the magnificent story of MAPLE JANE RANS
where to start? where to begin?
(if you don’t want a butt-load of back story, scroll down till you see a picture of a sunrise and start reading there)
let’s go back to:
February 26, 2019
Kasey texted and asked for my best guesses on when Maple would be born; she was trying to decide when to fly down. I hadn't thought about it much, but sort of felt like she was going to come early. I opened the calendar on my phone so it showed half of March and half of April, closed my eyes, and touched the screen. When I looked, my finger was pointing to April 3rd. That was only 5 days early, so it seemed like the perfect early date to guess. From then on, that's when I told people Maple would be here.
Around that same time, David and I decided to book a last minute weekend getaway at the Cambria Pines Lodge. The only weekend we had free was the week before her due date – risky, but worth the chance to get one last night alone together. We’d get home on April 1st, so if my guess was right, there’d still be 2 more days to prepare for Maple.
fast forward to:
March 30, 2019
Our special weekend was finally here and we were feeling so ready to get away. I had gotten everything set for the home birth and my family was in town to play with Gideon while we were gone. We left in peace, knowing everything was taken care of at home, especially our favorite little boy.
It was a wonderful 2 days of cliffside ocean walks, fancy dinners, king-size bed snuggles ;) , long breakfasts, games of cards, a drive up the coast, and a dip in the hot tub. By breakfast Monday morning, we were both feeling refreshed and fully prepared for Maple to come.
In 3 days we went from an anxious, "Stay in there Maple!", to an enthusiastic, "Okay, you can come now!". We were so so excited to meet our sweet girl.
April 1, 2019
To finish off our special weekend, I went to get my nails done with my friend Perri, treating myself to some extra pampering, in hopes that the big day was just around the corner. Before I got in bed that night, I went over to my weekly calendar on the fridge and wrote "Maple" on Wednesday, April 3rd, in faith that she would be with us that day.
April 2, 2019
Tuesday morning, I woke feeling slightly nervous that my hopes of an early labor were merely hopes. Fortunately, I wasn’t left thinking about that for too long. My friends, the Saiki's, had planned to take Gideon for the morning so I could rest and get things done. A couple hours by myself meant catching up on so many things “I’d been meaning to do” for a while and soon all those nerves about Maple’s due date were lost in the distraction. I ran a bunch of errands, got my car washed, and cleaned up the house.
Gideon skipped nap that day, but was in a great mood and happily joined me in my puttering.
We picked spinach in the garden in preparation to make a big batch of pesto and then got out the instant pot to make pulled beef to freeze for our busy newborn days ahead. I had an ongoing list of “last to dos” and I was determined to check them all off before Maple was here.
At 3:30 we headed to SLO for my second to last prenatal appointment. When I got there I told Tiffany (my midwife) that I was feeling “ripe for the picking”. I had been noticing more mucus when I went to the bathroom the past two days and felt like I could poop all day long (you’d have to be pregnant to understand that haha). She said, "Yep, probably Thursday or Friday then.".
I left the appointment thinking, "Fingers crossed, maybe tonight.". I was in a great mood!
Gideon and I went to Trader Joes and loaded up on all our favorite things, plus some extra goodies like White Cheddar Puffs and my weakness – fudge chip ice cream. I even grabbed pizza ingredients, feeling like making an extra special dinner that night.
When we got home, I was still on that energy high. We put the groceries away, portioned the pulled beef into ziplocs fir the freezer, and made the pesto. I was on a roll and nothing could stop me. I marked beef and pesto off my list and hunted for the next one to tackle. I was checking things off like it was my job!
David got home at 6 and we put Gideon to bed early after a long, busy day. I made the pizza, we devoured it, and then scrubbed the kitchen and tidied up the house till everything was in its proper place. At this point, I was (finally) starting to loose steam, but somehow was able to muster up one last bit of motivation when I saw the big, neglected stack of mail and important papers that I’d put in the middle of our bed earlier that day (knowing I’d have to face it before we got into bed that night).
