Today is her first birth day. One full year. A full circle around the sun. To celebrate, I am sharing the day of her birth. I openly admit I wanted it to be just ours for a while. As I spoke at events this past year and had the opportunity to share beardbaby’s birth story, I was also able to process. I’ve been asked to write it out and share it and finally feel ready to do so. Thank you for being so patient with me, and as always I appreciate the love and support.
While going postdates is my norm, it’s never what I want. But once again I found myself 42 1/2 weeks pregnant. I had co-care with midwives and an OB during my pregnancy. I wanted to plan a homebirth but my instincts told me to also have care with an OB. Our instincts are always right.
So I was 42 1/2 weeks pregnant and had another appointment with my OB. We had an open discussion about options and what we were all comfortable with. We checked on the baby and she was doing great! Perfect amount of fluids, placenta looked great, and baby was healthy. I was having contractions so I said I wanted to give it the day and see where it led.
Sure enough I had contractions all day and they progressed in frequency and intensity into the evening, but at midnight everything stalled. Typical for me but no less frustrating! I woke up the next morning, a Thursday, and realized that most of my family, and now including myself, had the flu. 42 1/2 weeks pregnant with the flu. There are no words.
I text some friends and said “You know what? My plan now is to not have her and have a new baby in a house with the flu! We are all going to get better, and I will have this baby on Monday!” They were so sweet and encouraging but we all know that birth does not usually go as we plan.
I woke up Sunday morning 43 weeks pregnant, exhausted, and still not feeling well. I went into a complete panic. I could not get the baby to move. I wiggled my belly, I pushed, tossed, turned, got up, used the bathroom, drank juice, layed back down, and could not feel her. I woke my husband up in my panicked state. He was a little confused and tired himself and mumbled, “Whuuut?” I told him I couldn’t feel the baby move. He reached over and placed his hand on my belly and after a few seconds he said, “I am feeling her move.” I protested, “No you’re not! If I can’t feel her moving you can’t!” So he put his hand on my big belly again and said, “Yep, I feel her moving, can I go back to sleep now?”
Ugh! Sure enough once he said it, I felt her. She had been peacefully resting, getting ready for her huge event. That’s all it was, but to me, the way I felt, I knew it was time. I text my midwives and my OB and impatiently waited to hear back. My OB called me and I told him that she needed to be born that day, of which he of course completely agreed. We decided to meet at his office before going to the hospital.
We got the kids situated with the a sitter and my husband and I drove to meet our OB. I was texting my midwives on the way. I remember telling Brandon, “This is the kind of care that all women deserve. Everyone working together respectfully to ensure healthy mom and baby and a safe birth. It took me six children to get these kinds of options, support, and respect. This should be the norm!”
We arrived at the office, along with a friend and did an ultrasound. Baby looked great. So this is when we started discussing options. It’s an amazing thing to have an open, respectful discussion with an OB. No defensiveness from anyone. We all wanted the same thing. Bless this man, he wanted the decision to be mine, because he knew that was important to me. We discussed induction options, risks to breaking the amniotic sac and a cesarean. He asked if he could check me (I usually decline). I said.,”Yes, but I know that my cervix will be closed.” He checked me and sure enough I was right. He was in disbelief as I was 43 weeks pregnant with my 6th baby. Again, it is my norm.
He did not feel comfortable doing anything to induce me when I was not dilated at all and had previous cesareans. We didn’t want to hurt my body, cause cord prolapse, and put unneeded stress on the baby. I sat there thinking of laboring in a hospital, having yet another very long labor (my shortest was 20 hours and my others 50+ hours). I knew in my heart that this was going to end with a cesarean. I also know because of all my different birth experiences that laboring and having a cesarean was not what I wanted. It’s incredibly difficult emotionally and physically. I was not OK with that. So, after having 3 VBA2C’s, I made the decision to have a cesarean.
We went next door to the hospital and started getting checked in. I’m pretty sure the labor and delivery nurses were a little confused as to why I was walking in on a Sunday morning with my OB, but nonetheless there we were! As all the paperwork was getting done and I got changed, the energy felt very rushed and unpleasant. One of my birth affirmations that stuck with me was *Don’t forget to have a good time*. I came out of the bathroom and got in the bed and said to the nurses in the room, “I know that I’m about to have a c-section, but this is still my baby’s birthday! Let’s smile more, this is something to celebrate!” And it worked. The energy and mood completely changed.
Once I was fully prepped for surgery, I was taken to the OR to get my spinal. As I was sitting there I hit a very vulnerable moment. In natural childbirth it happens in transition. I was in my own transition for my cesarean birth. I was emotional, unsure, and questioning my decision. That’s the moment my OB walked in. “Hey kiddo, how are you?” Which cracks me up because he’s only a few years older than me.
I told him, “I don’t know, I need you to tell me I didn’t fail.”
Bless this man (again), he knew just what to say. “January, you are 43 weeks pregnant. You went 43 weeks, your baby nudged you it was time, and you listened. You did not fail, you did everything just right! Deep breaths.”
“Thank you,” is all I could say through tears.
A nurse overheard us and tried to comfort me by saying, “It’s OK, it’s your decision, and not like anyone is waiting to know.”
