Ok, I know this is super long!
But here is the birth story of our third baby, Ian, written out last Saturday, January 21, when he was one week old:
This pregnancy was, to say the least, a surprise…four and a half months after Brian’s “successful” vasectomy, I found myself staring at a very positive pregnancy test, and overwhelmed with mixed emotions – shock, confusion, fear, disbelief, excitement, and finally (after many hours of letting it sink in), happiness! I had called Brian at work as soon as I took the test (we had been joking the night before about “wouldn’t THAT be funny, ha ha” because my period was a few days later than expected…). He was so calm, and just said, “Well, it’s done now and there’s no reason to get upset about it.” When he came home a short time later to find me crying on the bed, he comforted me by telling me that this was obviously meant to be, and how can you be upset about LIFE? He was right, of course…this new baby was nothing less than a miracle from God, and certainly given to us for a purpose. How could I not gratefully and joyfully accept such a gift from God? I was anxious and a little scared – I already felt stretched sometimes trying to be a good mother to both Jenna and Noah…how could I divide myself yet again and give all three children as much of my time and attention as they deserved? I definitely had not planned on this! But at the same time, I felt a peace about it all – perhaps the “peace that passes understanding” that can only come from the Lord – and despite my normal pregnancy and parenting fears that came and went throughout the next few months, I always had that peace down deep that God was in control, and that He would not have given us this miracle only to allow something to go wrong with it.
I saw an OB that first week, to confirm what I already was sure of…and although I liked him very much, I realized that a hospital birth was not what I wanted at all. I found a home birth midwife in the area and talked with her on the phone, but just had a “something not quite right” feeling after the conversation. Then I thought of the birth center…I called and talked to one of the midwives to ask if they thought I was crazy to consider coming back to them now that we lived in Chattanooga, an hour and a half away. They welcomed me back saying they have had women come from much further than that! It felt right, so I started making the trip up to Knoxville for my prenatal appointments.
Meanwhile, Robin was thrilled with the thought of having another chance to attend my birth…she had missed Noah’s and thought that was it. She vowed she would get here for this one, and we even started planning for a home birth if she was here in time, now that she had become a midwife! We were concerned that I would have a very fast labor and birth, with no time to safely get to the birth center. Brian initially said he was ok with this idea, but towards the end of the pregnancy he began to express how afraid he was of having a home birth – he was convinced something was going to go wrong, saying “we’re two for two”. The hemorrhage I had after Jenna’s birth, although not serious, had scared him so badly, as did Noah’s traumatic birth. He has referred to their births as “both the best and the worst days of my life”. He began to talk about going to the local hospital instead of staying home with Robin, which was the last thing I wanted to do. Of course I wanted the baby and me to be safe, but I desperately wanted to avoid having to be in a hospital for a normal birth, fending off unnecessary interventions and being forced to stay there for 24 hours or more afterwards. I started searching for a local doula, someone who might have some nursing experience as well and could serve as an assistant for Robin during a home birth, hoping that would ease Brian’s concerns. Through a series of events, God led me to Lori – a monitrice, who had apprenticed with a midwife for over 2 years, and who was thrilled with the idea of working with us! She was willing to assist with a home birth, go with us to the hospital if needed (in the event of a super fast birth before Robin arrived), and even willing to travel up to Knoxville to be my doula at the birth center! She came and met with us on January 5, and I felt like everything was falling into place. Brian seemed at ease with her, I liked her, and I felt so much better knowing we had help lined up for any situation we may find ourselves in with the birth.
So, by 36 weeks (January 7) I felt like things were ready. I had bags packed for the birth center (and at 36 weeks we were officially in the clear for having the birth there), had home birth supplies gathered in a basket, had the baby’s car seat installed, Lori was on board, and Robin was planning to arrive on January 22, when I would be just over 38 weeks. I didn’t know how or where the birth would unfold, but I knew it was going to be all right. Ian had been cooperative and had been head down for the entire third trimester so far – another concern, given Noah’s situation being surprise breech – and the pregnancy was progressing well.
