I gave birth to my son eight years ago today. Over the last seven years I have posted his birth story on this date. Oddly enough, some people enjoy (re-)reading it. If it is your first time reading here, welcome. But feel free to skip over and check out pictures from today’s birthday party. And some thoughts I’ve had recently. Yeah, it’s a long post. I own it.
Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story
Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia [/Phoenix]
1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long
April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?
A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.
April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing
My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.
Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.
April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote
Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.
April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!
Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful to very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of his head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.
April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born
With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of my baby’s long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding my child to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. The child is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby in my own home, with my own power.
April 7th, early morning – getting to know you
I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my newborn away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the delivery of the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.
I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with my first child, too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with my daughter’s birth, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. My daughter Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.
My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.
Today’s birthday gathering, a few pictures:
We had a great deal of food: ten pounds pot roast, fifteen pounds mashed potatoes, popcorn with butter, a fruit salad, a veggie tray, homemade cake, ice cream, juice, tea, and coffee. My mom’s veggies were so pretty, but I forgot to take a picture of the rest.
Nels was thrilled with every present he received. Here, he’s asking who gave him this one.
Phoenix, parched. So is my lemon-tree (at far right). Likely dead.
Jason examines back yard shenanigans.
Sister. Believe it or not she was not annoyed with him in this interaction. But her expression is awesome. Who is that?
My brother makes epic piñatas. This one was a catnip mouse, as we had a kitty-themed party. The kids had a great time killing it. I think it took about three rounds a person.
The candy cigarettes. I was dying.
Done! (Almost). Very tired.
Today I was up at 5 AM as I’d been asked to give a talk to a group about my life as an alcoholic in Recovery. Telling my life story to a group of many friends and many strangers, quite a task. Afterwards I came home, made a few preparations, and then slept a while. I rose and finished some of the things I needed to do for the gathering.
I want to talk briefly about my gratitude for the many people in my life. I have had so much help in all my endeavors. I have had this help all my life, although I didn’t always perceive it. For some time I lived in awareness of the things I didn’t have, the dissatisfactions, the imperfections, the discontentedness. When others helped, I felt beholden and I tried to pay them back. Quid pro quo. This was exhausting, draining, and curiously devoid of gratitude. Servile and yet self-centered.
I want to talk a little about how much I’ve been helped so you can understand the wonderful people in my life. Just today, just today’s example, I want to talk about all those who helped me.
This morning my husband got me coffee and drove me to my talk. At the talk my friends greeted me and hugged me and said wonderful things to me. After I spoke, more kind words, more hugs – from friends and those who I hadn’t known previous. As I left, a friend handed me a fresh strawberry breakfast and said I’d want it about nine o’clock. (She was right!)
When I got home, my husband helped me with party preparations and took care of many things while I rested. Both my children came upstairs and gave me hugs. Touchingly, Nels dressed himself, washed his face, brushed his teeth, and got to the business of the day while I slept, and while his father was out on an errand. This was very sweet as Nels has been, off and on, frightened to be alone rooms of the house at times. He told me he took care of himself this morning to conquer his fear and to make me proud of him.
For the party, many friends helped. They all helped. An hour before the party a girlfriend texted and asked if she could assist and I said Yes; she helped me purchase supplies, wrap presents, and get gift bags ready. Another friend, at my request, brought the (delicious!) mashed potatoes and helped me serve. Other friends brought pop to the party.
My mother helped a lot today. She helps us most days, but today quite a bit. We used many of her supplies last-minute to get ready for the gathering. Besides the gifts she and my friends brought my son (which I’m not even listing, here – but which were all lovely and thoughtful), she also made two dishes, full of fresh fruits and vegetables.
My daughter helped. She helped get ready for the party and she helped me clean up during the party. My son mostly enjoyed himself, but he also helped take care of the youngest child at the party. I thought this was very tender.
My brother made the piñata. It is pretty excellent and he bought and paid for and made the whole thing. It gave the children a great deal of joy, and the grownups too (we broke a stick on it and then went to work with rebar).
Today many texted, emailed, or in other ways told me to relate Happy Birthday to my son. Today I felt a lot of gratitude for the friends and family in my life. They make my life deeply worthwhile.
And today many of my friends made my son feel very special. He will likely remember the day the rest of his life.
Nels one year ago: