Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things.
I'd been having these strange contractions for a few days. Not the simple Brackston-Hicks that I have throughout pregnancy that feel tight but do not hurt. Not crampy labor contractions, either. They were very tight and they hurt. They came usually when I was sitting – on the couch or in the dining room – and relief came rather quickly if I stood up. This baby didn't want me sitting down! I talked to my friend Mary on Sunday (2/20) who had had similar ones with her son – for 26 days! I figured I could deal with it for another week and a half or so.
My due date was “officially” February 26. Since all of the other kids had been late, I was mentally prepared for a March 3 birthday. Approximately, of course, but not too far from that, I was sure. There was a bit of uncertainty about the date because this pregnancy happened directly after a miscarriage so there wasn't a clear LMP. My friend Carolyn (who has correctly known I was pregnant the last three times - sometimes even when I didn't know yet) was convinced I was further along than I thought and predicted a birthday of February 23. I said there was no way I could believe her since I've always gone late before.
My mom arrived on the 16th (and promptly caught a sore throat/cough/laryngitis from us.) I commented to her at one point that I wouldn't be surprised at all if these funny contractions were doing something but of course “something” can often happen for weeks as your body prepares.
On the evening of the 22nd, we went to our friend Sally's surprise 50th birthday party. Mary was there and we talked again about those contractions. They were actually coming every hour or so that night, even up to every half hour by the end. We got home at about 10:30 and went right to bed. But I couldn't fall asleep. Those contractions were still coming and getting more frequent – and happening while I was lying down. But they still didn't feel like real labor contractions. I did have to start breathing through them and they kept waking me up. After about two hours of contractions from 5 to 15 minutes apart, I decided I couldn't keep trying to ignore it.
So at 12:30am, I woke Jon up and asked him to pray for me. I explained about the contractions and said, “I'm not ready yet.” He wondered about that because he knew I had the birth bags packed, but what I meant was not mentally and emotionally ready to go through labor. It just wasn't time yet! He asked me what date Carolyn had said and I replied, “the 23rd.” He laughed – it was the 23rd!
We decided to call C (our midwife) and explained the situation. There were no other signs of labor. She said I could try taking some calcium to slow things down a bit. But I guess that only works for false or pre-labor. Fifteen minutes later, there was some bloody show. We called back and said we'd start getting ready to head up to her place.
One thing that was not ready was putting the money into the HSA so that we could pay for the birth from that account. Jon was working on that, asking me questions between contractions. For a while, I got things ready also, but then I had to concentrate on my body. At one point, I had to moan through the contraction and I said to Jon, “We really have to leave.” So he got off the computer and finished packing everybody in the car. It was 1:17am when we left.
Jonathan fell back asleep right away, but Faith and Noah were awake for a while and maybe intermittently also. Faith seemed a bit upset, but we reminded her that Mommy had to work hard for the baby to come and that seemed to comfort her.
The contractions came fast and furious. Mom said it was every three minutes for the whole hour and twenty minute drive. I really wanted to take them on hands and knees, but that was impossible in the car. I did have a heating pad against my lower back which helped a little. Rather early in the trip, I was surprised to see that we were only by the dentist's office and I decided it was better not to look. I had commented on the bumps of the roads, so Mom reassured me when we got on the highway that we'd have a smooth road now. I tried not to look at the clock or the mileage signs. I succeeded at first, but as things went along I did start wondering if we'd make it.
It was a miserable car ride. Each contraction was so hard. Jon's pretty sure I was in transition around Grove City. I started whimpering with the moaning then. I didn't want to do this, I didn't want to be in the car, I just wanted someone to get the baby out. All transition thoughts, though all I said was “uhhhhhhhhhh-huh-huh-huh.”
Mom said she could tell when a contraction was coming because I would push on her seatbelt with my foot. She diligently watched the mile signs in case she had to tell 911 where we were on the highway.