On Wednesday, January 11, we all headed up to the birth center for my 36 week appointment. I had decided Brian needed to go with us, along with our packed bags and home birth supplies (in case of a precipitous car birth!) for the remaining appointments since we were now at the “any time now” stage. I had been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions and feeling lots of pelvic discomfort, stretching, and aching, so I knew things were probably starting to happen down there…I had Linda check me at that visit, and she found I was 2 cm dilated and about 60% effaced. We spent the afternoon at Heather’s house, as I usually did on my appointment days, had supper at Ruby Tuesdays (where I had the particularly spicy Sonora Chicken Pasta that I had been craving since the early weeks and not yet had the chance to eat), and headed home. About the time we got into Chattanooga (around 8 pm), I realized I had just had 3 painless contractions that were 8 minutes apart. I mentioned that to Brian, noting that it was different to have them come regularly… We had planned to go across town to pick up some nettles tea at a whole foods grocery store before going home, so we decided to go ahead and do that while I kept track of any further contractions. They kept coming, about every 8 minutes (some closer to 6 minutes, some as much as 10-12). They didn’t hurt, except when my bladder was full, but the only time I had ever had contractions come regularly enough to time was when I was in real labor with the other two babies – so we decided to drive back towards Knoxville rather than get off at our exit and go home, and just see what happened. They continued to come, so I called the birth center – Susan was already there with another mom in labor, and said if we wanted to come by she would be happy to check me out, so we kept on driving, not sure if this was really it or not but feeling it was better to be safe than sorry.
On the way, Brian suddenly exclaimed, “Ok…if this kid comes tonight or tomorrow, we are naming him Ian MILES!”, in honor of all the miles we had driven that day because of him! A few months before he had announced that he had come up with the perfect middle name for Ian – “Ian Conceivable”, since he should have been “inconceivable” but was clearly “conceivable”!! It was extremely clever and funny, but he had continued to insist that he really wanted to name the baby Ian Conceivable and I hadn’t been able to have a serious discussion about a middle name with him since then. We had been considering Ian William (Jenna and Emme had both suggested William as a name for the baby when we found out he was a boy). But although it was initially a joke, I really liked the sound of Ian Miles…and it ended up sticking!
Around 10:40 pm we arrived back at the birth center, for the second time in12 hours. Brian stayed in the car with the sleeping kids, and I went in with Susan. I had dilated to 3 cm now, but was no more effaced and the contractions were not getting stronger or closer…it didn’t seem to be active labor. We decided to go stay at Heather’s house for the night, just in case things picked up and we needed to get back to the birth center quickly. I continued to have some contractions overnight, but slept through them easily, and by morning they were spaced out to 15-20 minutes or more. So we headed home again. This whole “false alarm” thing was new to me and I just didn’t know exactly how to handle it…I just tried to take it easy all day Thursday and hope the baby would wait another 10 days for Robin to get here.
Friday morning, January 13, I was on the mothering.com “Feb 2006” due date board, sharing about our “false alarm”. I also answered a post about mucus plugs – someone posted about how they couldn’t wait to lose theirs, and what was it like…I replied that I had never had a single “Woh, there’s my plug!” event with my other two births. I got off the computer and went to the bathroom, and lo and behold, “WOH, THERE’S MY PLUG!!” It was a huge glob of mucus, about the size of a grape, like nothing I had ever seen before! After that I had some bloody show every time I went to the bathroom. In retrospect, I suppose I should have realized that labor was imminent, but at the time I just remembered hearing women say they had lost their plug and not gone into labor for another week, and I thought the bloody show may have been due at least in part to the two vaginal exams I had had on Wednesday as well as the continued painless contractions I had been having on and off. I emailed Robin to tell her about it, and later found out that when she read the email she knew Ian wasn’t going to wait and I was about to have this baby.
That evening, around 8 pm (again!), I noticed that the contractions had started to come regularly again, about every 8 minutes. They were still not painful, but they were a bit achy. Thinking it might be another bout of pre-labor, I decided to get in the bathtub to see if that would slow or stop them. I spent 45 minutes in the tub, and they kept coming. I got up and walked around, and they kept coming. At 11 pm I went to bed (leaving my contacts in, just in case…). Although I dozed off between them, they kept coming every 8 or so minutes, and were getting crampy enough to wake me up – I noticed the crampiness was starting in my lower belly and moving around to my low back. I started to wonder if this might really be real labor after all…At midnight I decided to call Lori. I told her I was unsure what was going on, and didn’t want to drag the family back up to Knoxville again for nothing, but I thought maybe if she would come over and check me to see if anything was changing that might help me decide what to do. She agreed. I woke Brian to tell him, and he said he’d go back to sleep and wait for me to wake him again after Lori got here.
