(Photo by Nancy Ray)
When I think about the day that Rory arrived, the word that keeps popping into my head is “magical.” Maybe that sounds cheesy or over-the-top but it’s true. Snow was falling, I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me, worship music was playing in the background – just magical. I’m so excited to share the full story with you!
As soon as I saw two pink lines back in June of 2017, I started to pray for a better birth experience this time around. Finn’s birth was not what we planned or hoped for and it took me a long time to come to terms with it. We hoped for something very different for this baby. So when I found out back in the fall that my placenta was hanging out around my cervix and didn’t seem to be budging, it looked like our plans may be going out the window again.
A low-lying placenta presents possible issues (placental abruption, postpartum hemorrhaging, excess bleeding, etc.) that would need to be monitored in a hospital. We continued to pray (and asked everyone in our lives to pray) that it would move so we could have our home birth. At 36 weeks, we had our last ultrasound. We were shocked to find that the placenta had not only moved, but it had moved completely out of the way (like 8cm when it only needed to be 2cm). Our midwife called it a miracle – the power of prayer is REAL!
Sidenote: Because of my low-lying placenta, we had to have 3 ultrasounds during my pregnancy. We had originally planned to find out our baby’s gender at birth, but after the first ultrasound, it was too tempting to not find out! At 30 weeks, we found out that we were expecting our second BOY!! We didn’t make an official announcement online, but it was so fun knowing this time around!
So, at 36 weeks, we could finally start planning for our home birth. Up until that point, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen. We hadn’t prepped anything, bought the supplies we needed, or set up our birthing space yet. It was crunch time and I’m not gonna lie, it was stressful – there was SO MUCH to do! But having those final weeks to prepare really helped me to re-center and focus on my birth. I prayed and talked to my birth team (A LOT) and perfected my labor playlist.
I had no expectations of this baby coming early (Finn came a week after his EDD). So when I started having time-able Braxton Hicks the weekend of my due date, I wrote them off as nothing. My “guess date” came and went and I fully expected to be pregnant for at least another week, but Rory had lots of surprises in store for us!
Just one day after our due date, I woke up to my phone ringing. It was a call from Finn’s preschool letting us know that they were cancelling school because of snow. This announcement came after several school cancellations the week before and I wasn’t exactly happy about it. I was hugely pregnant and Finn’s time at school was my time to relax before baby arrived. So after letting out an annoyed sigh, I decided to get up earlier than normal, get dressed, and WILL this to be a good day at home. Vaughan was walking around with a silly grin on his face because he’d secretly decided to work from home so I could relax – best husband ever!
I put on makeup, fixed my hair, and got dressed (I put on leggings and a baggy shirt, but still…). I sent what would be my last baby bump photo to my mom and sister then went downstairs to make my coffee. As I settled in to the recliner, coffee and breakfast in hand, I noticed some more Braxton Hicks starting up. They were about 7 minutes apart but very manageable and I figured as soon as I stood up, they’d dissipate. As it turned out, they continued even when I got up. I let Vaughan know what was happening but I was still in denial that it might be labor.
The snow started falling outside as we realized that the contractions, while still mild, were coming consistently. I thought it would be a while before we needed our birth team to come, but I let everyone know what was happening. We called the kennel and found out they’d be closing at noon so we made the decision to go ahead and take our pup. I also insisted that Vaughan pick up bagels and fruit while he was out because I wanted to have lots of snacks for our birth team. I think it’s hilarious that in the midst of labor, I felt like this was extremely important!
While he and Finn were gone, I labored on my own at the house. I swept and vacuumed and noticed that the contractions were slowly getting stronger. I decided to bounce on my birth ball and turned on Friends. We watched Friends during my early labor with Finn and it was such an exciting time – I wanted to relive that a little bit.
The boys came home and ate a quick lunch. Before Vaughan took Finn up for his nap, I snuggled him as I bounced on my ball. I wish I’d realized that it was the last moment with him as my one and only. This is when things started to get “real.” The moment I knew it was actual labor was when I was on the phone with my mom and I had to put the phone down to breath through a contraction. She said, “maybe you’ll have the baby before Finn wakes up from his nap!” and I thought she was crazy. I knew things were picking up but I just could not imagine them happening that quickly!
At that point, I texted/called our birth team to tell them they should probably come as soon as they could, but no rush. The midwives were on the way, my best friend/doula was on the way, my sister was leaving work soon, and my birth photographer was planning to shoot a bridal session then heading our way.
Once I knew it was real labor, I wanted to be in my dedicated space – our guest room/office turned birth room. I turned on my playlist, started diffusing lavender essential oils, and got on my hands and knees on my birth ball. Things picked up pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was moaning through the contractions. As each contraction dissipated, I would make sure to rest and focus on my music. Most of my labor playlist was worship music and it was such a sweet reminder to rely on the Lord’s strength to carry me through.
Vaughan came downstairs to find me laboring and I don’t think he was expecting things to be moving so quickly. I asked him to make sure everyone was on the way and start filling up the birth tub. At the same time, I needed him to hold my hand through every contraction! Poor Vaughan was running around the house trying to support me AND get everything ready for baby’s arrival. At one point, I stopped him, hugged him tight, and said “Our Rory is coming!” as tears streamed down both of our faces – that was my very favorite moment of my entire labor.
Meanwhile, the snow’s coming down outside and all of our birth team is either stuck in traffic or hesitant to make the drive in the snow. By the time we told our photographer, Nancy, that she needed to come, she was already at her session and unable to leave right away. Luckily her backup photographer, Cameron, lives closer to me and was ready to head our way.
