Just like with Greyson's birth story, I'm not holding back the details of Camden's birth because I want to remember this story for the beautiful and imperfectly perfect event that it was.
If you're not interested in real, raw birth photos or the story, skip this post. Photos were taken by Meg Ross Photography.
When you're pregnant with your first baby, there's so much unknown about what the birth experience will be like.
When you're pregnant with your second, you have some sort of expectation but you also know that things could be radically different. And you also potentially have a few ideas of things that you want to be different the second time around.
If you're a newer reader or haven't read my first son's birth story, you can do that here. The short and sweet of version of the story is that we planned to have a birth center birth with Greyson and ended up needing to be transferred to the hospital due to an issue with his cord.
I knew even before we got pregnant again that I wanted to have a different birth experience with baby number two. I knew that I wanted to have a home birth, the place where I'd feel the most comfortable and the most in control during birth. I've always imagined giving birth in water so for Camden's birth, we laid out all the steps to try to make that a reality.
When 36 weeks came, I felt myself holding my breath every day my due date drew closer. I kept wondering if I would be able to finish my to do list, spend enough time with Greyson and Steven, do things like get a pedicure and a haircut before he came.
41 weeks and 1 day
Well, turns out the joke was on me the whole time while I kept telling baby boy to stay in as long as he wanted to. At my 41 week mark, I went into the birth center for my appointment with an open mind about the next steps to get things rolling. We decided to try to get my labor going by taking castor oil. The way that castor oil works is that it's meant to upset your stomach which then causes contractions to begin.
Pro tip: if you ever need to take castor oil, make a peanut butter chocolate milkshake with the oil in it. Can't taste it at all!
A few hours after taking the castor oil, I woke up with fairly regular contractions but none were intense. Steven worked from home for the day in case things progressed further, but by mid morning the contractions had completely stopped. I went back to the birth center to make sure all was well with baby and to figure out another next step. Typically cervical checks are avoided at my birth center, but we decided to do one to see where my body was at.
I was dilated almost to 5 centimeters already so I had the midwife, Alison, do a membrane sweep to hopefully get things going a bit more intensely. While doing that, she realized that Camden was still really high up, which meant any contractions I was having weren't going to be very progressive since his head wasn't pushing into my cervix during the contractions.
We went home and went walking around the neighborhood, but instead of walking normally, I walked along the sidewalk to try to help get the baby into the right position. That night I took more castor oil, drank some labor tea and went to sleep early, hoping not to get a full night of sleep! Around 3 AM, I woke up to consistent, long contractions that were around 4 minutes apart lasting 45 to 60 seconds. After a few of these in a row, I decided to wake Steven up. I wanted to move to the living room and see if the contractions stopped or slowed down. I was honestly so nervous to call the birth team (in the middle of the night) and have it be a false alarm!
After about 45 minutes, Steven made the call to call the team. Because I was already so far dilated, no one wanted to take the chance of waiting too long so everyone headed over to the house. The team arrived around 4:40 and at this point I still wasn't totally convinced that I was in active labor. The contractions were steady but I didn't feel like they were that intense yet that I believed they couldn't just stop at any point.
Around 6 we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to try to intensify the contractions. We knew that Camden had definitely moved lower since my last appointment, but he still wasn't low enough in my pelvis to really aggravate the cervix and move things along. We had known for weeks that he was posterior, or "sunny side up", which usually means a longer or more intense labor. Around 7:15, I lost my mucus plug completely and we all started to get excited that that would hopefully move things along quickly.
One of our favorite parts of doing a home birth was being able to cook REAL food and eat whenever we needed to.
At 8:30 we can tell that things are starting to plateau and mentally I'm growing tired. At this point, I remember feeling frustrated that it didn't seem like my body was doing what it should. Alison asked me if I wanted to slow things down and try again the next day or to speed things up by breaking my water. After two days of having contractions on and off, being a week and four days overdue and having called the birth team already, I had no intention of NOT having my baby that day, so she broke my water at 9:09 AM and I was 8 cm dilated at that point.
We went back to the living room to wait for things to speed up. I knew this could be my last chance to get something to eat, so I grabbed a bowl of yogurt, berries and granola. I told Steven to rest on the couch until things picked up again, knowing I had plenty of capable hands to help me through contractions. I should mention that a lot of the time with posterior babies, back labor (or feeling the contractions in your back instead of the front where you'd feel period cramping) is really common.
I just love this photo because a) I loved my birth team b) I love how "normal" everything was between contractions.
One of the best things to help with this is applying counter pressure on your hips to relieve the pain. Through each contraction I would lean over something, the labor ball, counter, entertainment center, etc., sway and breathe through the contraction and have Steven or someone else close by put pressure on my hips.
An hour later, contractions started to pick up in intensity. Every time I had one, I felt a shooting pain run from my hips, down my thighs. I mentioned this to the midwives and they smiled (which feels like a very rude thing to do when you say you're in pain). The reason they all got excited is that these are cervical contractions (rather than your uterus contracting) and they're the type of contractions that move you from an 8 to a 10 very quickly. They smiled because they knew we were getting very close!
I opted to buy an inflatable pool that was large enough to be used for the birth instead of renting one at about twice the cost.
One of the things that can help with this type of pain is getting into the birth pool. I moved to the bathroom to use the shower to relieve some of this pain while they reheated the water in the birth pool (which had been in there since 4 AM since we had no idea how quickly things would move). By the time I got back into the birth pool, I was definitely feeling the intensity of the contractions, but still didn't have any feeling like we were really getting that close.
