Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Kane's (Home) Birth Story

Here we are with Kane already 1 month old. I had wanted & intended to share his birth story much sooner. However, I kept waiting for some magical moment when I would have no distractions and be able to sit in a quiet room and type out every detail... Needless to say, that unicorn never came. So instead, I'm staying up way later than I should, using spare moments here & there to piece this beautiful story together so that I can save it forever. Thankfully, I have nearly 400 birth photos to help tell the story when the words do not materialize or I somehow fail to adequately project that night into the narrative. I tried hard to narrow down the photos, I tried really hard. And I landed on just over 50. But I couldn't get rid of any. Emotions, moments, feelings... everything was captured by Kali. Not a detail missed. So... For those itching for a birth story; grab your coffee or your wine. Your favorite blanket. Shut your office door. And settle in to read about the night our third baby boy came into this world. 

Wednesday, August 30th I was exactly three days overdue. This was the same gestation that both of my older boys were born. That morning there were still no real signs of labor. Sure I had mild contractions here or there (I had for days). Sure I had thrown up that Monday randomly, but no labor came thereafter. Nothing was different about this morning than any of the previous. I called my midwife to schedule a second non-stress test that I knew I would need as we headed into the 41st week. I wanted to get on her schedule for that Friday. We texted back & forth for a bit, and then she offered to strip my membranes if I wanted to get things going. I was a bit caught off guard by that offer as I wasn't having any cervical checks through this pregnancy, and I viewed a membrane strip as an "intervention" even though I didn't really know much about it. I was very against any "interventions". But on the other hand I was getting increasingly uncomfortable (it was difficult to drive, make a bed, bend over, etc. at this point), I was starting to worry about Kane just growing bigger & bigger with each passing day, and my mom was due to leave that Friday. I called Conor at work to discuss. I shared with him how my midwife mentioned that it was only "an invitation to the party", if Kane was not ready to come, the membrane strip would do nothing. Ultimately, we decided that we fully trusted our midwife, knowing she wouldn't have offered without being comfortable with what we wanted for this birth, and decided to go for it. 

I showered. I shaved my legs. And I started wrapping my head around the fact that I could be welcoming my baby that day. My midwife was sure of it. We found ourselves at her office by 10am for the membrane strip. First she made sure my cervix was "favorable" (which it was. 3 cm dilated and 60% effaced), and then she proceeded with the strip. Which was really not all that uncomfortable. She mentioned that my bag of waters was particularly thick/strong in comparison to most, and that I may do well to have some additional assistance to get my water to break or for things to progress more quickly later on. After the strip, she matter-of-factly gave me a herbal tincture to drink, but I cannot recall what exactly was in that, and stated that in just a couple hours I would be in labor, and that we would very likely have a baby by dinnertime. We left her office feeling optimistic & most importantly excited! We went out to lunch together with Finn, and talked about all that was to come. It was quite bizarre to have the day somewhat planned out. I was maybe a bit bummed to not have the mystery of labor spontaneously starting, but excited that Kane's birth day was finally here! I started experiencing noticeable tightening and cramping within minutes of leaving her office, and over the next hour contractions slowly began. I took a nap with Finn trying to get in as much sleep as possible.  

I relaxed the afternoon away, just enjoying snuggles with the boys and waiting for things to intensify. With my labor having such a slow start, I was able to help put both my older boys to sleep that evening. These bedtimes were so special for all of us. I treasured their snuggles and that special one-on-one time. Their warm bodies wrapped around me helped me stay relaxed. I was full of joy at the thought that they would both wake up as big brothers to a new sweet boy. While I was doing bedtime, my mom & Conor blew up the birthing tub, lit candles, and prepared the house for an evening of laboring. We rested, we talked, we relaxed, and we waited. I touched base with my midwife around 9:30pm letting her know that things were still only slowly progressing. She casually offered to come break my water, and again I thought "intervention!...?" And again, Conor & I took our time to talk it through and agreed that we trusted her completely, and that we would rather get things moving along instead of letting me get exhausted in early labor (as I had experienced with Liam). We were not at a hospital. There was no hurry, no time clock. Just a midwife who fully knew how to get things moving along naturally and help me keep my strength for the hardest moments. Conor had been texting her and so he made the phone call and she said he car was already packed so she would just be on her way. this was also the perfect time to call our birth photographer to come join uses she was another 20 minutes further away. 

