What are the odds of that?
The Birth Story of Catherine Louise King
Saturday, March 28th
Since my middle two sons have birthdays very close together (March 26th and April 1st), we generally have a joint party for the two of them on the Saturday between their birthdays. This year we had a pirate party, and everyone had a lot of fun dressing up and running around on a treasure hunt. It made for a long day, though, and I was definitely tired by that evening. As I was getting ready for bed, I went to the bathroom and noticed I had a small amount of bloody mucus. I was quite surprised by this, as I generally don't start having any sort of bloody show until just a few days before the birth, and I wasn't expecting this baby any time soon. My due date was April 6th, but I generally go 3-5 days past my due date. I went in and told my mom, because I knew she'd want to know. She laughed and said that she had only packed to be up here for the weekend, not for two weeks (the amount of time she usually stays with me after my births), and so I'd better not be having this baby yet! I told her I really didn't think it meant anything, and that she didn't have anything to worry about. We talked for a few minutes, and I headed off to bed.
Sunday, March 29th
After the usual Sunday morning scurry to get us all out the door, we made it to church. While we were sitting there I had a really hard time getting comfortable. I wasn't having what I would call cramping exactly, but more like general discomfort low on my belly. After church we went out to eat at Chili's, and I continued to be uncomfortable and just felt out of sorts. As the afternoon progressed, I did have some sporadic contractions, but nothing really regular. I also had a little more bloody show. Read was getting somewhat nervous, and would have preferred that I call our midwife, Christy, to give her a heads-up, but I didn't see the point of bothering her on a weekend for nothing more than was going on at the moment - especially since I still completely believed that this baby was still over a week away from actually being born. I think he was starting to get suspicious that the baby would come sooner, however. I did tell him that I would feel better if we went ahead and got the birth tub set up, though. I hadn't planned to do that until the next weekend, but I decided that I wanted to go ahead and get it in place, even if we didn't fill it yet.
By the evening I really wasn't feeling well at all. I wasn't hungry, and just felt sort of blah. When one of my doulas, Delilah, saw me post about not feeling well, she messaged me and said: “Not feeling well AND having bloody show!? GACK!!! Please wait for me!” (She had another client who was being induced the next morning.) I laughed, and told her she had nothing to worry about. I was very tired, though, and went to bed early.
Monday, March 30th
I woke up around 4 a.m. to go to the bathroom and realized I was having contractions. They weren't horrible, but definitely enough to keep me from sleeping well. I had them pretty consistently every 15 minutes or so for the next couple of hours, and then they spaced out and eventually went away. When Read got up to go to work in the morning, I let him know what had happened during the night. He asked me if I thought this baby was going to come early, and by that point I was starting to wonder myself. I told him that I didn't think birth was imminent, but I was starting to doubt that I was going to go five days late this time around. The experience reminded us both of my labor with Joshua; I had contractions that were pretty far apart starting for a lot of the afternoon on a Sunday, and then had a run of contractions in the wee hours of the morning on Monday. He ended up being born Tuesday evening. So I think we both wondered if we might be headed towards a similar experience. I called Christy to let her know what was going on, and updated my mom and doulas as well. Mom had left our house Sunday afternoon to visit other family in the area, and was planning on heading home to Huntsville Tuesday afternoon. She asked me if I thought she needed to change her plans, and I told her I had no idea! Read went ahead and filled the birth tub before he left for work so that it could start heating up.
The rest of the day went by uneventfully. I really didn't have any other contractions after I got up in the morning (though I did continue to have bloody show), and I felt pretty good, which was a blessing. The house was still a mess from the birthday party, and my bedroom was the worst of it, because I had tossed a lot of stuff in there trying to clean up the downstairs for the party! This was not a good thing, as I am stressed out by a dirty house, and planned to labor and birth primarily in my bedroom. My mother-in-law, Florence, had come up for the birthday party as well, and she was staying on for a while to help out. So I put her in charge of watching the children while I got busy cleaning my room. By the end of the day I felt much better about how things were looking. The rest of the house still needed work, but my bedroom and bathroom were in good shape, at least.
Mentally, I was still trying to wrap my mind around the possibility of a baby coming sooner rather than later. I had so many little things that I still wanted to get done before the baby arrived. I tried to go over the list and prioritize everything, to figure out what I really needed to get done, and what I could be okay with letting go of. I told the baby that all of this stuff wasn't really important, and that if (s)he was ready to come, that was okay with me. I went to bed that night listening to the rain, and kind of expecting to be woken up with contractions overnight.
