“Oh, this is your fourth baby! Did you go overdue with the other ones?”
“Nope!” I’d cheerfully say.
Livia was two days late, Zach was right on his due date, and Owen missed his by 4 hours and 40 minutes. I was fairly confident history would repeat itself and I would be having the baby on/close after the due date.
I should have known better. Quinn had been a monkey all throughout the pregnancy, staying stubbornly at breech/transverse and finally flipping head down at 36 weeks. She would engage in the pelvis, then decide it was time to visit my rib cage again. At the midwife office, I was 50% effaced and 1-2 cm dilated a few weeks BEFORE my due date. I thought to myself, “This is good! Things are happening, and we’re not even at the due date yet!” I was quite ready for January 27 to come so we could get this show on the road.
January 27 eventually came, as dates tend to do. I was excited; I had been having contractions, the kids had been shipped off to their vacation homes, and we were ready to do the whole labour and delivery thing. The midwives came and did an exam and guess what… I wasn’t in labour. The contractions had stopped, there were no more cervical changes. I was unimpressed, to say the least. So, Curtis went to pick the kids up and we had to explain to a 7, 5, and 3-year-old that the baby decided it wasn’t time to come out yet.
I told myself not to panic, babies come when they’re ready and ours is obviously not ready to meet its noisy siblings. So, while Curtis waited patiently, I scrubbed the furnace room, behind the stove, on top of the fridge, and anywhere else I could think of. Some areas received a deep cleaning twice.
By day I scrubbed and got some extra work done, by night I had contractions. I would be at the point of thinking it was time to call the midwives, and then they would fade again. Cue the tears.
Early February 3: the contractions felt different! They were steady, they were getting more intense and so I actually paged the midwife. She came, did an exam, and said I wasn’t in labour yet, but things were looking promising. Curtis had taken the day off work, the kids went BACK to their vacation homes, and I was so relived to have appeared to escape an induction. I had had 2 previous home births and really wanted another one, now that the baby was staying head down and all.
Wouldn’t you know, the contractions stopped again. I was in tears. We walked, we drove down bumpy roads, I had a nap to try to conserve some energy, did some kickboxing to use up the energy gained by the nap, and tried to eat a little. I was not hungry and was fed up with contractions that came and went and never seemed to do anything useful. I called my mom (we always need our moms, am I right?!) and she told me it was ok to keep the kids at their vacation homes for the night at least, and to revaluate in the morning. So that’s what we did.
I woke up the morning of February 4 with, you guessed it…contractions! It was 1 am, and I was extremely anxious, nauseous, and shaky. I couldn’t get comfortable in bed; laying on my left side produced the strongest contractions, but I didn’t want to get up because I was so afraid they would stop again.
Finally, at 4:00, I got out of bed and sat on the couch. I called Curtis over at 4:30, not sure what to do with myself or what to think. He took one look at me and said “I’m calling the midwife” So, Curtis pages the midwife, and Sarah calls back just before 5 am. At that point I couldn’t sit, I had gone pee and had had 3 contractions in 5 minutes and didn’t want to talk to the midwife. They like to hear someone talk as an indicator of the strength of the contractions. She said that she’d be right over, and got to our place around 5:30.
Another cervical exam, and guess what… I was in labour! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. I had to ask a few times just to make sure, I was so relieved. I was about 2-3 cm but 100% effaced. Sarah told me that the baby’s birthday was going to be on Feb 4, and I remember asking “are you sure? I’ve had some VERY slow labours” She was sure, and went about setting up the equipment for a home birth. (the midwives come with the necessary equipment, I had taken a home birth kit home with me way back in January, and we needed to supply an extension cord/outlet, a dresser or table for equipment, and a bright light/heat lamp. The bed gets made as usual, with sheets and a duvet, then plastic sheeting goes over that, and over THAT an old set of sheets. After the baby is born, the old sheets come off and you can hop in your own bed for a nap)
While Curtis and the midwife were getting all of that ready, I was in the living room on my exercise ball. And then the nausea and shaking came back. I threw up and honestly it was a relief to get that out of my system. For the next little while I alternated between wandering around the kitchen and living room, sipping on Gatorade, throwing up, and sitting on the birth ball.
At one point, as I was bouncing away, I felt the contractions move to my back. I thought, “no way, not this again!” I really didn’t want to do labour with a posterior baby. (the baby’s back is facing mom’s back, also known as sunny side up. It puts extra pressure on the system because things aren’t lined up as optimally) So I moved to my knees with my arms propped on the ball. The idea is to create space for the baby to move to a better position.
It was now about 7:00 and I was getting tired. Sarah suggested that I move to the couch for a more comfortable position and to see if I could get some rest. That was lovely because I could lean against something solid and comfortable. However, the job of a midwife is not only to catch the baby, but also to make sure things are moving along. Sarah had been timing the contractions, and they had started to taper off when I was on my hands and knees and on the couch. She wondered if I could walk around again to let movement and gravity help things along. I wandered around again, but was getting tired.
