Each birth story is unique, raw and real - teaching us about love and, ultimately, about ourselves.
When I birthed Cormac six years ago (at precisely 4:44pm on a blazing hot July day) that first night I thought nothing of writing his birth story, but spent the entire time bedridden, still with zero feeling from the waist down, catheter inserted, completely exhausted, with absolutely no idea what to do with the sweet, hungry, crying baby whose diapers my husband had to change. I didn't write his story until months later, when I finally felt like I had processed it all, and was not in a new mama haze.
// Read that story here //
I remember after birthing Finola I sat up that entire first night (she was born at 9:12pm) grinning happily to myself, high on birth hormones, and writing out her birth story in my head as she rested peacefully in my arms. I refused to put her down. Everything had gone in such a way I wanted to replay it over and over in my mind.
// Read that story here //
Flash forward four years. I'm older. Maybe a bit wiser, but mostly older. And much more tired.
Hubby and I finally decided, after much prayer and deliberation, to give it another whirl, leave it up to God and see what happens. We wound up very quickly with a positive pregnancy test back in early January. (Oh, those Christmastime conceptions!)
While I didn't blog much about it, mostly tiny blurbs on Instagram, this pregnancy was very similar to my others. Lots of first trimester all-day nausea, a lovely second tri, and then a very uncomfortable third tri. Weirdly, I gained the exact same about of weight each time, although this time I focused more on eating healthy, rather than hitting the gym every single day as I did with Finola. Being older I was simply more tired, more busy with the other two children, and to be honest it just got really uncomfortable doing cardio.
Even without being on the treadmill all the time I really thought this baby would come early, like Finola did. But at my 36 week check I was only dilated 1-2cm (versus 5cm at that point with Fin!)
So I decided to stop getting cervical checks. It is optional at my midwife practice and honestly I was feeling a bit unprepared to give birth anyway, as our nursery was basically a hollow shell at that point.
The month before my due date was spent hustling to get the nursery, and my mind, prepared for a third baby.
In that final week I thought I could go into labor at any time. The Braxton-Hicks contractions I'd been having for quite a while got a bit more intense but nothing timeable. Almost every night I'd wake up from them, or severe heartburn, and then go back to bed after an hour of no real action. In truth, I dreaded going into labor during the night because I didn't want to go into the process super tired, and didn't want to stress about getting in touch with someone to come stay with the kids.
I believe I was mentally blocking this labor.
My due date of September 13th came and went. I couldn't believe it. Wasn't the third baby supposed to come early and basically fly out??? Kidding. I didn't really think it would go quicker but honestly did think I would go early.
I was mentally preparing for the labor and birthing as best I could. It was the same "plan" as last time, but this time I'd be incorporating my essential oils into the process. Every day I diffused oils like Valor, Peace + Calming, and Release in our home - to help get my mind and body supported for the birth. I applied Joy and Sacred Mountain to my skin and my diffuser bracelet regularly to feel grounded and happy for baby's arrival.
I had also read a couple books on hypnobirthing, although I admit I didn't wholeheartedly buy into it -- an "easy, pain-free birth." To be clear, I think that can happen...but when you doubt something I don't think your brain is able to hurdle that doubt and block the pain. You have to truly believe it...
...and I was more in the "This is going to hurt like hell, but I'm powerful enough to let my body do it's job" mindset. Warrior versus zen mama.
We hired a doula again to be there as my liason with hospital staff and emotional support birthing coach. I know most people just have their husband/partner be that...but Paul knows he is best appreciated as a silent encourager who is simply present with me.
Here is how it all officially went down - early on a Saturday morning, with the other two kids already safely in Louisville with their grandparents (phew!)
I woke up with a contraction that was stronger than the usual Braxton-Hicks. Knowing I was several days past due and that I could be in labor at any time, I got up immediately, noted the time, and tentatively started gathering some last minute items to put in our bags. I had slept in the comfy tank dress I had worn the day before because I really wanting it to be my "birthing outfit" -- as opposed to a hospital gown. As the contractions continued every ten minutes or so, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got ready to leave. Something in my gut (or uterus) told me this was it. The contractions were now about 8 minutes apart and there was noticeably more pressure. And some bleeding, which was another good sign.
Texted my doula to let her know about the consistent contractions, and that I planned to call my midwife soon. I told her most likely would be heading to the hospital. Then I woke Paul up and told him that Baby's arrival was imminent! Called midwife office and when the midwife on duty called back she said she would meet me at the hospital. I reminded her (as I was told to) that last time I went really quickly. But I think that since my last check (weeks ago) was only 1-2cm no one seemed really worried.
Texted doula that we were headed to hospital and would meet her there!
We arrived at the hospital, which was quiet in the early morning hour. Encountered a random person, presumably a new dad, who led us to the floor where we were supposed to check in. I had been having pretty intense contractions since we arrived -- and was finding it hard to concentrate on his friendly and excited banter. Paul chatted with him while I silently breathed through each surge.
