Elliot’s Birth Story
I’ll resume my series on Early Math and Language Skills next Monday. I’m taking a brief break for my babymoon and sharing our birth story today instead. :)
In the week leading up to Elliot’s birth, I had a feeling he would be joining us soon. I was only days past 38 weeks, so I knew it could be awhile still, but something told me it wouldn’t. I actually had a strong feeling, as I told many people, that our baby would be here by Wednesday. I have never thought of myself as particularly intuitive, so it felt strange to be so certain, but I really was.
On Monday evening, we had dinner as usual and I set to work washing the dishes while Andrew gave Annabelle her bath. As I was cleaning, it occurred to me that I was extremely hungry, so I had a second helping of dinner. I had a few sensations that I wasn’t sure were contractions, but something told me they were signs of exciting things to come, and my stomach continued to prompt me to eat more and more in preparation, I suspected, for the same.
As I got in bed that night, I realized I was having definite tightening sensations. I was also extremely tired, so I did my best to rest despite the excitement, to prepare for whatever would happen next. I woke a couple of times in the night, but for the most part was able to rest peacefully until about 6:30am. I was definitely having regular contractions at that point, and began timing them on my phone as Annabelle and I got ourselves some breakfast. I heard Andrew get up and get ready for work upstairs, and began thinking whether I should suggest he stay home. By the time he came downstairs, I had recorded quite a few contractions, all between three and five minutes apart, so it was decided that he would stay put to see where things went from there.
I headed upstairs to rest and listen to my Hypnobabies “Birthing Day Affirmations.” Things were definitely beginning to intensify and contractions stayed between three and four and a half minutes apart, so around 9am, Andrew called our midwives. About an hour later, Erin arrived, a bit sleepy from a birth that had lasted through the previous night, but still as caring and wonderful as always. Since my membranes hadn’t ruptured and she was trying to decide whether or not to take a nap and whether or not to call Susan, the midwife who would act as her birth assistant, we agreed that it was a fine idea to check my cervix. I was only dilated to 3cm, but my cervix was stretchy and thin, so Erin felt the rest could happen fairly quickly. She called Susan, who arrived before long and supported us while Erin took a nap in our guest room.
While all of this was happening, we were trying to reach Cassie, the wonderful doula who was joining us mostly to be with Annabelle, but realized that the number we had was incorrect. I exchanged text messages with a very nice man named Abe, who congratulated me and assured me he would be praying for our family, before we finally got things straightened out and Cassie headed over. The contractions I had in bed were fairly intense, and I found myself vocalizing through them. Once everyone had arrived, I decided to relax a bit in the bath, and it was amazing how much more comfortable I felt there. While most of the intensity was in my lower back, just as it had been with Annabelle, counter pressure didn’t help as it had with her, but the water was a huge relief.
I stayed in the tub for quite awhile, listened to hypnobabies, and made a more deliberate effort to simply relax and breathe through contractions. I also grabbed my “Birth Goddess” to give myself something to hold onto, and some lavender essential oil to help me feel more calm and relaxed. Andrew stayed by my side between checking on Annabelle and making sure all was well in the house, and Susan came in to check on us and listen to baby’s heart rate every hour with the fetoscope. Annabelle was having so much fun with “Miss Cassie” that she hardly knew I was there.
After awhile, I decided, with a slight nudge from Susan, to get out of the tub and move around. This was when I really felt like I was having the homebirth experience I had pictured. I put on my robe and went downstairs, where I talked a bit with Annabelle, got myself some water in the kitchen, paced a bit, and chatted with Susan. When a contraction came on, I would simply close my eyes and breathe, or sway, or do whatever felt right at the time. I went to the bathroom and, curious woman that I am, felt to see if I could detect any change inside. I could feel the baby’s head inside the cushion of my membranes, which made me feel so hopeful, invigorated, and excited. It was a hundred degrees outside, but Andrew and I decided to take a quick walk to see how that would change things. I was still having regular contractions as I had been and, in my mind, was sure I must be nearly ready. I was just waiting for the urge to push.
It was around 4:30 when Erin awoke and came downstairs. We all decided to go ahead and check my cervix again. It seems that everyone in my life who has recently had a second baby at home had a surprisingly fast birth, and I’m always hearing what very different births the same woman can have. As much as things had been perfectly similar to Annabelle’s birth so far, I had come to expect my very own totally different birth. While I was excited and certain the time must be very near, I think the trained eyes of my midwives could see that we had spent quite some time on a plateau and they wanted to be sure to rest up if it was going to be a long while before I needed their support. I was expecting to hear that I was very nearly complete, so the news that I was still at 3cm, over six hours after we had last checked, was not easy to hear. We agreed that Erin and Susan should go rest, as should Cassie, and we would call them back when I felt a change. Despite everyone’s optimism and encouragement, I cried a little, wondering if I could really keep this up, and if it might truly be Wednesday when our baby finally came.
