Here it is, finally! The story of Asher’s pregnancy and birth. (Some details may be too much information for some, so be forewarned.) He’s a chubby four weeks old today, and we already can’t remember what life was like without him. He’s a blessing from God.
If you already know all the preface stuff and want to skip to the birth, it’s down around paragraph nine.
Short and easy version: On Monday, October 29, I started having some bloody show around 7 p.m. I decided to go to my knitting group anyway, as my contractions were still practice-like and the knitting group was meeting at a home closer to the birth center than our house. After returning home around 9:30 and lounging on the couch with Jason a while, I started to notice the contractions were regular (again). The labor-like contractions began around a quarter past eleven, and after writing them down for a while and sensing they were actually getting more intense (and two minutes apart), we decided to hit the road. We arrived at the birth center around 12:05 a.m. My water broke with one monumental contraction, and Asher was born very shortly thereafter at 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday October 30–just over an hour after labor began!
Those who prefer the short version, please scroll to the bottom to read the stats and blessings. Now, for the real deal:
The Pregnancy and Birth of Asher Jase
On February 25, 2007, Jason and I found out that we were expecting our third baby! It was rather early by typical home pregnancy test standards (only 10 days past ovulation–I was charting), but a definite positive. We were both thrilled. My due date was either November 3 (based on last menstrual period) or November 8 (based on the more accurate measure of my ovulation date). We chose to go by the later date.
We found a wonderful freestanding birth center in town that our insurance covered, and decided to pursue prenatal care there. It was a good compromise, as the homebirth we wanted was out of reach this time. Homebirth is a hot issue in the legal system around here, and the closest homebirth midwife who could attend our birth was 1 hour 15 minutes away (in good traffic). While my first baby arrived 6.5 hours after my water broke, my second baby had made her entrance only 1.5 hours after my first contraction (and just over two hours after my water broke). The birth was beautiful and unassisted, as our homebirth midwives at the time were stuck in traffic and didn’t make it! This gave us pause as we considered a homebirth midwife who was so far away for this third birth. Adding financial issues to the list, the freestanding birth center with insurance coverage and good client recommendations became the obvious choice.
I was morning sick for all of the first trimester and part of the second, but not horribly. I never vomited, though I did have trouble eating much and lost a little weight. I couldn’t even think about ingesting healthy things like salad, but enjoyed my daily dose of dark chocolate. The pregnancy was healthy and, blessedly, relatively uneventful.
I did have some unexplained second trimester bleeding around 17 weeks. It was heavy enough and sustained enough to warrant further investigation, so we elected to have a routine ultrasound (which we had previously decided to decline). Despite our sadness in having to make the difficult choice to have an ultrasound, we were delighted to see our healthy baby, find that there was no discernible reason for concern in regards to the bleeding, and discover that we were having a boy! Our first son. Our daughters, who were both with us, were so excited! Maya must have exclaimed at least twenty times in the sonogram room: “I can’t believe I’m going to have a baby brother!” Of course, Ellery provided the needed echo.
Toward the end of the pregnancy, especially from 30 weeks on, I had regular Braxton-Hicks (a.k.a “practice”) contractions. These were generally super tight, but painless. Around 37 weeks, the contractions started to come more frequently and regularly – regular enough that at 37 weeks 3 days, I could even time them. For four hours that evening (Sunday 10/21 – the day after my 28th birthday), I timed contractions that were consistently 4 – 7 minutes apart at 45 – 60 seconds long. They were tight, consistent, and took my breath away, but they were also relatively painless.
The next day (Monday 10/22) at 37 weeks 4 days, I had a midwife appointment. I requested that the midwife (Laura) check my cervix, as I was curious as to whether or not all of my Braxton-Hicks contractions were doing anything. As she examined me, her eyes widened, and she proclaimed me 5 cm dilated, 75% effaced, with a bulging bag of waters. (Click here to read the whole crazy story of that day.) Long story short, Laura (the office midwife) and Kathy (the midwife on call) both suggested that I have someone pick up my children, get my husband there, and see about having a baby. We did so, and our girls got so excited about their brother potentially being born that night! A few hours later, we were home again–baby still in utero. The midwives, in their excitement, hadn’t fully ingested the fact that I was only 37.5 weeks and not yet 39. They will not help labor along until 39 weeks. The apologized profusely and sent us home. (We had been planning to try a breast pump and/or castor oil to avoid a car birth.) Not only were we disappointed, but our girls were also disappointed. So we tried to get some rest and played the waiting game.