Those papers had been haunting me for weeks and neither of us wanted to stay up late doing this, but it was on my list, and once we were done, we were both happy to check it off. I crawled into bed completely exhausted and sat there for a minute before lying down, trying to listen to any patterns/rhythms in my body. I found nothing, and immediately felt another wave of nerves that I was just getting my hopes up for a long week of waiting ahead. I collapsed onto my pillow and thankfully, fell asleep fast before I could spend any more time dwelling on that thought.
and suddenly it was:
April 3, 2019
I had a good night's sleep and woke up Wednesday morning, naturally at 6:40am, before Gideon (that rarely happens), to a beautiful, fiery, pink sunrise. I hadn't caught any colorful mornings since the spring time change – it was just glorious – and I was hit instantly with a really good feeling. I couldn't help but think, "Today is the day!" Still, I laid there as I waited for my boys to wake, and surrendered all my hopes and plans to the Lord. He knew Maple's day and, above all, I truly desired His plan for her life, but I couldn’t help but end my prayer with, “How about today, Lord?”
I jumped in the shower when David went to get Gideon up, feeling slightly giddy, like I knew something nobody else knew (kind of the same feeling I had right before we found out we were having a girl). And then, as the warm water poured over me I had a stroke of genius. David should stay home from work and we should have a family day! I mean, it could be our last day as a family of three…
I coaxed a yes out of David by suggesting breakfast on the Embarcadero, overlooking the water. I have never known David to deny breakfast out, so, I knew he wouldn't be able to resist. Muahaha
It had rained the night before and it was a crisp, sunny day. (I just love that after the rain freshness; it perfectly fit the mood of the day.) I was practically hopping in my seat as we drove out on South Bay, along the estuary. David looked over at me, with a trace of nervousness in his eyes. I saw the look and said, "I'm flexing my faith bone, David.". I've never said those words before, but it was exactly how I felt. Nothing was guiding me at that point, but faith.
It was the most wonderful morning, just the three of us.
Morro Bay on a Tuesday morning is quiet and calm. Just us, some families still on spring break, and the retired enjoying our cups of coffee as we basked in the beauty of the central coast.
We tried out a new spot, the Blue Sky Bistro, on the opposite end of the Embarcadero as the Rock, an area I hadn't explored much. I ordered "The Rock" scramble – a big, hearty meal, loaded with protein. I couldn't help but think of my mother-in-law’s story of eating a huge breakfast the day she had David and throwing it all up later. I hoped that wouldn't be me, but knew I should get one good meal in if I was to go into labor anytime soon.
Gideon was in the best mood, and I was in the best mood because we were all together. It's the joy of my heart to watch my husband and son play together – they really are the best of friends.
After finishing up breakfast, we drove over to the boardwalk and took a leisurely stroll to the south side of Morro Rock. The water was glassy and crystal clear as the sun wasn't high in the sky yet. All the otters were out enjoying the sun and Gideon was out enjoying the remnants of the rain. He splashed and ran and fell in the puddles with glee! He made everyone's day as they watched him get happily, soaking wet. I felt so thankful for our life.
We walked back to the car and I was shocked I hadn't started having stronger contractions yet. Braxton Hicks were a regular occurrence of this pregnancy since 12 weeks, so they weren't telling me much. They had increased a lot in the last week and were definitely feeling stronger, but I told myself I wasn’t allowed to get excited till I saw a pattern in my contractions or had bloody show. I’m telling you, every time I went to the bathroom that morning, I wiped with eyes closed tight, hoping to see red when I opened them. But every time, it was clear.
I felt like doing some more walking before Gideon went down for a nap, so we headed over to Cloisters Park and to play and take another walk out to the beach. I was seriously surprised after all that walking that I wasn't at least feeling a little crampy. Haha
Alas, we headed home to rest. Perri had told me about contraction tracking apps and I decided to install one as we drove home just to see if my Braxton Hicks had fallen into any trackable pattern yet. I tracked a few and noticed I was having one at least every 10 minutes or less, but some were short while others were long. Nothing to get excited over.
Earlier, we had joked about today being our last chance to have sex for a while, and after putting Gideon down, it seemed like the right way to spend our time alone. Plus, we've all read sex can induce labor so...WIN, WIN! We did our thing and then snuggled up in bed to nap ourselves.
