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  • Writer's pictureHolly Clayburn

The Birth Of A Mermaid

I always encourage my clients to write their birth story, even if they never share it with anyone. It can help them remember small details, it helps them process, it can be freeing if they had a tough birth, and it's something they can look back on if they are feeling nostalgic. I have had every intention of writing my story, but have continuously put it off because for some reason I've been on blog strike. Today, with my 4 week old snoozing on my chest, I decided to take my own advice and put an end to avoiding it. The following is the birth story of our team green third baby, but I will admit that parts are intentionally omitted for personal reasons. If you find cuss words offensive then I'd advise you to move along because the whole day was a shit show, and I write my personal thoughts as they happened.

Let's back track a little to the night before. It was Thursday, May 10th, I was exactly 39 weeks pregnant. My husband (Chad) was on the rig working nights and my kids were in bed. I was relaxing in an epsom salt bath, which is basically where I lived the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I was talking to my best friend Ashley about my next midwife appointment and our plans to meet for tacos afterwards, when the baby suddenly had the craziest movements. I saw the whole outline of it's fist poke out and move across my stomach (which was strange btw) and told her about it. Her exact response was "Awww! She's waving, She'll come tomorrow." Keep in mind we did not know the sex of the baby, but from the moment she found out I was pregnant she was adamant that I was having a girl. I told her "Nooo!" Not to say that since Chad was gone, and Kail (our videographer) was headed to Dallas in the morning. I had been seriously worried about going into labor while my husband was at work, but also told her that I'd had the same thought about it being the next day since it was the 11th (my birthday is 8/11), and it was an "odd day" which was "allowed". I have this thing about numbers, I strongly dislike even numbers. My husband, our oldest son, and myself all have odd numbered birthdays but my middle child just HAD to choose an even number... But that's another story. We went on chatting about the birth, our Tuesday plans, and whatever else came up. Meanwhile Kali had messaged me right around the same time asking how I was feeling, and doing a general check in before she left the next morning. I told her no changes, that I was feeling good and didn't think that anything would be happening soon (insert laughter here). We were both praying that the baby held off until at least Tuesday, which was the last day of Chad's hitch. We all know that babies have their own plans though. I was able to chat with Chad some during this time frame too and asked him for his final birth predictions. The timing off all this stuff is truly just uncanny, and quite hilarious as you'll find out as the story goes on. In hindsight I literally had EVERYTHING in the universe telling me that I was about to have a baby. We sent each other our final birth predictions and then I was off to bed.

Chad's prediction: Male, May 16th, 11:11 AM, 7lbs 2 oz, brown hair.

My prediction: Female, May 17th, 11:11 PM, 7lbs 13 oz, dark hair.

Funny thing about our predictions was I already had mine made before he sent his, and I hadn't shared them with him yet. Though he did know that I thought we were having a girl the whole time.

That night I couldn't sleep at all. I was restless and woke up every hour or two. By 5 AM I felt like I hadn't slept at all, so I picked my phone up to text Chad. At that exact moment a text from him came in. "Ok, don't freak out. I'm okay." Exactly what every wife wants to read... All I said was "Oh God." The next message was a picture of his bloody face. Lord help me I was fully awake then. I told him that he was going to be the death of me and then said "do you want to send me into labor?! Because this is how you do it!" (See all the foreshadowing this story has?) The next few hours was us talking about the plan for him (doctor, paperwork, etc), and me getting our oldest off to school.

