Disclaimer: Speaking, let alone writing intelligible sentences 3 weeks postpartum is proving to be challenging. This birth story is LONG, as was the labor and I am sure is full of typos. Please excuse them…I just needed to start somewhere before I forget the details.
Your sister and I baked you a peach pie as a way of asking (maybe begging,) you to come meet us and join our baking adventures. You took our bait, although took your own sweet time coming into this world. The entire pie was gone before you were even born. And so, I find it most appropriate to bake another peach pie (only possible because nanny is here to help me,) and remember your beautiful birth…
On the night of June 4th at 41 + 4 days pregnant, I went to sleep begging to you start the process of coming into this world. The next morning my last midwife appointment was scheduled and I did not want to pedal 5 miles there and 5 miles back. Up until 41 weeks riding my bike was a dream. It uplifted my spirits and was probably the only time I didn’t dwell on all the aches and pains that comes at the very end of pregnancy. However, I was feeling quite emotional and tired and I did not want to wake up early and leave our apartment. So, I was giddy with excitement when I woke on Thursday morning and noticed I was loosing my mucus plug and had what is called “bloody show.” Both are two signs that labor is imminent. I started to calculate that most likely you would be born on June 7th, a day I always knew would be special. I called Angela, my midwife and told her what was happening. She thought it would be best to stay home because the mild contractions I was feeling would most likely start to escalate and she didn’t want me to tire myself out by riding my bike to her. Great news, I could stay home! I was so excited I couldn’t really rest though.
Your Dad and I started cleaning our apartment and getting things set up for your birth. I made a grocery list of the snacks and drinks I wanted for labor and your dad and Octave biked to the store and left me to rest. In the afternoon nana came to pick up your sister so that we could have a good nights rest and some time just the two of us.
That day I had contractions that were different from the Braxton hicks contractions I had experienced the weeks prior, however they were mild enough that I could continue to go about my daily activities. They continued that entire day and I went to bed slightly bummed that nothing more was happening, but excited because I knew it had to be soon.
On Friday Angela suggested I come to her for my last appointment seeing as though I still was still not in labor. While I would love to sound like a rock star and tell you that I biked there, I didn’t. Your nana came and picked me up. When Angela checked my cervix it was soft and dilated to a 3 but not yet effaced. She suggested I go get some acupuncture after my appointment with her and was hopeful that it would set me into labor. Acupuncture was exactly what I needed because as I laid on the table with needles in all my favorite points, I started feeling the most intense contraction yet. They kept coming a few minutes apart and it was almost getting hard to continue to be still on the table. When the acupuncturist came back in the room I told her the point under my knee and along the outside of my shin kept calling my name and asked to be needled. Ironically she told me she was on her way back in to stimulate the needles and add another one there. That point translates to “run three miles,” and it is a great point for endurance. My body and my acupuncturist’s intuition must have known that I was about to forgo two nights of sleep and be in labor for 48 hours. This point may have been my saving grace. I got off the table and felt like a new woman. I felt ready for labor and could feel it coming on. Before leaving my appointment the acupuncturist took me into the sunlight to examine my ears. In Chinese medicine there is a way to tell the sex of the baby based on the veins on the mothers ears. It was kind of hard to tell but she thought I had a little more on my right side (the female side.) This made your nana boast with confidence because she is the only person who was adamant you were a little girl. Everyone else, family, friends and even strangers always commented on how they thought you were a boy.
Nana drove me home and the contractions continued to get stronger. They were still very manageable but I was starting to get a little moody and did not want to be in the car anymore. Nana stayed with me until your dad got home from work and she took Octave another night for us. Your dad and I ate one our favorite meals, the Brian’s Bowl from Por Que No, and then walked our street to help keep the contractions going. The intensity of them died down but they were coming every 3-5 minutes. I went back home, took a bath and went to bed early. After an hour of lying in bed my contractions got stronger and it was too uncomfortable to lay flat. I went back into the tub and hung out there for a few hours. I woke your dad up around midnight and asked him to time my contractions. He laid down in the bathroom with me while I breathed through my contractions that were coming every 3 minutes. I was feeling more but I was trying my hardest to play it cool. I kept thinking that it was just the beginning and I didn’t want to admit that it hurt yet. But truthfully it did hurt and I was resisting these contractions rather than embracing them. I wanted to call Angela because I really felt like things might progress quickly, but I doubted myself and did not want to call her over in the middle of the night for nothing. When I eventually called her an hour later, she told me that she didn’t think I was in active labor yet and to just lay down and try to get some sleep. I was frustrated because while I may not have been in active labor, my contractions were still strong and frequent enough to keep me from sleeping. In fact, I wasn’t even able to be anywhere other than the shower for the entire night and into the early morning.
