Hello there friend
It’s been a while since I’ve shared one of my birth stories. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve already shared Noah’s story, and Keziah’s story, and that leaves me with only Lydia’s story yet to tell. My husband and I fully intend to aim in the direction of five-ish kids… But at this time we have three living children, two (or more?) yet to conceive, and one sweet baby to meet in heaven someday.
Telling Lydia’s story wouldn’t quite be right without sharing that she was preceded very briefly by another child who didn’t stay.
When my daughter Keziah was about 9 months old, my first postpartum cycle returned. Hurray!!! This meant we could begin trying for another baby! I had already been tracking my temperatures and recording fertile signs in the fertility friend app, but now there was a hope and chance that a baby would soon be on the way. However, from my memory of the intense scrutiny of ovulation tests, and squinting at cheap pregnancy tests the last time, I had come to a decision. NO testing. None. They drove me crazy, got my hopes up, dashed them again, and I didn’t want to go down that path again.
Instead of testing I decided to be more patient and listen to what my body was telling me. Yes, I still took my temperatures. Yes, I still recorded signs. Of course pregnancy was an everyday thought in my mind. But instead of testing multiple times a day, I determined that I would wait and see… Knowing that it probably meant I would go through a few months of getting my period instead of marveling at its absence. That was okay. I wanted to enjoy the anticipation that I *might* have a baby right up until the very last second each month.
Knowing my body, and how it worked before, I anticipated my period would come around day 12 or 13 after ovulation. My first bleed was actually only 5 days after ovulation, so I anticipated it might take several months to work up to a viable length luteal phase (Meaning, the time from ovulation to menstruation. Baby needs somewhere around a minimum of ten days to get properly implanted and produce high enough levels of hormones to stop menstruation.) Little did I know that I wouldn’t need to wait. Ovulation came, my temperatures rose and stayed elevated for 12 days, 13 days, 14 days… At 15 days I was delighted and sure that I was pregnant. I marveled at the feelings of knowing but having no one and nothing telling me it was so. I just knew. Such a wondrous and different experience from finding out with my other two children.
I told my husband. We were both so happy! Not giddy happy the way we had been with our others, but peaceful and joyfully happy. The kind of happy that keeps you smiling to yourself all day long. Then on day 18 I started to bleed. Very lightly at first. Spotting perhaps? More the next day, and the next, also very light. Then on day 21 it picked up a bit. I was sad. Not really crushed. It was the disappointment of letting go of a dream (because I realized I must have been wrong). Somehow I thought I was pregnant, but really I wasn’t. The strange thing was… My temperatures kept rising. Higher and higher my temperatures rose. The bleeding continued steadily, but not heavily.
Realizing the truth
Finally on day ten of bleeding, when it picked up heavier than ever — my cycles are typically only 4 days of bleeding — I took a pregnancy test. It came back positive. Not blazing, but positive nonetheless. My bleeding wasn’t just a late period, it was an early miscarriage. The bleeding lasted for fifteen days, and finally tapered off to nothing. My heart bled for weeks.
I’m certain that the hormones involved in my body ramping up for pregnancy then switching gears to no longer pregnant was a big factor in my extreem sadness. Yet, losing a child even at such a tender and early age is still brutally painful. The thought that brought tears more often than any other, was that my child had a beautiful face that I would never see. I would never get to hold him or her in my arms and kiss their head or tell them, “I love you” in their ear.
My husband and I talked about this baby who would not be joining our family. I asked if we could please name this child too? He agreed, and suggested the name Enoch. His name means “dedicated” and it felt perfect. Enoch was a man in the Bible (all our children have Biblical first names) who “Walked with God and was no more, for God took him.” I loved the image that this man, and our baby, did not experience death because they were taken to be with God.
A dear, dear friend (I’ll call her Erica) gave me a necklace with a pendant that held the September birth stone. Tears come to my eyes writing this, almost two years later… Our baby was conceived in September, and was born and gone in September. The pendant was an angel with the deep blue bead as its body, a wing charm, and wire wrapped to look like small hands folded together. My son Noah was two and a half at the time and would ask about the necklace. I told him it was to remember “our baby Enoch.” He loved taking the necklace from me and always wanted to “show baby Enoch” things. Pinching the body in his fingers he would point the charm at things, and narrate what he was showing it/him. To this day my children love wearing this necklace, and they call all necklaces “baby Enoch.” Even ones with no charm, or different charms. Thank you Erica for such a loving reminder of our sweet baby we have yet to meet.
Someday I look forward to meeting our Enoch in heaven, and perhaps I will be surprised that a brown haired, ponytailed smiling little girl will greet us there. We will have the only female Enoch ever! But I do look forward to that day.
Several months later, in February
Our family moved closer to my husband’s work. For years he had an hour long commute. Now with two small children, and hoping for more, we wanted him to have more time at home and less in the car. So we sold our house, and moved. I continued to track my cycles, and each month I knew which day would be the “make it or break it” day for finding out pregnancy. Each month I bled in the evening, just before bed. Day 14 would come, and month after month my period would come in the evening of that day.
February we would close on our new house. That “day 14” after ovulation came and went. The next day came and went with no bleeding. I told my husband I was pregnant, and showed him my chart with high temperatures. He smiled. Five days later we got keys to our new house and started to move our things out of storage. We needed to unpack fast before I started getting sick.
The first trimester
We got keys for the house on Wednesday, by Sunday I had a full blown head cold and was using up a full box of tissues up each day. Our son’s third birthday came on the following Wednesday. Then by the following Sunday I was already throwing up. Whatever got unpacked during that first week and a half was a miracle, and the rest mostly waited until I needed something enough to fish in boxes to find it.
By seven weeks pregnant I could already feel my uterus above my pubic bone. (Normal is 12 to 13 weeks) Aversions to food were across the board – meats were out, pasta and bread were not going to go down, any vegetable might just kill me… Cheese was a greasy “no way” and my poor family suffered through “barely counts as a meal” dinners for weeks. At one point I told my husband, when he got home, “Make whatever you want for dinner. I just can’t be in the room when you do it.” He and the kids fended for themselves, and I mostly nibbled on anything that didn’t sound offensive in the moment. Lots of almonds and very tart lemon-juice-water.
The second trimester
My imagination ran wild thinking “maybe it’s twins this time?” Although, truth be told, I have always been intrigued by twins and will probably wonder every single pregnancy if it is twins until I’m done having babies. The severe morning sickness and aversions, along with my early-to-show uterus definitely kept me wondering and guessing until about 20 weeks. At that point I was still absolutely exhausted and felt like crying every time I had to go up or down our stairs. (This was not infrequent, because our bedrooms and laundry is on the second level, and both children still napped every day.)
This progression shows how obsessed I was that I bothered to take photos of my uterus every week to compare?!?! Finally I made an appointment with a midwife to get bloodwork and see why the heck I was still so tired. Not getting the second trimester boost of energy I remembered from the other pregnancies was so discouraging. Long story short, she did a urine test strip and determined I had high keytones — I was in Ketosis! Burning fat for energy, and low appetite, because I wasn’t eating enough carbs. What woman on the planet doesn’t crave carbs when they are pregnant?! Apparently me. After the aversions had worn off, I’d been eating salad like it was going out of style… But forgot to add in enough bread, potatoes, rice, fruit. You know, the good carbs!
The third trimester
Once I started eating more sandwiches and fruit and carbohydrates it took several weeks to start getting energy back again. My bloodwork from that one appointment came back normal, including iron levels! So it truly was a dietary imbalance causing my lack of energy. Go figure! Instead of having second trimester energy, I entered my third trimester barely starting to feel human again. It lasted just long enough to get my house clean, my freezer stuffed with various meals for postpartum, and my attitude about the upcoming birth to be cheerful again.
Due in October
All of my babies have been in less than ideal positions for birth. This one was no exception. Noah was happily head down, but kept his head cocked just enough that he never “dropped” before my waters broke. It took almost two hours of laboring before he got into a better position and came out. Keziah liked being in a breech position, and stayed that way until after her due date, but flipped a few days before birth. She also never “dropped.” This little one was happily head down, and sunny side up.
My calculated “due date” was October 19th. Though I had no expectations of baby coming on or before that date. Prodromal labor was “a thing” with the others, and this was no exception. I didn’t even really call it labor since I expected it this time. I’m pretty sure my body likes to push and prod and nudge my babies to try and convince them to move into a better position. They don’t like to listen. My second child was 7 days late. I wasn’t expecting an early baby.
This “pre-labor” was different this time though. Not just annoying, it was also quite sharply painful! (Up until this time frequent tightening was annoying, but pain signaled true labor was here).
Eight days late
Leading up to this birth I had been given many requests about which day NOT to have the baby. My two sisters were both invited to witness the birth, and they were each going out of town for separate trips and would be gone the whole first half of the month of October. “Don’t have the baby early Hannah!” was their joint request. Also I have a dear, dear friend (I’ll call her Sally) who had been invited to come if she could make it. Her delight over being asked made it evident that I made a good choice inviting her. Also my mother would be coming. So many people, all well within my circle of comfort to have present. Still, I hoped no one would miss the birth due to poor timing.
Very very early in the morning of the 27th my husband sat bolt upright, then rushed out of the room to the kids bedroom. Groggily I listened, thought he was taking care of whatever it was, and drifted back to sleep. Only minutes later I realized he hadn’t returned, and I was hearing voices. I listened for a few moments, then went to investigate, only to find that my daughter had vomited in her bed. Oh dear.
“Should we wake Noah up to change the sheets?” My son and daughter shared a twin bed, sleeping with their heads at opposite ends of the bed. He was still sound asleep. Ummmmm… We didn’t have to wait long or even make a decision, because he woke up and came out all on his own. Three-thirty in the morning, and we were all up for the day.
The kids took an early-and-long nap that day: Ten in the morning until two in the afternoon. When they woke we went grocery shopping. They were unusually grumpy and poorly behaved. We chalked that up to their being sick and the weird long nap. Walmart was exceptionally stressful. My contractions (which had been coming and going painfully for several weeks) were sharp enough that I didn’t want to hold Keziah. She was adamant that only mommy could hold her, not daddy. Let’s just say that she has a loud voice when she wants to be loud, and we couldn’t calm her down. Eventually we gave up shopping and left and went home.
Both children got tucked into bed, and my husband and I decided to call it a night and watch tv in bed…
“Was that your water breaking?” “I don’t know?!” The contractions had continued to come two or three an hour, and I was in the habit of breathing intentionally through them just to practice. During one contraction I stopped talking and breathed just enough to let it take its course and “Pop!” we both heard it! From there I quickly grabbed my crotch and darted to the bathroom. The flood waited until I was seated to let loose and GUSH. Ummmm, yup, that was my waters! And they’re clear! So it was almost 10:00pm, and after a wretched day and sick kids our third baby decided to make an entrance.
Calling the team
Truthfully, I never thought of the people I wanted to be at my birth as “a team” until after the whole thing was over and I was reflecting upon the event. My youngest sister lived and worked over an hour away, and was actually at work when I called her. My other births had taken a long time from true contractions to baby’s arrival, but they had also gone very quickly after my waters were broken. This time it was a spontaneous rupture of the membranes, and I had no idea what to expect! Not only that, the contractions that had been 2 or 3 per hour and painful to every 2 or 3 minutes and painful (though very short, 15 seconds or so).
Next I called my mother to tell her, “My water broke. It’s on!” She asked if I wanted her to come now, or wait? My mind was racing… Let her have some sleep, or come now? We agreed that coming now was better, and she only lives 10 minutes away so she could go home and sleep if everything fizzled out. Mom called my other sister for me to let her know to come (at the time she was 3 months pregnant with my sweet niece). And lastly I called Sally to let her know. Though not the farthest away, I was the most nervous for her to miss because I really wanted her there to experience the home birth, and I had no idea if she could leave her family to come.
As luck would have it she was just getting ready for bed when I called, and was thinking it might be me when her phone rang. “I’ll grab a quick shower and come right away!” She lives a quarter mile from our old house, and we used to walk to visit each other. Now we’re 45 minutes apart. Having her on the way completed our group of people coming.
Marrying an engineer was a wonderful choice for me, and when it comes to giving him “jobs to do for birth” he was SOOOO on top of everything. Not only did we have the birth pool inflated and waiting for several weeks… He had a special pump for emptying the pool afterward. He had tested the hose hookup and knew how to get it set up quickly. While I was calling people he had already put down a tarp, started filling the pool with hot water, and collected a lot of towels.
Having my water break was so different for me this time. Thankfully I had a package of adult diapers in my box of “birthy things” and I put one on to keep from dripping everywhere. It felt really strange to continue gushing fluid and to be wearing a soggy, droopy diaper, but hey! I got to walk around and not worry about the carpet!
One by one everyone showed up. My mother cheerfully offered to clean the kitchen (blessings upon her!). Then my youngest sister appeared upstairs for a few minutes, then went to help my mother. Later my middle sister arrived with her husband. He asked if it was okay to be there but didn’t come upstairs, then took both our dogs out for a long walk (which they badly needed!). And Sally arrived to round out the group.
Laboring into the night
All the sign posts of labor progressing happened, including me losing a grasp of time passing or which order things occurred. Contractions grew longer and the pain increased as they did. Our chatting and laughing and happy spirits also continued for quite a long time. The hot water ran out, and my youngest sister made it her job to boil water on the stove in a never-ending-cycle (bless her!). Sally, who has no training related to birth, was a marvelous doula and knew all the right soothing things to say to me (bless her as well!).
I threw up. That has always been a good sign that I’m progressing and getting closer. The contractions were even longer. The pain felt very “right” and though not pleasant, it felt like things were progressing the way they had with my other two. Tracking contractions, my middle sister kept a log on her phone for me. I threw up more. Drank some water. Got out of the tub to sit on the toilet for a while. Back into the tub again.
Checking for dilation
Some people have strong feelings about not wanting to be checked in labor, especially during an unassisted birth. I honestly have no such feelings and actually enjoy the information it can bring. During both my unassisted pregnancies I was in the regular habit of checking my own cervix, and knew that in the weeks before birth it goes up so high that I cannot possibly reach to check for myself. Interestingly, during this birth, even hours and hours into it, my cervix was still too high to reach.
At some point I must have verbalized that I was trying to feel for baby’s head, and couldn’t reach. Sally, myhusband, and maybe sister were with me at that time. (I love how everyone found something that they wanted to do, and did that. No one was orchestrating or directing, but everyone chose a role.) Though I can’t remember how the conversation went, I had Sally check my cervix for me. THAT is a good friend!!!
I explained what I wanted to know — basically if she could feel baby’s head? He shook her head and said “no.” Which I took to mean she couldn’t reach baby’s head either. Ah well, still more work to do. Later on I found out that what she *really* meant was “oh dear, honey. You’re not as far along as I thought you were.” Since neither of us were talking about centimeters or progression it didn’t bother me in the least to get an incomplete answer. I just knew baby wasn’t coming quite yet.
Now I had been laboring mostly on all fours throughout this labor, sitting up in between, or during the time I was in the pool leaning over the edge. Somewhere around two or three o’clock (I’m guessing?) I started grunting a bit, and involuntarily pushing during the second half of each contraction. That was very interesting to me! I haven’t actually read anyone talk about what part of a contraction their body was pushing, but this was definitely after the peak each time. It felt good, and I let it happen, and I was definitely grunting.
Sally became concerned that I might be pushing too early, since we had literally just checked to see if baby’s head could be felt yet and it couldn’t. She very lovingly said, “Maybe you shouldn’t be pushing yet?” and I may have been gruff in my response “It’s fine. It’s okay.” And went back to my grunty pushy contracting. (One thing I know about myself in labor, I bark orders. Thank you my sweet friend and also husband for knowing that I don’t mean to be rude in this.)
With all this grunty pushing, I still wasn’t feeling baby descending any. We moved out of the pool onto the toilet. From the toilet to the bed. From the bed to the hall. Sally was googling online and found a post on Spinning Babies about belly lifts helping a baby who wouldn’t engage. It said to do belly lifts during every contraction for ten contractions. I had read that myself earlier in pregnancy, but it was exactly what I needed to be reminded of in the moment. Every contraction from that point on I lifted my belly with both hands and it seemed to feel better, so I kept up with it…
Eventually I got back in the tub (Thank you my sweet sister for keeping the water boiling, and the pool warm for me!) to labor some more. My middle sister and husband (and maybe mother?) took short naps (at my request) and again everyone else self directed themselves to help where they were needed. Finally I asked for my husband to be woken again. Contractions were very close and intense and I found myself mentally drifting away to other places between them instead of listening to people talk.
This was my first birth to “go to labor land” instead of staying fully mentally present. In a way it was kind of nice! Sort of dreamy even. And I remember one thought I had during that time was, “Hmmmmmmmm… I really want to do this again? yes, I do… but woah. I don’t know…”
Praying & Standing
Throughout the evening I had asked people to pray. Sally was texting her husband asking him to pray too. My husband asked, “What do you want to do now?” and I knew he meant, “Do you think we should transfer?”
The idea of transferring didn’t scare me. But logistically it seemed quite unpleasant, if not horribly painful. Contractions were coming every three minutes. I couldn’t imagine standing up, getting out of the pool, getting dressed, down the stairs, into the car… Get to the hospital, somehow get inside, explain why we were there (“Baby won’t descend. I think he/she is stuck on my pubic bone”), enduring the questioning about my non-existent doctor or prenatal care, signing forms, getting an ultrasound… And *maybe* facing the choice of an epidural OR automatic C-section. Though it’s possible they would want to do a C-section regardless.
Sally suggested standing up through one contraction to be in a different position. We tried. As soon as I was standing up holding onto my husband’s neck and the contraction started I panicked, “No no, let me down!” then he shifted and I immediately reversed my request, “Stop! Keep holding me up!” Woah. As soon as that contraction ended I quickly sank back into the water and refused to do that again. It was the worst contraction of them all so far.
That did it
Still praying, trying to decide what to do, mentally wracking my brain to decide if it really was time to consider transfer… I checked myself again and felt baby’s head. “I feel him!” (All this time we guessed we were having a boy) Sweet Sally asked if I would like her to check again? Yes, please. She jubilantly announced, “Yes! Baby’s head is right there!” And every thought of transferring slid away. I knew we would have this baby at home.
All hands on deck. My mother and sisters, husband and friend were all gathered around and my pushing turned from grunty to GRUNTY. This baby wasn’t yelled out, or screamed out, but rather Growled out.
Hearing people start to say “We can see the head. Baby has a lot of hair!” was very motivating. In my imagination this baby was a little bald, blond, boy. He would look like a male version of his sister. The hair comment was surprising, and I was focused on getting him out.
Baby did not come quickly. First the top of the head, then face, and more head… In the footage we took I hear myself saying “Come on neck!!!” because I knew I’d get a little bit of a break at that point! Then came the familiar “Large Trout trying to get free” sensation as baby turned itself. “Don’t touch!” I barked. “Nobody is touching you.” From there it felt like baby inched out so slowly… Shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, knees, and finally a quick wiggle and she was out! I pulled baby up out of the water and was amazed, “You look like Noah!”
Thick dark hair, and lots of it. Dark eyes. “Daddy, come over here and tell us what we have!” I called to my husband. He came over and felt… It’s a girl! “What?!” I couldn’t believe it. But there she was, sweet as can be.
Baby arrived at 5:08 in the morning, well before the sun came up. She was 8lb 4oz, and I don’t remember how long.. Probably about 20 inches.
I stayed in the birth pool for quite a long time. My husband woke the older children and brought them in to meet her. Noah, at 3.75 years old was happy and excited to meet the baby. Keziah at 23 months was bewildered, shy, and wanted daddy to hold her. Two very different reactions from each other. I’m very intrigued to discover what they will be like meeting future siblings. Noah was 21 months when he met Keziah, and his reaction was very similar both times. Happy and interested in baby immediately.
Eventually the cord stopped pulsing and went limp. My placenta didn’t come out in the pool, but this time the water was murky and gross so I was kind of glad. It kind of looked the color of pond water, on the yellow-brown spectrum. (You can see it in the photo)
We moved to my bed where we tied a braided cord around the umbilical cord and cut it. Then I knelt on the bed and pushed out the placenta with my 3-year-old son watching. Hmmmm… He has a very good memory. I wonder if he’ll remember that for years to come?
Wrapping up the birth
Baby was wrapped up and passed around. I always seem to be exceptionally laid back and chilled out after birth, and never care who holds baby. This time we decided to type the baby’s blood from the umbilical cord since it was so convenient. (At the time I knew I was type A+ so it would never matter to me about getting a Rhogam shot… I’m just curious! And my hospital birth baby they never typed his blood that I know of. My middle daughter we didn’t think to. This was my chance!) Baby turned out to be A+ as well. (Later we typed my husband and found he’s A- so all of our children will definitely be of the “A” variety. I just don’t know if I have a hidden “negative” to potentially pass along).
Sally left, my mother and sisters left to go home, and shortly after that… My husband realized that he was sick with whatever our oldest daughter had the previous day! He went to lie down, and I went downstairs to find the two older kids yelling at each other, hungry for breakfast. The dogs then let me know they were also hungry, and our new life with three children began full tilt.
After feeding the kids, and feeding the dogs, and realizing that everyone who just left could NOT be called back to help me… I called my in-laws. “Guess what?! Our new baby is here. It’s a girl. Would you like to meet her?” I was so relieved to hear that they would come. But also realized it would take a while for them to arrive. (They lived almost two hours away) I then racked my brain to think of any other friends I knew who lived close.
One friend, I’ll call her Michelle, came to mind so I called her. “Hey there! How are you?… What are you doing today? (Saturday) Nothing much? Would you come over? Ummm, now would be great. We had the baby this morning, everyone has gone home, and my husband is sick and went back to bed… I haven’t gotten a chance to even take a bath yet.” Thankfully Michelle was happy to ditch any plans she would have had and come over with her two kids. (The son informed me when he got there, in a very cute way, that he didn’t want to come because he almost missed breakfast.)
Michelle, bless HER heart, stayed with me all morning until my in-laws came, and listened to me talk and talk and talk. I guess birthing mothers need *someone* to talk to after baby’s arrival, after the hubbub wears off. That is *one* thing I think I miss out on by not having a midwife, and having an unassisted home birth. Midwives would be the perfect “best friend” to talk to during those afterward hours if you needed to talk.
Naming her Lydia
This little baby we were so certain was a boy we hadn’t nailed down a girl name for. At the end of the day after much discussion (and after my in-laws had left, and we got to talk more) we decided on the name “Lydia” which means beauty. There was another name that I wanted to use, but I knew my husband’s favorite choice was Lydia. After he told me “Go ahead, use the name you like” I just knew in my heart that God was letting me choose. Did I want the name I wanted, or did I want to let go of it? I realized in that instant that I didn’t want to play tug-of-war over names, and I wanted very much to give my husband his first choice. His smile at my decision confirmed my choice, and over the next days and weeks I marveled at how in love I became with her name. Lydia Hannah S. My darling third child. We thought you were a boy! How silly of us.
Preparing for birth takes up sooooo much mental space during pregnancy. This time I felt very strongly that I should be preparing for after the birth, but to be honest I didn’t know how! And I also had so little energy, for so long, that I couldn’t have adequately prepared even with a list and a schedule. Those first weeks after the birth were hard. No one expected my husband to get sick, and I hadn’t planned on NOT being cared for myself. It was a difficult and beautiful and spiritual time for us as a family. Almost “perfect storm”-ish in nature, teaching us through lack of energy, lack of sleep, and lack of health that God would take care of us even in the hard times.
I wouldn’t change anything. But in the future… During my next pregnancy I hope to plan much better for those early days postpartum. Childcare for the older ones. Meals. And finding a way that I can rest for a bit longer.