Four weeks ago weeks ago we welcomed Carter Anthony into our family. (By the way, I’ve changed that first word three times now. I started this when he was two weeks old and he’s now 4 and a half! Life with two kids…) His birth was a beautiful end to a (mostly) dream pregnancy and I honestly feel so blessed to have had things happen the way they did. I know birth is unpredictable and rarely goes how you envision it, but in our case, it went better than I imagined. I spent most of my pregnancy focusing on a peaceful birth. Liam’s birth was fast and intense to the nth degree. I fought the pain with every muscle in my body and know that’s what ultimately made it very difficult and far more painful than it needed to be. I was intent on having a different outcome with this baby’s arrival.
“I am confident in my body’s ability to birth naturally and easily.”
At 8pm on Tuesday February 10th, my water broke. After a few days of no contractions, a false alarm on Thursday night and using every trick up my midwife’s sleeve, I finally went into the hospital for a neonatal non-stress test to make sure everything was still ok. It was a horrible experience, to be honest. I felt so violated and as if my rights were being stripped away with every moment I spent in the building. I know that sounds superbly dramatic, but that’s how it felt after 9 months of very low intervention care (no ultrasounds, no Doppler, no labs, no vaginal exams). All of that was taken away from me in the two hours I was there. I was pressured to birth there. The OB said he would be happy to break my water to send me into labor right then. It was all a very yucky experience but I’m glad I went. It put my mind at ease that baby was still healthy and confirmed very clearly my decision to birth at home, but it was definitely the most difficult part of my pregnancy.
My “due date” was 2/15, coincidentally, Liam’s 3rd birthday. From the start of the pregnancy, Ryan and I joked about the fact that it would be neat to have two kids with the same birthday. As it turns out, that was Carter’s plan! Valentine’s Day night, Ryan cooked chicken parm, in hopes it would catapult me into labor, as it did with Liam three years before. And it wouldn’t you know, it worked! I decided to go to sleep around 11:30 after having a few non-interesting contractions. I figured I’d probably wake up if I went into actual labor. Sure enough, I woke at 12:35 with a contraction that I knew was the real thing. I called Medra who was expecting my call and headed out immediately. The birthing tub had already been set up from Thursday’s false alarm so Ryan just had to fill it with warm water. He got to work while I bounced on the yoga ball and timed my contractions. From the first painful contraction to delivery, they were steady at 3-5 minutes apart the entire time. Completely manageable and predictable.
Medra and her assistant, Tara, arrived shortly after 1am, birthing bags in hand. I was in the tub when they arrived but ended up getting out once I realized it was slowing things down. Ryan was busy making coffee, the dogs were set up in the garage with their beds and a fan for white noise and Liam was fast asleep in his room. We spent the next hour talking and laughing while I bounced and Medra timed. Liam woke once around 2:15am but I went up, rubbed his back and was back down in less than 5 minutes. A minor miracle given the previous few weeks of frequent night wakings.
I got back into the tub at 3:30 and spent the next hour getting in and out of the tub to use the bathroom, which was very similar to my labor with Liam. As I sat in the tub, I had the realization that transition was probably right around the corner. Could I handle the pain? What if I hyperventilated as I did in my last birth? I let out the feelings and told Ryan was scared of the unknown. The feeling of helplessness passed quickly and I continued my practice of breathing very slowly and deeply with each contraction. I visualized them as waves moving their way from the top of my belly. I pushed them down mentally, through my body and out my feet. I didn’t groan or yell, I just focused the pain through my breath. Apparently that was transition because when Medra did her one internal check (of my entire pregnancy!) at 4:15am, I was dilated to a 9 with a cervical lip.
I hopped back in the tub and kept breathing through the contractions. I definitely cried again and said I wanted my mom, which Ryan says I did with Liam as well. It wasn’t a big cry, just enough to release some emotions. I used lavender essential oil on a cool washcloth to keep me relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of the tub. I checked myself around 4:30am and felt the lip wasn’t ready to move yet but after another two contractions, it popped up. He moved into position and all of a sudden when I checked, his head was RIGHT THERE. I could still feel the bag of waters intact as he moved down. The water was a little cold at that point so Ryan went to add some hot water. As soon as that warm water was added, I relaxed and my body took over. I never pushed. Carter and my uterus did all the work! It was truly remarkable for both me and my seasoned midwife! My water broke as he crowned, I reached down and felt a full head of hair. I said to Medra, “I think there’s something wrong.” because I hadn’t pushed at all and the sensation was very foreign to me. She said, “Nothing’s wrong. That’s your baby’s head!” I delivered his head and then Medra caught his body. Official arrival time- 5:05am. Carter weighed 8.2lbs and was 22″ long.
His cord had a complete knot which was pretty neat to see. Placenta came about 15 minutes later without complication. Apgar was an 8 and then a 10 and he was covered in cheesy vernix. We didn’t even know if he was boy or girl for a few minutes, we were focused on getting him to breathe. Once we checked, I was FLOORED to discover he was a boy! I’d been envisioning and planning for a girl the entire pregnancy. My instincts are so off when it comes to my children’s gender.
I was helped out of the tub to the couch and we were nursing a few minutes later. It wasn’t until 7am that Liam finally woke up and made his way downstairs. He’d slept through the entire thing! What a miracle. We had balloons and a sign hung up for his 3rd birthday but the best present of all- a baby brother!
My recovery has been pretty idyllic as well. I had a few setbacks when I pushed myself but as soon as I stopped, I was able to make up the lost ground. I didn’t tear so my healing has been all internal- and fast! We are having some nursing issues since he has a lip tie but since we’ve had the lip and tongue ties clipped, he’s putting on weight and sleeping better.
It’s truly amazing how restorative and healing this birth was for both Ryan and me. I feel like I conquered my fear of childbirth pain head-on and my body responded in a way I never thought possible. To have a minimally painful childbirth is something I never dreamed of, but was fortunate enough to get to experience. It was peaceful, calm, and perfectly wonderful, in only the way natural childbirth can be. Obviously it was still painful but nothing I couldn’t handle. Ryan was able to witness his wife being brave and strong and birth his second son without any drugs or medical intervention. Any fears he may have had about homebirth he kept to himself and he was fully supportive of my decision to birth the way I did. Not everyone would be comfortable with not seeing their baby on a sonogram or having prenatal tests done. I will forever grateful to him for standing beside me as my strong partner throughout this pregnancy.
I’m also so, SO incredibly thankful for my midwife and her assistant. I am completely confident that I would not have achieved the same birth with any other birthing team. The prenatal experience was low key and comfortable and set the tone for what was to be an “over the top perfect birth” in Medra’s words. By the way, this woman has been catching babies since around the time I was born so that means a lot when she says that! All of our appointments were done at our house. It was lovely to not have to drag Liam to doctor’s appointments every few weeks. We were able to settle into the birth very comfortably and quickly because Medra had been to our home so many times, it wasn’t strange to have her there, if that makes sense.
I’m actually really surprised I birthed in the tub. I wasn’t drawn to a water birth anymore than a land birth. I said multiple occasions I’d rather birth in the bathtub so we could just wash everything down the drain! But I was open to the birth leading the way and once I realized how wonderfully amazing warm water feels when you’re essentially running a marathon, I fully embraced it. Good thing Medra had a tub or I probably wouldn’t have bothered!
So that’s it. Carter’s story. He is already such an integral part of our family and Liam is equally in love with him as Ryan and I. We are truly blessed!