And now, for your reading pleasure, allow me to present the story of Xiola. She wanted her own story, and she made sure her Mama had one to tell. I hope you enjoy the story of Cat's second daughters birth.
Sunday, September 25 at around 5:30 am I woke up having mild contractions. I had been having these off and on for weeks now, so didn't think much of them. Still, I couldn't get in a comfortable position to sleep anymore as they were very crampy. I got up and took a shower, thinking they'd slow down and I could go back to bed. I was 2 days past my due date. Well, they got closer together while I was in the shower and were lasting fairly long (45 seconds or longer), so I got out and decided to get a few things done before waking Jason. I went into the kitchen and did the dishes and basically just puttered around trying to keep myself busy. Jason came out to check on me and I told him what was going on. He convinced me to try and lie down for awhile, but still I couldn't get comfortable. So more puttering around…;) Finally I needed some help through some of the more intense rushes and Jason got up with me. I really wasn't in a lot of pain, but the pressure was becoming quite intense. I called our midwife and told her what was going on, but also told her that I didn't need her just yet. Our 2 year old, Lola, had come so quickly once I crossed over into active labor that we wanted Toni to be prepared just in case the same thing happened. At around 1 pm she called back to check in and I told her they were coming every 2 minutes, but hadn't really kicked over yet. She decided to wait awhile, and then come over and check me. She called her assistant, Nancy, who had a longer drive and they arrived around 3:00 p.m. – I was 5 cms, but still a bit thick. I was getting tired by this time, but was determined to keep my labor going. I got in the tub for awhile, which helped with the discomfort, but also started slowing down my contractions. We decided to walk around the property in hopes that they turned over into active labor soon. They were getting stronger and the next time Toni checked me I was close to 7 cms. We thought we were in the homestretch. After awhile they started slowing down again, so I kept myself upright and walking. By this time it was getting late. I needed to lie down for a bit, but every time I stopped walking the contractions would slow down. At midnight Toni convinced me that I needed some rest. Jason and I laid down for awhile, but I was so scared that my contractions would stall out that I couldn't really sleep.
At 3:30 am Toni checked me again and I was digressing. I was back to a stretchy 5 cms. I had hit a wall with exhaustion and we all decided that I needed sleep and rest. My water was still intact, so there was no rush. There wasn't going to be a baby that night. It was very discouraging and I broke down sobbing, feeling like a failure. Nancy came over to me as Jason helped Toni load her stuff back up in the van, and sat with me while I cried. I had been working hard for close to 20 hours and was suffering from sheer exhaustion. Nancy then made a statement that changed the course of my thoughts. She told me to let go of how easy and quick Lola's birth was, that this wasn't going to be the same thing and that I just needed to allow it to happen the way it was going to. It stopped me in my tracks. I hadn't realized how much I was carrying around the thoughts that my homebirth with Lola was easy, quick and fairly painless. I just assumed this baby would come the same way.
My mom had taken Lola while everything was going on, so I called her and asked her to come back. I needed my family around me that day. My sister had stayed throughout the night, so when my mom got there we made food and basically just hung out. I went to the store with my mom as I really wanted to get out of the house. We talked a lot about what was going on, why my labor had stalled, etc... I was looking deep inside myself for an answer and Nancy's words kept coming back to me. I realized I wasn't allowing my baby to have her own story. I wanted the same kind of birth I'd had with Lola, so was unwilling to accept the fact that this was taking a lot longer. I wasn't honoring Xiola or myself in the process. I had also given up my power in the birth. I allowed Lola to be taken out of the house, when I really wanted her home. I wasn't letting my body do what it needed as I was afraid of stalling, which of course caused it to happen anyway. And I wasn't making my own needs be heard. I realized I just needed to let go of everything and allow what was coming to do so in its own time. This was Xiola's and my birth experience and I needed to feel it that way both physically and spiritually.
Once I came to these realizations, I began to feel less discouraged. I nurtured my last few hours with my baby girl inside me. I enjoyed the time I was spending with my family and realized that this could very well be the last day that Lola was still the baby. So we showered her with attention. By the time I went to bed that night I was feeling at peace with everything.
Early the next morning, I woke up at 3:30 am having to use the bathroom. I felt some familiar twinges and decided once again, to get in the shower. This time I felt more than mild contractions and my body began emptying itself in preparation. I knew this had to be what I was waiting for. I got out of the shower and decided that I wanted to take a bath instead. These contractions were not slowing down, not even in the tub. I got out and went into the kitchen to busy myself, but couldn't walk through the pains. I woke up Jason and asked him to fill the birth tub for me as I really wanted to float. After filling the tub he went back to bed to get some rest, but within 20 minutes I was moaning and needed his strength with me. I had started timing my rushes and they were every 2 minutes like clockwork. I asked Jason to call Toni and my mom. When Toni got there she checked me and I was 6 cms and very thin. This was it, finally!
