After some consideration we decided to have a home birth again based on our wonderful experience with Cedar's birth. We also decided that we wanted to be surprised by the baby's sex this time as well, since we loved meeting Cedar and finding out his sex when he was born. The second time around was a much "easier" pregnancy, although I'll admit that there were some bumps in the road, with some bleeding during my first trimester and a very real preterm labor scare that put me on bed rest at 34 weeks. However, this time around my body and my mind were much more comfortable with pregnancy since I had done this successfully before. Even when there was concern, I stayed as calm as possible and reminded myself that whatever happened was natural and meant to be.
At 34 weeks, I suddenly started to feel a lot of cramping and found myself at my midwife's office late one evening as she confirmed that my cervix had softened and that I could be in preterm labor. I had been waiting for the bus early that morning, reading my feed on Facebook or an article in the New York Times, or something, when I realized just how much the cramps I had been experiencing for the last couple of days were bothering me. I noted that I just wanted to be in bed and that if I got on the bus and made it into the office that day, I'd just want to turn around and come back home. So, I made the decision to walk back to our house and lay down. My midwife advised that I hydrate as much as possible and stay in bed. I made an appointment to see her that evening and we discussed my next steps to visit a perinatal specialist to ensure that my cervix had not thinned and that the baby was still healthy. Both were confirmed a couple days later, but my midwife still feared that the stress that had caused this could easily bring back more issues, so she prescribed modified bed rest. I was to act "like a princess", stay in bed, let my husband do everything for me, not pick up my son or anything else for that matter, and take it easy. It was a BIG adjustment to go from running around at work like a crazy person to lounging on the couch or in bed all day long, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped having nightmares about missing work, and really eased into my new roll. It was great having the time to focus on my pregnancy and plan out exactly how I intended on the birth unfolding and preparing to be a mother of two. During this time, I wrote out my birth plan which had only been modified slightly since Cedar's birth. We would have the same birth team as before with only one addition. Our midwife Valeriana, our doula Gayla, Rich, and the new member would be my younger sister Brooke who is a Reiki master. I figured that if I needed any assistance energetically, she could help me. The truth was that I had no idea just what effect she would truly have on my experience when I actually did give birth.
Every day that passed became a little celebration that the baby had achieved another day inside my body to develop into the healthy child that I hoped for. When I reached 37 weeks, I was super relieved that I was at "full term", but obviously wanted to make it to as close to 40 weeks as possible. I was cleared to start getting a little "exercise". So, I began to go on hikes with my husband and son in the woods near our home. It was great being outside, getting fresh air, and watching our little boy "mountain bike" on his balance bike while turning around to warn me about slippery roots and dangerous rocks in my path. "Be careful, Mommy," he warned. He is such a sweetie.
Cedar and I on a hike/ ride one afternoon. His face says it all.
At my 38 week visit with our midwife Val I confessed that I had started to get nervous about experiencing labor again. Well, more specifically, going through the intense transitional part of labor when surrender to my primal self was necessary, also known as self doubt. It was the hardest thing that I remember experiencing with Cedar's birth. She promised me that I had paid my "labor dues" with Cedar's 22 hour labor and that second babies come much quicker and are much easier thanks to my body's muscle memory and my experience as a mother. I was relieved to hear that and hoped she was right. I collected the birth pool that I planned on using during this birth, and told her I'd see her the next week for our 39 week visit.
On the evening of November 16th, 3 days before I was 39 weeks, I went to the restroom and found that I had my "bloody show", which meant that my mucus plug was releasing from my cervix and labor would start in the next couple of days. The thing was that it wasn't bloody per se. It was pink and mucusy, but not bloody like what I had experienced with Cedar. Still, I excitedly made the call to my midwife and she advised that I should have a glass of wine and go to bed early. I also put a call in to my sister Brooke, to let her know that labor could start within the next couple of days. My sister lives a few hours away outside of Baltimore so I wanted to give her the head's up, since she was going to have to travel. I told her to stay put for the time being, and I'd let her know if anything else happened to indicate labor.
Then on the morning of November 18th, I heard the pitter patter of little feet running into our room in the morning. Cedar jumped into bed with us and we were all lounging when I felt like I had peed a little bit. I jumped out of bed to see a wet spot in my underwear that soaked through to my pants. I'd never peed myself, so this must have meant that my water had broken. I was so psyched! I don't know when my water broke with Cedar, so this was the first time I was having this experience. I called my midwife and she told me to start using pads to see how much fluid was leaking to indicate that my water had broken. I called my sister immediately and told her the news and she promised to be there by lunch time. And then we waited.
I went through a couple of pads but they were the super absorbent kind so I wasn't really sure if there was a lot of liquid or not. There seemed to be something coming out but I wasn't certain. I started to second guess myself and began researching online for the spectrum of mucus plug indications and water breaking. Everyone and every pregnancy is a little different. So, I could have been right. Or I could have been wishing that I was seeing early signs of labor and seeing them there where they weren't.
Brooke arrived later that day and she and I went on a long hike to help urge labor along since I still wasn't experiencing any contractions. I hiked aggressively, well as aggressively as a hugely pregnant person can hike, and all I experienced were a lot of preliminary Braxton Hicks contractions. Nothing more. Hmm. Well, at least it was a beautiful day and I got to get out in the woods with my sister, I told myself.
A photo my sister took of me on our hike. Look at my enormous belly!!!
By that evening, when nothing was still happening I started to really doubt myself and what I had experienced. Eek. Well, at least my sister got to come hang out for a couple of days even if the baby didn't come.
Then FINALLY on November 19th at exactly 39 weeks, I woke up at 5 AM with what was definitely a contraction. It was small and not so major but it WAS a contraction. I downloaded a random contraction timer app on my phone and anytime I was awoken by another one, I'd time it. They were far apart and very random, but they were happening. Hooray!!! This was the day the baby was finally going to come and I wasn't crazy after all. I had been experiencing the signs of early labor. YESSSSS!
We woke up, checked in with our midwife and doula, had breakfast, and called my mother-in-law and asked that she pick up Cedar so that he could stay with her until after the birth. I had been wanting to get a pedicure for a while, and this was my last chance, so my sister and I went into town and got pedicures. The owner of the shop innocently asked when I was going to have my baby, and was pretty surprised when I told her that I was actually in early labor and the baby would likely be born that evening. Afterwards my sister and I met Rich for a delicious calorie-rich lunch of burgers, fries, and milkshakes, all the while I was being quieted by my occasional contractions which seemed be intensifying slightly. Every time they would come, I would stop and calmly breath through them, noting their intensity. After lunch, I laid down for a nap preparing for the night ahead, and was unable to sleep because the contractions started coming regularly and were more intense. It was 4pm when I looked at the clock. And so it had begun.
It was dark pretty quickly after that and time became a little bleary since I couldn't measure it off of the outside light. I wanted to get down to business so I told my husband to turn off the television, we dimmed the lights, turned on my laboring music (the amazing Jonsi & Alex album Riceboy Sleeps), arranged votives around the house, and I focused on my body opening. At this point is was only Brooke, Rich and I at the house. I didn't want our doula to come and waste her time in the early stages. I wanted her there when things were moving along and I needed more help managing and progressing. When I checked in she advised me to start crawling around on the floor. Rich helped outfit me in his downhill mountainbiking knee pads and I made endless circles around the living room and kitchen on my hands and knees, pausing at the exercise ball whenever I felt a contraction come on. My contractions were at about a 5 on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the strongest. I was breathing through each one quietly, but they still demanded my attention and I didn't speak when they came. Each sensation was a small wave that would start low in my abdomen and wrap around to my back and butt. Rich and Brooke massaged my back every time that I stopped to breath.
Mid-contraction while Brooke rolls my lower back. Note the awesome knee pads.
