Seeing as he's now 26 months old, it might be time to write out his birth story! I wrote Abbie's out in the weeks following her birth, but not Caden's. So here we go...
Caden's birth was such a silver lining during a very difficult season for our family. My husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma when I was 7 months pregnant. After much research and prayers, we made the difficult decision to go ahead with chemotherapy. He had his first chemo treatment the last week of April 2007, just 5 weeks before Caden was due to be born.
After this treatment, we realized that for Ryan to be able to not only be present and functioning at the birth, but also to feel well enough to serve as my birth coach (something that was particularly important to me, as I could not imagine giving birth without him as my coach), we needed to try to carefully plan when the birth occurred. Ry was on a chemo schedule of every 2 weeks, so we wanted to arrange the birth to fall about 1 week after his treatment, which would give him time to recover, as well as give us a week to enjoy our new baby and allow me to recover somewhat before he went back in for another treatment.
We began trying at around 37 weeks, having our midwife do internal "sweeps", lots of walking, etc. to see if baby might be willing to come. After a few days of this, my midwife Anne felt that it just wasn't time yet and we needed to wait until the next chemo cycle.
Once again, at just before 39 weeks, we started trying. I went for long walks, was as physically active as I could be (I had even just finished painting our entire living room!), had more sweeps done, and finally decided it was time to try the castor oil cocktail. Ugh!
The first time I tried it was about noon on a Wednesday, 9 days before my due date. By about 3 pm that afternoon, I was having lots of cramping that had turned into regular contractions, about 8-10 minutes apart. By dinnertime, they were a bit closer together and getting a little stronger. We left our daughter with friends, and went out for a dinner date, to help take my mind off things and take advantage of this chance to be together. We had a wonderful, romantic dinner, during which the contractions intensified enough that by about 7:30 I was eager to head home.
Once we arrived home around 8, we called and let the midwife know where things were at, and I hopped in the bathtub. She arrived sometime after 9pm, and checked me. Things were still going quite slowly, and I was only a couple centimeters dilated. She felt that although the castor oil had brought on contractions, they weren't really effective ones and that this might not be the real thing. She urged us to go to bed and rest, and she went to bed on our living room couch.
I spent the next 4-5 hours laying down, doing my best to relax, while listening to worship music. Ryan slept (and he's a sound sleeper), and I was grateful that he could rest. This was a challenging but really good time for me, as the contractions continued fairly strongly and I had to cope with them by myself. It was during this time that I feel I really learned how to actually let go and relax, embracing the intensity of the contractions and letting them do their work, rather than tensing up and fighting the pain as I had struggled with during my first birth. I eventually fell asleep at about 2 am, and when I woke up at 7 the next morning, the contractions were gone.
In the morning, the midwife decided to leave since things had completely stopped. She said that if I wanted, I could try the castor oil once more, but cautioned that I might just end up tiring myself out with another day of the same thing.
I decided to go for it and try it once more around 7:30am, since this was perfect timing for baby to come, right in between treatments, and I felt ready for it. I took the cocktail, and puttered around the house for the morning, with nothing happening but the odd crampy sensation.
Since nothing was happening, I decided to book a hair appointment for noon that day. Yes, I know, I'm crazy! Nonetheless, I booked it since my hair really needed to be cut and I didn't know when I'd have another good chance to do it with all that was going on in our lives that summer.
At noon, I sat down in the hairdresser's chair. No less than 5 minutes later, I knew it was a mistake! Contractions began coming regularly, about 5-7 minutes apart, and I could just tell that these ones were not ineffective like the ones the day before! I somehow made it through the 40 minute haircut, and then excused myself to the salon bathroom as soon as I had paid. By that time, things were really intensifying, so I spent the next 15 minutes on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth, while I waited for Ryan and his Mom to pick me up at 1:00 and take me home.
Finally, they arrived, I climbed into the van and said that we needed to go home....now! Ryan's Mom could tell by watching me during the 20 minute ride home that I was serious and this was the real thing. The moment we got in the door, I made a beeline for the bathtub, where I sat through increasingly intense contractions (now only 3-4 minutes apart) while Ryan got the midwife on the line. We spoke with her and told her what was happening, and she said that she was in town finishing up some errands and would come after that (after the false labor the day before, I guess she wasn't in a big hurry!).
By about 2 pm, I was no longer comfortable in the bathtub. Ryan's Mom decided to take our daughter Abbie out, since we weren't sure that we wanted her around for the birth. I was beginning to get really uncomfortable and restless, with strong contractions coming every 2-3 minutes. I spent the next little while going back and forth between lying down, walking around and kneeling on all fours. I really needed Ry to help coach me through each contraction. In the meantime, he would jump up as soon as each one finished, trying desperately to get our birthing pool blown up and set up, only to have me call him back a minute later to help me through another one! (Yes, we were a little disorganized, with everything else that was going on- we should have had the pool already blown up!)
