The weekend before Halloween, my best friend came to town for a visit. She wanted to offer help and asked if before or after the baby’s arrival would be best. I said before. After a baby is born its easy to get help. You have a newborn. People bend over backwards to help (and ogle the baby too). But 8-9 months pregnant with two small kids? That’s not as fun. But everything is so hard. Cooking takes twice as long, you have to stand sideways to wash dishes, lifting laundry baskets can be a circle of hell. So we looked at our calendars and picked a weekend about 2-3 weeks out from the due date (3-4 weeks from when our midwife and I estimated arrival).
My friend arrived and we hung out on Friday. She helped with chores and errands. The previous weekend all four of us had been struck with a horrible stomach bug. There was still laundry and tidy-up to do from that. We got the diapers and newborn clothes out of the attic and started washing the little things. On Friday night the kids donned their Halloween costumes and we went to our local children’s museum for a mad science Halloween party.
One other important thing happened on Friday. We went to our pre-natal. My friend was thrilled to head the heartbeat. The baby’s head was engaging, but wasn’t quite all the way down yet. My urine test showed none of the hormones that are precursors to labor. My midwife looked at me – exhausted and huge – and said, “You know it’s probably three weeks before you have this baby, right?” I sighed and agreed. Three weeks at least. Two if I was really lucky, but after two kids that were born around 42 weeks, I knew I still had my work cut out for me. My midwife gave me a sympathetic hug. She went out wine tasting that night – she doesn’t drink a drop if she has a mama in the general area of delivery. I was nowhere close.
Saturday was more of the same. We hung out, did laundry, and decided to deep clean the kitchen. My friend and I wiped counters, cleaned under the stove, emptied the fridge, washed all the cupboard doors. We talked and laughed and she joyfully did all the little things my huge belly wouldn’t allow me to do.
In the late afternoon I had a weird contraction. Not Braxton-Hicks. Whatever. I mostly ignored it. A while later, another. I went pee and noticed I was spotting a little. I called the midwife. I told her nothing to worry about, but I was having some weird contractions, spotting, and wanted to keep her up to speed on events. She and I talked it out, neither of us concerned or anticipatory. With the two previous kids I had protracted labors – just a few contractions every night – for a week or two. We suspected this was more of the same.
More contractions. More kitchen cleaning. More spotting. My friend went out to dinner with her family. Another call to the midwife. She and I still agreed that I wasn’t in labor, but that I should maybe step up my labor plan. Put my support people on call, get my sister here from California in the next couple of days. No big deal, but let’s get ready.
Papa-Bug took the Little-Bugs out to buy a birth sheet and mattress protector. I called my sister. She decided to clear her schedule, do some laundry, get some rest, and come up the next day. I called our other support person. It was her son’s birthday. She had a houseful of boys for a sleepover. No worries, I told her. Just realize you are going to get the call sooner than we thought.
I kept folding and putting away laundry. The contractions were about 25 minutes apart and beginning to pull my focus into them when each one washed over me. A similar thing had happened with Sister-Bug’s birth about a week before she arrived. I called my friend and let her know what she was coming home to after her dinner party. Papa-Bug and the Littles came back with a sheet.
We settled down in bed to watch Gnomeo & Juliet. The contractions were really increasing in intensity, but not frequency or duration. My friend returned and settled in with us. One more call to the midwife. She sighed and asked if I wanted her to come out for a check. I said yes – I didn’t think I was in full blown labor, but I wanted to be able to tell my sister how soon to start her 9 hour drive up here. I wanted to call my other friend and give her the heads up with good information.
The midwife came out. We decided to check my cervix – something we had never done before with any pregnancy or labor. I was four centimeters dilated, but she and I still were skeptical. I was probably 3-4 centimeters with the other two kids for several days before their labors. We chatted about options and plans. The kids told her about the movie. I interrupted the conversation to have a contraction.
After the contraction, my midwife looked me in the eye. “I’m going to wait on the couch until you need me.”
This baby was coming. Now. Tonight. I was in labor. What?
I called my sister. Get in the car NOW. It was around 10 PM. She was on the road by 11. We wanted two people to support the kids, one for each of them. I called my youngest brother. He was at a Halloween party. He stopped drinking, promising to down some coffee and get to our house as soon as he could safely drive. Papa-Bug put the birth sheet on the bed. At some point we talked to the kids. My friend took Brother-Bug into sleep with her. He was tired, my contractions and related growls were ramping up and he just wanted someone to snuggle him. Sister-Bug stayed in the bedroom with me and Papa-Bug. We had told her many times that the best thing she could do while I was in labor was to be quiet and give me “blue light”. I looked over at her during a contraction. She was wide-eyed, hands reaching toward me, intense concentration on her two-year old face. Around midnight she fell asleep like that – hands out, giving me blue light to ease my labor. Papa-Bug carried her in to cuddle her brother.
The contractions continued. I love giving birth except when I’m in the midst of it. While I’m there I yell and scream and curse and howl. My body moves of its own accord. It is amazing to be in that place. And while I’m there…grrrrrrrrrrr.
My brother arrived. Here is my one disappointment. He paused at his house to change out of his Halloween costume. Had he not made that decision, Indiana Jones (complete with whip) would have been at Baby-Bug’s birth. While comfortable street clothes were probably the good choice…well, Indiana Jones would have been So Cool.
Labor progressed. My sister was driving, assuming she would miss the moment of birth, but hoping. The kids were asleep. Papa-Bug and our midwife placed bets on how much longer it would be. The contractions slipped into one long pull of force. Papa-Bug went to wake up the Little-Bugs because we knew they wanted to be at the delivery, but they slept soundly.
Finally, my waters broke, amniotic fluid pouring down my legs. Our midwife replaced the towels and told Papa-Bug to get ready to catch – the baby would be coming any contraction now.
One more strong contraction, a slip and a slid, a howl and a push. Papa-Bug was halfway there and he dove toward me as Baby-Bug all but fell out in that one mighty push. Papa-Bug managed to almost get half and hand under as the baby hit the bed, face up, with a squelchy splashing sound I will never forget. The first thing Papa-Bug said was “It’s a boy!”.
Somehow we maneuvered the baby through my legs to cuddle up on my chest. Our midwife and Papa-Bug helped me back on to pillows and wrapped me and the tiny baby in blankets. She left us in candle lights to get to know our new person.
My sister was in Northern California, on the phone with my brother when Baby-Bug came out. He was born at 1:42, and she arrived at 9:00 the next morning. Brother-Bug and Sister-Bug were fully awake by then, excited to have the baby finally here and to show their aunt their brother. My friend called in sick to work and stayed for a couple of days to help with…everything.
We hadn’t expected a Halloween baby. All signs – both pervious birth history and the baby’s pre-natals had pointed to a mid-November birth. But Baby-Bug did things his own way – both a trick and a treat.
It’s been a crazy and wonderful year with this guy. It’s such a delight and an honor to be his Mama. Happy Birthday Baby-Bug!