I woke after an hour feeling crampy. "Could these be real contractions!?" (insert happy grin) I then immediately remembered a few things I hadn’t gathered yet for the home birth and hopped up to get those things together. I reopened the tracker app and committed to tracking for a full hour before I woke David with any news. The app had funny notifications as you tracked like "things are moving but this isn't really labor yet", or "get your bags ready, you're getting close", and my favorite, after an hour of tracking, "go to the hospital". Haha
I woke up David with a huge smile on my face. "I'm pretty sure I'm in labor!" Gideon wasn't even awake yet. I called the answering service to get ahold of Tiffany and tell her the news. It all felt so surreal, making steps toward preparing for the actual birth.
David's parents weren't in town yet, so we called the Saikis to come get Gideon for a sleepover. I had casually told them earlier in the day, to not go out of cellphone range in case I went into labor, and I'll never forget the joy in Heather's voice when I called the second time and she said, "OKAY! I was trying not to get my hopes up too much this morning when you said something, in case the anticipation was gonna last for a week or more, but now I'm REALLY excited!".
"Me too!" I said, all starry eyed.
I sat on the trunk, by the window in the living room, and chatted with Heather about how I was feeling when I suddenly began to question myself. I hadn’t felt a contraction or any tightness the whole time we were on the phone. But once I got up they started again in the same rhythm.
Gideon woke up cranky and David took him to the backyard to swing while I made myself some yogurt and berries. I figured I should eat now while I still felt up to it.
Tiffany called back while they were swinging and David answered. She told him she knew after I left the birth center the day prior that I would be calling within the next 48 hours. I got on and told her what I was experiencing and she told me that I could ask them to come whenever I felt like I needed company, and that I could probably expect things to start moving really quickly after we put Gideon to bed. After we got off the phone, I wondered how that comment would apply to us since Gideon wasn't going to sleep at home that night.
We set up our bedroom with the pool and supplies we needed for the home birth while we waited for the Saikis. I was still moving around the house easily and comfortably at this point.
The Saiki's arrived with flowers in hand (of course) and prayers on their hearts. I had them take one last picture of us as a family of three and then they laid hands on my belly and blessed me and Maple and the night ahead of us.
Gideon, his stuffed monkey, and pack n play were loaded up and we were about to say goodbye when someone said we should all guess what time Maple would be born. We began naming times when our friends, Hannah and Buddy drove up. Apparently they had driven by on their way for an evening hike and saw us all in front of the house and wondered what was going on.
"Hey! We need you to deliver a pizza!?", I yelled as they pulled up.
Hannah retorted, "I don't do delivery anymore."
"But I will be tonight, and I'm gonna need some pizza when I'm done!" I laughed, thinking I was hilarious.
"What? Are you gonna have a baby!?" Hannah said with wide eyes.
"YEP!" I said, grinning ear to ear.
They parked at the end of the driveway and hopped out.
"NO WAYYY." What are you doing out here then?" Hannah and Buddy were both shocked at the super laid back scene taking place.
Didn’t she just say she was about to have a baby?
That was actually a good question. How was I so casually hanging out with my friends when I was apparently en route to give birth to my second child?
I just bounced and swayed through the contractions that were still so bearable, sometimes bending my knees and leaning forward at a peek moment. It was kind of shocking how good I still felt.
Sam guessed the earliest time, 9:42pm and Hannah made a "sorry" face when she said the latest – three in the morning; she knew I was gunning for April 3rd as Maple's birthday.
One last quick prayer for no back labor (like I had with Gideon) and they were off and David and I were finally alone.
I went to our bedroom, turned on the fan and worship music, and asked David to get me some Recharge (an electrolyte drink) to begin boosting my system. He texted our close friends and family to tell them our baby girl was coming.
It was crazy how, just like Tiffany said, (although it wasn't putting him to bed) once taking care of Gideon was off my mind, the labor really did jump into action. I first began squatting with the contractions (the way I did in my last labor) but decided I should try something new this time and switched to swaying and moving in a more rhythmic motion. Things were ramping up quickly, but I was still totally handling it.
At one point I was squatting during a contraction, noticed some crumbs on the carpet and began grabbing them off the ground. When the contraction ended, I turned to David, who was laying on the bed laughing at me and asked him if he could do a quick vacuum of the house. He was still cracking up as he went to get the vacuum.
