The weeks and days leading up to Oliver’s birth were a whirlwind.
We had only returned from 3 months of traveling/working/living in Europe 8 weeks before. Right on the tails of that, we were trying hard to finish up the homeschool year, do some decluttering around the house, and run two huge work events, right up to the week I was due.
And oh yes. Get ready to have a baby. Right.
My preparations were more meager than with other births. I did manage to get a birth pool and liner in the house with a week to spare. I got baby clothes and linens washed a couple weeks out. And I did a massive Costco shop to fill our pantry and freezer with simpler, but still healthy, foods to get us by during those early weeks of newborn daze.
Not completely satisfied with that, and nesting instinct clearly in full swing, I set out to get our garage organized. It had been my Achilles heel since moving into our home a little over a year before. There was no sort of shelving or organizational systems, and it felt like all we did was shuffle a whole bunch of stuff back and forth, back and forth, but each time it just resulted in a mess only a few weeks later.
So naturally, the weekend before my due date, my husband and I took a Saturday to purchase some shelving and begin shifting everything around, purging a bit more, doing a full clean out with all the kids tackling a part of the job, until we could truly see our garage floor once again. It was a huge improvement.
But still not good enough (says the woman who should have been thinking about having a baby. But instead kept thinking about her silly garage. Pesky nesting instinct).
That would bring us to the morning of my due date. Thinking that baby might be coming soon based on how I was feeling, we had sent the kids off to their aunt and uncle’s house for a sleepover with their cousins. That morning things were still calm, and our midwife desperately needed a nap, so we made the ludicrous decision to go purchase another set of the awesome shelves that we had already set up in the garage, because we had realized we could really use one more.
Walking through the massive Costco warehouse and parking lot when you’re 9 months pregnant and practically in labor feels like a lot of walking. Which I suppose was a good thing.
Then setting up said shelves on an already hot June day was probably the kicker. As we worked at it for several hours, Ryan taking all the heavier stuff but me still participating and moving whatever I could handle, contractions started to come a bit more frequently. It definitely felt like early labor, but wasn’t settling into a strong pattern, so I just tried to go on with my day.
We decided to leave the kids at their cousin’s house for one more night, since it was now seeming imminent that baby would arrive sooner than later. But contractions were still irregular and pokey, similar to what I had during my very first birth.
By that afternoon, the midwife was free again and had napped and rested. Contractions were still coming and I was quite certain I was in early labor, slow moving though it was.
So I walked, and walked, and walked. We even had a yard consultant come over (we were in the midst of a landscaping project and had forgotten we’d made an appointment!), and I just kept walking around and pausing for contractions in between talking to her. I did everything I could to stay active and upright.
After a couple hours, I could tell that things were going to keep poking along and it might be a looong labor. I let the midwife know to be on call, but that I didn’t need her quite yet. She was just finishing a family dinner, so I thought the plan was that she would come over right after that.
While we waited, Ryan and I put on a movie and ate a light dinner. I was a little discouraged things weren’t picking up, until I suddenly got a really good contraction closer to around 5:45.
It was followed by four or five really good ones, in rapid succession. I suddenly realized that after all of these early labor contractions, these were the real thing and I couldn’t talk or do anything during them, and I suddenly began to panic.
I had thought Joy was coming over after her dinner ended and why, oh why, hadn’t she come yet?? My last few births have all been short and I was very nervous that this one would go faster once it actually began in earnest. After the last (really intense) contraction, I think I surprised Ryan by telling him that I needed Joy and NOW!
To try to slow things down, I got onto my hands and knees and tried to just relax and take deep breaths. Ryan got Joy on the phone and got her coming over immediately. She and I had miscommunicated, and she thought she’d just been waiting for my call, whereas I had thought she’d come over when she was done. Oops!
But once she and Megan, the second midwife,and then my friend Ange (who has been a support person for 3 of my births) arrived about 20 minutes later, things slowed down again. It was like the panic and then the arrival of people suddenly put me on the spot. I felt like I had performance anxiety. Now that everyone was indeed here, things had gone back to turtle mode and contractions were further apart and less powerful.
Usually, I love being social and talkative during labor, hanging out and eating snacks with my midwives and husband and friend. It keeps me distracted and helps labor to feel like a beautiful gathering instead of something quite so difficult (at least, until it hits that point where talking is the last thing I want to do). This time was so different, though, and whenever I let myself stay near everyone else and be chatty in between, things kept moving slowly.
But when I got alone, went out to the yard to walk around, went downstairs to pace the family room in the dark by myself… this is when things picked up. It felt strange, but necessary. I’ve never handled a labor like that before, but instinctively knew this was what my body needed.
As we edged closer to 10pm (which is when I had thought baby would be born by), labor was still slow and I started getting discouraged. I had been moving and walking constantly and didn’t know what else to do.
My midwife suggested that she check me and do a membrane sweep, which I consented to even though I normally prefer to avoid being checked. I knew I couldn’t keep going a whole lot longer if I had to stay so active. I was going to wear myself out, so it seemed like the wise thing to do.
It was excruciating. I’m usually pretty stoic during labor but I let out a few good yelps and almost cried when she did it. But she told my husband afterward that I was so close and she was sure that the sweep had done the trick. Still feeling unsure and discouraged, I went back downstairs to my little hideaway to pace and contract by myself. I could feel the difference within just a few contractions, though. My body was definitely getting down to business.
To keep things going, I said I wanted to go walk up and down our street (keep in mind it was now about 10:30pm and totally dark). My husband wisely offered to go with me. So we walked for maybe 20 minutes, then came back in so I could have another small drink and snack. My plan was to head back out again, to do more walking, but something shifted and things got serious and suddenly walking was the last thing I wanted to do, a VERY good sign for me that we were getting close.