I decided it would be a good idea to load everything into the car, just in case….I even set up the back of the Tahoe with Chux pads and a blanket for me to ride there rather than in the front seat, figuring I would want to be able to move around if I was really in labor, and went up and put socks on the kids (thankfully they both had warm jammies on already…I do remember making sure they did earlier that night and looking back I think I knew this was going to be the night on some level….) Then I waited for Lori. She lived 20 minutes away but it had been nearly an hour since I called her…I knelt on the floor in the living room and timed some contractions – 4-5 minutes apart now and getting stronger, slightly painful. It started to sink in that I was really in active labor after all. I went out and started the car to warm it up (we were having snow flurries that night!) and woke Brian. I was feeling like we needed to get going, with or without Lori – at that moment she showed up (around 1:15 am). I told Brian to put the kids in the car and told Lori I thought we needed to get going, but wanted her to quickly check me first. She did, and I was a stretchy 5 cm and 80% effaced, and her glove had lots of bloody show! I exclaimed “Ok, we need to go NOW!”
In the car I called the birth center and Linda quickly called me back (I was happy to find out she was the one on call – I like all the midwives but for some reason felt safer with her!). I filled her in and she asked me to call her back in a half hour. I called Robin and talked to her for a while – we were both so disappointed that she was going to miss it! She was pretty concerned that we might not make it in time and told me to call her back if we needed her to talk Brian through catching the baby! I had brought my Doppler so I listened to the baby and his heart sounded good. I knelt on all fours in the back of the car, leaning onto pillows or the back of the rear seat during contractions. They were hurting, but very tolerable. I could see the clock in the front seat and noticed the contractions were now coming every 3-4 minutes (it was about 1:45 am), and I hoped Brian wouldn’t ask me how close they were because I didn’t want to scare him! He was so calm outwardly, but later confessed inside he was really not sure we were going to make it and was trying not to let ME know that so that I wouldn’t freak out – just as I was trying to stay calm so HE wouldn’t freak out! I prayed a lot, for God to help me get through labor and to get us to the birth center safely and in time. And I sang – I sang through each contraction. “God Is So Good”, “You Are My Sunshine”, “Amazing Grace”… singing helped distract me from the pain, and I also figured as long as I was able to keep singing through the contractions we had time to get there. I sang, swayed my hips, rocked back and forth, and prayed as each wave of contraction came over me. The kids slept most of the way and the time passed fairly quickly for me (although Brian later said it seemed to take forever to get there for him!)
When I called Linda back around 2 am, the contractions were closer and stronger – about every 2-3 minutes. I had also called Sarah to ask her to meet us there to help with the kids – I had planned on Heather coming, but she was out of town at her lake house for the weekend (the one time the whole month that she was not going to be home!). Friday evening I had called Sarah to ask her if she might be able to come instead if anything should happen that weekend…a few hours later I was waking her up to tell her we were on the way! A short time later we were hitting the outskirts of Knoxville, and Lori, who had been following us, called to tell us her car was breaking down and just about ready to die. Brian decided to pull off the freeway and go to the Krystal parking lot (near Cedar Bluff) to let Lori get in with us. I agreed but told him to hurry…and secretly feared that there might be a reason God was having Lori get in the car with us (was she going to have to catch the baby just a few miles from the birth center?!?). She later said she believed it was God’s way of letting her be there to connect with me during the labor a bit since the birth was going to happen so quickly. We finally got to the 17th Street exit and I breathed a huge sigh of relief – we were going to make it! Brian asked “Do you want me to run the red light?” I was in the middle of a contraction and just replied “Mmmm”. He said “Got it!” and kept driving straight through the intersection – thankfully there was very little traffic at that time of the night!
We pulled into the birth center parking lot and Linda and Sarah met us at the door. I was still feeling pretty good – able to walk just fine, talking and laughing, and SO relieved that we were there. As soon as I saw Linda I said “I want the water.” So we all headed to Birth Room #1 and she started filling the tub while I undressed. Brian was getting the kids settled with Sarah and bringing in our bags while Linda listened to the baby’s heart and checked me – she said “How does 9 cm sound?” I was stunned – I would have never thought I was quite that far along feeling as good as I did. This labor was going so much easier than the other two! The contractions were starting to hurt quite a bit, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The water did look mighty good, though, so I climbed in right away – ahhhh, it felt great!! I didn’t look at the clock at that point, but I believe we had gotten there in just under 1 ½ hrs, so it was around 2:45 am when we arrived and probably close to 3 when I got in the tub. Brian came back into the room, along with Sarah and the kids, changed into his swimsuit and got in the tub with me. The first several contractions in the water were not too bad, but pretty soon they started to intensify quite a bit and I was needing him to start the hip squeeze. I still felt most comfortable kneeling and leaning forward – I spent the entire labor in that position, really, and I think that was because Ian needed to turn himself around since I believe he had been posterior when labor began.
The kids were wide awake now – Noah wasn’t sure what was going on, but he really wanted to get in that tub with Mommy and Daddy…it looked like lots of fun to him! Jenna was SO excited that it was finally time for the baby to come! Lori sat on the couch near the tub while Brian and I continued to work through contractions – the only physical support I really needed was Brian’s hip squeezes, so she offered moral support and started taking pictures. I would sometimes forget to tell Brian the contraction was over and he could let go, until I realized his arms were trembling with fatigue in between the contractions as he continued to push hard against my hips! At one point he asked Linda for a towel, and figured out that he could grasp the ends of the towel in front of me and use it for leverage to squeeze my hips with his forearms. He joked to Linda that they could adopt his “Water Birth Invention” for other fathers if they wanted to…
It was a very nice, relaxed atmosphere with everyone laughing and joking at times, including me – the contractions were incredibly painful, and I desperately needed Brian to squeeze my hips hard to get through them, but there were blessed short breaks between when I felt ok.
But then, around 3:30 am, I suddenly started to feel “pushy” – I ended one contraction with moaning and felt myself push a little. I commented that I felt pushy on that last one, then another one came and I pushed harder. It was excruciating!! I felt like I could not handle the pain and I couldn’t DO this – I cried out to God for help in my head, I thought…Jenna told me later that she heard me ask God for help so maybe I said it out loud after all. I heard Linda ask me to sit upright (I was leaning forward on the edge of the tub) so she could listen to the baby, and I just shook my head and said “NO!” because I couldn’t move. She said she needed me to try to lean back so she would be able to see if there was a cord around the baby’s neck after his head came out, and I remember saying “I can’t!”, but somehow I found myself upright, kneeling but leaning back on Brian. I felt as if I was going to tear in half in front, so I reached down to hold myself with my hands. Brian later laughed and told me how impressive it was that I was holding myself up completely with one hand and reaching for the baby with the other! I felt my body pushing uncontrollably and decided to push hard right along with it, and felt a “POP” – “my water just broke!”, I said in the quick break between contractions, and I remember seeing Linda smile and nod and say “Ok”. Then another contraction and push, and suddenly the intense burning was released as Ian’s head came out. I exclaimed “Oh, thank GOD!” and asked if his head was out, then I felt him turning, felt his shoulders come out, and felt the rest of him come flying out…suddenly Linda was lifting him out of the water and handing him to me!! It all happened so fast – he was born at 3:35 am, after only about 3 minutes of pushing! It was January 14, 2006 – exactly 37 weeks. He was so tiny and one of the 3 most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life – I was ecstatic that he was out, labor was over, and I was really, truly holding my baby at last! Such an amazing feeling that I can’t really even begin to put into words… He was so quiet and didn’t really cry, so I asked “Is he breathing?!” and several voices answered me calmly “Yes, he’s fine!” After a few moments Linda said she was starting to see some blood in the water, and wanted to get me out onto the bed pretty soon. So she started to hand Brian the scissors to cut the cord, and he said “Not my job!” and looked at Jenna – a few days before she had mentioned something about cutting the cord and I had asked her if she wanted to do that. Brian had expressed concern that it might be too tough for her to actually do, but maybe she could help. So at that moment, when we looked at her and asked if she wanted to do it, her eyes lit up and she said “ME?” She took the scissors and cut Ian’s cord effortlessly, it seemed, and was so thrilled. I handed the baby to Kelly (the RN who arrived just in time for the birth), and Linda and Brian helped me out of the tub and over to the bed. I asked Linda “Is it ok?” and she immediately turned to Brian and said “Yes, this is FINE – completely normal” remembering Brian’s anxiety about my hemorrhage with Jenna. He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. He joked “So, are you ready to have another one?” to which I replied a resounding “Hell no!” to the laughter of everyone in the room. The placenta was right there then, and Linda asked me to go ahead and push it out (it must have started to detach right after he was born, and that’s why I had already started to bleed into the water a bit – it was out by 3:40 am). Then she looked to see if I had torn at all – perfectly intact! They handed Ian back to me and helped me scoot up to the top of the bed, where Jenna came to sit with me. Brian said “I guess you’d like me to stop dripping all over the floor now, huh?” and went to change back into his clothes. Sarah was still holding Noah, and I asked her if he had gotten upset at all during the birth – she said he had not, just watched, unsure of what was going on. A few minutes later he walked over to the bed and said “OH! It’s a baby!”
