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Jan 10 2018

The Birth of Asher

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Every woman, from the time she finds out she’s pregnant, dreams, plans, and anticipates for that one big moment. The birth of her child.
 
I was very confident that I would know exactly when it was time. I had done this twice before, and both times the start of my labor had been exactly the same — my water had broken in bed, and one hour later contractions had started.
 
I knew when I lost my mucus plug that I would have about 24-48 hours until my water broke, if this labor started in the same fashion as my last two. When I hit about 35 weeks, my boys started asking me each morning before they left for school, “Have you lost your mucus plug yet?” It became a normal daily question, no different than if they’d asked, “Is it supposed to rain today?” or “Can you make my lunch today?” or “Can I go to the library after school?”
 
I pictured myself in early labor, while the boys were either sleeping or at school, alone with my husband. I had envisioned walking in between contractions, and when the contractions came, rocking back and forth in my husband’s arms, as if we were dancing. I was going to throw everything in the crock pot for taco soup, and make a chocolate cream pie to enjoy with my birth team after the baby was born, while the boys and I snuggled in bed and I nursed our new bundle of joy.

***

Wednesday, November 29th started like most days did for me: outside, feeding an entire herd of horses. I spent more than an hour filling and hanging a dozen hay bags, for on this particular day, I didn’t have a student helper like I normally do. After feeding the horses, I decided to shower before the equine dentist arrived to float three of our horses’ teeth.
 
While in the shower, I began feeling some pelvic pressure, along with some light cramping, but didn’t think anything of it, for I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for several days.
 
Jessica and her husband arrived before noon and I soon became occupied with the horses again. While Jessica was floating their teeth, I had to sit down, for the pelvic pressure was becoming increasingly more uncomfortable. I knew this had to be because the baby’s position was so low, but again, I didn’t think anything exciting was really happening inside my body. I was still 20 days before my due date, I hadn’t lost my mucus plug yet, and my bag of waters was still intact.
 
I continued about my day, feeling extremely exhausted by mid-afternoon. I tried lying down for a nap at 3, but was restless and uncomfortable. When my husband returned home at 3:30 after picking Declan up from school, I asked if I could accompany him to his coaching session, where he would be working on hitting with one of the high school baseball players. As we were walking to the car, I finally told him I had been having “pretty strong Braxton-Hicks contractions” all day (“strong” and “Braxton-Hicks” should not be used in the same context… that should have been clue #1). He asked me if I really wanted to go with him, and when I insisted that I did, he asked me not to disclose to anyone at the batting cages that I was having contractions (he didn’t want to worry anyone), to which I replied, “They’re just Braxton-Hicks contractions, Gary. I can walk and talk through them. They’re just Braxton-Hicks.” (Not sure if I was trying to convince him or myself of this “fact” that they were just Braxton-Hicks contractions.)
 
After batting practice, Gary offered to take me to dinner, and I agreed. We ended up at a local diner, where I enjoyed ½ a tuna melt, onion rings, a salad, and a slice of apple pie ala mode. I was hit with a few more strong Braxton-Hicks contractions (again, “strong” and “Braxton-Hicks” should not be used in the same context), one of them in particular that I really couldn’t ignore, although I didn’t say anything to Gary.
 
On the way out of the restaurant, I ran into a co-worker and her family. We chatted briefly, and I told them I’d be having my baby… in about two weeks!
 
It was when we were sitting in the parking lot of Jakob’s high school that I really noticed something was going on. I remember asking Gary how long Jakob was going to be, for I longed to get home immediately. I also remember telling Gary I was going to check my own cervix when we got home to make sure “these Braxton-Hicks contractions aren’t actually dilating my cervix.” (Clue #2: Braxton-Hicks contractions don’t dilate your cervix.)
 
As soon as we walked in the door at 6:30, I forgot all about checking my cervix. I headed straight to the bed, asking Gary to bring me a big glass of water. I was convinced I was having so many Braxton-Hicks contractions because I was dehydrated and had over-exerted myself with the horses in the morning.
 
I asked Gary not to leave my side as I tossed and turned in the bed, unable to find a comfortable position. (Clue #3: You should be able to relax through Braxton-Hicks contractions.) I could no longer talk through the contractions, and asked Gary to hand me my phone so I could use the timer on it to time “these Braxton-Hicks contractions.” They were 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute and 7 seconds in length, and peaking around 30 seconds. (Clue #4: Braxton-Hicks contractions are never this regular and don’t peak, and you should be able to talk through them.)
 
