A special treat today! Williamsburg mama Natalie shares the story of the birth of her third child at a local hospital. Natalie’s story of patience and flexibility in the face of an overdue baby is a lovely example of a mother researching her options, remaining open to change, advocating for herself at the time of delivery, and embracing the birth that unfolds.
Thank you, Natalie, for sharing your great story with us! And many congratulations on the arrival of your little boy!
(Pssst… Read all of the birth stories in our Local Birth Story series here! Hospital births, home births, birth center births, births with OBs, births with midwives — they’re all there!)
THE BIRTH OF KEVIN
When people ask about why we don’t find out the gender of our baby, I always give my philosophy on it like this: “It doesn’t matter, and it sets up an expectation that by knowing that, that you’ll know anything about the child. They’ll be who they are going to be so it’s more helpful to me to just wait and see.”
But with this child, I really didn’t take my own advice. I had lots of expectations about how things were going to go. Beginning with when he or she would arrive. Since my second son was early by 9 days, I expected that this third child would likely do the same. My due date got changed from January 3 to December 28th after the two ultrasounds confirmed the fetus was tracking further along. So that means square in the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s.
I endured many, many comments about a Christmas baby, a tax deduction and the first baby of the New Year. Over the course of a pregnancy you have a hundred plus of these conversations – and I also said that my first son was late (by 3 days) and my second one early a lot. That should have tipped me off that you just don’t know!
This is also the year I started my own business in June, and I worked hard to make sure I had my projects done as mid-December approached. I thought the baby might come as early as the 19th, 9 days before the due date like my second son. I was even hopeful going to bed because I felt some mild cramping. But when I got up that morning to take my sons to the babysitter / bus stop, I found out that the cramping was not labor-related. The gastro bug that had been going around my son’s school hit me, and my husband on the same day. It was awful and extreme, and I feared being dehydrated and going into labor. We went to the urgent care that night to see if I could get some IV fluids and put our hospital bags in the car (yes, they were already packed. We were ready!) just in case they sent me to the hospital.
I got the fluids and was relieved to have a reprieve from labor for the time being. The solstice, and Christmas came and went. We had imagined holding a baby in the rocker in front of the Christmas tree, but the day after Christmas I told my husband to take it down. I wanted to move on. I got another round of the gastro bug that week and by New Year’s Eve I was more desperate than ever…so I invited a bunch of people over thinking surely Murphy’s Law of the least convenient time to go into labor would be enacted. Nope, made it to midnight in the driveway of our house watching the fireworks through the woods with champagne and … no tax deduction.
The new year started as normal, except now my husband was on furlough from work, the normal 5 week winter break he has every year. Just as we’d planned, so that he could be home with me and the baby. Except there was no baby. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. I was working from home but had very few projects to work on, and he was off. The kids went to school and the sitter as usual. Dan and I went to the movies—in the middle of the day! We went clothes shopping for him—an annual event. We puttered around the house aimlessly. Every night, I thought that would be it – both of my previous labors had started in the late night hours. I’d tell my husband, “I feel weird – maybe it means something.” But even the nights I felt some contractions, they never got regular and by morning they were gone.
Finally, it was time for the doctor’s appointment I’d been dreading. After 6 weeks of being slightly dilated, I had finally hit the benchmark for post-term pregnancy: 41 weeks. At my 40 week appointment I’d been relieved that the doctor just said “what do you want to do?” and I said wait. But 42 weeks is when the research shows that infant mortality doubles, and the doctors get anxious to ensure the baby is on its way out. So I was faced with induction, something I’d railed against in impatient 30-something week moms who wanted their babies out for a variety of reasons. Knowing that induction, especially with Pitocin, can start a chain reaction of interventions made me very nervous. I’d been Googling things like “induction third pregnancy” and “chances of C-section third pregnancy” all week.
I made my husband come with me to the appointment, even though, as he says “I’m about as useful as tits on a boar.” The emotion of a long pregnancy and the seemingly endless waiting was getting to me. My nerves were shot and I started to cry in the waiting room. It was just too much uncertainty and I hadn’t been expecting things to go this way. After all, I was a veteran at this.
But the doctor did a great job of explaining the whys and I asked a lot of questions about the hows of being induced. I felt reassured that there were options – I wanted to just have the membranes stripped and the water broken before I had any Pitocin. We set the date for the next week with my favorite doctor in the practice. There was still time to go into labor naturally but at least we knew that the wait would eventually be over. We were very relieved leaving the doctor’s office. I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders – it wasn’t what I wanted, but it was better than limbo. I was grieving a little bit – I hadn’t wanted to have to make this decision.
At church that Sunday, which I dreaded a little bit because many people knew I was overdue and I would get a lot of questions or pitying looks, I was moved to many tears when the choir sang “Blue Boat Home” the song we played for my first son’s dedication ceremony there. I really thought I’d have a baby by then…and as is often the case, the sermon spoke directly to where I was emotionally. The minister said that we often have ideas that become “encrusted” and we cling to them without examination for far too long. Ideas about people, and about how the world works and ways of doing things as the “right way.”
