Baby William (finally) joined us at the end of September! We had an amazing birth experience, which I’ll share below. He weighed in at 8 lbs 4 oz and was 21 inches long. He was my biggest baby by a landslide, and fulfilled my goal of growing an 8 lb baby. His birth story is below.
****************************Disclaimer – the following story contains pictures with partial nudity***********************************
I don’t think that the end of any pregnancy is ever a cake walk. Certainly, every expectant mother is excited to see her new little one, and wants him or her to be as ready and healthy as possible. But as baby gets bigger and bigger, mom gets more and more uncomfortable. That due date looms large in front of us and we pray that baby will make an appearance SOON. Knowing a time frame – albeit a month long time frame – has helped many a mother to cope with the discomfort for just a few more days or weeks. However, I wasn’t in possession of this luxury this time around.
I was still nursing my 18 month old son when I got pregnant – and had not had a menstrual cycle. We didn’t realize I was pregnant for another 6 to 8 weeks afterward. When we did realize it, and began to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we were left without a clear due date, and more of a due month. The midwife I hired for my birth doesn’t like early ultrasounds, and assured me that the baby would come when he or she was ready. So, I didn’t push for one. We had agreed to do a scan around what we were guessing would be 20 weeks and see what they had to say about due date at that point. I would find myself regretting this decision later, but the baby did come right when he was ready, just as she said. We knew that we were probably looking at a September baby, but we were not sure about what part of the month to expect.
Our 20-ish week ultrasound estimated a September 20th baby, who was currently in the 90th percentile for size. I laughed that off as being absurd. After all, the 3 babies I had already were all below the 10th percentile for size, with two of them being below the 5th. I would believe that I was growing a larger baby than they had been – but not by 80 – 85th percent bigger. I suspected immediately that this baby would arrive a week or so before the 20th. Also, I had begun feeling strong movement at what would be about 12 weeks if the 20th were an accurate date. While movement at 12 weeks isn’t completely unheard of, and I had felt Sofi at 12 weeks, it didn’t seem accurate to me. Sofi had hyperthyroidism in utero, and had been crazily hyperactive because of it. So feeling her at 12 weeks made a bit more sense. This baby was far more mellow, and obviously not hyperthyroid. Strong movement at 12 weeks made very little sense for him. I had felt Walter at 14 weeks and Elliott at 16. So, again, this supported my theory that this baby would come a bit before September 20. However, no ultrasound can predict the day a baby will actually arrive, so it still didn’t much matter, and we continued with the pregnancy as before. The one thing that the ultrasound DID reveal was that we were having another boy, whom we named William.
The summer wore on and I grew somewhat bigger, though I measured small the entire pregnancy. I knew that the baby was bigger than he seemed by looking at me, but it was troublesome that I was so small. It was also rather uncomfortable, since being small meant that I was completely FULL of baby. I was sent for another ultrasound to see that everything was alright with William and that there was no growth restriction. That ultrasound revealed a healthy baby who was measuring right on in the 25th percentile for size. This seemed more reasonable than the 90th, but I still had many doubts about my due date.
The baby dropped one day during my estimated 37th week of pregnancy. The midwives suddenly became concerned that he was going to come early – especially since it would seem that he was small. I, on the other hand, laughed that I had thought my due date was wrong all along, and that I would welcome him earlier than the 20th, if that is what happened. And I felt certain that was exactly what would happen. This was doubly alright with me when the date for my sister’s wedding was finally set at the end of August. I had happily agreed to be the matron of honor in the wedding before I found out I was expecting, but the wedding was tied to another event. We had to wait until the date for that event to be set before we would know the date of the wedding. The date ended up being September 21. I was confident that William would arrive in good time before the wedding, and I would be recovered enough to be on my feet for the ceremony.
On Friday the 13th, I awoke to contractions in the night. They were gentle, and easy, though not regular. I was excited and sure that it would be my lucky day. But, early in the day, they stopped and I was left frustrated. William had dropped yet further, and was putting a lot of pressure on my pelvic region. I had to pee constantly after that, and was pretty much always uncomfortable. But I was also certain that labor would pick up again in a few days, and we would have a newborn to take to the wedding with us. I was wrong.
On the 19th, Tracy, one of my dearest friends from Kansas City arrived with her daughter, to stay for a week with us. We were all sure that William would make his arrival during their stay. At the same time, we were all fairly certain that he would NOT be arriving in the next few days, as I was far too anxious about missing the wedding to actually go into labor. My September 20th due date came and went with no baby – much to my surprise.
