Well, it has taken me nine million years, but I’ve finally written down Ev’s birth story. So here goes…
Many of you may remember that we had planned to have a water birth with Everett, something that I was really excited about and really looking forward to. My midwife, Genny, is all about water births and felt that I was the perfect fit for one…which remains to be seen, since it didn’t work out. Whomp whaaaaaaa. But that turned out to be a good thing. (Didja like that teaser?? Eh? Eh???)
I was given two due dates, the date based on my last period and the ultrasound date based on measurement. So we all thought sometime between September 20th and 22nd we’d have a baby. Kiddo was born on the 21st, so he was right on the money! On the 20th, which was a Friday, I went in for a checkup with Genny and was maybe at 3 cm. They had been worried about the size of the baby since he seemed pretty large, so I asked Genny what she thought. She suggested I have an ultrasound done just to see where we were and then gave me a “rough” exam in hopes of getting things started.
I met up with the OB that Genny practices with, who had done my previous ultrasounds. He’s a nice guy and all, but let’s just say that his philosophy on birth isn’t exactly in line with mine. In his estimation, Everett was measuring “very” big, somewhere between nine and eleven pounds, and the OB basically told me I’d need a c-section if the baby didn’t come over the weekend. He suggested I schedule a c-section for Monday.
Naturally, I had a lot of questions and was kind of surprised at how pushy this doctor got about me having a c-section. He told me I had a 50% chance of the baby developing shoulder dystocia and that the baby could suffer severe nerve damage. According to my research, which I based on the estimated weight of the baby, there was probably about a 5-9% chance of developing shoulder dystocia and the odds of life ending nerve damage were much more rare than this OB led me to believe.
Now, I am obviously not a trained medical professional and I clearly don’t know everything about all of this. However I am fairly well-read and I knew that there were lots of positions you can try during delivery to help get a stuck baby out. I asked him about the Gaskin Maneuver and some other labor positions I’d read about, all of which he said were “impossible.”
“How would you move a mother from her back to her hands and knees during delivery?” he wanted to know.
I pretty much stopped the discussion right there and said I’d like to talk to my husband about it since there’s no point in talking in circles.
Needless to say, I was kind of upset about the whole thing. Obviously I was aware that there were some real risks involved, but since I’m definitely NOT a small-framed woman and I’ve never had shoulder dystocia in delivery before, AND I was still not technically past my due date, I felt very pressured to schedule a c-section and I just really didn’t want that. I felt with everything in me that I was capable of delivering this baby naturally. I trusted my body, I trusted my baby, and none of the evidence I was shown was persuasive enough to make me think otherwise.
So, this was Friday. Vin’s brother, Dan, was in town for the funeral of his fiance’s brother, which was very heavy on everyone. That day was Dan and Kate’s last day in Cleveland before they had to go back to Chicago and I had really wanted to have the baby while they were here. They’re going to be Ev’s godparents, so I thought it would be amazing if they were in town when he was born. They had to go back to Chicago the next day so we all went out for dinner at Sokolowski’s. Guys. If you’re in Cleveland, please let me take you there. It’s basically magical Polish grandma cafeteria-style deliciousness. I always get the Salisbury steak, AKA shot put of meat, as Vin says…and I get it with corn and mashed potatoes (’cause starch on starch on starch, that’s why) and I’m not sorry. And sometimes I get pierogis, too. And I’m definitely not sorry about that, either.
During dinner, I started having contractions, and I thought, “Whelp. Definitely going to be seeing this meal again!” Some of you may remember the Ole Burger Incident of 2012. I don’t know if Salisbury steak was a better decision, but I definitely don’t regret it. The contractions weren’t anything consistent so I didn’t even mention it to anyone at the time. Once we got home, I started timing things and just when I’d think we were cooking, they’d slow down or stop. So we went to bed where Vin promptly fell asleep because he’d been up since 3:30 for work that day and I read my latest Real Simple since I just couldn’t get comfortable.
So contractions kind of started picking up then. I’d sit cross-legged on the bed, reading my magazine. I’d have a contraction and then have to pee like crazy. So basically it was sit, read, contract, bathroom, repeat for a few hours. By the time I’d finished my magazine, things were getting more serious and I woke Vin up. I was bent over the bed and pacing the room trying to move things along by walking. At that point, contractions were still about 13 minutes apart, so we decided to call his parents since they had a 20 minute drive to get to our house.
