Life has been a hazy crazy blur the last two weeks.
It was a really special l&d. And in characteristic form, I am going to record every little detail. 😉
So it all started about a week before.
Side note… Whenever I go to tell a birth story, or read or hear someone else’s, I always get this irresistible mental image of Will Ferrell in Elf, when he gleefully tells of his journey from the North Pole to NYC.
“I passed through the SEVEN LEVELS of the Candy Cane forest, THROUGH the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and THEN I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel!!”
I took the boys on Wills preschool field trip to Uptown Charlotte on the little city train Friday, when I was three days shy of 38 weeks. It was a long and fun but exhausting adventure and I was on my feet all day.
I had my 37 week check up that afternoon. I didn’t go home in between the field trip and my appointment cause there wasn’t quite enough time; instead the boys and I hung out at chikfila and slowly ate ice cream cones and I drank a big unsweet tea with lemonade, and Henry got stuck at the top of the play place… and pooped. I had to ask a nice young man at the counter to please come help my stinky son get down because there was no way I could shimmy up there in my condition.
The actual appointment consisted of Henry banging all the cabinets and bolting for the door (which the bombawesome midwife literally blocked shut the entire time she was calmly talking to me). I told her not to bother checking my cervix, because I hadn’t been having any contractions so far.
Naturally the next day is when they started.
I was determined this would not be a repeat of my long labor experience with Henry – which you can read about here, natch, but I’m too lazy to find the link. Short story – I was physically and emotionally burnt out by the time Henry was actually coming. I had two full weeks of stop and start labor and slow walking dilation to 5 cm. So this time around, I kept myself fairly calm. My strategy was to distract myself during contractions, rather than timing and obsessing. There were a few days that this was hard to do, mostly because I was extremely uncomfortable. The third pregnancy had me feeling like I was literally going to lay an egg, aka drop all the contents of my uterus when I stood up. Long walks were no Bueno. This is a first for me; I can usually walk for a solid 2 hours before I get bored or tired.
Another part of my mental focus for this labor was more of a surrender issue with God. I was hyper aware with the third that it was rare to have three healthy, uncomplicated and peaceful pregnancies, deliveries, and babies. I kept praying that God would just bless us with a healthy baby, and that His will would be clear for when I went into labor. I wanted to know with certainty that it was His perfect timing.
The contractions seemed to settle down by Wednesday, and I had a checkup with my midwife Thurs morning (38 weeks and 2 days) while Will was in school, which revealed I was 3 cm and 70% effaced. And the baby’s head was so low, she could feel him when she checked me. Which explained the whole lay an egg sensation I suppose.
Then we headed into the weekend. I was resigned to the fact that I’d probably be pregnant on Easter, despite the early labor. The contractions completely stopped for two days. My blessed mother in law texted Palm Sunday afternoon to make sure it was ok if she subbed for a teacher friend on Monday morning. “Oh yeah,” I told her confidently (and maybe a little bit glumly), “Nothing happening over here.”
That early evening we went over to my brother and sister in laws townhouse to grill dinner together. My mom was on her way down I-85 from meeting her sister to drop off my grandmother, who spends about 3/4 of the year with my mom, and the rest with my aunt in Arlington. Mom asked if it would be ok if she spent two nights with us to help me clean and rest a bit, and I was extremely excited at the prospect.
At Mo & Maddy’s, I started noticing I was gradually getting more and more intense contractions. I didn’t say anything to anyone, mostly because I didn’t want to be embarrassed when they fizzled out when I laid down in bed.
Then when we got home, I was putting fresh sheets on the guest room beds upstairs and I told Jason – “maybe you should time these; they’re feeling more regular.”
Still, I didn’t want to know how close or regular they were. I wanted to be the opposite of focused on them.
Mom came – Henry was so excited he was just squealing at her from the top of the stairs in his little pajamas. She told them one of her famously dramatic and exciting made-up stories (my mom was once a career actress)… And then we sat on the couch together chatting comfortably, interrupted only by my telling Jason when I was feeling a contraction. At some point, he got up and, when I insisted it was not intense enough for me to pack a hospital bag – he started packing one for me. He’d poke his head out of our bedroom and wave two pairs of bras and ask which one I’d need. I was laughing at him and still insisting this was just early labor continued. And since I didn’t have the energy to get up and walk it out or push it along, I just knew it would stop soon.
We all went to bed at 11. I laid down and had so many contractions that I couldn’t quite settle down, so I took a Benadryl hoping that would knock me out.
For the first time in my life, I was awakened by contractions. This went on throughout the night. I would doze off and wake up several times an hour because of the intensity. But I stubbornly stayed in bed, and I didn’t wake Jason. If it was the real deal, I thought, the last thing I’d want was a worn out husband. A few were 20 minutes apart anyway, so I figured labor was definitely not imminent.
