It was October 6th and I had no signs of labor at all. I had been trying for weeks to keep my peace about her coming whenever she was ready, even though I was now 41 weeks and I had SWORN she’d be early like my first baby, Elias. My wonderful step mom, Kathi, had recently left to go back to work after spending over two weeks with us waiting for baby girl. The plan was that she was going to be with Elias during labor and birth and also be able to stay with him in the middle of the night or in case we ended up needing to go to the hospital for additional care. But now we were kind of on our own with a neighbor and a few friends as backups.
I was aware of a lot of at home labor inducing ideas but didn’t want to try anything until I was really feeling ready. Until this day I was a little nervous about going through labor again and wasn’t in a rush to get it going even though I was really over being pregnant. But my energy started to change. at dinner I told Jake I was going to try and see if I could get labor going. Once Jake started bedtime with Elias I called my midwife Jill and asked what she recommended. She told me to try using my electric pump following a certain protocol that’s been used to help induce labor. Well, I had apparently thrown out all of my electric pump parts so I just decided to try my hand pump.
Around 8:30 p.m. Jake put Elias down and I put on a YouTube video and used my hand pump for 25 minutes on one side, then started on the other side. During the 25 minutes I was pumping on the second side I started to have a few light contractions. I didn’t have my hopes up because a friend of mine said she tried to induce labor with her pump and she got contractions but they didn’t lead to labor.
So around 9:15 p.m. I stopped pumping and was still having light contractions, about 30 seconds each, 3 minutes apart for about 45 minutes. I kept hearing Jill’s voice in my head say, “You want them long and strong and that’s how you know it’s labor.” So I didn’t think much of the 30 second ones and was fully expecting that they’d fade out shortly.
For the next hour and half I was having consistent contractions with no real pattern but I had a feeling this was definitely the start of labor. They didn’t require much attention so I just hung out upstairs by myself while Jake was watching a show downstairs.
Around 11 p.m. they started getting longer and more consistent. I told Jake I had a feeling this was happening and we should probably make the bed and get our room ready for birth. Jake was feeling a little grumpy and tired from the day but we joked about it, connected, and moved past it together, getting ready emotionally and physically for the arrival our new baby as a team.
I let Jill know my contractions were still coming and we planned on just keeping in contact about any changes and she was ready to come be with us whenever we felt ready. I kept having contractions with Jake hanging out in our room with me until a few felt noticeably stronger and like they required a more focus. I don't remember being this in tune with my contractions at all during my labor with Elias.
Around 12:30 a.m., now October 7, I had Jake call Allie, our photographer who is also a doula. She had a long drive and we told her she should make her way here. Then he called Jill about a half hour later as the stronger contractions continued and he told her that I was ready for her to come join us.
Everyone got to our house around 2 a.m. I remember being on my elbows and knees breathing through a contraction on the bed as Allie, Jill, and Emily, the midwife assistant, all made their way into our room and whispered hellos and silently set up as they observed me with warm eyes and gentle smiles.
It was such an odd feeling welcoming people in our bedroom in the middle of the night, a place and time you usually find yourself alone and private, now filled with a strong quiet energy. I remember my room felt much smaller when they first came in, like there were too many people for that small space. But as everyone came to check on me and say hello it suddenly felt very natural and comfortable and I really felt them stepping into the labor with me right where they were meant to be.
I had a moment where I felt like I called them too early, when my contractions jumped around in consistency a little but that feeling didn’t last for long. I stopped timing contractions soon after they got there. Jill and Jake tried to fill the birth pool in phases as the hot water allowed, with Jake coming back to be close to me during contractions, taking turns offering counter pressure on my lower back with Emily. The next two hours I don’t remember what happened in what order.
I labored through every contractions in puppy pose, on my knees, my elbows on the bed, I was focusing with all of my efforts on releasing all of the muscles in my face and breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. After each contraction I laid down on my left side and closed my eyes and relaxed my whole body so I could come into each contraction with new energy. I strongly followed my intuitions and felt very in tune with my body and mind.
I really felt the presence of everyone very strongly throughout labor in a very positive way. When every contraction came I just felt hands and heard voices of encouragement and felt everyone lean in closer to support me. It was truly beautiful and I can still remember the feeling.
