The Story of How Henry Arrived.
People keep asking me about the story of Henry’s birth.
All I can tell you is that it was nothing like Ada’s birth.
Henry was like a freight train barreling through my body on his way to entering the world.
It hurt. A lot. There was so much sheer power and force. It was unreal.
I’m not sure I’ve processed the whole experience just yet.
Henry was four or five days overdue, depending on which due date you chose to go by.
The girls both made their grand entrances at 39 weeks, so I wasn’t expecting to still be pregnant days after my due date.
The wait and anticipation was killer!
This is the last belly picture, taken the day before he was born, in the bathroom at the hair salon. Rosie had just gotten her hair cut.
The following evening, the 4th of August, we ate pepperoni pizza from Sir Pizza and then went for a long walk.
My mother-in-law said those two things–that exact pizza and the walk–were what made her go into labor with Tyler. Apparently Tyler’s aunt also had the same pizza and a long walk before going into labor with Tyler’s cousin. I was feeling desperate, so I figured why not try it? I can’t normally eat pizza because it makes me sick. (Too much dairy in the cheese!)
A few hours after eating I felt fine, so we went for a walk outside. We came back from the neighbor’s garden about at about 9 in the evening.
I sat down to finish sewing some flannel wipes for the baby. Finished the wipes quickly and moved on to a pair of wool shorties.
At about 9:30 I was putting the elastic in the waist of the shorties, which is the last step, when I started to feel crampy. It felt kind of like a bad period was getting ready to start.
My other two labors felt nothing like that at all. I thought it was probably pregnancy constipation vs. mega dairy indigestion.
I was too uncomfortable to finish putting the elastic in the shorties, so I left it on the table and went to soak in the bathtub. We have a giant claw foot tub that was amazing through out the end of the pregnancy.
Before I got in the bath my mom had picked up the girls to go spend the night at her house. Ada had kept me up all night the past two nights and I was exhausted.
I was only in the tub for about 10 minutes when I had to get out a poop. A lot of poop, holy crap! (Pun intended.)
I checked my cervix and it hadn’t changed any. I was maybe 3 cm dilated. With Ada
I felt much, much better. I got back in the bath since the water was still hot.
Then suddenly I had The Cramp to End All Cramps.
It was about 10:30 by this point.
I thought for a split second that this was not indigestion.
Then Tyler came in and kept trying to talk to me, only for some reason I couldn’t form coherent phrases or complete thoughts. Not sure what happened, but my brains turned off.
He called the midwife and my doula friend. They got there around 11:15 according to the midwife’s notes.
Mush Brain still wasn’t even considering that this was labor. It was just Intensity, and there wasn’t much train of thought beyond that.
I kept having these cramps that felt like nothing in this world.
They didn’t end. There was no “contraction” with a space between. There was no time to hit the stop button on a contraction timer.
It would cramp up and peak with intensity, then just stay at the peak without releasing until a minute later the peak would go higher and reach yet another peak of intensity, and on and on and on until I wanted to crawl out of my body and hang from the ceiling in the corner.
I was an animal, in animal brain mode. Not a person with any thoughts or solid reasoning. There was only the intensity of the…pain? Not exactly pain, but power. Way too much power.
I remember at one point I felt able to speak so I screamed, “THERE IS NOTHING GENTLE ABOUT THIS!”
Ada’s birth was gentle. This was definitely not gentle.
After about an hour, around midnight, I asked the midwife to check my cervix. She had listened to the baby with the doppler, but she only does cervical checks if you request them or if there is some red flag. I was 8 cm.
At some point shortly after that I felt panicked and clawed my way out of the bathtub and ran to our bed.
Tyler had made the bed with a layer of plastic drop cloth taped over clean sheets, and then old sheets on top, and chux pads on top of the old sheets.
In the bed I felt more grounded, but also terrified that I was going to be split into by the force of these things…there really is no word for them. Contraction doesn’t do it justice. Neither does cramp, or labor pain. It was like being hooked in to some kind of science fiction vision of a glaring, brightly blazing energy portal. It was ripping the time and space continuum as it tore open my body.
There was nothing gentle about this birth. I somehow accidentally stepped into an episode of Dr. Who.
Tardis, take me away from here!
At 12:30, not too long after getting in bed, I checked myself and there was only a lip of cervix left. Just a thin piece of it in the front on the baby’s head.
My water hadn’t broken, but it was bulging there like a tightly squeezed water balloon.
I couldn’t take anymore of the intensity. It was just too much. The midwife suggested I just reach in and pop the bag of waters, and then the baby would come right out since he was right there.
You know what? My bag of water would not pop.
I am not even kidding when I say that I broke a nail trying to pop it. That bag was tough!
Then my favorite orange kitty jumped up on the bed next to me and started loudly purring in my face. He’s normally very shy and hides when strangers are here, so this was weird behavior for him.
There is a picture of us at this very moment–and it tells you two things.
1) I am petting my cat during the most intense labor ever. He knew just when I needed to be grounded back to reality.
2) The lampshade is crooked. Do you know why? At some point I was able to claw my way back to reality and away from my animal brain long enough to discuss lighting in the room and instruct people to move lamps and tilt lampshades to fix the shadows so that the doula could take proper pictures of the birth.
But back to Labor Land–
Trying to break my own water was distracting. It helped to have a task to focus intently on rather than just waiting for my body to force the baby out.
I begged the cat to loan me use of his claw so that I could just pop the damn bag of waters and get it over with! He just purred and everyone laughed at me, but dang it I was serious in that moment! Why could he not just hand over a sharp claw and get it done!
Finally ten minutes later at 12:40 the bag popped when I poked it during one of those awful peaks of intensity. There was a huge gush of clear fluid. I have never felt so relieved and elated IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
(I will remind you here that Ada’s water broke gently in a tub of warm water as I smiled through a contraction at 9.5 cm…Oh Henry, why was there nothing gentle about this??)
Immediately after his water broke there was the urge to push. Except it was like pushing out something huge and awful. You may have seen the video in which Ada gracefully rotated her way out of my vagina as I laughed on the bed.
Well, Henry didn’t want to make such a graceful entrance. Instead, oh Lord. He had his entire arm over his face with his fist up, meaning I had to birth his head with the added width of his arm, fist, and elbow.
My cervix opening is round. Henry’s head with his arm over it WAS NOT ROUND.
There was a lot of screaming about how I couldn’t do this. (I was definitely hoarse for the next two days following his birth.)
The burning. It was much, much worse than the “ring of fire” I’d experienced with my previous two births. There are no words in the english language to describe this sort of burning.
And then five minutes later I did it! His head came out!! Then there was a lot of screaming of THANK GOD THAT IS OVER!
Except we after that we just kind of sat there and stared at his head.
You know, that awkward moment when your baby’s head is just hanging out of your vagina and nothing else is happening? Yeah, that moment.
Then his head started to cry. Poor little head, where is your body? (Can you just get the eff out of me now, please??)
I rubbed his head and then there was more of something huge and unyielding trying to force its way through my body and into the world.
He had a nuchal cord as well as a nuchal arm. (Thank you son.) His cord was looped over his shoulders, making him even more difficult to eject from the womb.
But suddenly there he was, his shoulders were out! I reached down to scoop him up while his feet were still inside of me.
There was a moment of confusion as his cord had to be untangled from his shoulders so I could scoop him up,
and after that–
That’s when we got to the best part.
This part here, this moment, is why despite the intensity and complete overwhelming surge of power that wracked my body during his birth, I keep thinking like some kind of raving idiot I CAN’T WAIT TO DO THIS AGAIN!
That feeling of seeing for the first time the tiny person you nurtured inside your womb for months, the way they are warm and wet and slippery, and heavy in your arms–suddenly real and tangible, suddenly here, present in our reality. My son!
Gazing at his smushy little face for the first time as his warm body lay against my bare skin.
Wrinkled face with eyes squinting open, seeing each other face to face.
Those are the best moments. The ones you want to remember forever and re-live over and over in your heart.
Nothing else seems to matter after that.
Then of course there was the bit where you have to deliver the placenta, which is never exactly pleasant.
His placenta was a circumvallate placenta, which is some word meaning the way the placenta formed was weird and it comes with a significantly higher risk of placental abruption, hemorrhaging, IUGR, and fetal death.
They didn’t notice it at my anatomy scan. I read conflicting info about it online. It seems to only occur in 1-3% percent of pregnancies. Lucky Henry.
I never had any of those symptoms. I did feel absolutely horrible throughout the entire pregnancy, like something was terribly wrong.
Maybe that’s why, or maybe it was just a coincidence.
Either way, my little guy is here and he’s perfect. I am so very thankful for that.
I’m also thankful that despite the nuchal arm and cord I had no tears, aside from a paper cut type thing on the upper left that healed almost right away.
I also had minimal blood loss this time.
I keep sitting back and wondering–if labor contractions cannot be stronger than you because they are you, they are your body working, then where do I hide that much power on a daily basis? I need to find that hidden power source and tap into it.
I had no idea my body could be that strong. Shocking.
A couple of hours after birth, when I could bear to set him down and stop staring at him for a split second, the midwife weighed him and we cut the cord from the placenta.
He weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces and he was 20.5 inches long.
(That’s six ounces bigger than Ada and almost a pound larger than Rosie!)
(At some point here I came back to my senses, put on a shirt, and regained control of the camera!)
So scrunchy and new!
He screamed all through the newborn exam, as the separation from my boobies was simply unacceptable.
The girls came home and met him for the first time the following afternoon.
Ada squealed, “Oh look at his tiny precious finger nails! I just can’t wait to paint them!”
Rosie was very proud to be a big sister, again.
He’s a combination of Rosie and Ada. At times he looks just like either of them, and sometimes he looks like his own unique little person.
He’s very sleepy, and he poops a lot.
He’s just absolutely perfect in every way possible.
Thus ends the story of his entrance into our family–He was calm and quiet in the womb, and then he came blazing out with intense power, in only two hours time.
Now here he is, all full of sweet baby smells and squishy bits. Aaaah!
(Three days old.)