I felt so lucky to have Tracy here during the next week! I came home from the wedding refreshed and relaxed. The anxiety of missing the wedding was over and now I could just be calm and wait for my little man to decide to be ready. Tracy and I spent our days knitting, visiting, and catching up on all of the things that had happened over the summer. We went for a pedicure, hoping the massage on the pressure points would bring on labor. It didn’t. We went shopping and walked around, hoping that would bring on labor. It didn’t. We visited the chiropractor, hoping that aligning everything better would bring on labor. It did not. I paced the floor, danced, and did anything else the midwife suggested to bring on labor. None of them worked. Luckily, I also had the good sense to balance my efforts at getting started with rest, so that I didn’t wear myself out. And the good company kept me from panicking about William seeming so settled.
The middle of the night was more difficult, as every night found me waking up with contractions. I would finally wake up enough to get out of bed and go to the bathroom. Peeing would stop the contractions, but waking up enough to go do it left me awake for 2 hours every time. I would be hungry as well, and have to eat. And I would have heartburn nearly all of the time in the evening and during the night.
Tracy was scheduled to leave the morning of the 26th. Still, there was no baby. She decided to wait one more day and see if that day were lucky. We went to the grocery store, and I pushed the shopping cart around. But the afternoon found us resting and knitting, with nary a contraction in sight. I went to bed disappointed that I still didn’t have my baby and that my friend was leaving in the morning without meeting my new baby. If I hadn’t been so worn out, I probably would have cried like a baby. Instead, I fell asleep shortly after 9:00 – too tired to keep my eyes open long enough to do anything else.
I awoke right around 1:00 in the morning. I was having contractions that must have made their way into my dreams. I dreamed that I awoke in labor and had only enough time for Micah to move, and Tracy to help me out of bed before I gave birth on the bedroom floor. When I found myself actually awake after this dream, I was, of course, having contractions – just like every other night for weeks. I rolled out of bed and went to the bathroom. I got myself a bowl of cereal and settled into my rocking chair with my laptop to check out Facebook and watch a season premiere on abc.com. It wasn’t all too long into my cereal and show that I realized that the contractions were still coming – and some of them were actually pretty strong! I grew hopeful, but not yet certain. Tracy was asleep on my property still. If I were actually laboring, she could still be here when the baby was born!
By 3:00, the contractions had never gotten steady. They were plenty intense when they would come, but the intervals were completely random, sometimes with 20 minutes in between contractions even. I decided to go on back to bed and see if I could get some more sleep before morning. That also didn’t happen. At 4:30, I decided that even though the contractions weren’t yet regular, they were intense enough to call it the real thing. I woke Micah and told him to start a pot of coffee and put up the pool. I texted Tracy to tell her he was doing so, called the midwife, her partner, and the doula. I woke the older kids, and promptly got the shakes and nausea. I became a little concerned that I had already hit transition, and was anxious that the midwives wouldn’t make it before the baby arrived. Thankfully, I wasn’t yet in transition, and everyone arrived with plenty of time to spare.
My doula, Vicki, was the first to arrive, and helped to get the area set up for the birth. I had planned since moving into this house in July to give birth in the living room, right in front of the giant picture window. My two favorite times of day were sunrise – with the fog rolling across the fields in the low lying valleys and across the lake – or sunset, with the colors flashing out across the lake. Both were beautiful and I had many times envisioned my birth happening at one end of the day or the other, looking out on that beautiful view. So, we moved some furniture around, swept the floor, and got the room all ready for the tub to go up. Micah put it up quickly and Sofi and Vicki set up the supplies so that everything would be out where people could get what they needed easily.
I paced around, or sat and rocked, between contractions. I realized, during this time, that I had actually been having contractions all along, but I just wasn’t feeling most of them. Then, there were some that seemed to put so much pressure through my pelvis and my hips that I had to stop and focus on relaxing to get through them.
I decided at one point that I was hungry, and that I really should have something to eat before things really got heavy, so I asked Micah to make me a waffle. I ate it, and my contractions seemed to all but stop. I grew concerned that I was going to stall out, and got up to pace some more. Nothing much was happening still when Elliott awoke a little later. Daddy held him for a few minutes, but I had a better idea. I told him good morning, gave him some kisses and asked if he wanted some milk. He wasn’t going to turn that offer down, so we went to the rocking chair to nurse for a little while. My body couldn’t resist that, and contractions started back up again quickly. When one of the intense ones happened, I called for Micah and Elliott seemed to just know that he needed to stop now. He unlatched by himself and looked around for Daddy. Micah scooped him up and we were back in business! Things seemed to progress much more rapidly from there.
It wasn’t long before I was back in the birth pool. The labor that we had all worried would happen so quickly that I’d birth alone turned into several hours while we all worked together. We watched a beautiful sunrise with me in the pool. The fog rolled over the fields, valleys and lake, and then slowly cleared as the sun reached down into it. At one point, I asked that we open the door so that I could have the breeze and the fresh air. Some women prefer to have it dark and silent while they labor, but I prefer the sunshine, and I live for fresh air. For me, the setting was perfection! At one point, someone exclaimed that there were deer outside, and everyone turned to watch. I raised up in the pool to watch a mama deer with her twin babies playing in the field right across from our house, for quite a while. During a contraction, I would sink down into the tub and relax against the edge. When the contraction was over, I would rise back up on my knees to look out the window at the deer. It was perfect, and magical.
The sun continued to climb through the sky as I continued to labor. This was definitely my longest and most difficult labor yet. When the contractions would come, I would signal and someone would come and put pressure across my hips and tailbone, while I relaxed and breathed over the rail of the tub. When it was over, I would take a deep breath, shake off the pressure, and rejoin the conversations around me. I gave the kids kisses from the pool, snuggled with Elliott, and enjoyed the companionship of the people around me.
As the morning wore on, it became more intense. Micah came and sat with me and held my hands or applied pressure during the contractions. I kept waiting for the urge to push, but it wasn’t coming. I could feel him moving down, but he wasn’t close enough to push yet. Vicki would laugh that she could feel him moving down under her hands, but he just wasn’t there yet. At one point, things became very intense for me. In my head, I knew that he was stuck coming through my pelvic bones. I KNEW that he needed me to lay back so that he could slide further down. But, the contractions were so intense through my pelvis that I was afraid that it would be unbearable if I laid back and couldn’t have the counter pressure against my hips. After three or four very intense contractions where I couldn’t move him, I had a mini-meltdown to Micah. I just wanted him out, out, out, out, OUT! Finally, I accepted that he wasn’t moving and that I would have to endure lying back. After the next contraction, I moved backward and lay down on the opposite side of the tub. Immediately, the ache eased and became much easier to cope with. When the next few contractions came, I was able to breathe and relax through them. I floated slightly in the water, just breathing and listening to my Hypnobabies affirmations. After a handful of these easier contractions, I knew it was time to get back up on my knees.
Once I got back up, it was not much longer. A few more contractions and my body began pushing. I could feel his head making its way down, and then it was just below my skin. This, to me, is one of the sensations of birth that I look forward to, letting me know for certain that the baby is close and will be out in a few more minutes! I pushed and pushed to get him up to the front and out. At this point, my water finally broke. I had my hand down, feeling for his head to come forward, and felt the gush.
There was still plenty of time between contractions at this point. I remember feeling grateful during the labor that the contractions were never right on top of one another, but even watching the video of the birth, it is a bit amazing to me that there was so much time between each contraction. This was doubly good, because I was getting tired. It was past 10:30 and I had gotten only about three and a half hours sleep the night before. Between the contractions, I laid my head down at one point and asked if we could all just stop for a while and take a nap. My birth team laughed and told me to just take a quick snooze on the side of the tub.
With the next contraction, I was pushing again, and begging him to come forward and come out! After another contraction, he was there, crowning. The next contraction was bringing a head through me, and I could clearly feel that this head was bigger than Walter and Elliott’s had been. It flashed through my mind again that this baby was going to be bigger than everyone thought, even though I had been so tiny. My midwife told me to push slowly so that I didn’t tear, but I wasn’t in charge of the pushing. My body was working on its own. He kept coming until suddenly his head was out. In just a moment, it seemed, the next contraction came and a large body came pressing out of my own small body.
Micah was behind me in the tub, applying pressure to my back. He caught the baby in the water and he and the midwife passed him quickly up between my legs to the front of me. As soon as his face cleared the water, he began to cry. He was huge, and beautiful, and had quite the voice already! He cried, and cried, and cried. I held him in the water and talked to him. I held him close to my body. I offered him my breast. And he cried, and cried. I looked around at the faces of my children, my husband, my mother, my best friend, and my birth team. It was a beautiful, wonderful, magical moment. And I was exhausted! I announced that more than anything, I just wanted to get out of the tub.
William and I were wrapped up in towels and towels were put down on the couch. I sat down holding him and the children crowded around to see him. After a few minutes, I asked if we could move to the bedroom instead because I was desperate to lie down, though I hadn’t delivered my placenta yet. William had a somewhat short cord, which was making maneuvering difficult, but we managed to get up from the couch and make our way to the bed. A little while later, the placenta finally detached and I was able to birth it. Sofi cut William’s cord. I was able to get him to latch well, and we were finally able to lie down a rest a bit. His newborn exam was done right in my bed and he weighed in at 8 lbs, 4 oz! He was more than a full pound heavier than my largest baby before – Walter was 6 lbs 15 oz. He was also 21 inches long, while the other three had all been 18 or lower. I was astounded, proud, and at the same time, a little smug. I had known that he was much bigger than everyone else had thought – but I hadn’t allowed myself to truly dream that he could be 8 lbs.
Finally, finally, everything was done and I was able to take a nap with my sweet new man.
It was an amazing birthing, and an amazing experience.