The Birth Story of the Masculine Child

Okay folks, for those of you who like this sort of thing, this is a BIRTH STORY. There will be discussion of blood, waters, measurements, contractions, and other birthy things. If that is not something you like, then feel free and please do, skip this one!


When does this story really start? Just like my last labor, I spent well over a week having regular mild contractions for most of my waking time. Some hours I did not, but most I did. It was no problem, just kind of annoying.

About 10 days before the birth on a Monday (and 8 before due date), I had my first, “this could be it” evening, with intensifying contractions. And once I called around for childcare back-up they stopped. That is the way of babies.

When I had my 39 week exam on Wednesday, I let the doctor check my dilation and I was 3 cm, which is not too bad a week before the due date. But the baby’s head was not engaging. Dr. M gave me some exercises to help the head descend, but no matter how often I did them, head stayed up. After the exam, I had another several hours of increasingly painful contractions, and reluctantly sent M to teach the first of his summer night classes. He was teaching for six weeks on Mondays and Wednesdays, and was gone from 4-10pm both of those nights. My mother’s helper was coming that night to feel out the routine before baby came, so I figured if it was labor, at least she would be here already. But contractions stopped again after about 3 hours.

Again on Friday, I had 3 more hours of painful contractions, which stopped as soon as we sat down to wait them out through a movie. And during all of these episodes of pre-labor, I would text my parents and ask them to pray that the contractions would stop if this was not labor or be very clearly labor if it was. So, we got what we prayed for each time.

Things settled down, and I even made it past my Tuesday due date to my 40 week appointment on Wednesday. I had not dilated beyond 3 cm AT ALL, and Dr. M could not even feel the baby’s head. She got worried that the baby had flipped. So, she brought me into the ultrasound room to find the baby’s head, and when she could not find it (I guess it is hard to find a head on a huge overdue baby), I started mentally preparing for a C-section delivery.

After a few more minutes of searching, she called in the tech, who, much to my relief, found the head down in my pelvis right away.

I then questioned Dr. M about 10 times to be assured that even though there was no head engagement whatsoever, I could still go into labor whenever. She explained that when it is not your first delivery, engagement sometimes does not happen until active labor anyway, and for this baby that ended up being the case.

Oh and the other funny thing about that appointment was that I had gained 4 pounds in one week, and everyone said that I was still “all baby.” I blame the donuts I consumed that week and the “due date” cake I baked for the baby. I figured that if he was not going to come on the due date, then I could at least have chocolate cake. I started to wonder if I was going to have a huge baby.

That evening was another Wednesday night with M teaching, but I decided to let my mother’s helper have a night off. I just had a feeling that it was important for me to have a night with just me and the girls. We had a nice evening, and I savored those last few hours with them and no baby. I guess I had a feeling things might happen soon.

My parents have started calling it the Spencer Way and my close friend in St. Paul does not understand how we do it, but we work hard to have morning to pre-dinner time labors. We also really wanted the baby to come on a Thursday, so that M would not have to teach for as a long as possible (until Monday).

And according to our plans, Thursday morning, right at 7:00 am, my contractions started. I am not joking. After breakfast and coffee M and I decided to do some of my house cleaning chores (since it is summer he does not go to campus everyday and had been helping me with chores for a couple of weeks anyway). He agreed to vacuum, if I would do the dusting. At this point, I figured, it was nothing to call anyone about. Though the contractions were not slowing down.

At 9:00 am I went on Facebook to discover the above mentioned St. Paul friend had given birth to her son at 4:30 am several days before her due date. I told M the news, and said, “I better be in labor, because it would not be fair!” Plus, we had been joking for months that we were going to have our babies on the same day and at the same hospital.

I decided to take a shower. Things kept on happening and when I got out, we decided to call Aunt J two hours away in Wisconsin to see if she was available to come to town to be with the girls. She had a wide open day and could come whenever we were *sure* it was labor. I was still only 3 hours into contractions, so I did not want to make the call yet. I wanted to have at least 4 hours before I made the call. I decided to work on dusting, but kept on having to sit down during contractions. They were getting bigger!

Around 11am (after 4 hours of labor), we started looking to see who locally could watch the children until Aunt J arrived. We got a hold of my mother’s helper, but she was going to be busy from 11:45am-12:45pm (at Mass) unless we decided we needed her before that. I was not sure what to do, but thought that maybe I could wait until then.

I decided to call my mom and ask her to pray, but she proved to be unreachable (turns out she was somewhere without cell phone reception the day after my due date… silly mom). So, we had to pray alone for clear signs of labor.

