Our first son, Adrian, was born at home in 2017 with the most incredible birth team that helped us feel safe and supported throughout the entire process (prenatal, birth, postnatal). We loved and looked forward to all of our appointments with our midwife and student midwife team so the second I got a positive pregnancy test, she was the very next person I notified. I was thrilled when she was available and told me that our same student midwife would still be with us throughout my pregnancy and birth. Yay!
Much of my second pregnancy felt exactly the same as my first. The timeline, the symptoms, the aches and pains, even my final blood pressure reading was exactly the same at my last appointment! I went into my final weeks of pregnancy assuming it would end the same as my first (or even earlier!). Guess what happens when you assume? 😉 I figured I would have this second baby boy at 39 weeks at the latest. By the time that week hit, I felt (mentally) overdue. The last week of pregnancy allowed me to develop another layer of empathy for women that go post dates as you really feel like a watched pot trying to boil. Well-meaning friends, family, neighbors, coffee baristas are all checking in on you all day every day. Looking back on it, I feel like I need a shirt that says “Sorry for what I said during my last week of my pregnancy”.
My estimated due date was May 8th so last couple months of pregnancy were when everything with the COVID-19 pandemic had started to ramp up in our area. I was watching it all closely for how it would impact our work and home life but wasn’t seriously worried about much in terms of our birth plans changing as I had seen for families planning to birth in a hospital during these uncertain times. Our regular appointments turned virtual (unless there was any concern or need to be seen in person of course) and right around 32 weeks Ingrid and Miranda let us know that based on their research and current knowledge of the Coronavirus, they no longer felt the birth pool as a safe option. I was devastated. It’s such an odd time to process impacts of this pandemic because on one hand, of course you are upset with change and you’re mourning it for yourself and then on the other, you know it’s a drop in the bucket compared to other’s pain and suffering. However, I’ve come to realize it’s all relative.
My mind was reeling, and I almost blurted out that I wanted to go to the hospital and have an epidural and get it over with! The birth pool was a huge source of comfort for me in my first birth and when people ask how I did it medication free, I remind them that the birth pool is a home birth epidural! 😊 I overwhelmed myself with the thought of not having a pain coping mechanism and the extra pressure I felt to stay out of the hospital no matter what. I spent the rest of my pregnancy looking into guided labor meditations, mantras and some hypnobirthing techniques.
Like a lot of society, I was working from home in the final months of my pregnancy and due to the nature of my work and the pandemic, I was on an intense project that was all-consuming in many ways. Even though my midwife, Ingrid, had insisted I scale back to keep my blood pressure under control, I just couldn’t manage to do that. This was the first time in two pregnancies that I didn’t heed her advice as much as I tried and she (understandably) wasn’t pleased. Times like this, I’m always reminded why we hired the midwife we did; she’s loving, caring when we need her to be but she will not let you off the hook when it comes to health and risk including anything and everything along the lines of prevention. We had worked very hard to keep my blood pressure under control and as it started to creep up, she ultimately strongly encouraged me to start my maternity leave since I couldn’t manage to scale myself back while at work. I took her advice to, at the very least, avoid another scolding. So I started my maternity leave the day before my due date and unplugged my laptop to spend the day with my husband and our toddler. I was worried this would make me even more anxious waiting for birth to start without work to distract me but we had a really great weekend. Mother’s Day was on Sunday and we had a nice, relaxing day.
Ingrid and I had talked about taking castor oil at my previous appointment and she said she supported me taking it whenever it felt right. She explained to my how castor oil works in the body and the longer I waited, the more likely it would be effective. Finally, that Sunday evening, I texted her to say that I was ready! She had covered the process with me previously about how to take it (with ice cream!) and that it would jump start labor if my body was ready and that if it wasn’t, I may have some side effects. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t forcing anything in my body before I was ready; just giving a little nudge over the cliff as I felt like I was dangling anyway. 😊 Ingrid and I texted a bit about the plan and she said to connect with her in the morning if nothing was in the works.
That night at 8:30pm, I made my castor oil ice cream smoothie and hung out on the couch to watch TV with my husband, Brian. As per usual, I fell asleep within 7 minutes. He woke me up at 10:30 to go upstairs to bed. I went right to bed and immediately regretted it as I felt restless in my legs. I had a nightly ritual of taking a CALM magnesium drink or Epsom salt bath and then doing about 30 minutes of bedtime yoga to help me sleep well. I decided to take a quick Epsom salt bath and go right back to bed because I wanted some quality sleep just in case. While I was in the bath, I started to get pains and they felt at the time, just like an upset stomach. I wasn’t too surprised since I know the side effects of castor oil can bring this. I got out and realized that my stomach pains were coming on strong and disappearing. It took me about 3 instances of this for it to click that maybe I should time these to see if there was a pattern. I timed my first contraction at 10:58pm. It was about 45 seconds long and the next one started just 35 seconds later.
In my head I could hear Ingrid talking about how we need to wait for longer contractions, so I put my head phones in and listened to some “early labor” mantras I had saved on my phone. I remember thinking to myself, I really need to get in a good headspace here because these are already intense. With each contraction, I tried to relax all the muscles in my body including my pelvic floor and I could actually feel the baby descending. I walked back into my bedroom at 11:07pm and woke Brian up. I didn’t want to say I was in labor because I was afraid it would scare it away (logical). He asked what was going on and I said maybe we should call Ingrid and let her know that she may have to come over tonight. I decided to get in the shower and let the hot water run on my back.
