In the wee hours of the morning, on February 15th, 2018 at 38 weeks pregnant, I was awoken by mild contractions that were 4-5 minutes apart. I quietly walked around our house making sure contractions were time-able. They were. We called Kent's mom over to stay with the kids and we made our way to Brookwood Hospital. During the drive I noticed that contractions started to weaken, but that can be very typical with labor, so it didn't worry me too much. When we got to the hospital, they took us back to the labor and delivery triage unit for monitoring and a cervical check. I was dilated 3cm (which I had been for over a week) and contractions had gotten as close as 2 minutes apart. As the morning unfolded, the contractions stalled out, we came home from the hospital slightly disappointed, and we would wait 13 more days until Margaret would show her beautiful face. Those 13 days passed by like molasses, and each day I was convinced that "this was the day". I read into every little thing that my body did, told myself to relax and enjoy my last days of pregnancy, but that was hard. Kent and I were fully prepared for her to arrive a week or so early, but when my due date came and went we were totally thrown.
The night after my due date, I was home alone while Kent was teaching at Samford. Both kids were fast asleep and I started to feel contractions come on again. These felt more intense and did not dissipate when I changed positions or activities. Kent got home around 9pm and found me bouncing on my birthing ball and wrapping gifts for the kids (from the baby). After a few minutes of debating, I decided to give him the okay to go to bed while I stayed up awhile to see where things were heading. Eventually I fell asleep on the couch and would occasionally wake up to contracting. At 5am the next morning, Kent came to get me off the couch and encouraged me to come to bed if this was the day. As a lifted my leg to climb into bed, my water broke.
Traditionally when my water breaks, contractions intensify very quickly for me.
Intensity did increase and we both decided this felt more substantial than 2 weeks ago. We made the all too familiar ride back to Brookwood and got set up in the same delivery room we welcomed Walt and Frances in. After some monitoring and checks, I was holding steady at 5cm dilated and decided to step into the laboring tub for some relief. The tub felt amazing! Perhaps a little too amazing, because contractions were suspiciously manageable. I kept thinking that I couldn't possibly be in false labor again! I decided to get out of the tub for some swaying and ball bouncing to encourage progression. It was a weird place to be in, wanting more pain.
My amazing doctor came by for a check and determined that I was still at 5cm and there was still some water that had not broken. If we broke the remaining water, things would undoubtedly speed up. He barely got the sentence out of his mouth before Kent and I both said "YES". About 20 minutes later, contractions were much more intense and the pressure was unlike anything I'd experienced before in labor. It was hard to discern between the growing pressure and the need to push, even after 2 previous deliveries, there were still unknowns. Kent likes to joke that my hands never left my pelvic area after the pressure had grown! Managing the surges of pressure and pain was very difficult.
Around 11am I asked to be checked again, and was only at 6cm! That nearly brought me to tears (and I don't cry while I'm laboring), and to question all of my birth plans and goals. Kent could tell that this pain was harder for me to take this time around, and asked the nurse if it was too late for an epidural. He has a very hard time watching me labor in such pain. I watched in silence as she nodded no, and I nodded yes as she encouraged me to keep plugging away at my birth plan. And so I did. Eventually Dr. Ross rejoined the room and encouraged me to keep going, that I was about "8cm and about 45 minutes away from having this baby". Do you know how long 45 minutes sounded to me in that moment? Might as well have said 1 million years! But, I am so grateful to him and my nurse, Kayla, for believing in me and pushing me to see my goals through. A side note about Kent: my main laboring goal was to move around as much as possible and Kent's job was to remind me of that. He did an awesome job of not only suggesting different positions, but reminding me of my goals throughout the day. In those final laboring moments, as I lay exhausted in the bed, moving 1 inch seemed physically impossible. It was time to push.
After giving birth to 2 children, pushing a 3rd child was pretty standard and thankfully quick. There was one key difference this time, and that was my desire to help catch my own baby. I'd discussed that desire with Dr. Ross a few weeks before delivery, and sure enough he helped me make that happen when Margaret started to crown. After a couple of pushes, I felt with my hands that she was crowning. With Kent by my side, I needed to grip his arm for more strength to push. Just as her head came out, Dr. Ross reminded me to reach down and catch/pull/push the baby out! It was an incredible and surreal moment. At 11:55am, Margaret was here!
We were instantly greeted with lots of red hair and a strong resemblance to her big brother, Walt. She weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces, just 1 ounce bigger than Walty. After some bonding time with our girl, my mother in law, Maryann, brought Walt and Frances back to meet their baby sister. They reacted with a mixture of excitement and curiosity. Much like his daddy, Walt keeps his excitement close to the chest and mentally takes it all in. And much like her mama, Frances has absolutely no chill! She was so excited to see the baby, she couldn't contain herself. We had been dreaming about this moment for 9 long months...we were officially a family of 5!
It's been 7 weeks since Margaret was born and it's moved by so fast. I've joked that since her birth was my most painful, surely she would be my most challenging baby. How wrong I was! She's a very sweet baby who will study you over with her blue-gray eyes. She instantly smiles her crooked smile when Walt and Frances talk to her and furiously tries to find Kent when he's around. We are incredibly grateful for what God has given us as a family and happy to have a healthy, thriving little girl.
All birth story portraits taken by our amazing friend, Kamin Williams at Spark & Arrow