Erin Caroline's Birth Story
photo Jed Wells
There are so many ways to tell this story.
There is even a very tempting notion to not tell the story at all.
It's a simple story, but highly unorthodox, one that could be misunderstood and misrepresented before thousands of readers.
But throughout the entire pregnancy I knew I would write it and post it, only because there might be someone like me out there who shares the same ideas and thoughts about labor and delivery and who would like to hear from someone like me. For that one reader (or more than one reader) I hope this is helpful.
Here it goes:
On Wednesday morning I woke up and headed to the bathroom. It was there that I could see labor was eminent by the appearance of what is called "the bloody show." Unfortunately, that is the least terrible name for this occurrence. I'm almost thinking I should come up with a new name entirely for this process. But currently I am engaged in other ways...
From my two previous pregnancies I knew this meant I'd labor for two days. I'd mostly like lose my bag of waters on the second day and by the end of a total forty eight hours I'd have a baby in my arms. And like those two previous pregnancies, I woke up Chup and told him excitedly we were going into labor. And like those two previous pregnancies, Chup gave me a kind grunt of a response and rolled over back to sleep.
There was a lot to do on my list for that day. My brother Steve and his family were coming into town for Thanksgiving the next day and staying at our house. Because this pregnancy was in its third week over the calculated due date, we were certain before making these plans the baby would already be here. That morning I had texted Suze, my sister-in-law that I would mostly likely have the baby in a couple days and that they should come and stay at my house for the time being. If "something happened," we could make other plans. I love it when they come and I knew they'd be a huge help to me as I labored through the next few days.
We also had invited my family over for Thanksgiving dinner. There was much to do to get ready for that, clean the house, buy last minute food and drink, decorate the front room, turn the Green Room into a movie theater and get our Christmas trees up. Chup and I had done a lot of preparation and my family was coming to do the bulk of the work that evening. I was really glad to have so much to do to keep my mind off the contractions that were going to start.
Around noon they started.
Lower back pains stretching down into my thighs. I knew what this meant as well, a posterior baby. Everything about this experience was exactly like my other two babies, which was good because I knew what to expect. I contracted irregularly with The Chief and Ever for the two days mostly because they were posterior and I didn't know how to get into full labor with them. With The Chief I had the help of pitocin and a really great nurse at the hospital. Eventually The Chief turned on his own. With Ever I used three rounds of homeopathics until my midwife stayed with me long enough to help me relax and Ever turned on her own too. Both times my caregivers told me I was lucky my babies had turned,
"It's hard to get a posterior baby out," they said.
By mid-afternoon Steve's family had come, we visited for awhile and I assured them again that the baby would be here sometime Friday. True to form, they were completely helpful to me and Chup, chasing the kids around and entertaining us all. Suze sent Chup and me out the door so we could run some errands. Ever insisted she come with us and I liked having the time with her alone before she wasn't my baby anymore.
We picked up French tarts at Eliane's French Bakery for dessert the next day. Pumpkin, chocolate, lemon, pear and fruit. They looked so good to me and I imagined me sitting on the couch in the Green Room after dinner, hugely pregnant having a tart and watching a movie on Chup's projected big screen. The excitement of the next few days was giving me a constant surge. The energy I had was incredible. I love hosting parties and I love having babies. Double joy.
By the time we hit Baum's Christmas tree lot on Grandview Hill it was dark and cold. We jumped out of the car and saw a huge Austrian Pine staring at us. It looked like a giant yeti, like the very Abominable Snowman from the classic Rudolph movie. I had to have it.
"That one is sold," they told me. "But we have another one in the back."
I followed them to the back of the lot where another yeti stood, like it wanted to hug me, all white and freshly flocked. Just as I looked at it a hard contraction hit. It rocked me forward a bit and I looked over at Chup with a squirmy Ever in his arms who had already washed his hands of the whole Christmas tree choosing. He just wanted to be home with food in his belly. Suddenly, I wanted to hug that yeti right back.
"We'll take it!" I exclaimed as soon as I got my breath back.
It took us a while to get the entire specimen bagged and on top of our car. Luckily for us, Baum's does all that work while we enjoy the luxury of sitting in a warm car as they bag and hoist. We had one more stop before home, a party store where I had to pick up some goods for the next day. As I walked in the store another hard contraction hit. I felt like throwing myself on the floor but instead I looked over at a pile of cheap Christmas toys as if they were the most fascinating things in the world. I breathed in and out until a minute was up. Then I looked around the store to see if anyone observed my odd behavior.
Because Chup was in the car, I had run in with a promise to be fast. I only had my checkbook with me and when I went to check out with my two bags full of party prizes they asked for two forms of ID.