The waiting game ended up lasting for eight long days.
In those eight days, I felt as though I was on house arrest. Since we were all (midwives included) concerned about having the baby in the car, I really couldn’t travel anywhere. At 5 cm dilated, should my water break, the baby’s birth would certainly be quick. (The midwives were actually most concerned about me having an unassisted birth in the car; I was totally unphased by this aspect of it, as we’d been through one fast unassisted birth before just fine. I was more worried about experiencing transition labor in the car – soooooo difficult!) My husband didn’t want to leave me home, even though he had to work. I had difficulty focusing on homeschooling the kids, so we took a school break. We missed the last week of our CSA farm pickup, because the farm is 25 minutes away. By Monday 10/29, I was starting to feel very down and very cranky.
That Monday, my parents left around 1 p.m. after visiting for the weekend. My mother was disappointed that her grandson did not make his entrance while she was here. As the afternoon wore on, I was starting to wonder if labor might be just around the corner. I started feeling distinct cervical twinges and pain, very different from anything else I’d felt before. My bowels were emptying continually throughout the day. And around 7 p.m., I started having light bloody show.
I was scheduled to go to my Christmas knitting group that evening at 7:30 p.m., and consulted with Jason as to whether or not I should go. I was having some somewhat regular contractions, but they felt the same as they had all week–like Braxton Hicks. Since the knitting group was meeting at a house that was actually more convenient to The Midwife Center than our own house, I decided to just go to the group. Before going, I called our backup childcare helper (Timmy from church, wonderful woman) and alerted her that tonight *might* be the night.
I spent the evening quite pleasantly knitting with Bonnie and Kelly, mostly helping Kelly get started on her little wool Christmas slipper since I had forgotten my copy of the pattern at home. I didn’t notice any more show during my time at Kelly’s. Shortly after 9 p.m., I decided to drive home.
After arriving home, Jason and I lazed about in the living room and watched TV. I noticed more show on my next trip to the bathroom. I continued having painless contractions now and then.
Sometime after 11 p.m., I started to having noticeable contractions. Still not difficult, but a bit more attention-grabbing. During the teens of the hour (11:14 reaches out and grabs me–I don’t remember the exact time, though), I felt a weird contraction that made me decide to start writing contraction times down. It was as if I could feel my cervix stretching open, and if I had been able to hear it, I could imagine it was actually creaking and squeaking–it was a very vivid sensation that I will never forget. After writing down about five contractions, it appeared that they were about 4 – 6 minutes apart. Nothing new, considering the past eight days, but combined with the bloody show and the one weird creaky contraction, I took notice. I decided to call Timmy over while Jason readied our things. While we waited for her to come, I made the calls to our parents alerting them that baby boy was on his way out. As soon as Timmy arrived, Jason quickly showed her the guest room and the typed up sheet that had details about the girls’ care on it. The contractions were 2 – 4 minutes apart at this time (probably no more than 30-40 minutes after I began writing down contractions) and I was starting to consciously relax through them. (Timmy later commented that I was so relaxed and chatty that she couldn’t believe that I’d end up having a baby within mere minutes.)
We got in the car and began our 20-minute trek to The Midwife Center. I sat on a 24″ x 36″ disposable waterproof pad that we’d kept in the car for just such an occasion. Mid-way, I took note of the time on the dash as I had another contraction: 11:56 p.m. Traffic was easy, and the city was lit and beautiful. I had the passenger seat reclined, but as there is no way to comfortably relax in a Mazda Protege, I endured the contraction semi-sideways, neither on my back nor on my side. Between our house and the Midwife center are many Pittsburgh potholes, brick streets, and curvy hills. Jason recalls that this was probably the fastest he can remember getting from home to anywhere near downtown. The timing for this trip was excellent. I felt my weight of my heavy, surging uterus quite acutely through all of the car contractions. They were getting more intense and taking me to the edge, but I could handle them easily. I found myself willing my bag of waters to stay intact during each contraction, and I could almost feel it bulging. I knew that once my waters broke, it would be over–I would be pushing the baby out. The contractions were about two minutes apart at this point–scarcely 40 minutes from when labor contractions began–and I was thinking, “Okay, we’re less than 10 minutes away–so only three more car contractions until we get there. Not too bad.” That’s all I focused on during the ride there–that soon I would be there, in my labor den, the room where I would give birth to my baby. It’s where I wanted to be. I was handling labor very calmly.
