My 4th pregnancy and the trials therein and the almost birth story:
Peter’s pregnancy was quite a journey and as such I feel the need to ‘recap’ that before I get to his actual labor and birth.
I was in a very low spot with my health, and had just weaned my almost 2 yr old with plans of concentrating on my own health for a while.. when we found out we were expecting our 4th blessing from God. It was both a joyful and fearful time when we found out about the new baby coming, as I could barely keep myself going and feared whether I could sustain another pregnancy at that moment. As it was I had recently been told by my doctor that I’m intolerant to 25+ foods, besides my normal dietary limitations of being severely hypoglycemic and intolerant to lactose/dairy (both cow and goat products). Besides knowing since Dec 03’ that I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which puts me at a higher risk for miscarriage amongst other things. In addition to that I was dx’d with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hypermobile joints) in Jan 2010’ and now knew that pregnancy made my joints much worse.
I remember contacting my midwife with a bit of fear, afraid even she might turn me away as being to complicated, and knowing that home birth would be the safest place for the baby and I. Contrary to popular belief home is safer for someone with so many limitations as I have, as we can control when and what I eat, how and where I birth, what positions I labor in (many traditional positions would dislocate my loose joints), and of course the recovery would be much easier in my home as well. So I was so very thankful when after a visit with my midwife and an indepth discussion, plus her willingly reading over a book about my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.. she agreed to take me on as a client!
Before I even tested positive for pregnancy I had some concerning symptoms of swollen ankles, and also noticed the more ‘normal’ stretching feelings from my uterus, between those two things I decided to go ahead and test for pregnancy, not because I thought I was but because I’d never felt those things outside of pregnancy before (and honestly I was afraid my body was becoming even more ill to just throw such bizarre symptoms in at random). Being late for my cycle really was not concerning though as with the PCOS my cycles are very unpredictable and frequently go very long or at random really short. I believe my words to my husband the night before I tested were ‘I’m going to waste another test in the morning’ as has happened many a time in the past. So despite the suspicious symptoms I was rather shocked to see two lines on the pregnancy test that morning! As was my husband who had promptly forgotten that I planned to test anyway LOL! I remember we were both worried about my health, but we were quick to consider it joy and be grateful for another little life on the way.
Our midwife spent a lot of time helping me understand my nutritional requirements in pregnancy, and we worked as best we could around my dietary limitations to provide the baby and I enough food. Between my severe hypoglycemia and difficulty digesting foods I had to eat every 1.5-2 hrs throughout the pregnancy, and in the beginning of pregnancy this helped avoid low blood sugar & migraines. In the early part of pregnancy I could eat 15-30grams of protein per meal/snack, by late pregnancy I had to increase that to 20-40 grams of protein.. most of the time it was 40.. and in late pregnancy it was primarily to avoid huge swelling issues and keep on top of my health that I had to eat so much and so often.. We also used various enzyme products to help me absorb my proteins better.
In previous pregnancies I gave birth as early as 37 weeks (my first) to as late as 39w2d I remember I had mini goals with this last pregnancy of reaching 39w and if possible 40w for a larger healthier baby. As I had heard that babies born on or past their due-date were far more mature/calm and healthy then ones born even just two weeks earlier. I had experienced the ‘to early’ stuff and wanted to see how much better it would be for a baby to bake fully.
This was also our first pregnancy to not have any ultrasounds done, and subsequently the first time we did not know the gender ahead of time. As we were planning a home birth with a lay midwife ultra sounds were not a part of our care, and not seen as medically necessary so we did not seek to pay for one out of pocket either. So this baby got as I used to say full privacy in the womb :), likely the only time the baby would ever have such privacy ;).
One of the unknown factors of this pregnancy, was how hard it would be on my already loose joints, my previous pregnancy had me in so much pain I could barely function at times. We now ‘knew’ what was causing the pain and I had worked for nearly a year rebuilding my muscles as well with a specialized exercise program. There was a chance of my becoming temporarily or even permanently disabled because of ehlers-danlos syndrome. Praise God though as I’ve said the pregnancy was far better then I expected on my joints, but still much worse then I’d hoped. I suffered many dislocations often multiple times a day, and got to the point my chiropractor was of no use as the joints slipped in and out of their own will by mid-late pregnancy. Thankfully I had good days where there was only low amounts of pain and few dislocations, but the bad days were agonizing at times. As far as we can tell no permanent harm was done by the pregnancy but I am weak and loose again and will need to spend a lot of time rebuilding my muscles when I’m allowed to exercise again.
Another concern we had in this pregnancy was that I might end up with a prolapsed uterus or bladder, due to how loose my connective tissues are AND the signs of wear my previous pregnancies had already left on my body. My midwife was concerned about this and urged me to consider not doing any forceful pushing of the baby, just allowing my body to push for me. I remember doubting whether I could resist the urge to push, and wondering how this might all work out.
In pregnancy I tend to have a lot of braxton hicks contractions, and surprisingly this pregnancy I had the least amount I’d ever had (probably less then with my first even). But by the end of things they were pretty frequent and surprisingly strong/uncomfortable at times. Oddly enough the last month BH contrax actually slowed down for a while, that is until I started having what I often hear others refer to as ‘prodromal labor.’ I would get contractions for hrs that would build and increase and make me ‘almost’ think baby was coming even lose a few nights of sleep over these before they would stop again. The Saturday before my baby was born I had very intense contractions that were clearly moving baby down (and we thought out), we called in the birth team and I contracted for 6 or 7 hrs.. laboring in various positions, even in the birth pool, and pushed for a while. But for some reason that we may never fully understand my body became fatigued and labor came to a complete stop. Baby was extremely low/engaged, but my body shut down and even my cervix closed up a ways. It was very hard mentally and emotionally to recover from that close of a ‘tease’ from the baby.
But as I healed and recovered my body seemed stronger from it and my birth team and I all learned a fair bit about how this labor/birth really needed to happen. From the way I became fatigued we all learned that even in the midst of labor even at the point of pushing I MUST eat every 2 hrs or sooner, and must take care to listen to my body.. to change positions often and work with it not against. I couldn’t count on a certain style of birth, but needed to be open to wherever and whenever this baby was ready. I also learned that I needed to let my older children visit a friend so I could labor freely without restraint or worry about them.
Peter’s Home Birth story:
So the night before I went into labor and truly gave birth.. I told my husband that babies don’t come on their due-date and hence he’d be fine to go to work that next day. Haha.. I think the baby heard me!
I was very exhausted the night before the baby came, and drank a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed. And as a result I slept very deeply and had restorative rest for 1.5 hrs.. (1:00am May 24th) before contractions woke me up (again!). I realized my husband had not come to bed yet, so I got up and checked in with him.. mentioning to him that he’d be ‘very sorry that he hadn’t gone to bed.. if these don’t stop,’ he very quickly headed to bed. I tried to return to bed myself but the contractions were already regular and I was having to sigh/breathe through them. So I not only couldn’t stay in bed but was afraid that my husband wouldn’t get to rest if I did. I chose to try the reclining couch in our living room.. and amazingly found a comfortable position that I was able to sleep between contractions waking to work through the contrax then falling right back asleep until 3 am!
I tried various things for another 45 minutes before deciding I was not content to go it alone any longer and woke my husband up .. by returning to our room and waiting for the next contraction to hit, as at this point I was vocalizing in a low voice through them. He woke up very quickly to my laboring noises! We spent the next couple hrs working through contractions and doing little things around the house to be ready ‘just in case’ the baby was serious this time. After having so many false starts we were both hesitant to call it for real.. for a long time. We also were diligent to keep me eating at least every 2 hrs and drinking lots of water.
