Monday, April 8, 2013

Baby brother Jacob's birth story

On Monday, at 40 weeks and 5 days, Jacob Romer finally decided that he'd outgrown his cozy little womb home and began his gradual descent into his out-of-utero existence. I woke up feeling like something was happening, but I couldn't put my finger on why I felt that way since the practice contractions were no more regular than ever.

It was Easter Monday so Hannah was out of school. We met Shannon and Atticus at the zoo, and I spent the morning waddling around, hoping that there was some truth to that bit about walking encouraging labor. My midwife came later that afternoon and said I was about 80% effaced and at least 3 cm dilated. Knowing how uncomfortably huge I was and eager to get things moving, she said she could gently stretch the cervix and sweep it slightly to remove a little of the mucus to see if a little nudge would serve as baby brother's eviction notice and motivate him to start packing his belongings.

My mom was convinced that I'd call her to come at 10:00 p.m., as soon as she went to bed, but I assured her that like his sister, this baby would have to wait until morning because I'm not into pulling all-nighters these days and would not entertain the idea of birth until after I'd had a good night of sleep. I went to bed that night around 10:30 still feeling the same, but I woke up at 11:30 feeling a little bit different. For the first time, the contractions seemed regular. I used my new Contraction Master app that Eric downloaded to my phone and was both relieved and dismayed to find that they had finally settled into a regular pattern and were coming every 8 to 10 minutes. Yay for not being pregnant any more, and boo for embarking on the birth journey with only an hour of sleep under my belt. Like most babies, this one was not terribly concerned about how much sleep his mama was getting.

Within half an hour of tracking, the surges were coming every 5 to 8 minutes. I texted my mom and my midwife and both got on the road, then I woke up Eric at 12:30 and asked him to fill the tub. I moved to the bed in the basement and put on a Hypnobirthing CD while I waited for the team to assemble and the tub to fill. Then I stripped down and hopped in!

Jill, our birth photographer, took almost 700 pictures and provided a few of the more modest ones for me to share here. 

Labor intensified around 3:00 a.m. and that's when the pain in my back started to get really, really unbearable. The midwife had been saying for weeks that he was posterior and to do plenty of pelvic rocks and lunges to encourage him to twist into position. She thought that his posterior position might also be why he hung around the womb so long. I did all those things daily, and then I did more of them in labor in spite of the fact that standing made the contractions and back pain way more intense and often left me gripping Eric in an effort to keep from falling over, but no matter what I did, Jacob's head kept bearing down on my lower back. Our birth assistant applied pressure which helped a bit.

As expected, natural labor was MUCH easier than pitocin-induced labor because there were breaks between the contractions; unfortunately, there were not breaks between the back pain. It lessened slightly between contractions, but it was always there. I wasn't prepared for that, and honestly, although I listened to a Hypnobirthing track every day, I usually fell asleep after the first few minutes. I'm excellent at deep relaxation, probably as a result of more than a decade of regular yoga practice, but I rarely practiced the hypnosis aspect.

Although minimal, the Hypnobirthing practice was still valuable and helpful, and Jill confirmed that, saying that when a contraction hit, she saw my face relax whereas most women she'd photographed scrunched up their face muscles. I remembered reading in Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth that the muscles in your mouth are connected to all sphincter muscles and that if you clench them, all sphincters clench so I purposely relaxed through my face and mouth. In the beginning I focused on relaxing my whole body, but as the back pain increased, so did my grip on whoever I could reach.

Like with Hannah, when I hit the transition stage, I moved to the bed. Pushing through that back pain was unreal, and pulling my legs back in the position my midwife suggested to give myself leverage made the pain so much worse, but I knew she was trying to help get him moving, and I wanted it to be over so I did the best I could.

It was about 7:00 a.m. by this time, and Hannah had woken up. She came downstairs in her pajamas with Grammy and the two stood at the foot of the bed the rest of the time. I talked to her between contractions and saw her smiling a lot. Grammy did a great job of making sure that Hannah knew that I was working really hard and that I would be just fine, that this was normal and how she came into the world.

I knew to only bear down when I was having a contraction and to go slowly if I wanted to avoid tearing. I wasn't successful in this aspect when delivering Hannah, but I was determined to succeed this time around, and succeed I did! I felt his head move out a little and then back in and repeated this a few times before his head was the whole way out. Unlike Hannah, the rest of him did not slide right out once the head was through. He was so big, that his shoulders lodged briefly, and we had to wait for the next contraction to get the rest of him free. (Jill got the coolest picture of this! It's not for everyone though, even though she blurred out everything surrounding the head, but let me know if you're interested, and I'll share.) Eric thought this was hysterical and demonstrated for me the funny faces Jacob was making with his mouth while half in and half out of my body.

We finished birthing and then I hugged him to my chest, and Eric laughed because this kid came out as long as my entire torso and totally huge. Guesses were made regarding just how big he was, but the weighing would have to wait!

Prior to birthing the placenta, Hannah crawled up on the bed to meet her new brother, then she got interested in the umbilical cord and got to feel it ("it's all squishy," she said, "and goes ba-boom, ba-boom.")

After the placenta was birthed and the cord cut, Jacob latched on and has been nursing pretty nonstop since. I've gone from not being able to zip coats over my belly to not being able to zip them over my boobs in a matter of a few short days.

After he'd nursed a bit, Hannah got to hold her new brother, and Jill captured it.

Daddy waited very patiently and then he got a turn too.

Then we weighed him...

My jaw dropped when Eric read 10 pounds, 8 ounces off the scale. How is that feasible?? My mom kept telling me he was huge because I was huge, but I kept hushing her and telling her that my body would not build a baby it couldn't birth. I did ask the midwife at one point if she thought he'd be gargantuan and she quickly replied, "No, not at all." After the fact she admitted that she figured he'd be at least 9 pounds and was hoping not much more. She also advised me to not have any bigger of a baby which cracked me up. I assured her that I have no intention of having any more babies after this one, and doubly so now that I know I have the ability to grow such huge babies.

After weighing him, the midwife said it's possible that he wasn't posterior at all but just packed into that very small space as best as possible and was destined to bear down on my back like that due to his enormous size.

Here's the little--er, big--guy after being weighed and inspected.

Birthing at home was amazing on so many levels, and I am so happy that we prioritized it and made it happen. Eric kept saying, "you did it babe! You did it the way you wanted!" And he's right, except for the part about the insane back pain and the gigantic baby...But I lived, and although I'm pretty darn sore, I feel great mentally and emotionally--much more clear-headed than after having Hannah. I remember operating on auto-pilot after Hannah and walking around in a daze, but I have great mental clarity this time around. There were so many different variables between the two births to be able to say with certainty whether one or another thing is responsible or it's a combination of all, but I'm sure that not having a Pitocin hangover is a huge part of it and being able to relax in the comfort of my own home is another huge part. Ingesting the placenta is probably also a big part of it, but that's another blog post altogether.

P.S. Here's a link to Hannah's birth story if you want to know why I had to go the Pitocin route the first time around.


  1. Congrats little mama!!!! What a wonderful birth! I am a little jealous you got to birth at home and a bit sad i didn't push harder to have a home birth with Asa. I know just what you mean about feeling clearer too, not that i know what a pitocin hangover is like but Asa's birth was so much easier than Esther's and also much more empowering... Ben likes to say that Asa's birth healed all the hurts that Esther's birth opened. Happy, healthy nursing and bonding! You guys are seriously the cutest family! Miss you, hope to see you sometime this summer!!

    1. Libby!! I miss you!!! It's been WAY to long since I've seen my original childbirth guru!!! You are the one who got me started on this path 3 1/2 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with Hannah. Let's get together soon please!!!

  2. Hello there! I went to high school with Eric and saw that he posted this on his Facebook wall. I felt compelled to read and comment as natural birth (and home birth) is something dear to my heart and family. Congratulations on your newest little guy. I'm so happy your family. We had a home birth for our youngest and it was amazing. I felt much more rested and comfortable in our own home. It was also great to have our oldest meet his brother that very day....such an empowering way to create/ add to a family. I also ingested my placenta (via encapsulation) and found it to be quite helpful. I healed more quickly, had more energy, and my moods were more even. Anyway, happy birth-ing day to you and your family from a virtual stranger in Michigan. If/ when you guys come for a visit, maybe we could get our families together for a play date. Perhaps that's weird to say to someone you've never met?!?

    1. Hi Nikki! Thanks for reading and commenting!! It's a public blog for a reason :) Anyway, I love meeting other mamas and especially like-minded ones! We usually come to Michigan for a week in August, but as of right now, we're planning to skip the annual trip this year. I would love to get together next time we are there though! If we change our mind about this year, I'll have Eric get in touch, otherwise, maybe we can catch up in August of 2014!! Now I'm the weird one--planning playdates a year and a half out :)

  3. Terri,

    This is so beautiful and inspiring! I had Isla in the hospital but was very firm about not wanting ANY medical intervention. So I birthed her sans pain meds, naturally. And she came out feet first which was all a bit scary, but she is wonderful, just wonderful. Way to go for natural childbirth! We took Bradley Method classes, but I will have to try the hypnobirth cds next time, too :). Great work to you!!!


    1. I wish we lived closer Mandy!! I would love to be able to hang out with you! That's awesome that you were able to keep them from intervening even though she was feet first!! She's so adorable...I love watching her grow on FB :)

    2. Totally!!!! I would LOVE it!!! I think when Isla is a tad bit older, we will be more adventurous and take her places. We are still trying to get a hold on her sleeping....sometimes it happens, sometimes it's a dreaded mess! She is learning so much and so are we. I gotta lighten up! Your kiddos are just amazing! And I love your posts. One day we shall meet again---face to face!! XOXO--Mandy

  4. What a beautiful story, Terri. I remember a few years ago when you contacted me about possible homebirth options in our area. I'm so happy it finally came true for you and your family. what an amazing experience for everyone. I may need to exchange notes with you if I decide to get pregnant again :-)