43 Weeks, Long Labor, and "Big" Baby: Cassandra's Home Water Birth of Anna Rose
As we approached our due date of August 4th, I felt comfortable and calm. My heart was filled with excitement but I felt entirely content waiting for this child’s birth. I wanted him or her to be ready, just like I know God is always gentle with me and waits for my “yes.” My husband Adam and I even went on a camping trip when I was 39 weeks pregnant because I had that gut feeling that we were going to go past my due date.
We were planning a homebirth all throughout pregnancy and it was our prayer to allow my body and baby to do exactly what God created us to do. We prepared for a natural pregnancy, labor and birth by taking whole food supplements, the Mama Natural birth course, and hiring a midwife and doula. I also prayed with the Made For This Birth meditations, received chiropractic care (by my amazing husband and other doctors in his office), went on daily walks or swam when it was hot out, watched or read positive supernatural birth stories, and surrounded us with friends who also had home births. I continually prayed for the graces of a happy, healthy, and holy labor and birth, and I asked for deeper trust in the Father’s care for me.
When I woke up on August 5th instantly discouraged and sad that the baby was not here yet, I knew I was entering into that grace more fully. “Let the real surrender begin,” I thought. As the hot and humid Ohio summer days went on, Adam and I took advantage of this time together, going on coffee dates, cleaning the apartment, preparing food, hanging out with friends, exploring local parks and enjoying each other’s company. We had weekly appointments with our midwife at 40 weeks and then 41 weeks and kept faith that labor would begin when our baby and my body were ready. Each Sunday Mass I would marvel that by the following week we would have a baby in our arms, so I would leave Mass saying thank you to God and also nervously asking for strength for labor and birth.
As we started to get closer to 42 weeks, many family and friends were checking in asking if the baby had arrived yet. Each night I would go to bed hoping and praying that I would go into labor that night, and then wake up disappointed that I felt absolutely no signs of labor. Each time I had to answer questions of “Is the baby here yet?” I felt like I was disappointing everyone that my body wasn’t going into labor. I felt like I had to calm everyone else’s fears and anxieties about going past our due date which only started to increase my own worry and fears. I kept praying to God for trust and surrender but I started to feel desperate. Adoration, Mass, confession, spiritual direction, praying the Rosary, and continually (attempting to) surrender and abandon ourselves to the Lord’s will became our daily routine.
Pretty soon the 42 weeks day came and went. At this point, my midwife, Hannah, gave us the option of a membrane sweep to potentially help get the labor process started. I was disappointed at first, feeling my body was failing me, but also fearful that the membrane sweeps would, in fact, begin labor. Crazy, I know, because labor was the very thing I had been waiting on! But I now realized how fearful I was of becoming a mother, fearful that I would fail at being a mother, and fearful of the unknowns of labor, birth, and motherhood.
As we got closer to 43 weeks we ended up doing two membrane sweeps (one Wednesday, one Saturday) while continuing to use borage oil to help soften my cervix, daily Webster chiropractic adjustments, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, curb walking, and things to help my body. After prayer and discernment, I decided to schedule a “natural induction” day with our midwife later that week that consisted of different Spinning Babies positions, castor oil, essential oils, and exercises. I wanted to give my body a few more days to allow labor to begin on its own.
After the membrane sweep on Saturday, August 27th, Hannah connected me with another Christian mama she had worked with in the past who consistently went past 43 weeks with her little ones. I spoke with Clarissa on Sunday morning, the official 43 mark, and I came away from that conversation feeling incredibly heard and understood, and most importantly affirmed in the feminine power God has given us to grow and birth our babies. She helped me IMMENSELY. What first began as an incredibly sad and depressing day turned into a glorious one as my mindset and demeanor became more focused and ready for this work to begin.
I decided that for the rest of the days as we awaited our baby’s arrival, I would approach each day as if on a retreat. I turned off my phone, focused solely on what the Lord was speaking to me, watched positive supernatural birth stories with Adam and cried with longing and joy every time I saw a baby born, and I put aside the rest of life’s stressors. We went to Sunday Mass that evening, followed by a dinner date, and we celebrated our 43 week mark. We no longer looked at this as a scary and worrisome thing, but rejoiced in this miracle of life within my body.
Adam and I went to bed that night both feeling so much more peace and at 10 p.m. I started to feel surges of pressure (YAY!!!!) and I just kept praying “longer and stronger” with excitement, hoping that labor was truly beginning. I lay in silence for a while, almost in disbelief that my body was beginning this process. I then listened to a few “Made For This Birth” and “Build for Birth” meditations since the excitement had set in and I couldn’t sleep. At about 1:30 a.m. I texted my midwife and doula to let them know that I was beginning to feel the surges and fell back asleep around 2:00 a.m.
