“Next time though, I want a freaking home birth…” [the last sentence from Everly’s birth story].
I am SO excited to tell this birth story. I never wanted anything more, and Jacey’s birth was perfection– everything I dreamed and more. Jacey Noelle came on June 17, 2019, at 41 weeks and 4 days, at 4:01pm. She was “caught” by me (with assistance from my midwife) at our home, and had a peaceful entry into our world. For just the photo journey scroll down, and at the very end of the blog is the link to the birth video. Here’s our story:
Two for two now, I’ve had great pregnancies and I really like being pregnant. Very low risk, never any issues on any of the tests I have to take, good weight gain, and my comfort level was good the whole time. There were some small differences, like Jacey made me crave fruit and spicy food, whereas Everly had me craving a lot more junk. I never got morning sickness with Everly but did have a little with Jacey, just a few times. I also continued with Krav Maga much longer (all the way to 39 weeks this time!) and generally stayed more active, stretching and walking often and of course chasing my two year old all around the house. One major difference is that we decided to find out our baby’s gender at 20 weeks. I love that we didn’t find out last time and did this time. It made each pregnancy very distinct and I felt very bonded to Jacey already when she was born. We also got pregnant much faster this time, in only 2 cycles instead of 36 cycles with Everly. You can see our reactions to that in this video!
Near the end of this pregnancy I was more intentional with Red Raspberry Leaf tea (to strengthen the uterus), Primrose Evening Oil (to soften and efface the cervix), and Gentle Birth herbs for a more comfortable birthing time. My midwife knew that no matter what I was determined not to be induced so she helped me do as much to prepare my body as possible. I decided to do Hypnobabies again, since last time it at least helped me focus and work with Jason, even if I didn’t actually feel pain relief like I wanted. This time was SO different.
As my June 6th guess date came and went, I was encouraged that this time I actually experienced some changes that let me know my body was progressing. I lost my mucus plug, had a very obvious “lightening” (I sat down to watch a movie with a high belly and when I got up it was super low!), and I got crampy waves ( Hypnobabies word for contractions) every so often, especially when walking, starting on my due date. With Everly I never got a single wave (besides Braxton Hicks) until I was active in my birthing time (labor). They never lasted very long or were painful, but I was just so happy that I could tell something was actually happening. I declined any induction methods besides what I could encourage myself, so no membrane sweeps, acupuncture or funny foods or activities this time. The only thing I did was begin nipple stimulation by pumping for three hours a day starting two days before she was born. During that time when I pumped I never got a single wave, but during the nights following I would often get a few. I’d write them down when they seemed to get regular, but every morning they would stop.
Photo by Jessica McIntosh Photography
June 16th was a terrible day. I was in my head all day, feeling hopeless that Jacey would come in time and beginning to feel angry that I needed to make a contingency plan since my midwife wouldn’t attend my home birth after 42 weeks. I was down in the dumps and cranky and sad. It wasn’t the pregnancy– I was content to wait and was feeling just fine– it was the stupid looming deadline and the reminder of how last time had gone. Jason was feeling pretty down too that day, so neither of us were able to cheer the other up. Thank God for evening services at our church though! God spoke to both of us that night in a big way. We were both crying through the worship, with reminders that “It is Well With My Soul” through the good and the bad and during the sermon we were reminded that God is a GOOD God who gives good gifts to His children. No, I didn’t take that to mean I’d get my way, but I was reminded that God was on my side, no matter the outcome. We left that night with a great sense of peace and happiness. I pumped for an hour before bed, and on June 17th at 3:15am I got the first wave that actually kept going.
Since this was the third night that I’d had a few waves, I didn’t get my hopes up after the first one. I kept a notepad by my bed and noted each one, and at 8am when it was time to get up (I had an ultrasound scheduled for that day to check my fluids and make sure everything was okay), I saw that my waves had lasted for 5 hours, anywhere from 7-30 minutes apart. I got up and walked around and they didn’t go away, so I texted my midwife and we agreed I could cancel the ultrasound just in case today was the day. At this point I was pretty hopeful and finally told Jason that we weren’t going after all because I’d been having waves for the last five hours. We were both trying to not get our hopes up, but at that point we started to make preparations. In between waves, which by 9am were coming every ten minutes, I played with Everly, took some video to commemorate the moments, and put on makeup. By 10am they were every five minutes, and each one was still very comfortable with my hypnosis. Instead of registering pain, Hypnobabies taught me to train my mind and body into experiencing it as pressure. I imagined a big bear hug or a blood pressure cuff, squeezing intensely and then relaxing. After each wave I smiled and remembered that each one brought me closer to meeting Jacey. It was very peaceful and honestly not painful. My loudest moment the entirety of my pressure waves was a soft “mmmmm.”
