The birth story of our second son
We moved back home to Colorado in July - one month before my due date. Living temporarily with Andy’s mom while we renovated our home in Fort Collins, I spent the weeks leading up to August settling in to life back home. We caught up with friends and family, and I spent all the time I could with Peter, knowing it was the last bit of time before I would have two little boys to look after.
Remembering that Peter arrived one week before his due date, I was prepared to welcome our next son early as well. But at the same time, I worked hard to be mentally prepared to go late. When people asked me when my due date was, I would say, “Any time from mid-August to mid-September!” (The exact due date was August 23rd.)
As we got closer, I felt my baby drop lower and lower into my pelvis. I had a feeling he would arrive a little early, but tried not to give that feeling too much credit so that I wouldn’t get disappointed if he didn’t.
One week before my due date, for several nights in a row, I started to feel tightness and even some pressure later in the evenings. The sensations would go away whenever I laid down for bed, but then appear again the next night. The tightness started to feel a little crampy a few times. Because it was so sporadic, though, I assumed it was prodromal and did my best to ignore them. Then I lost a bit of my mucous plug for a few nights, but purposely didn’t allow myself to get too excited. I knew it could mean baby would come any day, or several weeks from now.
On Thursday, August 17th, when I got up in the morning I lost mucous with bloody show. Of course I couldn’t help but get excited then - bloody show is what kickstarted Peter’s labor. I also started to feel some tiny cramps - hardly noticeable but I was hyper aware of everything I was feeling. I ended up asking Andy to work from home that day, just in case.
I was determined to ignore any contractions until I couldn’t ignore them any longer. Mid-morning I drove myself and Peter to a chiropractor appointment I had. It was fun to tell them I thought I might be in prelabor. They adjusted me, and we joked that surely it would kickstart active labor.
The small contractions continued, still only every hour or so and hardly noticeable. I had a midwife appointment in the afternoon. This time I felt like it would be a good idea if Andy drove me. My midwives don’t do standard protocol cervical exams, but instead track my readiness by my intuition and other tell tale signs. When I told them I saw bloody show, they encouraged me to be prepared and to get plenty of rest, but also were careful to tell me it could still be prodromal and things might not happen for a couple days. We talked about how my previous birth had been relatively quick for a first time, and that subsequent births are typically faster. They encouraged me to listen to my intuition if I felt like things were progressing really quickly. One of the midwives told me that often she’s noticed mamas’ bodies wait to go into active labor until any older siblings have gone to bed at night so she feels like she can truly relax. I told her I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly what would happen.
When we got home, contractions were spaced out about 45 minutes. Around 5:00 my doula April texted me that she was thinking about going with her family for a quick outing that evening. I told her to go ahead - I didn’t think things would happen too quickly and contractions were still very manageable.
I made pot roast for dinner and invited Andy’s mom and our friend who is staying here, Carolina, to join us. We all chatted and laughed through the meal.
I remember during dinner needing to pause a bit when I felt contractions. But spirits were high and we all enjoyed the evening. Normally Andy puts Peter to bed, but that night I felt very emotional and wanted to have that special time with him myself. I knew I would always have sweet moments with Peter whether his little brother was around or not, but I also knew it could be the last night it was just him, and I wanted to savor it.
The saying “ignore it until you can’t anymore” kept ringing in my head, but it was so hard not to get excited. I knew if I was going to be strong in labor I needed to have energy. Andy and I decided to try to get some sleep. Around 8:30 I texted April that contractions were about 15 minutes apart but manageable. I thought I might be able to sleep through them. A surefire way to get me to sleep is to watch a movie with lots of shooting and action, so we got in bed and watched Men in Black. Sure enough, I got sleepy and dozed off.
I remember turning over in bed and feeling baby shift a bit inside me with a distinct “ka-chunk” sound. I thought that was an interesting sensation. After a minute I realized I needed to go to the bathroom so I got out of bed and stood up. I immediately realized that sound had been my water breaking as I felt liquid trickle out. I laughed, feeling a little giddy, and told Andy. This was at 10:00.
All at once my contractions kicked into high gear, about 2 or 3 minutes apart but only 15-20 seconds long. This felt chaotic to me. We texted April, and also called the midwives. Andy took our bags to the truck and made sure everything was prepared for his mom to watch Peter. While he was out of the room doing all those things, I felt a huge rush of adrenaline and started shaking, pacing the room, and breathing fast. I realized I needed to “get a grip” and get in my laboring zone. So I started my labor playlist of peaceful worship music, and purposely allowed myself to vocalize through the contractions which were short but really close together. This helped me calm down a little and things started to even out. I expected that I’d labor at home like this for a couple hours or so, because I felt very alert still.
Around 10:30 I started feeling nauseous and passed some very loose stool. I remembered those things happening when I was in transition with Peter, and panicked a little bit. I expected this labor to be quicker than my first, but not quite that fast. Contractions were still 2-3 minutes apart, but longer and quite intense. It all felt a bit hectic and rushed. We called April and the midwives to let them know we were on our way.
I knew the car ride would be terrible. I had a bag ready in case I vomited in the car, and Andy had lined the seats with chux pads. No vomiting en route this time, but every little bump in the road brought another strong contraction on. I still felt very lucid between contractions which confused me - I thought at this point I would be a lot more foggy and in “labor land”.