While waiting for them to arrive, Finn woke up. I tried to get him back to sleep, but he could feel the excitement, so we decided to let him stay awake for my labor. My friend Jenn popped in to offer her support, and side note: while she initially didn't plan on staying for the whole birth, the evening was so captivating that she just couldn't pull herself away. And I'm so glad she did stay, because she was such a help with the boys, allowing my mom to be more in the moment with me than she would have if the boys were only her responsibility. I had quite the gathering of loved ones surrounding me. Rebecca (the midwife) arrived around 10pm and checked my cervix to make sure I had made enough progress that rupturing my waters would be productive. I said that I had dilated to 5 cm by this point, so she proceeded. It was pretty hard for her to break my water, even with a tool. I could only imagine how hard it would have been or how long it may have taken on my own. But then instantly, it happened! She gave me another herbal tincture to again help things along. It just seemed to us to be her special recipe learned from hundreds and hundreds of births before mine and totally put us in awe again at her knowledge and control of something that often people think we have no control over. She predicted at this point, again very matter-of-factly, that we would have a baby in the next 20 minutes to 2 hours. Minutes after my water broke, Kali (our photographer) arrived & began capturing everything while we started to fill the birth tub. 

Almost immediately my contractions intensified. I stayed in bed for awhile, listening to music as I quietly worked through each contraction. I knew music would play in important role in this birth for me. I had been putting together a Pandora station for months in anticipation of Kane's birth. And it was perfect. It helped keep me relaxed yet it kept me focused, and I couldn't wait to hear what would be playing when he made his arrival (no pressure Pandora!...). Along from the music, Finn was the sweetest, just full of kisses and soft rubs/tickles assisted by Conor to help me cope. I was happy to have him near and a part of the experience with me. I knew that having him there would help me stay calm, focused & hopefully just a bit quite so as to not scare him. I wanted to make sure that he felt comfortable with it all and got to experience something so special for us all. Once I got out of out of bed, I had a few contractions that were very strong, so my midwife told me to go ahead and get in the tub. I couldn't believe that things were moving along just as quickly as she said they would. For the first solid 10 minutes that I was in the tub, Finn kept insisting that I needed a bath bomb in there. It was adorable & hilarious and kept me smiling at least for awhile.

I had hoped that the tub was going to offer a ton of pain relief for me.  And while the warm water did feel good, it didn't nearly dull the pain of contractions as much as I had hoped.  But it did allow me to try and find a comfortable position on my knees while I worked through each contraction.  Conor whispered birth affirmations to me while putting counter pressure on my hips with each contraction.  I remember telling him at one point "this is really hard."  Some of my few words spoken at this point in labor. "It is hard, but it's worth it Laura. Kane is worth it." Finn stayed close by, whispering sweet words as well and fitting in kisses whenever he could.  Occasionally he would get a bit squirrely and start moving his body all over the tub.  I really didn't like any movements which would jostle my body, but my "team" helped him understand not to bump the tub and I was able to stay focused and in that haze of labor-land.  My mom & Jenn together were so wonderful about redirecting him, keeping him in the moment and showing him how he could help me.

This labor was very quite, no talking during or between contractions once things really got going.  Keeping my eyes closed most of the time, unless I was engaging with one of the boys.  As the contractions continued and intensified, I started to feel that familiar sense of pressure.  At that point I tried to push a bit through the next few contractions, and while I didn't say anything, Conor quickly could tell that I was in fact pushing.  He mentioned later that it just looked like my back, around where he was applying counter pressure, just changed shape as if everything immediately moved lower. I had my mom go wake up Liam at this point, because we knew that he so wanted to be present when Kane was born.  My sleepy but excited boy greeted me with the biggest kiss; exactly what I needed!  Having my boys present just added to the incredible experience of being at home.  I just knew that all the midwife appointments, little talks, & home birth videos had completely prepared them.  They were calm, curious, interested, loving, & supportive.     

