If you read Isabel’s Birth Story you know that we had a miscarriage directly before becoming pregnant with Elijah. I had a D&C three months prior to becoming pregnant. The Dr that we were seeing at the time told us that was the amount of time we needed to wait so we did and got pregnant easily that first cycle we tried. I honestly wish we would have waited longer. I don’t think that I was even remotely emotionally ready for another pregnancy. I was not in the right headspace at all. In my mind, getting pregnant again with make it all better. It would take away the terrible pain, it would fix me. I was very broken after that miscarriage. Even now, six years later it affects me. Again, these are things no one talks about.
We were fairly certain that our preceding loss was due to low progesterone levels. The OBGYN and Midwifery practice we were seeing at the time didn’t “believe” that progesterone therapy made a difference in outcomes and their policy was not to prescribe it. We had been planning on having a home water birth with our third pregnancy anyway so this was just the last push we needed to find new providers. I had been in contact with a few homebirth midwives and they recommended some local providers that were supportive of Homebirth and would be willing to see me early for HCG and Progesterone testing and prescribe progesterone support if needed. I emailed one OB and told him my background, he promptly responded and told me to call the office the second I got a positive test and he would call in labs and we would go from there. He knew that my plan was to see him as a backup to a Homebirth Midwife and was fine with that arrangement.
Days after that email I got a positive pregnancy test after feeling absolutely bone tired for days and nauseous, I was shocked and terrified. I called that day and went and got blood work. As with my miscarriage, my HCG levels were on the lower end of the spectrum and my progesterone was very low. The Dr saw me the very same day and I started progesterone. I was terrified that we would lose this baby as well. We had a couple incidents of spotting. The OB we saw was so reassuring and supportive of my nerves. He was compassionate, caring, and just what I needed. He did several early ultrasounds and lots of followup bloodwork and everything looked great.
By 12 weeks we had seen the heartbeat several times and felt that we were likely in the clear. We still had not told many people that we were pregnant again. The last time, we had shared the news here and there by about 8-10 weeks only to have to un-tell everyone which was like a knife in the heart, every single time. I suspect that most people figured it out by the time we announced at 14 weeks.
During this time, the original Homebirth Midwife we hired had to step down from her practice so we were in the process of interviewing a replacement. Michigan is a lot different than North Carolina, there were dozens of choices, all legal and regulated. We interviewed several and decided to hire Stacia with Trillium Birth Services. Personality wise I couldn’t have asked for a better match. Plus, we both had roots with the same Borders Books store. We started care with her around 16-18 weeks.
My pregnancy was hard. I was emotional, a nervous wreck, and in constant fear that we would have another loss. I was also very sick. I had never had such nausea in pregnancy before, it was all I could do to care for Oliver during the day and I spent most of the days on the couch. I was sick enough that I finally relented and started taking meds when I was having a hard time staying hydrated and eating regularly. Let me tell you, Unisom and B6 are a godsend. I was able to at least eat and not be puking all day long. It wasn’t a cure, but it helped. The only plus side to being so sick is that I lost weight through the first trimester and only ended up gaining 12lbs. I had to continue taking them until the day I delivered, I never got that relief most women get in the second trimester.
Sunday, September 23, 2012 – 6 days overdue
Tired of being pregnant, cranky, and generally not fun to be around I spent most of my day sulking because I had slept through the night and not woken up in labor. That weekend we all had just lounged around the house; Mark decided to tackle the Mountain of Laundry that had piled up over the past week. The kids played, made messes, and irritated each other most of the day. And I was still pregnant, much to everyone’s dismay. Oliver was born 3 weeks early. No one thought I would be overdue this time.
After lunch I was sitting in the living room and just could not get comfortable on the couch, I was moving from lying down, to sitting and getting more and more grumpy that I could not get comfortable at all. My lower back was aching, and my whole body was just tired. Mark mentioned that maybe I would feel better if I took a nap. I wasn’t really tired so I stayed on the couch and whined for a while longer. At this point, I had noticed that baby had been quieter than was normal. I knew that could be a sign that labor was coming, but didn’t get my hopes up because I had decided I was going to be pregnant FOREVER.
