December 4 is our wedding anniversary. We were married on a Sunday in 2011.
Five years later, on the first Sunday in December, we were on our way to Target with our 2-year old and I was texting our doula that I had had random contractions from 6pm on Saturday and that I had slept like shit. I promised her that I would take a nap later and made a joke about having a baby sometime this year.
Owen, my husband, was born on his parents’ wedding anniversary. Our baby #1, Thijs, was born almost two weeks after his due date so I wasn’t expecting this one to be super prompt – her due date was Nov 30.
I like walking around Target during the holidays (and anytime after Halloween is ‘the holidays’ over there) so we got the little guy his free cookie and strolled some aisles. Carrying an almost 30 pound human was definitely making the contractions stronger. Maybe we would have a baby this year.
Around 6pm at home, I started timing them for something to do. Owen and Thijs were playing trains and I was sitting on the couch and figured I would have to tell Sarah (our doula) something at some point, so for an hour I timed – they were between 6 and 9 minutes apart.
My words to my husband were, “I don’t need anything to change but I’m not sure I’ll still be pregnant tomorrow but keep playing trains…”
So they did. I knelt on the couch and watched them over the back of it (it’s in the middle of our living room in front of the fire place – in case that helps with the visual) and I would stop and close my eyes during a contraction.
The bathroom was my next stop.
Keep playing trains, I’m fine. I spoke to Sarah at 8ish and she said to let her know when things were picking up. She talked me through one or two contractions while we were on the phone. I remember wondering what things picking up would be like, how would I know? It was getting tougher to manage but I was still getting through. (It’s probably useful to mention that our first birth was 27 hours long, I didn’t labor at home at all, we transferred from a Birth Center to a hospital in a non-emergency and after pushing for close to 7 hours without ever once feeling an urge to push… our first baby was born with a forceps assist and was 10.5 pounds.) Based on that experience I figured, well, I didn’t know what to expect so I just kept on hanging out on the toilet.
Keep playing trains. I couldn’t keep track of them anymore with my phone. They were somewhere around 4 mins apart. I ran a bath because if you aren’t really in active labor a bath can slow things down. We got in the tub around 9. I say “we” because my adorable, hilarious, rambunctious toddler was not letting me do this alone so him, me and fifty small plastic sea creatures were all in the tub. We talked to midwife Kaitlin at some point around here.
And then I told Owen to call people. Call all the people. Call all the people and ask them why they aren’t here because they should all be here. It’s a problem that they aren’t here.
I was still in the tub but having to almost stretch out during the surge. It felt really weird.
Kaitlin asked him how far apart they were and my answer was I don’t know, minutes?!? I’m sure that was helpful.
A sibling doula had to come for Thijs (she was an absolute angel and we all loved her) and Sarah was on her way. 20 minutes. 20 minutes sounded too long for me but I actually had no idea what was happening. I was in the tub and starting to be pretty sure I was in the wrong tub and I couldn’t see how I was going to get to the right tub at the birth center.
Sarah arrived. I told her I couldn’t leave and the sibling doula arrived and I still told Sarah I couldn’t leave.
I was pushing.
All that time on the toilet and in the tub working through contractions waiting for labor to start – turns out I was in labor and way closer to the end than anyone could have thought.
My biggest concern (aside from accidentally having the baby at home) was how in the world I was going to get pants on. Sarah laughed and wrapped me in a towel. A hat on my wet hair, a wet bra and a hoodie a couple towels and flip flops. Dec 4 (yes, our anniversary) at 10:15pm we shuffled out to the car. If only my neighbors had been looking out their windows.
“Owen you are going to drive with urgency but also safely.” We didn’t even bring the baby car seat. (Or the bag of food!)
Sarah coached me on the drive there. Breathe out through your mouth. Tell your baby we are almost there.
I said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we got there and I was only at two centimeters?” Sarah said that was unlikely. Another super urge to push. It’s impossible not to push. All very weird because in the tub I didn’t notice going from working through the contractions to pushing until I noticed at one point that ‘Holy shit, I think I’m pushing’. So here we were – another slightly ridiculous trip across a city, in a car, in labor. At least this was residential Minneapolis and not the Southern California freeways – my partner is an absolute star!
We arrived at the Birth Center and Kaitlin met us in the parking lot.
10:36pm and I pooped in the parking lot of the Minnesota Birth Center. There’s a bucket list moment if there ever was one.
Kaitlin was brilliant and had filled the tub for our arrival. We shuffled into the room and I asked if I could get in the tub and basically dove in from the threshold.
10:39 Carys Andre Ryan den Otter was born. Three minutes after we arrived.
It’s a vague blur of…
…blowing bubbles in the water (this is actually gross if you think about it). I couldn’t stop talking about how with Thijs I never once had an urge to push, Kaitlin kept pushing my butt to keep it under the water, Sarah saying reach down and grab your baby…and then I just started crying, weeping really. She was amazing.
…She was lovely. She shit all over my arm. She really was perfect and her head was perfectly round and babies are so soft and hot when they are born. Delicious. And gross.
…She went to Dad’s chest while we got sorted with the placenta (the organ that I grew like a total superhero because c’mon have you grown any organs lately? Placentas are so neat!) Once that was done and no stitches were needed (also neat, also unlike last time) we got settled on the bed.
…She took a massive shit on Owen (no really, it was massive) and once everyone was cleaned up we all climbed into bed to cuddle and meet each other. She was so sweet and perfect and I was starving (so was she).
Our bag of food was left behind with the car seat. Sarah went and got sandwiches and the car seat. Eating felt so good!
We checked in with the sibling doula. Thijs had gone to sleep so we’d just meet them at home rather than have her bring him to us. And then we just chilled for a few hours with our snuggly, new, sweet baby.
Her names explained: Carys because Owens family is Welsh and Andre because I really loved my grandpa and she’s been saddled with both of our last names but in the reverse order that her big brother has.
And our family is complete. We aren’t from here but I believe we came here to have this birth and this baby. Our doula, Sarah, is a dear friend and I love her. The care at the Minnesota Birth Center was kind and compassionate and it was a really healing, loving and beautiful experience (even the bit where I almost accidentally had a baby in a car beside Popeyes chicken).
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