HENRY: a birth story

(you can read Audrey’s birth story here and Oliver’s birth story here.)


There is a short story and a long story.


The short story goes like this:

We arrived at the birth center at 10:10 PM and Henry was born at 10:49 PM.


Here is the long story:

From my journal, the morning before his birth:
 I have been up in the still hours between late night and early morning.  Brimming with anticipation, knowing God designed and created me for this, confident in my body’s ability to carry, deliver and nurture the children God entrusts to me.  I told Him this morning I was ready. Ready to let Him work the miracle of life through MY body. Begging for my son’s health, his Salvation, and thanking God that every single moment brings me closer to meeting my sweet, sweet son.  Feeling overwhelmed with joy. 

Later that day:

 I was preparing to meet Cory and Audrey to go for an evening swim, collecting suits and spray and towels.  I started to feel some lower back pain – all pinching and stretching and shooting.  With Audrey, I didn’t recognize this pain as contractions.  This time, I did. 

I kept moving myself around: packing, cleaning and mostly trying to convince myself this really isn’t it. But man, it felt like IT. I decided not to tell anyone just yet, enjoying this time, just me and baby boy, thinking these are our last moments together like this.

From the start, the contractions came every 3-5 minutes and lasted about 30-45 seconds. I decided I should get to the pool, imagining how great the water would feel and even greater the distraction would be.  There was only a small flaw in this plan: I had locked myself out of my car. (this is my life, people) I was at home, by myself, with no mode of transportation and having very consistent contractions.

Probably a good time to call the husband.

Cory arrived home with Audrey to rescue me as the waves of contractions continued.  We decided to skip the pool,  zip up our hospital duffle and call my parents to care for our girl while we went to meet our boy.  The anticipation was thick: you could breathe it in, feel the weight and thrill of what was about to happen.  It was all hugs and good lucks and see you soons and goodbye to our baby girl.  At this point I had been having these contractions for over three hours.

We walked on our quiet, tree-lined street: it was a warm, fall evening and I was not feeling ready to be anywhere else, especially a hospital.  The stars were clear, the air was moonlit bright.  Walking enhanced the contractions, they came every couple of minutes and lasted a minute or more. This was making Cory anxious to get to the hospital, but I assured him I was doing okay.  But after our walk, I decided it was time to check in with the birth center as I had been having consistent contractions for several hours.

And then, on the way there, the strangest thing happened: I did not have a single contraction.  We arrived to triage & they put the monitors on, put me in a bed and I DID NOT HAVE ANOTHER CONTRACTION FOR ALMOST 30 MINUTES. I felt like a crazy person, are you kidding me? The midwife encouraged me to take a walk and see if things got moving again.

Cory and I decided to walk outside since the cold, small, medical triage room was making me uncomfortable and anxious.  As soon as we got outside, we agreed immediately: let’s go.

At home, I sunk into a steamy, deep bath–the contractions were completely gone. I felt incredibly silly, stupid and strange for not knowing what my body was doing.  A few frustrated and tired tears fell into the tub and I fell asleep.

From my journal:

 I don’t think you can ever feel ready for a moment like this – ready for the intensity of both pain and joy.  Feeling as though your body may literally burst and your heart along with it.  I keep seeing your face, sweet Henry boy, and I get a thrill in the pit of me, the kind you get when you are about to free fall in a roller coaster, fear and wonder all at once—wanting out (now!) and craving the exhilaration at the same time.  I know you have to be brave too, and I hope this isn’t too hard or painful for you.  I hope you know that mommy is thinking of you the whole time.  I hope that I can do a good job for you.  I am already yours and you are already mine.  We’ve been this way for many months.  By delivering you, I am partly losing you, losing being your only, but I so want to see-kiss-hold-know you.  Please be gentle with your momma, Mr. Penz, know she is being brave for you.  Love you son and see you soon.

The next morning was strangely normal.  We went for a nice long early morning walk around our neighborhood, grabbed a couple of coffees and walked around the Lake.  I did not have a single contraction.   I surrendered to it and embraced the opportunity to allow my body to rest.