The second contraction I had in the birth tub, my body started pushing on its own. I am a very quiet laborer, pretty much you can only hear that I'm having a contraction through my breathing. But when my body pushed, I made a very audible groan in response, which sent everyone rushing to the pool. I went from basically just having Steven at my side, to suddenly having all hands close by and ready.
I kept pushing whenever I felt like my body was ready, but I didn't necessarily push through the entirety of a contraction or during each one. Alison asked if I wanted to keep going at that pace or to really get into the pushing (I think she could tell I was READY to be done at this point). She told me if I wanted to make things happen quicker, I could hold my breath and push 3-4 times per contraction (or however long felt comfortable). I couldn't find a comfortable position in the birth pool which meant the pushing I was doing wasn't going to do much. Camden's head was still 3" away from my cervix, so we moved to the shower and/or sitting backwards on the toilet to try to let gravity help.
Neither one felt comfortable to me at all. In hindsight, I think the toilet was uncomfortable because it was working to move Camden down further. But we moved to the bed around 1:30 PM and this is when things started to pick up quickly.
I was no longer just pushing haphazardly, but instead during every contraction I was pushing with all of my energy, usually 3-4 times during each contraction. Sometimes more if the contraction was lasting longer because I physically couldn't not push. This meant that every contraction felt like it could be THE contraction that he crowned and/or was born. Which also meant that every time the contraction was over and he wasn't born, I was more mentally and physically exhausted.
We could tell Camden's head still wasn't fully engaged during contractions so Sarah, the midwife student, used the rebozo technique to try to get him to either flip around or just to get into a more ideal position. If nothing else, it would relieve some pressure from my hips and belly in between the intense contractions.
After doing rebozo, I pushed for a few contractions with Alison trying to help rotate his head during contractions. Once again, we needed to let gravity help. At 2:45 I moved to the toilet, this time facing forward so he could be born in this position, if needed, since we were getting so close. Before I even got to the toilet, another contraction started. At this point his head finally was able to get past my pubic bone and started to crown. Before this point, each time I'd push, he would come down further but after I stopped pushing he would go further up. Almost like one step forward and then a half step backwards, so some progress each time but slow progress.
After a few very intense pushes there, I started slipping off the toilet which obviously did not make this an ideal place to birth a baby. At this point they had me move to the bed once again, but specified that I needed to keep Camden in the same position he was at, which basically meant walking to the bed with what felt like a grapefruit in between my legs (this is Steven's favorite part of the story to tell). The photo below is that moment and while it's not the most attractive photo of me, it very well sums up the "pushing" portion of Camden's birth.
But thankfully, that last trick of their worked. After pushing on my side once and on once on my back, Camden was finally born at 3:01, a little less than 12 hours after my labor began that morning.
The feeling of having him placed (or more like flopped) onto my chest is certainly one I won't forget. I had a crazy mixture of emotions from joy to relief to disbelief. It kind of surprises me that I didn't immediately cry when either of my boys were born, but I truly think it's because I am so exhausted from intensely pushing for 3-4 hours and the fact that I can't believe it's really over.
Steven on the other hand always cries for the both of us. I love how emotional he gets over the birth of his babies! Look at that ugly cry!
I think people sometimes forget how difficult birth is on a baby too, not just the mama. Camden was born "sunny side up" or posterior, military (meaning his head wasn't tucked to his chest which means a much larger surface to go through the canal), and was also sideways when he first crowned. This certainly took its toll on my body, but it also took its toll on his. Thank goodness that babies heads are so moldable!
His head had a severe ridge in it after birth, one the midwife team was marveling over having never seen one quite so severe. His head was also 15" and the average size is 13". Luckily his head is now perfectly back to normal (and was even after the first couple days)!
Because Greyson's birth was a little more traumatic on him, I didn't get the chance to snuggle him and just soak in the first few moments of being together finally. So the moments of holding Camden and looking over all of his tiny features are the moments I loved the most about his birth.
Someone described this picture as me being completely exhausted in the best way possible and Steven being completely in love. I absolutely love that completely accurate description.
Twenty minutes after he was born, I delivered the placenta and Steven was able to cut the cord (something we didn't get the chance to do with Greyson). An hour after he was born they did his newborn exam to check him out.
Overall, Camden's home birth was everything I wanted it to be. Of course, long labors are always hard and I would prefer to have had a shorter labor but being at home was everything I imagined it to be. I loved being in a space that was so comfortable to us. We didn't have to ask for anything or worry about whether we brought something from home, everything we needed was right there. We were able to make food as we needed to, walk around the neighborhood, and bring Camden into the world in OUR home.
Surprisingly, there's not even a small part of me that wishes I had had a water birth experience with him. I really had always imagined that being a part of both of the boys' births but I am totally okay that it didn't happen that way.
I really debated whether or not to get birth photos taken the second time around since I had them for Greyson's birth. But I am SO glad that I did. Even though I remember pretty much everything from Camden's birth, seeing it in photos has really helped those details stick with me and especially having the first few moments after he was born in photos just means the world to me.
If you have any questions about home birth or honestly want to know anything about the birth or my experience, feel free to comment or email me. I love chatting about birth!
Camden Ellis, sweet boy, we are so glad you're here and you're ours.