Then I was shaken by a huge contraction at 5. It woke me thoroughly up, and I had the unshakeable realization deep down in my gut – this baby is coming today.
I got up and ate a bowl of cereal standing up in the kitchen. And I had a few more equally intense contractions. I walked into the living room and saw the full moon gleaming outside the window. I felt a thrill of excitement – this was actually happening. I went to the bathroom and I had lost the mucus plug. It was 6 am at this point and I shook Jason. “Jason I think the baby’s coming,” I whispered.
The boyish side of my husband always comes out when I go into labor. The giddy, excited, chatty side that I rarely see. He flew out of bed and made coffee while I showered. My mom was so excited I was in labor, Jason said, she jumped up and down in the kitchen when he told her. I called the doctors and they told me to come straight in to Labor and Delivery.
The little boys got up five minutes before we left. It was so perfect it was nuts. I got to kiss and hug them and tell them we were going to meet our baby today. Will’s face lit up.
We drove down to the hospital amid the morning work traffic. I was so excited and Jason mirrored every bit of it. We checked in and they sent me to triage. I was 5 cm. I had hoped it would be a bit further along, but you just never know with third babies if they’ll be flying out of you or what. Besides, the hospital I deliver at is set up beautifully for active labor; you labor and deliver AND recover all in the same room, and they have two different kinds of birthing balls, a big tub with a jacuzzi, bars for squatting, and halls that are somehow always tranquil and quiet no matter how full the hospital is.
Anyway, we got set up in our room, and met our nurse for the day, Marsha. She was real North Carolina country (from Rockingham). She had a deeper voice, a quick laugh, was around 50, trim and sporty. I liked her instantly.
The midwife on call was one I’d only met with once. She was quite nice, but I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t have Sage or Iffie, the cool midwife from Africa who had blocked Henry from running away during my appointment. But Tammy seemed very calm and soothing. She suggested we wait to break my water to see how the labor progressed on its own. I was surprised, but after the night i had had before, I thought it couldn’t hurt to see what happened. Though they had had to break it with each baby before to really get me to transition, so I was kind of doubtful.
Jason and I walked a bit together; the halls were filled with mellow spring sunshine and everything was peaceful and still… and then we came back to the room. I was tired. Marsha helped us fill up the tub and told me to just relax in it.
It was a completely different labor from Henry’s. In that one I had the mentality of a sprinter. I felt I had to push through, and press in, and make things happen.
This time I let go and relaxed. The more I relaxed the more steadily it seemed the labor progressed. Jason read me the readings from the Magnificat as I soaked in the jacuzzi, and I especially felt moved by the Isaiah reading – “the spirit of the Lord God is upon me” prophecy one that Jesus stood up centuries later and read in the synagogue, and said “today this prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing”. We had just studied that in my bible study! It was beautiful to meditate on it in between contractions.
I got out of the tub after an hour or two – time really changes for me in that labor room, so I never know how it is all spaced out afterwards. It seems both longer and shorter to me than the actual time on the clock. Tammy checked me soon after and I was about 7 cm.
Labor started to get harder, and I began feeling the panicky, feral, caged animal feel of transition. But it wasn’t half as miserable as I had remembered Henry’s being. I was fairly lucid and calm in between the contraction. Jason kept squeezing my arms – this actually really really helped me relax – and said zen things, like (per my earlier instructions) “you are totally relaxed, you are completely surrendered”. We laughed later that I should’ve made him say “you are a blossoming flower” just to embarrass him. Maybe next time ;). After a little less than an hour of not being able to get comfortable, I calmed myself down – it took ALOT – and Tammy checked me. I was between 8 and 9 cm. At this point, that amazing woman gave her on-call phone to the doctor and said she wouldn’t be available. This is a big deal because in my practice, the midwives deliver all vaginal births and the OB’s are only there in case of complication.
Having Tammy’s quiet presence in my room was so reassuring that I was getting close to holding my baby… it still seemed surreal to me, like it wasn’t REALLY happening… the whole thing had caught me so off-guard but was also progressing so gently and gradually. And in any case, whenever the midwife or Doctor leaves your labor room, it is so discouraging.
There were a few really rough contractions (where I think I climbed on all fours and hung on to the head of the hospital bed like a drowning cat?); but then, to further add to the surreal feeling of this birth, I went into an hour of complete relaxation and calm. I sat half reclined against the bed, my legs completely limp and open, my palms held out at my sides, and I surrendered myself completely. I swear you could feel God there in that moment. The grace was tangible. It was so peaceful and so comforting that I FELL ASLEEP in between the waves of contractions.