As I labored on hands and knees, waiting for the tub to be ready, I started to feel sick and threw up in the trashcan. From my experience as a birth photographer, I knew that this is often a sign of transition, which was oddly comforting. I told Vaughan that if I got checked and wasn’t at least a 6, I was going to the hospital. This is the part where I “doula-ed” myself. I knew that saying things like that meant that baby was close, I knew that puking was a sign of transition, and I knew that all of this was normal. Having this knowledge ahead of time was so empowering!
All of a sudden, my water broke (on my white pillow, of course). It was the craziest feeling – it felt like a kick from the baby followed by a huge gush of water. I braced myself for the contractions to intensify, but it never really happened. Soon, I was able to get in the tub and OH MY that water felt amazing! I sunk down into the water and listened to my body as it told me how to move around.
My midwives arrived and I instantly felt safe and ready to meet my baby. A contraction hit right after they walked in the door. Vaughan had left the room so I reached for a hand and one of my midwives grabbed mine. I just love midwives and all the little things they do to support birthing women.
(Above laboring photos by one of our midwives)
I remember trying to be quiet as I labored in the tub. As the contraction would build, I’d try to stay silent but eventually the need to “let it out” took over. I had to make some kind of noise. That ended up coming out in the form of yelling “OOOHHHH” louder and louder as the contraction peaked. I felt like I was yelling as loud as I could. I’ve since been told that I wasn’t that loud and seemed to be “completely in control.”
My friend Samantha arrived (I almost cried when I saw her) and at about 4:20pm, our photographer arrived. The whole team was there and I could feel my baby move down as I started to have the urge to push. The midwife checked me and I heard the most encouraging words – “you’re 9 centimeters.” I cannot tell you how happy that made me! My body knew what it was doing! I felt the urge to slowly push and my baby was close! I would have cried the happiest tears if I hadn’t still been in hard labor!
At that point, we weren’t able to keep the water hot enough (98-100 degrees) to have baby in the tub so I had to move to the bed. This felt like the most impossible task. There was no way I could get out of that glorious water! My incredible midwives knew I needed step-by-step instructions. “Put your right knee here. Good. Now your left leg here. Great. Now let us lift you up…” Eventually I made it out of the tub. Another contraction brought me onto my knees on the bed but the midwives wanted me on my side to push – I’m assuming this had something to do with the fact that there was a moderate amount of meconium in my water when it broke. They wanted to be able to suction baby right away. The best pushing position for them to access baby easily was lying on the bed.
With every contraction, I felt my baby move down and couldn’t resist the urge to push. My body was bearing down whether I was ready or not. I soon felt the “ring of fire” I’d so dreaded for nine months. But instead of being afraid of it, I embraced it. I knew that feeling meant my baby was RIGHT there. It felt SO good to push. Before long, I was reaching down to feel my baby’s head – the most surreal moment!
I pushed for about 10 minutes and finally felt that feeling that I so vividly remembered from my first birth. My baby’s entire body was born and the transition from pregnant to mom of two happened in the blink of an eye. I reached down to my sweet boy and laid him on my chest. He was squishy and tiny and I knew he was perfect before I even had a good look at him. I could not believe what had just happened – I had my baby at home and it was nothing short of magical.
Rory Eaton Thomas | Born on March 12, 2018 at 4:33pm
8 lbs. 12 oz | 22 inches long
Just moments after Rory was born, we heard Finn stirring upstairs. Vaughan got him from his bed and we finally got to introduce him to the brother we’d been talking about for months. The first thing Finn said when he saw Rory was “look at those little stinky feet!” I could have died laughing!!
Finn helped Vaughan cut the umbilical cord (SO special!) and we settled in as a family of four. Those snuggles were the best of the best! Telling Finn that our baby was finally here will always be one of the sweetest moments of my life. He was and is the very best big brother!
I spent the next two days right there in that bed (in our guest room). Arguably the best part of Rory’s birth was the recovery. I was able to nurse and bond and snuggle my new baby without worrying about anything else. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who supported us during that time so we could just focus on being together.
(All above B&W photos by Cameron Faye)
Nancy arrived about 30 minutes after Rory was born. She was kind enough to come and take some beautiful images of our new family in our post-birth bliss. I will treasure all of these for the rest of my life! All the photos below are by Nancy Ray.
The woman in the above photo is my amazing midwife, Nancy – yes, she and our photographer have the same name! I’ll never forget how loved and supported she made me feel during my pregnancy and birth. Below is her weighing Rory for the first time. She guessed his weight exactly right!
Above is my very best friend, Samantha, snuggling our Rory. She is the first person to tell me about out-of-hospital birth (when I was pregnant with Finn). I’m not quite sure what I’d do without her and our long phone conversations about birth and motherhood. She prayed for us and with us and I’m so glad she got to witness Rory’s birth. Her friendship is one of my most precious gifts on this earth.
My sister arrived about an hour after Rory was born and stayed for a few days to help with Finn and get some newborn snuggles in. I’m so grateful for all of her help! She really has been the “best auntie ever” over the past few years and these boys are so lucky to have her in their lives!
If you made it this far, bless you, I know it was long. This post is intended to share my birth with you, but it’s also a keepsake and a record of an incredible day. I didn’t want to spare any details because I plan to look back on this many years from now and relive it all. I can’t believe I get to raise these two amazing boys! Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful gift (and challenge) of motherhood!