Declan Daniel Soderlund
Every pregnancy is different, and this being our second, it was no exception. With our first, we were a young happy couple surprised and ignorant to all the excitement that pregnancy brings. We were now a married couple in a new apartment and were chasing a wild toddler around the house, while doing our best to treat this pregnancy as the unique and adventurous gift that it is. There was no anticipation or anxiety about what to expect and we planned for this to be our last pregnancy so we truly wanted to relish in each part of the growing 9 months leading up to our birth but once again, learned that babies have their own plans. I had hoped to birth with the same midwives who had welcomed our son Stellan just shy of two years earlier and in the same welcoming, chocolate room of our birthing center. I had all the baby ‘stuff’ and knew how to balance a big belly with sleep and routine. We planned to unpack all our baby items and to decline all the testing and just look forward to welcoming a healthy baby boy come spring. Sadly, in this pregnancy, I experienced pelvic symphysis pain and also managed to test positive for gestational diabetes which met me with strict food and diet regulations. My plans to enjoy all the areas of pregnancy quickly diminished as tests couldn’t be declined, more appointments were needed to monitor myself and baby, and stress quickly rivaled the pain I was experiencing; I found myself wanting the whole experience over much sooner than I had visualized.
In the last few weeks of the pregnancy, I was humongous and feeling guilty that I couldn’t clean the house or play with my 21 month old son in our last few moments together as mother and single son. I couldn’t nurse or cuddle my first born to bed and I could barely dress myself each morning. The pain had become so unbearable and my diet so restricted that I was overwhelmed with stress and worried that my last pregnancy and birth might not be what I had hoped but simply was accepting that anything could happen and I just wanted a healthy baby. I whispered under my breath each night, just let this time pass quickly and let us all be healthy. With Stellan I had gone almost to 41 weeks and prayed that would not happen again and so when 40 weeks approached, I began to worry. Friday night, March 21st, a whole week before my due date, I found myself wincing over false labor contractions. The Braxton Hicks were a hiccup of pain compared to my hips and pelvic aching, so I could work through them easily. It wasn’t until my husband Brandon noticed how often I was stopping to breathe that he suggested I time them. I rested a moment and downloaded a free application on my phone to help me keep track of the contractions just in case.
Throughout the night, I looked down at my phone and realized that my contractions were about 4 minutes apart. My water hadn’t broken, I wasn’t feeling anything significant and didn’t want to get too excited. Instead, I ate dinner, cleaned up the house, and went to bed. The next morning Brandon went to work while the sun was still asleep. Stellan, our son, and I were cuddled in bed until nearly 10am that morning. We woke up, and I cooked breakfast and realized my contractions were still present. I decided to take a shower and put Stellan and his paint set at the end of the bathtub while I hoped the hot shower would ease the contractions. As I relaxed under the water, watching Stellan giggle over his dripping paints, I suddenly doubled over in pain. My contractions went from being hardly noticeable tight pains in my belly to being significant waves of pressure. I stepped out of the shower and it occurred to me that I couldn’t even talk through the contractions and they were much closer than four minutes apart. I debated on calling Brandon home from work early and instead called the Midwife. She answered the phone and after hearing me explain the last 24 hours suggested I get to the center as quick as possible and to not wait too long. I hung up the phone, called Brandon and then struggled to get Stellan from the bathtub to a dry and organized toddler. Stellan was hesitant to work with me as he could see mommy was in pain and I quickly completed tasks like packing, cleaning, gathering, getting dressed and getting Stellan ready in two minute increments as my contractions increased. Brandon only took 20 minutes to get home and met me at the door with bright excited eyes, it was time!
We all gathered in the car and my Mother in Law was in pursuit of joining us as well; she was my doula during our first birth and we were excited to have her present again. Taking each pot hole lightly and cursing the inevitable traffic, we drove our way to the birthing center. I arrived with thoughts of food in my mind and concern that maybe this wasn’t ‘it’ but was greeted by the Midwife Jenessa who took me back to the exam room. I was already dilated to a 4 and she assured me that it could be fast or slow, and regardless, we were at the center alone and that she could let me rest in the chocolate room if I wanted; we agreed that I was a little anxious and nervous and perhaps relaxing could help. I took some Rescue Remedy and curled up in the bed all nestled in sunlight while Brandon and Stellan ran to the grocery store down the street for snacks. It wasn’t more than 30 minutes before I noticed I was not just having contractions but had started the ever humorous vocalizations that accompany the pain of active labor. It was then that Jacqueline, the second midwife, arrived and began to massage me and talk me into my hypnobirthing state of mind. A plate of chocolate covered almonds, cheese, fruit and juice had arrived from Brandon but I was already so deep into labor that I couldn’t eat much. I remember watching the dust sparkle in the sunlight that moved from the window across the room and watching it float in the air became my focal point.
