by Kendra Broo
For the past few months, I have been wondering how this birth story would read. With our first son, Arlo, we had a wonderful birthing experience. Erik and I were freshly graduated students of our Bradley birthing classes, and after an easy, enjoyable pregnancy there was no reason I was planning on anything other than a smooth labor and delivery. Fortunately for all of us it was, and we were able to have a natural, out-of-hospital birth at the local birthing center.
Fast forward to two years later. We found out I was pregnant with baby number two just before Arlo’s second birthday. Having had an easy, enjoyable pregnancy the first time around, I expected the same again. Much to my surprise, this one did not go as smoothly. I spent the first 14 weeks nauseated throughout most of the day, with fatigue so extreme at times I felt like I could barely care for our toddler. Just as the nausea started to subside, I came down with an awful case of the flu which kept me home and out of work for nearly three weeks. The rest of the pregnancy was filled with feelings of anxiety, heartburn, swollen ankles, and some pretty intense back and rib pain. None of which I had experienced before. Early in the third trimester I was told that this baby, we choose not to find out the gender this time, was in the OP (sunny side up) position, but not to worry since it was still early and he/she would likely turn by the time I was full term. Every appointment that followed confirmed that baby was still comfortably hanging out OP, and every birth story that I read about birthing a baby in this position talked about everything from extreme back labor to a long pushing phase to broken tailbones. I was doing all the exercises recommended to turn this baby, but nothing seemed to be working. In the last few weeks leading up to the birth, I had fully convinced myself that I would be experiencing a long, hard labor – likely with complications related to the baby’s position.
The actual birth story I think really starts the day before the birth. I was 39 weeks and 4
days, nearly a week longer than I went with Arlo. I was getting anxious to meet baby and starting to worry about going well past the due date. Leading up to Arlo’s birth, I had a full six days notice that labor was imminent. I had starting losing my mucous plug nearly a week before and was also having braxton-hicks contractions that were increasing in both frequency and intensity. This time around, I expected the same signals telling me that my body was getting ready for labor. But the only changes I noticed in the days before the birth were a slight increase in the braxton-hicks, which were still far too mild for me to think anything was about to happen, and an increase in pelvic pressure – although I knew both could last for a week or two before true labor started. And so, I was growing worried that I was approaching my due date without any hint that this baby wanted to exit my body anytime soon.
So, I figured I should start trying to get things moving. I went for a long morning walk with Arlo, dumped extra hot sauce on my lunch, and that afternoon I googled “natural ways to induce labor.” I read through lists of old wives tales until I came across a website that stated ” The best advice to past-due women longing for that first contraction? Skip the home remedies, eat right, rest and enjoy those last few days of pregnancy as much as possible. The safest and healthiest labor is one that starts spontaneously.” And immediately I realized how true that was. I decided to just relax and try to stop wondering when it was going to happen.
That evening, both Erik and I were unusually tired. As well, Arlo had taken a shorter than usual nap that afternoon and was showing signs of being tired well before his usual bedtime. So we put Arlo to sleep early and headed to bed ourselves, nearly two hours earlier than usual. While Erik was getting Arlo ready for bed, I had the urge to quickly tidy the downstairs living room and kitchen, despite feeling as tired as I was. When I went to sleep that night I had no idea what was about to happen next. I don’t remember having a single contraction that entire evening before we went to bed, and I certainly had no other indication that I would wake up anything other than my usual pregnant self.
It was 1:00am exactly when I felt the first contraction. My first thought as I woke up was “what the hell?! who is doing that to me??” I realized I was having a contraction, but decided immediately that the braxton-hicks were just deciding to pick up in intensity and it probably meant nothing. I dozed lightly until around 1:20 when I felt another. Slightly annoyed that I was awake so early and would probably have a hard time getting back to sleep (I had been also dealing with some pregnancy-related insomnia for the past month or two) I decided to just lay there and see what happened next. I had a few more contractions and ended up getting up to go to the bathroom where I noticed that I was losing small amounts of my mucus plug. Around that time I decided I was probably in early labor, but by 1:45am the contractions were less than five minutes apart, and growing stronger. I fought the urge to try and ignore them, climb back in bed, and turn on Netflix – my usual coping mechanism with the middle-of-the-night insomnia I was growing accustomed to.
