Today is my sweet Charlie's second birthday! It has taken me to this point, this milestone to be able to put my thoughts into words regarding his birth. I'll start with the dreams. I had these dreams all of my 3rd trimester that we had a home waterbirth and that our baby was a boy...but he didn't make it. They terrified me and I didn't dare speak of them to anyone because I thought it meant there was something wrong with me for thinking those things. I was scared of giving birth to our baby, afraid that something would go wrong, but I assured myself that everything was fine. I decided that I just had an overactive imagination and threw myself head first into preparing for our newest child.
We were planning our 3rd baby's birth, our second homebirth until early the morning of April 14th, 2008. I had been feeling "off" and had an intense nesting urge the day before. I cleaned every corner of the house and was feeling excited that the baby would be hopefully coming in the next few weeks (I'd never gone before my EDD before). I finished off the house cleaning with a nice warm bath as my hips were really achey. As I was reclining in the tub, I felt some big movements and was a little concerned as he'd been breech a few weeks prior and we'd just finally gotten him head down. I assured myself that he was fine because he was suddenly moving all over the place and very active. I realize in hindsight that it was actually a sign of him being in distress.
I fell asleep hoping that he was still head down and thinking that if he wasn't that I still had "weeks" to convince him vertex again anyway. I slept while I had contractions and figured they were probably just false labor again. Until I felt a pop and then warmth! I realized my water had broken so I excitedly ran to the bathroom. I noticed that instead of clear fluid...that it was thick, pea soup type meconium. I tried not to panic, but something felt very off to me and it wasn't just the color of the fluid. Contractions start to be rather intense. In the back of my head I'm remembered the dreams I had during pregnancy but quickly pushed that away. DH called the midwife and she asks us to meet her at the hospital especially when I tell her that my gut instinct is that something is wrong. We throw on some clothes while calling my mom to have her hurry up and get over to the house to watch the kids. My heart starts to sink as I have to wake up our 4 year old daughter and tell her that we are going to the hospital, but that Nana will stay with her. I tell her that it will be okay and that the baby just needs to be born at the hospital because he probably needs a little help. More contractions as we got in the car.
As we drove to the hospital I start having massive back to back contractions. I begged our little surprise baby to stay inside. My last labor was precipitous and I worried that he might be born in the car on the way to the hospital and that didn't feel safe to me. As we got closer to the hospital the contractions spaced out but were still intense. We got checked in quickly and we met the doctor on call. Our midwife arrived shortly after. The doctor doesn't like baby's heartrate pattern so she asks to put in a fetal scalp monitor. I hate this idea, but we all agree that it is necessary. The doctor then realizes that she can't put in the monitor...because she feels little baby buns instead! A quick ultrasound confirms it and the decision is made that a c/s needs to be done immediately. My heart was breaking but I just had this gut feeling that this was what the baby needed to be safe. I surprised myself by not even crying when I made the decision to agree. They believed that while turning, he must have pinched his cord.
They moved quickly and within 5 minutes I was taken to the OR. A wonderful anesthesiologist happened to be on call. We told him that we had been planning a homebirth and that this was very unexpected for us. As soon as we told him that his whole tone changed. He told us that we could feel free to ask questions about anything that was being done and that it was our right to say no to anything that we wanted. He told us he would do his very best to help make this "birth" a good memory despite it not turning out how we had planned. I swear he must have been an angel.
As I climbed on the table, alone in the room except for the doctors and nurses I had a sense of panic. I was so afraid I'd die and leave my husband alone with 3 small children. I prayed to God to please let everything go okay, that all I wanted in this world was to have time with my family and this new baby. We didn't find out the sex, but I just knew he was a boy. Everyone "wanted" a girl, but I just knew. My husband and my midwife were allowed in the room as soon as they had started the surgery. The wonderful anesthesiologist asked me if I wanted to see the baby be born and I absolutely wanted to. He pulled back the curtain and helped me lift my head to look. Suddenly out of my body, without any work from me...there was our baby! All sadness was replaced by joy. Our tiny little baby boy! He looked so small and precious. He did not cry at first, which was actually good. They immediately whisked him over to the table to work on him and did deep suction. He was covered from head to toe with meconium, and it was in his mouth/throat too. As soon as they cleared it out, he started to pink up and breathe. Then a cry. A sweet little cry! I asked if he was okay and the nurse told us that they had cleared up his airway and he was doing fine. They wrapped him up and gave them to his Daddy. My husband brought him to see me and then suddenly I started feeling intense pain. They had to give me some sort of narcotic in addition to the spinal, so then I started feeling kind of foggy. I remember laughing and telling my husband that I wish I could get my eyes to focus to see the baby better. My husband got to take him back to the room to snuggle while my wonderful midwife stayed by my side.
After the c/s, I was surprised at how normal I felt. In fact I felt strangely normal for having a newborn in my arms. I was missing that euphoria of hormones from birth. I was thrilled to have our baby safely in my arms, but inside I felt like such a failure. I was the one to encourage my friends to have their babies at home and here I was the one lying in a hospital bed with a big cut across my belly. I felt so robbed...but I tried my best to bond with my baby. I will tell you that the physical recovery was very easy for me, but the emotional recovery was much harder. If I hadn't known how amazing and transformative birth can be, I suppose I wouldn't have minded so much. I felt like maybe I had done something incredibly dangerous by having my second child at home. What was I thinking to do that?! I had always planned to be a homebirth midwife when my children are grown, but suddenly I wasn't sure who I was anymore. Slowly over time, I bonded to my sweet little Charlie. He nursed well and grew quickly, and his sister and brother adored him. I loved him from the first moment I saw him, but it was just a very different experience from how I bonded after my other births.
I struggled with PPD worse than I knew was possible when he was few months old. At first after his birth I thought I was okay and that I'd just dealt with the emotions early on, but I really had just suppressed them and it was extremely damaging. He was a very high needs baby and had frequent ear infections from an early age so things weren't always easy. I've always wondered if his birth played a role in these things.
I haven't written this story until today because for a long time I didn't think of his birth as a "birth" needing a written story. Not because I don't adore him like my other children, but because his arrival was just very hard for both of us. From the beginning after his birth I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm there now. I can think of his birth and smile, not cry. I wish I could have given him a peaceful homebirth into this world, but in my heart I've always known that wasn't possible. I've always felt like that if we'd been at home that he might not be here.
When he was just shy of a year we found out that we were expecting #4 and that sent me on a whole whirlwind of emotions. Charlie's little brother was born at home in the water back in December. I was able to regain my trust in my body, even when I again was faced with another malpositioned baby. It has given me a whole new perspective and sense of peace regarding Charlie's birth.
Charles Richard was born April 14, 2008, at 5:35am. He weighed 6lbs 3oz and was 19" long. Such a peanut. We gave him the middle name Richard after my husband's grandfather that passed away at the beginning of the pregnancy before we had a chance to tell him about his newest great grandchild. He would have been so thrilled. The name Charles came to us randomly during the pregnancy and it was never a name we would have considered previously, but it just fits him so well. As soon as I saw him I knew it was the right name for him. He is such a silly, sweet boy and he looks so much like his great grandfather that you wouldn't believe it. I have been so very blessed to be his mama and for all the things our journey together has taught me.
Happy Birthday Charlie-bug!
We love you more than words can say!