It’s Friday afternoon I think, I barely know what day or time it is anymore. I am in this post-birth happy bubble of rest and lots of newborn smells and snuggles trying to soak it all in before it’s gone for good. I write to you all today from my couch to share with you a magical birth story of Sage August who graced us with his presence just a few days ago.
Funny how last time I wrote I was anxiously awaiting his arrival wondering and worrying when it would be. Once I finally let go of needing him here so badly, he came. Right when he was supposed to.
Tuesday August 14th I was trying to stay busy as I had been every day leading up to then, waiting around on him was getting harder and harder and slowly I was getting used to the idea of waiting until the end (his due date was August 25th) Philip and I had this ritual of checking in every day with a, “12 days or less!” reminder to help get me through. Monday night I wrapped up a really fun photoshoot with my birth photographer for her brand rep team and decided to leave Zelda with my mom so I could have a night with Philip and get some alone time the next day. So Tuesday morning I dropped Philip off at work after a (what would be our last) little breakfast date together. During then I remember feeling a little cramp-y and off but at this point had not wanted to get my hopes up as we had a couple false alarms before then. We even saw one of Philip’s bosses and said something about it maybe being that day. I went to half price books deciding that I would finally pick out some good fiction and put down my pregnancy books. I got coffee with a friend and walked around a park in Montrose and spent what would be my last few hours pregnant in a really lovely way actually. I went down to Clearlake around 4 to get Zelda from my mom and ate dinner with them. While I was driving I remember being able to feel some things happening and even saying something to Philip about it. I contemplated turning around and having my mom keep Z but decided I didn’t want to get my hopes up and my mom reassured me she would come get Zelda if I needed her to.
The night carried on pretty normally, Zelda and I came home and hung out a little bit before bed time before tucking her in around 8:40 and I got to knit and watch some TV (my nightly routine at this point) until Philip got home around 10:30. We stayed up and hung out (the only part I slightly regret about that day) and finally fell asleep around 12:30.
3 am I woke up and rolled over and suddenly felt all this fluid. “Did I seriously just pee?” is kind of what I thought to myself. I went to the bathroom and it just kind of kept coming. I woke Philip up with “Hey I think my water just broke?” and of course he kind of popped up and was like “Wait what? no go back to sleep” this part cracks me up because he didn’t really believe me at first ( so I guess me peeing myself made more sense to him) but then a few minutes later I was standing and he saw it all just pour out of me and he was like “oh okay”. We debated back and forth on calling the midwife to give her heads up and after he scrambled for the folder with the list of “when to call the midwife” stuff we decided to give her a call. It was probably about 3:40 at this point. She told me I could take some tylenol pm, benadryl, or drink a glass of wine and try to get some rest because we were having a baby today. I giggled at this because I knew she was right but it felt so surreal. She said the wine would help relax my uterus and hopefully give me a break. We had saved a really delicious grenache a friend had gifted us at our house warming party for this very moment, so Philip poured us both a glass and we tried to at least rest in bed although sleep was already out of the question.
The wine was delicious and probably one of few things I had “planned” on that actually went according to plan. At this point the contractions had already kind of started but were very manageable. They felt like moderate period cramps and weren’t lasting very long and were about 10 minutes apart but quickly got down to about 6 minutes apart for around an hour. I rolled around in bed but decided very quickly that laying down was not going to happen. I sat propped up in bed and tried to let Philip sleep. I was having to take deep breaths to work through them but tried to close my eyes and rest in between. by around 5 am I decided I needed to get in the shower because warm water sounded like a good idea and I knew it might be a while before I got to do that again. by 5:40 I had a feeling that we needed to get Zelda situated with childcare because things were going to pick up very shortly. Our dear friend Katlyn who I work with as well offered to have Zelda for a few days when we had the baby so Philip called her and she was on her way shortly after.
by 6 am I was saying goodbye to Zelda while Philip was telling her baby Sage was coming! She looked around the living room a little confused and gave me lots of hugs and kisses and I had this small moment of grief where I knew I was saying goodbye to Zelda being the baby of the family and it was difficult and tender at the same time. With tears in my eyes Katlyn popped in and gave me a hug and congratulations before Philip handed Zelda off to her. By then I was working a little harder and things were definitely picking up. As soon as Zelda left I felt myself give my body permission to work a little harder and kind of had an “okay it’s go time,” moment. Our Doula Amanda (linking to her here for other Houston mamas because she is AMAZING) was on her way and at this point I told Philip I think it was time to call our Midwife Amber to head in our direction. He also called our photographer Emily again, to head our way.
