Birthing Tristan

by Julia O'Farrell

I woke up Friday morning after a rough night's sleep. I had been contracting off and on throughout the night. The entire right side of my body was achy, especially in the joints. At some point during the night I remember thinking, in between birthing waves, that I didn't want Geremy to go to work when morning came. I had this intense need for him to be near me and to stay close.

We also have a lot of construction going on and I was afraid that if I were to go into labor while he was at work that he’d not make it home in time. My labors go fast. I made a note to myself to mention this to him when we woke in the morning. I tossed and turned a bit more after this, at some point drifting off to sleep and waking just after 7 am to our daughter calling for her daddy.

When I woke, despite the night I had just had I fully expected to still be pregnant come Monday. I really had no inkling that I was going to go into labor anytime soon, much less come 1:30 am. I was about to mention to Geremy that I'd rather he not go to work, when he said he was planning on staying home knowing I had had a rough night (although not knowing the details just yet).

I smiled and shared with him how glad I was to hear that, and why. The rest of my day went about its usual course of events, feeding and cleaning up after kids, doing school work and so forth. Geremy had his Friday night class to teach so the older boys helped out with dinner and the clean up.

Once the kids were in bed I went downstairs to finish catching up on laundry, tidying the downstairs living room and bedrooms. I continued until Geremy got home. It seems the boys had "second dinners" with him as he'd brought some stuff home to eat. I stayed downstairs doing laundry and one by one sent the boys back to bed.

Around midnight Geremy decided to go upstairs to get something, shortly after I heard him say, "She's puked all over!" I placed the laundry I had been folding down and sighed, "Well shoot," I muttered to myself as I headed up the stairs.

As I walked through the kitchen I found myself feeling stressed that it was a mess. No one had cleaned up after themselves. The living room was a mess, too, not to mention the lovely scent of throw up that I was now picking up as I got closer to Isabelle's room. Geremy was in the process of changing her so I cleaned up the crib, washing it down with disinfectant and taking her crib sheet out. Then I gathering the clothes so I could start another wash.

As I walked back through the house I once again felt really stressed by how messy everything was, muttering to myself, "Just watch me go into labor tonight, messy house, puking kids, I could really do with a shower, I'm not wearing anything cute blah blah blah..."

After saying the last part to myself I started to laugh because for weeks up to that point I'd made sure that the house was clean before going to bed, that I had showered, was feeling good and that I had something to wear. That's when I thought, "Ya know, oh well. The house is a mess. It's not the end of the world. If someone wants they can do the dishes and if not they can sit for awhile. Who cares what I look like, I'm not putting on a fashion parade?"

I went back downstairs I put on a wash and then sat down at the computer. At this point I had a bit of déjà vu in regards to my last birth. I had started to contract a bit and I thought to myself, "This feels familiar" -- both the contractions and sitting up at night knowing I was more than likely in early labor. I stayed downstairs for a bit longer paying attention to the birthing waves and tiding up here "n" there.

About 30 minutes later I went back upstairs to find Geremy asleep so I thought that perhaps I would lay down to see if I could get some rest. This didn't last long. I laid there for a bit paying attention to my birthing waves trying to feel if they felt "real" or not.

I looked at the clock for a bit and then tried to figure out what to do with myself. Do I listen to my Hypnobabies™ Easy First Stage? Do I get up and clean? Do I just lay here? I started to anxious and then the restless feeling kicked in so I decided to get up and distract myself. But first I nudged Geremy to let him know I was in labor but it was early yet and I was going to get up and do some things.

I picked up the living room, was very tempted to vacuum my messy stairs but knew I'd probably wake the house; I then went back downstairs to get on the computer to see if anyone was on. I decided to time my birthing waves to see how close they were and for how long they were lasting -- they ranged anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes lasting roughly a minute or so. Once I saw the pattern I just knew I was in early labor, I got back up from the computer and was SO close to vacuuming those silly stairs and had even mentioned it to Geremy when he called back down, "Oh my goodness, Julia! No."

I laughed because I knew I was being ridiculous but was kicking myself for having not done it earlier. They were so dirty and it was making me bonkers! But I also didn't want to wake the kids and I knew I was "labor nesting" so I went upstairs and cleaned the living room instead.

At this point the birthing waves had become much stronger and had moved down low. I went back into the bedroom so that I could sit on my birthing ball and be near Geremy. After a few minutes of this I began to feel restless again so I got up and stated walking around the house.

As I was walking back through the kitchen I had my cell phone in my hand and had dialed my midwife's number. This was around 2:10 am but then hung up thinking, "What if I'm not actually in labor?" and yet my gut was screaming at me, "Yes, Julia, you ARE in labor! You know you are why are you fighting this?"

I'm not sure why but I just couldn't get myself to call her. It was almost as if once I did I was opening that door and I wasn't quite ready to let the world know my secret so I walked on, laboring alone and in the quiet of my house. After pacing the house for awhile I went back into my room and picked up my ipod and turned on Easy First Stage so that I could listen to it.

This is about when I decided to really go into my bubble and labor zone, sitting back down on my birthing ball I leaned against some pillows on my bed. I found it absolutely fascinating how easily I was able to make the birthing waves completely manageable, nearly pain free and I think this was part of why I wondered if I was "in labor enough to call anyone" because they were SO easy to deal with.

When I'd pull myself out of the hypnosis and a birthing wave would sweep over me I would think to myself, "Oh yes, this is the real deal" but had to bounce between these two places for awhile before I turned to Geremy and said, "I don't know why I can't call Cathy." Of which he replied, "Just call her." And so I did. This was at 2:50 am.

"Hi, Cathy. It's Julia. I'm pretty sure I'm in labor. I've been contracting every 3 to 5 minutes for the last hour and a half."

She calmly replied, "Okay, I'll gather my stuff and come on over to check you out."

After hanging up I called my friend Brandi who was going to do the photography for me, not to mention she’s a very dear friend of mine. I then phoned my sister to let her and my mom know I was in labor. After the parade of phone calls was over I stood there in the quiet of my living room, soaking in what was going on.

After a few minutes I pulled myself out of it. "Okay, here we go!" I said to myself. It's begun, my secret has been opened.

I let Geremy know I had called everyone and then started walking around as I worked through the birthing waves while listening to the Hypnobaby™ script. I found when I walked around and kept myself active my birthing waves came on quicker and more consistent; whereas, if I sat on the birthing ball or kept still, I got really restless and didn't have as many birthing waves. I wanted to go fast so I kept moving.

A few of the birthing waves were quite strong after this so I went back to my room to sit on my birth ball so that I could relax as much as possible while listening to my Hypnobabies™ script. Things are kind of fuzzy at this point but I remember being in my room on the birtinh ball watching Geremy blow up the pool in between birthing waves.

As people started to trickle in they began to gather in my room. I asked Geremy for the pump so that I could blow up my birth ball a bit more, it felt too squishy when I sat on it and I found it difficult to get into a comfortable position. Once it was blown up I sat back down during a birthing wave but found the ball to be too hard so I stood up again to let out some air.

As I did this my midwife was standing near me. She looked at me and said, "Look at you!" I smiled back and said, "I’m doing it!" while also quickly putting the plug back into the ball because it was deflating a bit too quickly.

Another birthing wave was coming on so I sat back down and tried to get into my bubble again but it was just too noisy. I felt I was in the way as they were trying to set up the pool in the small space we had so I got up and walked into the living room where it was darker and much quieter.

Geremy followed and sat on the couch as I paced the living room floor. Each time a birthing wave came on I made myself relax as I stood still, each time placing my hands on either side of my lower abdomen. I would sometimes gently rock my hips back and forth, other times I stood still. Whatever felt right at the time is what I'd do. I could feel my body allowing the muscles to relax and open up as much as possible.

Throughout my birthing time I would reflect how I felt while laboring with Seamus and Isabelle and how different things were this time. The sensations were all very alike but how I responded to them this time was without fear and mistrust. I accepted each wave as it came, relaxing and allowing my body to prepare to birth my baby.

I would occasionally get waves of anxiety but they were fleeting. At one point I was sitting on my birthing ball in the living room. I leaned up against the arm rest of my couch and would sink into the wave but for some reason I started to get anxious so I got up and started to move around. Keeping my body and my mind active was really key to keeping myself calm.

After spending a while in the living room I headed for the bathroom but noticed the hose (for the pool) was in the way so I went downstairs, asking Geremy to follow me with the birth ball. I remember thinking I'd better pee fast so I didn't have a birthing wave on the toilet. Of course I did have one but it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated it to be.

Once out I decided to stay downstairs for awhile, it was dark and quiet and I needed some time to be alone with just Geremy. He sat on the couch as I once again paced the floor, pausing each time a birthing wave came. I walked to the stairs a few times thinking I would let others know that if they wanted to come down they could but chose not to each time. I'm not sure how long I was down there but I began feeling as if I'd like to go back upstairs so up we went.

As I approached the top of the stairs I looked at the clock on my stove and saw that it was just after 4 am. For a minute I thought, "Oh geez! This is taking awhile!"

Ha! I can laugh at that now. I hadn't even been in active labor for a full hour at that point. As I walked through the kitchen I felt like I needed to go pee again so I went into the upstairs bathroom but once there I can't remember if I choose not to or if the sensation went away, but I had a good strong birthing wave while in there. I quietly voiced my way through it and then came out walked into my bedroom.

I believe Cathy was in there and had asked if I was ready to be checked. She had asked earlier if I wanted to be and I told her that yes I think I did. I was curious where I was but also afraid that I'd be told I was only a few centimeters dilated. I worked through another birthing wave and then laid down on my bed and put myself back into hypnosis. She quickly checked and mentioned that I was a 6 or 7. I couldn't believe it! "Yay! Really!?" I said feeling a bit surprised but quite pleased by this.

A birthing wave was coming on right after this so I quickly got out of bed so I could stand through it. I really dislike the idea of being in bed while in labor for some reason, so I avoid laying down at all costs.

Once that birthing wave was over, I remember standing there feeling really conflicted over whether I wanted to get into the birthing pool. My biggest fear was if I got into it and didn't like it. I'd have to get out and I'd bet wet and cold. I didn't want to deal with that while having a birthing wave. I eventually decided to give it a try so I told Geremy to watch the door because I was doing to change into my black tank top and sports bra.

Once I was changed I placed my foot into the pool, I really liked the feel of the water and temperature so I got in and kneeled down. I wasn't quite sure at first what position to get into but I always pictured myself leaning on the side as I kneeled so that's what I did. I believe it was Cathy who laid down a hand towel so that I could have my arms against that instead of the plastic covering.

I labored in this position for a short time before it dawned on me that if I went down too far my ipod, which was being held between my shoulder and bra strap would get wet so I needed to be careful. I asked in a half serious half joking way, "Can you get electrocuted by an ipod?" but before anyone could respond another birthing wave swept over me so I put my head down and concentrated on relaxing my body. As I did this my headphones suddenly went silent and I realized I had sunk too deep into the water and fried my ipod.

I sat up and pulled it out to look at it, turning it off and on, flipping the lock switch back and forth as I desperately tried to get it turned on. No luck. It was completely dead and there was no turning it on again.

Geremy started asking me questions. I can't remember all of them but basically where could he find the Hypnobabies tracks, where were the CD's, what could he do to help? I started to panic because the lack of noise in my ears had flipped me out of my hypnosis and I froze. I found comfort in listening to Kerry's voice. It kept me in my bubble and it kept everyone out but now I was open. I was exposed and I wasn't sure if I could get myself back to where I was on my own.

As Geremy was asking questions another very strong birthing wave began to sweep over me, it hurt, a lot which made me want to panic even more. I threw my ipod onto the floor as others were asking me questions. I think it was Brandi who realized now was not the time to talk. Geremy left the room to see if he could load the Hypnobabies onto his ipod.

Meanwhile I tried to keep myself calm. I remember voicing, "I feel like I'm going to freak out!" I started to breath heavy and really felt out of control, another birthing wave swept over me but his time my body started to push down.

During all of this Brandi calmly said to me, "It's okay, Julia. You're okay."

And for some reason that's all I needed to hear. "You're right," I thought. "I am okay. I can do this."

After that last birthing wave, the pressure sensation in my hips and pelvic floor area never fully went away. "I don't know if I need to push or not," I said.

I believe someone said this to Cathy because soon after she was sitting or kneeling to the left of me. I never looked up at least consciously but I knew it was her. I found such comfort in this and I was able to get myself to calm down.

I put myself back into hypnosis as best as I could, quietly, slowly, chanting during birthing waves, "Deeper, deeper, deeper. Let him come, let him come, let him come. Only pressure, only pressure, only pressure." As I did this I could feel the immense pressure that the birthing waves brought on but not the sharp pain that often accompanies the powerful pushing contractions. I was doing it!

"Okay now I'm not so afraid," I remember thinking. "This is going to be okay. I remember going through the chanting waves twice before I couldn't stand to be in the position I was in. It felt like it was time to push. The pressure was becoming quite intense and I felt more in control of my body when standing, so I stood up.

I have no memory of what was going on around me; I was completely inside of myself at this point so I wasn't even sure who was in the room. With the next birthing wave I started to push reaching down to feel if his head was coming out or not. I heard Cathy to the front right of me asking if I was going to catch my baby. While I heard her I had no response. I wasn't sure what I was going to do other than follow my instincts.

With the next birthing wave I could feel his head crowning and was shocked by how much it hurt! None of my other babies hurt coming out. This lead me to push even between birthing waves I just wanted him out at this point. Once his head was out I put both of my hands on my thighs and concentrated on pushing the rest of him out. I could feel his shoulders slide through and then the rest of him.

Cathy caught him as he came out and then handed him to me. I asked her to hold him for just a minute as I felt shaky and didn't want to drop him but this lasted only a few seconds and then I was holding him.

"Relief! I did it! He's here, safe and in my arms," I thought. Cathy suggested I sit back down into the water so that I could hold Tristan and get warm; it took me a minute to get my legs working and to lower down but once down it felt so good to relax and hold him. He was so sweet and so quiet. Cathy asked if my dates could be off because he was so small. I told her no I just have small babies and they come a bit early.

I looked up and mentioned that someone should go wake up the boys, they had wanted to be at the birth but things went too quickly, so let's get them up now. I believe it was my sister Amy who went down to let them know their brother had been born.

A few times I wondered if he was okay. Once you have a baby born not breathing I think you automatically go there making sure everything is working as it should. Thankfully he was okay and breathing well; just very calm & content. I remember mentioning that the reason we didn’t realize something was wrong with Belle at first was because all my babies are so quiet when born. Tristan proving to be the same, calm and quiet.

Geremy came over to my side to meet his new little son, putting one hand into the water he leaned over to touch his little head and say hello.

Our older 3 boys had come up to say hello each one rubbing their sleepy eyes and adjusting to the quiet excitement that was in our room. They spent about an hour with us before we encouraged them to get a bit more sleep before starting their day. Reluctantly but with yawns they slowly went back to bed.

Soon after this I started to contract again and noticed part of my placenta had probably released, it was quite uncomfortable so I moved a bit between the cramping episodes. Cathy mentioned that I should probably get out and sit on the bed so I could deliver the placenta, she asked if she could clamp the cord as getting out with him still attached and me now cramping again proved to be a bit tricky. I was fine with it so she clamped the cord and prepped it so Geremy could cut it.

I stepped out and sat on the bed where I spent a good 30 minutes waiting for the placenta to come out but it still wasn't. I knew with my history it could take awhile but I was starting to get nervous. Whenever I would cramp up I'd let Cathy know so that she could gently pull on the cord to see if it would help. A few times I thought please don't let this be the thing that sends me to the hospital.

Cathy said that she had pitocin to use but really did't want to do that because it would make the cramping worse, she asked Brandi to go out to her car to get the birthing stool so I could sit on that hoping it would help. Both her and Brandi asked a few times if I wanted to nurse Tristan to see if it would help but the cramping was quite intense at first so I said no. The birthing stool seemed to do the trick though because about 10 minutes after sitting there the silly thing finally came out!

I was so grateful and hugged Cathy and laughed. What a relief! I mentioned to her at that point my worry about having to transfer. She said she would wait longer than 40 minutes to do that and she wasn't worried at all. My placenta looked very healthy and complete.

The house started to pick up the pace after this; everyone was cleaning up and taking care of things. Geremy brought Tristan back to me so I could nurse him. It felt so good to have my sweet baby in my arms again. Once the house and I were cleaned up Brandi and Cathy sat with me in my room. We spoke a bit about miscellaneous things. It was nice to have their company. The sun was starting to rise and the house was still sleepily quiet, it was so peaceful and calm. My mom had to leave to go study for a test and the others were quietly hanging around throughout the house.

At around 7:15 or so Seamus came walking in and knew instantly who I was holding. It was so cute! "Tristan is here!" his little voice exclaimed to the room as he walked over to me and climbed up on the bed. "He's so cute!" he kept saying over and over as he was checking his new little brother out. He would softly touch Tristan's new little hands and the side of his face. It was sweet.

Soon after this Belle woke up. My sister went into get her and brought her into the room. She wasn't sure at first what to make of it all but then she suddenly exclaimed, "Baby!" and the curiosity took over.

As more time passed and the house began to wake up my midwife tucked me in and made sure all was well before she headed out. This was around 8 am. Slowly but surely everyone but my sister Amy started to trickle out, heading I'm sure for their beds or their families.

It was beautiful. All of it.

Photo credits © Brandi Palmer.