The Story of Wyeth

8:29 PM

The story I am about to tell you is one that I have been waiting to tell you for months now. 
Waiting for it to unfold so that I would know how to tell it. So that I would know myself how it ended. 
Or begins, as is the true nature of these stories. 

For this is a story of a beginning.

One of my favorite books begins with the words, "All children mythologize their birth..."
That won't be necessary in this case, because every second of this birth, and each of the others I've been privileged to experience, are etched permanently in my mind. 

My story begins last Thursday, when I woke up 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant, to feel, once more, a very defined ball of  a head right up under my rib cage.  After everything, it seemed our little baby decided to return to a breech position. About one week before I anticipated going into labor.  It so happened that I had an appointment with my midwife, Amy, that afternoon, so I decided I'd let her confirm my suspicions. She did so with a wry grin, feeling around on my stomach, identifying feet, hands, and yep, a breech positioned head.  After some discussion, we decided to attempt to turn the baby via external cephalic version.  

After some gentle manipulation, it became clear that the baby had a foot/leg in such a position down by my right hip bone that it just did not want to move. So we let it be, and the plan was for me to get an ultrasound that afternoon or Friday morning and then try to turn the baby again Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, do some inversions that night to see if I could get it to turn on its own. Oh, and of course, some moxibustion. At that appointment, Amy, Kyle and I discussed every possible scenario and every fear, question, concern, etc. that was on our minds at the time. Just talking through all the possibilities gave me a peace, in spite of the sticky situation I felt we were in.  

I found out pretty quickly that our plan wasn't going to work perfectly because the ultrasound person Amy uses was leaving town Thursday evening until Monday. The earliest we could get an ultrasound, or attempt to turn the baby manually was Monday.  Even with all that, I felt peace. Still, with the peace, the atmosphere in my house Thursday night was one of whole-hearted determination. We hauled an old door out of our attic, propped it against my bed and I lay on the door with my head at the bottom for 20 minutes while Kyle read a book to me and the kids. 

A sideways baby as it moves from breech to vertex position
While lying there, I could easily feel the baby's position, and during that 20 minutes, I watched and felt the baby's head move slowly from the top of my ribs, around my left side and down to my left hip.  It was unbelievable. I called Amy, who was equally amazed and thrilled that we'd seen it work so quickly! Just to be sure, we did another 20 minutes right before we went to bed and 20 minutes of moxibustion. But by the time I went to sleep, I was confident that head was back down. 

I saw Amy again Friday evening and she felt the baby's position once again and confirmed it was head down. But definitely not engaged in my pelvis. Just floating up above it. We both prayed that the baby would stay positioned down till the birth...such drastic movements from the baby at this late date in the game was something Amy said she never ever saw.  I was just thinking if I could get through another week with it head down, it should be ok, since I usually went into labor at 39 weeks. 

  Saturday night, I met my Ladies' Group for dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Several weeks back, I had pondered aloud to Kyle whether just being around my dear friends might put me in labor a few weeks early! My ladies are a bunch of experienced home birthers and like-minded mommas who understood my concerns, hopes, fears and anxieties.  I knew we would talk through it all, they would understand and encourage me and it would be so cool if they were part of the labor process! However, at the end of our evening, nothing happened other than a wonderful time with the ladies, and I headed home, very much not in labor. 

I woke up Saturday night at 1:30 in the morning to get up to pee and had the strangest sensation. Like I was already peeing, but I clearly wasn't. Or not intentionally anyway! Stranger things have happened. (Disclaimer: if you don't like details, stop reading here and skip to the end or something.) It didn't take me long after emptying my bladder to realize that more was happening than just my bladder emptying. My water had definitely broken. And I was 38 weeks. A full two weeks early! And yes, after a quick mashing around on my belly, I confirmed baby was still head down. Shew! 

For the second pregnancy in a row, I woke my husband up in the middle of the night with amazement in my voice as I told him I was pretty sure my water had broken.  He sprang out of bed and we met in the bathroom to discuss while our other three children slept. As amniotic fluid trickled steadily down my leg, he concurred with my assessment. 

I'll confess here that I had a few moments of self-doubt and fear and bewilderment. This was a week earlier than I had mentally prepared to be here. Does that make sense? I had to rapidly readjust my mental readiness. Rapidly. But it's also good to heed the extremely calm, wise voice of your experienced midwife, who, as you wake her at 1:45 am with this exciting news, tells you to go back to bed for the moment and get some sleep before things get going. She first asked where the baby's head was, and then reminded me that I probably wasn't going to have a ten minute labor, and if I wasn't currently having contractions and baby was head down, my best use of time would be to rest my body.

I put my phone close beside my bed to use my contraction timer app, should contractions suddenly start up. And I tried really hard to sleep. About 2:45, I felt the first stirring of a contraction. Barely more than a mild cramp, but definitely the beginning. Definitely not a Braxton Hicks.  Baby was still very active, which was good. For a few hours, as I dozed, I would half wake up to hit start on my timer, and stop when they ended.  Never more than 30 seconds long, they were about 2 minutes apart, but so mild that it was only enough to know that things had begun.  I sent a few texts out to let people know I wasn't going to be able to serve in the nursery the next morning, to get my siblings praying for me and to get my sister-in-law, Anna, on alert that she probably would need to keep Dorien and August Sunday morning. Next thing I know, it's 8:30 and I'm waking up to basically more of the same. Teensy surges that lasted 20-30 seconds and were about 2 minutes apart. Still gushing fluid every now and then, but nothing else. No bloody show. 

Last minute Kroger trip Sunday morning
Kyle and I got ready, woke the kids up and explained what was going on, I took a shower, we put our plastic shower curtain on the bed, we dropped the kids off at Anna's and ran to Kroger to pick up some milk, bread and fruit.  It was funny because it was one of those moments that feel absolutely surreal.  You're doing something ordinary on an extraordinary day. People around you are doing ordinary things, completely unaware that your life is balancing on the precipice of major change, of something huge and miraculous and astounding and you almost can't believe that such sparks aren't flying off you such that everyone around you can see what's going on! 

We did run into someone we knew, who happened to ask me if I was getting close to having the baby. I grinned and said, pretty darn! My water broke last night and I'm in early labor. She squealed in delight and according to Kyle, several other shoppers who happened to overhear, looked at us in horror, as though I were going to squat there in the aisle while picking out my plums and apples. 

Excitement aside, back home, things just stopped. Nothing had amped up all morning, still the same mild stuff, 30 seconds long at most, 2-3 minutes apart. Then they started getting further and further apart.  Through it all, Kyle and I had been communicating with our midwife, Amy, and with Holly, one of my best friends (and part of my Ladies' Group) who was planning to be there as well. She was also present at Dorien's birth - the one who delivered him, actually. She's a midwife apprentice and an extremely extremely experienced L&D nurse here in town. She's golden on every level. Her role at this birth was going to be to make sure Brooklyn was ok - did I mention Brooklyn was going to be present during this birth? Well, that was our plan. Her plan. The plan. 

Around noon, I decided to take a nap and lay down. Kyle went to get the kids back from Anna and put on a movie for them to watch while he hung out with me. My parents stopped by on their way home from Fayetteville to pray with us and see what was going on. At the time, nothing. Visiting with them a few minutes was a good distraction. When they left, and still nothing was happening, I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich with my kiddos for lunch. I suddenly felt really sleepy, and since nothing was happening, I lay down. I think I slept for about an hour - pretty deeply. During that time, my parents came back over and picked up August and Dorien, leaving Brooklyn with us.  During my nap I had three strong contractions, each about 20 minutes apart. I woke up around 2 something and I knew that even though nothing had been happening while I was lying down, when I got up, things would really start. I just knew it.  I had also prayed earlier that God would allow me to have the baby by 4:00.  No reason in particular, it was just a point in the day that wasn't too far away. And I felt like I'd been waiting and waiting for things to really go! 

As I got up from the bed and headed to the bathroom to empty my bladder, I felt a pretty decent contraction hit me. By this time, Kyle had become my official timer, using the app on my phone.  Still only about 30 seconds long, they were more than they'd been, but nothing like what I knew was coming. Kyle and I meandered around our house, moving clothes from the washer to dryer, chatting with Brooklyn about what was going on, texting back and forth with Holly and Amy...waiting for things to intensify and trying to make the most of gravity and the contractions I was having. 

I utilized my Bradley relaxation methods, and Kyle coached me on relaxing every body part, smoothing out my forehead, rubbing my back, encouraging me. It was the perfect day to have a baby, in our opinion. Rain was steadily pattering down outside, it was grey and cloudy, calm, peaceful, restful...quiet.

At 2:54, I texted Amy: "took a nap for a bit. I've been walking around and the contractions are getting stronger. 30-45 seconds long, about 1.5 minutes between."
Amy replied: "Sounds good. Drinking plenty of water and keeping your bladder empty?"
Me: "Yes"

Meanwhile, I really didn't  feel confident about having Amy drive over yet. I honestly felt like I wasn't progressing or working really hard yet and I was afraid she'd come and just twiddle her thumbs while the labor dawdled.  I was walking around, swaying my hips like a belly dancer, slow dancing with Kyle every now and then through a contraction. It felt so good to just move gently. And I could tell the baby's head was engaging more, because I wasn't gushing as much fluid. Things slowly began to stir.

