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Boo's Birth Story

Carmen Castillo-Barrett

Boo's birth was magical. Attended by the same midwife that helped us deliver Poppy – and the same midwife I'd been working with for the last year – the experience was both intimate and familiar. Overall, my labor lasted 9 hours from start to finish (about 1/2 that of the first) and throughout most of it, I felt great. I felt calm, under control, and damn near giddy with happiness, even when hitting the traditional "hard spots" like transition. I don't know why the universe gave me such an experience, but I am oh so grateful. When it was all over, I felt healed in a way I didn't even know I needed. While Poppy's birth was equally affirming and empowering, it was much more "unknown" to me and, at times, emotionally overwhelming because of it. My hemorrhage afterward has always marred the experience a bit as it was both physically and emotionally draining. This time, thankfully, my body did everything exactly as it was supposed to and I walked away from the birth feeling like I could conquer the world.

I am incredibly grateful that I was able to give birth at home both times and the birth teams we assembled were a huge part of that. Thank you to everyone who was a part of our experiences. We couldn't have done it without you.

What follows is an excerpt from Boo’s birth story. Eleanor Joy was born in a home waterbirth at 10:07 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7. She weighed a healthy 8lb 8oz. If you’d like to read the full story and/or keep up on our parenting adventures as we embark on this new journey as a family of four, head over to my personal blog Outta Jo, Onto You and follow me on Twitter @outtajo.

Thanks for reading along all these months! <3

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I woke up at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning and had to pee. Not terribly unusual when one is 39 weeks pregnant, of course, but when I climbed back into bed a few minutes later, I did so with my phone in hand, Googling “mucous plug.” And, yep, that’s what that was. Gross.  (And I don’t recommend you Google it, just FYI).

A few minutes later, I climbed back out of bed, unable to get back to sleep, my mind racing. I couldn’t help but think, “This could be the start of something!” I wasn’t having any contractions and there was nothing else signaling pending labor, aside from the usual Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d already been experiencing for several weeks, but I couldn’t help but think this was the day. I stayed up a while, sitting in my rocker alone in the living room before finally heading back to bed. When I got there, my husband woke up and asked if everything was ok.

“Yep, just lost my mucous plug!”
“Oh! That didn’t happen last time, did it?”
“Well, it must have at some point, but no – I didn’t notice it.”
“Are you having contractions? Does this mean things will start soon?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Could be another week. Or two. Time will tell.”

Later that morning, my husband, toddler, and I all got out of bed. Tony went off to work as usual promising to keep his phone accessible all day “just in case!” and Penny and I got ready to head out to breakfast together at our favorite coffee shop. Because I had promised to be communicative with my birth team, I sent out a mass text to my midwives, doula, and invited friends and told them what was happening – and what wasn’t yet happening. They mostly responded with things like “Great!” and “Keep us posted if anything changes!” and we all went about our days.

At breakfast out that morning, Penny was better behaved than usual. I got my usual chipotle omelet (I’m an addict) and she her cranberry scone and we chatted and played while eating. She’s had an obsession with picking her nose recently (toddlers are so gross), so she spent half of breakfast picking cranberries out of the scone then using the same finger to pick her nose before returning to the pastry, much to the delight of a woman sitting at the next table. She was full of “pleases” and “no thank yous” and was really just beyond perfect from start to finish, even walking along without issue or much dilly-dallying all the way to music class after. Although she’s generally pretty good when out and about in the neighborhood, this level of accommodation was certainly not the norm. I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew something was up. She had, after all, predicted that Boo would be born on this day.

When we got home after class (during which I’d had a couple of inconsequential contractions), we played a few minutes, had a nice lunch, and then she declared herself tired and ready to nap. We went into the bedroom, read a couple of stories, and not five minutes after I walked out, she was passed out cold. Again, perfect. Too perfect. What was going on?

Half an hour into her nap, regular contractions started. It was 1 o’clock.

I immediately recognized these as different from all the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having, but wasn’t alarmed. They were incredibly mild, feeling more like slight indigestion than anything terribly meaningful, and fairly sporadic, and I was able to continue to move and talk through them without issue. When I realized just a short while later that they were coming with some regularity, however, I decided to download a contraction app to my phone and see if I could time any.

An hour in, they were averaging around 7 minutes apart, but only 35 seconds in length and I still wasn’t being slowed down by them in any way. I started to wonder if this was the start of early labor or just a fluke. I texted Tony to let him know and he responded, “Hey girl, I know there’s no timeline to birth – it’s whatever you body and the baby need.”

I laughed out loud. Have I mentioned how much I love my husband?

Around 2:30, Penny woke up from her nap and we sat down to have some pasta together. I figured if this was the start of labor, I may as well do some carb loading in case we had a long night ahead of us. I talked to Tony shortly after, told him my contractions were remaining regular, but still pretty short (maybe 45 seconds long), and still mild. He was distracted just the same and decided he’d be better off at home with us. I also touched base with the midwife to let her know that things were happening, though I didn’t foresee anything happening too quickly just the same.

Wanting to get a little fresh air, Penny and I wrapped up our snack a little while later and headed out to meet Tony at the subway station. I was surprised that Penny waking up hadn’t distracted me enough to slow down the contractions in any way and wanted to see what a walk would do – get things going or stall them out. Penny was thrilled to see daddy and, if anything, his taking over her care seemed to free me up to progress. On the short walk home, I had a couple of contractions that made me stop talking for a moment and caught Tony’s attention.

“You ok?”
“Yeeeeeah” [talking through the contraction] “This one’s just a bit… more… distracting than the resssssst.”

We got home around 4 and Tony went into overdrive. He distracted Penny, played with her, and started cleaning the house. We’d been keeping things in pretty good order overall since we were planning a homebirth and wanted things to be tidy whenever labor got going, but there were still messes to deal with – as anyone with a toddler can probably imagine – and it was bothering and distracting me. I did what I could between contractions, picking up laundry, cleaning up the table and desk tops, etc. but they had started to get a little more intense and were now a solid minute long and anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes apart, requiring that I slow down and give them a little attention during.

Seeing that things were probably not stalling out at this point, we called all the parents, sent a text to close friends and family, and made it Facebook official that I was in labor. All the while, I was having contractions and just trying to do my thing wherever they weren’t. Which is easier said than done in a 1-bedroom NYC apartment.

Read the rest of the story and see more photos at Outta Jo, Onto You.

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