We picked up Audrey up, no baby in our arms, and decided to finally go the the pool.  The three of us swam for an hour, and as I held and played with Audrey in the pool, I knew.  This was my last time with my baby girl.  She was going to be my big girl from now on and part of me wanted to stay in that water, in that happy just-us moment, forever.  Well, that and the pool water made me feel weightless and wonderful.
Cory and Audrey went inside, but I watched the sunset mirrored on the water, recognizing as the tightening came back as I swam end to end again and again.  I tried to relax into a rythym, letting the contractions and the water wash like waves over me, through me.  I was done trying to figure out if it was real thing and embraced that each movement was nudging me a moment closer to meeting my son.
Out of the water, the contractions didn’t come as often, but they came hard.  They were no longer gentle waves washing over me, but whitecaps pushing and pulling wherever they chose.  I could no longer bear them sitting or standing, so I began to drop to my knees each time.  Once home, we put Audrey to bed, certain that tonight would be like the previous night—just a tease.  It was about 9 PM.
We invited Cory’s mom over to spend the night just in case we needed to leave again.  By the time she got to our place 30 minutes later, the contractions were massive waves full of rocks and grit, now piercing then knocking me to the ground and keeping me there until they relented.
Cory was shy this time, all let’s wait a little longer and see if this is it.
I was all you better get the keys, honey.  He’s a smart man and we left shortly after.
10:10 PM: The same triage nurse was at the birth center as the previous night and I began to feel all silly and strange and stupid again.  But not for long.  My water broke during my first contraction there — they check me, tell me I’m at a 7 and 100% and ask if I want to walk or wheel to the delivery room.  I wanted to walk, so I took two steps out of the triage room, into the lobby. It was then that a typhoon of a contraction knocked me off my feet like I had been pushed from behind.
So there I was, on all fours in front the elevators and reception area, certain my body would not let me stand.
And then I said what no triage nurse with a laboring woman  on the floor in a public area wants to hear: “I think I have to push.”
Suddenly there was the wheelchair, and Cory helping to lift me on it and the breeze cooling me as they pushed me, running, into the delivery room.
Another contraction slammed into me, sending me towards the bed, ripping at the sheets, my hands searching for something solid to hold onto—I can’t breathe, I can’t move, someone please pull me out!— I found the solid I was searching for in Cory’s hand.
I could see blue blurs, scrubs.  People moving, quickly, efficiently.  They weren’t talking, and if they were I certainly could not hear them as the labor roared through my entire body.
I don’t know if I am going to make it, I thought, this is too much pain.  
But all I could do was push through it.  I tried hard to imagine his face, his nose, his feet, but I couldn’t imagine anything at all.
All I could do was focus and listen as well as I could to my body and what it was telling me to do—in its loud, screeching and hot way.
All I could do was breathe and clench on to Cory’s hand and tell my body to do exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do (retreat, rest, regroup—no, push push push!)

And in an instant it was over, and I was holding him, all warm and gooey and wonderful.

My son.

In my arms.

Like he had always been there.

Looking like I had always thought but never knew he would look.

Henry, of course.

My boy.

It is true: your heart grows with your family, mine is not divided in thirds but it has instead expanded by three sizes, sometimes feeling as though it may burst out of my chest with all the wonder and wholeness and warmth it contains.

Henry Robert Penz, 8 pounds 3 ounces and 21 ½ inches that filled our hearts to the brim.  Born an hour shy of his due date on September 28, 2013.

One thought on “HENRY: a birth story

  1. so so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing! My second came really fast too.. I reading through your story brought back all the memories. While mine were all at home, I remember the feeling and the force that sends you on all fours! I labored all morning walking around my house and going to my knees-couch, kitchen, bed, shower!! By the time my midwives arrived I was dilated to 10 and she was born 45 minutes later. She assured me that after a first born natural birth, seconds are almost always faster! And boy was it ever. Two and a half pushes and she was in my arms. So happy for you all that God blessed you with a precious son! They are sooo different from girls! I'm so happy God allowed me to experience both, boys and a girl. So special, each and every one! By the looks of it… Audrey is an amazing big sister and helper!


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