With all quiet, Annabelle nursed and the three of us took a nap together. My contractions were still intense, so I had a hard time staying comfortable in bed, but knew I would need the rest, so tried to sleep in between them. I got out of bed an hour or so later, and began alternating between the bathroom and our spare room, which we had prepared in advance for the birth, just in case it should happen while Annabelle was sleeping. Things really began to intensify as Andrew and Annabelle woke up. I was unable to find a position that felt comfortable through contractions, but noticed that loudly vocalizing through each one gave me something to focus on, so I surrendered to that. I have to wonder if my deliberate effort to remain peaced out, simply breathing through contractions earlier in the day might actually have been counter-productive. Things felt intense, almost out of control at this point, but it also felt like I was less inhibited, just doing what my body needed me to do. Andrew had called everyone to come back, and I got back in the bathtub.
Our tub is about as small as they come, and the whole bathroom is pretty small, really, so a water birth was not in my plan. Of course I could have rented a tub, but without knowing for certain that I’d want to use it, it seemed like an expensive and obtrusive accessory that wouldn’t pair all that well with the hardwood floors in our rental house. If we should ever have another baby, I do think I’d like a tub! The calming power of water is just amazing.
Anyway, in the tub I could feel the baby’s head a bit lower than before and there didn’t seem to be any amount of cervix in the way, so I was hopeful. As Andrew was letting Cassie in and keeping up with Erin, who was on her way, I started feeling the urge to push and simply going with it. It was intense, but also offered some relief. With each contraction, I would drape myself over the edge of the tub and make as much noise as I needed to make. I’m sure it was interesting for the neighbors. Erin and Susan arrived and checked for the baby’s heartbeat, which was perfect, while giving me encouragement as I pushed. They never told me how or when to push, and stayed completely hands off as I went with my body, which was a beautiful thing compared to the doctor-directed pushing stage I experienced with Annabelle’s birth.
At some point, I shifted positions so that I was lying on my side in the water with one foot against the wall. It was then that baby started to crown, slipping back in between pushes. I begged him not to go back in, and Erin reminded me that this was just what he was supposed to do, and was protecting me from tearing. True. It was the most physically difficult thing I think I have ever done, but at the same time I couldn’t possibly have done anything different. My body had taken over.
The head began to come out, and I felt the pop of my membranes rupturing. I could feel the baby’s soft head, which was the best motivation to keep pushing, and within the next two contractions, the entire head was out. I could hardly wait for the next urge to push so that I could bring him to my chest, which I did. He looked so incredibly small, and had a thick coating of vernix. At this point, Annabelle was playing in the next room with Cassie, so I called for her to come in and see the baby. She and Cassie joined, Annabelle declared our baby, “all sticky and wet,” and together we enjoyed the blissful first few moments of life.
I was amazed at how strong our sweet boy was, as he lifted his head up off my chest. When Andrew asked, “Is it a girl?” I realized I ought to check. He was belly to belly with me, so no one had seen yet. Although I’d had a boy’s name in my head all day, I was still shocked. My family tends to produce more girls than boys, so it seemed likely to me that we’d be adding another. I’m so glad we waited for this little guy to surprise us! We could not be happier to have him just exactly as he is.
After a few blissful minutes of getting to know “little brother,” as he would be known for the next two and a half days, Susan helped me out of the tub and we all headed to the spare bedroom where he nursed for the first time and I delivered the placenta. Erin and Susan got things cleaned up and headed downstairs with Annabelle to give Andrew, little brother, and me a few quiet minutes together before coming back up for the newborn exam. Elliot was a tiny 6 pounds and 6 ounces and 19.25 inches long – the same length as his sister, but 9 ounces lighter. He also arrived almost two weeks earlier than she had.
It was well past Annabelle’s bedtime, so we headed straight to the master bedroom once all was quiet and had our first night as a family of four. None of us had the least bit of trouble drifting off to sleep, and I was happy to slip into the next room a few hours later when Elliot awoke. Six days later, I have left the house only for brief walks and the first pediatrician visit, for which we deliberately chose a doctor less than a mile away. Babymooning is sweet!
So many thanks for this beautiful day go to our midwives, M.A.M.A.S. Midwives, and to Cassie for acting as our “sibling doula.” We were so grateful for their loving support on this special day in our family’s life!