At 3:05 pm, I texted Holly: "Contractions are getting much harder, 30 seconds long. We don't know when to call you/Amy. Care to come assess?"
Her reply: "Absolutely!"

Holly lives right around the corner from me, so around 3:15, she came in to the bathroom where Kyle and Brooklyn and I were timing the contractions while I sat on the pot, emptying my bladder and relaxing my body. I could feel the intensity of each contraction centered around my low pelvis, so I worked really hard to relax my belly and bottom. I still had this bad feeling I wasn't dilated much, because I had virtually no bloody show and while things were picking up, I felt like they could get a lot stronger. I told Holly that as weird as it might sound, even though the intensity was making me work, it sort of felt good. She grinned and said she knew just what I meant. 

In between contractions, Holly checked me (my first and only time) and to my surprise, I was dilated to 5cm! That was super encouraging news! She immediately texted Amy to get over here now! Things were on the move!!! Holly also knew from her experience at Dorien's birth, that I have a history of going from 2cm to 10 in five minutes flat. So my personal assessment of not doing much meant that things were, in fact, flying!

Between contractions, I relaxed and enjoyed having my beloved husband at my side and my sweet daughter there. Her presence was very precious. She followed Holly's lead and her Daddy's and stroked my hands and fingers and just watched closely.  By this time, in order to really focus on relaxing and keeping my body loose, at the peak of each contraction, I would either moan or gently blow air out or blow my lips like a horse. I had read in a childbirth book by Ina May Gaskin that blowing "horsie" bubbles is fabulous for relaxing your bottom. You can't have a tight bottom if your mouth is really loose. And you aren't going to dilate very quickly if you're tight. Seemed effective. I also gazed into Brooklyn's eyes during a contraction or two, just drawing strength from the innocence and love and trust she was beaming back at me.  As the contractions ebbed away, I'd make sure she knew I was ok. That this was all part of it, that it was not that bad.  In fact, it was beautiful.

A few minutes after Holly checked me, after an intense contraction, I had this crazy urge to just laugh.  I was sitting on the birthing ball, arms resting on my bed, Brooklyn nearby, Kyle behind me and I said, you guys are gonna think I'm nuts, but I have to laugh! Holly chuckled and said, "Girl, if you're getting good endorphins from all this, then go for it!" So I did. I just belly laughed for a few seconds. Probably slightly hysterically. It was a new way to enter transition for me, that's for sure. But not a bad way! 

Then I really had to pee, so I waddled into the bathroom, did my business, waddled back out and was hit by a feeling of such intensity that I couldn't figure out where to go. I dropped to the floor to put my hands on the birthing ball, but no, that didn't work. I pushed the ball aside and put my arms on the bed. Nope, not that either. I felt like I wanted to bend my knees, but then not at the same time. Instead, Kyle moved in front of me and I stood up and began to drape my arms around his neck. The contraction morphed on me and suddenly I needed to push. It wasn't a pushing contraction, per se, it was just - time to push. I grabbed his shoulders, in what he fondly recalls as a "violent slow dance", and said, "Holly!!! Pushing!" She sprang into action and said, "Yep, ok, if that's what your body is saying, go with it!" 

Amy and Kim, the second midwife, still hadn't arrived, so Holly utilized Brooklyn to assist her with ripping open our box of supplies, pulling out chux pads and laying them on the floor, getting blankets and towels handy. As I began to bear down, lost in that haze of urgent action propelled by a force greater than yourself and as elemental as it comes, I vaguely noted Kyle telling Brooklyn to gently get her hands out of her ears and to get Holly what she needed. I found this funny, even in my state of disassociation. 

This may be too much information, but if you've stuck with me this far, then you're too far to back out now, right? So I'm wearing a nursing bra, tank top and a cute little peach pair of Depends as we are in this final moment. Oh yeah. Sexy. But when you're in labor, and amniotic fluid is gushing out and soaking everything, you find wearing a pair of adult diapers not so much demeaning as utterly and totally practical. Even if your 7 year old daughter finds it hilarious.

So back to the moment. I've got a death grip on Kyle's shoulders and I am trying to obey my body and I sort of bear down, but not too much and I immediately realize there is something bulging significantly from my peach Depends. Another aside here: I had a discussion with Amy a few days prior about ways to prevent tearing during delivery. Particularly if you've torn before. She said that the most effective way of doing that is, at the critical moment of crowning, right before the baby's head emerges - instead of bearing down hard and pushing the head out, as you are inclined to do - reach down and touch the baby's head and it somehow suddenly grounds you - pulls you back to the moment and you are able to pause and let the head be born without applied force. It's the force applied during that moment that results in tearing. 

