Our sweet Smith turned one last week and as I found myself reminiscing over the last year, I realized I had never shared the details of his birth story in this space. I appreciate not everyone is really into birth stories but I couldn't read enough of them each time I was pregnant. So, I'm putting this out there both as a documentation of this special event in our lives and for those who may be anticipating their own. I'm also leaving out the squirmy parts for those of you who don't enjoy TOO many details. Ha!
Let's start with how much harder this pregnancy was than my first two. I was more exhausted and nauseous in my first trimester, started Braxton Hicks almost every day in my second, and had me thinking I was in preterm labor at 29 weeks, 33 weeks, and 37 weeks. Not to mention I was borderline for gestational diabetes and ended up with high blood pressure towards the end.
I was anxious and exhausted because Brett was deployed for the first four months and I was mostly non-functioning except the essentials of feeding my kids and making sure they got outside every now and then. It seemed like every few weeks something else would happen to make me think something terrible was wrong with me or the baby. Hormones turned me into a crazy, cranky, waddling mess that last month. In fact, the night I went into labor Sebastian told Brett he hoped this was for real so I'd stop being so cranky all the time!
Brett and I were planning on another home birth even though our insurance would fully cover a hospital delivery on post at Ft. Carson. It was such a great experience having Ruby at home in Missouri and much different than Sebastian's natural birth in the hospital. I was so thankful for that first time being in a place I felt safe (the hospital) and supported by hippy nurses and a Dr that understood my desire to have as few interventions as possible.
With Ruby I felt more confident that as long as I had a low risk pregnancy I'd be able to do the hard work but have more control over the process, and in turn, have an easier and more intimate experience. You can read Ruby's birth story here. Sebastian was born before I started blogging so that one is just burned into my memory.
I started visits with my midwife at her clinic around 11 weeks and remained confident that even though I wasn't as active this time due to being so much more exhausted and then having too much activity trigger regular contractions that I'd stay within the low risk range. Towards the end, my blood pressure started to rise and essential oils and herbal supplements were bringing it back down to low levels but not keeping it there consistently. I was told I may have to transfer care to an OB. I was devastated.
The emotions that flooded my heart those next two days caught me off guard and I was left feeling unprepared, unsupported, and scared. What if something is wrong with the baby already? What if my blood pressure continues to rise and I have a stroke? What if it turns into preeclampsia? What if I have to have an emergency c-section? How am I going to find an OB that understands where we're coming from at 37 weeks pregnant? What if I go into labor and have the baby in the car on the way to the Army hospital twenty minutes away because it's snowing outside? ALL THE SCARY THINGS.
I hadn't been preparing for a hospital birth, much less a c-section, as a possibility because I knew what my body was capable of and had done my homework again this time around. We'd saved our money and paid the midwife in full and had just received most of the items we'd ordered for our home birth kit the day before. I just felt like I'd been studying for the wrong test this whole time and grew quite anxious that I was going to end up stuck in bed recovering from surgery without anyone to take care of me or my three kids because the Army only gives you ten days and my family were far away and still had to go to work themselves. ALL THE ANXIETY.
You can imagine that kind of anxiety only helped my blood pressure get higher but after a few good cries and sharing how I really felt with Brett and some mama friends I was able to open up to the idea that I didn't have control over how this birth was going to play out and never really did. I started reading message boards regarding high blood pressure and deliveries and adjusted my attitude again. A healthy baby and a healthy mama were the main goals.
We were able to find the crunchiest OB in town at a hospital closer than the one on post and had a great first visit with her on my 38th week marker. She told me to stop checking my blood pressure three times a day and just watch for signs that something was really wrong instead. She put me at ease and told me we didn't need to talk about induction until the following week, March 5th. I went home so thankful that I had another week to let our baby grow and have a chance to come out on it's own. Also, I took her advice and only checked my blood pressure once that week and it was back down.
I woke up the morning of March 5th with contractions in my back and happening every five minutes or so. I told Brett to go ahead to work because we'd been through this before a few times and he had an important meeting he was presenting at. He got Sebastian off to school and I got Ruby set up with the iPad and jumped in the shower just in case this was real. Things completely stopped so I called Brett and told him to stay at work and got Ruby and myself ready for my 39 week apt that morning.
