Charlotte's Birth Story

Monday, June 24th was just a normal day.

I was still exactly 5 days away from my due date and had whole-heartedly prayed that I wouldn't be going into work that week but as 5:30am Monday morning rolled around, my alarm went off, and I was still pregnant.

I got up, got ready, and went to work.

My co-workers had talked for weeks about doing an office pool to guess when Baby Mouw would come, what gender it would be, and what it would weigh. On that Monday, five days before my due date, they started sending a form around the office for everyone to place their bets.

I didn't get to see what anyone was guessing but I kept asking if anyone had guessed that day or the next. I don't know if it was just because I was ready to be done or if I knew somehow that I was getting close.

I finished the day, tied up all my loose ends at work, and headed home. My Braxton Hicks (fake contractions) had been EXCEPTIONALLY strong that day. I even asked my best friend if she thought that was a sign I was getting close and she said that happened to her in the weeks leading up to labor. That was no help, I was hoping it meant I was within hours of labor beginning. Little did I know...

We got home that night and I felt "different". I didn't want to say anything to Nathaniel in case I was just getting really anxious but I kept thinking something was strange.

After we ate dinner I asked Nathaniel to help me outside with some yard work. He weed-whacked while I weeded our front flower beds. At that point in my pregnancy my belly was way too big for me to bend over while I pulled weeds, so I did what I call the "Squat Waddle" through the flower bed. I don't know if "Squat Waddle" is a real thing, but I basically squat down as low as I can and pivot my way through the garden so I don't have to bend over or keep getting up and down.

About 10 minutes into the "Squat Waddle" weeding, I got a very warm sensation in my lap. Most women never imagine their water will break before labor starts. It's such a Hollywood version of labor that you never think it will happen like that. I immediately stood up thinking to myself "wow, I just emptied my bladder before we came outside, I can't believe I just peed my pants". (Full disclosure for those readers who have never been pregnant before, you don't have much control over your bodily functions late in your pregnancy so peeing my pants seemed far more likely to me than my water breaking). I realized I better go inside and change my pants and get cleaned up, but on my way back into the house it happened again, a HUGE gush of warm fluid came out of me. It was then that I realized this was not just an embarrassing accident.

I started to shake a little and get very dizzy. I was overwhelmed with emotion and had no idea what was going to come next. My mind started racing. I got into the house, changed my clothes, and called my mom. Yes, my husband was still oblivious to what was going on as he continued to weed-eat outside. After I called my mom I called my Midwife. My Midwife said to call her every couple hours after my contractions started and if nothing happened to call her when I woke up in the morning. I laughed - as if I'd really be able to sleep knowing that I was hours away from meeting my child and could start labor at any moment.

During this entire time Zachary was throwing a complete tantrum because I had brought him in from outside and he wasn't done playing. I could barely even think of how to meet his needs because I was consumed with thoughts of what was about to happen. After a few more MAJOR gushes of fluid and a few more wardrobe changes, I got Zachary back outside just in time for Nathaniel to finish with the weed-whacker. I told him what happened and he couldn't believe it. We finished cleaning up outside and all headed inside to start making a plan. It was close to 8:00 at this point which is Zachary's bedtime. My mom offered for us to bring him up there for the night so that we could leave for the hospital as soon as we needed to. That made the most sense so we packed up the car and headed up to their house.

I was an emotional wreck trying to leave Zachary, knowing that he was no longer my baby. I couldn't let go of him. I wanted the world to stop for one more day, so that I could just hold him as my baby for a little bit longer. But eventually we said goodbye and headed home. I had my dad take this picture of us because he had taken the same one the night before Zachary was born:

I still wasn't having contractions at this point so I double checked that we had all of our hospital bags packed, I cleaned the entire house, and I paced the living room for quite a while. I couldn't sit still because my mind wouldn't slow down. Nathaniel told me to get in the shower and in my mind I hoped that would start my labor. I didn't know if I was ready for that, it was so nerve wracking just waiting for labor to come on that I felt paralyzed. I finally gave in and got in the shower.

Nothing happened.

By 10:00pm I started to feel defined contractions but they were about 15 minutes apart. I just felt like I had stomach cramps but I could at least tell that I was having them. Nathaniel and I decided to lay down, relax, and watch a movie. There was nothing else to do but wait. After about an hour Nathaniel decided he was going to try and get some sleep - I couldn't even think about sleeping yet. My contractions were very inconsistent and pretty mild but my mind was still racing. I turned on some re-runs of Gossip Girl and tried to keep my mind off of it. I might have dozed off a little throughout the night but mostly alternated between resting and moving around. Somewhere in the middle of the night my contractions started getting stronger but still inconsistent and pretty far apart. I got up and walked around our house trying to get things moving. Nothing was working and I was getting frustrated.

