Here’s the facts: We were delivered of a baby boy on Tuesday, the 16 of June 2015, on my second day of maternity leave. I was 39 weeks pregnant. Thaddeus joined the world at 11:55 PM, born into an inflatable pool of warm water in the kitchen, where the table usually rests, while his older brother and sister slept upstairs in their bedroom. When Archer was born, one of the first things I noticed his cleft chin. With Era, I noticed her cheek dimple. With Thaddeus, the first thing we said was ‘Look at his hair!’ And LOOK AT IT! What a glorious head of hair he has. I have to say, that the whole heartburn / hair old wives’ tale checks out this time around.
The last 20 weeks with baby Thaddeus have been an incredible journey, and I have so much I could say about them. But I want to remember some things about the day he was born. In some ways, it seems so uneventful. It took me awhile to publish these words I wrote many weeks ago. In a draft I wrote while pregnant (and never published, for shame), I reflected that I know now what I like during labor (a quiet, darkened room, no clocks, no cameras) and that I was most looking forward to the moment at the end, scooping the baby out of the pool, wrapping them up in towels, and the cuddle on the couch. Giving birth is a my favorite drug and every time it is incredible.
A quick note on the pregnancy: I was so tired this pregnancy. I could easily come home from work and fall asleep on the couch after dinner while the kids were playing before bedtime. Funnily enough, the main reason that I thought that Thaddeus was a boy (we didn’t find out) was that tiredness was my main pregnancy symptom, as it had been with Archer. With Era, I had morning sickness (more like all day nausea) for the first trimester, and when I was tired this time around and didn’t have morning sickness I felt certain this was a boy. And when I saw his face on the 3D ultrasound at 20 weeks I thought it looked like a boy’s face!
So back to the beginning: 20 weeks ago, I woke up feeling restless. I hadn’t slept well the night before, as had been typical for the last few weeks of this pregnancy. The evening previous had been uncomfortable – in this pregnancy, more than the previous two, I felt very aware of the position of the baby’s head in my pelvis and the night before I felt like baby’s head was moving downwards and the feeling was a mild version of being split in two. Baby’s head had been engaged for over a week and my midwife was surprised that I hadn’t delivered already. As I wandered the house in the middle of the night, I pre-emptively went in to the water heater and switched it on to generate a full tank of hot water—I had the feeling that I was soon going to be filling up a birthing pool.
So when I woke up the next morning, I wasn’t too surprised to see that there was signs of labor. I texted my midwife, and she responded with cautious excitement, reminding me that it can still be a few days for some women. Spoiler alert: she told me later that after she got my text she turned to her partner and said, I’m going to be at a birth tonight.
Bradley took Archer off to school and when he came home I asked him to take some pictures of me so that we would have a few for posterity. I put on a clean shirt and we snapped some photos up in the garden and the treehouse. I was stressing over who would watch the children if I went into labor as Aunt Janna wouldn’t arrive until the next day (Wednesday morning). So Bradley called a church friend to ask if she’d be willing to take the children if needed, and of course she said yes.
When Archer came home from school after lunch, I was still very restless. I needed to get out, I kept telling Bradley that we should go for a walk or something. I may have been a bit dramatic, IT MAY BE OUR LAST DAY AS A FAMILY OF FOUR! Finally at around 3:30, we decided to walk the Mass Path, a walking path that starts in our town and follows the Liffey River up to a beautiful cemetery in the countryside. As we were preparing to leave the house at 4ish, I had my first contraction. But we headed out anyway, because I’ve read all the hippie birthing books (Ina May Gaskin, Birthing from Within, and the like) that recommend you engage in some kind of project or activity while labouring.
I had mild contractions during our walk. We came home and gave the children dinner. My contractions continued, ranging from 15 to 30 minutes apart, and at times they were painful enough that they gave me pause. I asked Bradley to help with putting the kids to bed, because I wanted to get some oxtail stew in the slow cooker for Janna’s arrival tomorrow (moar labor projects). I even set up the slow cooker in the breakfast room (which has a door that closes) so that I wouldn’t have to smell it during labor. So practical! I snuck outside at 7:30 to phone my midwife Liz and tell her that I had been having contractions for a few hours, and she asked me to make sure to phone her as soon as I was having contractions less than 10 minutes apart, as she was pretty sure that I would go quickly with my third baby. She said she’d phone me back at 9 or 10 if she didn’t hear from me to see how things are going.
Throughout all this, I kept wondering when things were going to speed up. So far, my contractions weren’t causing me a lot of bother. I thought maybe my body was waiting for the kids to go to bed, so after they fell asleep at around 8 I expected to snap into active labor but that wasn’t the case. My contractions slowly increased to about 10-15 minutes apart, and I told Bradley to inflate the birthing pool in the kitchen at 9 PM. But when Liz phoned me back at around 9:45, I had to say that although they were coming closer, they were not less than 10 minutes apart. Liz advised me that third labors can be a bit like first labors, and that I should sit down and rest for awhile and see how things went. So we pulled the couch, opened a packet of my favourite crisps and poured some ginger ale that I had been saving for labor, and started watching an episode of one of our shows. Of course, that was just what my monkey brain was waiting for, for me to surrender to the process. I promptly had a contraction at 10 PM and another 4 minutes later, at 10:04. Bradley said, ‘Those were pretty close together!’