So I took the message to heart. I had long associated my ability to have a natural childbirth as a point of pride, a vigorous stance in a world that tells women to submit to what others want them to do, a demonstration of what women are capable of in their own physical abilities. And, it was time for me to let go and know that whatever happened, I would do my best and as long as two of us came out of it healthy it would be a success.
We got up before dawn and drove to the hospital, and the night shift nurses put in my hep lock…and right there I started to faint. (Did I mention that despite wanting to do this naturally, I have a strong aversion to my own blood loss?) These nurses commented that “epidurals are wonderful.” I reminded them that I’d done this twice before without one, but I was starting to consider other pain medications might be necessary at some point if the Pitocin made the contractions too hard to manage. I hung in there, and when the doctor came on two hours later, we talked about the options. He thought we might as well start the “vitamin P” right away – did I want to be in labor that day or later in the week? Being a patient in that hospital bed can be humbling, but I continued to say that I just wanted my water broken and some time for labor to get jump-started on its own. The nurse they’d assigned me for the day was a natural childbirth instructor and a great advocate for me. I was given until noon to progress and then they’d start the Pitocin.
My water was broken around 8 a.m. and the baby was in ideal position. I was three centimeters dilated and the baby was head down, facing back and at zero station between my hip bones. I hoped it just needed a kickstart. Dan and I walked the halls of the maternity ward, which was an annoying U shape instead of a circle. We checked in with the nurses every ½ hour and they told me that contractions were registering, but I wasn’t yet feeling them. When my friend Ellen came, she walked with me. I started feeling the contractions and the nurses said this was a good sign. By 10:30 I was having regular contractions, every few minutes and they stepped up the monitoring to every 15 minutes. I was able to move around, encouraged to drape and lean, got a tray of clear liquids to select from. (The chicken broth was disgusting, the cranberry and ginger ale cocktail Ellen made me, divine.)
I was managing my contractions fine, breathing through them and relaxed. Dan and Ellen kept me in hot rice bags for my tailbone, which always hurt during pregnancy and even more during labor because I’d fractured it in college. I was anxiously waiting for noon to get a “good score” as if this was a spelling test and not the status of my cervix. But noon came and went.
Apparently my doctor went to lunch, giving me a bit more time to progress. I got out of bed and suddenly had some very strong contractions, including pressure moving down to rear end. The doctor came to check on me at 12:30 and found me at 7 cm, 90% effaced and plus one station – the baby was coming! He said he wouldn’t go far.
A few more hard contractions on my hands and knees on the bed and I was pretty sure the baby was coming. They called the doctor back and I tried to figure out what position to get into. I laid on my left side and the doctor told me a few instructions and then, it was time to push. It’s scary to be at that point of no return. But I felt less scared because I knew I could do it. So, I did. It felt like an inch at a time but because I knew how close I was (and that I’d likely never have to do it again) I was mostly calm about it. It helped that the doctor said “this baby has a lot of hair” and I knew it was right there. And once the head is out, the rest is easy in comparison. Shoulders and all…and suddenly they were holding it up for me to see. A boy! (the swollen testicles are so easy to identify…)
And a big boy…the doctor guessed about 8 and a half pounds but he was over 9. I wasn’t surprised. He’d spent all that extra time fattening up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
After that, there were a zillion people in the room, doing things to me, to the baby, the doctor with the umbilical cord, the delivery of the placenta. The pediatrician was standing by my bedside trying to deliver a canned educational bit about meconium and mustard seed poop (did she not know we were already parents?) The RN in training was telling me to relax my shoulder for a shot, more instructions, lots of movement in the room. I looked up after about 15 minutes and said to Dan, “What the hell just happened?” It really had gone so fast in those 24 minutes after the doctor came back from lunch.
After the birth, there’s so many things that get set into motion. At the hospital, they play a lullaby sound on the intercom whenever a baby is born. I think it’s a little celebration but possibly serves another function – to bring staff running. They did blood sugar tests since he was so big, they took his temperature a bunch of times, they cleaned him up, they cleaned me up, we talked about circumcision and his name. Oh, his name: Kevin Arthur. We had joked that morning about changing it to Lord Grantham Tebow because we’d watched both Downton Abbey and the Broncos game the night before. But we liked Kevin since the beginning, even though it will no doubt get tongue-tangled with his brothers Colin and Kirby. I like to say I’ve never met a Kevin I didn’t like. And Arthur is Dan’s middle name and his grandfather’s name. I like the A initial and the King Arthur reference.
So he’s here and I’m no longer pregnant, and very thankful for that. And, in the end, I did get the birth experience I wanted – one that went quickly. One that ended with a healthy mom and a healthy baby. For that, I am thankful. There were a lot of points were I felt like things were out of my control. And guess what, they were, and they are. Being a parent is like stepping off a cliff into total and utter uncertainty. We never do know why our children come to us the way they do, both in birth and personality and ability. I learned that maybe I shouldn’t be so encrusted to the idea that there’s one best way to do things – the only best way is through making the best decisions given the circumstances.
Hospital: Sentara Williamsburg