I just gave birth to my third child after being pregnant for 9 months and a YEAR… well, figuratively. Anyone who has gone past their due date knows just what I’m talking about — that time after 40 weeks can feel like an entire year.
When I was expecting my first, I just knew I was going to go “late” and was oddly very patient about that up until the last few days of my pregnancy when the typical “I don’t want to be pregnant anymore!” and “I am going to be the FIRST woman to be pregnant forever!” rants and sobs ensued. That pregnancy went to 42 weeks and 2 days, and it was no surprise when my pregnancy with my second son went to 42 weeks and 3 days. Naturally, this time we counted on going until at least 42 weeks.
Toward the end of my second pregnancy I had been diagnosed with a rare but potentially very serious liver disorder called Cholestasis of pregnancy. As recurrence was likely, we took strong preventative measures to avoid having problems for this pregnancy. We succeeded! Despite some mild symptoms that started to creep up, it never became full-blown and I was never diagnosed with it this time around. I was so thankful. While this pregnancy began a little sooner than we had planned, and I certainly had my moments of panic about having two kids so close together, everything progressed very well and mom and baby looked as healthy as could be.
I consider each pregnancy a great learning experience and feel that each birth is a culmination of my previous birthing experiences.
My eldest was born in a hospital with the kind of practice where 50 OBs rotated being “on call” so there was no way to know who my doctor would be ahead of time. I had great anxiety over that, but everything worked out beautifully after a long but very empowering and unmedicated labor. That single experience literally changed my life. My second son was born at home five and a half years later, in the water. We had two wonderful midwives and many others there for support. His birth was more powerful, yet peaceful. Intense but not painful. It felt like it was just as it should be.
I have learned so much through this process. During this most recent pregnancy, we chose yet another path. My husband, Kyle, and I decided that we were looking for an even more intimate birth experience. We had hired a midwife to attend the birth but felt that we needed to change that plan around the end of the second trimester. Everything seemed to add up in a way that led us to considering an unassisted birth. It was a very emotional decision and there were many factors, but even still I am grateful for how everything flowed together.
So, after many tears and heartache, and I had grieved things going different than I had planned or hoped for, Kyle and I talked and prayed and felt confident about having a birth without a midwife present. I was able to find an incredible midwife to do my prenatal care that fully supported our choices and plans. She not only had extensive experience with Cholestasis, but first and foremost I could trust her. Trust between a pregnant woman and her provider is of utmost importance. I could not have been happier with the care she gave us and also could not be happier with how the birth went.
I believe birth is safest with a well-trained attendant that you can fully trust and confide in. I also believe that in most cases birth is completely safe, and our bodies are made to give birth and most women can safely birth with little to no intervention or interference. While I am happy with the choice that we made for this pregnancy, I am not certain I will choose it in the future.
Looking back, I was dealing with some fairly intense anti-partum depression, something that is not only not discussed but not even known in our culture. It is taboo to talk about being sad while you are creating life. I was so very excited to have this little one join us, but lack of sleep, pregnancies close together, life stresses combined with some heartache in transitions in some of my friendships through that year… the further down the road of postpartum I go, the more I see just how bad that it was. I am so thankful that the “fog” lifted nearly immediately after his birth! I hope that all women who struggle with this are able to find the help, love, encouragement and support that they need. High EPA fish oils made an enormous difference for me during the pregnancy and just general, diligent self care.
As the pregnancy progressed, I found I greatly enjoyed the realization that the responsibility really did lie with my husband and I for our birth choices. Even with a doctor or midwife, that IS what ultimately happens, but it doesn’t feel like it. That illusion was gone. It is very difficult to put into words but it’s a lesson I wouldn’t trade for anything. While our last birth experience was powerful and Kyle was very present and wonderful, we felt just like it should be of him and me, bringing this little perfect being here. Also, with how long my pregnancy continued, it is unlikely we would have been able to find a birth attendant that would have been able to be supportive to the point of patience required. We never could have anticipated that I would have stayed pregnant as long as I did.