Around 9:30 AM I'm laying on the couch with Beans (our pig) when my water breaks. I knew immediately that it was my water and I waddled to the bathroom going "no, no, no, no! Not today!" Of all the days, WHY today?? I immediately called my midwife, Melena, and let her know. We discussed the plan, and I told her I'd let her know when I was ready for her. I messaged Kali and let her know as well, thankfully she hadn't let yet! Chad was still meeting with the rig manager and safety guy so he didn't answer my call. I'm immediately going into panic mode wondering if he is going to be able to leave since he was injured at work and there was a lot of hoops to jump through and paperwork to do. I texted him and said to call me ASAP that it was an actual emergency. While I was waiting on him to call I let our photographer, Samantha know as well. He finally calls me and his response was "are you fucking serious?" Uhh, yeah babe totally just pulling your leg here... NOT. Of course I'm for real. We get off the phone so he can hurry and finish everything he needed to there, and pack his stuff to head home. He works 5 1/2 hours away. I sent my two sisters a group message with sirens and said that I needed a conference call ASAP. My oldest sister had worked the night before and was already asleep so it was just my middle sister who called. I told her what was going on but swore her to secrecy because I didn't want to be bombarded or bothered... I definitely didn't want people showing up at my house since I intended it to just be Chad and my birth team there. We had told everyone in the weeks prior that no one would be informed when I was in labor, and that everyone would be contacted a few hours after the baby had arrived.

Contractions started pretty much right away but weren't painful, so I got busy on the things around the house I wanted done. I had our youngest son watching transformers while I cleaned my bedroom, did the dishes, vacuumed the house, did some laundry and ordered the correct water hose and adapter needed for my birth pool. I had my oldest son picked up from school early and brought home, and then waited for my Home Depot order to be ready. During all of this Chad was able to leave around 11 and head home. Time passed a lot quicker than I had realized and before I knew it it was 1 PM and my contractions had been about a minute apart, lasting a minute, for an hour. This is the point that most women are usually directed to go to the hospital/birth center, it's called the 311 rule. I had been so busy doing things around the house that I hadn't realized my contraction pattern. Then suddenly I couldn't talk through them. I immediately let Melena, Kali, and Samantha know. Chad was still 2 hours out, but he stayed on FaceTime with me. I hadn't had a chance to run to Home Depot yet and knew at that point it was too late, I didn't want to drive with my contractions that intense. I asked my middle sister to pick the stuff up for me and bring it over. Shortly after contacting everyone my contractions got to the point I needed relief and quick. I ran a bath and my oldest son came in very concerned... "Mom, do I need to call someone?! Are you okay?" He is about to be 10, and is a little bit of a drama queen and big time worry wart. I reassured him that I was okay and reminded him of what all we had discussed about birth. He went back to watching transformers with his little brother.

Kali was the first to arrive, (about 30 minutes later) and we laughed about how nice it was to have another adult present since we both quickly realized I was in transition. Samantha arrived shortly after and I continued to labor in my bathtub with Chad on FaceTime. Melena was still about an hour out, and both of her assistants were even further so she called in the perfect backup, Colleen. Colleen actually works for the other birth center in Tyler, but she was definitely the best person to complete my birth team. She arrived about 15 minutes after Samantha and checked heart tones on the baby and held my hand through a tough contraction. Baby looked good, and I was doing good so in between contractions we all talked and I even cracked a few jokes. Most of them pertaining to my chaotic ass life. When Melena arrived she convinced me to get out of my bath tub since it wasn't providing me any relief, and my bathroom was really small. Especially with 5 people in there! I got out and needed to lean on and sway with her through the next contraction. Chad was still a good 45 minutes out at this point and no one thought he would make it in time, things were progressing fast. I realized the sheets and pillow cases were still off my bed since I washed them earlier, and never had a chance to put a new set on. Samantha offered to put fresh ones on so her, Colleen, and Kali got my bed made up for me. Totally not in their job description, but they are all seriously amazing. I walked into my bedroom and the curtains behind the crib were pulled open about halfway letting in a perfect glow of sunlight. Chad was still on FaceTime so I propped my phone up against a laundry basket on top of the changing table and had him talk to me as I swayed through contractions. About this time our youngest son joined everyone in my room, and continued to hang out for a majority of my labor. I moved over to lean on my bed as a support and Melena rubbed my back and used counter pressure during contractions. Relief! Heaven! She was awesome.

