The birth of baby Afton
By Mandi Crawford Morgan
Afton’s birth story doesn’t actually start on her birthday. It actually started 9 days earlier, the first time I went into labor. After that day, I never dreamed I would stay pregnant for another 9 days! I think that had I not had that “false” labor, I would have been perfectly fine staying pregnant as long as I stayed pregnant, but since I DID have that day of labor, and I knew I was 4+cm dilated at that point, every day felt like it could be “the day”. I was SO frustrated a few days later when all labor symptoms went away completely, as if nothing had ever happened. It was also frustrating because I was wanting my mom to be there for the birth, but she and my dad were leaving for Michigan on Monday the 19th, so I felt like I was on the clock. So many evenings I would get contractions, and a couple of those evenings, they would really kick in, making me think I would go to bed and wake up in full blown labor – but no. They would always go away. Right along with my sanity.
On Sunday the 18th we went to church. I was 1 week “overdue”. Here’s a friendly note: don’t go to church past your due date unless you are prepared to field eleventy billion questions and comments regarding the status of your pregnancy, your body, your activities, etc.
I was talking with my mom that afternoon, knowing that if I didn’t go into labor by that night, she and my dad wouldn’t be able to come up for the birth. By early afternoon I had pretty much given up hope, and I told her as much, but told her I’d keep her updated and of course I would keep “trying to have a baby” (ha). A few hours passed and I started getting some good, real contractions. Nothing close together or super long, but they were nice and strong! I was standing at the sink doing dishes and I realized they were getting to be a pattern, and they were getting closer together so I started timing them with my iPod, just out of curiosity. Sure enough, they were coming consistently, about 7 or 8 minutes apart (if I remember right) and VERY strong! I kept my mom updated, but tried super hard not to get my hopes up.
My mother-in-law texted me later that afternoon to let me know that she and my father-in-law were heading to bible study, and asked if I had any prayer requests. I texted back that they could pray that these contractions kept up and turned into full on labor. Around that time I texted my midwife to give her a heads up that I was having contractions, but didn’t want to cry wolf. She called and we chatted and agreed that I would take a shower and see if they kept up. I SO BADLY didn’t want these contractions to go away – at this point I was literally pacing around the house trying to make sure they didn’t go away. I was afraid to change what I was doing for fear that *poof* everything would disappear. I finally did take a shower, and was happy when the contractions stayed consistent (by this point they were closer together, I think less than 5 minutes apart and still strong, causing me to have to really concentrate through them). I needed to get antibiotics for GBS+, I knew we needed to go to the birth center – but I was still SO paranoid that as soon as I got in the car, my labor would stall, and I did NOT want to leave that birth center without a baby in my arms! But it was decided that this really did seem like the real deal, and I should come in anyway.
I called my mother-in-law to have her come over, and apparently they had JUST been praying for us and had JUST said Amen when her phone rang with my call I think that’s pretty cool.
In the last 2 labors, each time people came over, my labor would slow or stall out. So when my mother-in-law came over I was making a huge conscious effort to stay calm and act as if it was no big deal, just trying to keep the adrenaline down. Thankfully my contractions were still coming on strong, I even had to wait through a couple just to get in the car! During the 1/2 hour car ride to the birth center, I expected things to slow down, as they always had, but instead things intensified! Contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and very strong – this was NOT a comfortable ride! However, I did tell Ryan not to worry about bumps or anything, because I wanted the contractions to keep up. He still apologized every time we hit a bump in the road.
It was decided that this really WAS real labor, and even if it wasn’t, I wasn’t leaving without a baby, so I told my parents that if they were able to make it, I would love for them to come. They left Ames around 8 and got to the birth center before midnight.
I didn’t get a cervix check when I got there, it was determined that I was clearly in labor and that we already knew I was 4-5cm dilated, so checking me wouldn’t really tell us anything more at this point. Fair enough.
My parents arrived around midnight so I got to see my dad for a bit before he headed on to our house to watch the kids and get some sleep. My mom stayed and was exactly the labor support I needed. Between her, Ryan, and nurse Jill, I felt completely taken care of – I could handle anything! I spent my time pacing around the room trying to get the baby to move down, stopping to dance and rock during contractions. My goal was to keep moving, hoping my body movements and gravity would help get the baby moving. I snacked on grapes and fruit leathers, sipped on juice and water, and spent a few hard contractions on the toilet (holy hannah, those ones are no joke! But I always tell my doula clients “mama doesn’t like toilet contractions, but baby loves them!” It really helps move baby into a good position). I did spend a little time in the shower, using the hot water as pain relief on my back while I sat on the birth ball. The whole time I labored, I was getting periodic checks for baby’s heart rate, and it was great every time.
