Three weeks before Noah’s arrival, I woke up almost every morning with very mild cramping. So every morning for three weeks, I’d fully convince myself I would give birth that day. When my cramping subdued, I’d talk myself into being okay with living one more day miserably pregnant. Then every night for three weeks straight, I’d thank the Lord for at least one more glorious night of uninterrupted sleep. It was a sort of emotional rollercoaster.
My due date, July 21st, came and went.
Then the morning of the 27th arrived. After a glorious night’s rest, I woke up feeling really good and ready for the day. Yes, I had my usual cramping, but by then I was almost a week “late” and by the third week of cramping you start to convince yourself that the baby is never coming out. So I decided it wasn’t a good day to give birth, but rather a great day for shopping!!! (In my best Oprah voice)
After all, I had the energy and walking around a cool mall sounded like a great way to avoid the disgusting summer heat.
Except that day’s cramping didn’t necessarily dwindle off per usual. I didn’t want to admit it, but it was going to be a very different day.
After walking around the Glendale Galleria with my mom and Shiloh for about an hour, I realized my usual continuous cramping turned into cramping that definitely started and definitely stopped. I also started having to breathe through them each time they came and went.
After one big audible exhale, my mom turned to me and asked, “Do you think you are in labor?”
“I could be but I don’t want to get too excited, so probably not” was my response.
Clearly I was in labor. However, the cramps were still very far apart and not really that uncomfortable. So clearly we still had time to shop.
After wandering off into Target looking for a present for Shiloh from Noah (something you hear about being a good idea, and it totally is), I waddled off to pee for the 30th time that morning. I’ll spare you the icky details of what happened in there and just say my mucus plug didn’t come out with me.
For some of you that don’t know what a mucus plug is, let me explain. It’s basically the “plug” that seals the cervix during your pregnancy in order to keep baby safe until it’s time to deliver. So when it comes out, there’s a very good chance the baby will just fall out. Just kidding. It just means labor could soon be approaching. However, this tricky little body part has the ability to regenerate itself, so it could also mean absolutely nothing.
So of course, when I informed my mother that my mucus plug and I parted ways in that Target bathroom stall, I also had to report that nothing was happening and I was totally fine. Thankfully I had a prenatal scheduled that day, so if anything, they could check to see if I was at all dilated and tell me that I was not in labor and send me on my way.
We wrapped up our time at the mall and headed over early to my appointment with my midwife Jennifer. Now one of my favorite things about Jennifer and why I knew she was the one for me is how brutally honest she is. From the moment we met, I learned that this was a midwife who does not sugar coat anything. When I thought I was in labor the first time I had felt cramping, she straight up told me it could be another three weeks.
Aaaaaand she was right.
After listing all of my symptoms, Jennifer said, “Yep, you are in labor. I wouldn’t be surprised if you delivered tonight. For sure by tomorrow.”
I so wish I had a picture of that moment. Eyes wide, lips pressed tight, a sort of smile-frown.
You could literally be the most excited woman on the planet to have a baby. But when someone finally tells you it’s game time…you realize that “game time” involves the inevitable part of pushing a baby out your hoo-ha. As much as I have been looking forward to these moments, a part of me wanted to just stop it all and have someone else birth my baby.
After finally accepting all these signs of labor were real, I took Jennifer’s advice and went home to rest.
That afternoon, I took a nap, ate a yummy meal and by bedtime I decided all my contractions should cease so I could get a good nights sleep and then deliver my baby the next day at a decent hour.
Realizing this might be the last night as a family of three, I offered to put Shiloh to bed that night. The moment I sat down with her in our big comfy chair, I lost it. The tears started flowing and I just couldn’t stop it. Amongst all the anticipation and excitement to meet our newest little, I needed a moment to mourn what we were losing. All that I have known for the last two years would forever change and I just wanted to hold on to it for a little while longer. I tried reading a few of her favorite books. I could barely get through one song. We mostly just cuddled while I squeezed her little body. I prayed for my labor and delivery. She prayed for baby sissy, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto. We said our Amens and I kissed her for the last time as my only baby.
It is the unfortunate truth that my girls love to keep me up at night, so my body had a very different plan. After going to bed around 10:00pm, I woke up around 11:00pm due to a much more intense contraction. For the next hour, I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable through each contraction.
