In honor of Labor Day here is the rest of Allie's birth story! Enjoy!
Finally at 7:45am my mom came downstairs to find me in good, strong labor. I was so relieved to see her and started crying as soon as she was next to me. My mom is incredible! She defines comfort, tenderness, understanding and empathy. Having done this 7 times herself she knew exactly what I was feeling and just the right things to quietly reinforce when the pain or intensity would overwhelm me. Her gentle words of "let the contraction go all the way down and out" and "relax your shoulders" constantly ran through my mind and really allowed me to let my body work.
Once she saw me and knew how long I'd been laboring, she suggested I try taking a shower. The BEST idea of the whole experience. I LoVeD the shower and could have stayed there till Allie was born. There was something so soothing about the water hitting my back and yet still standing to let the contractions do their job. This is also my favorite moments of Allie's birth. I was all alone (my mom and Matt were upstairs in my parent's bathroom getting the jet tub ready for me) with my thoughts and prayers. This is when Psalm 62 played over and over again in my head. This is when I told the Lord, I don't like this, I don't want to do this and I just want it over. I poured out my fears, prayed once again that the Lord would meet me during this birth and keep me from a really long labor. And He responded so graciously. It was almost as if He spoke audibly..."Ashley, I have created you to have this baby. Trust Me. Put your full dependence on Me and believe that I will be right there with you. Have faith that I have heard your cry and will answer you." I cried again. I didn't know that this was going to be so different from my last experience but in my vulnerability I thanked the Lord that He had quickened me to pray to Him rather than do this on my own strength. Birth is emotional!
From the shower I moved ever so slowly to the tub upstairs. A memory in and of itself. I think I had 2 or 3 contractions during that time which all were within earshot of poor Reese. Even though she hadn't seen me at all that morning, she knew it was me making the noise and she didn't like it. She wailed as I moaned and it broke my heart that I couldn't be the one to comfort her and tell her everything was alright and Allie was on her way. Thankfully being upstairs took me far enough away that she couldn't hear me. I didn't like the tub as much because I had to sit down. The contractions seemed almost unbearable and I found I had to keep changing positions to try to find the best one. I'm so glad my mom was right there with me through these. When Matt had finished loading up the truck with our things for the birth center, he told me he thought it would be a good idea to get out of the tub, go for a walk, try the tub again after that and then call Judi. I looked at him just as a contraction finished and said there is no way I'm going on a walk!! Before this I had been compliant with all his suggestions. Up until this point. This is how he knew I was serious and he realized he needed to listen to what I wanted to do. My mom encouraged him to call Judi and see what she thought. Her thought was Judi might tell me to go on the walk and then I would. So Matt called and Judi thought we had gone back to sleep after my first bath at 4:40am. She said that because we hadn't called her back she believed my labor had stalled. Then, what makes me laugh now, is she said, "Matt, is that Ashley I'm hearing?! Matt said yes and she said "You need to get to the birth center NOW!" Matt said great and we would be there in 10 minutes. Little did we know that she was at a hair appointment and told the gal she needed to rinse out the dye right then because she had to get to a birth!
When Matt told me Judi's words, I got really excited. Finally! We were leaving the house and I was so ready to go! The ride wasn't that bad. Maybe adrenaline was carrying me through here. I had 3 or 4 contractions and felt every.single.bump but Matt was a good, calm driver and got us there safely. Just as we arrived at the birth center and I was getting out of the truck, I heard Judi's car screaming down the road. What a rush to see your midwife in a hurry for you! :) She was immediately by my side with her hand on my back just as another contraction started. She ushered us right upstairs to our waiting and prepped room and had me get on the bed to check my dilation. With a smile on her face she announced, you are a 7!!! I couldn't believe my ears. And yes, I cried again! (As the tears started she leaned over and whispered, it's ok to cry, Ashley. You're releasing hormones and that is completely fine and GOOD for you) Thank you, Lord! I really, really had prepared myself to hear a 3 or 4 cm dilated. A 7 blew me out of the water!
