That it's been a week already is astonishing two ways:
And then 37 weeks passed. And 38. And 39.
I wasn't exactly miserable yet, but I was very heavily pregnant and still responsible for two busy little children. I'd had enough of my physical limitations when it came to doing things with my kids. I'd had enough of Discussions with OBs about the best way to manage the birth of my baby because of my (completely diet-controlled and never a high reading) gestational diabetes. Every time a new concern had arisen, we'd prayed and the Lord had dealt with it immediately (and I'll share some of those stories another day), but I'd had enough of new concerns arising. I'd had enough of understanding the facts and statistics and theories enough to believe it would all be fine, but never really knowing. Oh, had I ever had enough of not knowing.
I wanted to meet this little person who I've always known we've been waiting for. I wanted to see my baby's face and touch my baby's hair and smell my baby's skin and feel my baby's warmth. I wanted my baby to stop having violent hiccups on my bladder, also.
I spent that Monday working on congratulating myself for making it so far, for having a perfectly cooked baby, for carrying this baby so well for so long. It was a long day, but it was okay.
Tuesday I woke feeling peace. I was back to truly feeling what I'd been saying all along - that the Lord had this all figured out, baby would come when ready, and I was in no rush. Everything would happen as it should, at exactly the right time.
I had no idea how right I was about that.
We gobbled an early dinner that day, and I dressed up nice and went out for the first time in days - with Ellie, to Mother's Night at her kinder. I spent a lovely hour and a half playing with her and chatting to other mums, most of whom couldn't believe I was there. I was feeling great. People kept offering me chairs, and I kept suddenly remembering I was 40 weeks pregnant.
That night we went home, took photos of Ellie and I in our dresses (and Owen in his "Awesome" jumper, because where there's a camera there's Owen), and put the kids to bed. I chatted to Liam about how peaceful I was feeling about the whole waiting thing.
There's something unmistakeable about early labour contractions, to me. I'd had a false alarm the Friday before, but those (reasonably strong) contractions only had me wondering if I was going into labour. These mild, crampy feelings were different, and just like last time, deep down I knew.
Around 5am, I remembered the contraction timer app I'd downloaded on that Friday. I spent an hour timing increasingly strong crampy contractions, which were coming roughly every 12 minutes and lasting a little over a minute.
At 6am I decided I'd had enough of being in bed. I grabbed my dressing gown and slipped out, leaving Liam sleeping. By the time Ellie woke at 6:20am - bringing Daddy with her, as she does - I'd set up most of my birthy things and was contracting for a little under a minute and much more frequently (7.5 - 4.5 minutes apart). They were definitely feeling more like contractions than cramps by now, but I was still able to walk around and talk through them, and I was feeling quite peaceful and relaxed about the whole thing. Owen got up shortly after, and I sent Liam back to bed while the kids settled down to breakfast. I told Ellie what was happening, and that this might be the day that the baby would come - she was excited, but understood that I needed her to be calm. Actually, she was an absolute darling.
At 6:45am I started feeling stressed at the thought of the kids needing me for something during a contraction, and took that as a cue to get Liam back up. I set him to work contacting Allison, our midwife, Sandy, our doula, and Renae, who'd offered to help with the kids, to let them know today was looking like being the day. Renae was supposed to be working, but managed to get the day off and arranged to pick up the kids soon. Allison and Sandy both made their own arrangements and put themselves on standby, awaiting further news.
By this stage, I was definitely retreating into Labour Land. When Liam tried to tell me what was being arranged, or ask what needed to be done, I was unable to process the information and really had no interest in trying. He immediately stepped up and Took Care Of Things, which was just what I needed.
I came out of the shower (reluctantly, because that warm water was amazing) and pottered around a bit more, and Renae collected two excited little people at 8am. My contractions paused while everything was happening, which didn't worry me at all - I knew that was to be expected. Liam went out to help Renae get the kids and their suitcases to the car, and the second the door shut behind them I was hit by the biggest contraction yet. My body had been waiting, and was keen to get on with it.
Liam came back in and we switched on my pre-selected CDs (Coldplay, Of Monsters & Men, Jack Johnson, Ella & Sascha, Mumford & Sons) and spent a nice half hour together in the kitchen, preparing chicken noodle soup in the slowcooker between contractions, and enjoying the peace of the morning.
Between 9am and 10am I timed contractions again - they were back to 1:30 every 12 minutes or so. Definitely contractions, but manageable. Sandy contacted Liam for an update, and I realized I was no longer walking or talking through my contractions. That gradual progress was reassuring to me, even though there were sometimes longer pauses between sets of contractions. It was all progress. We inflated the birth pool, set out a few last bits of birth-related paraphenalia, and rested.