I got a cervix check at 2:00am and it was determined that the baby was still pretty high and I was 7-8cm and that my bag of water was bulging. We had been saying all along (before I went into labor) that if my water broke, we were pretty certain the baby would be born soon after. When my midwife (Amy) checked me, she agreed that if my water broke, baby would come down, I would finish dilating, and we’d have a baby. And though I typically am VERY much in favor of leaving the bag of waters intact until they break on their own (mine have never broken on their own), I asked her to break my water so I could get in the tub and hopefully have a baby soon. I went to the bathroom, and at 2:30 she broke my water. I was 8cm, -2 station, and 95% effaced – and it was time for the tub!!!
For you mamas that have never been able to labor in a big tub/whirlpool, my heart goes out to you. The second I submerged myself into that water, I felt SO much pain relief! In fact, I even had one good contraction in the water and thought to myself “oh my goodness, I should have done this long ago!” It was glorious.
And then my body laughed at me and said “PSYCH!!” From then, it was game on. Contractions came on strong and hard and close together. Just like in my labor with Tanner, I was getting cramps in my hips during contractions and I couldn’t find a good position to be in during them. That sent me into a bit of a panic during those contractions – I moved and flipped and spun.
My team was so good, coaching me and encouraging me to breathe and relax through the contractions, offering sips of Emergen-C between and reminding me to let my baby do the work right now.
Around 3am I could no longer just breathe through the contractions. My body took over and I began to push through the contractions. Amy checked me and informed me that I still had a thick anterior lip (I wasn’t fully dilated) and that it was VERY important that I keep breathing and not push. Sooo… ummm… yeah. Telling a mama who is laboring naturally and having the natural urge to push to not push seems great in theory, but truly, it was out of my control. I tried, I really really did. But I couldn’t help it. My body needed to push. I felt and sounded very animalistic and not in control of my own body at this point. I remember Jill holding me at one point and giving me one of those “hey you, pull yourself together, you HAVE to do what we tell you for your own safety!” speeches.
I breathed. I moaned. I made noises that would probably scare my children. I tried everything I could NOT to push.
Despite my efforts, my baby was descending on it’s own. Who needs mama to push, baby knows the drill! The anterior lip went away. I had reached down to feel my progress at one point and was encouraged that I could feel a head, but I knew it wasn’t “crowning” quite yet. At about 3:10 I reached down again and was SHOCKED to feel my baby’s head – it was crowning and I could feet about an inch or so outside of my body!! Amy let me know that I could gently ease the baby’s head out on the next contraction – and that’s what I did! The baby’s head was out and I was still in shock! Amy and Jill had to remind me that it was ok to push and that I had to get the rest of my baby out now. One more push is all it took!!
I did it! I did it!! I labored hard, I let my body do the work, and I CAUGHT MY BABY!! Oh my goodness, I wish I could explain how I felt in that moment, but it’s indescribable.
I felt proud, exhausted, exhilarated, happy, elated…. My baby was HERE! The baby that surprised us with that little blue line 9 months before, the baby we hadn’t planned for, the baby that would complete our family…The baby I never knew I needed, was here!
And SHE was beautiful Ryan was right – he was 4 for 4 on guessing our babies genders – it was a sweet little girl. We named her Afton Dawn (Dawn is both my middle name and my mom’s middle name) and she was born at 3:12am with barely a voluntary push. She was amazing.
I had gotten my dream VBAC Waterbirth in a Birth Center. I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.
I got out of the tub to “birth” the placenta, and Ryan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. Seriously, everything (aside from being overdue, haha) went exactly as I had hoped it would go. I felt empowered and strong.
And seeing Ryan wrapped around another baby girl’s finger? Priceless. He is such a sweet daddy. He was so smitten, at first sight.
And having my mom there? Also priceless. Our family has been through a lot over the last few years, so having her present at the birth of my 4th baby (she was also at the birth of my first baby, and was also a fantastic coach) meant so much to me. It still brings me to tears thinking about how far we’ve come and how much God has done to heal our family – seeing her in these photos represents so much more than just a grandma holding her newest grandchild. So so much more.
We all hung out at the birth center for a few hours, Ryan had to work that morning, so he snuck a nap, and I rested and got some food in me. We left the birth center 4 hours after Afton was born and I got to go home and introduce Cody, Tanner, and Trinity to their newest baby SISTER. It was a dream. Seriously – if you are in the area and are looking for a good birth center experience for your maternity care and birth, I can’t say enough good things about Health Foundations.
All of the photos in this post were taken by the lovely Christina of Electric Lime. She was so awesome, professional, and she gave me an unforgettable gift of birth photography, I can NOT thank her enough for capturing this once in a lifetime moment for me and my family!! She even came to visit us a couple weeks after Afton’s birth and did a little lifestyle session in our home! And you KNOW she’s talented because I was so overwhelmed with life at the time that my house was a disaster and she was still able to capture beautiful images without letting everyone know that my house was a mess. Thank you Christina!
And thank you Dr. Amy (midwife) and Jill (nurse) for being nothing short of AMAZING during Afton’s birth! I couldn’t have done it without my team (to include my mom and Ryan of course)!