The level of excitement for this pregnancy was not, for me, what it had been for the past two. That’s probably natural with the third pregnancy in four years, though. I was already comfortable with the unassisted birth scenario that is so important to my wife…we already had all of the resources / knowledge I needed to feel comfortable with the process, etc. My primary concern for the entire pregnancy was Michelle’s health, since she had experienced preeclampsia with Asa. Thankfully, Michelle was blessed with good health throughout this pregnancy.
As most folks who know Michelle already know, she loves to labor and give birth in water. We have lived in our house for over four years now and the pipes had never frozen before. Not even once. When I woke up the morning of Friday, January 8th to dress for work our pipes were frozen up solid. The forecasted high temp for the next two days was somewhere around 25 degrees. Michelle let me know around noon that she was in labor. I was definitely not in panic mode…because I know her labors take quite a while. I told her to keep track of the frequency and intensity and call me again if she thought I needed to come home. She never told me I needed to but around 3 o’clock I ditched work and went home to get to work on our pipes. I worked on those pipes for about 2 ½ hours while Michelle labored and the children wandered all about nervously. I began to sense some perturbation in Michelle and decided she now needed my attention more than the pipes. The bad news is that the birth pool had zero water in it. The children were picking up on the nervous energy and the peaceful vibe we generally hope and pray for during a birth was not present.
I presented Michelle with a choice. Give birth on dry land or go to my parent’s house to give birth in their bathtub. She chose the latter. We rounded up the kids, packed up birth supplies, and were headed out to the van. I turned on the sink and rinsed out my coffee cup. Wait. What? Yes, the water was back on. Thank God. Seeing that the kids were all packed up and excited to go to Mimi and Papa’s we talked Ashlea into taking them over for a bit. This ended up being very important. Michelle (and I) really needed the physical peace and quiet to help with our mental and spiritual peace and quiet. It worked. I cleaned house (because a lot of visitors tend to show up after a baby is born) while Michelle went to take a bath, relax, and pray. When she got out of the bath we prayed together and after that things were much more peaceful. After that we watched some television…I don’t remember what we watched.
Around 8 p.m. the kids came home and we sent them all to bed (except Ashlea) and hinted that the labor had slowed so they would not be up all night waiting excitedly for a new sibling. The contractions had slowed, slightly, but they soon picked up again. Around 11 or so I went to bed and left Michelle to try to get some sleep on the couch, but told her to wake me up long before things got very intense because I had not filled the birth pool yet.
Around 3 a.m. Michelle woke me up and told me the contractions were getting quite strong and closer together and that she was ready to get into the birth pool. I got up and had a cup of coffee while I charted a few of her contractions (over the years I have created a number of Excel spreadsheets and charts to help me keep track of how her labor is progressing). Sure enough, it looked like she was making really good progress. As soon as the water in the birth pool was warm enough for Michelle she hopped right in. Of course she had me take a number of photos of her both before and after getting in. I also set up the video camera. We had never managed to capture a birth on film and I was determined this time (we were successful, by the way).
We talked and joked excitedly for an hour or so. I tried to tend to Michelle’s needs…water, coconut milk, back rub. I could tell the contractions were getting quite strong and every few minutes she would quit talking to me. After one particularly long contraction I said, “nice talkin’ to ya…see ya when the baby’s here.” I was joking, but it ended up being true. Our light-hearted conversations were over. I began praying and reading scripture to Michelle. She began complaining about the intense pressure due to the fact that her water had not yet broken. I prayed for her water to break and IMMEDIATELY I saw water gushing. It was really cool to have a prayer answered that quickly. A little while later and I could tell by looking that the baby would be born soon. Something presented and it definitely was not a head. I was thinking it might be the tip of a foot and was excited because we had never experienced a breech birth before. As it turns out is was just the tip of the now ruptured bag of waters that made it out directly before the head. Soon the head was crowning. I told Michelle to reach down and feel her baby (as she had done with Millicent) but she was not interested. After the next push I touched the baby’s head and felt a hand on her cheek. One more push and she was out. I pulled her out of the water and immediately discovered that we were looking at daughter number five. She didn’t breathe for about 15 seconds but then let out a little cry. As a side note, if you have read Michelle’s account you will see that she said the baby didn’t breathe for over a minute. I think her perception of time was warped due to adrenaline. I have conferred with Ashlea, who was also present, and we agree that the time was only about 15 seconds. Michelle had wondered why we were so calm and collected about the baby not breathing for over a minute.
Within minutes we had gotten Michelle and Jerusha out of the pool, delivered the placenta, and had them comfortably propped up on our bed. My mom got to cut her newest grand-daughters cord. Jerusha came out looking like a full term baby…as opposed to Asa who was red and angry after having been induced. She immediately began nursing and has still not experienced a problem in that area. After a short while exhaustion hit us and we all went to sleep for a few hours.
The next morning was really cool. The four younger kids were all relaxing in the living room watching cartoons, not knowing that Michelle had delivered while they slept. I walked into the living room carrying Jerusha all wrapped up in a blanket. They all stared at me not saying anything, when finally, after 15 or so seconds, someone (Kori or Kati, I don’t remember) exclaimed, “Mom had the baby.” That is how they met their baby sister.
As for Michelle, I think my mom said it best when she looked at Ashlea shortly after the birth and said, “Your mom is really strong.” That is very true.
Welcome to the world baby Jerusha. We love you.