I tried sitting in between contractions, attempting to conserve energy, but when I began to notice the contractions moving farther apart, I decided to stay on my feet. I didn't want to drag the process out; I was ready to have this baby! I also experimenting with bouncing on an exercise ball which is something I didn't do last time. I wasn't a fan of that either, so back on my feet, I swayed and moved, squatted and danced through each contraction. I felt inspired to pray for Perri, who would also be in labor soon. My prayers felt so powerful in that space. I declared the goodness of God over us and our babies and our ability to do all things through Him who gives us strength.
Everything moved so quickly, and by seven I was ready to get in the pool. Tiffany told me that when “contractions are regular and strong, fill the tub part way with straight hot water”. For some reason I still wasn't quite sure if I was in real-deal active labor. My contractions were regular and they were strong but I had on my mind that they needed to be 3 to 4 minutes apart which they weren’t always. I looked it up to be sure, and all of the sudden remembered the 5-1-1 rule - contractions every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour. Finally I admitted that I must be much closer than I thought.
I told David to get the tub filling. I knew I was close now, but how close? Did I want company yet?
I had a really intense contraction and during it said, "Okay, I think I'm ready for company". But when it ended I changed my mind and said "I don't know actually.". David decided to make the call fir me and told Tiffany that we were ready for them to come. That was at 7:10. (Thank God for husbands – amiright?")
After every contraction I felt like I needed to pee and sat on the toilet. Eventually, I decided I was over pulling my underwear up and down, up and down, and decided to just take them off.
A couple strong, uncomfortable contractions came and I thought about the back labor I experienced with Gideon and although I wasn't having any yet, I decided to try to poop, hoping that would alleviate any impending back labor to come. I was able to get some out and was happy about that. (What I didn't realize in the moment though, is that pushing out a poop is not much different than pushing for the baby...)
I walked out of the bathroom, and felt a contraction coming. I spread my legs wide apart and did a slow deep squat as it began to build, when suddenly, at the bottom of the squat, my water broke – more like BURSTED! It was like someone popping a water balloon with a needle. My waters shot out very intensely. It was actually really cool. I can't explain it, but I felt really excited about it happening that way!
"MY WATER JUST BROKE!", I yelled to David from the back! He came running in and said something about us having a good amount of time before she's born, but I told him I wasn’t sure, I remembered people telling me that when it breaks like that, it means the baby is coming quick!
David texted Tiffany about it right away, and she immediately called back.
"I'm on my way. I'll be there in 10 minutes. But if she has the baby without me, that's okay.". She wasn’t one bit worried.
David told me what she said and we both laughed. David wasn't really aware that she was being serious. I think I was though. A scenario of David catching Maple flashed through my head. It didn't scare me though. It actually felt like something we might experience at some point in our life, but not that day. I wanted Tiffany there for the birth.
Before I knew it, someone arrived - it was Natalie (one of the student midwives). She saw me squatting and said in a very calm voice, "Tiffany will be here really soon. Why don't you get on the bed?".
Part of me was hesitant because I hated laying down when I was in labor with Gideon, but I figured she was only suggesting it because it would help keep the baby in till Tiff arrived. Natalie told me later that when she walked in and saw me squatting she was thinking, "Oh crap, this baby is just gonna shoot out of her like that.". (Not her exact words but something along those lines. Haha)
I went over to to the bed, which is when I noticed that Gus was still in the room, curled up in a blanket on the floor. I laughed and then said, “David, get him out of here!”. Things had moved so quickly that Hannah and Buddy hadn’t come to get him yet. David swooped in and carried him out, as I crawled into the bed and laid on my side, holding my big round belly. A contraction came and I squeezed my legs together and moaned. It was not easy laying there. I wasn't even thinking about pushing. I was just waiting till I saw Tiffany
The 10 minutes laying there on the bed, passed quickly, and soon Tiffany was there – her cheery, peaceful self.
"You look great Natalie!".
"Do you want to check me?", I asked.
"I can, but I guarantee if you stick your fingers up there you'll feel her head.
I lifted my leg and reached in and immediately felt a fuzzy hard thing - her head was right there! (“I guess that's what bursted my waters!” I thought to myself.) I told David to do the same and he was shocked to also, so clearly feel her head.
