Disclaimer: This is long and fairly unedited. Also, I am a strong advocate of natural birth and it is what I have strived for during both my pregnancies and subsequent births. However, as long as women are informed about all their choices and what they are entitled to during labor, birth and delivery, I think each woman has the right to make her own decision about what is right for her without fear of judgement or shame. Every woman has the right to her own birth story. This is mine.
On the morning that Cameron was born, I took Casey to story time at the library. I felt some minor cramping in my lower abdomen and a few sporadic, short contractions throughout the morning but nothing that made me think we would be having a baby that day. When we got home from story time, we played for a bit and took a walk in the stroller. I had a few minor contractions as we played and walked, 15 minutes apart but not continuously. I didn’t think much of those either except to shower and try and rest a bit while Casey napped. But when I sat down to rest everything seemed to stop and I felt restless. I needed to move.
When Casey woke up from his nap, I convinced him to take another long walk with me in the stroller. I let him watch videos as we walked. It was a beautiful, fall day. The leaves were turning stunning colors of gold, red, and orange and the sun was warm as we meandered through the blocks around our house. I was having fairly steady contractions every 10-15 minutes but they only lasted about 30 seconds and I was able to continue to walk through them, breathing deeply and occasionally leaning over the stroller handles to ease my lower back.
We got home around 5 and I puttered around for a bit. When Alex came out of his office at 5:30, I told him that we should see if his mom could watch Casey tonight just in case. I still wasn’t convinced that this was the real thing but “just in case it isn’t a false alarm” I thought it would be easier to plan ahead to have Casey stay the night with Nana and Papa. (Who would have thought we would have a baby in our arms in less than 3 hours?!?!)
I continued to walk around, playing trucks with Casey, clearing out the dishes from the sink, picking up and generally working through each contraction. At 6 I began having steady contractions every 5 minutes. It still felt good to walk and Casey held my hand as we walked in circles around the house. Other times, I felt best leaning against my birthing ball for support of getting down on my hands and knees. At one point, I was on hands and knees vocalizing a low “ooooh” as the contraction washed over me and Casey got down on his hands and knees and “oooh”ed with me…moral support at its finest.
Alex got off work around 6:15 and took Casey over to his mom’s house shortly after. I was having steady contractions and yet I still wasn’t convinced that this was the real thing! I felt like they should be stronger and longer even though they were coming so steadily. With Casey I labored at home throughout the night for 12 hours and it was a gradual increase in intensity and strength so I figured I had a while to go. Except I was feeling slightly nauseous and emotional. I cried as I watched Casey walk out to the car. In the back of my head it occurred to me that these were the things that happened when women were in transition (the nausea, the crying, thoughts of doubt) but I brushed that thought aside. Surely I wasn’t that far along.
While Alex was gone, I gathered our bags and everything else we would need by the back door, ready to be loaded into the car when we decided to be on our way. By 6:45 I had been having steady contractions for about 3 hours and they had increased to every 5 minutes over the past 40 minutes. In the next ten minutes they picked up to every 3 minutes and I was having to squat down, fall to my hands and knees or get into a doorway and hold onto one side as I let me body lean against the opposite side for support. It was at this point that I called the emergency number for the midwives. Alex came back in as I was talking to Suzanna, the midwife on call, and I had to hand the phone to him because I just couldn’t talk to her without starting to cry. She said it sounded like I was definitely in active labor and I could come in to monitor how baby was taking contractions or stay at home for a bit longer but, she emphasized, “it could happen quickly.” I told her I was inclined to stay at home for a bit longer but would call when we decided to come in.
By this time it was about 7:00. I had three more contractions, each requiring me to lean against Alex or a wall for support. During each one I told him we should go ahead and leave for the hospital and after each one I changed my mind that we should continue to wait for a bit. Part of me still felt as if they should be lasting longer. We left the house at 7:09.
I had three contractions in the car in the ten minute ride to the hospital, two walking in after we parked. I tried to close my eyes and shield my face from the lights of the entrance as we stood at the desk getting checked in. I still was not convinced that I was close to having a baby and didn’t want anything to cause my labor to stall.
