Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was not feeling ready to have the baby. I procrastinated doing things like getting diapers and baby clothes washed and buying birth supplies. Finally, I did get those tasks done, but I still wasn’t emotionally ready. But then I woke up early in the morning on Saturday, October 9, 2010 and decided if baby was ready, I would welcome a 10/10/10 baby. I meditated on this for awhile and then had a cramping feeling in my lower abdomen. As I was eating breakfast that morning, I had some more periodic cramping, and then in the shower I lost my mucus plug. These were symptoms I recognized from my previous three births, and I was pretty sure I was going to be meeting my baby that weekend.
We had a very nice family day together. It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day. We watched my oldest two boys play soccer in the morning. Then we returned home for lunch and a rest. Late that afternoon, we went downtown to visit ArtPrize. I felt good. I’d had problems with my hip and feet hurting at the end of my pregnancy, which made walking difficult at times, but today they were not bothering me. We walked all around, and all three boys behaved exceptionally well. Throughout the day, I had some mild contractions. They were not strong enough to make me pause, and would only come every once in a while, but it was a reminder to me that things were still happening. I made sure to get a couple of belly pictures and a family picture by the Grand River. After a passing friend took our family picture, I thought to myself that this would be our last day together as a family of 5.
As we were heading home, my husband, Tom, asked me if we were going to church tomorrow. That’s when I finally told him I didn’t think we’d be making it because we’d be otherwise occupied. He looked a little stunned for a moment, but then seemed to take it in stride. I called my midwife to give her a heads up that she would likely get a call from me sometime that night. We got home and started preparations for bedtime. I called my mom and told her what was going on, and asked her if she would like to get a call later to come to a birth. I hadn’t counted on her being able to be there because of her work schedule, but as she doesn’t work on Sundays, this was perfect timing.
We put the boys to bed, and I asked Tom to get the birth pool filled up about half-way, so it would be almost ready. Then I went to bed, hoping to get some sleep before real labor started. Almost as soon as I lay down, the cramping I had been feeling all day picked up in frequency and intensity. I stayed in bed for awhile, but finally was unable to stay in bed through contractions. I got up and told Tom to fill the pool up completely.
My previous births had all been fast. So, this time I wasn’t going to mess around. I called my midwife, S, at 10:30pm to tell her labor had started, even though at that point I could still talk through my contractions, and they weren’t too intense. I told her she didn’t need to hurry, but things were definitely happening. Then I called my mom. S arrived about 15 minutes after the call. When I’d called her earlier, she’d had her mom come over to her house to stay with her kids so she could leave quickly once I called.
S listened to the baby’s heart tones and checked my blood pressure. What a novelty… we actually had time for monitoring! Baby sounded great, and my blood pressure was normal. My mom and S’s student midwife, C, arrived. We were all just hanging around talking a bit. But then I noticed that the contractions I’d felt earlier seemed to be spreading out rather than intensifying. I started feeling like a watched pot. So, I went downstairs to our TV room, where we had the pool set up. I sat down on the couch and worked on my knitting: a pair of longies for the baby.
It was rather peaceful and nice to just sit and knit. I would pause and close my eyes and breathe when a contraction came. I really hoped the baby would wait until after midnight to arrive. Not only is 10/10/10 a cool birthday, October tenth was also my youngest brother’s birthday. He died in a car accident when I was in High School, so it would be very special for my baby to share his uncle’s birthday. So I was content to just relax. Tom brought me some soup and some tea, and sat with me periodically.
Then midnight came and went. I was now watching the clock a bit too much. My contractions were stronger, but only 7-10 minutes apart. I had to put my knitting down when a contraction came. I had a hard time finding a really comfortable position during a contraction. I tried the birth ball, sitting on the couch, sitting on the toilet, standing, etc. Nothing really seemed to be “the” position that helped, and I was saving the birth pool for when things really picked up.
I was tired, but restless. I tried walking up and down the stairs a bit to get things moving, but after all the walking I did earlier that day, that didn’t last long. S came to check on me and do some unobtrusive monitoring periodically. My mom and Tom came down and talked with me on occasion. But I spent a good amount of time alone, just laboring, which is what I wanted. I tried to get in a mental groove, but mostly I was just feeling impatient. Finally, the contractions were 5 minutes apart, and intense. As it was getting harder to cope with them, I called everyone downstairs and said I was ready for the pool. I’m not sure what time this was… maybe around 2 am. I stripped down and got in. I expected things would progress quickly from this point, as they always had in the past.
The water felt good. But not as good as I remembered it being at my last birth. I remembered floating in a state of nirvana between contractions last time. I don’t know if I was looking back on that birth with rose colored glasses, or if this time things were just that different. The contractions were tough, water or no water. I actually started to wish I would just throw up. I’d always thrown up before, and it moved things along pretty quickly. But, no such luck. I remained vomit free, and labor continued to progress in an infuriatingly gradual progression. Between contractions, I just clung to the edge of the pool and tried to recover and take some sips of the water my husband always had ready for me. He was a little too intense about trying to anticipate my needs. During a break, I finally looked up and demanded irritably that he STOP STARING AT ME! He laughed sheepishly and apologized.
