- Christi Stoltzfus
The Arrival of Owen Patrick
Backstory: At 31 weeks, Owen was diagnosed via ultrasound as having a two-vessel cord (most umbilical cords have three vessels) and having a multi-cystic left kidney. This resulted in closer monitoring throughout the remainder of the pregnancy as the core issue increased the likelihood of complications, if only slightly.
After approximately 6 weeks of prodromal labor, some lasting up to 14 hours, we found ourselves at 41 weeks and 1 day and still no little squish to snuggle. As the risk of complications, particularly with the placenta, begin to rise at 41 weeks, the added concerns over his cord lacking the third vessel, and the fact that, at 42 weeks, a birth center birth and our children being able to attend would be gone, we opted to naturally induce labor. In the days leading up to Owen's birth, I was checked and had membrane sweeps which increased dilation to between 3 and 4cm.
The morning of Owen's birth, I spoke with the midwife to confirm the plan for dosing and then I took my first dose of castor oil at approximately 9am. On recommendations from the midwife and doulas, I incorporated it into a "shake" in hopes of masking the flavor and texture. Perhaps my tastebuds are more developed than others but a banana, a cup of cherries, some milk, and half a cup of ice cream did NOTHING to hide to the 2oz of nastiness! After the first wave of the horror show that results from castor oil intake had passed, it was time to head to the birth center.
Upon arrival around 11am, I was checked again and found to be at a full 4cm! Contractions were a bit stronger after the first dose but hadn't really picked up any regularity so we got settled in the tree room and prepared for the second dose. The nurses sought clarification on questions they had regarding our birth plan and went above and beyond to verify that no latex was present in any of the supplies that would be used. They even brought juice to aid me in ingesting the second dose of castor oil. Bonnie, the midwife, sat with us while I opted to simply chug the dose as fast as possible and then chase with the juice. Her amusement was clear as she exclaimed to Troy that he had "quite the woman!" I'd barely set the bottle down from chugging when a much stronger contraction hit, confirming that labor was officially underway! Bonnie, upon seeing my reaction to the dose, immediately suggested that it would be a very good time to call our doulas who were on standby and awaiting news.
Troy worked on setting the room up while the boys colored and read books and allowed Mommy to labor. The boys were fascinated with the birth tub and, Killian in particular, fell in love with the temperature-monitoring rubber duck but, overall, they were content to play or watch a show on Daddy's laptop. The doulas arrived over the next hour and a half and immediately began assisting me with hip squeezes and gentle reminders to relax, breathe, drink, and repetition of my birth mantra, that I could do anything for a minute. At this point, contractions were 3-5 minutes apart. It was decided that we should get some lunch but, by the time it arrived, I was already in active labor and didn't want to eat anything.
Around 1:45pm the room was darkened, the tub prepared, and I was allowed the blissful relief of the purple-lit water for a time. While I relaxed into the water, the boys wanted desperately to join me but were finally content to splash and laugh with me between contractions. Killian assumed the role of gently washing Mommy’s shoulders with a washcloth. After a while, Rebekah took Killian to encourage a nap and David asked to watch Jurassic World, reassuring Rebekah upon her return with a sleeping Killian that “it’s ok... it’s not real!”
By 4pm, I felt another wave coming on from the oil and the midwife checked me (just to be safe!). I was 6-7 cm and crushed, crying out “ONLY?!” Even though labor hadn't eased up any from the tub, I opted to not return to the water for a time to see if gravity would help me progress further. Since I knew I had a ways to go, I decided to try to eat some of my BLT (a staple at each of my births!) and labor on the birth ball, rocking and working to open my pelvis for baby to descend. Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. At this point, Bonnie had to transfer with another patient and Sarah was called in to help. Kristen, another midwife, filled the gap for those few minutes during which time baby was due for another heartbeat check which baby made her work very hard for!
Around 5pm, Troy decided it was time to start the freezer meal we'd brought so that everyone could have supper after such a long day. He got that started and David helped me between contractions by shoving my water bottle towards me and telling me to drink! It wasn't long before I started to feel the need to get the water refreshed in the tub. Contractions were intense and my signature primal labor dance had returned, along with a few outbursts of "I can't" and "please no" and "what was I thinking!"