My middle sister arrived with the water hose, and I asked her to stay with me. She held my hand, and put her head against mine through contractions. I was exhausted by now, so I got on my bed where I was propped up on a stack of pillows. Everything had suddenly slowed way down. There are many reasons why labor can stall or slow, so who can say for sure why mine did but I'm pretty confident it was the fact I was scared. I have a blog on what fear can do in labor, and it can definitely stall, as well as intensify pain. I really needed Chad here with me, and I think the baby and I both wanted to wait on him. The whole day had been chaotic and I was not in the right head space worrying about if he'd make it.

Some time between 3 and 4 Chad runs through the door and grabs onto me tight. HE MADE IT. Hallelujah!Now I can have a baby! We were both absolutely wrecked with exhaustion (remember he had just worked a 12 hour shift overnight, was injured, then had to deal with safety stuff, and drove over 300 miles home.) so him and I laid in bed and he held me through my contractions. Everything really slowed down at this point as we tried to rest as much as possible, though my contractions were still crazy intense. My oldest sister was finally awake at this point so she was filled in and came over after she picked my niece up from school.

Time from this point was a blur, most of the next 4 hours was a blur. I had my sisters and Samantha blow up the pool, and attempt to start filling it. The hose wasn't long enough to reach so they tried to use a flat pan to get the water in there but it just wasn't working. It was looking like my water birth was out the window. I started getting pushy and had my first cervical check, I was a 9! I continued to labor on my bed with Chad and both of my sisters. Everyone else was just background noise at this point. Every now and then there was someone handing me water, or checking for heart tones. Everything was still looking good but I was starting to have a hard time getting through contractions. I was ready to be done. I was exhausted. I was in pain. My body started involuntary pushing with contractions, it felt better, but I knew that pushing before I was completely dilated could cause my cervix to swell so I had Melena check me again. Still a 9. I started to cry. I was feeling defeated and each contraction was harder and harder. She offered to try and stretch me to a 10 during a contraction. I knew that it would hurt like hell, but I was ready to be done. I had my sisters holding each hand and Chad was stroking my face while we attempted this. FUCK. MY. LIFE. It was rough. I wanted to burn my house down. Set everything on fire. It was intense. Thankfully it didn't last long, because unfortunately she wasn't able to stretch my cervix. It started to swell. I felt like I was melting down at this point. I continued to labor in misery and got to a point where I honestly felt like I was suffering. I just remember lying there begging God to let me be done, praying that this baby would finally come. Melena kept telling me that I needed to get up and moving, and even though I knew she was right, I was just too tired. Too emotional. Too broken down and defeated. I let everyone know how I was feeling and my oldest sister gave me some tough love like only a sister can. "You didn't give up carbs to quit now!" was a pretty good motivator. I had Melena do another check and I had actually swelled to a 7. I cannot tell y'all what that felt like. It was a gut punch to say the least. My body was still trying to push with each contraction and that is what was causing the swelling, but I felt like I was too out of control to stop it. I got up finally and got in the shower to rinse off and get some food in me. My sisters made a whataburger run to get me some fries, and Colleen cut me up an avocado. I was in my living room and dining room now, leaning on the birth pool or holding tight onto Colleen during contractions. I remember looking at her phone during a contraction. 8:07 PM. Shit I was tired. I was able to stop pushing and let gravity do it's thing while I was standing/squatting through contractions. They hurt like hell but I knew I was making progress. My rocking chair was moved out of our bedroom and into the dining room to create more space so I sat there in between contractions. Every time I felt one coming on Colleen was right there to help me up and physically support my entire body through it. Let me tell y'all... She is not a big woman. She is just slightly taller than me and has a petite frame. She is a damn rockstar for supporting me the way she did. I asked about trying to fill my birth pool again so this time I let Chad go long enough to help get it filled. While they were using pots and pans to carry water from the sink to the pool I sat in my chair through a few of the contractions and zoned out looking at my collage of pictures on the wall. I just stared at the pictures and rocked back and fourth each time a contraction came on. Finally, FINALLY, my pool was ready for me to get in. SWEET HOLY JESUS RELIEF. I literally felt like I melted into the pool once I got in. My body was jello and it was heaven. I got on my knees and rested against the side of the pool with Chad right in front of me, rubbing my hair. The first contraction didn't even phase me. The next contraction. Holy shit. I felt the head descend into the birth canal. This was it. Baby was coming. My low noises suddenly got very loud and everything felt like it was on fire. "Head's out!" Colleen yelled! (I think, honestly it could've been Jesus at that point and i'd have never known.) Melena needed me to switch positions so that she could see, so my sisters and Chad had to physically move me for that to happen because I couldn't move myself. A few good pushes and suddenly there was a baby on my chest. 8:57 PM. I did it. I started ugly crying. I was done. I had made it. I delivered a baby in my living room. A few moments later I checked to see what we had. "It's a girl!" We had a mermaid. I couldn't believe I had been right all along. My oldest sister said "you better check again!" Everyone was in disbelief. Out of our whole big Brady Bunch family she was only the 3rd girl. I have 8 nephews, and 2 sons. Now we had a baby girl, and she didn't have a name. I went to get out of the pool and there was our youngest son standing there holding his arms out, fully expecting me to hand off his baby sister. He had been so excited about the baby during my whole pregnancy and now he couldn't wait to hold her. This was one of my favorite moments. They got me onto the same couch where my water had broken earlier that day, and I delivered the placenta. Once the cord was fully white, Chad cut it and I handed her off to him so we could all make our way into the bedroom. Baby girl finally had a name by now. Preslee Dawn. She was given my middle sister's middle name.

*Fun fact- My oldest sister's daughter has my middle name, and if my middle sister ever has a daughter she will have my oldest sister's middle name.

Once I got in bed I was able to nurse her. Let me just also mention how amazing it is to get into your own bed after birth. Holy cow, best feeling. She took to me so great I joked with my sisters she was more like a shark than a mermaid. Once she nursed I passed her off to Chad for some skin to skin with him. I took this opportunity to get some clothes on and some food. My sisters headed home around this time and Samantha got some pictures of my new family of 5. Now it was time for her newborn exam.

Female, May 11th, 8:57 PM, 7lbs, 9 oz, blonde hair.

Chad and I were both way off on our predictions!

By this time Chad had totally crashed, and it was totally deserved. He did amazing supporting me on zero sleep and with a busted face. It was somewhere between 11 and midnight. Melena and Colleen were gathering their birth supplies and deflating the pool, while Kali got some final shots of our story. She and I chatted for a while and she helped me get Preslee swaddled and tucked into her bed.

I really mean it when I say our entire birth team went above and beyond. There was so much love, support and encouragement from everyone that day and I can't imagine anyone else being here but them. God knew they were the perfect team, and worked to make sure Colleen was here.

Believe it or not but there's quite a bit of this story that's left out. I bet you're thinking HOW?! she's been going on and on for 9 days now... I did that intentionally for several reasons. One being that this was long winded enough without adding in every hip squeeze, word of encouragement, or conversation. I really did try and keep it as short as I could. Another reason is that birth is really intimate, and there are just some things that are only meant for those that were there.

*Which is why it's important NOT to share details of someone else's birth. They may not want certain things shared, or may not want them shared with certain people.

If you've made it through all 3,615 words prior to this then congratulations, you get a special prize! Here's the link to the amazing video that Kali shot for us. It truly is beautiful, and she is very talented.

Here's the information about the rest of our stellar birth team!

Melena Sandifer, CPM. Owner of Cherished Birth.

Colleen Shulenberger, doula & midwife in training.

Owner of A Sacred Nest.

Kali Park, doula, photographer & videographer.

Owner of Mama Matters.

Samantha Morrison, photographer. Owner of Morrison Light Photography.

Peace, Love, & Wine,

Holly Clayburn

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