That’s my birth story in a nutshell! Here’s the very long version.
Mazen and Birch’s pregnancies were nearly identical. Like most second-time moms, I started feeling lots of Braxton Hicks contractions much earlier this time. By the end, they were quite strong and intense. I also could feel the baby’s head on my cervix and was walking around 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced during my last few weeks of pregnancy. I even had several rounds of false labor with somewhat time-able contractions. For all of the above reasons, I was convinced Baby B would not go too much past his due date. But just like his big brother, I found myself 6 days past my due date and still pregnant. With Mazen, my water broke on the 6th day past due and he was born on the 7th. Turns out the exact same thing happened this time!
The day before Birch was born
On October 28 at 11:15 pm I woke up to shift positions. I noticed that Birch was moving around a TON in there. I had been convinced in the days prior that he was in a less-than-ideal position to drop into my pelvis, so I had been doing positions from The Miles Circuit to hopefully help him get in a better spot. As I lay there awake and still, I suddenly felt a pop deep in my pelvis. It felt like popping a knuckle deep in there, and I knew it wasn’t one of my joints because I was still. I made a beeline to the bathroom pretty sure my water had broken. For a few minutes nothing happened. Then I felt the tiniest leak, but it wasn’t enough to be sure. I paced around the bathroom and did some deep squats but I still didn’t feel anything. I eventually sat back down on the toilet and that’s when about a cup of fluid came out and I was sure it was my water. I put on a pad, woke up Thomas, and called the doctor.
Earlier that night I had been having pretty regular contractions, but still in the false labor category. I had taken a bubble bath to see if they would pick up, but they fizzled away to nothing, and I wasn’t feeling any now. With Mazen, it took me about 12 hours to go into labor after my water broke, so I was prepared for a similar experience. The doctor called me back and said we could come to the hospital whenever we wanted – now or in the morning if nothing was happening yet. She suggested I go back to sleep or try to rest until contractions picked up. There was no way I was going near my Tempurpedic mattress with a broken water! (By now I was getting gushes of fluid every few minutes.) I was also shaking pretty bad with adrenaline and excitement, so I knew resting would be hard. I said we’d probably be there sooner than later. A lot of people avoid going to the hospital until they are very far along in labor, but I feel more comfortable being settled in there, so I knew I’d be more anxious at home than in a delivery room, even if things were moving slowly.
Next we called my doula, who asked if I was having any contractions. “Nope” I responded. She also told me to rest and to call her back when they started up.
So Thomas and I showered, packed the last items in our bags, tidied up the house, said goodbye to Gus, and headed to the hospital about an hour later. Luckily Mazen was sleeping at Matt’s house that night, so that took a layer of stress of of us having to call Matt or a neighbor to care for sleeping Mazen. I texted Matt that my water broke and he heard his phone go off and gave me some words of encouragement to the tune of “I’ve seen you do this before – you’ll be great!”
We arrived at the hospital at 1 am and had to answer a series of triage questions. It was during these questions that I felt my first painful contraction. I remember thinking “I don’t want to be standing up anymore” as I rattled off my phone number and occupation and signed forms. I’m considering this first contraction the start of labor! I was thrilled to be feeling some action because I didn’t want to have to do an induction if contractions didn’t pick up, and I absolutely think my mind and body held off on beginning labor until I felt safe and secure in the good hands of the hospital.
We got to our room, and I was hooked up to the monitor for 20 minutes, which is standard procedure. I was luckily able to avoid having an IV this time but they did need to take a vial of blood, which I was not thrilled about. Our nurses were very nice, and they left us to get settled in.
“Better take my picture for my birth story!” Famous last words 🙂
After the monitoring was done, maybe about 1:30 am, I was starting to feel more painful contractions. I knew I should get up and doing some productive things like walk the halls or do loops on the birth ball, but I was already feeling so much pain and pressure down there that all I wanted to do was lie on my left side, which had been my most comfortable position while pregnant. So I laid down in the bed with a pillow between my legs and rested. Soon after laying down, the contractions picked up another level, and I was having to close my eyes and breathe through them. I was surprised how quickly they got intense. Thomas called our doula and she arrived about 2:45 am to find me still laying in bed, breathing deeply through contractions. I had a lot of painful pressure near my public bone and had my hand there for a long time applying counter pressure.
