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.
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.
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