The pelvic pressure was increasing and I was experiencing some pretty intense back pain as well. (Clue #5: Braxton-Hicks contractions don’t come with intense pelvic pressure and back pain.) The word “labor” was mentioned, at which point an excited Declan came running down the hall. “Is Mommy going to have the baby?!?!?”
 
“No, no, Mommy is just practicing for the real thing.”
 
I lost it in between a couple contractions, asking Gary if I could really do this when it was time. I was crying, begging for encouragement, which he whole-heartedly dished out to me.
 
“Are you sure? If this is how strong Braxton-Hicks contractions are, I don’t know if I can do it when it’s the real thing. But I did do this without pain medication before, didn’t I?” (Losing my emotional shit and doubting my ability to handle labor — Oh, BIG clue #6.)
 
I finally asked Gary to get out my book What to Expect When You’re Expecting and to read aloud the page on Braxton-Hicks contractions. He did. And that’s when he determined, despite what I was arguing (I haven’t lost my mucus plug. My water hasn’t broken.) that we needed to call the midwife. I told him no. “Just draw me a warm bath. Let’s see if these contractions go away if I get relaxed enough.” (I was remembering when I thought I was in real labor with Declan, only to find out, much to my disappointment, that the contractions went away after a relaxing warm bath.)
 
In the bath I went, and three more strong contractions I had. Gary insisted he call the midwife, and this time I obliged, but added, “Just tell her I think I’m in labor.” After a brief conversation with Katarra, she determined I really was in labor, instructing Gary to set up the bedroom for the delivery. I still wasn’t sure.
 
While Gary and Jakob got things set up for the delivery and Declan added more hot water to my now-lukewarm bath, I got out of the tub to use the toilet. And that’s when it happened: I had my bloody show. Now I believed I really was in labor.
 
Declan called our birth photographers and told them to come, and come now, and also made a few other phone calls, letting our inner circle know baby Gregory was on his or her way.
 
When Katarra arrived shortly after, she checked my cervix in the bathtub in between contractions. I was six centimeters with a bulging bag of waters. My mind had a hard time wrapping around that information. She left me to set up her supplies as her assistant midwife, Paula, showed up to lend a hand. Gary returned to my side.
 
It must have been only twenty minutes later that I was on all fours in the bathtub, trying not to vomit down the drain as the contractions stacked on top of each other. I whined that I had to get out of the tub, but couldn’t actually bring myself to get out as I watched Gary drain the water. When I yelled, “I’m feeling really pushy!” I heard Katarra calmly yell from the bedroom, “Get her out of the tub and get her back here.”
 
I walked straight down the hall and landed on all fours on top of a shower curtain taped to the carpet in our bedroom. My water finally broke with that first push. I continued pushing. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I tried pushing on all fours. I tried pushing on my back in a semi-reclined position. I tried pushing sitting up. I tried pushing while side-lying.

The breaks in between my contractions were heaven. I had no desire to push, no pressure, no pain. I was euphoric. The breaks were long and beautiful and I laughed and made jokes and had serious inquiries and listened to the quiet conversations around me.
 
When I became discouraged that I wasn’t making progress and I was becoming exhausted from all the pushing, Declan reached out, gently caressed my shoulder, and said, “Once you push the baby out, you don’t have to push anymore.” How true that statement was.

I admitted to having anxiety about the “ring of fire” and thought that maybe my own psyche was inhibiting my ability to successfully push this baby out. Katarra put a tincture under my tongue to help me relax, and soon after, I asked if I could try squatting.
 
I got up onto Katarra’s birth stool, grasped the sides with my hands, leaned forward slightly, and that’s when I felt a wave come over my entire body. It was intense. It was uncontrollable. It was painful and heavy and beautiful and graphic and spiritually enlightening. I was giving birth.

Katarra and Gary guided out the baby’s head in unison, gracefully spinning his body around and around when he arrived with the umbilical card wrapped around his neck twice. The cord was also wrapped around his body, and I was in awe as I watched my husband and my midwife twirl him as if he were a dancer in a ballet. I was lost in this surreal moment, photographing this one moment in my mind, as I heard Jakob announce that he was, in fact, a boy!
 
I reached out and took my baby into my arms, grabbing him from Gary’s bare hands. He looked up at me, and I studied him with intent passion, most of his umbilical cord still inside me. His life-organ, my placenta, had not yet delivered. We were not one being anymore, he longer no lived inside me, yet we were still intimately connected.

I looked up at Kristi, one of our two birth photographers and smiled, “I have three boys, just like you.”

I had been gifted the title of Mother yet again.

Photo credits: Kristi Carlson & Haley MacPhail

23 responses so far

23 Responses to “The Birth of Asher”

  1. Noelle Hendriksenon 12 Jan 2018 at 8:54 am

    Loved. Hung onto every word and then tears came to my eyes at the end.

  2. Haley MacPhailon 12 Jan 2018 at 9:07 am

    This was beautiful!

  3. Cindi Faulconer Floryon 12 Jan 2018 at 9:13 am

    Beautiful.

  4. Kristi Righetti Carlsonon 12 Jan 2018 at 9:14 am

    Awe! Made me cry Momma! Absolutely beautiful!! 💕 We do indeed both have three boys!

  5. Abigailon 12 Jan 2018 at 9:17 am

    Lovely! Can not wait to meet baby Asher!

  6. Jennifer Majors Woodsonon 12 Jan 2018 at 9:47 am

    So amazing! ❤️❤️

  7. Dena Ramsayon 12 Jan 2018 at 9:49 am

    Amazing read..! Always, is.

  8. Heatheron 12 Jan 2018 at 10:13 am

    THIS IS BEAUTIFUL! I love the story AND the images are perfection. Love you Ish!

  9. JayaMaeon 12 Jan 2018 at 10:49 am

    Thank you, H. We have so many amazing photos from the birth (thanks to Kristi and Haley); it was tough choosing which ones to post. I wanted to use photos that captured the “realness” of labor and birth without showing anything too graphic (these photos are so personal, after all). Thanks to some cropping and shading, we were able to cover up or darken areas I didn’t want to show without ruining the integrity of the photo. That incredible moment, when time stopped, still shines through the image. What a magical thing birth is! xoxo

  10. Brenna Sullivanon 12 Jan 2018 at 11:00 am

    Wow, what a beautiful, poignant story!! <3 Also made me cry.

  11. Kendra DiGraziaon 12 Jan 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Beautiful! So inspiring thank you for sharing your experience!

  12. Suzanne Kennedy Fillmoreon 12 Jan 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Once again, your writing has totally blown me away…..thank you for sharing your beautiful experience.

  13. Natalie Stabenowon 12 Jan 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you for posting this beautiful tale of the birth of Asher!!! Brought tears to my eyes!!!

  14. Hilary Van Tatenhoveon 12 Jan 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Wow JayaMae Gregory this was beautiful 🙂 you are such a strong woman! So cool to hear about your story! Thank u

  15. Veronica Ann Cornellon 12 Jan 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Wow JayaMae Gregory this was beautiful 🙂 you are such a strong woman! So cool to hear about your story! Thank u

  16. Linda Straub Boisaon 12 Jan 2018 at 6:46 pm

    Beautifully written as always! You have a way with words! Thanks for sharing something so intimate!

  17. Corrieon 12 Jan 2018 at 7:05 pm

    This was such an amazing story to read. Thank you for sharing it. You are truly incredible . Congratulations on Asher’s birth. I’m so happy for you and your family.

    Corrie

  18. Nina Beesleyon 12 Jan 2018 at 7:28 pm

    Beautiful!!! You captured the essence and joy of birth! I am so happy for you and your family. Such a beautiful new beginning to a wonderful journey ahead. Thank you for sharing your birth story.

  19. JHon 12 Jan 2018 at 8:12 pm

    You are so great to share this with us. The pictures are amazing too. Your Older boys have such an extreme bond with you and Asher that can never be broken. Love You and God Bless you and your family.

  20. Dorinda Hunsakeron 12 Jan 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Beautiful and beautifully written.

  21. CMKDreamson 12 Jan 2018 at 11:09 pm

    I hope you tell everyone just why Asher’s middle name is Braxton. I hope one day he’ll understand the love he was showered with before he was even born. Your boys are so lucky to have you & Gary as parents. Love you

  22. Willis McCarthyon 13 Jan 2018 at 11:05 am

    Thank you for sharing the experience of labor and delivery at home, and most important the arrival of one healthy Asher Gregory. You are one courageous woman who demonstrated resolve and confidence in a time of pain, fatigue and pure joy! Wishing much peace and happiness to the Gregory Clan in 2018.

  23. Peggy Loeon 14 Jan 2018 at 4:10 pm

    What an awesome adventure! And of course it is just beginning.

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