This time we were ready. When we were expecting our first baby, Calvin, our hearts were ready, our birth supplies were ready, but so many other things were not! I thought I still had 4 more weeks to unpack the baby shower gifts, wash the baby clothes and receiving blankets, set up and organize the changing table, etc. etc… So this time, we got everything ready early. We had it all done by 36 weeks: newborn clothes and blankets washed and organized, changing table stocked with tiny diapers, bassinet made up with a clean sheet, freezer stocked with casseroles, fridge stocked with coconut water, birth supplies gathered and organized, and the apartment sparkling clean. Our hearts, heads, and home were ready for our second son.
|Homebirth supplies ready and waiting!|
But at the same time we didn’t want him to be born early – at least not too early. During week 35 and 36 James and my mom (who had come from Atlanta to stay with us) did everything around the house so that I could take it easy in the hopes of avoiding pre-term labor. Well, those weeks passed by, we had our birth team meeting during week 36, and we made it to week 37: that magical milestone of being “full-term.”
Once I had made it that far I was thinking, “Ok, baby! We did it! Feel free to be born now!” I started trying to be more active, to get out of the house more and find excuses to walk around in the hopes of getting labor to start. But week 37 also passed by… and week 38… and week 39… I had never been that pregnant before and I hadn’t experienced the anticipation of knowing that the baby could come any day and wishing he would!
|This was taken on our sixth wedding anniversary, July 7th. I was 39 weeks pregnant!|
Maybe our zoo tour did the trick because even before I had a bite of hot smoked ham, my water broke! It was 7:30 in the evening. I called our midwife Michelle and she said labor would likely start within 24 hours and she asked us to call her as soon as I started having strong contractions. I was already feeling contractions, but they were mild. James and I made up the bed for labor: clean sheets first, then a waterproof liner over them, then another fitted sheet on top… that way when cleaning up after the birth, the midwives can just pull the top sheet and liner off and the bed is already made to tuck in the cleaned-up mama and baby! Then we put Calvin to sleep in his crib and ate our spicy Hunan dinner with my mom. We even watched a movie: Sunset Boulevard. Kind of a weird choice, I know! James and I were starting to make our way through IMDB’s list of top 250 films and Sunset Boulevard was one of the films we hadn’t seen yet.
By 9:30pm I could tell the contractions were getting stronger and more regular so James texted Michelle, but I didn’t think she should come just yet. We finished the movie and went to bed. But since we knew labor was starting, my mom took Calvin to sleep upstairs with her. I didn’t want Calvin present during labor or the birth. I felt that it would be scary for him.
James and I didn’t really sleep during the next few hours, but we laid in bed and rested and when the surges came, I would move around trying to find a more comfortable position and James would help me by bringing me things like the stability ball or water, or by rubbing my back, or just being with me.
By 3am the contractions were coming 5 minutes apart so James contacted Michelle again and she headed over along with Sue, our other midwife who would assist Michelle during the birth. When they arrived Michelle did a quick check of all my vitals: temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. She also checked the baby’s heartbeat with the fetal doppler. Henry and I were both doing well.
We all mostly slept through the next few hours. Although my contractions had been strong and close at 3am, they became less intense and more spaced out. I was able to nap in-between, and I tried to let James get some rest. The midwives slept on our living room couches, although I don’t think Michelle really slept – she was listening to me from there to monitor my contractions and every time I went out to use the bathroom (which was often!) she would stop me to take my temperature and check the baby’s heartbeat with her fetal doppler.
Around 7:30 in the morning, the contractions got stronger again and more frequent. By about 8am I was in active labor. I asked James to get my mom so that she could be with us for the birth. She left Calvin in the care of our cousin Hartley upstairs. I was struggling to find a position that made the painful contractions more bearable. Michelle and Sue were suggesting that I get on my hands and knees, but it just didn’t feel better. Michelle even suggested putting the stability ball on the bed and this ended up working for me. I knelt on the bed and leaned forward with my head and shoulders on the ball. James stayed with me. At times he would hold me, or talk to me, or just sit with me. My mom sat in the room with us in a chair by the bed. And the midwives, as far as I could tell, came in and out setting up supplies, checking on me, and offering help if I wanted it.