Thankfully the waves of pressure continued into Monday morning. Hannah checked in with me and encouraged us to go about our day as normal and even go out if we could to distract our minds a bit. So we went to a home decor store and the library in the afternoon, looking around and just having fun as we had done so many other times during August trying to “waste time” together. At the library, I noticed the surges getting more rhythmic and Adam timed a few about 4-6 minutes apart. We decided it was time to go home and see if I could rest more.
This is when things start to get a bit fuzzy for me as I entered deeper into labor land. I rested on the couch for a bit, used the heating pad on my back, took a shower, and paced around our apartment. I was still in disbelief that labor was actually happening (even though it clearly was). It seemed strange to me that Adam was getting the labor aid drink ready, putting snacks out for our birth team, getting the birth tub out, among other things. Adam texted our birth team for me to update them but did not request for them to come yet. Again, I was unsure that labor was going to continue to progress.
I then found myself the most comfortable in our bed, on my elbows and knees with pillows under my chest and between my legs. Moving back and forth during the contractions felt the best and I started to vocalize low moans as I tried to focus on my breath. Adam was trying to time the contractions but we were unsure when to actually start and stop the timer, and I was not able to think clearly enough to help. Adam called our doula Chelsea so she could explain and once he figured out that I was in that 4:1:1 stage (4 minutes apart lasting 1 minute long for at least an hour), we decided it was a good time to have her come.
I was a bit resistant to our birth team coming over because in my laboring mind, I still wanted to have prayer time with Adam and did not think we had had it yet. It’s funny thinking that now because we did have quality prayer time together, but it was just unique to our story and not the same as other womens’ stories.
The contractions continued, our doula was on our way over, and Adam laid out a rosary in front of me to focus on. Focusing on the crucifix of the rosary was helpful. I tried to listen to some more meditations, but silence felt best for me at this point. My mind felt clouded with so many thoughts and there were so many new sensations happening that I turned inward and kept trying to process what was going on.
Chelsea arrived and I didn’t have the energy to converse much, I just kept laboring. She started setting up the birth tub, called Hannah to let her know, and told us that she thought we could have the baby soon. I was still in the “is this actually happening?” mindset even though my body was clearly in active labor, and there was some fear and resistance in my heart. So when she said she thought it would be soon I thought, “No way!” Maybe this is what played a role in what would be the next 14 hours of labor…
Hannah arrived around 7:00 p.m. and when she checked my cervix she told me I was making good progress. (I was 5 cm dilated. I wasn’t told my progress of dilation until after birth). After laboring in bed for a little longer, I was very much looking forward to being in the water. The birth team had just finished getting the space prepared with the water warmed up, lights strung across the living room walls, and my worship playlist on the speaker. Walking out into this space felt so sacred and holy.
Adam remained at my side while I was in the tub, letting me squeeze his hands and arms as tight as I could during contractions, while reminding me over and over again, “This is happening and real. You can do this. You ARE doing this!” I continued to vocalize and breathe during the surges, and tried my best to rest in between. Amber, the midwife in training, also arrived at some point during my time in the tub too, though I don’t think I even mustered up a “hello” to her.
Later I was told, I progressed to 7 cm around 10/11p.m., to 9 cm around 1 a.m., then to 9.5 cm shortly after. I definitely had all the signs of labor progressing into transition during this time: feeling hot then cold, and then back to hot, crying and feeling hopeless at times, adrenaline shakes, and even saying to myself “I don’t know how people do this more than once…I am never doing this again.” Our birth team reassured me that all these things were normal and signs that the baby would be here soon.
I was definitely struggling internally during this time, feeling like a burden to our birth team. I was keenly aware in between contractions that they were becoming sleepy. Even though they all seemed patient and calm, I thought that they probably felt frustrated that my labor was lasting so long, or that I was being a “dramatic first time mom.” I noticed at times they were on their phones (they were rescheduling appointments for the next day), so then I also felt ignored and not important enough for their attention.