I figured because I had gone so quickly with Lola, that at 6 cms I was almost in the homestretch with Xiola…was I ever wrong. My contractions started becoming more intense and I was beginning to feel them in my back more. Xiola had tried to stay posterior during the last few weeks, but Toni was picking up her heart tones low and in the front so we naturally assumed she was in the correct position. I kept getting in and out of the tub as the water felt really good and helped me manage the contractions when I needed a break, but I couldn't stay in the water as I was very restless and wanted to walk around a lot as well. I was beyond talking through the pains and would lean against Jason, feeling his strength run through my body. We went outside to be alone for awhile and I found that with every contraction I wanted to squat. I knew Xiola was still pretty high, so I wanted to bring her down and the squatting felt good. Jason put my hair up for me and brought me water and cool washcloths. It was hot outside, but I didn't mind. He tried to keep me in the shade, but I needed to wander. This went on for a couple hours, walking and squatting. At one point Lola came out with my mom. I didn't want her to see me in so much pain, but during one contraction I couldn't stop myself from moaning. She ran over to me afterwards and hugged me and told me she loved me. Then she took a towel from Jason and wanted to wipe off my face. It was really sweet and she wasn't scared at all. I felt good knowing that we had prepared her so well and that she as able to be there with us to experience her sister's arrival.
I started leaking fluid and we thought maybe my water had broke. I went over to the fence and hung on it during a particularly painful rush. Fluid began pouring out of me and I kept saying I was peeing all over myself. Jason kept telling me he didn't think it was urine. After awhile Toni checked again and I was at 8 cms, but she still felt the bag intact. She thought I might have a leak higher up as every time I would squat, more fluid would come out. I was happy to be so close to seeing my baby girl. Then Toni decided to check Xiola's heart along my side…she suspected she was too far to the side by this point as I had been laboring for a few hours and was feeling it all in my back. My cervix was opening, but she didn't feel her head as far down as it should be if she was in the correct position. Sure enough, there was a very loud, steady heartbeat. She was trying to stay posterior and that was why I was feeling so much pain in my back. That's when I realized the real work was about to begin.
I really wanted back in the tub, so Jason put more warm water in while I tried to find a comfortable position. I did a lot of hands and knees in hopes that Xiola would rotate to the front. It was during this that both Toni and Jason noticed with every contraction my lower back was bulging...no wonder it hurt so bad! Toni started doing counter pressure in hopes that Xiola would move. I really wanted to stay in the water, but she convinced me to get out for awhile and use the birthing ball. So off to the bedroom we went where I laid across the ball while Toni massaged my lower back during each contraction. Jason held my hand during it all and made sure I had plenty of water. There came a point where I needed to lie down and that's when transition hit. I started shaking; the contractions were coming one on top of the other. I wasn't getting a break. At one point I looked up at Jason and told him they hurt and just wouldn't stop. Toni rubbed my legs and told me I was in transition and was 9 cms. Even throughout all the pain however, I never felt like I couldn't manage them. I started chanting, "Open open" with each one and visualizing my cervix opening up and allowing my baby to come through. I willed myself to surrender to each rush. I talked to Xiola, telling her not to be afraid, that we were together on this and would help each other through it. I asked her to rotate forward so it would be easier on us both. I sent all the love I was feeling to her and went inside myself to gather strength. All of a sudden I wanted back in the water. I knew I would not be leaving it without my baby in my arms.
I climbed into the tub again for the last time and was so thankful for the relief the water provided. I was going through the most intense contractions and did a lot of moaning and yelling. The water felt good against my skin and it made a huge difference in the intensity of my rushes when I could float through them. Lola came over and put soothing water on my head and face. Her little hands felt so good against my skin. The rushes were not stopping and I began having trouble finding a position that was working for me. I knew that opening my mouth and allowing the sounds to flow out of me would help; I also made a conscious effort to keep my face relaxed. I knew that by doing this the rest of my body would follow suit as much as possible. I stayed low in the water as it felt good against my skin. My body started feeling like I needed to push, so I gave a few tentative pushes in hopes that she'd move down more. I told Toni that I was beginning to feel like something was happening. She told me to start pushing whenever I wanted to. I was still moaning and chanting through my contractions, and trying to push at the same time. It felt like it was going so slowly. That's when Jason and Toni told me to use my breath and not to moan through the contractions anymore. Jason coached me through it and I remember during one particularly good push hearing him say, "Breath Cat." Right after this, I took a deep breath and pushed with everything I had in me. I could immediately feel the shift in energy within my body. After that contraction I sat back and all of a sudden went somewhere else. I put my head down on a cool washcloth, sank down into the water and felt like I was leaving my body. I became completely relaxed. I didn't fall asleep; I just went somewhere that was so peaceful and so happy. The warm water against my skin felt good, and I felt as if I was in a trance. I have never been that relaxed before. It was the most intensely spiritual feeling I had ever experienced. Everything was right in the world and I felt both powerful and humble at the same time. I felt apart of everything and yet on my own. I was aware of everyone in the room, but was beyond their energy. I was gathering up my Mama Bear strength and heard Toni say I was getting a nice long break. I didn't move, I just let these waves of euphoria rush over me and I realized that it was going to take all my energy on the next contraction, but I felt good about it. It was an intense moment of clarity that words can't even begin to describe.
