Why the Tree of Life?


Ayla's Birth

On Tuesday morning (April 8th), I had asked a maid service to clean our house so that it would be ready for the birth. They were due to arrive at 9:15am, so the boys and I rushed around trying to get everything straight, clothes on, teeth brushed and out the door before they got there. Dunagan doesn't like their big, scary, backpack vacuum, so it's best to go someplace else and run errands. Once we were on the road, I felt a contraction that felt a little bit 'more' than the practice contractions I had been having for the last couple weeks. I happened to look at the clock, and it was 9:10am. From that point on, I felt really crampy with an achy back. We headed to the park for a little bit, and the bike store to window shop for bikes for the boys, and then we joined Dad for lunch at La Salsa. I had another contraction at 10:10am, which I thought was funny, and over lunch, Evan pointed out that I had missed 11:10am.

After lunch, I was able to get Dunagan down for a nap at home, and I think Kirven and I fell asleep, too, but I can't remember. Those sparse contractions had died down, but I had a curious feeling of fullness. I really felt *done* with this pregnancy, but I had been feeling that way for weeks already. My back was still hurting, though.

By the time the boys' bedtime rolled around, I was very crampy again, and putting Dunagan to bed was very uncomfortable. I didn't want to lay down, I didn't want to walk, I didn't want to sit. I wasn't really restless, just uncomfortable.

Evan and I started getting ready for bed about midnight, but by then, I was starting to have a few contractions again. At first, I just ignored them; then I got a little excited thinking that this was it. Both of my labors with the boys had been only five hours long, so I was anticipating things going quickly. By 2am, my contractions were strong enough that I couldn't ignore them and were about six minutes apart for over an hour, so we called the midwives.

We also called my sister Bettye to come get the boys, and when she got there, she woke them up saying that Ayla was coming. Both boys were wide awake instantly, and Dunagan was so excited that he pretended to climb the wall. Evan had finished packing their bags, so they headed out the door with our dog, Geena, pretty soon after that.

Kristen Elliott and Kristin Leigh came and started setting up everything for the birth; making my bed and setting out the birth kit and supplies I had put together. I sent out an email to my girlfriends saying that I was in labor and in need of their positive thoughts and prayers. Kristen Elliott checked me and said I was 2cm, maybe 2 and a half. I was a little surprised at this, just because of my previous experiences and the strength of the contractions. I had expected her to say I was 4cm. But, apparently, Ayla was living up to the midwives' saying of third babies being wild cards.

Then my contractions started slowing down and becoming more erratic. Their intensity never decreased though, and Kristen Elliott reassured me that I was in labor, that it wasn't false labor... it just hadn't kicked over to active labor yet. But that was what I was used to-- a nearly immediate onset of active labor, so this new pattern was really frustrating. And tiring!

Kristen Elliott and Kristin Leigh decided to go lie down on the boys' bunks and get some sleep, and they told me to try to get some sleep as well. I dutifully went to bed with Evan, but after an hour or so of contractions lying down, I just had to get up. I was exhausted since I had started all this at the end of a long day, and now it was 5 or 6 in the morning with no end in sight. Evan got up with me, but went back to sleep on the couch while I sat on the birth ball. I listened to my hypnobabies cds the whole time, and they helped a little, but not much. The voice on the cd more kept me company in those lonely hours than anything else.

Kristen Elliott got up about mid-morning, I think, and wanted to know if I had gotten any sleep, but I hadn't, of course. Kristin Leigh got up about the same time, and they called Michele to discuss what to do with me. Michele felt at that point that they needed to slow my labor down and help me get some sleep. She didn't want me going into active labor as exhausted as I already was. So they gave me benadryl and ibuprofen, and then they left to get some more sleep, I think, in their own beds, but they may have had to go to the other birth that happened right before mine. Either way, Evan and I were alone in the house.

It was so quiet and nice. I was so glad that the boys were off having fun with Bettye. I know I wouldn't have gotten any rest if we had tried to have them with us for the birth. I joked that it was like a date. We could watch a movie!

Evan and I ate some lunch and then headed back to bed. Evan, of course, slept like a log, but I was glad because I wanted him rested. I never felt like I went to sleep, and my contractions were as intense as ever and still anywhere from 15-30 minutes apart, but the benadryl did make me very sleepy. Evan claims I was snoring between contractions, and I did feel a little more rested by dinnertime. I ended up sleeping propped up against the corner of the wall since that wasn't as painful on my back when I was in that position, I could really feel Ayla's head grinding into my cervix and opening me up. The next time I went to the bathroom, I found that I had lost my mucous plug. It had been threatening to come loose for a couple days, but it was clearly gone now.