For a short while, I pushed while on my back leaning onto the tub.  My midwife massaged my feet while I worked through each contraction.  I wasn't comfortable like this, nor was the pushing very productive, but the thought of changing positions was daunting.  Eventually I summoned the motivation to move forward onto my needs, and with that next push my midwife noted that it was a "progress position" for me.  However, I was sort of half in/half out of the water.  Rebecca said I needed to be completely in or completely out. "A baby can't be born in both."  So again I had to reposition myself, only slightly, but I knew I was in a good spot.  My team turns slowly pouring water over my back.  I could tell between the gentle pours of my mom, Conor, & Rebecca and then the quick furious pours of Finn & occasionally Liam.  Again, this provided a bit of a distraction and was a reminder of their special presence.  This was the only point in labor that I made any noise.  I focused on staying calm, but with each push now I couldn't hold back some of the groans and moans.  I was very aware of it, trying to keep my face, voice, lips relaxed.  I wanted the older boys to know that I was safe and okay, and I wanted Kane's entrance to be peaceful. I think I was so focused on this because it was such a stark contract from my labor with Finn. I was very vocal and I knew it. This time I just knew my boys would be with me and I wanted to make this as comfortable and beautiful as I could.

Amazingly, this labor was my shortest but it was my most intense.  I didn't know how long I could withstand the rapid succession of contractions.  The affirmations that ran through my head the most were "Just when you think you can no longer stand the pain, is when your baby is so close to arriving." and "Your baby will be in your arms soon."  I was pushing with such desire to get him out and to hold him and to know that labor would be over.  It's this crazy beautiful thing (especially in retrospect), but it's damn hard!  As he was crowning my midwife let me know where he was.  She suggested that I reach down and feel his head to slow him down and ease him out.  She knew he was coming fast that that it would do me well to take care of my own body in the comping moments.  It was hard to slow down.  Really hard.  I did my best.  I reached down and felt his head; I at least tried to slow down.  With the next contraction, his face appeared.  Another little push brought out his chin. Rebecca narrated each moment to me while Conor and my mom watched on. Conor reached down into the tub and felt his little boy. Anxious to meet him.  Then his shoulders.  And finally at 11:21pm (not even an hour and a half after my water was broken), during a summer storm, with Ray LaMontagne's "My Forever Friend" playing, my midwife told me to reach down and meet my baby.

My first words were "he's so tiny"!  Surely this was surprisingly my smallest baby (spoiler alert: he was not).  He was long, with some bruised little cheeks and a perfectly shaped head from hardly spending anytime in the birth canal.  He cried and cried hard for a good 15 minutes.  We all oohed & ahhed over him, over this entire experience, the boys in a state of pure wonder.  Their smiles never leaving their faces.  Emotions swept through me.  Those minutes after birth are some of the most incredible.  I was on a high like no other.  Never in my life am I happier than I am in those first moments of meeting my new child.

We snuggled in the tub for quite awhile.  In no rush at all.  It was such a peaceful time.  Rebecca waited for the cord to stop pulsating and then beckoned to come cut the cord.  He needed a bit of assistance (or perhaps Conor didn't quite want to fully give up that privilege), but he was so proud & delighted with himself over it.  This was a part of the birth that he had been anticipating for months, ever since Rebecca had mentioned it to him at one of our appointments.  And then I handed off Kane to Conor, for Daddy snuggles while I delivered the placenta and got comfortable in bed.  I loved being able to crawl right into my own bed.  Everything about the home birth experience I loved.  Here Kane was only a mere hour old and we were already home.  We were all together from the very beginning; it was incredible. It felt like it had all happened exactly as it should.

