Baby boy was six months old yesterday. It’s probably time I share his birth story, no? At least I’m not waiting a full year like I did with Mila. If birth stories are your jam, settle in because this got a leeeetle wordy. Not that I plan to edit it. I’m pretty proud of this one.
Like with Margot, my body started preparing for labor quite early. Unlike with Margot, I hadn’t been able to walk myself into consistent contractions. So even though I was dilated to nearly a 4 for a few weeks, I wasn’t expecting to have a baby any time soon. I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions for months but nothing serious.
My hip flexors ached like never before. I weighed more than I ever had in my life. Sleep was elusive. I was hot and swollen and tired and so ready to have a baby.
Halloween–his due date–came and went without incident. As we took the girls out to trick-or-treat, all of our neighbors wanted to know how much longer I had. “Any day now.” I tried to be patient and pleasant, waddling from house to house, willing my body to go into labor.
No such luck.
The weekend passed. I had another appointment with my midwife. Same news: still dilated, still effaced, still healthy. She asked if I wanted to schedule an induction, while also reminding me that my last baby had been over a week late. I laughed humorlessly. As if I needed reminding. We decided to wait him out.
By the next Saturday I was DONE. I’d gone on countless walks and stuffed myself to the gills with spicy foods and held myself in a low squat for as long as my poor legs could stand. Nothing. Every day I timed contractions–seven minutes apart…five minutes…four minutes…six minutes…–but they always petered out before too long. Surely I would be pregnant forever.
Sunday we had Stake Conference, so I was spared the indignity of facing everyone at our regular church meetings with my still-enormous belly. We slipped in and out pretty quietly. Sitting in those metal folding chairs for two hours was torture.
That afternoon was cool enough (thank goodness) for us to go on yet another walk. David and the girls hurried ahead as I tried stepping on and off the curb. I was slow. I was grumpy. When we got back home I was still not in labor.
That evening, I had some contractions. Fairly regular ones. I didn’t want to say anything for fear I’d jinx myself, because, while they didn’t get any stronger, they also hadn’t stopped after a couple hours. I thought maybe? I asked David if we should go. No, he told me. You’ll know. You’re not ready. He was right. I wasn’t. I wanted to be, but I wasn’t. He convinced me to get as much sleep as I could and we’d see how I was doing in the morning.
I was now eight days past my due date and so very tired of it all. I went to bed discouraged but hopeful. Surely this couldn’t last forever. Surely those little contractions would lead to something bigger. I drifted off to a deep, dreamless sleep.
When I woke, it was around 6 AM and my poor crowded bladder was desperate for relief. But before I could get up, I was hit by a contraction. A really big one. I smiled, waiting it out, then hurried to the toilet…where another contraction met me. I was elated. So close together! So strong! I washed my hands and started to move toward the bed, when I was stopped by a third contraction. The biggest yet.
I wasn’t going back to bed. I was going to have a baby. Because it was Monday and my babies only come on Mondays. I should’ve known.
“David?” I didn’t want to startle him but I knew it was definitely time. “We should probably call your mom.” He got out of bed immediately and started getting ready to go. His phone rang and rang…no answer. He got dressed and called again. Still no answer. The girls were asleep still, his mom was at least twenty minutes away and unreachable, and I was having strong, hard contractions that required all of my attention.
We decided to try someone closer to home to see if they could stay with the girls.
We also called my midwife to let her know we would be on our way soon.
Fortunately, my friend Jill answered her phone and knew immediately why I was calling. She was at our house within minutes. I attempted to fill her in–grandma would be there to watch the girls eventually, we were heading to this hospital, etc.–but kept having to stop, lean over the couch, breathe. She hurried us out the door and said not to worry, they’d be fine, and off we went.
I have never hated David’s truck more than during that ten minute drive. Every bump was agony. Sitting still was excruciating. And I told him so. (I’m sure he appreciated my kind commentary on his driving.)
FINALLY we made it to the hospital parking lot. David came around to help me out but I. Could. Not. Move. “Nope,” I told him firmly. “There is no way I can get out of this truck.” I was fully convinced I’d be giving birth right there in the passenger seat.
He was so patient, calmly coaxing me out a little at a time. “Do you want me to get a wheelchair?” he asked as I bent double with yet another contraction. Don’t you dare leave me here! I begged. So slowly, slowly we walked together toward the ER entrance. I had to stop more than once. We laughed, watching another couple leaving. She was very pregnant, probably hoping she was in labor too, but turned away as a false alarm. Poor mama. My heart went out to her as my belly squeezed violently yet again.
As we tried to check in, poor David was flustered and unable to remember my birthdate and other info. I answered the receptionist’s questions between contractions. Then she nonchalantly asked him, “Is she having regular contractions?” I almost yelled at her but I was A LITTLE BIT BUSY HAVING A BABY. Stop asking stupid questions, woman, and give me my wristband!
At last we were admitted. David grabbed a wheelchair and rushed us to the elevator; if I’d tried to walk we would never get there because I had to stop every few steps just to breathe. Up we went, around the corner, into labor and delivery where my wonderful midwife was waiting for us. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see someone in my life.
“Are we having a baby today?” she joked?
PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GO TO TRIAGE I whimpered.
She laughed. She’d seen me do this twice before. There was no need for triage. She bustled us off to a delivery room.
“Do you think you can undress?” she asked. “I need to check your progress.” I can sure try, I told her. It took an eternity and quite a bit of help, but I eventually found myself in a hospital gown, on my back, being told I was dilated to an eight with a bulging sack of waters. Yesss. Best news all day.
I’m not sure what everyone else was doing at that point, because I just lay on my side in the dim light of that calm room, gripping David’s hand and focusing on what my body was doing. I had never been in so much pain. Every contraction radiated from my belly through my hip flexors and into my legs. I had to be reminded frequently to just relax, allow it to happen, all would be well. I know I was able to talk between contractions, but mostly I think I just told them how badly it hurt.
My midwife finally suggested I change positions to see if that would relieve the pain. I turned around to kneel facing the back of the bed, which she raised up so it was more like a chair that I could drape myself over. Suddenly things were so much more manageable. Still incredibly painful, but gravity was on my side and I could feel the baby moving down.
I blew raspberries and moaned through contractions, somehow knowing instinctively that relaxing my face and throat would help relax the rest of me. My water broke. The nurses helped clean up the mess. I was completely unfazed and kept breathing and working because now! Now I could feel him, and he was ready to come out! Almost involuntarily I started pushing.
There are no words for how good it felt to do something after waiting patiently for my body to get it together. Oh! How I pushed!
“I can see hair! It’s dark!” And I pushed! “He is getting so close!” I can’t! I can’t do it! “His head is halfway there, Jen. I can see his eyes.” It hurts! It’s so hard! “You can do this. I know you can do this. Keep going.”
I could feel his head halfway out of my body, then it would slip back in just a bit, and I would die a little inside because I was giving everything I could to inch him out. Please baby boy, work with me.
And then, at least, his head was through. I felt him twist, then pushed. A shoulder. Push. The other shoulder. Then he slid out and into my midwife’s capable hands, and I gasped out a laugh of relief.
“He’s big! Definitely ten pounds! Can you lift him up between your legs?” they asked me. No, I can’t, I’m too tired! “Yes you can. You did it. We will help.” So carefully we untangled cords and gowns and legs and sheets until I had this huge purple slimy perfect boy laying on my chest.
He was so quiet, making such tiny cries. They wiped us both off as we snuggled and nursed and cooed at each other. He was so big and so sweet. His hair…was it curly? And what color are his eyes? I couldn’t tell and didn’t care; he was beautiful.
Before too long they picked him up, partly to weigh and measure him, but also to see if they could get him to cry. He was still so quiet and it was making everyone a little nervous that something might be wrong. I knew he was fine. He just needed a minute to get his bearings. (And I was right. He coughed and sneezed quite a bit for a couple days, but had no problems at all with his lungs…as we learned within a few days when he found his voice and started screaming like a banshee.)
“Ten pounds, fifteen ounces!” they announced triumphantly. “And twenty two inches long. Quite the big boy!” No wonder I’d been so uncomfortable for so long: my newborn was the size of a toddler.
(The placenta was also, apparently, humongous. And it had bubbles it it, which was endlessly fascinating to the medical staff. I didn’t get a good look. That kind of thing grosses me out.)
Who are you, little man? I asked him over and over. What’s your name? The name we had been discussing for years did not seem to fit him. It took us a full two days to decide on something that did, and I’m still getting used to it. Not that it matters, really. He is mine, and he is perfect, and that is enough.
From the first hard contraction when I woke up at 6 to when he was born, the whole thing took about three hours. We checked into the hospital around 7; he was born just after 9. It was definitely my fastest labor, and probably the most painful. However, it was also my easiest recovery, with no tearing or trauma to either of us. I am so grateful that my body is really good at birthing; I know I’m one of the lucky few.
I can’t help seeing the way my babies have come into the world as a pattern for what they have become. Amelia did not show up until she was good and ready, and not a moment sooner; she was brilliant but it took everything out of me to get her here. Margot was stubborn and dramatic, waiting to be born until she’d given me the biggest scare of my life, and bringing with her the love and sunshine I so desperately needed. I wonder what kind of person my tall, gentle-eyed boy will turn out to be.
What a blessed woman I am, to have these three magnificent little beings entrusted to my care. My hands are full, yes, and my heart is overflowing.
All photos courtesy of Chrissy of Let Me See You Sparkle Photography. She offered me a newborn session as a very generous baby shower gift because she is the sweetest. Since baby boy came close to the holiday photo rush, we didn’t get to them until he was well into the ugly balding baby acne 1-month-old phase…and yet Chrissy managed to get such beautiful shots. She’s a gem like that. Thanks, dear friend!