When we pulled into the special “30 minute” parking spot in front of the Center, I hurried my way in before another one hit. Kathy, the midwife on call, let me in. Vanessa, our RN birth attendant, was in our birthing room (The Forest Room) readying everything. Jason noticed that it was 12:05 a.m. on the birthing room clock when we arrived. Sometime shortly thereafter, a young woman (whose name was Sam, I would later find out) arrived. She was the student midwife.
I asked Kathy if she would fill up the tub, as I really wanted the relief and comfort of water during labor. She got the faucet started, then listened to the baby’s heart with the Doppler for a few minutes. Jason got this moment on video; it was our last chance to hear the steady and healthy beat of Baby’s heart before his birth. Things were getting more intense for me. I had to focus on relaxing, and at the peak of contractions, things were starting to feel familiarly out of control. But then they would let up.
I never got to use that big, beautiful tub.
Sam said that she wanted to check my dilation, so after a contraction ended, I stripped pronto and got right on my back to get it over with. I knew that another contraction would come soon, and I didn’t want to be on my back during it. She pronounced me 9 cm with a bulging bag of waters that was “right there.” As soon as her fingers were out of me, I flipped onto my side again, trying to politely pay attention to the young girl in front of me proudly proclaiming me 9 cm (I don’t think Sam could possibly be any older than 25) while focusing on the contraction I felt coming on. It was a strong one, and at its peak, I let loose a guttural scream as my bag of waters broke and similarly let loose all over the bed. Sam yelled with me, only hers was directed out the door and down the hall: “Kathy!” I felt intense pressure immediately, and I grabbed my top leg and lifted it up as I felt myself begin to push the baby out. I shifted onto my back and continued pushing with all of my might.
I don’t remember having breaks in between pushing contractions. I was just pushing all of the time. The pressure was great. After a couple of pushes, probably less than a minute after my water broke, Sam asked if I wanted to try another position. Before she was even done asking the question, I was on my hands and knees. I realized I already knew that I wanted to change positions, but the pushing was getting the best of me, and it only took her question to remind me that pushing on my back was not what I wanted to do. I really wanted to squat, like I had with Ellery, but the pressure and pain were so intense that I got into the only other position I could get to at that point. I could not will myself to squat, no matter how much I wanted to. Too much pain.
I was yelling nearly continually at this point. (A stark contrast to the very controlled labor I had up until then. I hadn’t even needed to vocalize, hum, groan, or anything until my water broke and I began pushing with that one incredible scream. I was hoarse for days afterward.) I took probably five good pushes to get his head out–longer than I expected. I remember thinking, “Why isn’t his head OUT yet?” I was verbalizing these same thoughts:
“I just want him out!”
“Why isn’t his head out yet?”
“I can’t do this! I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”
Jason was saying encouraging things to me, but I can’t remember what. He was to my right on the bed, and I’m pretty sure all three nurses (RN, midwife, and student) were behind me, with Sam in the middle. As I was on my hands and knees, facing the headboard, I was in my own world. I was resting my upper body on a couple of pillows I had haphazardly grabbed as I flipped over, and I was pushing my head into the pillows as I screamed and pushed. At one point, I got very annoyed with Sam, who was trying to say encouraging things, but whose youth and obvious inexperience was just annoying me. I didn’t say anything. I heard her say, “Keep those sounds low, Serina” and “Don’t just push all the time–wait for a contraction.” These were the two most helpful things she said. I still thought they were annoying. I tried to relax after one of my pushes, but it was hard. He was just RIGHT THERE.