By midnight I couldn’t keep still. Despite my exhaustion, lying down through my contractions made them much worse than if I were standing. So there I was pacing my bedroom floor, breathing through contractions. I started timing them myself since my husband Chase comfortably slept through all the commotion. They were only about 8-9 minutes apart so I didn’t feel the need to wake him. Even though I would have appreciated his moral support, I knew he needed his sleep too. I guess…
This is the part when time doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
At some point around 1:30, my contractions turned up a notch, and I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer. My moaning woke Chase, and he started to contact the midwives and birth photographer to prepare to come soon.
A quick side note about moaning… One of the biggest misconceptions about birth is the way a woman is supposed to look and sound during labor. I’ve talked about this before. That high-pitch screaming woman drenched in sweat and panic written all over her face. Hurry and save her before her vagina explodes!
The truth is that birth doesn’t have to look like that. It can be peaceful and absent of panic. When you invite the natural process to take over your body, you sound very similar to the way you do during sex. I don’t mean to be crass, but birth is very similar to sex. If you just let go, get out of your head, and embrace the feeling, you will likely be really good at it. haha.
Around 3am, I went out into the living room to grab our birthing ball for me to labor on. I believe the extra movement caused my contractions to kick up another notch. My surprised moaning woke everyone up.
That was the point I knew I wanted my team to be there.
Chase quickly contacted Elizabeth, our other midwife/doula/birth extraordinaire, who contacted Jennifer and our birth photographer Rebecca. I swear they all appeared within two contractions. Thankfully LA traffic doesn’t exist at 3am.
Elizabeth’s arrival brought me to tears. “You’re here!” I cried as I hugged her in the doorway. Letting out a little laugh she said, “Of course I’m here!” I think her arrival made all the process that much more real. Because she was there, I couldn’t back out. I couldn’t fight it. She was going to help me birth my baby into this world.
Elizabeth and I went back into our bedroom and labored on the birthing ball while everyone else set up the birth tub. I was able to sit on the ball and rest my head on the bed (A position I learned during my first birth and really loved). Elizabeth would rub my lower back during each contraction and whisper sweet words of encouragement in between.
I remember telling her she smelled like coffee. Obviously, I asked her if I could have a cup. I’m pretty sure she said she would get me some, but the next contraction erased all memory of that craving. It probably would have been a bad idea now thinking about it.
She had asked me if I had a playlist I wanted to put on. I hadn’t because at my last birth, I didn’t care for music. But in that moment, it sounded like a great idea. So before the next contraction took over, I quickly put together a playlist of worship music within 30 seconds. Thank you iPhone.
The next moment that came will be a moment I hope to never forget. If you know me at all, you probably know if there is a song on that I know, I cannot help but sing along. I can’t really carry a tune, but I sure do love to sing. Even at 3am. Not much longer after I turned on my impromptu playlist, I started to sing. Without even missing a beat, Elizabeth chimed in trying her best to hum along with me.
In that moment, I knew this was exactly why I wanted her at my birth. This confirmed why I loved her from the moment I met her. I’m not familiar with Elizabeth’s beliefs. We’ve had maybe one conversation regarding faith and spirituality in the last two years. But that didn’t matter to her. She knew those words and melodies were what I needed to get me through this process. Not only did she respect that, she joined in with me.
So for the next hour at least, we labored and sang together. At this point my contractions were still far apart. They were incredibly intense but still 5 minutes apart. I remember just thinking… I’m not doing good enough…I called them too early…this is going to last another 15 hours!
I had gotten up to go pee in-between one contraction and those bad girl contractions kicked up another notch. After that, I finally asked to get in the birth tub. So Elizabeth and I leave the bedroom and headed into the living room. Our space is really small so naturally the only place for a gigantic tub was in the living room/kitchen. It was either that or the backyard. I didn’t really want to include my neighbors in my birth story, so the living room it was.
Walking into that scene was a highlight for me. My midwife Jennifer, photographer Rebecca, my mother, and husband Chase all awaiting my arrival.
Hi everyone! I said with a big smile.
I felt excitement mixed with a lot of relief to finally sink into that tub. It’s amazing how you just melt like butter in-between contractions. I spoke about this with my first birth. Don’t get me wrong, the contractions were just as intense as before. The reason why I and a million other moms love the tub is how incredibly relaxing it can be for the in-between moments.
I went from laboring on my back, to all fours, to the squat. I did it all. And unfortunately the same thoughts ran through my head. I’m not progressing fast enough…this is going to take another 20 hours…this baby is never coming out of me.
And then at one point, I remember Elizabeth softly spoke these words over me…
“You chose this. You want baby to come out.”
And there it was. Just what I needed to birth my baby. I needed to tell my body that I wanted this. I needed to agree with my body that it was doing exactly what it was designed to do. I chose this. I wanted this.
Those three simple words changed the game for me.
Coming into agreement with my body and allowing it to do it’s job was something I’ve never experienced before. With my first birth, I fought through every contraction. So not only was it painful because of the contraction, but I think I added to that pain by trying to flee from it.
From that point on, I remember each contraction repeating those words. I chose this. I want baby to be here. I want her to come out.
Which sounds so simple and obvious now writing it down. But it’s amazing how your body’s natural instincts to fight or flight kick in and all you want to do it fight it. Trust me. Don’t.
Opening my eyes after an intense contraction, I noticed the morning light seeping in. Looking at the clock, it read 6:30am and all I could think was I must get this baby out before Shiloh wakes up. Her normal wake time is 7:30am, so I remember telling myself, okay you’ve got an hour.
Shortly after that came the I think I have to push sort of urge. Through the next few contractions, I tried pushing, but it felt like it wasn’t working. Compared to my last birth, the moment I felt the urge to push, I went with it and it felt good and right. So I knew what it was supposed to feel like. But this time, it felt very different. With every push, it felt as if something was in the way. It felt as though every time I tried to push something was pushing back.
Up until this point, no one had ever checked to see how dilated I was. I had requested not to be until necessary because that kind of partially useless information had messed with me so much last time. Women can dilate from 3-10 centimeters in a matter of 15 minutes or 3 days. So I think knowing can really put a damper on the whole process.
I don’t know how many times I actually tried pushing, but Jennifer must have been completely in tune with what was going on. She announced that she was going to do a quick check to see what was going on down there.
I’ve never heard of this before, but apparently the cervix can dilate in an uneven circle. So even though I was fully dilated, a small “lip” of my cervix was blocking baby’s head from coming through.
That weird feeling like something was in the way? Well it turns out something absolutely was.
So through the next contraction, my midwife successfully moved my cervix. I’m not going to lie. That hurt like a bitch. But the minute she pushed my cervix aside, I literally felt baby’s head pop through.
After getting through this small hurtle, I knew I was about to meet my baby.
The next thing I hear was Elizabeth calling for me in her most excited voice, “Tessa! Open your eyes!”
I open my eyes.
I scan the room. Mom, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Chase, Rebecca all standing in front of me.
“We are all here for you! Let’s birth this baby!”
And in this moment I realized I won the birth team lottery.
Elizabeth was right. I pushed about 2 more times and then her head was born.
Ahhhh what a relief.
And with the next contraction, Chase caught her with a little help from Jennifer, and then handed her right to me.
She was born at 7:25am in the water, just as her sister was waking up. The funny thing is I had specifically asked at my last prenatal the day before that I did not want a water birth and that I had hoped for Shiloh to be a part of the birth. Both of these things did not go as planned and I am happy they didn’t.
Noah was born into her first bath and her beautiful face glistened in the fresh morning light.
Even though I really wanted Shiloh to be a part of Noah’s birth, I knew it was too late for that. I was too far along and I knew her presence at that point would distract my focus.
Once we transferred to the bed, mom brought Shiloh in to meet her new baby sister. Noah gave her the gifts we picked out the day before and just like that we were a family of four.
I once again brought another human being into the world fully present and without fear. I cannot quite express how grateful I am for experiences like this. Which is why I’m here with you. I hope my story inspires you. I hope my story exemplifies the thing that I believe most women desire. To birth life into this beautifully strange world. It’s the greatest thing that sets us apart and I am so proud and grateful to have been given the chance to have done it again.
Photos by the incredibly talented, passionate, genuine Rebecca Coursey.
Find her beautiful work at www.awonderedlife.com.