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. 😂

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. 😂

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

The Journey to Lucas (Birth Story prequel)

A somewhat dry retelling in the form of a timeline of the two and a half weeks leading up to the birth of baby number eight, Lucas Robert.

My most recent post explains the why behind going to Edmonton:

The Tale of Baby Eight (so far).


January 3rd: Left home late morning for Edmonton. Got about 45 minutes away from our destination and broke down. Waited two hours for taxis to come get us and paid over $220 to get to where we were staying that night.

January 4th: Found out van cannot be looked at until Monday, rented a car to at least be able to get groceries and pick up the van when finished. Also found out that lodgings we thought were booked for eight nights were actually only available for three. Started making plans to find a hotel for a few nights and then look at AirBnB.

January 5th: I went to the hospital for a bit of monitoring as I wasn’t feeling great and hadn’t been to the doctor in awhile. Stayed way longer than I expected but figured out that it was likely just extreme fatigue and swelling from driving making me feel off.

January 6th: Took the kids on the LRT for a little adventure downtown. Had lunch, walked around and got back in time to pack up and move out. Friends helped us move to the Staybridge Inn and Suites in West Edmonton and brought us supper later on. Mike went to check in at the hotel and found that they would not honour the price they had quoted us on the phone. He also found at this time that he had lost his credit card. Thankfully our friend was still there and offered his to cover incidentals. As we were checking in, we found out that there was a planned power outage for the following day – a day we had hoped to have relaxing at the hotel but now would need to fill with some sort of activity elsewhere. Definitely felt attacked at this point.

January 7th: A little bit of complaining got us a better rate than the original quoted amount on the room which was a relief. We spent a good deal of the day at the West Edmonton Mall, after ferrying over in groups as the rental car couldn’t actually carry all of us at once. Went back to the hotel after the power outage and got a complimentary sushi dinner in place of their normal Monday evening complimentary meal. Kids used the pool twice that day and things felt a bit better by the end of the day.

January 8th: Picked up our van and returned the rental car just in time to check out of the Staybridge. Van repairs cost $1200, quite a lot more than we first anticipated. Moved from one West Ed. hotel to another, this time the Sandman. Mike called the day before and asked about a few places that would take a debit card hold (due to missing credit card) and specifically for one with a pool. We were assured that this one had a pool. We showed up and the first thing we saw was a sign saying that their pool and hot tub were unavailable due to renovations. Front desk had already upgraded our rooms (we had two booked next to each other) to suites. After looking at one and finding it large enough, we were able to get them to cancel the second room which saved us almost $300. They also gave us vouchers for Denny’s that we used the first morning for breakfast.

January 9-11th: The Sandman was a fairly restful place to stay. A full kitchen in the suite enabled us to make most of our own meals and save money on eating out. Other than going to a doctor’s appointment and going back to West Ed Mall for the sea lion show, we stuck close to the hotel and rested. Checked out Friday morning and moved back to the Mennonite Guest Home. Earlier in the week, we had been able to go and do laundry there and we had left some things in storage so we wouldn’t have to move everything around. Going back there was like going home. It’s a very comfortable space and we had a lot of privacy even in the shared living room and kitchenette downstairs. We met new people almost every day and got breakfast every morning we stayed there.

January 12th: My due date. Met Mike’s sister and her family at Ikea to let the kids play, have lunch and do a bit of shopping.

January 13th: Went to church not far away from the Guest Home and were blessed by a great message. The children’s program coordinator happens to be the daughter of Mike’s parents’ pastor and the sister of a friend of mine. They knew about our situation and had been praying for us so we felt it would be good to visit there. After eating lunch at the house, we went on the LRT again and rode it in both directions as far as the tracks go. We picked up a chicken at Safeway near one of the stations and went back “home” to eat supper. We were under the impression that we would be checking out on Tuesday but found out that day that our room was needed again for Monday night. Went back to the drawing board for another hotel for two nights because at the same time, we were told we could come back on Wednesday night and stay until the following Monday.

January 14th: Checked out and went to North Edmonton this time, to the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Stayed for two nights, enjoyed a pool with a waterslide and free breakfast. Took the kids to a Korean restaurant on the second night and everyone loved it.

January 16th: After a doctor’s appointment where my induction was scheduled for the 19th, checked out of the Fairfield and headed back to the Guest Home. Again, we felt like we were going home and by this point, we were well known by the volunteers and house parents so they felt a bit like family, too.

January 17th: Got a text from Mike’s parents asking if they could help. Knowing we were going in for an induction and having no idea how long it would take, we said it would help if someone could be there with the kids. They agreed to come down to help out and left home the next morning.

January 18th: Mike’s parents got to Edmonton along with his sister and her kids. We had been told to expect a phone call between 6am and 6pm on the 19th to call us in for the induction so we went to their hotel and made plans with them on how they would pick up the kids and when.

January 19th: Had my phone right next to me first thing in the morning but no phone call. Got up, had breakfast and then got everyone ready to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s hotel. They had a pool and hot tub so we brought our swimsuits, too, figuring we may as well enjoy that before we got a call from the hospital. At around 11:30am, I had a thought that possibly they were calling our home number, something the clinic had from when I was first referred there. Called home and found a message from them and when I phoned back, found they had called me twice already at that number. They suggested that we should go have some lunch and come in between 2 and 3. I wanted Red Lobster so after saying goodbye to the kids, we went for lunch and took our time.

After this, it becomes a birth story so I will stop here and tell the rest in another post.


*A note about what happened when things finally settled down (after the 8th). Mike noticed that while we were feeling attacked, we were almost always seeing a benefit to what happened – saving the money at the Sandman, getting free food vouchers, etc. God provided each time above and beyond the initial bad news. We also believe we will see financial restoration as this trip, with lodging, food, van repair and other costs, has drained our savings account almost completely. He has always provided so we know He won’t stop now.*


The Tale of Baby Eight (so far)

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I’m pregnant. Currently 37 weeks, 4 days pregnant. This is baby number eight and this pregnancy has required an incredible amount of faith.

In September of 2016, I was attempting a second VBAC (babies 1-4 all born vaginally, 5 born by (likely) unnecessary cesarean due to breech positioning, 6 VBAC). Labour was dragging on and I finally went in to see if possibly baby was not in the perfect position to be born. He wasn’t – his head was diagonally down but that meant no pressure on my cervix to help with dilation. I was around 1 cm when the obstetrician moved him externally and broke my water, which was heavily stained with meconium. I then spent a few hours labouring before being put on Pitocin to move things along. I was coping well, chatting with my daughter and husband and amazing the nurses with how calm I was. After some time, the nursing staff noticed decelerations in baby’s heart rate and would need me to move positions to get it to come back up to normal. It returned to normal every time but continued to happen in various positions. This, along with the meconium in the amniotic fluid and very slow dilation – I seemed to stall around 6 cm – made them concerned. Finally, close to midnight, the OB came in and decided that this pattern was not indicative of anything positive and we agreed to another cesarean. I was told later that his heart rate was plummeting because he was totally wrapped up in his umbilical cord. I had a hard first day in the hospital and after two nights, when being discharged, I asked the OB how things looked and what his opinion was of my having more children. This was likely a mistake. He had an almost emotional/angry reaction, mentioned a “paper thin uterus” and placenta accreta – a very serious condition that I was completely unaware I had until then, two days after birth. I was crushed. Mike wasn’t with me when this happened, making it even harder to process.

We talked, prayed, cried, talked some more and after a few months decided that we still didn’t feel right about birth control, sterilization, etc. and that we would just trust that if I ever got pregnant again, I would be able to safely carry a child to term. We agreed that it might mean early delivery by c-section, a hysterectomy, etc. but that we were okay with all of that if it came to it. And then we went on with life.

In May of this year, I had a few sudden and unexpected symptoms that led me to believe that I might be pregnant. Trying to avoid being asked if I was pregnant and forced to either tell sooner than I was ready or lie, I didn’t even take a test until I was nine weeks pregnant. By then, it was a formality. We waited until I was thirteen weeks to tell our kids – only three of my friends knew prior to that. I was blessed by an incredibly easy pregnancy through the first and second trimesters and only started to feel *pregnant* close to the third. All through it, I had doctors who thought my chances at VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) were great. My ultrasound and other things looked totally normal. They treated me just like any other pregnant woman but about two months ago, I was told that hospital policy was being changed to disallow VBA2C in our hospital. Initially I was told that we may be able to go to a hospital two and a half hours away. A month after that, I was told that wouldn’t work, either. So we found an obstetrician in Edmonton – seven hours away from home – who would see me. Two weeks ago, Mike and I flew there on our own for my appointment and a brief kid-free holiday. The appointment was great, we had an ultrasound to look at scar thickness and even got to see a 3D view of our baby’s face. The OB could see no contraindications for me to VBAC again and was very happy with everything he could see. It was a very nice time for us and we came home refreshed and with instructions to come back at 38 weeks.

As of right now, our plan involves staying here and praying hard that this baby will come too quickly for intervention and will be born locally. We have one week for this to happen. If it does not, we will drive to Edmonton on the 2nd of January (a few days after 38 weeks) and stay in a guest house for eight days. If baby doesn’t come by then, we’ll find somewhere else to stay if needed. The OB there is comfortable giving me until 42 weeks which means we could be there for four weeks. This is not at all what we want so we continue to pray for early delivery. But if it takes all of that, it will be worth it. There are many complications that come from repeat cesareans and we have no intention of changing our lifestyle or convictions to prevent future pregnancies. Every day requires faith and the situation honestly feels like a choose your own adventure that we are a part of but not in control of. I have felt a conviction to leave things alone and not do anything to try to induce labour, mess with baby’s position, etc. which requires even more faith.

Every day we give the baby a pep talk and encourage it to come, we pray for delivery to come soon, and I pray for relief from the symptoms of late pregnancy that have made movement, sleep, etc. difficult for me lately. And we remind ourselves not to lean on our own understanding but to look to God to sustain us and make straight our path. We know He will do this and that the outcome will be His plan for us.