Around 3:15 am, two hours after arriving at the hospital, I was checked for the first time and found to be 6 cm and 90% effaced. Since the contractions were still pretty manageable at this point, I was very encouraged. My team suggested I get into the jacuzzi tub. Warm water and jets sounded appealing, so we filled up the tub, and I hobbled over to get in. At first I felt tremendous relief. Unlike my tub experience with Mazen, where the water was luke warm and my IV had to be out the whole time, this time the tub was the perfect temperature and I could really relax. The pressure on my pubic bone went away, and I continued to breathe through the contractions, which were getting longer and closer together. Similar to Mazen’s birth, this was when contractions really picked up. They were coupling and piggybacking on one another, sometimes lasting for 3-5 whole minutes before I got a break. I don’t remember getting many breaks with Mazen’s birth, so these little breaks were so nice. I was able to talk to Thomas and Betsy and share what I was feeling.
During the contractions, my coping technique was to travel to far away places filled with happy (oxytocin filled!) thoughts. I went to the Sanderling Resort and re-lived our engagement. I drank a beer on the beach during cocktail hour with our family. I traveled back in time to Mazen’s birth and remembered how he felt on my chest when he was born. I re-lived our wedding ceremony, our trip to St. Lucia, soccer games, and silliest times with Mazen. Taking my mind elsewhere really helped divert my attention from the intense pain, and it was sort of fun to mentally paint a vivid picture of those happy places.
When I wasn’t “in” a visualization, I tried really hard to remember all of the natural childbirth techniques I had read about. I kept my jaw as soft as humanly possible. I breathed as deeply as I could. I tried to totally relax my bottom and let the contraction do its work. At one point, I could feel myself tensing up and fighting the pain and I focused intently to release and relax during the next contraction. And that next one felt different, almost like the baby moved down in the canal a bit. It was a challenge to relax into the pain, but I knew the more I could do that the quicker it would be over. That was my goal the whole time: make labor as short as I can by working with it instead of against it.
My doula and Thomas said I was doing an amazing job handling the contractions. Thomas encouraged me the whole time with lots of “you’re doing great” and “you got this.” Everyone was commenting on how calm I was. Both my doctor and nurse commented that they thought I would be delivering very soon. My doctor recommended that I get out of the tub shortly after (I think I’d been in there 30 minutes) based on the intensity, length, and intervals of my contractions just in case I started feeling the urge to push, and so we attempted to move me back to the bed. I had back-to-back intense contractions that kept stalling my exit. Finally I pretty much sprinted to the bed in between them and doubled over with another one when I got there.
It was now just after 4 am (three hours in) and they checked me again and I was at 8 cm. Everyone started to get the room ready for delivery, which confused me a bit because I thought I had a few hours left to get to 10 cm at least. They all seemed to sense it was going to go fast. I think they could read my body language better than I could because shortly after I had three REALLY intense contractions that I sort of lost my cool with. My breathing changed to short and shallow and I started grunting. I didn’t open my eyes for a really long time. I felt Thomas in front of me a few times, heard his voice and felt his hands, but I didn’t see him again until B came out. According to Thomas, he had started to panic a little. He said he wasn’t quite prepared for all of the intensity of that last 30 minutes, and he was shedding some tears and “freaking out” (his words). My doula assured him that what was happening was a normal for a mother in transition and that I was doing great, despite my drastic change in demeanor.
Betsy was absolutely amazing coaching me through this transition period. She had me chanting “Hah Hah Hah” when the contraction would peak and then blowing out over and over as it faded. This was really hard to do because all I really wanted to do was yell, but giving me something to do really helped. I most often yelled a little at the peak, then switched to “hahs” and then blew out the rest. During this time I asked for the vomit bag, which thankfully never got used, and said I was feeling like I had to push. Just like with Mazen’s birth, I just HAD to bear down against a few of them even though it wasn’t quite time. I was checked again and at 10 cm with a small cervical lip. I remember yelling “$%&! That’s what happened with Mazen!” My doctor did the same thing as with Mazen and tried to manually push it back with a strong contraction. I remember writhing and coming up off the bed to fight the pain of her hands in there. Those were definitely my worst moments. They had me “hah” and blow through three contractions to try to let his head push the lip aside and that apparently worked.