My Midwife called me at 5:15am to check on me and said that since my water had broke she wanted me to go into the hospital at 9:00am regardless of if there was a change to my contractions or not. They needed to monitor me for infection and she wanted to make sure baby was still okay. I was anxious to get to the hospital and get settled, I definitely was working hard through my contractions at this point but they were just so sporadic that I didn't know if they were doing anything.

I was feeling scared and tired. I knew that I had a long day ahead of me and kind of expected that it would have all been over at this point. My labor with Zachary from start to finish was 12 hours - I don't know if my water breaking should have started my internal clock for the beginning of labor but I had really hoped I would be holding my baby by early morning and it still seemed so far away. 

There was a moment that morning that I'll never forget - Nathaniel asked me what I was so afraid of and I said "I'm just anticipating the greatest pain of my whole life - just waiting for it to happen to me" and he responded "But it will be followed by the greatest joy of your whole life". I wanted to cry. I knew he was right and I knew that together we were going to get through this and that very soon our baby would be in my arms.

I was excited to have a plan, getting to the hospital just seemed like a good milestone to look forward to. Knowing we would have time to walk, rest, get settled, and make sure our baby was okay just gave me something else to think about for a while. I finished the morning with a few phone calls to update our family, Nathaniel and I called into work, and I still had really strong contractions about every 15-20 minutes.

As we were loading the car to head to the hospital just after 8:30, my Midwife called and told me to use my breast pump on my way to the hospital. Okay, so that might be way too much information, but this is my birth story and that breast pump played an instrumental role in it. Two minutes after I started pumping I was having contractions. The entire car ride I pumped and my contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart. It was working. What's better is that I was excited about it. I was so thankful that things were finally moving, my fear quickly disappeared and I went into focus mode. I was relaxed and ready.

In the triage room at the hospital they had to give me a test to ensure that my water actually broke - I can assure you, it really did break. Throughout the night I would guess that I had about 50 ounces of fluid come out of me. (I actually have no idea but that's what it felt like) I did A LOT of laundry that night. I soaked completely through 7 or 8 maxi pads before 11pm the night before and then had MORE fluid come out of me that morning while we were getting ready to leave. I tried to have the Nurse bet me $1000 that my water broke but she refused. The test, of course, came back positive so they admitted me.

By 10:45 am we were in our room, I had eaten and thrown up breakfast, and we were 2 episodes in to Saved by the Bell re-runs. My Midwife checked me shortly after 10:30am and I was dilated to 4cm. I pretty much expected that, labor had been so easy and relaxing at that point that I would have been shocked if I was much further than 4. My contractions were still about 5-7 minutes apart but seemed so manageable that I felt like I had a long ways to go yet. We told both of our mom's to stay at home until we got into a better rhythm because I really didn't want to have more pressure by a room full of people just sitting around watching me get through contractions. I started to think that it might be another day or so before baby would come but I was just focusing on getting into a set rhythm with my contractions and trying not to get ahead of myself. My husband was such a rockstar during this time - he met my every need, fanning me, hydrating me, and breathing with me. He offered his hand to me and let me squeeze as hard as I needed to without complaining once.

I kept thinking I wanted to get up and go for a walk but the contractions kept coming and it never felt like a good time. I was afraid that if I stood up I wouldn't be able to cope with my contractions so I stayed put. My Midwife and my nurse both recommended that I get in the jacuzzi tub. I remember reading that water is Nature's Epidural so I knew it was worth a shot. My Nurse got the tub ready for me, my Midwife got me a pillow, and my husband helped me every step of the way from the bed to the tub. My first two contractions in the tub were AWFUL. The jets were shooting right at my belly which is the worst feeling during a contraction, and I could not get comfortable. Back labor was in full swing and I just wanted to rest. But by the 3rd contraction in the tub I was feeling much better. I breathed and moaned through each contraction, I was in "the zone" and nothing was going to distract me. I never felt like I was going through different stages of labor, I felt relaxed and coherent through it all. I was totally alert between contractions and they never got much closer than 4 or 5 minutes apart - they just got longer and stronger... some lasting 3 minutes long. I don't know how many contractions took place in the tub but probably less than 10 when I started feeling pressure like I needed to push. At 11:45am my Midwife checked me again and I was at 8 cm. I went from 4cm to 8cm in about an hour - these long and strong contractions were seriously working. My Midwife wanted me to have a few more contractions in the tub before I moved to the bed to start pushing but she said I could push in the tub if I needed to. After my first contraction with no resistance to the pushing urge, I realized "This is going to hurt like (insert your worst pain phrase here)" 

At this point Nathaniel called both of our moms - knowing full well that they most likely wouldn't make it in time.

The baby had been sitting low my entire pregnancy, I actually had to go in for an extra ultra sound the week before I went into labor because I had consistently measured smaller and smaller at each of my appointments. The reason my belly measured so small is that baby was sitting so low in my pelvis. So when my water broke, baby went down even further and by the end of my labor baby was already a push away from coming out.