At this point, I began to panic. It was nearing 3 pm, and our midwife was not there yet. I had been in labor for only about 3 hours, and already I felt utterly overwhelmed. I began to get quite unnerved, telling my husband to forget about the pool and the midwife, and to just take me to a hospital and give me drugs! Having had a 27 hour birth the first time around, I could not imagine that I had done only 3 hours and that I already felt like this! How many more hours did I have to go, I wondered? How would I ever endure it?
If you're laughing at this point, thinking "hmmm, that sounds like transition", you're right, but I had no idea! I just didn't have a real context for that in my thinking, as I compared it to my previous birth, and I had never expected such a fast birth the second time around! My husband was actually thinking that I might be in transition, but he didn't say that to me, as he wasn't sure himself. He simply tried to calm and reassure me, and remind me that I really didn't want to go to the hospital and that I was doing just fine.
As we waited for the midwife, the lower back pain was becoming excruciating. During each contraction, I had Ryan do counter-pressure on my back. I remember that during one contraction, I was on my knees, with my arms leaning on the couch, while he applied pressure to my back. At the end of that contraction, which was particularly bad, I said to him, "Next time, do it harder!". He later told me that he had actually been kneeling on my back, with his feet lifted off the ground, and was thus applying about 160 lbs of pressure to my back. He promised me he'd do it harder next time, all the while thinking "Sorry honey, that's the best I can do!" LOL!
Finally at about 3:15, the midwife arrived. She didn't check me immediately, but got herself set up a bit. I practically begged her to give me water injections, which are these incredible little injections of sterile water, into 4 spots in the lower back (in the shape of a square). They are absolutely harmless, feel like a bee sting to receive each shot, and happen to be my miracle "natural drug" when I am having back labor. For about an hour or so, they block most of the back pain for me, so that I can actually just concentrate on the contractions. Seriously, they are amazing. I've already requested them for this upcoming birth! :)
As the midwife worked with me, Ryan had realized he would never get the birth pool set up by himself. He called our friend (who lived 5 minutes away) around the time Anne arrived and asked him to come and set the pool up for us! He arrived shortly, and went to work in our bedroom on the pool, while I continued to labor in the living room!
After Anne had given me the shots in my back, I began to just move aimlessly around the living room. I really felt like I couldn't handle things anymore, and finally flopped myself down on one of our leather couches. It was after 3:30 by this point. She came over to me shortly and decided to check me and see where things were at.
I received the shock of a lifetime (and actually, I think so did she!) when she checked and suddenly announced with wide eyes that I was at 9 1/2 cm! Once I realized that, I really relaxed. Suddenly, the overwhelming thought of having to go on like this for hours vanished. Knowing how close I was to being done, and understanding why I had felt so out-of-control, I felt an instant sort of relief and fresh confidence that I had already been doing the hard work of transition and that I could indeed do this and give birth naturally!
About 2 contractions later, I heard a loud pop and suddenly my water broke all over the couch! With the next 3 contractions, which were basically one on top of the other, I began to inadvertently push at the end of each one. I wasn't trying to, but there wasn't a thing in the world that I could have done to make myself not push.
As Anne realized this, and knew that moving me off the couch wasn't going to happen, she simply did what she is so good at doing, and that is calmly deal with the situation at hand. She got out her stuff, and set things up so that I could give birth right there in the living room, on the couch.
Ryan was in the bedroom trying to help our friend Ted with the pool. He had no idea what was happening. Anne hollered to him that he had better get out to the living room. I was now pushing in earnest, and the baby was crowning. Just then, Ryan's sister, Amy, knocked on the front door (she was supposed to help out at the birth!), and Ryan (who had just arrived at my side) yelled to her that she had better get in the living room if she wanted to see a baby be born!
In just a couple of pushes, the head was out, and in the very next push, he was born! It was just about exactly 4:00pm, a mere 4 hours from when my haircut had begun! We were so excited and overjoyed to realize that he was a boy and Anne placed him immediately on my stomach.
Though I didn't realize this at the time, as I was just so happy to be done and was physically shaking a bit, Caden was quite blue. Anne gave him oxygen for about 5-10 minutes, during which time he began to pink up a little. Looking back at the pictures, I can see how blue he truly was, but I'm so glad that at the time I didn't fully realize. Praise God for his protection!
The placenta was birthed shortly afterwords, and they got me cleaned up, switched over to the other couch, and I curled up with my sweet new baby boy and nursed him. It was a beautifully sunny, delightful late May afternoon, and I felt deliriously happy and blessed. At some point after his birth, Ryan had informed our friend to forget about the pool! It was a nice thought, anyways, LOL!
Despite the chaos and semi-panic of the birth, it felt very sweet to me. It was hard work, much more physically intense than my daughter's (though her's was much more exhausting), but I had done it!
About 45 minutes later, Ryan's Mom brought Abbie home to meet her new brother, whom she adored and had bought a little hat for, as well as a blue onesie that said "Bald is beautiful". A few friends came to visit baby that evening, Ry took a good long nap out on the lawn, we ate a refreshing fruit salad with yogurt for dinner, and finally went to bed with our new little boy snuggled up between us. What a day!
All in all, it was certainly a birth to remember! God was so good to provide for all of our needs during that difficult summer, including a swift and smooth labor, with a happy, healthy ending!