I have sat down to write Lucy’s birth story three times now. I know a lot of people are expecting it to be funny (like Jude’s) or shocking (like Caroline’s) but if there is one thing that our youngest daughter has shown us, it’s that she is full of laughter inducing surprises. She is a child unlike our others.
My friend Kathleen refers to me as the “t-shirt cannon of birthing”. While I have not (yet?) launched one of my children straight from my womb to a crowd of eager spectators, I will concede that, yes, my body (for whatever reason) seems to be incredibly efficient at birthing babies. It may be my only talent, so please forgive me if this sounds like I’m bragging a little.
Jude (now age three) was born at home in three hours. I wasn’t sure I was past the first stage of labor until I felt his head making its exit. Because I waited so long to call, my midwife was only there for 30 minutes when he was born. Any birth under three hours is considered precipitous, and I’ve been told that a three hour labor, from start to finish, is remarkable for a first timer.
I was not expecting to birth that quickly the next time. I thought it was a fluke.
Caroline (now 17 months) was born at home in 20 minutes. And, yes, internet lore can be believed. It’s true: she fell into the toilet. I’ve been told that a 20 minute labor, from start to finish, is pretty much unheard of.
Lucy is my third child, and although her birth story is not as gasp inducing as Jude’s and Caroline’s, her story is one that will hopefully reflect her middle namesake: Joy.
When Chris and I first found out we were expecting our third child, we laughed. We belly laughed, equal parts surprised and gloriously happy. Not that this pregnancy was unplanned, it’s just that I was still nursing Caroline and our three negative pregnancy tests convinced us that I was not pregnant.
After Googling "beer guts on women" I decided to take yet another pregnancy test. Positive! So when we went to our first ultrasound appointment and found out that I was much, much further along than expected (17+ weeks along!), we belly laughed again, equally surprised and exuberant.
We laughed because there was a time when we weren’t sure we’d ever have children. When Chris and I first started thinking about adding kids to grow our little family, I was gutted when our doctor told me that with my thyroid issues and a family history of late term miscarriages that it would likely be difficult to have a viable pregnancy. We were prepared for that to be the case, but by the grace of God that would not be a part of our story. So last October, there we were, laughing-- a couple who honestly thought they’d never be parents, being told they that in just a few months, they’d be welcoming their third child into the world. That was remarkable.
Jude and Caroline had remarkable births. That was not my aim for Lucy. I wanted her birth to be as unremarkable and as ordinary and typical as possible for an at-home birth. I was banking on the fact that finding out I was pregnant at more than seventeen weeks along that little Lucy had filled her surprise quota.
Because of Caroline’s very quick birth, my biggest fear was that I would birth Lucy alone and quickly (risks). The thought of something being wrong with either of us without a trained medical professional present or even Chris on hand to assist me produced a lot of anxiety. I’m not at all an anxious person, so I mulled over all the possible outcomes trying to map out how I’d deal with precipitous labor in any given situation. Examples: Water breaks at the grocery store? Run to the car, strap kids in their car seats, remove pants, birth in the back. Labor starts at SXSW? Find an empty room, yell for help, remove pants, hide behind a curtain until the paramedics arrive.
With my due date just beyond the approaching weekend, my midwife Julia encouraged me to start some natural induction methods to try to kickstart my labor. The weekend before my due date, I had a chiropractic adjustment, “connected” with Chris, walked (okay, shopped), drank two quarts of red raspberry leaf tea, did shots of black and blue cohosh, and got on an Evening Primrose Oil regimen. I ate curry and jalapenos, made and ate three dozen “Break Your Own Water Cookies”, consumed mass quantities of lasagna, and kept myself busy with errands and projects around the house. Lucy settled down into the ideal locked and loaded position, but I wasn’t feeling even a hint of labor… aside from losing my mucus plug while dining at HEB one night. (!!!)
On my due date, I agreed to let my midwife kick things up another notch so that I could try to go into labor while she, her assistant Erica, and Chris were present (and while the children were at a friend’s house). This was something I had not previously considered as… well… there wasn’t time for that in the past. My options were herb tinctures, using a breast pump, walking briskly, having my membranes swept, taking castor oil, and having my water broken. I okayed everything except for the castor oil and having my water broken. I made Julia, Erica, and Chris promise, promise, PROMISE that Lucy would not fall into the toilet.
So on Monday afternoon, at 1:30 pm I took a dose of cotton root bark and got to know, very intimately, my first breast pump.
This is when the giggles began.
It is well documented that I have the sense of humor of a fourth grade boy. The pump seemed unnatural to me, and having to be hooked up to it with my midwife, her assistant, and my husband hanging out in very close proximity while I was tethered to it seemed even more unnatural.