When Amanda walked in the door she dropped her stuff and said “you look amazing” and hugged me and I just can’t explain how good that felt. I was so confident and now felt so loved and held by someone who I knew was going to be such an integral part of this journey. I think it was by 7:30 that everyone was there. I remember when Emily walked in I was hunched over the counter in the kitchen with Philip and Amanda and felt really in it. Over all I was coping pretty well and Amanda would put counter pressure on my back and breathe and vocalize with me to help me get through them. When Amber got there she checked in with me and I remember not really being able to answer her questions or pay attention. Shortly after she got there she set up in the bedroom to do my initial check and take my vitals. My temp and blood pressure were all good and I was 6 cm dilated at that point. She checked me while I was having a contraction (which was pretty awful) to see what my cervix was doing. I remember being slightly discouraged by this because it felt like that meant I still had a ways to go, but Amanda reassured me getting to this point was the hardest and my body could easily do the rest of the work very quickly. I was telling myself I still had a couple hours in me and that I could do this. I still felt pretty confident and each contraction felt like it was very productive.
Amber and her assistant went to go set up the pool and Philip, Amanda, and I labored in the bedroom and my bathroom for what felt like a while but was probably about 30-45 minutes. Contractions were really picking up at this point and I felt a lot of pressure and could feel him moving lower and lower. The whole time I felt so in-tune with my body. I felt like I knew exactly what to do to really get the bang for my buck out of every contraction. I was laboring a little bit on the toilet at this point and had one really pushy contraction. It was like my body took over and with the contraction just started pushing. Amanda at this point encouraged us to go check on the pool situation. It was just about filled and they were trying to add some cool water to bring the temp down. I labored for a few more minutes in the living room but was definitely chomping at the bit to get in the water. They said it was too hot and I climbed in anyway. I can’t even explain the amount of relief it felt. My skin could have been melting off at that point and I wouldn’t have cared. I finally understood why it’s called “the midwife’s epidural.” I am so glad I waited until I did because it was the perfect timing.
I think I had a couple contractions in the pool that I barely felt and before I knew it I was having those pushy contractions again (It had to have been around 8:40-8:45 at this point). Philip was behind me and Amanda had her hand on my back, Amber told me if I felt like I could push then I could, she didn’t even check me again so I must have really been showing everyone I was ready. Pushing was a little scary and I had to really coach myself that it was okay and safe because I definitely started to go into a little bit of panic. Philip this whole time had been saying things like “Babe you are doing this, you are so cool!” and I remember at one point I looked at him and said “We are having a baby today? Not tomorrow?” Little reminders that this was almost over was so helpful at the time. I think I gave just a couple pushes which were really making progress. I remember reaching down and feeling his head and thinking “holy shit this is happening right now, already.” Amber was checking heart tones and tried to get me to slow down they said I was going to tear and I needed to let him stretch me out. I remember saying like “no no he needs to come out right now” and being a little scared. Once he was crowning I felt like my hips would literally burst in half, I am pretty sure I even said that, and they reassured me that would not happen. I also spit out a couple obscenities, for sure. There was a lot of “very loud vocalization” as Amanda called them afterwards when we reflected on it a bit and I said something about “all of my screaming”. Once his head was out Amber gave me very firm instructions to get him out and that I needed to push with everything I had. I got a little more scared here because she made it sound very very important that he get out right then. Now I am not sure if his heart rate had dropped or if she was just trying to encourage me. Later on she did mention he was a “little stuck” I didn’t feel this at the time but she had stuck her hands inside me to basically pull him out. I think I gave two more pushes and he was just about out and she said, “Erica one last push with every thing you got you have to get him out right now” so I did that and he was out and i helped her grab him and before I knew it he was on my chest.
The moment you look forward to an entire labor, where they put them on your chest and you feel “done” although even I knew i was very far from done. Philip was crying and I was definitely in a state of shock. From my water breaking to him being born the whole labor was just about 6 hours. He was born at 8:59 am at 8 pounds 3 ounces and 10 days “early” covered in buttery cheesy vernix.
My whole pregnancy I told myself not to get so set on just the delivery of the baby and to know I was not totally out of the woods until the placenta was out. I had heard so many birth stories with everything from retained placenta, to manual placenta extraction to post partum hemorrhage I knew the hard work still wasn’t done.
We had him on my chest for just about a minute before Amber looked at me and said, “Okay Erica I am not comfortable with how much you’re bleeding, is it okay if we cut the chord and give baby to Dad so I can take care of this?” I couldn’t say anything I just nodded at her. I knew something was going on and I trusted her with whatever needed to be done. Philip wasn’t scared so I knew I was going to be okay. They clamped the chord and Philip cut it. I didn’t feel anymore contractions but I did give a little push and a blood clot the size of my hand came out I almost thought it was the placenta at first. When it wasn’t, Amber said we were going to get me out and deliver the placenta on the bed.
Philip had the baby sitting on the couch and Amanda and Amber helped me get out of the pool. I remember as soon as I stood up feeling very woozy and trying not to pass out but the next thing I knew I was on the floor and coming to, to Amanda very firmly saying, “Hey! you have to say my name right now and you need to breathe” I also heard “911 whats your emergency?” followed be “Oh nevermind sorry” In the background. So one second I was getting out of the pool and the next I was waking up to a possible hospital transfer.
