I was sure Ludo would come fast, like his sister. Instead he proved us all completely wrong and took longer than both Luna and Aurora did combined. After recently moving downtown I hadn't wanted to change doctors or delivery hospital, so I was keenly aware that we had a 30 to 40 minute trip to the hospital to factor into everything, and would also need to give my mother the same amount of time to get downtown to be with the girls. I very nearly left it too late with Aurora back in 2015, resulting in me making it to the hospital just in time and Cesar missing her birth, so I wasn't about to let the same thing happen with our last child.
How well we planned everything to ensure there would not be any Uber or unassisted home births, and how completely different it all turned out to be!
It was on a Thursday, at 40 weeks and 4 days, that I knew labour was imminent. We walked a couple of miles in the 100 degree heat, finishing up a few things that I wanted done before baby, and came home to relax. At around 8pm my mother decided to come over and stay just in case things progressed rapidly, and I finished up my last work assignment for the week. We all went to bed but around 3am the contractions were every 5 minutes and I thought we should head in to the hospital. But I was only 2cm dilated and even after 90 minutes of walking the halls with regular contractions there was no progress. So home we went, and I then resigned myself to the fact that I would just have the baby at home, unassisted, because there was no way I was making it back in time again. We had used up all of our good timing juju. That was it. Cesar couldn’t take more than a few shifts off work, so I was also sure that I would most likely be doing it alone again.
Once we got back home I rested up, and the contractions stalled for a while, only to start back up again in the afternoon, becoming more intense, although never really consistent. I nursed the girls, spent ages under a hot shower, and tried to sleep again. Around 9pm I got back up, and realised that I had started to feel shaky and queasy so we made our way back to the hospital, me breathing through each contraction so as not to scare the poor Uber driver too much. I was met with smiles by the same welcoming team of nurses as the night before, one who told me that she had been so sure I was going to deliver that day... At this point I knew we weren't having a 7/7/17 baby but hoped for a 7/8/17 one!
I was admitted at 10pm at 5cm, and thinking it would be rapid sailing from that moment onwards based on my previous births, I mentally prepared myself for what was coming up, playlist in my ears, calm breathing techniques, birthing ball on hand, and making sure Cesar was ready with moral support. I should have thought more about the fact that it had taken over 18 hours to go from 2cm to 5cm and prepared for the long haul…
The 8 hours that followed were extremely long, filled with an uncanny mixture of pain, elation, desperation, excitement, extreme fatigue, and both courage and fear. I had barely slept since I woke up on Thursday morning and my body was beginning to feel it.
I'm going to be completely honest, I have never really "prepared" for birth. I don't have the patience for really taking time to practice different techniques, and while Hypnobirthing works somewhat for me, there comes a point where pain and adrenaline just take over anyway. I always trust my body will take me where I need to go and my mind will take over if my body decides to give up. Therefore I often push myself unnecessarily to limits for the only reason of being able to prove to myself that I can do it. At the same time the side effects of pain meds and epidural during my first birth are always very present in my mind, and I knew I’d rather go through an unmedicated childbirth again tenfold, than deal with those side effects and the grogginess a less painful birthing process would bring. But Aurora’s unmedicated birth was so intense and so fast that I really was mentally prepared for doing it like that all over again. I hadn’t really imagined that this one would go on and on for hours. But every birth is different and every baby is different, and Ludo sure let us know that!
Birth for me is a very intense and private moment, where you feel extremely powerful but so vulnerable all at once. When the phrases “I can do this” and “I can’t do this anymore” fly through your brain and come out of your mouth over and over again. The contractions start and you immediately know what they are, and you prepare for the next one, knowing that it will be stronger and longer than the last. Until they aren’t. Ludo’s contractions waxed and waned in length and intensity, for so many hours, and it wasn’t until the last hour before pushing that they really became consistent. Meaning that at that point my body went into one continuous contraction, a new one starting before the last one ended. The moment I said to Cesar softly that it was too much to take was the same moment that I felt the need to bear down: Ludo was ready to finally make his entrance. Still, he took another half an hour to arrive, in an environment where I controlled every aspect of his birth, OB and nurses helping and waiting patiently, letting me listen to my body and work with the baby for an ultimately “easy” and very safe delivery. (There is nothing easy about pushing a child out of your body, especially when you can feel every single aspect of it, but compared to my other births this one was the quietest and the easiest). I had surprised myself during Aurora’s birth by literally roaring, this time I surprised myself by remaining quiet.
From day one in this pregnancy I felt surrounded by medical professionals who listened to me, understood what I wanted, and who were fully behind the fact that I wanted a natural birth and that I was going to continue to tandem nurse my toddlers through the pregnancy (no one even batted an eyelid). My doctor reassured me that they didn’t consider pregnancy an illness, and that when there was no need for unnecessary intervention or screenings they didn’t perform them. When I walked into the hospital for that second time during labour I was made comfortable, given something to drink and the option of using a birthing ball, and left alone unless I asked for help. Every couple of hours or so my nurse popped in to put me on the monitor for 20 minutes, but as Ludo continued to sound great I was given the option to move around freely without an IV. When I was admitted I was asked if I wanted an epidural and once I said no, no one bothered me about it again. My nurse, Jamie, was amazing. Soft-spoken and caring, sensitive and really listened to me – but she let me control everything, even letting me choose when I wanted to be checked.
The moment I felt the need to push we called Jamie and she helped me onto the bed. The other wonderful nurse joined her and they got me ready for delivery, telling me that my doctor was delivering the baby across the hall and would be there soon. I had actually never met this OB from my practice, but she was also amazing, came in and asked me if I felt comfortable in that position to push, and then let my body do its job. Not one person coached me through the process, I pushed naturally with every contraction, building up steam until the very end when I felt my energy fail… And right then I knew that it was only going to take one more push, gathered all my strength and gave birth to my son. He was placed directly on my chest while I cried and laughed and breathed and looked at Cesar with tears in my eyes (and as I write this I feel them building up behind closed eyelids). Once the cord had stopped pulsating my doctor clamped it and Cesar cut the cord, just like he had done with Luna. I placed Ludo on my bare chest and we were wrapped in blankets while I expelled the placenta, and then I nursed and cuddled my little munchkin for two hours, undisturbed.
I will always remember that peaceful time when we were given the chance to remain together, skin to skin, basking in the reality of birth and finally meeting each other. Ludo was weighed and measured and checked after those two hours, and to my utmost surprise he weighed in at 8lbs 13oz and measured 20.5 inches. My smallest bump and easiest recovery, but biggest baby by nearly a pound in size (Luna had been 7lbs 13 oz and a wee 18 inches, and Aurora 7lbs 14 oz and a long 21.5 inches). I think it goes to show that our bodies are amazing, and I will cherish my own forever more.
While I would love to remember every single moment of each of my three births, I am sure that the more difficult moments will fade away, and the best times will stand out even more. I am just very lucky that I have such wonderful stories to tell and that I will always be able to recall that it IS possible to have the birth that you want, and while childbirth is never perfect, every birth in itself is. And that is because every birth is so special that there aren’t enough words in our language or any other to describe it.
(After rereading Luna and Aurora's birth stories I just realised that all of my children were born during a full moon!)