"Two forms of ID?" I asked incredulously. "TWO FORMS?" One government issued ID was not enough for this silly party store? I could get on a plane, order a social security card, or apply for a Pell Grant using only one form of ID, but in order to buy some gold sparkly pompoms and a few kiddie toys I had to have TWO FORMS OF ID. The manager had to be called in. I spoke to him, he was really curt, "You got a Costco ID card? That's one." I knew if I didn't get out of there I'd have a whopping contraction in the middle of trying to make my case. So I left in the middle of the discussion (argument?) and I swore in my wrath I'd tweet the truth out of that whole exchange. I also swore I'd never return.
On the way home Chup and I had a back and forth about it all. I argued that the store policy was stupid and that's why I wouldn't go back (even though yes, I never write checks) and Chup countered with his belief that I shouldn't go back because the manager was rude. But we both agreed on our weapon of choice, Twitter.
But all of this internal heat was serving up more contractions in my body. By the time I got home I had forgotten to take to Twitter. Instead I was eating a huge slice of pizza thanks to the Slab boys who delivered to our door a mutli-dressed pizza just because they knew we could use some vittles. And there was no check written because they insisted on this being a free dinner on them.
After that my family came pouring in. Andrew and his girls showed up to set up tables, decorate my Christmas trees and cross off a bunch of "To Dos" on my list. Lucy came armed with tableware, ready to set all the places and make things look elegant. Steve and Suze continued to entertain my children and talk to me about the goings on of our family. Meanwhile, my nieces Chicky, Maggie and Morgan asked if they could rub my feet, paint my toenails, shape my fingernails and braid my hair. (YES.)
By the time we were done, and everything looked gorgeous and my house was clean and my children were in bed I felt my body change. Suddenly the contractions had me breathing hard and stopping through each one. Chup found the very target spot on my back where the sensation was hitting and he'd rub it as I concentrated. When he would rub, I would go numb and I couldn't feel the strength of the contraction. It amazed me.
Before they left, my siblings insisted that if I were to have the baby in the night they would not come to Thanksgiving dinner at my house. After all this hard work of setting up and getting everything perfect, they swore they'd take it all down and move locations. They didn't want to impose in the most imposing way, being in the nest of a newborn. But I adamantly disagreed,
"First of all, I'm not having this baby until Friday, and second of all, you'll all come over to see the baby anyway so you might as well feed me dinner."
I wanted a baby and a party, and I wasn't going to let them tell me I couldn't have both.
Around midnight everyone left and we said good night to Steve, Suze and Maggie who went to the guest bedroom downstairs. Upstairs the children were sleeping really lightly. Chup had to rock both of them back to sleep a couple times. I went to bed, still brimming with hope and happiness. Party then baby! Party then baby!
I guessed I would fall asleep and the contractions would disappear, just like they had with the others. This would be great, I felt because I could get a good night's sleep in before the next day. But when I started to relax, with my body flipped to the side, the contractions started coming fast and deep, minutes-long.
Chup resumed rubbing my back and I lamented that if they were so hard to manage at this stage in the process I couldn't imagine how hard the contractions would be by the end of two days.
Then suddenly it hit me. We were having this baby tonight. And with that discovery, with my mind in place I quickly transitioned and was experiencing the shakes of adrenalin as it spilled through my veins.
"Are you cold?" Chup asked.
"No, I'm transitioning. We're having this baby right now."
"I'll go get ready," Chup replied and set out the door.
"Tell Steve and Suze, will you?" I asked, just in case they wanted to leave. "Also, I need you back here in three minutes." At this point I couldn't get through a contraction without him. They weren't painful, but really intensely felt in my back and thighs.
When he returned with plastic sheets and a doctor's worth of tools I had another contraction while sitting up straight. This time it felt off--it was short and irregular--I knew I needed to get back on my side. While on my side my contractions would come long and healthy. I assumed this baby was going to come out posterior and if I was on my side my body would know how to help the baby move.
Chup asked if I wanted to get in the tub, but I wanted him close to me so I opted to stay on the bed. His presence was so important to me. Ever since my first pregnancy with The Chief I had studied up on the intimacy of birth. I felt like I wanted my husband to be my sole caregiver. I wanted him to help me through the contractions, I wanted him to deliver the baby, I wanted him--who loves and trusts my body--to help me through the birthing process. So for years we've studied, we've learned, listened and read, so that someday we could do this on our own, and here we were.
The minute we put the plastic sheets on the bed my water broke. Chup assured me we were getting close, he was timing everything with his phone (of course, we couldn't have a baby without the Sisterwife's assistance). I kept telling myself I could start pushing as soon as we could feel the baby's head. In the meantime, with every contraction I'd kiss Chup and tell him how much I loved him.