My blood pressure was back in the normal range at my apt and I had progressed so my OB said it was possible I could be having that baby soon and that we didn't need to induce. She told me she wasn't on call that night, though, and teased that I'd better wait until at least 7 am the next morning to go into labor. I had to come back that afternoon for an ultrasound and stress test so we went for lunch and I filled everyone in on the latest. My midwife texted back and told me if my blood pressure had indeed gone back down to a normal range we might still be able to do a home birth. I was elated!
I went back to the clinic and had a great ultrasound and stress test and started having the sporadic contractions that had been coming and going for weeks. I picked Sebastian up from school and then rushed home to put a pizza in the oven and prepare a snack for the parents' meeting we had to drive back over for. I was starting to feel worn out from all the running around all day and almost decided not to go but the kids had prepared a special presentation on their instruments and Sebastian was so excited.
Still with me? We drove the fifteen minutes back to his school for the potluck/presentation and climbed up the stairs to be met with a busy room and a long line for food. I teased his teacher that we might have a baby in her classroom and then sat myself down next to a mama friend and waited for Brett to meet us straight from work. The contractions established themselves quite firmly around 7:15 pm and I found myself having to shift in my chair to get through them while still trying to hold a conversation with the mom next to me. Once the meeting had ended my sweet husband, not realizing I was now in labor, volunteered to help clean up. I finally pulled him away and told the few moms that were still there that things were getting real.
Brett walked down to retrieve the kids from the gym and I slowly waddled to the car. I remember still wondering if this was real or if I had overdone things again and just needed to drink a lot of water and rest. I was obviously in denial. I switched cars with Brett so he could take the kids and then we hit every red light on the way home. I thought I might have to pull over in between contractions! Twenty minutes later I waddled inside our house and told Brett to call the midwife just in case. I wasn't about to rush to the hospital if it was safe enough for me to have this baby at home. If things escalated we had always planned on transferring care so I was confident that we could labor at home until we had any signs that we needed to transfer.
Long story short, I had to lay down, focus my breathing, and work hard as soon as we got inside. We got the kids picked up from our friend down the street and somehow managed to get the shower curtain liner on the bed and covered with another flat sheet so I didn't make any messes. Brett was rushing around making sure doors were unlocked, the heat was on, the dog was tied up, clean towels were available, there was warm water in the tub for laboring, etc. while we waited for the midwife to come from way north of town. She'd been at another 36 hour delivery that had only ended a few hours prior and had been resting when we called.
Soon after she arrived, I hit transition and there was no turning back. We were having that baby at home whether we wanted to or not and thankfully there weren't signs that either of us were in distress. I climbed in the labor tub to help me manage the pain of transition and fifteen minutes later, for the first time in all three labors, I had the urge to push and my body took over. Two big pushes in the dimly lit dining room and we had a baby! I was so happy and so relieved that we'd done it that it took me awhile to remember to check to see if we had a girl or a boy!
My midwife gently lifted him out of the water so we could decide if it was a Sloane or a Smith and I remember feeling like I'd known all along that he was going to be a boy. I loved that we were able to enjoy that exciting surprise this third time around and will forever be thankful that Brett talked me into waiting to find out.
As soon as we could we called our families to share the good news and they were all a bit surprised that it was only two-and-a-half hours after we'd originally called to say it was finally happening. I remember thinking that even though he was my smallest baby by a full pound, he looked just like Ruby when she was born. He was a week ahead of schedule but it was the greatest gift to be able to have him join us when he did-on his own terms and sooner rather than later.
We both got checked over by the midwife and her assistants and just enjoyed that afterglow that comes with getting to hold your child in your arms for the first time. The kids were asleep by the time Smith was born so they stayed over at our friends' house and got to meet their new brother (and skip school) first thing the next morning. They were both so proud.
Looking back I'm so thankful for the way things played out. I know it's such an honor and gift to have welcomed another healthy child to our family but to have been able to have that happen in the sanctuary of our own home with a set of qualified caregivers that we knew and trusted was so special. It took so much of the fear of labor away from my experience and helped me relax and let my body do it's work as I knew it probably could, at least this last time. I'm also so much more aware how little control we have over the way babies enter this world, even when we do all we can to prepare for the outcome we hope for most.
Three babies in my arms in eight years. I am learning more and more about motherhood, and childhood for that matter, with each one. They make me crazy some days but they make me better, too.