On the phone, Ingrid asked about the timing of contractions and what all was going on. I was hanging over the backside of our tub with the water running on my back in the shower and after what felt like the 23rd question Brian relayed to me I snapped, “Stop asking so many questions!” and I remember thinking ‘wow, you are already losing it, Katie!’. Brian walked back in the bathroom and said “Do you want Ingrid to come?” and I couldn’t think of an answer. As intense as it all felt, I was still mentally preparing for a long-haul labor or at least a few hours. I’m not sure what made Ingrid decide to come right away but Brian came back into the bathroom and said Ingrid’s on her way. I thought it was odd as she’s usually pretty conservative about timing and wondered what she knows that I don’t. Ha!
As soon as Brian hung up, I asked him to call Nicole, our birth photographer and tell her Ingrid is coming. I got out of the shower for a minute to “tidy up” my room which is just as ridiculous as it sounds given the timeline. I got back in the shower and asked Brian to turn up the water heater so that I didn’t run out of hot water because I planned on running it “all night”.
Brian was running around the house unlocking the front door for everyone, turning up the water heater, and making my phone calls. The next contraction I yelled (to absolutely no one as the room was empty) “This really sucks!”. On the next contraction, I felt my body start to push. I thought “WHOA!” and all of sudden, I felt a pop and water gushed out in the shower. I yelled “Brian! My water broke!” My first thought was about how I’ve always wanted to say that. With my first labor, my water never broke on it’s own and I always wondered what it would feel like. Then I remembered how quickly Adrian came after my water was broken and that’s when I realized my birth team wouldn’t arrive in time for the birth. Everyone asks if I was scared and honestly, I was sad but only because I knew I wouldn’t have actual birth photos and because I wouldn’t have the company of my team all night like I had with my first birth. Knowing what I know about birth, I felt confident the baby would for sure come out regardless of who is in the room and that they would all arrive shortly after, so I wasn’t concerned with safety. I have read and listened to hundreds of birth stories including ones that were unplanned and unassisted. In fact, my sister in law and my mother in law both had unassisted home births due to precipitous labor. My husband was born on his couch at home – unplanned!
Although it had already crossed my mind that our baby would be arriving before the birth team, I hadn’t processed it fully to verbalize it to Brian. I also thought I could be wrong, and the contractions were so STRONG I couldn’t wrap my head around much. I asked Brian to apply some back pressure during the next contraction. As he did, I could feel that I was crowning, and I yelled “Stop! He’s coming out!”. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Brian’s face in that moment. It was a mixture of terror and shock. I’ve also never heard him use the voice he did when he repeated ‘Oh my god’ over and over as he fumbled for his phone. I told him it was ok and that he’s definitely coming out on the next contraction, so he needs to be ready to catch him.
Brian said he was calling his sister who lives just a couple blocks away. In the moment, he was really struggling to figure out how to make a phone call. I gave him a little pep talk reassuring him he could handle this and just to catch the baby so he doesn’t fall into the bath tub. I also asked if maybe he wanted to call Ingrid instead? But I could tell nothing was really getting through to him. He asked if I could turn around to get a better angle as I was still draped over the back of the shower and I said “absolutely not!”. I was, after all, the one actually birthing the baby so I was definitely going to stay where I was comfortable 😊
The next contraction came just as Brian got his phone to dial which he threw to the ground. Our baby, Conrad, came out in that last push and I turned around while navigating the umbilical cord and sat down in the tub as Brian handed him to me. Brian then picked up his phone that had his sister on the line who heard the whole thing since his phone fell to the ground. All he said was come over and hung up. What a bizarre phone call for her! Conrad was born at 11:30pm – just around 30 minutes after my labor started. He initially wasn’t crying at first and was really purple. It felt like an hour but was more like 30 seconds to when he started crying and pinking up. Brian called our midwife to let her know she missed the show. She said to hang out in the tub until we got there unless I felt the urge to push the placenta out. Shortly after, Brian’s sister arrived and then our photographer, Nicole. I could see the excitement yet disappointment even through her mask. I had been talking with her about how scared I was without a birth pool and she had been telling me I wasn’t likely going to have time for a birth pool anyway. She may have manifested a precipitous birth for me. 😉
Once the midwives arrived, I delivered the placenta in the tub and we moved to our bedroom for full evaluation, measurements, etc. Ingrid was able to calculate Apgar scores based on our explanation, what she heard on the phone and photos immediately after birth. Everyone was healthy and tearing was surprisingly less than my previous 14-hour birth.
As we were doing exams and touring the placenta, Nicole offered to stay overnight and capture some photos of our son Adrian meeting the new baby in the morning. It’s something I never thought of and there’s no way I would have had my mind together enough in the morning to even grab my phone. I’m forever grateful for those photos and video to commemorate such a big event for him and us!
After everything wrapped up and we were all tucked into our bed, we found ourselves at 2:30am in our room, going to bed once again for the night but this time with another tiny human in the room. We lay there in the dark for a couple minutes before Brian said, “What. Just happened.” We were both wired and couldn’t sleep if we wanted to. We tried to process it a bit and eventually drifted off to sleep. The lesson I feel that I learn over and over as a parent is that assumptions and plans and ideas all go out the window so often. Babies come when and how they feel like it and that seems to set your stage for the rest of your time parenting them. So far, his birth has been the wildest part of our time with baby Conrad and we’re hoping it stays that way. 😊
Here is the link to the video Nicole made of our oldest meeting the baby! Click Here