This is the story of Henry’s beautiful birth and a picture of God’s grace. If the word “placenta” makes you feel squicky or bored, please move on.
My pregnancy with Henry was not quite as blissful as with Conley, but it was pretty close. Even at the very end when people were throwing pity parties for me right and left, I still felt really good. I know I was big as a house—partly due to Henry’s size, partly due to my (lack of) height, and partly due to the fact that I don’t eat salad—but I felt good. So I’ll just jump into the story on Monday, 10/22, seven days after my due date and four days before his birthday, Friday, 10/26.
The midwives ordered a sonogram to make sure all was well. Henry looked great and still had plenty of fluid around him. Size is so hard to judge at the end, but their best guess was 9.5 lbs, which sounded reasonable to me considering Conley’s birth weight. They monitored me for about 20 minutes and I watched Henry’s heart rate. There was another line below that one and I didn’t know what it was. For most of the time, it was in the single digits, but then every now and then it would jump up to 75 or so. When the nurse came in, she asked if I was feeling my contractions! Duh!
I feel like everyone describes those early contractions as a tightening of your whole tummy, but I didn’t feel them that way. To me, they just felt like pms cramps, and they weren’t all over my tummy. Once I knew that those were contractions, I started identifying them more. I had 3 or 4 in the 20 minutes of monitoring and they continued after that every 5 or 6 minutes or so. But they were still very brief and mild, and easy to ignore or miss altogether. I knew that could go on for days.
Nine days late. A friend of mine suggested I try rubbing castor oil on my feet. I’ve heard of drinking it and knew I wasn’t that desperate, but I figured I’d give it a try on my feet. Couldn’t hurt.
Castor oil myth debunked!
Had my weekly midwife appointment with Candis and I was measuring a 4! I was thrilled because I still hadn’t had any pain to speak of. I decided to let her strip my membranes (separates the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus and can induce contractions). The cramping became harder to ignore, but still nothing to complain about.
Candis said I would either need to be induced Monday or have another sonogram. After talking with Jamie, our doula, I called Obstetrix the next morning and scheduled a sono for Monday, but she thought it was a pointless exercise—after hearing about my appointment, she guessed something would happen in the next 24 hours.
We went to Café Brazil for dinner to satisfy my never-ending pancake craving. It was freezing outside and I was feeling silly and updating Kendrick each time I felt a new contraction. We were full of anticipation, if not confidence.
Sent a text to Kendrick at work that my contractions were getting stronger. He said he could come home after lunch if I needed him. I told him to tentatively work toward that goal.
Text to K – “Contractions are erratic. I think we still have time.”
(Last day with my only baby.)
Text to K – “Any chance you could sneak out a little early?” At this point, I was feeling more desperate than my texting tone implied. Probably should have made that clear at the time. He left at 4:15 and my mental math put him home by 5:30 at the absolute latest—probably sooner.
I am getting really antsy and really annoyed. The contractions are manageable, but clearly increasing in intensity, and trying to focus on Conley in the midst of it was starting to overwhelm me. I was getting emotional.
Text from K – “Stopped at Walgreens to pick up candy for the photographer.” REALLY?! “Just please hurry.” I gritted my teeth and cursed in my head.
Shortly after Kendrick got home, we made the decision to call Jamie and let her know we probably needed her. That call always feels like a giant guess, but I’m glad we did. She and Lynsey, our photographer, arrived maybe around 7:00 – 7:30 or so. At this point, I knew I was definitely *in labor*, but I was still able to work through the contractions really well and was happily talking in between. Sweet Conley was clueless, and probably a bit confused, but he put on a big show for our company, rolling around like a madman in his puppy pajamas on our bed. Kendrick’s mom came to pick him up for us around 8:00pm.
Not long after, I asked Jamie when it was time to think about the hospital. Our perspective was so skewed after Conley’s days-long labor that it was hard to imagine that it could already be time—I was mostly just looking for someone to tell me what the next step was. She said it was time though, and judging by the look on her face, I could tell she knew something I didn’t. What I know now is that Jamie was worried we didn’t understand how quickly labor seemed to be moving.
And she was right. We checked into the hospital at 9pm and Summer was the midwife on call. She checked me and declared that I was 9cm dilated! What the what?! I don’t think I can even put into words how shocked I was. Anticipating a surprise, our photographer was videotaping the moment and captured my mouth dropping open, eyes bugging out, and me telling Summer to “SHUT UP.” It was truly unbelievable. To give you an idea of how relatively comfortable I was, I called Obstetrix from the car on the way to the hospital to cancel Monday’s sonogram. Now that is presence of mind!
I was thrilled when we checked in to hear that the suite of rooms with the big birthing tub was open, and after Summer checked me I was able to jump right in. It was uh-mazing! The water felt so good and Jamie held the sprayer on my back. At one point, I remember telling her I felt like I was at the spa! I was still chatting in between contractions and was giddy from the 9cm news. I was having a good time! (I can hardly believe the craziness of this story! God is so good!)
I’d guess we hit transition about a half hour after I got in the water (goodbye, spa day!) and that’s when things go fuzzy for me. Faceless nurses came and went; words were spoken but I couldn’t discern them—things had gotten intense. Kendrick taped the Scripture cards I’d made to the side of the tub and Summer prayed over me as I labored. I tear up just thinking about the sweet support I had. I think I had to push for about 45 minutes or so, and let me tell you, whoever called water nature’s epidural has never had science’s epidural because there is no comparison! But still—an hour or so of pain and screaming (and oh, there was screaming) doesn’t seem like much to complain about.
At the very end, Henry’s big, man-sized shoulders got stuck. His head had been out for a minute or so when Summer had to ask me to stand up in the tub so she could pull the rest of his giant body out. I hated that and felt so sure that I was going to fall head first out of the tub, but I didn’t, and I’m so thankful that Summer knew just what to do.
Henry emerged! They helped me sit back down in the tub and I cuddled him victoriously against my chest. The pain was real and raw and fresh, but still so much smaller than the elation and wonder and awe that I felt. Summer waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then gave the scissors to Kendrick to cut. They led me to the bed where she delivered the placenta and quickly stitched up my second degree tear. The nurses checked Henry over.
I think Kendrick and I were the only ones in the room who weren’t clued into the fact that this was a huge baby, but I thought it was a joke when they told us he was 11 lbs 13.6 oz. It literally just wasn’t computing in my head. I can’t say which moment was a bigger shock—hearing I was 9cm dilated or hearing how much he weighed.
The whole story still makes me shake my head in disbelief. I couldn’t have fathomed this after the long, drawn out labor I had with Conley. Until it happened, I wasn’t sure if God would be so good as to bless me with the water birth I longed for two years ago, or if I would have the fortitude to do it without drugs. But God is and was exceedingly, abundantly, overwhelmingly good, and gives the BEST gifts to his kids.
Unlike Conley’s birth, when both our families camped out overnight in the waiting room for his arrival, we were alone at the hospital when Henry was born. Alisa was able to come meet him late Friday night for a bit, and everyone else trickled in as soon as they could in the next couple days. My brother and sister even drove 13 hours each way to surprise us(!) and meet our sweet boy. What precious memories!
Henry, your birth was a miracle in so many ways. I am still praising God for your precious life and for the amazing way you entered the world. I know I couldn’t have it done in my strength—God’s gracious hand brought you into the world, and it was my privilege to share the start of your story. You are already so loved, you special tiny boy!
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.