It was Tuesday, August 2nd.
I was 3 days past my due date and had been having contractions all throughout the day.
This was nothing new--regular contractions had been the norm for the past month, at least, so I paid them little attention as I kept myself occupied throughout the day with a Lego organization project for the boys.
But that evening, as I prepared dinner, I had an especially hard contraction--hard enough that I had to stop what I was doing and focus on breathing through it. "Could this be it?" I thought, hardly daring to hope. I left to pick up Sam from the bus stop, silently willing more hard contractions to come.
And come they did, after we returned home.
As we ate dinner, I experienced another one or two hard contractions. We began to make a mental note of when each contraction was coming and as we cleaned up the dishes and began to get the boys ready for bed, they were coming every ten minutes.
So I began to vacuum.
I recently read that you know you're in labor when you are running around cleaning your house while doubling over in pain every few minutes, and that description fit me to a T.
As long as I was actively moving around, the contractions were hard and coming every 3-5 minutes.
But when I sat down to read scriptures with my sweet family before tucking our boys into bed, the contractions all but stopped. I kissed three soft little cheeks goodnight, wondering if this would be our last night as a family of 5, and began folding a load of laundry while Sam and I watched Random Acts to get my mind off of the contractions.
As I sat on the bed folding laundry, I was getting a very mild contraction only about every ten minutes. I did my best to ignore them, but each time I stood up I would get a very hard contraction. Eventually I decided to lay down. Sam and I discussed possibilities for a while, but I still didn't dare hope that I was really in labor, and I dozed off.
A few minutes later, Sam woke me up so I could finish getting ready for bed. As I awkwardly rolled off the bed, another hard contraction came. And then came another, and another.
Because I had tested positive for Group B Strep, we knew I needed to receive antibiotics 4 hours before the birth of the baby which left us wondering if perhaps we ought to go to the hospital and check things out. Eventually I decided to call the on-call midwife and explain what was going on. I described my situation to her and she said, "Why don't you just come in and they can start the antibiotics. If you haven't progressed, they can send you out to walk the halls and see what happens."
Sam called my mom just before midnight and she came over to spend the night on our couch. I threw the last of my things into my hospital bag, still not daring to get excited, and we headed out into the cool, dark night to make the 35 minute drive to the hospital.
By the time we arrived, there was little doubt remaining in my mind that I was in real labor. I clung to Sam's arm as we made our way into the hospital and shakily signed a few papers at the desk in Labor & Delivery before gratefully sinking onto the hospital bed to breathe through the contractions. It was about 12:45 am. I was so relieved when a nurse checked me and informed me that I was dilated to 7 cm. She left the room, I looked at Sam, and I finally began to let myself feel excitement.
We were about to meet our fourth son!
They quickly started the antibiotics, and the midwife came in to talk to me. She said that, ideally, I would not have the baby for another 4.5 hours so they would do nothing to speed the process along. After about 30 minutes the antibiotics were in, they disconnected the IV, and got me settled in a room with a huge tub of warm water waiting for me. They gave me a top to wear and I settled in to labor in the tub.
The warmth of the water relaxed me and helped me stay calm as the contractions progressed and became stronger and stronger. Sam and I worked out a system that was very effective for us--with each contraction he would squeeze and rub my shoulders as I breathed deeply through the pain. The nurse commented multiple times on his amazing support--he also said that he had poked his head in a few times to see how we were doing, but it looked like we were having a day at the spa, so he just let us be! I felt such a tremendous outpouring of love from him through the process and I clung to his presence, drawing comfort from his strength and steadiness.
The midwife eventually came in and began placing cool washcloths on my forehead as extremely intense contractions were coming one on top of another and I began to feel a little out of control. She kept telling me to relax my forehead, which was both annoying and helpful. Part of me wanted to scream, "I am minutes away from HAVING A BABY!! Why does it matter if my brow is furrowed???" But at the same time, it gave me something to focus on and I knew that the more relaxed the muscles in my body were, the more smoothly things would progress. So I tried my hardest to relax my forehead along with every other part of my body and not fight the contractions. And after about 2 more contractions, she could tell I was feeling a strong need to push so she checked me and I was at 10 cm and the baby was coming!
During the brief moment between contractions, I hopped out of the tub and ran to the bed where I essentially fell over onto it as the next contraction began and with one great push, my water broke and Maxwell's head was delivered! Things had happened so quickly that the nurse hadn't even made it back into the room yet. He came running in and in the frenzy of preparations they saw that the baby had his hand up by his face which made his shoulders extra-wide. But there was no stopping anything at this point, and in another minute or so, the baby was completely out and favoring us with his beautiful, furious screams.
It was 2:58 am.
We had mentioned earlier that our babies had each been about a pound bigger than the last and that our most recent baby had been over 9 pounds. We were assured that this baby did not seem to be really big and would probably be 7.5-8 pounds. So lo and behold, when all of his 10 pounds, 2 ounces made his appearance I heard the nurse exclaim in shock, "Whoa!!! Your momma hid you well!!!"
They laid him on my stomach and Sam cut the cord as I was overwhelmed with emotions--elation, wonder, exhaustion, and relief, and most of all that incredible, unconditional, maternal love that comes so immediately with the birth of a new baby.
Our nurse said, "Every once in a while, I get to witness a really amazing birth, and this was one of those."
It really was such a beautiful experience and I couldn't ask for a more ideal birth.
Because of his very large size and the fact that his arm was up, the post-delivery repairs were somewhat extensive. And then I began to hemorrhage and they had to use 4 different medications to get the bleeding to calm down. The hour after his birth was rather traumatic and I was worried that recovery would be really rough as a result. But I've been tremendously blessed as the recovery has been very smooth and quick in spite of it all.
When everything had settled down, I was able to really take in the presence of our new baby.
He was swollen, purple, and bruised and blood vessels had ruptured in his eyes.
And he was perfectly, exquisitely beautiful.
And he was ours.
Welcome to the family, Maxwell.