the story of ridley's birth
thursday, june 18. ben's alarm went off around 5:00am, as usual. he whispered that he didn't want to work out but would rather have some early morning relaxing time with me and some coffee before the day began. sounded good. we went downstairs and settled into the couch for about 45 minutes of quiet time together. around 6:00am, as ben was getting ready to shower and head off to work, i started feeling a little "off". he asked me a couple of times if i was okay and i told him i just felt a little funny, that's all.
as he was walking out the door at 6:30am, he gave me a final, "are you sure?" and i assured him that i was fine and nothing was happening yet. so, the day moved on.
i did my morning reading and then pulled out my computer to do some work before elinor woke. on this particular morning, elinor slept way past her usual 7:30am/8:00am...probably because she was out partying the night before while ben and i were out celebrating our anniversary. 8:45am rolled around and i went in to wake her. around that time, i started feeling kind of crampy and experienced some twinges in my lower back. i knew something was going on but it was nothing intense enough for me to think it was actual labor. mild sensations. and honestly, i thought it was just final weeks of pregnancy discomfort. i brought elinor into my room and decided to take a warm shower to see if that would make me feel more like myself. the shower was nice but the tightening continued.
around 9:00am, ben texted me and asked if anything had changed. i replied that something might be happening. he (astutely) replied that he was going to wrap things up and work from home so that he could be here just in case.
elinor and i went downstairs together and had some breakfast. and shortly after 10:00am, ben returned home. and i set up shop on the couch to try to rest and see if things progressed or calmed. at about 10:30am, the tightening became much more intense. really strong, in fact. and it took me by surprise. the surges were coming on top of each other. i got up and started to sway and walk and rock. i got my birth playlist going and tried to settle in. i put my calming blend of essential oils on the palms of my hands, rested my face in my hands, and breathed it in. i tried to time things but i couldn't get a grip on it. i would have a super strong surge lasting for about a minute and then another 3 minutes later that wasn't as bad and only lasted 30 seconds. then another weak one and then another that was intense. i convinced myself that i just needed to get my body to settle into a rhythm, that this wasn't active labor because there wasn't a clear pattern or progression. there wasn't a 30 second surge then a ten minute break - 45 second surge then an 8 minute break - 60 second surge then a five minute break - 60 second surge then a five minute break - 60 second surge then a five minute break... it all felt sudden and erratic. it felt like my body was just freaking out and doing crazy things that weren't actually productive, just painful. unlike elinor's birth, i didn't have time to get into it and focus. this time, it just started up and very quickly, i was in the thick of it and didn't even know it. i couldn't get ahead of the surges. there was no time for relaxing. it was just, happening. i focused on breathing deeply and working with each surge to help my body to open. i swayed and rocked. the tulip chair in our living room was my home base. i would squat and sway during breaks and then bend over the chair and breathe during surges. the sensations were familiar but it was happening much differently. i kept convincing myself that i needed to get my body to relax and settle into a productive pattern. at about 11:30am, ben knew that things were getting real. he asked me about contractions and timing and how i was feeling. he reminded me that we didn't really want an unintentional home birth and needed time to get to the birth center and get set up. i told him that we should probably call my parents and ask them to come over so they could be here with elinor.
around noon, my parents arrived. i was back on the couch, attempting to force my contractions to settle. bahaha! delirious lady in labor. around that time, i called the birth center and told them what was happening. they were calm and told me to come in whenever. and i totally downplayed the whole thing, as i am wont to do, so i don't think they were expecting us until WAAAAY later. at about 12:30pm, i announced that we should probably just go to the birth center and, you know, just hang out there for "all the rest" of the labor. my mom said that she would put elinor down for her nap and then make her way over to the birth center after. again, we were all being pretty casual about it. my bad.
ben and i grabbed our stuff and between the heavy and constant surges, made our way to the car. ben (ever so practically) put a towel down on the seat for me. we were on the road for about five minutes (of the 13 minute drive) when i felt overcome. i couldn't get comfortable. i was overwhelmed. i wanted to cry. i told myself that i didn't think i could do it... and then, it hit me. oh my gosh. i am in transition. i remember these exact sensations and emotions from labor with elinor. oh my gosh, we are REALLY REALLY close. how did i let it come to this? why didn't i go sooner? are we even going to make it? and then, quite suddenly, i felt the baby shift and with it came intense pressure. my body began to bear down. i started grunting deeply. those familiar earthy, raw, gut sounds of a woman pushing. i was pushing. pushing a baby out. in the car. i told ben that i was pushing. and he pushed the pedal down.
we walked into the birth center shortly before 1:00pm. one of the midwives escorted me to the birthing suite and told me to get situated and they would check me. ben went to get stuff out of the car... and i folded over the side of the bed and bore down. another midwife said, "oh rachel, you are pushing. i don't think we need to check anything. this baby is almost here". almost here. what? is this real? but, i had only listened to five songs on my extensive birth playlist! i didn't even heat up the crock pot with warm towels that my mom brought for me...
the midwives jumped into action and filled the tub for me. i breathed into a few more surges with ben applying counter-pressure to my hips. once the tub was filled, i climbed in as quickly as possible. forget all the birth clothes that i had packed. my bathing suit etc. hurray for being over prepared. and oh, the water felt so good. it immediately relived the pressure. it helped me to be calm and focus on what i was doing. the midwives gave me oxygen to help support the pushing and keep baby happy. i gripped ben's hands as each surge gripped me. it was intense. unrelenting. one after another. my body tightened and pushed and squeezed. i breathed and grunted like a wild woman. deep and intense sounds. with the occasional howl. i knew he was close. i knew it would be over soon. but, it seemed like it would never end.
my very favorite midwife was there with us. encouraging me and pushing me. instructing me on how and what and why. helping me to focus my energy properly. i became more productive with each push. she helped me feel the baby's head - so close, right there - it strengthened me. and she informed me that my sac hadn't broken yet. she said that she would leave it intact. it meant more pressure but it also meant a nice cushion for baby. then, she looked at me and told me that it was time. it was time to get the job done. i needed to work with those powerful surges and move baby out. two more pushes and he emerged - en caul - into the water. the sac was peeled away while i grabbed him and brought him out of the water and onto my chest.
at 1:28pm, he was here. about three hours from the onset of real labor. and about thirty minutes of pushing and thirty minutes after our arrival at the birth center.
relief. joy. bliss. tears. laughter. all the oxytocin goodness at once.
i got out of the tub and climbed into the bed for some cuddling and nursing. our little man was here. he was perfect and sweet. and long! he was so different from elinor. yet there were glimmers of familiarity. it was like i already knew him. and yet, it was all so new. this new little life to discover. our son.
my mom arrived at the birth center and was able to meet her grandson... none of that birth stuff to deal with, just happy hormones and new baby smell and squeaks. we stayed at the center to do all the new baby paperwork and measuring and checking and to revel in the moment. it was such a sweet time to just enjoy our little man. he was healthy and perfect. and i was floating. i was so relieved to have him in my arms. and i was so amazed at what had just taken place. so surreal. such happiness.
and a couple of hours later, we returned home.
upon our arrival, we were greeted by an exuberant elinor. she went down for her nap and woke up as a big sister! what a cool afternoon.
the evening was spent with family getting to meet this new little man. and a big burger for me. with buckets of water and some kombucha and cold pressed juice. all the liquids.
we passed the baby and soaked up those fresh moments. it was such a remarkable, whirlwind few hours and such a tremendous day. our little ridley noble whitehouse. when he decided to make his way into the world, he did it in a bold way. he was no nonsense. he was strong and particular. he didn't make a huge fuss when he arrived, he didn't make a lot of noise, but he did it with intensity. i know he will be quite a force. but a gentlemanly one at that. oh how we all love our little prince. we trust that he will be used mightily. he has already done grand things in our hearts and home.
1 peter 2:9
but you are a chosen race, a noble priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.