Birth story of baby R:
This sweet baby always had a plan of his own. As much as I wanted to compare him to his other siblings he showed me that he likes to do things a little different. This pregnancy was tough on me. My hardest one yet, I think I was 35 weeks the last time I threw up from the all day nausea. I got absolutely huge for this little guy and quickly! So quickly in fact we were convinced there might be two… there wasn't. Between not being able to keep food down, dizzy spells, and utter exhaustion I couldn't keep up physically like I usually can. Heck! With R's pregnancy I went rock climbing at 37 weeks, with baby F I had to limit climbing the stairs because I would be too winded. Any way it was tough and it constantly kept me wondering why? I started following a very strict Brewer's Pregnancy Diet to see if I could get the sickness and my energy under control around 32 weeks, and by the end of the week I finally felt like myself again! We started walking together nearly every day and I was able to be more active overall… as long as I didn't stray from the diet.
So with all my other pregnancies I've always dealt with prodromal labor. Which is basically an early labor that comes on usually at night, has timable and real contractions, but then fizzles out by morning. It is no sleeping and exhausting but it's something I have come to expect in the last weeks of pregnancy. I learned that if I go to sleep and the contractions disappear in the morning to just ignore it! With R's labor when the contractions kept coming in the morning he was born within 48 hours.
With baby F I got nothing! No prodromal, barely even a braxton hicks! I wasn't complaining! But this was so not my "pattern". Finally I started to have gentle timable contractions one night and I wondered if they would turn into anything so we went to bed early and I felt them through the night but could mostly sleep. The next morning they were still coming 20-30 mins apart. I thought, "okay this is the start of something, great maybe a couple more days and we can meet our baby!" They stayed that way for the next three days and became stronger when the sunset, weaker with the sunrise but never stopped. And that's when I started to lose it. I was exhausted and mentally terrorizing myself comparing this experience to my past experiences. I started trying all the "things" to get the contractions to round the corner from early labor into active labor. They would ramp up but always slow back down. I could tell the baby was in a wonky position so I had Justine, my doula, come over a couple of times to do some spinning babies. That would put him in the right position and my contractions would regulate some more but then we would slip back to posterior and everything would slow down again. We were all so exhausted. Day five the big kids went to spend their days at the other houses (and I was so worried about them not being here) I focused on resting only. We all needed the rest. The contractions never stopped coming. Sometimes between 5 and 20 mins apart, but the biggest break I had was 20 minutes. The kids came back and I was ready to get the baby out! We tried all the things again, and that night my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart! I thought for sure I would be having a baby by morning, but of course they fizzled out again. I called my midwife Sunday crying. I was mentally spent and she told me she would be right over.
I want to talk a little about the fact that I am a VBAC mom. My first baby was a cesarean birth, second VBAC in the hospital with a midwife and a benevolent epidural at 9cm after 40 hours of labor, third VBAC was unmedicated at home with my midwife after 4 hours of active labor. With my second VBAC I had no doubt I could do it, the fact I was a VBAC mom didn't even cross my mind. But after a week of this early labor stuff I was feeling vulnerable, and desperate, I wanted to be done, and I wanted the baby out and in my arms. I told Sunday I considered going to the hospital because they wouldn't even let me try to labor as a VBAC they would just put me in for a repeat section and then I could be done. I wondered if my body was just too weak and tired from the difficult pregnancy to be able to actually push a baby out this time. I knew what it took, and I wasn't sure that I had it in me. I wondered if my scar (which still gives me pain and trouble 3 babies and 7 years later) had finally had enough stretching and pressure over the years and that was why my labor wasn't turning the corner. These types of thoughts stayed with me until the baby was crowning. I haven't processed all the way why, but I believe it goes to show that our bodies and minds remember, and that in our most vulnerable moments past trauma can creep in, and without loving support and people around you doing what they know to be right for you that trauma will continue to cycle until it is broken.
