Warning: There are more references to vagina in this blog post than in your junior high sex-ed class. Reader discretion advised.
But it doesn’t matter, because this is for when little Gertrude inevitably gets curious about her birth story. And we all do, don’t we. I’ve asked my mom about mine and the only thing I took away was that she was disappointed to not get a 5 day hospital stay like with the rest of my siblings. She only got 3 days, and really, what that tells me is that not only was I surprise pregnancy, causing more stress on a mama of 3, but that I also cut her all-inclusive vacation short.
Hope my uninspiring gift of play tickets every year for Christmas makes up for it. You do make an effort to look surprised every year, which is a skill that’s been honed from the first moment you saw the pregnancy stick.
We were surprised too, when we saw that I was pregnant. It took a couple days to get used to the idea of not having another child because we were going to start the adoption process, but to be pregnant again. I was dreading the tiredness, the inability to go for a run (which I had just started getting back into), and yes, the delivery. I was scared this time around with no real reason for it. I had no idea what to expect with Ruth, so wasn’t afraid at all. And with Annie, I was cocky about my pain tolerance so was excited to prove to myself I could do it. This time, though, I was an extremely tired mama and prayed every so often that the stork stories were true. My poor midwife acted as my counselor having to talk me off the ledge a couple times and I had to constantly remind myself why I wanted to do homebirths in the first place.
But before we get into the nitty gritty, and I do mean nitty gritty, let’s back up a few days prior. Our last weekend together as a family of four, and I knew, I just knew, that it was our last. So we soaked up each other as much as we could and took advantage of the great weather at the local splash pad. Everyone made a friend, including Ryan. She was 9 years old (in the white swimsuit) and I laughed my guffawing laugh from back in the shadows of the park like some creeper, watching Ryan back away every time she took a step closer to talk. He tried to shoo her off to Ruthie, but she wasn’t having it. Eventually some boy came up with the idea to have the sprayers spray on his butt, so that made all the kids scurry to find their own little bidet, leaving Ryan in peace.
Afterwards we ate a nutella crepe and walked along the street while Annie tried to destroy every living plant in her site. Yes, I was walking blissfully along not knowing that I was growing a giant in my belly. I look at this picture of me towering over Annie like Godzilla and want to reach in and stick an epidural in my back right then. Just let it soak in for a few days just for good measure….
My parents came down about a week early to help my sister-in-law after her surgery, which was a blessing in disguise because they originally weren’t even going to attempt the trip until after baby was born. So one day my mom and I decided to take the girls to their favorite library story time with Miss Erin. Ruth was acting differently and didn’t participate, while Annie was sitting up in the front by herself and getting into the mix hardcore. I didn’t push Ruthie to get in there because I figured she’d come around when she was ready. When you go to the same story time every week you start to recognize parents and their kids. One week, a new father and son started coming. The boy was extremely shy and the father could be heard saying (nicely, but repeatedly) “Go on. Sit by the rest of the kids. Go on, get the shaker. Go on, do this and that.” I know he was feeling like all eyes were on them and assuming we were wondering why his kid wasn’t dancing with the rest. But as the weeks went on, he started backing off, and then slowly the boy started participating. That was an indirect learning experience for me. So when Ruthie wanted to just sit on the floor during all the library activities, I let her and didn’t worry about it.
It was while she was sitting there like a bump on a log when I felt my first…something.
10:30am – Not a big something, not an “ouch” something. Just a something. I turned to mom and said, “I feel weird.” She was fresh blood with that line. If it’d been Ryan he would’ve hardly glanced at me and mumbled uh-huh. I’d been feeling weird for the past couple weeks and had to tell him every. single. time. But mom’s eyes perked up and that made me feel good. I went to the bathroom and when I came back, that something felt a smidge bigger. So I suggested we go home. This surprised me because I normally soak every single second of library time just to make it to lunch, so that I can then make it to nap time. But I felt confident in this something.
On the way home, I called Ryan and asked him to come home because this particular weird felt weird. Before I called, he had just finished presenting his part in a team meeting and said, “Okay well my wife’s gonna have a baby so bye.”
Soulmates. Or maybe my “I feel weird” line had become so engrained that it transcended space to reach him at work.
After we hung up, I peeled into Dairy Queen for my “last supper”, because I was sure I’d have this baby in mere minutes according to past history and what literally everyone predicted. Mom begged me to get something light, so I got the quarter pounder with fries and ice cream. It apparently was also my last “go-against-what-mom-says-as-a-mother-of-two” too.
When I got home, I called Lucy and she was at another client’s house for a home visit and would come over afterwards.
1:15pm – Lucy and her apprentice, Bethany, arrived. She checked me and I was at a 4 and 85% effaced. They decided to stay and see if I progressed in a couple hours.
Bethany goes to church with me. So I was really excited to parade naked around her for several hours, complaining nonstop, and then seeing her for the next however many Sundays in the future.
3:30pm – I was checked again and this time was at a 5, still 85%. They decided to stay, so Ryan blew up the birthing pool. . Only at a 5, I thought. Shouldn’t I have already had this kid already, because that was the plan. Mom and Dad were playing with the kids, thank goodness, because the contractions were starting to bug me to the point I had to close my eyes and breath through them.
During one contraction, my eyes were closed and dad yelled, “Wake up Carrie!” It was the first moment I knew everyone had to leave. Like, now. Everything seemed to be loud and clangy and bangy and toddlery. Go, please. So they took the girls to their RV and planned on them staying the night.
The moment they left I felt so much calmer. Props to the moms who can birth with their kids in the room, because I obviously need them shuttled off to another state.
