THIS IS A BIRTH STORY. IF DETAILS ABOUT HOW A BABY IS BORN IS TOO MUCH FOR YOU, THIS MAY NOT BE THE POST FOR YOU.
Birth is the most humbling process. It is solely dependent on your body, but otherwise completely out of your control. You cannot plan for it, schedule it, foresee it’s timing. It’s a secret your body and baby keep from you until the moment its time for you to know.
Giving birth to our second son could not have been any more different than my first birth. . . well, other than the fact that both boys were nearly 42 weeks. What they each lack in timeliness they make up for in being adorable. My birth with Elias was looked like laboring in a AirBnb we were staying in and giving birth in a South African hospital. It was 25 hours long and I ended up getting a walking epidural towards the end. Forrest was born on Christmas Eve here in Baton Rouge, 2 days before an induction I reluctantly had to schedule. It was fast and intense, with labor lasting 6 hours and delivering him in a peaceful water birth at the Birth Center of Baton Rouge.
One of the midwives I saw throughout this pregnancy told me, “Your first birth breaks you so you can be the mother you need to be.” I found some sense of comfort in her wise words. My first labor did not go how I had planned and certainly broke my pride. This second time was utterly different. Yes, he was still quite “late”- but this birth was much more what I had hoped and planned for. (Until the end when we thought we were going home and ended up in the NICU…stick around for that part).
Towards the end of my pregnancy at my check-ups, I started asking the midwives to check and see if I was dilated. When they did, they could barely even reach my cervix and reported timidly that I was in fact NOT dilated. at all. a ZERO. At 39 weeks… 40 weeks… 41 weeks. They rechecked via ultrasound to see if the due date was off… it wasn’t. They gently reminded me of the natural ways to encourage labor. (If you’ve ever been pregnant- YOU KNOW). At 41 weeks we had to start making plans for induction as they couldn’t let me go past 42 weeks in the Birthing Center. We had to put on the calendar to be induced on December 26th at 7am at a hospital I have never been inside of (they can’t actually induce AT The Birth Center so have to transfer to a local hospital). I walked away from that appointment on a grey December morning and SOBBED in the car. I was past “due”, not dilated and having the exact opposite plan for birth than what I wanted- all the day after Christmas. I was due on December 12th and was dead-set this one was going to be EARLY because I hated the idea of his birthday even being near Christmas…I was SURE of it. As days rolled past his due date I got more disheartened. By the time we got to Christmas Eve, I had let go of my plans and just did not want to get induced. All I wanted was for it to happen naturally and have a healthy boy.
Each day was a “who knows if it will happen today”?! feeling. For two weeks. Its exhausting. Add to that it was the holidays, having a toddler, and trying to make plans with family for Christmas…. I was a tad overwhelmed. But we got to a place where we cancelled some plans and declared Christmas would be celebrated after the baby was born. That was a sigh of relief.
Christmas Eve morning we woke up and had to get a ultrasound to make sure he was okay in there. We got the ultrasound and then met up with our midwife to discuss last-ditch efforts to get that dude out. She checked me again…. I was *maybe* 1cm dilated. I was discouraged. But also at that point just had to laugh. The whole situation was nearly comical. She tried stripping my membranes but could barely reach the cervix. We had spent a few weeks discussing Castor Oil, but I had heard horror stories of nausea, violent diarrhea and vomitting- enough to keep me far away. But today? Today I was ready to go for it- at this point we decided it had to be worth a shot. So we headed home, picked up our favorite burgers from Burgersmith and a bottle of castor oil, to see if that combo would do the trick. That was 12:30pm.
At 1:30pm I drank 2oz of the oil.
I started having contractions at 2pm.
I was excited but hesitant to see if they would continue. I didn’t want to get mentally tired so tried to ignore them as much as possible. My brother and sister in law came over around then. We watched our church’s service online and visited with them. I was steadily having early contractions, quietly timing them as they came. They asked if they needed to leave, but I assured them having them was a nice distraction. We visited for a few more hours as the familiar dull but steady contractions continued. As they started to pick up, I started walking back to my room when I expected them, having to breathe through them in silence.
At 5:30pm I announced everyone should leave, including my mom to take Elias to the Conti Family dinner because it was getting real. The next hour got more difficult as contractions intensified and I found myself burying my head in the pillow and yelling through some. Our neighbor was having a family gathering and I could hear kids outside my window playing. I was SO frustrated by the noise they were making.I craved silence through each one and found myself plugging my ears. Patrick kept texting the midwife to see if we should come in. I really didn’t want to go too soon since my first labor was SO long and I didn’t want to go in early thinking I was almost there with hours left to go. In between contractions I remember telling Patrick, “I don’t think I can do this until tomorrow” “You won’t be doing this until tomorrow” he assured me, apparently more aware of my progress than I was.
He finally many the call we needed to head in, and let the midwife know she probably needed to meet us up there.
