On the day Gabriel was born, I called one of my very best friends and regaled her with the news of Gabriel’s grand entrance into the world via our bathtub. I will never forget her incredulous voice asking, “What are you going to do with your next baby? You’re going to have to go have it on a mountain-top or something!”
Not quite. But in its own way, Ezekiel’s birth helped me grow as much as any other of my births. (For my other birth stories, read these: Gianna’s Birth Story, Aliya’s Birth Story, Gabriel’s Birth Story.)
When Gabriel was 9 months old, my period was late. I was pretty dang shocked as we had been “Natural Family Planning” old-school (read: rhythm method) style. Gosh, we’re just the poster children of how not to practice NFP, aren’t we? The test was negative and I sighed in relief.
A few days later, on a weekend trip to San Diego, Kevin convinced me to take another test. He just had a feeling, as he always does. The test was positive. I sat there at 6 a.m. reeling from shock and a wine-induced headache. My three other children were climbing all over me, and I was desperately trying to take it all in while keeping them from waking the sweet family hosting us (Hi Tracy!). Kevin got an impish smile on his face. “You’re hungover and pregnant! You’re hungover and pregnant!” he intoned in the most sing-songy of voices. Highbrow humor over here, people. I thanked my lucky stars that we found out early on and that God had the good grace and the forethought to prevent alcohol from affecting a baby quite so early in pregnancy. (Oh, calm down. It was a couple of glasses. I was still nursing Gabe after all.)
My pregnancy progressed normally and I got over the shock. We hunkered down and prepared to have 2 babies again. No, not twins. But when you have kids less than 2 years apart, that’s essentially what you get. I made the decision to continue nursing Gabriel through my pregnancy. If you’ve ever done this then you know, it’s not easy. Things are… sensitive when you’re pregnant and nursing can be tedious. But I was sad to have weaned Gianna so young (13 months) and I wanted to nurse Gabriel as long as I could.
One big change with this pregnancy was Kevin finally agreed to wait to find out the gender. I had been hoping since Gianna and hardcore campaigning for it since Aliya, but it was always a no-go. After one 5-minute conversation with his brother and another friend who had waited until birth to learn the sexes of their babies, Kevin was sold. I was elated. A little resentful that hours of conversations with me hadn’t produced the same result, but still. Over the moon.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t in as great of health as I had been with my pregnancy with Gabe. I still hadn’t lost all the baby weight and I wasn’t exercising regularly. Sooner than I would have liked, I was as big as a house.
—Public Service Announcement—
I’d like to take a moment to make a public service announcement. Whenever you feel inclined to say something to a pregnant woman about her body, don’t. Just… don’t. Some of you may be thinking, “I would never comment on a woman’s body,” so let me clarify what I mean. Commenting on a pregnant woman’s body includes saying any variation of these things:
When are you due?… OH. You look ready to pop! (I got this one at 5 months. Gracias.) When are you due?… OH. But you’re so small! (This one from a friend who is naturally small and people question whether she diets to stay thin during pregnancy.) Twins? (Really? REALLY?) It looks like you’re carrying a girl. (We all know that’s code for “wide load.”) Any day now, huh? (Unless you’re a medical professional with my chart in your hand, this isn’t your line.) So you’re having some swelling, huh? (If by “swelling” you mean growing a human, then yes.)
Here’s the public service part: pregnant women are vulnerable and hormonal. I’ve always been able to withhold my temper (at least long enough so that only Kevin gets the brunt of it) but not all women can. So just do yourself and everyone else a favor and say, “Congratulations!” Assuming of course that you know a woman is pregnant and aren’t just assuming that too.
—End of Public Service Announcement—
Back to Zeke. So I was big. And hormonal. And breastfeeding. We realized early on that we didn’t have the disposable income for another home birth. Insurance paid for nearly all of our OB visits and the hospital birth, but a home birth would have meant thousands of dollars out of our pockets. I was pretty bummed about it and tried like hell to find a way around it, but to no avail.
Everything else was normal and happy. The kids were growing and I loved being home full-time with them. I had several (5, I think?) due date buddies, including 2 of my sisters-in-law! My due date was Cinco de Mayo but based on Gabriel’s birth, and this baby’s size, I was figuring he/she would be born a week or two early. I couldn’t wait to give birth for all the wonderful reasons (smooshy baby, new mama love) and all the practical reasons (no one wants to be as big as a house for any longer than they have to) so I set my sights on late April and planned accordingly. We even skipped our annual Easter trip to my parents’ house because it was too close to my due date. That’s a really big deal because Easter at my parents’ is 100 shades of awesome.
Late April arrived: nothing.
Early May: nothing.
My due date: nothing.
The Sunday following my due date, I started having some regular contractions. I called my mom and she and my sister ( who was homeschooled at the time) decided to make the trip down.
By the time they got there: nothing.
I was so frustrated I could have cried. Actually, I’m pretty sure I did cry. I felt huge and uncomfortable and tired and I had made my mom drop everything to come down and this baby still wasn’t coming.
The next day was Monday, and I had an OB appointment. I was dilated 1 cm. Remember Dr. M? Laid back man? He asked me how I was doing and I put on a brave face. Fine, of course. A liiiiiitttlllle bit tired of being pregnant, but you know…
“We can’t induce you with pitocin because of your c-section scar. Do you want to try castor oil?” he asked. Whaaaaaat? Let me back up a minute. I knew about castor oil as a “natural” induction technique, but I always cautioned my clients (I’m a childbirth educator) against taking it unless it was a last resort. It doesn’t always cause you to go into labor, and it can cause diarrhea and dehydration. I chose to take the little white bottle anyway and decide later.