Initially reflecting upon this, it gave me so much grief to have felt like a burden during this vulnerable state and I blamed our birth team (which also then made me feel bad because I knew they had supported me so incredibly well too!). With further discernment, emotional processing on my own in prayer, with Adam, and with Mary Haseltine on a consult call, I have received healing in this. The spiritual battle I was experiencing was REAL. The woundedness and fears from my past were coming up of feeling like a burden, feeling like I have to tend to everybody else’s emotions and happiness before my own, and believing the lies that “I am not important” and “I am being too dramatic.” It was not my birth team who let me down. It was the devil trying to break me and keep me from bearing the very thing he hates the most: LIFE. The beautiful life of a newborn child whom God created in His own image and likeness.
At this point I was encouraged to keep trying different things so I went back to our bed and labored there for awhile (even though getting out of the tub was the last thing I wanted to do), again on my elbows and knees, and then on my left side propped up with pillows while Hannah was shaking my hip. I tried going to the bathroom a few times but was unsuccessful even though I felt like I had to go the entire time with all the pressure I was experiencing. I then labored in the shower, which actually gave me confidence and a boost of energy because it was a familiar place. I could feel the water sac starting to bulge out a bit, so I felt like that was good progress. Adam then adjusted me and I felt I was able to relax a bit more after it.
I remember our birth team helping in various ways too, like Chelsea took over letting me squeeze her hands, or she suggested that I lower the tones of my vocalizing to help me relax. Amber was also helpful in massaging my head and hair a bit too and spoke words of affirmation. Hannah asked me, “How are you feeling right now?” When I told her that I felt scared of the pain and the next step of pushing, she prayed with me as I renounced the fear and asked the Holy Spirit to give me confidence and surrender to the moment. At different moments they all helped me sip my water, or get my chapstick, or boiled water to reheat the tub for me. They truly were tending to me and honoring me in my birth space.
As I labored on the bed more, I suddenly became concerned that my belly shape had changed, no longer round and hard from the baby’s back and butt, but hard at the top and then it dipped inward towards the bottom of my belly. When I asked Hannah if the baby had flipped, she confirmed that yes the baby had moved. I was so disappointed, discouraged, and scared about what that meant. She reassured me that babies move all the time, but in my confusion, I thought she meant baby had flipped breech. In reality the baby had turned posterior, or sunny side up, which is why I felt the dip in my belly.
It was about 4:30 or 5 a.m. so the birth team encouraged Adam to go get some rest since he had not left my side at all. I’m so grateful for the care of these ladies at this time because their knowledge of the Spinning Babies protocol was irreplaceable. I did the forward leaning inversion right as I would feel a contraction coming on, and then would come back up when the contraction finished. We did this for 3 contractions. Then I got onto Adam’s adjusting table and did the side lying release on each side, again for 3 contractions each. Finally during the abdominal lift and tuck against our wall, Chelsea confirmed that she felt the baby make a really good movement back into position.
In my confused state of mind, I did not feel like the baby had moved from breech back to head down, but I was so exhausted I couldn’t ask questions. I then proceeded to vomit up what was mostly the laboraid drink that I had been sipping the whole night. I spent more time in the bathroom after this, again feeling like I had to go but being unsuccessful and instead feeling my body involuntarily pushing. I thought for sure my intensified vocalizations would wake Adam up, but he later confirmed he did not hear a thing and was fast asleep.
Back into the tub I went. This is when I asked my Grandma Rose (who passed away in July 2019) and Adam’s mother “Mama Julie” (who passed away in January 2022) for their intercession. I prayed, “I can’t do this on my own. I need your help. I am begging you for a miracle.”
For what seemed like eternity, it was just me, our baby, and Jesus. Everyone was asleep or resting and I felt totally alone. I thought to myself, “This must be how Jesus felt on the cross, totally abandoned.” That became my new focus. “I am here with Jesus on the Cross… It’s just Him and me.” I started to get into a rhythm, rocking myself back and forth as contractions would surge, gripping the handle on the tub, moaning to myself, and praying Hail Marys both out loud and silently.
After awhile I asked the team what the signs would be for when I could start pushing. They said I would know when there was a lot of pressure. There was, so I asked Hannah to check me again. Hannah confirmed excitedly, “You are completely dilated. Are you ready to have your baby!?” I was so incredibly relieved and just started crying and thanking Jesus over and over. It was around 8:00 a.m. and they woke up Adam.
He later said that when he came out at this time he noticed a complete change in my demeanor. I was focused and so relieved. Pushing felt absolutely AMAZING as I was finally able to roar and give into the sensations. I could feel the baby’s head move further and further down from within, and then was able to feel the top of the head when I reached down.
I transitioned into bearing down on all fours in the tub, and then eventually brought my right leg up towards me in a lunge. It felt good to just bury my head and give everything I had left. Our birth team again encouraged me to “blow away the urge to push” when I started to feel a burning sensation. This helped me let my tissues stretch slowly as our baby’s head began crowning.