My OB said, “Weeellll, actually, a couple hundred thousand people are.” We all chuckled.
Once I was completely numb and Brandon was with me, Beardbaby’s birth began. Our OB took extra time and care with the surgery to ensure a healthy birth. I remember asking him what he was doing during the process and he explained as he went. As they reached our baby girl, (there are a lot of layers!), he and the assisting doctor started to pull her down and out. My other cesareans were over a decade ago so I can’t recall this part clearly with them, but although I was numb, I could still feel movement and sensations. As they started to pull her down, I felt her kicking up high while her body descended through my womb. I felt my baby as she was born. I birthed my baby.
The pediatric team asked repeatedly about meconium. It was a concern of theirs because we were post dates. This baby was born squeaky clean and healthy! My OB set her on my legs for a minute or two. Once they cut her cord, she was taken to the warmer for the pediatric team to make sure she was well. The only thing I would change about this birth is that I did not see her between being born and taken to the warmer; the warmer was not within my eyesight. I lay there hearing her, but the disconnection of not seeing her was hard. I remember thinking that if I did not know so much about birth and postpartum and had not had so many birth experiences this could cause a lot of issues for a new mom. I kept saying, “I need to see my baby, I need to see my baby.” My husband stood behind them, repeatedly asking, “Are you done yet, are you done yet, you been yet?”
What was just a few minutes felt like an eternity. She was brought over to me bundled up like the typical baby burrito. One of the nurses, remembering our requests, came over and unwrapped her, then pulled my gown down and placed the baby skin to skin on my chest. I’m so grateful for this. Having had two very different types of cesarean birth experiences in the past, I know how important these moments and experiences are for bonding, healing, and postpartum health!
She wasn’t interested in nursing yet, so I held her, took her in, cried, and shared those precious first moments with my husband. I started shaking and was trying not to cough because I was still recovering from the flu, so I asked Brandon to take her. He held her close be so I could focus on her as our surgery was finished.
My OB mentioned that there was a lot of scar tissue (maybe the most he’s seen?). He said he could not believe that I have had three VBA2Cs with the amount of scar tissue I had/have. To him, it explained my long labors. My body and babies had to work through all of that. This is how my birth experiences came full circle for me. To have this knowledge is really cool for me. I thought my body just didn’t like to birth. Nope. My body is freaking amazing! My labors were super long and my babies would not drop until close to transition and once they did, pushing was always a very quick for me. It makes sense now. But you know what? I did do it. Three times! What a testament to a woman’s body!
I was asked if I wanted my placenta. I give major props to placentas and have used them in the past, but I am done and done. Once our surgery was finished and all was well, we were taken to our recovery/postpartum room.
This part is a bit hazy, which is to be expected. I held her, Brandon held her, lots of skin to skin, people in and out, being checked on, bleeding, being sore, etc. If the baby was away from me for too long, I started shaking. I would take her back and my body would calm down and stabilize. This happened for a few days. Isn’t that incredible? Our bodies, birth, babies…all incredible.The first few days postpartum after a cesarean are very intense. There’s a lot of pain, a lot of stuff to get through, and it’s really hard taking care of a newborn after you just had major abdominal surgery. I got through it with the help of a good friend and my husband. We also were able to check out early so I could go home and be taken care of there. That way we did not need care for the children and Brandon didn’t have to go back-and-forth. The first night home was very, very hard. But I remember Brandon telling me go to sleep and he would watch over the baby. I woke up later to her asleep in the Rock N’ Play and him asleep on the floor with one arm lifted up resting by her. I fell more in love with him in that moment and made sure to etch the sight into my mind forever.
We were all still recovering from the flu. Brandon was so exhausted and was trying not to complain because he knew I was just as sick and exhausted and I just had surgery. I knew though that he could not take care of me if he was completely worn down. So I hired a postpartum doula for a few nights to come help me so he could sleep. The postpartum doula would hold and watch over the baby while I rested (she was in my room) and bring her to me and help me sit up to nurse. After a few nights of this, Brandon was much better and could be on top of helping me and taking care of our other five children. It was the best decision!
I remember discussing the birth with my friend while in recovery. Processing is so natural and healing. I had called our photographer and friend Leilani Rogers to tell her that I had the baby via c-section, so we would not be doing birth photography. She told me she was sorry. It was a natural reaction, but I remember thinking I do not want that to be the reaction every time I tell someone how this baby was born. My friend that was with me said, “This is HER birth story, J, and that’s okay.” She was right! It’s why I announced beardbaby’s birth the way that I did. Her birth was not and never has been a disappointment! It was the right birth for this baby.
We did get to have newborn photos in the hospital and more as a family 10 days postpartum. You can see more of those HERE. I’m so grateful that I have an opportunity to be a mother to another beautiful, amazing soul. She is definitely special! She’s been smiling since a few days old and has been an absolute joy in our lives.
It is very hard knowing she’s our last baby, but I am finding peace with it. As this chapter of pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum end for us, new chapters are beginning! Thank you for allowing me to share this amazing event in our lives. You can follow more of our journey and life as a family of eight on my Instagram (@january_harshe).