As I type this, 4 ½-day-old Ridley is sleeping peacefully in my lap. We are ecstatic, in love, and so grateful to have him here! Big sister Norah is doing incredibly well and loves to help with everything, including diaper changes and comforting him when he cries. She says he is her baby! She loves him so much -- she’s been talking about him for months, and finally he is here. A real, actual person who will forever be her little brother. Wow. What an amazing time this is for us!
Now that it’s been a few days and I finally have a moment where both kids are content, I thought I would write Ridley’s birth story. I did the same for Norah and I like to look back at it every so often, just to remember the experience.
A few weeks ago, my midwife estimated that the baby was probably around 8 lbs. I had been working so hard the whole pregnancy to avoid having a big baby -- eating no refined carbs or sugars, and just eating healthier foods in general. But apparently, it didn’t work. So I just started hoping he would come soon and not get too much bigger!
My due date, December 7th, came and went. On the morning of the 8th I started having contractions every 10 minutes or so, but they weren’t very painful and weren’t getting any closer together, so I mostly ignored them. They continued all day, though, so in the evening I finally decided to let my midwife, Amy, know what was happening. She told me to rest as much as possible in case things started picking up. She also said a chiropractic adjustment may help start labor if things hadn’t changed by morning.
We had already taken a nap late in the afternoon, so we ended up staying up until around 12:15, and then I read the “40 Weeks” and “Labor and Delivery” sections of my two pregnancy books before settling in around 12:50 or 12:55...which is exactly when I got my first big contraction.
I knew immediately that this was it. I had two or three strong contractions just a few minutes apart before we started calling people. Travis’s mom would be here in 20 or 30 minutes to stay with Norah, and Amy and our doula, Laura, would meet us at the birth center. In the mean time, we rushed around getting stuff together. Mostly Travis rushed while I directed him like any good wife would do. :-) I was busy trying to find a position I could tolerate during contractions. Leaning over things was the most comfortable at that stage. Sitting was also good because it eased my lower back pain a bit.
Faye arrived just as we were about to get in the car. She wished us well as I leaned over the trunk of the car breathing through a contraction, and then we were off.
Travis slowed way down during each contraction to make the ride more bearable for me.
I am referring to my midwife’s online notes for some specific times, etc.:
“1:58 AM: Arrival at Labors of Love Birth Center”
When we got out of the car I realized I could hardly walk and could NOT stand up straight. The pain in my belly was making me hunch over. As soon as we arrived, Amy checked my dilation: 8 centimeters already!!!
“2:10 AM: Mother got in tub as soon as vitals were checked.
Membranes are intact.
Second midwife called.
Frequency and duration [of contractions] are all over the place from 1.5 to 4.3 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 39 seconds to 90 seconds. This is similar to her labor pattern with the last baby.”
I was feeling more back pain than I had during Norah’s labor, which we sort of expected since Ridley was in a posterior position. Overall, though, the pain seemed more manageable this time (thank goodness!), and the tub helped somewhat. I also was able to completely relax in between contractions. (During Norah’s birth I remember experiencing some amount of pain constantly, even between contractions.) I just laid there for a while on my left side, thinking that may encourage him to move to a better birth position.
During contractions, it helped to vocalize. I would “ah,” and as the intensity increased, my pitch got higher and my volume louder. Amy reminded me to try to keep the tone low to help myself relax enough to dilate. Once, at the end of a contraction, I joked, “Just remember, I’m a soprano!” I was staying mostly positive and was optimistic that the pain would be over soon and we would have our baby.
A few times, Amy suggested doing a “rotation,” where I would do a few contractions on one side, a few on all fours, a few on the other side, etc. It wasn’t comfortable to move around a lot, but I did spend some time on all fours.
Things are a bit of a blur to me, but I know that Travis was with me constantly, encouraging me and holding my hand. Just like my labor with Norah, he tried doing things to help make me more comfortable. I even asked him to try pushing on my lower back. But when I was in the middle of a contraction I couldn’t stand to be touched. His words and presence helped me the most.
“2:39 AM: Reports a slight urge to push with some of the contractions. Not strong or with every contraction yet.”
I remember feeling an uncontrollable urge to push when I had Norah. This time that feeling came on more gradually. It felt like things were taking forever. I couldn’t wait to get to the pushing stage because I remembered that pushing made the contractions hurt less.
“3:07 AM: Reports that pressure and slight urge to push come and go. Recommend changing positions every couple of contractions.”
I didn’t take the recommendation at that point.
3:25 AM: Rupture of membranes. (Water broke!)
3:27 AM: “Spontaneous pushing.”
I tried to figure out what position I wanted to be in to push, and ended up sitting at the end of the tub, which is what I did for Norah’s birth. (I think it’s so cool that Norah and Ridley were both born in the very same birthing tub!)
I think it was around this time that I asked if we should warm up the bath water again, but the midwives were sure that Ridley would be born any minute and it wasn’t necessary.
3:36 AM: Amy checked to see if I might still have a “lip” of cervix still in the way. I did have an anterior lip, just like I did with Norah. I tried getting on all fours again to see if that would help.
I labored a little longer and still had the anterior lip, so Amy helped guide it over Ridley’s head as I pushed. They had also done this when Norah was born. (Sorry to keep comparing.) At 3:56, Amy reported that I was fully dilated, and “continuous pushing” began.
Things were starting to go slower than we all expected, and at some point the midwives did decide to warm up the water for the birth. I was ready to be done and have the baby in my arms. I kept asking what was taking so long, as if anyone would be able to give me an answer. They were encouraging me by telling me he was moving down, slowly but surely, and instructing me to try curving around him so he would have nowhere to go but out. I tried. I didn't have any trouble putting chin to chest, but bringing my legs up to my stomach was really painful. Contractions were very intense at this point and I couldn’t stand to be touched. I think I yelled at Amy a few times. :-/ She was trying to give me a target to push toward.
“4:21 AM: Head visible.
4:22 AM: Crown.”
This part was insane for me.
When Norah was born I felt like I had control over my pushing, and I could stop and allow time for stretching when it got too painful.
This time, all of a sudden my body kicked into high gear and MADE me push his head out much faster than I wanted to. When I resisted, I couldn’t breathe, but when I went with it the pain was unbearable. This was the only time I really screamed. I remember saying, “I can’t stop pushing but it hurts SO MUCH!”
But it didn’t last long before his head was out, and I was almost done. It would only take one more contraction and he would be out.
Well, the next contraction came, and I pushed, and he stayed put. Things got scary when they decided to flip me over onto all fours. I have done enough research to know that this means the shoulders are stuck. Being on all fours opens up the pelvis to allow more room for the shoulders to pass through.
I remember Linda (the other midwife) saying, “Three minutes.” Three minutes since his head was born. I was pushing as hard as I could, and they were instructing me to push even when I wasn’t having a contraction. They were tugging on Ridley, reaching in to grab a shoulder and pulling on his head. I remember Amy saying she couldn’t tell which shoulder was trying to come out first. Travis and I were both terrified, and I couldn’t see what was going on. Travis had to watch.
Finally, at 4:25, our little boy emerged. I heard Amy say, “Come on, baby,” as she stimulated him. She reported that he was born with poor muscle tone (limp), but improved quickly. Travis says he was also purple. I stayed put for a few seconds, not wanting to see if something was wrong with him. When I was sure everything was okay, I finally turned around. I had to maneuver over the cord, which was very short.
They placed Ridley on my chest briefly, but three minutes after the birth they clamped it and had Travis cut it. I’m still not entirely clear on why this had to be done so quickly. Normally they will wait much longer. It had something to do with the cord being so short. They said it stopped pulsing quickly and they knew the placenta had detached already. I guess they did tell me afterward that once they knew it was detached, they wanted to get it out quickly so they could make sure I wasn’t bleeding profusely behind it. (There was no reason to think I would be, but they needed to check.)
Anyway, once the cord was cut, the midwives gave Ridley to Travis so they could help me get up and out of the tub. As they helped me onto the bed, I became concerned by their urgency and asked them if I was okay. They said yes and gave me some explanation that I don’t remember. They were wanting me to get the placenta out quickly, and at the time I didn’t know why. I was having a hard time with it even though it should have been a piece of cake in comparison to a 9 lb. 1 oz. baby.
Once it was out and they were satisfied that everything was normal, I was finally able to focus on getting to know my baby! Travis had been lying on the bed next to me the whole time, holding Ridley so that I could see him, but I wasn’t able to focus on him while I was receiving constant instructions.
We marveled over our dark haired baby boy, completely covered in sticky vernix from head to toe. I confirmed that, yes, he was a boy (no one had said it and that was the first chance I had to check!), and we just took it all in, including his delicious newborn baby smell. I was able to nurse him -- he latched right on! That was amazing to me because I had had so much trouble nursing Norah. He nursed for quite a while before I finally unlatched him because it was giving me such painful cramps.
Then Linda came to do the newborn exam, and of course we were curious to know how big he was: 9 lbs. 1 oz., 22 inches long, and a 14.5 inch head! (Amy told me the biggest head they’ve seen was 15 inches -- it broke the mother’s tailbone!!)
After the midwives had a chance to assess things, they were able to explain one aspect of the birth that was puzzling. Amy said that Ridley’s shoulders were not actually stuck. We could not have known this before the birth, but afterward it was discovered that because of Ridley’s size and my petite stature, my stomach muscles had separated beyond what is normal. Linda said that there were about “6 finger widths” of separation vertically down the middle of my stomach, and they think that as a result of that, once his head was out and he was down lower, I just did not have the physical capacity to push him out. The muscles weren't where they needed to be. That was evidently the trouble with getting the placenta out as well.
I am just relieved to have Ridley here, and glad that we weren't planning to have more children in the future, because I would be afraid we would have the same situation again. I’m just not built for big babies!
At least I (somehow!) avoided stitches this time! I only had a small tear, and now, at one week postpartum, I am feeling almost back to normal!
We are all doing wonderfully and enjoying our time together while Travis is on break for a few more weeks! And just today, interacting with both of our children, a blissful feeling of completeness swept over me. The last piece of our family puzzle is firmly in place now, and I can’t wait for all the new experiences to come. But for now I’m more than content to snuggle my sweet baby boy as my little girl -- big girl! -- consistently blows my mind with her understanding of the world.
This is all I could ever want.
Ready to go home!
Norah Meeting Ridley