They turned on the jet tub and this time with directions from Judi about how I needed to relax, the tub felt different. She had me think about being in Hawaii floating in the warm water and letting everything go as the waves washed over me. Funny. I would have rather been anywhere than there at that moment but I worked to do the best I could to listen to her instructions and follow them. She said to me...you can either do this the hard or easy way. The hard would be to resist every contraction and to fight what was happening to your body. The easy way...embrace and surrender to all the feelings. I so wanted the easy, fast way! What's amazing to me, though, is how I wanted to be in sync with my body. I wanted to work with it and to not resist. During Reese's labor, at the end of those grueling 39 hours, I physically could NOT relax, could not work with the contractions and felt completely overwhelmed. Almost as if my body was literally shutting down. Here in these moments with Allie that feeling was so foreign. I know it is the work of the Lord and Him answering so many of yours and my prayers! In fact, because I was able to function and work through the contractions I asked Judi when I was going to be in transition. This is what I had been taught was the hardest part of labor. She said, "Honey, you were in transition when you got here." I literally couldn't believe my ears. This was as hard as it was going to get? I didn't have to prepare myself for something even more difficult? I really believe this news gave me the energy to finish well.
The next two hours seemed to go on forever and yet were so quick. That's a contrary statement in and of itself but it's true. The contractions were long, intense and took lots of work to remain calm and relaxed. Matt was my rock throughout this time. As soon as a contraction would start, I would lock eyes with him and together we would ride out the waves. I found myself drawing from his strength and energy. He was the biggest encourager that I could do this and that so very soon we would have our baby. Judi asked me if I wanted to still try and deliver in the tub to which I said yes. Up to this point my water remained intact and Judi thought that breaking it would help to finish up my dilating. I remember being nervous to let her do it just because I had heard how painful labor becomes once that cushion is gone. She felt that at this point it wouldn't matter and so I gave the go ahead. Things went quickly from here but because there was meconium in Allie's fluid Judi thought it best to deliver on the bed. The next few contractions were strange as I felt my body changing from 1st stage labor to 2nd. That incredible urge to push came; something I'd not experienced with Reese because of the epidural I finally gave in to to finish my 40 hour marathon. Such a powerfully strong sensation and almost surreal as though my body took over and I stepped back to get out of it's way.
Pushing was my least favorite part of delivery. I had looked forward to this moment having been told by many that you finally get to do something about those contractions rather than just endure them. But wow! It wasn't even so much the "ring of fire" I'd heard about. I think it just boiled down to a baby passing through such a small area. It hurt. A lot. And with each push I was making it hurt more. I just wanted her out. I remember going from a gut-wrenching push to all of a sudden yelling. Judi so calmly and lovingly told me to put that energy right back into pushing. That's where I wanted to give up. I didn't want to keep going to experience more pain but there was no choice. I just wanted this to be over. (side note: Judi's calm amidst the storm raging in my body was the biggest comfort. I half expected her to be just as worked up as I was but her strength and gentleness put me at ease. I knew I could trust her with my life. She allowed me to push a lot sooner than maybe a hospital would as she helped melt away the last of my cervix that wasn't dilating. She told me just what to do when and I loved her for it). I'm told that I pushed for 4 maybe 5 contractions which is about 3 pushes during each. Again it felt like forever but was only about 30 minutes. At 12 noon exactly little Allie Joelle Mehringer entered the world. She was put right on my stomach and the midwives realized that the cord was wrapped around her ankles. The reason that it took 30 minutes instead of maybe 10. The cord kept pulling her back in as I would push her out.
I'm really without words to describe the overall experience. Yes, I was in pain after just having had a baby but at the same time I felt so powerful, victorious and full of praise to my God that He brought me through this! I kept thinking...if I can do this so can every other woman! I'm such a wimp when it comes to sickness or pain. I hate it. Those that know me well know I'm the first to admit I'm sick and will ask for prayer to be better SOON! So to go through this with no pain meds and to come out on the other end elated and excited only proved to me that it can be done!! Another realization about Allie's birth is that not one time did I say I couldn't do it and that we'd never have any more kids. Those were words that poured from my mouth with Reese. Not so with Allie and I give God all the glory for that! My belief that natural birth works is restored and it is my prayer that from here on out we can have the rest of our babies with Judi. Both her and Jessica were the biggest blessings and it is because of their service to us that we had such an amazing experience.