My Birth Story: The Birth of Clive Clarke

It’s taken me a bit of time to sit down and finally write out Clive’s birth story. Part of the reason is that he doesn’t let me put him down for more than a few minutes at a time, so blogging has been a challenge, but aside from that I was still just processing it all. After Fern’s birth I felt strong and empowered and this time I just felt relieved that it was over. It took me awhile to figure out why that was. I delivered healthy babies both times and did it drug-free, so why did one feel less “successful” than the other? After spending time thinking about it I’ve realized that it all boils down to expectations. Despite my best efforts to get rid of my expectations surrounding this birth, I still had them. My daughter arrived three days early and her birth was 12 hours, so I was totally certain that my son would be born more quickly and easily. Everyone swears up and down that second babies come with easier births because your body already knows what to do. This didn’t end up being the case for me (Hello 10 lb. 8 oz., 23″ long, posterior baby boy!) and I think that was why I felt disappointed in a weird way. So basically this story is also about me learning to let go of my expectations and realizing that my son is already very different than my daughter and I can’t expect them to do things the same way. Clive definitely has his own way of doing things already.

Here’s how it went…

I was four days past my “due date” when our little Clive decided to make his leisurely debut Earth side. My due date of June 4th came and went and every day beyond it felt excruciatingly long. I tried to keep myself (and my toddler) busy by making plenty of plans for us in those post due days. Play dates and donut outings and girly pampering nights with Fern. It was great, but I was still so impatient. Even though I knew in my head that a due date really just meant “guess date” it didn’t make the waiting any easier…especially since Fern was early.

That Saturday night, June 7th my friends Becca and Echo took me out for some girl time. We went to Bollywood Theater and had delicious Indian food followed by ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s (the line at Salt & Straw was way too ridiculous to even attempt…regardless of my pregnant cravings). I enjoyed some New York Super Fudge Chunk and we talked about babies and parenting fears until it was late and then I came home and headed to bed.

Sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 AM I thought I had started feeling contractions. Weirdly enough I had kind of forgotten what a contraction felt like since it had been nearly two-and-a-half years since I last had one, so I wasn’t totally convinced this was it. During my labor with Fern the contractions were immediately unmistakable and regular so I never really questioned it. These, while fairly regular, weren’t very intense.

After having a few I started tracking them in the Full Term app on my phone anyway and after about an hour I saw that they were about two minutes apart, lasting for about 40 seconds. That seemed pretty close so I texted my midwife. Because my labor with Fern progressed pretty quickly and was only 12 hours (despite her difficult brow presentation and the fact that I pushed for about three hours) we were all on alert that this birth would probably progress more quickly. Because my contractions weren’t super intense and I could talk through them, I was hesitant to have my midwife come over, but she decided to come check me out anyway.

At this point I woke Craig up and told him I had been having contractions for the past hour and a half and that he should probably start setting up the birth tub. He got up and set to work while I continued having contractions in bed. Fern was sleeping in the other room and I texted my parents to tell them they could probably come get her soon.

By the time my midwife Kristen arrived around 7:00 AM contractions had slowed to every 20-30 minutes. She checked Clive’s heart tones and hung out for awhile in case things picked back up. She had me get up and move a bit, so I went out to collect eggs from our chicken coop and did some laps in our backyard forest. Things picked up a bit, but not much so she left and told me to text her when things got going again.

At this point I texted my friend and photographer Caroline to let her know I was in labor. She had documented my pregnancy from the beginning, capturing our birth announcement photos and maternity shots and we had talked about her coming to document Clive’s birth story as well, but I didn’t really think it was going to work out. She lives near San Francisco and we live in Portland, so I figured there was a pretty slim chance she would actually make it in time, but after texting her that I was in labor she immediately texted back: “Can I book a flight?!” Since contractions had slowed down, I figured why not? So she booked a 12:30 flight and would be arriving around 3:00 PM.

My parents came to pick up Fern and then Craig and I just hung out. We started watching some dumb movie with Ryan Reynolds and my sweet neighbor popped by with lunch for us. Then Craig’s parents came by with Jamba Juice per my request and hung out for a bit. Around then my contractions started getting closer (about 5 minutes apart) and the intensity increased. I texted Kristen and she called the assisting midwife and her apprentice to head over.

By the time Kristen arrived my contractions had gotten stronger and closer together (about 3 minutes apart). I was still handling them really well. I mostly stood and leaned over at the kitchen counter during them so I could focus my breathing through them. In between I put on some lipstick and earrings (because priorities) and around 4:00 my mom dropped Caroline off, fresh from the airport and ready to snap birth photos. She arrived at a good time, because a couple of hours later things got much more intense, so I was glad she was able to capture some calm and smiling moments from the birth.