At this point I started wrestling with feelings of what to do next. On one hand – I had a
really fast labor last time around. Active labor lasted just five hours with Arlo, and the midwives had warned me that this time would likely be much shorter. On top of that, we now had a good 45 minute car ride to the birthing center, much longer if we were to wait until later in the morning and hit rush hour traffic. But on the other hand, I couldn’t help but think about the baby’s OP position and how, in my mind, I was going to have a longer labor this time around. As well, I really didn’t want to wake anyone up – Erik, the midwives, Arlo, or friends to care for Arlo. So I decided to just labor a bit on my own. I went back and forth between the bed and the bathroom. I was timing them at this point, and they were around four minutes apart lasting around 45 seconds each. Part of me knew that I should at least wake Erik up and let him know what was going on, and the other part of me was hungry and wanted to eat. So of course, the stubborn, pregnant side of me decided to head downstairs to have a bowl of cereal before I woke Erik up. If this was true labor I was going to need to eat before things got more intense. I had no sooner set the milk on the counter top when I was hit with a contraction that brought me to my hands and knees on the floor. It was during that moment I knew what I had to do next.
Erik had been sleeping in a spare room next to ours for the final months of my pregnancy – my tossing and turning was keeping us both awake and we both slept better in separate beds. Just shy of 3:00am, I quietly tiptoed in his room – partly feeling really silly for waking him up when I was feeling completely fine between contractions, and partly thinking about the next strong contraction that was probably now only a minute or two away. I woke him up and said something like “hey, I think I am in labor and we might need to go to the birthing center soon.” He sleepily asked me if I was having contractions or if I was timing them or something like that. I don’t even know if I answered before the next wave hit and I was suddenly on hands and knees on his bed moaning my way through the contraction. Suddenly wide awake, he literally jumped out of bed saying “yup, this is happening” as he ran into our bedroom to change his clothes; he knew those moans well, having coached me through my previous labor.
I told him I wanted to eat before we left, and he was already scrambling to get things together so we could get out the door. I calmly reminded him we still needed to call the midwives to let them know we were coming. Erik called and got the answering service, who asked him questions related to my progress so they could relay the message to the midwife on-call. I was contracting every three to four minutes at this point, and after answering a string of questions he grew frustrated and I heard him (almost shout into the phone) “I don’t know, but my wife is having a baby!”
Minutes later the on-call midwife called us back and asked us the same questions again. Erik finally handed me the phone and after she heard me moan through a contraction she said to head in and she would meet us at the birthing center. Erik made us some toast at my request, all the while growing increasingly anxious and saying things like “I hope we make it there.” And eventually I started to wonder the same thing. Luckily we had already packed the car with our birthing bags and the infant car seat. I told Erik to let out our dog and to feed both her and the cats before we left as we didn’t know when we would be returning. He then ran upstairs to wake up Arlo and get him loaded into the car.
What happened next is one of my favorite parts of the story and something I never want to forget. I put on my shoes and headed into the garage, about to get into the car. I realized that I should probably try and explain what was going on to Arlo because he would likely get scared or concerned when he heard me having contractions. I opened the back door, where Arlo was already buckled in his seat, and he looked at me and asked “mommy, where are we going?” I told him simply “to meet the baby.” His eyes opened wide and his mouth formed a perfect little round shape. “Ohhhh, exciting!!” he responded with a big smile on his face. It was such a sweet, genuine response from my little guy who had been waiting for so long to be a big brother. It’s a moment I want to remember forever.
Backing out of the driveway at 3:40am, headed to the birthing center with our toddler sitting in his car seat directly behind me, felt surreal. I had never planned on going into labor in the middle of the night and in my mind if I did I was going to spend a few hours laboring at home before we left the house. When Erik started up the car, my Chris Stapelton CD started playing and instantly I was drawn into his deep, calming voice. Before I had the first contraction of the drive I restarted the CD so I could scan through my favorite songs as we drove. During the contractions, I focused on the music and lyrics and almost felt hypnotized. I couldn’t be on hands and knees and still be buckled in so I had positioned my body to be as much on my side as I could, with my head somewhat over the center console and holding on to the back of the drivers seat as I needed to. Between contractions I sang along quietly and reassured Arlo that I was doing okay and these were the noises I had to make for the baby to come. He didn’t seem too phased by the whole experience and surprisingly stayed wide awake the entire drive.
Erik was completely in driving mode – hands gripping the wheel at three and nine as we drove 80-90 mph down the nearly empty highway. During the drive I attempted to text and call my friend, Rhianna, who was on-call to pick up Arlo from the birthing center should I go into labor in the middle if the night. She didn’t wake up for the calls, but in the end it ended up being a blessing and I realized it all worked out the way it did for a really good reason.
We pulled into the parking lot of the birthing center just 29 minutes after we left the house – certainly making record time. When we had arrived to the birthing center when in was in labor with Arlo I was mid-transition and can barely remember walking inside the building. This time, I was still feeling completely normal between contractions and walked in the door like nothing was happening. Erik carried in Arlo and the midwife and nurse were just inside to greet us. I asked if he remembered which of the four birthing rooms I had Arlo in, and he pointed to one of the doors. Since we were the only people in labor at the time, I had my choice of room and was really happy we could welcome this baby in the same exact place that Arlo came into the world.
