Hugo was a baby who was quite comfortable with living on the cusp of birth. There were many days towards the end of my pregnancy that I would settle down for the evening (which is typically when I go into labor), and sure enough, my body would start laboring, gently, but persistently, and I would say, "Well, okay, this is the night." I would rest, wait, and sometimes even call the midwife, but usually over the course of the evening my surges would calm down, and I would just fall asleep. Repeat the following night. And the next.
You would think that as a woman who has given birth to two children and is now a birth instructor for goodness sake, I would have some sort of special knowledge about the exact moment that my baby was coming, but labors are mysterious, unpredictable, and unique. I was always comfortable, always relaxed, and very aware that my body was preparing for the birth every evening: and during the days, life went on as usual.
The day before Hugo was born was an active one. My sister and I took the kids and walked down to the local elementary school for a book sale. Ben came home a little early, and we took the girls for a walk-- which ended up being a long walk (down to our favorite burger place and back). I wasn't wearing a pedometer that day, but I guess I clocked in around 6 miles or so all things told. I had energy, the weather was simply gorgeous, and I knew that walking was the single best thing to prepare me and the baby for labor, so I went with it. And it seemed like this baby needed a gentle nudge to actually go through with the whole birth thing. He was just happy as a clam hanging out in the womb.
We stopped on the way home to visit with some neighbors and let the girls play, and when we finally piled in the front door, Ben got the girls ready for bed and my surges started-- and I mean they really started. They were nice and strong, and much more akin to surges I felt towards the end of both of my other labors. Oh boy. I called the midwife, birth assistant, and my sister, and said, "Come on over!" With a third baby, you just never know how quickly they might come.
Well, remember how in previous nights nights I would feel surges, and over the course of the evening they would calm down? About an hour later, we were in the middle of a pleasant evening in our back yard-- Ben and I in the tub, the birth assistant and midwife chatting with Irene and eating yummy snacks. The weather was lovely and cool, the atmosphere perfect, but my surges were gentle as a lamb and slowing way down. I didn't necessarily mind-- my midwife had assured me that one woman had a midwife come to her house and set everything up four separate times before the baby really came-- and, contrary to what you might expect, these types of labors are actually more common with each consecutive child. So one false alarm wouldn't be the end of the world. But I did have a feeling, resting labor aside, that this was the night. I had everyone stay.
We spent a beautiful evening relaxing and resting together: unlike previous labors where I have told Ben he could just go to sleep and we would wake him when it was baby time (what can I say? I'm usually an independent laborer), I had him stay with me. We got out of the tub and walked around, and a little after midnight, I told Ben that maybe we should go for a little walk. There we were, puttering around the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, me stopping to lean on him and breathe through surges. We must have been quite the sight, me in my birthing dress, his eyes heavy for want of sleep.
When we got home the student midwife was arriving, and Ben did decide to lie down for a bit. My surges were still so mild that I felt guilty having everyone there. "Why don't you just lie down?" the midwife suggested. Sometimes that's all that it takes to get a labor rolling. And I did. And it worked. A little after 2 in the morning, I was back in business. I started noticing those benchmarks I tell students to look for: changes in body temperature, stronger surges. I clung to my breathing, and it carried me through beautifully: in a labor that, despite its long start, ended up being quite swift (3 hours of what some might call "active" labor), my surges could have easily gotten the best of me. Even the strongest surges stayed manageable so long as I focused on my breath.
Around four in the morning, I called the whole crew into the bedroom: midwife, assistant midwife, birth assistant, and sister. "Stay," I told them. This baby could come at any moment. Our wonderful midwife, the same midwife who attended Lily's birth, got all of her supplies ready. And everyone else just sat quietly in our dark bedroom. The girls were asleep a few feet away from all of the action. Ben massaged me, and, he later confessed, took a little catnap. It was such an intimate environment, perhaps the most so of any of our births. I breathed, first deeply, and then more vigorously. I breathed the baby down the birth path, and just as our midwife was suggesting that perhaps I should get back up and walk a bit ("The baby's head is coming," I whispered to her: even the most skilled midwife can have trouble identifying the progress of a hypnobirth), Hugo was born in two surges, just as the sun was rising. Everyone gathered around the baby as he was gently emerging, and Irene stayed by my side encouraging me through it. And just like that, he was with us: mild, sweet, and with a very full head of dark hair. Although, really, he had been with us so much longer.
All of our babies seem to be born over the course of the night, so sorry for the lack of pictures of the labor itself! These pictures are from the first few hours of Hugo's life, once that sun finally did come up. And for those curious about terms like "surges" or "birth path," they are simply slightly more positive and, I believe, accurate descriptions of traditional things like "contractions" and the "birth canal." Of course I'm biased, but I absolutely recommend hypnobirthing to anyone in the market for a birth class-- and if you are interested in the book, let me know, because I always have a few loaners circulating.