Fall arrived with warm sunshine and brilliantly colored leaves – a Midwest autumn, not at all like the typical cold, rainy and dreary fall of the Pacific Northwest.  September had been gorgeous, and while the grass was a bit brown, the colorful leaves were in perfect shape for raking into piles and throwing in the air.  Isaac and I took advantage of the unexpected weather and my early maternity leave to work through a pre-baby bucket list: picking berries, making apple cobbler, walks in the woods, watching a salmon fight its way upstream, the all-important visit to the pumpkin farm, and our (his) first taste of apple cider, caramel apples, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

The pumpkin farm – that was a close one.

“The leaves are red!  It’s fall!  The baby is coming!  It will bring you a present!  We will go to the pumpkin farm!!!”  Back when we broke the news of the baby in mommy’s tummy, the changing of the leaves seemed like a good way to answer our soon-to-be 2 year old’s question of when the baby would come out.  It seemed like less of a good idea when the leaves actually began to change, and Isaac excitedly announced the baby coming about 5 times a day for close to a month.  And given that the baby’s arrival was all wrapped up in the wonder of a visit to the pumpkin farm, we needed to make that happen – while baby #2 wasn’t due until October 19, I had a feeling he/she would come early.  Remlinger Farms opened a week before the others, the last weekend in September, and we happily chose our pumpkins, went on a hay ride, and rode the train.  And just in time.

October 2 was another gorgeous sunny day.  I spent Isaac’s nap time making apple butter and apple crumble, and when he woke up, we headed outside to play in the leaves and dig up some garden dirt with his construction vehicles.  At around 4:00pm, I noticed what appeared to be my water leaking… disconcerting, since I was determined to have baby #2 at the birth center vs. a hospital, and I knew that my water breaking would start the clock ticking on how long they would give me to go into labor naturally.  Still, I had no contractions, so maybe it was something else.  At 4:30pm I nonchalantly texted Shawn, “ETA?”  “5:30pm,” he responded.

[Shawn]  At about 4:30 on October 2nd, I received a text from Bethanie.  “ETA?” it read.  I actually felt a little anxiety getting ready to see the text thinking it might be a “$#@!, get your ass home right now! This show is on!”  But it was rather something much more typical.

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Isaac and I finished playing and went inside (with no small protest) to start dinner.  Shawn arrived as dinner was going onto the table, and I told him what was up.  He supervised dinner while I called the midwife.  The midwife wanted me to come in to get checked, “shall we meet at 7:15pm? I want to pick my daughter up from soccer practice.”  The conversation, the whole laid-back pace of the day, felt surreal after the frantic start of my first labor.  I ate dinner, did my hair and makeup, and headed over to the birth center.  Shawn stayed behind to get Isaac in bed.

At the birth center, the midwife verified that baby would be arriving that night, and gave me a dose of antibiotics for group B strep.  Still having had no contractions, I called Shawn to give him the news, “I’m already 6cm dilated.”  “What?!” he choked out.  We called Isaac’s nanny to come stay with him, and I drove home to pick up Shawn.

[Shawn] I get a call a short while later and she tells me she’s 6cm dilated.  “@#$!” I think, “This show is on!”  Bethanie confirms with the midwife that it’s safe for her to come pick me up while we wait for our nanny to arrive and look after Isaac.  I could have gone to the birth center in a separate vehicle, but we wanted to go home in one vehicle with our new baby, if possible.

Shortly later, back at the birth center, the antibiotics needed an hour to start working so the midwife advised against walking or anything else that might hurry things along.  We settled down to watch a movie, but we were both exhausted and had trouble paying attention.  We returned to the birthing room around 9:30pm to find the tub full and candles lit.  I climbed into the tub, and Shawn lay down on the bed to read.  Finally around 10:30pm I decided I might as well try to sleep and started to climb out of the tub… that’s when things got real.

[Shawn] After we arrived back at the birth center we decided to settle in for some “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”  It might instead have been called “Darkness with a Chance of Mead” given the ancient CRT TV with screechy speakers paired with a DVD player made in about 1482.  We made it through a little of that before we both grew bored and we retired to our room.

Bethanie relaxed in the crazy-big tub and I hopped into the bed and spent some time on my Kindle with the Game of Thrones novels.  I mean, Tyrion had just killed <SPOILERS REDACTED> so I had some pages to read, childbirth notwithstanding.  About an hour later the real story began.

The first contraction hit me, and then almost immediately came a second, and I quickly sank back into the tub.  Shawn came over to help me breath through them, kneeling by the edge of the tub, rubbing my shoulders and arms during contractions and my lower back between.  The student midwife moved over to time contractions, and I concentrated on trying to practice the pain management techniques we had learned, breathing through the contractions and then trying to relax each muscle group in between.  The contractions never became regular… a minute apart, then four, then two… they were all over the place, with contractions ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes long.  Still, we settled into a rhythm – breath, rub, relax – punctuated a few times by a frantic call out to Shawn the few times he took his hands off me.

