I remember thinking Thursday morning “it’s unusual to poop three times in a row; maybe im going into labor today!”

Shortly after that I felt a dull tightening and warming sensation at the bottom of my uterus. It came and went every 5-20 minutes but I did not think it was ‘real labor’ because my first baby was 100% back labor. As I played blocks on the floor with Lily I contemplated whether or not to mention anything to Chris who was in the middle of a remote work meeting on his laptop. Lily and I had plans for a picnic playdate but something inside of me told me to stay home and relax. If this was really it, I wanted to reserve my energy and soak up every last minute I had left being 1:1 with Lily.

I texted Bekah to let her know we may need to postpone the playdate but that I would still love to see her while she is in the area. I had not seen Bekah since our trip to their home in Texas in October 2022. She recently moved to Pennsylvania, two hours north of us, and we had been looking forward to reuniting. Bekah suggested driving to our home for a visit and leaving Leah with her parents. Just as we made our new plans, Chris’ meeting ended. I hurried over and handed him the paper I had been recording my possible contractions on. It was 11am at this point and they had started around 830am. He smiled, closed his work computer and announced he was going to shower and get ready. I told him the sensations had not been growing stronger so it may not be the ‘real deal’ or baby may still be a long way off but he made the decision to take the day off nonetheless. Lily and I continued to enjoy time together as we played, made smoothies and waited for Bekah to arrive. Chris started doing a few things around the house to prepare for the possible birth. I texted my mom asking her to be on standby to pick up Lily and left a message with my sister to update her.  She was a huge support at my first birth and I needed her for this one too.

I was eating lunch when Bekah arrived; the chickpea salad sandwiches that were intended for our picnic. We sat together catching up and marveling at the idea that I might have my baby today! We agreed it was no coincidence that we were planning to hang out the day I end up going into labor. Bekah and I had gone back and forth about her possibly attending my birth as a doula. Our friendship went through a rough patch back in the fall of 2022 and I was unsure if she still wanted to be a part of the birth. In the end, God brought us together for this sacred experience!

As we sat and chatted, I noticed my contractions had all but disappeared.

I told everyone I would like to get out in the warm (February?) sunshine. It was over 70 degrees outside! As I stood up, I immediately felt the tightening, warming sensation again. Chris, Lily, Bekah and I strolled down to the creek, Lily racing ahead on her balance bike. The sensations were consistent throughout our walk together, though not growing stronger in intensity. As we ventured back toward the house, my phone rang and it was Kate returning my call. We laughed as she told me “the baby is coming because I just ordered the injeras last night!” Two days prior, Kate and I decided we were going to have Ethiopian over the weekend to encourage the baby to make her arrival. During my first birth, Kate was cooking Ethiopian food the day before I went into labor and we joke about how Lily was drawn out of me by the bold aromas. I told Kate I was unsure if I was in true labor or not. She offered to call and check in later.

It was about 3pm when we finished our walk. Lily needed a nap so Chris took her for a drive while Bekah and I relaxed. I heated up a plate of leftovers to eat. I was not hungry but wanted to consume as much as I could before labor became more intense. Once the toddler was asleep, Chris and I decided it would be wise for us to rest as well. Kate called back to check in around this time and I told her nothing more was happening but that I would call her when I woke up. Before laying down I peed and noticed the fluid on my liner was tinged light brown/pink. I sent a message to Marielle and let her know what was going on and told her I would call her when I got up. As I lay in bed attempting to nap, I experienced two sensations that were stronger than previous ones and were moving around to my back. While they were happening I was confident I was in labor but once they went away I felt so good that I no longer thought I was!   

Bekah left around 6pm to meet her family for dinner, with plans to return later for the excitement. Soon after she left, the contractions grew stronger in intensity and slightly closer together. When I called Kate she said she could tell by the way I was breathing that the baby was coming tonight. She planned to come to the house after spending a little more time with the boys. I called to update Marielle and she announced she would be over in a minute. Before everyone arrived, Chris and I took some time to ourselves to connect in our bedroom while Lily watched a show. I read a lot about how intimacy during labor can help things move alone smoothly. It’s amazing what you can do between contractions!

When my mom arrived around 7pm to pick up Lily I was immediately hit with a wave of emotion and started crying.

It was finally sinking in that this baby was coming today and these were our last moments together as a family of 3. The next time I would see Lily, I would have two little girls to love! I did not want her to go but I knew it would not go well for her or me if she stayed for the birth. My mom helped me prepare our bed for postpartum while Chris heated up some dinner. I was having fairly strong contractions at this point that I needed to stop and breathe through. I ate a banana and drank my homemade electrolyte drink to stay hydrated. Chris offered me a plate of food but I was no longer interested in eating anything heavy; my attention was turning inward. Once my mom and Lily were gone, I put on my swimsuit and Chris began to fill up the birth tub. I felt excited and nervous. Past fears began creeping into my mind so I grabbed my headphones and cranked up the worship music and birth affirmations. I felt my body relax again. 

Marielle arrived around 730pm. She checked baby’s heartbeat, which was good and offered to check me. I agreed so that I could let Kate know how close I was to having the baby. Marielle informed us I was 7cm and my cervix was totally soft! Interestingly, that is exactly what I was when Marielle checked me with my first birth. With that first labor, I was 7cm at 1130am and did not have the baby until 550pm. My dilation confirmed the baby was coming but I thought I might be giving birth in the middle of the night if this was anything like the first time. The contractions continued to pick up in strength and frequency and I asked Chris to massage my back while I leaned over the couch or birth ball. They were very manageable while listening to music and getting a back massage. I once again started to cry when thinking about Lily. Marielle came to check on me and I told her that i’m not in pain, I just miss Lily. She replied “she’s not far away, we can call and have her here for you.” I was comforted by her reassurance but declined stating I knew she was not ready for this type of experience. The birth assistant, Cheryl, arrived around 8pm and I began to chat with her and Marielle. Bekah returned to our house around 830pm.

The birth tub was finally full and I asked Marielle “are there any rules about when to get in this thing?” She replied “anytime!”

It was luxurious! I was handed a fresh cold glass of my electrolyte drink and sipped it in my hot tub. I felt like I was on vacation. I laughed and talked with everyone and meanwhile noticed two contractions come and go as I was talking. I could barely feel them! Kate arrived around 845pm and snapped a few photos of me smiling in my tub. It was a only a few moments later that I found myself going deep within and groaning out the next contraction. I was able to manage the contraction without back massage but knew Id need the counterpressure again soon. I asked Chris to add the pot of hot water he had going on the stove as I sensed the tub cooling down. As the fresh hot water streamed into the tub I felt a strong contraction coming on and began to cry out for Chris. I yelled for Bekah to come rub my shoulders until Chris could return. During this contraction I noticed a subtle ‘pop’ around my pelvic floor and felt some fluid leave my body. Something about the addition of that hot water set my body into motion!

It was not long before I had another strong contraction and needed counterpressure on my back. Marielle suggested changing positions before my next one came on. I got into the position I wanted to be in to push, hoping it was soon time to get baby out. I was on my knees facing the wall of the tub with my chest resting on the top. As the next contraction came I yelled for Kate’s hand and asked for Bekah to hold my other hand. Chris put counterpressure on my back with both hands. He suggested I put my left leg up on the raised seat in the tub for the next contraction reminding me how that had helped last time. It was in this position that my body began to push baby down and my groans became louder and guttural. I remember thinking i’m glad i’m here at the last stage but I also don’t want to stay here for 50 minutes like last time. 

With the next contraction, I felt stinging in my birth canal and began to doubt myself exclaiming “I can’t do this again!” Everyone rallied around me and affirmed me and my body’s ability to birth this baby. Marielle offered to guide my hand down to the birth canal to feel baby’s head crowning. I resisted at first but eventually felt her head and it was very motivating! Before the next contraction my birth team encouraged me to go lower in pitch and “use my man voice.” I think it was just the advice I needed at that time. I went deep within and groaned as low and loud as I could as my body pushed. I really let go with this one, trying not to worry about what’s happening to my body and just push as hard as I can.

Baby’s head came out! With one more contraction and strong push, our baby was born.

Relieved and shocked at the speed of delivery, I slumped back against the wall of the birth tub. Marielle handed me our baby and Chris helped support my hands in holding her. She was beautiful and she was here! I looked at the clock and saw she was born at 2112 military time on 2.23.23! Madelyn began to let out her first cries in my arms. 

After 45 minutes of feeding baby in the tub and waiting on my placenta to come out, I decided we should cut the cord. I was tired of waiting and Madelyn was beginning to feel cold. Chris cut the cord and did skin to skin with the baby. Marielle suggested I pull gently on the cord to help my placenta along. I was hesitant to do so but also wanted to get out of the tub so I started to pull. The resistance of the water was strong and it was not until she suggested I stand and squat that I could really feel it moving down the birth canal. Once it finally emerged, I handed my placenta to Marielle who confirmed it had all come out. Relieved to be completely done, I got out of the birth tub and made my way back to our bedroom where Cheryl was weighing the baby.

Little Madelyn and I snuggled in bed together as I sent a silent prayer up to God thanking Him for another amazing and healthy delivery and baby.