The midwives came in and out of the room, helping me adjust through each contraction and I remember thinking that after 20 hours of labor with Stellan, this already felt quite different. I told the midwives that I felt the urge to push through the contractions (and with a fear of having hemorrhoids) that was something I was hesitant to do. The midwives suggested it might be too early to push and to try and breathe through the waves but I couldn’t help but push and on the next contraction my water broke. After the realization that this was real, this was happening, I was ‘here’, and I just gave into the process. I vocalized through each contraction and focused on the sparkling air and the movement of my toes and counted … counting through each contraction that passed. I really tried to visualize all the women I had watched the week before in my birthing videos that had not had the birthing experience they wanted and I was mindful and humble that I was in the place I wanted to be. With my husband and son in the next room playing, two wonderful midwives helping me as I needed and the comforts of a safe and comfortable birthing center, I was getting the all-natural birth I wanted.
I had explained to the midwives that I wanted a hot bath to perhaps help the contractions and Jenessa let me know that baths can slow down the labor process and therefore ran the bath slowly. When the bath was full I mustered up my strength and rolled from the bed to standing just a few feet from the bathtub I had so badly begged for. I put my hand on the edge of the tub and just as I went to lift my leg, I hurled over in a contraction that also met me with a new pressure; gravity and baby! I could feel my pelvic area expand and the pain move from labor cramps to a tight pushing pain and recognized this from my first birth… baby was crowning! I called out that “I can’t lift my leg, I feel the baby!” One midwife assured me it was just the gravity shift while the other quickly interrupted, “she’s right, I SEE baby!”
From there the midwives suggested I get down on my hands and knees and though my mouth was exclaiming that I couldn’t, my body was already down into position and within a few pushes I felt the release of giving birth and could hear Declan crying. Jenessa had taken him from behind me and passed him through my legs and up onto my chest. I could see his blue eyes, his red hair and his plump body with all fingers and toes accounted for. Two hours and he was here in my arms. I couldn’t help but cry as I held him and though I was partially worried that I would hemorrhage like I had before, I sat back and relished the moment that labor and birth, pregnancy and contractions were all over and he was here safely. I peered into the hallway and saw Brandon beaming at me with Stellan in his arms; they had heard the whole thing and peeked through when the excitement had calmed. The midwives helped complete the birth, helped to clean baby as I held him and because he came too fast for my Mother in Law to cut the cord, I did that myself. We crawled into bed and Declan nursed as the midwives cleaned up and quietly completed their tasks. I felt a strange peace that I hadn’t with my first birth. I felt empowered, euphoric, accomplished and the fear of having a newborn to keep alive was replaced with an addition to my now perfect family. My Mother in Law had arrived and was rocking Stellan in the next room into an afternoon nap as Brandon crawled into the bed to join me and baby with a plate of food. We sat in the sun on a Saturday afternoon in the spring of March and just looked at our second son; a perfect 8lb 13.5ounce boy.
By dinner time that night we were all packed up and driving home already and the whole experience seemed surreal. I didn’t have any complications, baby was healthy and happy and our tuck in doula was waiting at our home to make sure all was perfect before bedtime. I enjoyed a steak dinner and watched Brandon walk our new son as Stellan played with nana in the living room. Before bed that night I took a hot bath and sank into the water. I looked down at my deflating belly and cried. I knew we had not planned on having more children and I was no longer present. I had brought our baby Earthside just as I has planned through all the new stress and complications this pregnancy brought. All the wonderment and anxiety of ‘what if’ had solidified into my highest hope for the perfect birth and it was all already behind me. I’ve learned that each child teaches us something and that each life lesson arrives in a way unique all its own and now I’m excited to know just what Declan will teach me as he rounds out our family.
Welcome dearest red-headed boy who couldn’t help but join us on your own terms in a rushed hurry of wonderment.