Birth is a school, and I learned so much about myself, my family, and birth when we welcomed Isaac on to the outside on October 19th, 2022.
My Guess Date
On evening of the 18th I was exactly 40 weeks. I was feeling a bit emotional, a little crampy, and even anxious. I was more uncomfortable than I had ever been pregnant, and each day felt like an insurmountable task to make it through until bed time.
My midwife called that evening and said she was heading two hours away to another mom whose water had broken. This was a first time mom a couple weeks before her guess date which made this unexpected. (Statistically most first time moms don’t go into spontaneous labor until around 41 week and 2 days.) I told her I was feeling a little off but that I figured I had a few more days to go and I would tell baby to stay put.
The Morning of the 19th
I went to bed and at 12:30 am woke up to a contraction. I know the drill and tried to just ignore them and sleep inbetween them. They were coming at a rate I would guess of around 10 to 15 minutes apart until 3:30 am when I went to the bathroom. I had lots of bloody show and was contracting hard.
These contractions were incredibly intense from the start. Isaac was much bigger than any of his sisters, and far lower. It had felt like he was going to practically fall out for days, so laboring felt different than my previous births. The pressure of him low and size seemed to make those early contractions much harder.
I texted my midwife per her instructions having consistent contractions for a few hours and bloody show. I *knew* this was it. Her first time mom was laboring very slowly as is typical. She said to just keep in touch and rest as much as possible.
I also texted my doula per her instructions and she said to keep in touch as things progressed.
I went back and laid in bed. I couldn’t sleep anymore, but kept resting in between as best as I could. Ethan woke up around 5 AM and I told him I was in labor, and I was pretty sure he should start his paternity leave, so he went to his office in our home and got his out of office email signature set and let his boss know.
We rested in bed and the girls came in around 6. They were over the moon that labor had begun, however I reminded them that I’ve never had a baby the same day that I’ve gone into labor, so we would probably need to be patient and would likely meet baby tomorrow.
We went about our day as normal. I fixed us breakfast, although it didn’t sound very good to me – I had no appetite.
Birth Team Switch Up
After the girls were dressed we went to the park for the girls to play in the cool fall air. I was curb walking, stopping to sway through contractions when they came, when I got the phone call. My doula didn’t feel great when I woke her with my text, and it was clear now she was sick.
I was crushed as I liked her very much and was really looking forward to her being with me. She assured me her back up is amazing and I would be in good hands when the time came. It also turns out that she had caught her sickness assisting at a birth a few days before where the mom was not feeling well, and that midwife had also caught it.
There are three homebirth midwives in our area. Mine was two hours away with another mom, one had come down sick alongside my doula, and the other one had another mom in early labor.
My midwife called and said things were very slow with her mom two hours away, and she would call another midwife she knew two hours away if necessary to go be with her.
We went home from the park and I continued to labor. As is typical for my labors, contractions were all over, but I would guess 10 to 15 minutes apart seemed to be the average. I was wondering how long I had to go – this was such hard work. I was hurting and tired, but this was what I had to do.
Throughout the whole afternoon the girls would come in and out, always so sweet and loving as they saw what hard work I was doing.
My midwife called and asked if the other midwife in town could come and evaluate me so she could make the decision on whether or not she could remain with the mom she was with, or if she wanted to call her backup. I agreed and the other midwife came over.
She was a sweetheart and took my vitals, baby’s vitals, and watched me go through a couple contractions. She asked if she could check me and I consented – I was a 5. She said she would call and tell my midwife, who thought I seemed well enough established that she better get her back up over to the mom she was with who was saying she and her husband thought they might want to transfer to the hospital at this point anyway.
At 2:00pm I told the backup doula I really needed her, and twenty minutes later she was with me. I have never had a backup doula before and was worried about not having met her before, but she came in and was this amazing, calming presence after a relatively stressful day sorting out everything going on.
She brought essential oils, fairy lights, calming spa music, and an even calmer disposition. I was struggling mentally and she got right to work encouraging me, giving me counter pressure during contractions and general massage between them.
I always feel so relieved with the doula comes, and it was no exception this time. She spent a couple hours with me giving me such great encouragement and comfort while Ethan helped the girls get up from naps/quiet time, and he spent some time with them.
As the afternoon progressed I kept laboring in my room, struggling mentally. This just hurt so much more than I ever remembered a birth hurting. I never remember feeling so discouraged during a birth as early as I did this time, either. This all surprised me greatly as well, because I worked very hard on mentally preparing for this labor. If only he was not so very low, but I could not change that great discomfort. I had to keep going, even with a very low baby.
I kept vocalizing my exhaustion and frustration at how I couldn’t do it, while simultaneously being annoyed with myself interiorly because I knew I was doing it, even though I kept saying I couldn’t.