I went straight for the bed and had a contraction almost right away. I asked the midwife, Lydia, if she wanted to check my dialation status to see how far along I was. As she was checking she felt around for a little while without saying anything. I started to worry (do you see a trend here? yes, I am a natural worrier) and told her if I was only two centimeters or something not to even tell me. She said she felt the head, bag of waters, that I was 9cm, and the baby still had to move down a good bit. This was exactly where I was when I had arrived to give birth to Arlo. Erik and I exchanged glances, this was really going to happen and probably pretty soon. We were going to meet our baby and Arlo was about to become a big brother!
Being the middle of summer and almost always uncomfortably hot, the thought of getting into a warm tub did not sound appealing at all. I had used the tub for pain management during Arlo’s birth but had no desire to this time, so I stayed where I was on the bed. It felt like the contractions had started to space themselves out since our arrival at the birthing center, but since I was no longer timing them I can’t say for sure. They were still what I would call pretty moderate in intensity, I definitely had to moan and work through them but they were by no means unbearable. Between contractions I sat up and chatted with the midwife, nurse, and Erik who was sitting in a rocking chair nearby holding our slightly stunned looking toddler. I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember laughing a few times and at one point I told them we hadn’t decided on a boys name yet which somehow Erik had turned into a joke and we all laughed. At one point I almost felt silly were were all just sitting around waiting for the baby to come. Here it was, the middle of the night practically, and I was feeling completely fine between contractions. I mentioned that I felt like labor was slowing down a bit and that I didn’t even feel like I had hit transition yet. Lydia said she thought I had, and that it was normal for things to slow down sometimes upon arriving in a new place. Not two minutes later I was hit with the most intense contraction yet, and immediately after told her how I regretted saying what I had just said.
After I had been laboring at the birthing center for 30-40 minutes or so, I asked Lydia how I could encourage the baby to move down. She said what I was doing with frequent position changes would help, but we could also try the peanut ball. My friend Katie, who is a labor and delivery nurse, had told me about this special ball they often use for women in labor with an OP baby. “Yes!” I thought, let’s try that. So I laid down on my side with the peanut shaped ball between my legs to help open my pelvis. A contraction came on and the intensity was so much that I started pushing the ball away and kicking my legs to move it off the bed. Erik saw me thrashing around and immediately came to help me back to hands and knees, by far my preferred position to labor in. Sometime around this point the midwife and nurse stepped out to greet another woman who had just arrived in labor. They told us to come get them if anything changed.
After the peanut ball incident, Erik set Arlo up in a big, squishy beanbag chair the nurse had brought in for him. He put on a Mickey Mouse cartoon on his phone and covered Arlo with a blanket, hoping he would fall back asleep. We had tried a couple more times to touch base with our friends, still without success. At least at this point Arlo was totally engrossed in his show, not even caring about his laboring mom on the bed not 10 feet away. Erik was now by my side, rubbing my back and helping me work through contractions. They were taking more of my attention and I was no longer feeling “completely fine” between them, I was starting to become grateful for the rest. All of a sudden, I felt the urge to push a little so I did. At first I thought the baby had descended into the birth canal but there was no pain associated with the feeling so I was unsure as to what was going on. Immediately after the push I felt a pop and was instantly covered in warm water. My water had broken! I remained on hands and knees, stunned at what had happened. My water never broke spontaneously with Arlo so I hadn’t experienced that feeling before. Erik literally ran out the door to get the midwife and within seconds they were all back in the room.
Still not knowing what to do at that point, I simply told them “I’m all wet.” Which was pretty obvious by the puddle underneath me! The nurse quickly changed out the wet pads that I was kneeling on. I didn’t look to see what they were doing but there was suddenly a commotion at the foot of the bed, and I knew they were getting the birthing supplies ready. Lydia said to me “Kendra, I think what is about to happen next is that your baby is about to come.” I asked her if I should take off my shirt that I was still wearing knowing that we would be doing skin-to-skin immediately after birth, and Erik started to help me finish undressing. He started to help me with my bra and suddenly a strong contraction came along with the urge to push. Instinctively I wanted to fight it, I remembered how much I disliked the feeling of pushing last time and I was really wishing I didn’t have to. I gave into the urge and felt the baby move down the birth canal during what felt like a nonstop contraction. I had pushed out Arlo laying on my right side and remember liking that position so I immediately lied down and assumed the same position. Lydia told me to grab my left leg and during the next contraction curl towards her and push with everything I had. I barely remember a break from the previous contraction and it was happening again. It took every bit that I had, but our new little baby came into the world during that next push, just six minutes after my water had broken. The intensity of the actual birth was considerably more than I remembered with Arlo, and pushing him out was by far the most pain I felt the entire labor.