This time, my pregnancy went to 42 weeks and 2 days… 3 days… 4 days… still no end in sight. When labor started to feel as though it was just on the horizon we found ourselves in the middle of tragedy. At 42 weeks and 5 days, we learned that Kyle’s mother had passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. She was just 49 years old and had gone in her sleep. Kyle rushed immediately to his family, fortunately only an hour away in Colorado Springs. He spent the next few days with his family, helping to begin to sort things out, when everything felt shattered and in disarray. We decided it would be best for me to stay in Denver, and we arranged for me to stay at my doula’s house, with our two children and my enormous belly. As I rounded the 43 week mark I felt discouraged, tired, and impatient, but also grateful that we had this extra time with all that was going on with the family.
That whole week still feels like a daze; like a bad dream. I felt very conflicted about the birth. I felt guilty about asking so much of my husband, my rock, when he already had so many demands on him from every angle, emotionally and physically. More than anything, I did not want to be in labor when he would need to be at his mother’s funeral. But amid the chaos, I also felt very peaceful that this sweet little angel would come just when he or she was ready and all would be ok. I had some serious reflections with my Father in Heaven about my concerns and there was no denying the power behind peace that I felt.
Now onto the actual birth story!
The following Monday, labor began with a *pop!* and me jumping out of bed at 4 o’clock in the morning declaring that my water had just broken. After changing my clothes I was going to go slip back in bed when my 17 month old bolted out of his room, no warning or fussing, with a huge smile on his face as though he knew some party had just gotten started. It took about 30 minutes of nursing him to get him settled back down while I had mild contractions that varied between 3 and 5 minutes apart.
As I settled back into bed, Kyle was up and making sure everything was set in his usual calm style. He wanted to be ready, whether things picked up right away or in a day or more. He started filling the tub but realized that we needed a different nozzle to hook up to the sink. It was evident he needed to go to the store so he slipped out to grab what was needed and a handful of fresh labor snacks, and I slept with contractions gaining in intensity but coming only every 10 minutes.
As the early morning progressed, my mind was stuck on my toddler who wakes up anytime between 6 to 8 in the morning, and is usually very clingy and wanting to nurse. I didn’t want to let myself go into good, active labor and have him needing me in the middle of it. I could feel the battle between my mind and my body as I held things back. I texted my dear friend, Summer, who lived close that was going to take him should I be in labor during the day. She could tell from my text that I was way too much in my head and arranged her day so she could have him right away. Once I knew that he would be taken care of I could “check out” and I definitely did — even just a few minutes later I tried to text her back a simple confirmation that Kyle would drop him off shortly and was caught off guard by a strong contraction I wasn’t ready for. I threw my phone behind me to the corner of the room and with irritation declared I was DONE with my phone! My 7 year old was fine to stay as he is such a help and had really wanted to be there. Somewhere in there during all of this, my two good friends Ivy and Barbie arrived and smoothly integrated into the space offering support just where it was needed.
As Kyle was getting our toddler ready to go, I climbed into the tub that was ready and waiting for me. Slipping into a fog, I managed a half-hearted wave to them and happily let go to allow labor to take over. He was back within 20 minutes and forward we went!
I labored in the tub for just a short while and then I needed to get up and move. I found myself enjoying sitting on the toilet as the contractions just kept coming with just enough of a break in between. The contractions came clearly as I vocalized right through them. I felt confidence build and surge through me as I felt just what I needed to do. I felt compelled to get in the shower and right away. Kyle joined me and sat on the shower floor and gave me a salt scrub foot rub. It wasn’t something we had ever done together before but we were in sync, just moving together through the laborious task of bringing our next sweet angel earthside. When I reflect on how attentive and present he was during the labor, it brings on such tenderness. It’s not unusual for him to be that way, but being in that state, I felt both powerful and vulnerable and the way he offered his balanced support was not something I could have even articulated that I needed.