That evening as we sat around chatting and preparing for Kevin’s birthday (the next day), I discussed the pros and cons of castor oil with my mom and Kevin. Finally I decided to try it as a sort of research assignment. I took it at 6 p.m. (Research note 1: that stuff is naaaaaasty.) Contractions began less than an hour and a half later (Research note 2: appears to be the cause of labor.) and I didn’t seem to suffer any of the side effects. (Research note 3: score!)
At 7:30 or so my contractions began and they were regular and fairly strong. I want to say they were about 6 minutes apart but I don’t remember exactly. After we got the older 3 kids in bed, I stayed up with Kevin and handled the contractions. I was worried that if I slept they would peter out, so (ignoring all my own advice) I forced myself to stay up. At about 1 a.m. I had a couple really strong ones and we decided to head to the hospital. After Gabriel’s birth I didn’t want to take any chances. My super-doula met us there. Kevin and I joked about the baby stealing his birthday but we were both in high spirits.
I was dilated 4 cm when they checked me in. Yippeee! The nurse had a heck of a time getting my IV in, but afterwards I walked and labored, walked and labored all night long. At about 7 a.m. I was really tired and wanted to rest. I decided to have them check my dilation to give me a mental boost. When they did, I was still only at 4 cm. I was devastated. Exhausted. I believe I cried my eyes out. (Final research note: does not always result in baby coming out.)
Our OB, Dr. F, came in and gave me two options. She could break my water to move things along, or I could go home. Go home? I didn’t want to go home! Not without a baby anyway! But Kevin hugged me and told me what I already knew: that I would labor much better after some rest. Dejected and disappointed, we headed home. I slept a solid 4 hours, grateful to my mom and sister for covering the older kids. My labor vanished entirely and I just hung around the house, doing a lot of the fetal positioning exercises found at Spinning Babies. (I could tell that the baby’s head wasn’t in the best position for labor.) We celebrated Kevin’s birthday (I think? Poor guy.) and went to bed at about 9 p.m.
At 11:30 p.m., I woke up to the baby doing the oddest motion. He streeeeeeeeetched his bum up against my ribs and his head straight down on my cervix. BAM! The strongest contraction yet began. And so it went every 30-45 minutes all night. Big baby stretch, contraction, sleep, big baby stretch, contraction, sleep.
I want to pause to comment on how amazing that experience was. It’s common discussion among “birthy” types like me that the baby will start labor when he or she is ready. But to feel it so clearly? I was in awe.
By that time it was Wednesday. After breakfast, my mom, Kevin and I went for a walk with Gabriel. In the first 20 minutes of the walk, I had 3 strong contractions. The 2nd half, I had 5 really strong ones. Kevin and I still like to laugh at the fact that a couple of times I got down on all fours in the grass by the sidewalk to breathe through a contraction. A couple of cars stopped to ask if we wanted them to call 911. I smiled and shook my head because I knew we were finally getting somewhere, but we weren’t having the baby on the side of the road. After getting home, Kevin put Gabriel down for a nap. While he was in there I had a very strong and long contraction that broke my water. This was about 10 AM. As soon as he came out of the bedroom, Kevin, my mom and I headed to the hospital, leaving the kids with my mother-in-law.
Upon arriving, they tried to put me in a triage room to check me while they cleaned a nice room (“with a window!”) for me. I politely let the nurse know that I felt like pushing, so they should probably put me wherever the wanted me to deliver. They moved me to another room where they checked me and I was 8 cm! The nurse, who was kind and wonderful and whom I knew from another time at the hospital, happened to be training some nursing students. She asked if the trainees could put my IV in. Ever the accomodator, I agreed. These poor women. They were trying so hard, but I was so late in labor and my vein was so difficult to locate that they had no luck. In walked Dr. F. She took one look at me and told the nurses I didn’t need an IV. I think I may have cried in relief. (Oh, you’re surprised? You must have been skimming.) She is now my hero and I’m so grateful that for both births she attended with me, she exceeded my expectations.
When she checked me, I only had a tiny cervical lip left. After what seemed like forever (waiting to push? again?) but in reality was only 10 minutes, I moved to my side to push. Our baby was born 10 minutes later. Kevin, with tears in his eyes and in his throat, said, “It’s a boy!” Baby Boy Darr, born at 11:21 a.m., 10 lbs. 1 oz. (!!!!!!) and 22 inches long.
As per usual, we had 2 names selected when we went to hospital. This time, though, we had one name for a girl and one for a boy. We were able to tell everyone our name choice, Ezekiel Lawrence, within moments of his birth and that was really fun. Ezekiel is for the prophet and because hello? Fabulous nickname! It means God strengthens. Lawrence is after Kevin’s dad Larry and St. Lawrence. “According to tradition he (St. Lawrence) was roasted alive on a gridiron because, when ordered to hand over the church’s treasures, he presented the sick and poor.” (Source) Gotta love a guy with that kind of sass. I think our Ezekiel lives up to his name, don’t you?
4 birth stories. All so different. I have been blessed by all of them, both by my babies and by my experiences. In looking back and retelling them, I’ve gained even more. It’s clear to me now that each birth was a lesson in virtues that I desperately needed. Gianna taught me acceptance. Aliya gave me courage. Gabriel taught me trust and faith. Ezekiel taught me patience. I would not be the same person without those births.
The big picture of birth has always been important to me. Yes, a healthy baby and mama are the most important things. But beyond basic survival, the ability to thrive and grow and change in a birth experience is important too. Babies matter. Mamas matter. And birth matters, too.