The first thing you need to know about me is that I didn’t get married until I was 33, and had my first baby a month shy of 34. Consequently, I had many friends, as well as two siblings, who had already started families and had chosen the hospital, birth center, and even home as their place to give birth. This gave me a sense for how diverse my options were, but there was still quite a bit of pressure from my parents to have our first in the hospital. My dad is a physician and simply could not fathom why someone would choose to give birth anywhere else.
I owe my courage to choose something outside of the norm and to go with my instincts to three things: 1) my love of research, 2) lots of prayer, and 3) my husband. Kristian encouraged me to go the homebirth route from the beginning, and his support made it possible for me to go against the flow. All of the research I did about homebirth safety, midwifery care, and hospital outcomes gave me the confidence I needed to share my decision with my parents. And the many hours I spent in prayer gave me the peace and grace I needed to see it through, to the joyous moment when I held my firstborn son in my arms, in my very own bed, after a “textbook” 12 hour labor.
After my first baby was born at home with no issues (despite being 41+5 and 9 lbs. 12 oz.), I couldn’t imagine choosing anything else for future births, unless I risked out for some reason. So, 2.5 years later, we welcomed our second son into the world on a sunny afternoon in May, again at home. After several bouts of prodromal labor, he came quickly and intensely into the world at a whopping 10 lbs., 6 oz. Unlike my first, who had undiagnosed oral restrictions and a slew of feeding difficulties, my second latched on right away and never looked back.
Two years later, at 38, my fertility finally returned, and we were grateful to conceive our third baby BOY. Never could I have imagined myself as a boy mom three times over, but it has been such a gift.
This was my most challenging pregnancy in several ways: I had two other high energy littles to care for, a thyroid issue that cropped up and caused a lot of emotional distress until I got on the right medication, and three (yes, THREE) stomach bugs sprinkled throughout the pregnancy and a sinus/strep infection combo at the beginning of the third trimester. It was so trying to be sick, pregnant, and also trying to care for sick children.
On the plus side, I had much less pelvic and hip pain this time around, thanks to proactive PT and chiropractic care this time around. I also was much more nourished this pregnancy. After reading Lily Nichols’ book Real Food for Pregnancy, I got more serious about my protein intake, started eating organ meats, and was really conscious of my mineral status and replenishing electrolytes. I’m sure my pregnancy would have been even harder had I not been taking care of myself in this basic way.
At the beginning of my pregnancy, we hired a lovely midwife who had assisted at my second son’s birth. We also hired our beloved doula again, almost out of habit, which is my one regret. If I knew how easy and fast this labor and birth was going to be, I would have saved the money we used for a doula and used it to hire postpartum childcare instead!
Toward the end of this pregnancy, as it has been in all of my pregnancies, I was just DONE. So tired, so uncomfortable, so ready to meet my baby, while having simultaneous daily freak outs about how in the world I was going to be able to mother three boys. I worried about my almost-three-year-old and his inevitable adjustment period, as well as my sensitive five-and-a-half year old and his difficulties with change. I brought my worries to prayer, of course, but it wasn’t until a really good cry with my husband one night (after which he prayed over me) that I felt like I was actually ready to meet the joys and challenges of this new season of our family’s life.
As I now know is typical for me, early/prodromal labor began at 39+3, with loose stools and sporadic contractions. I didn’t get excited, because I know how long this can go on, and the contractions were not intense at all. I ignored them as best I could and just lived my life as usual. My due date, St. Patrick’s Day, came and went. No surprise there. My second wasn’t born until 40+6, so I knew I had a few more days to go at least. At 40+2, I lost my mucus plug after Mass. Again, I tried not to get excited because the plug can regenerate. At 40+3, I had some prodromal labor from 9 to midnight, and it was uncomfortable enough to keep me from good sleep, but not intense enough for me to get out of bed. I woke up pregnant on 40+4 and had contractions off and on all day, but was hopeful that all of this early labor was doing something and that the birth would be faster and easier because of it.
That night, I couldn’t fall asleep, and around 10 p.m., I started feeling intense contractions about 10 minutes apart, then saw bloody show when I went to the bathroom. YAY! I knew this meant that the baby was coming.
I went into our prayer room, where we have an altar set up with statues and icons, turned on some twinkle lights and candles, and put on Matt Maher’s Adoration Vol. I, which is only available on the Hallow app and which I had been listening to for the previous couple of weeks to prepare my heart for the birth. During my other two labors, I had zero desire to listen to music and labored in silence; I was too much in labor land to really focus on music. This time, I found myself so mentally present and able to really pray that music was a welcome companion during labor.
After almost an hour of laboring peacefully on my own, I knew it was time to call my midwife and doula. While my midwife packed up and headed over, I was disappointed to hear that my doula was busy at another birth, and had another on deck after that. I knew I didn’t want her assistants to come, because I barely knew them, and by the time they arrived they might completely miss the birth anyway. I chose to forgo doula support entirely, and was so amazed at the fact that I didn’t need one this time around! Before my midwife arrived around midnight, in between contractions, I felt totally normal and was able to get everything set up and ready for the midwives.
My midwife Kristin and her assistant Sami arrived at 11:45 and I was working through contractions, which never got closer than 5-7 minutes apart and were incredibly manageable. This time around, my go to breathing technique for contractions was “horselips,” and I found it much more effective than my typical vocalizing. Around midnight, I asked Kristin to start filling the pool, because I knew I’d feel even better in the water.
I woke my husband Kristian at 12:30 a.m. and told him I was in labor. I neglected to tell him that the midwives were already there and he almost walked out of the room in his underwear. Oops! We rectified that situation, made sure our boys (who sleep in our room with us) were still asleep, and then I got in the pool. Truly, very little compares with the feeling of getting into the water to continue laboring. The relief is palpable. I had labored in the water in my previous births but for one reason or another had never been able to birth in the water. I was thrilled that it looked like it would actually happen this time!
While I was in the water, I listened to Lent at Ephesus, a beautiful album by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. My husband and midwives made sure I had cool wash cloths, plenty of electrolytes, and anything else I needed as I labored peacefully for the next hour or so. I was so “with it” that I started to wonder if I wasn’t as far along as I thought (my midwife later told me that she was wondering the same thing), but then I started to feel a bit nauseated, which is my transition sign.
At 1:35 a.m., an hour after getting into the pool, I started feeling pushy. Since I have a history of cervical prolapse during labor, I asked Kristin to confirm that I was clear to push. She checked and I was a “stretchy 8” with no cervix in the way. Praise God! Pushing felt wonderful for the next three contractions. On the fourth, which was my only experience of pain during this labor, I pushed out his head (I can confirm that this is much less painful in the water!). A few minutes later, with the song All Glory, Laud, and Honor playing in the background, Luke Gabriel was born into the water at 2:09 a.m.
This time, Kristian and I both caught him, gently unwrapped the cord from around his neck, and marveled at our third son. While my hope had been to give birth during the day so that my big boys could witness it, the Lord knew best. A nighttime birth with no distractions and time to just be with my husband was exactly what I needed. And miraculously, the boys slept through the whole thing.
In terms of the immediate postpartum recovery, it was my best yet: my midwife and I had decided to do “active management” to avoid excessive blood loss (something I’ve experienced in the past), so I got a shot of Pitocin in my leg as soon as I stood up to get out of the pool. My placenta separated immediately, but I experienced no excessive blood loss this time around! I think my nutritional changes, especially eating liver, also contributed.
The newborn exam took place about an hour later, Luke nursed well, I ate a huge meal, and I had a blissful night of soaking my sweet newborn in before introducing him to his big brothers later that morning. Oh, and for those interested, Luke was 10 lbs., 3 oz., and 21.5 inches long. And I didn’t tear.
After my first birth, my overwhelming feeling was exhaustion. After my second, which was so fast and intense, it was relief. After this birth, it was gratitude. How was it possible that I just had a four hour labor with almost no pain? A labor in which I could connect with my husband, pray, and just enjoy the gift of motherhood? It was pure gift, and a reminder that nothing is impossible for God.
I am now 39 years old. I do not know if the Lord will grant us the gift of another baby. If he doesn’t, I will grieve that, but I will also be so even more thankful that Luke’s birth was so beautiful.
I hope this story encourages other moms out there, especially moms in their thirties, that birth CAN be this way. Yes, it’s essential to prepare and have a supportive birth team, but in the end there’s also an element of sheer grace in each birth. I hope you’re able to recognize it in your baby’s, too.
Christina Dehan Jaloway is a disciple, wife, and crunchy mom to three sons. She has a passion for sharing the beauty of the Catholic faith and the joy of living according to God’s design, particularly when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Christina and her family live in Austin, TX. You can find her on Instagram here.