My Birth Story: The Birth of Clive Clarke // @ The Little Things We Do

Shortly after Caroline’s arrival my contractions grew more challenging and I knew I wanted to get in the tub so Craig started filling it up. While I waited I tried some other positions to get comfortable, including a yoga ball dropped off by a neighbor, but it wasn’t helping much. I decided to get in the shower for a bit while the tub finished filling which was a little better, but I was definitely relieved to finally get in the tub.

Once I was in the tub I never wanted to leave. I really enjoyed the water during my labor with Fern in the big birthing center tubs, but the inflatable tub was way better. The bottom of the tub was and inflated cushion and so much more comfortable for my legs. It was small enough to offer me support to lean into as well. I can’t remember what time my water broke, but I think it was sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 PM. Up until that point I didn’t really need much support and handled the contractions on my own, but after my water broke things got intense.

My Birth Story: The Birth of Clive Clarke // @ The Little Things We Do

The next 4-5 hours ish got real. After my water broke I felt the urge to push, so with almost every contraction there was a push. The only problem with this was that Clive wasn’t down far enough to actually make much pushing progress…he was sort of stuck. Well…maybe “stuck” is the wrong word since he eventually came out…just a big baby trying to make his way out of a not so big space. As I’m writing this I keep imagining that scene in the movie Tommy Boy where Chris Farley puts on David Spade’s coat and starts singing “Fat guy in a little coat”. In our scenario Clive would be Chris Farley and my vagine would be David Spade’s coat. A weird analogy, but weirdly accurate.

Anyway, aside from all of my not-so-productive pushing, Clive was also so big that he pretty much filled up every square inch of me which meant that part of him was pressed up against my sacrum during the pfushing stage. Baby pushed up against a sacrum = back labor = me yelling/grunting/moaning/screaming through the vast majority of my contractions for the remaining hours of labor. I’m not gonna lie…it was pretty un-zen. I know that some people have super peaceful birthing experiences, but in my experiences birth is far more primal. On some level it makes me feel like I’m “doing it wrong”, but birth is so different for everyone, so I guess a little yelling doesn’t make it less of a success, right?

After the first couple of hours my midwives checked my progress to make sure I was dilated all the way and didn’t have any cervical lip still hanging out or something. I didn’t. But that was when they told me he was still a good ways up there and suggested that I try some different positions to encourage him to come down. I tried the bed. No way. Wailing and gnashing of teeth commenced. Not pretty. So, I ended up on the toilet like last time. It was way less comfortable, but I tried to hang out for as many contractions as I could before it was unbearable and I had to get back in the tub.

I did this back and forth from the toilet to the tub for the rest of my labor and during that time I had moments of strength and moments of defeat. I begged Clive to please just come out. We prayed. I told Craig I couldn’t do it anymore…that I was too tired. I fell asleep in between every push and during each contraction I squeezed Craig’s hand (and sometimes Caroline or my midwives’ hands if he needed a bathroom break) with white knuckles. I lost track of time for the most part since there were no clocks and all of the curtains were drawn, but then my nightly “take your iron” reminder alarm went off on my phone and I cried because then I knew it was 9:30 PM and I still had no baby to show for all of my discomfort.I was beginning to feel like I was going to be in labor for the rest of my life. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, but I just kept trying to find my center and bring myself back in even though every part of me was looking for a way to escape my body. Eventually I could feel that my baby really was “right there” and ready to be pushed out…and then came the worst part.

I’m not telling you this to make anyone fearful of birth, because it is not a fearful experience. It is natural and beautiful and our bodies know what to do. That said, it’s not a walk in the park. Birth is no joke and pushing is my least favorite part. I think it’s probably because I’ve had to challenging babies…a brow presentation and a massive linebacker posterior baby, but for some reason pushing is just really long and difficult for me. In many of my birthing books the women sharing birth stories always talk about how wonderful pushing was and how it felt so good to actually be able to do something productive, but I do not share this sentiment. In my experience, pushing blows.

I felt the “ring of fire” multiple times before Clive finally came out…like he was right there, but then my contraction would end and he’d get sucked back up. I kinda freaked out at that point and started saying “I don’t want him to come out! I’m not ready! I can’t do it!” That’s how I knew he was about to be born…because I had reached the “panic stage”. Orgasmic birthers: I am jealous of you, because this was nothing like that.

After awhile and with one strong contraction, Clive’s head came out. It freaked me out a little to just have a baby head hanging out there, since I never experienced that with Fern. When I had her she came out in one single push like a torpedo, so this was a very different experience. After his head came out I closed my eyes and rested. I was exhausted at this point and my body must’ve known because it decided to give me a break from all the contractions. That would’ve been all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that my baby was already halfway out and needed to hurry up and be born. The midwives were timing everything in between checking Clive’s heart tones (they sounded great the entire time) and I could hear them whispering to each other and could tell it was taking longer than they wanted. After close to five minutes they said we needed to get this baby out and that they wanted Craig to try some nipple stimulation to get a contraction going.

If you know me, you probably know that my first thought (despite my exhaustion) was “Hell no!” I’m a pretty modest person so the idea of my husband performing nipple stimulation on me in front of anyone else…ummm no. Obviously I would do anything for the safety of our baby, but I wasn’t stoked about it. Apparently my body knew and as they were hurrying Craig over to get things going I had another contraction.

The force of Clive exiting my body pretty much felt like crapping a bowling ball…not even kidding…and my knee-jerk reaction was to stand up out of the tub. Then everyone started shouting, “Don’t sit down!” because he had already taken a breath out of the water so technically I didn’t have him via water birth. I’m not actually sure who caught him because pretty much all hands were on deck at that point, but the point is someone caught him and handed him to me and he was chubby and perfect.

My Birth Story: The Birth of Clive Clarke // @ The Little Things We Do

Clive Clarke Hartmann

Born, June 8th 2014 at 10:43 PM

Weight: 10 lbs. 8 oz., Length: 23″, Head: 15″

My Birth Story: The Birth of Clive Clarke // @ The Little Things We Do

The first thing I said was, “Does he have all his fingers and toes?” I didn’t cry, but I was happy to have him in my arms and to be done with labor. All in all it was about 19 hours of labor…7 hours longer than my labor with Fern. I had 3 hours of pushing with her and around 4.5 hours of pushing with Clive. He weighed just over two pounds more than she did and he was two inches longer. Oh…and did I mention he was posterior? Ummm…yeah. Apparently my babies like to throw me curve balls with their tricky positioning (Fern was a brow presentation birth). Overall it was way more challenging, but I did it.

I still maintain that I am not a “tough girl” or a “hippie” or really anyone who you would even remotely consider to have a natural birth, much less a home birth. But challenges aside, I still believe that if I can do it then anyone can. I know it’s not easy and that sometimes natural birth just isn’t an option, but our bodies are far more capable than we give them credit for. If you would’ve asked me a few years ago if I thought I could deliver a 10 & 1/2 pound baby at home without drugs I would’ve laughed in your face, but I did it.

I also want to say that I loved the experience of being at home in my own environment way more than I ever thought I would and I adored my team of midwives (here is a link to my midwife Kristen Downer who I highly recommend if you’re looking for one!). They each had unique strengths that helped to make my experience wonderful and safe.

So basically birth is rad…no matter how it turns out. And sometimes the best things in life come when we learn to let go and just let them happen. I’m still learning this lesson!

Love and birth,

Lauren

P.S. All of these lovely photos were taken by Caroline Dahlberg of Coeur de La Photography and she’s fantastic! I’ll be sharing the rest of the photos she took of Clive’s birth and his first days of life later this week once I get them resized and watermarked, but I had to share a couple. I can’t even begin to say how amazing it was to have her capture our story and what a beautiful job she did and I can’t wait to show you the rest of the photos!

Comments

  1. Oh I loved this Lauren! So much of it resonated with me. I had my second baby this last February – between my two births I can relate to so much of what you documented – back labor, sunny side up babies, the panic stages, feeling a little bit of control (a lot a bit) and lastly the happiness to be done with labor (pretty sure all I could say once my dtr flew out was, ‘I can’t believe it’s over! I can’t believe it’s over!’) definitely not a peaceful birther over here either. But I’d do it a million times over, it is AMAZING. I love how all the pain and frustration and PAIN just melts away once that baby is placed on your chest. I love reminiscing and it certainly is a medal of honor toting these kiddos around – one if life’s greatest gifts. Congrats on pushing out a 10 1/2 lb chunk! You are amazing and he is adorable.

  2. Congratulations Lauren! And wow! Thank you for sharing your story. The photos are amazing. Looking forward to seeing more,

    My son, Timothy, was born last month and my birth story was completely different. My plan for a natural birth went out of the window as my son had to be delivered by emergency caesarean section – he went into distress before I could even go into labour. It was a much better experience than I feared though and didn’t experience any disappointment over the outcome of the birth. We were just thankful to have a healthy son after all the drama!