Then, as what seemed an answer to my prayers and uncertainty, at 11:30 am, I had a HUGE, ACTIVE LABOR contraction, and I said to M, “This really is it.” We need to go to the hospital. I can’t remember if the dusting got finished. Maybe M did the downstairs? I got most of the upstairs before this happened.

That huge contraction set us in motion. M called the mother’s helper to have her come over, and called Aunt J who said that she could get here by 3pm. I looked for the hospital number to call, because, I had forgotten until that moment that we had to call first. There I was on my knees leaning over the foot of my bed during contractions, searching frantically on the iPad for the Maternity Care number. We found it eventually, and I called, explained the situation, and they said to come in.

We gathered our things, M made the girls lunch, I sat in my favorite glider rocking chair, calling people to let them know what was going on. Still no Mom, Dad, or my middle sister or brother. My oldest sister answered, and got excited, and promised to pray. The mother’s helper arrived, we said goodbye to the girls, and we left.

We drove to the hospital. They had not entirely fixed all of the winter potholes and bumps in the roads. Do you know what it is like to be almost in transition and go over a pothole? Not fun. But I had a short list of really important intentions I focused on during my labor, and offering up the pain for a friend in a desperate and awful family situation made it a grace-filled labor for me and later I learned a grace-filled day for her.

I did experience some relief on the way. We were almost there and a huge contraction was coming on, and right before us the light changed to red. I had a nice still 60 seconds to ride out that massive contraction while we waited for the light to change.

We decided to park in the ER lot this time. Last labor I walked from the main garage. I told M that I did not think that I could walk through these. So, we went into the same ER and waiting room we last entered when I was bleeding too much after the loss of JP at 9 weeks over a year ago. It brought back a few memories. We sat in different seats and talked about that day. And we were thankful and said a prayer for this happier circumstance.

After about five minutes, a nurse came down to wheel me to Maternity Care. I suppose I could have walked, but why walk when you are 9+ months pregnant and are offered a wheel chair?We discussed with the generous wheel chair pusher how we used to live in Buffalo, NY and all the snow they had gotten there last winter.

I got to stand at the counter when we arrived in Maternity Care and hand over things like my ID and insurance card. We even mentioned the names of our friends who had a baby at the same hospital that morning, and they said, “Oh yeah, they are here!”

So, we finally got to our room around 1 pm, and I was still contracting. I did the whole sample giving thing, and tried to put on the gown. But honestly, those elbow-length thick sheet-like sleeves really bother me, and there is no way I can relax properly with them on.

I decided to keep on my own shirt and tied the gown around my waist as a skirt. I think it was pretty brilliant. I could maintain my modesty a bit longer (not walk around bottomless), and not bleed all over my own clothes. It was a win-win situation.

Anyway, they did a bit of monitoring and finally checked me, to announce that I was a FULL 7 CM already. I did not even feel like I was in transition. Labor had been intense, but not that bad up to that point.

They called Dr. M, and she decided to come right away. I was only a bit worried that I was not going to get my antibiotics in before delivery. If I got them in time I could go home 24 hours after delivery, but if I did not, I would have to stay TWO nights. I sleep badly everywhere but my own bed, so getting home ASAP was at the top of my list, besides having a healthy delivery and baby.

They got the IV going around 2pm, and Dr. M showed up sometime around then. She then got me to do all sorts of things to get the baby’s head to descend. I spent awhile kneeling on the bed over the birthing ball rocking my hips during contractions, and discovered that counter-pressure on my back relieved the pain of TRANSITION contractions almost entirely.

To make up for the ease of those contractions, she had me lay on my back during four contractions and stretched my bent leg across my belly so that I could not breathe. The point of these was to mimic a lunge to get the head DOWN.

Thankfully we switched back to the ball on the bed after that. We also tried a peanut shaped ball which also helped me relax on my side but open things up for the head to move downward. During this time (maybe between 2:30 and 3) I checked out at 9 cm.

So, there I was at 9 cm, water intact, baby’s head still not engaged, and started to experience the urge to push. We hung out like that for awhile. I decided to get into an upright pushing position, but my pushes were ineffective. We made it past 3pm and my antibiotics were done. We made it to 3:15, and my water was still hanging out intact. I knew that if my water would break, I would be really pushing the baby out.

To tell you the truth, the contractions were doing nothing at this point, and I was getting a bit bored of being stuck in limbo between transition and pushing. Though maybe it was the best thing for me and the baby to have a calm before the pushing.

Finally at 3:30, I asked, “If we break my water, do you think the baby will be coming out?” Dr. M’s face lit up, and she said, “Yes.” I confirmed with M whether he was okay with it, and he was. So, I asked her to break the water.