Tuesday, March 31st
I had a few contractions overnight, but not a lot. Around 4 a.m. I woke up feeling a little like I was getting another urinary tract infection. I took some UriCare and went back to bed, and didn't have any more issues with it. It may just have been irritation from the baby sitting on my bladder. I didn't sleep well though, and so I took advantage of the fact that Flo was here and stayed in bed until 10 a.m. I got up and began getting ready for an appointment with Christy and then the chiropractor. Then the phone rang; Christy was calling to let me know that she had been at a birth all night and was going to have to cancel my appointment that day. She had been a little concerned that I would go into labor that night as well, but clearly God had everything under control. She asked if I wanted to reschedule my appointment or just skip it on the assumption that I'd be having the baby soon. I decided to reschedule for the next day, because I really didn't know what on earth my body was planning to do.
I got a little more cleaning and baby preparations done, and then went to see Chandra, my chiropractor, in the afternoon. She said that everything looked good – I was aligned pretty well, and the baby was starting to get in position for birth. She didn't think, however, that birth was imminent. Her guess was Friday. We talked for a little bit, and I set up an appointment for the following Tuesday in case baby didn't decide to come after all. I talked with my mom that evening; she had decided to stay one more night and then head home Wednesday morning. Depending on what was going on she would either pack her bags and head back up, or wait at home until I called her.
I had a few contractions throughout the day, but nothing regular. They were definitely moderately painful though – I often had to stop what I was doing to deal with them. By the end of the day I was uncomfortable physically, and pitiful emotionally. I wrote an email to my doulas asking them for prayers for my state of mind. I was feeling somewhat apprehensive about labor, as each contraction was like a reminder of what was coming. I was anxious to meet my baby – but not especially excited about having to go through labor again. I soaked in the bathtub, read bits and pieces of The Lord of Birth by Jennifer Vanderlaan, and prayed a lot before going to bed.
Wednesday, April 1st
I woke up at 2:15 am with a contraction. I got up to go the bathroom, and had some diarrhea. I tried to go back to bed, but ended up back in the bathroom with more diarrhea. I felt really out of sorts – couldn't think straight, flustered, emotional. I had more contractions, but I couldn't time them as I couldn't see a clock from the toilet, and I was stuck there for a while. I was also shaky and feeling a little nauseous. I wondered whether or not I might be in labor. (Now, I know that those of you who are reading this are thinking – well, duh! But I am notoriously bad about calling such things, which is why Read is the designated “it's time to call the midwife” person.) I thought – surely I'm not going to have another April Fool's Day baby – what are the odds of that?
Finally I was able to get off the toilet, but I couldn't go back to bed. I decided that if things didn't settle down by 3:30, I would wake Read. I wandered around the bedroom and bathroom, trying to find a place to get comfortable. Finally 3:30 a.m. came, and few minutes later I went to wake Read up. He asked me if I was in labor, and I told him I didn't know, but that I needed him up with me. He got up and came into the bathroom with me, and tried to assess the situation. I'm afraid I wasn't much help. While I was having some discrete contractions, I was also having a lot of just uncomfortable cramping, so it was hard for him to get a feel for just how often they were coming, and how long they were lasting. After watching me for ten or fifteen minutes, he decided that he was going to call my mom and Christy to fill them in on what was going on. He told them that while he hadn't been able to watch me for long, I had “the look”, and he really thought I was in labor. My mom said she was going to head on over, and Read told her he thought that was wise. She later told me that she had woken up suddenly at 3:30 am, and was lying in bed wondering what to do in the morning. She prayed that God would give her a clear sign in regards to whether she should stay up here or go on home. So when Read called a few minutes later, that was truly an answer to prayer!
After making the calls, Read hopped in the shower to wake up and asked me to tell him when I was having contractions so he could time them. I tried to oblige, while searching desperately for a position that seemed right to me. I walked around, leaned against the wall, got down on hands and knees, and tried knee-chest. Nothing seemed to work for long. Read got out of the shower and said he was pretty confident that this was the real deal, so he called Christy back and told her to come on, but she was already on the way. He also called my doulas, Lesley and Delilah, and our birth photographer, Elizabeth, and told them to come as well. Believe it or not, I still wasn't sure I was really in labor, and worried about getting people out of bed for nothing.
At this point my memories of things get a little fuzzy. I was just an emotional wreck, and couldn't think straight. I whined pitifully about how lousy I felt, and how I seriously didn't think I could go through labor again. Read did a great job of telling me yes, I could, and that I always did great. He suggested that I get into the birth tub, and unlike the last time where it gave me flashbacks to David's wicked labor, this time it actually made me feel a little better. He decided to put on some music for me, and offered to put in my standard labor faire – Transitions by Burt and Joe Wolffe – but I told him what I wanted was The Night as Bright as Day by Joel Clarkson. Unfortunately he couldn't find it, so I had him just turn it off instead. The silence was nice.
I don't know at what point my mother-in-law came into the room with us. I was really unaware of everything except for me, Read, and the baby. My mom, Christy, and Angela (the midwife who would be assisting Christy) got here around 5 a.m. They checked my blood pressure and the baby's heart tones and confirmed that we were doing fine. I was vaguely aware of them setting things up in the bedroom. I labored in the tub, and alternated between tailor sitting between contractions and leaning forward on the edge of the tub during them. Read got in with me and stroked my hair, massaged my back, and pressed on my hips, while continuing to whisper reassurances to me. I prayed a lot, and recited Psalm 121 over and over in my head. It's been a favorite of mine since I was a child, and it did help me to feel more at peace. At this time I had become convinced that I was indeed in labor, but didn't necessarily think I was anywhere near the end.
Elizabeth arrived a little before 5:45 a.m. and started taking pictures. I asked if Lesley or Delilah had made it yet and was told no, they hadn't. Somebody finally thought to turn on the video camera that was set up on a tripod near the birth tub. A few minutes later Christy asked if she could check heart tones again, and I said sure. But then I had to say no, wait, because I had a monster contraction – long and hard – and I felt the baby moving down. I was even a little grunty at the end. It was at that point that I thought to myself, hmm, maybe this is closer to the end than I thought. Christy looked at Read and whispered, “She's pushing.” He said, “I know! Someone needs to go and wake the kids.” With the next contraction I was pushing full force, and I felt the baby moving down quickly. By the time that contraction was over, the baby's head was out! I just sat there, leaning forward over the edge of the tub, breathing hard, and cupping that sweet little head in my hand as I waited for the next contraction to come. Geren, David, and Sarah all hurried into the room; they couldn't get Joshua to wake up in time. I remember thinking, Lesley and Delilah are going to be so mad that they missed the birth! Then I was pushing again, and at 5:51 a.m. the rest of the baby came out rather quickly. I remember thinking to myself – I sure hope that somebody is back there to catch, because it felt like the baby went shooting across the tub! Read did indeed catch, lifted the baby out of the water, and unwrapped the cord from around the neck – twice. Christy helped me turn over and he handed the baby to me. I looked down and said, “It's a girl!” Geren was supposed to announce the gender, but I was so surprised that I just blurted it out. I don't think he minded, or even noticed for that matter.
We sat in the tub for a while, just snuggling and getting to know each other. Joshua finally woke up and joined the other children, who were all hanging over the edge of the tub trying to see the baby. My mom called my dad and told him the good news as well. After the cord stopped pulsing, Read went ahead and cut it. We left it long, though, so that Joshua could do the official duty later on. He took the baby for a few minutes so that I could sit a little more upright for a minute to see if the placenta was ready to come, but it wasn't yet. About 6:15 a.m. I climbed out of the tub and into bed; it's always weird to me how my legs feel like Jell-O right after birth. Once I got situated in bed and into some dry clothes, we settled in and nursed. She latched on well right away and took to it like a champ. The kids all piled onto the bed with us and had fun getting to know her as well. Sarah was absolutely beside herself over the whole thing, and was just beaming and talking about “her new sister”. One of the first things she said was “she's mine!” The boys were all equally pleased with our new addition.
Delilah arrived just before 6:30 a.m., and we had to tell her that she missed the birth. She was pleased that things went well, but bummed to have not been here. Apparently there was some miscommunication when she talked to Read, and she didn't understand that I had already been up for a while before he called, so she didn't leave as quickly as she would have otherwise. She told us that Lesley had been having trouble arranging a babysitter for Austin, so she hadn't even left yet. Delilah sent her a message to let her know that the baby was already here, and so Lesley opted to just wait and come see us in a few days.
The children went down to have breakfast, which was chocolate gravy and biscuits in honor of David's birthday. Once they were gone, Christy checked my perineum, and I had no tears – hooray! I finally birthed the placenta at 6:50 a.m. As she and Angela checked it over, they saw that there was a true knot in the umbilical cord. Christy also let me know that the anti-E titer we had drawn at 38 weeks had gone up from all our previous results; it was 1:4 at the beginning of the pregnancy, and had stayed at 1:1 or 1:2 throughout the remainder of the time, but this one had been 1:8. Our consulting OB, Dr. Cummings, had told us we didn't need to worry unless it approached 1:32, so it wasn't a problem. But I was still glad that she decided to come sooner rather than later.
I drank some orange Recharge while Delilah rubbed my feet. Then the kids came back in, and Joshua did the official cutting of the umbilical cord. Christy started the newborn exam around 7:15 a.m. and our sweet girl checked out fine. Before we weighed her, everyone was trying to guess how much she would be. My mom and Christy both guessed just under 8 lbs. We all agreed that she looked a lot smaller than any of our other children, who were 9 lbs 7 oz (Geren), 8 lbs 12 oz (Joshua), 8 lbs 12 oz (David), and 8 lbs 9 oz (Sarah). Read did the honors, and she turned out to be only 7 lbs 2 oz! She seemed so tiny in comparison. Christy measured her next; she was 20 inches long and had a 13 inch head.
About this time we realized that David was starting to look a little deflated. After all, it was his birthday too! We had set out his present and decorated the kitchen the night before, but nobody had really been down there to celebrate with him. So, we decided to have him bring his present upstairs and open it with all of us. He got a Chipmunk rifle, which he was very excited about. Each of the others boys had gotten one when they turned five as well, and they get use them for target practice when we go to visit their cousins. He looked so cute and proud standing next to the bed with his safety goggles on, holding his rifle. He got a crocodile birthday card, and a big gummy crocodile, which were also a big hit.
After our mini birthday celebration was over, around 7 :45 a.m., I got into an herbal bath with the baby. Read came into the bathroom to sit with us, and everyone gave us some time alone. We talked about the birth a little bit, and then started trying to decide on a name. We had pretty much settled on Catherine, after my father's mother, a few weeks earlier. We were having a hard time finding a middle name, though. My mother's mother's name was Mary Louise, and Read had previously suggested Mary Catherine, but I told him that sounded way too Catholic for me! However, a couple of factors made us really want to tie her name in somehow. First, April 1st was her birthday as well! And second, she had just passed away last October. We finally agreed that our new little girl should be Catherine Louise, in honor of both of my grandmothers.
A little after 8 a.m. I got out of the tub and into some clean clothes. All the ladies had gotten my sheets changed and my room tidied up, so all I had to do was climb into bed and snuggle with my sweet baby. Mom helped Sarah pick out some clothes for Catherine, and then Read helped Sarah dress her. We all commented on how amazed we were that she had a head full of beautiful red hair! Elizabeth had first noticed it while taking pictures right after she was born. It was too dark in the room for any of us to notice, but looking back through the pictures she had taken with a flash, it stood right out. I wondered how red it would look after the bath, once she was cleaned up, but it was still definitely red. My mother's father had red hair, so I'm guessing it came through that line. Once she was all dressed and ready, we called everyone into the room and announced her name. I think my mom was particularly touched, as it was a bittersweet day for her.
Next mom brought me a scrambled egg sandwich and some more Recharge, and I ate breakfast while Christy gave me my postpartum instructions. After chatting for a little while, she, Angela, and Elizabeth all left around 9 a.m. Delilah stayed and talked a little longer; she left shortly after 9:30. I called my friend Jill to tell her the good news. When she answered the phone, she jokingly said, “So, do you have another April Fool's Day baby?” I told her yes, actually we do! I gave her the highlights, and promised to send pictures and talk to her more later. Then we left the grandmothers in charge of all the older children, and Read, Catherine and I settled in for a well deserved nap in the comfort of our own bed.
I thought that after having four children I pretty much knew what to expect, but this birth was definitely full of surprises. My other babies have been so consistently late, that I told everyone one of the few things that would throw me for a loop is if I ever had a baby come early – and she did. I never expected to have another baby on April 1st – but she fooled me and came then anyway. (Oddly enough, Christy was born on April 1st as well, so besides sharing her birthday with her brother and great-grandmother, Catherine also shares her birthday with our midwife!) I never expected that she would be so much smaller than my other children, and yet she was a good pound and a half smaller than my smallest previous baby. I didn't expect to have a baby with red hair, but she's got lovely red locks. And honestly, I didn't really expect to have another girl. Having Sarah, a girl after three boys, was such a pleasant surprise and answer to prayer; I guess I didn't expect to be blessed in that way again. So many things about her are unique and special. She is a priceless treasure and a joy, and I thank God every day for bringing her into our lives.