At 11am I was still feeling peaceful and safe enough to send Liam out to the shops for a few groceries and last-minute baby things. While he was gone I had a couple of bigger contractions... then another fairly long pause. Liam came back with Baker's Delight for lunch, which I devoured and immediately wanted more of. In early labour with Ellie (there was no early labour with Owen) I'd been too edgy to eat - I can still remember the pie with a single bite missing, sitting on my plate all afternoon. This enjoyment of my lunch was another reminder of the peace and calm I was feeling this time. Everything was going perfectly.
After lunch I timed a couple of contractions again. I recorded one interval of 6:55, with a 1:04 contraction, followed by an interval of 3:04 and a 1:39 contraction. The irregularity of those contractions, and the effort involved in remembering to hit "start" and "stop", started to feel like too much bother. I quickly abandoned the timer and got into the rhythm of contraction, drink, wander, contraction, drink, wander, contraction, toilet, horrible toilet-related contraction, weird follow-up contraction, pause, repeat.
I reflected to Liam on how closely this resembled the "my perfect labour" I'd described to Sandy a few weeks earlier. Waking up knowing I was in labour, having time to peacefully get things together and settle into being in "the zone" (as opposed to the sudden intense speed of Owen's labour/birth)... it was wonderful. And being able to relax and know I was staying at home made a huge difference.
At around 1pm, we sat in the lounge and watched a couple of Olan Rogers stories on YouTube. When the second video finished, I realized it'd been a while since my last contraction. Liam went to get changed, and I started pacing the lounge again. Suddenly at 1:30pm, after a pause of exactly 16 minutes, a big two-minute one hit... closely followed by another... and another. I was leaning on the back of the couch and beginning to moan through them. Liam let Allison and Sandy know things had intensified and we'd probably be wanting them soon, and then rang them back a few minutes later to ask them to come over.
I sent Liam to fill the birth pool and turn on my labour playlist on my iPad, abandoned the timer completely, and moved into the next stage of labour with the simple, calm acceptance I'd always wanted. Perfect.
Sandy arrived at 2pm, closely followed by Allison. Allison checked my blood pressure and baby's heart rate, while Sandy made me raspberry leaf tea and gave me sips of water and reminded me to stay relaxed. We spent the next couple of hours chatting and laughing (and introducing Allison and Sandy to the wonderment that is a Terry's Chocolate Orange) in between contractions, during which everyone sat quietly while I leaned over the kitchen counter and moaned and breathed. It felt wonderfully calm and positive and joyful. I loved those couple of hours.
My contractions were becoming more and more intense, and after a while Allison tried applying pressure to my lower back while I was bent over the counter - which felt fantastic. I was finding myself stretching and swaying my hips instinctively, and wondered if I was helping baby move into a better position.
Baby had been sitting very much ROA for weeks (and oblique before that), and feeling quite unbalanced. During my false alarm the previous Friday I'd had some unusual pressure in the right side of my pelvis, which seemed to be related to that night's lack of progress. On the Saturday Sandy came over and tried some rebozo and positioning techniques, and I'd felt much more balanced since. A glance at my belly was enough to see baby was still hanging out over on the right, but I was feeling the head sitting evenly on my pelvis at last.
Alli later told me that when she heard how my earlier contractions were coming in sets, she thought it sounded a bit like back labour. Turns out baby was most likely rotating throughout the day, from ROA, through posterior (hence a patch of backache and a weirdly empty-looking belly at one point), to (optimum) LOA! Good job, baby!
At 4pm I had a contraction that challenged me with its intensity, and came out of it saying, "I think I'll get in the water soon." One more contraction and I was in. Oh, immediate relief! The warm water felt beautiful, and the bouyancy of the water helped me move freely to get comfortable. During my first contraction in the pool, Allison's backup midwife, Jenny, arrived. I remember being vaguely aware of her arrival, and opening my eyes afterwards to see her smile and wave at me.
Things started picking up pretty quickly from that point. I was vocalizing more, matching the intensity of the contractions with my voice just as I had in labour with Owen. Alli brought me sips of water, and Sandy leaned across the pool like an absolute trooper to apply pressure to my lower back for ages. When I began to moan she would murmur a simple acknowledgement, and I was surprised by how much that made me feel better.
I was getting loud, and every so often I'd find myself hugely uncomfortable and have to lean and shift around all over the place to find a new comfortable position. For the most part I was labouring on my knees, with my head on my arms on the side of the pool, but at times I was stretching up high on my knees, or sitting back between my heels, bracing my hands on my thighs.
