Photo by: Shelise Murray
To my daughter…
by Mother, Michelle Ahlswede,
On May 4, 2015 I had just woken up from a short nap and came downstairs to sit on the couch. As I was sitting, I thought I felt a minor contraction, but dismissed it as another Braxton Hick’s contraction since I had been having those off-and-on for a couple weeks. I few minutes later, I felt another one of equal strength and then the same thing a couple minutes later. I decided to open the contraction timer I had downloaded on my phone when I had false labor at 30 weeks. Shortly after, Daddy got home from the grocery store with Faith and saw me sitting on the couch with a confused look on my face. He asked, “Are you okay?” To which I responded, “I don’t know.” He then followed with, “Are you in labor?” To which I said again, “I don’t know.” From there, I went to the bathroom and had some bloody show. Around 6pm, I then texted Auntie Shelby and Shelise (our photographer) just to give them a heads up in case this was it, and Daddy called our midwife. Soon after, I then decide to get off the couch and start making dinner as planned. I began having to stop what I was doing when a contraction would come. I was starting to believe this was the real deal; so around 6:40pm, I texted more close friends and family, “Ok, this MAY be it . . .. definitely most consistent and painful.” I then called Beebop and Grandma to come help with Faith. At that point, I think I knew I was in labor but I still was in shock that it was actually happening. After all, I was so exhausted that day from a short and rough night’s sleep the night before, that I actually had told everyone that had texted that day asking about baby something to the effect of, “I’m exhausted so I don’t even think my body will even let me go into labor; and considering Faith was 40+6, I’m not counting on Cielo coming anytime soon. My babies like my belly too much and I’m convinced I’m a 41 weeker.” Well apparently my nap must have given my body just the right amount of energy it needed to kick things into motion! I will begin the actual birth story here…
Once I was convinced labor was actually happening, I had a mini freak out/last moment of nesting when I told Daddy to strip and wash everything off our entire bed and Faith’s bed since we had all been sick and I didn’t want a new baby in germ-infested sheets. Side note: I was thinking my labor was going to be decently long. At this point, Daddy broke out into a little bit of a cold sweat as he started thinking about all that needed to be done: washing and making all the beds, setting-up and filling-up the tub, picking up everything around the house that he had been neglecting, probably loose ends at work he hadn’t quite tied up, feeding Faith and us dinner, etc. I felt kind of bad for him, so I was trying to help him just relax and stay calm.
Grandma and Beebop eventually arrived to help feed Faith dinner and shortly after, Erik and I sat at the table to eat dinner. Homemade chicken Cesar salad was what we cooked since that was what we had already planned to eat that night. I could tell Beebop was a little bit uncomfortable sitting at the table with his laboring daughter; I had to stop in between bites when I was having a contraction. After a handful of bites, I realized I wasn’t that hungry. I had also eaten a whole avocado around 6pm, so that must have given me the fuel I needed. I then decided to just go upstairs and take a shower. I had also told Auntie Shelby and Shelise that this was actually happening, and Erik called our midwife at 7:30pm to request her to come over as well.
After I was dressed, Daddy got the birthing ball out and put it in our bathroom. This came in really handy as I would roll around on the ball and Daddy would squeeze my hips during contractions. He also took out all my birth affirmation cards I had gotten as a gift, and laid them out in front of me on the bathroom counter. Daddy also filled up our diffuser with serenity and I was able to breath in the calming smell that I love. I had lost the rest of my mucus plug sometime while upstairs too. At this point, I definitely realized that washing the sheets was not a good idea. Daddy had to open a brand new pair of really nice sheets I bought for after postpartum that had never even been washed, and put them on our bed so he could go about making the bed the special way it needed to be set-up. Silly Mommy! ☺ The tub was also in the process of being filled-up as well. Soon after, Michelle, our midwife showed up at 8:10pm. Lauren, the assistant midwife, and Jhoanna, the student midwife, followed close behind. At 8:40pm Michelle asked me if I wanted to be checked, so I got checked and found out I was 4cm, 90% effaced, and you were at station -1. This was a little disappointing because my contractions were already pretty strong. There wasn’t any sort of a build up—they would start at the peak for a good while and then gradually come down. I told Michelle, “Well, good thing this isn’t false labor though.” She then said how it could still go either way since it’s technically still early labor, but hopefully things will progress. She also took turns squeezing my hips and rubbing my back during contractions. She definitely had the magic touch! I’m pretty sure all the midwives thought it was going to be awhile since I was only at 4cm, so Lauren went to Starbucks to get everyone coffee. Auntie Shelby showed up soon after and I was still in the bathroom rolling on the birthing ball.
Daddy and Grandma were busy trying to put Faith’s bed back together since the sheets were finally out of the dryer. I definitely made Daddy have to do a lot more work than necessary with my whole sheets freak out. Oops! Hearing the news about me being only 4cm made me feel like I needed to get up and get moving. Around 8:45pm, I went to play with Faith. She was reading books in your nursery with Beebop. Auntie Shelby followed me in there and would hip squeeze me during contractions, as I would drop to my hands and knees. Looking back, I think I was already progressing at this point. Once it was time to get Faith in the bath, I went back to our room to use the restroom. Beebop and Grandma put Faith to bed and left at 9:28pm. Feeling the intensity of the contractions and thinking I wasn’t very far along, I told myself that I needed to go do stairs or lunges in the living room. As I was walking across the hallway upstairs and then down the stairs, I experienced a few strong contractions and would lean back on Daddy as support. The midwives had been monitoring your heart rate very closely at this point, and listened even during contractions.
As I was making my way down the stairs, I saw Shelise setting up her camera in the living room. I actually forgot she was coming at that point, but I was so relieved to see her there when I did. Once I was downstairs, I felt the urge to use the restroom again, but I couldn’t. It was at that moment that the strength of the contractions were starting to take over even though I was trying my very best to stay in control. I finally looked up at Daddy and said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” He then encouraged me by saying, “You can do this, Babe! You’ve done it before. You’ve got this!” I knew he was right. I knew how badly I wanted to meet my sweet baby despite the pain I was experiencing. I knew it would all be worth it. I then got a new burst of energy and told Daddy that I needed to get to the living room to start doing lunges so I could progress more. After the next contraction passed, Daddy followed me to the living room where I then collapsed on the floor at the base of the stairs with the following contraction.
I felt as though I shouldn’t be lying down in order to progress, but that’s all my body wanted to do. During the next few contractions, I felt like my body was more in control than I was as I became vocal with uncontrollable guttural grunting. I also felt my body naturally beginning to push a couple of times. Auntie Shelby reports being in the kitchen with the midwives (as they went downstairs to give Daddy and I some privacy upstairs, but we followed them downstairs unknowingly) and them pausing to listen to me. Michelle exclaimed, “I think we are going to have a baby soon” and Lauren agreed, “Yes, I think so.” The midwives soon met me at the base of the stairs where Daddy and I had been for a couple contractions as he continued to squeeze my left hip that was up and massage my back. Michelle asked me how I was feeling and I told her that I felt as though I need to use the restroom. She then proclaimed, “Honey, that’s actually your baby. Let’s get you upstairs so you can meet her.” Those sentences she spoke were the best thing I could have heard in that moment. She continued with, “After the next contraction, lets get you upstairs.” The next contraction passed and I couldn’t get up. She told the other midwives, “I think we are going to need to bring everything down here.” I then spoke up and said that I could go after one more contraction passed. Michelle then instructed that I could crawl up the stairs and we can just take it slow if I have contractions on the way up. That sounded absolutely terrible to me, so once the next contraction passed, I pretty much charged the stairs, across the upstairs hallway, got to the tub, stripped off my pants and jumped in! Daddy followed close behind, took off his shirt, and climbed in with me. Auntie Shelby was in Faith’s room when the midwives were talking to me at the base of the stairs (Faith had woken up when her sound machine shut off since it was accidentally put on a timer when she was going to bed… or maybe she was just excited to meet her sister!). Auntie Shelby jokingly says that is sounded like a herd of elephants going up the stairs and Daddy explains, “You pretty much ran!”
At 10pm I was in the tub. It was so nice to feel less restricted and more buoyant in the water. The lights in the room were dimmed and everything and everyone was very calm and relaxed. Your heart rate was monitored very closely throughout my labor and especially when I was in the tub. Your heart rate always sounded so great and strong! Around 10:15pm I began to worry that maybe I wasn’t as dilated as everyone thought and that maybe I had a cervical lip or something in the way like I did with Faith (since I felt the urge to push with her at 7cm). This was a mind block for me, so I asked Michelle to check me. At 10:18pm, I leaned back on Daddy and she checked giving me the go ahead that my body was definitely ready, as I was complete and you were station +1. At that point, I had the knowledge I needed and I began to really push! I tried laboring in the leaned back position but did not find it comfortable. I felt a little back pain at that point and Michelle reassured me it’s because you were almost here. I had back pain my entire labor with Faith, so I was very thankful to just be experiencing a tiny bit now.
While in the tub, I felt most comfortable in a squatting position holding on to the edge of the tub. Daddy was right behind me with his knees under my booty to support me. He continued to rub my back and whisper encouraging words to me. At one point Michelle exclaimed, “ She’s fierce!” to which Daddy agreed, “That’s why I married her!” After a contraction or two passed, Michelle told me to feel for your head. All I felt was something that felt like a swollen gland, I now know that you were still in your bag of water! When she could tell I was getting close, she instructed me to give just a tiny push when I feel the burn and when the contraction ends, just to breath it out. On the next contraction, I felt the burn for a second and out popped your head at 10:28pm. Everyone literally heard a pop from my water bag breaking. It was such a surreal moment as I looked between my legs and saw your tiny little head floating around in the water! Oh, and your hair! It was covered in vernix, so it looked like this full head of blonde hair just waving from side to side in the peaceful water. Little did you know you were seconds away from meeting your Mama. I was so excited at this moment and was able to rub your full head of hair. I definitely made sure everyone in the room knew, “She has a ton of hair!!!” Before I knew it, the next contraction came and with everything left in me, I pushed as hard as I could, and you were out at 10:28pm! You were 6lbs 8oz and 19inches long.
It was amazing to reach down and pull you out of the water and witness your very first breath in the air above. Daddy sat back in the tub and I sat on top of him bringing you right to my chest. You were gorgeous! You were covered in vernix with again, so much hair! You were so little, so sweet, so incredibly precious. I wept through smiles and tears with the most intense amount of joy. Daddy was also crying. We sat in the tub holding you and admiring all of your tiny features and sweet little cries. It was so amazing. At 10:43pm Daddy cut your chord right there in the tub. To all be together in that tub was magical. I never wanted to leave that moment in time. It’s a memory I will hold in my heart forever.
After a couple hours, after we had bonded more in warm blankets on our bed, I took a shower, and all your measurements and checkups had been completed, and everyone had left our home, it was just Daddy, you, and I cuddling in bed. It was so awesome to be home in our own bed, in our own sheets, eating eggplant parmesan fresh out of the oven, using our restroom, and cuddling you as much as we wanted. We kept looking at the corner where the drained tub was still set-up and it was crazy to think that all just happened.
I can’t even begin to explain the level of connection I have for you. Obviously going natural plays a big part in that, but there was something so moving about being in our home. My attachment to you is like no other. You held a place in my body for nine months and will now hold a place in my heart and in my arms for the rest of time. Cielo means heaven and sky in Spanish and Aliyah means to ascend. You are truly a gift from our Heavenly Father above, and I pray that you come to know Him and follow Him all the days of your life. Daddy and I will do our very best to raise you up having a relationship with our God, and we will guide and direct you the best we know how. You will always be our baby girl. I want you to remember how amazing your birth was and how much I will always and forever love you, care for you, protect you, shepherd you, and be there for you. You are such a blessing sweet girl.
I love you so incredibly much already,