So back to the story: After two more contractions in the tub, my Midwife dried me off and had me move to the bed. She told me I'd probably be most comfortable on all fours since that's how I'd spent the last part of my labor. When I climbed up in bed I literally tried to cross my legs. I was so scared for what was about to happen. I got an epidural when I was dilated to 7 with Zachary so I had no idea what I was in for this time but I could tell it was not going to be fun.

I spent an entire contraction holding it in because I did not want to push... but I quickly realized there was only one way out of this. I had to push my heart out and get it over with. I was moments from meeting my child and this is just what I had to go through to get there. So I (no exaggeration) bit down on the pillow, screamed at the top of my lungs, and pushed with everything I had. I meant it when I said baby was a push away. In less than 10 seconds my Midwife was asking me what I had. It was the worst 10 seconds of my life, and, just like my husband had said, it was followed by the best.

I looked down to see my baby and (still completely paralyzed from the pain) I cried with barely any breath left in me "A GIRL". I quickly turned over so that I could have her in my arms.

I didn't want to move or talk or catch my breath - at 12:07pm on June 25th, 2013, the world stopped while I laid eyes on my daughter for the first time. Charlotte Rose broke my heart all over again and filled it with more joy than I ever could have imagined possible. It's true what they say, when you have multiple children your heart just expands and creates new space for someone else to fill. Charlotte did just that. My heart was burning as Charlotte's spirit spilled inside of it. 

My favorite part of the day was minutes after Charlotte's Birth, we all stopped and prayed. Nurses and Midwife included. It was beautiful. I still believe that the period of time following the birth of your child is the closest to heaven you can get on this earth.

About 10 minutes later my mom showed up and she had Zachary with her. Zachary met his little sister minutes after her first breath and immediately wanted to kiss her and hug her. This little girl is so very loved.

I felt guilty that my mom and my mother-in-law didn't make it to the birth when both were planning to attend, but Charlotte's birth was perfect and beautiful and was just as it was meant to be. It was something Nathaniel and I did together. My pregnancy started and ended with just us.

The rest of the grandparents showed up shortly after but the Grandpa's had to wait in the waiting room (not knowing if we had a baby or not) while Charlotte nursed for her first time.

Speaking of which - some of you may already know that breastfeeding Zachary was the biggest challenge of my life. Before he even had health problems we had a REALLY hard time breastfeeding. Zachary was tongue tied and we just had a terrible start to our breastfeeding relationship. I was so anxious about starting all over but Miss Charlotte has been the world's best nurser. We have not had a single problem, a single toe-curling latch-on, or a single bad feeding. In fact - she's almost doing too well. She eats ALL the time and I rarely get a break. But I'm so enjoying breastfeeding her, I don't take a single day of it for granted after my time breastfeeding Zachary was cut short because of his health.

Everything about Charlotte's labor, delivery, and breastfeeding has been so completely different than Zachary. Maybe it was because I made things too difficult as a first time mom or maybe it is because I only remember the struggles but I felt like everything was so hard with Zachary. Nothing felt natural about being a mom to him. I didn't adapt to Motherhood for many months and even then, it felt so hard because we were shoulder deep in a sea of health issues. I often questioned God and why he gave Zachary to me. I always felt like someone else could have done it better.

But with Charlotte, it's all been so simple. It just seems to be working and coming together. We have good and bad days, we have good and bad nights. But even the bad seems good. We really just work. This is probably going to be counteracted by years of teenage head-butting, but right now it's perfect. She's perfect. She's beautiful. And she's mine. 

I still relive that day in my head often. I think about how fast everything went and I know, without a doubt, that if my Midwife had not asked me to come into the hospital that morning we would not have made it in time. Charlotte would have certainly been born at home. My labor never felt like it was too much. I never ever thought I was getting close to the end. I never wanted an epidural or needed a break. I spent more time anticipating that it was going to get worse than anything else. My husband was the best coach I could ask for and I am so very thankful for his active role in my labor. But after such a long and uneventful night, I would have never guessed how quickly things would go and never would have been close to thinking we needed to be at the hospital if we hadn't already been there. I praise God for the world's best Midwife, and her perfect plan for my labor... because it truly was perfect.

I frequently think about my first look at Charlotte, my first memory of her on my chest. She barely cried. I kept worrying that something was wrong but she was just calm and perfect. So opposite of her high-strung brother from the first moments of her life. 

She doesn't fight her bath, she doesn't cry when she's hungry, she sleeps so much better when I am holding her than anywhere else. She's so insanely beautiful when she opens her eyes. She puckers her lips when she's being shifted around and she still curls her legs under her body when she's laying on my chest and keeps them there when I pick her up. I memorize her face because each time I look away from her she changes. My heart is now filled by 3 different people and it is so very very full. I thank God for this girl, the one that I never imagined I would have. My kids are miracles, their life is a gift, and they are so very treasured. 


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  2. Mandi I love reading your blog! Thank you for sharing your story. I can not wait to meet Charlotte!

  3. What a beautiful story! I'm so glad you are having an easier time with Charlotte. She is absolutely gorgeous.


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