This pregnancy was so different than my first. With Luella, I didn't have a worry in the world. I was so green and blissfully naive that I didn't worry about much throughout all three trimesters. With Felix, it was anxiety-filled from the beginning.
If you've been following along with me here, you know I've been open about my miscarriages. I had two back to back in late 2014 and early 2015, and really began questioning whether or not I'd ever have another viable pregnancy. Once the initial devastation wore off and with a little advice from a genetic counselor, my husband Walt and I decided to try again. Three months after my second miscarriage I found out I was expecting for the fourth time.
Of course my initial reaction was excitement. Especially in the way I found out. I was at my daughter's swim class and got a phone call from the birth center where I had just checked my hCG levels. I wanted to make sure my hormones were back in balance after the miscarriage. But instead I got some unexpected news. The midwife told me she got my results back and my levels looked good. "Actually it's quite high! We really only see a number like this in pregnant women." My heart skipped a beat. I wasn't due to get my period for another week so that meant I'd have to wait a few days before taking a pregnancy test to confirm the midwife's prediction. And yes, it was torture. My gut said I was but just like the months before, I didn't want to get my hopes up. A week later, my period never came and lo and behold the pregnancy stick had 2 lines. I was definitely pregnant.
I remember feeling so happy that first day. Then the next day rolled around and it was as if the cloud that I had pushed to the side came back and hovered over me. The thought of losing this baby crossed my mind every hour of every day for the first three months. Every time I used the restroom I'd check my underwear to see if I had bled. I was paranoid beyond belief and hypersensitive to any change I felt in my body. I wanted to go to sleep, wake up, and be in the second trimester. Eventually, I got there but the grief and worry never really left. I had a hard time bonding with my baby. I couldn't picture him even when I found out he was, in fact, a he. The worry turned into guilt for not enjoying this pregnancy like I had with Luella. Toward the end, the fear of miscarriage turned into fear of early term delivery. I really struggled with the thought of him being born prematurely. I know not every baby born before 39 weeks needs special medical attention following the birth but I also know statistically, babies born too early are more at risk. I kept replaying this scene in my mind of a beautiful home birth and then my baby having to be immediately transported to the hospital to be cared for in the NICU. I know my previous losses were the only reason I had these thoughts. I just couldn't imagine him in the physical realm as a healthy baby. My husband, my family, my friends, my therapist all told me to think positively. I tried but I just couldn't shake off the nerves. Once I reached full term, all the tension and anxiety I had been feeling instantly left my body. I breathed the biggest breath and finally, I felt true, genuine excitement over the upcoming arrival of my boy.
My due date came and went with still no sign of labor. I started to get antsy, which sounds ridiculous seeing that I wanted the baby to stay put as long as possible before. But isn't that pregnancy for you? One minute you're hot, the next minute you're cold. I started to ask my midwife about steps I could take to try and get things started on my own. I wanted to meet this baby I had stressed over for 9 months, dammit! I did a few things I knew of to try and induce labor a couple days after the 40 week mark, and guess what? It actually worked! 'It' being a combination of things (sex, 12 hours of drinking parsley tea on the hour every hour, a membrane sweep, pulsatilla pellets, and a mug of red raspberry leaf tea to be exact). That night I started to wind down and get ready for bed when all of sudden my contractions started.
For the first hour I didn't time them. A part of me thought I was having false labor and didn't want to be the pregnant lady who cried wolf. Then they started coming on really strongly. I called my midwife and told her I thought I was in early labor so I just wanted to give her a heads up. 30 minutes after that phone call, I needed my husband to call her again because my contractions were too intense for me to talk through. This was definitely happening and the baby was coming fast. She told him to get me in the tub so I could relax a bit before she got there and call her in an hour for an update. That seemed like an eternity to me! Now in hindsight, It's amazing that midwives know how far along a woman has progressed in labor just by the sound of her voice, or in my case, her moans.
An hour passed and I told my husband I wanted her. Sandra arrived and walked in as cool as a cucumber. She checked me shortly after and I was 8 cm dilated. I was so relieved to hear that and just happy that she was finally at my side. Labor makes me vulnerable in a whole different way and the only thing that brings me some sort of peace is another female presence. I fed off of her energy and used her touch and soft, nurturing voice to get me through the thick of it. My husband was tremendous support to me as well but I have to say, there's nothing like having another woman, who's been through it also, guiding you through the darkest part of labor. The part when your mind tells your body there's no strength left. "I can't do it anymore. I'm so tired," I said. Fear and doubt took over in that final transition and there was no way I was going to be able to push this baby out. My back felt like it was breaking and my contractions made my whole body shake - this was my limit. How could I possibly go on? Suddenly my water broke. I remember saying how good it felt to release that pressure and as the baby moved his way down the birth canal, something switched. My contractions came 6 to 7 minutes apart and in between I slept. I literally fell asleep in the tub. I was in another realm. I was out of my mind, which is probably the best place to be when you're in labor because I was no longer telling myself I couldn't do it. I had finally stopped fighting what was happening and completely surrendered. I rode the wave of each contraction until it was time to push. I felt for his head and thought, "it's still way back there." I knew when the next contraction came I needed to push with everything I had if I wanted the pain to end. Adrenaline took over and I gave it my all. Within a few pushes his head was out. Walt and Sandra told me to feel his head. I said no. I couldn't. My back labor was so intense at that point that I couldn't even think about moving any part of my body. I knew my job wasn't over. I needed to get his shoulders out and I would have to do it with power but also ease. I didn't want to tear. I imagined his shoulders sliding through and pushed with that in mind. His shoulders were finally out and then the rest of his body followed effortlessly. It was all over and yet his life outside had just begun.
Sandra put him in my arms and just like Luella when she was born, he didn't cry. I asked her repeatedly if he was okay. "He's perfect," she said. Both of my babies were wide-eyed and quiet, almost as if they just wanted me to rely on their eye contact rather than their cries for reassurance that everything would be okay. I examined him, made sure he was a boy, and then began to really soak it in. All the pain I had been holding onto left me - physically, emotionally. Any sadness or resentment I had about my miscarriages were suddenly gone. It was him this whole time, he just hadn't been ready to meet me yet until now.
We waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and then Walt cut it. Sandra suggested I nurse and so I did. He cupped my breast and latched like he knew what he was doing. There we were, in our tub but really in our own world.
Our camera was able to catch some video footage of me laboring in the tub. I labored for 7 hours and sadly, once the first card ran out of memory it didn't make the switch to the second card and missed the whole birth. A huge bummer but I'm happy we have at least some of it recorded to look back on years from now. Here's a tiny snippet of that morning.
Felix Rupert Sassard
April 16, 2016 | 6:06 a.m.
6 lbs. 15 oz. 20 1/2 in.
Welcome to this big, beautiful world, son.
You can read Luella's birth story here.