The next wave started building in me and I got into position on my knees and held onto the side of the tub. I looked up at Jason and told him I loved him. Then it all hit me and I took a deep breath and pushed. I realized that while I was pushing I had begun to growl like the Mama Bear strength I was feeling. It was really intense and felt so right. I felt Xiola move straight through the birth canal and begin crowning. She retreated a bit as the contraction subsided, but I was ready for it. I reached down and felt my sac bulging, and right behind it was her head. I don't know if I smiled on the outside, but inside I was beaming. Jason said he heard Toni saying a quiet prayer for me and he felt very touched by her selflessness and love she was sending me. I was in my own world and the next rush was coming. I knew I was going to push her out. I felt the burning; I heard the excitement in everyone's voices as her head came out, all of them encouraging me. I heard my own voice, deep and primal. I reached down and there was my baby's head. Toni asked if I was going to catch her myself and I immediately said no. I had found a position that worked and didn't want to move from it. Then the oddest sensation I'd ever felt in birth came. While I felt her head outside my body, I could feel her feet kicking me and her squirming on the inside of me trying to find her way out. I almost felt a little sad as I realized that would be the last time I would feel her inside me. Then all of a sudden she was out and a huge wave of emotion settled over me. Toni announced that she was born in the caul! I could not believe it. Both my girls were blessed with this at birth. I didn't realize it at the time, but during those last intense contractions, my little Lola was being held in my mother's arms and she was chanting over and over, "I love you mommy, I love you mommy…" She was giving me and her sister her strength and all that innocent love. As soon as Xiola emerged I heard Lola's little voice start yelling to everyone, "A baby! A baby came out of mommy's body!" She was feeling the energy in the room and was ecstatic.
I turned over and Toni handed me my Xiola. I immediately felt for her cord as I wanted to wait until it quit pulsing before cutting it. I didn't vocalize this desire to anyone, but just allowed it to happen. Xiola's cord was the biggest cord I had ever seen. It was super fat! At the base of her belly button it was almost the diameter of a half dollar! Even Toni was shocked and said she wasn't sure the clamp would fit! After a couple minutes I was ready for it to be clamped and Toni managed to get the clamp on, but just barely. Lola went over by Jason and watched as he cut the cord. Xiola was very calm and peaceful in the water. We wrapped towels around her as Toni checked out her cord and made sure she had clear air passages. Our sweet little girl just looked around while I held her in my arms. She seemed at peace with everything going on. It was so amazing. I wanted to deliver the placenta out of the water, so I handed Xiola to her daddy so I could get out of the tub. Toni and Nancy helped me to the bedroom where I took off my wet bathing suit top and climbed into bed. Lola hopped in next to me and snuggled up close. They handed Xiola to me and she immediately started nursing. About 15 minutes later I delivered the biggest placenta I'd ever seen. Went well with her cord!! I had a tiny nick that didn't require any attention. I felt great. All was right with the world. Lola was on one side of me and my darling son, Jonathon was on the other side kneeling on the floor. Jason was standing there as was my sister, my nephew and my mom, while Toni and Nancy were busy with me. I felt so much love in that room at that moment. I had all my children snuggled up with me and my family surrounding me. It really doesn't get any better than that.
Jason and I had such an intense connection throughout everything. We rarely spoke to each other but he always anticipated my needs before I even thought them. During several particularly intense contractions, I gathered strength just by looking into his eyes. He was with me through every step. He spiritually felt every rush and held me up both physically and spiritually during the entire process. It was like a cleansing for us, a primitive ritual that God sent us through. I have never felt more in-love with my husband than during all this. He was my rock, my guide, and my partner. I am so grateful to have him by my side.
Toni was beyond amazing. Her love and strength were such a blessing to us during everything this labor had to offer. She was constantly supportive and respectful of our needs. I am so grateful to have been lead to her and am so blessed to have her in our lives. She will forever be a part of our family. We can only hope she realizes how important her role is in our lives as well as those other families she's supported in her midwifery practice. She is a unique individual who has definitely found her calling in life.
My labor was about 9.5 hours long, with 34 minutes of pushing. Xiola weighed in at 8 lbs, 9 oz and 21" long. Both my girls were born in the birthing tub and I wouldn't have it any other way. Giving birth in the water is such a beautiful and peaceful way for a new little soul to enter the world.
Xiola gave us a bit of a scare at first when she lost more than a pound within 2 days, but she seemed to have retained a lot of fluid and once that was expelled and my milk came in she's been gaining weight at a steady pace. She is such a good little baby, hardly ever cries and is very curious about her surroundings. Her brother and sister love her so much, as do her daddy and I. When Lola wakes up in the mornings, one of the first things out of her mouth is, "Where's my Xiola?" She is eager to help me with the baby and kisses her and hugs her a lot. I feel so blessed to have my children all healthy and happy. And while Xiola's birth was harder than Lola's, it was just perfect for Xiola. I wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way. It is our own unique experience and that is a blessing in itself.