And then things moved SO much faster than any of us expected. When Vin’s parents got to our house, contractions were only 4-5 minutes apart and I knew I was getting to transition because I felt like throwing up. Vin, his mom, and I jumped in the truck and headed on our way. I called Genny, who said she was on her way, too, and told me that we wouldn’t be able to do the water birth because of the baby’s size. I was disappointed, but I’d expected that. And honestly, I didn’t think we’d have time to fill a tub much less get me into one, so I was fine with it. In the heat of the moment, I was less worried about a birth plan than about the birth itself.
Once we got to the hospital, my labor went into overdrive. The baby was coming and I knew it was going to be fast. I got really nervous on the elevator ride to L&D because I felt super nauseous and vomiting in an elevator wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. For a hospital, it seemed like there was a surprising lack of trash cans anywhere and I kept thinking, “At Disney World there’s a trash can every 25 steps! I wouldn’t have this problem at Disney!!” Clearly, I have a secret wish to give birth at Disney World.
We finally made it to the L&D floor and had to wait in the lobby for a nurse to unlock the doors and let us in. Vin picked up the phone, which rang and rang at the nurse’s desk. I’m sure the nurses were busy with something important, but they were right there and they looked at us waiting to get in and didn’t pick up the phone. At which point, Vin started knocking. I was leaned over a side table in the lobby moaning and breathing when these hill billies who were also in the lobby decided to give us some advice.
“Ya gotta use the phone.”
In my head: Oooohhhh, you mean the phone we’ve already tried using? That one???
“Haaaaay! I thank she’s havin’ a baby! Are you havin’ a baby??”
Out loud: Jesus, take the wheel!!!! (This is my favorite expletive to use when I’m trying real hard not to say anything worse. Also, I think Carrie Underwood gets the point across in most situations.)
After what seemed like an eternity, but what was probably more like two minutes, the nurses finally let us in, and we all had a laugh about the crazies in the lobby. They checked me when I was admitted and I was at 5-6 cm. When the house doctor came to check, I was already at an 8, so we were moving really fast, evidenced by the fact that I was throwing up a lot. Thank goodness Vin’s mom was there. She’s got some sort of 6th sense when it comes to knowing I’m about to throw up. Every time I felt nauseous, there she was with a bucket and a cup of water, like magic. It was really special to have her there and not just because of the nausea thing, obviously. (Side note, I think nausea is one of the crueler tricks of labor. Not only are you dealing with pushing a human out of your body, but you throw up, to0?? Unjust, I say!) Anyway, I really loved having Vin’s mom in the delivery room and I still get kinda teary about it. I had initially wanted both our moms there (a first for me, since I usually have a closed door policy) but my mom was stuck somewhere in Missouri getting no sleep. Le sigh.
And it was funny because during this pregnancy I had read a lot of Ina May Gaskin and really wanted to focus on working with my body, surrendering to the contractions, being at peace with labor. During labor with Lily, I tensed up and kind of had a freak-out moment and I really didn’t want that to happen again. I focused on breathing and Vin helped a lot with this. He kept reminding me to breathe like a horse so I could relax my face. I tried to keep my toes and fingers completely loose and imagined myself rolling with the contractions and just floating on the bed. I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t the only woman in the world having a baby right then. I thought about how I was a part of a larger community, a sisterhood of women connected in those very moments by one of the most primal and holy experiences any of us would ever have. I know it sounds very hippie and new age, but those thoughts were very special to me. They made this labor almost meditative. It was really, really wonderful.
Once Genny arrived we decided I was good to push. I was so relaxed, I almost felt too weak to lift my legs and I needed help, so pushing was a group effort, which I greatly appreciated. I only pushed for five minutes and Everett John-Daniel Delagrange made his appearance into the world! Gosh, it was just magical to finally have him there! Ev was born on September 21st 2013 at 2:05 am. He was 9 lbs 15 oz and some inches long. I can’t remember how long because he’s my third baby and I barely remember to shower. Sorry, Ev!
Here’s the remarkable thing. This baby had the shortest umbilical cord I’ve ever seen. It was so short, Genny couldn’t even put him on my chest because he wouldn’t reach. So, basically, it was pretty miraculous that we ended up not having the water birth. If we’d been in the water with a cord that short, we wouldn’t have been able to get Everett to the surface, which would have been truly frightening. Obviously the pros would’ve figured it out, but it’s nice that they didn’t have to.