The next morning Angela and Maggie, her midwife in training, came over to check my cervix and just see how I was doing. When they got there my contractions started to calm down and come less often. They assured me I was not in active labor yet but my body was in early labor and preparing. My cervix was dilated to a 4 and I was completely effaced. I was encouraged that even though my body was moving slowly, things were happening. However I had not slept a wink that night and was pretty darn exhausted. Thankfully my contractions stopped for about an hour and I was able to sleep an hour before waking up to a good contraction. That whole day was the same story as the evening and night before. I had contractions that ranged from 3-7 minutes apart that were strong enough I couldn’t sleep or lay down but not so intense that I felt like I needed the birth tub just yet. I kept feeling like my body was ready to have you but something was holding me back.
I got a call from Angela around 8 pm on Saturday the 7th. She wanted to come up with a plan for me. She asked if I knew why my labor was not progressing. Maybe she sensed I was holding back something. I burst into tears and admitted that I was scared. I wasn’t scared that you or I were unsafe, because I knew we were just fine. I was not scared that anything was going wrong, I was simply afraid of my own body. If I was having a hard time with the contractions so far and they were telling me I wasn’t even in active labor yet, I was terrified I would not be able to last through the hardest work yet. I was embarrassed that maybe I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I started to doubt myself, especially with little to no sleep over the last few days. Crying and admitting I was scared is exactly what I needed. She guided me through some images and spoke positive, encouraging words. Within minutes I felt a change in my body. I was still on the phone with her and I started having contractions that I had to make deep low sounds though. I hung up the phone with her feeling a million times better and ready to surrender.
About 2 hours later I woke Chris up and told him I had decided it was time to have a baby. He inflated the birth tub, and started filling it with water while I rocked and moaned and moved through my contractions in the shower. Soon after we called Angela and Maggie and told them to come over. Even if I still had a long ways to go I wanted and needed their presence there. I looked at the clock when I stepped into the tub and it was 11:30pm. I was a little bummed that you would not be born on June 7th, but at that point I was so excited to meet you that I really didn't care what day you would be born. And after all, the 8th is a lucky number in the Cheney family and your Bompa and Auntie were secretly hoping you would be born on June 8th and join them in the 8 club!
By the time Angela and Maggie arrived our space was in full-out birthing mode. Lights out, candles burning, music playing and essential oils out and ready for inhaling during each contraction. I kept repeating the word “open,” under my breath as I rocked in the water on my hands and knees. As things got more intense I kept telling myself “my contractions cannot be bigger than me because they are me.” I found comfort knowing that my body was not going to give me something I couldn’t handle, and so I had to keep my mind on those words as to not lose focus. This went on for 6 or 7 hours. I told Angela that I felt a lot of pressure and things were starting to feel different. She called Brandee, my other midwife and told her to come over. The pressure started to get more intense and the contractions closer together and longer. At this point the water was my saving grace. I quickly realized that I was not getting any breaks between my contractions and Angela told me I was in transition. Hearing those words was a sigh of relief because I knew I was close. I had read hundreds of birth stories to know that transition was going to feel like the craziest thing I ever experienced but it meant I was close to the end.
Brandee arrived at some point during all of this. I can’t remember exactly because I was starting to go to a different place. I just remember being aware of her comforting touch and her signing me a song about my body opening up. As she sang I could actually feel my cervix open the last little bit it needed. I will never forget that feeling. Never in my life had I been so vulnerable and so open, emotionally and physically. Being aware of this was really powerful.
I had to get out of the tub to go to the bathroom, and once I was out the pain was almost paralyzing. It must have taken me 15 minutes to even get to the bathroom because I had to stop with every contraction. I finally made it to the bathroom and when I was finished I leaned over the sink working my way through the most intense contraction yet. It literally took my breath away and I wanted to panic. Brandee started lightly massaging my back and it was as if she put me in a trance. I was experiencing the most intense sensation in my life and yet I was the calmest I had ever been throughout labor. I cannot explain or even understand what was happening but I felt out of this world almost, looking down on myself and my body. I slowly walked to our bed and laid down. I laid there for what felt like 10 minutes, feeling but not feeling the contractions take over me. I suddenly popped straight up out of the bed and said I wanted to push. I walked to the bathroom, sat on the toilet one last time before I wanted to get in the tub to push and my water immediately broke. There was a huge pop sound and my water burst across the room and reached the tub. I went to the bathroom and then decided I wanted to take a really hot shower before getting in the tub. I was so happy that I had the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted during this process.
I got in the tub and the urge to push suddenly went away. I doubted that I was fully dilated and ready to push you out. I asked if I should just try to push or what to do next. My midwives reminded me that I was the one running the show and I was the one who was telling them what I was going to do next. I felt kind of silly at that point for not listening to my body. After all, this is exactly why I wanted to give birth this way.
