Big bro meeting little broAfter weeks of anxious waiting, on June 18 (our wedding anniversary!), baby Owen finally decided to make his appearance. I was 41 weeks + one day pregnant, huge and in pain. I'd been having contractions for five weeks and had been five centimeters dilated for over two weeks. I'd tried a castor oil induction, had my membranes stripped four times, and tried every other known natural induction technique. I knew the baby was very big, but I asked my midwife not to tell me about anything past nine pounds -- this was my mental limit for maintaining my confidence.
Here's how my fast and furious homebirth went down:
At 10 p.m. I headed to bed after a low-key anniversary celebration with my husband, resigned to the fact that the baby wasn't coming today. As I lay reading in bed, I felt a strong contraction. I checked the clock: 10:15. I wasn't ready to get excited, given the false labor I'd been experiencing for weeks. But four minutes later, another contraction rocked my body and I couldn't stay in bed a second longer.
I went downstairs where hubby was watching TV and mumbled something about having contractions. I still wasn't ready to brand this as "the real thing," so I was intentionally blasé in my delivery of the news. But then another contraction came and I found myself panting over the birthing ball. It was at this point that I suggested he should start to fill up the birthing pool -- just in case.
It only took one more contraction for me to grab the phone to call our doula. I dialed her number but found myself unable to talk -- I shoved the phone in my husband's hand and told him to tell her to come NOW (and luckily she did come lightning-fast). I managed to call my midwife between the next contractions, and she told me she was in the car on the way to another birth -- I was going to have to use her backup. The news would ordinarily have totally bummed me out because I loved my midwife and really wanted her at the birth, but there was no time to think or feel anything except the constant wave of contractions rocking my body.
The pool wasn't filling up fast enough for me. When it was only about a third full, I asked if I could get in it. I'm not sure who I was asking exactly, but both Ian and Trish, my doula, told me I could. I gingerly made my way over and sank into the water. It felt like heaven. The contractions were still there, but if the pain was a 10 before, it was now a 7. I could deal with 7. But my labor didn't slow down and I started to get the urge to push. The midwife hadn't arrived yet, so I tried to resist pushing. Plus, I still didn't quite believe that the birth was really happening so fast.
I had a few more contractions and then the doorbell rang. A midwife. Not my midwife. Not even the backup midwife. But a midwife, and I was in no position to be picky. (It turned out to be the backup's backup -- it was a big night for births!) We introduced ourselves to each other and got down to business. She brought her equipment down to where I was laboring in the pool and got out her Doppler to check for the baby's heartbeat. She tried to find the heartbeat in the water, but she couldn't and asked me get out of the pool. Getting out was the last thing I wanted to do, but she was intent on hearing the heartbeat, so I did. I knew instinctively that everything was fine, that this baby was alive and well and ready to come out. But I got out and let her find the heartbeat, then I went right back in to the water.
I was feeling pressure. LOTS of pressure. I decided to try pushing and the baby's head immediately started coming out. God, it was all so fast ... how could the head be coming out already? But I couldn't stop. I pushed again and more head came out. It didn't really hurt. I mean I guess it did, but not like I remember with my first birth. It just felt uncomfortable and I wanted to push more. I was sitting in the pool at this point, and the midwife instructed me to flip over to my hands and knees to push the rest of the baby out. I suppose she probably saw how huge he was with half the head out. I knew from my research that on hands and knees was the best position for delivering a big baby (or for unsticking a stuck baby) because it makes your pelvis as wide as possible. I flipped myself over and resumed pushing. I think it was just two more pushes -- couldn't have been much more -- and he was out.
11:45 p.m.: Just 90 minutes after my first contractions, 10 minutes after the midwife arrived, here I was holding my baby. We were both being covered in towels by someone. He cried a little and looked very blue, but he was fine and in my arms. How did that just happen?
I was looking at him, but my body and mind both felt mushy. It happened so fast that I couldn't quite process what had just gone down. I realized nobody was taking photos so I asked for photos to be taken. I stayed in the water holding him while I delivered the placenta. The midwife made several comments like, "I can't wait to weigh him," but at this point, I was still oblivious to just how big a baby I had delivered.
I moved to the bed to get warm and breastfeed the baby while the midwife examined my nether regions. To my surprise, she announced that no stitches were needed. I'd just assumed that big baby plus crazy fast labor would automatically equal bad things. But apparently not.
The midwife examined Owen and asked for guesses on his weight -- I guessed 9 1/2 pounds -- I was clearly still oblivious to his hugeness.
"11 pounds, 2 ounces," the midwife proudly announced.
Seriously? 11 pounds? I didn't know babies could be that big. The horribly uncomfortable last few weeks of my pregnancy suddenly made a lot more sense.
Soon we were ready to settle in for the night and sleep together at home as a family. The midwife and doula were just going to help me to the bathroom to get me cleaned up and ready for bed. But it wasn't going to be quite that easy. Instead I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage and we spent the next few hours stabilizing me and making sure the bleeding had stopped.
Eventually I was feeling a bit better and with help was able to get up and ready for bed. It was weird to say good-bye and be left alone in our home with this little baby. Weird, but wonderful. No nurses coming to check on us every hour. Our older son was just upstairs sleeping and would get to meet his little brother as soon as he woke up.
Looking back, I'm so happy I got to do the homebirth. It was really wonderful being able to recover in my home. And I'm positive that had I gone to the hospital, I would've either had an assisted delivery with forceps or a c-section. There's no way a hospital would've let me attempt to vaginally deliver an 11-pound baby, and if for some reason I was able to try, I couldn't have delivered a baby that big lying on my back in bed.
I've also developed a philosophy about why Owen decided to wait so long to come out. I think he was probably ready to be born (size wise) when I started having contractions at 36 weeks. But when he was 10 days old, we discovered a birth defect in his kidneys that landed him in the hospital for a week and that we're still treating him for. I believe that he was giving his kidneys as much time as possible to develop properly. In the end, my body knew what was best for him, and even though I didn't understand it at the time, I just needed to trust that my body would go into labor when it was ready. I think he stayed in my belly as long as he possibly could without getting too big for me to deliver him.
My little sumo wrestlerWhich brings me to his size. I admit I get a kick out of telling people how big he was. I love the look of shock and horror when women hear I delivered an 11-pound baby. But, as you just read, it wasn't an especially painful or traumatic delivery. I think it goes back to trusting our bodies. They're made to give birth and they know what to do if you just let them. I had a lot of confidence in my ability to birth him naturally and without intervention. I approached the birth without fear and I think it was this mental state, not a superhuman vagina, that contributed to his easy delivery.