By Julie Eliserio
On March 16th at 3:30 AM a light contraction woke me. I was three days past my due date. I knew I was supposed to go back to sleep and ignore it, just like I had mentally prepared to do for past 8 months. I could not. I woke up and started to time my contractions. I even thought about waking my sleeping fiancé, but I decided it would be best to save his energy for when we would actually needed it. Contractions were 10-15 minutes apart and stayed that way for the next 8 hours until my appointment with my midwife, Jennifer Vines.
Jennifer reassured me that everything was going according to plan and we should have a baby in the next few days if this keeps up. I went home and finally slept. I woke up closer to the sun going down to find my contractions had picked up to roughly 5-7 minutes apart and were requiring much more of my focus to breathe through. This is also a good time to point out my body has always had a very strong connection to the lunar cycle. My sleep has always been greatly affected by the moon, and oddly enough my mother is the same way. It also seems the lunar cycle had a large role in my labor. My labor was always much more intense at night. I finally was able to find a position I could sleep in, and when I woke up around four in the morning I found my contractions had gone back to being 10-15 minutes apart. It was tired, sore, and felt like I had been putting in a lot of work for no progress.
This pattern of very active labor during the night, followed by significantly slower labor during the day would continue over a total of 119 hours.
Over the next five days my birth team, Jennifer Vines, Carissa Gay and Merrill Durham came to the house to check on me, or would stay in touch via text. I was so lucky that my team with Vines Midwifery all lived so close to our house in East Nashville. Jennifer left it completely up to me if I wanted them to stay at the house or give us our alone time. Labor was intense, but for me personally, I did better when I wasn’t being watched. I knew that nobody could do this work for me, so I had them do most of their check ups over the phone. Jennifer came over on Wednesday to check in, and while she was at the house I requested to be checked vaginally. I was four centimeters dilated. Slowly but surely, we were making progress.
On Thursday we thought my water might have broken. Jennifer came by on Friday to check on me. If my water had broken on Thursday, it would put me over the limit of 24 hours, and I would have to go to a hospital due to risk for infection. After reassuring me that my water bag was very much intact and bulging, she informed us that I was 7 centimeters dilated. She then had me do several positions that would give the baby more room to shift around and get into the correct position. This brought much needed relief from my hours and hours of back labor. Jennifer gave me a tincture for stalled labor and told me to call her if anything changed. Also, more importantly; get some sleep.
There was zero sleep that came that night. Contractions washed over me 4-5 minutes apart for hours. Ryan was getting used to my wailing at this point. He was out in the living room at 12:30 when I screamed from the bathroom. My water had without a doubt broken. Ryan and I sat pretty dumbfounded in the bathroom for a moment before I had him bring me my phone to text Jennifer. I told her that my water had broken and asked what next. Jennifer told me to let her know when my contractions picked up again. With all of the excitement of my water breaking, I had almost forgotten about my contractions. I climbed back in bed with Ryan by my side, when I immediately remembered my contractions. They came hard and fast. I cried for Ryan to text Jennifer back and tell her to send Merrill my Doula for support. Ryan was just about to lay down when my water broke, so I thought I would let him rest and have Merrill with me.
Before Ryan had hit send, I felt an overwhelming intense NEED to push. The next few moments seemed like a blur. All I could tell Ryan was that I needed Jennifer immediately. Hindsight allows me to see that Ryan was texting Jennifer how urgent the situation had become, and he was also preparing to deliver our baby. Thankfully, we had already gotten our bed ready for the birth. This was not how I envisioned things going. I now know that nothing about a birth can be planned. Ever. No birth pool in the dining room, no yoga music playlist and no anthropology candles.
A short ten minutes later, Jennifer walked into my bedroom (like I said…I was unbelievably lucky Jennifer lived so close to me, and grateful that she doesn’t mind speeding). I have never been happier to see any person in my entire life. Jennifer checked me immediately. We find out what I think we all already knew; I was about to have this baby. Jennifer said “If you feel like pushing, go for it. Take all the noise you are making and all your energy and bear down.” It was simple, and it connected well with me. Also, it was damn effective.
2:15 AM Ezra Patrick Alger was born after twenty five minutes of pushing. I was lucky that I didn’t tear. I labored in our dark bedroom. During that twenty five minutes Merrill and Carissa arrived and joined us after setting up their equipment. Carissa took the amazing photos that are attached. This team of women will undoubtingly have a lasting place in my heart for being there for us at such a special time.
Jennifer helped Ezra with his first latch, and he took to breastfeeding like a champ(side note: We ran into some issues in the first few weeks, and we contacted a lactation consultant. With a lot of patience and practice, we were able to overcome the early hardships of breastfeeding). A few hours had passed since the birth, the team made sure we were comfortable and packed up all of their things to leave. That night/morning, Ryan, Ezra and I slept in our bedroom as a family of three.