Joel took most of these photos immediately following his birth, so sadly, we don't have any of the three of us together. This post will contain a few details that aren't neat and tidy, so just skim over if birth stories aren't your thang ;) Here goes...
Since my 37th week of pregnancy, I had been having a lot of uncomfortable contractions. Just before I turned 38 weeks, we went in to the birth center because I was contracting and also because I wondered if my water had broken- it broke naturally at the end of my labor with Charlotte and I never felt it, so I didn't know how to identify what it would be like. At that check up, we determined my water hadn't broken and my contractions stopped overnight, so we carried on. Or I should say, we labored on... For about two more weeks!! It was a very tiring and stressful and confusing time; my body kept tricking me into thinking delivery was imminent but things never progressed enough to be true labor.
I had a midwife appointment on Wednesday, September 30. For most of our appointments, we had been seeing Brianna, and she told us at that appointment I was 5cm dilated and could have a baby any time. I said that my friend Melissa would be arriving the next day and that since I had already waited this long, I hoped baby would wait for her to come and be our doula. Brianna told me I could come in whenever I wanted the next day, or over the weekend, and she would break my water to get things moving. She could tell I was just DONE being pregnant and was anxious to meet our guy.
That night I gave Charlotte a bath while Joel went for a run. Around 7pm as I was kneeling next to the tub, scrubbing down our big toddler girl, I noticed some fairly strong contractions. For kicks and giggles, I found and downloaded a free contraction tracker app on my phone. I'm really glad I did that, because it helped me realize that they were actually coming fairly consistently (finally!!).
After Charlotte was in bed I went to sit on my exercise ball and noticed Joel using the iPad- still in his sweaty running clothes. I said casually, "Babe, you might want to go take a shower. I'm having some pretty serious contractions."
"Oh", he replied. While he took a shower, I made sure all our bags were packed and labored by walking around the house through each contraction. They were coming about four minutes apart and lasting just under one minute. I called our neighbor to be sure she could come stay with Charlotte, then picked up my phone to call the birth center. As I started to dial, I noticed, for the first time, that I had a missed call and new voicemail from earlier in the evening. The message was from Brianna, saying that she would be on call that night, but if I went into labor the following day she wanted to be at my birth so I should call her directly even though she wouldn't be on call. I was blown away by the generosity of her offer, but also pretty sure I would NOT be waiting until the next day to have my baby.
Once I called Brianna, she said to come in around 9:30 or 9:45. I was still managing my contractions pretty well, so I called our neighbor again and asked her to come so we could get the car packed and hit the road.
We arrived at the birth center around 9:45. I was 5cm dilated and my contractions were picking up. I labored in the jacuzzi tub for about an hour, at which point they checked me again. My contractions were still intensifying but I hadn't dilated much in that hour, so Brianna offered to break my water. I remember asking, "that will speed things up, but also intensify them, right?"
Brianna said yes, and I told her to go for it. I stayed in the tub and she used an "amnio hook" to break my water. I felt this intense relief for a quick second after my water broke, but then almost immediately the contractions came harder and faster. From about 10:45 to 11:45 pm, Joel stayed with me and used counter pressure on my back while I labored in the tub to manage the pain. He also massaged my back during contractions with a little plastic massage tool, but it didn't seem to help quite as much as the strength of his hands pressing inward on my hips.
The timing of everything is blurry, but I remember distinctly the feeling of calm in the room. Joel was helping me and encouraging me and the midwife and two students kept coming in to check on us both. Probably around 12:30 they told me I was fullly dilated and were getting ready to help me start pushing. Joel said, "Kell, do you want to have him in the tub?"...
"No," I replied. And Brianna immediately said, "Well you better get out right now!" :)
On the bed I had the freedom to move however I chose. We remembered that pushing on my hands and knees was very effective with Charlotte, so I started out that way. I also laid on my right side for a few contractions and then did some pushing in that position as well. Joel continued squeezing my hips and rubbing my back hard during each contraction and the midwife/ two assistants held me hand and guided me and gave verbal encouragement. At one point they gave me some oxygen which was startling because I got nervous that something was wrong with the baby. But it really helped me focus on breathing deeply, which in turn helped me relax and give conscious effort to pushing effectively.
They told me after Asher was born that I only pushed for 12 minutes. Of course I believe them, but pushing a baby out of my body is the absolute hardest thing in the world, so to me it felt about a million times longer than 12 minutes.
When Asher's head came out, my entire body was on fire, but then barely a second later his whole little self came flopping out and the pain was completely over. I can't believe how fast the ending went, and I was speechless with happiness when they brought my son into view.
He was screaming and flailing wildly but stopped the second I turned over and brought him to my chest. I cried, of course, and marveled at the precious gift of Asher Patrick Alberts. I am unbelievably grateful to have had another healthy, beautiful child come from my body.
I'm overwhelmed with joy, too, for such a positive, safe, and quick natural delivery. Giving life to my children is undeniably the hardest thing ever, but also one of the best. Also- my husband is amazing. The end.