Earlier, I had thought we might wake the boys up to see the birth, but as things progressed, I decided not to. I felt like I was having a hard time coping, and was quite a bit more vocal than I had been before. “This is taking forever,” I commented between contractions. S just calmly said “Everything’s perfectly normal. You have a good pattern going, about 2 minutes apart.” Sure, I was having a textbook-perfect labor pattern, and thankfully baby and I were perfectly healthy… but this wasn’t normal for ME. These contractions were just as intense as I remembered from previous birth; but, always before, they had only lasted a couple of hours. These kept dragging on. I was supposed to be holding my baby by this point! I was feeling pretty whiny and put-upon. And then I felt a bit ashamed of feeling this way, because after all, most women normally had much longer labors, and this was hardly a marathon. My husband and mother were also at a loss as to what to do. They’d never really had time to figure out labor support before. So, they just kind of sat with me in silent support.
The contractions continued to build in intensity, and I was struggling to keep my vocalizations low, rather than screaming. But eventually, I was basically sobbing during each contraction. I couldn’t feel where the baby was at, and I began to be afraid that I was actually going to have to push this baby out, and it would take forever. This worried me. My babies had always been born via fetal-ejection-reflex, in which I hadn’t paid a conscious part. My body just did all the work. At my last birth, my midwife had actually had to coach me on how to push out the placenta, and it had taken a few tries to get the boneless mass out! How was I going to cope with a bone-filled baby?!
Then I would have another contraction, and all thoughts were pushed aside, except for a basic mantra. In the past, I’d often shared my birthing wisdom with friends and told them about the inspiring mantras I’d used effectively in my births: “Open” and “Gentle.” I tried both, but this time around they were not working. Instead, I went for something a bit more practical to repeat to myself: “Once I get through this, I’ll never have to do this again!” The mantra applied not only to each contraction, but to the whole process of pregnancy, labor and birth. Yes, I’m a natural childbirth activist who reads avidly about everything birth-related, and always looked forward to giving birth. But then, it was pretty easy to look forward to something that only lasts a few hours. But at this point, I was so over it. Been there. Done that. Couldn’t we just skip ahead to the baby part?
At some point ds3 woke up. My mom went to fetch him, and he was brought downstairs. I just had time to greet him before a huge contraction started ripping into me. I tried to be quieter so as not to scare my two-year-old, but it was no use. I started screaming. Then I felt a “pop.”
“There goes my water!” I said breathlessly. But Tom swears I said “Oh, gross! My water!” which he thought was hilarious. The next thing I knew, baby was right THERE, and I had that splitting-in-two feeling as he emerged about half-way. Then there was a pause.
“Help!” I moaned.
“What do you need help with?” Shannon asked gently.
Duh! I needed help getting this thing OUT of me! Get it out! But before I could even reply verbally, another contraction expelled the baby the rest of the way. Ah! Relief!
I turned over as S brought the baby out of the water and put baby on my chest. Baby gave out a gusty scream and my mother asked what the baby was. I looked and discovered we had another baby boy! S discreetly checked out his vitals while I just kind of stared at the screaming bundle in my arms. He was none too happy about being in the world, but at least it was obvious his lungs were in excellent working order! He was covered in vernix and had a little scrunched-up, old man face, and quite a bit of black hair! He was born at 4:12 am.
“What’s his name?”
We hadn’t decided on a name for sure. We had kind of agreed on Camden, but I wasn’t sure it was quite the right one. So, I said we were going to try out Camden for a bit and see if it fit him. As for middle names, we would tackle that later.
Camden continued to scream, and I tried to get him to nurse while sitting in the pool. We had towels wrapped around the parts of us that were out of the water for warmth. Ds3 looked on curiously from my mom’s arms. C had been taking pictures, and Tom was a beaming proud papa.
The placenta came fairly soon after that. The room was dim, so S had to ask someone to shine a light into the pool so she could find the placenta. I was bleeding just a little bit more than was necessary, but Camden was too preoccupied with screaming to latch on and nurse. We tried a couple of homeopathic remedies, and one of them did the trick. Eventually, Camden latched on and nursed for a little bit.
Then I handed the baby off to my mom while Tom and S helped me out of the pool. I got a chux pad between my legs, and we made the trip up to the bedroom. We got settled in on the bed and I was able to get Camden to nurse a bit more. Dds3 and Tom sat next to us on the bed for a bit. Between nursing bouts, Camden continued to cry. Eventually, Ds2 woke up and came out of the boys’ room.
“Ds3’s crying!” I heard him say from the hall.
“That’s not Ds3, that’s your new baby brother!”
He came in the room with a big grin on his face. He turned to Ds3 and said “Ds3, you’re a big boy now!”
A little later, DS1 also woke up and was able to meet his new brother. All the boys were thrilled to meet the newest addition. S performed the newborn exam on the end of the bed, with the whole family looking on. Camden weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces and was 19.5 inches long. We decided Camden, meaning “winding valley,” was a good name for him, and a couple weeks later we finally decided on the middle name Isaac, which means “laughter.”
Camden Isaac Hale did finally stop screaming, and settled in for a long nurse and then fell asleep. The rest of that first Sunday, he slept most of the time. I was actually able to sleep quite a bit myself, and we had a very restful and peaceful day. Lying next to me nursing in bed, after we’d gotten some sleep, he put his little arm over mine, and hugged my wrist. My sweet, sweet baby was really here!