What a difference a week makes. One week ago, I posted that I had come to terms with the decision that it was baby-day. I had been wrangling with the thought for weeks – could I patiently wait for him to come on his own? I had already made it one week longer than I did with my first rainbow, but sleep was starting to elude me and I knew it was time. So, we packed our bags, and at 10:15am, we headed over to my midwife appointment with every intention of starting our induction at the birth center just a block from our house.
Much to our pleasure, my midwife checked me and I was 4cm, baby was well applied and we all felt good about nudging him out that day. He had rolled himself over to my right side when I spent the morning cuddling my toddler (who almost never calls out for my cuddles in the wee hours anymore, but I think he knew something was happening), so I needed to spend a little time getting baby over to my left side for optimal positioning. We unpacked our bags in our birthing suite and were given the option to go home to get him to turn or to hang out. We were so comfortable in the beautiful space, so at ease already, that we decided to wait there. I spent the next 2 hours in child’s pose and then laying on my left side, slowing getting baby boy worked over to where we wanted him. By 12:15pm, the midwife felt that he was moved over enough and we were ready to get the party started.
Everything about the birth center experience was already shaping up to be so different from my hospital inductions. It was like being at a beautiful resort, surrounded by people that truly love and care for you, having nurtured you through this time, hearing your anxieties, knowing what delivering this baby safely means to you. We had wonderful care with our prior deliveries, with great nurses and the best doula in the world, but this was different. Instead of laying back in the hospital bed, in a gown, legs up for the doctor to break my water, I sat on a birthing stool with my midwife in front of me. Her assistant used the doppler to get a good read on baby as my midwife oh-so-gently felt baby, pressing gently on his head to get him to spin on her fingers and get the perfect place to break my water. It was all so calm, with my husband sitting next to us and the midwife speaking to my baby about everything she was doing. Once my water was broken and she could feel baby’s head nestled against my cervix, it was time to see what my body wanted to do – and it wanted to start contractions!
Once upon a time, laboring at home was something I obsessed over. I dreamed about it with Layla – she had been due mid-December and every picture in my mind included laboring in front of our Christmas tree through the night, our doula there and then heading to the hospital when it was time. Nothing about tragic ultrasounds and immediate inductions and heading home empty-handed in the middle of November, blocking out everything about the holidays instead. With our rainbow, I knew I couldn’t labor for a moment at home – I needed constant monitoring. I thought this time being at home was something for me to ‘reclaim’, but we were just so happy, so safe at the birth center, so we settled in, turned on our playlist and I paced and danced and sang through the light but regular contractions.
Another reason I loved the birth center so much? It was lunchtime, and that meant I could send my husband out for a gigantic order of sushi to fuel my efforts. I happily sat on my ball, stuffing my face, smiling and talking through contractions – which should have been my first sign I wasn’t in real labor. Before I knew it, my belly was full, my eyes were heavy and my contractions had died down. We decided to climb onto the bed, do a little massage to get the oxytocin flowing, and before I knew it, we were both fast asleep and the midwife was poking her head in to check on us.
It’s now 4pm and labor has all but died off. We decide to talk about options for moving things along. I had done a little pumping the night before to see if I could kickstart labor, and I knew that it triggered contractions right away. She also offered a castor oil smoothie, and I have to say, I had been pretty opposed to castor oil because of the horror stories I had heard. I asked her about meconium aspiration, which I knew to be the biggest risk, and we had a long talk about what triggers babies to release meconium in the womb, something she had never experienced when using *a particular blend of castor oil and protein, consumed over a specific period of time, at a certain phase in labor* to move things along. I felt very comfortable (and eager) with her recommendation and hopped in the shower to get some warm water flowing before pumping while she blended my smoothie. I hopped on the yoga ball, all cozy from my shower, lights dimmed, music going, and started pumping. And just like that… I was in labor. It only took a few pump-induced contractions for them to keep pace, before I had even drank half my smoothie. These contractions were strong, but there was still something about them that was enjoyable – I think it was the sense that it was all happening. I finished my smoothie and we turned up the music. I moved around the room, breathing through each contraction, and waiting for the castor oil’s anticipated effects, which turned out to be much more gentle than I had expected. Perhaps it was the stomach full of sushi rice that it was up against.
