A year ago I was still pregnant! Aaron Henry’s birthday is tomorrow, and I finally got around to writing down the story of his birth before I completely forget it (#mombrain)! I love reading birth stories, and the more facts & figures, the better, so that’s how I wrote this one.
(If you want the short version, here it is: I was pregnant, and then I had a baby. At home. Yay! The end.)
My due date for Aaron was June 15, and when the pregnancy started we laughed about having a Fourth of July baby (because Sophia was born 10 days past her due date and Zoe was 19 days past hers). But as time went on and I got more uncomfortable, I started convincing myself he could be early! As usual for me, I looked seriously ready to pop by about 36 weeks. Those last few weeks were tough. I was working with a wonderful midwife, the same one I used with Zoe’s home birth, and she’s one of the most even-keeled people I’ve ever met. I remember telling her that I was crying almost every night, from all the emotions, and the hip pain, and the exhaustion, and she just nodded calmly and said yes, that’s quite normal.
June 14 was a Sunday, and my sister Christine had a big party for her husband Isaac’s 30th birthday. It was an outdoor pool party at my parents’ house, and we went over with the girls (hard to imagine those days of only having 2 kids!) for a few hours. It was SO hot, one of the hottest days in the summer, I think! I remember having a pretty nice time, chatting with Isaac’s parents, and leaving early to bring the kids home for bed.
The next morning (Monday, June 15), Greg and I were having coffee before he left for work, and all the sudden I had a little gush of water. I waited a few minutes to see if there would be more, but there wasn’t… but it was hard not to feel a tiny bit excited because I figured it must be amniotic fluid leaking. (–> something is happening!) Greg left for work, since I wasn’t having any contractions. Over the next hour, I had several more large gushes of water, and I texted my midwife. She came over to check on me. Her notes from the visit say fetal heart rate and movement were good, and my pulse was higher than usual. She took my temperature as well – 97.6, so no fever. I asked her what to expect – is this labor? I didn’t have contractions, only some cramping. She said this type of leaking is a partial rupture of membranes, probably just the outer sac, and most women go into active labor within the next 12 hours. She left, and said to call her if anything changed.
12 hours is such a short time frame. I started hoping we might have the baby that day! Even Monday night would be great. The day passed without contractions, trying to rest and take care of Sophia & Zoe. It was hard to feel normal with water leaking consistently. I spent the afternoon laying on the couch with a towel folded under me. By evening, the leaking was less, and I think we might have taken a walk around the neighborhood?
Monday night I finally had a few contractions, one of the funny ironies of pregnancy – not strong enough to be labor but strong enough to keep me awake. By Tuesday morning I was tired and disappointed that it had been over 12 hours and I wasn’t in labor.
Tuesday is kind of a blur – my midwife visited at some point in the day, took my temperature again (97.9, according to her notes), and checked on the baby. I had some stronger contractions that day, but they were very few and far between. By that night I was trying to accept the fact that we could wait another week or so. It’s so hard not knowing what to expect!
Wednesday morning came (June 17) and I saw some pink mucus plug, a fairly encouraging sign. Greg stayed home from work that day. I had more cramping, took my temperature (97.8), and had breakfast. Around 10.30am I had a wave of strong contractions, 7 minutes apart. We decided to ask my mom to pick the girls up and take them to her house. I felt like I was falling apart emotionally, crying because it hurt, tired and impatient, and I didn’t want the girls to see that. The girls left at 11.30, my midwife and her assistant arrived, and we thought, this is it! For the next 2 hours my contractions were between 7 and 10 minutes apart. They didn’t pick up or get stronger. I think I’ve finally learned that I don’t labor well when people are watching. It’s like pressure to perform well. At 1.30pm my midwife did my first exam (4cm) and pulled my cervix forward. With Zoe’s birth, this little procedure had kickstarted active labor, and she was born a few hours later. I thought maybe the same thing would happen this time? Instead, contractions kept slowing down. I tried a few different positions, used my breast pump for a few minutes, and then gave up and took a nap.
At 5pm, it had been almost 60 hours since my water first started leaking, but everything still looked perfect with the baby. His heart rate was strong, and I didn’t have a fever (one of the first signs of infection). I remember sitting in the living room with our midwives and Greg, trying to regroup. I wasn’t in labor, even though we had tried to get it started. I felt silly that the girls were with mom, since I wasn’t having the baby! We thought about going to pick them up. My midwife suggested we take our minds off labor and go out to dinner alone. Her suggestions are always what I least feel like doing, and yet perfectly logical! She reminded me that sometimes labor picks up at night, once your body finally relaxes.
