The Homebirth of Freddie Young
This is the story of the birth of our third living child, our rainbow baby. You are invited to read the story of our loss, here.
July 14th. 2018
4:45 am - I had slept in every day this summer while Todd got up with the kids. Pregnancy insomnia had made it hard for me to get moving in the morning, but this day was different. Penelope crawled into bed with us, and while I normally would have bribed her to go play somewhere by herself and let us sleep for a few more minutes, I cuddled her close and we nuzzled each other for a bit until Isla woke up. I took both of them downstairs feeling unusually refreshed and content. I was excited to spend a little alone time with my girls while their daddy got a much needed sleep-in day.
We read and played some games, and then I had the incredible urge to deep clean the house. In less than an hour I had emptied and reloaded the dishes, collected a load of laundry and folded two baskets from the dryer, swept, vacuumed, and mopped the downstairs, cleaned windows and mirrors, then dusted surfaces and tidied all the rooms.
This is unusual of me, I thought.
7:00 am - Todd wakes and finds me in a cheery mood.
"This is unusual of you...", he said.
"Yeah...I thought that too. I made you all a to-do list. Here you go!" I say, directing him to a bullet list of housework.
"Oh. Great. Thankssss..." he replies, probably trying to remind himself of all the reasons he once had for marrying me.
9:00 am - This day marked 41 weeks of pregnancy for me. I was feeling content and happy to still be pregnant. I loved being free to go to the pool all day with my big kids. I loved the feeling of the sun drenching my skin and the water weightlessly supporting my body. I adored the confidence I had sporting a bikini with my round belly out for all the world to see and I loved the passersby who smiled at me knowing there was precious life cradled below.
I had been taking weekly belly shots for a few weeks, but something in me told me it was very important to not miss this day and to make it special. I showered, did my hair, got dressed, and gathered my family to make what I didn't know (or maybe, didn't know I knew...) would be our last maternity images.
11:45 am - Our big ol' dog Bruce was being a whiny pain, so I beg Todd to take him for a run or to the dog park. Todd decides to take him for a bike ride out at High Cliff. I'm not certain this is a good idea, but I send them off with a "good luck!" and go back to playing with the girls.
Through the next hour, I start feeling a little different and the painful braxton hicks I had been having for weeks picked up again, only this time, a few of them had a little more gusto.
12:47 pm - I get a text from Todd saying our 95 pound dog refuses to move off the trail. My husband may be stranded and I may be in labor...
1:23 pm - I text Vanessa,
"I doubt it's anything, but I've had about ten more painful contractions in the past hour."
She tells me to hydrate well, take a warm bath if they intensify, and to keep her updated.
1:43 pm - Todd manages to make it home, and I get out of a very long, hot shower and lie down with my big girl, Isla.
2:00 pm - I feel antsy. Excited.
I text Vanessa and tell her that I'm not going to take any of her advice and I want to cram in some more memories with the kids before I'm bed bound, if this is "real" labor. I tell her that I'm trying to stay distracted and not time them, but I feel them down low and I promise that I'll do all her suggestions when we get home from a spontaneous lunch outing.
She says I'll know when I need to be home, and that sounds like a good idea.
"Go spend the day eating good food and spending time together...just remember it could go into tonight or beyond, so go have some fun"
2:03 pm - I've spent the day updating Laura and Mary over messenger about the slow and sporadic sensations I'd been having. I tell them we're heading to Cozzy Corner for a fried chicken lunch.
I almost immediately regret having a fried chicken lunch in early labor.
(I definitely regret it later on in active labor...)
3:16 pm - We take our last family of four selfie.
3:46 pm - I call my midwife, Annmarie, and leave a message saying things may be starting. She texts back saying that all sounds great and to call her back again if I notice anything changing.
4:00 pm - We head to Aldi for some last minute groceries. Contractions are about 4-6 minutes apart and make me knock over some boxes of blackberries when I grab a cucumber crate for support.