At the time, it felt like a bit of a struggle - but in light of what we now believe was happening positioning-wise makes total sense, and it's wonderful that I was able to work so freely and instinctively with my body to help baby get perfectly aligned. (Imagine if I'd let the OBs talk me into inducing early, for no reason beyond a diagnosis of GD. Would my baby have had time to turn? Would I have had the capacity to help the process? Or how might that labour have ended up? Hmm...)
*steps down from soapbox*
In the middle of it all, there were little moments of awareness - Liam standing in the kitchen patiently waiting for a pot of water to boil for the pool, Allison and Sandy quietly offering me sips of drink, snippets of the songs I'd chosen (which buoyed me along much more than I'd expected). At some point, I became aware that the candles - which we'd left in the box because it was a beautiful sunny autumn day - had been brought out and lit. It added a soft, peaceful ambience to the room which was absolutely lovely. I remember saying "Hey, the candles are out!" and then leaning into another big contraction.
Suddenly, I found myself making a grunting sound and felt a huge urge to push, halfway through an otherwise normal contraction. I heard Allison comment on the sound I made, and say that it was good. The work got much harder from here. I was vocalizing so loudly into the side of the pool that Liam later told me I hurt his ears at one point. I think I remember that point - it hurt mine, too! I was finding it harder to pick a good position, moving my legs out behind me and back under, lifting up out of the water, leaning side to side, rocking right back, leaning into the side of the pool again, and hearing myself babbling strange sounds through the most intense contractions.
I let out one little "I can't!", which I didn't even mean, and Allison said "You can," and I already knew I could... and then the pushing urge came back and it was on. I was leaning right over the side of the pool (which was deflating slightly because of a tiny leak we'd discovered that morning - Liam had to bring out the electric pump and reinflate it a couple of times while I was in there). I found the edge of one of the big towels we'd spread under the pool, which was perfectly anchored by the weight of the water, and used it as an anchor to pull while my body pushed. There was no conscious decision to push - my body just knew what to do, and I trusted it.
In our discussions about homebirth, Ellie had told me she would like to cut the baby's cord. It was completely her own idea, she was very sure about it, and I loved it (ah, the beautiful things that are possible when birth happens at home!) - though I'd made sure she understood that we couldn't guarantee it would work out that way. Now, realizing baby would be coming soon, I took a moment to tell Liam I wanted Ellie there as soon as the baby was born. He called Renae, and she put the kids in the car and headed over to a nearby playground to await the news.
I switched back into labour mode and let the huge pushing contractions take over. Sandy later told me that during one contraction, as she was applying pressure to my back (where she'd been able to feel baby moving down), she felt a shudder from inside me as the baby shifted. I could feel everything, and this time I was able, in some distant part of my mind, to identify exactly what I was feeling at each stage. There was the pressure of the baby's head pushing down, and I was aware of the fact that my waters hadn't broken - the membranes were still intact. I knew babies were sometimes born this way, but I didn't know what it meant in terms of the birth process. It didn't worry me - nothing worried me throughout the whole process - I simply felt mild curiosity.
After one slightly more deliberate push, just because it felt right, I could feel baby's head starting to crown. Alli encouraged me to go slowly, and I did, giving it a couple of gentle half-pushes to allow things to stretch. There was a moment when I became suddenly aware of the humidity in the room, and felt like I couldn't get a breath. Then the head was coming and I was completely focused again. I felt the slow progress of brow, nose, chin as Alli quietly announced them. It did hurt a bit, but the water was wonderfully soothing and there was no burning or stinging sensation at all. Allison reached down to gently guide baby out, as it was compound presentation, hand next to face. I had no idea until they told me afterwards! That protective bag of waters - still unbroken - made this much less of an issue than it could have been.
Finally - after a contraction in which I leaned so hard on the softening pool side that water rushed over the side and up my nose - the baby's head was out. In my previous births I had paused at this point for another contraction to push out the body, but this time I suddenly had a hugely painful muscle cramp, which I couldn't extend my leg enough to release. Without waiting for a contraction, I focused and, at 5:35pm on Wednesday 7 May, I shoved the rest of my baby out by sheer determined force.
The relief was immediate, and there was a moment of utter calm in which I took a breath and realized that baby is out meant baby is in the pool with me... somewhere. I flipped around and found my baby floating in the warm water. I reached for that warm little body, lifted it up and cuddled it to me. There was a cry, and a beautiful little scrunched-up face, and my arms were full of baby, and it was the most beautiful moment. Perfection.
I thought I'd caught a glimpse of boy parts, but wasn't sure in the dim light and the water. I lifted baby up and Liam and I looked together...
"It's a boy!" we said.
"Hello, Theo," I whispered to him.
Then I looked up and registered smiling faces in a darkened room. "Hey!" I exclaimed, "When did it get dark out?"
Renae had left the park as it got dark, and pulled up outside our house just as Theo was born - more perfect timing. Ellie came in all giggly and excited, and said "Hello, baby Feo," in her most delighted and loveliest big sister voice. She absolutely exuded all the joy I was feeling, and it was so amazing to have her there.
Over the next half hour or so I had a few more (milder but still moany) contractions, gave Theo his first little feed while trying to get comfortable and still keep him warm in the pool, and eventually birthed the placenta at 6:20pm with a couple of decent pushes. Oh, and that chicken noodle soup we'd started that morning? Finished cooking about ten minutes after Theo was born. Perfect timing, even in the little things.
We waited for the cord to finish pulsating before cutting it, so in the meantime the placenta was floating in an ice cream tub next to us - occasionally it would bump against my elbow and I'd nudge it away. During this beautiful peaceful lull, Ellie kissed my forehead and told me she loved me about a thousand times. She also politely declined my offer to touch baby Theo, saying she would "when he's a bit cleaner" (he had a pretty decent coating of vernix).
And then it was her big moment.
I am so proud of my girl. She and Liam held the scissors together, and with great serious concentration she cut through her baby brother's cord in two careful snips. She can't wait for him to be older, so she can tell him all about it.
Oh, my heart.
Owen came in next, looking very pleased to meet his new little brother (whose name, Ellie announced, begins with "F"). He was gentle and calm and very lovely, and gave me the sweetest and wettest little kiss.
I moved from pool to couch, Allison and Jenny did their checks on Theo and myself, and I gave him another (more substantial) feed. Mum called, and I gave her the glad news. Renae gave the kids dinner (which Ellie ate with relish; Owen opted instead for two bananas and a couple of portions of my chocolate orange, because special occasion). Theo was cleaned up and dressed (as not a smurf - sorry, Owen, whose first outfit was accidentally a smurf-blue sleepsuit and a little white hat) and bundled up all cute and whatnot, and had cuddles with Liam and Ellie and Owen and Aunty 'Nae.
Alli checked Theo's blood sugar level, because, you know, the gestational diabetes, there's a risk it'll be too low... and laughed. Because it's supposed to be over 2.5mmol/L, and Theo's was 6.1.
Yep, he's fine.
The next couple of hours were filled with the kind of sweet, lovely, domestic little moments that only a homebirth can give - people in my kitchen, handing around servings of the soup I'd made; Allison holding Owen in her arms like a giant baby and measuring him "like baby Feo"; cups of tea and chats on the couch as we recapped the events of the day; apparently Allison clambering through a fort made of chairs in the kids' room with Owen... and finally, after kissing Ellie and Owen goodnight (they were going to sleep over at Uncle Ben and Aunty Nae's), a nice warm shower in my own bathroom. Bliss. Sheer, perfect, bliss.
I came out of my shower, feeling happy and clean and refreshed, and a little woozy, to find the rest of my house back to normal - a dining table and chairs where the birth pool had been, floor mopped and drying, couches back in place, washing machine and dishwasher loaded and washing. As Liam said, it was as if we'd spent the day hanging out at home, and now we had a baby.
That baby, that cute little bundle of vernix and smooshy backrolls and thumb-sucking gorgeousness, was 50cm long (2-3cm longer than his siblings) and 4.42kg, which sent us scrambling for a phone to convert to baby-language... 9lb 12oz! I was surprised to realize he was nearly a pound heavier than 8lb 15oz Owen - he just didn't look that big to me. But he sure is smooshy!
Allison, Sandy and Jenny headed home around 9pm, leaving us settled in the lounge with our new baby boy. We contemplated relaxing there for a while... then realized how completely exhausted we were. Heading to bed was a good move, as Theo woke pretty much hourly for sleepy feeds until 4am. He then slept until 7am, which was delightful.
I fed and resettled him, left my littlest and biggest boys sleeping, and went to have breakfast. They woke and joined me at 9:30am when Renae brought the (big! so big!) kids home.
And there we were: our first day as a family of five.
And you know what? It feels so right. He's beautiful - a lot like Ellie, a lot like Owen, and a whole lot that's just pure Theo. And you know what's the best? The not knowing is over - and now we've finally met him, I see he's the little person we've been waiting for all along.
Welcome, Theodore Hurtado.