Adam moved into position so he could catch the baby as we had hoped and I could hear Hannah quietly instruct Adam in what to do. I stayed focused, continued breathing, and let my body do the pushing. I rocked my body and waited patiently for the next contraction. It felt like I did this for a long time, but soon enough, the next contraction came and out came the head, followed quickly by the baby’s body! Our precious child was born at 9:09 a.m. on Tuesday morning, August 30, 2022!
Adam caught our baby in the water and as I moved from bearing down to sitting, he placed the baby right on my chest. I was in total awe and shock and wonder at what had just happened. I could not believe my eyes that we actually had a baby!! I remember kissing the baby’s forehead and beginning to cry with overwhelming joy and love for this new child we got to call our own.
After the initial shock and rush of joy, we realized we still didn’t know if we had a boy or girl. So with some help, I lifted the baby up and Amber moved the umbilical cord out of the way for us to discover that we had a little baby girl!! Again, more shock and more tears! What a beautiful surprise! The entire pregnancy we thought for sure we were having a boy. During an anatomy ultrasound, even though we told the technician we wanted to keep gender a surprise, she started to use “him/he” pronouns. We thought she had messed up and accidentally told us we were having a boy. NOPE! A girl! A sweet, precious girl! The Lord had entrusted one of His beautiful daughters to me and I’m so blessed to care for her.
I sat in the tub, holding and relishing our sweet girl’s arrival, rejoicing with Adam. Out of the two choices we had, we quickly decided that Anna Rose would be her name. It just seemed right to name her after Adam’s grandmother Anna and my grandmother Rose, both so influential growing up, both images of God the Father and Mother Mary, loving and caring so deeply for us.
After about a half hour, I stood up and got out, pushed once or twice to birth the placenta, and made our way to our bedroom. Anna’s cord remained attached and the placenta was in a bag beside us. As the birth team started tidying our apartment, Adam and I laid in bed together with Anna on my chest and soaked up those fresh new moments with her. I still could not believe our baby girl was really here! Even though I had been up all night, the endorphins in me made me very much awake and alert, though I did feel I just finished running a marathon. I was falling so in love with this new little daughter and instinctively knew it was time for my heart to rest and soak in the graces of motherhood.
We let her initiate breastfeeding and watched her do her first breast crawl. Chelsea helped me know how to best help Anna and it was amazing to see the God-given instincts of a newborn to know where to go for nourishment and connection! Our breastfeeding relationship is something that I cherish very much, and although we struggled for the first two months with a painful left latch, it remains such a gift to provide for my daughter in this way.
After this first breastfeeding, Hannah came in to check us. By the grace of God, I did not tear except for a minor spot near my urethra. My uterus was massaged and returning to a smaller size. Hannah showed us the parts of the placenta (so cool!) and later it was picked up to be encapsulated by another doula. I am glad we decided to try placenta encapsulation because it helped me in those early postpartum “baby blues” days when I felt weepy and anxious.
Adam cut Anna’s cord and Hannah proceeded to do the newborn checks with her on our bed while I ate my well-deserved breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and a huge waffle. Anna weighed 10 pounds, 8 ounces and measured at 22 inches long! We were amazed! With all of her other measurements, Hannah used a chart to determine that Anna’s estimated gestational age was in fact 44 weeks. This was a great consolation to me that waiting for her and my body to be ready was the right decision. It also affirmed that our due date was not wrong, but that babies and mothers simply need to be given the space and time to let things naturally occur.
An herb bath was made for me and I was shown how to best care for my bottom as I began healing with frozen witch hazel pads, peri bottle, and perineal sprays. Thank God for the women who cared for me during this new motherhood journey of mine! As I sat in the bath, we began calling our parents, siblings, and Anna’s soon to be Godparents. They each rejoiced with us and we let them know we were going to take a few days to ourselves before having visitors.
Those first five weeks in that apartment were such a special time for our new family. It was stressful at times as we learned how to navigate caring for Anna, my new postpartum needs, and as we prepared to move toward our hometown but I’m so grateful for that time together learning our new role entrusted to us by God as parents. Praise be to God our Father!
Cassandra lives in her rural Ohio hometown with husband Adam and daughter Anna after living in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Columbus for the last 10 years. With Anna at her side, she works alongside Adam, a pediatric and prenatal chiropractor, at their family business Tiffin Family Chiropractic. Their hope i