4:00pm – Before leaving, mom made a plate of cheese and crackers for us to snack on. One part of homebirthing that made me act nuts was the feeling that I was a hostess. I asked Lucy and Bethany about 300 times if they were hungry and then closed my eyes during contractions and then asked them another 300 times before the next one hit me. Mom thankfully swooped in and stopped that before the next round of interrogations began.
Then Ryan pulled out the big guns and set out dinner for us as well.
Right before I asked everyone 300 times if they wanted seconds, the doorbell rang. It was a RN who had to administer my antibiotic. I had tested positive for Strep B, so she got the lucky job of hanging out with me for 30 minutes. It has to be administered once every 4 hours when labor starts. The lady who prescribed it for me said she really only thought I needed one dose because, ahem, I WAS SURE TO HAVE THIS BABY FAST, but that she’d set up a few doses just in case.
With that in the back of my head, I chit-chatted with the friendly RN, sure to never see her again. She said I looked like I was handling the contractions well, so of course i wanted her to leave before I started my patented pleading and begging.. wanting her to think I was so genteel I’d only do a couple quick breaths and oh here’s baby. Not even a peep from mama, what a demure southern bell!
That thought was blown out the water when she told me she’d just had a baby like 4 months ago. I wanted to shove her like Elaine and yell ‘shut UP!’, but calmly said, “Don’t make me hit you.”
I think we’re best friends now.
So off went skinny-mama-with-a-four-month-old.. I mean, the RN. And back I went to breathing through these contractions.
6:00pm – I decided to get into the pool. Why not, I thought, baby is imminent. After getting in, Lucy checked me and I was at a 6-7, 95% effaced. The hot water felt awesome and it either calmed my contractions down or I was just getting used to the pain, because they didn’t hurt (too badly.) I still had to breathe through them, but it was totally manageable.
And that’s when the cockiness set in. After two previous home births that went pretty well (Annie’s was two hours, start to finish) I started laughing with Ryan during the breaks between contractions and would go on and on about how easy it was.
At 7pm – I was at a 7, edging on 8 and 95%.
Cocky. And probably kind of weird too, but I’m used to that. So I sat back with my ice water and warm pool water and patiently waited for this baby to just appear out of nowhere.
9pm – Still at a 7/8. Two. Hours. Later. That took the wind out of my sails and started feeling disappointed. So Lucy suggested I get out of the tub, walk around, and swivel my hips. I said yes just to appease her because in the back of my head I still thought it’d happen in 15 minutes. I climbed out, walked down the hall, and swiveled my hips as requested.
And then all hell broke loose. Like, contraction hell. And I wasn’t ready.
In the past, I’d had a pretty good rhythm and sound to my breathing. But these took my breath away and I couldn’t really focus. I literally felt out of control in my head. Once, someone came over and talked me through a contraction which helped a lot. But mostly I wanted to sleep and by golly, I made sure everyone knew it. I think I said ‘I just want to sleep’ more times than ‘Are you hungry’.
It got to the point where I suggested everyone start a drinking game every time I said it, but that was ruled out because they’d be wasted after five minutes. I laid down once and really did try to sleep. Silly girl.
10pm – My skinny RN friend came back and I just looked at her wondering why she was there (and what her workout routine was) because I thought we’d all agreed that I didn’t need a second dose. Where is this dang baby. I know I was psyching myself out.
11pm – We went back to the bedroom and I kneeled over the bed. And this is when The Period of Whining commenced. It was annoying, even to me. Lucy checked me and I was at a 9 but said that it could stretch if I felt pushy. After awhile I did start to push. Lucy later told me they seemed like ‘trial’ pushes. Every time I moved or changed positions, a midwife would appear with a fresh pad to lay underneath. Again, for some reason I took this as that baby was about to arrive.
Let’s all say it together…. Oh Carolyn.
I climbed back into the tub and Lucy asked to check me. She said the top of my cervix was falling forward (this is how I remembered her saying it, later she said it was an anterior lip. Ryan gets really excited every time I bring that up with friends.) She asked me to lean back while she manually held the cervix up so baby could get through.
I remember holding onto her arm for dear life and I do remember screaming, but Ryan said I didn’t. It must have been in my head. All I know is… ouch. I have a high pain tolerance and that was the most pain I’ve yet to experience.
After a few pushes, I turned back onto my knees and it did feel different. I felt the head close. I remember Lucy holding up her finger to me showing how far I had to go which was less than the top of the first finger wrinkle. The ring of fire came (with thankfulness this time!) and all I can remember is Ryan saying how close I was and “Oh Carrie!!” He held onto my hand throughout the pushes while Lucy explained what she would do when baby came out…she’ll push the baby through my legs and up to Ryan.
The next push I felt her come out and I whispered Holy Sh*t. Ryan put her into my arms and I scooted back with her on my chest. I remember looking down at her and thinking how good it felt, her little head on my chest. Lucy started smacking her feet and put her lips on Gertie’s and then put an oxygen mask on her to help, all the while telling me not to worry. Within minutes she perked up, Ryan cut the cord, and then she went into his arms while I did the rest of my business.
I climbed into the bed and tried to nurse her. She’d latch on and then let go. I was frustrated and exhausted, so Ryan took her as Lucy checked me out. He told me he laid with her in bed and sang the Snowflake song to her. Later, in the hospital, with many unknowns swirling around us, he said he thought back to that moment often.
Gertie ended getting stuck during the labor which caused bruising on her face, so don’t be alarmed at her coloring.
Lucy laid her down to inspect her vitals and then weighed and measured her: 10lbs 2oz and 21 inches long! But as she looked at Gertie longer, she noticed some swelling in her feet that didn’t sit well Lucy. She suggested that we get it checked out at the hospital and off we went. Little Gertie on her first car ride, only 2 hours old.
She didn’t know that the next adventure would last a month. We’re so happy she’s a part of our family.