    I hope you are recovering well. My son also won’t let me put him down for long, which can be a bit of a problem at night! Clive is absolutely beautiful. You must be one proud mama

  3. Thank you for sharing! I’ve been looking forward to reading Clive’s birth story since I loved reading Fern’s so much.

    I can imagine it’s hard in comparison to think about how much more difficult Clive’s birth was, but you should totally feel just as empowered as the first time around! You delivered a 10+ lb baby at home! Truly a miracle!

  4. This is amazing! Thanks for sharing:) Our bodies are seriously amazing. Congratulations!

  5. So glad you are all happy and healthy and that Caroline was there to capture the beautiful photos! That said, damn Clive is a big baby! So much respect to you for having him without drugs at home, you are a superwoman! Hope you are all getting some rest and enjoying the sweet sleepy baby phase. You have such a beautiful family and should be proud of yourself for bringing them into the world with such grace!

  6. Congratulations!! Your story is so empowering. Way to go, mama!

  7. Ok I’m curious because I’ve also birthed large babies naturally, are you insulin resistant? My sons were massive and when I was pregnant with our fourth baby, my first girl, I ate an insulin resistant diet and she was 3 pounds smaller than her biggest brother! Did Judy need repairs? Or vagine lol. Congrats on your sweet baby boy!

  8. Wow girl…I know that was super challenging but you did it! God is so good! Thank you for sharing this and amazing job giving birth to Clive! I’m mentally buying you a drink, cause dang. Haha

  9. I can not believe you had a natural birth with a 10 lb 8oz baby, that is absolutely amazing, I am in awe of you! Congratulations to you and your family. Clive Clarke, what a beautiful name!

  10. This was so inspiring to read. I’m due with my first in November and I got really choked up through most of this and laughed out loud at the Tommy Boy reference. I’m planning to have a homebirth as well. You are amazing!

  11. You are amazing. Congratulations on another natural birth! I am so happy you shared this. I had my son two years ago, a day early and naturally after 14 hours of labor, and I am due with number 2 in September, and I have a very unrealistic idea that this baby will pop right out. Yes, I used the word pop… haha. But your story is so inspiring, I know I can do it, even if things do not go the way I see it in my head.

    Your little man is so scrumptious! Congratulations on this beautiful addition to your wonderful family!

  12. I just gave birth to my second in May and I am so with you on the big “what gives??” to a longer second labor. The difference is that mine was somewhere around 32 or so hours. Yup.

  13. I love reading your blog and this was just wonderful. Gives me hope for when it’s my time! Congratulations on the beautiful little linebacker!

  14. I was nodding my head in complete understanding while reading through this. Primal is EXACTLY the word for it. And talk about screaming – I howled and growled my baby down. Almost couldn’t believe those sounds were coming from me. Thank you for sharing your story!
    And isn’t Kristen awesome? She attended the birth of my son Ronan, almost a year ago. I miss her. Hmm, maybe I need to get pregnant again… Kidding. Mostly.

  15. what a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. I don’t have any kids and won’t for many stories. but your stories are very encouraging for some day when I have kids.

  16. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and honest birth story. I too am not the earthy hippie type but do believe our bodies are made to handle natural birth. I had high expectations for my own birth and wanted to have minimal medical intervention. My baby boy born a few weeks before Clive also showed no signs of arriving on his due date. I ended up laboring for a total of 35 hrs (with the last 7 hrs done in the hospital – I thought he would’ve arrived sooner than the 7 hrs he took while at the hospital). Everything you described about your thoughts & feeling during your labor was exactly how I was feeling. In my last hour I ended up giving in and asked for the epidural because I was just exhausted. Though I did not planned for it, in the end, I still felt proud of my story and for enduring as I did. So for woman like us who hoped for the beauty of the experience but ended up with some battle wounds (and mentally traumatized… At least I was) should still hold our head high and embrace our story… Just as you are doing in this post of yours. Thank you for sharing and congrats on the beautiful and healthy birth of Clive! Look forward to more pictures!

  17. Cassidy Stockton says:

    Great recap! Totally teared up. What a great story for little Clive.

  18. So I’m going along and reading your great birth story and then I stop and say “Holy Crap! Over 10 pounds.” Wasn’t expecting to read that. That’s amazing. Good for you!

  19. holy cow, you were not kidding when you said he was big!! Congrats and if you have anymore I will send “normal” sized baby vibes to you!!!