Just as quickly as I wanted to get into the shower, I wanted out. I was starting to feel exhausted as I had not followed my own advice to be well rested at the end of pregnancy and I had only been asleep for about 30 minutes when my water broke. I wrapped myself in my red robe and laid on the bed, on my left side with my leg up over my belly. I had been suspecting that my little one was not in the ideal position since I couldn’t feel their back running down the outside of my belly. The contractions spaced way out in this position and from my recollection they were probably about 10 minutes apart. Laying there, I actually drifted off to sleep until the next contraction came. I remember from my first labor absolutely hating contractions in this position that is was no exception. It was long and strong and I had no desire to move while it came on. After it passed though, I wanted to stay right there, as though it was what I needed to do. My little baby had some clear and intentional movements after the contraction was over and about 10 minutes later we had a repeat of a strong contraction followed by more movement. I was in no mood after that to endure another one in that position and got upright fast.
Almost immediately labor was right back to one right on top of another and stronger than ever. After a short time on the toilet again I was ready for the tub. As the intensity surged through my body it felt as though my temperature would go up a few degrees and I was so hot! I had people fanning me through each one which felt so wonderful. I loved the 150 gallon tub that we had picked out since it was so large I was able to move about and navigate my body to suit my body’s prompts.
I seemed to be so connected with the subtle movements that this baby was making in a way I had never experienced. As a contraction would come I would say out loud “Move, down, baby. Just move down,” and then the baby would respond and move down just a little more. But with the next contraction starting it felt as though the little surprise I was carrying would move back a bit. After moving my hips around and talking to this little person I broke down and in whimpers pleaded with the baby to move down… letting him or her know that I was ready for them to come and that I had waited so long. I had been so patient and was finally ready to welcome him or her. I knew I had been hesitant off and on throughout the pregnancy with them coming so close and not feeling ready to have another baby. But in that moment, I let go and was ready.
Almost in direct response, my little baby kicked and moved and the next contraction came and I finally felt like I was nearly ready to push, like the baby had been able to correct whatever it was that had been holding him or her up. With the next surge I felt ready to bear down get it done. I nearly had the entire head out in that push and felt stretched beyond what I thought was possible, yet again. Another push and another and my baby was here! Kyle had reached down with me to bring him or her up to the surface and on to my chest and I just held my prize. My baby had arrived! It was 12:06pm and I was finally done and I wasn’t pregnant anymore! After being pregnant for 40 weeks plus 25 days my baby was finally here! I wanted to snuggle for as long as I needed and had wanted to be the one to check the gender when I was ready.
I had two wonderful boys already and there was a part of me that really wanted this one to be a girl. I didn’t want to feel any disappointment should this baby be a boy and took the suggestion from a conversation with a wise friend to hold and bond with the little one as long as I needed. It was just perfect and what I needed. When I peered between those two little chubby legs and saw those swollen little testicles sitting there I was shocked but filled with joy! Another BOY!
He came weighing in at 9 pounds 14 ounces, 1 ounce less than his brother just before him. The placenta came easily within 10 minutes and the rest of recovery was very smooth. My new little boy had his had up by his neck as he came out which did cause some small tearing but nothing I hadn’t navigated before. Breastfeeding was quickly established and he has proved to be my best nurser! In saying that he nurses like a 1-month old, my friend who’s longest pregnancy was 39 weeks declared “He IS a 1-month old!!”
I have been thoroughly enjoying our babymoon which feels even more saturated than my previous two. I think this is mainly due to the intensity of everything that led up to the birth, coupled with having such an intimate and empowering birth experience. He was born just 2 hours before the funeral had begun for my mother in law and honestly of all the ways it could have gone, what a gift to allow there to be a bright spot that day of good news: “Did you hear Naomi and Kyle FINALLY had their baby? And everything went great.” No other good news would have been appropriate to share at such a tragic and sudden funeral, but I am thankful that my sweet little boy made his arrival when he did. And I know Sandy was up in heaven hogging her last little bit of grandma time while she could and held on to him as long as possible since it will be a long while before they see each other again.
And I am beyond grateful for how everything surrounding this birth. I felt safe and supported. I would not change a thing about how everything went.
The best way I can think to sum up this experience is in the words of Sheryl Feldman:
“There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.”
EDIT NOTE: While I am now divorced, and am grateful for that, I decided to leave the original story in the context of how I felt at the time. He was a supportive and helpful birth coach and this was a truly wonderful experience aside from anything else that may have led to our separation and divorce.