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Max, much like several of his siblings felt that it was important to show me that a “due date” is truly an estimate and made his appearance at 41 weeks 4 days gestation. Aubrey and I decided that since he seemed rather comfortable in utero we would test out some of the old wives tales to get labor started. On July 27th we made eggplant parmesan and invited Cori (our midife) and her family over for dinner. Right before we ate I started feeling contractions that were different – so while I hadn't actually eaten the eggplant yet I will claim that the act of making this three hour meal set me into labor. Contractions were mild and came and went during the evening but after the kids were in bed they picked up in intensity and I knew that I needed to call Aubrey home from work to help me get through them. Cori arrived around midnight (bringing watermelon fresca) and Aubrey and I took a walk with the hopes the contractions would pick up in frequency and intensity. Unfortunately they spread out and nearly stopped and so when we got home Cori suggested that she walk with me and see if we could get them to come back. As we were walking a storm rolled in and one of my favorite memories from my labor was walking home in the rain, sopping wet and laughing.
By 3am I was back into a regular contraction pattern and we decided it was time to call in the rest of our birth team and get ready to welcome this baby who would be the final addition to our family. While we waited we sat at the kitchen table and watched YouTube videos – there was much laughter as we awaited the arrival of our Doula, midwife's assistant and photographer. Around 4am Aubrey and I took another walk and then I had a fantastic foot massage by Sarah (our Doula). Contractions virtually stopped again and so Cori and Elizabeth (our friend/photographer) and I went for another walk. Unfortunately, while the walk was lovely it didn't help to kickstart the contractions and after determining that I was 4-5cm we decided to try some herbal tinctures to see if that helped. I tried several different laboring positions to see if that made a difference but by early afternoon it seemed clear that labor had stalled at 5cm and it was decided that a rest was in order and hopefully things would kick back in soon. Emotionally this was the hardest part of labor for me. I knew that I needed the rest but I desperately just wanted to birth my baby. I was teary and felt so unsettled, this whole labor was not as I expected and I think it was a big lesson in learning to trust that my body would do what was right to bring the baby into the world. It wasn't a half hour after everyone had left that my contractions picked back up again. I hadn't slept for over 24 hours and I was exhausted so I tried to rest but I would wake up at the peak of a contraction and handling the pain was really hard when I couldn't prepare for it. I stayed awake until about 5pm when the contractions finally stopped for about 3 hours and I blissfully fell into a deep and restful sleep. I woke up around 8pm with contractions that were 10 minutes apart and very intense. I tried to rest but again couldn't sleep through them at their peak so I did my best to find a comfortable position while I let Aubrey get some sleep. By 3:30am I couldn't do it on my own anymore and woke up Aubrey and called Cori to come back. I had such a huge sense of relief when she told me that I had made it to 6cm and that she wasn't leaving until a baby was born.
We again assembled the birth team, and Elizabeth brought me Sonic ice and a cherry oceanwater – my pregnancy cravings. I looked up the birth pool that we had started months ago only to discover that Chris had picked the 29th for baby's birthday and time of birth of 5:47pm. We all laughed about how the day was spot on but the time would be way off since I was now in active labor at 6am. The boys brought me breakfast in bed and I ate surrounded by such love and support. To me, this was what a home birth was all about. I was in my own bed, with my children next to me.
Contractions continued to be intense but spaced pretty far apart so we walked … again. Cori and Elizabeth reassured me that babies come in their own time and own way and that I was doing great. I was so frustrated because this labor wasn't progressing the way it typically did. I walked the stairs, sat on the birth ball, tried sitting on the toilet and through it all my birth team was there with support, food, love and strength. By late morning I was ready to get in the tub and felt sure that the baby would be here in about an hour. True to form, baby Max who had made us wait this long had no intention of a speedy exit. The tub was wonderful though and I was able to relax through the contractions with the help of the heat and jets. Our friend Jon had come over to watch the kids while I labored and we decided that if the older kids wanted to come in they could. I was so impressed with how well they did. Chris was a little nervous about seeing the birth so we showed him Eleanor's birth slideshow and after that he thought he would stay. He was absolutely amazing, getting me water, offering support and being such a great role model for Evelyn and Lucas. After being stuck at 9cm for several hours I got out of the tub to use the bathroom and see if a position change would help. This was the only time I had doubt about being able to birth this baby. I felt like we had tried everything but he just wasn't coming. Logically I knew it must be transition and tried to push those negative thoughts out of my head and focus on getting back into the tub and getting this child out. Cori was able to determine that I had a cervical lip that was holding things up and while I pushed she was able to move it out of the way and I could finally feel progress. She explained that the bag of waters was coming first and that it was good because it would help to gently stretch everything in preparation for the baby. Pushing felt so different because I couldn't feel him descending or the normal pressure of a baby head. Chris called my Mom so she could be on the phone when the baby was born. Time lost all meaning at this point. I remember little snippets between contractions. Evelyn sitting on Sarah's lap and hearing her explain that I was working hard and doing a great job. Chris on the phone with my Mom telling her what was happening. Aubrey sitting behind me in the pool providing the physical and emotional support that I needed to make it through. Cori's gentle reminders that I was doing a great job and he was indeed coming out despite my doubts. I looked at Elizabeth who had tears of joy and joked with her that she couldn't cry because it is hard to focus a camera with tears in your eyes. She assured me she had done it before. Finally my water broke and surprised us all by its force even though we knew it was going to happen. Only a few pushes later his head was out but his shoulders came in an atypical presentation and he kept trying to rotate as his body was born – such an odd feeling! And then finally, after 43 hours of labor he entered the world, picked up his head and looked around at all of the people surrounding the birth pool to welcome him. Since we didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl we had decided that Chris and Lucas would announce if we had a Maximus or a Stella. He was immediately covered by a towel and we waited for Jon to come into the room for the boys to make their announcement. We all had a good laugh that Chris' guess for time of birth was only about two hours off.
After the placenta was delivered we moved to the bed where he had his newborn exam, was lovingly diapered and dressed by Lucas and then admired by all of his siblings. Aubrey made fantastic Philly cheese steaks and we settled in as a family of 8. The days following Max's birth were filled with friends, family and laughter. People took various older siblings for sleepovers, brought meals and made sure we had everything we needed. Baby Max was born not only into our family but also welcomed by our amazing community of friends. He is one lucky boy!
And so, with our family complete we move forward into the next chapter of our life. A decade ago I never would have thought I would be the mother of six children. They have all taught me so much and I look forward to watching them grow.