Having come ten days early, we were caught by surprise by Edith’s birth. After a nice afternoon walk around the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington, VT, Edith started the final part of her journey to join us. Not so much with Alder. They say that if your first child came early then your second probably will as well. We were both convinced of this and started to prepare and expect Alder to join us about two weeks before his expected due date.
We started to nest around the house, I started to warn everyone at work that I may be out on paternity leave any given day, and Lindsay started to prepare for the birthing process by getting massages, acupuncture and going for daily and nightly walks to help to relax and maybe speed up the process a bit.
The only thing was that we were going through a lot of other transitions in life that made it hard to be comfortable and hard to relax in anticipation of our new baby joining us. I had just started a new job across the river and over the hills (with the possibility of an hour+ commute home), we were preparing to move to our new apartment in the middle of August, and our landlord was scheduling showings of the apartment at all hours of the day throughout the week. It seemed like there would never be a “convenient” time for this home birth to happen. Even so, on July 22nd (8 days before the due date), Lindsay started to feel what we thought was the beginning of early labor and had me work from home for the next two days.
Heading in to our second to last prenatal appointment, Lindsay started to feel even stronger contractions and both she and our midwife were both convinced that this baby would be joining us at any time now. However, that was just the beginning of another long week of anticipation. Another week came and went, with Lindsay having occasional contractions, back pain and nausea but being cautious about having me come home from work early for support (she was convinced that people would view her as the wife who called wolf). However, things surrounding the major stressor in our life at this point started to fall into place.
Tuesday night, our landlord showed the apartment to a woman who seemed really interested and on Wednesday as we were about to head to what would be our final pre-natal appointment we were told that she put in an application for the apartment. We started to feel the stress dwindle and our spirits start to lift. That Wednesday, Alder’s expected due date, we went in for our final appointment and our midwife scheduled an acupuncture appointment for that afternoon for Lindsay with another doctor/midwife who shared the same office and had a pretty great success rate of inducing delivery within 24 hours through acupuncture.
Thursday Lindsay started to feel more cramps, contractions, nausea and back pain. I left work early that afternoon to beat traffic to be sure I wouldn’t miss anything. As we headed out to run some last minute errands that afternoon, we ran into our landlord outside our apartment and she let us know that the application for the new tenant was approved and the showings would end. We went to bed that night with that weight finally off our shoulders. And, I truly believe that was the last barrier for us to feel at ease with the birth happening at home.
Friday morning we headed out for a family walk to our favorite local coffee shop and after chatting with the baristas moved on to get some breakfast at the neighborhood bakery. We sat and enjoyed our coffee and chatted while we ate our breakfast before beginning the long (for Lindsay) walk home. With Edith yelling “Faster!” from the stroller, we were stopping every couple minutes on the 5 block walk home as the contractions started to become more frequent and more overwhelming.
We made it home, and going by my memories of Edith’s birth, I thought we had lots of time. I stopped in the downstairs office to send an e-mail to work saying I wouldn’t be in and poked around the internet a bit while Edith played on the floor next to me. When we made our way upstairs, I found Lindsay on the exercise ball hanging on the edge of the couch timing her contractions.
It was an entirely different experience than I remembered with Edith where I was laying on the bed with Lindsay, smart phone in hand, trying to figure out exactly what the beginning and end of her contractions were. I called our midwife only to get her answering machine and then called our backup midwife (technically our backup’s backup as our primary midwife was out of town) and spoke with her and updated her on Lindsay’s status. Both of our midwives lived in our neighborhood and headed right over after making arrangements for their children. I spent the next 20-30 minutes actually keeping Edith busy while Lindsay continued to time her contractions. It was a huge difference from the jokes, back rubs and romantic 75 mile drive at 3 in the morning for Edith’s birth. Even still, it felt right in a way.
As our family grows, the dynamics are going to always be shifting. Where I used to be able to give her 100% of my focus and attention, we need to learn to shift and adapt that to serve our whole family as best we can.
Dr. Amanda (our midwife and primary care physician) arrived around 9 am with Kayla (their midwifery student) and Dr. Liz (backup midwife) arriving shortly thereafter. Lindsay was continuing to progress through labor with her contractions getting stronger and more frequent. Edith was happy to show off for all of the familiar faces in the room, giving me some time to support Lindsay as best I could – rubbing her back, applying pressure and getting her whatever she needed. I started to inflate the birth pool and attached the hose to the faucet, preparing the fill the pool. While I waited for direction, I put Edith in the empty pool and she had a blast bouncing around and peering over the side.
We started the process of filling the pool and waited anxiously. One of our midwives was considering heading home for a while until she checked Lindsay and realized how far along she was. At this point we really started to get things into gear. I took out some new Mega-Bloks and books we had gotten Edith for the birth. While she showed those off to Dr. Liz and Kayla, I helped Dr. Amanda by boiling water in every pot we had available and filling the tub with water from the bathroom so we could make sure Lindsay had the opportunity to labor in the pool.
Once we had the pool filled high enough, Lindsay began to labor in the pool while Kayla checked for the heartbeat and took Lindsay’s “vitals”. I took time where I could to support Lindsay as best I could. Reminding her how strong I thought she was and how confident in her I was.
While a lot of things were different than what I had expected and what we had experienced with Edith, I was filled with just as much or more amazement and awe and how strong and inspiring she was during the birth process. Lindsay let Dr. Amanda know she was ready to push and with that came the same low noises, chants of “Ouuuuuuut” and “horse lips” that I remembered from Edith’s birth. Dr. Amanada let us know that Lindsay’s water had not broken yet and that it was helping to maintain the progress Alder was making.
As Lindsay pushed, Edith stood next to me and watched in what seemed to amazement, joy and fear (as Lindsay let out a scream of pain). Dr. Amanda asked if I wanted to catch Alder and, what seemed like only a few minutes later, asked if I wanted to feel his head. I jumped at both opportunities. I got to feel his head and with just one or two more pushes saw his face and his lips coming out and then got to catch our beautiful baby. As we worked to untangle his cord, I passed him to Lindsay and she was the first to announce we had had a baby boy. Dr. Amanda rushed to take pictures as Lindsay, Edith and I took in the newest member of our family.
It was amazing to see something that built up so slowly culminate in such a quick, fast delivery. I joked to Lindsay before Alder was born about how this would probably be a sign of his personality, as I really think Edith’s birth is a reflection of hers. As Dr. Liz and Dr. Amanda tended to Lindsay and Alder – taking measurements and sewing stitches (only 3) – I spent time with Edith as she showed me her new toys and then bringing her in to meet her new baby brother and settling into the idea of our new family of four.
Even though we can’t always provide each other with the same direct forms of support that we once did, we will continue to show our love in support in so many different ways both direct and indirect.