To start out this birth story, you have to realize that I was pretty convinced this entire pregnancy that I wouldn’t be pregnant past the middle of September. Both of the times that I went into labor on my own my babies were born before I hit 39 weeks pregnant. On top of that, during the last month and a half of my pregnancy I had many Braxton Hicks and several days where I felt cramp, which is how both of my previous natural labors started. I was sure my girl would be coming at the same time or sooner than Gwen and Clyde did.
The last couple months of my pregnancy I was also psyching myself out about labor. They say that once you see that baby you forget about the labor pain, but for some reason that wasn’t true for me after Clyde. When I saw his face all that labor pain was instantly worth it, but the memory of it did not fade. I remembered pretty vividly how badly it had hurt, and during the last month I found myself jumping at every perceived sign of early labor, mostly out of nervousness of what lay ahead.
So when 39 weeks rolled around, I had already been expecting our girl to arrive any day, but somehow each day since then I felt more comfortable and less likely to go into labor. I was only dilated to 1 centimeter at my 39 week appointment, which was different than my past experiences, where I was dilated to 2-3 at my 38 week appointment. All my Braxton Hicks and cramps disappeared and I felt unusually good.
This was very weird mentally for me, to go past when I thought I would and somehow feel more and more comfortable. Even though I hadn’t even reached my due date yet, as the days continued to roll by, it started to feel like she was just never going to come out.
September 29th found me still pregnant, two days past my due date. All my nervousness about labor had long since disappeared and I was just so ready to see her little face. Derek had arranged his work schedule so he could work from home, and I felt bad that he had already been home for over a week and there was no baby to show for it yet.
I woke up that morning in an especially emotional mood, because I was so uncomfortable the night before that I thought I might go into labor - but I didn’t. I was still pregnant, no labor signs on the horizon.
I came upstairs, and the kids had already eaten breakfast, thanks to Derek. I noticed there was cereal on the floor under the table, so I knelt down to pick it up (bending over was out of the question). I also noticed there was some milk splattered on the legs of our kitchen table, so I went and grabbed the all-purpose cleaner and sat down on the floor to wipe down all the milk splatters.
Then I just broke down. I had cleaned my house at the beginning of every week for the last month, to make sure everything would be spotless in case this was the week our baby arrived - and here I was, past my due date, cleaning my house again, when all I really wanted to be doing was holding my baby. I wiped down the table, and then Clyde’s high chair, and just sobbed (my poor children, they didn’t even know what to do with this blubbering version of their mom).
Derek must have heard me from downstairs, and he knew I wasn’t feeling well the night before, so he e-mailed his work to let them know he might have to take a little time off to be there for me that day, and he came up and helped me clean and put myself back together. I am so thankful that he has a job now that allows him a little flexibility and a boss who places such a high value on family, and that my husband is such a hard worker and built up some comp time, because I definitely needed him that morning.
After we had cleaned up and Derek had hugged me and told me it would be alright, I settled down with a pumpkin spice latte that he had brought me earlier that morning. I tried to just enjoy the morning with the kids.
I had an appointment later that day, and Derek planned to keep an eye on the kids while I went in. We got them laid down for a nap and I got dressed, snapped a picture of my belly and coffee for International Coffee Day (important stuff, you know), and headed off to my doctor’s appointment.
The baby hadn’t been moving as much that morning, so I did kick counts on my drive down to town. Then I started to notice that I was having uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions every few minutes. I started timing them and realized they were coming about every five minutes. They weren’t painful like actual contractions, but I was instantly hopeful that maybe they would turn into something.
I went into my appointment and found out that I was dilated to 3 or 4 centimeters! This was so exciting to me after weeks of being told I was still at 1 cm. By the time I left the appointment my Braxton Hicks had disappeared, but I was really hopeful that labor was right around the corner.
I decided to run a few errands to see if my contractions would come back. I stopped at Target and got the kids some new paints, and I bought myself a coloring book for adults at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t have any more contractions, so I made the drive back home.
I had a few more contractions on the way home about 15 minutes apart, but nothing that stuck around. The kids were ready for bed by the timeI arrived, so I helped tuck them in and kiss them goodnight, Derek and I ate dinner, and I sat down with my coloring book (it really is as relaxing as they say). Then we went to bed.
At 10:55 I woke up feeling a cramp-like contraction, and I looked at clock before rolling over and going back to sleep. Then I had another one, so I looked at the clock again and noted the time, then waited to see if I would have another one. Twelve minutes later, I did. I didn’t want to wake Derek up unless I was really sure I was having contractions, so I just watched the clock for the next hour, as the contractions went from 12 minutes to every 8-10 minutes. Finally at midnight I woke him up and told him I thought I was having contractions.
If you have read Gwen’s birth story, you know that my labor with her changed really fast, and we ended up having her in an ambulance, so Derek was concerned. We decided to call my mom right away and head down to our hospital, which is about an hour away. We would rather be down there and come back home if it was false labor than to have another ambulance birth!
As I gathered up my things and we waited for my mom, my contractions got strong enough that I started to slow breath through them, and I knew that this was the real deal. For some reason the song “Rejoice In The Lord Always” came to my mind during one of the contractions, so for the rest of the labor when I started to lose focus I would sing the song in my head while I had a contraction. And I was rejoicing to the Lord that I was finally in labor!
My mom arrived, and I asked her to pray for me that the pushing stage would be easy, since that was the part of labor that I was most nervous about after Clyde’s birth. Then we climbed in the car and started the drive.
By the time we got in the car, my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, which made Derek very nervous. To be honest it made me nervous too, because I had a heavy feeling down low, and the baby would kick and push her head against my cervix during contractions. I didn’t want to dilate too quickly and have her in the car, so I tensed up during contractions to try to keep that from happening!
We talked about picking up something to eat at a fast food restaurant before going to the hospital, but I was feeling nauseous between contractions and didn’t want to eat. Derek briefly drove around a parking lot near the hospital to see if any places were open, but my contractions were strong enough at that point that I just wanted to get in there. So we parked at the emergency room entrance, waited for my next contraction to pass, and gathered our stuff to head in.
We got signed in and they came to wheel me up to labor and delivery, probably around 2:00 AM. Walking around tends to slow down my contractions, so I had a few more while we were getting settled, but they weren’t as strong as they had been in the car. I slow-breathed through them, and they set me up with the monitors for an initial read on the baby, and with an IV for my antibiotics.
I opted to stay in my own clothes instead of putting on that ugly hospital gown. I knew I would be able to tell when things got more serious, and I could change at that point.
Our nurse thought it was so funny how quiet I was during contractions, because she said they looked like pretty strong ones, and I was just slow-breathing through them (and singing “Rejoice In The Lord” in my head).
We really liked the first nurse that we were assigned, but unfortunately she was about to head home, so we were assigned a different nurse for the rest of the night. We will call her Nurse J. She came in to check me around 2:30 or so, and we found out I was, in the words of Nurse J, “only at a 3, and really thick” (meaning my cervix was 3 cm, 60% effaced - which was about what it was at my appointment the day before). Derek says Nurse J gave the other nurse an eye-roll type look over my head, then she turned to me and said “And you think you’re in labor, right?” I assured her that yes, I was most definitely in labor. Then Nurse J said that she’d give my doctor a call, and she left the room.
It was pretty clear that Nurse J was questioning whether I should even be in the hospital, and Derek and I both thought she was pretty rude about it. We talked about it after she left the room, and I told him if she continued to be rude, I was going to ask for a different nurse.
I’m not sure if Nurse J somehow heard our conversation, or if she looked at my chart and saw my history of fast labors and the fact that this was my fourth baby, or if my doctor set her straight. But thankfully when she came back in a while later, she was much nicer to me. She asked repeatedly if I was comfortable, suggested that I could try the tub later if my contractions got stronger, and encouraged me to get some rest between contractions. It was a pretty marked improvement, so I was fine with her continuing as our nurse at that point.
She suggested a couple times that I walk the halls, thinking that would help my labor progress, but I told her no because I know that walking usually stalls my labors in the first stage, when the contractions are fairly easy.
I started out bouncing on the birthing ball because I really enjoyed that during my last labor, but they had to move me to the bed to get my antibiotics. I finally got my first and only dose of antibiotics sometime around 3:00 - I was a little peeved that they took their sweet time getting it to me, because I knew that if my labor progressed like the last one we wouldn’t have that much time.
I requested the wireless monitors so I could move around a bit more, but there were a couple times they couldn’t tell if the baby’s heart rate was dropping during contractions, so they kept me hooked up to the pulsox - which made the wireless monitors a little pointless since I still had a wire on my finger. I was fine with it because I wanted to make sure baby was okay, but they rarely came in to check my monitors during labor. I was watching though, and it looked like her heartbeat always rebounded nicely between contractions, so I wasn’t too worried. I ended up being hooked up to the monitors through the entire labor, but thankfully most of my labor was very manageable, and I wanted to lay down in bed between contractions anyway to get some sleep.
