Ezra Wilson Judd was born on Friday, September 23 at 5:46am. He was 6 lbz 8 oz and 20.25 inches long. We welcomed him at home; here’s the story of how he entered the world.
As previously posted, we were eagerly awaiting the time when our baby would decide to be born. I’d had a few contractions here and there, but nothing resembling the onset of labor. On Thursday, I went to work as usual, but noted that I was having contractions every hour on the half hour. I only had one meeting planned, a telephone call in one of the labs, and was happy to be at a standing desk where I could move around, stretch a bit, and basically not have to sit for a couple hours. I did a little extra tidying up at the office and got home for dinner at 6:30pm. I gave Isaac a bath and tucked him into bed, then headed downstairs to answer some emails and update my “Transition and Re-entry” plan for work, deciding to work at the counter where I could stand and move around. Kim had told us that for many second time moms, labor picks up after the older child goes to bed. She was right in this case! I started having contractions three times an hour, then every 10 minutes or so, and started recording them. Realizing that the train was gaining momentum, I sent my boss a few more updates and let some co-workers know not to expect me at work the next day. I’m sure lots of working moms use the first few hours of labor to finish up work stuff, right? I also got out the “when to call” information sheet and reviewed the labor/birth position handouts from Kim and Regine.
Around 10pm I texted Kim to let her know that contractions were about 10-20 min apart and increasing intensity, hoping to catch her before she went to bed to let her know I’d probably see her tomorrow. (Little did I know at that time that Kim had just attended another birth, and Ezra’s would be her third birth in 24 hours! So her message to the other midwives was “hurry home and get some sleep, Susan’s next!”) I also let Brian know that I was doing fine but would likely need him to be “on” within an hour or so. I tried to go to sleep but got up with each contraction to get into a more comfortable position – mainly standing up, leaning on the wall or bed – then I’d crawl back into bed for another 10 minutes. I would jokingly say something like “see I can still talk through them!” to prove I could talk through the contractions, but by 1am they were about 5 minutes apart and not conducive to conversation. I asked Brian to call Kim back.
Brian put her on speaker phone so we could both talk, and after she listened to me have a contraction through the phone, she immediately said “I’d like to come over, and I’d like Joyce and Dina to come with me.” The midwives arrived around 2am when contractions were 3-4 minutes apart. They started setting up their things – I recall welcoming them and hearing them boil water to sterilize some equipment, organizing their bags, and laying out some items on a cookie sheet, but mostly I paced around the kitchen and dining room, then went into the TV room to lean on pillows and labor quietly. I recall being hot and cold, one minute putting a cool wet washcloth on my neck, the next grabbing a fleece blanket. Even with ujjayi breathing I was starting to say aloud “I just want a break this time….” when a strong contraction would come, so I immediately took them up on their offer to fill the birthing tub, and Brian went up to help. We were much more organized this time (compared with the late night impromtu plumbing for my labor with Isaac); the on-suite bathroom shower had already been plumbed with a new hose weeks ago, but there was still some discussion of an adapter to hook it to the tub.
I moved upstairs and labored in our room, again leaning on the bed or walking around. I leapt into the tub – ok, just kidding, I gingerly stepped into the tub – once there were a few inches of water in it, and helpfully let them know when the fill line was reached. Whereas last time I sort of sat and floated, this time I wanted nothing to do with sitting. I stayed on my knees and hung forward over the side of the tub or reclined on my side, sometimes going onto hands and knees. I thought I heard Isaac snoring, and chuckled, enjoying the quiet, and knowing others were sleeping. I also reported to Brian that the tub had a “no diving” warning on the bottom. Who dives into an inflatable 2-foot deep birthing tub?? (and can read the warning?) I guess the legislators thought it better to be safe than sorry. Otherwise we all pretty much hung out for an hour or so, and I got the respite I needed. I started to get concerned that things weren’t progressing, though, so I tried squatting in the tub to open my pelvis more, and even though I didn’t want to get out of the tub, when Joyce asked when I had last used the bathroom, I thought it was a good idea to get out and try to pee.