Transition brought more intense contractions.  I remember telling Shawn, “I need a new technique – I’m starting to panic,” but my ability to formulate a plan was gone.  At this point the assistant midwife spoke up, guiding me through breathing into the pain.  At times I lost my mantra, and Shawn’s voice came in, “Open, open, open” (an improvement to my last labor’s mantra of “Fuck, fuck, fuck”).  I clung to his voice like to a buoy.

[Shawn] During labor I practiced all the massage techniques we’d learned.  I reminded Bethanie about her “open” mantra, which was way more PG than our NC-17 first birth.  I massaged and massaged and massaged, to the point where my muscles were shaking during some of the peak contractions.

When the urge to push came, I went with it.  It was a completely different experience than my first (hospital) labor, when I was told to fight my early impulses to push, then ended up with an epidural so never experienced what it felt like to push.  This time I just followed my body.  As the contractions got stronger, it was a tremendous feeling of relief to feel the baby move down, and I said as much to Shawn.  “She, huh?”  he said, picking up on a crucial pronoun (we had left the gender to be a surprise).  “That’s what I’m going with,” I replied.

Things only got more intense when the baby started to crown.  Oh. My. God, did that hurt.  It felt like forever that they kept telling me, “just a little bit more.”  The worst were the long waits between contractions, which the midwives assured me would help minimize tearing.  Finally, after a crazy long push with them assuring me once again, “just a little bit more,” I demanded (to their laughter), “How can there be any more?!”  They had me reach down and feel the top of the head.  “Come on baby girl!” I urged.  Finally, a couple more pushes and the head was out and I could breathe for a minute.  The midwives conferred for a minute – the cord was around the baby’s neck and too short to pull free.  Since I was in the water, they decided the best approach was to somersault the baby’s body through the cord.  I listened, somewhere in the back of mind a little intellectually concerned (cord around the baby’s neck = bad, right?) but emotionally in complete confidence that they knew what they were doing.  One more push and the baby’s shoulders and body were out – the midwife executed a smooth somersault and quickly brought the baby up on my belly.  Fully of love, I held the newest edition to our family and touched its face.  It was 1:12am.

[Shawn] I grew worried when I saw the student midwife note that the umbilical cord was wrapped around our baby’s neck.  I grew more worried when I could tell she was unsure about how to resolve it.  That’s when the actual midwife stepped in and executed an expert in-bath somersault and untangled our little one.

A full minute must have passed before I remembered.  “What is it?” I asked.  The midwife moved the baby’s legs away and Shawn announced, “It’s a boy!”  “No way,” I replied, “I was so sure it was a girl!”

[Shawn] While I would have been totally thrilled with a girl, a small voice inside me rejoiced about knowing how to deal with boy parts and knowing I wouldn’t have to deal with boy parts wanting to meet my little girl at some point.

Our child rested on Bethanie’s chest in the bath for a while, then the midwives asked if I would hold him so they could attend to Bethanie.  I received him in my arms and while looking at his face the name “Micah” shouted in my mind.  It was a profound moment for me as we hadn’t settled on a boy’s name (we really thought it would be a girl) and Micah was a name we had never discussed, never mind put on our short list.  But it felt completely right.

I moved out of the tub to deliver the placenta, then to the bed.  I was bleeding significantly so they gave me a shot.  When I went to use the bathroom a half hour later, the blood was still coming in a steady stream.  Hearing the concern in the student midwife’s voice, I was again intellectually concerned: “I have two boys to take care of now,” I remembered telling her.  The midwife came and pressed down hard on my uterus… goddamn, that hurt.  Then back to bed and another shot in the other thigh.  This one thankfully did the trick.

We were both so sure that it was a girl, we’d never finalized on a boy name.  “When I first held him, a name just came to me,” said Shawn, and told me his inspiration.  I looked at him doubtfully… “that name isn’t even on our list.”

[Shawn] After the midwives had stemmed Bethanie’s bleeding and I knew our newborn was healthy and safe, my exhaustion set in.  I had been up for almost 24 hours and I gratefully stole a half hour nap on a tiny couch in our room.  That was enough to refresh me for our drive home… a much more confident one than Isaac’s birth where my first thought was, “they’re letting us leave with this?!?” This time it was just a simple, “here we go.”

The one downside of a birthing center is that it is not staffed for long stays.  Once baby boy and I had checked out okay, and I had eaten, we packed up and headed home.  We crawled into bed at 4:00am absolutely exhausted, only to get up to introduce the baby to a very excited Isaac the next morning.  It was two days before Shawn and I finally had a chance to sit down alone together and talk names – and then joyfully introduced to the world Micah Archer Thomas, born on October 3, 2012 at 1:12am after four hours of labor, weighing in at 8lbs 1.5oz and measuring 21 inches.

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