Kane latched on right away (in the tub for the first time actually), and I quickly remembered how powerful that newborn suckle can be.  I loved having my arms full of all three boys as those late evening hours wore on.  I had sleepy boys, but they did not want to miss one moment of learning all about their new brother.  They were gentle & tender.  Inquisitive too.  Surely they were feeling all those "feel good" emotions too!

Even though it was well past midnight, we popped some bubbly for a toast to the birthday boy!  Never has anything tasted so good nor been more well deserved.  What a day to celebrate!  I couldn't get over this long, strong, wrinkly little boy who had joined our family.  There was so much love for him already.  And I too have never felt so loved.  I already had a strong bond with everyone in my home that night, but sharing in this experience just made it ever so much closer.  And Kali, our photographer, was my friend there to capture Kane's birth; much more to us than just someone with a camera.  Rebecca & Kali stayed well into the early morning, neither leaving until sometime after 2 am.  I don't think any of us were really ready for the party to end, even though we were all quickly realizing how exhausted we were.  Birth seems to just have that effect.  It leaves you full of joy & excitement, exhausted and yet completely incapable of sleep.

Eventually I was anxious to see what he weighed, so I gave up the baby snuggles for Rebecca to get some stats on the boy.  8 lbs 15.2 oz (right in between the older boys' weights) and 21.5 inches long (just shy of Finn).  He looked just like his brothers, definitely another little Keenan boy, cute as can be. Kane definitely has Liam's baby-body type and certainly reminds us more of him than Finn at this brand-new age.  Nana put on the first diaper, and then we wrapped him up so his brothers could finally finally take a turn holding him while my midwife attended to me.  Fortunately, I had only one small tear that required a single stitch.  My natural births have been far kinder to me than my first with Liam.  For this I am so very thankful.  It makes the recovery process much much easier!

Nana got her special time too!  I remember her asking me if she could hold Kane before going off to bed, and I couldn't believe she hadn't had a moment with him yet!  Somehow it had slipped my mind, while she patiently waited to get him in her arms.  It has always been so important to me to have my mom present at my boys' births.  I feel strongly about the idea of "women birthing women", but having my mom with me goes even deeper.  Her soft touches and sweet words had such an impact during my labor.  Her smiles & tears & look of pride right after delivery will always be in my mind.  I know she will another strong bond with this boy.  Just having him be able to hear her and smell her so soon after being born will surely have an impact on him.  Grandparents have such a unique and special kind of love; the keenan boys are so lucky to have this Nana in their lives.

Eventually it was time for everyone to leave us.  The boys needed to go back to sleep.  We all needed to rest.  But I just couldn't.  I stayed up for many more hours with only my bedside lamp on, just staring at the perfection of my baby.  Touching his soft head & cheeks over & over.  Completely in awe that he was mine.  That this amazing experience just happened as we had always hoped, at home, together. That just hours before he was still growing inside me.  That it was him in there all along with that cute little nose and bright eyes.  The baby boy that we found out about early on in our pregnancy journey.  The one who was to make it a sweet trio of boys, of brothers.  The Brothers Keenan. I dreamt that night about the adventures to come.  What life will be like when I'm dropping the three of them off to school together.  Then high school, then college.  There is so much excitement ahead for our family.

This birth experience was absolutely everything that I wanted it to be! While Finn's birth was very much a healing experience for me after Liam's, Kane's birth was the one I always really wanted. It was what I had always imagined a birth could be. It leaves me a little bit sad to have not had this home birth experience with my previous two births, but I also understand that it has all been a journey for us. Through which we have grown and learned together. Liam's & Finn's births prepared me for this one. Before my midwife left that night, she was already pitching us for another baby. And goodness, I'm actually crazy enough to let those thoughts creep in. But we have plenty of time to think that one over... Rebecca had such wonderful things to say about both Conor & I. We truly are a unique team. Conor never leaves my side and always seems to know what I want & what to do while I'm in labor to help me. He is such a rock for me, and I cannot imagine not having that intimate involvement from him. And yet, I know how strong I am as well. While childbirth has by far been the most amazing experience in my life each and every time (especially my natural births), after each one I somehow can't believe that I may never get to experience it again. Time & memory are fickle little things, and somehow after the days wear on, I am somehow able to wrap my mind around it all again. 

