On December 26, shortly after midnight, we welcomed a new son Campbell into our family in a rather unexpected way. This isn’t the type of thing I usually write about on Toddling Around Chicagoland, but this is a story I just have to tell.
If you saw My Big Announcement in August you know we’ve been expecting our third child just around Christmas. Although I’ve always wanted to have my kids at home, for a variety of reasons we planned hospital births for both of the older boys. With Cooper I had to be induced and had an epidural (followed by Cooper spending a couple days in the NICU), and with Dexter I did lots of laboring at home, but didn’t progress well at the hospital and had an epidural with him too.
I was very excited that home birth seemed to be in the cards for this pregnancy. It was especially exciting because my cousin, Karen, is a nurse-midwife who assists with home births for Genesis Family Midwifery. The midwives, Stephanie and Christina, along with Karen, provided all my prenatal care and they were all amazing. In preparation for the birth we had to gather supplies to have on hand – extra towels, absorbent underpads (waterproof pads like the ones used to housetrain puppies), surgical gloves, an umbilical cord clamp, a baby footprint kit, etc. We also decided we’d have a pool available for a possible water birth depending on how I was feeling during labor.
The morning of Christmas Eve I woke up early with contractions. Nothing too serious, but they were pretty regular and about 10 minutes apart. I talked to Karen several times each day and kept putting off her coming to our house because my contractions weren’t very strong or close together. My aunt Colleen had agreed to come watch the boys, but I put her off too. During my last labor with Dexter I had contractions for a couple days and we finally headed to the hospital when they were 3 minutes apart; when we arrived I was 5-6 cm dilated and he wasn’t born until about 8 hours later. I was expecting a similar experience this time around.
Christmas Eve was low-key. We passed on family celebrations so we could stay close to home as my contractions continued. John tried to keep me busy but relaxed to keep my mind off the contractions – we went out to lunch (knowing we might not have the chance again soon), and when we returned home I took a nap while John took care of the boys and later put them to bed. John and I had wrapped most of the boys’ gifts and John assembled gifts beforehand (just in case!), so we were done “playing Santa” pretty early on Christmas Eve.
Christmas morning with the boys was wonderful, but a couple times I had to pause during the gift opening to breathe through a contraction. I spent the day trying to keep myself busy making dinner and some meals for the freezer. John and Karen encouraged me to take a nap later in the evening to rest up for what we expected to be a long labor throughout the night and possibly into the next day. I was able to get a couple hours sleep while John put the boys to bed before the contractions woke me.
My contractions were more intense and lasting longer, but still averaging about 8 minutes apart. I was getting tired and frustrated, feeling like it was going to be a long time, possibly another day or two, before I delivered the baby. I googled the stages of labor, hoping that there was some sign that I was beyond the early labor and into active labor, but contractions 5 minutes apart seemed to be the threshold for active labor and I wasn’t there yet. I was a little frustrated to read that early labor contractions are usually 30-60 seconds long; mine were about 90 seconds long so I felt like that was a little unfair. I complained to John that my contractions were very strong now and although I was timing them to be about 8 minutes apart, I wasn’t feeling as much relief between them as I had before; I was still feeling some pressure and tension that wasn’t entirely letting up. He suggested we turn on a meditation dvd to relax and it helped, but had to pause it a few times so I could pace around during contractions. John reminded me to relax and breath through the contractions, but it was getting harder and harder to do.
Although I planned to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart, John finally convinced me to call Karen and ask her to come over just to give me some advice and help in relaxing through the contractions as they became more intense. I imagined that I had quite a long way to go still so I felt bad calling her out late at night (it was after 11:30 pm), but I was pretty exhausted at that point and needed the additional support. Karen was happy to come and would help me through the contractions and we’d call the midwife to come as delivery became imminent.
Shortly after we called Karen (who lives about 30-40 minutes away), another contraction started and I cried to John that I didn’t think I could do it. I was exhausted and uncomfortable and imagined 8, 12, or even 24 more hours of increasingly intense contractions. He encouraged me to relax and breath again (I wasn’t listening very well at this point), and he massaged my back during some contractions which helped take my mind off of them a bit.
The next contraction started and I suddenly felt tremendous relief from the contraction. It took me a couple seconds to realize that the relief was because my body was pushing. I panicked a bit, and told John I felt like pushing. He said, “I don’t think you should do that!” I was sure I was crazy and wrong – there was no way it was really time to push already. John called Karen again to tell her about my urge to push and to get the midwife, Stephanie, on the way too. During the next couple contractions I tried not to push while John made our bed with a waterproof mattress pad and extra sheets.
Karen suggested I get down on the floor on my hands and knees with my shoulders down so there wouldn’t be as much pressure to push. I went straight to our bed, knowing that if I got all the way down on the floor I wouldn’t be able to get up again, and assumed the position, but still needed to push. John put Karen on speakerphone and she gave directions to start getting towels ready. A couple more contractions came and I tried to resist the urge to push while screaming about wanting Karen to get there fast and being sorry to John for how this was happening. Then my water broke. Karen asked what the fluid looked like (because there was meconium in the fluid when Cooper was born) and John told her he didn’t know because I still had pants on. I’m pretty sure Karen laughed at that and told us it was time to get them off, now.
As I had more contractions and started to give in to the pushing I continued to scream like a banshee while John tried to communicate with Karen between my screams. I was pretty hysterical, but John stayed as calm as could be. He told me later that he nearly fainted twice, and wanted to run from the room and throw up, but he held it together. He reminded me to breath and asked Karen questions and gave her updates. It was only a few minutes before I realized the baby was going to arrive before Karen or the midwife; John was definitely going to be the one to deliver him.
On the next contraction I stopped resisting and really pushed and his head came out. Karen explained to John that as the baby turned, the cord would be around his neck, but as long as it was loose it was okay. John moved the cord and caught the baby. After what seemed like forever (to me, John said it was only a few seconds) I heard the baby cry. John and I were both terrified (we didn’t talk about it until later though) that something would go wrong and we’d be alone and not know what to do, but everything was perfect. I sat down on the bed and John wrapped the baby in a towel, cleaned him off a bit, and handed him to me.
The first time you hold your baby is always an amazing experience; I remember how incredible it was holding Cooper and Dexter when they were first born. I only got to hold Cooper for a couple minutes before they rushed him to the NICU and between labor and delivery nurses and doctors, NICU doctors and nurses, and students, there were probably 15 other people in the room. When Dexter was born I got to hold him as soon as he was cleaned off and there were probably 5 people in the room. Holding Campbell was a totally different experience; John handed him to me immediately and I held little Campbell to my skin. John and I spent an incredible 15 minutes all alone with our newborn.
Through it all, Cooper and Dexter were asleep in the very next room. I screamed, the baby screamed, and they slept.
John’s work wasn’t done. I delivered the placenta shortly after the baby and then John had to do a fundal check/massage. Karen instructed him to feel my belly for the uterus and push hard even though I wouldn’t like it. It wasn’t pleasant and I yelled, but John did it because he knew it was important to prevent me from bleeding too much. John declined to cut the umbilical cord for either of the older boys because it was too gross, but somehow he stayed calm through the whole experience and helped bring our baby into the world. He did everything to make sure we were both safe and healthy and I’m amazed by him.
Karen arrived and clamped the umbilical cord, which John cut this time – it would seem a little silly not to after all he’d already done. She examined me and the baby, helped us get comfortable, and helped clean up. Our midwife arrived about a half hour later and we spent a few hours together, marveling at our baby and doing paperwork (okay, they mostly did the paperwork). Karen weighed and measured Campbell – 8 pounds (our biggest baby!) and 21 inches long.
John was on a bit of an adrenaline high for the next few hours, or maybe days, while I was just ready for a nap. We rested a bit and finally decided at about 2:00 am to wake Cooper and introduce him to his new baby brother. Imagine his shock waking up to a new baby in the house!
After a few hours our midwife headed home, Karen napped on the couch so she could check on me and the baby in the morning, and John, Campbell, and I spent our first night sleeping in our very own bed. (Well, Campbell and I slept; I’m pretty sure John was wide awake all night.) We introduced Dexter to his brother the next morning.
I’m so incredibly happy to have birthed my son at home. It was so wonderful to be in a place I was comfortable and relaxed, with people I knew, and know my newborn wasn’t being exposed to all the germs and bacteria present in a hospital. I got to recover from the birth in our house and had family around (thanks John, Mom, and Aunt Colleen!) to help take care of the kids, the house, and me and Campbell instead of nurses I didn’t know.
I’m also thankful we had planned a home birth because we were prepared for it; if we had planned to go to the hospital I think it’s very likely little Campbell would have been delivered in the car on the way there. I wouldn’t have chosen to deliver him unattended, but I was SO happy to have Karen assisting by phone and an amazing husband who went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. I am so thankful that both Campbell and I were healthy. It will be a great story to share with Campbell when he’s older and it was a tremendous experience to share with John. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Campbell’s growing like a weed! He’s nursing like a champ and he’s up to 9 lbs already. Cooper and Dexter love being big brothers and can’t get enough of him.
Also, I decided that since some moms get a “push present”, John definitely deserved a “catch present”. I got him a shirt that says “Real men catch babies” and a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver Wii controller.