We arrived at the birth center at 11:00. The midwives were filling a tub for me. While I waited I sat through a few contractions on the toilet. This definitely sped things up even more and I felt a lot of pressure. As soon as the tub was ready I got in. I expected the water to be a huge relief from the intensity of the contractions I was feeling. I was surprised that it didn’t feel much different in the water.
I struggled to find a comfortable position in the tub, and I remember someone telling me I needed to keep my bottom under the water. I finally ended up on all fours with my knees spread as wide apart as I could. I knew if I wanted to have a water birth, baby would need to be fully submerged and I’d have to stay put. I didn’t like feeling like I had to stay in a certain position.
Contractions were so intense and so close together, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I knew I needed to get control of my breathing and vocalizing in order to relax my body but I couldn’t catch my breath and gather myself together in between. I started to panic, wondering if I was going to be doing this for several hours still.
I remember my contractions reaching a climax and feeling really angry at them. Later Andy told me, he could tell that I was angry by the way I sounded vocally. I was trying to get my sounds under control again, and to relax and breathe, but I reached a point where that felt impossible. I threw up, which was a relief after feeling so nauseous, but couldn’t stop retching after. Then I started to feel afraid. I was afraid to push.
Everyone encouraged me when I voiced my fear. They were cheering me on and patiently waiting. But the cheering didn’t motivate me, and I felt like I couldn’t get past myself. Then my husband took both my hands in his, and he began to pray. He asked the Holy Spirit to take away my fear and give me peace.
I immediately felt calmer and was able to catch my breath.
Someone in the room gently suggested, if I pushed a little maybe I would feel my baby’s head. But I didn’t feel the same unmistakable pushing urge the same way I had with my first birth, so I held back. I didn’t feel ready for the intensity of crowning and the ring of fire. At the same time, I wanted desperately to touch my baby. So I reached down to feel, and there was nothing. I didn’t take my hand away though.
I brought my left knee up, putting myself in a lunge position that I knew would open my pelvis and be an ideal position to catch my son. I thought how strange it was that I was thinking so clearly to remember what I’ve learned in all my classes and research.
I told myself, you can’t put it off forever, you’ve got to just do it. So I gave an experimental little push. Then all of a sudden he was there and I could feel his hair under my hand in the water. I told myself to ease back when I felt the ring of fire. There was such incredible pressure, and the burning of my perineum stretching. But I was still pushing, and I couldn’t stop or hold back even when I tried. Still in the same push, I felt my baby’s entire head land in my palm. The pain started to fade and I got excited. I tried to stop pushing so I could take a breath and work on his shoulders during a second contraction. But I still couldn’t make my body ease back, and my son was born into my hands in that one push. He came out quickly and powerfully, and I was glad I caught him so he didn’t hit the bottom of the tub.
My baby was born at 11:57pm on Thursday, August 17, 2023.
It was easy then to pull him up onto my chest, I held him and he looked up at me. He cried just a little, but was content once he was snuggled up under my chin. I felt very alert. I thought over and over, it’s done, it’s all done, what a relief. Andy held us both, and we all sat in the water admiring our new son.
In order to monitor bleeding, my midwives asked me to move out of the tub and onto the bed. I felt so weak and shaky, and didn’t like having to uproot from our cozy spot. But with lots of help I made it to the bed and laid back. I birthed my placenta easily within five minutes.
Vitals were checked and we inspected the color of our baby’s hair. We had two names that we would choose depending on if he had blonde or red hair! Our doula April helped us, and we all agreed - he had dark blonde hair. So we announced his name - Azariah John! (Funnily, Azariah’s hair changed and turned red a week later.)
I allowed Azariah to crawl and nuzzle his way to my breast and he latched quickly and easily on both sides, getting his first colostrum.
Then we were left alone, the three of us all snuggled together in the big cozy bed. This was the hour I had been looking forward to my entire pregnancy, and one of the many reasons we chose to birth out of hospital this time. It was the most special time, too precious to share with everyone so I will skip ahead.
After an hour, the midwife came back and helped Andy cut the umbilical cord. Then she carefully examined both Azi and me. Azi weighed 7 lbs 6 oz and was 20.5” long, perfectly healthy in every way. I was doing well and there was no bleeding concern. I did have a laceration and my midwife suggested liquid bandage instead of stitching. I was relieved, and happy enough to not have to have stitches although the liquid bandage burned a bit and was uncomfortable for a few minutes.
No one was in a hurry, and every effort was made to ensure my informed consent at every step. I’ll always remember that intentional and unrushed care - such a stark contrast to post-birth in a hospital. My midwives helped me into a wonderful feeling herbal bath, and Azariah never left my arms the entire time.
April made sure we felt settled and comfortable, then went home. The midwives encouraged us to order food and we found a pizza place that was open all night! Those calzones gave both Andy and I life, and the delivery man got the biggest tip of his night I’m sure.
When we all felt ready and everything was packed back up into our bags, the midwives helped me make my way to our truck and we drove home. It was as simple as that.
The next morning, Peter woke up and his daddy brought him to our bedroom to meet his new brother. It was one of the most special moments our family has experienced together.
And so Azariah was welcomed into his family!