You need to know that the pump kept making a wet fart sound on every suck. And I would crack up. Every. Single. Time. I wasn’t sure if I was laughing because I found the whole experience unreal or if it was genuinely funny. I’m guessing it was the former because I was the only one laughing.
Again, I've made some super high quality illustrations to help y'all understand what was going on:
I wasn’t feeling any contractions after 30 minutes, which was incredibly frustrating, so Julia sent me out on a walk around the neighborhood. “Walk as if you were late to something,” she instructed. For the next 20 minutes Chris and I scurried (as best as I could scurry) around our ‘hood.
Still no contractions. So…
More herbs! More pumping! This time I pumped while bouncing on my birthing ball. Again, I felt completely ridiculous, and again, the whole experience was giggle inducing.
But then... contractions!
Oh, my word! Contractions!
Y’ALL! How come no one TOLD ME?! Contractions are terrible! I thought I had a few contractions with Jude and Caroline, but it is now clear to me that that was child’s play. Real contractions feel like the strongest person in the world is MAD at you and wants to KILL you so they’ve trapped you and put a belt around your middle and they’re pulling it as hard as they can except that it’s not, like, an ordinary belt. It’s a belt made of fire! With spikes! And it’s so tight you swear you feel like all your guts are going to combust.
Just being honest!
But… bright side!... thankfully there is space between the contractions; there’s room enough to catch your breath and wonder aloud if you’ve made a horrible mistake by going med-free and if you have to do this all friggin’ day.
At this point, I was feeling very desperate to get Lucy out that very day. The birth Julia and Erica had attended before mine was a two day affair, and I don’t know who that lady was, but oh dang. I was not about to deal with the FIRE BELT OF HATE into the evening. With every contraction, I pictured little Lucy ramming her head down like battering ram. She was getting out TODAY. I unhooked from the pump and asked if I should walk again.
But first, I wanted to brush my teeth.
Chris: You’re brushing your teeth! Is it that time already?
Me: [snapping] No! I’m just BRUSHING MY TEETH. [death glare]
In retrospect, it was that time again. (Chris, you were right.) For whatever reason, oral hygiene is monumentally important to me right when I get to the transition phase of labor.
After brushing my teeth (and trying to #2 for the billionth time), I got dressed and made a beeline for door. However, a mere two steps away, I realized that I couldn’t do it. The contractions were too strong for me to be able to walk. I felt defeated. I came back to my room and laid on the bed, as still as I could. I tried to will labor away for a minute or two and when I realized that that was absurd to even try that, I tried to come up with a plan to get her out of me that did not involve castor oil or having my water broken.
It was at this point that Chris thought my labor had stalled out. I was so still and so quiet. I just needed the pain to go away-- and quickly! And I needed the baby to get out of me ASAP. I got up, laid on the floor for a bit, and then had a burst of energy. I asked if I could get in the bathtub.
Green light from the midwives! Hooray!
Julia filled the tub with hot water and I got in. I asked for a washcloth. Not for my bum this time, but for my boobs. Again, I’m not sure why I needed a washcloth of modesty, but I was not about to lay flayed out in a tub with all my ladybits showing.
I was convinced that this helped preserve the sanctity of modesty. Laughable!
And then suddenly, I had to get out of the tub. I felt like my legs were asleep and when I stood up, there it was… the feeling that I needed to poop.
How was this not a giant flashing sign to me by now?!
I made this flowchart yesterday that I probably should have made before I went into labor:
But honestly, I had been feeling the need to poop off and on for the last two hours. I thought it was just more of the same. I kicked everyone out of the bathroom. “I’M JUST POOPING! Get out! But first bring me a bigger towel!”
Chris tossed me a towel and as soon as he shut the door, I sat. But as soon as I felt the urge and pushed in the back, I felt the need to push in the front! Suddenly a growl / grunt (growunt?) that I could not control was the alarm that sent Julia and Erica running back to me in the bathroom. Chris was just one step behind when I yelled, “THE BABY!”
And I pushed.
And there she was!
Born ON the toilet but not IN the toilet.
Because of their promise that I would not have another baby fall into the john, Lucy landed in a pair of waiting hands. No unintentional water birth for this one!
Lucy Joy Adams was born at home at 4:27 pm on Monday, March 24 after a two hour labor with one push. She did not fall into the toilet.
The recovery has been remarkable. No tearing, no bad hemorrhoids, no major fatigue, no constipation. The contractions were horrendous, don’t get me wrong, and I have no idea how women labor like that for 16 hours, but before bed that night I said to Chris, “That wasn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. I could do it again..." However, I may have uttered that while still on my endorphin high. Nonetheless, we laughed.
We’ll be sure to print the flowchart and keep the birth ball and washcloth of modesty on retainer, just in case.