Surely I was not able to put all my thoughts down. To find the right words for this story. But I know that I will tell it over & over again to anyone who wants to listen. Liam loves to hear about how he was born, who was there, etc. So I look forward to the day when I can share Kane's story with him. And thank goodness for these pictures that capture the evening in a way no one else could. Because I want to relive these moments in my mind forever & ever again.


  1. That brought a tear to my eye. An absolutely beautiful experience...

  2. Perfection!! Absolutely stunning photos and story! I felt the same about the tub, it didn’t give me as much pain relief as I would’ve hoped for. I’m so thrilled for you that you go to do this at home!!! Beautiful story!!

  3. WOW! What an incredible story, so incredibly written. You can feel the love. You can feel the emotion. You can feel the peace, even though your body is anything but peaceful. Thank you for sharing. WOW!

  4. oh my goodness. so many thoughts. i love that you had bubbly afterwards! definitely a moment to celebrate. i'm glad this is the birth you wanted. he is so precious. i just love all the photos - especially the ones with the boys, what a special experience for them to be a part of, and for you to have all these photos to look back on. i had to laugh about your midwife pitching for another baby. i mean, you make adorable kids. why not ;)

  5. This made me tear up and for a half a second I thought “maybe I want a water birth!” and then that quickly passed 😂. Love you!

  6. Oh you got me emotional on multiple occasions. I just love it, such a beautiful story..!! I'm so happy for you and your sweet family. You are most definitely a natural and certainly had NOTHING to worry about when it came down to it. (I'm finding inspiration in that as my anxiety is high about going through labor again!) The pictures are amazing and so sweet, I especially love L&F's involvement, such a treasure to be a part of their little brother's birthday!! :) xo Thanks for sharing!!

  7. <3<3<3<3<3 Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! I'm so glad it was such a wonderful experience for you!!! Congratulations again!!!!!

  8. Oh Laura! This birth story is absolutely beautiful. I am so incredibly happy for all of you. What an amazing adventure the boys got to experience. It's something they won't forget. I am so happy for you and loved reading this so much. Birth stories are my favorite to read. Much love from me!

  9. This is probably the most beautiful birth story ever! I just love how Liam and Finn were a part of it for you! Congratulations again!

  10. This is absolutely stunning! The fact the boys were there just makes my heart burst with happiness. It’s so special to have these photos forever. So happy for your beautiful family of five!

  11. Welp, there goes my mascara and its not even 10am. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Your family is perfect and you are such an amazing Mama! Cheers to you friend! xo

  12. I absolutely loved this story! So happy for you! You are definitely an amazing momma that inspires others!

  13. Oh gorgeous friend, what an incredible story - you are one truly remarkable woman and mama!
    These pictures made me sb and I am so glad all went so well - he is perfection x

  14. Sich a sweet story and perfect photos! A memory you will have forever.

  15. Not to be cliche, but this gave me all the feels. Feelings of happiness mainly, but I could almost feel like I was there, in the moment with you, cheering you on.
    So, SO special this all happened at home and that you got these amazing photos.

  16. These pictures are breathtaking, Laura. So proud you got the birth youve dreamed of all these years. As mch as pregnancy is awesome I have to say labor is my favorite (and maybe thats the epidural talking lol) but each one is quicker and easier and thats a blessing.
    Welcome home, Kane!

  17. I've been waiting for this post!
    Laura, your words brought me right there in your living room, in those moments with you. And (obviously) I bawled my eyes out for a good portion.
    The whole story, from start to finish, was so moving, so special, and so perfect for you!
    And these photos just emphasized every beautiful moment.

  18. What a beautiful birth story! I love that your sweet boys got to be a part of it. And the pictures are amazing. Each one tells it's own story!


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