Then all of a sudden, my bed was being raised, the bottom was taken off, and they set up a bag off the end of the bed to catch the water. So, she went to break my water, which was fascinating for me, because I have never had it done before. The other three labors, it broke on its own at 9 cm. She used a dull plastic rod, but my membranes proved resistant to breaking. She made it through one layer, and then told me: “You have membranes of steel!”

Looking back, it is funny to me that she said this, because I spent the last three weeks of pregnancy wondering at least once a day if my water had broken and was trickling, when in fact, my membranes never wanted to break on their own.

So, anyway, the water broke and gushed, and the baby’s head was right there. She checked my dilation again, and this time I was ready, but had a slight cervical lip (which is common after multiple deliveries), which she was going to manually help the baby around. So, I began to really push.

The nurse was monitoring the heart-rate holding the doppler with her hand on the left side of my belly. After the first couple of pushes, the heartbeat switched to the right side. The baby had turned, and finally the head was engaging.

Then came the hardest part, or so I thought. I started pushing the head out, it took a couple more pushes and the head was out, but the body did not slip out (like it always had in the past).

Dr. M told me I had to push the shoulders out, which were wider then the head…

I feel like these words are not properly describing the intensity of the situation. The baby’s head was 15 inches around when I pushed it out, and then broad shoulders, and then finally I had to push even more to get the baby’s body out that was just as wide as the head…

It took me 25 minutes from water breaking to getting that baby out (with baby #3 it took 5 minutes, with the first two it took 10 minutes each). It was a long, super uncomfortable 25 minutes, and Dr. M even had to help pull the baby.

At 3:54pm (right before the cafeteria opened for dinner orders and almost 9 hours from the first contraction), the baby was out. A true Spencer.

“What is it, Dad?” Dr. M asked.
“A boy!”
And that I could not believe, “Really?!”

A boy! But it felt so right. “He is a BIG boy!” they all said.

And he was snuggling on my chest, my big 10 lb, 3 oz, boy was born. The cord pulsed awhile, and M got to cut it when it was done. I did no even care about the massive placenta coming out next, which was “as big as some babies”. I required some stitching up, and once that was done, baby T nursed like a champ. And I got my cranberry juice and ginger ale “cocktail”, which I remembered so fondly after F was born, and asked for specifically.

M called Aunt J, and she put her phone on speaker for the girls. “You have a brother!” he told them, and they responded with squeals and screams. We then called everyone else, and M posted this blurry iPad picture of me breastfeeding to Facebook.

And what made things even better, is that I did not hemorrhage this time. I always hemorrhage. I wonder if it was the hour I spent at 9 cm with my water intact, and the longer pushing phase that helped. Apparently, when you don’t lose 1.5 liters of blood after delivery you feel about 1000x better afterwards than when you do. They didn’t even do the next morning hemoglobin check.

The main concern was that T was so big, they were worried that he was going to have his blood sugar drop too low. The poor baby had his heel stuck before and after nursing for the first 12 hours of life, but he was fine and my milk came in while we were still in the hospital.

After the medical staff left us all alone, M realized that he was hungry. He had missed lunch, so had I, but I don’t eat when I am in transition. We decided to have him go home and see the kids and help Aunt J for a hour and get some dinner. T was sleeping and eating fine, and I ordered my dinner and sat to wait for it.

I messaged my friend, to tell her I was down the hall from her, and she, her baby, and her husband came for a visit. We chatted a few minutes until the nurse came and fumbled with something hooked up to me still.

Nursing stupor.

So, we spent one bad night in the hospital, and a restful morning and afternoon. Aunt J brought the girls for a visit in the morning, and they were all really happy and took turns holding T. The lactation consultant came, and saw that I was fine… fourth babies and an experienced mom make their jobs easy!

I even got to receive Communion in the afternoon. And at 6pm on Friday, we checked out and went home.

Hey big guy,  newborns are not supposed to be this big in their carseats!

It was good to go home. The girls were really happy to have T and I there. They all got out their dolls and pretended to nurse them while I fed T. It was pretty funny.

And that is it. I think I covered everything…

One thought on “The Birth Story of the Masculine Child”

  1. Great birth story Susanna!!! You amaze me at how calm you stay or at least it appears you stay during your labors. My last labor involved pen throwing, a few harsh words, and the baby almost being born without a doctor present. Your son is adorable and I hope you are feeling good too. One day we will have to talk as it seems we have a lot in common. Let us know when you plan your next St. Louis trip. I would love for the babies to meet!

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