With my due date less than a week away, we decided to spend Thanksgiving break getting things ready and decorating for Christmas. I was convinced I had plenty of time before baby made it’s arrival as Lena went four days past due so was in no real rush to get anything done.
Thanksgiving Day was busy between Lena’s ballet class, dropping off Jason’s car at the mechanic and my 39-week midwife appointment. My iron levels had been steadily decreasing despite my diet of kale and spinach so I was a little nervous I wouldn’t be able to have a home birth as planned. Luckily, the midwife said they still supported me and scheduled me to come back at 41 weeks if I hadn’t yet had a baby. The rest of the day, I rested on the couch while Jason prepared an elaborate feast for us and a few friends. He’s basically a superhero in my mind.
Black Friday came, we sent Lena off to morning preschool and then decided to make a trip to Ikea to walk around and pick up some Christmas decorations. There are few things I love more than Ikea and their delicious food so I was in heaven. A couple hundred pounds later, we chowed down on some Swedish meatballs and pølser then hopped in the car to head home. I was so excited with our new wares that I stayed up a little longer to set everything up and finally crashed at 9pm.
At 1:30am, I woke up with some light cramping and was slightly annoyed that it had interrupted my sleep. I “knew” it wasn’t labor because I hadn’t yet reached my due date but did notice they seemed to be building and getting a bit hard to deal with. Not wanting to make the rookie mistake of calling the midwife prematurely, I decided to get in the tub, fully expecting them to go away. My plan wasn’t working so I downloaded a contraction counter app on Jason’s iPod before waking him up to say I thought maybe it was go time.
I really just wasn’t mentally prepared to be in labor so soon as I felt like there were all sorts of last minute things I NEEDED to get done. So I told Jason we absolutely had to wash both the showers and the toilet plus start a load of laundry. Barely awake, I could tell he was annoyed with me but I didn’t care because these tasks suddenly seemed vitally important to me. After an hour of tracking, it was clear we were going to have a baby so I abandoned my list and told him to call the doula.
The surges were getting stronger by the minute as I tried my best to remember that it was just muscles moving my baby down and out. I had Jason pour water down my back as they went which helped create a different sensation to concentrate on. Apparently, I get a bit bossy when in discomfort as I barked at him to only go down the middle of my back and make sure it was a steady stream. I may also have said it felt like he was peeing on me otherwise and that it was making me angry. No doubt, he enjoyed my constructive criticism. In between my bossy demands, he fed me almonds and cranberries, made sure I was drinking some water and helped me get in and out of the tub to deal with the glamorous labor-induced bubble gut. Better to use the toilet than poop in the tub though, right?!
At one point, Lena woke up and realized she was in her own room which was entirely unacceptable to her. So Jason moved her into our bed as I hollered at him to come back and pour the water on my back. The surges were coming strong and hard by that point and I had a few back to back with no rest in between. I started to doubt my ability to ride them out and felt really vulnerable. I also realized my labor was progressing way more quickly than I initially realized and that we needed to call the midwife. Unfortunately, the labor hotline phone number was downstairs and I didn’t want Jason to leave me so I made him wait until after a contraction and then yelled for him to hurry up the entire 30 seconds he was away.
Despite knowing all the signposts of labor, I was still in denial that it was going so quickly and that I was likely in transition. I have to say, this is my least favorite part of the whole process as it is just so mentally demanding. As Jason was talking to the midwife and trying to ask me questions, I was getting more and more agitated. I just wanted his undivided attention and water poured on my back. Lena also chose this moment to call out for cuddles as well and I realized my poor husband was completely stressed out as he exclaimed, “everybody just chill!” Hehehehe… at least we can laugh about it now!
Susan, our doula, showed up as I started grunting and feeling the urge to bear down. I had planned to be downstairs in a birth tub but there just wasn’t time for that. I remember saying that I didn’t have enough room and just couldn’t get comfortable. Strange, I know, as the pushing stage is generally such a pleasant experience. I could feel Jason’s relief at her presence and felt really comforted as she reminded me that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to.
My body basically took over at this point as I could feel the baby moving down at a very fast rate. The only way I can explain it is primal. I could work with it and let it happen or let fear take over and just amplify the sensations. It dawned on me that the midwife wouldn’t make it and once I accepted that, I just decided to get down to business. I got sideways in the tub and tried to spread out as much as possible in hopes that it would prevent me from tearing. Even in the midst of it all, I did recognize that the noises I was making were ridiculous but there was just no stopping it. Luckily, it wasn’t quite the exorcism that Lena’s birth was (Jason assured me after the fact that I wasn’t nearly as loud this time around). I had really hoped to have a more calm pushing stage and use some J breathing a la Hypnobirthing but my body had other plans. I could feel my pelvic bones open – and that is quite a sensation if you’ve never felt it – and as I reached down, I felt the baby’s head. One last big push into the water, and I caught our new little life in my hands.
As fast as they came on, the contractions were over and I was holding our little boy in my arms. I was so excited to find out the gender and did a victory cry when I looked down and saw a little tinkler. There is no relief and joy like that of realizing your baby is out and labor is over. Jason just kept laughing as our doula took pictures and we commented in disbelief that we’d just had an unassisted home birth.
My growls had woke Lena up but she had stayed in our room the whole time. Luckily, we had talked a lot beforehand about how Mama was going to push out a baby and might be making loud signs like a lion. So when we brought her in to meet her new little brother, she was really excited. No fear, no trepidation. It couldn’t have been more perfect. She immediately declared, “Oh Mama, that baby is weally cute!” and giggled at the noises he was making.
I kept the baby in the water and we wrapped him in a blanket as the midwife, Ann, arrived and came upstairs. We transferred me to our bed in order to deliver the placenta. This was quite the task as the umbilical cord was too short for me to have him on my chest so Ann and I did a very intricate shuffle with baby at my abdomen and Jason and Susan following me with a barrage of chucks pads to prevent getting blood on the carpet. I’m really glad there’s no video of that little dance!
Once in bed, I delivered the placenta, got our little man to latch for the first time, and ate an enormous plate of leftover Thanksgiving dinner because I was suddenly starving. Wanting to make sure Lena still felt special, we gave her the special present her brother had “bought” for her – an elk and a book about him. She flipped through the pages, calling out all the animals but it just couldn’t compare to her need to finally hold the baby we’d been promising her for the past nine months.
She was absolutely in love and five days later, is still enamored with the little guy. We cracked up as she told him how she loved his “wittle ears and toes” and gave him kisses on the head. And even the slightest little movement or noise on his part elicited hysterical laughter from the new big sister.
I’m still in shock at how quickly everything happened; it barely feels like I even gave birth. Being in the comfort of our own home was just amazing and made the whole transition feel seamless. Our birth team was incredible; letting us bond as a family and only popping in to get baby’s weight or help us pose for pictures. I really wouldn’t change a thing about the entire experience.
And now, this sweet little baby is finally here after much prayer, worry, and intense hope that he would be a boy. Aksel Thomas Kosalka was born early on a Saturday morning at 4:06 at seven pounds, one ounce. He has beautiful dark hair and skin just like his daddy and I’m pretty sure he’ll have Jason’s brown eyes as well. Aksel means Father of Peace and so far, it seems to fit his personality perfectly. We are so in love and so very thankful to be chosen as his parents.