I have always loved the name Ethan for a boy, it was our choice when we had our three girls. It is so funny to me that this time around the only name we agreed upon was Fulton. The Venerable Fulton Sheen is a Catholic Bishop who wrote over seventy books on the Catholic faith and hosted a radio and prime time television show for over twenty years. Bishop Sheen has been one of Ryan’s favorite leaders of the Catholic Church and an inspiration in his faith journey. We have been calling the baby Fulton for most of the pregnancy so that may continue.
I had been asking for baby Fulton to postpone his big debut until after our beach trip and then attempted to squeeze another event the following weekend which was a baby shower hosted by our Bread of Life Homeschool Group. I guess he thought it fitting to have me wait over thirty hours of early labor for him. Touché son touché.
Warning: Do not read if you get squeamish!
I had been having contractions for weeks before I started having consistent contractions on that Sunday before he was born. I wasn’t at all concerned that I woke up having contractions or that they were coming every five to ten minutes. I told Ryan I thought we may be having a baby tonight, we ate breakfast, skipped Mass and spent the morning walking the creek with the girls to get things moving along. We got home and I tried to rest and labor throughout the day. I was beginning to doubt if the contractions were real until I had my first signs of having a “bloody show.” I texted my midwife to let her know and she instructed me to keep timing the contractions and to call when they were more consistent and closer together. She also advised me to have the girls sent to my sister’s so that I wouldn’t get distracted.
Ryan dropped the girls off around eight in the evening ready for bed. As soon as they left my contractions started to become more intense and more frequent. There was more bloody show and I worked on opening up my hips to get the baby to drop more. I used the exercise ball and my midwife instructed me to do a round of spinning baby techniques. It was around one in the morning on Monday when I finally decided to try and get some sleep. I slept for about three hours before being woken up by contractions. I was more worried about feeling Fulton move to make sure he was doing okay through the contractions. Baby was still kicking and I was up early trying to progress my labor.
Lisa, my midwife called that Monday morning around nine and asked to see how I was doing. She said she would be coming by to check on me and the baby. Lisa along with student midwife, Pricilla arrived just before noon. The baby had a strong happy heartbeat and I chose to have her see if I was dilated and thinned out. I was dilated to about five to six centimeters and they could feel his head. He was facing toward my belly instead of my back which is a more ideal position for baby to be ready for labor. Leah, another midwife had joined us as well. They instructed me on more exercises to try to get the baby into proper position. I had been at it for hours and needed a break.
We decided to take a walk to the creek and see if that would help. During the walk we had passed a couple walking with their dog like us but I had two of three of my midwives in tow. Looking back Lisa and I realized how odd it must have been for them to see very pregnant me with my entourage donning black scrubs and trailing behind me. We wondered if they thought that perhaps I wanted to have my baby near a tree by the creek. It may seem odd but with the past year being what it has been nothing seems too far fetched these days.
It was about 3:30 when we got back from our walk. I continued to have contractions while eating a very late lunch or early dinner. I had ordered a shrimp teriyaki bowl and while I would normally enjoy it, the sauce seemed so strong and intense, I barely ate a few bites. During a later contraction Ryan had popped peanuts in his mouth and I nearly gagged when he came to help me. The intensity of your senses during labor is such a funny thing. On Sunday when I was laboring he smelled of BO after our walk and it seemed forever before he showered. I am sure it wasn’t that bad just like the smell of fried fish in his clothes when in labor with Norah. Oh the things I remember.
I think it was around six when I had asked the midwives to check to see if I had dilated and the position of the baby. We found that I was nearly fully dilated but the baby had travelled back up behind the shelf of my pelvis. What the what?!?!?Pricilla suggested a position that would help baby move forward back into my pelvis but we needed a peanut ball. Ryan used a bungee cord to create one out of my exercise ball. Basically I had the peanut ball between my legs and my back is arched into a ‘C’ so that my toes are reaching for the back of my head. Not an ideal position for anyone except a gymnast, synchronized swimmer or ballerina. All of which I am not. I think it was about four or five contractions in that position with Lisa holding my legs back so they wouldn’t slowly creep back into a comfortable position when my water broke. When I say broke I mean it burst and scared me to a yell which startled everyone else. Thank you Lord I was wearing depends or Lisa may have needed to shower and a change of scrubs.
After that we were rocking and rolling, I wanted to get into the tub and labor there. Contractions were much more intense and I felt as if we were in active labor. I needed Ryan to use as a human stress ball and remind me to breathe. It felt so much more painful most likely due to the loss of amniotic fluid. The midwives encouraged me to move my hips to make sure baby Fulton was getting down in the canal. I felt that surely with as much pain I was in he was definitely finding his way there. I was so exhausted and through more painful contractions I kept asking if the baby was stuck or if something was wrong because I felt as if it was taking forever. They assured me that everything was fine and to take my time, he would be here soon. I remember praying through the contractions the Our Father and Ryan prayed right along with me. I thought that the only way I would be taken to a hospital if he was stuck would be if I had passed out from pain.
