Henry’s birth story

Oh gawd what day is it?  Have I showered today? 

Yes yes, I know.  All you parents out there feel me and know what I mean.  But for the record:  my name is Kate, and I currently have a pedicure given to me by my five year old.

So before I forget and get all revisionist  (oh the birth was PERFECT and it DIDN’T HURT ONE BIT and I COULD DO THIS AGAIN!), let me get out Henry’s birth story while it is still (relatively) fresh in my mind.

I had been having early labour contractions for over a week before he finally made his appearance.  On Friday, April 11th at about midnight, they started full strength.  Matt and I had settled down for the night to watch a movie.  We had started out with Eastern Promises, but the dead baby image within the first 5 minutes had me clicking OFF on the remote faster than you can say fuck you, David Cronenberg.   So, we ended up watching the perfectly awful THE HEARTBREAK KID.  Really really bad, I must say.  At about midnight, the contractions started coming in at 40 seconds long, every 5 minutes.  And I mean every 5 minutes – we still have the sheet of paper Matt was using to time them.  After about an hour of that business, we called and woke the midwife who said we needed to wait until they were one minute long.  “It’s not active labour yet” she said.  Well, let me tell you otherwise.  When a woman is screaming in pain from the contractions that are only 20 seconds short of the official labour, there is definitely something “active” about that.  We called my mom and sister at about 2AM to come and get Alice before I started yelling in agony (instread of into my pillow).  They came, picked up the big sister, and we proceeded to continue on with labour. 

And so it went.  On.  And on.  And on into the next day, next night, and following morning.  My contractions continued to be 5 minutes apart for upwards of 32 hours.  There was no let-up,  and no sleep to be had.  They didn’t progress to longer than 40 seconds until into the 2nd evening.   The Saturday day and night passed in a haze.  I cocooned in my room with Matt, a heating pad, my supply of frozen grapes, and clammy hands and face.  By 7PM on the Saturday night, I was starting to panic that this stage would never end.  That I would be forever stuck in 40 second long land.  We called the midwife again and I begged for a new plan.  I needed to know something would happen, and that we had some plan in action.  So we decided to meet at the hospital (finally!) the next morning at 7:30AM if nothing else changed.  And at that point I would be checked out by the OB on call and discuss a possible C section.  After mon ths of planning for a VBAC, I was surprisingly OK with perhaps moving to a C section at that point.  I was exhausted and pissed off, and wanted an end to it all.

(Sidebar – the issue with VBACs is that there is a problem with administering oxytocin, which is given to many other women to induce labour.  That procedure is one of the possible links to uterine rupture, which occurs in a small amount of women who attempt a trial of labour after a C Section birth.  For this reason, we were trying to get my body to bring on active labour by itself.  Hence, the reason we were waiting at home until then.)

We left for the hospital the next morning, with me cursing over every bump we hit.  If I was in a better mindset, and not so pissed off at that point, I would have noticed how beautiful the day was.  It was Sunday, April 13th, at 7AM.  No traffic, and the weather had moved quickly from spring-like into summer. 

We arrived at the hospital, and my midwife – Kay – met us at the front doors.  I started chanting ” I want the epidural, give me that damn epidural” the moment I saw her.  We had wanted to go for a drug-free birth, but after about 33 hours of contractions by that point, I was over it.  I would have bent over for anyone had they offered to take my pain away.

Kay broke my water once we got into a room, and we were all surprised to find out that I was at 7 cm!  My god, all that work at home had paid off.  Suddenly, we were back on track for a VBAC, as I was so close.  Kay agreed that an epidural would be a good idea at that point, since I was exhausted and would need more energy in the coming hours.  I have to say, the epidural felt great once it got going.  I rode out transition on those drugs, and it ended up being the best situation for me.  A few hours later I was ready to push.

With Kay on one leg and Matt on the other, we started to push. And push.  And fucking push.  The baby’s head would appear, and then go back again. Over and over again.  After an hour of that, Kay warned me that the hospital staff was started to talk about a possible C Section again, given how long it was taking.  That was all I needed to hear. I started crying hysterically – how could we have gone this far and then go to a section?  With one mighty push, I pushed that head of out me.  That giant head. 

What I know now is that Henry’s head at 37 cm was much bigger than most.  The regular size is 33 or 34 cm.  Apparently once the OB saw the size of the head, she leaned over and said to Kay “get ready for stuck shoulders”  Good thing I didn’t know that, because Kay just said to me “Ok Kate, we need one more enormous push.”  And so I did.   I pushed with everything I had left from the last 10 months of carrying around a giant baby and he basically crawled out of me.  And then he was there!  In the world!  Our beautiful big baby boy, all gooey and pink and fleshy.  Everyone in the room cheered, Matt started crying, and all I could scream was “IS HE OUT OF ME??!” 

He weighed in at 9lbs, 14 ozs, born at 7:06PM.  The sun had started to set and so a beautiful light came into the room.  It was a perfect end to a long and painful labour.  But at that point, I did not care.  He was here and fed right away and looking up at me with the most clear face.   Kay and Matt high fived each other and I just gazed at our son and felt so very very happy it was all over.

Doing the VBAC gave me such a sense of accomplishment.  I see now how great it was that we stayed at home during those long hours labouring.  If we had gone into the hospital earlier, I would have probably had a section.  In fact, afterwards, the OB admitted to the midwife that had they known how large the baby was they probably would not have let me go for the VBAC.  Luckily, I had excellent midwives who put just enough pressure on me to stay the course at home.  

And now he’s here, our son.  Henry Paul.  We had decided on his first name a few months ago, and then gave him the second name of Paul after my dad.  It was the perfect compliment to his sister – Alice Jane.  Like an elderly couple walking down the street together, hand in hand.

So many other things to tell you.  Coming up next:  just how many stitches does a large baby give his mama?   Oh the fun to be had with those stories.  But that’s it for now.  Thank you all for your kind comments and emails.  We are so blessed to have the people who surround us with friendship and love.  We are still recovering and coping with life right now, but suffice to say we will be eternally grateful for the support.  It gets us through, it does.


  1. Marla said

    How about Head as a nickname (but pronounced HEEEEEED!)?

  2. Mom said

    He is sooooo beautiful!
    And we’re all sooooo proud of you.

  3. b*babbler said

    An amazing story – wow – congratulations!

    (And really – just think how you can hold this over his (huge) head every. single. time. he misbehaves growing up!)

  4. adina said

    You made me get all teary at work.

  5. I seriously almost fainted when you said the head circumference – seriously I need smelling salts – YOU ARE THE WOMAN!

  6. Jen said

    We *are* soul sisters (you’ve seen The Dude’s head, right? He’s two and wears adult sized hats and sunglasses.) But you were a brave woman to do the VBAC thing. You should feel proud (do I see a pair of those crowning earrings in your future?)

  7. kgirl said

    I’m so glad that you ended up with a VBAC, a healthy, beautiful baby, and a wonderul story.

  8. Lisa b said

    Everyone needs a midwife
    You are a total champ. The only reason I pushed out Julia’s giant head is because I had pushed out katie’s. I just don’t think I am tough enough for a VBAC.

  9. Danigirl said

    Yay Kate! What a great story — I kept slowing myself down so I didn’t race ahead to the end.

    37 cm? I am bowing down in awe…

  10. What a great story! It definitely made me cry . I’m so proud of you and I don’t even know you. I love your children’s names. We gave our children old fashioned names too. (I came over from Karrie’s momvoyage blog)

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