I woke up at 2:30 in the morning on Sunday, September 29th with some sporadic contractions. I had actually gone to bed noticing them, but I was able to sleep through them for a couple of hours. I was awake from 2:30 until 5:00 and they went from 10 minutes apart to nearly nothing, so I went back to bed until the kids woke up around 7:00. We laid low all day Sunday, having contractions once in a while. By the end of the day, I was beginning to think we had another long labor ahead of us. I labored with Jack for 30 hours and with Leah for 28. I had really hoped to cut it down considerably this time. :)
I went to bed on Sunday night, again having some contractions that were manageable enough to sleep through for a little bit. By around 1:00 am, they were strong enough to keep me up. So I sat on my big exercise ball and listened to music and timed contractions. I'd had a feeling that things might pick up overnight, so I'd told Dan he should probably sleep downstairs so I didn't have to keep things quiet or dark. Contractions slowly progressed from 8 minutes apart to 5 minutes to 3 minutes. I knew they'd get stronger, but I was surprised at their frequency. I had been in contact with my midwife Kathrine for a couple of hours, and I woke Dan up at around 4:30 to help me. After an hour or so, we decided that we needed to make a decision about going to the hospital because if we missed a certain window of time, we'd wind up in about an hour of morning rush hour traffic. No thanks! So my dad came over to be with Jack and Leah and we left for the hospital at about 6:00 am.
We got to the hospital and checked in at the triage desk. A nurse hooked me up to the monitors for a little while and Kathrine checked me. I was at 3 cm and she could tell that the baby was still pretty high and needed to rotate a little bit in order to help me dilate more. I was a little bit discouraged at the number, and again was convinced that this meant another marathon labor ahead of me. Dan, Kathrine, and I walked around the hospital for a little bit to try to get things moving. Contractions had slowed down considerably since we'd left the house.
Once we were back from walking, I got back on the monitors for a few minutes and we chatted with Kathrine about what to do next. Since I wasn't progressing very quickly and I was at risk of getting over-exhausted before it was time for the real show to start, she suggested maybe going back home to rest (with a prescription for a stronger antihistamine to help me sleep). I knew this was a possibility, but I was also a little discouraged. But I was exhausted and knew that resting would be good. Before we did anything, she said, "Let me check you one more time." So she did and while she was, she said, "Hang on, I'm going to strip your membranes." So she did that and said, "Before I send you home, I want you to walk around for 30 minutes and come back here and we'll talk." So Dan and I left again and headed to get some breakfast. It was immediately evident that the membrane stripping (just the process of separating the bag of waters from the cervix--my waters were still in tact) definitely ramped up the contractions. I had three before we even left the building (we were headed to get breakfast in one of the Children's Hospital buildings), and I could hardly sit or eat without having to stop and focus on a contraction. After about a half hour, we headed back to my midwife. It was about 9:00 am at this point.
I again spent a little time on the monitors and Kathrine checked me. She said, "Okay, I'm happy with this. He's definitely starting to drop more. Let's see if we can get you in a room." I asked what my dilation was. "The number isn't important." I told her she sucked. :) But YAY, I was getting in a room and not going home!
We got into our room around 9:45. At 37 weeks, I had tested positive for Group B Strep. It doesn't mean much to carry it, but it's something that can be transmitted to the baby during delivery, so I had to have a round of IV antibiotics during labor. If things could be predicted well enough, they'd do the round of antibiotics exactly four hours before delivery. Unfortunately, we had no idea when he'd come. So they did the first round at 10:00 am and made plans to do a second round at 2:00 pm. My doula/photographer/cousin Renee came shortly after my first round of antibiotics were done. I continued to labor through extremely strong contractions. At one point I asked one of my nurses what my last dilation had been. She said 3-4 cm. I was surprised that was enough of a change to get us into a room, but pleased that it was better than nothing. But still--these felt like 7-8 cm contractions, NOT 3-4 cm contractions. That made me nervous.
After laboring for another hour or so, Kathrine checked me again. She said, "Oh, this is perfect. You're completely thinned out and soft, and he has rotated and dropped. Wonderful. Let's get in the tub!" I said, "Seriously? What am I dilated to?" She said, "The number doesn't matter. Let's get in the tub!" I told her she sucked again. :) As the tub was filling and the room was being transformed into "go time" mode, I overheard the nurses talking. They happen to need the actual numbers for my chart, and I heard them say something about 5-6. I thought, "Centimeters? There's no way I should be getting in the tub at only 5-6 cm." I know that sometimes the water can slow down labor, and that's really the last thing I wanted. But deep down, I would trust Kathrine with my life, so I trusted that she thought it was a good time to get in.
I got into the birth tub at around 11:35. The water felt amazing. The contractions didn't feel very different to me versus how they felt out of the water, but I could tell that the water helped me relax way more during the time between contractions. After being in the tub for about fifteen minutes, and during a particularly strong contraction, I said, "Um, urge to push! That can't be good!" In my head, I was still only 5-6 cm and I knew that if I felt the urge to push before I was completely dilated, I was going to have to fight that urge or risk making my cervix swell. Kathrine said, "That's fine--just go with it. Trust your body." So I let my body push involuntarily with the next couple of contractions. Before I knew it, his head was right there. And my bag of waters was still intact, which was amazing. I pushed out his head with one contraction and the water broke at that point. The rest of him came in one more push. (After Kathrine untangled the cord from around his neck--a nuchal cord is what took Hannah's life and I was fearful of seeing it again, even though it can happen and not be an issue at all). It was the most incredible feeling in the WORLD. I immediately pulled him up on me, and according to the photos that my cousin took, I started crying and stopped sometime a couple hours later. :) He was a little blue, which is common for water birth babies, since their head is still under water while their body is being born. And since the water had literally JUST broken, he had the amniotic sac stuck to his body. It was so crazy. (The fact that my water didn't break until his head was born was also good news on the Group B Strep front. They wanted the antibiotics in my system for at least four hours. We only got two. But Will never actually came in contact with the birth canal--he had the bag protecting him the whole time!)
William Joseph Bennett was born at 12:03 pm. I had gone from 5-6 cm to 10 cm in less than 20 minutes. And he was born about 10 minutes after I had the urge to push. From when I consider active labor started, he came in a reasonable 11 hours. Thankful he didn't follow in his siblings' footsteps on that one. :)
Once the umbilical cord had stopped pulsing, it was clamped for Dan to cut. We were separated and Dan was able to have some skin-to-skin time with Will while I got out of the tub to deliver the placenta. And while our experience up until this point was so ideal and amazing, the next 24 hours were a bit of a doozy. I ended up bleeding a little more than they would have liked, which made for a very "medical" postpartum recovery period. All in all, I lost about 2 1/2 liters of blood, but I luckily never needed an infusion.
Shortly after I delivered the placenta, Kathrine brought it over to me and said, "I need to show you something." She pointed out the cord going into the placenta and said, "This is what's called a Velamentous Cord Insertion." Basically, instead of the cord going INTO the placenta, it just attaches to the outside. (I had heard of it before because it's one of the issues they found with Grace, of The Missing Grace Foundation, after she was stillborn). It's (obviously) not always life-threatening, but it is concerning and it's something that should have been caught in an ultrasound. Kathrine said, "Let's just say this little guy had a guardian angel, and I think we both know who it was." And we cried. I looked up some more information about it when we were in our room later. When a VCI is caught via ultrasound, they will often induce labor early to avoid the chance that the placenta and cord will detach from each other. There are also often complications if a labor goes on too long. So what I got from that was that God clearly had his hand on this baby, and the fact that I went into labor on my own before 40 weeks and had a considerably shorter labor than my first two babies was not at all a coincidence. I was also initially frustrated that it hadn't been caught, but I after thinking about it, I believe that God was protecting me from knowing about it. It would have been one more anxiety-producing contribution to this pregnancy. It was as if he said, "Will is going to be fine. There's no reason to make Erin worry about one more thing."
All in all, this whole experience was very healing. No, it doesn't mean that we're that much more "over" losing Hannah or Charlie. But we have safely welcomed a rainbow baby into our family, and we couldn't be more thrilled to have him here!