Getting back in the tub was nothing short of amazing! Things felt like they had slowed a bit so everyone relaxed, with the exception of the boys. Around 6pm, and quite suddenly, the boys were wired for sound and our doula Rebekah took them out to play in the front room. Christi dimmed the lights and went to assist Rebekah. It appeared we had some more time so the midwife, Sarah, and nurse, Katy, stepped out and left Troy and I to labor in our dark little cave of purple-lit water. Suddenly, the whole world shifted to chaos as I felt a head descend and the urgent need to push. I exclaimed "oh no! Push!" followed by my screaming for Sarah. Troy, knowing I don't historically push for long, darted for the hall yelling "she's pushy!" Sarah and Katy charged into the room as I lost the ability to restrain myself from pushing. Pushing felt strange this time around, like the world was in slow motion and it seemed the head just wouldn't deliver. Sarah seemed to sense my confusion and reached down to support my perineum and help deliver the head. As it turned out, our little love had decided to be born with his hand up by his face! I reached down to feel the soft hair on my baby's head as I awaited the next contraction.
Unfortunately, in the tangle of hands and confusion of delivering the head, I raised up just enough to raise concern that baby had been above water and taken a breath. Sarah was calm but insistent that I stand up, immediately. I was confused and concerned as hands helped to hoist me up from all directions, it seemed. Sarah told me I'd have to deliver the shoulders standing up and told me to turn to face Katy so she could get better positioned to catch the baby. Anticipating my continued confusion, Sarah told me a direction to turn and Katy started making clapping noises to guide me to her as another contraction hit. The sense of slow motion overwhelmed me, again, as I struggled to bear down from such a foreign position. After what felt like ages but was really only two pushes, sweet relief swept over me as Sarah caught the baby at 6:29pm. I began to tremble and cry as I heard Troy call out "It's Owen!" and Sarah instructed me to reach down as she was handing HIM through my legs. Once I had him safely against my chest, hands helped me to sit down in the tub and a towel was draped over my unbelievably large baby boy as I cried and kissed and tried to soak up every detail.
Troy went to the play area to bring David and Killian to meet their new baby brother. It wasn't long before I heard fast little footsteps charging in as the older boys came to meet the new baby. They were so excited to see Mommy holding baby Owen! They were fascinated and alarmed for little brother as Sarah cut the cord while explaining to them that she wasn't hurting the baby. David was also very alarmed about Mommy bleeding and even moved around so he could closely supervise our midwife! Sarah explained to him that I was about to deliver baby's home. Upon delivering the placenta, David exclaimed "Eww! No! Brother's home is Mommy's womb!" Killian, getting very sleepy, again, found comfort with Miss Rebekah amid all the excitement.
After a few minutes, Troy took Owen for some skin-to-skin time while I got up and was helped to rinse off and get into bed. Soon, the whole family was in bed and little Owen, having tried unsuccessfully to latch on to his Daddy, happily enjoyed his first meal with Mommy! While he nursed, I happily rubbed in what little vernix I could find (my first child of the three to still have any at birth!) After 20 minutes of nursing, I switched him to the other side and Killian decided he also needed to nurse! Crawling back into bed beside me, Killian began our tandem nursing journey within brother's first hour with us!
Bonnie returned in time to see to my minor tear and complete Owen’s newborn exam. This was fascinating as she explained all the signs that he was definitely beyond his due date, from his advanced reflexes to his peeling hands and feet. When it was time to weigh, I was asked if I wanted to take a guess. Knowing he was bigger than David was, I guessed 7 pounds 14 ounces. Once Owen was placed on the scale, everyone exclaimed “Wow!” and turned to stare at me as Bonnie informed me he was, in fact, 9 pounds and 4 ounces! Troy and our doulas took the boys out to get some chili while Owen, now comfortably back in my arms, settled into my chest to ponder the new world he’d discovered and rest against Mommy’s gentle and familiar heartbeat.