My sweet baby Paul is six months old. Where does the time go? He’s pure delight except from 4pm-6pm when he insists on yelling (not crying or screaming) no matter what you do. He seems happy and like he’s having fun, but it’s so freaking loud. And I’m usually on edge those hours anyway.
He can almost sit up on his own. He adores watching his big brother. He grabs and chews on everything. He’s a good nurser, takes 2-3 naps a day, and wakes up 1-4 times a night. He’s almost always happy – even laughing when big brother sits on him, kicks him, smacks him, and jumps on him.
He has his 6 months appointment tomorrow so I can’t say for sure, but he’s big. Thick and chunky just like Freddy was. He’s still got hair, and his eyes are turning brown.
And now (finally!) his birth story, with lots of details so skip this part if you’re not into that sort of thing.
I saw my midwife on Monday, March 2 and had my membranes stripped as I was past 40 weeks, and due to my previous c-section, the hospital would not allow inducing or going past 42 weeks so we needed baby to cooperate. Not much was happening down there, but the baby was low, and my cervix was thinning out (probably thanks to lots of evening primrose oil!).
Tuesday, March 3 was my 33rd birthday. We went out to dinner with our friends, and I ate lots of pasta and bread and salad and dessert as you do when you are in America and super pregnant. I woke up around 1 am on March 4 to a more serious-feeling contraction. It was more like what I had been reading online – similar to menstrual cramps and starting in my lower back. I had about 5 more over the next hour when I decided that it was something different and (maybe!) the start of the real deal. I texted my Rwanda ladies since they were awake. And I woke up BB to give him a heads up but told him he didn’t need to do anything. He responded by asking me why I wasn’t in the bath and drinking wine like the midwives and doula had told me to do when I thought labor might be starting. Um, because it’s 2 am. I agreed to text Heather, my doula. Heather recommended I take some Tylenol PM and try to sleep. I did both and would just wake up to have the contractions every 10-20 minutes for the next couple hours.
At about 5 am, I couldn’t really sleep any more and was getting hungry. I just tried to start the day as normal as possible while the contractions continued. I could talk through them, make breakfast, etc. But I asked BB to work from home for a bit while we decided whether it was real or not. Heather suggested that it was probably not real labor since babies like to come at night, which was discouraging to me and was probably the reason we were frantically running around the house packing a few hours later when it was clearly “real.”
Around 11 am, things started picking up. I had to moan a bit more and stop what I was doing, and they were coming a bit faster. Freddy was painting in the bathtub while I sat on the floor, and all the bending and leaning over was causing me some more serious pain.
At about noon, BB was on a rather important phone call when I was having a more serious contraction in the living room, and Fred was climbing all over me. They were coming closer to 5 minutes apart. That’s when I told him that I needed him to stop working. He took Fred upstairs so I could concentrate, and by 1 pm I told him my mom needed to start coming over. I heard him calling my sister (who lives in the city) and telling her to cancel her plans and take a cab over ASAP. I was still hearing Heather’s prediction and not really believing it was real, but the pain was real, and I was anxious to have Bill focused on me instead of Fred.
My sister came over, played with Fred, got me some heat packs, etc. My lower back and hips were starting to hurt. I was laboring on the floor leaned over a ball. It was kind of loud and chaotic in the apartment so I moved to the bathtub with my candles and music, which was very peaceful and helped my hip pain a lot.
My mom arrived around 2:30 I think, and Heather doula wasn’t far behind her. Heather and BB took turns sitting with me in the bathroom, bringing me water and snacks. Bill was force feeding me Gatorade and Clif bars like a true marathon runner.
At about 3 pm so people were getting nervous about building traffic since it can take about an hour to get to the hospital from where we were living during rush hour. Heather (also a midwife) recommended checking my progress to see whether we could wait until after rush hour to leave. I was only about 3-4 centimeters, but the baby was really low and the cervix was thinned out so we decided to start making our way. Heather had just told BB to try and sleep for a bit. About 5 minutes after he laid down, Heather told him we were leaving.
It got super chaotic at this point. I had packed, but of course there were last minute items to gather. And at the same time, my mom was packing up Freddy to take him to her house. It was hard to move from the bath to getting dressed and leaving as my contractions were getting closer together (maybe 3-5 minutes apart).
The car ride was excruciating. BB did really well keeping his cool, navigating traffic through the city, and getting us there in record time safely. Contractions in the back seat of the car were awful and at this point were coming every 3-4 minutes.
I arrived in triage and had to be monitored for 20 minutes while this cranky nurse asked for my address for the millionth time. At this point, I was getting scared. I was tired, and things were really hurting. I had lost the calm focus of my bath and felt out of control. I started crying a bit when I was in triage without Heather and BB who were parking the cars. The nurse was telling me I had to lie down to get the monitors on. I said “I’m trying, but it hurts,” and she responded, “I know it hurts. I had two natural births back when it wasn’t trendy.” So that’s how it’s going to be.
My midwife came and checked me, and I was at 6. Wahoo! Really moving along. It was about 5 pm, I think at this point. I was able to go to the Alternative Birthing Room since I was planning an unmedicated birth – complete with large tub, exercise ball, and a queen size bed. BB quickly set up the battery-operated candles and music, turning down the lights to try and help me get back to my focus. Heather began filling the tub.
Because it was a VBAC, I had to have continuous monitoring, which was so incredibly annoying! It was wireless and waterproof so I was able to go in the tub, but those stupid straps never stayed in place. And I had to have a IV put in (not attached to anything, just the port). These two tasks took FOREVER and all I wanted was to get back in the water and try and concentrate. The monitor wouldn’t work; they couldn’t find more batteries (Bill offered to run out to the store for them). It was pretty ridiculous.
This really nice young nurse came in to do the IV, and unfortunately, I was not very kind to her. She would not stop chatting and coaching me through my contractions (as if I didn’t have enough people there coaching me!!) so at one point mid-contraction, I yelled “NO MORE TALKING!” And then she couldn’t get the IV in. Sorry….
Shortly after that, BB called out to the room “people. let’s get it together here. we’ve been trying to get in the tub for a long time,” which was also a funny moment.
At long last, I was able to get into the tub and get some relief and concentration back. I ended up being on my back a lot, which I never thought I would, but it was the most comfortable, and allowed me to be more submerged in the water. The contractions were no joke, but my hip pain was bothering me most. After an hour (or more?) in the tub, Heather suggested I get checked again and use gravity to keep things moving.
I think it was about 8:30 pm. I was at 7 cm, which was a bit disappointing since I had been laboring for about 3 hours (but not surprising with all the chaos of getting set up at the hospital), and my bag was bulging. My midwife broke the bag thereby inducing a few contractions where I may have used some foul language. Transition time!
I was super scared of transition. I kept imagining that it would get so much worse, and I was already feeling tired. I never really got that “I’m going to die” feeling, but the whole time I kept feeling scared like I couldn’t do it. But, I didn’t really have a choice. It was an interesting experiencing – unlike a hard physical exercise challenge – I couldn’t stop. My body and nature was in charge, and it was just a mental challenge to let my mind go along with it. At this point, I was basically mentally checked out. I was shutting my mind down and sleeping in between contractions.
So, we encouraged gravity to work. Walking, dancing, squatting, sitting on the toilet, sitting on the birthing stool, leaning on this huge bean bag. At one point I had to pee but didn’t feel like I could walk to the toilet, so they just laid towels down. I thought peeing on the side of the road in Rwanda would be as extreme as my public peeing would be, but apparently, you can get lower than that.
After an hour or so, I was laboring on the toilet and felt the first of the urges to push. So weird! It felt a bit relieving but so out of control. Before that, I was enjoying BB and Heather massaging my back and hips during contractions. As soon as these pushing moments started, BB leaned in to hug me, and I pushed him away violently and screamed “get off me!” He took it like a champ. Something in my brain switched, and I just didn’t want any more touching!
My midwife checked me again – 9 with a lip! Thus began one of the top three hardest times. We didn’t want gravity putting any more pressure on my cervix so I had to lie down on my side. For an hour! While experiencing excruciating hip pain. This is when I really was freaking out. Crying a bit, whining a lot. That sucked. Not my finest hour. Also, started puking. I had been having terrible heartburn all along (cheese and Gatorade may have been bad choices).
But finally, we made it to fully dilated, and I could get back in the tub to push. Hooray! I think it was about 11:15 pm. It took me a while to get the hang of pushing. At this point, the contractions were still only 3-4 minutes apart (they really never got closer than that), and I could completely fall asleep in between them. So weird. My brain was shut down, and I could only perceive a few things going on around me – almost like I was in a dream. When the baby was crowning, I could touch his hair, which was weird. They kept encouraging me to keep my hand there to help motivate me in pushing, but it wasn’t comfortable. They brought a mirror over so I could watch (again thinking it would motivate me), but it was sensory overload for me. I could feel how badly it hurt – I didn’t need to see it as well!
Finally, my midwife said she was a little concerned? interested? perplexed? by some bleeding going on and said that I needed to get the baby out on the next push or I would have to get up and move to the bed so she could examine things. (The water was turning quite red, which freaked BB out a tiny bit, I learned later). I couldn’t speak, but in my head I was thinking “show me the forklift that’s going to life me out of this tub with this head between my legs!” I think that was the motivation I needed. Two more pushes, and baby was OUT. It felt so amazing to have relief from the pressure. So crazy how the pain almost immediately goes away.
I got to hold him right away, and BB checked between the baby’s legs and said “I see a giant scrotum!” Not exactly the hallmark moment I was hoping for. I couldn’t linger in the tub long because she wanted to check that bleeding, and I needed to deliver the placenta outside the tub.
Baby Boy went to daddy, and I went to the bed to finish my work. Such sweet relief. I had a 2nd degree tear that needed repair – probably because he came out in one giant push with his hand by his face. But otherwise, we were all fine. He cried right away and was looking all around. He weighed in at exactly 9 lbs and 20 inches long. Born at 12:22 am on March 5, 2015.
It was crazy and healing and overwhelming. I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to have surgery and that I got the birth I wanted. It really couldn’t have gone better. I’m also glad no one offered me an epidural because I would have said yes. I kept trying to remember why I chose that path, and I really couldn’t in the moment. I also had such an amazing team – I needed Heather and my midwife to keep telling me that everything was normal and that I was doing great. Whenever I said “I can’t do it,” Heather would respond, “you are doing it.” That’s BB’s favorite thing to say to me now.
So, we are blessed beyond belief to have our little Paul Lawrence (Paulie, Baby Paul).