I read a wonderful blog post the other day about calling to mind the miracles of your life. I can think of a few just off the top of my head:
– the way we found a rental home in Kelowna three days before we had to move, a home that was spacious, affordable (astonishing!), and next to great neighbours
– Jeremy finding a suitable job posting on the day his novena (nine-day prayer) ended
And the more I think about it, Leo’s birth going as smoothly as it did was a miracle, too. He was born extraordinarily quickly, and without any medical personnel in attendance; a lot of things could have gone wrong – but they didn’t. So I thought I’d share his birth story today, and I hope you’ll thank God with me for the way He protected both our lives!
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Towards the end of my pregnancy with Leo, I kept wondering how the birth would go. That’s the thing about birth; you don’t have much control over how things will go – you mostly just roll with what you’re given!
So questions abounded: would we have moved into our new home already? Would I go nine days overdue like I did with Alice? (Blah! The horror!) Would the baby be born at home, or in the hospital? (I couldn’t quite decide.) Would the labour be short and sweet, or would it drag out? My labour with Alice had been brisk; I’d woken up at 0600 with the first contraction and our little girl entered the world at 0703! I wondered if things would go even faster the fourth time around, or if I should expect a slower labour.
So I read many, many birth stories online to see what other women had experienced, and my extensive ‘research’ showed that one speedy labour does not guarantee you a subsequent speedy labour. A lot of stories went like this: “I had an unexpected home birth last time, so I counted on this birth being speedy, too . . . and instead it dragged on and on!” So, mentally I prepared myself for a) going overdue for the fourth time and b) having a longer labour.
I prayed a fair bit about the birth: that the baby and I would both be safe; that if the baby was born at home, the birth wouldn’t cause a huge mess; and that the baby would arrive after we’d moved.
Now, I have admit that I was not a particularly pleasant person to be around those last few weeks. My back was sore, the baby was sitting low in my pelvis, and restless legs/pregnancy insomnia made falling asleep difficult. One evening when I was feeling particularly cantankerous, I mentioned my irritability to Jeremy as a possible sign of impending labour. He gently pointed out that I’d been just as crabby for the past fortnight. Ha! When moving day came and went, and we finished unpacking most of our belongings, I sighed in relief that the little one had stayed put till then.
My parents popped by for a quick visit shortly after we moved in and fixed up a few things around our new home. My mom repainted a wall full of holes, my dad fixed closet doors that wouldn’t close, and put hooks in the front closet for the kids’ jackets, etc. By that weekend, our home felt cozy, comfortable, and functional, and after they’d gone home, Jeremy said to me, “It’d be awesome if the baby came tonight!”
Just thinking about the baby possibly arriving made me zip about in a tidying frenzy! I moved a bunch of things cluttering up the fireplace mantle, and we made the living room neat. Then I popped out to Home Sense and bought some things we needed like living room curtains and bedside lamps. After bustling about for half an hour put everything in its place, Jeremy convinced me to settle down and watch a movie. I don’t even remember what we watched, I just remember feeling tired and going to bed half way through it.
That night I awoke around 1am having period-like cramps that came every three minutes. They weren’t painful, just uncomfortable enough not to sleep through. So I took some acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the hopes that I’d be able to rest some more. I really wanted to tidy something up, so I went downstairs thinking I’d fold a load of laundry, but Alice stirred when she heard me tiptoeing past her, so I just went back to my room and prayed for a bit, then twiddled my thumbs for a while. I fell back asleep a while later and slept soundly.
Maybe a bit too soundly? June climbed into bed with me at 0615 (bad habit at that time) and I woke up and looked at the time and thought, Oh dear, the cramps must have stopped, and I’m not in labour. And then as she snuggled up beside me, I had a much stronger contraction. It was strong enough that I bolted out of bed, put on my bathrobe, and hurried into our en suite bathroom where I had two more contractions. I felt uncomfortable having June hear me breathe through them, so I went to the main bathroom instead. (“Mom, where are you going?” her little voice inquired as I bustled away.) I breathed through several contractions there while trying to figure out how serious they were… because, first of all, I had slept for nearly 3.5 hours and hadn’t felt anything… and secondly, the contractions were weird in that they put lots of pressure on my bladder. I hadn’t had that before in any of my labours, nor had I ever heard someone in labour mention it. I wasn’t sure what it meant. (In case you’re wondering, it’s what you feel when your posterior baby is rapidly descending.)