By 10:25, I had to crawl up the stairs to the bathroom through heavy contractions, and I phoned my midwife from the bathroom floor. She said ‘I’m leaving immediately, I will be there in 40 minutes’ and I came back downstairs to tell Bradley that a) Liz would be here at 11:10, and b) to start filling the birthing pool.
Liz arrived at 11:11 and came in to Bradley filling up the pool in the kitchen, while I was laboring in the darkened living room. Generally, I rocked through contractions on my knees, with my hands resting on the couch. I had adopted a very similar position for my labors with Archer and Era, and hands and knees is my preferred position. By 11:30, I was begging to get into the pool. It was mostly filled, although Bradley was boiling water in the electric kettle to top it up with hot water.
As I sank into the warm pool, the relief was palpable. My midwife commented that she is always a bit jealous of mothers when they get into the pool. My contractions, which were coming fast and furious, slowed down and I didn’t have a contraction for over five minutes later. Both Bradley and Liz told me afterwards that they were worried my labor was slowing! The second midwife arrived at while I was in the pool. Within my first few contractions in the water, my waters broke and I soon had the urge to push. I called out to Liz, who was out in the living room. She came in and encouraged me to do whatever felt natural. For the first time, I never had an internal examination for the entire labor.
As I was pushing, I thought to myself ‘Well, this wasn’t that hard!’ Even though I had been in labor since 4 PM, my period of active labor was less than 2 hours. So that’s my ‘It gets better’ PSA – the third labor was much easier than the first and the second, for me anyway! I heard Liz say, ‘Well baby are you going to be born today or tomorrow?’
With a few pushes, I delivered the baby’s head and then my contraction finished. It was a new experience for me, to deliver a head and have to wait for the finale! I anxiously asked Liz if the baby was ok, as I waited for another contraction to come for the final push. Bradley and Liz assured me that he was fine. Of course, the next contraction brought the rest of the baby out at 11:55 PM, and I sat up and scooped a pink baby out of the water. I peeked to discover that it was a baby BOY and we greeted Thaddeus by his name.
I held him in the water, still connected to his cord, and then we exited the pool together and retired to the couch. Our second midwife emptied the pool and cleaned the kitchen and started a load of laundry while Bradley and I marveled at baby Thaddeus. He stayed in my arms for over an hour and he latched on to nurse for awhile. When he latched on, I noticed his unique right ear, with a crease in his earlobe. I said ‘He has a hole in his ear!’ which definitely got the midwife’s attention! Thankfully it is purely cosmetic, and not medically concerning. When I got up from the couch, I had my first physiological third stage of labor (i.e. spontaneous delivery of the placenta, as I had been given a shot of Pitocin to induce placental delivery for my two previous home births), and the cord was clamped and cut. When I was ready to let him go, we weighed him and found out that Tad was our smallest baby yet, at 6 lbs 8 oz.
We were too tired to make many phone calls, but both grandparents got a call at 2 AM our time with instructions to keep the news a secret. We took Thaddeus up to bed. At 4 in the morning, Archer must have heard Thaddeus cry and came into our bedroom (which isn’t typical for him, as he always sleeps through the night). As he sleepily ruffled the blankets to find me, I said ‘Archer, I had a baby! This is your baby brother!’ Well, that was just too much for his sleepy brain to comprehend. He looked at me with a bit of shock and then ran back into his bedroom and wasn’t heard from for the rest of the night! I thought maybe I should follow him, but he was quiet and seemed to be back to sleep so I let it go. When we asked him about it the next day, he said that he went back in to the kids’ bedroom to check and see if Era was in her bed. I think when I said, this is a baby, he thought it was Era!
In the morning, the children woke up and came into our bedroom. The discovery of a brand new baby born while you are sleeping is better than Christmas. Era was born in the wee hours of the morning while Archer was sleeping and having him wake up and discover her is one of my best memories and one of my favorite things about a home birth. I was kicking myself that I didn’t have our nice camera upstairs, but I managed to grab this camera phone shot. I loved watching Archer gently stroke his baby brother’s hand in wonder.
It was a busy day. Aunt Janna, who was coming to spend a month with us, was due to arrive in the Dublin airport at 6:30 AM and we expected that Bradley would have to collect her from the bus stop on the way to take Archer to school. While we considered leaving Archer home for the day, it was the day of his big year-end school trip to the Children’s Museum in Dublin and he had been excited about it for days. So Archer was sworn to secrecy and he did such a great job not spilling the news to Janna in their short car ride together from the bus stop to Archer’s school! Janna arrived in the door – the only person we got the chance to surprise with the baby. It was a joyful tear-filled moment that was captured in a few blurry photos. And then the real adventure began…but that is a story for another day.