it was the perfect storm, really. full term on christmas day. philip planned on working until january, hoping that if our little one came early, he would at least wait until then. we had lots of family in town for the holidays -- my dad, my mother-in-law, my brother, and philip's sister -- and people were staying until the 28th. we should have known it would happen then.
[WARNING: THIS POST IS BASICALLY A NOVEL IT'S SO LONG, SO MAKE SURE YOU'RE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL.]
just as it had the first time, it all started on a sunday night. just two days after christmas. our home had been filled with visitors and wrapping paper for the better part of the last month, and we were starting to look forward to some down time before the baby came. my brother and sister-in-law [philip's sister, not my brother's wife, not that it matters] had gone to the airport with plenty of time for their flight, but with security lines wrapped around the first floor of the airport, we were waiting to hear if they would make their flight or not. it was nearly midnight before we learned they made their flight back to boston, and i finally headed up to bed.
my body was so tired. i tossed and turned all night. i should have been exhausted -- and i was -- but irregular cramping kept me from falling into a good sleep. we knew the baby was going to be early, but i didn't think about labor at all that night. throughout the last trimester of my pregnancy, there were lots of hints that our new little boy wouldn't be waiting until the middle of january to join our family. but i was hoping that wasn't true. the next morning i got up with julian at 7, like usual. my mother-in-law was still here, and before too long philip and his mom took julian into the basement to play in his playroom. at 8:30am, i went to the bathroom for the millionth time of the day already, and saw i was bleeding.
i hadn't had a contraction, but i knew this was it. this was exactly how it had started with julian.
so i went downstairs and told philip. "i'm bleeding," i said. "i think i'm starting labor."
"shit," he said.
and he wasn't totally wrong [though that didn't prevent me from getting upset]. everyone's clothes were dirty. there was no food in the house. sheets needed to be changed, the house needed to be cleaned, and there were a hundred errands to run today. not to mention philip's last big day of work was the next day -- so he had things he had to finish up that day, and calls he was slated to be on the next day. it was less than ideal timing, and though we were happy i made it to 37 weeks, 37+3 wasn't quite as far as we were hoping i'd make it.
he rushed upstairs to start sending emails and finishing up his work as best as he could, though he was still technically on christmas vacation. my mother-in-law played with julian while i went to go shower and wash my hair -- necessities for me in the early throes of labor. by the time i got out of the shower and headed back downstairs to make breakfast for julian, contractions had started. they were very mild, but i knew this was it.
lots more -- and photos too -- after the jump.
"are you nervous?" my mother-in-law asked me.
i thought about it for a second. "no," i replied truthfully. "but i'm very anxious." there was so much more i had wanted to do before this baby came, and i knew none of it was going to be done. i was scheduled to go in for a check-up with my midwife the next day, so i called the birth center, told them the situation and asked if we could move my appointment to that day. the asked me to come in right before lunch. and the day progressed, despite my contractions. i made eggs for my little boy. philip took his mom to the airport. julian and i got dressed and read stories. i called my mom and asked her to come stay with julian so philip could go to the midwife with me, and she came over to help right away.
within two hours, we were driving south to our midwife's office, our overnight bags packed and thrown into the trunk just in case, newborn carseat installed in the back seat. we walked right in to see vanessa, my midwife, and chatted about how the day had been. throughout our conversation i had to stop to have a contraction -- at this point i couldn't talk through them anymore. vanessa asked if i wanted to be checked, and i declined. i knew i was in labor, and things were obviously progressing. i didn't need to hear a number and didn't want to attach any hopes to what that number could possibly be. i wasn't far along enough to be admitted to the birth center, and vanessa determined my water hadn't yet broken. so she suggested that we go get some lunch and come back to the birth center a couple hours later. i happily agreed -- the birth center was a good half hour from our house, and i was not eager to labor in the car for another half hour.
