All photos of this Family Centered Home Birth courtesy of Stephanie Shirley Photography.
Be sure to head to the end of this story to find the beautiful birth film she also created in addition to these images!
The mid-December day started quiet and slow. My 6 year old joined me in bed first thing for some snuggles, asking how big the baby was now. We had been checking on and off with a website to see how big baby was throughout my pregnancy. It had been a few weeks since we last checked in. I asked if he wanted to watch anymore birth videos, as we had been doing on and off over the last month. This was in preparation for him being present this time, as he slept through the birth of his first little brother.
He had been adamant over the previous few months about “catching the baby.” That is until we watched a few birth videos, he then he became unsure whether he wanted to do that or not. I told him he can do whatever he is comfortable with. If only our 3 year old walked in that very moment toting his pretend fishing net announcing. “I’ll catch the baby!” He was in the habit of doing that during the final months of my pregnancy, so cute. Both of them wanting to be involved in the birth of this baby makes my mama heart soar.
We got up, and I started re-heating some leftover oatmeal for the boys and my mom while I cooked two eggs with toast and avocado for myself. As I ate breakfast, I noticed a bit of nausea that I thought was odd, I hadn’t been nauseas in months. Labor crossed my mind, but didn’t stick as being 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant would be early (for me). Both of our other boys came at exactly 40 weeks and 4 days spontaneously, without interference. Craig, my husband, was also home both times I went into labor before, and he was at work on this Monday like usual.
Heading Out the Door
We were having a slow morning. Eventually the boys and I headed back upstairs to get ready to head out to pickup our Azure order for the month. (We meet a big rig monthly for an order of various foods and goods, find out more here.) Neither my mom or I felt like figuring out lunch before we left, so we decided to leave a little bit early to drive through Chick-fil-A. At the time, this was a fairly rare treat for us. If you know me well enough or follow my blog or social media you know I’m pretty nuts about what we eat. Just like most people in my shoes, I follow the 80/20 rule and this was a 20 moment. However, I really craved those delicious, terrible for you chicken strips and glorious waffle fries throughout my entire pregnancy; one of my not-so-proud admissions.
It was one of those weird weather days for Houston. The kind of weather where the temperature dropped drastically in the middle of the day. This still trips me out, and probably always will because the West Coast weather doesn’t typically behave that way. It was a warm morning and going to jump from the 70’s down to the 50’s around 11:00am. That was about the time we were leaving.
We all loaded into the car and headed out. As soon as we pulled into the drive through, at around 11:15am, I some stronger “Braxton Hicks” kicked in. I have experienced BH contractions from around 20 weeks (or before) with each pregnancy. In addition, I also experienced weeks of prodromal labor with my other two kiddos. So, I was a little apprehensive thinking much of these tighter cramps. We made our way to the Azure drop and ate our lunch while waiting for the driver to arrive.
Things Picking Up
While we were waiting for the truck, I ended up texting Craig to update him. I let him know I was having some pretty intense contractions. They were anywhere from 8-13 minutes apart and lasting over a minute long. He was warne that he might want to be a little bit on edge and ready to come home. Arriving at about 12:15pm, the Azure driver found us shivering from how cold it had gotten. We picked up my order and went on our way. I had plans to take my mom and the boys back home right after. I planned to deliver a freezer meal to a friend in need about 20 minutes away from our house.
We hopped back in the car and those plans quickly changed when I had another contraction with a back spasm….while driving. I think my mom was getting a little nervous but I kept driving. I quickly decided we needed to fill the car up with gas and pickup mascarpone cheese from the store. Determined to distract myself from this “possible labor,” I wanted to bake a red wine chocolate cake. I had wanted to try this recipe for months! Obviously I needed this specific cream cheese the recipe calls for. I pulled up to the grocery store and my mom to ran in for the cheese. Then we drove to Costco for gas. I mentioned I maybe shouldn’t be driving anywhere alone so I decided they’d come with me to deliver the meal. We pulled into Costco, and I quickly changed my mind about that when the contractions kept coming.
Change of Plans
I let my friend (who needed the meal) know I might be in labor and that I should probably not bring it by right now. She promptly said something like, “Don’t worry about us, you go have a baby.”
While my mom filled my car up with gas for me, I continued having contractions. I texted my birth team to give them a heads up, just in case. I labored super quickly with my second son, a total of about 5 hours from first contraction to birth. Anticipating a similar experience this time around, I was also trying not to have any expectations. I wanted my birth team to have the heads up sooner than later just in case history repeated itself.
We got back home and I decided I would lay down. Although I wanted to bake that cake, I wanted to see if the contractions would slow down or go away from resting. I helped my mom put the Azure order away and laid on the couch. My mom took my 3 year old upstairs for a nap while my 6 year old and I stayed downstairs.
I remained on the couch, aside from getting up to use the bathroom, from around 1:00pm until about 4:00pm. The contractions remained 8-13 minutes apart and definitely more intense than they started, lasting around 1 minute and 15 seconds long. I explained to our 6 year old that I couldn’t talk if I had my eyes closed and was breathing heavily. He was asked to explain this to his little brother when he woke up from his nap. I contemplated asking Craig to come home early multiple times, and updated him and my birth team again.
Slowing Things Down and Speeding Them Up
I remained on the couch for all of those hours knowing being up and moving around could speed things up. Needless to say the cake wasn’t getting baked anytime soon, not by me anyways. Our 3 year old ended up waking up sometime around 2-3:00pm. This relieved me knowing he got a decent nap and probably wasn’t going to miss the birth!
Craig ended up working until his normal time and would be home around 4:30pm. It was about the time he would be getting home decided to head upstairs. I wanted to take a shower and see how that went. He got home around 4:15pm when I hopped in, and had him start timing contractions while I was showering. I realized I needed to wash my hair, because if we were having a baby tonight then I was definitely not going to want to wash it again for quite a few days while recovering.
