helped!!! We did this for about an hour, until I had a double contraction (One that never completely ended before it peaked again) and pretty much passed out.
They got me a wheel chair and we called for the nurse to check me since it looked like I was starting to go through transition. (This was the first time I had been checked since I wrote in my birth plan that I didn't want unnecessary checks.) I was at 8, and definitely going through transition. The only position that I could handle was on my hands and knees. Transition is always the worst part for me, because although pushing is unbelievably painful, there is an excitement and adrenaline that keeps you going as you feel the baby traveling down the birth canal -- utterly amazing! Plus, you just have to keep pushing to stop the pain :) But transition is just flat out horrible! I started asking if I could push and they just said to do whatever I felt like. We called for the midwife at this point (whom we had not even seen yet!) She checked me and my water broke and things really started moving!
I was very surprised that the nurse and midwife pretty much said nothing as I labored. In both of my other births, they would tell me when to push and hold my breath, etc. But this time they let me just be in tune with my body and contractions and pushing when I felt like I needed to. It was hard for me at first to get the hang of it because the pain was so intense, but once I got control of myself, it was utterly amazing (although excruciating) to feel how my contractions and pushing moved the baby down the birth canal. I was much more focused and it also helped me not to tear this time. I remember needing encouragement, though, and asking them to talk to me, to tell me when they saw the baby's head crown and tell me what her hair looked like :) I remember the last contraction before actually pushing her out and being so disappointed that it ended before I could get her out because she felt so close!
The next contraction was enough to do it and I simply cannot describe the utter joy and relief I felt as they immediately passed the baby up to me and let me hold her. It is such an amazing moment and I tear up just thinking about it! Having a baby is undoubtedly the most painful thing I can ever imagine, but also the most miraculous! During labor, I aways tell myself to do myself a favor and just adopt next time, but then after holding the baby for the first time, I want to do it again and again and again because there is nothing as amazing and wonderful in the world!
Abbi was born very alert and wanting to suck immediately. And she didn't want to stop! She honestly nursed for the first 2 hours of her life! I was amazed because with Karis, I had the epidural and she was too groggy to nurse long. And Karlie was just too interested in looking around at her new world to nurse for long. But Abbi wanted to suck and she got mad overtime I tried to take her off :) I know she wasn't getting anything out of me after the first bit, but it was such a comfort to her and I knew that it would help my milk come in quickly and my uterus contract back to where it was before.
I cannot praise this little hospital enough. They really left us alone as much as we wanted and it was such a contrast to my other 2 births. They even told me that if I wanted to go home that evening (just 12 hours after giving birth!), that I could! We wanted to, but I was so light-headed after losing all that blood that I passed out the first time I tried to stand up and go to the bathroom. So we decided to stay one night so I could call for help if I needed it. The nurse offered to get orders from my doctor to leave us alone all night so that we wouldn't get woken up every hour to do checks like they normally do. It was amazing!
Some thoughts as I look back:
1. I wrote a really long Birth Plan and I was worried that it might be too long. But they read every word and seemed to really be respectful of my wishes and I was glad that I had put everything in there. For example, when I got there, they never even asked me to put on the hospital gown or to check to see if I had dilated. They really just left me alone til I called, and I appreciated that so much!
2. I asked them to just give Abbi a light sponge bath with warm water to get the blood off instead of using the chemical-laden baby soap so that the protective vernix layer on her skin would stay as long as possible. I really think that it helped her skin in general so much because my other girls had peeling skin for probably two weeks, while Abbi's skin looked pretty normal after only 2 days.
3. A doula is well worth the money every time!!!!! We thought about not paying for one since Mark had learned some things last time, but I am ever so glad that we did. It was such a relief to know that Jamie was there and knew what I was going through and how to help me. Then pain relief she brought was amazing, as well as the security in knowing she could deliver the baby if the midwife didn't show up in time. I had a real fear of them telling me to "wait" to push because the doctor wasn't ready, and if you don't have pain meds, that just isn't possible! My doula was worth every penny and more!
4. I really liked wearing my own clothes vs. that horrible hospital gown :)
5. A small hospital doesn't give you a menu and the food is horrible -- I was so thankful that Cracker Barrel was right next door and that I had parents to get me good food :) I was also really thankful for the good snacks I had packed.
6. My Mom and doula reminded me to drink my water/coconut water mixture after every contraction and it really helped to stay hydrated like that! I would never have remembered on my own.
7. My intense labors have thankfully decreased in time by almost 50% each baby. With Karis, I labored for 15 hours, with Karlie, it was 8 hours, sand with Abbi, it was 4. (Of course, that does not include the day (s) before where my body is in the beginning stages of labor and cleansing itself and having contractions to prepare for the big moment :)
8. While the labors grow thankfully shorter, the after-labor contractions grow much more painful and last a lot longer. With Karis, I really only remember a few light contractions after birth. With Karlie, they maybe lasted for several hours. But with my third, they lasted several days and really hurt a lot! I honestly had trouble sleeping the first 2 nights because the contractions hurt so badly and kept me uncomfortable. Of course, part of that is because I didn't take any pain meeds with Karlie and Abbi, so I felt it more. But they definitely didn't last this long with Karlie!
9. If you have a natural birth, don't ever push on your back! It is so much more painful and you are so much more likely to tear. That was the main reason why I switched to a mid-wife group and it made such a difference. I was so much more comfortable (if you can be comfortable in labor - Ha!) and able to keep myself from tearing on my hands and knees.
10. Having a baby is undoubtedly the most painful and thrilling experience that I have ever had. It is worth every second of nine months of feeling sick and uncomfortable and in pain! I am utterly in awe at God's miracle of birth. I praise God for His perfect timing and the way He answered such specific prayers that I had about the birth.