At about 2:30pm, Mark again mentioned that maybe I would feel better if I took a nap. I was so uncomfortable on the couch I figured I had nothing to lose by going and laying in bed, even if I didn’t sleep. I layed up there a while, browsing the internet on my phone and I did eventually doze off and slept hard. Remember, the best nap of your life almost always means labor is looming.
At about 3:30pm I woke up with a contraction. I had been having lots of “fake” contractions for weeks, but this one was different, more intense and slightly more painful. I decided to take note of the time but ignored it. If it was real labor, I would know and I wouldn’t be able to lay in bed through it. By 5:30 when Mark came upstairs to see how I was feeling about dinner I had had several more contractions as I drifted between sleep and awake. They seemed closer together. However, I still hadn’t been timing them. I was hesitant to even say anything since I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, (especially mine) but casually mentioned I was having some contractions.
I got up to go to the bathroom and was planning to go downstairs for dinner. There was the sign I was looking for that labor was coming soon, bloody show. I think this is the only time in my life I was excited to see bloody mucous. I let Mark know that he was probably not going to work tomorrow, and decided to put my birth team on alert. I sent texts to my doula (and great, longtime, childhood friend) Melissa, Birth Photographer, and called our Midwife Stacia.
I decided that I wanted to take a shower and see if that made my contractions stop and if it would help with my sore lower back. The water felt great on my back and I had several more contractions in the time I was in the shower, I was starting to think this could be the real deal. The contractions were starting to get a little more intense and I was having to stop what I was doing to breathe through them. I still didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. I putzed around upstairs doing my hair and getting dressed (read that as put clean pajamas on) the whole time having more contractions and more bloody show.
By the time dinner was ready at about 6:30, I was seriously doubting that I should be eating the spicy enchiladas we had planned earlier in the day. On my list of things that could be unpleasant if throw up I think enchiladas are on the top. I also wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sit through the meal with my contractions. I knew this could be my last chance to eat and that I would need the energy in case this was real labor. Luckily, just being around the kids slowed my contractions down and I was able to eat between them. I did have to stand up from the table every time one hit though.
Mark and I decided that it would be an early bedtime for the kids because we were pretty sure labor would pick up once they were in bed. Mark started the bedtime routine while I retreated upstairs and discreetly packed small overnight bags for the kids, just in case. I didn’t want them to see anything was going on. We still hadn’t decided if they were going to stay home for the birth or not. I wanted them there but didn’t want them to hinder my progress. I felt a sort of instinctual need to keep the whole family close by for some reason. We had several plans for the kids should we need to send them away, but for now I wanted them home.
At this point, I was pretty sure it was the real deal, and of course, it was because the house was an absolute disaster. There was clean, folded laundry spread all over the living room and the kitchen still hadn’t been cleaned from dinner. I had been keeping the house spotless for WEEKS since we had a slew of people coming for the birth.
I called our Stacia again and told her it was time, she suggested that we set up the pool so that when I was ready the pool would be too. I wasn’t quite ready for her to come yet but told her I would call when I was. As soon as the kids were in bed Mark set to work inflating the pool and filling it with water while I paced in the bedroom and “supervised”. He was very patient with my backseat driving while he set up and filled the pool because he was obviously doing it all wrong.
Once the pool was filling and I was satisfied Mark was doing it my way, I went downstairs to sit on my birth ball to time contractions. They were getting closer and more intense and I really wanted to get in the shower again, but couldn’t since we were going to need all the hot water we could get to fill the pool. I spent the next hour or so pacing the lower floor of the house, going upstairs to check on the pool, and on Facebook chatting with my friend Carrie. I was starting to get anxious and I figured that this feeling probably meant it was time to call everyone. I sent Melissa a text telling her it was time to head over at about 9:30 pm, and then shortly after called Stacia to let her know I was ready for her. At this point, I had forgotten all about calling the Photographer.