We got to triage and I managed to change into the hospital gown and give a urine sample, as requested, and then I hat two strong contractions. The second one left me on my hands and knees and I told Alex to “go get the nurse NOW!” It felt like forever by the time they returned and I told the nurse I was feeling a lot of pressure, as if I needed to push soon. I think she was surprised to find me on hands and knees (I heard her mention it a few times later on) and she immediately called in the resident intern, as the midwife had not arrived at the hospital yet. He asked if he could check me and finding my already dilated to 7 cm, they immediately moved me to a birthing suite. I refused a wheelchair and walked through the hall, into the birthing suite and crawled up onto the bed on my hands and knees. It was approximately 7:45, 7:50. They managed to get a monitor on me to listen to the baby’s heart beat. They asked if I still wanted them to fill the birthing tub, as I had originally planned for a water birth, and I nodded although I did not feel like moving off the bed or being in any position except my hands and knees. They asked if I wanted an IV and I refused because I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting still long enough for them to put it in. The intern came in with a second nurse and as they were getting everything ready, I was continuing to have strong contractions and feeling the need to push. The nurse, Kristin I think, was excellent, coaching me to pant through each contraction to keep from pushing and panting with me and rubbing my lower back and I worked through each one. The intern checked me again and finally the midwife arrived. “She’s at 9 cm and the baby’s head is right there,” I heard him tell her. Then I heard the words that every laboring mother loves hearing (words that make me tear up as I write this)- “Just a few more contractions and you’ll be holding your baby.” I panted through maybe 2 or 3 more contractions, resting my upper body on a pillow in between. I was still on my hands and knees on the bed. Alex sat next to me holding my hand.
And then Suzanna told me that with my next contraction I should just listen to my body and do what it told me, that it was ok to push. And I did. I pushed twice more before they told me to just hold my breath and bear down and then all of a sudden they were handing me this tiny, slippery baby boy up through my legs. He gave out a lusty cry even though the umbilical chord was wrapped loosely around his neck. It was 8:16, an hour after we had arrived at the hospital.
The next hour was a blur. Movement all around me but my eyes were only on Cameron. Cameron Alexander Claeys, who made us wait a full 41 weeks and then arrived in a flurry. I am still in shock at how quickly his birth happened, even sitting here five days later. This is just the story of his birth but the actual processing of it will take a while. It was so different from Casey’s birth, so different then anything I had expected. It was so fast! I knew more this time about what was actually happening during the birthing process and this birth felt much more controlled then my first. I was acutely aware of feeling each moment, visualizing him moving down the birthing canal, seeing in my mind’s eye what my body was doing and what it needed to do with each contraction, each push.
By all accounts, the speed of this birth should have left me breathless and dizzy. Instead, I found myself feeling calm and energized as Alex and I held our second son for the first time. Shortly after he was born, as we were taking the first pictures, Alex looked at his phone and said “The last message I have from my mom says to let her know when we go to the hospital.” I looked at him and laughed. “Well, let’s send her the first picture!”
I was surprised at how good I felt over the next few days in the hospital, especially in terms of my overall energy and pain levels. This doesn’t mean it has been easy. I am still healing. My body is still in shock from transitioning from being pregnant to not pregnant so quickly. My hormones dropped quickly after we arrived back home and they are still up and down. I don’t like to sit still but I know that it is important to give myself time, to take care to meet my emotional and physical needs if I am to be good mother to both a toddler and a newborn.
The past few days have been a roller coaster of emotions as we begin to settle in as a family of four, build new relationships, find new routines. The reality of parenting a toddler and an infant has hit me heavily some moments leaving me tearful and crept up on me gently in others, filling me with breathless warmth. Each day, each moment brings a new challenge to be faced, problem to be solved.
There is more to learn, more to say but that’s it for now. Thanks for reading and if you made it this far, you deserve these sweet baby pictures.