Sunday comes over. I'll be honest. I was hoping she would offer to break my water right then and there. Or give me some street pitocin. I would have gladly accepted anything in that moment to be done with it all. But she didn't. Instead she loved on me and told me that she knew I could do it. She reminded me that "this baby is not R, or S, or M, this baby is his own person and is going to do things his own way." A mantra I kept in my mind even now as I write this three days postpartum. She reminded me how much more experience and schooling I have as a student midwife myself and how that was affecting me. She was right, I was totally trying to be the provider and assess everything instead of allowing myself to be the laborer. I knew how to do my own cervical checks so I was checking daily and racking my brain over the very slow progress. I vowed in that moment to remain the laborer and to stop assessing! She also reminded me that I am a little...type A… haha! And asked me what I was trying to control. Who would be there, how labor would go, and strongest when it would happen. I had to let go of control, I was not the boss, this baby could safely and healthily come in June! I cried big to her and she reminded once again that my body has done this before and will do it again but that I had "two heads in my vagina!" Mine and the babies and I needed to relax and allow it to happen just the way God intended. I immediately felt better and the lesson Sunday gave me that afternoon is something I will hold onto for a lifetime.
I felt a shift in my energy after that. I started praying more, I spent a lot of time worshipping and reading my bible. The contractions never stopped coming but they became more gentle and allowed me some mental rest. I could feel the baby had slipped posterior again and was a bit stuck in my hip making everything hurt and click as I walked. Because of covid I hadn't been to the chiropractor in weeks, so I called my brother Nevin who is an amazing chiropractor and cried and asked for advice. He came on the weekend and spent some time with us and fixed my hips for me. I cried again from the relief of it all. Then my bestie Emily gave me an amazing massage later that day. I felt all melty and squishy the rest of the afternoon and I slept hard. It was wonderful. There was a definite shift in the direction of my contractions after my hips here adjusted. I think I was just too tired for anything to happen from it right away. So the next day things started to pick up but Matt wasn't feeling well and they slowed down again. This time though I was not panicking, "God has a plan, this baby might not come until June, and that's okay, this baby is his own person and he is going to do things his own way." Monday rolled around and everyone had gotten good sleep and was feeling like themselves again. I could feel a serious shift in the intensity of my contractions. They were still 20 mins apart though so I tried really hard not to get excited. By the time we finished lunch I had to move and work through them but still, they could probably stop at any moment so I tried to ignore them. We had a quiet dinner and it was my turn to sit with R for bedtime. While I was putting R down they were 10 minutes apart and I was having to vocalize through them. Okay so the intensity had definitely turned a corner great! But they could still stop and that's okay "this baby has his own plan". Once R was asleep I ran to the bathroom and started clearing out - a sure sign of actual labor "but maybe not it could still stop!" I came back to our bedroom and Matt rubbed my sacrum through a couple as I shook through them from the flow of hormones. (He told me later that's when he realized it was real labor even though I was in denial still). He timed them and let me know they were closer to 5 minutes apart not 10 and that maybe we should call Justine and give Sunday the heads up. I let Sunday know that things *may* have rounded the corner but that I wasn't convinced and they might stop again and she told me her ringer was on! Matt burned me some palo santo and turned on the twinkle lights and the playlist for baby F I had been listening to since 20 weeks. He rubbed my back as I moaned through and bounced on the ball.
Justine came in and took over the back rubbing, or maybe they shared? I closed my eyes a lot and felt loving hands all over. Either way it felt amazing. I apologized to Justine because I thought everything might peter out but I knew I needed her to help Matt get me through these tough ones because we were both still a bit tired from the long 2 weeks before hand. She reminded me that I could do it and that she was happy to be here and helping. Matt ran around and did some last minute things around the house. And Kayla a new doula and friend and my bestie and Sunday's assistant Jenna arrived. I continued to apologize between moaning through contractions that I was sorry for making them come over when it all might fizzle out by morning. It was so nice to see and touch other humans for the first time in months. I was really chatty between contractions, which was great but everyone around me realized that it was kind of slowing things down and not letting me focus inward. I loved sitting on the ball but that also kept my contractions a little inconsistent and less intense than when I was standing. Matt told me this later: I guess at some point they noticed when I got up to go to the bathroom my contractions would pick up and get stronger, so they came up with a plan to push water on me at every chance so that I would have to get up and walk more… brilliant jerks. Haha. I refused to look at the clock but at some point I realized that they were getting more intense but still seemed really far apart. I looked at Justine and asked her if they had gotten any closer. She told me they were still 4 minutes and then she said "I know you're going to hate me, and you don't have to if you don't want to but how about squatting through the next couple?" I really didn't want to physically, because I knew what it meant to get to the next phase and I wasn't sure if I could handle transition. I had all the thoughts I talked about earlier. I battled in my head if I should check my cervix for progress or not, because I stupidly at this point still wasn't convinced this was real labor and I wanted some sort of "proof". I battled with the idea that I wanted things to get harder because harder meant progress and that I just wanted a little break from the pain. So I squatted. And they got closer and more intense while I squatted. Looking back as I came up from the squat this was probably when a form of transition hit. The contractions were definitely more intense and I could feel the baby moving down more. I was shaking more, more "birth high", feeling vomity. I would have a couple of contractions back to back and then I would talk to Baby F and ask him for a little break and then they would space out to 4 mins again. So in my mind at the time I told myself they're too far apart still and inconsistent, everything could still stop. The contractions were difficult not to panic through. I would feel one coming and say "no no not again I don't want another one, yes I do, I can do it, get this baby out of me I want to meet him!" Everyone around me was loving on me, rubbing and praying and encouraging. I just kept saying and thinking, "thank you all, I feel so loved and supported, I'm so happy you're all here to help me through this." Matt called my momma to come help with R who had woken up at that point and she arrived and sang him back to sleep then supported me in all the ways.
