Before we get to the action, I feel it’s appropriate to set the stage on how I thought about the impending birth of our third, and final, child. Katie did a wonderful job pushing out the other two kiddos and for my part, I always felt better when she had the epidural, even with her second epidural not working right. It was emasculating to see someone you love in so much pain and there was nothing you could do to help. Now going in to the final hurrah, Katie wanted to do everything all natural. I was fine with that. It also happened that the local hospital (INOVA Loudoun) had a Natural Birthing Center (not to be confused with the Natural Birthing INN, which is a typical hospital labor and delivery setup. And the two are very close within the hospital…it was very confusing). The NBC was designed for women who wanted to do everything sans drugs. There was no monitor to be hooked up, no IV to put in, no sterile hospital room. Conceptually I was fine with this as well. It fit Katie’s birth plan and what she wanted. I had a number of questions, though, about what happens if things go poorly. They assured us that ER teams, neonatologists, etc. could get there within minutes, if an emergency happened. So I certainly supported Katie in her quest to have an all-natural birth, but I was still nervous about the “worst case scenario.” This hesitance lessened as the pregnancy progressed because we saw how healthy the baby was, how large he was, and how healthy Katie was. So while I had initial reservations, it was for naught in the end.
As we approached gestational week 38, Katie and I were on high alert. The other two boys were born at the same gestational age so we knew her body really liked to give birth around week 38. And we were almost spot on the money. It was early Sunday morning (2am) and we thought it was time. My mom and sister were visiting so I called them up in the middle of the night to let them know they needed to come to the house from their hotel to keep an eye on the boys. It was go time! It seemed that Katie was having very regular contractions and they were getting painful. A sure sign that active labor was starting. My mom and sister got to the house and we headed off. Luckily at 2am, the stop lights were short and there were no other cars on the road. Even though this was the third time we’d been through a birth, it felt like the first time. It was a new state. A new hospital. A new dynamic with two kids at home. We arrive at the reception of the Birthing Inn (have to report here first). I almost forgot what to say when we buzzed the security door. Of course…we were here to give birth? We were here because we thought Katie was in labor? I know I stumbled over my words but the nurse knew what was up and let us in. We went to triage and Katie disrobed and waited to be checked. While I sat there in uncomfortable plastic chair, I started to get excited at the anticipation of how dilated/effaced Katie would be. At her doctor’s appointment a few days prior, she was already two cm and 70% effaced! She would definitely be on her way to labor. I was convinced that this would be it! And as a bonus, my mom and sister would get to see a fresh baby! They hadn’t had the opportunity to see our sons before they were a month or so old before. Finally Katie’s midwife came in the room and checked………..and little progress. Similar to the doctor’s appointment. We were bummed. I was sure this would be it! Well at least we had learned our lesson with Lincoln and we weren’t going to waste time sitting around the hospital. Katie could progress in the next 10 minutes or the next 24 hours. It was impossible to tell. So we went home, my mom and sister went back to their hotel, and we got some sleep.
When morning came, it was like the whole trip to the hospital was a vivid dream. Katie’s “contractions” had stopped and she felt super pregnant, but not like the baby was going to fall out at any moment. We went on with our day. My family came over for breakfast and some last minute playtime with the boys before they made the long drive back home.
We continued on and acted like our early morning trip to the hospital hadn’t happened. I didn’t want to dwell long on the disappointment of our baby not being here yet. That night we went to bed and everything seemed to be normal. It was still dark when Katie gently nudged me awake. It was go time! After the “rehearsal” the night before, we were ready. But of course now my family had left for home so we relied on our good friend in the area to come and keep watch over the older boys while we went to the hospital. After a few tense minutes of waiting, our friend arrived and we were off. We made it to the hospital by 5:15am.
They checked us into triage and confirmed that Katie was in early labor. They called staff in to the NBC and we headed that way. A nurse poked her head in and Katie giggled; apparently this woman lived by us at our old rental. Not being home during the day for playdates, I had no idea who she was. She looked like a relative of a co-worker and I couldn’t get that out of my head. But this person just popped in to take us to the NBC and that she was bummed her shift was ending and wouldn’t be able to stay with us during the labor.
Once we got over the NBC, we realized we had the whole area to ourselves. We got settled in as the nursing staff evaluated Katie, checked the baby’s heart rate, and made sure everything was OK. From then on, we played the waiting game we knew so well. What was different this time around was the NBC; it was a wonderful, relaxed environment. Katie tried to labor on the various birthing balls and slings, with limited success. While she was soldiering through the contractions, the nurse filled the tub and got it comfortably warm. Katie got into the tub and I could tell she was instantly relaxed. And the added bonus was that the speakers above the tub had a control unit that you could hook your phone into. So of course, we got a nice pop music playlist going while Katie relaxed/labored in the tub. Time seemed to creep along. Eventually Katie progressed to transition and had to get out of the tub. To this point, Katie had not had any (or very little) back labor. But now that she was transitioning, the back labor came on. Luckily we had a wonderful nursing student who was interested in becoming a midwife and had great pressure points. So from that point on, she applied pressure while I helped coach Katie’s breathing. Now time was speeding along, and before we knew it, it was time to push.
This labor was so smooth I couldn’t believe it was time. Katie was great at pushing, being a seasoned pro. Before we knew it, the last stages were here. Now Katie was really feeling the pain and kept yelling “Pull it out! Pull it out!” I had to calmly explain to her that the baby’s head was almost out and the nurse couldn’t just pull…Katie had to push. With one last great effort, Katie brought our little Eli into the world at 9:49 am. As with the other kids, from this point on everything was a blur. Katie passed the placenta like a champ as I following Eli around as the nurses checked him. Everyone was healthy with no complications or injuries.
Although I was initially hesitant about the “all natural” birth, it was certainly our best experience and a wonderful capstone for our now-complete family.