(Editor’s note: click here to read Part 1 aka Henry’s birth.)
I stood in the birthing suite holding Henry, and saw that it had been ten minutes since he came. I was eagerly hoping that Thea would join us soon. My dad took Oliver so we could continue to labor. I handed Henry to William and stripped down so I could get into the birth tub. Though contractions had not started back up, the water still felt soothing against my body. I rubbed my legs clean and settled in, unsure of what to expect. Sensing that we had a bit of time before Thea came, William stepped into the bathroom to shower and change while my mom brought Henry over to me in the tub. I took him and held his little body against me and marveled at the fact that he was here in my arms. I attempted to nurse him and was happy that he latched quickly and eagerly. His suckling spurred a few contractions to start rolling in and I handed him back to my mom so I could meditate and will Thea to join us. My doula Kelly arrived somewhere in this time frame. I had managed to text her from the truck “birth center”. It was all I could get out but luckily she knew what I meant. She walked in and didn’t appear surprised to see Henry but was surprised to hear that he had been born in the parking lot. My photographer also arrived pretty soon too, and I was so happy that she would capture Thea’s birth at least.
The room was quiet, calm, and filled with a sense of patient waiting as I rolled in the tub and met each contraction with hopefulness. Kelly jumped in and got a cold rag for my face and neck, and did hip squeezes like a badass. (On the fence about hiring a doula? Take my advice – hire a doula. They are worth their weight in gold.) Each wave brought back pain more than anything and the counter pressure on my hips was heavenly. William joined me by the tub and whispered words of love and encouragement as I calmly breathed through each wave. I looked around the room and shook my head at Kim. “She’s teasing me. I thought she’d come by now.” My contractions were mild and my mood was still light – delivery seemed distant. At some point my Dad brought Oliver in to say hi – I loved seeing his little face while I labored, and even though our original plan did not include him being at the birth center, I was very grateful that he was there. After a few more contractions Kim suggested we get out of the tub and attempt walking to spur Thea into descending. She was still head down and her heart tones sounded good. It had been over an hour since Henry was born and the time was surprisingly moving fast. I got out of the tub and slipped into a sexy adult diaper, because birthing babies is glamorous like that. A contraction hit me as I was standing and it was a bit more intense than what I had been experiencing. I turned to the closest person to me, Kelly, and leaned my head on her shoulder. She was soothingly whispering in my ear and coaching me to breathe through the wave since I was suddenly feeling a wave of panic at the pain. I felt intensely grateful for her presence in that moment and I knew my mood was starting to reflect the next level of labor we were entering.
My mom brought me Henry, and William sat and wrapped his arms around me as I nursed our new little baby and breathed through contractions. At this stage, things kind of get fuzzy for me. Time to a woman in labor means nothing. I remember stepping out to see my dad, Oliver and Henry. I wanted to be sure that Oliver had eaten (he had) and my dad even got him down for a nap in an empty birth room. As my contractions ramped up, Kim wanted to check me. Laying on the bed was torture – worst position ever for a woman in labor, in my personal opinion. As contractions came I would roll on my left side and grab Meredith’s hand (student midwife). I think this is when Kim could tell that my bag of waters was bulging and creating a lot of pressure. Shortly after this (or before? Again, fuzzy) Tara (the in house chiropractor) came up to adjust me.
At this point it had been two hours since Henry had been born. While my contractions were coming more frequently, I still had a ways to go. As badly as I wanted to just push her out, I knew my body wasn’t there yet. We went ahead and moved into the bathroom where I sat backwards on the toilet. Someone got me a pillow to lean against and Kim pushed little stools under my feet to put me in a good squat/labor position. Kelly suggested we turn off the lights and the room became quiet as it was just me, Kelly, and Kim. It all did the trick. Each contraction in this position got me closer and closer and I started feeling the need to push. My eyes were closed and I focused on breathing and visualizing Thea moving down, down, down. Someone kept offering me water, Kelly rolled tennis balls across my lower back, and in the quiet and darkness I told Kim she could break my water if it was needed.
As helpful as this position was, my gentle pushes weren’t doing much. I didn’t know what was going on exactly, but I knew she wasn’t coming down like she should have been. At some point (twenty, thirty, forty?) minutes later Kim suggested we move to the bed. “Can I get back in the tub?” I asked, longing for the comfort of the water. Kim gently told me that probably wasn’t our best bet since Thea was being stubborn. She really wanted me to get on my hands and knees on the bed, and I trusted her completely. I had a peanut ball under my arms and chest and I rocked my body through each contraction. I pushed my heart out, leaning back and giving it my all. I used my mom and mother in laws hands as leverage – tugging on them while leaning back and pushing, and William and Kelly started working together to provide amazing relief through my back and hips. I pushed for what seemed like twenty or thirty minutes but nothing was happening. She wasn’t coming. I heard some talk behind me, then Kim told me she was going to break my water and that when she did, I needed to push and get Thea out. I didn’t know what was happening but all I heard was that she needed to get out. My next contraction came, I felt a pop then an immediately feeling of relief as amniotic fluid burst out of my water. The intense pressure was gone and I pushed, one hand holding my mom and one hand holding my mother in law. And suddenly she was out – I felt her tiny body slide out into the world. Three hours and ten minutes after her twin brother had been born, Thea was here. Kim told me that she was handing Thea up to me from between my legs and I reached down to grab her as I sat back.
