[All the images in this post taken by Vannessa Brown Photography]
9 months ago, I met my little Oliver. For months, I spoke to him while in the womb, caressing his little body through my skin, counting down the days until I would know his face. I say “his”, but at the time, I didn’t know what I was having. Unlike my first pregnancy, the feeling on what I was carrying this time wasn’t as strong. A few weeks before going into labor, I had a dream that my baby was born en caul, and pressed against an intact amniotic membrane, all I could see was a little piece of male anatomy. It was then, that for the first time in my pregnancy, I had a strong feeling that I could be carrying a son.
I was much more relaxed going into pregnancy second time around. Knowing what to expect when it came to everything – pregnancy, labor, postpartum, breastfeeding, caring for a new born, sleep (or lack there of) – was comforting. Initially, I was nervous to attempt a home birth again, but I knew it was still something I wanted, it was important to me. We were fortunate enough to work with the same midwife who delivered our first, which helped so much. She knew us, she knew our experience, and I felt so safe to have her go through this journey with us again.
My “due date” came and went, which I expected. I made peace with the fact that I simply gestate a little longer, and knew my baby would come when it was ready, which was going to be soon.
November 25th. It was a Friday afternoon, and my daughter and I were both taking a nap. At 40+2 weeks pregnant, every day was potentially the day my baby could arrive, and I needed to take every opportunity I could to rest. Not only was I going to be going into labor any time soon, but after that, I was going to be a mother to a newborn and a toddler- I needed all the rest I could get. When I woke up, I felt a more than normal amount of discharge between my legs. It caught my attention, but this late in pregnancy, I assumed it was a normal pregnancy symptom. My daughter woke up, and as I lifted her out of her crib, I felt another gush of discharge; this time, enough to drip down the inside of my thigh. My waters had broken.
I called my midwife to let her know. The fluid was clear, I had no other symptoms, and we agreed to keep in touch as things progressed. Though I wasn’t in active labor, my husband decided to come home once I called him. I remember he told me his coworkers teased him, because of course his wife would go into labor early on a Friday afternoon to start the weekend early, haha.
My husband got home, I put on a sanitary pad, and continued our day as normal. Later in the evening, my midwife called to check on my progress, and since there hadn’t been any, we agreed that if nothing happened overnight, she would come over first thing in the morning to discuss our options. My husband and I decided to put our daughter to sleep downstairs in our guest bedroom, just in case, and called it a night.
At around 10:30 pm, 7 hours after my waters broke, labor began and I felt my first little surge. I was GBS positive, and it wasn’t too long before my contractions were far apart enough for me to need the first dose of antibiotics administered. My midwife and I chatted while the IV bag emptied, and I would stop and breathe through my surges as needed, and we laughed that the contraction tracker on my phone was telling me “Go to the hospital now!”. My midwife didn’t think she had come over to deliver a baby yet, and neither did I. Contractions were quickly becoming more frequent, but they still very manageable, and since she lived 5 minutes from my house, it was better for her to go home and rest, and come back when I actually needed her. She left our house just a little after midnight.
After she left, my husband and I went back to bed. I had my head phones on playing my hypnobirth tracks, and would fall in and out of sleep through my contractions. The room was dark, and in an almost dream like state, I moved my body as needed through my labor; sometimes lying down, sometimes on all fours, sometimes sitting down, whatever felt right to get through the surges. At around 1:30 am, things were starting to change; active labor had begun. I called my midwife and just said “I think I need you here”. We decided we wouldn’t call any family to come over and watch my daughter at this point; there was no reason to disturb anyone’s sleep. If she woke up, we would go from there. I texted my birth photographer letting her know it was time, and at 2:15 am ish, my entire birth team was with me.
At this point, my body had taken over. I was bearing down without my control, and sometimes, that pressure made me sick too, so I carried my handy throw up bucket with me at all times, ha. My husband got the birth pool ready, and though I was eager to get into the comfort of the warm water, I wanted to advance as much as in my labor before getting in. I realize my concern was a little irrational, since my body was starting to push at this point – we didn’t even have time to do a second dose of antibiotics. I asked my midwife to check me before getting in the water, she responded, “Nope. You need to get in the pool, now!”, and so I did.
Getting into the the pool was just as lovely as I remembered. The warmth of the water and it’s weightlessness was exactly what I needed. My body was doing what it was supposed to do, I was calm and in control. I was able to have conversation in between my contractions, and I was even smiling and laughing…a little, I was in labor after all, haha. I trusted my body to move me into the right position to birth my baby as I could feel the head descending. In the calmest of voices, something we all joked about later since women usually scream this, I said “I can feel the ring of fire”. The student midwife looked, and the head was there. Following her guidance, I pushed my baby’s head out with a few small pushes to make sure it was gentle on both of us. I remember thinking, “I am going to meet my baby soon. Only a few more pushes. I will have my baby on my chest right away”.