“You are doing it” my doula kept saying. Bless her.
My midwife arrived in the late afternoon and took my vitals and baby’s, and worked on getting all of her equipment set up while Ethan and my doula helped me. (Our childcare for the girls had come at this point, so they were all playing happily downstairs).
The hours wore on and I just wanted to go to sleep so badly. I got in the pool for a while. The warm water felt amazing and I spent a while contracting in there.
Suddenly I wanted out of the pool very badly – I don’t know why. I tried pushing on the bed frame, sitting on the toilet, and just swaying with my arms around someone. Ethan and my doula took turns giving me counter pressure, reading me my birth affirmations, and encouraging me.
By 6 pm or so, I was done. The sleepiness was almost overwhelming and I wanted to just be finished and go to sleep. I was losing all steam, and it was a balance of resting enough to keep my strength, while also walking a bit here and there to keep things going. There were times I would go into a sleep-like state sitting on the toilet, and I wouldn’t have made it without those periods of rest.
My midwife’s birth assistant arrived and she assured me she is only called in when mama is getting close, so this did comfort me.
From 7pm on, everything felt endless to me. I couldn’t do this. I was never doing this again. I wanted to just go to the hospital because this baby was never coming out. I said all the desperate things. My water had broken and was trickling now, and we were trying different positions to get me as comfortable as possible. Sometimes we would take laps around the dining room table, and other times we would stay in the bedroom.
I was also keenly aware, even though I didn’t say it, that even as I would have sputtering vocalizations with it feeling like baby was coming, that my midwife wasn’t calling Philomena and Zelie up. The girls wanted to see the baby actually be born, so when they weren’t coming, I knew I wasn’t there yet and that frustrated me too.
Baby was so low I could not believe it. The head was THERE but that feeling of not being able to keep baby in just was not coming. Each contraction felt like it had to be the end, but he wasn’t coming.
Finally we tried me side laying with my outer leg up and supported like when Felicity was born, and started to push. My midwife sent for the girls to come up and I knew I had to be close, even though I felt like I was going to labor for the rest of my life.
I rested between two contractions. Ethan was on the bed holding my hand and comforting me. The girls were there next to him.
Then the contraction came. It finally came at 8:32 pm. I was pushing Isaac out. I could tell he was a big baby – he was so much bigger than the girls. I actively pushed and roared him out. “This baby is huge” I thought. He came out in one long contraction and finally, my work was done.
Praise God, I was finally done!
Before I knew it my favorite part of birth was happening – this new, wet, beautiful baby was in my arms and I was resting in bed. I was mentally processing that I was actually done when Zelie said “I’m so happy to have a brother.”
If you listen to the video my doula took at this moment Ethan said, “Wait, its a boy?!” and I said, “Am I really all done?” Hah! I just couldn’t focus on gender yet – I was so relieved to actually be finished.
Sure enough it was a boy, and Isaac Jogues was born on the feast of his patron.
I could hardly believe it because I’d really thought it was a girl this time. I had almost ordered a statue a few weeks before of the saint a girl would have been named after – I just felt like he was a girl, especially after already having three in a row, so I was so surprised to have a boy.
We soaked in our golden hour. He nursed right away. Our dear friend from church who had watched the girls came in with a plate of food. We laughed and marveled over him. Felicity came in and met “her” baby. Ethan and I had skin to skin with him. The big girls were in heaven, inspecting his little hands and feet.
Ethan went and tucked the girls into bed. They were exhausted from the excitement and fell asleep in minutes.
I bled heavily this time afterwards and needed a dose of cytotec which my midwife was prepared with. Outside of that everything was fine. I didn’t tear at all, making me 4/4 not needing stitches which I was immensely grateful for.
The birth assistant and doula cleaned everything up while my midwife did his newborn exam after golden hour. At first she called out the weight as 9 lbs 11 oz and our jaws dropped. Then she realized the scale was off and she reweighed and he was 9 lbs 5 oz – still our biggest baby by a pound and a half. No wonder I had been so incredibly uncomfortable!
We were both healthy and everything was fine. I was helped to clean up and put on clean pajamas. The old sheets on the bed were pulled, the shower curtain I had between sets removed, and I was tucked into a clean bed with fuzzy warm sheets, snuggled in with my sweetheart and my baby.
Around 11 or so our birth team was all gone, and we went to sleep for the night.
What a crazy day it had been! I couldn’t believe I had a baby start to finish in one day. I loved seeing my girls fall in love with their brother during golden hour, marveling at birth. I was reminded of Ethan’s incredible patience and loving nature as we welcome these babies into the world. I marveled that my body grew this huge baby and that I did that – I got that baby out!
I praised God for His generosity in giving us four beautiful children to love, and another uncomplicated birth at home with a great team that loved us well during such great work.