That car ride was… INTENSE. I let him know, “You’re going to need to drive fast.” Patrick shared later there were moments he didn’t think we would make it there. I knelt on the floor of the passenger side, my face buried in my pillow on the seat, yelling through contractions. We beat the midwife to the Birth Center and there was nobody else there on Christmas Eve night so I walked around the parking lot barefoot and breathing for the few contractions before she arrived. When Elizabeth (the midwife) got there, she asked which of the three birth rooms I wanted. In the midst of a contraction I just yelled “I DONT CARE”. She quickly and wisely chose the room closest to the entrance door.
It was 7pm when we arrived.
Once we got settled inside, Elizabeth asked to check me. “Uh, you’re 8 or 9 cm”. “What?! I am?!” I was ELATED. In pain still but a rush of relief swept over me. This was working. My body was working. I was almost there. I was hoping I would be 3 or 4. So to be so close to the end- I knew I could make it.
“Can I get in the tub?” I quickly asked. She got the tub filled as I breathed through more contractions. I slid into the water and tried to awkwardly find the most comfortable position. She checked and my water still had not broken and I asked her to break it. Whatever it took to get this thing over with. It wasn’t much longer after that I started to feel the urge to push.
“Can you turn over into a different position?”, she asked me.
“Nope.” I replied.
A few pushes later and she was handing me our little Forrest right there in the tub. It was 7:57 pm, less than one hour after we arrived at the Birth Center. Less than 6 hours after I started having contractions. 8 hours before I wasn’t even dilated. It was wild.
He had a little trouble breathing at first. They think maybe he was stunned from the quick birth. My precious new baby was a deep shade of purple, and we had to try to stimulate him a bit to get him breathing. She pulled over the oxygen tank and kept rubbing his skin and talking to him. I later reflected I wasn’t nervous at all. I found out my mom had to leave the room because she was overwhelmed by it. But Elizabeth had such a assurance of what she was doing and a peace about her that I never worried that she wasn’t capable of caring for our boy. Eventually he caught his breath, and we thought all was fine. We inhaled those first few hours in that serene space. Cozied up on the queen sized bed with fresh sheets and dim lighting, we were able to talk and reflect and peacefully enjoy those moments with our new little human. I will forever love that place for the gift of that time.
We stayed at the Birth Center for about 6 hours after birth, and the whole time they kept their eye on a funny pattern of breathing he had. It was a little shallow and his body temperature was a little low. Because of that they wanted to send us to the hospital across the parking lot just to check him out before leaving.
What happened next was a whirlwind. It was nearly 3am, I had just given birth. I was picturing waking our son up on Christmas morning at our home to introduce him to his baby brother.I thought the Dr at the hospital assessment center would check him, give him a thumbs up and send us on our way. But somehow instead they took our baby, started checking him, and then quickly told us we were being admitted and would have to stay at least 36 hours. They would hook him up to an IV and give antibiotics while they tested for infection. The few symptoms he was showing could be signs of infection and they needed to act to play it safe.
As you may imagine I sat in that hospital wheelchair completely disheveled and started sobbing. At one point the Doctor was talking to me and I looked away, plugging my fingers in my ears. Completely out of character for me, but I wanted to throat punch the doctor, grab my baby and run. Rational? I never said it was. I kept looking at the midwife and Patrick like, “isn’t anyone going to say something? Antibiotics? IVs? Anybody else mad about this?” Elizabeth calmly placed her reassuring hand on my shoulder, “The Birth Center was where you needed to be for birth and this is where you need to be right now”. Yet again, her calm presence and reassuring voice was what I needed.
Hours after a non-hospital birth I found myself sitting in an uncomfortable, plastic-upholstered hospital chair. My precious new baby was hooked up to wires and cords. I awkwardly tried to remember how to nurse this new babe with the added obstacles of navigating tubes and cords. We did not wake up on Christmas morning in our cozy home surrounded by family, but to machines beeping, needles pricking our baby’s feet, and a kind nurse explaining the care she was giving our boy. We introduced our little boys to one another in that starfish-themed hospital room. Elias was more interested in the beeping of machines and the buttons than his baby brother. None of it was as I imagined. But it was our story. It was what we were given. I spent the next night “sleeping" on the plastic hospital couch while I insisted Patrick went home at least he could see Elias. I was confused as to why we were there, but decided there needed to be purpose in it. I decided to go with gratitude. For our boys, our health, the amazing men and women caring for all the babies in the NICU. I decided to remember the families who spend holidays in hospital rooms, shuffling the halls in their worn-out slippers. Because now that’s a part of our story, of Forrest’s story, of our Christmas traditions.
Turns out everything was fine. He was a bit stunned and it took him a minute to catch up with the world. We got to leave just as soon as they could let us on the 26th. We went home, Elias got to hold his baby bro and we began the rest of the wild journey together.
HIs name is Forrest. We chose this because of the significance of trees to us. I love the analogies written throughout the Bible charging us to “be like trees planted near the riverbank who bear fruit in and out of season” (Psalm 1). Trees are sturdy, steadfast, and ultimately dependent on their source. We pray our son will be so.
His second name is Theodore, meaning “gift of God”. Patrick strongly sensed this boy was a gift for our family and this name came up OVER and OVER again throughout my pregnancy. We knew it was part of who he is to be. Little did we know we would receive this little gift on Christmas Eve, a day we celebrate the greatest gift and exchange gifts with one another in remembrance.