Another home birth story

Guion, Moses, and I are very pleased to welcome the newest member of our family: Felix. He arrived at 6:44 a.m. on Saturday, July 31, in the following fashion.

We went to bed early on Friday and tried to wind down. I wasn’t feeling like anything was happening and was feeling frustrated. Even though Friday was his official due date, I was very tired of being heavily pregnant at the end of July and hopeful that we would have another timely boy (Moses arrived the day after his due date). Aside from very regular Braxton-Hicks contractions, nothing else seemed to be happening.

As we read in bed, we suddenly discovered an apropos moment of “meta-confluence,” the made-up term that Guion and I use to refer to a strange reference or resonance found in two different works of art or media. Guion was reading W.G. Sebald’s novel The Rings of Saturn, and I was reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s new history of the Sackler dynasty, Empire of Pain. Within a page of each other, Sebald referenced St. Felix, and Keefe mentioned that Arthur Sackler named his second son Arthur Felix. Guion looked at me and said, “It’s a sign. He’s coming tonight.” I still didn’t believe him, but I wanted it to be true.

I was very restless in bed, so Guion went upstairs to sleep in the guest room. Even though I’d closed my eyes for an hour or so, I woke up around 11 just wired. I was wide awake and full of energy. I even had the completely illogical and completely out-of-character thought that I should just get up and go for a run (at midnight, 9 months pregnant). It was around then that contractions started to feel a little painful and crampy and I got up and started preparing the house for a birth. I started timing them a bit myself and then walked upstairs and told Guion to wake up; things might be happening for real.

Even still, I was in denial. My contractions were coming about two minutes apart and picking up in intensity, and I was still telling myself that maybe this wasn’t the real thing. When I called our midwife to give her an update around 2:30 a.m., I asked her if maybe I was just in prodromal labor. She just started quietly laughing at me on the phone. “Prodromal labor, that’s a good one,” she said. “No, this is real.” Within an hour, our same birth team for Moses had assembled: Kelly, our fantastic midwife; Sara, her marvelous assistant midwife; and Meredith, our God-given, extremely gracious doula.

I spent the early part of labor standing and bouncing on the birth ball in the kitchen. Pacing the kitchen and gripping the counter was comforting to me. I was trying to meditate on the famous image of the Hokusai painting of the wave, which I had just seen the night before at my parents’ Airbnb. Visualizing the contractions as riding that precise wave was partially helpful. Guion and Meredith rubbed my back and pressed my hips and encouraged me through each intensifying contraction.

From there, I moved into the living room, where the birth tub had been set up, and this provided some welcome distraction and relief for a time. I wasn’t able to stay in one place for long, though, and soon moved back and forth from there to the bathroom to our bed. In contrast with Moses’s birth, which was frankly a traumatic fog (even though an ultimately positive experience), I felt so much more lucid this time around. I knew what to expect, and I knew it would get harder before it got easier, but I wasn’t as frightened.

Another difference with this labor and Moses’s was the fact that this time, I experienced much longer periods of rest between contractions. This alarmed me some, as I worried I was regressing or not bringing Felix out into the world in the right way. But the rest was very welcome at the same time.

I continued moving around the house and felt that things were intensifying. I focused on changing the register of my yells, which had been so high-pitched with Moses, and trying to send them down and bring Felix out. I would still resort to high screams from time to time and have to correct myself repeatedly, but I think some of the more primal yells began to become effective. Guion remarked afterward, “You tapped into something… wild.” I remember feeling so grateful that my parents had taken Moses to sleep at their Airbnb that night, just as a trial run, because I definitely would have woken him up with my “vocalizations.”

I returned to the tub for a few pushes but felt like I couldn’t stay there; I needed a stronger, more stable position, and I felt like standing. I got out of the tub and told Guion I wanted to stand and push. With my arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders, I pushed and, praise God, Felix’s head came out. At this moment, I heard him start to cry, and the birth team all started laughing. I couldn’t see it, of course, but they said he was swiveling his head around like The Exorcist, looking around and wailing, before the rest of his body was out. In another blessed push or two, he was out. Sara caught him and handed him to me and guided us to the sofa, where we rested and marveled.

This time around, I felt so much more joy and relief and accomplishment, due in large part to the fact that Felix took about six hours (and only about 45 minutes of pushing), compared with 23 hours with Moses and nearly 5.5 hours of pushing. Felix was a whole pound bigger than his brother, clocking in at 8 lbs., 10 oz., and yet the birth and recovery have already been so much smoother. Power of the body being ready the second time around, I suppose!

We’re so grateful for another positive, affirming, and empowering home birth experience and for the incredible support of our midwives and doula. Moses is mildly interested in his new baby brother and adapting well to the new environment, thanks to a lot of help from my parents this week. (He seems to be much more excited about the present that “Felix” got him: a tool set.)

We’re resting well at home and enjoying figuring out what the two-boy life looks like, filled with gratitude and that still-familiar mixture of exhaustion and awe.

4 thoughts on “Another home birth story

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