Within an hour, labor was in full force. I really wanted to have this baby in the tub, so we drew the water as the contractions got stronger and stronger. Getting into the warm water was amazing and I found so much peace floating there, using the same playlist we listened to with my first rainbow, singing through the contractions and learning which songs were better than others for those long, low tones you really need. My midwife team was in regularly to check in on us, and before I knew it, they were staying longer and longer and making moves to prepare the room for baby to come. This was really happening! The beautiful part was it all happening so effortlessly behind my back. They encouraged my husband to get in the tub with me, filled our water bottles, placed cold washcloths on my head, adjusted the temperature of the water, while I just focused on each contraction, the warm water on my belly and the feel of my husband’s arms around me.
After an hour in the tub with very strong contractions, my midwife checked me again. I was 6cm but baby’s head was pushing slightly against my uterus and not directly on the cervix. She coached me through each contraction to lift my belly up and coax baby into place with each wave. Before I knew it, the contractions were overpowering, there was nothing peaceful about the noises I was making, and we knew transition was happening.
Now, I took the natural childbirth classes with Layla, and then everything went out the window when we learned she was stillborn. I tried, for a while, to labor naturally with her, until my doula begged me to get the epidural and use the time for rest and processing before I would need to have some strength to say goodbye. With our next birth, I had a similar experience – a long, long induced labor in the hospital, pure exhaustion, very little progress, and an epidural that allowed me to rest and have energy to welcome my baby into the world.
This birth was nothing like that. It was fast and everything I learned in the birth class, but had stuck away in the back of my mind through two hospital births. I was now in textbook transition. Lost my lunch, which the midwives immediately brought peppermint oil-soaked gauze to help combat. Tears flowing, feeling like I really couldn’t make it. I knew this was everything transition was, so I was subconsciously prepared and physically unprepared. This was nothing like my first two births, and yet everything I had wanted it to be.
And then, it was time. Time to bring my sweet baby boy into the world. Through pain I never imagined, I pushed that little baby out into the tub with just a few pushes (and a few words that I try to avoid saying in front of my kids, sandwiched between pleas to JUST GET OUT).
I swear, that boy knew how much movement meant to me through this pregnancy, and it felt like he was swimming to get out to join us. Kicking his legs the whole way, he came out with a giant wail and cried on my chest as my tears joined his. We did it. We DID IT. We did everything I had set out to do 3 years and 10 months before.
Baby Lawrence was born at 7:40pm, just 3 quick hours after active labor set in, weighing 7lb 12oz, a perfect 38 week baby. We were home snuggling in our own bed by midnight, and introduced our rainbows to each other first thing in the morning.
The most beautiful part about baby Ren is just how much he looks like his sister. He has her hair, hair I only have a tiny lock of. He has her feet, that I only got a print of. He has her fingers, which I only see in photos wrapped around mine. I look at him, and I see her. I truly believe she sent him to us. I struggled when my first rainbow came home with the feelings of ‘she was supposed to be here’, and with this little guy, my eyes well up with the feelings of ‘you were supposed to be here.’ He was our little surprise, and the best surprise of all. I see her in him, and my heart is full.
We’ve spent the last week settling in as a family, and I whisper in Ren’s ears all about his family that loves him so much. His grandfather that he was named for, my dad that I desperately wish could be here to hold him. His sister that brought him to us. His mom, his dad, his big brother. How loved and wanted he is.
There is so much sadness, so much longing, so much anxiety that comes with pregnancy after loss. But there can also be so much hope, so much peace, so much soothing that comes with a safe arrival. I will always hold space for my PAL mamas on their journeys to that place, and for all my fellow loss families who then begin navigating the world of parenting after loss. It’s not without its own challenges and heartaches, but I look at my babies that are here, see their sister in their sweet faces and give them every ounce of love I didn’t get to give her. I’ll just keep doing the best I can, for all of them.
Thank you, PALS, for the work you do supporting families like mine. I’m eternally grateful for your support and for allowing me to share my journey here over the last 33 weeks.