At 0630, I went to the kitchen for a drink of orange juice, woke Jeremy up and told him what was going on. He asked sleepily, “Should you page the midwife?” and I replied that I wasn’t sure. It had only been 15 minutes, and I wasn’t sure what was going on with the pressure-on-the-bladder contractions yet. He brought me the cell phone in the bathroom and I tried to page them but the last thing I could focus on was a piece of paper and I misdialed. The kids were up at this time and were curious about what was going on. Jeremy sent them to the basement and they played there happily, only once stealthily climbing the stairs to see if they could figure out what was happening (turkeys!). I hopped into the bathtub (which, if I was going to have a homebirth is where I wanted to deliver the baby, its virtue being that it’s easy to clean) and had one or two contractions there while leaning forward. They weren’t intense, but I thought maybe the pressure on the bladder feeling was from the baby descending, so I asked Jeremy to page the midwives. I grabbed a towel and laid it on the bottom of the bathtub, just in case. He paged them at 0637.
And just then it felt like the baby was coming! I said so to Jeremy, and he said, “Okay” really calmly, and he helped me sit back and whoosh, our little baby just came out all at once! I don’t even think I pushed; he just came out! He cried right away, and Jeremy noticed the cord was wrapped around his neck, so he unwrapped that. I think he must have emerged sunny side up, because he was laying on his back when he was born and I noticed his male gender right away. I was shocked! “What?!!! He’s a boy??!” I’d been so, so certain during my pregnancy that the baby was a girl that I’d only purchased girl clothes! Jeremy laughed in response. “I knew it!” he exclaimed, and picked up our son and gave him to me to hold. We dried him off with the towel together and I looked at our little one, astonished at this dear little BOY in my arms, and nearly as astonished at how quickly he’d entered the world. I asked Jeremy, “Is this a dream? Did this really just happen?!” Our little boy was born at 0638, twenty-three minutes after I woke up, and eight minutes after I woke up Jeremy!
The midwife called back right away and Jeremy explained the baby had already been born. She made sure everything was fine with both of us and said she’d be on her way. I just sat in the bathtub snuggling with our little one for the next while – it was peaceful and wonderful! I had snuck some cord clamps from the hospital while working there, so after about fifteen minutes I used those to clamp Leo’s cord and Jeremy cut it with a pair of kitchen scissors. The kids had been even more curious ever since hearing him cry when we was born, so we covered up the “debris” with some towels and invited them in for a minute to meet Leo. They came in together and looked at him with wide eyes for a few minutes before Jeremy shooed them out again.
When the midwives arrived, they helped me up, the placenta came out, I freshened up a bit, and then nursed Leo in the master bedroom while they, in answer to my prayer of having very little mess, tidied up the bathroom. They did some routine checks on Leo and me (blood pressure, etc.) and left after about two hours. Then Jeremy and I hashed out Leo’s name. We’d decided on our baby names a month or two before Leo was born, but because I was so sure that the baby was a girl (ha!), I hadn’t given the boy name much thought. The name we’d chosen didn’t seem quite right, so we talked about baby names again for a while, reviewed our baby name consultation, and eventually decided to give him the name Leo Ignatius (or, as our kids like to jokingly say, Leo Tenacious). He was named after Pope St. Leo the Great, who defended the early church against heresy, and St. Ignatius, whose writings were influential in Jeremy becoming Catholic.
So that’s it! Leo was born, he got checked over by the midwives, and has been doing great ever since! Praise be to God!
June and Leo (3.5 months old)