I wanted the water and Matt filled the bath for me and lit candles. Once I got in the water I slept for a bit between contractions and then when I woke up I started involuntarily pushing and Matt was like, "um I think we need to call Sunday" and I was like yeah okay but it's probably for nothing because they're still far apart. Everyone was like… haha um no this is real. I didn't believe them. I realized I was pushing some but also felt like I wasn't making progress with the pushing. With my other VBACs they were out in 3-4 easy pushes. This was different… obviously because this baby was different right?! So I decided to get out and squat. That felt like it was a little better but still the baby wasn't coming like I was used to. I finally decided to check myself. I sat on the toilet and felt that I was fully dilated with a little lip left, his head was well applied and in a good lie. I waited to see what was happening during a push and I felt my waters balloon up. Even though I knew it was my waters subconsciously. My first immediate thought was oh no he is breech (squishy waters feel a bit like squishy buns) and secondly, oh no there's a second baby trying to come out there was two ahhhh! Then the water broke and I felt what was actually his little hand trying to come out alongside his head!!
Okay so now I knew why he wasn't coming out as quickly as the others and I knew that I was going to have to work harder to get him out. My first thought was to panic. "I can't do this, I want an epidural, it's too hard." Matt put his forehead against mine and I don't remember what he said but I just looked into his eyes and I could see that he knew I could do it and that he loved me. So I resolved, there is no other way but to just do it and it is going to suck.. hard. I wanted to get to the bedroom where there was more room to work. I did a couple of pushes hand and knees, then supported sitting, then side lying. I could feel the baby moving finally, slowly but surely, it took so much work and effort with pushing, something I had never experienced before. Finally he was crowning, and I knew it would be quick then, I yelled to Matt "he is coming catch him!" And Matt caught him as he crowned. While I screamed "just pull him out get him out, I can't do this" and fell into my momma's arms and evidently bit her as I pushed the rest of his body out. I knew that I actually had to push him out but that's been what I say every time because it is super hard to push a baby out! Jenna helped Matt maneuver and unwrap his cord from his neck and body and hand him to me. It was so lovely to hold my squishy, slimy, baby on my tummy. I just rubbed him for a moment and marveled at him and fell in love. Sunday came in and had missed it by about less than a minute! Baby F pinked up right away and let out a little cry to let us know he was here. I felt my placenta detach and Sunday helped deliver the placenta in one fell swoop while Matt and I snuggled the baby. And everyone around us worked to tidy things up. R suddenly woke up to join the party and bleary eyed looked at all the strange people in his momma's room! Then he realized there was a baby too! And he sat with me and poked my tummy and said baby F come out! He totally knew and was giddy and in love with his baby brother. I started to hear the birds chirping outside and asked what time it was?! Oh about 4am- oh my goodness I had no idea how long it had been. We called Justine around 9. The first contraction I had to moan through was at 6 so about 10 hours total of active labor that never got closer than 4 minutes apart.
Sunday helped Matt to cut the cord and weigh and measure the baby. Justine helped me make a print of my placenta and then Matt took it to turn it into a smoothie. We turned on some cartoons for R and settled in for a nap waiting for the big kids to come home and meet their new little brother. My momma went home and napped but came back to spend the morning with the kids downstairs so we could sleep and and bought us lunch we had a picnic in our room as everyone giggled and marveled over the new baby. Then Mimi came with dinner and hung out with them until bedtime. We tucked in early as a family of seven, well loved and ready for some sleep.
I am a student midwife and doula serving families in the North Country, and living life with five littles.