Mark had finished filling the pool at this point and it was ready to go, we were shocked that it only took one round of hot water and it was still slightly too hot to get in. He covered it with a blanket to keep the heat in and then tidied up the house a bit. Melissa arrived and we milled around the kitchen for a while, chatting between contractions. After a bit I needed to move back to the yoga ball in the living room, things were picking up.
I was starting to get anxious that Stacia hadn’t arrived yet, and she must have felt that because she walked in about two minutes later. She watched just a few contractions and announced it was OK to get in the pool. I was shocked because that meant she felt I was already progressing well, and I still didn’t feel sure it was time to have this baby. It’s a funny thing about labor, no matter how many times you do it, you can still be unsure.
The pool felt amazing. It was the perfect temperature and took the edge off the contractions, I still wasn’t in serious pain yet, but I knew I would be soon enough. It was probably about 10:45 pm at this point, and this is where time gets foggy. While I was in the pool, Melissa sat at the side and was there to remind me during the contractions not to tense up, relax my shoulders, and stop clenching my hands into fists. Relaxation is not always my strong point, so I needed the reminder. She also kept a supply of tea and water between contractions and a cool washcloth on my head and neck.
Mark played the good host, making coffee, fetching me water and letting the rest of the birth team in the house. The Midwife Apprentice, Cynthia arrived and was beginning to set up the supplies and get everything together. Thankfully Stacia thought to text my Birth Photographer and let her know it was time for her to come because I had totally forgotten about her at this point.
My contractions continued to get closer, stronger, and more painful. Stacia and Cynthia intermittently monitored the heart rate which was steady at about 150 bpm. I was starting to feel like maybe I needed to push, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I tried a few pushes and it just wasn’t feeling “right”. I knew I was probably complete because I was starting to worry about seeing those enchiladas again. I was also starting to shake from the hormone rush. My water still hadn’t broken and the baby was moving all around and I could feel the head low in my pelvis turning against my cervix.
Monday, September 24, 2012, 12:00 am
I’m pretty sure Stacia could see I was struggling, she suggested that maybe I flip on my hands and knees and try to push that way. Up until then, I was on my back leaning on the side of the pool, I knew this was not the optimal position, but it’s what I found comfortable at the time. I flipped over and pushed another 20 minutes or so and it still didn’t feel right. Around this time, I told everyone that I was done and I couldn’t do it and I’d like an epidural. Stacia was great and told me that was fine, but I’d have to get out of the pool, get dressed, and drive to the hospital. It would probably be faster just to push the baby out. I begrudgingly agreed that was probably true. She then offered to check me to see what was going on, this was about 12:45 am or so.
When she checked I was 10 cm, but had an anterior lip on my cervix and baby was so high she could barely feel his head. She had me flip back over and offered to hold the lip back while I pushed past it. At this point, I was getting tired, and I was ready to be done. We waited through a few contractions and I continued to push, and my water broke. She checked me again and I still had the lip, I told her to hold the lip back. It hurt, a lot, but I got the baby to move down slightly. When the baby came down she could feel that there was still a bag of water over baby’s head. I pushed some more with no progress, and she offered to break my water the rest of the way. I told her to do it, I was ready for this baby to be out.
As she was trying to snag the amniotic sack with the amnihook she mentioned how strong the bag was. I would like to attribute that to my cravings for grapefruit juice, oranges, and lemonade. Once she got my water to break, things moved quickly. Instantly I felt the overwhelming urge to push. That was what I was waiting for, it was almost like before my water broke everything was too squishy and cushioned so I couldn’t feel what I was supposed to do. Baby came all the way down while she was still trying to hold back that anterior lip. I didn’t know at the time, but he was posterior and when he came down she could feel that and she rotated his head and turned him manually. I was told it was quite the site to see.