I was still on my left side and they put my right leg up in a stirrup so I could start pushing. My natural inclination was to arch back during a push, but they kept trying to get me to do chin to chest and bear down in the front. The position I was in made that hard, but I felt like I just couldn’t move. Finally I turned a little and was able to bear down and pushed with all my might. I was grunting and groaning and so eager to get him out. With Mazen’s birth, I felt like I had something to push against, but with B I couldn’t feel much. Pushing was harder this time for that reason, and my right hamstring kept cramping, so that did not help the situation or my focus. He apparently had a hard time getting under my pubic bone, and at one point my doctor asked me how big Mazen was because “this baby looks big!” Maybe not something to tell a mother while she is pushing – lol. There was mention of a vacuum, which I definitely did not want, and so I pushed even harder. My team was very encouraging though, and about 15 minutes later his head was out. My doctor had me reach down and touch it twice, and that was great encouragement. Once his head was out, his shoulders were next, and he got stuck for a moment instead of sliding all the way out, but Betsy said my doctor used a technique to maneuver them out with the next push.
Baby Birch was born just 4 hours after my first contraction at 4:54 am.
He was almost 8 pounds, 5 ounces, and 20.25 inches long. A big boy!!
The hour or so after birth was actually quite intense for me. Delivering the placenta was painful, and my whole bottom was throbbing. I really wanted to take my legs down out of the stirrups because my hamstrings were still cramping, but between the placenta delivery and getting one small stitch, I had to leave them up for a good 20 minutes or so. Although I had my sweet baby on my chest to distract me, the pain was worse this time than it was with Mazen. I remember being so uncomfortable that it was hard to focus on Birch. I made it through though and immediately had some ibuprofen and an ice pack that helped the throbbing and was feeling much better an hour later.
We handed Birch to Thomas to do skin to skin. I loved seeing them together! They snuggled for a good while until it was time to nurse. Birch nursed about 15 minutes per side and was so cute!
My nurse helped me to the bathroom and to get a little cleaned up, and they wheeled us to our recovery room just as the sun was rising. I absolutely love this picture of us. I spent the whole day in disbelief that this sweet baby had been inside of me the day before. I also kept saying over and over “I’m so glad I’m not pregnant!” Although I was moving slowly and sore, it felt so good to be able to bend in half! By our second day I was able to lie on my stomach again, which felt amazing.
I was much more agile after this birth, and my swelling wasn’t quite as bad as it was with my first.
That first shower, which I finally took later that afternoon, was epic. I loved our matching outfits, although if I had to buy them again I’d get a darker color like navy or black. My pads leaked a bit on my pants which was super inconvenient since I only brought two pairs!
Big Brother came by with Matt later that afternoon and was excited to meet Birch.
He brought a special doggie and his picture to go in Birch’s baby bed.
We were able to take a quick nap later that afternoon, although the second I fell asleep food service entered for my dinner requests. The first night was exhausting, especially having not slept the night he was born, but I was pumped on adrenaline and hormones. Thomas needed rest more than I did because he didn’t have the hormone help. Our second night we decided to use the nursery as much as possible, so I was able to get a few 1.5 – 2 hour stretches of sleep. I had some mom guilt about that, but I reasoned that the oxygen mask theory applied here and I hadn’t slept in two nights. I was glad we did it in the morning.
Seeing Thomas as a father, of course, was heart melting. We are both smitten with our little B, and Thomas is a natural with him.
I am so thankful that our delivery went smoothly and everyone was healthy. While the last hour was way more intense than I could have anticipated, the first 3 hours made up for it by being very manageable. For some reason I thought that second babies just slid out, so I was surprised that pushing this time was a little bit harder, but perhaps that’s because Birch was such a big boy, bigger than his older brother by 5 ounces.
Many of you have asked the story behind his name, Birch Younger Donne. We both love nature names and found Birch on a list of nature names while brainstorming during the first trimester. We had been going through baby name lists with a zillion “nos” and we both stopped and just said “yes!” to Birch. It’s solid, unique, easy to pronounce and spell, and easily converts to an -ie nickname (Birchie, just like Mazey). I also love the way Mazen + Birch sound together. It makes me think of the Mason + Rook hotel in NYC that we stayed in a few years back. It was the name to beat for a few weeks until we decided it had to be the one.
We decided to give Birch my last name, Younger, as his middle name, and Donne as his last as a compromise to hyphenation this time. I feel strongly that I share a name with my children on paper, and this was the best solution for that. Lots of women use their last or maiden names for middle names, and I love the name Younger (obvi) so it suits him! Plus he’s the younger brother, so I love the symbolism of that.
Thank you to Cramer Photo for capturing these newborn photos!