After a while of laboring with my head down I was having intense heartburn and I started throwing up during contractions for a little while. Jake was holding cool wash cloths on my neck to try and cool me down. I don’t remember how long but the next thing I remember was thinking I might want to try the birth pool that was now filled and warm.
I climbed in with lots of help and lasted two almost back-to-back contractions before I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. My body wanted to be in that same knees and elbows position I had spent my whole labor in and any other position brought on a level of discomfort that was super difficult to handle. I climbed back out and started having a contraction, feeling a little panicked to get on my elbows and knees before it reached the most intense point. I quickly climbed onto the edge of my bed.
A moment later our baby monitor went on: Elias had woken up. It was 4 a.m. at this point. Jake went in to settle him and I worked through a few more contractions with Jill, Emily, and Allie. I told them someone just had to go get Jake if she was coming, to which Jill replied, “She’s coming.”
Jake and Elias came in, Elias a little disoriented from having just woken up. I was still on the edge of the bed. I started talking to Elias just to make sure he knew I was okay. It was never the plan for him to be present at her birth but we had spent weeks reading books and looking at pictures of his birth just in case my step mom wasn’t around to be with him during the birth, which was what ended up happening.
I said to Elias, “Mama's having a baby! I'm working really hard but I’m okay. I love you!” I felt so present and in control still even as she was just about to be born and so glad I could connect with him and comfort him a little.
Pushing during Elias’s birth was my favorite part. It felt really straight forward and I could tell there was progress from all of my efforts. But it was a little more difficult this time. I was pushing intuitively but felt like I was pushing so hard without a lot of progress. I was making sure to breathe out as if i was breathing through a straw, but Jill kept saying, "Breathe, Leah." which made me think maybe I wasn’t breathing. So I tried to focus a little more but I was groaning and burying my head in my bed and it felt like her head still wasn’t coming out.
Jake was ready to catch her and I knew it was taking longer but I kept pushing through. Emily was using counter pressure pushing against my butt, I'm not sure exactly where, it felt like my sit bones. But then out she came! I later learned she was born with a nuchal hand, her hand up on her cheek, which was why it felt so much more difficult to get her head out! She was born at 4:30 a.m.
The first person I heard say anything was Elias who yelled, “Baby sister be born!” Later everyone told me how amazing Elias did. Allie even said she held his hand for a little.
Oh my gosh, it was the biggest relief! Feeling a baby leave your body is such a strange feeling. Jake held her and everyone helped me flip over so I could take her and i just started crying at this huge warm dark haired baby girl that was all ours. She was so beautiful and just felt so perfect in my arms. I was told later I pushed for 8 minutes.
After taking her in for a few moments with Jake and Elias and everyone, Jill and Emily helped me scoot back and sit up in bed a little, Jake and Elias climbed in on the other side. Allie came to ask if I needed anything and everyone told me how great of a job I did. There is really nothing like going through a long awaited labor and birth and just getting into your own bed with your family all right where they should be. It was magical.
In the next couple hours, the placenta came out and I took a shower with the help of Emily and Allie while Jake held our new baby girl. She had all of her newborn tests right on our bed, and we got Elias back off to sleep eventually. Once we were all settled and everything was cleaned up, Jill, Emily, and Allie said goodbyes and headed out until the next day for a home visit. Jake made us some breakfast sandwiches and we just cozied up and settled on her name, Ada Jane, our 9 lb. 9 oz. girl.
A month before we moved to Erie I had no idea what we were doing for our birth. We didn’t have a house or insurance yet, and I knew no one at all. The whole thing came together so perfectly it was clear God's hand was in all of it. We had the most beautiful experience welcoming our daughter into our lives. I'm forever grateful for our birth team and our wonderful family.
Leah is a wife to her husband Jacob, and mother to 2.5 year old Elias and 3.5 month old Ada Jane. Her family recently moved to Erie, PA from Buffalo, NY and are enjoying settling down new roots together. Leah is currently living out her dream of being a mom, and hopes to finish her doula certification and work with other moms in the near future around birth, lactation and motherhood.
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