I will start out well before Thaddeus was born. Rosalie arrived at 39 weeks, surprising everyone, and we therefore expected Thaddeus to arrive similarly early. By Memorial Day, we were ready to go – and then we waited. Our wise midwife Miriam told us this was a gentle reminder that every pregnancy, every labor, and every baby is different, which helped some but did not make the wait all that much easier.
On Tuesday June 12, at our regular prenatal visit, Miriam suggested we get an ultrasound on Friday, should the baby have not been born by then. Wednesday and Thursday, Reba had regular, fairly strong contractions, but they never progressed beyond around 6 and 10 minutes, respectively. More waiting, more opportunity to surrender to the uniqueness of this birth.
On Friday June 15, after a good night of sleep, Reba’s contractions began again around 6 AM. We spent a normal morning at home together, eating breakfast and hanging out in the backyard blowing bubbles with Rosalie. The contractions continued, and after a quick call to Miriam we decided to skip the ultrasound. At 1130 AM, things picked up a bit, and we called our wonderful doulas Wendy and Colleen, let Miriam know, and told Uncle Chris and Oma it was time to pick up Rosalie.
After Wendy arrived and Rosalie left, we all headed downstairs to the darkened basement to blow up and fill the birth tub. (I thought of a dozen things that I should have done, but apparently nothing important was left out because everything went fine.) Reba’s contractions were about 6 minutes apart, intense but still talk-through-able, barely. Colleen soon joined us, and until about 3 PM the contractions were regular (5-6 minutes apart) and progressively stronger. The lights were off and an early labor mix was on. Between one contraction, we all reminisced about our first purchased albums, as Reba told us about Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, which her father bought for her. There were also plenty of quiet moments between contractions. At one point between contractions, Reba opened her eyes and saw her birth team circled around on the floor in front of her: me, Colleen, Wendy, and Sophia the cat. (Sophia was around a lot).
Around 330 PM, things got intense and I called Miriam to come over. Reba got into the tub, and stayed there until after the birth. In marked contrast to Rosalie’s birth, where the shock of the intensity and speed of the progression left Reba struggling, she was excellent at resting between increasingly long contractions. Somewhere in what was probably transition, she also did lots of vocalization – a “sh-sh-sh” sound in the build -up, and some moaning and even roaring during the peak. Wendy said “Yes! Go mama bear!” Through these contractions, Reba was holding on to the edge of the tub. I was holding her and breathing with her, working on keeping her sounds in the low-pitched range (oms and ums instead of ees and ahs), while Colleen kept applying pressure to the small of her back and Wendy ladled water over Reba’s back. We did this for about three hours.
Toward the end, there was surrender, intensity, self-doubt, and some fairly loud yelling. At one point, Wendy had to hold me so Reba wouldn’t pull me into the tub. After about 25 minutes of pushing (initiated at Miriam’s suggestion), Thaddeus was born in the water and went right into Reba’s arms. He latched almost instantly, and as I write this, four days later, he is still a champion latcher.
Thirty minutes later, the placenta arrived, I cut the cord, and we all went upstairs. Soon thereafter Rosalie, Oma, Uncle Chris, and Aunt Ginger arrived, as did veggie wraps from Mundo. Everyone left by 10, and the new family of four tried a variety of sleeping arrangements, without a whole lot of success. It’s getting a little better, but Thaddeus’s nights and days remain turned around, and they might for a while yet. Such is life with a newborn baby and a toddler.
Reba felt positive immediately after the birth, remains very happy how it all went down, and is recovering well. Thaddeus is healthy, Rosalie is adjusting to her new reality, and I, with plenty of help from friends and family, am keeping us fed and maintaining a little bit of order.