i waddled back out to the car, had a contraction in the parking lot, and then we tried to figure out where to go. neither of us had eaten yet, but i didn't feel comfortable having a contraction in a sit-down restaurant. i had to stand up and move around for each one, and knew i would look sorely out of place. so we decided to go to the mall, which was just 15 minutes away. we could walk around inside [it was pretty freezing outside, since it was december], and i could stand up in the food court and not feel weird. so off we went.
as soon as we got into the mall, i realized we had made a big mistake. in all our focus with the baby, we'd forgotten it was the monday after christmas -- and the place was packed with people hitting the after-christmas sales, returning and exchanging gifts, and teenagers killing time while on holiday break. i kept my mouth shut though, and we walked over to the food court to find something to eat. we stood in line for half an hour for a chicken sandwich, and then were forced to hover over people finishing their lunch to find a table where we could sit. all the while i kept breathing through contractions, squeezing philip's hand and burying my face in his chest to block out the hundreds of people around me.
we sat down and philip ate. i picked at a few french fries. finally, during one particularly intense contraction, i stood up from the table to breathe through it. when it was over, my eyes filled with tears. i looked at philip and said in a shaky voice, "i don't want to be here." this was not the way i imagined my labor going, in public, at a shopping mall, people's eyes on the crazy woman moaning through pain. i was not excited at all about driving the half hour plus home at this point, but i wasn't ready to go to the birth center and we were
staying at the mall for another minute. philip pulled the car around while i went to the bathroom and called our midwife to tell her we were going home and would call her later.
and home we went. julian was napping by the time we arrived, and my mom was waiting for us in the living room. she and philip made a little bed for me on the couch and brought over a cup of red raspberry leaf tea. we put an episode of
on tv and i tried to close my eyes. the contractions on the car ride home had been very strong -- enough for me to start crying in frustration and worry.
why was i doing this again, exactly?
i had started to wonder. things were picking up so quickly we figured that by the time we get home we'd have about an hour before it would be go time and we were went back to the birth center. i expected my water to break any second.
i tried to rest. but before long julian was up. my mom brought him downstairs and i immediately wanted to get up and play with him. it felt weird to watch my mom get him his snack and sippy cup, and take him to the playroom to set up train tracks and go down the slide. i wasn't in any shape to play around like i normally would, and i felt like i couldn't let julian see me in pain. he wasn't old enough to understand and i didn't want to freak him out. but once julian was up, none of that seemed to matter -- my labor drastically slowed. contractions were 10 minutes apart or more, and i was once again able to talk through them. it wasn't anything like it had been just an hour before in the car, or even before that in the mall.
philip had his laptop out and was furiously typing away on the couch, trying to tie up all his loose ends. i wanted him to get it done as soon as he could, hopefully before we left for the birth center. after an hour and a half or so of what felt like no progress, i told philip i thought it was time for my mom to take julian to her house. i knew i wasn't going to progress with julian there. so around 4pm, julian rolled his little suitcase out the door to grammy's house and we said goodbye to our little boy -- and snapped our last family photo as a family of three. i stayed inside and cried as philip ran out to install the car seat in my mom's car. i couldn't stop thinking about what my little one would be like as a big brother.
but i was right, and i didn't have long to be sad about julian growing up -- my contractions picked up within half an hour of my mom and julian leaving. by 6pm, my contractions were only 3 minutes apart and were
intense. it was time for us to go. we called vanessa, who also lives half an hour from the birth center, and told her we were heading in. it felt a little strange to pull the trigger and decide to head in without my water having broken -- that was the tell-tale sign with my labor with julian. but if we waited much longer i didn't think i could labor in the car, and who knows how quickly things were progressing?
within minutes, we had dredged through the snow to get the car loaded up, the front seat reclined and were racing down the highway. my birth playlist played on the speakers, philip weaved in and out of traffic [narrowly avoiding a collision at one point], and we sped down south as i moaned and cried. i was a basket case of emotions, having left julian. i can't quite explain it -- but when we got out of the car at the birth center and vanessa met us in the parking lot, she reminded me that all these emotions i needed to get out were totally normal. which was all i needed to hear to stop crying and focus on my labor.