When the nurses at registration heard my last check was 1-2cm (weeks ago!) they had me fill out a bunch of paperwork and then put me in triage.
Triage nurse : "Here is a gown to put on."
Me : "Um...can I just wear this?" gesturing to my tank dress.
Triage nurse, blank-faced : "Um...I guess so."
She immediately starts to hook me up to the fetal monitor. I interject that I don't want to be hooked up to the fetal monitor. She says she needs to have at least 15 minutes of fetal monitoring. I agree only when she tells me she will then take me off the monitor. I did not want to be stuck to a machine in any way.
At this point, with the doula not having arrived yet, I am direly wishing I had brought a copy of my birth plan. I was having some scary flashbacks to my experience laboring in the hospital with Cormac, when I felt completely alone and that none of my birth preferences were being adhered to. I now knew I had to speak up for myself and make sure things happened the way I wanted...or at least as much as I could.
By this point the contraction intensity was about a seven and they were only about two minutes apart. The nurse checked me and pronounced me 5-6cm dilated and 90% effaced. Good progress but I was surprised I wasn't farther along.
I was very anxious to get to my labor/delivery room and out of triage. All the tub rooms were occupied, but I was told I would at least have a shower. Waiting to get unhooked from the monitor was taking what felt like a lifetime.
Finally, when the contractions were starting to become blinding, and still no sign of my doula or midwife to check me, I was brought to my room, still hooked to monitor. I got through a few contractions lying on the table, and then asked if I could labor in the shower. The contractions were now about only a minute apart. This forced the nurse to unhook me from the monitor. I was feeling very nauseous, and the pressure "down there" was becoming so intense that I had to stumble bow-legged to the shower, legs shaking violently. Mentally I was trying to hold it together, trying to be calm and breathe through each contraction steadily, in through my nose ABCDEFG, out through my mouth HIJKLMNOP, or something to that effect. I knew I had to stay on top of every contraction, but was finding it very difficult.
Paul, for his part, knowing I did not want to be touched or hear his chipper words of encouragement, set about plugging in my diffuser, dropping in some Peace and Calming, and texting my doula for her status.
My doula arrives I believe at approximately this time. I feel a sense of relief in some ways that I finally have someone to help me through the last, most difficult waves.
In the 45-60 seconds of relief between contractions, I kept asking for my midwife.
"Where is the midwife?!?! She needs to check me." I knew I was close. I felt all the things I felt when I transitioned with Finola.
Including : the sense that I could no longer deliver naturally. I was starting to feel panicked.
"Okay, I am too old for this. I need the epidural. Order me the epidural now."
Both Paul and my doula told me I could do it, I'd done it before, etc. etc. I was hearing none of it, as I felt literally like I would die if I couldn't push the baby out soon. The "urge to push" is what I was experiencing. In fact, most likely I had transitioned in the shower and probably reached 10cm fifteen minutes prior.
I was then informed the midwife was on her way. I was disappointed it wasn't one that I saw regularly. In fact, this was the midwife I'd only seen one time throughout my pregnancy!
Midwife gets there, I get on the table quickly to be checked, still dripping wet and naked from the shower. She immediately exclaims happily, "You're complete! You can start pushing!"
Music to my ears!
For the next seven minutes, I was in the zone. Conscious of everything.
The huge light descended from the ceiling. The room filled with people. Women. Paul was the only male.
The doula and a nurse held my knees up by my head as I quickly recalled how to "bear down" and push when a contraction happened.
"Here's one!" I exclaimed and did whatever I could to make that baby come on out. Yep, I totally pooped on the table and I couldn't care less.
I screamed each time I pushed. Not the gutteral, animal moans I did with Finola. High-pitched shrieks. Three of them. In the back of my mind I silently apologized to any other laboring mamas hearing me from neighboring rooms.
I felt the baby's head come out. There was no stopping now - I gave another loud shriek and pushed!
The rest of baby slid out quickly.
The greatest relief. Honest first thought : "I did it...and I'm never gonna have to do it again." There was no sadness...just absolute certainty.
Somewhere in the chaos of the room, with Baby shrieking all kinds of new baby cries, I heard Paul announce, "It's a boy!"
I felt ambivalent about the gender. Baby was out. Baby was crying. It was good.
I cried, too. A brief, ugly cry.
|this is real. the best feeling.|
When they handed him to me and I marveled at his tiny size. So much smaller than the other two. Long delicate fingers and toes. I held him close while the midwife went immediately about the business of delivering the placenta, etc.
"Whitman Paul is his name," I heard Paul say, so they could write it on the board. But they only wrote Whitman, along with the date and time.
"Baby Whit," I said lovingly to him and him alone, knowing the name would be perfect for him.
The birthing hormones were surging through my body as I put him to breast not long after. He latched as if he had been practicing every day for the past nine months. We were off to a good start together.
Everything ended well, baby in arms, a beautiful boy. Praise be to God.
"...and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have its richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
We LOVE you Baby Whit.
And because your journey began way back in January, with a completely overwhelmed mama finding out she was preggo...
...here is a look back at all of it.