Jason said later it was clear that labor hadn’t stalled; you could see the waves of contractions flicker on my face and change the shape of my stomach… But he and the midwife and my nurse literally waited holding their breaths and making shocked faces at each other while my eyes remained closed. And I slept; and prayed; and slept.
When the hour was up, Tammy checked me. I was still just at 8/9 cm. She told me we could continue like this – maybe change positions a little – or we could break my water to help things go faster.
I wanted to know for sure that my baby’s position was good and his heartbeat was wonderful. They assured me he was doing beautifully.
Tammy refused to make the decision for me. I thought about it, and what I thought was this… I really really want to meet my son. And I really want to eat a sandwich.
“Let’s break it,” I said. Inside I thought, but didn’t say aloud for fear of jinxing myself, I already went through transition so what’s the worst that can happen? Turns out I didn’t have to say it out loud to jinx it, because the worst that can happen is you go through transition TWICE.
The second round was much harder and shorter. Like, being dragged behind a speeding car in a gravel alley clinging to the bumper and thinking you can’t hold on any more, hard.
But within 45 minutes of breaking my water, just after 4 pm, Becket was born. Jason bragged to everyone that it only took me “three pushes!” But that wasn’t quite accurate. It was three contractions and i pushed though each one multiple times. I am not a good or effective pusher. And I still never know for sure when to bear down.
The claustrophobic side of me gets so anxious thinking of my baby in the birth canal, and I think my panic makes it all less effective. The third contraction was waning when I decided to push with everything I had… And Baby Becket squirted out. Jason said there was so much fluid, my nurse had to run change her clothes. Poor Marsha.
He was 7 lbs and 15 ounces, and 20 inches. My tiniest baby, and my earliest.
I held him to my heart crying with relief and he peed allllll over me. Turns out it’s his special talent. He peed on the nurses giving him his first bath. He peed on Jason and I 2 out of every 3 times we changed his diaper. He’s just so quick!
Jason said the umbilical cord struck him as looking so healthy and having unusually vivid color. Much as I would lovvvvve to take credit for that by my super healthy cravings through the pregnancy, I think it must be due to the fact that we had JUST broken the water, so everything was fresher?
My mom and sister brought the little boys to meet their new brother at 6 o’clock. It didn’t feel at all like the same day that we had left the house. I could’ve sworn it had been a week since I had kissed their bright little faces.
Will begged to hold the baby, which was nerve wracking since, bouncing off the walls, see above.
But as soon as the baby was in his arms, he was still and gentle and so responsible.
I choked up a little when they left. Thankfully we were able to stay in the hospital for no more than one night. The next day at 5, Tuesday, Jason pulled the Pilot up to the curb and we walked sleepily out of the hospital with our brand new baby. The sun was beaming warm, and I asked Jason why there was so much traffic before realizing it was a work day. It felt like a Sunday to me.
Jason pointed out on our drive home that every single time we have left that hospital with a baby, the weather was the most glorious imaginable. Sunny and cheerful and full of hope.
I sat next to our baby, his sweet little face still so new and foreign to me, a stranger to become friends with and an inseparable part of me all at the same time. I felt a rush of gratitude for the surreal beauty of his entry into the world. And I don’t just mean the delivery. Each of my sons has been a clear gift from God, but there has been something especially grace-led about our journey to welcoming Becket into our family. From his very conception, which sprung from a generous impulse that surprised both Jason and I last minute (literally just one week before, we were thinking we’d try for the third baby in a year, for many very sound reasons)… To that hard and humbling moment in my sick as a dawg first tri, where God reached into my misery and reassured me so clearly – that He had something at work here so far beyond our wildest plans – a moment in which He also gave me the name for our child, something that really hadn’t happened before with such force… Down to his birth, which was this kind of Upper Room experience for me, enveloped by grace and peace and the feeling that I didn’t deserve any of it.
(My über Catholic mom couldn’t remember how to spell St Thomas Becket’s name lol. I’m afraid such will be his future – everyone wants to add an extra T there. And she had to draw not one but two Will’s because apparently Henry messed up one of them and that was very upsetting to the former.)
Our third baby has been the scariest so far financially, as the older two are beginning to cost a lot more, and every spare dollar has been spent before it even hits the bank account. The third pregnancy was the most nauseous for me in the first trimester. And my sweet little guy was born with tongue tie – it’s genetic apparently and comes from my loud chatty family lol – which made his latch those first two days super shallow and seriously hurt me. Like, bleeding and crying when he latched kind of deal. I’m still healing. So the whole thing has been hard, in case I’ve given the impression it was totally idyllic or something. But at every corner, we have been smacked in the face with reminders that God is so good, and He is in control.