and so i labored. and labored. and labored. the room i was in was like a quiet, cozy bedroom where i felt completely safe. lights were dim. music was on. oils were diffused to help with pain and nausea. a hot tub with jets was heating up in the corner. a big bed with soft sheets was ready for me if i wanted to lie down. a harness was hung in the room where i could lean over, supported, and move around. just like the first time around, i needed philip to never leave my side. and he never did. we breathed together, we held hands, and he reminded me of my strength and capability. i swear to you that there is no way in the world that i could ever have gotten through this without him. he was my rock. he
before too long, vanessa talked me into getting checked. i agreed, and was somewhat surprised but not fazed to hear i was only 3cm but 100% effaced. she pulled philip aside and told him she thought it was going to move quickly from there. i moved around from bed to swing, from swing to tub, and then didn't get out of the tub for quite some time. it was my safe place, where i felt the most comfortable.
before too long, my mom showed up. she had put julian down to bed around 7pm and headed to the birth center shortly after. around this time i started to tune everyone out as my labor intensified. we hadn't been at the birth center for too long, but things really were picking up quickly.
i kept feeling the pain and nausea of what i logically thought was transition, but i also knew it couldn't be. i was too
. i didn't feel foggy and cloudy like i did during my labor with julian. i knew what i was saying and what was happening and who was around me. i started to wonder aloud what was happening. my contractions were getting very, very close together and intensifying quickly, but i didn't feel like it should be getting so intense so soon.
but that's how it went for the next three or so hours. things picked up and up and up, getting more painful than i had ever remembered with julian. one of the wonderful -- and kind of amazing -- things about my labor with julian was the breaks. throughout my labor they were almost always 5 minutes apart, even at the end. so these 30 second breaks i was getting now were a very unwelcome surprise to me. and i had a hard time handling them. i threw up a couple times and lost my cool, with philip talking me back down each and every time. my hands kept falling asleep, as did my left leg -- thanks to the baby's position, vanessa told me. it was uncomfortable to say the least, and i spent my breaks between contractions shaking my hands as much as i could and resting my eyes.
we had my birth playlist on, and i remember zeroing in on one song just like i had with julian's birth. this time, it was a different one. a cover of one of my favorite songs, which again, had a rhythm that matched my contractions.
after a couple hours of this, i reached my peak. i felt like i was starting to lose it. i was in the tub and said that i had started to feel 'pushy,' a sensation i had never experienced with julian. vanessa encouraged me to let her check me to see how far i was. every fiber of my being wanted to say no, but my mom and philip agreed it would be a good idea. there was a nurse there then -- jenna -- which signaled that they thought the baby would be here soon. they helped me over to the bed, where i laid down. and it was there that i had the mother of all contractions.
i completely broke down and started to sob. the contraction peaked, then peaked again. i was already lying down, so there was no way i could move my way through it. i laid on my side and reached out to whoever could hold my hands, and yelled at someone to lift up my leg for me. i needed to hear good news. when the never-ending contraction finally subsided, vanessa checked me.
"nine and a half," she said. "you can start pushing whenever you're ready."
inside, i found it interesting that when i got checked during my labor with julian, i was also at nine and a half. apparently that is my breaking point. nine and a half centimeters.
and so they helped me back into the tub. i just wanted to get in to ease the pain of getting my cervical check. i thought i'd be in there until it was really time to push, and then get back into the bed. i had delivered julian in 'the pushing position,' on my back, in the bed, gripping the backs of my thighs. i just imagined i'd done the same. i hadn't given any thought to a water birth. and in our birth class, when the instructor reminded birth partners to '
pack a bathing suit!