And a while later he came up to me and quietly asked, “You ok now, Mommy?” I smiled and assured him I was fine, which he accepted and went on to play. Later on he said “You had fun in the big tub, Mommy!”
Ian was nursing within the first half hour, and I just lay there and basked in utter joy with how beautiful the birth had been…it was absolutely flawless, and aside from Robin and Heather missing it, it could not have gone more perfectly. God had absolutely answered my prayers and blessed us tremendously with this birth – I had prayed so much during the pregnancy that everything would go smoothly with no complications. Not only for the baby and for me, but very much for Brian as well – I so wanted him to experience the birth of one of his children as an amazingly beautiful thing rather than a traumatic and terrifying experience. I hope it was as healing for him as it has been for me – this is what birth should be, and it was awesome and breathtaking. He seemed to be as relieved as I was. Brian made a few phone calls to Robin and our moms to share the news. Robin said later that all he told her was Ian was here, I didn’t bleed, and we were both ok! Within the hour Linda did Ian’s newborn assessment, and he was perfect – 8 pounds 0 ounces, 20 inches long, and absolutely healthy. His apgar scores had been 9 and 9. He was content and calm, and I was completely in love! Lori prepared an herb bath for me, and it felt wonderful (despite having some trouble getting the water warm enough – we had used it all for the birth tub!). I took Ian into the bath with me for a few minutes, and Jenna sat next to us – she was about as in love as I was! Then I handed Ian over to Brian, and Lori stayed in the bathroom talking with me as I relaxed in the bath – it was so nice to talk over what had just happened and have her affirm me and tell me how wonderfully I had handled the labor and birth.
After the bath, I snuggled into bed with Ian again. Sarah went home, as did Linda. Brian went to another room to try to get some sleep so he wouldn’t be too bleary-eyed to drive home in a few hours, and Lori tried to entertain the kids so I could rest…they were both so wired and excited that there was no settling them. We tried to get them to lay down on the couch and sleep a bit, but they kept popping up again to play. So although I was able to lay down and rest, there was no sleeping. I called Jennifer, Tina, Jamie and Heather to tell them the news. A couple of hours later the kids were getting hungry (me too!), so Brian got up and took them to get some breakfast while Kelly went through the discharge paperwork with me and I filled out the birth certificate papers. I dressed Ian for the first time and got dressed myself, and then Lori’s aunt arrived to pick her up (she had realized after her car broke down that she had an aunt and uncle in Knoxville – she was able to go home with them and her uncle helped take care of her car to get her home later! How incredibly God worked out every little detail!). Brian returned, loaded up the car, and by 9:30 am – just 6 hours after Ian’s birth – we were on our way home. I rode in the back once again, so I could lie down and get some sleep, which I did – the kids both fell asleep as well. So before we knew it, we were home. I noticed that it was only 11 am, and realized we had been gone for less than 10 hours all together!
Early this morning I was sitting in bed nursing Ian, and looked over at the clock – it was exactly 3:35 am, and he was officially one week old! It’s been a great week…so much easier than I expected. He is such a calm and sweet baby, and hardly ever cries or fusses. He is waking only once between about 11/12 pm and 7/8 am!! I don’t think Jenna or Noah were sleeping that well until they were two years old, ha ha! He and I are getting into a nursing groove and he’s nursing well. The kids both adore him – Jenna is all over him, always wanting to hold him and kiss him. Noah doesn’t want to get too close, but he frequently comes in the room and asks “Where’s the baby?” and once he sees him, leaves the room satisfied to know that Ian is still here. He says “How you doing, little buddy?”
I am feeling great – tired, but great! The day after he was born I did not feel at all like I had given birth the day before…no perineal soreness at all. In fact, my pelvis and hips felt better that day than they did the day BEFORE he was born! The afterpains when he nursed the first two days were tough…worse than most of the labor, honestly…but that was gone fairly quickly as well. I sit here and look down at this precious miracle sleeping in my lap, and I am filled with awe at God’s goodness…to have given me this beautiful baby even though we were so sure we would never have another, and a birth more perfect than I could have imagined…God’s ways are mysterious, but He knows so much better what paths our lives should take than we do. As I said when we first learned of the pregnancy, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him what your OWN plans for your life are!” Thank God He laughed…