This went on for about two hours and I was starting to get worried about how long this labor was going to last. It is said that the “transition” phase of labor is when women often begin to doubt themselves and feel exhausted and frustrated. I remember experiencing that during my labor with Calvin and I remember realizing later that I was actually really close to the end. This time I wasn’t quite as close, but once again during transition I found myself saying “I can’t… I can’t…” which really meant I’m tired… I don’t want to do this anymore. Honestly, I think transition is the hardest part of labor. It is the last part of active labor and thankfully it doesn’t last very long, but for me it was the most intense and painful part of the experience of childbirth both times.
At last I was ready to push and again I struggled a bit with finding a position that felt right. Mostly I wanted to hang on to James for dear life. The midwives had me kneel on the bed and James sat with me so I could lean on him. James and my mom both say that what they remember most vividly about the birth was me screaming as I was pushing! It wasn’t really screaming, though. Not screaming in pain, but more like crying out in effort. More like yelling. It wasn’t because of pain or fear. It felt good to yell out. It felt like it gave me more strength to push. But I even surprised myself with how loud I was! I wonder if our neighbors heard me!
The pushing stage lasted about half an hour. For the last few minutes, I remember that I just wanted it to be over so I could rest and hold my baby but Michelle and Sue encouraged me to slow down and not push too hard. When Henry started coming out, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck (called a nuchal cord), but it was not compressed and Michelle has lots of experience delivering babies with a nuchal cord. She repositioned him as he came out to prevent the cord from being pulled tight and it was no problem. She immediately passed the baby to me and I lay down to rest with Henry in my arms at last!
Henry gave us a bit of a scare in his first few moments… He wasn’t breathing right away, so Michelle and Sue rubbed him down and cleaned him up to stimulate him and he started breathing on his own. He was soon able to latch and breastfeed. His poor little forehead was bruised from the delivery and it took about a week for the bruising to fully disappear. Within that first hour, Henry also had a slightly low temperature, sweating, and rapid breathing. These symptoms are associated with hypoglycemia in newborns so usually the cure is to get them fed quickly. Since my colostrum was just coming in, we decided to ask our friend Rachel to bring over some of her breastmilk for Henry so that we could help him get a full tummy of food. And that is how Rachel, along with her husband, Ben and son, Sagan, ended up being invited over on the day Henry was born! In the meantime, I nursed him, we put him under a heating pad to bring up his temp, and we wiped away his little drops of sweat. He showed improvement immediately, but it was a few hours before those symptoms completely resolved.
After more than an hour of snuggling with Henry and letting him nurse, Michelle clamped the cord and James cut it. Michelle took Henry to do the newborn exam and Sue helped me get myself cleaned up.
Then, tucked into our clean bed with the new baby, we were ready to invite Calvin down to meet his brother. My mom brought Calvin down from upstairs just after Rachel, Ben, and Sagan had arrived so the bedroom was getting quite crowded. Calvin was definitely curious about tiny Henry, but he was also distracted by the fact that his buddy Sagan was there! We got some nice first photos of our family of four.
|When Calvin met Henry|
|"Kiss the baby!"|
Then we spent some time just hanging out and enjoying new baby Henry. We fed him a few mLs of Rachel’s milk with a spoon. Our friends didn’t stay too long. Michelle stayed until all Henry’s vitals normalized and remained stable: normal temp, normal breathing rate, and no more sweating.
|Michelle, Sagan, Rachel, Henry, Calvin, and Ben|
|Ben, Sagan, Henry, and Me|
|Michelle, James, Henry, and Sue|
|Calvin and Granny Anne|
The labor was harder and longer than with my first baby. Henry was bigger! It took more effort to help him out! Comparing the photos of me immediately after both births, it is clear that after Henry’s birth I was completely exhausted. My eyes are barely open. But even though it was harder, I am very thankful that Henry and I both had a safe birth and that Henry’s minor health concerns cleared up in those first few hours. I am also very thankful that I got to birth in my own home, attended by my wonderful midwives, with my husband and mom there for support.
I’ve already shared a glimpse of Henry’s first week. My parents went home to Georgia on the 24th and since then, James and I have been figuring out how to be a family of 4 with a newborn. We are exhausted and sleep-deprived, but we are so happy to be blessed with these two boys.