Contractions were around 10 minutes apart before I had gotten up from the couch. They had increased to 5-6 minutes apart from being up and around. I wasn’t being vocal through the contractions yet. So, I still wasn’t 100% certain “this is it.” But, I was still concerned about the possibility of my entire birth team missing the birth. I was having zero other symptoms outside of the contractions themselves. No bloody show, no mucous plug, literally nothing. I was peeing a ton because I was staying well hydrated between drinking water and my labor-aid drink. (Which is a MUST-have recipe from The First Forty Days Book, so delicious and hydrating.)
My contractions continued to increase while I sat on a medicine ball. I ate some dinner, wanting to keep my energy up and sustained in case this went into the night. I finished about half a normal serving of Osso Bucco and fried potatoes.
My contractions were between 4-5 minutes apart around 6:15-6:30pm when everyone decided to head over. The contractions were getting more intense and I was becoming vocal. Once everyone was here, my contractions started spreading apart to 7 and 9 minutes apart, which was concerning to me. I decided to stop timing the contractions to get my mind off of them. I started getting a little worried that we’d be at this a while.
However, just like with my last one, it didn’t take long for things to pick back up again, very quickly. I moved from trying to labor on the bed to standing leaning over my dresser as the contractions increased. Craig and my sweet friend/doula/second midwife, Courtneay, both tried easing my lower back pain with massage. I’ve never been the super hands on type in labor, so I wasn’t a huge fan of that. I could only tolerate my 6 and 3 year old loving on me during a contraction, turns out. They were both in and out of our room being really excited while this was going on. The mood was light and fun in between contractions while I was weaving in and out of “labor land.”
Whoops, Those Aren’t Going to Work
My midwife was going through some of the birth supplies when she unfolded one of the chucks pads I had purchased. We quickly realized all of them were MINIATURE chucks pads (like, for a baby, not for a birth). This hilarious realization resulted in a bunch of baby chucks pads taping together and laid down for me on the bed while others were made ready as extra. I think we were definitely all laughing at my mini chucks pad mistake, whoops. Thankfully I had a stack of old towels ready to go, if needed.
Almost Time For Baby
After a few intensifying contractions, I started getting a little bit grunty and could feel baby moving down even further. Being curious about how far I was dilated but not wanting to be disappointed, I looked to my midwife. She responded with something like, “I don’t even think it’s necessary, I think we’re close,” to which I responded, “Really? Oh, good.” She was right, because one of the contractions that followed that conversation finally had some fluid coming out and made me start feeling like I needed to poop. (Or, you know…push.)
Craig had at some point came to give me his hand to squeeze as the contractions were intensifying. My 6 year old was getting ready with some gloves and waiting patiently behind me. I stood, leaning against our dresser. (I was told later that he was making fart noises with the gloves at this point. Being oblivious to that,I suddenly passed gas during a contraction. Apparently his face was priceless in this moment. This was definitely a birth with a bunch of boys involved. Can I expect anything less than giggles from fart noises?!)
I decided I felt like I might need to actually try to poop as the contractions got more and more intense. But, I also didn’t want to have the baby on the toilet. I quickly decided to give it a try and walk towards the bathroom. I only made it a few steps before I went down with harder and stronger contractions with the fetal ejection happening all on its own as baby moved down. At this point I was face first into my husband’s lap, clinging with my left hand onto his hip while he held my upper body up. I clung to the crib in our room with my right hand.
The intensity was overwhelming. I kept hearing Courtneay say, “Slow your breathing Nicole, baby needs oxygen.” It was so hard to calm down with so much intensity. Deciding to push with the next wave, I was reminded of the somewhat familiar feeling of being ripped in half. I was roaring and remember saying, “It hurts, it burns, owe!” quite a bit. I remember saying at some point, “I don’t think I can catch him,” so [hopefully] everyone knew I wasn’t feeling capable of that.
It took a few pushes for his head to come out. The relief of that was enough to encourage me to push the rest of his body out with a final push. I heard Courtneay say, “8:14” as he was born. Being so low to the ground, I’m not sure who’s hands handed him up to me. However, within seconds he was slippery and up on my chest. I felt a huge wave of relief.
My 6 year old was right there ready to help catch. Our 3 year old stayed close by watching with him. Later I learned that our big dude did indeed help “catch.” They both did so well. I’m so grateful they got to experience this with us.
Baby and I transitioned to the bed rather quickly, where the contractions continued and my rear end HURT, so badly. (It’s still aching while I write this, 4 days postpartum.) I birthed the placenta soon after with a little push, and felt some relief with that. No one’s lying when they say the contractions after are more painful with each child. These were rough for sure and not getting easier. I thought it was just from having pitocin with my last birth that contributed to the after birth pains. Nope, afterbirth pains are just no joke after each consecutive baby.
Baby spent about an hour on me, and latched on during that time like a champ. I double checked that we did indeed have a boy. His little swollen parts confirmed yes, indeed a third boy. So much for the wishful thinking that we would get surprised with a girl! He is an absolute gift, and so precious and sweet and I of course wouldn’t trade him for the world.
Our 3 year old was able to cut the cord with some help. He wanted his own special job since biggest brother got to help with catching baby. Baby went over to Craig for skin-to-skin. I headed to the bathroom (with lots of help) to try to pee. That was not a fun place to be sitting with all of the pelvic pain I was experiencing.
Snuggles From Dada and Brothers
While baby had a little bit of skin-to-skin with his big brothers, I got settled back in bed. My mom made some recipes downstairs for me. A placenta smoothie was made as well. We all settled in for the night after everyone but my mom left. We had our first night as a family of five, officially outnumbered.
Watch the birth film here: