The Birth of Baby Leah (And Why There is a Placenta in My Fridge)


Almonds drying in the oven. Steel cut oats soaking for breakfast the next morning. Shepherd’s pie awaiting to be topped with mashed potatoes and frozen the next day. Cooked chicken and broth cooling in the fridge. A double batch of protein bars, cut and individually packaged for easy consumption . Clothes all ironed . . . dirty dishes in the sink.

No, I wasn’t nesting at all. At least, I didn’t think so. Not at 37 weeks pregnant. (They say that although you’re considered full term at this point, most first-time moms deliver an average of one week after their “due” date.) So when contractions began at 12:30 that night on March 21, I was sure they were just more intense pre-labor stuff. What I thought were some painful braxton hicks woke me out of a not-so-sound sleep. My moans soon awakened my husband, who promptly grabbed the latest “app for that” and persisted in tracking my contractions on his iPhone despite my insistence that “this can’t be the real thing.” We tried several things to see if they would stop – drinking water, changing positions, walking, and sitting in a warm bath – but all to no avail. Though I  eventually convinced Caleb to go back to bed for a couple more hours, I couldn’t figure out why I was unable to sleep through the contractions. It really disturbed me that I’d awakened him, and our midwife, for what I thought was nothing. Especially since I’d just been checked the day before and nothing had indicated I was anywhere this close to having our baby.

By the time Caleb wandered back into the living room to check on me, contractions had begun to get a bit more intense and longer than the 30-40 second ones I was having at first. He’d already suspected this was the real deal, and at 8:12 am, finally insisted that we call our midwife because, he said, “I don’t want to have to deliver a baby on my own.” I agreed, and by the time she arrived, even I had to admit that something really was up . . .

After all, my contractions were now coming even more regularly, they lasted longer, and they felt different – like a band of pain starting in my front and wrapping around my lower back instead of just extreme cramps. I told Caleb: “If this isn’t real, I don’t think I could handle the real thing!”

The funny thing is, I had been determined not to have everything prepared for baby before my 38th week and have to sit around waiting anxiously for baby’s arrival. So I didn’t even have her clothes washed! My wonderful husband came to the rescue and began throwing laundry in the wash in between my contractions. I’m afraid I wasn’t much help at this point!

Our midwife, Stacie, and assistant, Laura, arrived about an hour later. After checking me, Stacie announced, “You’re at a six! You’re going to have a baby today!” I couldn’t believe I’d progressed that far already. Caleb helped me back into the tub where I found the most relief from my pain. He was an awesome coach, keeping me focused on breathing correctly and praying for me when I couldn’t find the words. I prayed for God to give me strength because I knew I couldn’t do this on my own, but most of the time all I could get out were the words, “Lord Jesus help me.”

Then we were transitioning to our bedroom, trying different positions Stacie suggested to help baby get ready to come out, and my water finally broke. (Well, the first bag anyway! Apparently I had two.) They had been unable to get the birthing tub set up on such short notice, so I ended up on the bed as I entered the pushing stage of labor.

Talk about the hardest work I’d ever done in my life! At one point I had the crazy thought of, “Whose idea was this anyway? Maybe I can just stop for now and finish this later . . . ” I started saying I couldn’t do it . . . that it hurt too much . . . but Stacie kept telling me I could and Caleb gave me oxygen which really helped me calm down . . .

Then I decided to give it all I got, and with one final push and a whoosh she came out! Stacie laid her on my belly and I came face to face with the most beautiful little baby I’d ever seen. For a minute I forgot that we didn’t know the gender yet. But soon we saw that she was a girl! (Which was what I thought all along, but everyone else was a little more surprised.) The only problem was that she’d taken quite a beating on her journey into this world and her poor little head was swelling with blood under the scalp. With a shot of vitamin k, she was soon doing much better. We thanked God for the safe arrival of our little girl – at exactly 6 pounds and 19 inches long, she was tiny but healthy.

Oh and that placenta . . . Well, I’m not planning on eating it, in case that’s what you’re wondering. I’m not THAT crunchy. You see, although our midwife and her assistant graciously cleaned up any mess after our baby was born, we were responsible for disposing of the placenta. Apparently you can’t just throw those away – that is, unless you want to chase the neighbor’s dog down who’s gotten into the trash!


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