Everett Levi's Story
This story begins with empty shot glasses on the counter, my friend passed out on my couch, and me leaning over a toilet.
Oh not the night our baby was conceived... this was the night he was born.
I'm finally sifting through the blurry montage of partial moments and memories of Everett's arrival. There are few pictures and no video to go by. There are images and sound clips pinned all out of order in my mind and new ones pop up as I sort... certainly nothing like any of our other births, but that's one reason we keep doing this... it's always an adventure!
We never planned to take this pregnancy to 40 weeks, but a GBS positive diagnosis, my first one, stayed our plan to nudge this birth along at 38 weeks. I had gestational diabetes for the fourth time and had previously birthed my babies at 41, 38, and over 42 weeks. Our sons were 10 pounds 3 ounces, 8 pounds, and 11 pounds 5 ounces. Only our second son was born naturally and without complications. I worked out almost every day of my pregnancy until the end. I didn't fear another big baby, but we were planning a home birth and I wanted to avoid any possible complication. My only fear was having to transfer after the birth.
Our estimated due date was Thursday, December 18th. I never felt "done" with this pregnancy. I loved this pregnancy, but I could feel baby dropping lower and lower... and little feet reaching higher and higher. That week I stayed calm, but booked a labor encouragement massage, acupuncture appointment, and asked my midwife, Jacqueline, to do a cervical stimulation (stretch, sweep, strip... whatever you like to call it). I went to prenatal yoga on my due date... keeping relaxed but active. On the recommendation of a doula friend, on Sunday morning I went to Ribera beach in Carmel to climb the stairs and stand by the ocean. I felt great, but I also felt like this baby needed to be born.
Anyone who drinks has probably sworn to never do it again. I've sworn off Crown Royal, Southern Comfort, Tequila (though I always go back to that one)... and castor oil. I drank castor oil to induce labor with my first. There is a video. It was disgusting and it didn't work. I swore never again, but I talked to my midwife about it anyway. She thought it was a reasonable option. I decided to take the first of three doses at 4pm... but the anticipation became too much and I poured the first shot at 2pm. I took another two ounces at 4pm, and downed the last shot (barely) at 6pm. We warned our birth team.
About an hour after each dose I would have to use the bathroom, it wasn't bad. We put the kids to bed and settled down to watch a documentary that my brother recommended, Harmontown. We went to bed around 10pm, all was quiet... guess it didn't work.
I got up to go to the bathroom again probably an hour later, maybe less. I was spotting. I called my midwife. For me, spotting usually means baby is coming. I was having contractions, but they weren't regular and they felt a lot like the prodromal labor I had been experiencing for weeks. Sometimes I was shaking and nauseated, even dry heaving into the toilet... sometimes I couldn't tell if I was even having contractions. I think she offered to come, or said she would, or I asked... I don't know. She was on her way and I tried to go back to bed.
Then the contractions were gone. I called and told Jacqueline that she probably didn't need to come, but she was on her way. I think I probably sounded like I was in labor... I think I was tired and confused sounding. I would have come too.
Eric blew up the tub and I tweeted a picture of the room at 11:45pm. I have no idea where I was or what I was doing while Eric set up the tub. I remember waves of "omg just get this tub up hurry hurry hurry" followed by periods of not even knowing if I was in labor.
Jacqueline arrived and set up. I continued to try to go back to bed but would get up again to go to the bathroom, which was happening about every hour and getting very tiresome, followed by 30 minutes or so of fairly hard contractions... but they'd fade and I'd try to sleep again for 20-30 minutes, and then the whole cycle would begin again. Basically I was laboring on the Hunger Games Mockingjay Clock Arena drunk on a mess of labor hormones.
My midwife decided to try to sleep on the couch. I would have these pretty long periods of no contractions and total clarity. No one knew if I was in labor. I was probably having the baby soon, but maybe it would be the next day, the next evening. I was tired of getting in and out of bed so I propped pillows up on the other couch and tried to sleep leaning over them.
Eric was in bed and I don't know if he was sleeping either. At some point I got him up and told him to make up the bed with the plastic and extra sheets. I labored in the doorway, holding onto the door frame when contractions hit. Sometimes I'd call Eric over to press on my back, but I wanted to let him get everything done so I didn't every time. I alternated between leaning on the kitchen island, the bedroom door frame, and the bathroom door frame. I wish we had done the bed up sooner, I missed laboring with my husband.
At one point when I went in the bathroom I decided to check my cervix, just to see if I could feel it, or baby's head. I put my leg on my bathroom counter and got about half a finger in before hitting a bulging bag of waters and I think a head. In my fog I didn't think "Oh shit, the baby's coming... maybe I should tell someone." I just... don't remember thinking anything... it didn't register. I'm sure this is information that my midwife would have found helpful.
For some reason around 4am we started really preparing for the birth... I think... I really don't know if we all thought this was it. I should have known... but I had proven to be pretty worthless in the communication department at this point. I remember telling Eric to call the birth team at 4:11am... I think contractions were just getting really close... but I wasn't totally convinced that they wouldn't stop again. Eric began calling, and also working with Jacqueline to fill the tub. No one answered except my doula, Brittany, who was soon on her way, along with the assisting midwife Caroline. We couldn't get a hold of our birth photographer, my cousin, or my sister-in-law. It was frustrating, but I also couldn't concentrate on that.
