photos by Darby Simon
Although my labor and delivery with Cedric was only four hours there's so much to say. I thought about breaking this into a few posts but I'm keeping it all together as I did with Dashiell's birth story, which I'm so happy to have written down.
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Looking back, my pregnancy with Cedric felt really long. I knew that at the end of December-ish I would be giving birth but life was already so full that the event didn't seem quite real. As the heat of the summer and fall stretched on (and on and on) it was hard to imagine that the air would ever be cool and that it would be time for our baby to come. Plus, I felt more uncomfortable towards the end of my pregnancy this time, probably due to also trying to keep up with a toddler. I think that made time slow down. Around Thanksgiving of last year was when the birth started to feel more real - we would soon have two babies!
The last weeks of pregnancy
For the last six weeks-ish of my pregnancy I was soo uncomfortable. Nothing terrible, just annoying inconveniences that made me longingly appreciative of having a healthy, non-pregnant body. I started feeling very ready to have my baby in my arms and to feel more like myself. As eager as I was to feel "normal" again I'm so glad Cedric didn't arrive too early.
In early December I started wrapping up projects at work and enjoyed holiday traditions with Chris and Dashiell: picking out a tree, decorating the house, baking Christmas cookies with the family, and looking at Christmas lights. I started my holiday vacation from work on my birthday, December 22, and Chris and I enjoyed a relaxing day date. I also started taking nightly hot baths while reading before bed. It helped calm the restless legs that plagued me at the end of pregnancy and I loved having the time to bask in anticipation of meeting our baby.
Chris and I had wondered if maybe our baby would be born on my birthday or on Christmas Eve or Christmas. Those days came and went and so we waited and wondered. On Saturday, December 27 I went to prenatal yoga in the morning and during introductions told everyone that I hoped that it would be my last yoga class since my due date was on Wednesday. I said I'd be really bummed if I was in class next Saturday. Chris's brother and his family arrived for a visit that day as well and we all had dinner at Chris's parents house that night. Everyone teased me about wanting to meet the baby. I was feeling huge and having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions but had no inclination when my labor would start.
It all started when...
I went to bed that night and woke up around 11:30 when I felt a sharp, acute pain and a loss of some fluid. I thought, "Hmmm...." but didn't want to get excited. Over the next hour I started feeling some cramping and was losing fluid so I thought my water had probably broken. Chris was sleeping in another room (because I was snoring terribly at the end of my pregnancy; so sorry Chris!) and I decided to wake him up around 12:30 am when I felt sure that my labor has started.
I crept into Chris's room, woke him up and told him I thought I was having contractions. I laid down in bed with Chris and we took a moment to marvel at what was happening; we would soon be meeting our second child! Chris asked me how I was feeling and I told him excited but nervous about going through childbirth again. He reassured me that I would do great and that he'd help me through it. These moments together before everything really got going is a favorite memory of mine from Cedric's birth. It was a last moment being parents of only one child before a new chapter.
We crept back into our room (Dashiell was fast asleep in his room) and I remember Chris becoming a whirlwind of quiet efficiency. He was packing the car, changing the sheets on our bed (since his parents would come to stay with Dash), calling our doula and the midwives, and getting everything set for Dash while we'd be gone. In between all that he would be right at my side during every contraction.
I remember that I wanted to make sure I had a certain pair of comfortable pants with me at the hospital as well as my robe and a certain long sleeve shirt. The only logical thing seemed to be to put on all of those clothes right away so I was sure not to forget them. And so I did. It makes me laugh now but I was glad to have all of it at the hospital!
In the meantime, my contractions were becoming intense enough that I was leaning on Chris for their duration, about 45 seconds long and four to five minutes apart. In between contractions I felt fine and was helping Chris get ready. It was weird to go from such discomfort and pain to feeling fine and packing up. Chris was thinking we would be leaving for the hospital really soon since my first labor progressed quickly but I wasn't so sure since I still felt fine in between contractions. I wondered if we were having Chris's parents and our doula come over too soon.
Within the hour Chris's parents arrived and settled on our living room couches since it was the middle of the night. Our doula, Lisette, who was also our doula for Dashiell's birth, arrived shortly after. As she came into our bedroom I started having a contraction and I was so happy and comforted to see her. I gave her a hug and then leaned on her through my contraction. I was really having to focus through contractions and practice relaxing and breathing.
During early labor with Dashiell I had wanted to be in a hot bath and later at the hospital labored in the shower and the birthing tub. For Cedric's birth I wanted only to lay on my side. At this point at home, I think it was about 1:30 am, I laid on my side on our bed. During contractions Chris and Lisette helped me to relax and breathe and they would press on my hips, which felt really good. After a contraction Lisette rubbed my back and legs and it felt so comforting.
In between contractions I had my eyes closed but could hear Lisette telling Chris that things were progressing quickly and we'd keep re-evaluating every half hour. Before long she said that based on how I was laboring and comparing my current status to my first labor she felt it was time to go to the hospital. It felt exciting and intimidating. It was exciting that my labor was progressing quickly and that we'd likely meet our baby by morning but I knew I had really hard work ahead of me.
Heading to the hospital
Chris and I got in the car and headed out. I think it was about 2:00 am. Leaving the house in the dark felt so momentous, we'd been thinking of this moment for so many months. And I'd always envisioned my labor happening in the middle of the night, that just seems like the time when babies are born. Am I the only one?
I still felt pretty comfortable between contractions even though they were really strong and I remember chatting with Chris and being excited in between contractions as we drove. I remember looking out and seeing Christmas lights on houses and that made me feel happy. I also remember I started shaking between contractions, like I did after giving birth the first time. I think everything was just happening so fast.
We arrived at the hospital and walked into the ER to check in. I think I might have had a contraction on the way into the ER. I remember having a contraction at the front desk as we checked in and I wasn't being quiet about them by that point. I rode in a wheelchair to the labor and delivery floor and we checked into triage where I would need to be monitored before moving to a delivery room. Chris helped me to change into a hospital gown.
Most or all of the beds were already taken in triage and from behind the curtains we could hear the heartbeats of babies being monitored and hushed conversations of the parents-to-be. It felt very calm and quiet. Once I arrived I think the triage room lost some of its serenity. I was being pretty vocal during contractions and moaning loudly. At this point I was starting to be uncomfortable or in pain even between contractions. I had a little bit of self consciousness, wondering what the other couples must be thinking of this very loud laboring woman and I wondered if I made any of the other women nervous. But I didn't have too much energy to worry about any of that.
Our midwife, Diane, arrived and I was thrilled that she was the midwife on-call. During pregnancy I saw all five midwives at our practice and whomever is on call during your labor delivers your baby so you never know who the universe will send you. I was so happy that it was Diane!
"You're almost there!"
My contractions were very intense and very painful. I actually remember thinking that I might want to tell Chris that I wanted an epidural. I knew that I could continue on without medication but I wasn't sure that I wanted to. That thought never crossed my mind during my labor with Dashiell. I felt like I was being pushed to the very edge of what I could handle. But in the next moment Diane checked my cervix and announced that I was dilated to an 8. She said, "You're almost there!" and gave me a big smile. I couldn't believe I was already so far along and felt encouraged and remembered that this was likely the transition stage of labor, which is the most difficult part. So I didn't give an epidural another thought although I'm not even sure I could have gotten one at that point!
I remember that I was starting to have the urge to push even while we were in triage. Soon after I was moved to a delivery room. Chris told me later that we actually ended up being moved ahead of another woman in labor because I was progressing so quickly. In fact, things happened so quickly that after the birth someone stopped by our room to complete the registration process!
When we got to the delivery room it took a lot of coaxing to get me to move from the bed I was wheeled in on to the bed in the room. I continued to lay on my side and vocalize through contractions. I didn't feel as in control as I had with Dashiell's birth, it was all I could do to try to keep breathing. I tried to remember to relax my jaw as my prenatal instructor had always reminded us and to not tense my body during a contraction. I had thought I would want to try different positions during the labor but I didn't want to do anything but stay right where I was. In between contractions I remember asking everyone if I was doing okay. Diane laughed and said I was doing great. It was encouraging to see her smile and tell me that things were moving quickly.
I remember we had a wonderful delivery nurse. She was so encouraging and very engaged. Our delivery nurse during Dashiell's birth was fine but I don't remember her actually having a very active role. I remember our nurse this time being right at my side, telling me I was doing great and helping me to focus when I was starting to waver.
My contractions were intensely painful and I had the urge to push. I hadn't been checked again and so asked, "Am I pushing now?" Diane told me to go with my instinct and that I could push if I felt the urge. I kept hearing everyone saying that we'd meet our baby soon and noticing that everything for delivery was being set up. It was surreal. It's a strange experience to see people going about routine tasks while you are in pain. They brought in a mirror and I told them how to adjust it so that I could see what was happening.
I pushed through the next contractions. It was still incredibly painful but pushing through them made it slightly more tolerable. At least I could be active instead of just enduring the pain. After just a few pushes I was able to see the baby's head and with the next push the baby was crowning. Diane and Lisette told me to hold off on pushing so that my body would stretch. This was the pinnacle of intensity and pain during this birth. I was so ready to be done and to have the baby out of me. I hated having to wait to push.
With the next contraction the baby's head was out and everyone was telling me I was so close and encouraged me to keep pushing. I remember wanting to be done more than anything in the world. Everything I had went into the final pushes and in a surge of exquisite relief our baby was born and immediately placed on my chest.
I didn't know if it was a boy or a girl but that wasn't really on my mind. I was so glad to be done with the birth and to have my baby. I was holding my baby! I felt pure happiness. Holding my baby felt so, so good.
The first moments
I felt overwhelmed with relief and happiness to have our baby and to be done with the birth. I was beaming. I was rubbing the soft skin and hair of this tiny baby that was mine. Someone said, "Well, what is it?" I picked our baby up off my chest and saw that we had...a son! Of course it was a boy! It was a boy all along. Both Chris and I had guessed that we would have a boy although towards the end of my pregnancy everyone was guessing girl but I didn't feel surprised that it was a boy.
As I looked Cedric over I was trying to soak in everything about him: his dark hair, tiny dimpled chin (just like Dash!) and the fact that he was a boy (even though I had had a hunch). It was so different than when we met Dashiell because there was such a significant thing about Cedric that we didn't know until we met him. It also felt surreal to be holding another newborn that was mine but that wasn't Dashiell. And the birth happened so fast!
When Dashiell was born he needed to be taken from me right away because he needed help to start breathing. Cedric was healthy and crying, what a wonderful sound!, and I was able to keep him on my chest for two hours and nurse for the first time before he was weighed and received shots. It was heavenly and I had a huge grin plastered on my face. I heard people say, "I've never seen anyone so happy after giving birth." Chris and I just looked at Cedric and touched him. We called our parents to tell them they had another grandson and that his name was Cedric Mack.
When Cedric was weighed I couldn't believe I had birthed another giant baby at 9 pounds and 8 ounces, the exact weight that Dashiell had been. My placenta was also huge. Honestly I think I lost at least 20 pounds during the birth alone. My ankles were already starting to feel like their normal size. It felt wonderful to not be pregnant.
We were moved to a postpartum recovery room after a couple of hours. I was taken in a wheelchair and held Cedric in my arms and just stared at him. I felt so proud to be holding him and for anyone we passed to see my beautiful baby. My eyes were full of tears.
In our room, Chris laid down to try to get some rest. I was still too excited and couldn't stop staring at Cedric. Someone came in to ask a few questions. When she saw me and the ridiculous smile across my face she insisted that I give her my phone to take a photo.
Our first day together
After a couple of hours, breakfast was delivered. It was just typical (i.e not so great) hospital food but the French toast and eggs tasted amazing, as anything does after such a physical feat. It was the same way breakfast had tasted after Dash was born. And Chris went downstairs to get me a good cup of coffee. I held Cedric, sipped my coffee and ate French toast bites that Chris gave to me. Life does not get better!
We spent the morning texting and calling friends and family with our happy news (the best!). Later in the morning, Chris's family came to meet Cedric and also brought Dashiell. It was so wonderful to see Dashiell, who now looked like a giant toddler instead of my little toddler. Dashiell saw Cedric and said, "Eyes!" And then, "Hat!" He is a very observant guy. Dash was intrigued by Cedric and maybe a bit confused. It was surreal to see my two boys. Chris and I keep saying to each other, "We're a family of four!"
Dashiell was being cared for by Chris's family and we had decided that Chris should go stay at home for the night to be with Dash. So later in the afternoon Chris said goodbye to me and Cedric and went to get Dashiell. They came back for a visit in the evening, during which Dashiell suddenly threw up. It was a very "welcome to life with two kids" moment.
My first night with Cedric
I felt a little lonely to say goodbye to Chris for the night and be by myself with Cedric at the hospital but was glad he would be with Dashiell. My heart felt pulled in two ways for my two boys, a feeling I'm sure I will have a lot.
I settled in for the night and met my night nurse. She was wonderfully attentive and assured me that I could call on her for anything. I'm not sure if she was being extra sweet because I was by myself but I so appreciated her care. Soon I stopped feeling lonely and started to enjoy being cozily cocooned with Cedric. He was sleeping well, all swaddled in his bassinet, and I curled up in my bed right next to him and was able to sleep as well. Each time I heard him stir I would wake and look at him and fell more in love with him. I would call the nurse to have her bring him to me in bed so I could nurse. As I nursed my tiny baby I could see the trees outside my window lit up in twinkling Christmas lights and could see stars in the sky. I thought about how on Cedric's birthday there will always be Christmas lights and that made me really happy.
In the morning, Chris called and said that Dash still seemed not to be feeling well and he would take him to see the doctor. I hated that Dash wasn't feeling well and was also a bit bummed because the plan had been for Dash to go to daycare for a half day so that Chris could come be at the hospital with me and Cedric.
So Cedric and I spent the morning together, dozing and nursing. I took care of paperwork and met with the pediatrician who gave Cedric the all-clear for going home. Chris came to pick us up around mid-day while Dash stayed with family. For the second time in our lives we embarked on a journey home from the hospital with a new baby. I was pushed in a wheelchair and held Cedric on our way out of the hospital. I was beaming with pride and felt very aware of the scene we made: a little family heading home with their new baby. Cue the tears.
The nurse who wheeled us out took our picutre in front of the big Christmas tree downstairs. Then we loaded Cedric into the car and made our way home to be Team Wharton: family of four.
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I almost can't believe that I have been through pregnancy and childbirth two times. And that continuously since July of 2012 I've either been pregnant or breastfeeding (or both). I'm in awe of what my body has done and at the dramatic changes it has gone through. I'm so thankful for my two healthy pregnancies, births and two boys. It still feels a little surreal to be doing the newborn thing again and that I have two kids but I'm so happy to be right here.