Rachel shares her story of strength and perseverance to bring Moses Lee earth-side in the comforts of her home. Read how she found the strength to keep going during the birth of her second baby.
By Rachel Stockard
In the late winter months of 2014, I had a hunch that I might be pregnant. It had only been a couple of months since we made our cross-country move from Mississippi to Pennsylvania, which proved to be a challenging adjustment for me. I took my little 8 month old baby girl with me to the Super Fresh market & spent an exuberant amount of money on a home pregnancy test. I went right into the grocery store bathroom because I simply couldn’t wait the 10 minutes until I got home. Instantly it read “pregnant.” I simultaneously smiled and panicked. Then I took the 8 month old home and tried to figure out how to tell my husband. Things just didn’t seem right, though, so I waited. Day after day, I kept feeling more and more weary and concerned that things just weren’t going how they should. I told Blake about it and we decided it was best for me to make an appointment. I learned that I had miscarried, and the following weeks were some of the most painful, isolating, and terrible I have ever experienced.Our rainbow didn’t wait long, however, as we conceived again very shortly afterwards. It took a long time before I felt like I could accept the reality that this pregnancy was real and valid. I’m surprised, in fact, that I didn’t put us into deep debt with the number of pregnancy tests I purchased in my frenzy of doubt and worry. At twelve weeks, the “safe point” when many people are publicly announcing their pregnancies, I decided it might be time to make an appointment with the birth center (and we didn’t announce until after 20 weeks). I remember hearing the heartbeat on the Doppler at nearly 14 weeks and it finally hit me: I was pregnant! We caught our bearings and began preparing to welcome another member into our family. I had my prenatal care at a local birth center outside Philadelphia where we were living at the time. After having an OBGYN clinic/hospital birth experience with my first baby that I just wasn’t crazy about, I was very comfortable with the atmosphere of the birth center and the midwives who saw me. Soon things changed for our family, and we decided we would be moving to Nashville in December.
We contacted a few midwives and Jennifer agreed to take us on since it was my second birth. At over 30 weeks pregnant, we moved into our fixer-upper home and began serious renovations (did I mention the very, very pregnant part?), but I was excited to experience birth in the home we were making.Apparently we didn’t leave all of Pennsylvania behind us when we moved, because in February a series of ice and snow storms hit Nashville that were fairly unprecedented. I stayed in contact with my birth team and we all hoped that I wouldn’t go into labor until things cleared up. On Friday, February 20 (39 wks 5 days), it rained and the temperatures rose just enough to melt away the snow and ice, turning everything into a mess of melting slush. That night, I had the urge to bake a cake (I should have known at this point, as this is the same thing that happened when I went into labor with Lucy). I had been feeling plenty of early, irregular contractions and things seemed to be progressing, but I didn’t have any intuitions on how soon things would really kick in. My contractions continued that evening as we put our 19 month old to bed and I fixated on the ganache for the cake. I had big dreams for this cake but after a couple of hours of baking, mixing, melting, and cleaning on swollen feet- all while pretending the contractions weren’t really contractions- it ended up being an ugly mess of chocolate layers crammed into a cake dish (but yes, it did taste good). My contractions were about 10-12 minutes apart. I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer and told Blake that I thought labor had begun. He immediately went to bed because he knew what was coming (my first labor was well over 30 hours, I think he was a little scared).
I walked and swayed for a while and gave some attention to my birth affirmation cards I had prepared in the weeks prior. I eventually decided to try to get some rest as well. I actually did feel fairly comfortable laying down. During contractions, which at this point were around 8-10 minutes apart, I would reach out and grab Blake’s hand to squeeze until it passed, then rest again until the next one. Sometime around 3:00am I contacted my midwife Jennifer to let her know I was in labor with contractions now about 5-7 minutes apart. I told her I was managing pretty well and would keep in touch until the morning. Soon laying down just wasn’t working for me anymore, so I decided to get in the shower for a bit. It felt good to stand and sway in the water and helped to relax me a bit. At around 5am Blake got up with me and helped to prep the house a bit, knowing that things were moving along pretty well. Soon we contacted our birth team to give them the heads up that it was time. We woke Lucy up and called Blake’s mom to come get her. She was so concerned to see me in pain as I worked through the contractions, laying on the couch and moaning through them. She held my hand and offered her lovey, Owl, for comfort.
I labored for a while on the toilet and remember one of the more comforting things to me during labor was laying my head on Merrill’s stomach. I felt a strange but real maternal connection…knowing that this tummy had grown a child and this woman birthed a baby in her own unique way, and now it was my turn to continue this beautiful cycle of life by bringing my baby into the world. Merrill was more of a comfort to me than she’ll ever know. The contractions and pressure were ridiculously intense during this time, but I knew I was making great progress. I know I probably changed demeanor every thirty seconds or so between a sad puppy and a roaring lion…I was still fighting the temptation to quit. A couple of beautiful songs played, including a song by a dear friend, Christa Wells. I felt unbreakable, fierce and empowered.
At around 12:30pm, I moved into the kitchen with the team and just really felt like squatting. It was completely involuntary at this point- I held the ledge of our kitchen island and worked through the intensifying contractions here for some time. I looked up at my midwife at some point and said “PLEASE tell me this is transition…?” to which she answered “Um, yes!” I was so afraid to even ask, but so relieved when she assured me that yes, I was finally getting there! Soon I was feeling even more pressure and asked Jennifer to check my dilation again. I laid on the couch and waited out a contraction. She checked me and immediately another contraction hit-hard. It hurt and I screamed in pain. Jennifer told me I was about 9cm with a bulging bag of waters. I asked her to break my water because I felt this would help things progress more quickly. She couldn’t find her amnio hook and like magic, both of her assistants whipped out crochet hooks. A quick sterilization and she broke my water…with a crochet hook. There was a bit of meconium in the fluid, so I knew it was time to go ahead and have this baby.
I got back in the tub and the primal birthing goddess in me emerged. I needed all hands on deck at this point and really wanted my husband’s support. I needed a hand to squeeze through the surges and warm water poured over my back as I leaned over the tub. At around 1:20 I decided to experiment a bit with pushing. It felt really good and relived some of the pressure (that “urge to push” you hear about, which I hadn’t experienced with my first birth because I had an epidural late in labor).
I reached my 2nd standstill in labor when I really just wanted to quit during the pushing phase. I told Jennifer “I just really cannot do this” and she said “you’re between a rock and a hard place, I know.” It was such a simple thing, but visualizing that was a great help to me. You don’t want to stay pregnant and in labor forever, but it seems impossible to allow the pain to overtake you and get that baby out. There’s nothing easy about being in that place- right there between that enormous, seemingly insurmountable rock and the daunting hard place- but you just have to figure a way out. So, that’s what I did…I kept going, kept pushing, kept summoning that strength.
At approximately 2:07pm, I birthed my baby boy into the world. And he screamed like a little girl. It was absolutely beautiful.