The Birth of Owen Anthony

On Monday, April 19th, at eight days past my due date, I had my last prenatal appointment. It was possibly the best one I’ve ever had, especially so late in pregnancy. The doctor confirmed that baby was head down – a relief because he was transverse at my previous appointment. He then asked me if I wanted to come in and be induced. I said no. He said okay. He asked me if I wanted a membrane sweep. Declined that as well. No problem. He asked me how long I was comfortable going over. I said I felt totally fine about going to 42 weeks. I told him that I was happy to go in for non-stress tests to make sure baby was happy but I definitely wouldn’t want to be induced without good cause because of past experiences. I explained how things had gone when Lucas was born and how an aggressive pitocin induction was something I wanted to avoid. In the end I agreed to go back on Thursday afternoon for a non-stress test and I left the clinic feeling excited and confident. I had two appointments with this doctor in a row and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one who was this relaxed, especially considering my history and perceived risk factors. I felt I had full autonomy and that he wanted me to be the one calling the shots.

On Tuesday night I realized that I was a little bit afraid of the unknown – if I was going to go until 42 weeks or be induced, whether I would get the intervention free birth we had prayed for or not. I repented for that fear of the unknown and had a good four and a half hour sleep without interruption. At 4 in the morning, I woke up suddenly wondering if I might have peed myself. I knew it was very unlikely but I was just not expecting anything like this. The bed wasn’t wet but I knew something had happened. I jumped out of bed realizing that it might possibly be my water breaking. I started leaking as I speed-waddled to the bathroom. I made it to the toilet but the gush came before I could sit down. This was unmistakable. It was also the first time my water had broken outside of the hospital and was only the second time my water had broken on its own. The fluid was totally clear which was immediately reassuring. The funny thing was that this was something I had prayed for a few times, knowing how unlikely it was that my normal pattern would change from past births.

I woke Mike up and adrenaline kicked in. He was just as excited as I was. We got up, had breakfast and I started feeling some cramps and then very mild contractions. They became more intense but never really became painful. We were playing worship music and I was sort of trying to get things moving but at six I started feeling really tired. I told Mike that I wanted to go back to bed, even if all I could do was rest. We turned off all the lights and music and went back to bed. I dozed for about an hour total, even though I was still quite restless. Mike confirmed that I was asleep because he heard “the sweet sound” of my snoring. When I’ve struggled with sleep through this pregnancy, he has loved hearing me snore because it meant I wasn’t struggling. ❀ I was aware of some contractions while I was in bed but mostly ignored them and they definitely slowed down.

At eight, Mike got up to get the youngest boys some breakfast and I had a burst of energy and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a few laps around the block. We woke Jenny up and told her that things were happening which was absolutely thrilling for her. I was so glad at that point that we had time to let her sleep longer. We went twice around the block and things picked up again. I wasn’t timing them but Mike said if he could guess, the contractions at that point were 20 metres apart. πŸ˜‚

When I decided I was done walking, we went inside and I used my birth ball a bit and eventually went back to bed and finished an episode of One Born Every Minute I had started the night before (a labour and delivery show, of course). My contractions were obviously stronger and getting closer to something I could call painful. That time is still very fuzzy to me – I know I moved around in a few different positions and tried to rest and breathe through contractions. I was messaging my sister and a friend in the States about my progress during this time as well. At around 11:30, Mike came in and we talked a bit and I asked him to run the bath for me. I knew the water would feel good and that if things suddenly progressed, it would be the easiest place to contain any mess made by birth, even though I was certainly not sure it would happen there. At this point, I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to wait as long as possible to avoid intervention in the hospital. Mike was 100% on board with the idea of staying home for the whole thing but I wasn’t quite there.

I got in the bath at noon (thank you, timestamps on conversations with my sister…I was totally unaware of the time for most of the day). I had a birth playlist playing with worship music that I had made during my last pregnancy and a mixture of orange, lavender and frankincense oil in a diffuser as it was a scent I was really enjoying at the end of pregnancy. As things progressed in the bath, I prayed, sang between contractions and made declarations of what this birth was doing in me. I knew God was giving me a testimony even though I didn’t know the outcome yet. One amazing thing that happened was that while the playlist was on shuffle, each song that played seemed to be exactly what I needed at each moment during the next two hours. I know that was the Holy Spirit ministering to me.

For half an hour, things picked up but were manageable. I could tell I was out of early labour at least. At 12:30, I prayed that the baby would come in half an hour and decided that I would probably want to head to the hospital at that point if it hadn’t happened. I told Mike this and he stayed close by after that. Some time later, I asked him between contractions what time it was and he said it was 1:18. I knew this was outside my time frame but I felt I was managing just fine and I didn’t really want to get out yet.

It was likely not more than twenty minutes after that when I started feeling a bit overwhelmed and realized I might be in transition already. It was so different not being checked for dilation this time so I was just going off of how I felt. It was getting hard to manage and feel in control and I expressed this to Mike a few times. I absolutely thought a few times that I wanted to be in the hospital where there was nitrous and possibly stronger drugs. Mike was nothing but encouraging, praying for me and reminding me that I was made to do this. I never really made a decision about staying in the bath but if someone had tried to get me out at that stage, I definitely could not have moved. I could barely change positions and eventually got fully “stuck” in a semi-reclined sitting position.

After three or four of these transition contractions, I started feeling pressure. Not really an urge to push, but more like my body was moving him down. I assume it was probably around 2:00 that I knew I needed to push. I felt to see if baby’s head was obviously coming and it was probably halfway down the birth canal already. I had hoped to really experience fetal ejection reflex and let my body push this baby out without pushing the way I had always been coached to do. In the moment, though, I had this instinctual feeling that this baby needed some help getting out and I was going to have to put some hard work in here. I won’t lie – it was very hard. I’ve had babies between low seven pounds and mid nine and this took a lot more effort than my littlest ones. As I was pushing, I heard an audible pop and knew it was my tailbone – this had happened when I had Jenny nearly sixteen years ago and it led to six months of recovery from a bruised or broken tailbone. In the moment, it didn’t hurt but I couldn’t ignore the sound.

I knew exactly when baby was crowning and I definitely said something about how much it hurt but didn’t actually tell Mike that he was crowning. Then once his head was out I may have said something or maybe he just looked for himself but he was astonished that I was that far because in the hospital, he had always seen the baby’s head long before then. I pushed again and felt like I had to give birth to a second head – I can only assume his shoulders were broad because I don’t remember any of my other babies taking that kind of effort.

Mike reached down for him once the first shoulder was out and lifted him out once both came. He was still underwater until that point. He picked him up out of the water and I reached down for him. I immediately felt as I put my hand under his bum that he was a boy – not a surprise at all to me. He was making a bit of noise, was definitely purple but not limp, and right away I saw the bath was totally brown – he had pooped at the end at some point, quite possibly when I was pushing because that was the first time we saw any evidence of meconium. He also had a thick coating of vernix on his back which I had never seen on my other babies. I rubbed his back, flicked his feet a few times and scooped some mucus out of his mouth. I had watched some unassisted birth videos and also had a few friends who had their babies unassisted so I knew what to do if a baby was struggling a bit at first. Very quickly he pinked up and started crying. This happened fast and somewhere in there Mike looked at the time and called 2:12 pm for time of birth. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say pushing took no more than ten minutes.

Jenny was apparently listening at the door at the end and heard me pushing but didn’t believe I could be so close already. It felt like a long time but I was only in the bath for two hours before I started pushing. Once she heard a cry, she came in fast and totally stunned and excited. Shortly after that, Mike covered me with a towel and the boys all crowded in to the bathroom to see their new brother.

I nursed him right away and waited for the placenta to come. This is a part of my birth stories that I’ve likely never bothered to tell in the past but it was so different again that it seems important (also might come across as TMI if you’re just not into birth like I am). I knew it should come within an hour or so and could feel pressure but couldn’t push in the position I was in. Eventually I knew I would have to stand up so I carefully passed Owen to Mike and shortly after the placenta came easily and I caught it myself. We asked Jenny to get a bowl but should have said a bucket because she grabbed a frequently used salad/chip/popcorn bowl from the kitchen. Thankfully it was old and cheap. πŸ˜‚

After this point, we did everything with a baby wrapped up in a towel and a placenta in a salad bowl. Mike did his best to clean things up and prevent a bigger mess from being made and we eventually were able to move to our bedroom so I could rest while we decided what to do next. Elias made me probably the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had and I phoned the hospital to explain the situation and see what they would advise. I suspected I had torn so I thought it best to at least go in to get checked.

The decision was made that we would go in, cord attached to placenta and all and get checked out. I assumed we would stay the night so I brought my hospital bag along. We left home at around 4:45. I had a very small first degree tear that required two stitches and otherwise everything was fine. I never had an IV or even the standard shot of oxytocin in the thigh that they typically give you when baby is out. I said to Mike later that this was truly an intervention free birth – far beyond what I expected as I thought I would have to either fight care providers for what I wanted and make people angry or give in and compromise on my hopes for this birth. The staff were all very kind and some of them familiar from past births – I told them very honestly that I hadn’t really planned to stay home but that there came a point where I just couldn’t get out of the bath anymore. No one scolded me or questioned that decision at all, which was a relief.

The biggest shock I had in the hospital was his birth weight. I only gained twenty-five pounds this pregnancy and never felt or looked huge at all. I had an inkling that I had a long baby – he was 20 3/4″ – but thought from holding him that he was around eight and a half pounds. I believe the nurse said something along the lines of “hold onto your hats” when she told us his weight – 9 lb 13 oz! My biggest baby! Jenny had held the record for nearly sixteen years.

We were originally told we could go home roughly twenty-four hours after his birth but due to antibodies I had during pregnancy and a pediatrician who seemed to want something to be worried about, it took us a bit longer than we had hoped. We have been dealing with him and odd blood results all week now, honestly putting a damper on the first week at home, especially when Owen seems to be perfectly healthy and has no obvious symptoms of the issues the pediatrician is concerned about. We will hopefully have some more clarity on that within the next few days and be done with all the follow up.

Owen is being well loved and snuggled by everyone here and no one has expressed any disappointment that he is a boy. My recovery has only been made difficult by the tailbone injury and that seemed to be at its worst about three days postpartum and has been improving since. Owen nurses well and sleeps soundly in between feeds and lovely alert periods where we all oooh and aaah over him and his big eyes. He looks almost identical to Ben as a newborn which is amazing and he has jet black hair and fairly dark skin – completely opposite Lucas who is blonde and very pale.

This birth experience was full of answers to prayer and outright miracles. Here I am, a “geriatric” mother, a woman who has many children, putting me at higher risk of hemorrhage (although I have never hemorrhaged), a woman with two previous cesareans and a history full of inductions and other interventions that have truly made me lose faith in my ability to labour and birth naturally. I have had only one other fully natural labour and all the others had at least one type of undesirable intervention. Many led to the “intervention cascade” that leaves women feeling like they are broken and certainly left me feeling that way at times.

One of the miracles of this birth was that our children got to meet their baby brother immediately after his birth. They have always had to wait at least a few hours but this time, they would not have been allowed to come to the hospital to see us, due to covid policies. Jenny has always wanted to come to a birth and did come when Simon was born but that ended in a cesarean so she missed seeing an actual birth. She didn’t witness Owen’s birth but was there moments later which was so special for her.

Another interesting answer to prayer is that I had half jokingly said that I was praying for a two hour labour. I genuinely did pray for it but when my water broke at four and I didn’t have a baby at six, I decided that one wasn’t being answered. But then when I looked back, I realized that labour was so manageable until around noon that my “real” or active labour was really only two hours long. I’ve had many hours of labour that intense in past births and I was so glad to only have two hours of intensity like that and really less than one hour of the kind of labour that sometimes makes you feel like you can’t actually do it.

Mike and I both knew that an intervention free birth – at home or in the hospital – would minister healing to both of us. He was absolutely amazing throughout this experience and made me feel so loved and blessed to be his wife. He did everything I needed him to do and in the end, we just thanked God over and over and knew that this prayer had been answered – we both feel so healed from the damage done in past birth experiences.

Throughout this pregnancy we have been blessed to have a community of people around us who have truly become family. They have encouraged us and prayed for us all along and have rejoiced with us in welcoming a new son in this incredibly unique way. And since his birth, many have brought food and baking and given generously to us so that we can soak in this time and not be under the pressure that running a large household can bring, particularly in the area of meals. I really believe that we could not have done this so confidently without these beautiful people in our lives.

Our sweet boy
All NINE of our beautiful kids

One thought on “The Birth of Owen Anthony

  1. This beautiful, miraculous, adventurous birth story has made me weepy! I love how God meets us so intimately in our deepest desires, bringing such explosions of joy and much needed healing in the process. I am so delighted for you and your family and I am in love with this perfect, gorgeous boy, from afar! Welcome, sweet Owen Anthony!


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