When we got up, I knew I needed to eat something, but I really wasn't hungry. Evan's brother Taylor was very sweet and brought me some chicken consommé soup from Las Palomas, which was perfect. Taylor got to witness a couple contractions, and he could tell I was frustrated that things were still going so slowly. Since he's a vet, he offered to go and get his come-along to pull her out for me.

After Taylor left, we sat on the couch for awhile and watched tv (something that we don't normally do with the boys around). We had a very disappointing selection. PBS seemed to be having another fund drive and there were about four cop shows to watch. So we flipped around between our five or so channels for awhile. My parents came by and got my grocery list since we were completely out of food, and I was supposed to have gone to the store that day (Wednesday). That was partially why I needed chicken soup because there was nothing to eat in the house. They went ahead and did my shopping for me, which was really nice, and we were glad to have food in the house again. They got back about 9:15pm, and as Mom was getting an update on how I was ("no change, still 15-30 minutes apart"), I obliviously had several contractions in a row. By this time, I had moved to the floor with a heating pad on my back against the couch. Mom gave me her 'really?' look and shooed herself and my dad out the door. After they left, I realized that I had had several contractions close together and that I was having another one, and I asked Evan to time me.

We realized we were at 3 minutes apart and one minute long. I knew this was really it. We were getting down to serious business now. Finally! I got my MP3 player and started listening to my hypnobabies again, and I put on my labor necklace that some friends made for me at my shower a month ago.

Evan called the midwives out, and Kristen Elliott came first and checked me in order to tell Michele how long she had. I was at 7cm, which I was pretty pleased about. I walked around between contractions, really waddling wide-legged to open up as much as I could, and then I would either drop to my hands and knees, lean over the couch or stand against Evan when a contraction came. Evan figured out a way to squeeze my hips together and push against my back which helped relieve some of the pain. Michele and Kristin Leigh came pretty soon, and they all bustled around for a little bit boiling water for hot packs for my perineum and doing I don't know what else.

Eventually, I got to where I realized I wasn't listening to my hypnobabies anymore. My brain just couldn't process the voice that was babbling in my ear. Evan's simpler verbal prompts were more what I needed and what was getting through to me, so I left the player on the kitchen table. Pretty soon I felt like I needed to push. Michele checked me, but I was only at 8cm. They coaxed me into getting into the bath tub to help me relax and open up without wanting to push as much. I didn't think I would like it because I'm not really fond of getting wet, and I knew I would hate getting cold. They got the water a really nice, hot temperature, lit some candles, and then draped a towel over my exposed belly and chest, and Evan poured warm water over me with a pitcher. It was really very nice, and it did make the contractions less intense. With every contraction, Evan would lift me up by my lower back, which really helped. I think it put me at an angle that relieved the pressure of Ayla's head on my spine. After about 30 minutes, Kristen Elliott came to check on me. I told her that the contractions were more frequent, but that the water was really making them less intense. She had no sooner closed the door than I had the most excruciatingly powerful contraction yet. We later figured out that my water had broken at that moment.

I told Evan I was done with the tub; it was more uncomfortable than comfortable at that point, so he helped me get out, dry off and get dressed. I felt like I needed to pee, but I couldn't, and toilet sitting was very painful since one of my hips had gotten very loose and felt like it was coming out of its socket when I sat down.

We left the bathroom and said hi to the midwives who were at our kitchen table flipping through magazines, just hanging out and letting Evan and I do our thing. I really felt like I needed to push at this point, no kidding, and Michele told me to breathe through them and not to push yet. We moved into the bedroom, and Michele checked me again. Just like my last two births, I was at 9 and a half cm... not quite there. She had me push on the next contraction and she helped me open up that last little bit. I asked her if she could break my water, and she said it must have already broken in the bathtub because she felt hair. I moved to sitting on the end of the bed, leaning against Evan, and Michele told me to keep breathing through the pushing contractions just a little bit longer. They started using the hot packs and olive oil on my perineum. One of the midwives went out to their cars and brought back a couple of different birthing stools, and I chose the really low, cushiony one. I really wanted to sit on it, but I was sitting on Ayla's head, which was no good, and Michele wanted me to scoot down more, which I did. It was not as comfortable as I wanted it to be, and I couldn't relax into Evan even though he said he had me. I just felt like I was slipping too much. I pushed several times until she was finally out from under my pubic bone. I don't know if it was because I was more tired by the pushing stage, or because I'm older, but I was surprised at how much weaker I felt pushing Ayla out than I had with both the boys. I can remember feeling the boys move down quickly with each push, but this time, I felt like I was pushing her out millimeter by millimeter. In reality, I know I still had a comparatively quick pushing stage; it was just different. I remember screaming at one point, and Michele saying, 'No more of that teakettle, Jennifer. Put that energy into pushing.' It was the perfect image for me, and I was able to hold on to it the rest of the time. Every time I started to scream, I thought of that teakettle.

