Juniper Jane: A Water Birth Story
Two weeks ago, we welcomed Juniper Jane into the world at 37 weeks and 5 days in a whirlwind of an unplanned water birth. We are home and resting, so while her story is still fresh in my mind, I want to get it written down. Currently Juniper resides on my chest where she is either eating or sleeping almost 24/7 (sans the time Jake get her!). She is a gift from God and we are so thankful for her little life that we get to help guide and lead.
Juniper was born September 12, 2019 at 5:44 p.m. at The Midwife Center in Pittsburgh, PA. She weighed 7lbs. 4 oz and was 19.25″ long. She came out with a head of dark hair and has eased herself into our family without any push back from her older siblings. We are all smitten and I am so grateful.
For videos taken from this day, head to my Instagram page and the highlight “Juniper Jane”–I was able to record a little bit the day of which was fun!
(Labor and Delivery photos by Leahanna Birth Photography)
Morning of Juniper’s Birth
Let’s start the story at the beginning. I was SUPPOSED to be spending the day almost an hour north from home the day she was born. But due to some scheduling, plans were canceled the night before. I tried briefly to make alternate plans but was feeling extremely exhausted that morning and didn’t push it. Instead I put a TV show on for the kids and took a shower in hopes to feel more energized. After the shower though, I was still tired. So instead of trying to make my kids’ TV time as limited as possible, I laid down to rest for a little bit. I eventually made my way downstairs and into the kitchen. It was close to lunch time and we were having company for dinner so I decided to start cooking.
Afternoon of Juniper’s Birth
At 12:15 p.m. I was in the middle of making lunch for us and pasta salad for that night and Emmett was trying to take pictures of me. I distinctly remember reaching for the refrigerator door and Emmett asking me to pause for a picture on his camera. I paused, smiled at him and felt the smallest gush/leak out of me. It stopped me in my tracks and I raced to the bathroom. The gushing sensation was familiar to me because my water had broken first to initiate labor for Hadley and Emmett. But it was not much and even sitting on the toilet to see if more would come out, barely anything came out. Unsure of what to do, I called Jake to let him know what happened and texted a friend of mine who had had something similar happen to her and it not turn into anything. Jake instantly told me to call the midwives and so did my friend. But of course I didn’t.
About 10 minutes after the first gush, I had another one. I told myself if it happened 3 times I would then call the midwives. Well, you guessed it. A little while later my third gush happened. I called the midwives around 12:45 p.m. who said it sounded like my water had broken. I am pretty sure initially they told me just to labor at home (I wasn’t having contractions) but when I mentioned the discharge was slightly tinged, they asked me to come in. Looking back this was a HUGE blessing in disguise. Had I waited until contractions started, I don’t know how long I would have waited and if Juniper would have been born in the car!
I let Jake know everything that was happening and he wanted to come home to drive me to the center. I instantly told him no for two reasons:
- Jake literally works 9 blocks away from The Midwife Center. It seemed absolutely pointless for him to drive the 25-30 minutes home only to go right back.
- Since I wasn’t having any contractions, I felt fine to drive and it just made the most sense. Had I been feeling terrible and having painful contractions, it would have been a different story!
I spent the next hour finishing putting my hospital bag together, cleaning up lunch and trying to mentally prepare myself for what was happening. I had gone 5-6 days past my due date with Emmett and was exactly one week early with Hadley. So to be 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I fully expected to be pregnant a little while longer. I put the TV back on for the kids so that I could just focus (which I was having a hard time doing). I remember looking at them and feeling SO emotional because life was about to change for all of us. They were my babies and now we were about to bring home the “real” baby! I am pretty sure I had this exact same experience when I went into labor with Hadley. It’s just really emotional in general for you as the one about to endure childbirth and drastically change your schedule for the next year, but it changes your kids’ lives as well.
While I was upstairs packing, my emotions really overwhelmed me. I just dropped to the floor on my knees and started crying and praying. I don’t remember my exact prayer but it probably consisted of asking God to help with the labor and delivery and prayer for Emmett and Hadley. I got myself back up and finished getting ready. By the time I was ready, it was very obvious it was my water that had broken. I was still gushing and some of it was bloody (which is okay!).
I called my mom to let her know what was happening, Jake called our friends to meet us at the center and pick up the kids. I had to pack them an overnight bag too and was just quickly throwing their things into a bag and hoping I was remembering everything. I got the kids out to the car around 1:55 p.m. and began driving the 30 minutes to the center. I still wasn’t really having contractions. I had some low and very mild cramping along with Braxton Hicks. Just before I arrived at The Midwife Center I began having mild contractions (around 2:23 p.m.).
I got to the center at 2:30 p.m. Jake was already there and so was our friend who was picking up the kids. We quickly hugged and kissed the kiddos goodbye and headed inside. I was initially sent up to the waiting room since my water had begun at such a slow leak and they wanted to check it to confirm that it was my water. Well since my water was beyond a leak at this point, I sat down in the waiting room on a towel. While we were waiting, another midwife walked by (the one who had delivered Hadley) and just started laughing at me and the towel and goes, “Well that looks reassuring!” She then turns to someone else around the corner and was like, “Why is Bethany sitting in there on a towel!?” It made us all laugh. Needless to say, I was brought back to an exam room where they confirmed my water was broken and I was about 2-3 cm and 60% effaced.
We were told we could be admitted, go walk around to kickstart the contractions a bit more, etc. Jake very firmly said he wanted to get my first round of GBS+ antibiotics in because he knew that with Hadley everything went so fast that we didn’t have time to get the second round in. I told them this was how my other labors started and I was pretty certain my contractions would start to kick in soon. I still had to ask the midwives if I was definitely having a baby soon because I was just in shock. So we headed downstairs to the same room we had delivered Hadley and got the antibiotics started around 3 p.m. For the next hour we just hung out on the bed.
I was feeling anxious and nervous. I did not feel fully prepared mentally still since I hadn’t hit that 38 week mark. I was still in shock that my water had broken and we were meeting our baby soon. Because of this I was just sitting on the bed waiting for the antibiotics to go through and mentally processing. The nurse was monitoring my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate. My blood pressure was elevated a little and so was the baby’s heart rate. She asked how I was feeling and I admitted to still being anxious and surprised. I was also apparently dehydrated. So after the antibiotics were done, I then got hooked up to fluids. Also, our birth photographer arrived at 4 p.m.
I think it was around 4:15 p.m. that they started the fluids which took quite a while to finish. Looking back I spent most of my labor hooked up just until around 5 p.m. At 4:40 p.m. I texted a friend saying the contractions were beginning to hurt. And I texted her again at 5:00 p.m. saying “they hurt and they’re coming faster” and I think that was the last text I sent because I really was in a lot of pain. We let the nurse and midwives know contractions were amping up. My main midwife came in (who I had just met that day! She was the newest midwife on staff there) and checked the clock. She acknowledged that I still had till 7:15 p.m. to get my next round of antibiotics in and didn’t seem very worried. Since she was so calm about it I began to wonder just how far along I was and if things weren’t progressing as fast as I felt they were. I could’ve asked to be checked to see how many centimeters I was, but decided against it.
(At 4:45 p.m. Jake ordered our food. This little tidbit is a funny story later. He knew I would be hungry after even though I couldn’t really think straight during labor.)
Evening of Juniper’s Birth
Timeline gets hazy from 5:00-5:44 .p.m. when Juniper was born. But I was finally unhooked and able to move more freely. I turned on a worship station on Pandora that began playing a song by Matt Hammitt called “Let it Bring You Praise.” It instantly brought tears to my eyes because the song starts off with ” Lord, You created me, perfectly shaping me.” It was an extremely powerful song to be listening to during labor. The contractions started coming so fast that I almost wasn’t getting a break. No one realized at this point, but I was in transition. The nurse encouraged me to move more so that I was not stuck in one place. I finally agreed and decided that I needed to use the bathroom. I also was trying to think through how I wanted to continue to labor while in this much pain. So I asked if the tub could be drawn. After using the bathroom though, the pain got so intense that I knelt down in the door way because I couldn’t move any more. In one final effort, I got myself into the tub and felt the contractions subside. Later on, after talking to a friend who studied midwifery I learned that I encountered a type of “rest period” before pushing. Sometimes a mother’s body is in surprise (not mentally prepared) and your body will give you a rest. I probably had this rest period for only a couple minutes. I asked the nurse if I could push in the tub. She told me yes and asked if I needed to. I told her probably soon and she went running out of the room to grab the midwives.
This is where I realize no one really knew how far along I was. I doubted myself because the midwives weren’t in the room and thought I had more time! Lesson learned–you know your body best 😉
The nurse came back in with the midwives in a flurry. I remember asking if the water was too hot to birth in or if it would burn the baby (clearly I was really out of it!) to which they reassured me it was fine. This part of the story I have heard all second hand. Even though I was in this rest stage, I was still pretty out of it and just trying to figure out what was occurring. But the two midwives came in and had a whole low whispered conversation of “Did you know we were having a water birth?” “I didn’t know! Did you know?” “Are we ready for a water birth?” “Did she sign the papers for a water birth?” They asked us if we were planning for a water birth and Jake just answered, “Sure!” The nurse went flying out of the room again to find our water birth consent papers and came back quickly saying, “She signed the papers!” And that was it. (I knew I had signed the papers and was always open to the idea of a water birth if my body felt like that was how it wanted to labor–not too sound super hippy or anything!)
There was enough time for all of this to take place, the midwives to get in place behind me, Jake to hop in the tub (which I didn’t even know he had done) and I felt the urge to push. All I remember is pushing and being informed that the head had been born and I just started SCREAMING. It was the strangest, most painful thing I had ever experienced and all I knew was it had to end right away. I screamed, “Get this baby out of me!” The midwives responded, “You’re doing it!” And I crazy screamed again, “Just pull it out!!!!” The idea that I could be pushing for a while didn’t even occur to me. I was so determined to get her out that with the second push the rest of her body came out. In those moments though, let me tell you, I have never screamed louder, more determined or pyscho than in those 2 minutes. I had not screamed or yelled my entire labor. I had breathed through all of my contractions with Jake squeezing my hips. But at the point of pushing, screaming came all too easy and I didn’t care who heard me or what they thought! (Jake still thinks a tour was happening of the center at that point-LOL).
But then she was out. I gave birth leaning over the tub so when she came out, she was placed on my back and no one knew if she was a girl or boy at first. They had to have Jake drain the tub quickly because she was behind me and the cord was wrapped around her with her head barely out of the water. She came out screaming though so I knew everything was okay.The tubs are made to drain quickly though, and within moments, they unwrapped her and Jake was able to look and announce, “It’s a girl!” She was born at 5:44 p.m.
I was so surprised it was a girl!! It was such an emotional moment after she was born. I was shocked it was a girl, shocked it was over and so happy about both! They got us back to the bed where they cut her cord, delivered the placenta, and checked me for any tearing (none! which I was SO thankful for).
They let us get settled and rested while we ate our sandwiches that had been delivered at 5:55 p.m. Jake had to ask one of the midwives to go get our food from the delivery guy. So our running joke now is that Juniper beat the delivery man! Juniper was weighed and measured a little while later.
Since they never got the next round of GBS antibiotics in we had to stay the night which was totally fine with us since it was the end of the day at this point. Our friend brought Emmett and Hadley over to meet Juniper which was special for me because we didn’t have this opportunity when Hadley was born. The kids did REALLY well at our friend’s house by the way and we were all home again the next morning.
(Labor and Delivery photos by Leahanna Birth Photography)
So there you have it guys!!!!! One of my favorite stories in the whole wide world. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it!