Not too long after having Gideon, I read a birth story where the woman described how she always “let her body do most of the work during labor and only pushed when the baby was really ready to come out”. After pushing for 2 hours with Gideon, this was a very intriguing concept to hear about. I was so excited to try this out with my next baby. Well, without having to mentally make the decision while in labor with Maple, that was exactly what happened. The contractions had done all the work and she was right on the brink of coming into the world, she just needed a little push – or a big one.
"Can I start pushing?", I asked excitedly.
"Do whatever you want. I'm here when you're ready.", Tiffany said.
I knew I was ready, but I didn't know where/how I wanted to have her.
"Can I get in the tub?", Tiffany felt the water and said, “Unfortunately no, the water is too cold.”.
“Did I want to get up and squat?,” I thought, “No.”. I was stumped.
"You can just lift a leg and push right there. You don't have to move." She suggested.
I lifted my leg up with the next contraction but knew instantly that I didn't like that position. I pulled it back in and moaned and grabbed the pillow. I was naturally starting to turn over and suddenly remembered a dream I had at 12 weeks pregnant.
In the dream I was in labor. Everything had gone really fast and I was on hands and knees. The baby came out easy and fast. I grabbed the baby and spread it’s legs to check the gender and it was a girl! I woke up and knew God had told me the gender of our baby. I also always felt strongly that God had showed me a glimpse into her birth story.
Well, hands and knees was another position I, strongly disliked in labor with Gideon. Although, I didn't try it when pushing with him, and had been told by a friend that it feels much better pushing than just with contractions. I felt like maybe God really had shown me a glimpse into having this baby and decided to just go for it. I jumped up (well at least it felt like I did haha) onto my hands and knees on the bed and with the next contraction went for a push. I instantly felt the "ring of fire" sensation – her head was entering the birth canal – and remembered what pushing feels like and decided to stop. It was the strangest feeling; I felt her retract and went form the burning feeling to the powerful, intense feeling of the contraction. After the contraction ended, I made the decision that if I was going to push, I was going to push her out completely.
The next one was coming and I moved my hands and feet so they felt really firm and solid for the big push.
And then the song Fight My Battles came on! It was epic haha
Play this song as you read the rest of the story!
I began to push and she moved into the canal again. The push was long and strong and I held onto it. I could and also couldn't believe it when I felt her head crowning. I reached down and cradled my hand on her head as it came out and heard them exclaim, “7:40! She's born!”
Hearing that made extending the push to get her body out feel so easy. The rest of her body was out, and without thinking I just grabbed her and brought her close as I turned over to lay down. She cried and I was full of emotion. "I LOVE YOU!", I said.
"Just be careful of the umbilical chord.”, they said and helped me get comfortable as I held my baby close.
I love the freedom of birth with midwives. The trust, the comfort, the ease.
David laid down next to me and we gazed at our sweet Maple girl. She was here! We couldn't believe it. It seemed too easy. Somehow we cheated the system. How was it over already? It was so crazy, so funny. Gideon probably wasn't even in bed yet. I felt amazing! I was so happy!
Maple was covered in a thick, creamy, white layer of vernix caseosa. She was perfect.
I pushed out the placenta easy and David cut the chord. She nursed pretty easily after taking a few cracks at her hands first. (She must have been practicing on it in the womb and needed a little refresher.)
I held her for a long time before they did her newborn examination. 8 lb 4 oz. and 21 1/4 in. long of baby perfection. They said the cartilage in her left ear was slightly underdeveloped which told them that her gestational age of 39 weeks was probably accurate. That was pretty cool to hear.
Natalie and Gloria helped me shower and then cleaned up the room for us. I hopped into a newly made bed, ready for pizza. Hannah and Buddy dropped it off not long after she was born. How's that for timing! Haha
Soon enough we were alone again, and I chowed down on the Nichols pizza and sipped a glass of prosecco as I cradled our first daughter in my arms. I felt like the luckiest girl all over again.
Our friend Sam had prayed, just days before, that everything I desired for her birth would come to pass, and that's exactly what happened and so much more. I was believing for a short, easy, comfortable labor, and that’s what I got. It had been the perfect day, and start to a beautiful lifetime with Maple.