We are three days shy of Valour’s one month celebration (when I started writing this, now we are two days past 8 weeks). It will be a small celebration filled with my children playing, Val, alternating sleeping and nursing, and me sweeping up the constant flow of crumbs while balancing said child off my breast and clutching the broom.
Life with three has taken adjusting to, as do most enormous life, changes but it feels so normal to have him in our home that even these changes, while not always easy, feel routine.
But one month ago we only had two mouths filling the house with noise and it did not take long for the third to join us.
40 weeks to the day. One of the 5% of babies born on their expected due date, and during daylight hours none the less (even more statistically surprising), Valour Benjamin Michael entered our lives this side of the womb.
The night before our due date I surprised Ben with a night out. We had been desperate to see The Greatest Showman, both being lovers of music, a good movie and of course Hugh. I set up child care, picked up tickets, ordered sushi for before the show and prayed I wouldn’t feel a contraction until after we arrived home. As a plug for the movie (spoiler alert), I believe that because it was so amazing and gave me ‘all the feels’, it kicked off labour hours later.
So yes, the wee hours of the morning. Journey had been complaining of an upset tummy for a few days and sadly (after months of not doing this) made a disaster of her diaper at 3AM. I had woken to pee as one does when pregnant and knew the smell when it hit ma nose. 15 minute diaper change later and I was back in bed, trying to settle back down. But I couldn’t. My mind raced. I felt starving. I felt nauseous. I just felt restless. So I laid there and must have finally dozed as I woke at 5 to pee again. This time as I sat up my water broke and I sighed. So it began…and I wasn’t crazy for feeling so many weird things that night.
The majority of labours do not begin with water breaking. Most break in active labour when the baby is pressing the bag against your pelvic bone or some women have them broken on purpose for various reasons. Third births are strange and this one, beginning with broken water and no contractions, was different than the first two. So I waited a few minutes. Nothing. But I had to pee…so off I went. Threw on a pad and waddled back to bed. Laid down. Still nothing. So I tried to sleep.
8AM rolled around and I woke to two children jumping on the bed and another just starting to make me crampy. Ben was supposed to leave an hour later for a hockey tournament (one he had been anticipating for awhile) and me being a naive git said he could probably go and I would just call if things picked up…well one shower later and things were beginning to pick up. Nothing intense but I knew we would end that day with a baby. Ben decided to stay home, get the tub up and filled and help me with a general tidy of the home as we were expecting quite a lot of people in our barn loft. He was a doll who juggled sweeping, filling the tub, shovelling the deck as it just happened to snow storm that morning, salting the steps so our care givers wouldn’t break a leg attending me and taking Journ to the toilet every 15 minutes for her upset tummy. Honour stayed near me, alternating between holding my hand and holding the laptop for some Netflix entertainment.
10AM. Ben was getting wary of the sounds I was making. He had been here before 2.5 years ago. Standing by me, EMS the only ones to make it within minutes of us catching our little girl in the living room. No matter how exhilarating that was, he didn’t want to be almost alone again. So he made the calls that I was beginning to get too spaced out to make. My mum, my midwife, my doula..they were on their way. By 11:15 all were there. Our wonderful photographer made it from Windsor, my little sister even made it from London! They each took to their role and I hardly noticed them but welcomed them all with gratitude as I knew they were there to love me, support me and do all they could when they were called upon. Journey, who never naps, fell asleep shortly before 11 in the arms of my Mum as she truly was quite sick that day.
Once Amanda, my INCREDIBLE midwife, arrived she recognized my sounds, understood my posture and invited me to climb into my birthing pool. This is reserved for when you hit active labour as it can slow down early labour (something I learned the hard way with my first). I asked not to be checked unless totally necessary as this was the worst part of my first labour and I never want a vaginal exam in labour again. So I almost wept when she said she could tell I was far along, and being my third she knew it wouldn’t be long…oh the trusting instinct of midwives…I love them! So I clambered over the side and sunk into the tub around 1130.
As I relaxed the contractions got serious. Valour moved quickly and my oldest stood steadfast with me, offering me drinks and cuddling close to his father who I would not let leave my side. I realize I labour best on my knees and spent the entire time in this position, leaning against the tub, holding whoever’s hand was closest and truly relying on the verbal support that came from those around me. I was thirsty, sweaty but in control…until I wasn’t. Women in labour know that point. You get scared. You, who have welcomed each previous contraction with calm, moans and routine, now try to run from them. You feel completely overpowered, overcome, out of control and frightened. This is transition. It is hard. My words became negative. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be checked. I needed help. I needed Ben. Locking eyes with him, holding tight I knew that being scared was ok, but I had to focus. I had to stay in as much control as I could so I could breath this baby out with strength. I didn’t want to damage my body, push too fast or make it more difficult than I knew it would already be.
So I listened. To my midwife who told me not to run away from the pressure. To my doula who told me how strong I was and how much control I had. To my husband who continually shared encouragement and words of praise. To my little boy who told me I was doing a great job. And as the pressure built I held off. I have learned from my studies, from the mothers I doula for that you push when you can no longer stop it. So I waited for that moment. When it becomes so intense you must push along with your body. And I did. That primal roar emerges, the depths of a woman being expressed to those in her presence. Bringing forth a child into her own hands. This is what I desired. I longed for my child. With that longing I pushed, I changed positions instinctively, I paused as my body waited to stretch slowly, I controlled my breathing with a deep focus, I rested as I waited for that urge again and then pushed with one goal in mind. To see my baby’s face. I felt him as he left his first home, wrapped in his cord like no other. We kept him under the water for a few seconds as my midwife circled his long cord around his arm, his neck, his leg…he was a spinning baby in that womb. And finally, after what felt like a moment longer than labour itself I lifted him to my chest. My son and husband over my shoulder, my mother and sister in the room and my birth team surrounding us in love.
Ben announced we had another boy and he and Honour separated him from me by cutting his cord, Valour was his own person. He was born at 12:09 and weighed 7lbs 1oz, our smallest baby.
We moved to the bedroom, snuggled up, and welcomed an awakening Journey to meet her tiny brother Dayor (as she said it). My amazing doula brought me peanut butter on toast with a bowl of berries and everyone offered me glasses of ice water, one after the other, which I hurriedly guzzled down. I was in baby euphoria and everyone was respectful of this moment. I ate, I drank (water) and I was merry!
My children cuddled with me, Honour held his baby brother and my husband attended me and our guests with grace and gentleness.
I am so thankful for an uncomplicated labour. A labour that ended with Valour encircled by our family, held only by arms that we trusted and quickly quieted into the bed he shares with us every night. I am loved. I am blessed. I am a mother of three and I am so grateful.
Photo Credits for the second and fourth photo – Amanda T. our midwife
The final photo is mine
The rest of the photos are – Kristle of Manifesto Photography