Disclaimer: This is a birth recap. Enter at your own risk.
It is strange to type this two weeks from Wesley’s birth. I expected him, at this point, to be two days old! Incidentally, our first three children were all born on a Monday and Wesley decided to come on a Tuesday. I guess he decided to assert his individuality on a variety of levels! After three babies all born at 40 weeks plus 4-5 days and weighing in at 7 pounds 6 ounces, it was hard to imagine this pregnancy going any other way.
But babies, and life, can’t be neatly put in a box.
On Monday, May 2nd, at midnight, I woke up. Yes, those were contractions and not just braxton hicks. They were every ten minutes. At 2:00 am I got up and timed them, ate a snack, drank some water, worried that with my husband and I as exhausted as we were we would have to drive to Denver. After 2 hours of nothing changing I went back to bed. I woke up with the same contractions, still ten minutes apart and we started the day. Exercise, feed and dress kids, get kids to and from school. My dad had gotten in from Thailand and was going to have two weeks to acclimate to the time change (we thought). By the middle afternoon I had already decided that my body was going to have these annoying contractions for the next two weeks and if I were offered an induction on my due date, I would take it.
By 4:30 I was calling the midwife feeling ridiculous. Hi, this is my fourth baby and I don’t know what’s going on. She suggested going to the hospital in town to get monitored, which could save me a trip to Denver and give us a baseline. So in I went at 5 pm, to find that I was 4 cm and that the contractions were closer together than 10 minutes (I was only counting the big ones.) So I hung out for an hour while trying to find rides for kids to get to school the next day and making some sort of plan for my dad, who was apparently going to be treated to my three children after only a day of R&R. I signed out of the hospital against medical consent (of course they were not about to advise a trip to Denver) and went home.
That’s when I started to get nervous. With Lily, we waltzed into the hospital at 6:30 and she was born less than two hours later. I got home, we packed up, and helped get the kids ready for bed before heading off to Denver. It was a nice trip. We had time in the car, the contractions picked up a bit in intensity but weren’t horrible, and the sunset was lovely.
We got in around 9:15 and made our way to Labor and Delivery.
As if things weren’t different enough with presumably being in labor at 38 weeks 5 days, the midwife came in and I was… still a 4. What? Four hours and no progress? She suggested walking, but after 20 minutes on the monitor they were still trying to figure out if the baby’s heart rate was low and accelerating during contractions (good) or if it was high and decelerating during contractions (bad), so they admitted me and saved me the trouble of walking around the hospital in tears.
The birthing rooms were enormous and I happily labored while sitting on a medicine ball leaning up against some other peanut shaped squishy thing. The time ticked on, the contractions got harder, the nurse and midwife collected a veritable book of contractions and baby’s heart rate. Soon it was almost midnight, I was getting exhausted, and the midwife filled up the birthing pool. She checked me before I got in. 4 cm. For real. At that point I suspected that I was going to labor with increasingly painful contractions for the next two weeks.
I have never been so discouraged. Well, I have, but it wasn’t since I was in (long long long) labor with Isaac. That was not how I thought it would go. It was supposed to be quick. It was supposed to go somewhere. I didn’t know what to do with what was going on (or not going on) with my body. So I got into the birthing pool (ahhhhhhhhh) and we started watching What to Expect when you’re Expecting. We saw it while I was pregnant with Lily and I love it for it’s honesty in this particular scene (be warned, there is bad language). It was on the May to do list, but of course, we hadn’t gotten there yet. It was a good distraction, particularly as the contractions got harder but also spaced out.
We had the best midwife and the most phenomenal nurse assisting us. You would never guess that 9 babies were born between midnight and 6 am. They spent time in the room, they listened and offered suggestions, and the nurse in particular was unflaggingly positive and cheerful. After a while, she suggested moving to the bathroom and sitting backwards on the toilet (sorry, this is a birth recap). Did I really think I was going to be clenching the metal parts of a hospital toilet four hours after checking into the hospital with my fourth baby? NO. But it did change the contractions and between that and moving back to the pool I managed to get to 8 cm.
But it was hard. I was discouraged. Two more centimeters AND pushing? I was having flashbacks to Isaac’s birth, the 40+ hours with hardly any sleep and how horrible I felt by the end. I got back in the birthing pool and cried a little bit because this whole thing was taking so long and was so outside of anything I had planned or imagined for this experience. I felt like things were going nowhere, even as I felt the contractions change. I was so tired I didn’t even open my eyes. Have a contraction. Lay my head on the pool’s side and try to relax. Repeat. I could hear the midwife and the nurse bustling around. I could hear that they felt it was going to be soon even as I told myself that nothing was happening. And then the contractions changed to pushing contractions, just a few before that one defining contraction where you know that all you can do is push and your body won’t stop until you’ve had a baby. Can anything in the world hurt that bad?
And then, 30 seconds later, I was sitting there, holding Wesley, and crying, because somehow you can move from that intensity of pain to the intensity of absolute and total love for this tiny person you’ve never seen before. Birth is the craziest, most confusing, most mixed bag of hormones and emotions that I have ever encountered.
Wesley Christopher was born in the water at 3:05 am on May 3rd. He was perfect.
I will say this, after a water birth at University of Michigan, where you have the baby in the water and then are promptly whisked out of the tub (difficult to assess bleeding and potential hemorrhage while the patient is in the water) I admired the chutzpah of the midwives in Colorado. I sat in the (absolutely disgusting) water, for at least 20 minutes, and, based on personal assessment, I think that the bleeding was worse this time than the previous three deliveries. Props to them for not rushing me. As it was, I was fully satisfied with my birth experience. Truly, after having a baby I really prefer not to be “whisked” anywhere, and when I did finally climb out of the pool I immediately started shaking from the hormones and cold. Wesley and I were skin to skin a good few hours and they didn’t clamp the cord until about half an hour after the birth. Nothing felt rushed until we hit the 30 minute mark, when they like to have the placenta delivered. Tried a shot of pitocin with no results. Another shot in the cord and no results. That’s when they called in an older midwife with a rather gruff bedside manner and I was suddenly offered pain meds via IV because (in her words, not mine) she was going to be “up to her elbows”. (It’s okay if you don’t know what that means when they manually deliver the placenta. I unfortunately, knew exactly what she was talking about, and was properly horrified.) Fortunately for me, she had one more positioning trick up her sleeve that saved the day. I think I only kicked her (accidentally) once. Maybe twice.
Because of all the babies being born we hung out in the room. Wesley decided to squirm around looking for milk fairly early in the game so we all just sat and lay there fatigued after a night of no sleep at all. It was so strange to be lying there, with the realization that I was no longer pregnant, he was such a peanut (they didn’t measure him until around 6 am, but I could tell he was smaller than my others), and that we were done and I hadn’t made it to my due date. How did that happen?!? I never in a million years expected that, but it was a very happy thing indeed.
Wesley was 6 pounds 12.4 ounces and somewhere in the 18-18.5 inch vicinity. From what I could hear while showering, he hated his bath and had a very healthy set of lungs. I don’t think I ever found out his Apgar scores. Fourth baby and all.
With two weeks of distance I can wholeheartedly say that this was the best birth experience (given the factors I could control) of the four. It was completely different from what I expected, but I have no regrets about my choice of care and how I mixed and matched appointments and providers at the end. I am 100% happy with how things turned out, 110% happy to have never seen my due date, and about 100% sleep deprived at this point as well.