Somehow, these words zoom through my mind and I reach down, thinking maybe I'd feel a little part of a head, but I'm shocked to realize that I'm feeling almost a whole hand's width of baby head in my palm.  And I'm still wearing that crazy diaper. Holly runs around behind me and is trying to rip the thing off. I keep a hand on that head between my legs and made myself relax. Next thing I knew, the whole head was in my hand. I was shocked. Holly told me to take a deep breath and I did, and I pushed a real push this time and slither, swish, zoom, a body slid out of me in one slippery gush and I was holding it in my hands. Holly was frantically making sure everything was all good, and I was holding a very messy little BOY up to my body. I managed to move the umbilical cord out of the way to assess gender. I immediately asked Kyle what time it was and he checked the phone: 3:43pm. 

Holding my freshly born son, Holly did a quick suction of his mouth and he let out a wail. I talked to him and held him tightly to me as Kyle and Holly tried to figure out where to go with us. They managed to turn me around and get some towels on the bed so I wouldn't ruin it. And my little guy immediately started rooting around. I had Holly and Kyle help me get my clothes off so I could latch him on and he did immediately. Brooklyn, during this whole thing, was just mesmerized. In awe. And slightly shocked that she didn't get the sister she was wanting. But also really ok that this cute little guy was her new brother. 

Right around now, Amy ran into the room and said, "Boy, you do things fast, don't you!!!" I grinned at her and said, Uh, I think I need to push again. She said, "oh my gosh, already? And it's a boy? And he's already latched on? And you're thinking the placenta is coming? Wow." A few minutes later, as my baby continued to nurse, I delivered the placenta and felt like a new woman. 

The remainder of my day passed in a blur of loveliness. After so many hours of just waiting for the race to begin, it began and ended almost at the same time! And out of it, I was blessed with a fourth child, a third precious son, who was an amazing 2 weeks early, absolutely perfect and already a champion nurser. We eventually weighed him, assessed him, cleaned us all up and introduced him to his other brothers who were pretty darn excited about another boy.

We named our little son Wyeth Bright. He weighed 7 lbs, 14 ounces and was 20 inches long.  For comparison, Brooklyn weighed 6-14, August weighed 8-3 and Dorien was 9-1. Instead of following trend and getting a 10 pounder, I was thrilled to get a genuinely small little boy. One that will actually wear newborn clothes for a few weeks! 

We are officially two days into our new family of six, and we are all so in love with him.  Sleeping arrangements are not yet finalized, as we don't have the heart to kick Dorien out of our bed yet. It's a big enough adjustment for him to suddenly not be the baby. We're making sure everyone is affirmed and loved and hugged and kissed and made aware of their unique and special and precious roles in this family.

And I'm still reeling over what turned out to be my fastest, easiest labor yet. About 30 minutes of hard labor and sort of 2 pushes and a baby? It is as surreal as it seems. And I'm so thankful Holly was there, otherwise Brooklyn would have not only witnessed her first birth, she'd have her first true experience as the midwife she says she wants to be. 

How has being present at the birth affected her? I think it has matured her to some degree, as it naturally would.  And it has bonded her and me in a precious way.  She has seen the reality and beauty and miracle of a birth and knows it is something beautiful, not something to fear.  She understands that it didn't happen the exact way she pictured, but not the exact way I'd pictured either. And she was important to the event. And I hope it will positively shape her view of birth from here on out.  

Wyeth and I are doing well.  My milk is coming in and he's nursing regularly and with a finesse that is impressive. We're soaking up this week of being together all as a family and adjusting our schedules to life with a newborn.  I am so blessed and honored and happy and of course, sleepy. What a beginning.

I hope you haven't been too grossed out by this story of ours. I happen to think it's lovely and beautiful and miraculous, as is each and every birth God allows to happen. 

Thank you for sharing it with me and I hope you get to meet my little Wyeth very soon. His story has just began and I intend to continue to share as much of it with you as I can.

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  1. It is a truly beautiful story - thanks for sharing. You are amazing. And, praise the Lord for a healthy, sweet boy! Congrats!

  2. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story. It is a beautiful one.

  3. Soooo adorable! So happy for you guys!!

  4. Oh Ashley, what a beautiful birth story. My oldest was 3.5 when her baby sister was born so I can only imagine the joy of having your daughter present.

    I just loved the story. All if it. Thank you for sharing it.