We had put in the birth plan that if it was possible Erik would like to catch the baby. But with as fast as everything happened, and the fact that he had his cord wrapped around his neck, foot, and hand, Lydia ended up being the one to guide him in to the world and place him on my belly. He had a short cord and couldn’t quite make it up to my chest yet. He cried loudly immediately, and seconds after he was born Erik announced, with the most proud look on his face, “it’s a boy!” I realized in that moment that I had forgotten we were about to find out the gender, something that I had always thought would be the first thing on my mind after I gave birth. I was super excited to learn that we had another sweet boy in our family, and then filled with mild concern that we hadn’t yet decided on a boy’s name.
Through the whole commotion of bringing his little brother into the world, our two-and-a- half-year-old sat quietly watching his show, either oblivious to what was going on or maybe just choosing to ignore it. Erik picked him up and asked him if he wanted to meet his brother, and at that point Arlo realized there was a new tiny person in the room and became interested in what was going on. He spent some time next to us looking at the baby but eventually wanted to go back to watching his show, which was fine because I needed Erik next to me for what was about to come next.
After the cord stopped pulsing the midwife clamped it and Erik took the opportunity to cut it. The placenta was delivered a short time after without issue. At this point, Lydia started to assess me to see if I needed stitches, and with the amount of pain that I experienced during the birth and afterwards, I was not surprised to learn that I did. I later learned that our little guy was born with both shoulders coming out at the same time (usually it is one then the other) which is the reason for the tearing that occurred. Another midwife, Carey, came into the room about this time, she was second on call and since the other laboring woman in the birthing center was about to deliver, they called her in for backup. She came into the room at a great time, and was an awesome support person during what ended up being a rather painful repair. Eventually Lydia left to go catch the baby in the room next door, and Carey took over with the stitches. After what felt like an eternity (in reality was probably something like 45 minutes), she was done and I was able to sit up and for the first time really get a good look at our newest family member. He had began rooting very shortly after he was born and had already spent a good amount of time nursing. The first thing I noticed about him was his tiny, pouty lips and round face. I fell in love immediately.
It was around this time that we got in touch with our friends who we had been calling to come pick up Arlo. They were very excited to learn that we had a boy, and said they would jump in the car immediately to come up. Rhianna wanted to know could they all come – her, her husband, and two kids, and I loved the idea of them all visiting to meet the new baby. We met John and Rhianna in our Bradley birthing class when we were both pregnant with our first babies, and have been good friends ever since. They are the closest thing we have to family in the whole state, and I was thrilled to have them all come visit during such a special time in our lives. When they arrived a bit later, Arlo was filled with so much excitement to not only see his bestie, but also to introduce them to his new little brother. He started literally jumping up and down on the bed next to me when they walked in, talking so fast we could barely understand him – “my new baby brother right there!! Baby was born! bBaby came from mama’s belly!” and we all had a good laugh. All four of the kids in the room had been born at that very birthing center, three of them in that very room! I like to think that it was a very special time for all of us.
They hung out for a bit and gave the new baby some snuggles before heading out with Arlo and the overnight bags we had packed for him. It was a little hard to say goodbye to my toddler, but he was so excited to be going to his friend’s house he didn’t seem sad at all to leave, which made for a really easy transition. In the end, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the birth and realize how awesome it was to have Arlo there to meet his new little brother right after he was born.
After bonding for a few hours with our new little guy, he was finally weighed and measured. He looked so tiny to me so I was shocked to learn he weighed a healthy 7 lbs 6 ounces! He measured in at 19.25″ long. Not long after he was born, it was shift change at the birthing center and the midwife who came on for the rest of the day was Allison, the same midwife who delivered Arlo! She was the one who did Oliver’s newborn exam, and everything checked out just fine. Erik and I spent the rest of the morning discussing boys’ names and texting family to let them know that the baby had arrived. We hadn’t wanted to wake anyone in the middle of the night to let them know I was in labor, so the first text everyone received was a picture of him and a family picture of the (now) four of us! After a few hours of discussion, we decided upon the name Oliver William. Oliver was a name we had considered with others in the months before the birth, and William is after Erik’s maternal grandfather. After getting to know him these past few weeks, I couldn’t picture him with any other name.
I am beyond thankful that we had another healthy, supported, natural (and fast!), out-of-hospital birth. Everything I had worried about in the months leading up to the birth – back labor, long pushing phase, broken tailbone due to an OP position baby, turned out to be non-issues. Oliver was not born OP, and must have turned sometime during labor. He entered the world four hours after active labor kicked in, less than five hours after I felt my first contraction, and only 90 minutes after our arrival to the birthing center. We headed home later that afternoon, and again, just as it had after Arlo was born, felt surreal walking in the door with a tiny little person who wasn’t there when we departed just hours earlier.
Welcome to the world, little Oliver! Your parents and big brother couldn’t love you any more if we tried.