I woke up on the morning of October 7th, which happened to be my estimated due date, to wet pajama pants. “Hmmm…” I thought, “Could my water be leaking?” I shrugged it off as I got cleaned up, telling myself that no one usually has their baby on their actual “due date”. But later, as I fixed breakfast for myself and 4-year-old Simon, I felt some little rushes of fluid, and decided to call my midwife.
I left a message with the receptionist, and only a few minutes later I got a call back, saying my midwife, Jean, wanted me to come in so she could check if my water had, in fact, broken. Still thinking nothing of it, I chose the latest appointment time of the ones they offered me. I called my Dad at work, and asked him if he could watch Simon for me while I went to the appointment. He and my Mother, both very excited, skipped out of work to come over. My mother stayed at my house to play with Simon, while my Dad chauffeured me, just in case. It turned out to be a good decision to have him drive me there, because on the way I had my first contraction. It was not very strong, but was definitely stronger than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been having sporadically for weeks. When we arrived, I felt two more in the waiting room, just strong enough to distract me as my Dad and I conversed.
In Jean’s office, I changed out of my leggings, and she listened to Baby’s heart rate, and then had me lie back so she could check me. She did a test strip, which she explained showed signs of amniotic fluid. She also said I was 3 centimeters dilated. (I had been 2 centimeters at my last routine appointment with her.) We chatted as I got dressed again, and she told me there was a second test she would do under a microscope, but that she would like me to have a non-stress test up in Labor and Delivery, and that I should be admitted. Admitted? Wait, what? I was startled, and asked: “So this is happening?” It didn’t seem like it could be, I wasn’t having contractions the same way that I did with Simon’s birth. I told her that if this was really it, and I was being admitted, I wanted to go home first to get my suitcase, and make sure Simon was all set. So she said she would go up to Labor and Delivery, and have them ready a room for me, and would see me back in a little while. As I left the office, I had another contraction. “Maybe this really is happening,” I thought.
I smiled as I told my Dad that the Baby was on the way, and then dialed my husband Jeramy at work to tell him to meet me at home. It still didn’t feel real.
Back at my house, I consulted my list, added the last few things to our suitcase, and packed Simon up to go stay with his Nana as I sipped coffee. Jeramy arrived, took a quick shower, then loaded up the car. I was still having contractions, and they were very manageable and far apart, but I began timing them with an app on my phone. My Mother-in-law arrived next, and Jeramy buckled Simon into her car as all three Grandparents wished us luck. When it was time to say goodbye to Simon, he got very teary-eyed, and didn’t want to let us go from his arms when we gave him hugs. It was extremely hard for me to see him upset, knowing he was experiencing excitement, nervousness, and fear of the unknown all at once, and just wanting to keep comforting and holding him. But I knew he would be well cared for, and that he would likely calm down as soon as their car backed down the driveway.
About half an hour later Jeramy and I arrived at the hospital. The staff had already prepared our room, which surprised me. I had expected to go through triage before being checked in, but I suppose when your water is broken, there is no question about whether or not you are checking in. The room we were given was the one we were hoping for, and we had indicated this on our birth plan. Out of the 7 Labor and Delivery rooms, it is one of only two with a queen-sized bed, and is the only one with a built-in birthing tub. (The other rooms require an inflatable one be brought in.) It was also the room that Simon was born in, and I was so excited to be having our second child in that same space.
We settled in for a moment before Jeramy went back to the car for the suitcase, and then we sat and talked for a few minutes until the nurse came in to put me on the monitor. I had requested only intermittent monitoring throughout labor, so that I would have full freedom to move around the room, and use any position to make myself more comfortable. Unfortunately, I had also tested positive for group B strep, which meant that every 4 hours I would be given a dose of antibiotics as well. In order to keep me hooked up to machines for the least amount of time, the nurse put in my hep lock, and gave me my first dose of antibiotics at the same time that I wore the belly monitor. Jean came in then, and we discussed some options. Since my water was leaking so slowly, she thought it might be a good idea to break it the rest of the way. I shared some hesitations I was feeling, telling her that I was scared it would hurt. She was very reassuring, explaining it wouldn’t, and that she thought it might be a good idea to gently help things along in this way, so that I would not have to be in labor for so long that I would run out of energy. She also reminded me that my water was already broken, she would just be helping it along, and that she would not be recommending this if it wasn’t already leaking. I agreed to do it, and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. It felt like a big gush of warm liquid, and there was no pain. Our nurse, Amanda, helped me get cleaned up, and brought me a pad to wear. Jean suggested that when I was ready, we go for a walk.
A short time later, we were wandering around the Labor and Deliver floor, chatting about the last time we had done this, when I had birthed Simon. I had only one contraction as we walked, and I leaned on Jeramy for support, as we stood and swayed. After a while, we returned to our room to order dinner from the cafeteria. As we sat and ate, I thought how strange it was to still be so comfortable. I texted my friend: “I am in labor, but I am eating lasagna.” This whole experience was so different from my first delivery, where contractions were 5 minutes apart almost the entire time.
Not much later, my contractions did start moving closer together and becoming stronger. Through them, I would close my eyes, take Jeramy’s hand, and focus on breathing through a relaxed mouth. From reading Ina May’s book, I knew that a relaxed and open mouth can help assist with relaxation all over, and with dilating of the cervix. So as I breathed, I told myself to keep from clenching my jaw. Amanda brought me a birth ball, and I moved from the ball, gently bouncing, to the bed on my knees, with my arms and head on a stack of pillows, and even to the toilet. Moving through all of these positions, breathing deeply, and swaying gently back and forth, helped me through the pain. I was monitored again while sitting on the ball, and received a second dose of antibiotics. During this stage of labor, we listened to Lisa Hannigan on the CD player and kept the lights dim in the room. It got dark outside, and we closed the shades.
Jeramy was a wonderful birth partner. He held me when I needed him, reassured me and rubbed my back, and reminded me to focus on just breathing and keeping my body from tensing up. A few times, I told him to just keep talking to me while I had a contraction, and he told me funny stories to make me laugh. As my contractions became more intense, I squeezed his hand harder and harder, and he never complained. I spent a lot of time visualizing my baby coming down, my cervix opening up, and thinking to myself: “My baby is coming. My contractions are my own body bringing me my baby. I am opening, and I am going to keep opening to let my baby out.” I truly believe that this positive thinking helped to speed things along.
As late evening arrived, I began to feel strongly that I wanted to be in the tub. Jean had encouraged me to think of the tub as “medicine” and to wait until I was at the point of really needing it before getting in, so that it would not relax me to the point of slowing labor way down. I was definitely reaching that point. After my third dose of antibiotics, they got the tub ready for me.
I wanted to use the bathroom before getting into the water. Jeramy walked me to the toilet, where I sat for a few minutes. I had an intense contraction then, and began sweating. I remember him suggesting “Maybe you are in transition?”. As I got ready to stand back up off the toilet, I was hit by another very intense contraction, and I grabbed onto Jeramy with all my might. When it ended, I waited a moment, then went to stand again and another strong contraction came. The contractions were so strong then, that I just wanted to be settled into the warm water of the tub, but it seemed like every time I tried to make a move in that direction, my body would be hit by another intense contraction, and I wouldn’t be able to stand up. Finally, after four or five contractions like that, I was able to stand up, put on my bathing suit top, and move toward the birthing tub.
Amanda and Jean came into the room as I climbed into the water, and asked about my pain level. I had another contraction and happily reported that it only ranked about a 7 out of 10, now that I was in the water. “I am never getting out.”, I said and smiled. The tub was so comforting, and I fully expected to spend a lot of time in there. Jean left to go attend to other women. (There were 4 of us in labor that night!) I believe she, too, thought I would be in there a while. However, after only about 3 contractions, things changed.