For this birth, I was lucky enough to have three midwives present. For any home birth, it is standard to have two, but my midwife had a student midwife who had been working with her (and I) for the past couple of weeks, and I was happy to have her there. Having three midwives at my birth was almost serendipitous, because suddenly, the pace of things changed very quickly, and the next few seconds required all the hands available…
My baby’s head was delivered, and though I was pushing, the body wasn’t coming out. My baby was stuck. With the head delivered, I climbed out of the birth pool and got on the bed. My midwife was calm, but there was urgency in her voice. I can’t remember if she assigned each midwife a job, but they all seemed to know that to do. I was lying on the bed with the hands of 3 midwives on me; one pushing my baby down, another guiding it center, and the main midwife maneuvering his body to help him out. Within seconds, he was on my chest, but the sense of urgency was still there. My husband was asked to call EMS, my baby’s airway was being suctioned, his heart beat monitored, oxygen being pumped into his little nose and mouth; everything to make sure he was OK after a somewhat traumatic birth. Once stable, the student midwife took over the EMS call my husband was on, and he came back into the room.
Everything happened within a minute or two, max; but it was a lot. Though I know it happened (because I was there) and because we talked about it afterwards, in the moment, I experienced something completely different.
From the moment I got out of the pool, in the middle of so much action, movement and unknown, my world was calm and quiet. On November 26th, at 3:26 am, less than 5 hours since I had felt my first contractions, I pushed my baby out with the assistance of my midwives. I held my baby on my chest, and immediately felt his little hand grab my finger. In that moment, in an uncontrollable, almost animalistic impulse, I began to sing.
I began to sing.
In the moment I least expected, but in the moment I needed it, in the moment my baby needed it the most, a new strength in me awakened. The feelings that coexist within you while you are both strong and vulnerable for the ones you love, transforms you. It transformed me. In that moment, the most powerful, yet gentle strength inside of me came out, manifested in song. I was singing my baby a lullaby to wake – isn’t the irony in that is so fucking beautiful?! I knew everything was going to be OK. Already a mother, I was a mother born again, and my identity once again defined. My husband came back into the room, saw his wife and baby both healthy, and tears of joy ran down his face. We had a son; our little Oliver.
My husband and I sat with our little boy. We hugged him, kissed him, welcomed him to the world. One of the midwives asked us what his name was, and we both immediately knew. Oliver Adam. Oliver after the “Olive Tree” which symbolized everything he was; beauty, dignity and peace, and Adam after his father. He was a beautiful. Born with a full head of hair, and the chubbiest little cheeks, he was perfect. He was calm, looking around at the world and taking it all in so confidently. At only a few minutes old, I was already so proud of him, and so proud to be his mother.
Our third stage of labor was managed. I received a shot of pitocin on my thigh after Oliver was born, and my placenta was delivered immediately after. Labor was officially done. My perineum was intact (which I was so grateful for, once again), and both Oliver and I were doing well. I was hooked up to an IV, just in case, since the birth had been a little traumatic, and my midwife wanted to be prepared and monitor me closely for the next couple of hours. EMS arrived shortly after, checked our vitals, confirmed that both Oliver and I were doing well, and after some paper work between them and my midwives, they left.
Once things settled, we debriefed about what had happened. As a bigger baby, a whole 9 lbs 8 oz chunk, Oliver experienced shoulder dystocia, which is when the anterior shoulder gets stuck behind the pubic bone during delivery. It was something we could have not foreseen, and I was so incredibly grateful to have had such an excellent birth team to have handled it so incredibly well.
I cleaned up a bit, my husband did skin to skin with his son, and my midwives made the bed with fresh sheets. We were in pure post birth bliss. I couldn’t stop smiling and was on the happiest high. I had a beautiful son, I had the home birth I wanted, and even with the scary minute towards the end, perhaps especially because of it, I had found a new strength within me, both physically and emotionally.
The world never gives you anything more than you can handle, and this birth, this beautiful birth, is what the world had given me.
My son was born in our master bedroom, in the early hours of the night while his sister peacefully slept downstairs. My little family was complete. My husband and I enjoyed our little son alone for a few hours, and when morning came, we woke his sister up so they could meet. The most beautiful moment of my life… (to be continued)
Thank you for reading xo
Penelope’s Birth Story here