I labored on my own as Jacqueline and Eric tried to fill the tub. There wasn't enough hot water because I had asked Eric to start a load of laundry, not realizing that we were going to need to fill the tub so soon. I remained pretty unaware as they boiled pots of water on the stove. I wanted in the tub so I didn't want to take Eric away from preparing it.
At 4:49am I messaged the birth team on facebook to come. We had already called a couple times. It was so hard to try to bend or sit, just typing "come! baby is!" took everything I had. I leaned on the kitchen counter again. I had a really hard contraction that I had to moan then pretty much roar through. Roar isn't right... it was just louder than a moan. I got Eric to hold me through it. My body was starting to push some. I really wanted in the tub, but there wasn't enough water yet.
Brittany arrived and asked me what I needed. I told her I didn't know... that's all I remember..
Then I'm in the hallway holding onto the bathroom door trim. I'm telling Eric to get my bathing suit top (actually it was my friend Lindsey's) and he can't find it. It's the only teal thing in a very small drawer but he can't find it. I think Brittany and Jacqueline are both close, and I have another really hard, loud contraction. I don't know what I sounded like, I imagine I sounded like Whitney of Leaves of My Tree. At one point I thought I was screaming and then Eric said I was totally quiet and barely grunted so I'm not a good judge here... but I think I was getting pretty loud. Jacqueline says I did good, that was a hard one... something like that. I just have to get in the tub. I decide to just take off my shirt and wear my bra in.
I remember pulling off my shirt and it's like when I close my eyes to pull it over my head I never open them again. I don't remember seeing anything from the hallway to the tub. I keep trying to remember. I don't know when my underwear came off, I don't know if Eric was close, I know Jacqueline was. Every time I try to remember I go back to when I was 19 and at this party and drank Tequila Rose and held onto the kitchen wall trying to make it to another room... and I don't remember seeing anything, just feeling... and then not feeling... and then just being somewhere new like in a dream where all the transitions are cut out.
I think my hands are on the side of the birth pool. I think my eyes are closed because there's still no visual to accompany this part of the story. Another really hard contraction. No visual or audio for this part, I just know that it was hard, my body pushed so so so hard... and gave way. 5:13am. I heard my midwife say "there's the water" and all I could feel was a big hard head, and then like I was going to pass out. I said so and Eric caught me and leaned me on the seat of the couch behind me just in time for my body to bear down again.
I was along for the ride, the baby was coming now, here, just a couple feet from the pool. I put a foot up on my midwife's leg and pushed.
It hurts and it sucks. It doesn't burn... it's just this massive force trying to come out, and my body holding it back and I decide, once again, that I'll never do this again. But before I never do this again I have to get this one done. I push and the head is born. No wriggle out. Fuck. I NEVER get a wriggle out! I push again for the shoulders, maybe twice... too many times as far as I'm concerned... and the baby is here! December 22nd at 5:14am. On my chest, so warm! Freshly born babies are the best warm.
Eric grabbed the camera and is taking pictures. I think that he did get a hold of the birth photographer before the baby was born, but she didn't make it. I finally open my eyes and look at my baby. Eric and I didn't consult on who would announce the sex, but this time I looked. Another boy! This is the little person that I had spent the last 40 weeks with... little Everett. We have four boys.
My sister-in-law, who was going to take video, walks in the room and I say "So I had a baby." She missed it by a few minutes... she started taking pictures, I'm not sure if there is video from after the birth, but I know there is no video of the birth, or labor... first time we have missed it.
Leaning back on the couch (I'm not exactly laying on it) is getting uncomfortable as we wait for the placenta. It hasn't been long. I ask if I can just push it out and my midwife says sure. I push it out and Brittany holds it in a bowl (thanks Brittany). The cord is done pulsing so Eric cuts it. I didn't want to linger on this, I wanted to get up and in bed.
We settle into bed and our photographer, Kirsten, arrives and our older boys, Milo, Ashley, and Indiana wake up.
I'm having terrible after pains. They are miserable and I don't feel like I can really enjoy this time. It's so true that they get worse with every baby. I'm still so grateful to be in my own bed. The other midwife, Caroline, arrives once I'm in bed. I'm sure Jacqueline probably appreciated having help to clean up... thank you to whoever cleaned the blood and amniotic fluid out from under the couch, I saw the pictures.
It's time for the midwives to look over me and the baby. I didn't tear, once again, only a very small something to the side. Everett looks great...
Everyone seems to think Everett will be around 9 pounds. Nope, 10 pounds even and 22 inches long. I've had two heavier babies, but he is my longest.
So Everett was born after basically an hour of active labor. Every time I am tempted to complain about having such a short labor I think about how I feel when thin girls complain about being thin... and that feeling is a little murdery... Everyone wants a short labor, but honestly, I would have liked a little more. I've heard of women with short labors having a harder time... kinda being in shock because all the hormones of birth don't get to gradually build. I get that. I feel like I missed my whole birth, I've described it as my blackout birth a few times. I've struggled to know that it even happened which is so weird. But how can I complain about that? We had a home birth, not a water birth, but a totally uncomplicated birth at home with the midwife I adore, a fantastic doula that I regret not getting to labor with more, my older babies sleeping just down the hall and my unwavering husband at my side. No matter what I told myself then, I really can't wait to do it again... I can't be trusted to make good decisions when pushing out a human. It was an awesome birth.
You are so welcome here Everett Levi, thank you for the amazing story.
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