' so they could get in the tub too, philip and i rolled our eyes. that was
not something we would be doing. when we had packed our bags that morning i had even joked to philip to get his bathing suit, and we both had a good laugh.
well, babies don't really care where you are. when they are ready to come, they will come. and within a few contractions of being checked, i found myself pushing without being told to or even really intending to. it was just happening. i sat in the corner of the tub and pushed my legs up against the sides of the tub, which was a perfect triangle shape for this exact reason, i'm sure. i grabbed the bars above my shoulders and lifted my body up with each contraction.
i started giving it my all, and that was when my water finally broke. i was shocked it hadn't happened sooner, but with the intensity of the next contraction i was immediately grateful.
and then, my arms were shaking. i couldn't lift myself up anymore, after just a few pushes.
'i need help,' i said in a shaky voice.
and within moments, philip had jumped into the tub.
'hand me your phone!' my mom said to him. he quickly threw his phone, wallet and keys to her before sitting down behind me and lifting my giant pregnant body up to help me.
and six minutes later, there he was.
six minutes of pushing. it all happened so quickly.
but don't say that to me
, because unless you experienced it i might slap you for saying it. i can still hear philip's laugh and the intensity of his smile in those first moments.
it took me a couple seconds to realize it, but he was blue. and not moving. and not making any sounds. besides my hands, there were two other sets of hands on him -- rubbing him, saying softly,'
come on little baby, come on...'
and i started to panic.
'why isn't he crying?' i said, my voice breaking. 'why isn't he crying?'
it felt like an eternity, but within 20 seconds he was wailing and his skin was rapidly turning pink. he had a little mucous in his lungs and it took him a second to get going, but there he was. the moment vanessa handed him to me i knew he was smaller than julian, but wasn't quite sure just how much smaller. maybe it was just the fact that i hadn't held a newborn in 21 months? lugging around a toddler all day is heavy work. my guess was 6lbs 7oz -- my exact birth weight -- but i was off.
5 lbs, 14 oz and 19 inches long. almost exactly one pound smaller than his big brother, but just half an inch shorter. we all agreed that had he stayed in just one more week like julian did, they would have been almost exactly the same size.
after it was over, vanessa helped me out of the tub. my mom grabbed philip's spare change of clothes [he had brought one just in case, but had never planned on getting in the tub]. we laid in the bed, enjoying our new baby, as vanessa examined me and jenna cleaned us up.
they brought us crackers and cheese and sliced apple, which i will swear to you was the best thing i've ever tasted in my life. we cuddled and kissed and loved on our new little baby for almost two hours before they did his newborn exam. jenna ran me a hot bath with essential oils to relax my body and slow my bleeding. it was the best bath i've ever taken in my life.
and i got to sit there, watching the love of my life and our new little boy get to know one another, as i soaked in the tub and ate an apple. i was exhausted, physically and mentally, but was on such a birth high i'll never forget. i've never felt more full.
natural birth is my favorite. it's intense, it's painful, it's transformative, and it gives you such a high. i told philip shortly after seeing these photos for the first time that
is what love looks like. it doesn't look like the posed photos we took for our wedding or to celebrate our engagement. it looks like this. it looks like work, hard, difficult work sometimes. it's overwhelming sometimes. it can be so intense it's scary. but what i went through for our baby, and what philip went through supporting me -- that is what love is to me.
welcome to the world, little finley. we are so happy you've joined our family.
side note: with julian we had my good friend take
for us, but i wasn't interested in doing that again. since this is most likely the last time i was ever going to give birth, i wanted something to mark that occasion. so, after a lot of back and forth, we decided to go with a birth photographer. her name is
, a birth photographer in our area, and she did the most phenomenal job, as you can see! if you are in the denver area and having a baby -- no matter how you are going to birth that baby -- i really, truly recommend monet. she is quiet, talented, and very soothing. these photos are such a huge gift in my opinion, and i am so happy we went this route with finley. your memories of labor can be fuzzy sometimes, but with the help of these photos i can remember everything like it was last night.