Gravity, it turns out, is a great accelerator of labor. It was like moving the labor intensity from a comfortable 4-5 up to a more jarring 7 or 8. I sat on the toilet but didn’t have anything to add, because I’d already vomited a few times downstairs and while I’d been sipping water, I am sure I was panting out or absorbing all that was in my system. In another moment of levity, as I was starting a contraction on my way out of the bathroom, I realized that whatever contents of my stomach remained would not be there much longer, and quickly told Joyce (sitting on the toilet seat, encouraging me to breathe and relax) “turn around!” which she somehow interpreted correctly as a warning to get out of the way. In my mind, it was a slow-motion ninja move whereby she stood, straddled, and stepped to the side (no easy feat in our small bathroom) while I twisted around, knelt, lifted the lid and heaved. “Sorry about that.” “No problem.” And on we went.
When I did get out the bathroom, they invited me to try the birthing stool. At this point we didn’t think my water had broken, but there was a lot of pressure downward, so I bore down thinking I was trying to break the amniotic sac. It made sense to have a supported squat position and handles, but the position didn’t feel very good, and based on the frequent checks of baby’s heart tones, the baby wasn’t a fan of this position either. So Kim recommended that I get up onto the bed. As much as I was happy to get up off the stool, I didn’t relish trying to get into bed, and in the back of my mind I knew that it would be harder to move around. It took me a few contractions (time in my memory was measured by contractions at that point) to take the half-dozen steps over to the side of the bed, consider how to get myself up there, and then actually climb up, despite having Brian right there to help. Once there, I rested (ok, maybe it was more like “flopped”) on my side for a bit, then settled into a position on my left side (facing away from everyone so I could focus), holding Brian’s hand so I could squeeze it, with a midwife supporting my right leg. Kim coached me to pull my knees to my chest and bear down during contractions, and gave updates on progress. Once the head was in sight, I felt like I was in the home stretch, and just kept going. It seemed like I was pushing for about 20 minutes, but Brian reports that it was over an hour. I distinctly remember the head emerging, then being out, then a pause to adjust, then the rest of the baby sliding out. Relief! Elation! We have a baby! And there was laughing and cooing and crying all around.
The slippery baby was placed on my belly and I checked that the cord was long enough that I could pull him up a bit higher to see its face. I caught a glimpse and thought it was a “he” but checked and sure enough, we had a boy. Brian and I had picked out a few names we liked, but wanted to wait to meet the baby before selecting the right one. We thought this little wrinkly guy with darky fuzzy hair looked like an Ezra. (Ok, he looked like a baby Don Rickles, but that didn’t suit him for a name.)
All this time Isaac had been sleeping in the other room. When he heard the baby’s cry, he emerged and seemed to know instantly that something was going on! He came in and met his brother, and even got to cut the cord. He’d been fascinated with umbilical cords for months. First, when I explained that my “outtie” was a hernia, and not the baby itself, and no the baby would not be coming out of my belly button. Then learning that the baby “eats” and “breathes” through the umbilical cord before it’s born, then seeing pictures from Being Born where he’d point out the baby’s umbilical cord. So it was very fitting and sweet for him to help Kim with this part of the process.
The next hour or so was a blur of Brian taking Isaac downstairs to play, the midwives helping me deliver the placenta and taking care of me, checking out baby, the midwives cleaning up (Dina also quesitoned the “no diving” warning on the tub!), and reflecting on the birth, because I was so focused on holding Ezra and starting to nurse him. They brought me breakfast in bed, warming up some waffles Isaac and I had made (we keep a bag of leftover pancakes and waffles in the freezer for quick toaster breakfast – perfect for having just had a baby!). I thanked the midwives for their help and support and work and being up all night with me. I always felt supported and encouraged and informed throughout the birthing process, and I can’t even describe how nice it was to be in our own home, to be tucked into our own bed. Having a home birth was empowering and felt natural, plus it resulted in a very healthy baby and a fast recovery for me.