  20. Congratulations! And holy cow that’s a big baby! I am one of those woman who really likes the pushing stage, though I don’t think I would like it so much with a 10 pounder! Mine were only 7.14 and 7.12 but they are total opposites in every other way. ;)

  21. Thank you!! I can so relate to your experience. Big baby, lots of useless pushing. Happy ending :) I appreciate your honest & candid story. Congrats!!

  22. Wow! I’m so glad you posted your story! From the first time I saw you post on FB that you had a home birth and how big Clive was, I’ve wanted to hear about it! My son was almost 9 lbs at 41.5 weeks. I was induced and had an epidural. I have all the respect in the world for you, girlie!! Congratulations – he’s gorgeous!

  23. A truly beautiful birth story – I had my first about 8 months ago in a birthing center, and while I thought the birthing tub was the way forward for me I actually hated it when the time came. I’m wondering if it was an environment thing and am considering a home birth next time around if I’m brave enough to let go of the security a more medically prepared environment gave me…

    Anyway thanks you for sharing these beautiful moments with your words and photographs. I’ve included a link to my own natural birth story, so feel free to take a peek!

    My Birth Story: http://www.theblossomingbump.com/?p=746

    Have a wonderful day!

    Carly @ http://www.theblossomingbump.com

  24. I love that you took the time to document this. I imagine you will revisit it from time to time and one day so will Clive. I bet it will reaffirm the fact that his mother is a strong woman. The photos are absolutely perfect. What a gift to have a friend be able to capture this special time for you. Your story is a beautiful one — it speaks to your strength and determination as a mama. Even when we are tired and feel like we can’t we find a way. You birthed the most precious baby boy and learned a valuable lesson in the process. Thanks for sharing this. Btw “priorities” — that was too funny!

  25. Kathryn says:

    Hi Lauren
    I don’t know if you remember me, but I met you at Barnabas last summer. I just wanted to say that it sounds like you did an incredible thing! Thank you for sharing your story! Birth is hard and the majority of people do not have “zen” births. It is messy and difficult and you are so strong and amazing to have given birth to such a large baby, endured such a difficult labour and delivery, and done it all without drugs. We don’t get to pick how our births go, and having a tough one doesn’t mean you “did it wrong”. it means you did awesome and that you are an incredible woman. My first one was very difficult and quite traumatic and it took me a long time to come to terms with the disappointment I felt over it not being this empowering, wonderful experience I was hoping for. But I now do see it as an empowering experience, knowing how hard it was and that I did it. Praying for peace, and sleep, and wisdom, and energy for you as you take care of a toddler and newborn (which can be crazy hard at times!), Kathryn

  26. Sara Punpur says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your birth story here. I found it to be very real and honest! I have actually wondered if I will have expectations too when I do it the second time around. I had a hospital birth with my daughter, but it was actually pretty wonderful. I live in a small city in Canada…and our hospital has a really nice labour and delivery area, with nice big private rooms, jacuzzi tubs, etc. I had a midwife and I did it with no drugs. It sounds like mine was similar in length to your labour with Fern…around 10 hours… and I know exactly what you mean about feeling so empowered and elated by the experience! It sounds kind of cheesy, but I’ve never felt more like a woman than those moments right after giving birth. But although it is a lovely memory…all these things are kind of bound to set you up with expectations for the next time don’t they! Also I would love to have a home birth next time, but I’m not sure if it’ll be in the cards for us…my husband is not really sounding very receptive of the idea! I guess he just thinks why mess with it, since our first experience was so positive at the hospital. Although we aren’t pregnant again yet, so I would have some time to get him used to it! Anyway, I love reading stories like yours…it makes something like a home birth seem much more doable than I would have thought. Did the messiness of it stress you out though? I think it would for me…I’m also pretty OCD about my house being clean! And I might be a little nervous since we live a good 20 minute drive from the hospital. Anyway, I guess what stories like yours show is that in the end however you give birth believing you can do it and surrounding yourself with people who also believe you can makes all the difference. Take care…and congratulations on your beautiful boy! :)

  27. C’est magnifique Lauren, félicitations à tous les trois…

  28. He’s perfect!!! What a lovely story! :)

  29. christine says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing and keeping it real : )

  30. Your birth story got me teary eyed. I think you are right, birth is primal and traumatic for a lot of women so yay to you for giving birth to such a big baby in a tub with no pain killers. :) You did it! Amazing!

  31. Congratulations both of you! I’m so glad to have read your beautiful story. <3

  32. So did all of you basically have a heart attack when you weighed him and saw how BIG he was?

    (Ani was 8 lbs 12 oz, and it was seriously so gratifying when they put her on the scale and told me that number. I was like “LOOK WHAT I MADE!”)

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