Around 7:20, I went back to sit on the ball, and this made both Sarah and I happy. She was pleased that the contractions had picked up again due to the movement and upright position, and I was relieved because I could sit and relax in between those contractions. I was still experiencing quite a bit of back labour, so Curtis was sitting behind me on a kitchen chair and applying counter pressure in the form of hip squeezes. (Curtis: “I was afraid I was going to hurt you but you kept yelling ‘hips!’ so I figured I’d better just listen”) In between contractions, he was texting my mom. She had messaged me, asking if things were happening. I didn’t answer, which led her to text Curtis… who let her know the midwife was here and labour was progressing. She got to go to work with that hanging over her head (mom: “I don’t like knowing when you’re in labour” WELL THEN DON’T ASK)
Somewhere between 8-8:30 I was starting to feel a lot of pressure, kind of like I was ready to push. We decided it was good to check to see what the cervix was doing. To my utter annoyance I was only 5 cm dilated. Still a bit to go.
I stayed on our bed, first on my hands and knees and wondering out loud if Sarah could just pull her out (“no, sorry, not yet”), and then moving to my side to see if I could get some rest. I rolled to my right side, because earlier that morning the left side was producing strong contractions and I’d had enough of those, thank you very much. Moving on your side is another great way to flip stubborn babies (see the miles circuit.) I’d done it with Owen to get him to turn as well. So, I lay down and guess what, it worked! I could feel the pressure shifting, now it was in my belly and hips, and only a bit in the back. I was also able to close my eyes in between contractions.
And the noises… I had been so quiet the previous labour and deliveries. I think midwife Leslie even told midwife Sarah that she wouldn’t know I was in labour… well, I’m pretty sure she knew. Curtis even closed the bedroom window (Curtis note: “you were making a lot of noise and I didn’t want the neighbors to hear. It was none of their business”) But I was so mindful of the pelvic floor this time and I wanted to ease tension there, so I made noise to keep everything as loose and relaxed as possible.
Around 9:30, Sarah texted her backup to let her know that she should finish her appointment and then cancel the rest as it was almost baby time! We had talked about whether to break my water or not, and had decided that I would feel most comfortable until the backup was here. Owen needed only 3 minutes of pushing and I wasn’t eager to repeat that experience.
Soon enough, I was ready to push that baby out. The backup arrived around 10, and Sarah checked and said I was 9.5 cm and broke my water. I was then in the clear to push!
I started on my side, which I hadn’t moved from. I pushed approximately 3 times and demanded to know if they could see the baby yet, imagining another Owen scenario. (“no, you just started pushing!”) So, we carried on, me on my side and focusing on keeping that pelvic floor relaxed and open. One midwife was watching the progress of my pushing, the other was monitoring the baby’s heartrate.
At one point they noticed the baby’s heart rate had dropped a bit during a few contractions. (a variation of normal) and asked if I could get on my back to see if that made a difference. It’s important to note that no one was panicking, and nothing was wrong. I listened and rolled to my back, and baby’s heart rate was back to what it should be. I stayed on my back, doing something like a happy baby pose, knees slightly in to open the outlet of the pelvis. I coach people about different pushing positions all the time, and sometimes pushing on your back is what you need/want to do!
I ended up pushing for just under 30 minutes. In a previous midwife visit, Sarah had asked if I was interested in pulling the baby up to my chest myself. At the time, I had agreed. After all, that’s a pretty cool experience. However, when the moment came and they asked if I wanted to catch her? That was a no from me. I just wanted labour to be done and I was completely absorbed in pushing her out.
At last, at 10:57 am, Quinn Joanna Bouwman was born. She started bellowing as soon as her head and most of her body were delivered. We didn’t know the gender beforehand, and it’s always the best surprise to find out just who you’ve been carrying around for 9 months. Curtis announced “it’s a girl!” and got to cut the cord. I decided she looked like a Quinn and called it right then and there. Don’t worry, Quinn was on the list of approved baby names 😉
Quinn looked great, and I had one tiny tear. Sarah said she could put one stitch in, or I could promise to sit still and rest. I promised to rest and so we left it. Then began all of the usual newborn tests, my favourite being the weigh in. Quinn weighed in at 8 lbs 5 oz, 8 days after her due date.
When we were both cleaned up and back in bed, Curtis and I had the fun of letting our family know about the newest arrival. Before she tried calling me, I called my mom and let her know the good news. When mom asked what the baby’s name was, she realized that we had named Quinn after her!
The kids came back home three days later, and that’s when the adventure really began. Welcome to the family Quinn. We just met you and already can’t imagine life without you.