The midwife hooked me up to the fetal heart rate monitor to track baby's heart rate for 15 minutes just to make sure he/she handling labor well. Then, she checked my dilation—7 centimeters! We made it just in time for transition (the shortest and most difficult part of labor).
My doula asked about music. I hadn't gotten around to curating a playlist, so I asked her to play Josh Garrels on Spotify. We connected her phone to our bluetooth speaker and the most beautiful music that means so much to me filled the room. I remember one moment singing the song "Colors" softly in between a contraction with Scott:
So let all the creatures sing
Praises over everything
Colors are meant to bring
Glory to the throne
I really wanted to try a water birth with this baby. Something about delivering in the water sounds so romantic and peaceful to me. However, after a few contractions, I realized it just wasn't my thing. I absolutely cannot sit down during contractions, so it was not comfortable at all. It was nice to cool off in between, though.
Right as I felt baby begin to move down, I asked to get out of the tub. After the next contraction, I felt the urge to push. Just like last time, the position that felt right to me was to get on my knees and lay my body over something. I put my knees on the floor and draped my body over the bed (the birth center has regular queen sized beds rather than hospital beds). Everyone scurried to get into position, placing a towel under my knees and crouching down on the floor to accommodate my preferred pushing position.
At some point in this process, I yelled back at the midwife, "Protect my perineum, girl! I don't wanna tear this time!" She laughed and said, "I'll treat it like it's mine!"
I pushed for about 30 minutes, maybe 7-8 contractions. This time, I had done a lot more research on protecting my perineum, and I actually had a strategy for pushing that would hopefully reduce or eliminate tearing completely. Last time, I tried to get the pushing phase over as soon as possible—held my breath while pushing, pushed as hard as I could, kept pushing even after contractions were over (all things I did and was encouraged to do by an OB when I gave birth to Julia... resulting in a level 2 tear).
This time, I focused on working WITH my body to bring baby down. We didn't break my water (such a crazy feeling allowing it to break on its own!), I vocalized during pushing (less productive, but gentler), and my midwife coached me to slow down and rest between contractions ("the baby's head is stretching your perineum—rest and let it stretch... breathe deep, oxygenating breaths"). The result? Zero tearing! 🙌
I don't find contractions unbearable, but the pushing phase with both babies was incredibly painful. Hazel's birth was definitely more painful than Julia's. I think at one point I literally screamed, "HELP ME PLEASE JESUS! IT HURTS SO BAD!"
However, I knew the pain would be gone instantly once the baby arrived, if I could just remain calm and keep breathing. I had a thought during the pushing phase that birthing a baby is all about letting go and relinquishing control. It's like getting on roller coaster. You've stood in line forever, climbed into the seat, buckled up... and all that's left is to ride the ride. You have zero control, zero ability to stop this incredibly powerful force. You can tense up and rebel against the pain, grasping for some semblance of control, or you can give up and ride the ride, trusting the roller coaster will perform as it was designed and you'll arrive at the end safely. I felt like the theme of my labor with Hazel was letting go and trusting my body to do the work.
I'm happy to report that it did do its work! After one final push, our 8 pound, 10 ounce baby rushed into the world at 9:25 p.m., just four hours after my contractions began. Scott said she came out so fast the midwife literally caught her. Scott cried "It's a GIRL!" and I said, "NO WAY! I cannot believe it!" I stood up, they passed her to me through my shaky legs (cord still attached—that was crazy) and I sat down on the bed with our sweet Hazel, who didn't cry a bit!
I was worried about her for a minute, but after a few checks, it was determined she was absolutely fine—she was just the most chill (and beautiful) baby ever. We spent a few minutes deliberating over a middle name because we'd been so convinced this child was a boy that we didn't bother choosing a female middle name before the birth! We decided on Grace after our sisters Alana Grace and Haley Grace.
After you have a baby, you also have to deliver your placenta, the organ that supplies all the baby's nutrients throughout pregnancy. In the hospital, mothers are given a little Pitocin to speed this process up and to guard against a postpartum hemorrhage. At the birth center, they have Pitocin on hand if too much bleeding occurs, but it's not given automatically.
I delivered the placenta a few minutes after the birth. Even though I did not want to save my placenta (some women have it encapsulated and take it like a vitamin... it supposedly can help balance out hormones), I wanted to see it. The midwife brought it over and showed me all the different parts, including "The Tree of Life," the network of blood vessels on one side that looks exactly like a tree (click here to see a photo of a this... not my placenta FYI 😆). Our bodies are amazing!
Since we gave birth right at bedtime, we decided to stay the night and head home early the next morning. Between adrenaline and anxiety over my brand new baby ("Is she breathing??"), I didn't sleep a wink.
We got home the next morning around 7:30. My mom and Julia were on the couch, and we introduced Big Sister to her new baby. She knew exactly what was going on and was so excited to meet Hazel. We let her hold the baby, and my heart exploded. 💗 Julia has since alternated between jealousy and intense love for her baby sister, which is to be expected. We've had more potty accidents the past two weeks than we have the past two months, and bedtime has been difficult. But we are all learning and growing as a family.
Sadly, Coronavirus is a part of this beautiful birth story—other than my mom, sister and stepdad, who were there to help us with Julia the first two days after we came home (before everything shut down)—none of our family or friends have met Hazel. It's so disappointing, and it's been a hard pill to swallow that Scott and I will not have any in-person help with these kiddos for the foreseeable future. I was really banking on Julia going to school twice a week, for us to go to fun places and for friends and family visiting and breaking up the long days. Instead, we FaceTime someone every day, take walks and do lots of activities. I'm very tired, but I'm simultaneously so overjoyed to have two healthy babies and a husband who is helpful, encouraging and a great cook.
How are all of you holding up during these strange times? I'm not sure if some of the ways I'm struggling are because of the 1-2 kids transition or because of the isolation. I would love to hear from you and stay connected in whatever ways we can. This extrovert is also VERY available to FaceTime or chat on the phone. 🤣
Blessings to each of you as we navigate uncharted waters. It's OK to be struggling. It's OK to grieve what you've lost during this time, even if other people have it worse. It's also OK if you're like Scott and are living your very best Enneagram 5 life.
Maybe this season is kind of like birth—literally all we can do is embrace the discomfort until it's over and a beautiful new thing emerges. Just keep breathing and know you are loved. ❤️ Stay safe out there, y'all.