I’ll never, ever, forget what happened next. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I brought my baby girl to my stomach and said “Hi, Thea” as I started rubbing her. But she did not respond. She did not cry. She was completely limp, her skin was white, her lips were blue. “Thea?” I said, feeling my voice waver as I rubbed her more briskly. “Kim?” Definite wobbly voice as I called out to my midwife. Suddenly Kim was beside me, up on the bed, taking Thea and immediately breathing into her mouth. The other midwives were suddenly there too, pulling out an oxygen tank with a mask. The room burst into motion as time slid to a halt. It was as if everything were in slow motion. I felt William behind me whispering calming words, Kelly was whispering in my right ear that she was okay, some babies just needed help transitioning to life outside the womb. Panic raged in my heart as I stared at my sweet, unresponsive baby, who was so sickeningly limp. I looked around the room – my mother and mother-in-law were clutching each other. Kim was using a device to suck fluid out of her throat and lungs, as the other midwives prepped the oxygen mask. I took solace in the fact that Thea was still connected to me. Her cord was pumping oxygenated blood into her body and Donna, a seasoned and wise attending midwife, kept reassuring us all that her heart rate was strong. Donna looked at me and said “she’s okay. She’ll be fine.” She was making raspy noises, not quite breaths, but it was something. It was a start. But when Meredith told Kim that it had been five minutes, my heart sunk and my throat closed. When Kim said “Someone call 911!” I nearly lost it. I felt a sob sticking in my throat and I suddenly couldn’t breathe. Kim looked at me and said “This is just a precaution, we like to have them here just in case.” I knew that she was saying this only to keep me calm, but I still took comfort in her calm and collected actions.
I reached for Thea, wanting desperately to hold her but I was afraid of interfering. I rubbed her arm and talked to her. “Thea, breathe for mommy. Mommy’s right here. Cry for me Thea. Give me a cry. Breathe, baby. I need you to breathe.” Kim told me to keep talking to her, that she was responding to my voice and touch. So I kept touching her tiny arm, kept begging her to breathe and cry. A midwife stepped outside as the call connected to the emergency dispatch. All I could think is that this couldn’t be happening. All I could think was the worst.
“Thea, breathe baby! Breathe for mommy! I’m right here!”
At nine minutes, Donna reached for Thea and said “Give her to me.” Kim moved to cut the cord and suddenly Thea was disconnected from me. The cord white and limp as she was handed to the most experienced midwife in the room. Again my panicked gaze swept the room wildly. My eyes met my moms and all I could do was silently plead with her to tell me it was going to be okay. This couldn’t be happening. We couldn’t lose our baby girl.
And then, suddenly, I heard her take a breath. And then another. And her face began to take on color. And then she was screaming. And in that moment it was the most beautiful sound in the world. I sank against William, crying with relief. The whole room seemed to breathe a huge sigh. Donna called “All clear!” and the 911 call was ended as a false alarm. Kim immediately reached over and unsnapped my bra. “We need to get her skin to skin.”
My screaming baby girl was placed against my breasts and a warmed towel and heating pad was laid over us both. She was beautiful. Red faced and squalling, mad as hell, but breathing and beautiful.
Soon after I birthed the placentas – they had fused together and were in the shape of a heart which I found both fitting and beautiful. Henry was brought back in to us and William did skin to skin with him, and I asked that Oliver be brought in to meet his new siblings. As the five of us curled up on the bed together I couldn’t help but feel joy – a wild, heart stopping feeling of love and happiness at my beautiful family. We were in the same room that Oliver had been born in two years before, with two of the same midwives. I was proud of my body for carrying our babies to 38 weeks, for laboring hard to bring them into the world. I had three great births, and three beautiful healthy children. I was grateful for my birth team who reacted calmly and professionally to not one, but two crazy births and who worked hard to ensure that both births had a good outcome. I felt strong, supported, loved, and respected. This was birthing with options. This was birthing in a positive environment. This was birthing without fear.
Submitted by BreAnn Brown.
Photograph by Aly Renee Birth Photography.