During a break of the contractions we had turned on some 80s pop to help motivate me through transition. I remember “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey was playing and I was having a contraction while Ryan was talking about the lead singer. I was trying to get his attention as I struggling through a contraction and he was yapping away about Journey’s search for a new band member.
Not long after I had finally transitioned and baby was coming. The pain of the baby coming through the birth canal was a relief from the tiring, painful contractions prior. Ryan had caught him as his head was born. I am not sure how many times I pushed but I remember waiting for a contraction to get the rest of the baby’s body out. I rewatched them video recently and Ryan basically threw me to the side still holding me with one arm as he reached to grab the baby. They had to unwrap the cord around his neck and then they laid him in my chest. He was limp and quiet and we rubbed him until we heard a little cry and a cough. It was so surreal because moments ago I remember crying to Ryan that I didn’t think I could do it because I was so tired. My exhaustion was replaced by a flood of endorphins having that baby finally in my arms.
Ryan held the baby while I was tended to by the midwives. I delivered the placenta while still in the tub and they carried it around with Ryan and the baby. A few minutes later I was in the bed with Nicholas Fulton on my chest. Ryan cut the cord and the midwives proceeded to measure and check the baby and me. Ryan weighed him at 8 pounds and 9.5 ounces. He measured twenty two inches long and we were over the moon. Not long after I took a herbal bath with the baby, got dressed and snuggled up with my new little man. He was a pro at breastfeeding.
Something I really appreciate about my midwife Lisa is the visual lesson she gave me about staying in bed for the first week and only going around the bed for a second week. I can be hardheaded about taking it easy. She had laid the placenta beside us and showed us the size of it. It was nearly twelve inches in diameter. She explained that this was attached to the inside of me and that the wound that needed to heal was the same size. She urged me to stay in bed and for Ryan to make sure that I did.
I remember asking myself after having Norah at a birthing center as soon as I had her in my arms if I would ever have a natural birth again and it was a resounding yes, but that labor was much shorter. I was hesitant to answer myself after having Nicholas in my arms. Would I do this again? As God would have it I suffered a horrible stomach ache about a week after giving birth to him. It was unbearable. I cried and I didn’t even cry during labor. Ryan rubbed oils on my stomach and applied a cold and warm compress. I was literally in agony. The next morning I told Ryan that I was not sure about another unmediated birth until I had that stomach ache. Labor was nothing compared to that and having gal stones nearly nine years ago.
My first experience with a home birth was so amazing minus the waiting over thirty hours part. But honestly at home is the only place I would have wanted to be. I remember how I thought it was wonderful that I was home in my bed after giving birth at the birthing center. It was even more relaxing and convenient birthing at home. The midwives clean up everything. It is like they were not even there. They did laundry, tucked me into bed and checked up on Nicholas and I a day later. We were in charge of recording his vital signs and my own every four hours over the first twenty four hours after delivery. I felt so cared for and confident about being home in my own bed caring for Nicholas.
I loved that each midwife brought with them experience and different personality to help me through labor. Lisa brought confidence and positivity through my entire pregnancy and especially through the birth. Leah was fun to talk to and kept reminding me to relax my face, sometimes she would walk by and brush her fingers over my nose and it instantly relaxed me. She is a mom of five and her mother is a midwife. Leah has helped and watched her catch babies since she was twelve years old. Pricilla brought a strength and confidence. She is a mom of six, a doula and a massage therapist. She knew exactly where to apply pressure during the painful contractions of active labor. I remember yelling her name to push on my back to alleviate the pain. It was a Godsend.
Ryan has been such an amazing support and I could definitely not have done it without him. He gets better at understanding my needs and how to take care of me with every baby. I love the attention and concern I receive from him during postpartum. He is one hundred percent committed to my recovery and really makes this sensitive time a joyous one. Without his constant encouragement and help I know I would be struggling physically and mentally.
These past three weeks I have been blessed with food, visits and well wishes from family and friends. I am so fortunate to have a wonderful community around me to help and pray for me and my family. It has allowed me to stay focused on my recovery and adjust to life with four children. I am still recovery and I am still adjusting. My mom has been staying with us a majority of the past three weeks and has been a huge help with the big sisters. My sweet Mia and Madelyn are such a big help with the baby and my two year old Norah. They change diapers, burp the baby, and make sure Norah eats. They are so responsible with the chores of dishes, laundry, taking care of the dogs and cleaning their rooms. They really are so good at caring for me and their little siblings. We will have to reward them for stepping up and helping us so much.
Nicholas has been a dream. I call him my little dreamboat. He only really fussed when he needs burped and is hungry. I have enjoyed this time postpartum mostly because I have been so well attended to. The strain of waking up every few hours at night seems less burdensome and more joyful because of all the support. I have less to stress about because I have been fed, checked on and spoiled around the clock. I am so thankful for this baby who is a breastfeeding champ. He has passed his birthweight at his two week check up. Nicholas had been more alert during his few times of being awake. He is such a joy to our family especially his sisters who cannot stop kissing, holding or snuggling their brother.
If you made it this far thanks for reading. I wanted to remember this entire experience for the future. I want to make sure my children have the story. I may add a few things here and there as I remember them.