By 12pm I noticed that if I got up and walked between waves, they would come very quickly, about every two minutes. If I stayed lying down in the side position I was so comfortable in, they continued between 5 and 8 minutes. They didn’t seem to be getting longer in length though, 10-30 seconds each one, so we still weren’t sure this could be it. We decided to download a contraction timing app and when we did we were startled to realize that actually each one was five minutes apart approximately (or closer) and lasting 50 seconds to a minute or more! I was so comfortable with my hypnosis that I thought my waves were much shorter than they actually were! At that point we let my sister know she should come pick Everly up when she woke up from her nap at 1pm, and we called our Midwife Susie to let her know that she could come whenever she wrapped up what she was doing. We still thought it was going WAY too easy for it to be anytime soon, but the numbers were looking like it was going to be soon.
About a half hour after Rachel got Everly and Susie arrived, after we took our last family photo of the three of us (I was in between waves here, and since I was up and moving knew I only had about two minutes to snap the photo and go lay down again! They were coming very quickly if I got up and walked around), Susie and I discussed doing a cervical check. I hadn’t had any and didn’t plan on it for my entire pregnancy, but we couldn’t decide whether it was time to call my photographer who lived over an hour away since I still felt it couldn’t possibly be almost time. She suggested that she do the check but not tell me any numbers (I didn’t want to be discouraged or falsely encouraged by them), and that she would only tell me whether she thought I should call my photographer. I agreed. As she did the exam her expression changed from passive to surprise as she said “Oh! It’s good news. Do you want to know if it’s really good news?” Of course I said yes. At 2pm, she said I was already 7cm and 90% effaced! When I was in the hospitable with Everly and this comfortable, I’d been only 3cm, so that was amazing news! We decided we’d better hurry up and call JC and things started to really get moving with getting the tub ready. I just relaxed in my side laying position for the next hour and a half, switching sides for a few waves until I decided I didn’t like that as much, and Jason did his Hypnobabies cue words with me each time. We weren’t keeping track of the waves any more, but I knew they were much closer together at this point and I believed if I’d wanted to I could really ramp things up and have the baby very soon, but I was holding off and waiting for JC to arrive!
At 3:20pm I decided to get into the pool. Though it sounded very nice and relaxing, I was really liking the position I was in and wasn’t sure I’d like a new one. The water was very soothing though, and even though being on my knees or relaxing back did make my waves a little less comfortable, I decided that I really wanted my water birth and to go ahead and go with it. By this time I knew I was in transformation (transition) because I was a little shaky and had a few moments during waves when I felt like pushes might be coming. JC arrived five minutes later, and five minutes after that my body started pushing! I knew I was holding back and so when I let go, it happened so fast. The transition to pushing waves from pressure waves was pretty intense. I was mmm-ing one second and roaring the second. It really jarred Jason because he had no idea it was coming! He scrambled to get my pushing track from Hypnobabies on and start the video camera and I did a few pushing waves without him. With Everly I never let Jason leave me for a second because it felt like I would fail if he wasn’t there during every wave, but this time, even though it was extremely intense, I was able to do it without him when I needed to. It was empowering.
Pushing was very different. I didn’t look or sound serene any more, and the intensity was mixed with pain at this point, but it was still very helpful to have Hypnobabies on to remind me to work with the waves, keep my hands and jaw relaxed and breathe out during the waves instead of gritting my teeth and bearing in. It was much easier than pushing last time! This time I was fully engaged, not being exhausted or overwhelmed at all, and besides constantly needing to be reminded to leave my legs open for the baby, I was feeling very much in control. I could feel the water bag coming through and elected to keep it intact, and before the pushing wave that brought out Jacey’s head, I even announced “Here she comes!” knowing that this would be the push that would do it. When it did indeed happen that way though I was still shocked at how fast it was all happening and how I was feeling so much more relaxed and capable and so I confirmed with Susie that I was indeed holding her head in my hands! The water bag broke as her head came out. After that I knew I wanted to push out her body in between waves if I could to help with tearing, so I did a small push on my own, and then my body gave me a bigger push that carried her right out, after only 23 minutes of pushing. I had her in my hands and brought her to my chest, with Susie holding her also to make sure she didn’t slip. She was so blueish purple and peacefully staring at me that for a second I wondered if she was breathing. I’d asked for no routine suction and no harsh rubbing down, along with as much silence as could be afforded. I wanted her to only hear mine and Jason’s voice, and for her first handling to be gentle and loving, not vigorous and rough like Everly experienced. They were so incredibly respectful of that and followed my wishes exactly. I really could not have been happier with my birthing team! After a minute Jacey cried to clear out her lungs and made scrunchy faces that looked so exactly like Everly had that it shocked me. She was a skinnier duplicate of Everly! I kissed her head and was so happy to have her in my arms. Everyone helped me get out of the tub since I was bleeding more than they would have liked, and I laid down with Jason and Jacey and we bonded while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up. The placenta was taking its sweet time and I was still bleeding so I did allow for a shot of Pitocin to get my uterus to contract. That was the only medication I had before or after my pregnancy and birth, and I was proud of that! Jacey was already unattached by this point so I didn’t mind a bit of it in me, as long as it wasn’t going into her. My tearing was second degree, which meant I didn’t have to go to the hospital to get repaired, and that’s what I’d prayed for. It did hurt more than last time though because the numbing medicine didn’t take all the way and a few of those sew-ups I felt! It’s amazing how having a new baby in your arms makes it all okay though. Under any other circumstances it would have been horrible, but that day it was just a minor issue to get through so I could be done and enjoy my baby.
Jacey Noelle Smith was born at 41 weeks and 4 days at 4:01pm at 9 lbs. 3oz and 20 3/4 inches. Even though that’s a big baby, my impression of her was that she was so small compared to Everly, so I was surprised to learn those numbers! She passed all her tests perfectly and we started nursing right away. I only weaned Everly 7 days prior, so I’d forgotten how incredibly different nursing a newborn is than a toddler! It took a bit of practice for sure.
My birth team was there until 8pm and then Jason and I got food (a Sonic breakfast burrito for me and a Whopper for Jason), ate cookies and milk in bed and watched Downton Abbey. It was so relaxing and wonderful, and quite a far cry from being bothered every 15 minutes like we had been at the hospital. I would take a home birth over a hospital birth 100/100 times! We took millions of pictures and called family, and enjoyed our only night with just Jacey. Everly came the next morning to meet her sister and it was incredibly precious. She loved her instantly, held her perfectly calmly, and tried her best not to kiss her face. I fell in love all over again with both of them, and watching Everly become a big sister has been one of the greatest joys of my life!
Jacey’s birth was perfection. I’m so happy to tell this story, and so grateful to God for giving it to me. I had a hard time processing my last one, often feeling depressed over it, and found this one to be quite healing for me. It’s amazing to me that one of the best experiences of my life can be giving birth, when our American culture always makes it out to seem so terrible 100% of the time. I definitely experienced both sides of the coin though and am glad I did now, because it makes me appreciate this one even more. Jacey is doing excellent, gaining weight after a slight breastfeeding hiccup, and our two weeks at home as a family has been wonderful. We’ve been incredibly blessed by friends and family who have brought us dinners and diapers, and we’ve been able to heal well and bond with Jacey while still giving as much attention to Everly as we can. Parts of me misses just hanging out with Everly, and of course sometimes I feel chained to the bed by my cluster-feeding infant, but overall our feelings are intense happiness and thankfulness for this beautiful journey and even more beautiful ending.
Special thanks to Susie Meeks, our midwife, and her assistants Jen and Caroline who all did an incredible job, JC with Jessica McIntosh Photography, and Rachel Ellis for keeping Everly for us even though she’s kind of a terror to get down for bed! Also big thanks for everyone who has made us meals, sent groceries and money to order in, and spoiled us with chocolate! We are so blessed to know you all and are thankful for the part you played in our story. God bless.
Jacey Noelle’s Birth Story by Jessica McIntosh Photography
Our photographer arrived right after I got into my birthing pool.
Right before this push I knew it was the one. In this one you can see her head coming out!