Dempsey Andre, August 25th  

Tuesday, August 24th, 1:45 pm.

I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant.

I had been anticipating labor starting any day now while simultaneously preparing to be pregnant for another week or more. But that day, things started to feel different. That morning as I was working from home, I had committed to getting a few final things ready for Baby, just in case he did arrive knowing full well he might not.

I took some time to style my hair and I painted my nails. You know, the important things when preparing for birth. When my Braxton Hicks contractions, which I’d been having since 20 weeks along, started to gain some consistency, I thought I should make a mental note of the time in case this was the start of my baby’s birth story.

August 24th, 3:30 pm

The contractions had changed from feeling like cute little belly squeezes to a deeper cramping sensation that went into my hips and thighs. I made sure to go to the post office and mail that package I’d been procrastinating on mailing. The clerk asked when I was due and got flustered when I told her I thought I was already in labor. I laughed.

I picked up Cillian, my four-year-old son, from daycare as if it was any other day and messaged my three sisters about the change I was feeling in our group text. I decided not to mention anything to my husband Jon as I knew was I was experiencing was prodromal labor and this stage could last for a while still, days even. I didn’t want him to be overly concerned or start to get antsy. We were planning a homebirth with a midwife which meant we did not have to plan to leave the house, but I still didn’t need him pacing or watching me like a hawk.

August 24th, 4:30 pm

I was playing with Cillian in his room and Jon came to ask about dinner plans. He paused when he looked at my face and immediately asked what was going on. I tried to play off the surge I was currently feeling and say nothing was going on but he insisted, “There is something going on with your face.” I laughed and told him I was pretty sure I was in labor. He got so giddy hearing that but wasn’t sure what to do with himself. There was no bag to pack and no car seat to load. There was no one to call and no traffic route to plan. We simply continued about our normal routine – playtime, dinner, tending to my plants, bath and bedtime with Cillian, and our nightly Netflix show.

After dinner, the surges were still mild but I would sway, move, and chant through them. “I soften. I open” was my early labor affirmation. When I would start chanting, Cillian would say, “Another power surge?” and he even started chanting with me. When I put him to bed, I told him his brother might be born soon.

August 24th, 7:00 pm

I decided to give Angie, my midwife, a heads-up. I texted her and told her that I was pretty sure things would progress that night. I didn’t necessarily want her to show up yet but I wasn’t sure if she would need some time to get things in order. I knew she was about 45 minutes away. She asked that I keep her posted.

August 24th, 9:00 pm

After watching our show together, Jon and I decided to go to bed. My surges were 12 minutes apart, about 45 seconds long, and just intense enough to make me vocalize and need to focus on my breath. I knew they needed to get stronger and closer together before I called my midwife over. Jon kept reminding me that Angie was an hour away after a phone call and he wanted to make sure I was being honest about how far along I thought I was. He was convinced I was downplaying what was happening. His concern was receiving the baby himself. My concern was having early labor continue for hours while Angie stood watch nearby. So we went to bed. 

August 24th, 11:00 pm

I couldn’t sleep much as the space between surges was just too short to drift off and they were just strong enough to make me uncomfortable but I labored laying in bed until a stronger surge forced me to get up. I took a shower hoping the water would help me relax some but I was already feeling weakness in my legs and couldn’t find a comfortable yet supported position in the shower. I moved to the couch and tried to keep my volume low and controlled.

August 25th, 12:30 am

Jon came to check on me, I was bracing myself over the kitchen counter breathing and chanting through a surge. I told him to try to rest while he still could. He couldn’t. He said he tried to sleep but he could only lay awake and listen to my chanting and moaning get louder and louder. My affirmation was now, “Everything moves down. Baby moves down.” Again Jon asked about giving Angie the call. As he put it, we are paying for her services and if I needed her to stand by and watch for peace of mind, that is what she would do. I had been timing my surges and they were about every five minutes lasting for a minute, the official “labor” timing but they just didn’t feel intense enough. I wasn’t able to talk through them but I was able to chant and move. I kept thinking of all the stories where the midwife says, “If the laboring mother calls me herself, it’s probably too early.” Since I was considering calling her myself, it MUST have been too early. I text her instead asking if she thought now was a good time and her response was that it was completely up to me if I wanted her there. 

I told Angie I was ready for her to come.

August 25th, 1:30 am

I was back in bed when Angie arrived, just trying to rest in between surges as my whole body felt weak. I didn’t even notice her come in and set up everything she would need until she asked to check my blood pressure. It was all so peaceful and undisturbed. A stronger surge hit and I said I needed to get out of bed. Jon asked if I wanted to get into the bathtub, the place I intended to birth this baby, and the space I had prepared for his entrance, but nothing about that seemed appealing to me. I trusted my body to know what it needed. I asked for a pillow on the floor under my knees so I could lean over the bed. In between surges, I rested my upper body on the bed, and during I moved downward while Jon held my hands from the bed offering support and something for me to pull again. Still, in between surges I talked to Jon and Angie. I said I felt so lazy in between and that perhaps I should be working harder, maybe doing some chores or cleaning. I thought I was still in the early stages. Angie never checked my cervix or disturbed my labor in any way. When she wanted to check the baby’s heart rate with a hand-held doppler, she got down on the floor behind me. It was the most respectful way of attending my birth.

At this point, I must have hit transition because the details are fuzzy to me. I know that my affirmations changed to “It’s not pain. This brings my baby.” Each time a surge would hit, I would call for Jon. He was always right there, ready to hold my hands again. A few contractions came back to back. I started to doubt myself and I said I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t do another contraction yet. Jon reminded me that I could and I would. I affirmed to myself that I could, that I was strong. “If I just breathe, my body will do this.” was what I chanted for the rest of labor. I also said, “I can’t breathe.” “He’s too big” “He doesn’t fit” and “I can’t do this” multiple times and once a mom reaches that point of doubt, she is about to meet her baby. 

August 25th, 2:30 am

After one very strong surge, my body involuntarily gave an extra push and a grunt and my water broke. I felt relief but I was also surprised that I was here already. I thought I had hours left. My body immediately started moving baby down, I could feel him moving through me. I think I said, “He’s coming.” I knew my baby was close. I chanted, “I surrender” while trying to release tension and control from my body. When he started to crown, I wanted counterpressure. Angie encouraged me to reach down and feel my baby myself. She never put her hands on me. I birthed his head right into my own hands. 

At this point in physiological birth, once the head is born, contractions pause. For me, time froze. There wasn’t any pain, just the overwhelming sensation of my baby. “I don’t know what to do.” I said but no one responded. They just let my body do exactly what it needed. Later Angie said she watched as my baby’s head rotated perfectly to allow the shoulders to be born. When the next surge came, instinctively, I rose up from where I was crouching to my knees. That’s when I felt my baby leave my body. I collapsed onto the bed and said, “We did it, he’s here.” Then I reached down and took my baby as the midwife passed between my legs. I stared at him in my lap. Jon says Angie barely caught him behind me.

August 25th, 2:58 am

Dempsey Andre was roared into the world. After a few minutes of gazing at him, whipping his face, and hearing him cry, I climbed into my own bed. The placenta came out on its own twenty minutes later. Angie placed it in a bowl on the bed beside me where it stayed attached until the cord turned white and stopped pulsing, indicating all of the blood flow had left the placenta. Cillian woke up around 4 am, somehow he’d slept through the whole thing. Seeing Cillian meet his younger brother for the first time, only hours after birth was everything my heart needed. We were not limited by visitor policies or hours. We were simply a family getting to know each other again.

This was our rainbow baby, our baby born after the death of another. It was healing to trust my body during this birth and follow my intuition.

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