I will never see Christmas jammies the same way again.
On Christmas Eve, with 5 1/2 weeks of teasing, prodromal labor and my due date behind me, I choked back tears as I filled three stockings with Christmas jammies.
Charlotte… Gavin… and *sigh*, Maverick.
Despite a close-to-Christmas December 21st due date, because I had delivered my first two babies early, it had never crossed my mind that my third baby wouldn’t be joining us for Christmas morning. But here we were. Three pairs of Christmas pajamas and only two babies filling them.
Charley and Gavin excitedly pulled their new jammies from their stockings and the four of us went upstairs for a Christmas Eve bedtime, that third pair of jammies still tucked away in the stocking of the little boy I so ached to hold.
At 5:30AM on Christmas morning, I awoke to a sky still dark and the air heavy with the peace, stillness, and magic that only Christmas morning can bring… with no idea just how magical my Christmas was about to be.
I was awake much earlier than usual, and with Chris upstairs sleeping with Charley and Gavin, I thought to myself how nice it was to begin Christmas morning in such peace and quiet.
Maybe I’ll get up and get myself ready.
Start a pot of coffee.
I felt a contraction. Nothing new… prodromal labor since 35 weeks meant I had had many false starts, some so convincing that we had even inflated the birth pool and started pots of water on the stove. For most people, contractions 1 minute long and 3 minutes apart for an hour means it’s time to head to the hospital. For me, it had come to mean nothing more than “wait a bit longer to see if it’s the real thing.”
What a tiring, emotionally draining game. More than 5 weeks of this mind-game and I literally had said, “I don’t think I’ll know for sure until my water breaks.”
A little while later, I had another contraction. I checked the time and made a mental note… just in case. I continued to relax in bed, enjoying the peace and stillness of the morning. After a few “mental notes,” I got out my phone and texted myself the times of the contractions so I wouldn’t forget.
9 minutes apart.
The next handful began coming in at 6 minutes.
Again, nothing compared to the ones I’d experienced so many times at just a few minutes apart.
Thinking again, “just in case,” I turned on my hyponobirthing app for a quick but calming exercise to ready my mind. I got on my hands and knees and allowed by body to sink into the deepest child’s pose my belly would allow as I listened to the soothing voice in the darkness.
“I am calm, confident, and in control.
I am choosing a calm, gentle birth.
I trust my body.
I trust my baby.
I was born to birth.
I am excited to meet my baby.
My baby is the perfect size for my body.
My body knows what to do.
My baby knows what to do.
My baby and I are having a calm, confident, gentle birth…”
When it was finished, I decided to get up and begin the day. It was about 7AM and I knew the kids would be up at any minute. Better start that pot of coffee!
While in the bathroom, I continued monitoring contractions, this time on a contraction timer.
3 1/2 minutes apart.
3 minutes apart.
3 1/2 minutes apart.
Still not believing “this is it,” I continued readying myself, thinking, Wow, I might actually have time to fix my hair and put on make-up for Christmas morning! I brushed my teeth and put in my contacts…
What happened next is a bit of a blur.
I decided to text my midwife to give her a heads up… you know, just in case.
“Merry Christmas! I’m hesitant to believe it yet but I think our little guy wants to be a Christmas baby…”
I went on to describe…
“I woke to contractions at 5:30AM. I laid in bed for an hour timing them… they increased from 9 to 6 minutes apart and in intensity. Now that I’m up they’re about every 3-4 minutes and a lot stronger than anything before. I’m still doubting because of so many false starts. But wanted to let you know.”
I was still standing at the sink where I had been texted her as another contraction came on. I felt a sort of POP and then a gush of warm water.
Literally one minute after I had texted her “I’m still doubting,” I sent my midwife another text.
“Oh my gosh my water just broke.”
It was 7:25AM.
Instead of going upstairs to wake & tell Chris about my contractions earlier in the morning, I had been taking my time… one, because I still didn’t believe I was actually in labor this time, and two, because I had been hearing the sounds of little feet upstairs, so I figured he and the kids would be down any minute. But no one had come down yet and at this point I knew I had zero time to spare, so I somehow miraculously bounded up the stairs as if I wasn’t 40+4 weeks pregnant and 40 pounds heavier than normal.
My foggy memory recalls Gavin kneeling in front of his bathroom mirror and flexing his muscles, saying something about being a superhero (something I would have taken the time to relish in had I not been about to drop a child at any moment). These must have been the feet I was hearing awake upstairs, because Chris and Charley were still asleep.
Trying to catch my breath, I stood at the bedside and told Chris, “Babe. It’s go-time.”
My labor brain-fog keeps me from recalling all the details from this point until he arrived, but I do remember an excited Charley exclaiming something about baby time… a very excited daddy… and me, breathing through what were now very heavy contractions as I braced myself against my kids’ bookshelf before pushing past everyone to go back downstairs. I was in the zone.
I went to the kitchen and (I think) began filling pots of water on the stove that would help warm the birth pool. For some reason, I also removed the crock pot of raw pork butt from the fridge that we’d prepared the night before, planning to plug it in. I was minutes away from giving birth but you know, mom has to prepare Christmas dinner.
Chris joined me downstairs and began going down the checklist of things we needed to prepare, apparently including that silly crock pot, which he found me struggling with when he came down. The birth pool was fortunately already inflated thanks to a previous false alarm. In addition to my midwife (who lives 45+ minutes away & was on her way), my parents who were staying at a nearby hotel had been alerted, as had my birth photographer, who was an hour away. Only 2 of the 4 would make it in time.
Gavin quietly (& miraculously) sat at the kitchen table working on something while Chris retrieved the hose from the basement, disassembled the shower head, attached the hose, and recruited Charley to hold the hose in the birth pool. He set out the box of birth supplies and started another big pot of water on the stove. Like me, he too was in a zone.
At 7:35AM, a mere 11 minutes after I had told my midwife I was unsure if I was actually in labor this time, things had progressed so fast that I sent a simple but urgent text to my mom.
At 7:40AM I took photos and a video of proud big sister Charley filling the pool. In the video, you can hear my labored breathing. It was like labor was in fast-forward but my brain was in slow-motion as it attempted to comprehend this was actually happening. I was excited but calm… in pain but with zero fear in my mind, able to remain at complete peace.
I retreated to a space in my mind I can only describe as primal.
I paced the house like an animal looking for a place to give birth. The place I had envisioned in my mind so many times wasn’t available… there was no water in it (although I did consider at one point just sitting down in it just to have a place to labor). Thinking it would be faster than the pool and desperate for relief, I begged Chris to put some water in the bathtub for me, as I was dying to put my body in warm water. The pressure was insane. He began to, but later told me he decided against it as he knew how puny our water heater is and how quickly it would run out, giving me no water in the birth pool. I’m glad for his judgment in the moment… I guarantee that if I had gotten into the bathtub, I would not have gotten out!
I found myself on the toilet instead, my body emptying itself from both ends as I heaved into a trash can between my knees. Misery. The toilet was so uncomfortable and I ached for a place to birth. I thought my body was wanting to push, my moans turning guttural as I heard my parents arrive and busy preparations continuing just beyond the open bathroom door.
“SOMEONE SHUT OFF THAT PHONE RINGER!” I yelled from the toilet, self-aware enough to be sure – with my irritability and vomiting – that I was in transition and my baby was so close.
When the vomiting had passed, I attempted to get up from the toilet and make a mad dash to the birth pool, just 15 feet away in the next room. Nope. Another wave of a contraction brought me running – if you could call it that – back to the toilet, where I found myself pushing again despite my brain’s hesitancy.
“Can I push? I don’t even know how dilated I am. I wish my midwife were here to tell me.”
But as it turns out, the body doesn’t need permission to do what it’s made to do.
My baby was coming, and I didn’t need a dilation check to tell me.
I rode several back to back contractions on the toilet, imagining that I might actually have to push him out in that position. A quick thought raced through my mind on how I’d make sure to catch him as to not birth my sweet baby into the toilet.
“Oh God, I don’t want to give birth on the toilet.”
But somehow I miraculously levitated from the toilet to the pool, which, while it only had about 6 inches of water, was warm and just the safe place my primal self had been searching for.
I labored by myself for a few minutes, the water from the hose turning cold almost immediately. Freaking water heater.
My mom joined me, and kneeling next to the pool, gently rubbed my back as I told her I had to push (but it hurt), proceeding in the same breath to do just that. Labor had progressed so quickly, it was hard to believe I needed to push already. I hadn’t had the chance to even mentally process one stage of labor before I was on to the next.
Chris came in with the pot of hot water I had started on the stove earlier. Gavin, having said from the other room, “I want to check on mommy,” came in from the kitchen and timidly looked on as Chris, pioneer-style with oven mitts and a kitchen pot, poured in the steaming water and my mom gently mixed it throughout the pool to keep me from being burned. I roared through another contraction and exclaimed, “I feel his head!”
There was no doubting now.
Maybe it was hearing Gavin’s sweet voice in the room, but somehow I had the mental clarity to snap out of my zone and into the room with everyone to share, “I want the babies over here! Please!”
As they quickly came in and took their spots on the chair facing me, I again had a precious moment of clarity to look my two sweet babies in the eyes and comfort them saying, “I may be screaming some more… but it’s okay. It just hurts a lot. Every time I have a contraction, it hurts a lot. But then he’s going to come out.”
And on that very next contraction, they watched their warrior momma give birth to their baby brother.
Charley exclaimed, “Nonna, I can see his head in the water!”
Kneeling, I held his precious head with one hand and thanked God through tears… waiting, and knowing that the next contraction would bring my baby boy into my arms. As I waited, I was completely enveloped in peace and gratitude.
“Are you touchin’ a balloon, mommy?” innocent Gavin asked.
Through a shaky, tear-filled voice, I answered, “I’m holding his head… the rest of his body will come out soon.”
And then… in the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and surrounded in love by the one I made this baby with, the two babies who came from the same womb, and the one who birthed me 35 years earlier… I delivered into my own hands my 9lb 4oz Christmas baby.
Merry Christmas AND Happy Birthday, Maverick Jordan Maxwell!
Charley squealed with happiness, covering her mouth with her hands and Gavin’s once unsure face lit up in a smile. “Oh my gosh!” “We did it!” I exclaimed over and over again through happy tears.
Maverick took his first breath of life and began that beautiful song of a newborn baby cry, and I couldn’t stop laughing with joy.
“What just happened?!” I exclaimed.
It was 8:05AM, only 40 minutes after my water had broken.
41 minutes after I was still doubting that this was “it.”
My midwife arrived about 20 minutes later, surprised to find everyone gathered around the pool and a healthy baby in my arms. I had already delivered the placenta, which my mom held in a bowl. Soon afterward, the midwife clamped the cord and we invited the kids to cut the cord with their daddy, such a sweet moment for all of us.
I had been in such a zone during labor, I hadn’t given much thought to what was happening outside my bubble – like the fact that I was seriously giving birth in my house on Christmas morning with just my husband, kids, and parents… or that neither my midwife nor my birth photographer were there and likely wouldn’t make it.
Oh my gosh, I seriously just had an unassisted home birth! Whoopsie!
My first two births were in a hospital due to high blood pressure. My original plan had been for a birth center and it wrecked me to not have that option. This time, I had fought hard to keep my blood pressure down so that I could deliver at home… and not only did I have the opportunity, honor, and joy of delivering at home, but I ended up doing it unassisted! It was never my plan but will forever make me laugh (& be a great story to tell)!
People have asked me, well who caught your baby? I DID!
I wouldn’t have it any other way (and highly recommend)! 🙂
You could say I was in labor for an hour or two… or maybe for 5 1/2 weeks.
But I am SO THANKFUL to God for such a healthy pregnancy and uneventful delivery.
The magical moments that dotted this time and fulfilled the desires of my heart were seriously nothing short of miraculous, God’s hand on seemingly small moments that mattered to our hearts.
For example, a few days prior, I had nearly put the birth pool away after one of the false starts. But thank goodness I hadn’t, because there’s no way we could have gotten it inflated and filled in time.
I’m grateful for that moment of clarity to get the kids into the room and in “their spot” to watch their baby brother be born… We had talked about this moment for months, preparing them and dreaming about the unique opportunity for them to watch their sibling’s birth. They wanted to see him be born and it meant a lot to me for them to get to. One contraction later and they would have missed it.
I’m grateful that, while my dad chose to stay in the other room, my parents could be there. My mom birthed four babies but had never seen someone else give birth before. It was so special for me to have her there.
I’m grateful that Chris happened to have the thought to check the video camera and stop it from recording so that the precious birth video we had captured would be saved – when he checked it he found that it was about to die!
I’m grateful for how the morning began… for the time I had to myself, in the dark and stillness of Christmas morning. I’m grateful that even though I wasn’t sure at the time if it would be the day or not, I had time to get into a peaceful, confident birthing mindset.
Thanks to the prodromal labor, I had been in and out of a semi-anxious mindset about Maverick’s arrival date. At 35 weeks I began having contractions and was nervous I wouldn’t make it to the 37 weeks cutoff so that I could have a home birth. Then I watched weeks 37, 38, 39, and 40 pass, along with visits to my chiropractor who said, “I will be shocked if you don’t have this baby today.” I was in so much pain and so terribly uncomfortable. It was physically the most difficult pregnancy I’ve ever had. But at the end, most of my stress honestly came from the idea of him having a close-to-Christmas birthday. The longer the pregnancy went, the closer we got to Christmas. My cousin’s birthday is close to Christmas and everyone else I’ve ever met who shares their birthday with the Christmas season has always expressed how much they dislike it. Birthdays have always been a big deal for me and I love celebrating them – especially since becoming a mom – and I hated the idea that he might not like his birthday or that it would be “less special” since he’d share it with the Christmas season.
But after it happened… after my little boy showed up not only on Christmas Day, but in the magic of Christmas morning before we even had breakfast or started opening presents… I can’t imagine it being any other day. We LOVE Christmas and now the day will be forever filled with even MORE magic as we celebrate the birth of Jesus AND Maverick!
And that’s exactly what we did the rest of the day.
My friend and birth photographer (for all 3 babies!) may not have been able to make it in time, but she still came over to capture some of the fresh newborn magic of our Christmas Day!
Thank you, Rylie!!