This was such a wonderful journey. I am so happy to have been a part of it. At the mama's request names have been changed. The rest of the story is hers.
As if she knew, Halle woke up uncharacteristically early that morning, around the time Trenton was getting ready for work. I had him put her in the bed with me and we snuggled - admittedly with intermittent squirming to grab something that looked interesting. Eventually, she seemed ready to go back to her own bed, so I tucked her in and returned to spend what time I had resting as comfortably as I could manage. I knew that if I tried to go back to sleep, Halle would sense it and cast off her own stupor; thus, I was cognizant when the contractions started.
Exactly a week prior, I had experienced contractions all day with no results, so I was understandably skeptical - perhaps even a little annoyed. I rolled over heavily and tried to ignore them. After multiple trips to the bathroom, I decided I had probably better start timing them. An excitement was beginning to rise that had been absent a week ago and it was harder for me to convince myself that it wasn't real. I drug myself downstairs while it was still empty and quiet, contractions steady and intensity slowly rising. Eventually, smiling, I texted my husband at his work. "We're having a baby today."
Before much more time had passed, I heard my Halle calling from upstairs to let me know she was awake and eager to start the day. I heaved myself upstairs and carried her carefully down - I knew I probably shouldn't have, but labor wasn't yet in full swing and I knew my time with her was swiftly dwindling. Mom came downstairs shortly after I finished changing Halle's diaper and was able to observe the latest contraction. I was already having to close my eyes and focus my breathing. "Is it real labor this time?" she asked with a hint of laughter in her voice. I nodded. Yes, it was. I was sure of it.
Mom snapped into action, taking charge of Halle's care and alerting both Dad and Sicily to the impending addition so that my sister-in-love could leave Provo post-haste in the hopes of witnessing Ashley's entrance. On my end, things were progressing quickly, but I was determined to shower while I still could; though I agreed to bathe downstairs with the door open so that Mom could be more accessible to me if I needed her. After I had successfully washed, we moved my labor out to the living room floor on my yoga mat while Halle sat and watched her shows. Mom was an angel, caring for both a toddler and a laboring woman, but she was beginning to grow anxious. I was already starting to vocalize quietly and nobody else was even on the way yet. I had told Trenton that he could probably wait until his lunch break at 10 to come home for the day, buy by 9:30, I knew I wouldn't last another half hour without knowing he was on his way.
Mom helped me move to the birth room as my sounds began to grow louder in proportion to the intensifying labor. She asked if I thought it was time to call Cassie, my capable midwife, and perhaps to start running a warm bath. I could barely answer yes, but I managed to gasp it out. A few contractions later, Trenton arrived, absolutely aglow. Relief flooded me and, once the pain ebbed enough, I gazed up at him and smiled. "I love you," we exchanged. Between the next several waves, we got me changed into my birthing suit - the same swim top I had used for Halle's birth - and eased into the tub. Somehow, although the frequency and productivity of each contraction remained as before, the pain became easier to bear and I was able to laugh and chat with my husband in our cloud of euphoria.
Although space did not allow him to be in the water with me this time, he still managed to hold me when the pain was at its peak by kneeling by the tub and letting me lean forward into his arms. Eventually, around 10:30, Cassie and her second - Erica - also arrived and checked in on me briefly before simply waiting in the other room to listen to my sounds and gauge when they'd be needed. Through a couple contractions, of course, they listened to Ashley's heartbeat to make sure all was going well on her end and to see if she was traveling down. She was. And while I wouldn't reasonably call it "easy", things were going so smoothly and so beautifully, with my good humor still perfectly intact, I wondered if delivery wasn't still several hours away. I wasn't yet experiencing anything close to the absolute agony of Halle's birth, but I was also working WITH my body better this time. I asked when Sicily might be expected to arrive. "Why, are you planning to wait?" Nope. No way.
At about 11:15, Dad also arrived to take over the care of Halle so that Mom could be free to be the presence she wanted to. I was contracting in Trenton's arms when I heard Dad's voice drift into the room. "She's a little late! I told her I wanted her to have the baby yesterday!" "WHINER," I groaned out as the contraction eased. We flipped one another off (lovingly) while I caught my breath. Things were really picking up now and we deemed it time to move into the birth room for the final stretch. With contractions coming every step or so, it was starting to suck as much as I'd remembered. I laid on my side first as they listened to the heartbeat, then on all fours. Ashley was not a fan. They had me try being on my back at an incline, which Ashley liked better, but I absolutely abhorred. After 3 or 4 wrenching contractions on my back, I leapt at Cassie's suggestion to move to the floor; almost literally. I launched myself off the bed as I felt the next contraction creeping up, gasping "anywhere is better than here."
I wanted to run away. As if that would help anything. "I don't want to," I groaned with my face in the mattress. I was over it. I was ready to be done. "Why did I think this was a good idea? No more. No more for me." How. Had my mother. Done this. TEN. TIMES. It was getting harder and harder to catch my breath between waves, like I had wandered into a riptide of excruciating pain. I trembled, my fingers curling and flexing as I rocked and groaned. At one point, I don't remember when exactly, I stopped wanting to listen to anyone or anything as the world vanished in a haze of anguish. It was then that Erica stepped in to give me an inspiring pep-talk, reminding me of my strength and power and God-given ability. It didn't lessen the pain an inch, but my focus returned, my resolve deepened, and my humor made a comeback.
"It would be great," I gasped to Trenton, "if you could take over." But God didn't make labor a tag-team event or a simple baton pass, so I pressed on - because I had no other option.
"I don't want to. I don't like it."
"I know, but I don't want to."
We got the birth ball up under my chest, while Trenton sat on the floor in front of me to be my support. As I fought to find the least unbearable position, I ripped my husband's sock off his foot and tried to topple the shelf with all the birth equipment while Trenton struggled to keep it (and me) stable. Eventually, Trenton got me to grasp his arms just below his elbows and I would rock back to push with each contraction, tugging hard on him. He later told me that I nearly broke his arms and expressed relief that he had been going to the gym for a while this time.
"I love you," he muttered softly to me. "I love you too."
"Even after all this?" he chuckled.
"Get me pregnant again and I won't," I retorted, mostly joking.
Gulping down as much air as I could, while Ashley still needed my lungs, I was determined to get this child out of me and to have the pain be over with. Very determined. I felt her head bearing down on me and I could envision the end. I pushed. WOW it hurt. I screamed. I screamed at such a volume that I barely heard every other voice in the room screaming back. Shouting for me to STOP. Her forehead was emerging, but there was still good two centimeters of cervix left too dilate. I stopped and the rest of her face slid out. "Well, I guess she's pushing through the cervix," the midwives noted calmly.
This was a new sensation for me, since Halle literally rocketed out. I didn't like this. I pushed again, but had to stop just as soon, so they could unwind the cord from around her arm, so they could unwrap it from her neck. I was done. I was over it. It was time to finish this. I could hear my elder daughter in the other room, missing her mother and scared of the sounds emanating from the back of the house. I knew to get back to her, I had to get. Ashley. OUT. So I did, at precisely 12:30pm. Mom got to catch her, Cassie's steady hands under hers as a safety net. As quickly as they could, they got a stack of pillows in the doorway so I could lay back to get Ashley onto my chest and be situated to deliver the placenta.
I lost myself in her beautiful face and it the relief that I had done it a second time. And so it was that when they told me I was hemorrhaging, it didn't really register. "I can give you a shot, or you can suck on a piece of your placenta." Without hesitating, I chose the latter - which Cassie admitted was a first. It didn't really taste like anything, and I didn't care anyway. Everything had gone as perfectly as I could have asked for - with no needles.