After his head was out, I heard them ask me to stop pushing. Jason said they were checking for a cord around his neck (there was none). Then I resumed pushing, and a monstrous push or two later, I felt immediate and immense relief. His body was out, and it was followed by what seemed like gallons of fluid. I collapsed onto the pillows, sobbing, as I heard Sam remind me, “Turn around!” I shook myself, flipped over, and beheld my son for the first time.
He was lying on the bed, wailing. I picked him up, saying, “Oh, oh, oh, I can’t believe it! I can’t believe he’s here! Look at him!” over and over and over. I sat, wide-legged, clutching my newest miracle in my arms. Jason and I exchanged delighted and heavy glances. I was totally focused on this crying baby. He felt perfect in my arms. His dark hair, his pinkening skin, his wet little body. I remember a voice from far away (Kathy, the midwife) instructing Vanessa (the nurse) to give me a shot of Pitocin. I don’t remember consenting to it, and I do remember wondering why she ordered it, but I was too lost in my post-birth ecstasy with my new baby to say anything. I watched the shot go in, but I didn’t really feel it. They were trying to prevent hemorrhaging after such a fast birth.
As I sat on the bed, cradling my newborn son, with Jason at my side, I looked up. I realized I didn’t really know two of the women who were around me. I pointed to the one on the left and guessed, “Nurse?” She nodded with a laugh. I pointed to the one on my right and guessed, “Student?” And she nodded and laughed, as well. They introduced themselves (I’m not sure if they had a chance prior to birth) and busied themselves with cleaning up.
I asked when he had been born, and they told me 12:30 a.m. Just over an hour after labor began, and 25 minutes after walking in the doors!
The placenta was born very quickly afterwards. It was huge and beautiful. We waited until the blood stopped pulsing through his umbilical cord before Jason cut it. Jason recalls the baby making some good noises in the first minute of his post-natal life, eventually letting out some good cries a few minutes later. It had all happened so fast. We also noticed his body seemed long. And his hair was quite dark – a lot like Maya’s looked when she was born, but darker.
We named him Asher Jase. “Asher,” besides being one of the twelve tribes, means “happy” or “blessed.” “Jase” means “healer” and is a derivation of his father’s name. He weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. and was 22 inches long, with a 37 cm (14.6″) head circumference! (That’s why it took a few more pushes to get his head out!)
We stayed at the birth center the required four hours post-birth. We spent the time admiring, holding, and videoing Asher – in between frequent check-ups by the nurse. I was definitely too keyed up to get any rest, but I made Jason try to take a nap so he could function in the morning when he’d need to take care of Maya and Ellery. Then we returned home to introduce our new boy to his sisters.
When we got home, we showed Timmy to Asher and then tried to rush him to our room before his cries could wake his sisters. When Jason checked on Maya and Ellery, Maya appeared to have been awakened by the new commotion in the house. The girls weren’t aware of Timmy’s presence in the house, but it seemed like Maya suspected her brother had been born. Jason recalls that she had a sort of knowing grin as she asked, “Who’s in our house, Daddy?” It being around 5:30 in the morning, Jason just said, “We can talk about it in the morning. Just go back to sleep, Maya.” (We later discovered that she was too excited to fall back asleep and just stayed awake in bed!)
Once 7:00 rolled around and Jason and I had gotten little or no sleep, Jason went and got the girls up. There was great joy as the girls came into the room and saw Asher. They held him, talked to him, and fawned over him for a long time. “He’s so cute!” was the phrase of the day, for sure. Though most days it is hard to get a natural smile out of the girls when a camera is around, Asher provided the perfect stimulus for great smiles in our pictures of that morning.
I have nothing but good things to say about Asher’s birth. In this birth, God answered affirmatively three specific prayers that we had been praying throughout my pregnancy:
- Timing: Labor began when Jason was around and when child care was quickly available. Jason didn’t have to come home from work or even farther. The girls didn’t have to go to bed at someone else’s house, nor did they have to be awakened in the middle of the night. Also, it was night time, when traffic was slow.
- Waters: My bag of waters didn’t break until I was at the birth center and complete! Both of my other labors began with my water breaking.
- Arrival: We got to the birth center before he was born! No front page news headlines or evening news for this birth, thankfully!
God be praised for the blessing of our third child and first son!
Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
Most blessed of sons is Asher, let him be favored by his brothers…