Hypnobabies talks about breathing your baby down and out and not pushing at all. I even had a cd that I could play out loud during the pushing stage. The thought of either of those things seemed so ridiculous to me at that point that I made I conscious decision to push with all I had. I wanted her OUT!

After I got Ayla past my pubic bone, Michele moved me to the bed on my back with my knees up in an effort to keep me from tearing. It was much harder to push that way, but I'm glad I tried it. Even though I ended up tearing in exactly the same place and to the same degree as my last two births, I can say I at least tried everything I could not to tear. Anyway, pushing, pushing, pushing. Everything gets foggy here. Pain beyond imagination, which I'm already starting to forget. There wouldn't be any humans if we women didn't forget so quickly. I felt like I was erupting.

Michele touched my stomach and told me I would have my baby on my belly in 5 pushes. It sounded like 5 too many to me. I remember hearing Michele telling Evan to come catch the baby. It didn't register with him at first, I think, because she said it to him again. I felt Ayla's head, the burning...I started to lose the contraction when her face was about halfway out, and they started urging me to push, push, push. Then her head was out. Then her shoulders...pushing, pushing, pushing...and then body and legs, whoosh. All I could say over and over again was, thank you God, thank you God, thank you God, to be spared anymore pain. It is such an amazing feeling of relief when the baby's feet clear the perineum. I went from the most intense pain to the most intense relief and joy in an instant. Evan caught her and put her on my chest. It was 12:39 AM, just over 3 hours since active labor kicked in.

Ayla was absolutely covered in vernix, and Michele wondered if she was a little 'early' even though she was technically due the next day. I was so tired that I didn't turn her to look at her. I asked Michele if she was still a girl, and she laughed and said yes. She rubbed on her a little to get her to cry. She came out with her eyes wide open, no crying, just like I did when I was born. And she has barely cried since.

We waited on my placenta, and Evan cut the cord. They cleaned me up a little bit and stripped the top birthing sheets off the bed and got us settled again. Then they left us alone for awhile to just be with Ayla. What a difference from the hospital!

I was ready for the boys to be called back over, but it was the middle of the night, and it would have been a bad idea, really. I would have to be patient and just enjoy the calm before the storm of the next morning.

After awhile, the midwives came back into the bedroom and checked Ayla out all over and weighed (8lbs, 14oz) and measured her. Then Evan took her and rocked her while I was sutured. I was slightly disappointed that I had torn again, but I was prepared enough mentally for it that I had ordered a sitz bath with my birth kit. I just wish I had had Kirven, my first baby, at home with Michele, and I bet I wouldn't have torn in the first place. After I was all sutured up, and the midwives had cleaned everything up, they made sure Ayla and I were comfortable and then headed home. I was so excited, I couldn't sleep, even though I was exhausted and hadn't slept in the last 40 or so hours.

All three midwives were really tired because I had turned out to be the last of three back to back births for them. I was so thankful for them. Ayla's birth was such a healing experience for me. I got better, more comprehensive, more skilled, more attentive and more personal prenatal care than I ever did with my OB (as much as I liked him), and I know I was much safer in my midwives' skilled hands. I will gladly go back to my OB if I ever need surgery. Until then, I'm even switching my well woman care over to Michele.

Thank you, Michele Fitzgerald!

Thank you, Kristen Elliott!

Thank you, Kristin Leigh!
(need a pic; will post it soon)


  1. Wow, Jennifer, amazing story! I'm so impressed that with all you have going on, you were able to remember and recount it so clearly and in such detail. Ayla will surely appreciate that one day! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm sorry I've not been in touch but hope we can get together soon ...
    Hannah (Diller)

  2. Hi there - I'm in the local Charlotte Mason group as well, and was touched by your birth story, in part because my little one was born at 12:01 am on April 10 (only 2006)... As my third (as well), the labor was as wild card as yours - totally different, totally different experience - and what a joy when she finally popped out!
    Hope to meet you soon!
    Jennifer Hansen (the fairy mum)

  3. Thanks so much for writing this up. It's a wonderful story, the pictures are lovely, and I am so happy that you chose to share it with everyone!

    Evan looks like calm happy Evan the whole time, which I find funny. And the boys just look thrilled about the whole thing. I'm glad your birth was at home the way you wanted it to be (if a bit longer than you'd hoped!).

  4. And hey, maybe we can get a few more Jennifers to comment, ya think?

  5. thanks for sharing your story. i'm considering a midwife (and natural birth) for the first time, and i've been devouring information on what the natural birthing experience is like. This was a great story, very descriptive, and will help me to prepare. thanks.