"Dude. You seriously shouldn't be at Aldi right now..." Todd says dryly.
5:24 pm - We settle in at home and throw on a movie. I check myself in the bathroom...I can feel my cervix dilated with a wiggly two fingers and guess I'm around 3-4cm. I feel baby head and bulging bags. There's bloody show.
I get excited, nervous, and overwhelmingly emotional that these will be my final moments being pregnant.
Once at home and off my feet though, the contractions spread out to between 10-15 minutes apart. This confused and frustrated me a little bit because I was so nervous that I wouldn't know when to call my birth team over and I'd end up having an accidental, unassisted birth all over again.
Mary suggested I try the pancake flip for the next hour and a half, so I turned on some Law and Order and laid in bed switching from side to side and to hands and knees.
I text Vanessa all my frustrations and say that I hope all the contractions I had throughout the day didn't only bring me this far and now nothing else will happen for the day. She tells me to trust in my body and that it may just need a break or some space. She reminds me that I can't stop my labor and to just go with the flow.
She invites me to throw something at her later.
7:15 pm - We get the girls settled for bed...Penelope konks out right away, but Isla can sense something is up. I tell her tonight may be the night, but she needs to rest up for a few hours if she wants to be woken for the birth.
She says, "Yeah mom, you've been saying it's gonna be tonight a lot lately...I don't think this baby is ever coming."
8:00 pm - I switch from lying down trying to rest, to bouncing on the birth ball. I was completely confused at what my body was trying to do. Lying down caused the contractions to be ten minutes apart, but they would last two and a half minutes long and were incredibly intense...bouncing on the ball made them much more manageable and come every 4-6 minutes, but they only lasted thirty seconds or so! I didn't know what to do...be more in pain, but rest, or be more active and have less strong, less long contractions.
I call Vanessa, crying.
I'm frustrated and in pain.
She suggests to get in the bath and to try and rest as much as possible. I have two big contractions in the ten minutes I was on the phone with her. She texts me right after and says to see if they keep coming like that while I lie down, and if they do, to call AnnMarie soon and check in.
I continue to alternate between side lying and bouncing on the ball.
Todd makes a pizza for himself and puts on some kind of monster movie.
9:14-9:21 pm - I feel like I want to touch base with my midwife, AnnMarie. I call her and tell her how sporadic they have been, but in just a few minutes of chatting with her, I had two big ones I needed to vocalize through. I tell her my worries about not wanting everyone to come over and be away from their families for many hours in case it will be awhile yet, but I also worry that everyone will miss it if I don't call it soon and it goes fast.
She says to call back in 20-30 minutes, and if anything, they will all come over and watch monster movies with us.
9:36 pm - Something changes really quickly...I have a few double-peaked, very long contractions right on top of one another. My vocalizing intensifies and Todd gives me a side-eyed glance.
"Should you maybe call everyone like right now...?" he says casually.
"Yup. Like right now." I say with new intensity.
9:42 pm - I call AnnMarie back, she answers immediately and I say, gruffly,
"I couldn't wait that long...I need everyone now."
"Yup. I figured. I'm on my way." She says.
I text Vanessa and Laura and Mary and tell them to head over right away and that it's really time. I feel much more at ease knowing my birth team is on their way and knowing that I wasn't imagining this day of laboring.
9:50 pm - Vanessa walks through the door. I'm instantly relived to see my best friend and the start of our birth support system arrive. I start crying uncontrollably and apologizing for calling her away from her family and I say I'm still not convinced this isn't too early to have them over, but I feel better with them here. I tell her I got into my mind too much and I'm so confused by what's happening...I feel like everything is quickly spinning out of control.
Quickly, AnnMarie arrives, followed by Mary and Laura.
With all of my labors, I've managed, or at least tried managing my pain, by cursing.
It's not conducive to every woman, but for me, I know it means transition is soon and it helps me cope.
"What was I thinking? Why does anyone do this?? I changed my mind! &^$*# this! We are SO done after this! I am never doing this again. I just want this OUT OF ME!! #@*%&#$@**#&#!!"
I was unbelievably hot, so I turned the air down to 68 and knelt down by the air conditioning vent. I wanted so badly to lie on the floor with my face planted right on the vent cover, but I was worried I'd never get up again.
In between a contraction, I decided I wanted to change my outfit because I'm a photographer myself and my priorities are way off. I quickly changed into my designated "birthing outfit" and out of my designated "laboring outfit".
Someone suggested I get in the tub to labor, so Todd ran up to fill it.
I had a woven wrap hanging from some ceiling hooks that I planned to use for labor and birth. It felt comforting to grip tightly onto it while sitting on my birth ball and bouncing. I tried hanging from my arms by it too, but that didn't feel as good.
I went to the bathroom where I checked myself again. I couldn't feel any cervix, just a huge bulging bag of waters, but I had to reach high to feel it. I came out of the bathroom and waved Vanessa and AnnMarie over to me. I explained what I was feeling...
"I feel bulging bags and I think I might be complete...but she's still high. I want her lower. How can I get her LOWER so I can GET. HER. OUT."
Someone probably told me my body was doing what it needed to and I can do this and blah blah blah blah blah...
I went back to the living room to pace around cursing.
Suddenly, I felt the need to have my kids awake and with me. Immediately!
"I need my kids now..."
Todd ran up to wake them. And to turn off the tub.
I've never seen them so excited before...their faces were completely lit up, like Christmas morning, times a hundred. I felt so much better having them with me.
I felt another contraction coming, but this time, instead of breathing through it, I held my breath and let out a slight grunt.
Isla had been interested in helping me catch the baby, I told her if she still wanted to, to get some gloves on quickly! She got them on, but then my contractions had turned to intense pushing. I couldn't help but scream and holler through them. The intensity scared Penelope a little bit, and Isla changed her mind about catching. They both got out their cameras and decided they wanted to photograph the birth instead.
Todd helped Penelope get her headphones on. She was comforted and excited again.
With the next contraction, I reached inside so I could feel what I was doing when I pushed and I was frustrated by the bag of waters just sitting there. It felt like they were too slippery and every time I pushed, they would slide everything back up again.
After a few more intense pushes, I felt her head descending and finally staying low. I supported myself and her crowning head. AnnMarie did counter pressure on my back, and Vanessa charted and took heart tones. I remember locking eyes with her and subconsciously pleading to her to take my pain away.
I started feeling like I was out of my body and all of the sudden, my cursing and hollering changed to singing. I briefly sang a lullaby my own mom used to sing to me and my siblings and that I've sung to all of our children as infants. I felt myself centering. Focused on my newest little girl and the last leg of our birthing journey, I gave a huge push and felt her head birth into my hands.
With that push, her waters finally broke. I checked around her neck for a cord, felt nothing, and then went for the last huge push.
10:53 pm - Out slipped her body and I gently placed her onto the chux pad below me.
I took a moment to bring myself back...
There was my baby, right beneath me. The one we've been trying for and waiting for. The one who I had to guard my heart for in case something bad happened this time too.
She was here.
She was real.
She was okay.
We did it.
Our darling Winifred...you are everything we've been waiting for and everything we've needed to complete our family. You are teaching us to slow down, breathe in, expect less, enjoy more. Because of you, I'm reminded to stop and savor every sweet moment. Smelling your soft, silky breath that is so completely intoxicating, reminds me to stop and breathe in the bigger, busier girls too...I pause and feel their chlorinated hair crunch beneath my hands after a long day at the pool...memorize the way their sticky, salty cheeks- sweaty from the summer days- feel under the weight of my kisses. I watch your dad fall hard for the fourth love of his life.
You make us happy. And we love you so, our tiny rainbow.