Derek and I put Monsters University in the DVD player and settled in for the next couple hours. Derek slept a little, and I tried my best to get snatches of sleep between contractions. When I did have contractions, I focused on relaxing all my muscles as I breathed through them, and I could feel her head gradually pressing down. When I relax during contractions it’s like I can almost feel my cervix dilating, so I was confident we were making some progress. The contractions started getting stronger during the second half of the movie, but I still only had to slow-breathe through them.
Around 5:00 AM Nurse J came back in to check me, and I was at 6 centimeters. I think she was surprised at the progress, and she said “good work” and left to give my doctor an update. After she left, I could tell things were picking up - my contractions started getting more intense, and I started my “he, he” breathing through them (I call this the second stage of my labors).
Monsters U had ended, so Derek put in our next movie, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. It was a good distraction, and I tried to laugh at all the funny parts between contractions, even though I was starting to feel more serious. I got on my hands and knees and asked Derek to start squeezing my hips during contractions - which helped tremendously. My contractions were getting much more painful very quickly (which is typically how my labors progress - slow and steady for a few hours, and then really painful all at once). I kept trying to relax during contractions while Derek pressed my hips, and I could feel her move down a little bit with each one. I wondered briefly if they should call my doctor because I knew it wouldn’t be too much longer, but I wasn’t sure Nurse J would believe me - then I had another contraction and forgot about it.
Probably sometime around 6:00 AM my contractions stepped up again, and I started to lose focus and whimper in the middle of contractions (we’ll call this the third stage). I was starting to feel some pressure at the height of the contraction, which made it hard for me to hold my breathing pattern, and the pain was lingering between contractions now. Derek has been through enough labors with me to know that this is when things start to get serious, and he left to tell the nurse that I was at the “sort of screaming stage”. The nurse said she had never heard it put that way before, but Derek tried to tell her it wasn’t going to be long. The nurse brought in the baby warmer and left to call my doctor. Internally I wondered if I should have gotten the epidural because I still had some lingering fears about the pushing stage, but I knew it was too late and I just prayed that the Lord would let it go fast.
A couple contractions later I was really hurting, and I remember saying “Help me!” several times as one contraction was ending, to no one in particular. Derek helped me get turned around to face the back of the bed so he could squeeze my hips better, and I had another contraction with more pressure. I told Derek that I was starting to feel some pressure, and he asked if I wanted him to get the nurse. I, of course, said “I don’t know”, because I can’t even make simple decisions at this point in labor.
Derek knows the drill now and decided for me. He left to tell the nurse to hurry (he is just the best “doula” a girl could ask for). He told the nurse at the station that I was almost ready to push, and my nurse was near enough to overhear, and said “My patient?” She must have had my doctor called again at this point, and she and Derek both came rushing back into my room, where I was having another contraction - but this one was a screaming one.
I had my head buried in the pillow at the back of the bed, and I could feel her head move down during the contraction. I screamed in the middle of it and called out “she’s coming, she’s coming!”. Derek rubbed my lower back, and I heard one of the nurses ask another nurse if Dr. Something was down the hall. One of them left to get her while I started another contraction. The pressure was intense enough that I knew I could probably start to push, and I screamed during that contraction too. After it ended the doctor must have been in the room, and they encouraged me to stand up on my knees a little more against the back of the bed so they could see what was going on.
I started to have a contraction and asked if I could push during this one, and they said to go ahead. The contraction got intense fast, and I started to scream again. Derek says the strange doctor tried to tell me to try not to scream and he shot her a look because he knows that screaming is just a part of it for me.
I screamed and pushed and felt her head move down, and with another push her head was out - which was initially a relief until I realized the contraction was still going, so I gave another scream and push, and I felt my water break and my baby born all at once, at 6:34 AM.
I just stayed there with my head buried in the pillow for a minute and gave weird laugh and whimper because I knew she was here. I heard her cry and Derek told me she was here and she was beautiful. I looked over my shoulder and saw her laying on the bed with Derek looking over her, as they cleaned me up so I could turn around. I laid back on the bed, and they put her on my chest and tucked her little body inside my tank top for skin-to-skin. Derek and I looked at her little face, and I saw the squishiest little chubby cheeks and lips smooshed together. I told her I loved her and that she was beautiful. She smacked her lips a few times, looking for something to suck on, and she found her thumb and made the cutest little sucking sound while her fingers pulled at her cheek. Derek and I could tell that the thumb-sucking was probably something she had done before she was born!
We told the nurses that her name was Clarice Adelaide. Clarice means “light”, and she is such a sweet little light to us!
(First pictures with Mama.)
My doctor arrived a little later, and she was so bummed to have missed the delivery again! This is the third delivery of mine that she has missed. She would have arrived on time except that she missed the first call from the nurses, and it was only 30 minutes after that when Clarice arrived. I was bummed she couldn’t be there to deliver the baby, but I was also glad that the really intense phase hadn’t lasted longer! Se la vie.
We spent a couple sweet hours in labor and delivery, just snuggling and admiring our sweet Clarice. We ordered some breakfast before calling our families, then they moved us over to the mom and baby ward. We asked our families to come meet her that afternoon so we could hopefully get some rest before they came, but I think I only got about 45 minutes of sleep with Clarice tucked next to me. It’s so hard to sleep when it’s day and you have a precious little newborn to stare at.
(Derek and Clarice on her third morning!)
Later that day the grandparents and my sister and her family came to see Clarice, but I was most looking forward to seeing how the kids would react. Wyatt came in and immediately said “Is that my baby sister?” He was just taken with her right from the start. Gwen was very excited to meet her sister and kept referring to her as “my Clo-reese” (ex. “Is that my Clo-reese?”, “Is she holding my “Clo-reese?”, “Can I hold my Clo-reese?”). Clyde just grinned at her, pointed and said “Dat da bay-bee?” and then held out his new toy so we could admire it. They were all so cute about it, and the cuteness continued as we came home.
(First family pictures!)
We had a little scare in the hospital on Wednesday evening when I saw Clarice throw up some fluid, and it went right back down her throat. Derek leaned her forward and patted her back, and she seemed to be fine, but it freaked us out because what if that happened in the middle of the night and she choked? The night nurse didn’t seem to concerned about it, but Derek and I didn’t get much sleep because we jumped at every noise she made to make sure she wasn’t choking. She did throw up a couple more times and didn’t want to eat much.
The nurses told us that she looked like a c-section baby because she wasn’t in the birth canal very long and her little head was so perfectly round. Unfortunately not being in the birth canal long can also lead to too much fluid in the stomach, which is what caused all the throwing up.
It happened again on Thursday in front of the day nurse - and this time it was scary. The nurse rushed over and took her from me as soon as she saw what happened. Clarice was gagging and not breathing for a few seconds, and Derek said her lips started to look blue. But they got her throat cleared, and then “lavaged” (aka. pumped) her stomach to get all the fluid and mucous out.
It was sad watching that tube go down her throat, but I was so glad they were doing something about it, because Derek and I knew all the throwing up wasn’t right. They cleared out her stomach and got us settled back in the room, and later our nurse discreetly brought in a tiny oxygen mask and stashed it in a drawer, just in case it happened again (she didn’t draw attention to it, and I think she was trying not to freak us out). Thankfully Clarice didn’t throw up again at all. We are so thankful that the Lord let it happen in front of a nurse who would take it seriously! We slept much easier the second night.
We came home on October 2nd, and the kids have been adjusting really well. We have had a couple serious moods and little more fussiness than normal, but nothing major. Gwen decided as soon as we came home that Clarice needed some shoes, and she went to get her own little sandals for Clarice to wear. Clyde thinks it’s great fun to kiss the “bay-bee”, and he keeps removing her pacifier because he likes to be a helper and give it back to her again. Wyatt declared “I think Clarice is a very nice baby sister. I like her.”
(Getting her dressed in her going home outfit! She wasn't a huge fan of clothes at first, but I am sure that will change.)
(The kids, checking on Clarice at home.)
Recovery has been very easy for me this time, probably even a little easier than with Clyde because the postpartum campiness was very mild (which is funny because I was told it usually gets worse with each baby). I have to take Lovenox shots because of a previous blood clotting issue, and I have had a couple days of hormonal headaches, but I feel pretty normal now. I mentioned before that after Clyde’s birth I really remembered what the pain had felt like, but the memory of the pain from Clarice’s birth has already faded quite a bit. Weirdly, since Clarice was born, my memory of the pain from Clyde’s birth isn’t as vivid anymore either. It was such an answer to prayer to have a quick pushing stage, and an extra blessing to have the sharp edge taken off my memories. I couldn’t have asked for a better, smoother birth.
Clarice has adjusted really well, and is a great little sleeper! She gets up one or two times a night to eat, and she can sleep through lots of noise (which is great for a fourth baby). So many people told me that late babies are more easy-going, and I think that has proved to be true for us so far!
The Lord answered a lot of our prayers with Clarice’s birth. He let her come in September (which was something that I really wanted), He let the pushing stage be quick, He let the labor go smoothly, and He protected Clarice through the delivery and hospital stay! We may have had to wait a little longer for her to arrive, but I think that was an answer to prayer too because the waiting made me less nervous for labor and more excited for her to just be here.
And now she is, and having my four sweet babies surrounding me every day fills my heart up even more than I thought it could. We are so blessed, and we are thankful.