My fifth labor, which may have set a record for the world’s slowest labor, began at some point during the first week of October. My “due date” of September 24 had come and gone, as expected but not intended. “This labor is going to be so quick and easy,” my in-laws said. It wasn’t. “It’s always nice to have one baby that comes on their due date,” my mom told me. This one didn’t. “She’ll be born right at 40 weeks,” my naturopathic chiropractor predicted. She wasn’t. I thought the labor would be similar to Eva’s. Nope.
When it became apparent a few days after my due date that there were no signs of labor anytime soon, I told my impatient children that we would make a new paper chain, counting up instead of down. Every day we could add a new loop and see how many we had before the baby was here. They agreed to this but after another week went by, we were tired of waiting. Every morning was the same, “Do you think she’s coming today?” and every night, “It could be tonight, right? Maybe she’ll come tonight?” “No,” I would try to say cheerfully, “I think she needs some extra time to grow. It’s in God’s hands! He has the perfect birthday for our baby.” This situation was a new experience for me. I was fairly prepared for the mental rollercoaster of an extra-long pregnancy, but had no idea what an impact it would have on my children. As we got closer to 42 weeks the emotional tension increased. I could see Sophia was wondering why our baby wasn’t here, maybe even guessing something was wrong. She had started to go to bed crying at night. To balance this, Greg eased up on his work schedule and we spent more time as a family. We did a few movie nights, we ran errands together, we had a pizza night with the Alexanders, we went apple picking, and we celebrated the beginning of Sukkot.
In a hilarious twist, I started having regular contractions on Monday October 5, as soon as my midwife texted me that she was headed to the mountains for a day trip. Little did I know, these contractions would start a FOUR DAY process that ended with a) exhaustion and b) a baby. They were slow and steady contractions, usually 30 minutes apart, increasing in difficulty as the week went on. All day and all night, every day and every night.
On Wednesday, my midwife stopped by. She rarely does cervical checks, but after almost three days of slow labor, we were all wondering what was going on. It turned out I was 6cm dilated. We thought surely labor would pick up that night, but the same steady contractions continued, every 20-30 minutes. By midnight they were more intense, and I labored in my tub for a few hours. At 3am contractions were so strong that my midwives came over, but nothing changed and they left in the morning after a cup of coffee.
Thursday felt like an eternity. The day crept by with strong, painful contractions every 15-20 minutes. If I laid down, they were worse. As the day went on I was more and more tired. That night was the famous Spurlock Oktoberfest. Since we had been through days of contractions with no apparent progression, Greg was planning to take the kids to the party. In the end, he decided we would all stay home. Spoiler: fortunately!
All the sudden around 4pm, my contractions were short and sharp, coming in waves every 5 minutes, and over the next hour they got even closer. I still wasn’t sure this was “it” but I asked the midwives to come just in case. Greg finished up a conference call and heroically whipped up a pasta dinner for the kids while checking on me every few minutes. The only way I could deal with these contractions was by moving constantly, swaying from side to side, rocking back and forth, moving through cat/cow on my hands and knees. After a few days without much sleep and no appetite on Thursday, it felt like a marathon I wasn’t ready for.
By 6pm, Greg had the children tucked onto the upstairs couch watching The Sound of Music. Down the hall, I was getting close to finally having the baby we were all waiting for! I got into my tub around 6.20 and started trying to push through contractions. I noticed a big difference between this time and previous births. In the past, I’ve pushed with strong contractions (known as spontaneous or intuitive pushing) and that feeling has been a relief. This time my contractions were weaker, and as we realized a little while later, Rachel’s hand was up by her face which made it very painful to push.
For the first time, I reached down and felt my baby’s head as she was about to be born. This is one of my favorite memories from the birth. What an incredible sensation!
A few minutes later, my water broke and Rachel’s head was out. I had to pause for a few minutes and work up the courage to keep going. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to cross the finish line and get this baby out. As I pushed for the last time, Greg ran down the hallway and called the kids to come. They walked into the bathroom just as Rachel was born into my midwife’s hands. Couldn’t be more perfect timing! I had wanted them to experience the birth, without being there for anything distressing. I started crying with relief, saying over and over, “she’s here!” The children looked a little shocked. We had talked for months about meeting their sister but I think they had no idea what it would really be like. Greg caught this moment on video which I’m eternally grateful for (although his video doesn’t include a tiny voice asking “now can we watch the rest of the movie?” a few minutes later).
My midwife untangled Rachel from her cord (it was wrapped around her neck, twisted around her ankle, and clutched in her hand) and handed her to me. Love at first sight.
When I envisioned the arrival of this baby, my goal was to savor the moments. To slow down and remember every single detail. Ironic, considering how slow the labor was. So instead of hopping out of the tub right away, I added more hot water and snuggled my baby while we waited for the placenta. There wasn’t any meconium or bleeding, so it was a completely clean delivery. Isn’t that amazing? Homebirth always sounds so messy.
When I was ready to move to my bed, the midwives helped me dry off and get dressed. The next two hours were a happy blur of sending announcement texts, nursing for the first time, examining and weighing our beautiful girl, eating mac & cheese. I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. I did it. She’s here, praise God! This long, long, pregnancy and long, long, labor is finally over. This is the fun part!
My favorite part of the aftermath was seeing my kids gathered around my bed getting a lesson on how the placenta works from one of the midwives. How many kids have seen an actual placenta?? I thought it was so cool! The placenta is called a “tree of life” because the blood vessels branch out on either side just like a tree. The way God designed our bodies to support life is absolutely amazing!
This wasn’t the labor I had pictured, but overall I was so grateful for the way it all worked out. I was able to deliver my baby at home, and my children were able to experience the miracle of birth up close just as I had hoped. We had been praying that the birth would be smooth and simple, with no complications, and God answered this prayer!
My fifth child brought me closer to the Lord in many ways. I prayed for one more child to join our family. When she was still breech at 34 weeks, I prayed for her to turn over and stay in a good position. When I had a rush of contractions on several of our trips, I prayed she would stay inside and keep growing. I prayed for her to be born at home. When my due date passed and another week went by, I prayed for the faith to trust God’s timing. I prayed for the strength to deliver her myself, when I felt exhausted. The Lord heard all of these prayers and protected our baby girl every step of the way.
I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him!
Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing...