Thursday rolled around, and I just felt different. I was thankful for the half day off work because my contractions were a little more crampy/achy, and I was still spotting. I dropped Noah off at his class and went straight to Meijer. After I finished my shopping, I drove back home, and the cleaning spree began. I was having contractions still, but they weren't close enough for me to want to time them. I figured that if things moved along, I'd know it and time them at that point.
My four hours of shopping and cleaning were gone in a flash, and it was time to pick up Noah from his class. I quickly got him down for a nap and was able to get a few more things done while he was sleeping. After Ryan got home from work, we all went outside to play for a bit. I could feel the cotnractions coming on stronger and thought to myself, "Oh yeah, this is what contractions feel like!" I told Ryan that I felt like this could be the real thing, but I could feel myself holding back because Noah was home. I didn't want him to see me in pain or behaving any differently, so I just wouldn't submit to the direction my body was trying to go. I got pretty emotional at this point. It hit me hard that this would most likely be the last time that it would be just the three of us. I looked at Noah, and he looked SO big. He was being so sweet and so silly, and I was loving every minute of it. After a good cry that I did my best to hide from Noah (mostly because I wanted him to leave our house that night feeling like everything was normal), I felt a lot better. Ryan called his parents and asked them to come down for dinner. Then, if my labor was still progressing, he asked if they would take Noah back to their house.
While John and Gloria made their way to our house, I started making beef stroganoff. I mean, why not, right? I had the meat already thawed in our fridge and didn't want it to go bad. Plus, I thought the carbs and protein would give me energy in case we did go into active labor! At some point, I called Julie (our doula) to let her know that I thought that things might be progressing toward active labor. She was getting ready to have dinner with her family, so we decided to touch base in a couple hours. Ryan's parents arrived and we all sat down to eat. I was timing my contractions at this point, and I think they were 4 to 5 minutes apart, lasting about a minute each. I could still talk through them just fine, but they were definitely getting more intense. Since things were moving along, we packed Noah's bags and said our goodbyes. As much as I missed him when he left, I was excited to finally surrender to my body.
Ryan and I got Kya and starting on our first walk around the neighborhood. My contractions increased in frequency, duration, and intensity during the walk. I was having them every 2-3 minutes, and they were lasting anywhere from 1.5-2 minutes each. After walking about a mile and a half, we went inside to see if my contractions continued with the same duration - they did! They continued to last 1.5-2 minutes but were 3-4 minutes apart now. Ryan and I decided to watch Grey's Anatomy and an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but my contractions became more intense, and I couldn't concentrate on BBT. Ryan packed up the car, took a shower, and went to Subway to get us some foot long subs (Jimmy Johns was already closed). We called Dr. Soper to let her know about the contractions, and she said, "Well, the only way we'll know if you're in labor is if you come to get checked." Instantly, I was scared because hospitals make me very nervous. I asked that she share my desire to have a room with a tub to labor in when she called the hospital, but she said, "Oh just let them know when you get there." I was doubly anxious then! She had everything set up for us last time when we arrived, and to know that we could possibly not have a tub when got to the hospital made me really nervous to go. I told her that Ryan was gone getting food, and that we would leave sometime after he got back. I still was in no hurry to go to the hospital at that point. Part of me really questioned if I was truly in labor - I think I was in denial to be honest. I started texting/emailing friends, family, and coworkers to give them the update. I finalized Noah's birthday cake plans (i.e., scanned the sketch I made along with pictures of Word World characters). Yes, I was finishing all of the last minute things that "needed" to get done so that I again could surrender to this process.
Almost immediately after talking to Dr. Soper, my contractions slowed down. I had been sitting for awhile watching TV and sending email, so Ryan and I began walked around the house. Things picked right back up, so we called our friend, Kevin, to come pick up Kya. He arrived at our house around 11:30 p.m. I could still talk through my contractions just fine, though they were pretty intense at times. With Kya gone, I felt myself surrender that much more. My contractions were picking up and were starting to get more difficult to talk through. We called Julie to give her an update, and we decided to meet in the hospital lobby. That would give us a chance to see how things were moving along and determine when would be the best time to go up to the maternity floor. I was excited to meet Liam but also nervous to experience the rest of this labor and ultimately the delivery!
The tub was still filling up when I got in, but before I knew it, the water was well over my belly, and I started getting into a rhythm. I started rocking side-to-side, just like I had when I was in labor with Noah. Rubbing my lower back against the ledges on the tub helped relieve some of the back labor I was experiencing. The contractions were definitely strong, but I felt the counter pressure around me from the water, which really helped. Before I knew it, I was starting to feel the urge to push at the peak of my contractions, so I mentioned it to everyone. The nurse checked me, and she said I was 7 1/2 cm already and that the baby was right there, which is why I felt the urge to push at times. When I heard 7 1/2 cm, I knew that I was in transitional labor, which meant LONG contractions with very short breaks in between. My body began shaking, and I asked Julie why that was happening. I remembered it happening with Noah but not at that point in labor. Julie later told me that I was shaking because I was in transitional labor. During this next stage, I felt like I was having the longest contractions ever, and it seemed like I wasn't getting any breaks. They were really intense, but I knew it meant we were getting closer. I asked Julie and Ryan to pray quietly to themselves that things would move quickly because I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.
Then, all of the sudden, everything stopped. I found myself totally relaxed and at rest. In fact, I felt like I had fallen asleep in the water. My body was completely submerged, and only my face was above water. I floated in the water for about 5 minutes completely at peace. Slowly I woke up as my next contraction began to build. Then it hit me: I had just experienced the rest period you have when your cervix is completely dilated, and your body is ready to push. It was go time! At this point, I really feel like my mind and body disconnected. With Noah, my pushing phase was very cognitive driven. I would think to myself, "Ok. Push. Hold. Take a breath and push again!" This time, I felt the first overwhelming urge to push and started saying, "Have to push...have to push...help...help..." because my doctor wasn't in the room yet. Everyone encouraged me to just listen to my body, and before I knew it, my body just started pushing and my mind was playing catch up! I think I got in at least two good pushes before Dr. Soper arrived. The rest of my labor seemed to be one big contraction! Again, without my mind's permission, my body began pushing again. Everything was moving so quickly this time! I completely felt Liam move through my body. I could hear Ryan saying, "Amy, you're doing it! I can see him. He's right there! You can do this!" This time, it was overwhelming how strong the next contraction was and how NOT in control I felt. My body continued to push again, and before I knew it, Liam's head was out. One push later, and Baby Liam was in my arms!
The explosion of endorphins hit me immediately and felt like the fireworks' finale. Ryan and I were both overcome with emotion seeing this little baby boy lying in my arms. We kissed each other and stared at Liam in amazement. Dr. Soper said, "Well, that was fast and furious!" She wasn't kidding! Then Ryan said, "Oh no, did he tear his little lip on the way out?" I looked at Liam's face and saw that he had a little cleft lip. Dr. Soper stuck her finger in his mouth and let us know that his palate was completely intact, so it was simply cosmetic. She said that it wouldn't affect his ability to nurse at all. What a relief!
I then got out of the tub and got into the bed so that we could donate Liam's umbilical cord blood. While Dr. Soper collected the blood, she asked what the official time of birth was. Melissa, our nurse, answered, "2:42 a.m." My eyes made a bee-line straight to the clock, and sure enough, it wasn't even 3:00 a.m. yet. I was in shock! We didn't even leave for the hospital until midnight, which made us arrive around 12:30 a.m. We sat in the lobby until 1:00 a.m. and by the time we were in triage and my water had broke, it was 1:30 a.m. Now they were telling me that Liam was born at 2:42 a.m.! I couldn't believe how fast my labor had progressed. We figured out that I was only in transitional labor for approximately 15-20 minutes. That was WAY faster than the hour and a half of transition I experienced with Noah.
While I was on the bed, Ryan was busy cuddling and falling in love with Liam. He brought Liam to me then, and we had our own skin-to-skin time. Before I knew it, Liam was rooting and ready to go. He wiggled his way over and latched right on like he'd been breastfeeding for months already. It was AWESOME to see that his lip didn't affect his ability to nurse at all just like Dr. Soper said. After Liam was done breastfeeding, Melissa and Ryan took him to determine his weight, height, and complete other baby checks.
I sat in bed, amazed at the gift God had given us - another little boy to call our son. He was perfect in every way, and I was falling in love with him already. I thanked Julie for once again supporting us throughout our labor and delivery. I couldn't imagine having a natural childbirth without her there to support us along the way. Then I looked at my husband and knew that I had never loved him more. He was so encouraging and helpful not only through my pregnancy but also especially while laboring at home, in the car, and at the hospital. His voice was the only one I heard during the pushing phase, and it was all that kept me grounded when I could've been just completely overwhelmed by my body. I started praying and thanking God for giving me the strength to bring another child into this world. When I was in transitional labor, I kept thinking of Jesus on the cross and the sacrifice He made for us so that we could spend eternity with Him in heaven. I was meditating on scenes from The Passion when Jesus is suffering at the hands of men. Although my suffering and sacrifice where on a much smaller scale in comparison, I felt my strength grow when those images came to mind. One thing is for sure - in the majority of cases, a woman's body is perfectly created to safely bring a baby into this world without medical intervention. I am SO thankful that God allowed my body to show the strength of a woman through my birth experience.
Liam's birth was easily the craziest, most intense experience I've ever had in my life, with Noah's birth coming in second place. Although I remember the details of both experiences, it's amazing how quickly you forget the pain of childbirth. People often don't understand why I would choose to have a natural birth, and there are just so many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that we rarely experience anything on Earth the way God created it to be. We typically like to do things our way, so surrendering to His process made both Noah's and Liam's births really spiritual experiences...something I know I will never forget.
While at the hospital, I found completely in love with Liam. My son was so beautiful and sweet! I experienced pain only from my uterus shrinking back down to its original size. That pain felt excrutiating at times, and I breathed through them like labor contractions. Other than that, I had no pain from the birth - honestly! That was part of the reason I wanted a water birth so badly. I had heard the recovery is so much better, and let me tell you, that is definitely true! My recovery has been a breeze.
Our parents all came to visit, as well as a couple friends during our day and a half stay at Methodist. Ryan's parents brought Noah to see us, and I loved the snuggle time he gave me! He was sweet about Liam but also just played around the room by himself. He was happy and made the transition to big brother without missing a beat. We were excited to be discharged around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, approximately 40 hours after we arrived on the maternity floor. Ryan's mom brought Noah to the hospital, and we took our first pictures as a family of four.
We left the hospital, two boys in the backseat, and I had such a sense of completion - so much so that it brought me to tears. I have never felt so blessed and so undeserving all at the same time. What have I done to deserve such a beautiful family? Why do I get to have all I've ever dreamed of having - a marriage where we adore each other so completely, a little boy who is compassionate, sweet, and silly at all once, and a new baby boy who is reminds me that God's greatest gift is allowing me to be a mother. We drove home as a family of four, looking foward to the future with anticipation, excitement, and sheer joy.