At this point she had already given me a shot of pitocin and a couple cytotech in the pool to help control the bleeding. I was on the floor and they made me drink gatorade and covered me with a blanket and had towels all around me. I *think* I delivered the placenta on the ground but I also don’t totally remember. The next few minutes I was having these ridiculous uncontrollable shakes and chills. Amber was pressing on my uterus to get it to contract and stop the bleeding but I was still bleeding pretty rapidly at this point. It felt like close to an hour that I was laying on the floor trying to feel okay again. It was a blur of drinking gatorade, sitting up and throwing up, sitting with Philip and the baby and eventually and finally getting into the warm bath tub. I nursed Sage for the first time and Philip sat with us while I soaked in an herbal bath. I still had the shakes pretty bad and felt a little light headed. Eventually they got me to change clothes and get out of the tub. I remember sitting in the tub and shivering and feeling so awful. It felt like hours before I made it to the bed to rest and let them examine me. I think at this point Amber had given me yet another shot of pitocin and some more cytotech.
Once I got to the bed with Philip and Sage next to me on one side, and Amanda on the other Amber looked at me and said “Basically you hemorrhaged and I gave you a lot of drugs to stop the bleeding.” She was unsure of how much blood volume I lost but I knew it was a considerable amount based on how I was feeling.
All of that aside never once was I scared for my life. And I actually remember this feeling of immense peace washing over me when I woke up from passing out. I knew she totally had it under control and I trusted every single person in that room. Philip had hands on the baby the whole time and Amber was able to give her full and undivided attention to me with all her experience. She had suffered a hemorrhage in the birth of her last child which is what I believe probably saved me. She was able to see the signs and act quick to get it under control before it became a real problem. With something like bleeding you have a very small window to gain control.
After about another hour of cleaning, resting, checking in ,and mostly staring at my husband and our son; all was well. I had suffered absolutely no tearing which was a near miracle considering he came out in about 5 minutes. Sage was perfectly healthy and I was on the mend. The photographer left, and Amanda left shortly after. We got his weight and initial check up out of the way and I finally got what I had been looking forward to the most with a home birth, a nap in my warm bed with my husband and my newborn baby. I ate the best pizza of my life, and took the most amazing hour and a half nap.
It was 3pm when I woke up and I had my brand new son in my arms. Just 24 hours earlier I thought it would be days before I got to meet him. It was the single most amazing, exhilarating day of my life and I would do it all over again a thousand times over. With everything going as quickly as it did it definitely took me a while to really catch up. The more I looked at him the more I fell in love and the more I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I did that!” Philip kept telling me how proud of me he was and how well I handled it all. I felt (and still do) so proud of myself and so accomplished, so redeemed. We spent the rest of the night staring at him, kissing, and high-fiving each other over our most recent feat.
I don’t think there there is any one “right way” to birth. I think every baby, every pregnancy every mother has a birth story waiting for her and the best way to find it, is to be informed about your choices, listen to your gut and honor your intuition and you’ll find yourself meeting your baby exactly the way you were supposed to.
The only true advice I can and will offer that I feel like every birth needs; is a doula and a photographer. These were priceless. I would pay thousands of dollars again and again. I couldn’t have made it through that labor without Amanda. Philip was an amazing birth partner but he got to be my husband and my partner and she got to be my physical support and offer him a lot of guidance and breaks too; it seriously worked out perfectly. A photographer is something we almost didn’t spring for after having spent so much money on the birth already, it felt impossible. But everything went so quickly and everyone there (probably including Emily) got put to work helping me at some point so if I didn’t have a dedicated person taking pictures we probably wouldn’t have any, and that was a day I definitely don’t ever want to forget.
Lastly to any other post-partum momma, just rest. I am having to take this advice right now and it is so hard but I am so glad Philip and I are taking these 4 days with each other and no big kids to really catch up and enjoy each other and this baby and really let my body recover.
I am so grateful for such a beautiful and quick amazing birth. I am in shock at what my body and mind accomplished. I worked so hard and honestly looking back I don’t think I would use the word “pain” to describe the experience. There are a lot of other words that come to mind but surprisingly pain is not one of them. Pain I associate with fear and while I definitely did have a few of those moments I found myself more able to lean into the experience anytime I felt tense because I was surrounded by people I trusted in a place I was comfortable and I think that made all the difference in the world.
To my amazing, and beautiful little boy: you are here, and we did it my love! I can’t wait to learn everything you have to teach me. I already know you are so wise beyond your years and were sent to me for a very special reason. Your birth alone has taught me so many lessons about myself. Thank you for choosing us for this time around.
I can’t express how happy and grateful I am to be here in this moment with things exactly as they are. Bliss doesn’t come close to explaining where I am.