I think Greg & I picked up Thai takeout from Basil for dinner (neither of us can remember for sure). We called Joshua & Julianna and asked if they wanted to come over for a movie. In true Spurlock style, they dropped everything they were doing and came right over, with a box of Fred Astaire DVDs and ingredients for mojitos! Normally I don’t have cocktails when I’m pregnant, but I made an exception this evening and told Joshua I really needed one. It hadn’t been the most active day, but I felt so drained by the emotional ups and downs. We watched Swing Time (had to check this with Julianna because I was a little out of it that night!). I fell asleep during the last half hour and hoped no one noticed.
The Spurlocks left when the movie was over, a few minutes before 10pm, and I didn’t have the energy to move off the couch or get ready for bed. I had finally found a comfortable position – a miracle at 40 weeks pregnant! Greg, sweetest husband in the world, curled up at the other end of the couch to keep me company, and we both fell soundly asleep.
A few minutes later, a giant contraction flung me off the couch. Until now, I had been pretty quiet and focused through contractions but this one was so bad I couldn’t help but scream (the moment when you realize with horror, all of that was nothing compared to now). Greg woke up to see what was going on. I checked my phone and it was exactly 10pm. I figured it was a fluke, and we went back to sleep.
Exactly five minutes later, the same thing happened. And then again, five minutes later. They were so hard and so long that by 10.15, I was shouting at Greg to text our midwife right away because she might not make it here in time. I started heading for the bathtub, crawling down the hallway on my hands and knees between contractions. By 10.20, they were 4 minutes apart. I made it to the tub and got in.
The midwives arrived at 11.15. I stayed in the tub for about 2 hours, with contractions 3-4 minutes apart, horribly intense. Some people enjoy the challenge of labor but not me. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I was praying for strength and feeling very grateful the girls were at mom’s house!
My midwife’s notes from the birth are very detailed, and she records 12.50-1.40am as time when I was out of the tub, trying some different positions on the bed. This was her idea, naturally. That hour was the worst part. I should have known I was in transition – when I completely give up and beg to go to the hospital for drugs, that always means we’re really close to the end. No one ever says that, of course, just in case it’s not true. My midwife is not one for snuggly reassurances. Her version of encouragement is “Instead of saying, ‘I can’t,’ why don’t you try saying ‘I can?'” and “You’re stronger than you think you are.” It doesn’t seem overly effective at the time, but she’s helped a nervous Type-A with low pain tolerance to have two home births, so I guess she’s doing something right.
Somewhere in there I remember the line “GIVE ME THE KEYS I’M GOING NOW,” but at 1.40am, instead of getting in the car, I got back in the tub and starting pushing my baby out. 15 minutes later we could see his head. It was a relief to be pushing – like most women, I like that part best. I remember clearly hearing my midwife tell me that keeping breath inside makes pushing more effective (instead of exhaling through a contraction), so I got very quiet and focused on pushing. At 2.16, his head was out, and a minute later it was over. There’s no feeling in the world like reaching down to pick up your baby the moment he’s born, that flood of happiness and love. I knew right away he was a good size, over 8lbs like his sisters. And I thought he was the most handsome boy I’d ever seen, obviously.
We stayed in the bathtub for a few minutes, and then Greg cut the cord and he held Aaron while I waited for the placenta to detach. It came out easily, and by 2.50am I was tucked into bed nursing Aaron for the first time. That first hour of a baby’s life is so special! I wish it was recorded so we could relive those moments again. I’d had a basket on our dresser for weeks with a nursing tank & pjs for me, a baby blanket, and a tiny kimono onesie + pants for the baby.
So the total time for active labor was recorded as 4 hours, 7 minutes. That’s fast! Zoe’s labor was similar overall – lots of “warm-up” time with contractions here and there, lots of downtime that left you wondering what was going on, and then an intense few hours. Hers was more like 6 hours, I think, and this one was 4… (what does that mean about a next birth?? Could I even handle a 2 hour labor? eek.)
My fabulous midwives ran around while I nursed Aaron and dressed him – they cleaned up everything, examined the placenta, packed up their supplies – then weighed and measured him. He was a full 8lbs 12oz, and 20 1/2″! They left around 4am, I think. Greg fell asleep but I was full of adrenaline. I have a picture I took around sunrise that morning (June 18) of my husband and newborn son fast asleep. It reminds me of how still the house was, just the three of us at that moment, as if he was our only child. Sophia & Zoe came home a few hours later, and we started the adventure of being a family of 5!
That’s the story… writing it down helps me remember how much we have to be grateful for! The unusual thing about this birth was my water partially breaking 3 days before Aaron was born, but there were no complications or problems from it. The birth itself was also free of any complications! My son was strong and healthy. I feel so blessed that I was able to deliver him at home, thanks to the amazing and supportive people around me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was Aaron Henry’s perfect birth.