Max’s *estimated due date* was December 29th. I’m like all crazy FTM’s (first time mom) and really believed that Max would come early and be here in time for Christmas. I LOVE Christmas and it just seemed like nothing would be better than having our son here to add to the magic. Well, Christmas came and went with no signs of labor and I began preparing myself for a January baby. (Good thing I never bought a 2011 – Baby’s First Christmas ornament!)

The week between Christmas and New Year’s was still emotional and hard for me. I wasn’t *done* with being pregnant, but I just wanted to meet our little guy! It was only a four day work week, and I ended up only going in to work one day due to pregnancy psychosis (haha! not really). The shame! On December 31st, I used a gift certificate I had and went to a spa for a Maternity Massage and a Reflexology Pedicure. It was heaven and I felt so relaxed and pampered. It’s a long story, but Gary and I ended not going out New Year’s Eve. We planned to, but let’s just say that we had some bathroom issues and a toilet that needed attending to. I ended up with a burst of energy and completely cleaned the whole bathroom. Did my massages and the cleaning bring on labor? Only God knows, but I was of the philosophy that I would wait for labor to start naturally and patiently – I wasn’t eating pineapple or spicy foods. I wasn’t doing lots of squats or going for excessively long walks. I was just living my life and doing what I normally did, trying to wait patiently.

Well, on January 1st, I woke up at about 7:30 am to go to the bathroom, and felt a small gush – my bag of waters was slowly leaking! I also felt some light *surges* (the word I preferred using over contractions). We had been up late the night before, and I knew I would need to be well-rested. I managed to go back to sleep for another two hours. At 9:30, I got up and called the on-call midwife (Sarah) at the Birth Center. We planned to keep in touch and she advised I get some more rest and take a walk to see if that would bring on active labor. I showered and ate breakfast. I let Gary sleep in and didn’t even tell him what was going on until he woke up at about 10:30am.
The surges continued but as I was in early labor, they felt like period cramps and were quite manageable. I lost my mucus plug during this early labor time. I took another nap and at about 2pm, Gary and I went for a walk. When we got home at 2:30, the surges were coming about every 5 minutes and lasting for a minute. Throughout the early labor and now that I was beginning active labor, I bounced a lot on the exercise ball, I read parts of the most helpful book I had read “Christ-Centered Childbirth”, and I practiced my breathing and prayed. At about 3:15, I spoke to Sarah again – my surges were now where she hoped they would be, every 4 minutes, lasting more than a minute. She said she’d meet us at the Birth Center at 4:30pm.

It was mostly an uneventful hour long drive from NJ to Wilmington- save a 5 minute holiday traffic crawl approaching the toll booth on the NJ Turnpike by the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Thank God we have EZ Pass and could blow by the traffic once we got to the express lanes.

When we arrived at the Birth Center, Sarah checked me and I was 5cm dilated. I was really pleased with that! Gary and I continued to labor – I found I most enjoyed sitting on the birth ball, and leaning over the arm of the couch or the bed. By about 6pm, when the surges were getting more intense, I liked to stand up from the ball during the surges and sway and do figure 8’s with my hips. The further along I was, the more inward I went. I loved having the lights dimmed, and I was in a very quiet place in my mind, praying and focusing. I didn’t like anyone talking while the surges were coming on.

We had planned for a water birth and at about 8pm, I got into the tub. That felt amazing and it was nice to move in the water. It didn’t feel this long, but I stayed in the tub until about 11:30, perhaps almost midnight. During that time, I started feeling pushy and was fully dilated when Sarah checked me. I began what I thought was pushing, but we weren’t really making much progress. This is the point that I thank God for midwives and what they do. Sarah checked me and suggested I get out of the tub for a while. We decided on the birthing stool and I moved onto that. She began to guide me and described to me what the pushing should feel like. WHOA!!! It was a whole new ballgame, folks! I labored on the birthing stool for about a half hour.

At about 12:30am, I moved onto the bed and labored on my side for a time, and then on my back, curling up to sitting to push during each surge. The whole time, the baby’s heartbeat was great. Thank God for that, if it had dipped, or had I sensed concern at all in Sarah’s face, I would have maybe caved and said ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’ The pushing seemed to go on forever, in reality from the time I got on the birthing stool, it was about three hours of pushing. I really went inward during this time. It was hard, but looking back I don’t know that I would call it painful. My body kicked in and I KNOW I experienced the pain-blocking endorphins that our body naturally produces. I felt even somewhat disconnected and it took about a half hour after the birth for me to reconnect with my body emotionally, if that makes any sense.
I felt so blessed with the team I had. Usually at the birth center, you have the midwife on call and a nurse to help you in labor. Sarah and Katie Madden were awesome and I was so glad they were going to be there for me. There was also a new nurse, Tyler, starting at the birth center, and she observed and helped when they needed her. And lucky for me, a third mom came in that night in labor, so Sarah called the backup midwife (Katie) to come in. (Sarah was with the first mom and she had her baby at 7pm, and I was the second mom in). That third mom was not in active labor and was sent home. When the pushing became pretty intense for me, Sarah asked Katie to come and help as well. I ended up with the powerhouse team of four. I found out after the fact that Sarah asked Katie to come in because they had a few moments of concern if I would be able to power through. They knew the baby was okay, but if I didn’t get the hang of pushing and start getting him down the birth canal, they thought they’d be looking at a hospital transfer that would most likely end in a c-section. Thank God they never voiced this possibility to me. I needed them to believe in me and tell me I could do this. Once this team was around me on the bed coaching me through each surge, it was slow but sure, but we started getting somewhere! The other amazing thing is that I never once voiced doubt. There may have been one moment when I thought it, but with these ladies and my husband around me cheering me on, I pushed those negative thoughts aside and kept going for it. That is key I think to having the natural birth that you want.

At 2:46 am, our precious son, Maxwell Ray Tilory, was born. He was 9lbs 1 oz, 21 & 1/2 inches long, with a head circumference of 37 & 1/2cm. Katie M said he may be in the running for the biggest head they’ve ever delivered! No wonder it took so long to push him out (but she may have said that just to make me feel better about how long it took to push him out)! He had a wonderful looking conehead and it was slightly to the right, which may have also added to the difficulty because he wasn’t quite coming down the birth canal straight. He also had one of his arms bent up towards his face. Once his head was out, they thought perhaps they were looking at shoulder distocia, and Katie had to push on my belly with the next surge, but as it turned out, his elbow was slowing him down. The moment he came out, he was placed right on me and he was amazing! I was just amazed that we were done, that he was here and that he was so beautiful. Everyone thought I would cry the moment he came out, because I’m a huge cryer… I didn’t. I was just so in awe! He didn’t cry at first either, but he was healthy and breathing. They perked him up with some oxygen and bam! There was his strong and fierce cry! He stayed on me for skin to skin bonding for almost an hour and a half.
He had a little trouble latching on but we eventually got the hang of it and breast feeding continues to go well, with the normal adjustment and occasional pain, to this day. I had 2 small tears – one internal and one external. But other than that, both Max and I were fine!
We rested at the birth center until about 11:30 am that morning and then left for home! I am so thankful for my first birthing experience. The midwives and nurses took excellent care of me the whole pregnancy and most importantly, the labor and delivery. It was an amazing experience, so peaceful, so joyful and a life changing experience. I am so thankful! I would *highly* recommend a birth center birth for any healthy mom with a low-risk, no complications pregnancy.