Suddenly, I was sweating again, and my strongest contraction yet came. I squeezed Jeramy’s arm and told him “I feel like I might be pushing, call Jean!”. As the contraction ended, he started to move toward the call button, but a second contraction hit, just as strong, and I grabbed onto him again, and would not let him go. “I just want my baby, I just want to hold my baby.” I told him as I breathed through it. “Soon.” he told me, and held me. Then, I surprised myself as I shouted out loudly: “I’m pushing!!!”, and Jean heard me from the hallway. She and Amanda came rushing back into the room.
As the contraction ended, Jean checked me, and told me the Baby’s head was already crowning. She asked if I wanted to feel it, and, remembering how amazing that had been, and how it had encouraged me to keep going to reach down and feel my baby when Simon was being born, I said yes. She helped me guide my hand, and sure enough, I felt the top of a warm little head emerging and I smiled. Jean helped me to lift my leg, and prop it into a better position. As the next intense contraction came, she told me I needed to shift my bottom down. This was the one time during all of labor that I doubted myself. I felt like I could not move. “I can’t!” I said, but both she and Jeramy said “Yes you can! You have to.”, and somehow, with their help, I scooted down in the tub to make room for the baby to come out as I pushed. On the third big contraction Jean told me to “Keep pushing, keep pushing!” and I tried with all of the strength I had. It was hard, and part of me wanted to give up, but I wanted my baby, I breathed hard and just focused on picturing the baby coming out. My eyes were closed through most of this, and Jeramy later told me that it looked like I was in a trance. I didn’t even realize there were two other nurses in the room. At one point, I bit Jeramy on the arm! At last, I felt the baby’s body emerge, experienced an overwhelming sense of relief from the stretching as he slid out, and that’s when I finally opened my eyes.
His cord was wrapped twice around his neck, which scared me at first, but Jean calmly unwrapped him, and placed him on my chest. “Oh my god! Oh my god!” I exclaimed, as I held his warm, wet little body against me, and looked at his tiny little face. He didn’t cry, he only made one little noise of complaint to clear his lungs, and then settled on my chest. He was beautiful, and I was instantly in love. A minute later, Jeramy looked between his legs, and said “He’s a boy.” The nurse asked if we had a name, and I told her: “Malcolm Everett.”
Just like his brother, he was born just after 12:30 in the morning.
After a few moments of snuggling my baby, Jean asked me if Jeramy could hold Malcolm while they took off my wet bathing suit top, so that the baby would not be cold up against it. I passed him to his Daddy, and looked over to see Jeramy looking at and talking to his new baby, with happy tears in his eyes. He came back and stood by me and held my hand as I delivered the placenta. Jean drained the tub, and used a gentle sprayer to wash my legs before she and Amanda helped me to slowly stand up. They moved me to a small bed on wheels that had been brought in for delivery, and they propped me up on pillows there as Jeramy passed Malcolm back to me. I held him to my chest, and he began smacking his lips. I brought him to my breast and he immediately latched on to nurse. Everything felt incredibly serene, as I sat there in the warm and dim room, nursing my baby, not being able to take my eyes off of him.
After a short while, I was ready to stand up, use the bathroom, and get dressed. Jeramy took Malcolm, as Amanda helped me with all of this. Jean hugged and kissed me goodbye, telling us she would be back to check in with us the next morning. We took a picture, and sent an announcement to our families. Amanda came back to weigh and measure the baby, and we finally dressed and bathed him. He was 6 pounds, 9 ounces and just over 20 inches long.
Alone in the room, Jeramy and I basked in the amazement of all that had happened, and stared at our beautiful new baby.
The next morning arrived, we ordered breakfast, and eagerly awaited Simon’s arrival to meet his new brother. I was chatting with the pediatrician, who had stopped by to give the baby a quick check-up, when he came into the room. “So tiny! So tiny!”, he repeated through a huge smile, as he climbed up onto the bed with us. We helped him get settled against some pillows, and passed the baby to him. For me, that moment was magic. My two children, together for the first time, and seeing how in awe Simon was of the baby, as he commented on and inspected his little ears, little hands, little nose.