At some point I realized that it was after 7pm and my contractions hadn't increased that much so I decided to stop being so active and to eat and rest and try to retain some energy for what I realized could be a long night of laboring. I decided to lay down and focus on fully relaxing every place of stress in my body. I went through a few contractions this way and was actually starting to think that maybe we should turn off the music and turn on the television, knowing full well that wasn't a good idea nor a good indication of how things were moving along. Jeez, was this going to be another marathon labor just like Cedar's?
I got a text from Gayla asking how I was doing and letting me know she was available whenever I needed her, probably when something changed, she advised. I texted her a response and then rested back into the couch when my sister sat down next to me and asked if I would let her rub my stomach. Looking back now, I remember thinking it was weird for her to ask me when she just could have done it, but she had to have somehow known the reaction she was going to drum up in me, so my only preparation was in my acceptance of her request. Brooke laid her hands on my belly for only a minute or two and I remember that it felt wonderful and I thanked her for that.
I started to feel a contraction coming on. The next thing I knew I was in throes of an intense long contraction followed immediately by another intense long contraction with what felt like no rest in between. Rich later told me about 10 seconds separated the waves. I was off the couch, moaning through the wave, rolling my body along the walls. Anything to get through. And they kept coming without allowing me rest. I yelled for Rich to get the midwife and doula here immediately. Suddenly, something drastic had shifted and I felt this baby was coming now. I was concerned that Val and Gayla weren't going to make it in time.
Rich dutifully contacted them and then started to inflate the birth pool, although I warned him that I didn't think we were going to have time for it and to wait for Val to arrive and give us instructions before he filled it with water.
Gayla arrived in what literally felt like minutes. In my mind it didn't make sense how quickly she made it to us, but that's labor land for you. My contractions had slowed slightly allowing me some more rest between them now. Their intensity was still super strong though. I would say they were at an 8 or 9. She immediately jumped in and started working with Rich and Brooke to help ease me through my labor.
It wasn't long after this that I came to a realization. Every time that I leaned on Brooke or she would even barely touch me, my contractions would intensify exponentially. I ordered her away from me in as nice a way as I possibly could. I told her she couldn't touch me, it was too much. I couldn't handle it. I told Rich he couldn't leave me any more. I needed him. He was my strength and my rock. I held on to him and we rocked back and forth throughout the house, me walking forward, him walking back. I leaned all of my weight on him and grasped his neck, his back, held onto his clothes and felt the fibers in my fingers as I moaned through the crest of each wave.
Val arrived not long after Gayla and when she saw where I was at she told us to skip the birth pool and to get the bedroom warmed and ready for the birth. I assume it was Brooke and Gayla who helped with that because I don't remember being separated from Rich at all.
My body was in purge mode and I kept running to the restroom to poo every little toxic impurity out of myself. It was like I was on a cleanse. Even when I thought I had gotten everything out, more came the next time. I even ended up vomiting out the bowl of cereal that I had eaten only a few hours prior. My body only wanted fluids. Nothing more.
The baby's head was causing so much pressure low in my pelvis that even my stretchy yoga pants and my underwear were exerting too much pressure on my abdomen. So, I stripped those off and soon off came my top as well. Clothing seemed so unnecessary and almost a hindrance in birthing this child. So once we were all upstairs in the warmth of our bedroom, I went completely nude.
At some point, Val encouraged me to allow my sister to place her hands on me again. She rationalized that I had wanted her there for a reason and her effect on me was only aiding the process ahead. I hesitantly agreed and Brooke went back to working her magic.
In this photo Brooke had her magical hands on my lower back and my lower abdomen as I worked through a contraction.
I was feeling a lot of heaviness and discomfort in my pelvis so the team encouraged me to start pushing. I laid on the bed and started to bear down at the next few contractions, but nothing seemed to be happening except my energy being depleted. I was getting frustrated. Val offered to check my cervix for the first time since she had arrived. I reluctantly agreed, knowing full well that if I wasn't that far along I would probably feel discouraged, but also knowing that I needed to know where I was at in order to know how to proceed. I agreed and luckily we found that I was dilated 9 centimeters. She offered to help push it back for me. It hurt so much, but I wanted this baby out and I wanted to do anything to make it happen.
My contractions were now a 10 in intensity. Each time I would ride the wave I would moan and my head would rhythmically move back and forth. That was when the fear started to surface. This time it wasn't self doubt, but the fear of living through more intense labor. In my head as I moaned outwardly through each contraction wave I inwardly was chanting "I CAN DO THIS BECAUSE I AM DOING THIS." Rich and I went into our bathroom so that I could pee and I confessed to him that I was scared. I knew I didn't want to go to the hospital. I knew I didn't need to. I knew I was doing it. I knew I was making progress. I wasn't afraid of anything but confronting the labor itself. Of course, all I could articulate at the time was that I was scared. Gayla overheard our conversation and sent Valeriana in. Val leveled with me and frankly stated that I was the only person who could work through this labor because it was mine, so either I could let this take another 6 hours or I could get this done now. I agreed with her and she sent us downstairs to climb up and down the staircase and to get that centimeter of cervix out of the way.
Rich, Gayla, and I went downstairs for I couldn't even tell you how long, but it seemed like only a few minutes. We were standing on the floor, I was leaning on Rich with one leg on the stairs, when my body started pushing an uncontrollable push. I yelled out, "I'm pushing!", and splat(!) my water bag broke all over the floor, Rich's feet, and my vintage Japanese silk kimono I had just put on. "I'm so sorry," I apologized to my skeeved husband. Rich can deal with a lot of crazy shit, but there are certain things that he can't handle, or doesn't want to handle and water breaking all over him is probably one of them.
We rushed upstairs after the next contraction. My body was pushing. I couldn't stop it if I wanted to. I barely made it to the bed where I positioned myself on all fours squatting at the headboard and I pushed. Pushed quietly and hard and next thing I knew, without even feeling the crowning, our baby's head was born. Val asked me to reach down and feel the baby's silken soft head. I knew there was one more push at the next contraction and we would meet our baby. She instructed me to take it as slow as I could so that I would prevent tearing. This was going to be hard because I just wanted to get the baby out, but as soon as the contraction came I pushed slow and hard and felt every inch of my baby emerge. Next thing I knew, I was staring at our gorgeous little baby boy lying beneath me wailing at the top of his lungs. We did it. I did it. We had another son.
Pure bliss and joy as we regard our son for the first time. Baby Boy Sutter born at 11:58pm, 7 lbs 4 oz, 19" long.
He was heaven. I stared at him drinking in every detail, rubbing his slick little body, thanking everyone present for everything. They were moments of pure joy. I laid on my back and he was placed on my abdomen so that he could kick and root his way up to my breast and complete the breast crawl and latch on to my breast to nurse for the first time, which he did in a little over an hour.
After he nursed, Valeriana checked him out, measured, and weighed him. I showered briefly then he laid on me skin-to-skin for the rest of the night. In fact, his entire first 24 hours he was skin-to-skin on myself, Rich, or even at one point, my sister. The next morning we decided to name him River.
River sleeping skin-to-skin on his lovely Auntie Brooke before she had to leave to make it back home in time for work the next morning.
River in a wrap on me not even 24 hours after he was born. Crazy to think that little guy was inside of me the day before.
A photo my mom took of our new family of four.
River at 2 days old.
River has proven himself to be an absolute angel baby. He's just as chill as his older brother Cedar was as a baby. He's a voracious eater and understandably, nursing has been even easier the second time around. Most nights he sleeps on me and still seems a little confused with the daytime versus the nighttime so we are a bit sleep deprived. But that is completely normal at this stage.
It's been nearly a month since he was born and he is already changing so much and growing so big. It feels as though he has always been a part of our family. Cedar is adjusting really well to life as a big brother and Rich and I are happily parents of two gorgeous boys. The hardest thing for me is splitting time between the two. Cedar was always my top priority. And now I have two top priorities... And for that I am blessed.
Speaking of priorities. I need to get some sleep while both of my boys are sleeping.
Thank you for reading River's story. I hope he enjoys it one day too.