Cian’s Birth Story
Monday, July 6th, 2015
Jocelyn was planning to leave at noon with Amelie and Camille. They’d been here since the 2nd, and we’d been sure that the baby would arrive during their visit. Mom was flying in the next morning, and I knew that she didn’t want to be here for the birth–I’d been certain that this baby would arrive before the 7th, which is Lochlainn’s birthday.
Amelie told me that if I went into labor before they left, they’d stay another day. Although my Braxton Hicks contractions felt stronger that morning, there wasn’t any way I could call it “labor.” I’d had strong Braxton Hicks for several days prior to Colette’s birth. I did mention to Jocelyn that I thought the baby might come that night (but I’d said that for several days). Her response was that it would be perfect timing, and that perhaps she wasn’t supposed to be there, after all.
Colin came home from work to say goodbye to the travelers, and then we gave him a ride back to work to pick up his laptop, which he’d forgotten, so that he could work from home.
I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on laundry, cleaning up the house, gathering some items I thought James might enjoy while staying close by at Primary Children’s Hospital, scheduling a NST with my midwife, Rebecca, for later in the week, and taking a nap. I think Colin and the kids spent most of the day outside playing.
By dinnertime, I started thinking that these contractions were definitely getting stronger, and I remember asking Colin to make the rice for me, for dinner (which entails putting rice and water into the rice cooker, and pressing the “on” button).
Around 8pm, as we were starting to mobilize the children toward their bedrooms, I realized that if the baby came that night, there’s no way I’d get up to the Children’s Hospital the next day to drop off the books and things for James. So I gathered up what I had collected, and headed out. I got into the minivan and texted Rebecca that I might be seeing her that evening, if she wasn’t otherwise engaged. She texted back that she was at a birth, and had just delivered the placenta–”keep me in the loop.” Oh, joy. “This had better hold off a bit,” I thought. But I really wanted to start the night off with some sleep, anyway. I started the car, and drove quickly, first to the grocery store for a few last items (a drawing pad and coffee creamer). While I was there, I picked up ingredients for Lochlainn’s birthday cake. My plan was to put it together that evening.
I drove to the Hospital, but the parking garage by the main entrance had really low clearance, and our minivan with the Thule roof box on top was not going to fit underneath. I had to drive around for a few minutes before I found the South entrance parking lot, and since the door near that parking area was locked for the night, I then walked back around to the main entrance. I found the floor that I wanted to visit, but only then realized that in order to enter, I needed to acquire a Visitor’s Badge from the front desk (where I’d seen a gathering of people on my way in, and had figured they were lost and needing information). I made my way back down to the front desk, then back up to the correct floor with my badge. It occurred to me then that I was doing what many women in early labor are told to do, anyway: walk the halls of a hospital. The hush of the children’s Neuro Trauma unit at 10pm calmed my contractions a bit. I chatted with Joseph for about 15 minutes, and even mentioned that I was thinking the baby might come that night, but doubted myself even as I said it, since I didn’t feel anything the entire time I was on the unit.
Upon leaving, though, I asked the security guard at the front desk whether I could exit via the South entrance; something about the walk around the outside of the hospital sounded like too much for me.
Back in the car, I texted Colin that I was headed home, and texted Rebecca that I was going to shower and try to sleep. If the contractions woke me up, we’d be in touch.
Colin was getting set up with his laptop at the dining room table, finally ready to work, when I arrived home around 10:45pm. I took a shower and crawled into bed with my headphones connected to my DVD player, the birth hypnosis recording loaded. It would either put me to sleep, or help me relax through the contractions. Lochlainn, who had gone to bed in the bottom bunk instead of his crib, came running in and joined me in my bed. He rolled around a bit, then left and ran around a bit, then came back and climbed back in, etc. I tried to remain focused and breathe deeply, but soon started moaning a little during the contractions. Around 11:30pm, I realized I wasn’t going to be getting any sleep. I texted Rebecca again and told her that the baby was definitely coming tonight, but that contractions were still about 10-15 minutes apart. She said she’d be home in an hour from the birth she was currently attending. I texted my photographer that my midwife would likely be coming in about two hours, so she planned accordingly.
Even though I knew I had some time between contractions, I had this strong desire to remain still in bed during the rest time in between. I knew that Loch should go to bed, and I knew that I couldn’t call out to Colin from the bedroom, but there was no way I was moving until it was absolutely necessary.
Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
My midwife texted me at 12:20am saying to call her when I wanted her to come. I called her right back. She asked if the contractions were lasting a full minute yet, but I said I didn’t know–I was just looking at the time when each one started, and then focusing on breathing through them. She told me she’d be here in about 45 minutes. I still didn’t feel like getting out of bed, so I decided to text Colin to set up the birthing tub. When I still didn’t hear any movement from beyond the bedroom, I just stayed put for a while. Finally, I gathered myself, grabbed my physio ball and the box of essential oils and arnica I had prepared, and walked out into the living room. That was around 12:40am.
At Jocelyn’s suggestion from a few days prior, I set up a little birthing station on our window bench with a crucifix, some pictures of the other kids as new babies, and a candle, and tried to keep the physio ball away from Lochlainn, who was still awake. I actually took a few pictures of him “helping” Colin set up the birthing tub. After some time, his cheery, playful presence was getting disruptive to my focus during contractions, so we said Happy Birthday to him and Colin took him to his crib to sleep.
Rebecca arrived around 1:15am. She placed her doppler to my abdomen, and by the position of where she could hear the baby’s heartbeat, estimated I was around 4-5cm.
“That’s it, huh?” I asked. She mused that of the two births she’d done with me, one was fast and one was slow.
“Will this one be a fast one, or a slow one?” she asked. Colin reminded her that she was here in our home exactly two years ago to the day, for Lochlainn’s birth. “So, will this baby be born on his brother’s birthday?” she asked.
“He’d better,” I replied. “I am not doing this for 24 more hours! This birth is going to be quick and very smooth,” I told her with conviction.
“With no bleeding,” she added. “Well, then let’s break your water and give you some herbs,” she suggested.
“Um, what?!” I replied.
Some discussion followed. Colette had almost been born inside her amniotic sac, except that Rebecca had broken it after her head emerged, to help get her shoulders out. Labor with Lochlainn had been irregular until Rebecca had broken his sac, which turned out to be super-thick, and had likely been bouncing him back from completely opening my cervix.
“It has to be your decision, whether you want to jump off the cliff,” she said. “I’ll go along with whatever you want to do.”
I agreed to have her break my water, and in retrospect, I’m so glad I did. It was another very thick membrane, and the difference in pressure was evident as soon as I stood up again. It was about 1:30am.
Since I was stepping into the tub at essentially 4cm, Rebecca put together a shot of gelsemium with orange juice for me to drink, in order to enhance and “organize” the contractions (her word). Tiffany, our photographer, arrived right around this time.
Boy were they organized. Very fast, very strong. I soon needed Colin’s hands to hold and pull up on. I felt like I had to pull myself up and away from the contractions in order to remain relaxed in that area of my body, although I also remember trying to relax my glutes and finding it impossible to do so. Rebecca encouraged me with each contraction to keep my jaw relaxed and my vocalizations low. She guided my concentration to visualize the cervix slipping over the baby’s head. She referred to a study done in Dublin, Ireland that timed delivery after breaking the sac of a woman in labor to be anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. She kept calling the baby “Dublin,” and giving me a countdown to two hours. “You’ll have baby Dublin in your arms in less than an hour now, Shannon.” And etc. I didn’t believe her. To me, nothing seemed to be happening to show progress. Just one painful contraction after another, very little rest in between, and it was going to go on and on until I died from exhaustion. Very rational, I was.
It actually crossed my mind during a really long, hard contraction that seemed to never end, “Why the h–l is this such a good idea?” and “What do I have against epidurals, anyway?”
Rebecca told me later that this was likely when transition occurred. Sometime around 3am, maybe a little earlier, I suddenly knew I was pushing instead of just groaning through the contractions. It didn’t feel “good,” but it felt more like we were getting somewhere. I changed my position from head down against the side of the tub to backed up in a reclining squat, and reached in to see if I could feel his head. I could! With a huge contraction and primal shout, his head came down and started crowning. That’s when I was sure that this baby would actually be born soon! I was so happy.
Suddenly, I was ready to do everything Rebecca said in order not to tear. I didn’t care that it might take “several minutes,” because now at least I was sure it would happen. It’s the strangest feeling, though, of complete adrenaline rush while trying to ease the baby out. Heart racing, unable to push out or pull back in, skin stretching out of my control but still being able to move the rest of my body, sweat pouring off of me but being completely aware of everything that’s happening.
After his head was mostly through, he started turning himself around, probably trying to get a good position for his shoulders to fit. I could feel his little body wiggling just inside of me, and it was a bit freaky. My left leg had gone numb, and it was hard for me to find a good position to try to make that final push happen. Finally, with some encouragement from Rebecca, I knelt up out of my reclined position, and found the little crease of one of his armpits with the fingers of my right hand. I carefully burrowed a finger into his armpit and, with a gentle push from my abdomen, manually eased him out, immediately rolling back into my reclined position and pulling him up out of the water.
Instant relief and joy that he had arrived! I looked at him and the first words out of my mouth when I saw him were, “Oh, my goodness. You’re beautiful.” He had plenty of dark hair, and a perfectly round little face.
I asked Colin to wake up Tiernan, and I reminded Rebecca about giving me Pitocin in order to start managing my inevitable bleeding.
Tiernan came out into the living room and stayed with us until Colin brought him back to bed around 6am. During that time, Rebecca gave me pitocin and I moved to my bed. The placenta came out, and she checked it over. She palpated my uterus, and was pleased that it was contracting, but there was still plenty of blood. The baby latched on and started nursing like a pro right away, so that combined with the pitocin was really effective (ouch!). I ate a few animal crackers so that I could take some Ibuprofen. At some point, Rebecca helped me out of bed to the bathroom, and then checked my uterus again. Around 5:15am, she felt confident enough to leave me to perform the newborn exam.
From Rebecca’s observations, the baby was more like 39 weeks gestation, maybe *just* 40 weeks. But not late. If anything, Mom’s imminent arrival inspired him to come a bit early!
Rebecca left sometime after 6am, after giving me a dose of methergine and leaving me with 5 more doses to take throughout the day.
Even with a champion nurser, the pitocin, the methergine, Arnica, and almost total rest–thanks to Mom’s arrival–I bled like a heavy period for a day or two, and like a moderate period the rest of that first week. We finalized his name on the morning of July 8th:
Cian Thaddeus Maguire. He has the same initials as his dad. I’ve loved the name Cian since I first heard it in 2002, when I met someone in Ireland with that name. Colin always wished his middle name was Thaddeus (instead of Timothy), and as a child, even named a pet hamster Chad Thaddeus. The name is also a nod to Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, the Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who has advised Colin in the past and is a friend of Cian’s godfather. Tadeusz is also the middle name of one of our former parish priests, Fr. Jan. But we chose to use the English form instead of the Polish.
Cian’s birth was perfectly timed, as always. God knows best.
Colin had had a busy 4th of July weekend with work, as he really needed to finish up an experiment that had specific time points when he absolutely needed to be in the lab. Monday morning was the last time he really needed to go in.
Mom came in time to make me breakfast on Tuesday morning, made Lochlainn’s birthday cake that was otherwise neglected, and allowed Colin to work hard on his poster for a conference he was attending that Thursday through Sunday. It was tough not having him there during the conference, but it would have been impossible without Mom. And by the time Mom had to leave, I was on my feet and able to move around a lot easier.
And now we’re a family of 6!