the birth of Olive Lux

I was due on December 24 and felt relieved when I didn’t go into labor that day, or the next. I was comfortable and feeling good. I thought labor would start after the busyness of the holidays. My sister Juli was home for Christmas and I was convinced that I’d have the baby before she left. Surely there would be no way I would be as "overdue" with my second baby as I was with my first!

I spent the 10 days Juli was home doing every natural thing I could do to encourage labor. Nothing worked, and Juli went home the day I hit 41 weeks, 1 day pregnant. Zero signs of labor.

At 41 +2 I had an appointment at our birth center.  Our birth center has four midwives that rotate so it's possible to get anyone when you go into labor, but that day I had an appointment with Sarah, and Jenny, the student midwife. I declined a cervical check and membrane sweep, hoping my body would go into labor without any help. Plus, with Juli now gone, what was the rush? I was feeling cool and calm.

By Thursday (41 +4), after sex, acupuncture, a massage, the chiropractor, and a host of other things yielded zero labor signs, I was all but stripping my pants off for a membrane sweep. Sarah and Jenny were both there again, and I asked Jenny if she'd like to get some hands-on experience with my cervix. I think I was one of the first women she had checked, but I figured the more agitation to my cervix, the better!. After Jenny finished, Sarah found my cervix to be quite high, too far to get a good sweep, but she said she could stretch me to about 3 cm. We made a plan to come back for another sweep the next morning with Erika, the midwife who would be on-call, and she sent me home with two small bottles of castor oil “just in case.” (I also went in for a BPP and the baby passed with flying colors!)

The next morning, officially 41 weeks, 5 days pregnant, I lost some of my mucus plug and took it as a hopeful sign that my body was preparing for labor. I went back to the birth center to see Erika. She said my cervix was lower, and it was enough for an aggressive sweep, but I was still just 3 cm dilated. We talked about the plan for the next 48 hours (I would risk out of the birth center at 42 weeks and need to transfer my care to a hospital). We decided that I would take castor oil when I got home so we could exhaust every option of getting labor started. We could repeat the same process the next day (membrane sweep, castor oil, and acupuncture) if labor didn’t begin. I left the birth center and went straight to another acupuncture appointment but didn’t have any contractions during or after treatment.

When I got home around 12:00 p.m., I ate a bland lunch, took 2oz of castor oil, and laid down to take a nap. John kept Ulla occupied so I could sleep. I slept for an hour before I woke up with the need to use the bathroom, and I spent the next 45 minutes on the toilet. I laid back down again and got back up around 3:00 p.m. to use the bathroom. I noticed that I was having light contractions, though they didn’t feel like anything more than Braxton Hicks.

Erika called around 3:45 p.m. to check on me and I told her I wasn’t feeling much. We talked about taking the second dose of castor oil in a couple hours if things didn’t pick up, and I told her I’d call later that night to give her an update. I also text my doula, Steph, to let her know what was happening.

I put a naan pizza in the oven because I didn’t want to take more castor oil on an empty stomach. As I was waiting for it to cook, I noticed that my Braxton Hicks seemed to be coming pretty close together but they still weren’t painful. My mom stopped by and we talked about what was happening. She told me to time them, even though they weren’t painful yet. I did and was surprised to find that they were coming every two minutes, and lasting 30 seconds, for the few minutes I timed them. My mom left but told me to call her if things picked up.  I timed my contractions for the next 20 minutes while I paced my kitchen, certain that they would fizzle out, because it seemed implausible that real contractions would be so close together right from the start. But they didn't stop.

I told John I was pretty sure I was in early labor so he went to lay down with Ulla for her nap. I brought my food downstairs and hadn’t even finished eating when the contractions began to demand my attention. I began pacing, laying down, and sitting, just to see if changing position would make them stop. It didn’t. I called Steph to let her know that things had changed. I was forcing myself to talk through my contractions, and Steph could tell. She encouraged me to focus on them and just let my body open, and to call her back when I needed her. I also called Erika back to let her know that I thought I was in labor. She was excited and told me to call when I wanted to head to the birth center.

As I continued to work through contractions on my own, their intensity began to scare me. They were coming two minutes apart, but still only lasting about 30 seconds. I called my mom for some reassurance, and when she heard me have a contraction, she said she was on her way over. Juli called me on Facetime and I could no longer talk or walk through contractions, dropping to my hands and knees whenever I’d feel one coming. I told her I’d have to call her back later. My mom arrived and sat with me in the basement for a while, and Ulla woke up shortly after. She was unfazed by my contractions but was excited I was in labor (thanks to all these birth videos!). She was even more excited to go to grandpa’s house, a situation I had been prepping her for (and praying for!) for weeks. It would be her first night ever away from us. 

It was probably around 6:00 pm that I decided to get in the shower. The hot water felt amazing. I started swaying and bouncing my hips during contractions, imagining the baby moving down. When the hot water ran out, I got out, dried off, and blow dried my hair, taking breaks every 90 seconds to have a contraction. Before I got dressed I decided to lay down for my next contraction to see if that helped the pressure in my back. It didn’t, and was my hardest contraction. As it was ending, I told my mom that I was going to throw up and ran to the bathroom. I didn’t even make it to the toilet before I was literally projectile vomiting. I immediately felt better.

Both John and my mom were telling me we should call Steph and have her come but I told them that I didn’t feel like I needed the support yet, and thought it was just early labor because this is how it had been with Ulla.  I was feeling 100% normal between contractions and the duration of contractions was still short enough to feel manageable. John asked me where the phone numbers were for the birth center and Steph because he felt like he needed to call them to have them tell him what to do.

A few more contractions hit as I was getting dressed and suddenly I became nauseous again and barely made it to the bathroom. I could hear John talking to Erika on the phone, and when he hung up, he told me that she thought we should make our way there. I still argued with him and told him I felt okay, but then he said “Would you rather go now when you’re feeling okay, or go later when things are bad?” Good point. 

ulla rubbing my back during a contraction

My dad was minutes away from our house and I wanted to wait until he got Ulla.  I thought that she’d have a hard time leaving but I couldn’t have been more wrong! She all but ran out the door to him, just giving me a quick hug and kiss before she left. It was everything I prayed for.

We left as soon as my dad’s car left the driveway. The 20 minute ride to the birth center was intense. We had folded the seats down in the back of the van and I was alternating between my hands and knees and kneeling upright. My mom was in the back with me, helping me through contractions. I began praying out loud for a longer break in contractions, and for peace for my body. I had my eyes closed the whole time and just kept asking John to get there fast. We got there at 7:05 p.m.

I had one more contraction right as we pulled up to the birth center and got out as soon as it was over to get upstairs before I had another one. There are two birthing rooms there, and thankfully they were both empty, so I got the bigger room with the huge bathroom and tub! Erika and the student midwife, Jenny, were both there, along with Steph. They checked my vitals and took a long read on baby’s heart rate and asked me if I wanted to be checked. I couldn’t bear the thought of hearing I was only at a 3 or something so I declined and just got into the tub. After all, I had only been in labor 3 hours!

The first few contractions in the tub were bad and the tub didn’t feel as good as I hoped it would! I finally got comfortable laying on my left side and just let my body float. During contractions, I used my feet to move back and forth in the water. I don't know how long I was in there but the strength of my contractions picked up and I was moaning loudly through them, almost to the point of tears. I decided I’d try praying during them instead of moaning. In my head I was praying Thank you Jesus for creating my body to do this. Thank you for this contraction bringing my baby closer to me but all that was coming out of my mouth was Jesus.

As I prayed, my contractions started to feel distinctly different. There was still intense pressure but the pain was gone! (For now!!)  I went through a few contractions praying like this when suddenly I felt something shift, like my whole stomach was tightening and pushing down. I told whoever was in the room that something had changed, and I didn’t know what was happening. I felt panicky. Erika came in to check me. I expected to hear that I was entering transition but to my complete shock she said, “You only have a little lip left and I can feel a bulging bag of waters. You’re going to meet your baby soon!” It was around 8:05 p.m. We had been at the birth center an hour.

I was in disbelief and didn’t feel mentally prepared to push. I had convinced myself that I had hours of labor left. I even asked So I’m a ten? because I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I could hear them wheeling a cart in and getting ready for delivery, but I still thought that maybe I had an hour or two of "laboring down" in front of me, like I had done with Ulla.

Um, nope!

With the next contraction, my body started to push. I had heard about the “urge to push” before but truly there is nothing to describe. With every contraction, everything in my body was pushing. There was nothing I could do to stop it, and the intensity of it made me scream. I could feel the baby’s head moving through my pelvis and I was sure pelvic bones were going to break. Unable to fight it, I tried to push as hard as I could, and my screams turned into roars. I could hear myself but couldn’t stop. It was so primal. During one push I felt a strong pop and knew it was my water breaking. 

Erika said that she could see the top quarter of the baby’s head and I thought, If that’s only a quarter there is no way I can push the rest of the head out! I felt a burning and thought for sure I was splitting up and down. I begged for help, thinking the baby was stuck. It wasn’t long after that Erika told me that the head was out. I pushed the shoulders out on the next contraction, but the cord was wrapped around one shoulder, preventing her from sliding out. On my next contraction, Erika helped wiggle the body out, and John lifted her to my chest.

I was so relieved it was over that I didn’t even look to see what she was and just held her and kissed her head. It was 8:25 p.m., only 20 minutes of pushing, though looking back it seemed so much shorter! After about a minute, I tipped her back and saw that we had another little girl! She was having a bit of trouble perking up so Erika had me get out of the tub and move to the bed so we could encourage her to breathe. She was still attached to me, blood and oxygen flowing to her through the cord, so I didn't feel nervous or scared. Erika told us to talk to her, so I did, and prayed out loud for her.

After a few minutes of some gentle encouraging, she let out a lusty cry and we all relaxed. She was just so chill from being born in water that she didn’t want to breathe on her own! I was still having some intense contractions because I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet so I felt like I couldn’t focus on her at all. Erika told me to give a couple pushes, and my placenta easily slid out. I felt instant relief and could finally focus on our baby girl.

John and I laid in bed, cuddling our new baby. She latched and nursed right away, quiet and alert. Steph brought me juice and I ate some snacks that we brought. Eventually I got up to try to pee and shower, and I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt! It was a night and day difference from Ulla’s birth. I didn’t feel like I had torn at all and Erika confirmed that I had a tiny, tiny tear that she didn’t feel required a stitch. Heck yes!

After she was weighed and measured-- 8lbs, 1oz and 20-1/4” long-- we got dressed to go home. We were home by 1:00 a.m. and I was too wired to sleep. I laid awake most of the night, with our sweet nameless baby cuddled beside me, thinking about what it would be like when Ulla got to meet her.

Spoiler alert: my heart basically exploded. 

After some name deliberation the next morning, we settled on Olive Lux. Olive means 'olive tree', a symbol of peace, and Lux is Latin for 'light.' Our Peaceful Light.

We are so in love with our girls. 

Huge thanks to my birth team! They were amazing!
My doula, Stephanie Holthus from The Green Stork (Steph also took all the labor/birth photos, which was such a great bonus!)
The amazing midwives at River Valley Birth Center
My family! It takes a village... 


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