I remember looking at the clock on our stove and seeing that it was almost 5 am. I always envisioned giving birth to you as the sun came up, so I was quite happy that it was actually happening. I could smell coffee steeping in the French press and I felt so happy that I was in my own home and that you were coming soon.
Just minutes after I felt like I wasn’t ready to push, the most shocking noise and sensation come from my body. A gutteral, primal noise came from the deepest part of me and out of my mouth. With that noise, my entire body started to involuntarily push you out. “wooow,” I said and laughed. This happened a few more times. For a few minutes I remembering thinking “this is going to be easy, I don’t even have to try to push my baby out.” Unfortunately, those natural instincts and whole body pushes were just getting you deeper into my pelvis and preparing me for the real work. At that moment complete panic set it. I felt sensations I never thought existed and my eyes were wondering the room, desperately looking for someone to connect with, someone to save me. The world felt like it was spinning and I was desperately trying to grab on for help. I locked eyes with Brandee and started to follow her breath as much as I possibly could. I had a great support system but no one could help me, no one could save. It was the most scary and liberating thing I have ever felt. I pushed and yelled and wanted to cry, but I was felt too deep into a survival mode to let my emotions take over. I pushed a few more times and Angela said she could feel your head. She asked if I wanted to feel it too, but I was more concerned with getting you out as soon as possible. After another push your head was out and I felt a sigh of relief, because the hardest part was over. One more push and out came your entire body. You came floating up to me with your back towards me. Angela and Brandee helped guide you into my arms and on my chest. I was filled with so much emotion and cried tears of joy and tears of relief. It was over. I did it! We did it! It took a minute or two to even look to see if you were a boy or girl. We asked, “who are you?” and turned you over. Even though the very last week of pregnancy I started to think you might be a girl, I was a little surprised to see that you really were. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone other than your nana, was convinced you were a boy. It was such a wonderful surprise!
Maybe 10 minutes later, we got out of the tub together with your cord still attached and transferred to the bed. You laid on my chest skin to skin while I pushed out the placenta. We cut your cord and I remember feeling slightly emotional about that moment. You were officially your very own person in this world. You found your way to my breast very quickly and latched on immediately. After a few hours I gave you to your dad for some skin on skin time with him while I went to take a shower. I came back to bed, we ate snacks, drank some coffee and cuddled with you. The midwives checked you over and weighed you. You were 7 lbs and 9 oz. of complete perfection.
When it was all said in done it was 48 hours, 10 hours of that which were considered active labor and I slept a total of one hour during that time period. While it was much longer than I had hoped for I think somehow it was exactly what I needed to understand a deep part of myself. Birthing you into this world was without a doubt one of the most epic moments of my life. I am so happy I got to experience the home water birth I always dreamed of. I am even more excited that you are finally here, my little Bijou Haru, a little lady I had anticipated for many years. You complete our little family and we love you more than you will ever know.
Peach Pie for Bijou
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cane sugar
15 tbsp. unsalted very cold butter
10-12 tbsp. ice water
Egg+ splash of milk for brushing
1-2 tbsp. turbinado sugar for dusting on top of dough
6 large ripe peaches
1/4 c. cane sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground clove
Pinch of sea salt
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a food processor combine flour, salt and sugar. Pulse until combined. Cut very cold butter into tiny bite size pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse 6-8 times, or until flour resembles tiny pebbles. One tablespoon at a time pour in ice water and pulse. To test the dough remove the lid and try to pinch the dough together. It should just barely hold together. Your dough will look more like sand and you might think that it is too dry, but as long as it just sticks together in your fingers you have achieved the correct consistency for a perfect flaky crust.
Pour crumbly dough on a large clean surface and start to frisage your dough. Watch this video to learn how. This technique always produces a flaky crust for me. Form two disks with the dough and wrap in seran wrap. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to two days.
While dough is chilling, cut peaches into bite sized pieces. You can choose to peel the skins or leave them on. I left them on but would probably choose to peel them next time. Place them in a large bowl and spices, sugar, cornstarch, flour and lemon juice. Mix together well and let sit at room temperature while you roll out your dough. This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 400′.
On a well floured surface or pastry mat roll out your dough into a 10″ circle. Place and form dough inside a 9″ pie pan. Pour peach filling inside. Roll out the second disk of dough into another 10″ circle. This is the time to cut out any shapes if you desire. Place dough on top of peaches (you want it to just come to the very edge of the pie dish. Using your thumb and index finger on one hand and your thumb on your other, scallop the dough all the way around the dish. Brush dough with one beaten egg and a splash of milk. Sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake pie on top of a large baking pan. This helps to ensure that the pie crust on the bottom gets baked all the way through. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown on top and filling is bubbling. Check your pie after 40 minutes to see if you need to place some foil on top to keep from browning too much. Let your pie cool for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.