I pushed for what seemed like forever, with each push I could feel him moving down but just not as fast as my other two births. At one point I said that this baby is a lot more work. I kept pushing, soon I could just barely feel a small patch of the head when I reached down, progress. They told me they could see that the baby had dark hair. We were minutes away from knowing if the baby was a boy or a girl and who he or she would look like. I started pushing really hard, I just wanted to be done. Stacia asked me to slow down (which I had warned her that I tended to push way too fast), so I hopefully wouldn’t tear this time. I breathed through a few contractions and I kept reaching down to feel if that soft patch of the head was getting bigger, and it was. Cynthia, moved in to help guide the baby out and slow the baby’s head down.
(I didn’t know at the time, but this was the very first baby that Cynthia had caught in her apprenticeship. And now, five years later she has her very own Midwifery practice.)
Then I felt that telltale feeling, the “ring of fire” and the head was out. Mark moved into position to catch once he was fully born. I still had to push a few more times to get his shoulders out, Cynthia helped maneuver them and then the body was born at 1:46 am. Mark lifted the baby out of the water and onto my chest. As I put my hand on the baby’s bottom I was pretty sure I could feel that it was a boy, I peeked between his legs and sure enough, he was! It worked out well because the boy name was the only one we could agree on, Elijah Griffin, he looked like an Eli to me.
He pinked up right away, but never really cried. He was amazingly alert and wide-eyed and looked just like his sister! Except for his amazingly chubby cheeks, he looked like a little squirrel with cheeks stuffed full of nuts. We hung out in the pool for while until I started to get a little grossed out by all the blood in the water and was ready to get out. His cord was done pulsing so we had Mark cut the cord and take over holding his new son while I worked on delivering the placenta. They had set up a birth stool for just that purpose, which was a good thing because my legs were so tired and shakey. I could barely lift my leg up to get out of the pool.
From there I dried off and moved to the bed. With some help, I got him latched on and he nursed for about 30 minutes. I was amazed at how big he looked, I had predicted that he would be long from all the stretching I felt inside but he was for sure bigger than my other two. We all placed our bets on weight and weighed him. He was my biggest baby, bigger than Ollie by nearly three pounds at 9 lbs 2 oz. He was also long at 22.5 inches with a 14.75 in head circumference. No wonder he was a bear to push out. I felt like a rock star! He was HUGE!
Stacia and Cynthia evaluated him and he looked great. I was in pretty good shape too, a small abrasion, and a second-degree tear that we decided not to stitch up. All in all, I felt pretty good, considering I just delivered a small linebacker. Someone brought me a snack and Melissa decided to head home as well as the photographer. They were followed by Stacia and Cynthia at about 4:30 am.
Once everyone left it was surreal, I was all tucked into my bed everything was all cleaned up and I had this new little person. The whole time I was in labor my two big kids slept peacefully just across the hall in their rooms, not knowing that in a few short hours they were going to wake up to a new baby brother. I could never have imagined the birth would go so fantastically. Stacia was a perfect match for us, low intervention when I wanted her to be, but able to help things along when I needed it. I laid there in the dark with Eli next to me and watched the sun come up, too high on endorphins to sleep.
His birth was just the healing experience that I needed following a late first-trimester miscarriage. His birth taught me how to trust in my body again and trust in myself. He is exactly the Rainbow Baby I needed. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better birth.
A New Family of Five
I would be lying if I said that those first days, weeks, months were easy. We had a rough start. There was a lot going on in general plus we added a newborn and were suddenly outnumbered. We had a lot of breastfeeding issues due to lip/tongue tie and low milk supply. I spent a crazy amount of time worrying about feeding him so he would grow which didn’t help make it any easier. The jump from two to three to kids was a hard one for us.
Despite our rough start Eli has grown into the sweetest boy. He is so caring and protective of his sisters. He’s generous and always wants to help or “do a job”. He is always looking for a snuggle and to sit in his “special spot” next to me. He has a special knack for being the annoying little brother and knows just how to get under everyone’s skin especially his older siblings.
This year he’s tackled full-day preschool at the kid’s elementary school and is thriving. He will be a pro by the time Kindergarten comes next year. He’s decided he wants to be an engineer when he grows up and I can totally see it. He loves to build things. Happy Birthday, Elijah!