Instead, I asked them to warm up the water in the birth pool (they had filled it a while before but I was hesitant to get in, worried the warm water would slow things down more). Now, I knew I needed it and I was ready. Within about 10 minutes they got it warmed up, while I leaned on the kitchen counter and totally focused as each wave came over me.
It was now after 11pm (I honestly have no idea exactly what time – I had hit labor la-la-land at this point and everything became pretty hazy). I sank into the warm water with a sigh of relief and let it just wash over me for a few minutes. The first contractions in the water felt so good, but within a short period of time, things really intensified.
I could feel the baby moving down and suddenly the lower back pain hit me like a Mack truck. I yelped for Ryan to come and put pressure on my back, and continued to need that for the next 20-30 minutes. I’m sure I was in transition, and the midwives clearly thought the same, as they were busily prepping for the birth and checking baby’s heart rate frequently.
I remember that at the worst of it, my midwife Megan (who had commented earlier on how calm and peaceful and normal-seeming I was), said during a contraction with the most sincere compassion in her voice, “oh, she is really hurting now”. And I was. That last little bit was so intense, so hard. I just sort of held on for dear life. I didn’t remember it feeling that bad in other births, but then again, this is what we mentally block out so we’re willing to go through it all over again, right?
Then suddenly, I knew I had to start pushing. I had been dreading it, as pushing is always the hands-down hardest part for me. But I couldn’t stop it if I tried, so I leaned over, in a hands and knees position with my arms supported by the pool and started to push in earnest. (And can I say for the record how thankful I am for midwives who understand that a woman’s body knows what it’s doing and who let me push without checking me for dilation first??)
After a couple contractions and really big pushes, I managed to get his head out. That’s when the panic started. His shoulders weren’t coming out and in a water birth particularly, baby needs to get out pretty fast after the head is born. I don’t know how long they let me try, but it wasn’t long at all before the midwives said “you need to stand up!” and suddenly I was being yanked up by the shoulders to a standing position, while I tried to finishing pushing him out (screaming all the way – this was not fun).
When that didn’t work after a few good pushes, Joy said “We’re getting you out of the pool!”. She wasn’t panicked, just firm, but I could hear the intensity in her voice, and suddenly felt myself being lifted up and over the pool, backwards (as if I was doing a high jump, going backwards over the pole – it all felt pretty surreal), and being laid down onto the floor, with one leg still up and resting over the side of the pool. Yup, still screaming. And pushing with everything I had left in me.
And finally in this oh-so-graceful position, and with a bit of wrangling on the part of the midwives, out he came. Thanks heavens!
Once that sweet baby was placed in my arms, however, it was over and didn’t matter anymore. I laughed and smiled at him and felt that amazing rush of “Wow, I just did that!” come over me. We discovered that he was indeed a boy, as we had guessed he was, and celebrated this fifth baby, our third little boy and a brother for our youngest son. Such a gift.
I was sore from that awful pushing experience and then trembling just as I always do after giving birth, but I was peaceful and so, so grateful that it was over and he was fine. I laid there with him on my chest for a little while, until the cord stopped pulsing.
After I delivered the placenta, they helped me to the bathroom, and then to sit on the couch in the living room.
We celebrated with a fresh berry pie from our favorite berry farm while everyone cleaned up, the midwives completed their paperwork, Ollie was weighed (7 lbs 15 oz) and measured and nursed, and we all just relaxed together. It was lovely.
Around 2am, as everyone was finishing up and our friend Angela had left for home, I introduced Oliver to the world via this Instagram photo…
Shortly after the last midwife left, we got into bed with Oliver around 3am, exhausted but happy. Ryan fell asleep quickly, but my adrenaline was still pumping so it took a while, but eventually I got a few hours of sleep.
Early that morning, Aunt Amy came to drop our kids back off before driving her own kids to school, and we had a very noisy/excitable/chaotic/joyful time of siblings and cousins meeting and passing Oliver around.
Daddy managed to get some more snuggles, as did a delighted oldest sister, Abbie. Caden and Kepler made sure that Ollie even had some good company as he slept later that day.
Rest is definitely not my forte, but I know how important it is, so I did do my best to spend the next couple days off my feet.
I intentionally bought a few novels on my Kindle (from this list of great reads), which helped me to sit my butt down on the couch where it belonged. And really, with a snuggle buddy like this and a good novel in hand, what could be a better way to spend the afternoon?
As usual, it took us several days to settle on a name. In fact, I feel like this was our hardest name yet, and we spent almost five days trying out our three top picks, trying to figure out which one most suited this little guy.
At long last, we decided to go with what our kids already knew (and had been telling us for days), which was that his name was indeed Oliver (quickly shortened to Ollie). It means olive tree, which is symbolic of peace, fruitfulness, beauty and dignity. To us, it also represented our family travels, many months of which have been spent in the Mediterranean region (southern France and Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Morocco), which has really stolen our hearts and brings to mind so many precious memories. His middle names are Ryan (for his dad, of course) and Wright (after the Wright brothers – Ryan had just read and been inspired by their biography and what innovative, tenacious, and entrepreneurial men they were).
We’re still getting used to this whole 5 kids thing. We are now truly outnumbered, in every way (even in hands to hold them all!).
But it’s been a precious time of getting to know Oliver and adjusting as a family. The kids dote on him like crazy, and Ryan and I are pretty smitten ourselves.
I will say, to encourage all the younger moms, that the more kids you have, the more helpers you have. After a while, it’s the older kids that are more challenging and the baby actually becomes the easy part. :)
And there you have it. The story of Ollie.