I could feel the baby's head pressing down and getting ready and I knew I would want to push soon. We finally arrived at the birth clinic. I had another contraction before I could get out of the car and then Jon helped me walk to the building. C was there at the door and I said, “I think I'm going to be ready to push soon.” It was 2:40AM.
She directed me to the far room (where Noah had been born 4 ½ years earlier.) I shed my shoes and clothes on the way to the bed and tossed my glasses on the couch chair. I got into my favored hands and knees position for one contraction. Then C checked me internally and I let out a great loud yell. I was at 10cm and the baby was at +2 station. So I turned over and began to push. I could feel that big head stretching me and I wanted it OUT!! I was yelling and Faith had her hands over her ears. With one push the water broke. Then Grandma had to run and get sleepy Jonathan who had collapsed on the couch. He came in to see the baby crowning. The next push was the final push and the baby came out, head, body, and all. C said the cord was around the neck once but she slipped it off so quickly I didn't even notice any time between head and body. [Jon says: after her head came out, C worked on maneuvering the cord around the other side of her head, so it wasn't quite as instantly as Heather remembers.] C said, “It's a girl! 2:45”, and handed her up to Heather to hold.
Another girl! I had thought it might be. It was supposed to be Noah's job to tell the sex but there had been no time to remind C of that and I don't think Noah minded.
She was beautiful and had all the right numbers of fingers and toes. She was a bluey purple and did not cry at first. But just as C started to get the suction bulb for her nose, she cried a bit and at least assured us she was breathing. She was the quietest of our babies, but it seemed to be contentment and curiosity. She had lots of vernix which I got all over myself as I rubbed it all over her sweet little new body.
I asked for my glasses and my green juice. I had been so thirsty in the car but I didn't even have any extra energy or thoughts for saying it out loud then. I also had them take off my shirt (the only clothes besides my socks that I hadn't managed to get off before climbing on the bed) so baby and I could have skin bonding time.
Five minutes after the baby was born, the placenta was ready. Noah said it looked like a big piece of meat. C showed the kids the membrane and other aspects of the placenta as she examined it. Daddy and Jonathan declined cutting the cord and Grandma was holding Faith, so C did it.
Then I had time to revel in the glorious, amazing blessing it is to have a healthy newborn in my arms. She looked around contentedly and I told her I was her Mommy and made other small murmurings to her and then I had to close my eyes and lean my head back and wonder at it all and thank God and then I had to look at her again, and wonder again, and again. Birth is the most incredible, nearly unbelievable thing. How blessed I am, how utterly amazing it all is! My new little girl!
The big brothers and sister got to come over and exclaim also. And Faith told me that I screamed too loudly and she had to cover her ears. (: But she was very happy to see the baby.
After a little while, she did start nursing and she did a good job for the first attempts, though I did have to encourage her to have a big mouth.
The older kids then got to open their birth bags and have their treats (some candy and juice), which Jonathan noticed was especially special because it was before breakfast.
C made me some scrambled eggs which Jon fed to me while I held the baby. I was very shaky, kind of like shivering except that I was not cold. It took a little while, but then the juice and the food settled that down.
Jon pretty quickly came to me with the idea of Joy for her first name. In recent months, I had been thinking Hope or Peace, but he was right. This was definitely Joy. But we didn't know what to do for a middle name. C found us a couple of baby name books and we looked around. I did not see anything inspiring, but Jon had the more thorough book and when he found that Ellen meant “light” and that it went well with Joy, he asked me what I thought of it. It sounded fitting to me and so Joy Ellen Daley was named.
Joy Ellen weighed in at 8 lb, 1 oz and measured 19 3/4” long.
When we were ready to head home, C gave Joy her first bath and took her footprints and got her dressed in the clothes I had packed. We left at a little after 5am and arrived home about 6:30. It was dawn but the sun had not quite risen. As I slowly climbed our front steps, I admired the moon and the morning star. It was a clear, beautiful morning on which to welcome our new daughter.