I think it was after 6am maybe closer to 6:30 before we called the birth team to come back in again. And called a friend to pick up the boys after they had breakfast as well. Then it was just a matter of waiting for everyone to come and things to get settled.. meanwhile I continued to contract frequently and realized as the boys woke up I needed to be alone/away from them in order to concentrate. So my husband sent me back to our room, while he tended the kids and checked on me often. Thankfully our doula showed up shortly after that and she was able to stay with me and help me work through contractions. At one point I remember telling her that I wasn’t timing contractions and if the midwife wanted to know when she came I couldn’t tell her how often they were.. my doula’s calm response was ‘they’ve been about 3 minutes apart since I came.’ I remember being surprising they were that close together, but grateful too as that sounded like we were probably getting a baby for real this time! Shortly after that my midwife came in, and they both just sat quietly with me offering encouragement and support when needed, I remember using the birth ball a lot, and standing to sway, as well as lying down on my side part of the time, and of course emptying my bladder a LOT too. It seemed like a long time, but finally the older boys were off to my friends house and my husband was free to stay with me again.
I remember my response to hear the kids had left excited to play with friends, was a deep sense of calm and relaxation. My contractions seemed to intensify quickly after they left. I tried very hard to listen to my body and change positions as needed, empty my bladder frequently, drink water and eat.. eat whenever I could. I also tried not to work ‘to hard’ but to rather relax and let things happen as they needed to. I didn’t want to become fatigued again, and I didn’t want to force things either.
My midwife writes little sayings on her business cards, and I found myself quoting them in my head during labor. Some of my favorites were ‘my baby is strong and healthy’ and ‘labor is a journey not a race’ .. I also would breathe out and sigh saying ‘open’ quietly as things progressed.
My husband and birth team did an excellent job supporting and comforting me throughout the labor process, there was almost always somewhere there when I needed them. Whether they just spoke to me softly, let me lean on them, gave counter pressure on my back, or swayed or whatever it was I needed at the moment we seemed to be able to communicate it and that was so very important and comforting to me.
As things got more intense, and I was drawing near to needing to eat again I requested for my midwife to check me for dilation as I felt close to pushing but not quite.. and we were debating if there as time for me to eat once more. She did a quick check and said I was about a 7, and commented that we might have time depending on how quickly things went. So they hurried to get me some fish to eat.. and I munched on it between contractions (and also made another trip to the potty at that point). Things progressed very quickly from that point.. I did not get to finish that snack till after the baby came! But I did get a few strengthening bites in at least :).
I don’t remember if it was before or after the dilation check, but my water broke somewhere in this time-line and my body began moving the baby down the rest of the way. I tried my best to be as relaxed as possible and I had one more check for dilation as my body was about to push, the midwife said I was complete. And within a couple of contractions the neatest part of things happened.. my body began pushing on it’s own!
I was laying down on my bed reclined with pillows supporting my back/head and under each leg. I breathed through the contractions and worked harder then I ever have in my life to remain relaxed.. and watched in fascination as my belly contracted of it’s own accord on it’s own time-line and gently pushed this baby out. I remember the huge relief I felt when the head was out.. I thought the whole baby had come out until I saw my belly contract down again, then the rest of him eased out with it. My midwife gently laid him on my belly, as his cord was to short to reach my chest. I thanked the baby, and greeted the baby, before asking my husband what we had, he said he didn’t know but gently looked and announced it’s another boy :)! And shortly after that my midwife told me to push the placenta out as it had detached as he came out.
After the placenta was out and Daddy cut the cord, then I really got to snuggle him close and see him for the first time. It was the most amazing and wonderful birth I’ve had, so gentle and surrounded with love.
I had no injuries, no tears, no prolapsed organs.. the only issues I had were some dislocations in my hips/tailbone that my chiropractor was able to work back into place within a couple days for me.
Our family is blessed beyond measure to have 4 healthy boys and to have safely made it through this last pregnancy and birth.
May 24th, 2011
21 inches long
Rae 27 DH Phillip 32 married 11-22-03
DS1 Nathaniel b. 11-21-04, DS2 Ian b. 9-8-06, DS3 Samuel b. 10-1-08, DS4 Peter b. 5-24-11
Amazing, Rae! You are a true warrior. I admire your spirit and courage, and also your determination to be on top of your health. What an empowering birth story!!
Congratulations on your FOURTH son!! Enjoy your babymoon!
Carrie SAHM to Nora Caitlyn ('08) and Finnley Dax ('11) homebirthing, breastfeeding, babywearing, intactivist, doula mama!