Spare Ribs, Flaming Cake, and Contractions (a birth story)

Now that the craziness of the first few weeks of life with a newborn, not to mention the whirlwind of holiday festivities with a newborn, has subsided and we are settling into our new normal, it seems like a good time to get back to the blog. I love looking back at our honeymoon posts and I know I’ll regret it if I don’t make some attempt to document these first months.

Let’s see, the last time I posted was at 20 weeks pregnant, so I’ll do a quick rundown of the second half of the pregnancy to bring us up to speed:

  • Morning sickness finally subsided for good at around 22-24 weeks, only rearing its head occasionally (and for brief intervals) at around 30 weeks.
  • I started a new job in July! I had been an assistant attorney general representing the Department for Children and Families, and in April applied for a position as a policy analyst working directly for the department. This was one of the best moves I could have made. The pay is better, the work is exactly the kind of work I envisioned myself doing in law school (research and writing, minimal public speaking), and I am able to work from home three days a week.
  • Baby shower at 31 weeks
  • We had a low amniotic fluid scare at our 32 week ultrasound, I took some baths and gulped massive volumes of water (even though these things aren’t supposed to have any impact on fluid levels) and at the follow-up ultrasound at 35 weeks all was back to normal.
  • We bought another house…a single family home! We own a duplex and lived in the downstairs unit which was 2 bedrooms/1 bath, and knew that eventually we would grow out of it, but hadn’t planned on seriously looking until next summer. Well, on our way home from a labor day celebration at Erin’s parents house, we passed a FSBO sign in their neighborhood. We did a quick drive by, and discovered a cute little 1950s cape. The location was perfect, and when we looked up the house on the owner’s website, it was beautiful, move-in ready, with all of the amenities we wanted. So, we made an offer, they accepted, and when I was exactly 36 weeks pregnant, we moved. Did I mention this was all going on during the low fluid scare, so we weren’t sure if our little boy might make an early debut during all of the house-buying melee. Fortunately, he stayed put.

I think that pretty much sums up the 20 weeks preceding Henry’s arrival. And now, without further ado:

I woke up the morning before my due date feeling pain associated with my contractions for the first time. I knew this was a big deal since I hadn’t even known I was having braxton hicks contractions in the weeks before until my midwife pointed one out to me during an exam. I woke Erin up and told her not to get excited, but that maybe we should start doing some serious walking to get things moving. We were really, really hoping Henry would be born on Erin’s birthday! So, we walked and walked all day. That night we packed our bags for the hospital.

The next day – Erin’s birth day and the due date – we started off with a hike up in the woods behind our neighborhood.

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We did some last minute hospital shopping (I needed a robe and slippers – for all the pacing around the hospital halls I was sure I would be doing), prepped the house for the birthday dinner guests, who were on standby just in case the birthday festivities were still a go.  All the while, the contractions are getting more painful, but not coming with any sort of regularity.

Fast forward to about 6 o’clock, our friends and family arrived for dinner, and we all sat down to a delicious meal prepared by Erin’s mom (I wasn’t really in any shape to be cooking…) of barbecued spare ribs, brussel sprouts, and sweet potatoes. I had to leave the table every five minutes or so to go lean over the dresser in our bedroom and breathe through contractions. But, that didn’t stop me from getting my fill of ribs in between contractions. Our friends kept asking if they should go home, to which I adamantly insisted that they stay for cake. I put Erin’s dad and a friend to work decking out the cake with 31 candles. During the move, I had found a huge stash of trick candles, so I was hoping they still worked. Well, they did indeed work. In fact, they worked so well that they could not be blown out. At all. The whole downstairs quickly filled with smoke and our smoke detector was going off (at least now we know that it works). Luckily, one of our friend’s boyfriends is a volunteer firefighter, and he quickly went to work extinguishing the candles one by one, by hand, in the kitchen sink. I, of course, was not too helpful, retreating to the bedroom at regular intervals to deal with my contractions.  After all the candles had been extinguished, we all had a piece of the surprisingly unburnt and not too terribly waxy cake.

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Our friends left after cake, wishing us luck and requesting texts if we ended up at the hospital that night. After everyone left, Erin called our midwife to report that I had been having contractions every five minutes for the past couple hours. She told us that she felt comfortable having me stay at home a while longer, and to call her back when the contractions were three to four minutes apart. This was at about 9 pm. Well, wouldn’t you know, as soon as we got off the phone with the midwife, the contractions slowed wayyyy down. Like more than 10 minutes apart. So, we went to bed. We got about an hour of sleep before they started up again. Erin was diligently timing them, and while they were getting more intense, they were not getting any closer together. They slowed down again, close to 20 minutes apart, allowing us to snooze a bit between contractions. At 4 am, I woke up to a really painful contraction and suddenly felt a warm gush down my leg. I rushed into the bathroom, and the contractions starting coming fast and furiously – less than  two minutes apart. Erin called our midwife and we were told it was time to come to the hospital (not a big surprise).

I honestly did not know how I was going to get dressed and get myself in the truck. Somehow, I managed, in between contractions, to throw on some clothes and walk/crawl out to the truck. Erin cut a trip that usually takes about 15 minutes in half. We arrived a little before 4:30 am and parked in the emergency lot. As soon as we got in the door, the receptionist took one look at me and called for a wheelchair. The nurses raced us up to the birthing center, where our midwife met us, informing us that we were the only patients there that morning, so we got the nice room with the big jacuzzi tub. Once she got me situated on the bed, she checked my cervix – we were shocked to hear that I was already 7 1/2 cm dilated. Shocked and relieved! She asked if I would like to get into the tub, and I couldn’t strip out of my clothes fast enough. Being immersed in warm water sounded like the most heavenly thing at that point. And it was.

After an hour in the tub, our midwife checked my cervix again, and I was fully dilated. Time to push! I pushed for about 20 minutes and little Henry quickly descended. His head was right there and he should have been coming out. But, he wasn’t. “Something tells me this baby is sunny side up,” our midwife said. I asked her what that meant: I was going to have to push a little longer to get him out. Only later, did I discover that the odds of a c-section or medical intervention with a sunny side up  baby are greatly increased. The midwife had me try a few different positions in the tub and then moved me to the bed. Erin was a fantastic support the whole time, and she didn’t even pass out once!

At this point, I was not getting any relief even between contractions because Henry’s head had crowned, but wasn’t making  significant progress in coming out any further; I felt like he might never come out. Our midwife crooned, “Rest and stretch, rest and stretch” as she coated Henry’s head with olive oil. There was definitely more stretching than resting going on. During contractions, the attending nurse would lean down and whisper fiercely into my ear “Find a way!” Any push could have been the one to push him out. Finally, after three hours of pushing, I found a way and pushed that baby all the way out.

Henry Jochems MoreauBorn November 19 at 8:37 am6 lbs 14 oz, 20.5 inches

Henry Jochems Moreau
Born November 19 at 8:37 am
6 lbs 14 oz, 20.5 inches

The greatest lesson I learned from our birthing class was to be open to all kinds of birthing experiences in spite of all your expectations. In the end, I had exactly the sort of experience I had hoped for. Minus a couple hours of pushing. But, that just makes for a more entertaining story, right?

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The smirk says it all

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3 thoughts on “Spare Ribs, Flaming Cake, and Contractions (a birth story)

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