Genny was just phenomenal during labor. She was calm, patient, and she followed my lead. I had my usual bout of placenta trouble in which my placenta didn’t want to separate and there was lots of bleeding. This happens every delivery with me, and is likely to always be an issue. Luckily, it’s not that serious if we know to expect it. Genny was a rock star through all of this and was so encouraging. After it was all over she hugged me and kissed my cheek, a gesture I’ve never gotten from another medical professional. Genny’s pretty much the best baby doctor I’ve ever worked with. We really love her.
All births are special for mothers and I think all births should be learning, growing experiences. Before I left work for my maternity leave, I met a mom who told me that with your third baby you really hit your stride. And I think that’s true of the actual birth process, too. At least it was for me. Even though this birth didn’t go as I planned -har, har, like one ever will- it was such a sweet whirlwind of wonder. I was amazed at how truly in tune with my body I was. I was in awe of how connected Vin and I were; how he knew to make me a playlist of music from Up and Wall-E and Finding Nemo to relax me. Right before we went to the hospital, he gave me the sweetest gift possible, my very own Adventure Book to collect all of my favorite memories in.
And that’s what birth is, an adventure. It’s challenging and trying, and completely awe inspiring. I was in wonder at my body’s ability to do what was necessary to birth my baby. I was in wonder of my mind’s ability to let go, be at peace, and rest while challenged.
Once we had a minute to ourselves, Vin and I both laughed at the fact that this labor and delivery was so easy! We were surprised when Ev came so fast because we both kept waiting for things to get crazy, for me to shriek or cry or say the F-word or something. None of that happened. Everett entered into the world pretty quietly and peacefully into a room filled with concentration, focus, and love. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Ev’s birth was so surprisingly easy and, I have to say, it was so satisfying to see that OB, who was called to the hospital at two in the morning “just in case,” congratulating me on the completely drug-free vaginal birth of my large baby. It took everything in me not to say, “I tooooold you so!!” but I tried to keep it classy.
Another remarkable thing is that Dan was able to come to the hospital and see Everett right after he was born. What makes it all the more special is the fact that Ev was born on the feast day of St. Matthew. Remember how Dan was in town for Kate’s brother’s funeral? Her brother’s name is Matthew. I can’t help but think the timing was just providentially perfect there.
We left the hospital as soon as we possibly could so that we could get back home to the girls. Maggie got to come visit us in the hospital, but sweet Lily was sick and throwing up, so she didn’t get to come, poor girl. My mom and dad made it into town and we all set up camp.
Coming home was good but challenging since I always have issues with breastfeeding for the first week or so. Once I pass the one week mark, I’m usually fine. Ev has been a breeze to nurse, but that first week is always completely miserable for me. Anybody else have this problem??
On top of the nursing pain, Lily had a really rough time adjusting to Everett at first. The second night he was home, she stayed up all night just crying and wanting to be held, clawing to be in my lap and furious that Ev was always nursing. My mom and I were zombies and stayed up with her until she finally passed out at 4 am. As hard as it was, I really treasure those times with my mom. It reminded me of how we stayed up all night with Maggie and I was so clueless and she showed me the ropes. It’s such a blessing to have her during those really raw, emotionally draining times. I can’t think of anybody better to stay up all night laughing and singing to babies, remembering silly times, crying, praying, and just being friends. My mom puts up with a lot of crap from me during those long nights and I’m just so grateful she does.
Everett is just the sweetest, easiest baby ever. He’s four months old now and I’ve never heard a baby laugh so much! Lily is now pretty enraptured with him and she loves to hold him and snuggle him. Maggie just naturally steps in as big sister and takes care of her little brother. I’m really impressed with the initiative she shows in giving him a pacifier when he needs it or trying to make him laugh while he’s crying, which she’s very successful at, by the way. Having a boy around the house has been so fun and different and I just really love the dynamic we’ve developed as a family of five.
I look around through all the chaos and mess and the inevitable crying of children and think to myself that I am, without a doubt, the luckiest woman on Earth. I worry that I’m not worthy of such gifts and pray that I’ll be the mother and wife that they all need me to be. Even when it’s hard, I’ve got the best life ever and I couldn’t be filled with more joy.
Want some tunes to relax and inspire you? Here’s my faves from my Birthin’ Mix: