The birth of Herald Thomas

On September 30th I woke up thinking I was peeing the bed. It took only a moment to realize what was happening. One, there is no way I would be peeing that much uncontrollably and two, I was 39 weeks pregnant with a history of broken waters. I was indeed going into labor.

I unsuccessfully tried to hold the water in while running to the bathroom. Brad woke up and asked what was wrong. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing more surprising than being woken up at 3:30 am to your wife saying her water broke. Once I got back in bed I told him that there was nothing big happening, and given the history of my other pregnancies, nothing probably would happen for awhile. I seem to be in it for the long haul when it comes to labor.

It had been a fitful night already. I had trouble sleeping off the bat and anxiety sent me to the couch for a bit. Eventually I made my way back upstairs, only to be kept awake by a young daughter throwing a fit. I had only had tiny bits of sleep so far, and I remember thinking that hopefully I wouldn’t go into labor the next day and I could catch up on sleep before birthing a baby. Ha.

After my water broke I went back down to the couch. I slept there a lot during this pregnancy because it was more comfortable for my uncomfortable body. I texted Caitlin, my midwife, around 6:30 am to let her know that my water had broken and while there had been slight contractions here and there, there wasn’t much to write home about yet.

It wasn’t until my water broke that Brad informed me he had known all along the baby was going to be born that weekend. God had impressed it upon him a few weeks prior and he was able to prepare his work before taking a break for the baby. I was only momentarily mad that he had kept the news from me, knowing that I indeed would have been a nervous wreck if I knew the time that it was going to happen. The only thing that gnawed at me was that he was pretty certain the baby was going to be born Saturday, but my water broke early Friday morning. I tried to ignore it and hope that he was slightly off on his discernment.

We spent the day as normally as possible. I was having contractions but nothing was regular. Brad stayed home from work and tended to the house and meals while I rested and contracted.

The kids went to bed and I picked up the big room to prepare it for a birthing space. My contractions had increased in intensity, but were still not consistent. Eventually I sent Brad to bed and I spent the night napping and watching Fried Green Tomatoes. It was one of the most peaceful parts of labor I have ever experienced. I thoroughly enjoyed being alone and on my own timeline throughout the dark evening hours.

I thought the time was nearing by dawn but then I fell asleep again. My contractions slowed down and we began day two of labor.

I was tired from two nights of little sleep, but there were truly so many opportunities that I had to rest. During my long labors in the past I’ve expended so much energy trying to “make labor happen” that I’m absolutely exhausted by the time the baby is finally born. This time I felt God prompting to keep resting in Him and trust that my body is made to do this and His timing are perfect.

Even with that resting, I found myself frustrated about halfway through the day. I texted Caitlin to let her know what was going on and she suggested that I wait until late afternoon and take castor oil (which I just happened to have because I eventually want to make some soap).

3:30 rolled around and I was pretty nervous while making a peanut butter, banana, and castor oil smoothie. What if it didn’t work and I just miserably had to sit in the bathroom for hours?

I chugged the nasty smoothie and I kid you not within minutes my contractions picked up. I never had any intestinal issues after, but within and hour or so my contraction were regular and picking up with intensity. Brad ordered pizza for dinner, and the downstairs got so loud that I retreated to our room for a while to pray and concentrate on contractions.

I knew that it was finally happening and was so relieved. I eventually texted Caitlin and told her while it wasn’t a rush, I think it was time for her and Abigail to make their way here. The kids all went to bed very hopeful they would wake up to a sibling in the morning.

The midwives arrived and began setting up all the birth equipment. They listened to the baby’s heartbeat and I sat on the floor in our addition, knowing that things were really beginning to ramp up. Maggie didn’t want to go to bed and for a while sat behind me rubbing my shoulders and back through each contraction. Eventually she fell asleep on the couch and was carried upstairs.

Caitlin told me when I felt comfortable getting in the tub that I could. I didn’t want the water to slow down contractions so I waited until they were pretty uncomfortable. Brad filled the tub and I lowered myself into the immediately soothing water.

It didn’t take long for my moaning to turn deep and gutteral, and I heard Caitlin and Abigail make their way into the bathroom. Since this was my sixth labor I knew these sounds meant that I was getting closer, but it was such good confirmation to hear them tell Brad the same thing.

I hunkered down in the water making sure it enveloped by belly with each surge of pressure.

During this time of intensity I’ve often been so exhausted that it feels like I’m super disconnected from reality, but it was different this time around. I felt like I was much more aware of what was happening and how long it was taking. I was more in tune with the entire birthing experience and much more relaxed.
I had hoped this relaxation meant that I would have one of those birth that I’ve watched in which there is no screaming and the baby just kind of comes out, but that doesn’t seem to be the way my body works.

Eventually the pain intensified to the max. Nausea crept in with every contraction and I knew we were so near. I cold feel the baby moving down, ready to be birthed and it was only a little time before my body began pushing with every contraction.

As much as I wanted to say that I couldn’t do it, or “just pull the baby out” I didn’t this time. It hurt fiercely and is a miserable state to be in, but I knew that soon my baby would be here. So I gave a roar with each contraction and continued to feel the baby’s head move down.

I’m not sure I’ve ever roared like this during birth and I recall feeling slightly embarrassed by it. It was as if I had no control over it though but eventually that roar pushed out a baby head.

I sat there squatting, waiting for another contraction, and once it came I gave it my all once again and pushed that baby out of my body. I pulled him up to my chest, amazed that I had in fact done the one thing I never thought I could during labor, catch my own baby.

I was so full of awe and happy that I almost forgot to check the gender. I pulled him up from my chest and laughed the words “it’s a boy” out, so joyful and happy to be past the misery with new life in my arms.

The experience of giving birth is harrowing, awful, hard work, nervewracking and raw, but it’s so beautiful, incredible and joyful too. I am privileged to have given birth to six (!) children.

I birthed the placenta while holding my baby boy in the tub. I eventually got out and dried off and made my way out to the air mattress set up in the addition. We were covered in warm towels and before I knew it Theo and Ira made their way downstairs to meet their new baby brother. It was such a special time to have with them.

I got dressed and began nursing Hal (though he remained unnamed for another day and a half) when Maggie got up and meandered downstairs. We shared another sweet moment of her meeting her brother snuggled up next to me on the bed.

After Caitlin finished checking on us and cleaning me up, she left and we slept for a few hours until everyone came downstairs, eager to meet and see their new baby brother. These first hours of life are so precious and they are memories I store up in my heart.

I pray these children of mine remain bonded to their siblings for life because it has been such a gift to get to be their mother. I realize now through all my striving and wanting and desires to do “more” over the years that this is the job that God made just for me. I’m proud to be “just a” mother.

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