I don't know how to describe the intensity of that love. I knew I was in his hands, that he was ready to help me. He was capable and strong, educated and full of love and admiration for me too. Although he wasn't always comfortable with this choice, I knew in that moment he was completely prepared and absolutely ready. All of our praying and blessings and working on overcoming fear was paying off. We were so excited to have this baby, so thrilled to bring this baby in the world together, alone without interference.
Well, alone in some respects. I could feel the presence of angels and I knew we were together with them. I prayed to Heavenly Father to send some of the angels to the children's room so they wouldn't wake up.
When it was time to push I was tired. It had only been over an hour since we had started transitioning, but it had been intense. Up until that point Chup had been with me, with every contraction and seeing to my every need. But this was the place where he couldn't really do much for me. This was that lonely spot in the process where I had to find all the strength and faith inside of me to push. Another contraction pounded my body and I felt my spirit start to leave my body--a dizzy feeling of losing consciousness. I felt it with Ever too. Part of me had resolved that death is part of birthing life. I had to die a little to get enough courage to cross the line of mortality and bring my baby with me.
"I can't do it." I said to Chup and I moved on to my knees, I couldn't control myself now, the situation was beyond my ability to breathe or concentrate. "Let's go to the hospital and I can get an epidural. Please."
When I look back at this point I know how vital Chup's response was to me. I was in a desperate, comfortless, truly vulnerable place. He could've said, "Well, um, ok, if that's what you want?" But instead he looked at me directly and assured me I could do it.
"You're almost there, you are doing it. You're going to have this baby!"
And that's when I said to myself, if this baby is a girl I am naming her Erin after her father Christopher Erin because never have I loved someone so much in my life.
Then with the next gripping contraction I pushed. I pushed with every spark of life I had in me.
And with surprise, Chup said to me,
"I have the head! I have the head! Great job, babe!"
And I fell down to my stomach and pushed again and he caught the baby.
"I have her! I've got her! I've got your daughter!"
She screamed and squirmed and he handed her to me. It was the greatest sense of relief I've ever known. Here she was, perfectly on time, with head of black hair and rosy skin. I knew she wasn't a very big baby and in the morning when we were decent Chup weighed her. Just about 7 pounds and 8 oz. Birthed pretty quickly and easily even though she was posterior. That's my clever Erin.
Chup wrapped us both up in towels and for an hour or so we sat there amazed. Somehow I had birthed this baby without screaming like I had with Ever. It was a pretty fast, silent birth, one that we had talked and laughed our way through, until the end when I couldn't do anything but push.
Later we cut the cord, delivered the placenta, looked and checked Erin while she nursed. I got up and showered while Chup changed the sheets and swaddled the clean baby. After awhile we all climbed back into bed and tried to sleep. But who could rest? We couldn't stop giggling like kids.
At some point Chup decided to lie down in the bedroom with the children so I could sleep in, but I stayed awake until the sun came over the Y mountain outside my window. Chup brought in the children and we all hugged and kissed Erin who stayed completely drowsy. Then, to the shock of Steve and Suze, The Chief went downstairs to tell them the news.
"Squishy came out of my mom's tummy," it was reported he announced.
They came right up and we laughed through our shock. Now that I think about it, I believe having them in our home helped me relax knowing that if we needed them they were here, or if we needed to go to the hospital they could be with the children. It certainly wasn't in their holiday plans to sleep through our labor and delivery upstairs, but that's what happened.
As for me, I couldn't stop thinking about my Chup. He was a newly minted hero in my eyes. Things would never be the same again between us.
Lucy showed up a little later and together with Steve and Suze they took The Chief and Ever to our family's Turkey Bowl. Before they left I made them promise to me they'd still come for Thanksgiving dinner. Chup made me bacon, eggs and cinnamon waffles and I went back to sleep and didn't get up until it was time for dinner. Food had never tasted so good. We ate and celebrated all things to be grateful for, especially Erin. After dinner the children swatted at the turkey pinata and we watched a movie in our comfortable Green Room theater. After the French tarts were dispersed (they tasted as wonderful as I had imagined) I went back to bed.
The next morning I woke up to a spotless house, everything back into place and clean. I texted my mom in St. Louis and asked her to give her fortieth grandchild a middle name. She texted back with Caroline, a tribute to my great something grandmother Caroline Cooper Layton--the sixth wife of polygamist Christopher Layton-- and Chup's grandmother Caroline Murphey.
I held little Erin Caroline and felt entirely sanctified.
And the yeti in the front room was smiling at me.
God is great! Glory be to God!